Social Scientist. v 25, no. 290-291 (July-Aug 1997) p. 11.

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Historicizing Myth and Mythologizing History: The 'Ram Temple' Drama

Ayodhya had better be seen as a theater wher'e the mythical lore are translated into modern metaphors, and the metaphorical translations are transformed into various but related action-projects. Having invoked a communal understanding of 'national history/ established its validity by back-projecting it onto a popular story, and mobilized their adherents through insidious political manoeuvres, the Hindu communalists have set the stage for the actual enactment of their drama. At this crucial juncture, the ideology, the ideologues, and their cherished dream come together. This potent mix occupies the centre stage and the whole drama begins to revolve around it. The name of the drama is Ram Temple.

For most of the pre-independence era, the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya did not simply exist for the majority of Indians. The mosque emerged as the most bitterly contested terrain ever since the partition of the country primarily because the issue was built up carefully by the Hindutva forces with an eye on appropriating it for contemporary politics. The controversy is more mythological than historical, and hence it is a matter more of faith than fact. Since the issue stands on popular culture and not on recorded history, it becomes even more prone to manipulation and politicization. The Hindutva groups have turned the disadvantages of unspecificities and ambiguities of the legendary problem into clear advantages. The conflict cannot be considered more concrete even from 1528 when the Babri Masjid was actually constructed because the Hindutva groups claim that the mosque replaced an existinfg Ram temple for which there has never been any tangible evidence.


Although much has been written about this controversy rather recently, some of it is drenched in 'Hindu' piety and bias, and some other works are the Hindu communalists' own propaganda. Being a secular voice, Gyanendra Pandey's chronological scheme1 could be followed to explain and describe the Ayodhya controversy. A brief discussion of Ayodhya and the legends surrounding it would be an appropriate start. It is not just the symbolic significance of the Babri Masjid but also the larger mythical context of Ayodhya that provides a perfect setting for this communal drama. Ayodhya

""Research Associate, Institute on Race 6c Poverty, University of Minnesota, U.S.A.

Social Scientist, Vol. 25, Nos. 7-8, July-August 1997

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