In less than a week a five-hundred-year wait will come to an end. The Ram Mandir will be inaugurated at the site believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024. Shri Ram is a prominent Hindu God who is worshipped as the ultimate form of man, warrior, king and sets the greatest example for Raja Dharma (The righteous conduct of kings) and Kshatriya Dharma (The righteous conduct of warriors) within Hindu traditions. He is also the hero-warrior-God-king-avatar from the ancient epic called the Ramayana. It is from this epic that we learn after Rama’s 14-year exile from Ayodhya he returns victorious against the adharmic King of Lanka, Ravana by rescuing his wife Sita in a glorious battle. When Rama, Lakshman and Sita return to Ayodhya it was the darkest night of the year and so tiny earthenware lamps were lit called deeyas from which we now celebrate Divali/ Deepavali. A text written by Shri Valmiki (in Sanskrit) and Tulsi Das ji (in Hindi) of an ancient war in which Rama /Ramachandra, the son of King Dasaratha of Ayodhya, capital of the kingdom of Kosala and the incarnation of the Great God Vishnu who come to earth to protect the world from the forces of adharma (unrighteous conduct).
However, in about 1528, Islamic Mughal forces under Babar, (the grandfather of Akbar the Great) attacked and razed (burnt and destroyed) the mandir forcing Hindus out of their holy and sacred space of worship and for the next five hundred years Hindus have mostly been unable to worship at the murti of Shri Ram in his birthplace. Even under British occupation of India they were made to worship Lord Ram’s Murti (image) outside while Muslims could pray in the mosque inside the compound. On December 6, 1992 Kar Sevaks destroyed the Babri Mosque/ Masjid-i-Janmasthan as it was called and after decades of litigation, permission was finally given to Hindus in India’s Supreme Court to allow Hindus to break ground in August 2022 to begin rebuilding the Ram Mandir.
I am a classical archaeologist and historian. Classical archaeology deals with the Classical World meaning ancient Greece and Rome mostly. However, I enjoy a diversity of ancient history along with a number of ancient languages I had to learn like ancient Greek and Latin. I have come to realize how connected world history is but mainstream academia lives in a bubble and they study and research things in a bubble. Therefore, most historians know only about the particular history and niche of that history they study.
Over the years I’ve managed to learn about Mayan/Meso-American, Mughal/Islamic, Medieval, American History, Indian History and Hinduism, Viking, Celtic and others. In my spare time I am enriching my knowledge bank with Indic history as many of our ancestors in the Caribbean come from India and we are practicing Hindus. It has not escaped my notice that one thing is clear about the building of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. This will be the first pagan or more rightly “pagan” temple to any of the ancient pantheon of Gods that once existed around the world only to be demolished destroyed and decapitated by the Abrahamic religions mostly the duo of Islam and Christianity. Many of us have learnt and become highly aware, especially among western historians, of the destruction of many ancient temples in Europe and the Americas belonging to ancient Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Aztecs and Incans of the destruction of their religion, temples and their Gods but what most don’t realize (because of their bubble) is that what Christianity did in the west, Islam did in the East with Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Zoroastrian and countless other religions and their religious structures. They burnt some of the greatest libraries and universities in the world including Hindu and Buddhist ones in India such as Nalanda and Taxila University which were older than the oldest ones in the west like Oxford University, England.
For example, the Pantheon in Rome once home to all the Roman Gods was once turned into a church. The Vatican itself was once an ancient pagan Roman basilica from where the church gets the modern word basilica. The great Acropolis of Athena and her Parthenon was once both a church and then a mosque under Ottoman (Turkish) occupation, so not even Goddess Athena was spared. Athena’s temple had actually been quite preserved but as the Parthenon was turned into a mosque where bombs and ammunition were stored the roof exploded under Venetian attack. The Christianization of Britian and Northern Europe and turning sacred sites into Christian places of worship are also hidden in local folklore such as when St. Patrick came to Ireland and “got rid of the snakes” in these lands, meaning the pagans, their Gods and religion. If you look closely many of the Incan places and Aztec pyramids were also turned in to churches. The great Aztec Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico whose width is said to make it larger than the pyramids of Egypt are buried under a church at the top. The Incan Temple of the Sun God Korikancha located in Cuzco, Peru was turned into a church. Many churches are installed at the tops of ancient pyramids. Emperor Constantine I first granted legal status to Christianity in 313 AD after conversion, but by 391 AD Emperor Theodosius banned paganism completely and pagans came under severe discrimination, attack and genocide. This act granted freed reign of the Christian destruction of the Classical World. The Kaaba, the center of Islamic worship was thought to have housed 365 pagan idols before they were smashed and rededicated to the One God. Many of the Zoroastrian fire temples were converted into mosques after Islam’s conquest of Iran (Persia). Off course, it is estimated 40 thousand Hindu temples still lie beneath mosques in India. Off course, history now written by the conquerors calls it, “repurposed” places of worship.
One thing I have garnered about pagan religions is that even though they also fought each other and had many battles for lands and wealth including glory like the art of trying to conquer the world like Alexander the Great or Cyrus the Great, the idea of other people’s/religions’ God/Gods was not a problem. I specifically study Alexander the Great’s gold and silver coinage, his history and military strategy and Alexander worshipped most of the other Gods in the other religions and ancient civilizations he came across. He was definitely practicing “Namaste” which means “I bow before the divinity within you.” He saw the divinity of Heracles in many of the other ancient cultures such as Persian and may have seen Krishna as the Indic Hercules/Herakles. While the Romans were fighting the Celts, they also worshipped the Celtic Gods. GOD WAS NOT A PROBLEM for ancient pagan peoples. Apparently having many Gods made you more tolerant of other cultures and beliefs than one God.
I know some gurus are saying Ram Mandir is a victory for all religions. Nope. I disagree. It’s a victory for all of humanity and dharma but its is above all else a victory for Hindus ONLY. Hindu blood, hundreds of thousands of Hindu blood sweat and tears went into dying for this and fighting for it and so it is a victory for Hindus ONLY. However, the rising of the Ram Mandir while it is a victory and vindication for Hindus and belongs to Hindus and Hinduism, I do understand that in the larger context of history for all our pagan brothers and sisters who lost their entire civilization, roots, identity, religion and otherwise, for all of the Incan, Aztec, Vikings, Greeks and Romans whose Gods may never see the light of day OR have their Praan Praatishta “life force of the Gods” installed again. This is a salute to them as well. For Zeus who sits waiting patiently in His temple in Athens and Poseidon in Sounion, for Athena on the Acropolis, for Jupiter in the Pantheon and Odin/Thor and Freyja in Uppsala.
I think we can take a moment to stop and share the victory with them. Lord Ram’s Mandir in Ayodhya will be the first pagan temple/ mandir to rise again and have the presiding deity reinstalled in over two thousand years across the world and over a thousand years in India. It is only Hindu civilization that had the might and strength to fight, stay alive and come back swinging. Shri Rama’s mandir in Ayodhya is the first temple of the pagan Gods to rise again, but it will not be the last and many of them will be those of our Hindu Gods. This victory is ours but its global meaning and repercussions shall not be lost on one civilization.
Jai Shri Ram.