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A Dalit laid first brick for Ram Mandir. Now, Modi must appoint a Dalit woman as its priest

Modi knows the importance of symbolism. The whole process of Ayodhya closure lacks his signature touch.

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This cannot be the dream ending of the Ram Mandir movement for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as a young RSS/BJP karyakarta took part in it during the first few years.

Though he hailed the Supreme Court decision, the whole process of Ayodhya closure lacks Modi’s signature touch. The credit goes to the court.

Speaking to the BBC, former VHP leader Praveen Togadia lamented that if the temple had to be constructed by a court decree then why did so many people die in the process.

But all is not lost. Modi can still bring his unique stamp to how the Ayodhya solution is implemented. If he truly wants to unroll his sabka saath sabka vikaas mission, then Ayodhya is a good test case. He should appoint a Dalit woman as the head priest of the grand new Ram Mandir. And I can suggest a Dalit Sanskrit scholar who is perfect for the job.

Mandal vs Kamandal

Appointing a Dalit woman priest will be the right tribute to a movement that saw a Dalit kar sevak from Bihar, Kameshwar Chaupal, laying the first brick for the shilanyas of the proposed Ram Mandir.

It was no coincidence, but a deliberate, well thought-out move by the RSS-VHP. Among the rabble-rousing leaders of the Ram Mandir movement, the most aggressive role was played by those from the lower castes, like Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhwi Ritambhara.

Now, appointing a Dalit woman as the head priest of the Ram Mandir would be a fitting finale to the politics that began in the Mandal-Kamandal era. Especially, if the move is initiated by Modi, a leader who washed the feet of Dalit sanitation workers.

As the Ram Rath Yatra coincided with the implementation of the Second Backward Classes Commission report, popularly known as the Mandal Commission report, the BJP had no other option but to give representation to lower caste leaders to attract people. To counter the Mandal, the Kamandal of the BJP had to be reinvented with lower caste groups placed at the centre.


Also read: Why Mathura or Varanasi temple disputes won’t go the Ayodhya way


Varna system & Ram Mandir movement

This is not an unfamiliar phenomenon around the world. In 2013, the Catholic church for the first time in its history decided that a Latin-American (Argentinian to be specific) would lead the Catholics of the world.

If we dig deep, we will find that the North American Church, which initially quoted the Bible to give moral credence to slavery, later took on the role of a saviour for the Blacks and the persecuted. Black churches played a seminal role in organising protests against segregation and disenfranchisement of the Blacks.

Many of the leaders of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., were pastors. A whole set of pastors became part of the movement that called for emancipation of the downtrodden in South America; this religious movement later came to be known as Liberation Theology.

The RSS pays lip-service to the cause of liberating Dalits or people from other backward classes, while constantly holding up the hegemonic structures and the Vedic past of Hinduism. But the RSS does need the support and consent of a section of Dalits. This is necessary not because of any moral compulsion, but because of electoral politics, where numbers have a predominant role to play. This also fits into the scheme of things of the varna (caste) system, wherein manual labour and cumbersome, many a times even dirty, tasks have to be performed by the shudras and untouchables.

The idea of the varna system is reproduced in the Ram Mandir movement too. Those heading the temple movement – be it top political leaders, strategists or the core committee of the VHP’s Dharma Sansad – came exclusively from the upper castes. VHP’s Ashok Singhal, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas’s Ramchandra Das Paramhans, and BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani are just some examples.

In contrast, the rabble-rousers and the foot soldiers belonged to middle and lower castes. This also explains the symbolism of asking a Dalit to lay the first brick for the proposed Ram Mandir.

To date, no sociological data (Indian sociology has its own biases, as articulated by noted sociologist Professor Vivek Kumar) has been compiled on the composition of the foot soldiers of the movement; otherwise, it would have provided us with valuable empirical data and insights into the event that changed the course of history in India.


Also read: After Ram Mandir, next on VHP agenda — reconstruction of J&K temples, cow protection


Can Modi do the unthinkable?

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement is still widely regarded as an RSS/VHP-led, Singhal-Advani movement, which found denouement in the Supreme Court.

Is there anything Modi can do now?

Modi should form a trust, which will appoint the priest. He can form the trust with members of his preference and persuade them to appoint a Dalit woman as the head priest of the Ram Mandir.

Modi knows the importance of symbolism. He bows too often in front of portraits and statues of B.R. Ambedkar. He has famously said that only because of Ambedkar, he could become the Prime Minister of India. He is building five memorials (PanchTeerth) to pay homage to Ambedkar.

