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AYODHYA
By Mohan Shenoy

Where is Ayodhya?

Ayodhya is the name of a town in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Uttar Pradesh is a vast area along the banks of the river Ganges and its tributaries forming the vast fertile northern plain of India.The people of Uttar Pradesh know Ayodhya very well. The people of rest of India too know Ayodhya better now than in the past.

Ayodhya has woken up the religious sentiments in the Hindus as well as the Muslims. Ayodhya has brought forward the history of India much more than any other single subject.

Uttar Pradesh is surrounded by other Indian states all around except in the north where Nepal becomes the immediate neighbour. The state of Himachal Pradesh is in the Northwest, Uttarakhand next to Himachal Pradesh towards East, Nepal (Soureign State not belonging to India) still Eastwards, and Bihar below Nepal; Jarkhand below Bihar; Chattisghar on the West side of Jarkhad; Madhya Pradesh still Westwards; Delhi and Haryana directly in the West side of Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh is one of the bread baskets of India. Indian civilization has been rooted in Uttar Pradesh which along with Bihar, Bengal and Odisha form the bedrock of Hinduism.

How to reach Ayodhya?

How to reach Ayodhya?
One can reach the best by train. One could fly from Delhi to Lucknow and then travel by either train or road to Ayodhya.

We went first to Allahabad and took a taxi to go by road to Ayodhya. The distance is about 215 kilometers and the road is fairly good. If one starts from Allahabad early in the morning then one can reach Ayodhya before the temples close for lunch from 12 noon to 2 p.m. everyday. Bus transport is not well-developed here.

Within the town there are autorickshaws which charge reasonable fare. This was before 2014. So please update the information by checking through latest search.

Ayodhya Verdict

What would be the consequences of the verdict to build a Raam temple?

The site is declared as belonging to the three litigants and has to be divided into three portions.

The Hindu Mahasabha can build the temple in the portion of which the Mahasabha is declared as the owner.

The other two beneficiaries have been ordered to allow use of the Hindu portion including construction of a Raam Temple.

There is no need to wait any longer. After the expiration of the 90 days of status quo ordered by the court verdict, construction of the temple can be started.

A smaller temple than the Hindus have planned will not be insignificant.

Let the Muslims build a mosque in their portion of the land.

It does no harm to have a Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque side-by-side. It will help the local people to come together and treat each other as brothers.

India will be highly commended for its inclusive policy in religious affairs and secular approach if a temple and a mosque are built side-by-side.

Ayodhya Verdict continued

Since the Indian Constitution recommends freedom of religion, the Ayodhya verdict has offered many opportunities for the citizens to behave like brothers. It is a test for both the Hindu swamis and the Muslim clerics to see for themselves the mannerisms and philosophy of each other. There is a chance for each other to hold some of the festivals together by inventing the common features among them.

There could be feasts serving vegetarian food on the days of the Muslim festivals so that Hindus can also take part in the feasts. There is a necessity for one community to accommodate the other without compromising the principles and procedures of the festivals of each other.

If Muslims do not wish to take part in idol worship then they can join in those parts of the festival in which idol worship does not exist. By joining in the festival of the other community, one need not give up their own beliefs and rituals. A committee of experts chosen from both the Hindus and Muslims can lay down rules and procedures to conduct prayers and worship. The committee should find ways and means to organise the day to day activities of the temple and mosque in a friendly and peaceful manner. After all the Hindus accept the fact that God is one and called as Allah by the Muslims. Although Muslims do not accept any god other than Allah the Hindus are not compelling them to do otherwise. By joining the Hindus in all sacred activities other than worshiping the Hindu gods, Muslims would not have given up their concepts about the Almighty. They can follow the Quran word to word and still maintain a friendly relationship with the Hindus. Hindus also can endeavour to maintain friendly attitude towards various beliefs which Muslims hold.

India is destined to remain a secular country and Muslim citizens are also destined to remain equal citizens in India. Therefore it is necessary for each other to understand the compulsions imposed by their religious scriptures. The goal of life for Hindus and Muslims is the same viz. to go to heaven. Muslims believe that by following what is dictated in Quran they can go to heaven. Hindus also believe that if they follow the religious path and spiritual path mentioned in the Vedas and Puraanas then they will certainly go to heaven. The heavens described by each religion may be different from the other.

It is not a difficult task at all for Hindus to allow the Muslims to live as they like with their religion. Muslims by any measure do not wish to interfere in the way the Hindus live. It is only the willingness that is required to live together since we are citizens of the same country i.e. India.

