1993 India Today story offers solutions to Ayodhya crisis

Babri Masjid-Ram Lalla dispute needs jugalbandi, not bloodshed.

 |  23-minute read |   22-03-2017
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In a February 1993 story, India Today revisited the Ayodhya crisis, which had spilled much blood in Ram's Janmabhoomi and the rest of India, and splintered the fabric of communal harmony central to the idea of India. 

For every Babri Masjid and Ram Lalla sharing the wall of faith, here's an attempt to highlight and bring together proposals from some of the country's most creative minds for alternative solutions to the disputed site at Ayodhya. Their ideas embody a collective effort and as such carry no credits or copyright because they are intended to be used or reproduced freely in an effort to stimulate the thinking of Indians everywhere. Whether you are a student, housewife, farmer, worker or a professional, you too must find a way to express yourself.

"Don't dream, the solution is not site-specific,'" they say. It calls for political will, it calls for an awakening of our collective conscience, it calls for legal redressal, discipline, investigation, negotiation... We stand at the threshold of a new millennium: faltering, unsure, confused. Unable to chalk out an agenda for something that seems out of our control.

Where do we go from here? We know most people in India, literate or illiterate, feel the same way, but are marginalised by the politics of opportunism. The silence of the people has been brutally abused. By sharing your concern, you could become a part of a growing forum.

This is necessary so that a fledgling movement for alternatives gains its own momentum. For, somewhere in this utter destruction we must seek every seed of resilient creativity. From the most archaic times, what has been regarded as sacred space, the sthal has been the earth where the seeds of the spiritual have been planted to flower. It is on this fertile soil that humanity has built monuments to concretise the mystery of life. An ancient maxim states: "The earth when fertilised brings fruit, when barren she destroys all things."

When poets, ordinary craftsmen, artists and architects were asked to respond with creative solutions to the disputed site, an overwhelming response was received. To the people of Ayodhya, the ground reality was different from what it was for the citizen of Bombay.

Although the diagnosis remained the same, each required a different prescription. Some saw on the bruised land a cradle for a new symbol of hope and caution, some saw it as an architectural solution rising beyond form, some sent details to set up innovative institutions and memorials.

Just as this Bhumi, ravaged and polluted, must first heal itself, each Indian requires his or her own process of recovery. We hope that by presenting some of these ideas—selected from the special publication that India Today is bringing out—we will help to generate a growing forum, so that healing will occur in different ways. Alternative ways of seeing will help to defuse rigid stands and throw aside unimaginative face-saving devices.

Posterity will record that in the last decade of the 20th century there was also an India refusing to regress many centuries. As the world around us fragments, we must demonstrate that the faith and traditions of India, the culture nurtured on diversity and tolerance, have the resilience to overcome aberrations like the December 6 incident. Our past can help us only if our future allows it. And our future is limited only by our own imagination and effort.

Milan Tila: A shrine to inter-religious communion

milan_032217025821.jpg A traditional miniature painter of Bhilwara, Rajasthan, translates the concept of Milan Tila in Bundi Kota style.

Along with the masjid-mandir in Ayodhya have also been destroyed its two companion shrines: the Ram Chabootra and Sita-kiRasoi. The destruction of the Rasoi is especially poignant because no controversy surrounded it. With its deity forms of a rolling board (chakla) and a rolling pin (belan), the Sita-ki-Rasoi symbolised generativity, the Earth's nourishing compassion towards all her creatures and communities.

Like Sita in the Ramayan, her Rasoi too has been swallowed up by the Earth. I began writing down these thoughts on Christmas Day. I am a Hindu, but I marvel at the relevance of the Lord's Prayer, the prayer Jesus Christ taught his disciples, to Ayodhya and India today. "

Our Father who art in Heaven," that is how Christ starts his prayer. I allow my Hinduism to hear that mode of address as "Our Mother who is on Earth, who is the Earth as Sita and her kitchen," and slip into the following fantasy. "Give us this day our daily bread."

Appropriately addressing these "down-to-earth" words to Sita, Hindus re-establish Sita-ki-Rasoi in Ayodhya at its original site; not only to atone for its recent destruction, but also for Sita's ancient banishment.

And with a prayer in their hearts for all who hunger for food and home and faith and love across the world. A major shrine for the coming ecological millennium is manifested.

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us," the prayer pleads. Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs of the Indian subcontinent are moved by these words to contrition for their crimes of violence and vengeance against one another, forgetting who started the process of wrong-doing.

