Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ayodhya: Some historical and political background from Dr. David Frawley

Somnath and Ayodhya: What Is the Difference

By David Frawley

Somnath is one of the most important Hindu sacred sites, relating to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped as the Supreme godhead. Its history goes back to the Vedic era and to the Mahabharat. Its great temple was first destroyed by the Afghani invader, Mahmud of Ghazni, in the eleventh century. It was one of the first great Hindu temples attacked by invading Muslims and its destruction left a great scar on the psyche of Hindus.

Meanwhile Mahmud was hailed throughout the Islamic world as a second Mohammed and his smashing of Somnath was lauded in the Sufi poetry of Attar, Sanai and Omar Khayyam. These poets equated Somnath with the temples to the pagan goddess Al-Manat destroyed by Mohammed and viewed its destruction as the 'will of Allah' and the 'enlightened march of Islam.'

The Hindus rebuilt the temple several times, but the Muslims destroyed it again. The temple was last destroyed by the Mughal tyrant, Aurangzeb around 1700. Aurangzeb, as history records, was a brutal ruler who left a trail of genocide and destruction, mainly aimed at converting Hindus. Aurangzeb built a mosque on the site of the Somnath temple, using some columns from the temple, whose Hindu sculptural motifs remained visible.

Under the guidance of the political leader Sardar Patel and KM Munshi (who founded Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan), the temple was restored around 1950. Mahatma Gandhi also approved of the retaking of Somnath but did not live to see it happen. Recently the President of India, Shanker Dayal Sharma, performed the Kalash pratishthan of the temple's Nritya Mandap and dedicated the temple to the nation.

Hindu leaders, particularly the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad), have been asking for the restoration of three great Hindu holy sites whose temples were destroyed and replaced with mosques. These are Ayodhya (Ramajanmabhumi or Ram's birthplace), Mathura (Krishnajanmabhumi or Krishna's birthplace), and the great Shiva temple of Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi. The restoration of Somnath should be examined to see whether these other proposed restorations are valid.

Both Krishnajanmabhumi in Mathura and Kashi Vishwanath temple are products of similar historical circumstances as Somnath. Both like Somnath were important Hindu holy sites destroyed by Muslim invaders, with the last destruction and building of their present mosques also done by Aurangzeb in the late 17th. Both, like Somnath, retain portions of the original Hindu temples. In fact the whole back wall of the Kashi mosque is from the Kashi Vishwanath temple, complete with all the sculpture.

The case of Ayodhya is not much different. It was destroyed by the first Mughal invader from Central Asia, Babar, in the 16th century and a mosque was built on the site. Like the others, portions of the temple could be found in and around the mosque. Hindus fought repeatedly through the centuries to regain the Ayodhya site but never succeeded in restoring the temple. Such mosques were placed on the holy sites of another religion in order to denigrate it. They are monuments to intolerance, cruelty and self righteousness and should not be looked upon as holy by members of any religion.

One important difference between Somnath and Ayodhya, of course, is that Somnath was reclaimed legally and Ayodhya was destroyed illegally. However the Ayodhya case has been in court since 1947 without a decision so that no legal action can proceed. Moreover, the legal building of Somnath only occurred because of the considerable pressure Indian political leaders put on the Islamic ruler of the area, who had tried to secede to Pakistan though over eighty percent of the population he ruled was Hindu. If Indian leaders today put the same pressure on the Islamic communities that hold these Hindu sacred sites, they will also give them up.

There is some debate today that Ramajanmabhumi or Krishnajanmabhumi cannot be reclaimed because no one can prove that Rama or Krishna, who lived thousands of years ago, were actually born there. Those who restored Somnath were not asked to prove the history of Somnath thousands of years ago before restoring the temple. The tradition itself was enough to warrant the restoration.

Why was Somnath restored and not the others? Because Sardar Patel was a Gujarati (Somnath is in Gujarat) and he unfortunately died in 1950, preventing him from taking similar action for other Hindu sacred sites. Nehru, for whom Patel was the main rival, was not in favor of the restoration of Somnath and he effectively blocked the restoration of the other sites, particularly Ramajanmabhumi.

Nehru ruled as a socialist with communist sympathies, not as a Hindu and his policies followed his ideological bent. In other words, the same process as reclaimed Somnath was initiated in regard to these other sites but was suppressed. Had it I been allowed to go through, the result would probably have been the same. Why is it, therefore, that the restoration of the Somnath temple is a matter of national pride, while attempts to restore the Mathura and Kashi temples are portrayed in the press as the ravings of Hindu militants?

It is hypocritical to separate Somnath from the other three sites. If Kashi and Mathura cannot go back to the Hindus, then the taking of Somnath was illegal. If the destruction of Babri Masjid was a dastardly act, so was the demolition of the Somnath mosque. If Hindu political leaders, like the President, will not go to Ayodhya for worship, they should not go to Somnath either.

On the other hand, if Hindus can reclaim Somnath, they can reclaim the other three sites. In fact of the four sites, it can be argued that the most important is Krishnajanmabhumi, because Krishna is probably the most important Hindu religious figure. Kashi Vishwanath Shiva Temple is also at least as important as Somnath.

Kashi comes first as the city of Shiva. Because Somnath was destroyed first, it gained a greater nostalgia, but not because it is a more important site than the others. The reclaiming of Somnath hence demands the restoration of these other sites.

If Indian political leaders like Sardar Patel could reclaim Somnath and remain good secular leaders that the nation still honors, so can Indian political leaders today. If Somnath can be dedicated to the nation, so can the other sites. If Somnath is a matter of national pride, then certainly Ayodhya and the others deserve to be as well. If a legal process could be created to reclaim Somnath, a similar process can be created to reclaim these other three sites.

Who is asking for the restoration of the Somnath mosque today? No one in India. There is no political action committee for the restoration of the Somnath mosque. If the other sites had been taken back at the same time forty-five years ago, they would no more be political issues today than is Somnath. Similarly if they are taken back today as Somnath was decades ago, they will cease to be issues in a few years. For those opposed to the restoration of Ramajanmabhumi, Kashi and Mathura, let them not forget Somnath.

If Hindus honor Somnath, they should not look down upon attempts to restore Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi, but, on the contrary, help accomplish this aim.
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Here is an excerpt from short biography of Dr. David Frawley written by Samu Varughese:
David Frawley, otherwise known as Vamadeva Shastri, is a US citizen by birth and a Hindu by conviction. He sees his life work as forming a bridge between these two widely opposing cultures, and he does so with a rare dedication and thoroughness. An acknowledged Vedantin, Frawley is an expert in ayurveda, Vedic astrology, yoga, and tantra , all of which, he says, have their basis in Vedanta. Indeed it is the interdisciplinary approach to Vedanta that he sees as his particular contribution in demystifying eastern spirituality.

1 comment:

don said...

100% true, this secular nation should also be secular to crores of hindus. this congress government is only backing muslims because of votebank. In fact their ruling is like anti-hindu.Wake up call for hindus.....