The Long And Winding Road To Ayodhya


By Sankirtana Das (ACBSP)

The recent consecration of the new Rama Temple in Ayodhya, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, generated a flurry of articles and stories in the international media. The ceremony was met with great fanfare from Hindus around the world, although some Indian politicians and brahmins declined to attend for one reason or another. Reportedly, the ceremony put Moslems on edge in India and especially in Ayodhya. The ceremony included the installation of the Deity of Lord Rama in the form of a child with a golden bow in one hand and a golden arrow in the other. Over 50 private jets arrived at the local airport bringing VIP’s to the event.

The new temple is 161 feet high with three floors. It rests on 2.7 acres on a complex which totals 70 acres. The construction began in 2021. No cement, iron or steel was used. The foundation is made of solid granite stone. There are 160 columns on the ground floor and a total of 200 more on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

For the ceremony, the temple and the Deity are prepared and cleansed. The brahmanas chant the Vedic mantras to purify the site. When the Lord is pleased by His devotees’ loving petition He manifests Himself within the statue. The temple takes on a spiritual atmosphere and everyone is invited to come to take audience of the Deity, to bring offerings and to serve the Deity in some capacity. Bhakti begins with the collective effort in constructing the temple and continues after the Deity is installed. Ideally, these activities should not be tainted by the desire of material rewards and gains, but rather should be an act of selfless, loving devotion to the Supreme Lord.

One may say that God is everywhere, within the hearts of all beings and within each atom, why do you need a temple, especially one that was built on the site of a demolished mosque? Because of this, the new Rama temple in Ayodhya has also received much criticism. To offer a proper explanation, below is a concise timeline and other important details leading up to the installation.

Almost 500 years ago in 1528, Babur, an invading Mughal emperor, ordered that the temple of Lord Rama be destroyed and a mosque built in its place. The temple had honored the sacred site where Sri Rama was born many millennia ago. Some might consider the birth and activities of Rama mythology, but the devotees consider Rama’s appearance in the Treta-yuga as itihasa, “that which happened.”

The history is given in The Ramayana. At that time of Rama’s birth, Ayodhya was a thriving city almost 100 miles in length. Lord Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Personality of Godhead. At one point Rama was exiled from the city for 14 years. During His exile Rama defeated the wicked King Ravana and his rakshasa forces. Diwali, the popular festival of lights, commemorates Rama’s return to Ayodhya and His subsequent coronation as King. Rama was an ideal leader, the defender and upholder of Dharma, and indeed Dharma personified. The root word means “to uphold and support.” Dharma’s four supporting pillars are truthfulness, compassion, performing some austerity or sacrifice in our lives, and internal and external cleanliness. This is the actual spiritual tradition of India, and these universal principles are the essence of all religious traditions, and the basis of civilized culture itself. This is why the 2.7 acre site is especially important to Hindus and to upholders of Dharma throughout the world.

In 1949 a Deity of Rama was smuggled into the mosque and hidden by Rama devotees. Later, when they visited the mosque and “discovered” the Deity, they used this as a premise to immediately begin to worship the Lord. The Moslems were incensed and sought to expel them. The Vaisnava group claimed a precedent had been set in the 1800s, since for some time both Hindus and Moslems worshiped at that site.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century, when India formally came under England’s rule, numerous petitions by Hindus were filed in the courts, some by a group called Nirmohi Akhara, meaning “Those Without Attachment.” This large Vaisnava sect are specifically devotees of Lord Rama. They accept members of any caste. The sect promotes a ksatriya mindset, and they learn both scripture and martial arts side by side. Since the late 1800s they led the fight to reestablish the worship of Rama at that site and they claimed the Lord’s worship has been going on there since ancient times. Of course, Hindus could hardly consider filing a petition when the Moslems ruled.