Ayodhya dares to be a venue for a subcontinental congregation mhe concept of the Noor Mandir is based on the representation of Divine Light that embodies all religions. Light that reveals Knowledge.

mad_032217030338.jpg An artist from Madhubani, Bihar, visualises the building of a temple and a mosque facing each other on the site, surrounded by fields of marigolds and date palms.

The eternal motion of the Universe is symbolised by the circle. The paths of the four cardinal points converge, like all religions, at the Centre. The square, the perfect abode of man, emerges. The square, raised upward to the Heavens, creates the pyramid. This rests on a pool of water, drawn in from the Saryu river.

The pyramid draws in Light, as the manifestation of Divine knowledge. Within, divinity is given form in light by the art of man: Holograms activated through interactive videos create visions of Divinity representative of all faiths. of atonement before the end of the century.

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from all evil." Christ asks us to ask of God this favour. The thought leads to an immediate resolution of Ayodhya's conundrums. Hindus renounce the desire to build at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid, the usurping temple proposed by the VHP. Reciprocating this gesture, Muslims renounce the desire to rebuild the Babri Masjid at its original site.

Generously respecting Hindu faith that Ram was born at the spot where his image is now located inside a makeshift enclosure, Muslims do not oppose a new proposal that a modest "Ram Janma Jhanki" (a shrine offering devotees a "glimpse" of the incarnation) be established at the place to house the image. On the right side of the "Jhanki", corresponding to Sita-ki-Rasoi on the left, a "Ram-Rahim Chabootra" is established; or, alternatively, a new mosque modest in size like the other two structures.

I would favour the "Ram-Rahim Chabootra", which would honour the oldest tradition of inter-religious spirituality in the world, the Bhakti-Sufi tradition in India nourished by saints across religious boundaries: an inheritance boldly invoked in our age by Mahatma Gandhi who was killed on his way to his own regularly held inter-faith prayer meeting. The masjid-mandir too was on its way to becoming an inter-faith shrine, and suffered a similar martyrdom.

The Ram-Rahim Chabootra could become a unique venue for inter-religious communion in the modern world. Wounded Indian secular and spiritual self-esteem might thus be healed and Indian Muslims creatively empowered in their hour of crisis today. A banyan tree behind the three structures of self-restraint would emphasise the interdependence of culture and nature in the service of truth. The site as a whole could be called "Milan Tila", a Mound of Reconciliation.

Across the Saryu could be established a "Jugal Mandir-Masjid", a "coupled" temple and mosque, the creative possibility banished like Sita from Ayodhya, and, like her, finding sanctuary in a forest grove away from palace intrigues. The sharing of sacred space and time, by masjid and mandir, would be an exemplary lesson in communal harmony. "Lead us not into temptation."

The above proposals are an attempt to respond to these words as I heard them on Christmas Day. Archaeological digging under the mound is another temptation we must resist in Ayodhya.

Two pillars of Hindu self-esteem are already rubble: the belief that Hindus don't kill saints which was destroyed by Godse's murder of Mahatma Gandhi, and the belief that Hindus don't destroy houses of worship which was demolished along with the Babri Masjid. Desecration on the ground would be compounded by desecration underground if archaeological curiosity is not renounced by spiritual self-confidence.

Faith in Ram and his incarnation cannot lie a few feet under the Ayodhya wreckage, the Earth herself rests on it. Can fantasy become reality? Let it at least be a New Year prayer.

Noor Mandir: Creating the light of understanding

noor_032217030547.jpg Architectural drawing of the Noor Mandir.

The concept of the Noor Mandir is based on the representation of Divine Light that embodies all religions. Light that reveals Knowledge. The eternal motion of the Universe is symbolised by the circle. The paths of the four cardinal points converge, like all religions, at the Centre.

The square, the perfect abode of man, emerges. The square, raised upward to the Heavens, creates the pyramid. This rests on a pool of water, drawn in from the Saryu river. The pyramid draws in Light, as the manifestation of Divine knowledge. Within, divinity is given form in light by the art of man: Holograms activated through interactive videos create visions of Divinity representative of all faiths.

A shrine to Ramdev Peer: Consecrate all that is sacred from nature to knowledge

Tradition in Rajasthan reveres Ram as Ramdev Peer, venerated by both Muslims and Hindus at his samadhi in Ramdevra near Pokhran, Rajasthan. Stories of Ramdev's greatness had spread far and wide. When five peers from Mecca came to see him, he fed them kheer (rice pudding) in cups retrieved magically from their own country! So overwhelmed were they with Ramdev's power that they never left his side.

peer_032217030833.jpg This painting of a shrine proposed for Ayodhya is made by a Bhopa padh painter of Sikar, Rajasthan.

Today their graves are near Ramdev's Samadhi. But the samadhi was not built easily. Dalubai, daughter of a weaver and a saint in her own right, claimed the site chosen by Ramdev as her own. The dispute was settled through an agreement. It was decided that they would excavate the land and if a comb, waist-cord and braid were found while digging, Dalubai would have the first claim to the land. If, on the other hand, a staff and turban were found, Ramdev Peer would be the first to build his shrine. As the story goes, Dalubai's belongings were found first.

The gallant and honourable Ramdev Peer withdrew his claim saying "you sacred one, the earth has acknowledged your presence, we shall not go further". Since then, the samadhi of both Ramdev and Dalubai have become a place of great pilgrimage for people of both communities and so be it at Ayodhya. Except, today let us add a few more shrines.

One for the human heart with an earthen pot. One for nature and her birds and animals. One for agriculture and productivity. One for knowledge with a lotus in full bloom. And one for the rosary, used both by Muslims and Hindus.

Two Chabootras: One for Ram, one for Rahim

mand_032217031049.jpg 

Jugalbandi: A living memorial, both mandir and masjid

The basic aim of this proposal for the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi site is to create a living memorial to its history as well as historic incidents. It is based on the following convictions:

- Whether true or not, the belief of a large number of people that a temple to Ram existed here should be accepted in good faith.

- A masjid was built here during the rule of Babar.

- Now that the masjid has been demolished and the idol of Ram in a makeshift temple installed, it would be futile to rebuild the mosque as well as to demolish the temple.

 

bt_032217031548.jpg (Clockwise from top) Isometric visualisation of the memorial; top view; side view; and front view.

It is under these circumstances that it is proposed to convert the site into what could be called a living memorial. The methodology, beliefs and images involved in the design for a living memorial are as follows:

- The plan for this memorial is generated from the most well-known of Indian architectural diagrams — the Vastu Purusha Mandala comprising nine squares, each of which represents a planet of the cosmos.

- At the western end of this mandala planted on site in the cardinal directions, it is proposed to erect a screen of open arches reminiscent of the first mosque erected in India (the Ouwwat-ulIslam) which itself comprises colonnades built with Hindu temple columns and a screen of arches.

- The Hindu temple is accommodated in two squares at the north-east corner. The temple is a contemporary interpretation of the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) and the mandap. The gurbha griha itself is represented as a perfect cube in accordance with ancient geomantics. Incidentally, this cube also represents a place which is holy to all Muslims — the Kaaba.

- However much the government may shy away from accepting religion as integral to Indian life, it is my belief that politics and religion have always in some form or another had to relate with each other. Turning a blind eye to this fact is being totally unrealistic. To symbolise the umbrella of the state to this memorial it is proposed to erect the present Indian national symbol — four lions on a stambh — as the tallest architectural element of the composition.

-A small water tank with a single large lotus flower in the middle of it and a small cultured peepal tree are located symbolising the blessings of nature for this memorial. The notion of the above architectural elements as symbolic and not literal interpretations can be applied to variations in their assemblage. The above is only a possibility suggested.

Anathalaya: Home for children orphaned by religion

A temple and a mosque built on a common plinth and the floor of the building raised so as to house an orphanage for children affected by the riots. A challenge for the traditional architect, a Hindu Sompura and a Muslim Mimar to work together to create a common pool of water for children as the sacred Hauz and Kund.

Religious pillars: Reaching for the skies in not dissimilar ways

line_032217031906.jpg Line drawing of the proposed monument.

Six pillars representing six religions of India, made from the rubble of the destroyed monument. Rectangular for meditation, open to sky. Marble canopies connecting the six pillars at about 8.5 feet height.

Archaeological sites: Leave it empty, free of dangerous symbols

ay_032217032104.jpg 

Paths to convergence: Deep below, an unbroken peace

kk_032217032334.jpg "Idhar se chalein ya udhar se chalein Mere sub hein raastey jidhar se chalein." (One could start from this direction or that. All the paths come to Me eventually.) Quote from Dil ki Gita, a translation of the Bhagwad Gita in Urdu, by Professor Dil Mohammed, Lahore

 

Charaiveti... Charaiveti: A symbol of both permanence and change

Spirituality or an idea of the divine is one of the most basic needs of an individual or society. The divine norms create, continue and preserve the traditions that govern human cycles. Religion in its most universal aspect shows that continuity is not simply a horizontal line of human history.

sp_032217033021.jpg A diagram showing the spiritual spiral.

