Babar Ram

 

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WHO WAS BABAR?
1483-1530 C.E.

Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India was a man of courage, foresight, aesthetics, poetry literature and much more. He was not only a poet of great gifts he was equally great prose writer of style who kept copious diaries giving lively account of turbulent events of his time. His Tuzk Babri, translated in Persian as Babar Nama (1589) and in English (1921-22) is a world classic. Yet Babar was not a religious person, much less a religious fanatic. He was a Chughtai Turk, descendent of King Taimur on his father's side and Chengez Khan on his mother's side. He succeeded to the throne of Farghana, a small principality in Central Asia, at the age of eleven. It is said, "He was a king by profession and an adventurer by force of circumstances."

As a descendant of Taimur, Babar had reasons to consider himself the successor of the latter's mighty empire. However, he lost Farghana itself and was ultimately routed from Central Asia by rival Uzbeg chiefs. This should have been the end of Babar as a ruler, except for the fact that Babar was 'made out of steel,' a trait that was to surface again and again in later Mughal rulers in the form of military genius and administrative skills.

Babar had originally no interest in India, but upon losing Farghana, India appeared an attractive target to make up for the loss. It was not his religious zeal, but the disarray in Afghan ruled India and his own sense of destiny, that embarked him on a fateful march that would give his descendants over four hundred years of uninterrupted rule in India.

Babar was encouraged to invade India by Daulat Khan Lodhi, the Muslim Governor of Punjab, and by Rana Sanga, the Hindu Rajput ruler of Mewar, both of whom Babar was to fight later on and defeat. Babar led no more than 1200 men who met Ibrahim Lodhi's powerful forces 10,000 strong led by 100 elephants, in the battlefield of Panipat on April 21, 1526. Ibrahim himself got killed. After defeating Lodhi, Babar marched to Delhi and then to Agra.

In another decisive encounter that changed the course of Indian history, he faced the powerful Rajput chief Rana Sanga with his huge army consisting of 100,000 horses and 500 elephants on March 16, 1527 at Kanwaha. Heavily outnumbered and out gunned, with an army exhausted with Indian heat, he rose to the occasion, mobilizing his forces with a fervent appeal to his disenchanted chiefs (appealing to their valor and religious sentiments by breaking his wine cups and throwing wine), he annihilated the Rajput forces to become the unchallenged ruler of India.

Babar was not a religious person. He enjoyed drinking (giving it up when confronted with the Rajput army, so that he could appeal to the pious zeal of his army). He loved the luxuries of life, which he felt India did not offer. For instance, in his copious diary Tuzk Babri, he writes:

Hindustan is a country which has few pleasures to recommend it.... Indians have no idea of the charms of friendly society, of frankly mixing together, or of familiar intercourse.... They have no horses, no good grapes, or musk melons, no good fruits, no ice or cold water, no good food or bread in their bazaars, no bath or colleges, no candles, no torches, not a candle stick.

There is no historical evidence to suggest that Babar ever entered Ayodhya; he had no interest in demolishing temples, no urge of piety to build mosques, no desire to convert people to Islam; he was par excellence a ruler who loved conquest, sports and the good things in life. One of his first acts of commemorating victory in Agra was not religious but aesthetic, laying out a garden in Persian style, called Aram Bagh.

He had no time to consolidate. It was left to his descendants, the great Mughals, who with the help of Indian, Persian, Turkish, and Afghan genius, united and beautified India as never before. Even today the name Mughals evokes fond memories of grandeur and refinement in culture which embraced language, literature, cuisine, art, architecture, music, dance, landscaping and openness. Above all the Mughals gave India a sense of Indianess, hitherto absent, that transcended religious, cast and geographic boundaries. It was this spirit of Indianess which enabled the Indians to unite behind the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to fight pitched battles known as Mutiny of 1857 against British colonialism. The Indian National Congress regarded itself as the legitimate successor to the heritage of the Mughals and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was affectionately called the last Mughal.

