Ayodhya Reborn! A Good time to Usher Ram Rajya

An awesome ceremony, a rare consecration, an event unlike any other. Evoking the spirit of Lord Ram can be the best deterrent to voices of division and despair, a time to give and take and live in peace and progress. Some thoughts on India going forward at a pivotal moment in time in our nation’s history.

Last month is etched in stone, literally. All those concerned, a triple engine development, which would include the centre, the state and the trust put all hands-on deck, leaving no stone unturned, beautifully chiselled in all the mastery that Indian artisans are famous for, globally. From the temples of yore, to this modern-day marvel. With this, the Ayodhya temple issue finally resolved itself, in the inauguration of the Ram temple! Resolved, or entered the next phase, only time can tell. It took a while, starting from the Rath Yatra of LK Advani and the demolition of the masjid. It is now all history, as another chapter unfolded on 22nd January last month. There was no looking back, after the Supreme Court judgment; just within three years, the temple rose again, to herald a new birth for the Hindu deity. Meanwhile, the Gyanvapi Mosque issue has come up, we may witness some more developments in this same direction.

In its entirety, from start to finish, in one sweep, if there can be one, what would one say? Was this a political narrative unfolding, or a religious one? Or, was it perhaps both, a tryst with religion, made possible by the sheer strength and dominance of political will! There is a bit of both, religion and politics. There would be both opinions, some giving more points to one than the other. For the present, it has played out well, for the ruling dispensation, regardless of the absence of all the opposition combined. Helplessly, they kept themselves out, not knowing what else they could do. But religion is here to stay, it appears, as a central piece in the political narrative – its manifestations would be diverse. Going forward, more and more actions will be given a political hue, 2024 being an election year. As has been pointed out, some more than 50 countries are lasted to have their elections later this year, USA and UK included. A new global dispensation can be expected by the end of 2024, given the many shades of opinion around the world.

As the Indian story unfolds, you can well ask who has been leading whom, and who is being followed? Is it what the masses want and which the BJP is giving them, or is it what the BJP wants and is leading the people to believe this is what they want? Who is following whom? And for what? But then, you can also ask, does it matter? Somewhere the two meet and submerge into each other and then it does not matter? Is there a psyche that believes Indians (read Hindus) have been betrayed in their own country? That the repeated invasions, especially by the Muslims (the British did not destroy our temples) that destroyed our identity? That this is the beginning of our return to our identity, a reaffirmation that we are on our way to standing tall once again, on our own two feet? This version is closely going hand in hand with India becoming the fifth largest economy globally; we were reported as having crossed the Hong Kong market index climbing to global 4th position.

Is it the emergence of Bharat? Those, who have remained marginalised?

Is there a corresponding narrative that says we need to rediscover our Indian identity, and that time has come for the ‘majority’ to take a call on how India should go forward? Is it that so far, some 2% of the well-bred Indians (read Oxford and Cambridge type) were deciding how the other 98% should live. Was it the Eton type, Lutyen’s Delhi pedigree, that believed they were the privileged few; tell the rest how to conduct themselves and respond appropriately as they should. Modi rose from the humblest of origins, rose to the very top, a symbol for the average man on the street to look up to, and emulate. He is not a favourite with this 2%; but should this matter to him? He remains visibly scornful of them, believes India’s story does not rest on them; on the contrary, he believes this 2% derailed the Indian success story till the last decade! Whatever be the answer, it does not rest with the 2%.

I keep looking at cricket as a metaphor, raising similar questions. It was originally the cosy Bombay club, it was five-day cricket, all dressed in whites, red ball play, all was hunky dory. Then came newer formats, the onslaught of Delhi as an example and then Haryana and Punjab and others, with the likes of Kapil Dev who was at that time learning how to speak the language! With his patented Palmolive ka jawab nahin! Today, new wave onslaughts from tier 3 and 4, not even 2, have swept the scene, enterprising players who like Narendra Modi have been dreamers who made it big! Is this truly the foundations of the new aspirational India, who want to break free and make India, say Bharat, their future. Witness the rise of the likes of Siraj, Shami and Jaiswal! Incredible folk tales that defy city driven logic.