Continuity pierces the horizontal line with the vertical axis of revelation, thus making tradition transcend time. A steel mobile structure 50ft high rotating from a central axis, the kinetics represent the concept of permanence and change.

Ek Jharna: Commemorates Indian spirituality and science

jh_032217033655.jpg Model of the monument.

This Jharna symbolises the future of India. The poetic aspect of the whole structure is represented by the petals of the flower in bloom in white. This flower could be the rose of BK : paradise and the lotus of enlightenment. Some petals are missing, an unfinished dream. Two aspects are evoked in this structure symbolising the future of India:

(i) A poetic aspect inspired by a flower in bloom, (ii) A narrative aspect. The flower in bloom has petals missing. Its petal-like dish is a symbol of the technology of tomorrow.

The power generated by the photovoltaic cells circulates the water, a symbol of self-reliance. The missing petals, the symbol of an incomplete ideal that needs to be fulfilled. The narrative of the Jharna. The petal-like dish lined on the inside with photovoltaic cells has a series of slits at its centre.

The precise location of these slits has been carefully computed from gross astronomical data. Under the dish, there stands a short stone pillar capped by a quartzite. On selected days, the rays of the sun will fall on the crystal and make it glow. The upper level has a round sacred water pond over the battery chamber.

From here the water pours through to the level below in a sacred gesture of pouring water onto the earth. This water is filtered and re-circulated by a pump powered by the photovoltaic cells. The dish is provided with slits in such a way that, on special days, the tip of the pillar below the dish catches the light and glows.

There are many other beams of light also passing through the slits but most shall fall in the pond around the pillar. The first impression will be of a crystal lit from within. The crystal will light up on as many occasions as required: Id, Diwali, Republic Day, Ram Navami, Buddha Jayanti and Christmas.

The waterfall is the most important symbol of the structure. Water is sacred to all the faiths in India and it is essentially a cleanser for the faithful of every denomination. It is most important to dedicate the site to the future of India where a rare combination of spirituality, science, worship and engineering combine to reflect the subcontinent's enormous cultural complexity.

It is the tragedy of the Indian people that they can be collectively roused to very destructive levels. These two aspects of the Indian people go hand in hand as do the Yin and Yang, or the negative and positive. If we appeal to the negative we achieve our own destruction. Let this Jharna appeal to the creative, the spiritual and the scientific within us. The ]harna heals us and symbolises compassion. The idea for this structure has to pass through five stages to be realised.

1. The birth of an idea and its approval from the community.

2. Scrutiny by a multidisciplinary team of scientists who specialise in: Astronomy (Nehru Planetarium), to determine declinations and expected errors in the movement of the sun and earth; Cartography (Survey of India), to determine the exact latitude of the site; Photovoltaics (BEL), to generate energy; Optics, to determine the acuity, focus, and spread of the image; Structural Science, to provide the non-deforming and nondegradable base to make this possible. The scrutiny and input of these experts will be part of a symbolic contribution made by the scientists of India to this venture.

3. Outline design and model tests by observation, computer simulation. 4. Construction drawings, to enable the work to proceed on site. 5. The realisation or construction of the structure. The monument commemorates a faith in science and symbolises the ideals of the future of India.

A healing green: A forest of herbs through the kar seva of children

forq_032217033953.jpg An artist's visualisation of what the site should look like.

This earth, so scarred, must first heal. I see it as a green plateau of say 150 metres in diameter, surrounded by a forest of herbs and medicinal plants. Walking through would be like taking a bath. Narrow deer paths will lead to the clearing on the plateau.

We will see two mango trees planted close to each other, so close that they look like one in their foliage. The mangoes of Faizabad are famous and the science of grafting different breeds came with the confluence of two cultures.

The forest around the clearing should be created with the kar seva of thousands of school children from all over India.

The garden as metaphor: Nature's way of soothing the senses

gard_032217034334.jpg 

Despair: A garden of chaos, of ruins and rubble.

Alienation: The garden of isolation is not a garden at all but a narrow passage inspiring fear and anxiety.

Search: A garden of possibilities.

On the sacred mound: a platform of sand, where all marks are ephemeral.

Only Nature is infinite: a grove of symbolic trees.

Hope: The Gardens of the Senses: An attempt to rediscover our es in our space.

Vision: Garden of Geometry

Nine squares: a powerful, traditional symbol. A vista to the gateway. Returning to the world, to liberation.

