Rama and Ayodhya by Meenakshi Jain
For last 30 odd years, we know of Rama and Ayodhya through the Ram Janambhoomi controversy. As a college going student, I have lived through the demolition of Babri Masjid. Off and on we keep hearing views of many experts on whether there was a temple beneath that medieval mosque or not. Most practicing Hindus are hoping that they would see a Ram Temple at the same spot where we have always believed that Sri Ram was born. Court judgments come and go, but practically nothing much has moved since 1992. The case intrigues almost everyone in the country and each one of has an opinion – informed or otherwise.
A couple of years back I visited Ayodhya and found it to be a beautiful temple town. The Ram Janambhoomi temple is off bound, difficult to visit, but the rest of the town is beautiful. The legends of Ramayan live here on the banks of Sarayu River. Rama & Ayodhya cannot be separated.
Read More – Ayodhya – The City of Ram and Ramayana
In Rama and Ayodhya, Dr. Meenakshi Jain puts everything you need to know about Rama, Ayodhya and the Ram Janambhoomi case. As an academician, she sticks to available sources of information. She has rarely expressed her own opinion in the book. Even where she has, it is in the form of published information from all possible sources.
Rama and Ayodhya book start by documenting all possible proofs and references to both Rama and Ayodhya. There are literary sources as mentioned in the ancient Indian scriptures and the accounts of travelers to Ayodhya over the ages. It is like getting glimpses of Ayodhya as travelers saw it over the ages. Then she moves on to sculptures – as they document the legend of Rama and Ayodhya. Meenakshi Jain then walks us through the epigraphic evidence – the written verses that mention Rama and Ayodhya. All these pieces of evidence are not required by the vast population that has inherited the story of Rama as their history. Although a handful who refuse to believe that Rama actually lived on this earth and was born here and ruled from here, should not need any convincing once they read this.
She moves on the describe the history of Ayodhya city and the various rulers who ruled from here over time. It is believed that Manu the progenitor of mankind found the city of Ayodhya – would that not make it the oldest city on earth? There is a genealogy that goes from Manu to Dashrath & Rama. It passed on the Mauryas, Shungas, Muladeva, Dattas, Mitras, Vikramaditya of Ujjain among others. Ayodhya was a seat of Vedic learning during Gupta period. In 11th CE it was invaded by Turkish forces.
Did you know Jain Tirthankar Adinath was born in Ayodhya?
When Huan Tsang visited Ayodhya, he also noticed many Buddhist monasteries here. Jain an Buddhist texts call it by the name Saket.
After all this context, she takes you through the history of the conflict. It seems the case really began in the 1880s. A small temple had always existed in the premises and fairs were organized on Ram Navami and Diwali which roughly fall 6 months apart in a year. The first riots in this conflict happened way back in the 1920s and 1930s. The land belongs to the government, but a caretaker of the mosque was given land elsewhere. The revenue from which was to be spent on upkeep of the mosque. The mosque was not in use and it was cleaned only on Fridays.
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The must-read part of the book is where Meenakshi Jain talks about the left historians and their hard work to prove that the Ram temple never existed in Ayodhya. She takes you through their arguments chronologically and how their arguments changed as the pieces of evidence came popping up. Even when the fresh excavations were carried out to look for the remains of a temple, and a grand temple revealed itself with 50 pillars that leave no doubt about the temple, they tried to argue that it might have been a mosque. The pillar carvings leave no doubt that they can not belong to a mosque so they argued it may be a Jain or Buddhist temple.
When you read the chapter describing the qualifications of the left historians who appeared as experts during the whole Ayodhya case, you laugh out loud. At the same time, you wonder, why the courts are wasting their time on people who are faking pieces of evidence and paddling agendas. People who have no degree in ancient history or archaeology opine that mosque was built on a virgin land and not on top of a temple.
Finally, she takes you through the various judgments that have come out in the course of this long court case – all of which have been favor of a temple.
The book Rama and Ayodhya is written by an academician and it is full of references. You have to read it like a student. I wish someone writes this book in a storytelling format so that more people can read it.
If you have any curiosity about Ram Janambhoomi temple conflict, this is one book to refer. At once place, you find the history of Sri Rama and Ayodhya and the history of Ayodhya conflict.
More Books to Read:
- In search of Sita by Malashri Lal & Namita Gokhale
- India A Sacred Geography by Diana L Eck
- Actors, Pilgrims, Kings and Gods – The Ramlila of Ramnagar by Anuradha Kapur
- Simian by Vikram Balagopal – Book Review
- Myth = Mithya Decoding Hindu Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik