The Pran Pratishtha of Ram Mandir (Ram Mandir) at Ayodhya on January 22, 2024 is a historic moment for which generations of Hindus across the globe have been waiting and praying profusely. The challenge has been arduous with countless devotees involved over a long and sustained period of time. The effort was joined by many non-Hindu communities that held a firm belief that injustice had been done by the Muslim invaders. Prominent among those who joined with the Hindus for seeking justice is the Sikh community Historically, it is well known that the Mughal invader Babar, in the 16the century, carried out a wave of destruction of Hindu mandirs which included Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. As Ayodhya Mandir was an important place of worship for Hindus, Babar razed it to the ground and built a mosque at the same location.
Reclaiming the Mandir
On the night of December 22–23, 1949, idols of Shri Ram and Sita were installed inside the disputed structure and devotees started gathering from the next day. By 1950, the State took control of the location under Section 145 CrPC and allowed Hindu worship at the place.
The movement for building a Mandir at the very place where the mosque stood gained momentum in later years. In the 1980s, a determination to reclaim the site for building of the Mandir was exhibited. A number of Governments, religious organisations and political parties adopted different postures over the years. Ultimately, on December 6, 1992, a rally of kar sevaks (religious volunteers) gathered at the Mosques-Mandir site and demolished the Babri Masjid. The matter went to Court, where a long adjudication commenced. Finally, on November 9, 2019, Supreme Court of India ruled that there was evidence of existence of a temple in the place before the mosque was built and as such the Hindu community could re-build a temple on it. Muslims were allotted a separate piece of land to build a mosque.
The court cited as evidence a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which suggested the presence of a non-Islamic structure beneath the demolished Masjid. The court also took cognisance of a historical report suggesting that the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev, during one of his Udasis (religious tours) visited Ayodhya in 1510-11 and interacted with the priests there. This, being a period before the invasion of Babar, served as irrefutable evidence about the presence of a temple there before the mosque was constructed.
The Court observed that all four Janamsakhis (biographies of Guru Nanak Dev) state unambiguously and in detail that Guru Nanak made pilgrimage to Ayodhya and offered prayers at the Ram temple sometime between 1510 to 1511 CE. To reach this observation the Court had sought consultation with prominent Sikh historians and experts including Sardar Rajinder Singh.
The relationship of Sikhs with Ayodhya has been further elaborated by a famous Sikh writer, Sardar Iqbal Singh Lalpura in his recent article in Hindi and Punjabi languages titled, Ayodhya Da Shri Ram Mandir Ate Sikh (Shri Ram Mandir of Ayodhya and Sikhs).
This article has been inspired by the article written by Sardar Iqbal Singh Lalpura. Lalpura mentions in his article that the famous Sikh historian Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha in his Sikh Encyclopaedia Mahan Kosh has explained Ayodhya as the “main town of Kaushal Desh on the bank of Surju river in Faizabad district of UP, which is counted among the seven holy places of Hindus. Lord Ram Chandra was born here and it was the capital of the Suryavanshi kingdom for a long time.” Mahan Kosh mentions three Sikh Gurdwaras located in Ayodhya in memory of the visits of Sikh Gurus to the city. Later, according to Sardar Iqbal Singh Lalpura, Bhai Dhanna Singh Chehal, in his book Gur Tirath Cycle Yatra speaks about his visit and worship at Ayodhya and records the existence of nine Gurdwaras there commemorating the visits of not only Guru Nanak Dev but also the ninth master Guru Tegh Bahadur and tenth master Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Dhanna Singh Chehal carried out the cycle Yatra from March 11, 1930, to June 26, 1934. The Supreme Court, in its verdict, also mentions that a group of Nihang Sikhs performed pooja (prayers) in Babri Masjid in 1858. Nihangs are baptised Sikhs warriors who had close affinity with Guru Gobind Singh and have maintained their martial tradition ever since.
The mention was the result of an evidence placed before the Court by the lawyers of the Hindus that on November 28, 1858, one Sheetal Dubey, then Thanedar (Government officer) of Oudh (Ayodhya) reported an incident wherein one Nihang Sikh, Baba Fakir Singh Khalsa, with 25 Nihang colleagues erected a symbol of Shri Ram in the mosque and conducted a havan (religious ritual of Hindus). A police case was registered at that time against Baba Fakir Singh Khalsa. Now, Baba Harjit Singh Rasulpur, a Nihang Sikh descendant of Baba Fakir Singh Khalsa, has announced Langar Sewa (Sikh community kitchen) at Ayodhya during Pran Pratishtha ceremony for consecration of Shri Ram’s idol in the Mandir.
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyrdom
There are many other instances where Sikhs have come forward to assist their Hindu brethren in the fight against injustice and repression. One of the first and most prominent was the martyrdom of the ninth Sikh master, Guru Tegh Bahadur, to raise a voice against repression of Hindus and their forcible conversion to Islam by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. It is also well recorded that Sikh soldiers under generals like Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia would save girls, predominantly Hindus, captured by the Afghan mercenary Ahmad Shah Abdali. The girls and the loot taken back from the oppressor Abdali was returned to the Hindus. Another instance that showcases the bond between the Sikh and the Hindu community is recorded in the early 20th century at Aligarh. The Sikhs stood by Hindus in Aligarh to restart Ramleela (Hindu custom) that had been stopped due to pressure from a particular community in the region for more than 12 years from 1924 to 1936. This was done with the help of Sardar Jagat Singh, a Sikh leader of Aligarh and Giani Sadhu Singh then in-charge of Sikh Mission Aligarh. The two leaders and their followers gave protection to the Ramleela procession. Giani Sadhu Singh later became Jathedar of Shri Akal Takht Sahib, who is the religious head of the Sikh community.
The auspicious occasion of Pran Pratishtha of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024 is an apt moment to reflect on the relationship between the Sikhs and the Hindus that is described in Punjabi as Sikh-Hindu Da Nau-Mass Da Rishta Hai (The relationship between the Sikh and the Hindu is akin to that of the nail with the skin). The two communities are inseparable.
The Sikh community is joining this auspicious occasion with all celebratory fervour. The contribution of the Sikhs towards the actualisation of this dream is considerable and needs to find a place of pride in the annals of history. A proper representation of the Sikh Gurdwaras in Ayodhya and their significance should be a part of the religious tour programmes of the holy city. It will lead to further strengthening of the bond between the two communities and all people of the nation.