The top spiritual leaders in Sanatan Hindu Dharma, Shankaracharyas, have announced that they would not attend the inauguration ceremony of Ram temple in Ayodhya. According to multiple reports, Prime Minister Modi being considered the chief guest and the fact that the construction of the temple is not over has irked the spiritual leaders. While two of them – Shankaracharya Swami Shri Avimukteshwarananda Saraswati of Badrikashram Jyotirmath in Uttarakhand and Shankaracharya Swami Shri Nischalananda Saraswati of Purvaamnaya Govardhanmath based in Puri – have explicitly stated that they wouldn’t attend, the stand of two others – Shankaracharya Swami Shri Bharati Teerth Ji of Sringeri Mutt and Shankaracharya Shri Swami Sadanand Saraswati of Paschimannaya Dwarka Shardapeeth – is not yet clear.
Shankaracharya Swami Shri Avimukteshwarananda Saraswati of Badrikashram Jyotirmath in Uttarakhand said that they were “not anti-Modi”, but did not want to be “anti-dharamashashtra” either. He also said that there was no rush to inaugurate the temple on January 22, without completion of the construction.
“It is the duty of the Shankaracharyas to follow and enforce the shashtra vidhi. Now the shashtra vidhi is being ignored. The first thing to note is that the temple is not yet complete, and prayers are in progress. There is no such situation that this should be done suddenly. See, on the night of December 22, an idol was placed there. That was a situation. That night when the structure was being lifted [referring to Babri Masjid], then no Shankaracharya asked this question. Because it was a situation. But now when it is not necessary to inaugurate on January 22, the incomplete temple is being consecrated. So how can we accept this?” he said.
Shankaracharya Swami Shri Nischalananda Saraswati of Purvaamnaya Govardhanmath based in Puri said that the event was hurriedly taking place because of the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. “It’s the responsibility of priests and sadhus to consecrate lord Rama’s idol. Why are so many politicians expected to be present? It’s not appropriate to sit outside a temple, clapping, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be unveiling the idol,” he said.
A TNIE report quoted him saying that they have received an invitation but they wouldn’t be attending it. “Our Mutt has received the invite for the January 22 event in Ayodhya, which says that if I want to come there, I can come there maximum with one person. Even if I was allowed to be there with 100 people, I wouldn’t have gone there that day,” he said.
He also further added that he would be visiting Ayodhya as always and was happy as ‘any Sanatani Hindu’ about PM Modi not “portraying himself as secular”. “He is brave and takes pride in Hindutva and the concept of idol worship. He’s not a coward who portrays himself as secular. But what will I do there as the Shankaracharya, when Modiji (PM Modi) will touch the idol and install it there, will I clap and hail him,” he said.
Stating that the installation of Ram idol should be done according to principles of shashtras, he said that while the jurisdiction of the Govardhan Mutt spans up to Prayag, their advice or guidance was not sought for the January 22 religious event. He also slammed saying that “pilgrimages are now being turned into centres of tourism in the name of development”.
While there reports about Shankaracharya Swami Shri Bharati Teerth Ji of Sringeri Mutt and Shankaracharya Shri Swami Sadanand Saraswati of Paschimannaya Dwarka Shardapeeth also refusing to attend the event, they have released statements saying that it was false news. However, they haven’t stated if they would attend the event or not.
Babri Masjid, built by Mir Baqi, commander of Mughal emperor Babur in 1528, was demolished by kar sevaks belonging to Hindu majoritarian outfits on December 6, 1992. The demolition, which happened as a result of a concerted Ram Janmabhoomi movement, resulted in communal riots over months, which led to over 2,000 deaths. The Babri Masjid has been a contested site since 1885 as religious leaders and Hindutva outfits considered it Ram Janambhoomi or the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.
A legal fight ensued in 1950 when Gopal Visharad Sharma approached Faizabad district court for the right to worship idols of Ram Lalla, which were placed there in 1949. On September 30, 2010, the High Court, in a 2:1 majority, ruled a three-way division of the disputed area between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
Nine years later, in 2019, the Supreme Court granted the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land to deity Ram Lalla and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to allot five acres of land to Muslims for building a mosque. Though the Supreme Court referred to the mosque's demolition as "an egregious violation of the rule of law," the verdict was criticised for accepting the logic of "faith over fact" and granting legal possession of land to those responsible for the demolition.