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View: Ayuddha, a homage to peace

‘Damnatio memoriae’ is a Latin phrase roughly meaning ‘erasing bad memory’. Although the phrase came into vogue much later, the practice dated back to the Greek and Roman periods in European history. Erection of statues, not of men of god or of wisdom, but of power, was a standard practice. Historians point out that, at one point, there were over 3,000 statues of the emperors in Athens and Rhodes for a population of a few tens of thousands. Then began the practice of damnatio memoriae, with people demolishing the statues of evil emperors. The practice has returned in the US and Europe again recently. The Babri story is the Indian equivalent of damnatio memoriae. The Babri structure, erected by supposedly demolishing a Ram temple at Ayodhya in 1528 by Mughal emperor Babur’s commander Mir Baqui, was one such bad memory. Iconoclasm was a regular imperial practice during the medieval period for the Semitic religions.Hagia Sophia, a cathedral of Byzantine-era Constantinople (later Istanbul), recently converted into a mosque by Recep Erdogan'sTurkey, is one such living example of such iconoclastic history in which Christian symbols were destroyed or plastered over. Babur, and later emperors like Aurangzeb, were fired by this iconoclastic zeal and destroyed many prominent Hindu shrines. Historian Arnold Toynbee described these destructions as the product of an ‘intentionally offensive political purpose’. He equated mosques in Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi with the Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Warsaw, Poland, built in 1893 by tsarist Russia, which the Poles destroyed in 1924, adding in his 1960 Maulana Azad Memorial Lecture in Delhi that ‘the Poles were really kinder in destroying the Russians’ self-discrediting monument in Warsaw than you have been sparing Aurangzeb’s mosques’. Three decades after Toynbee’s ‘taunt’, the Babri structure was brought down, and the first brick was laid for the restoration of a temple after another three decades. The larger national consensus over Ayodhya can’t be missed. There were some questions, but only about ‘how’ they were done, not about ‘why’ they were done. Some eccentrics still talk about converting the upcoming temple at Ayodhya into a mosque ‘on the lines of Hagia Sophia’. A few crassly communal leaders still claim that ‘Babri Masjid thi, hai aur rahegi’ (Babri was, is and will remain a mosque). But they don’t represent the larger Muslim community, which understands and appreciates that the issue was not worth losing time and lives any more. Ideally, a solution based on mutual agreement would have been the best climax for the issue. Efforts made in that direction in early 1990s during Chandrashekhar’s and P V Narasimha Rao’s administrations did not yield any results. Thankfully, that larger consensus is discernible now. Ever since the Supreme Court judgment came, both communities displayed maturity and positivity towards the issue. There was no triumphalism from the Hindu side, and there wasn’t any unwholesome reaction from the Muslim side either. Ram and Ayodhya are India’s greatest unifiers. Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia used to say that Ram, Krishna and Shiv signify India’s civilisational identity. ‘You just stand outside a temple in Rameswaram in the South or Badrinath in the North, you will find Hindustan there,’ he would say. Ayodhya is a sacred place for Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. Ram is revered for his supreme human qualities by millions of others, irrespective of religion. The only message that Ayodhya emanates is about the larger unity and goodwill among the people. ‘You will find Ram in different forms in different Ramayanas; but Ram is present everywhere; Ram is for all. That is why Ram is the connecting link in India’s unity in diversity,’ observed Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week at bhumi puja event at Ayodhya. Swami Chinmayananda, founder of the Chinmaya Mission and one of the pillars of the movement until his demise in 1993, gave a unique definition to Ayodhya: ‘Ayodhya — the word itself means — Ayuddha — that is, non-war or peace. It is for Ayuddha (no conflict) that we are fighting. Just as the World War was for peace, we are no doubt fighting, but only for establishing peace and progress in our country.’ The temple at Ayodhya should pave the way for Ayuddha — peace forever among communities. The writer is national general secretary, BJP