Ram Temple: A new beginning for Religious Tourism

So, what does the Ram Temple come to signify? A new awakening, or is this all hyperbole, and that dust will settle down on this once sleepy town, and commerce around spiritual tourism will take over. That indeed, would happen, that a new era of religious tourism is set to grow. Traditionally, religious tourism has been overlooked by the organized tourism sector. That it has been relatively looked down upon as meant for low income and middle class. Though in recent years, the last two decades or so, mid-market brands from ITC and Taj have entered the sector in places like Shirdi, Katra and Tirupati. But Ayodhya has a different story to tell. The Taj Group has already signed for three of their brands, the Leela has signed for a seven-star property with the Lodha Developers. This narrative of religious towns is destined to change; you will witness more connectivity, more ease in travel and a range of accommodation including the more luxe. This change promises more financial returns from this segment of travel. A concerted seamless ease in travel should be expected in the immediate years ahead.

Political Power Play: It is Inevitable

But back to the political narrative, the aberrations are already there and here to stay, regardless of which party is on power. Unrelenting power play is in vogue, witness the no holds barred campaigns in the US for their side of the elections. There, hell has seldom seen this fury unleashed; then why a lesser mature democracy less ours should not wander and waver? Now in Ayodhya, as 2024 unfolds the BJP can well say a promise has been delivered. And therefore, Modi ki Guarantee could well work. Even if the average person does not have the 15 lakhs in his bank account and not much has come out of the Swiss banks? But it is always a score card, of hits and misses, and Ayodhya and the Ram temple is a big Hit and not miss, a hit that matters, at least over the next few months!

How far will this relate to votes? Nobody can tell, if there are many positives on one side, there are also angry voices that either do not endorse the temple or the manner in which it was consecrated! Everybody is entitled to their viewpoint, and best expressed or manifested in their choice on the ballot box.

The Grand Ceremony, A Landmark Event

The 22nd January event needs to be mentioned in its detail. Eye witness accounts suggest it was a flawless ceremony for guests. Some few thousands in attendance, with the who’s who in the country, name him or her, and you met them, just soaking in the ceremony like commoners, rubbing shoulders as either the devout or celebs, or both. Not a glitch, the event witnessed the easiest comfort among the guests. Security was unobtrusive, the movement immaculate and impeccable.

The temple itself is elaborate in every detail. It brings together the craftsmanship for which the Indian artist is world renowned. No compromise, no short cuts. The mandir was perhaps many years in the making, as across the country, the believers have been busy in the faith that one day this will happen, its time will come, and it did. The etchings in stone are masterly, the structure has been built to last a thousand years. There is no steel in the fabrication, it is a testimony to building today, as how temples were built in yesteryears. In all circumspection, full marks are deserved for one and all, from the head of the team at work, to the craftsman, who toiled day and night. The PM is no ordinary taskmaster, he demands and commands. Delivery both within time and quality is the only deliverance. And, indeed, it works.

Ayodhya: Dawn of a New City

For the big day, not just the temple, but the entire town has taken a new look. Ayodhya has a new railway station, a new airport, revamped streets and restrooms, new facades donning what was once dilapidated narrow lanes filled with a few hawkers on the look out for scant tourists. All this has changed. Land prices have sky rocketed, with no respite to be seen. It will grow into a huge big city, perhaps rivalling the might of cities like Varanasi and Mathura. Uttar Pradesh is well set to become the centre for Hindu pilgrimage, with new tourist itineraries around its cities set to provide a new momentum for the state’s economy. Some 20,000 crores of investments have already been committed. Ayodhya is the city to be in, watch and see it grow. Being almost a greenfield development, it has the land, the resources and the political will to grow into a magical fairyland for the world to experience.

The Spirit of Ram Rajya, the Epitome in Humility

What about the most important message from Lord Ram? His persona breathes humility, self-denial, benevolence, sacrifice. Above all, just as vulnerable to public opinion as the common man. His message to our countrymen must indeed be this message, to inculcate this same spirit in each one of us. To be benevolent and caring towards whom we serve, those who have given us the task to lead them. Arrogance and vengeance are alien to Ram; he was the Lord himself, the royal, the king in waiting, but never a sign of any of that in his daily task. No defiance, no hatred, he breathed love and care. That is Ram Rajya, in spirit and letter. A good time to take our vows afresh, as a people.


Navin Berry, Editor, Destination India, over five decades has edited publications like CityScan, India Debates and Travel Trends Today. He is the founder of SATTE, India’s first inbound tourism mart, biggest in Asia.



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