The opportunity to live in peace is knocking at the doors of the two communities following the Ayodhya verdict. A small mosque and a small temple could be built in the plots allotted to each community. If the Nirmohi Akhara can join its plot with that of the Raam Lalla Virajman then a bigger temple could be built on the combined plot.

Both the Hindu and Muslim leaders may come together and appoint an Architect to draw suitable plans and build the places of worship speedily. By solving the dispute peacefully in the manner stated above India can show to the world that she is the most accommodative nation when it comes to the question of religions in the world.

Hindus want Ayodhya back

Hindus regard the place as the a sacred piece of land. Hindus believe that Lord Raam, one of the ten incarnations of God Vishnu was born here and there was a temple for Raam here. In the sixteenth century, the Raam temple was demolished and a mosque was built by the Mughal King Babar infuriating the Hindus in those days. The structure came to be known as the Babri Masjid or Mosque. However, the mosque was not used by the Muslims for daily prayer since a century or more and thus lost its sanctity. It became a mere archeological structure (requires autherntification). This building was not considered to be a mosque by the local muslims for unknown reasons (requires authentification). It was a massive structure of mud and stone with three lofty domes on its roof.

POLITICIANS TREAT MUSLIMS AS A VOTE-BANK
The Shah Bano case and its aftermath i.e., the Muslim Women's Act of 1986 lead to retaining the Sharia law which favoured the Muslim personal laws over the secular laws inscribed in the Indian Constitution. The Constitution itself was amended easily to incorporate the views of Muslim scholars on alimony to divorcees and widows, by the Congress party government since this party had an absolute majority in upheld the secular laws of the Constitution for Muslim widows to be at par with other widows. This act of the Congress party resulted in appeasement of the Muslims to join it in large numbers.

To appease the Hindus and as a gesture of impartiality, after the Shah Bano overture, the then Congress party government at the Centre decided to provide facilities to Hindus to worship Lord Raam within the premises of the Babri structure. And after Shah Bano case and the Muslim Women's Act.

Rajiv Gandhi's government opened the gates of the building to allow Hindus to worship the Raam Lalla idol. The Raam Lalla idol was being worshipped from far and outside the gates of the structure till then. The gates were locked soon after  Hindus began to worship Lord Raam there and several claims for ownership of the land on which the Babri structure stood were filed in the local courts. There were Hindu claims and Muslim claims and these were to be settled in the local courts.

Lal Krishna Advani of the Jan Sangh and later of Bharatiya Janata Party set out on a Raam Rath Yathra from Somnath temple in Gujarath to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh in 1989 and the Hindus began to chant: "Temple for Raam will be built at Ayodhya no matter what".

So we find that the Ayodhya dispute has strengthened the Muslims and weakened the Hindus. The Muslims have united themselves against Hindus both after the demolition of Babri structure and after the Godhra carnage followed by Gujarath riots. Pakisthan and many Middle East Muslim countries have backed the Indian Muslims in their efforts to form a formidable force in the Indian democratic outfit. Democracy has been the yardstick to measure the power of voter-citizens.

Many Hindus call themselves secularists and do not favour the agitational path of the BJP and other Hindu groups regarding the Raam Temple in Ayodhya. Many Indians do not consider the Raam Temple as an important thing for India. Those Hindus who are inclined to be Socialists and Communists oppose the campaign of the BJP and its Hindu allies for building Raam Temple at Ayodhya. Since the Muslims have the Congress party and the Left under their armpit the goal of building a Raam temple in Ayodhya might not be realized ever.

RAMA JANMABHOOMI IN AYODHYA

The Muslims initially felt timid to stage any protests against the aspirations of Hindus with regard to the Babri structure proposed to be used for Hindu worship. They lost their voice to protest the aspirations of their neighbours in Ayodhya who wished to use the structure as a Hindu place of worship.

Initially the Muslims felt that they had no right to demand anything from Hindus, since they belonged to Pakisthan. Pakisthan had become a hostile country within days after it was formed. And Muslims in India felt threatened with similar treatment which Pakisthan meted out to Hindus in their country.

But, no, the Hindus did not treat Indian Muslims as aliens. Instead they were treated like valued vote banks. Every Indian Muslim was given a right to vote in every election.

Unlike in Pakisthan where the Hindus voted only for a Hindu candidate, and had no power to influence the election of Muslim candidates, a Hindu in Pakisthan had a weak, restricted and degraded electoral power in the Islamic Republic, the Muslims in India was on equal footing with his Hindu counterpart as voter.

Election after election the Muslim voters realized that they had a voice in the governance of India. The Congress party constantly tried to make Muslims feel safe in India and assured them of all benefits on a priority basis.

