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Whose Ram Rajya does Ayodhya temple bring — Gandhi’s or Modi’s? Ambedkar can answer

The concept of Ram Rajya itself is not without contestation. From M.K. Gandhi to B.R. Ambedkar to Modi, Ram Rajya offers a varied understanding of Indian civilisation.

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As the grand bhoomi pujan for Ram Mandir in Ayodhya gets underway, the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Ram Rajya and Hindu Rashtra is laid bare for the whole world to see. But the concept of Ram Rajya itself is not without contestation. From M.K. Gandhi to B.R. Ambedkar to Modi, Ram Rajya offers a varied understanding of Indian civilisation — and the modern political prism we bring to it in our quest for Indian utopia.

The supreme leader of India’s freedom movement, M.K. Gandhi had a cherished goal of bringing a Ram Rajya in India. His idea of Rama Rajya was quite utopian even as he kept changing the definition. In 1929, Gandhi wrote, “The ancient ideal of the Ramayana is undoubtedly one of true democracy in which the meanest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure… a true Ram Rajya would ensure equal rights to both prince and pauper.”

Later on, he said that his idea of Rama Rajya is different from Hindu Rashtra. He visited Ayodhya twice, where he said in one of his speeches: “Praying to god for our own protection is a sin as long as we do not protect the weak… We need to learn to love the way Ram loved Sita.”

We cannot know for sure how Gandhi would have reacted to the spectacle that the BJP has created for the bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya and the politics behind it leading up to this moment. But because Gandhi was not a votary of separation of religion from State, he would have definitely welcomed the event and possibly asked everyone to do it too. He would have been happy at Muslims’ participation in the ceremony and likened it as a true symbol of Ram Rajya. In that sense, Gandhi was the confluence of liberal and hardcore Hindutva.

At the other end of the ideological spectrum was a person who held a critical gaze to Gandhi’s idea of Ram Rajya as well as to Ram himself — B.R. Ambedkar. There are documented works of Ambedkar that tell us how he was not at all impressed by the idea and ideals of Ram Rajya. His critique of Ram’s three defining actions offer great insight into the Ram Rajya that the RSS-BJP — and its larger support base of Hindu society — use as a pivot to push for their idea of a Hindu Rashtra.

Also read: Idea of India wasn’t demolished at Ayodhya. That happened in our ‘liberal’ homes

Ram Rajya was based on Chaturvarnya  

An important reading of Ram’s character by Ambedkar was that the King of Ayodhya was a protector of varna (caste) system. In his seminal work Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar argues that not only it is “impossible to accurately classify people into four definite classes” but that the “system of Chaturvarnya must perpetually face the problem of the transgressor”. “Unless there is a penalty attached to the act of transgression, men will not keep to their respective classes. The whole system will break down…”

In Ramayana, according to Ambedkar, Ram ensured that transgression did not happen in his kingdom and cites the example of the killing of Shambuka, a Shudra. The ascetic was blamed for doing tapasya (austerity) — which, according to the Varna system, was a crime for Shudra — and causing the death of a Brahmin boy. According to the Dharma, the duty of the Shudras consisted only in the service of the twice-born.

Ambedkar wrote, “Some people seem to blame Rama because he… without reason killed Shambuka. But to blame Rama for killing Shambuka is to misunderstand the whole situation. Ram Raj was… based on Chaturvarnya. As a king, Rama was bound to maintain Chaturvarnya. It was his duty therefore to kill Shambuka, the Shudra, who had transgressed his class and wanted to be a Brahmin. This is the reason why Rama killed Shambuka. But this also shows that penal sanction is necessary for the maintenance of Chaturvarnya. Not only penal sanction is necessary, but penalty of death is necessary. That is why Rama did not inflict on Shambuka a lesser punishment.”

Also read: Not Savarkar-Golwalkar, roots of CAA lie in RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s brand new Hindutva

Justice is elusive in Ram Rajya

Ambedkar was appalled by the manner in which Ram killed Vali. In his book Riddles in Hinduism, Ambedkar lamented, “This murder of Vali is the greatest blot on the character of Rama. It was a crime which was thoroughly unprovoked, for Vali had no quarrel with Rama. It was a most cowardly act, for Vali was unarmed. It was a planned and premeditated murder.”

Like a good lawyer, Ambedkar argued against Sugriva, calling his act of proclaiming himself king “a clear case of usurpation”. “Sugriva should have ascertained, should not merely have assumed that Vali was dead. Secondly, Vali had a son by name Angad whom Sugriva should have made the king as the legitimate heir of Vali.”