He can now consider appointing Kaushal Panwar as the priest of the new Ram Mandir. She is from the Valmiki community. After all, we all know about Ram only because Valmiki had immortalised him through Ramayana. Kaushal Panwar is a doctorate scholar of Sanskrit and has thorough knowledge of the Dharma Shastra and Mīmāṃsā, and is well-versed in Nigama and Agama (knowledge of vedas).

She has delivered speeches in top universities of the world and teaches at Delhi University. She recounted the horrors of the Hindu caste system in Satyamev Jayate, a show hosted by Aamir Khan.

She has told me that she can do shastrarth (religious debate) on live TV with anyone who aspires to become the head priest of the Ram Mandir. Modi will be happy to know that she is a known Ambedkarite and believes in annihilation of caste. She can be the right choice for the head priest in Ayodhya.

It all started on 9 November 1989 with a Dalit, Kameshwar Chaupal, putting the first brick for the proposed Ram Mandir. Exactly 30 years later, on 9 November 2019, the Supreme Court delivered the Ram Mandir to Hindus. It is only natural that a Dalit head priest now offers prayers at the temple.

Will Modi do the unthinkable again?


Also read: Modi govt begins consultations to form Ram Temple Trust, politicians to be kept out of it


The author is an adjunct professor, Dept of Mass Communications at Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication (MCNUJC), Bhopal. He is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi Magazine, and has authored books on media and sociology. Views are personal.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Notwithstanding the admission in 1991 of late Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das that in the intervening night of December 22 and 23 1949 he put the idols in the Central dome of the now demolished 16 th century ‘Babri Masji’ which resulted in the ‘disputed site’ also some debatable issues in the 9th November 2019 SC judgement then if the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya in India can usher in Ram Rajya universal brotherhood with a ‘forgive and forget’ attitude irrespective of ones religion and the varna system given a go by ……… then this day 5th August, 2020 will remain a momentous occasion in the anals of post independence history before we usher in a NEW INDIA on 15 August 2022
    godfrey j I gonsalves, borda, margao, goa india 91 9822158584

  2. DALIT AND DALIT WOMEN PRIESTS ARE NEEDED EVEN FOR TEMPLE AT TIRUMALA( CALLED TIRUPATI) , SIDDHI VINAYAK TEMPLE AND SABARAI MALA AND OTHER FAMED TEMPLES ALSO . MODI MUST TAKE THE LEAD AND HAVE PRIESTS APPOINTED IMMEDIATELY . AFTER ALL, HE & SHAH REMOVED WHAT REMAINED OF ARTICLE 370 BY THROWING ALL POLITICAL, DEMOCRATIC & MORALISTIC CANONS TO WINDS

  3. Social Engineering is not the purpose of Temple Worship. There might as well be no temples in this case. Do Dalit Priests and women know how to do Prana Prathishtha or what Prana Prathistha is?

    The Power of temples

    Origin:

    The temple system comes from the Aagama (That which came from outside) Shastras during the Atharva Veda period following the great civil war at Kurukshetra. In this war nearly eight out of ten Arya males were killed and Aryan hegemony came to an end. At this time the Aryas and the Druhyus inter married and became one people. The temple worship of the hitherto subject people, the Druhyus, who brought agriculture, architecture, Vishnu, Shiva and Lalitha to the Indo Gangetic Plains from pre Abrahamic Mesopotamia were Sanskritized and amalgamated with the Aryan worship of Brahma and the forces of nature. The Druhyus entered the Arya Guru Kulas in the fourth Varna of “Shudra” but enjoyed full Varna mobility thereafter depending on the assessment of individual traits and proficiencies by the Adhyapakas, Gurus and Brihaspathis. This practice was brought to an end by Ashoka who dismantled the Guru Kulas, destroyed the temples, eradicated the resurgent Aryan power and the Dharma of Bharatha Varsha and brought the Vedic period to an end. Thereafter, temple worship continued in caves or places outside Ashoka’s tyranny , while Brahmanism largely went underground and the Yagnyas and Haomas that stoked the power of divine life forces present in nature were performed in secret. Without the Guru Kulas, the skills and proclivities of each varna descended from father to son for 2, 500 years to the present day with the natural genetic reinforcement that such a large stretch of time presents. Adi Shankara, whose ancestors had fled to the deep South from Ashoka’s persecution revived the Brahma Sutras, Sanskrit and much dormant knowledge while amalgamating the Arya, Druhyu and Tribal deities into the Panchayathana (five deities). However primordial Druhyu and Tribal forms of worship from Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shakthaism to Necrophagy, Thuggee and Cannibalism that were resurrected in the absence of Aryan (Brahmin) Law as well as Jainism that rose in reaction to the violence of Kurukhetra and Budhism have survived to the present day. Budhism , though, suffered owing to the severe backlash to Ashokan tyranny that was propagated with Budhism modified into an instrument of empire and was nearly destroyed within India while prospering elsewhere under the benign Saffron Swasthika or Aryan law rather than the Ashokan Chakra of tyranny..