Greater India received its independence from England in 1947 and was partitioned into Pakistan and India. After 1949, the dispute over the site dragged on, and the Moslems refused to continue to worship there in the presence of an “idol.” By 1959 three claimants emerged, claiming the property: a Moslem group, a Hindu group, and the Vaisnava group who claimed the property not for themselves, but for the rightful owner – Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In the 1970s, archeologist found ruins of the original Rama temple under and around the mosque, and discovered that pieces of the temple had been used in the construction of the mosque’s pillars. In 1992 the mosque, unused for 30 years, was destroyed by Hindu rioters. Unfortunately, since independence and even before that, India has been plagued by occasional riots and terrorist attacks triggered by either Hindus or Moslems resulting in thousands of deaths.

A second archeological survey in 2003 found much more evidence of the original Hindu temple at the 2.7 acre site. With this definitive new evidence that a temple predated the mosque, the Allahabad High Court in 2010 decided that the Ayodhya site should be divided into three parts, giving an equal share to each of the claimants. But it seemed none of them liked that idea.

Finally, a 2019 Supreme Court verdict overturned the lingering 2010 decision and handed the site over to a Trust established to construct a Rama Temple there. The Court also ordered the government to supply a site to Moslems to build a new mosque. The Moslems of Ayodhya were again not happy, since the location that was offered was about 15 miles away.

Religions must surely be respectful in interacting with one another, and at times they must also interact in an overarching historical context. If the UN in 1947 gave the Jewish people a homeland after their almost thousand year exile, why would it be unreasonable for the Indian Supreme Court to return the place of Rama’s birth to its original inhabitants after only 500 years? To offer another perspective – when museums find they hold artifacts which have been looted from other cultures, the museums take great pains to identify and return many of those items to their rightful cultures. So the return of the Rama site to it’s original culture, serving the site’s original purpose is not at all unreasonable.

Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna Movement in the West, had in 1953 established The League of Devotees in India. One of its numerous goals was “To re-excavate and/or reclaim the holy places of transcendental Pastimes of the Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, as well as the places where his devotees flourished including the various temples of worship.” Prabhupada went on to explain that “the aims and objects of the institution “The League of Devotees” are not manmade ideologies but they are picked up from the original treasure house of India’s spiritual culture. . . . ”

Twenty years later, in his purport to Chaitanya-caritamrita Adi-lila, verse 17:148, Srila Prabhupada would write, “We do not find any Hindu-Muslim riots in the history of India, even during the days of the Muslims’ rule over the country. Conflict between Hindus and Muslims was created by polluted politicians, especially foreign rulers, and thus the situation gradually became so degraded that India was divided into Hindustan and Pakistan. Fortunately, the remedy to unite not only the Hindus and Muslims but all communities and all nations can still be implemented by the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement on the strong basic platform of love of Godhead.”

As Srila Prabhupada explains in The Pastimes of Lord Ramachandra (Ninth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam) that the Lord’s pastimes are not ordinary or mundane, but are the true topics of the learned and spiritually advanced.

Has the great heritage of Sanatana Dharma been served? Most certainly, But could the process of developing the temple been handled differently? Of course. People are on edge. The world is more strained and volatile than ever. We have political leaders, business leaders, and religious leaders, serving their own self interests. As Prabhupada observed, now more than ever, we must seek out the guidance of those who can point the way forward with kindness and love. We need the unbiased, wisdom filled perspective from such leaders of Dharma. And these leaders can be found in many various countries, cultures and spiritual traditions.

The new temple can be an important step in the revival of Sanatana Dharma? With the temple opening, people everywhere may be eager to learn more of what Lord Rama advocated during his reign of Rama-Rajya? Rama is an example to the politicians of the world. He was an ideal leader who placed the welfare of the citizens above His own desires and happiness.

Just as the sun is not an American sun or African sun or Chinese Sun. The sun is the sun wherever it is in the world. Similarly, the Dharma does not belong to the Hindus or Buddhist or any one culture. The Dharma is One, shining the light of ethics, justice, and respectful dealings throughout the world. This certainly has to be understood and transmitted. Or have the politicians, the wealthy, and the famous celebrities attended this gala event simply as a photo opportunity to further their careers? This remains to be seen.

Sankirtana Das, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, is a longtime resident of the New Vrindaban Community and an award-winning author and storyteller. For more info about his work visit


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