Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanker
Life is a complex interplay between the seen and the unseen, the subtle and the gross. Nature has her own laws and nothing fructifies before its time.
As we invoke and celebrate the presence of the Divine Mother during Navratri, I am reminded of an incident related to the Ayodhya Ram Mandir.
Back in 2001, when I returned to India after speaking at the World Economic Forum, Atal Behari Vajpayee ji requested me to step in and initiate talks with the stakeholders in the Ayodhya dispute. At his behest, I met a number of prominent Muslim leaders and other influential members of the community, including Saeed Naqvi, AIMPLB member Kamal Farooqui, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar. Most of the leaders were supportive of resolving the conflict peacefully, outside the ambit of politics. Though we were engaged in seemingly fruitful discussions, I believed that the resolution of this issue would take longer than anticipated.
This led me to counsel Ashok Singhal ji, then President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, to have patience and pray, when we met on his visit to our ashram. He had come to Bangalore to meet me soon after the talks between the Kanchi Shankaracharya and Muslim leaders in New Delhi, had failed. Ashokji wanted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to decisively clear the path for the Ram Mandir. This was his one-point agenda.
However Ashok ji was not on talking terms with the Prime Minister at the time, especially resentful after Vajpayee ji had coerced him into eating during his fast unto death over the Ayodhya issue. Therefore, he was in Bangalore to persuade me to convince Vajpayeeji to bring in legislation and end the Ram Janmabhoomi conflict once and for all. He was 76 then, with a sharp mind, and a spark of passion and determination in his eyes.
Some of his demands seemed impractical given that the government at the time depended on coalition support and not everyone was on the same page on the issue. “I don’t care even if it leads to the collapse of the government.” he said. I replied saying, “Pray for it. With your commitment, all is possible.” Ashok ji left unconvinced. At that point, I intuitively felt it would take more like 14 years to build but I didn’t share my thoughts with anyone.
The next morning during meditation, I had a vision of an old Devi temple with a pond that needed to be resurrected. At the time, I didn’t give it much importance. A few days later a Nadi astrologer from Chennai happened to visit the ashram. This elderly gentleman hailed from a family that for many generations had guarded the ancient scriptures and palm leaves containing the future of humans as foreseen by the sages of yore.
The Nadi reader said, “Gurudev, you will have to play a role in bringing both the communities together for the Ram Janmabhoomi matter to be resolved once and for all.” He then added that the Kuladevi of Shri Rama, Devkali, has a temple in Ayodhya and that the temple was in a highly dilapidated state. Unless the Devi was propitiated and the temple fully restored, the Ayodhya dispute would not end and violence would continue.
As none of those present were aware of such a Devkali mandir, a few local people were asked to find out whether such a temple even existed in Ayodhya. It was soon discovered that there were indeed two Kali mandirs in the area – one in the heart of the city called the Chhoti devkali Mandir and the other a little further away called the Devkali Mandir. The latter was in a ruinous state. It had a central pond that had become a dumping ground. We decided to renovate the Devi temple and rejuvenate the pond.
At that time, Ayodhya was a severely neglected city with unclean narrow lanes. A sense of fear prevailed as the place abounded with stories of killings of sadhus and sants over the long-standing conflict. Nobody dared to speak up for these renunciates who had no designated ashrams, no family and no social standing.
The restoration work of Devi temple was completed in a few months and we went in a large group to Ayodhya for the reconsecration ceremony. Several pandits from our Bangalore ashram conducted the reconsecration of the temple deity and a Chandi Homa was performed on September 19, 2002. B K Modi and Ashok Ji also took part in the event. From time immemorial the Devatas have been worshipped in every part of India because of their influence on the affairs on this plane of existence.
Later that evening the temple hosted a large congregation of saints, including Ramchandra Das Paramhans Ji, Mahanta of the Digambar Akhada and head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. A few Sufi saints were also invited. The Muslim leaders presented me with a copy of Ramcharitmanas and spoke of their deep reverence for Lord Shri Rama.
Enough lives had been lost in this age-old conflict and we needed a resolution that would stand the test of time. Keeping this in mind I proposed an out-of-court settlement where the Muslim community would gift the Ram Janmabhoomi to the Hindus as a goodwill gesture and the Hindus in return would gift a 5-acre land for the construction of a mosque that they would help build. This would send a clear message of brotherhood between both communities.
The next day I was invited by Ashok Ji to his ancestral home in Allahabad where his brothers, their families and his friends had gathered. After I conducted a group meditation for them, I told Ashok Ji that it is not human effort alone, but the Divine Will too, that plays a role in the fructification of any action. And for that, one needs patience. I hinted to him that he should not do anything in haste. By the end of the evening, Ashok Ji seemed much more relaxed and reassured, and he softened in his stand against the Vajpayee government.
Years went by. In 2017, at the request of leaders from both communities I renewed my efforts to mediate in the Ram Janmabhoomi matter. From then on, one thing led to another and today Ayodhya is on the way to reclaiming its lost glory. Thanks to the efforts of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji and the government of Yogi Adityanath ji, the once gloomy temple town is getting a vibrant and shining makeover of progress, prosperity and spiritual elevation.
It is said Daivadheenam Jagat sarvam, the entire world is governed by Gods. All the elements in life that we think to be in our control are in fact guided by the devas. Navratri is the time to invoke the infallible and compassionate Daivi Shakti.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanker