Ayodhya: The truth and the lies of a temple town

...and the erasure of a history of easy togetherness

17th century painting of Tulsidas, author of the 'Ramcharitmanas' and  contemporary of Babar, he of the Babri Masjid fame. Yet he wrote of his ascetic life: 'maang ke khaibo, masit mein soibo (I beg for alms for my food and sleep in a mosque)'
17th century painting of Tulsidas, author of the 'Ramcharitmanas' and contemporary of Babar, he of the Babri Masjid fame. Yet he wrote of his ascetic life: 'maang ke khaibo, masit mein soibo (I beg for alms for my food and sleep in a mosque)'
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Vivek Asri

They say Ram was born in Ayodhya.

In Ayodhya he played and roamed around as a youth, grew into adulthood, was sent from there into exile in the forest, and then returned to rule there.

There are temples in Ayodhya to commemorate every moment of his life.

Where he played, there is Gulela Mandir.

Where he studied, there is Vashishta Mandir.

Where he sat and ruled, there is a mandir.

Where he ate his meals, there is Sita Rasoi.

Where Bharat stayed, there is a mandir.

There’s Hanuman Mandir, Kope Bhavan.

There’s Sumitra Mandir, Dashrath Bhavan.

There are many many such temples and all of them are about 400 to 500 years old. That is to say, these temples were built when Hindustan was ruled by the Mughals, by Muslims.

How strange! How did Muslims permit these temples to be built? They are remembered, after all, for destroying temples.

Under their very noses an entire town was gradually transformed by temples and they did nothing! What sort of usurpers were these who kept giving land for temples?

They must be liars who say that the land where Gulela Mandir stands was given by the Muslim rulers.

And certainly the documents in Digambar Akhara must be fake, in which it is written that the Muslim rulers donated 500 bighas of land for the specific purpose of building temples.

And it cannot be true that Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah provided the land on which Nirmohi Akhara stands.

No, the only truth is Babur and his Babri Masjid!

Now it seems Tulsi too was wrong.

Born in 1511 by the Gregorian calendar, he was alive around 1528. People say it was in 1528 that Babur destroyed a Ram temple at the spot where Ram was born, and built the Babri Masjid.

Surely, Tulsi would have known about this in his time.

Even as Babur was demolishing the birthplace of Ram, Tulsi was writing ‘maang ke khaibo, masit mein soibo’ (I eat by begging for alms, I sleep inside a masjid). And then he wrote Ramcharitmanas.

How could Tulsi feel no sadness at all for the destruction of the Ram Mandir and the building of Babri Masjid upon its ruins? Surely he must have written about it somewhere?

Truth and falsehood have lost all meaning in Ayodhya.

For five generations, Muslims have grown flowers there. These flowers have all been consecrated at the temples, on the deities, on Ram.

Muslims have made khadaus (wooden sandals) there since who knows when. Sanyasis, sages, devotees of Ram, have all worn these khadaus made by Muslims.

Sundar Bhavan Mandir was entirely run by a Muslim gentleman for four decades. In 1949, it was taken over by Munnu Mian, who remained its manager till 23 December 1992. When sometimes, as it happened, devotees were fewer and Munnu Mian himself clapped the kartal rhythmically during prayers, did he wonder perhaps what was the truth and what the lie of Ayodhya?


On every brick of a temple built by the Agarwals is inscribed the figure '786'. All the bricks for building this temple were given by Raja Hussain Ali Khan.

What is the truth here? Were the Agarwals who built the temple out of their minds? Was Hussain Ali Khan insane that he was donating bricks to build a temple?

The hands raised in prayer here cannot be identified as Hindu or Muslim— they all come here to worship. The one figure '786' made this temple belong to all.

Is 6 December 1992 the only truth?

After 6 December 1992, the government took over most of the temples of Ayodhya. They were all locked down. Aarati ended. People stopped going to them. Did the deities seated behind closed doors curse those who clambered up on a dome with the ambition of laying their hands on Ram?

A scene from the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992 (photo of the front page of the Hindustan Times on that date)
A scene from the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992 (photo of the front page of the Hindustan Times on that date)
National Herald archives

Truth and falsehood have lost all meaning in Ayodhya.

Ayodhya is the story of the transformation of a town into an ‘issue’.

Ayodhya is the story of the death of a civilisation.

(Translated by Nivedita Menon from a widely circulated social media post in Hindi, earlier attributed to Saroj Mishra.)

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