While Muslims may admire Babar, as every true minded historian does, for what he was, an excellent general and a wise ruler but they don't regard him as holy. The Babri Masjid does not get its sanctity by its association to Babar's name, but from the fact that it is a house of Allah built to glorify His name. The fear of Muslims is not the destruction of Babar's heritage, but the beginning of a process of Hindu fanaticism, which aims to destroy whatever has been built by Hindu-Muslim interaction in medieval India, which in itself provides a fitting edifice of secularism in modern India and is loved and admired by all fair-minded Indians.

Courtesy: Indo-Islamic Foundation of America. This article was prepared by the Research Staff, Iqra' International Educational Foundation. "The Babri Masjid / Ram-Janam-Bhoomi Dispute: History, Religion and Politics," December 18, 1992.

 

WHO WAS RAMA?

Who were Rama and Sita? Once upon a time, there was a kingdom of Ayodhya ruled by a Raja called Dashrath. Rama was his favorite son, but his favorite wife, Kaikayi, step-mother to Rama, instigated Dashrath to send Rama into a l4-year exile in the jungles. She wanted her own son and not Rama to be the next Raja.

The dutiful son Rama goes into the jungle. He is accompanied by his wife Sita and half-brother Lakshman. Sita gets abducted by Ravan, the Raja of Lanka (Sri Lanka?), said to be a demon. Arrive a chivalrous chief of the jungle apes, Hanuman! He takes his monkey brigade into Lanka and brings back Sita.

Rama returns and mounts the throne. The exile ends on a happy note, except for Sita. She is now accused of infidelity. She undergoes the ordeal of fire in order to prove her chastity but wagging tongues refuse to keep quiet. Rama banishes her to the jungle where she gives birth to two boys. The boys come of age. Rama acknowledges them to be his sons. However, Sita is still sad. She had not been a natural born. King Janaka had found her in a furrow while ploughing his field. Sita prays to her mother, the Earth, to take her back. The "mother" answers the prayer and swallows her up.

Rama is regarded as the Avtar, "incarnation of Vishnu," one of the supreme deities in the Hindu pantheon and regarded as the savior of the world. The Rama legend is three things: story, history and theology. The story of Rama is a good story: fine, fantastic and romantic. Like all good stories, it has elements of intrigue, jealousy chivalry, cupidity, morality and drama. It made one of the most gripping television serials in India.

The "history" of Rama is something different. The legend is based on Ramayana, a multi-author multi-rescension book of thousands of verses. The latest rescension of Ramayana is dated about the year 200 C.E. In the early stratum, "Rama is simply a hero, miraculous in strength and goodness, nevertheless wholly human, but in the later stratum...Rama appears as a god on earth," (Lionel D. Barnett, 1922. Notes from Hindu Gods and Heroes.) However, Rama worship is recent; no more than 4 - 5 centuries old.

There is indeed a city called Ayodhya, but this Ayodhya has no connection with the Rama legend: kingdom, temple or civilization. Archaeologists making a frantic search have failed to come up with the smallest shred of evidence. There is nothing to show that Rama was a real historical figure, but theology is a different matter.

The movement to demolish Babri Masjid, built in the year 1526 by Mir Baqi, the local governor of the Mogul Emperor Babar, is based on the claim that the Mosque was erected by demolishing the Rama Temple that stood on the site. The site is claimed to be Rama's birthplace and Sita [sic. Kaushalya (Rama's mother) had conceived him at the very spot (sic)] where the Mosque happens to have its mihrab! It is termed Garbhgriha.

None of these "dot on the spot" claims are, however, subject to any kind of scrutiny: historical, archaeological, legal or common sense. The protagonists of the temple argue their faith is a matter of faith; it is not subject to any external or judicial determination. The argument is fine as long as such "faith" remains within the confines of a person's private belief. In any case, it cannot be advanced as a reason to justify criminal trespass and illegal occupation of anyone else's property.

Courtesy: Impact International, London, Aug - Sept 1992.

 

 

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Where RAM Born
Myth of Ayodhya
Who abides Law
Babar Ram
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After Destruction

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Last updated: October 29, 2000 .