Taste: An Orchard Amrood. Ber....Fruit of the Earth

Sound: A small waterfall and a flowing stream. Birdsong. Children at play

Smell: Champa, Chameli, Harsingar A spectrum of pleasant perfumes.

Touch: Sculpted rock with tall stone slabs carved in high relief with symbols and quotations: Varieties of textures and surfaces inviting exploration.

Spiral journey: Two different spaces at the same place

Is it possible, in an architectural sense, to occupy the same space twice? Can one have a physical structure that can house two disparate functions without. allowing any of the components to feel the presence of the other? This solution attempts to conceptualise just such a system of spaces. In working it out, inspiration was drawn from the interlocking double helix of the DNA molecule, the substance that life is made of, and medieval spiral staircases where one person can go up while the other goes down without each meeting the other.

The structure is worked out as a set of underground spaces which occupy all parts of the structure, yet never cross each other. The entire assembly can be entered from the two sets of roof terraces approached from two parking lots. The visitor may then progressively walk downwards and spirally in a gentle descent, or enter one of the spiral staircases to take a short-cut to the deepest recesses of the space. Both congregations can face west for prayers. The inversion adds a touch of serenity and reduces security risks.

str_032217035127.jpg A model of the structure.

The actual construction may take place on the ground since it is founded above the level of the surrounding lower areas. The octagonal form is not meant to be evocative of any particular style, and what will show up in any case will be a grassed mound and series of landscaped terraces and platforms.

It would be practical to have thick reinforced concrete walls and floors between the two sections of the structure, since one cannot leave the security of the congregation to the collective goodness of human hearts alone. This might reduce the feeling of spatial openness, but sufficient light could be added to the interior from the top.

Since the two faces of every such wall and floor is shared by both sections, any sabotage will affect both sides equally. The proposal is energy efficient but might require central ventilation systems considering the possibility of many visitors. If so, this could be achieved innovatively by using tunnels under the earth leading to both sets of spaces.

The few ornamental features and architectural details would be best handled by a group of traditional craftsmen from both communities. There are sufficient examples of features and details which are neither wholly Islamic nor entirely Hindu in their origins and application.

It is possible to think of a place where both component parts of the spaces could meet. This could be the sunny south side, which could be made into a large water body, implemented with minimum earthwork. The point of confluence has been set well below the main mound so that it poses minimum structural security risk.

In fact, there is sufficient room even after the 40x40 metre structure, the platforms and parking are accommodated for a public park. The proposal would preferably require some more open land that exists in the west for the parking, but is not dependent on this land as otherwise the parking would be designed elsewhere.

Altar boxes: Hundreds of cubicles to build personal shrines

For most people, the household I shrine is the first personal and immediate equation with God. These intimate spaces appear everywhere: in little corners under the stairway, in cupboards and shelves, behind a door, by the side of a road or on dashboards of vehicles, on work instruments, or on one's body, people of all religions, of all walks have defined their own sacred space of communion.

wall_032217035409.jpg The model for an 'unending' wall of all-religion shrines.

There is no aggression in such statements and more and more people live with one or many gods, even of different faiths, on one platform. I think normal people take no chances and cover the odds by including several religions.

Women in distress often help each other with a little talisman. Ultimately, these find a place on the family shrine.

"I prayed for you...take this prasad from Tirupati; I have got you some holy water from Bibi Roza; here, take the cross from Vellankanni, put it under the pillow; take this taweez from Nizamuddin for your son — it will bring him a job."

These are my people and I suppose the majority of Indian people. So, I propose a long 'unending' wall with many accretive cubicles...like the ones used by Sikhs for parking shoes outside temples and gurdwaras for jodon ki sewa.

People visiting Ayodhya could buy or rent these little spaces and make their own shrine. In a few years this will become a celebration. We are, after all, one family in such a small country.

Resource and activity centre for religious studies and creative arts

At the disputed site, the Resource Centre for Religious Studies and Activity Centre for Creative Arts could be erected. It should be unique in design where contemporary architects should be involved.

wc_032217035648.jpg A watercolour of the proposed centre.

The temple and the mosque should be built on the two sides with the same unique design.

A hospital: To treat the good and bad alike

Make a hospital on the site, I say... And if anyone tries to break it we should break their hands and legs... Of course, the hospital should treat them later!

  — an auto-rickshaw driver

hos_032217035824.jpg An artist's conception of the Ram-Rahim hospital.

ram_032217040111.jpg 

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