And yet, in Ram Rajya, it was Sugriva who wins Ram’s support while Vali is killed in a deceptive manner.

Also read: Covid an excuse to push Indian Muslims out of informal sector jobs. Apartheid the next step

Ram Rajya, too, was a patriarchal state

Ambedkar is most critical of the manner in which Ram treated his wife Sita. He narrates this aspect of Ram’s life in great detail in Riddles in Hinduism. He cites from Valmiki’s Ramayana about Ram’s utterances to Sita when the latter comes to see her after his victory over Ravana: “I have got you as a prize in a war after conquering my enemy, your captor I have recovered my honour and punished my enemy… I did not take this trouble for your sake….I suspect your conduct. You must have been spoiled by Ravana… I allow you to go anywhere you like. I have nothing to do with you.”

Ambedkar laments that it would be difficult to believe any man with ordinary human kindness could address his wife in such dire distress as Rama did to Sita.

In the Ram Rajya, Sita is twice asked to prove her purity and chastity, and is abandoned, based on gossip, “in a somewhat advanced state of pregnancy in a jungle, without friends, without provision, without even notice – in a most treacherous manner”.

“The life of Sita simply did not count. What counted was his own personal name and fame. He of course does not take the manly course of stopping this gossip, which as a king he could do and which as a husband who was convinced of his wife’s innocence he was supposed to do. He yielded to the public gossip and there are not wanting Hindus who use this as ground to prove that Rama was a democratic king when others could equally well say that he was a weak and cowardly monarch,” Ambedkar wrote.

In the final act, according to Ambedkar, “Sita preferred to die rather than return to Rama who had behaved no better than a brute. Such is the tragedy of Sita and the crime of Rama the God.”

Also read: How India can prevent another Babri Masjid demolition

RSS-BJP’s Ram Rajya

In post-Independence India, the political promise of bringing a Ram Rajya has traversed various parties and organisations, from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to the Congress. In the late 1980s, the concept had become then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s primary vision, before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended up completely owning it — and taking it to new levels under Prime Minister Modi in post-2014 India.

Today, as a befuddled Congress dabbles in part-secularism, part-Hindutva, the RSS-BJP has come a long way in its unfettered aim to bring about its ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The ‘Ram Rajya’ of Modi’s India, with a grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya to complement it, will pass the Gandhi test, but it will also most certainly fail the Ambedkar test.

The author 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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  1. How many times Hedgewar, Golwalkar, Vajpayee, Advani went to jail during independence movement? The one who went wrote 13 mercy petition in 14 years and finally said good bye to politics under the terms of release from the British jail.

    • Mr Deb: I agree with your hard-hitting comment.

      You forgot Damodar Savarkar, the founder of the ideology of hate called Hindutva. From his cell in Cellular Jail in the Andamans, he wrote mercy petition after mercy petition pleading with the British to be let out early. In return, this coward promised that he would not oppose the British colonial masters and would work to uphold their power in India. And then we all know that Savarkar was one of the conspirators who was arrested and was the mastermind in the plot to kill the Father of the nation.

      And it is the coward, killer and collaborator wih the colonialists that the BJP worships and whose statue is now in the Parliament.

  2. You cheap ahr writing nonsense and half baked things doesn’t make you any better writer. No doubt you casteist fools support nonsense politicians like lalu

    • You write about 25 words to say nothing about the topic in hand. You’re just happy abusing the author. Typical uncouth Sanghi.

  3. good article , logical . However, in India people with common sense are deemed to be enemies of state.

  4. Your name suggest that why you are all against, Yadavs who themselves belives ancestors of lord Krishna are biggest hypocrites who only thinks about there own community, they defend all corruption and atrocities on Dalits from Yadavs and wants to grab power even there most intelligent people like that and coming generation is also hopeless, look at Jyoti Yadav

  5. What Ram rajya. A rajya which banishes wives,a rajya in which a shudra sambhuka is killed by the ” Maryada Purusha”on the advice of his guru ,a rajya which reinforces chaturvarna and brahmanical supremacy , a rajya where one can kill cunningly any one hiding behind a tree , a rajya where battles are won by divide and rule through allurements as happened in the case of drohi vibhushana who was promised the kingdom for betraying his own brother. We are truly witnessing it. With almost all these ” great values” are being put to practice. And today’s event heralds a return to medieval hierarchical dwija Raj ruling with an iron hand . Majoritarian militarism.

