Founding a Hindu Rashtra, not just a temple – Virendra Parekh

The bhoomi poojan is an occasion for all of us to invoke Ram to be our unifier and liberator. Let Ram, who united the royalty and laity of his kingdom with tribals in forests and mountains in distant lands, bring together estranged brothers in his homeland. Let Ram, who liberated Sita from the bondage of Ravan, liberate us from the bondage of the past and lead us to Ramarajya. – Virendra Parekh

The bhoomi poojan of Ram temple in Ayodhya is a major landmark on India’s journey towards the Hindu Rashtra. We are indeed blessed to witness this historic moment. To grasp its true significance, one has to view it in a perspective of centuries. The last millennium, which opened with wanton destruction of Hindu temples by Islamic invaders, ended with a powerful popular movement to restore the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya. The current one opens with the foundation laying ceremony of that grand temple. No wonder the country is celebrating it as a grand festival of civilisational reaffirmation and resurgence.

To be sure, the challenges before the Hindu civilisation, which remain multiple and serious, would not disappear with the reconstruction of the Ram temple. The reconstruction, however, signifies Hindu society’s determination to overcome these challenges and also holds out an assurance of its success in this noble endeavour.

For centuries India has been struggling to retain its civilizational identity. It has been a battleground of two civilisations (Hindu and Islamic) for the last one thousand years and three civilisations (Hindu, Islamic and Western) for nearly three centuries. Muslim invaders were interested not just in enjoying India’s fabled wealth and power, but also in driving out Hinduism (“kufr”) and establishing the “only true religion”. Chronicles of their court historians testify to that. The Britishers, too, were not as neutral or indifferent in civilisational issues as it may appear at first sight. Macaulay’s famous minutes leave no doubt on that score.

India did manage to retain her identity through these turbulent centuries, but it could not defeat the invading civilisations. It could neither absorb them fully through assimilation nor throw out what could not be assimilated. This inability to reject what it could not digest was the essence of foreign conquest. Even today, it has not gained that freedom in full measure.

The unresolved tussle resulted in a civilisational stalemate. This stalemate, as Girilal Jain pointed out three decades ago, lies at the root of crisis of identity faced by our intelligentsia over the last hundred years. Are we an ancient civilization under assault from predatory forces or a hotchpotch of innumerable identities struggling to become a nation? Should we cherish our culture as a unique and invaluable asset or cut it asunder as burdensome deadwood from the past?

The foreign rule over the centuries, meanwhile, divided our intelligentsia into broadly two groups. A large part of it, which wanted to enjoy wealth, power, prestige, status and position decided to collaborate with the ruling class by offering to serve it. A small part of the intelligentsia stuck to its roots and refused to join the rulers. It was driven out from the corridors of power, but its voice could never be completely silenced.

Members of the former group learnt Persian and Arabic, took up jobs under Muslim rulers and adopted their mores and manners. The British Raj was much wider, stronger and more uniform. Most members of the groups which had earlier collaborated with Muslim rulers now donned the new attire with alacrity. Thousands of Hindus took to English language, dress, manners and even ideas, ideals and thought processes. They came to view themselves as partners of the rulers rather than the ruled. Nehrus are a good example of this class. This rule—collaborate with rulers if you want to come up socially—remained in operation even after independence.

It was this class of Anglicised brown sahibs, with a history of serving successive foreign dispensations that formed the dominant elite at the time of independence. With Jawaharlal Nehru as its guiding star and spirit, it sought to remake India into a Western image. Indian state under Nehru became a powerful agency for propagation of Western ideals and institutions.

A word here about Communists is in order. In India, the Western civilization is represented not so much by Christianity as by Communism. Some Christians may appreciate the religiosity (not the religion) of the Hindus. But the Communists’ contempt for Indian philosophy, religion and civilization is deep, absolute, and uncompromising. They could think of no greater calamity than India returning to its Hindu ethos.