THE STORY OF LORD RAAM

RAAMANAVAMI FESTIVAL

A festival is held to celebrate completion of a harvest, or celebration of the anniversary of inauguration of community halls, temples, community.

Festivals bring joy to practically every one in the society.  Many of the festivals and functions are necessary for the healthy psychological development of the person, whether the festival is scientifically meaningful or not.

Usually it is a task for a person to fulfill the rituals of a festival or a function and the occasion tries his patience and abilities in performance. The man in the family has to provide the supplies and other members have a role to play in implementing the various processes. The task is a trial for all who take part in the festival. It is a totally independent matter, however, and how one celebrates the festival in his confines of the home is a personal matter. There are no compulsions except the deity or the sacred structures meant for the festival are given proper respect in handling the different programs laid down in the rules of the ritual.

A certain menu for the feast is recommended under the tradition and a list of decorations for the festival is carried out but there is ample leeway available so that no one is put to hardship.  We usually repeat what our parents and other elders did in the past festivals. It is a small challenge to do at least as good or better than our parents.  We can also polish the procedures to fit in the modern times and innovate the look and shape of the event. The festival can be grand with involvement of relatives and friends or it can be converted into a family-only matter.

Relatives and friends watch and observe how well one does the festivals in the current year compared to what one did in the previous years. It is a measure of one's current abilities and enthusiasm. It is a measure of one's prosperity and health to know how well a particular festival is carried out in the current year by the descendant. If you have time and money you may turn it into a large-scale extravaganza or if you don't, then you can moan and groan and give excuses to downsize the whole thing. It requires skills of management and liberal religious or social attitude.

In any case how superficial or how deep one participates in the festival is a mood- related subject. But it is a revelation of one's position and exposes him to the open. Many consider that the money spent on a festival is worth more than its value but there are some who cling to excuses in order to celebrate it in a subdued fashion. They might save money, time and toil.  They may not save their face well, though.

Lakshmana, Raama, Seetha and Hanumantha

Ninth day (Navami) of Shukla Paksha of the Chaithra month, as per the Chaandramaana Calendar (Calendar based on the movements of the Moon).Navami is the ninth day of the fortnight (fifteen days of the half month). There are two fifteen day periods in every month. The first one is known as 'Shukla Paksha' and the second one is known as the 'Krishna Paksha'. Shukla (white) is when the moon ends as a Full Moon and Krishna (black) is when the moon ends as a New Moon. The Full Moon Day is also known as Poornima and the New Moon day is known as Amavasya.

Raama had three younger brothers. They were Lakshmana, Bharatha, and Shatrughna. Prince Raama had to go to the forest and stay there for 14 years because of a promise his father had made to his second wife Kaikeyi to fulfill any of her wish she demands of him at any time in the future, following an event in which Kaikeyi had saved the life of King Dasharatha during a battle. This, Kaikeyi took advantage of, when the time came for crowning a prince as the future King of the Ayodhya Kingdom. She invoked the King's promise and asked for Raama's banishment, so that her son Bharatha could be coronated as the King of Ayodhya.

In Hinduism Lord Vishnu takes birth in this world from time to time to help the people in most difficult times. This event of incarnation of God is called the Avathaara. Lord Raama is considered one of the ten Avathaara(s) Hinduism has known. Therefore Lord Raama is worshipped as God since many centuries.

There are many temples dedicated to Lord Raama in India and abroad. Lord Raama's portrait in which he stands with his younger brother on his right and his wife Seetha on his left and Hanuman sitting at the feet of the three, next to Seetha on the left is very popular and found in almost every house of Hindus. This portrait or a similar sculpture is garlanded on the Raama Navami Day. A special worship called Puja is performed to Raama, Lakshmana, Seetha and Hanuman together by decorating the portrait with flowers, raising Aarathi to the accompaniment of Jaagate-beating and blowing Shankha , Naivedya, and Sastanga namaskara at an appointed hour on this day in every Raama Temple or in every home where there is a portrait or sculpture of Lord Raama.

Lord Raama is considered to be the ideal person or Purushottama because of the fact that he had only one wife and he followed the Dharma or Rules of Life strictly according to the Scriptures of Hinduism. Even though most of the kings of his time practiced polygamy and kept many women in their harems, Lord Raama remained a monogamist, with only Seetha as his wife. He was so much aware of his role or Dharma as the King that he took care that no one in his kingdom would find fault in his character or behaviour as a king. Therefore when he learned from a spy that a washerman among his subjects raised the question whether Raama's wife is a tainted woman because she was in captivity in the palace premises of Lankan King Raavana, he decided to put her to test. Seetha had to walk on the burning embers and come out unscathed if she was pure and she did. Once Seetha passed the test of her purity Raama took her back as his queen and wife.