    • Dwija rule? So how will want a low iq rule of people like you. And for your ranting shambuka etc, these are recent addition, so should be considered only after understanding the bkgd. And for your baba, he was brit puppet, how many times went to jail during brit rule.

      • How many times Hedgewar, Golwalkar, Vajpayee, Advani went to jail during independence movement? The one who went wrote 13 mercy petition in 14 years and finally said good bye to politics under the terms of release from the British jail.

  6. Waste people crying because they have lost the people … Go and apply some burol … People are with Ram … Jai Sree Ram !

  7. It was unfortunate that Ambedkar only read one version of Ramayan and that too without any critical analysis of it. But, after cross-analysis of 200 versions of Ramayana received from Pakistan to Phillipines, the story of Shambhuka has been accepted by most scholars including western Indologists and many Hindu organizations to be a later fabrication to the original story of Rama. Even in the version Ambedkar criticized itself said it was only applicable for Treta Yuga and in this age of Kali, which started from 3100 BCE as per Hindu theology, everybody is born as Shudra and everybody can perform any form of austerities.

    The same Ramayana describes how an untouchable and a son of a prostitute became the topmost priest in Rama’s court and one of the most revered Brahmin in his lifetime. He became Satyakam Jabala, who even wrote a Upanishad later. Rama never discriminated based on his birth and caste. The same Ramayana described how Rama accepted food from an untouchable old lady called Shabari who was a disciple of Chandala sage Matanga. The same Rama became an eternal friend of Shudra Guhaka. The same Ramayana narrates how both Lord Rama and a adivasi/moolnivasi Nishada king (called scheduled Tribe now) went to the same gurukul to gain knowledge and later stayed at Nishada house during his forest life.

    But, today’s radical Hinduphobic Ambedkarites will not hightlight any of these due to their hatred towards anything related to Hindus. If they really want social justice, then they should highlight these facts rather than mining some sporadic unauthentic incidences with microscope from the vast body of Sanskritic literature.

  8. Congress party can , now, take up the cause of Shri Krishan Janam Bhoomi and Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple to upstage BJP. The vast majority of Hindus want liberation of these two prominent place of worship also. Fake or pseudo- secularism is dead a long time ago . For Congress Party it may not be difficult to find some political space. IT may be difficult for some journalists to change their views so suddenly who are sleeping in long bygone Nehruvian era. But many of them will toe the party line as a famous General of India has termed them— PRESSITUTES . They can be paid something NOW , with the promise to enrich them in future . Mostly it is what comes in to pockets becomes ideology . Pro -Hindu narrative is not going to exit too soon from political mind space. Act now .

  9. Its unfortunate that Ambedkar only read one version of Valmiki Ramayan that was the most popular at that time. But, after critical analysis of 200 versions of Ramayana obtained from Pakistan to Indonesia, almost all scholars including leftist western Indologists and most Hindu organizations found that the story of Shambuka badh and Sita Visarjan was a later interpolation in Uttarakhanda and thus considered as not authentic. Even the version that Ambedkar read that described Sambhuka badh told itself in the same text that it was the rule only for Treta Yuga, which ended thousands of years ago. In current era of Kali starting from 3100 BCE onward, every body is born as Shudra and anybody can perform any kinds of austerities without any distinction of castes. I urge these Hindu-phobic Ambedkarite extremists to study Ramayana first thoroughly before even writing those non-sense on Lord Rama.

  10. Reply to Ideas and not talk about individuals. Raavan was also a Hindu and a brahmin, if you are not aware.

  11. Replace Muhammed with SriRam… and you would have a bullet on to your head… and thats the difference between Hindus and Others. … let us reclaim our identity,.. Jai Shri Ram

  12. Mullah Mandal is at it yet again. Having thrown mud at everything and failed, he has now resorted to discredit the Mahatma. Dr Ambedkar and the Mahatma are two of the most important modern day stalwarts in social justice and equity, but Mullah Mandal cannot get used to this. Like a trueblue Mullah, he is trying to disunite the Hindu community and create caste differences. History has rightly said, “Why Blame Ghori when you have a Jaichand amongst you” – I pray to the author to change his name from Dilip Mandal to Mullah Muhammad Mandal.

  13. I agree with Ambedkar. Hindus were presented with a upper caste sanitised Rama in the Ramayana serial. The Shambuga incident cited by Ambedkar was of course not shown.