To continue with the story, the dominant left-leaning elite sought to mould India into a non-Hindu entity. It used secularism to repudiate the Hindu ethos of India and socialism to humiliate the weal-creating business class and subordinate it to the benefit of an ever expanding rapacious neta-babu combine. Under its aegis, Hinduism came to be viewed as synonymous with superstition, inequality and exploitation. Nationalism became suspect and invoking India’s ancient civilization was branded as communalism.

Ram Janmabhoomi movement was Hindus’ reaction to this soulless, rootless un-Indian state that had scant regard for their concerns and sentiments. The overnight conversion to Islam of Meenakshipuram village in Tamil Nadu in 1981, Khalistani terrorism in Punjab, the overturning by the Parliament of the Supreme court judgment in Shah Bano case and fanning of separatism in J&K left Hindus deeply worried about their future in their homeland. That is why the opening of padlocks at the shrine at Ayodhya in 1986 and shilanyas at the sight in 1989, meant to be minor diversions, became historic turning points. Ram came to occupy centre stage of the public discourse.

Like a subterranean river bursting out in a desert, Hindu awakening broke out into the open and carried away everything before it. All attempts to smother it failed. This was the sentiment that saw BJP under Narendra Modi win absolute majority in Lok Sabha elections twice in succession. The civilizational stalemate that Girilalji spoke about is beginning to resolve in favour of the Hinduism. The left-leaning intelligentsia which dominated the public discourse has lost its political clout. Narendra Modi is the most visible and powerful symbol of this transformation. No wonder the dispossessed intellectual elite regard him as a mortal enemy.

The nature of the Indian state is changing. Nehru as prime minister sought to prevent President Rajendra Prasad from attending the Somnath temple renovation ceremony. Modi as prime minister is going to lay the foundation stone himself. We have indeed come a long way.

The reconstruction of Ram temple is not directed against the Muslims. The dispute is not between Hindus and Muslims but between those who respect India’s civilizational ethos and those who wish to destroy it. A Shia organization was among the first to announce donation for the temple. Pakistani author Tarek Fatah has consistently supported the cause of the Ram Janmabhoomi. On the other hand, Sharad Pawar was determined not to attend the ceremony even if invited. Left to himself, Mani Shankar Aiyar may perhaps erect the Babri mosque again at the spot.

An overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent are descendants of Hindu ancestors. In their veins also flows the blood of Vedic sages and saints of yore. Vicissitudes of history tore them away from their parent society. The temple reconstruction is an occasion for all of us to remember this blood relation between India’s two major communities. With silent endorsement of the temple reconstruction, Indian Muslims can bond again with their parent society. Millions are doing it already.

We may wish that all this should have happened twenty, thirty, fifty years ago. But history or Mahakal moves at his own pace. He cannot be pushed from behind; nor can his march be thwarted by trying to block his path.

The bhoomi poojan is an occasion for all of us to invoke Ram to be our unifier and liberator. Let Ram, who united the royalty and laity of his kingdom with tribals in forests and mountains in distant lands, bring together estranged brothers in his homeland. Let Ram, who liberated Sita from the bondage of Ravan, liberate us from the bondage of the past and lead us to Ramarajya.

› Virendra Parekh is an editor and senior journalist in Mumbai.

PM Modi at Bhumi Puja (5 August 2020).

Ram Mandir silver foundation brick (5 August 2020)

PM Modi completes Ram Mandir bhumi puja (5 August 2020).


The Bharatas of Bharatavarsha – Sandhya Jain

Bharat Mata

Sandhya JainThe three Bharatas seamlessly united … the land itself in political and cultural unity. – Sandhya Jain

Bharatavarsha is encompassed from north to south by Sagarmatha, forehead of the ocean, a beautiful epithet for the tallest Himalayan peak, and Hind Mahasagar, the Indian Ocean. Famed as a divine creation, it is the bhumi of the Bharatas, hallowed by its sacred geography and the great souls who have guided her spiritual ascent and steered her civilizational  destiny. Bharatavarsha literally means the continent (varsha) that is dedicated (rata) to light, wisdom (bha). Our Vedic Rishis devoted themselves to the quest for the eternal truth and ultimate reality, kevala jnana, satchidananda.

