It’s all quiet on Ayodhya front, or so it seems. Actually, a dispute that has been going on for nearly a century, maybe longer, cannot suddenly come to an end because of a verdict by a court. All that the Hindus have received is less than two acres of land, which is neither here nor there, on which they are supposed to build a “grand” temple of Sri Rama.
Can you really erect a “grand” temple or even a small one on less than two acres of land? What kind of temple will it be? And what happens, it egged on by secularists who are always looking for trouble and have perfected the art of fishing in troubled waters, force the Muslims to reject the verdict and agitate for the entire piece of land? They have done it elsewhere in the world; they can do it here. And we shall be left with a narrow strip of land on which even Hanumanji will hesitate to descend.
It is time, we Hindus started thinking big, which, for some reason, we seem unable to do. This entire nation is ours, not just a strip of land in Ayodhya, for which we seem to be fighting as if it was the last piece of land on earth. If we must have Ayodhya, let us have a whole city, not a two-acre piece, which is actually smaller than many bungalows in Delhi. We should plan for a big Ayodhya, on the lines of the Vatican in Rome, which is not just a city, but a sovereign country with its own flag, its own army, its own ambassador (including one in New Delhi, right in front of Ashoka Hotel in Chanakyapuri), all owing allegiance to the Pope, and through him, to Jesus Christ.
We should go in for our Hindu Vatican, a city of 15 or 20 miles in radius, or a square of 30 x 30 or 40 x 40 miles, where Lord Rama will be king for ever. If the Catholics can have their own holy city, why not Hindus, who are much older a religious community and much more sophisticated than the Catholics. So we should aim at something, something much bigger than a narrow strip of crowded property to which at least there is one other claimant, breathing down our neck, and with whom we shall have to share this property till kingdom come.
We have agitated long enough for this tiny sliver of land. Let us now aim at a real holy city of Ayodhya on the banks of the Saryu, a city bigger than Vatican, with a temple much more splendid than St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Hindus are a nation and they must have a holy city worthy of their size and antiquity. A great nation must have a great magnificent city of its own, instead of wasting our time on tiny pieces of land here and there, as if we were no better than beggars.
Twenty five years ago, I was in Rome as a guest of the government and they were kind enough to take me round Italy, including, of course, Rome. I combined that trip with visits to nearly a dozen countries in Europe, all of them Christian countries though not all of them Catholic. Wherever I went, I made it a point to visit their cathedrals and churches, for that is where the soul of a country resides. The soul of every nation is spiritual, not political, for that is what keeps it going year after year, and century after century, though politicians think that it is they who run the country and keep it going. Every year, when the British Parliament starts its session, the first thing the MPs do is to visit the Westminster Abbey for prayers. This is the real source of its strength and this is where most statesmen are buried. India’s spiritual strength – from which you derive your political muscle – lies in Ayodhya, not New Delhi, for Delhis come and go, while Ayodhya is immortal.
I spent three days in the Vatican and lived in one of the hotels lining the road to the great collonnade. Just behind me were the quarters of monks who used to get up early in the morning – about 3 A.M. – to pray and perform their religious rites after which they would visit St Peter’s cathedral for morning services.
Rome is very pleasant in the morning, as there is no traffic, except the usual morning walkers and an occasional cart pulled by a donkey carrying vegetables and fruits to the market. Occasionally, you came across long lines of priests singing softly as they made their way towards the cathedral for morning prayers. I used to watch them from my bedroom in the hotel, waiting for my morning tea.
It was then that I thought of Ayodhya as a Hindu Vatican, a city of peace and divine blessings, the spiritual capital of the Hindus. Hindus, you must remember, are a nation, not just a religious community, as many would have us believe. Ayodhya would be to Hindus what the Vatican is to Catholics, and Mecca to Muslims. Ayodhya is a right place for the spiritual capital of the Hindus, for it is both a holy city as well as the ancient capital of Lord Rama, thus combining spiritual heft with political history, just as the Vatican does.
This is not something that can be attained overnight, for, as they say, Rome was not built in a day. But we can work towards it and create public, that is, national awareness for it. Let us by all means have a temple in Ayodhya but this can only be a start. The real movement should be for a grand Hindu capital, not just a Hindu temple. The temple can be the focus of the capital, as St Peter’s is, but it is not enough.
Above all, we must start thinking big, for we are a big nation, and we are also slowly becoming a powerful international community. No matter where you go, you come across Hindus everywhere. There are now millions of them scattered around the globe, from Europe to Australia, and their number is growing. When you travel, you see them everywhere – at airports, banks and restaurants, you see them running governments and offices and research laboratories. One sure way of brining them together is to have a holy capital, a capital fit for the Gods. And the capital has to be a big one, for as I said, Hindus are a big nation, and will one day rule the world.