    A Temple’s sources of Power

    A temple’s power derives primarily from Prana (the life force). And the Prana Prathistha that takes place there.

    The Prana of every temple is different from every other temple for a variety of reasons.

    First, there is the deity that is resident and grows in power there through repeated invocation and worship. Not only is every deity different, but the presiding aspect of the deity installed in any particular temple will invariably differ from those at other temples dedicated to the same deity.

    Second, there is the very location of the temple, which is based on the forces of nature brought into play there, from geo magnetic and geo thermal to altitude, latitude, water bodies, salience of the Sun, the stars and the planets as well as natural resources present there which contribute their own unique potentialities.

    Third, There is the love and power of the congregation that contributed and donated their money, labour or skills to creation of the temple. More particularly the love, care and aesthetic skills of the architect and the sculptors.

    Fourth, there is the power of the Brahmins and the Spiritual mentor who carry out the consecration to turn a concatenation of resources into a Yantra or a tool of power.

    It takes a lifetime (minimum thirty years) of training and apprenticeship for architects, masons and sculptors to achieve the ability to create a body to house a Prana. Similarly, it take a life time (minimum thirty years) of training and apprenticeship for Brahmins to achieve the necessary proficiency to perform prana prathistha and install a prana and sustain it for a temple to remain a functioning Yantra.

    The maintenance of Temple power

    Prana Prathistha is not a one time effort but is a continuous process. It requires many practices to remain a yantra.

    First, there is the periodic Kumba Abhishekha ( the grand ritual purification with waters from the wider congregational territory in which the Law or Arya Varsha Dharma runs. For example, the various rivers that flow through what remains of India after the British stooges partitioned the country.

    Second, there are the annual calendar of events (Utsava) where the local congregation gathers to both empower the deity and draw power from the deity in a mutual process of power enhancement.

    Third, there are the daily rituals performed by the Brahmins and their apprentices competent to perform and maintain prana and the strict observance of the peculiar disciplines, traditions and practices particular to the specific aspect of the particular deity consecrated in a particular temple, which over time, builds a momentum of power accumulation.

    Fourth there are the visitors from the larger congregation (e.g. All of Bharatha Varsha) who heighten the power of the temple by merely drawing on its power.

    Fifth, there are the visits from Holy Brahmins like myself who by visiting and announcing their Pravara (Heraldry) at the temple to receive, in return, the Prasada and Honours , thereby parting with a portion of their accumulated powers to the temple for the benefit of the local and extended congregation.

    Sixth, there is the regular performance of Yajnyas and Haomas by Brahmins to attract the forces of nature to augment the power of the deity consecrated in the temple and maintain the inter relatedness with Nature while remaining a concentrated power node.

    All these spiritual processes are quite apart from the material function of congregational temples where the Vaishnavite Temples acted as the treasury and provided entertainment and short eats to the congregation, Shaivite Temples provided shelter, education, fortress and armoury for the congregation and the Shaaktha Temples provided food and sanctuary for the congregation.

    Destruction of Temple Power:

    Any interruption, desecration, or incompetence will diminish or completely remove the Pranic Power of a temple. Without Prana a temple is no longer a Yantra and instead of a deity, you will have just a stone idol.

    This is why, while the Moslems were so anxious to destroy the material existence of a temple through desecration, vandalism and destruction so as to weaken the congregations, the British and their PANGOLIN* stooges who ruled since 1947 concentrated on destroying the very root and sources of Prana of the temples.

    To do this, the British abolished the adjudicating and law giving powers of Brahmins in their parts of India in 1921 and began persecuting them. They also gave those who were never part of the congregations and outside Aryan (Brahmin) law the label of “Dalit” and declared that both they and the Congregational People of Dharma were a Legal Fiction called the religion of Hinduism. In 1923 they confiscated the heritage Pranic Temples, Treasures, Lands, Water bodies, Forests, Educational Institutions, Gymnasiums and other commonwealth that had sustained the congregational temple welfare system and the trustees of the commonwealth, tradition, culture, knowledge, History, and laws, the Brahmins, and commenced their desecration.

