Friday, 20 May, 2022
HomeOpinionFrom Jai Siya Ram to Jai Shri Ram: How Ayodhya erased Sita

From Jai Siya Ram to Jai Shri Ram: How Ayodhya erased Sita

In Ayodhya, you will almost never hear a woman devotee, either a resident or a pilgrim, ever use the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

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In Ayodhya, you will almost never hear a woman devotee, either a resident or a pilgrim, use the slogan “Jai Shri Ram“. It is always “Sita-Ram-Sita-Ram” that you hear being chanted.

Most of the older male pilgrims who come to Ayodhya from rural areas will not take Ram’s name by itself. But it is different with the younger male visitors and those indoctrinated by the Hindutva forces at play in India now. These men know no other greeting or slogan but “Jai Shri Ram“, and it is often shouted at you with clenched fists.

Tulsi pillar with Sita-Ram and Ram-Ram written on it at Saryu Ghat, Ayodhya, 2004 | Photograph by Prashant Panjiar
Tulsi pillar with Sita-Ram and Ram-Ram written on it at Saryu Ghat, Ayodhya, 2004 | Photograph by Prashant Panjiar
Priest with Jai Shri Ram shawl in Ayodhya, 2002 | Photograph by Prashant Panjiar
Priest with Jai Shri Ram shawl in Ayodhya, 2002 |
Photograph by Prashant Panjiar

Traditionally, the only time when “Jai” was used in a slogan in association with Ram was in the invocation “Siyavar Ramchandraji ki jai (Glory be to Sita’s husband Ramchandra)”. Greetings exchanged between people where Ram’s name was used were usually “Ram-Ram” or “Jai Ram ji ki“, spoken with a certain softness, never with aggression.


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In the 1980s, as the Hindutva movement picked up steam, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal carried out a campaign pasting stickers on doors of homes saying “Ram-Ram Chhodo, Jai Shri Ram Bolo“. They ordered Hindus to give up the gentle and loving traditional greeting “Ram-Ram” for the loud and aggressive “Jai Shri Ram, which is now being forced down our throats even more under the Narendra Modi era.

Even in the visual representation, there was a distinct shift – from faith to a political use of the image of Ram. This took two forms: the first was the removal of Sita and the other was a newer heroic, muscular image of Ram. The older traditional images of Ram where he is shown mostly as a benign benevolent being, often almost feminine, has now been entirely replaced by a singular new Hindutva-inspired image of Ram – a warrior with no Sita by his side.

Priest recites prayers in front of a representation of Ram, Sita, Laxman and Hanuman at Choti Chavni in Ayodhya, 2004 | Photograph by Prashant Panjiar
A priest recites prayers in front of a representation of Ram, Sita, Laxman and Hanuman at Choti Chavni in Ayodhya, 2004 | Photograph by Prashant Panjiar
An image of Ram at the old VHP office in Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya, 2019 | Photograph by Prashant Panjiar
An image of Ram at the old VHP office in Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya, 2019 |
Photograph by Prashant Panjiar

For us, India is feminine and we refer to it as our mother. Even though the slogan “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” finds favour with the Hindutva forces, in actuality, their representation of our nation is decidedly male since militant religious nationalism has no place for compassion, tenderness and humility. It thrives on jingoism, aggression and domination. So, let us not make the mistake of believing that the use of certain words, phrases and visual representations is innocent. “Jai Shri Ram” is a new construct loaded with political undertones and very much part of the Hindutva movement.


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These images were made in Ayodhya while continuing my long-term work that I began in 2002 – a photographic portrait of the town that has been at the centre stage of India’s contemporary social and political history.

The author is a photographer and curator. Views are personal.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Typical Leftist Mindset. We Hindus have understood your intentions behind breaking us. As you said in Narendra Modi era we are more united than ever. Go suck on that. As Balasaheb Thakery said we need a militant Hindus not feminists Hindus. We are not going to fall on your tactics anymore.

  2. “Shri” means Lakshmi, whose avatar Sita is, isn’t she? We always refer to the Bhagwan as Shri Ram, Shri Narayan, to denote his inseparability from Lakshmi Devi. Do not spread mischief, educate yourself in the deeper meanings of Hindu culture.

  3. The current narrative of last 30 years undermines the women, her understanding of balancing family, her sacrifices are taken for granted.
    The downtrodden are not treated as equals.

  4. Perfect Analysis. Fully agree.
    Obviously, it is no more about following the Hindu Traditions that instilled equal respect for women (Sita) and the downtrodden tribal (Shabri).
    In the present narrative, Since last 30 years it is about “THE King” Ram,
    the “power” of Ram, the capacity of “King” Ram to raise an army of fighters, and the “violent” (killing capacity) of Ram.
    One wonders where is “pious” Ram ?
    Ram is now being used as a weapon….

  5. What’s wrong if India becomes masculine? Why should it always be feminine – do you want India to be trampled over by enemy forces?

    • As per your comment, anything associated with Feminity can be razed over by inimical forces; whereas anything associated with Masculinity is unsurmountable. What a logic, Sir….. Commendable. Can you please provide an example supporting this brilliant fictional, sexist thouight of yours???

  6. The writer has shown sheer contempt of the Modi Govt….. The narratives used by the writer clearly shows his bias… “Narendra Modi era”…. “being put into the throats”…

    The writer has forgotten and also think that people may have forgotten the time of Ram Mandir agitation since 1990 onwards when Jai Shri Ram Slogan started…. It’s around 30 years now which is not a small time. ….

    This is also beauty of Hindu Dharma that Hindus are not rigid with their dharam and changes occur with passage of time which is not available in Abrahamanical faiths……

    Moreover, Freedom of speech is there for Right Wing also for which Leftists are
    crying…..

    MF Hussain depicted nude Saraswati which was hailed by so called Sikularists as Freedom of speech. …. But same Sikularists cried when one of Hindu demographed Hanuman in angry mode….

    Think over it why Kamlesh Tiwari killed….

    Ask MF Hussain’s alike to first start with their own Dharma and if they will be allowed to be alive, only then they tinker with other Dharmas….

  7. A ridiculous article. The insinuations being made by the author are ridiculous to say the least. Clearly a member of the Left-liberal cabal out to peddle his ideology under the guise of secularism.

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