The Bharatas were a venerable and ancient tribe mentioned in the Rig Veda, particularly in Mandala 3 of Bharata Rishi Vishwamitra.  Mandala 7 says the Bharatas were on the victorious side in the Battle of the Ten Kings.

There were three personifications of “Bharata” in Hindu tradition, one each in the first three yugas, or time cycles. Together they are regarded as the epitome of the civilisational values of the Sanatana Dharma.

Bharata of the Satyuga

The first Bharata was born in the Satyuga as the son of Rshabdeva, first among recognized ancient sages. The Jaina community traces its spiritual lineage from Rshabhdeva, designated as the first Tirthankara; he is also known as Adinath, and synonymous with Siva, the foremost yogi of the Hindu tradition.

Jinasena’s Adipurana says three great events occurred simultaneously in Jaina history: Rsabhdeva attained enlightenment and became the first Jina; the cakra (wheel) appeared in the armoury of his son Bharata and proclaimed him a cakravartin (emperor); and a son was born to Bharata, ensuring continuation of the Iksvaku dynasty founded by Rsabhdeva.

Elaborating the multiple rebirths of father and son in the bhogabhumi (world of enjoyment) where salvation is not possible, the Adipurana explains their evolution to karmabhumi (world of karma) where the law of retribution operates and men follow different occupations (karman). Rsabhdeva created the Ksatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra castes; Bharata later created Brahmanas and appointed kings.

The duty of the cakravartin is total conquest of all the directions (digvijaya) by means of superior moral and political powers, to unite the country under a single moral kingdom and prevent anarchy. Readers will note that the cakravartin is not merely an ideal ruler, but a powerful ancient political concept, inspired by a vision of the Hindu bhumi as a unity which was not belied by the presence of multiple centres of political power. That is why civilisational values permeated the whole land and gave the tradition its abiding continuity.

As first cakravartin, Bharata, fasted, meditated, performed puja and followed the cakra symbolizing his kingship as it moved of its own accord to various parts of the country. He paused to perform pradaksina in Saurastra, where the Jina Aristanemi (cousin of Sri Krishna) would be born, all the while circling Ayodhya, centre of Aryavarta (land of the Arya, noble ones).

Bharata thus subjugated rival kings and punished those who taxed their subjects excessively. His digvijaya was accomplished without violence, through innate capability, on account of punya (merit) acquired in previous lives through practice of Jaina precepts. He exemplified the virtues of compassion (daya), divine wisdom (Brahma-jñana) and penance (tapas).

Bharata of the Tretayuga

The second Bharata was born in the Tretayuga as the son of King Dasaratha of Ayodhya, and younger brother of Sri Rama. He embodied the virtues of love (prema), devotion (bhakti), and brotherhood (bandhutva).

The story of the Ramayana is well-known, but briefly, Keikeyi, the second wife of King Dasaratha, schemes to have the heir apparent, Sri Rama, sent into exile for fourteen years, and her own son, Bharata, appointed crown prince in his place. Rama, accompanied by his brother Lakshman, and wife Sita, departs immediately and the grief-stricken Dasaratha passes away soon afterwards.

Bharata, then on a visit to his maternal grandfather’s kingdom in Gandhara, returns only to learn of his father’s tragic demise and brother’s unfair exile. Tortured further by the thought that he could be considered complicit in this palace conspiracy, he decides—unswervingly—not to accept the throne. He then leads the people to the forest to persuade Rama to return. This political renunciation of a kingdom won illegitimately is a unique Hindu ethic.

Bharata is regarded as the symbol of dharma and idealism, second only to Sri Rama. To this day, he is revered for his adherence to family values, truth, righteousness, filial love and duty.

When Sri Rama refused to return to Ayodhya as rightful king, Bharata, at the intervention of Sita’s father, King Janaka, accepted the onerous duty of facilitating Rama to live righteously, i.e., in exile for fourteen years. He vowed to immolate himself if Rama did not return immediately at the end of the exile period and ascend his throne. Agreeing to govern Ayodhya only as regent, he placed Sri Rama’s sandals at the foot of the royal throne as the symbol of His kingship.