    In 1949, The British PANGOLIN* stooges turned the People of Dharma into Third Class citizens by way of the Constitution and, in 1959, confiscated the commonwealth in whatever remained of India as well as formerly well governed and prosperous Princely States and began their desecration with a vicious earnestness that makes the Moslems and the British look like angels.

    Today, India’s “Secular’ (i.e PANGOLIN*) Judges, Politicians, Bureaucrats and Journalists who, by definition and constitutional operation, lack integrity, competence, knowledge, erudition, and arithmetic ,dictate what “Hinduism” is and what temple worship may or may not be and even who may be a Brahmin and what the qualifications of a Brahmin ought to be. Thus, they are reducing Temple worship to the level of India’s corrupt and incompetent Courts, Government Offices, Police Stations, Public Works, Hospitals, Educational Institutions, Legislatures, Constitution and Laws.

    *Note: PANGOLIN: An enemy of India who believes in inequality under law, exceptions to the rule of law and persecution of some for the benefit of others. At present, the sole purpose of the Indian Republic, Constitutional or otherwise, is to pamper and provide for certain constitutionally preferred sections of society who the British found useful to hold and exploit India at the cost of those who the British hated and persecuted. The Pangolin is a creature that is unique to India and feeds on ants that are known in nature to be industrious and hard working if not quite as fruitful as bees who flee to better climes. (PANGOLIN is an acronym for the Periyar-Ambedkar-Nehru-Gandhi-Other (alien) Religions-Communist Consensus that usurped the British Mantle and has worn it with elan to loot, plunder, and rape India since 1921 and re write History and laws to their exclusive benefit since 1947)

    • Had Brahmins been paragons of all virtues? If Brahmins alone possessed all knowledge of the world, why does not India have a great history like that of Greeks, Romans and Anglicans ? Were all rulers of princely states , principalities and small fiefdoms men of great virtues and erudition? In any casee, have not countries , which do not follow “Agama shastras”made great strides militarily, industrially , scientifically and even morally ?

  4. Nothing wrong with the suggestion if she is really qualified on the matter and for the job. Only problem is whether she has been following all the prescribed procedures as set out in the same scriptures that she is an expert of such as vegetarianism and daily prayers because after all, if she has to take up the job, then she has to follow a certain lifestyle to maintain the sanctity of the temple.
    Author needs to remember that even Ambedkar was a great scholar and he fought for Dalit rights by debate and convincing others, not by rubbing others nose into the ground and insulting their sentiments.

  5. This guy who vehemently opposed it should keep it’s mouth shut.
    And for movement, many people with singh surname took part in it. Most come under Open category.

  6. Firstly the author and readers are reminded the constitution of India says we are a secular country.
    The government has no business in getting involved in building a religious temple.
    Are the minorities like Sikhs, Christians and Muslims not part of India, so why this preferential treatment for Hindus.
    We must not pander to the Hindu (sounds familiar, where have I heard this before in regard to another Indian community)
    The most important thing to remember that 2,000 innocent lives were lost mostly Muslim in the riots that followed when a religious structure was demolished make way for this Hindu temple.
    THE NAMES OF THOSE 2000 WHO DIED IN THE RIOTS TO BUILD THIS TEMPLE MUST BE INSCRIBED ON EACH BRICK INSTEAD OF THE GOD RAM

    • You Muslims should not talk nonsense, first temple was demolished in 1528 then an illegal structure came up which was uprooted in 1992. Riots ensued because you created ruckus.

      Regarding, Temple Construction if central govt gives lakhs of acre of lands to Wakf Board but at the same time try to control other shrines so that it’s money can be used for appeasement of your community then THE SAME GOI all rights to get involved in Temple construction for 80% majority community.

      This sickular drama is because Hindu want it, if they want they can change it. You have been given land in 1947, rest if you live here learn to respect others.

      • We Muslims in India are aware of our rights. While we want to live peacefully with you hindus, do you imagine you can oppress us like your lower castes.
        History should tell you we are not a timid people, either you learn to live with Indias 170 million Muslims or get ready for a break up of India.
        If you want Bharat Mata to be strong and your children to prosper then mend your ways. The Muslim community is angry with what has happened, we can only live as a secular country and if not there will be bloody civil war.
        India was at its most prosperous during the Mughals with 30% of world GDP there were no communal feelings until the RSS came on the scene to divide us. We Muslims in India have nothing to apologised, this is my country too, so if you don’t like to live peacefully, get out.