    But Ramayana and all Hindu texts are about the excellence of the Brahmin and the need for the sudras to know their place is to be servers to the other three castes.

    The caste system is unique to India, that is the reason India cannot become developed ever. Other nations run on the concept of liberty, equality and fraternity. The Hindu mind seeks suppression, inequality and fraternity only withing castes.

  14. SUPPORTERS of divide Hindus and rule INDIA are really the ” ravaan ” of TODAY. Whose megalomaniac minds are torturing them. Solution is JAI SHRI RAM.

    • ‘SUPPORTERS of divide Hindus and rule INDIA are really the ” ravaan ” of TODAY. ‘

      The dividers and rulers are Brahmins. For India to become developed, Brahmanism needs to be eradicated.

    • Mr Shailesh: Whilst in the past “Jai Shri Ram” was a chant with solely a religious meaning attached to it, it no longer is that today. Sadly, it has been turned into a death chant wileded by gaurakshak and other Hindutva intoxicated, lumpen goons lynching hapless Muslims.

      The BJP has usurped that religious chant and turned it into a war cry to harangue, humiliate and hit innocent Muslims in India. And that deadly ideology is supported by bigots like you who regard as a “solution”. Hopefully, the chant will not become the equivalent of Hitler’s Final Solution, despite the efforts of closet Hindutva Nazis like you to turn it into one.

      • Stop leveling everybody as Nazi and fascist when you know only to shout but not to argue. Misusing ‘Jay Shree Rama’ by a few criminals does not make it a war cry. If I buy your logic, then chanting of ‘Allahu Akbar’ to murder millions in last decade should be war slogans which is announced every day five times through Azaan in every part of India and around the world. Also, what was the logic for Phalghar murder of innocent Hindu sadhus fueled by Christian missionaries propaganda? So lets not trivialize everything. There are miscreants in every religion, every communities including liberals. But, using that to denigrate a whole religion or ideology is nothing short of fascism itself.

        Regarding this Hinduphobic article on Rama, this is completely misinterpretation of Ramayana. It is mostly based on an unauthentic later interpolation of original Ramayana called uttarkhanda, most of which are considered recent addition and thus not attributed to Ram at all.

        • Sap Das: I have to disagree with you and regard your defence for Mr Shailesh above as singularly puerile.

          You have clearly not grasped the first sentence in my post:

          “.. in the past “Jai Shri Ram” was a chant with solely a religious meaning attached to it, it no longer is that today ..”

          It cannot be refuted that the lumpen underbelly of the BJP has usurped and turned that religious chant into a feared war cry – at least for poor Muslims in the BJP ruled backwaters of North India.

          And something similar and unfortunate has happened with Islam too. Some of the North African Muslims from Algeria and Morocco who report to me in my office here in Europe have identical things to say about the Islamic chant “Allahu Akbar”. Several of them have told me that should I hear the chant “Allahu Akbar” in the streets, I would need to duck and get the hell out of wherever I happened to be. Ordinary, law-abiding Muslims also were confronted with the fact that “Allahu Akbar” was a warcry of sorts that terrorists would scream before doing something violent and ungodly. Islamists had hijacked that simple cry praising their God, just as your gaurakshak friends had hijacked “Jai Sri Ram”.

          And as regards your claim that Christian missionaries had killed innocent Hindu sadhus in Phalgar, well, that claim can only be called preposterous. But then, I cannot prevent you from inhaling the hot air that Arnab Goswami and his right wing brethren produce in copious amounts.

          Bottomline: Just as Islam has been hijacked by Islamists to spread terror, Hinduism too is being hijacked by the Hindutva of the BJP, the RSS, VHP and other fascist and semi fascist outfits.

          That a ragtag bunch of violent. semi-literate saffron thugs can convince you and your ilk that Hindutva is the same as Hinduism reminds me of the quote from the Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli:

          “One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived”

    • The solution can never be a mythological god or any god. The solution is to treat all human beings how you would want to be treated. Not to destroy one gods temple to build another gods temple. India will never survive this hatred of others. Millions are leaving the country due to such hatred! Love one another or be destroyed by hatred!

      • An outstanding comment Mr Stephen Billings !

        Interestingly, even Hindus are leaving India in droves. At least those who realise that building temples does not put food on the table. Nonetheless, Modi’s gimmicks seem to fool a large chunk of the population. It remains to be seen how long they will remain fooled and what more tomfoolery Indians will tolerate.

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