Bharata of the Dwaparyuga

The third Bharata was born in the Dwaparyuga as the son of Shakuntala and King Dushyant. Their story is part of the Mahabharata narrative, but it was Kalidasa who immortalized their love in Abhigyan Shakuntalam.

Shakuntala was the daughter of Rishi Vishvamitra and the apsara Menaka, who was sent by Indra to distract the sage. Menaka returned to heaven, and her daughter was raised in the hermitage of Rishi Kanva.

King Dushyant was the youngest son of King Puru, who had sacrificed his youth for his father, King Yayati. He founded the Paurava dynasty. Dushyant was hunting in the forest when, following a wounded deer into the hermitage of Rishi Kanva, he found Shakuntala nursing the animal. He fell in love and they married secretly in the Gandharva style, being their own witnesses.

The king gave her a ring as token of his love and to establish her identity as his wife. Sadly, Shakuntala lost the ring and the king refused to accept her; she retired to the forest and gave birth to Bharata, who grew up so bold and fearless that he played with lions. Some years later, the ring was found and Dushyant brought Shakuntala and Bharat to Pratishthan, where Bharata later became king.

Bharata is regarded as the greatest king of India, who lent his name to the country. He had nine sons, but deemed none of them fit to succeed him, and hence adopted a capable child as future ruler. Bharata personified the values of service (seva), valour (shaurya), and charity (dana).

Eternal values, eternal tradition

Thus the three Bharatas (two kings, one prince) seamlessly united the Satayuga, Tretayuga and Dwaparayuga and the land itself in political and cultural unity. They exemplified three ideals each that permeated Hindu civilisation and form its core values to this day. Rsabhdeva’s son Bharata gave us daya, Brahma-jñana and tapas; Dasaratha’s son Bharata gave us prema, bhakti, and bandhutva; and Dushyanta-Shakuntala’s son Bharata gave us seva, shaurya and dana.

Their sterling qualities raised a landmass to divine bhumi—Bharat Mata, mother of the Bharata people. This explains the Hindu anguish and anger over M. F. Husain’s exceedingly vulgar imagery of the Eternal Mother.

Hindus impart these nine values to every generation. The jeneu ceremony marking the transition from childhood to youth revolves around this value system. The youth bestowed the sacred thread takes nine vows; each vow is represented as a knot that binds the three separate strands of the jeneu.

The jeneu was therefore a great privilege, bestowed upon conscious Hindus. Today Hindu gurus are extending its reach to all sections of society, shattering mindsets and barriers, and raising the whole population to higher awareness about the responsibilities of religion and culture.

Useful idiots

All this should nail the lie—peddled incessantly by Western Abrahamic so-called scholars and a modern “caste” designated by some as Useful Indian Idiots—that India was not a nation until the British made it so; that Hindu dharma is not a religion but an assorted collection of “cults” (whatever that means) and beliefs of folk origin (whatever that means too—who’s going to ask, anyway?).

We have only to look at ourselves as our Vedic Rishis and Gurus did—as children of the Himalayas, the Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Krishna, Godavari, down to Kanyakumari. According to the distinguished scholar, Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the eternal significance of Adi Sankara is that in establishing mathams in the four corners of India, he also established the sacred geography of the four directions and united the country in common pilgrimage and cohesive culture at a time of grave danger.

As we look back, some things startle the mind. The ancient seers travelled extraordinary distances, covering every nook and corner of the country and every community howsoever remote, and uniting them in a complex religious and cultural matrix that endures to this day.

But more extraordinary is the fact that the ancient world seems to have had singular communicative skills. In the absence of what is called a common language (read English), a villager from Kerala could traverse the land and dominate the civilisation for over a thousand years, Marathi poets from the Deccan could settle in Punjab, a Guru from Punjab could reach Karnataka and Patna, one born in Gujarat could dominate north India. No one felt alien, or homeless, or misunderstood.

This is surely one of the most enduring mysteries of the Sanatana Dharma.

» Sandhya Jain is a writer of political and contemporary affairs and writes a fortnightly column for The Pioneer, New Delhi. She edits an opinions forum at Vijayvaani

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