        • There is nothing you can do.. we broke the masjid and will build temple on top of it . Don’t make too much noise or we will do it in Varanasi next. This is India, know your place .

          • Everybody has equal ‘place’ in India. No specific group owns India. If one really cares for India’s progress, must learn to respect each other. Carrying history’s burden in modern times serves no purpose. We must look forward. Otherwise we will end up being another Pakistan.

          • thanks for speaking the truth – unlike your chief, the double-faced feku. we understand: unless we, the minorities and oppressed, standup and resist, we shall all be crushed – one by one.

          • Who the hell are you to speak on behalf of 1.3 billion people? India has a constitution, not a religious text to guide. Just like the Nazis in Germany, your time for the trial will come to.

        • Listen u half convert arab. yeah 30% world gdp lol? After looting non muslim wealth, imposing jazia on infidels, stealing their resources, stealing kohinoor and taking it to afghanistan(its now with british) Mughals didnt make india rich. You muslims have been fed with distorted history by Marxists/communists. The commies have delibrately distorted hindu, sikh, buddhist, jain and zorastrian history from textbooks. We kafirs outrightly reject ur mohd and Totalitarian 7th century bull shit ideology.
          The land of hind was always rich and so was persia before your arab,turk, mongol daddies invaded our lands. India was already rich thats why ur islamic invader daddies came to loot our wealth. You have a habit of invading others lands, killing kafir idolaters, breeeding like pigs and then claiming that the land belongs to you. We know who has been invading our lands from north and west. Our hindusim, buddhism,sikhism once used to flourish right from khurasan(afghanistan) to the border to myanmar. Your arab, turkish, mongol, mughal daddies invaded our lands broke our temples, killed people, took women and children as slaves, looted our wealth. Enough evidence has been available. But u will refuse to accept anything as you are a muslim and you cant think above your supremist 7th century religion. As for civil war, yes not just india but britain shall also be having a civil war since you muslims will never be at peace with non muslims. As for breakup of india, this time you’ll be surprised coz we will be unleashing on you what ur islamic invader daddies did to hindus, sikhs, buddhists, jains of the indian subcontinent. We have given you a part of our land back in 1947. and before that we have given you enough lands as well. Leave our lands and go back to your arabia, turkey, afghanistan, pakistan. India will remain but i doubt u and ur future generations will remain.

          No communal feelngs before RSS came and divide us? i can only laugh at your brainwashed double standard hypocrisy. listen muslim, u have a habit of stealing others lands, killing kuffar and then saying that the land belongs to us. The land of hind(starts from sind in pakistan to mynamar doesnt belong to you muslims). Non muslms didnt ask for a separation, it was ur muslim league that asked for separation of the land of hind so that ur islam doesnt come in danger. It is coz of gandhi that you muslims were still being allowed to stay in india. Non muslims never exercised their right to self determination in 1947. If you r not happy you cant shift to pakistan and live with your muslim ummah brothers. we will not give you an inch of our land now. and if you create more problems then we shall take all political rights from you and throw you out.

      • You say
        ‘This sickular drama is because Hindu want it, if they want they can change it. ‘
        _________
        My, my, ram ram…..Yes do you want your own portion of India for people like you, I suggest the cow belt. Where Hindus like you can go live with your below 82 IQ , stunted kids and anaemic women.
        Studies have shown in RSS controlled states the IQ is below 82, one cannot do anything with people this level of IQ

      • There the RSS goes again spreading fake news, no acres to muslim waqf boards, Rajvir Singh it’s the opposite, considerable land belonging to these Muslim trust properties has been swindled away or encroached on since Independence.
        Did not Ambani build a great house on Waqf property in Bombay?

      • “You Muslims should not talk nonsense, first temple was demolished in 1528 …. ” – aA BIG LIE! Read the supreme court verdict on Ayodhya. It says there was no evidence that a temple was demolished at the site where the Babri mosque was built!

  7. What you are doing is promoting the caste system. Stop doing this propaganda. Quota system has already killed the merit in India and now you want to do the same in Temples.

    • i thought temples already had a quota system? is the purohit’s job not reserved for brahmin males or can sabrimala have a female priest henceforth?

  8. Thirdly how did writer knew that foot soldiers came from which community? Did he forget how many “Singhs” participated in that movement. They come under so called open category.

    The writer has no business except to play dirty games.

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