Rama and Ayodhya
Author: Meenakshi Jain
Publisher: Aryan Books, Rs 695
Meenakshi Jain’s book challenges the lordship of India’s ‘eminent' historians who indulge in the worst form of negationism to forward their pseudo-secular viewpoints, writes Rohit Srivastava
Before LK Advani converted an Indian icon into a Hindu deity as he flexed his nationalist muscles astride a makeshift chariot, he was on his way to the destruction of an unused 16th century mosque in Ayodhya to reclaim the mythical glory of his Mother India.” Thus wrote Jawed Naqvi, India correspondent of Dawn, Pakistan, in an article on humour in religious discourse. The Indian icon in question is Rama, the most popular incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the most beloved deity for at least two millennia.
Naqvi would have us believe that Advani’s rath yatra made Rama a deity. He cannot see the hollowness of his claim, for if Rama in his own view was already an Indian icon (a symbol of reverence and devotion), it means he was already a deity.
Naqvi, like others, is in the business of negating and mocking the civilisational memory associated with Rama, and believes his minority status confers upon him the privilege to do so with impunity. Yet, he would not dare satisfy non-monotheistic curiosity on a fundamental confusion of Abrahamic dogma: Did the patriarch Abraham offer his son Ismail in sacrifice to God, or was it his son Isaac? Christians and Muslims both accept the historicity of the event and agree only one child was offered. Which one?
Over the past two decades, several Left-wing historians have indulged in high-voltage propaganda that Rama was not a deity before Tulsidas wroteRamcharit Manas in the 16th century. The purpose, of course, is to discredit the movement for reclamation of his birthplace. For if there is no proof of Rama and his Ayodhya, the movement falls into disrepute.
Historian Meenakshi Jain has given a robust reply to those who question the historicity of Rama as deity, and provided ample historical proof of Ayodhya as the city of Rama. Activists may question the memory of a civilisation with superficial and politically-motivated arguments, but the book, Rama and Ayodhya, has demolished their case.
Jain leaves no stone unturned in collating all historical and literary evidence relating to Lord Rama. She has covered a vast corpus of literature from the eighth century onwards. The Pratihara dynasty, which ruled western and central India from the ninth to the 13th century, claimed descent from Lakshman, younger brother of Rama, and considered themselves defenders of India from mlechha (barbarian) invaders, and were proud of their victory over them. For four centuries they gave an intrepid fight to invaders.
The book covers the popularity of Rama in antiquity in three long chapters, citing evidence from literature, sculpture and epigraphy. The author has compiled her evidence State-wise to conclusively prove Rama’s pan-national popularity throughout antiquity. The question of his becoming a deity only after the publication of Ramcharit Manas in the era of the Mughal emperor Akbar, has been answered with ample evidence to discourage even the most arrogant Leftist historian from repeating old lies again.
Some notable references include Varahamihira’s Brhatsamhita (sixth century AD) which formulates rules for making images of Rama. The Rama story finds mention in three early Buddhist texts, Dasharatha Kathanam (first-second century AD), Anamakam Jatakam and Dasharatha Jataka. The great poet-dramatist, Bhavabhuti (eighth century), a native of Vidarbha, wrote two dramas based on the Ramayan — the Mahaviracharita and theUttararamacharity; the latter contained the earliest verbatim quotations of verses from theRamayan, according to Jacobi.
A Gupta period stone panel from Mathura shows Ravan shaking Mount Kailasa, a scene from the ‘Uttara Kanda’. A Gupta period brick temple at Bhitargaon, Kanpur (fifth century AD), has several terracotta panels, one of which depicts Rama and Lakshman seated and engaged in conversation.
M Zaheer, in his book on the Bhitargaon temple, mentions two terracotta reliefs showing scenes from the Ramayana: One has a woman offering alms to a giant man, clearly Ravan in disguise, while the other depicts a seated Rama and Sita.
The Rama cult was promoted by Madhavacharya Anandatirtha (variously placed between AD 1199-1278 and 1238-1317). He devoted seven chapters to the Ramayana story in the Mahabharat-tatparya-nirnaya and brought an image of the “world-conquering” Digvijaya Rama to the south. Similarly, Narahari Tirtha, probably the same as Narasimha, is recorded in a Telugu epigraph dated AD 1293, as having set up the image of Rama, Sita and Lakshman in the Vaishnava temple near Chicacole, Ganjam district.
The Vayu Purana and the ‘Uttara Kanda’ mentioned two Kosalas, with Shravasti the capital of Uttara Kosala and Kausavati of Dakshin Kosala or Mahakosala. The two Kosalas were once believed to have been under the suzerainty of Rama, who installed his son Lava in North Kosala and Kusa in South Kosala.
The book is additionally important for the detailed analysis of the Allahabad High Court ruling on the Babri Masjid case. The motives and scholarship of many of our famed historians are hilariously exposed during the court proceedings. The book shows how an exclusive club of historians (Leftists, of course) have been making false claims of expertise to perpetuate their own agenda, to the detriment of true scholarship. This helps us understand why history has been taught so poorly in our schools colleges and universities — the professors have been taking liberties with truth. No wonder, a nation with such a rich history has some of the dullest history departments!
The Allahabad High Court noted the links between the academics representing the Sunni Central Waqf Board. Suvira Jaiswal, former Professor of the JNU, told the court, “I have not read Babarnama... It is correct to say that I am giving statement on oath regarding Babri Mosque without any probe and not on the basis of my knowledge, rather I am giving the statement on the basis of my opinion... Whatever (information) I gained with respect to the disputed site was on the basis of newspaper or what others told, that is, from the report of historians. By historians’ report I mean ‘Historians Report to Nation’.”
Satyawati College lecturer SC Mishra intoned, “Prithvi Raj Chauhan was king of Ghazni; he (Muhammad Ghori) was king of its adjoining area... I have heard of jaziya tax... At present I fail to recollect when and for what purpose it was levied. I do not remember that the jaziya was levied only on Hindus...”
Little wonder the court observed, “He accepts of being expert in Epigraphy but... neither he knows Arabic nor Persian nor Latin, therefore he had no occasion to understand the language in which the alleged inscription was written... The slipshod and casual manner in which he made inquiry about inscription is further interesting.”
The Ayodhya debate reveals a disturbing aspect of the personality of pre-eminent historian Irfan Habib — he has not hesitated to cast serious aspersions on the integrity of academicians and institutions in disagreement with his views. This book challenges such lord chaplains of Indian history.
The Mumbai attack highlights how violent extremism can become even more dangerous when abetted by the capacities of a sovereign state.
I don't mind getting typecast as long as it does not overpower me as an actor. We all have grey shades; it depends on the situation.
Taj Mahal is a mausoleum of two Muslims, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Each mausoleum in the country is Waqf property.