On a day, when the news and social media was dominated by the fervour of the launch of Ram Mandir, with much adulation on the one hand and critical comments about how it symbolised the end of reason and the idea of secularism of India on the other, I also read another news that excited me – that at CERN Geneva, scientists found more support for the Standard Theory of Physics, by recording evidence, for the first time ever, of a Higgs Boson disintegrating into two muons. It set me thinking of the two worlds — of faith and of science — how different they are and yet in many ways similar too.
For many non-believers, the Mandir is mere politics, a crippling blow to secularism, the end of the idea that is India, or a needless extravagance. Some ask, that even if God exists, do we really need temples? And others ask, not without validity, where is the proof Ram ever existed. But for us, the non-believers or the doubters, it is just as difficult to understand the mind of the faithful as it for them to understand the excitement behind the Higgs Boson and the Standard Model. Have you seen the Higgs-Boson or muons, they might ask. (Why such funny names like muons, I still wonder!) No, but I have seen the signs of these, the scientist might reply. Ah, but I see signs of Ram everyday too, the bhakta might say; and ask why is it OK to spend billions on a CERN collider or a Burj Khalifa, but not OK to build a temple for 500 million believers.
We must make room, with respect, for both sets of beliefs, for in the end most humans need both — logic and faith — they combine to make us what we are.
For several hundreds of millions of believers in India, faith in Ram, extension Vishnu, extension the Trinity, is real, essential, and unalienable. They know God is everywhere, but still believe that there should be temples where he can reside – just like you and I know that we can sleep anywhere in the house but still build a bedroom separately. Just because I might not share their faith does not give me the right to trivialize it. The arrogance of a non-believer can be as ugly as the ignorance of a bigot.
The believers of Ram deserve a temple, and I wish it is a glorious one. I wish, that for a century and much more it is visited by hundreds of millions of devotees or tourists, to pray or admire or gawk, like St Peters, or the Hagia Sophia, or the Angkor Wat, or the Burj Khalifa.
I also wish it could have been built without the demolition of the Masjid, which was unnecessary and only a political stratagem, by choosing another place in Ayodhya. I don’t think it unacceptable for the Prime Minister to preside over the puja, but I wish he would as readily go to the foundation ceremony of a church or mosque or gurudwara if invited. And I wish that the narrow-minded extremists in the Hindu faith, like extremists in every faith and outside often do, had not turned into a senseless war-cry, what was and must stay, gentle greeting and expressions of piety, and what I want to say now – JAI SRI RAM
(The writer is a leading industrialist and philanthropist)
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