What does Ayodhya Ram Mandir mean to us youngsters ?

(Nidhi Samarpan Event – 7th Feb 2021 – Panel talk)

Vaishnavi Palreddy

When I was first asked to speak as part of the panel and on behalf of the youth of India, I wasn’t quite sure about what to talk. So, I decided to give my friends a call and ask them what they think of Rama and the Ayodhya Ram mandir. They said he is a great king, one who chose his people over his family. And that the principles of Rama, honesty and self-discipline, are essential for life and success. On the other hand, the Ayodhya Ram Mandir was either an unknown concept or an unseen one between school, exams, assignments, family and friends and of course, who can forget, COVID. Of them all, one line that struck me as particularly odd was ‘how would I know about something I’ve never seen?’ 

In this global world, we do many things and hashtag and re-share many more while being on opposite ends of the globe. So maybe the reality is that we couldn’t care less. That it isn’t a priority. After all, why should we know of a place that doesn’t exist, hasn’t for a very long time? A place that we never heard of before, a place that we will probably never see unless we are dragged to. Because it is an integral part of our  region, an integral part of the foundation of the society we live in. A piece of land with hundreds of millions of stories. A piece of land for which lakhs of people were gladly willing to give up their lives and so much more. 

Why is Ayodhya so important? Yes, I have been told that Ayodhya is the birth-place of Rama, but so what? Does it truly deserve the hype? Or is it just another one of those over-done, over-stated things? I remember when for the first time after 18 years, I went to Seattle, the place where I was born. A place I have no memories of, I was only a few months-old baby when we moved to India. A place that I found out I was born in, only when I looked at my birth-certificate. But when I went there, I had a strange feeling. A feeling of… apnapan. A feeling I’ve had in every house I have ever lived in. A feeling I have when I visit the place of my parents’ birth and upbringing. A scratch on the wall, a crack on the floor, a half-broken glass pane, every nook and corner, everything seems to have a story hidden inside. An exciting adventure worth telling and re-telling. And just like it feels easier to breathe – the weight on your shoulders seems to have lifted as soon as you get home. That’s just the magic of home, isn’t it? The magic of birth-place or even of birth in general. 

Another point that one of my friends raised is – everyone keeps telling us that we are fortunate. Our generation is privileged that such an important temple is being built in our lifetime. But what does that mean? Why are we privileged? I’m pretty sure every year – or maybe even every month – probably around 100 temples are built throughout the nation. I mean in such a big country for such an important God. So, what makes this one so special that we are fortunate? Why is this generation privileged? Why not people presently in their 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. After all, isn’t a temple just a place of worship? And people of older age groups typically pray the most. So, shouldn’t they be the privileged ones? After all, they got a brand-new spot for prayer? 

Uhh, kind of – not exactly. Like we’ve discussed before, this particular temple is extraordinary. Even more so, because 500 years ago, in a show of dominance, Babar- a famous king who invaded India, tore down the temple present in the premises and built a structure to commemorate their victory. In that sense, winning the court case and building the temple can be taken to say that the Indian ideology is not beneath any religion practiced in the world. 

On 15th August 1947, India was officially declared azad from the clutches of the British. From 200 years of oppression. However, this winning of the court case and building of the Ayodhya Rama mandir is slowly but surely winning the round II of azadi from 492 years of struggle. From 1000 years of invasions. 25 whole generations, some more than others, fighting for a single cause. Azadi from the pacifist mentality we have adopted. This is us beginning to fight for what is ours. And just like the previous round, azadi brings benefits to all in the society, but the greatest are always reaped by the up-and-coming. After all, azadi is a time when the past and present are fighting for the future. And this azadi is worth a century of celebration. 

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