Fate decided there would be a Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya long before it actually happened, BJP veteran LK Advani declared this week, labelling himself the “charioteer” who steered the controversial ‘rath yatra’ that began in Gujarat’s Somnath on September 25, 1990, and culminated with demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, with Mr Advani on the spot.
Mr Advani, who returns to Ayodhya January 22 to witness Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then his aide, headline the consecration ceremony, also said he hoped the temple would “inspire all Indians to adopt the qualities of Lord Ram”.
“At that time (in September 1990, a few days after the yantra began) I felt destiny had decided that one day a grand Ram temple would be built in Ayodhya… now it is only a matter of time. And, a few days after the ‘rath yatra’ began, I realised I was just a charioteer. The main message was the yatra itself… that was the ‘chariot’ worthy of worship because it was going to Lord Ram’s birthplace…”
Speaking to a magazine called ‘Rashtradharma’, in an article to be released Monday, Mr Advani also offered his congratulations to the Prime Minister – whom he referred to as “the devotee chosen by Lord Ram to renovate his temple” – for overseeing the construction of the building.
Mr Advani’s ‘rath yatra’, which he co-led with another BJP old-timer – Murali Manohar Joshi – snowballed into a controversial event that led to communal violence across parts of north India.
In the magazine article, he described it as “the most decisive and transformative event of his political career”, one that gave him an opportunity to “re-discover India” and himself.
“… we did not know (then) that our faith in Lord Ram, with which we started the yatra, would take the form of a movement in the country,” he said, as he spoke about the support he received in the first leg of his journey – from Gujarat to Maharashtra – and in subsequent stages.
“During the yatra, there were many experiences which influenced my life. Unknown villagers from remote villages would come to me, overwhelmed with emotion after seeing the chariot. They would salute… chant ‘Ram’ and go away. This was a message – that there were many people who dreamt of a Ram Temple…”
“Now, when PM Modi consecrates the temple, he will represent every citizen of India…”
That Mr Advani will attend the January 22 event was uncertain till this week, with Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Alok Kumar confirming on behalf of the 96-year-old BJP statesman.
Earlier there were reports the organisers had asked both Mr Advani and Mr Joshi, who is 90, not to come.
The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust will install the Ram Lalla idol at the sanctum-sanctorum of the temple at noon on January 22, with Prime Minister Modi, who leads his BJP into a general election less than three months away, and hundreds of Hindu seers among the exclusive few who will be present.
Vedic rituals for the ‘Pran Pratistha’ will begin a week earlier, and Lakshmi Kant Dixit – a priest from Varanasi in UP, which is the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency – will perform the main ritual.
Invitations were also sent to various opposition leaders, including Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge and former boss Sonia Gandhi, both of whom declined, accusing the BJP of politicising the temple, and associated religious sentiments, ahead of the critical general election.