Lord Raama is also considered to be an ideal person because he as an ideal son abandoned the throne to fulfil the promise of his father to his stepmother. The conditions put forth by the stepmother were harsh and included a 14-year Vanavaasa for Raama. Although Lakshmana was not asked to go on a Vanavaasa he opted to accompany Raama because Lakshmana loved his elder brother very dearly.

Although Raama wished his wife Seetha to stay home, to avoid the great hardships of Vanavaasa, Seetha as a good wife joined her husband in the Vanavaasa. During the Vanavaasa, Lankan King Raavana kidnapped Seetha and took her to his palace in Lanka. Seetha was imprisoned in the Ashoka Vana in the palace premises and she was persuaded by multiple means by
Raavana to marry him. She rejected the evil King's demands and waited for her husband to come and free her from captivity. Lord Raama fought a prolonged war with the Lankan King Raavana to free Seetha from captivity.

Hanuman became deified because he took part with Raama in his war to free Seetha. Hanumantha (alias Hanumantha) is worshipped as a God by Hindus and his birthday known as Hanuman Jayanthi is observed as a festival. Hanuman, Lakshman, the king of monkeys Sugriva and many others helped Raama in his war with Raavana and therefore they are also worshipped. However, Sugriva is not clubbed with Raama because his efforts in the war was limited and localised. Hanuman accompanied Raama when the latter returned to the capital Ayodhya after his triumph in the war. Hanuman was given a respectable position in the court of Raama after he occupied the throne in Ayodhya.

Bharatha the son of Kaikeyi refused to be crowned as the king when Raama left for Vanavaasa although it was precisely the desire of Kaikeyi and the reason why Kaikeyi demanded Raama undertake the Vanavaasa. Bharatha loved his brother Raama so much that he did not wish to become a king which position was rightly Raama's. The noble conduct of Raama, Lakshmana, Seetha, Hanuman and Bharatha is for all Hindus to emulate in their lives.The story of Raama in the epic Raamayana is recited during the Raamnavami festival by chosen men and women for all to hear.

MERA BHAARATH MAHAAN

Mohan 2005  photo

There are 5,68,000 villages in India. There are 619 districts. India has 31 states and Union Territories, There are at least 1618 languages spoken in India of which Sanskrit is the solid base. The people are professing castes among the Hindus and there are 6400 different castes recognised. Hindus have at least six ethnic origins. At least 29 festivals are celebrated all over India but many more are celebrated exclusively in towns, districts and states. (source: Janardhan Bhat).

A BRIED HISTORY OF FORMATION OF PAKISTHAN

When Pakisthan was carved out of British India in 1947, many Muslims of the area migrated to Pakisthan. The local Hindus began to think of the structure as a place to be revived and restored as a temple. They imagined that when the Somnath temple in the state of Gujarath on the western coast of India could be restored, and Somnath temple was also a subject of destruction by the Muslim invaders until it was restored after India got Independence, the Raam temple in Ayodhya also ought to be rebuilt. This intention of a few Hindu zealots developed into an aspiration for the majority of local Hindu religious leaders. It became a movement of mass appeal. There was a Raam Lalla idol placed within the hall of the Mosque in 1949 and the local Muslims did not raise their voice in protest.

The local Muslims knew that a new nation exclusively meant for them had been formed and they ought to have quickly moved over to enjoy living as sole masters of a vast country of their own. After all their leaders had coaxed the Congress leaders into accepting the two-nation theory for the sake of peace. They also felt like not India. It is true that in India they lived for centuries often as the ruling class of citizens, such as during the Mughal period. But now they were expected to leave this land for the Hindus after demanding and getting a separate nation for themselves over in Pakisthan. However, they were allowed to live in secular India after 1947 even though the formation of a separate state of Pakisthan for Muslims invited them to migrate out.

AYODHYA AND THE FUTURE OF INDIA 

It has not been appreciated enough by many Indians that Muslims will never consider any sympathy for Hindus or for Hinduism. Muslims will never let Hindus influence changes in the deeds and thoughts of Muslims towards Hindus. The time has not come for a self-reorganisation in Islam so that religions other than Islam would be regarded sympathetically by Muslims.  Events after the partition have not weakened the Indian Muslims but rather strengthened them. A time will come when the Muslims will overbear the politics in India and dictate their terms in every aspect of Indian life. But this time the Muslims are not going to ask for another partition of India. They are going to turn India into an Islamic Republic.

Watch these YouTube videos on Ayodhya

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