Ayodhya, the epicentre of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, witnessed a historic moment on August 1, 2003, as the last rites of Mahant Ramchandra Das Paramhans, the revered Sri Mahant of Digambar Akhara and President of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, unfolded on the banks of the river Sarayu. At this poignant gathering, the then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, amidst heavy rain, reiterated the Bharatiya Janata Party’s commitment to building a Ram Mandir. Seventeen years later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Mandir, fulfilling the promise made by Mahant Ramchandra Das.
Born in 1913 as Chandreshwar Tiwari in Bihar, Mahant Ramchandra Das moved to Ayodhya, becoming an ascetic with the Digambar Akhara. His religious acumen was matched by a fierce stand on the Ram Mandir issue. His early foray into politics as the city president of the Hindu Mahasabha in Faizabad during India’s independence in 1947 marked the beginning of a journey intertwined with the destiny of Ayodhya.
Mahant Ramchandra Das was reportedly in close contact with Mahant Digvijay Nath, the influential head of the Gorakhnath Peeth. His role in the events surrounding the placement of Sri Ram’s murti inside the Babri Masjid in December 1949 became a matter of debate through the years. Although not formally accused, he later claimed responsibility for the event, a pivotal moment that led to the official declaration of the site as disputed.
In 1984, as the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) initiated the Ram Mandir campaign, Mahant Ramchandra Das played a key role. He later became the president of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, supporting every agitation by the VHP during the Mandir movement. Despite ideological differences, he maintained cordial relations with individuals like Hashim Ansari, the litigant for the Babri Masjid. After the Babri Masjid’s demolition in 1992, he continued advocating for the Ram Mandir until his passing.
Mahant Digvijay Nath – The Primary Catalyst
Appointed as ‘mahant’ in 1935, Digvijay Nath transformed the Gorakhnath Math into a hub of dharmic political activities. Joining the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, he mobilised Hindus for the construction of the Ram Mandir. In 1949, he led volunteers to Ayodhya, orchestrating the placement of Ram’s murti inside the disputed structure. This event, seen as a turning point, catalysed the movement, mobilising devotees and sadhus.
Digvijay Nath’s unwavering commitment fueled the movement until his death in 1969. He played a crucial role in motivating volunteers during the night of December 22-23, 1949, and his refusal to remove the murti despite government directives reflected his dedication to the cause. The tangible presence of Sri Ram’s murti became a rallying point, intensifying the fight for the mandir.
Legacy Lives On
As Ayodhya embarks on a new chapter with the commencement of the Ram Mandir’s construction, the contributions of Mahant Ramchandra Das and Mahant Digvijay Nath are indelibly etched in the history of the Ayodhya Movement. Their roles as seer-activists, leaders, and catalysts have left an enduring impact, shaping the narrative and inspiring generations. The memory of their dedication and commitment continues to resonate in Ayodhya as the construction of the long-awaited Ram temple becomes a reality.