HEARING the civil dispute in the Ram Janmabhoomi case, the Supreme Court earlier this month said it was “curious” to know whether any descendants of Lord Ram were still living in Ayodhya. The advocate representing ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’, K Parasaran, assured the Bench that they would try to find out.
Even Ayodhya is “curious”. To know how.
So far, seven people have come forward to claim links to Ram, or to ‘Raghuvansh’. Six of them are from Rajasthan, including members of the royal families of Jaipur and Udaipur, and one from Rae Bareli. None is from Ayodhya.
But, in this town whose history is now inextricably entwined to the country’s politics, there is no shortage of theories.
Jagatguru Ram Dineshcharyaji Maharaj, the Acharya of ‘Ramanand Sampradaya’ (a sect considered to be descendants of Ram’s sons), says that as Lord Ram belonged to “Achyut gotra”, the Kshatriya saints of that gotra should be considered Ram’s descendants.
“In Shrimad Bhagwat Mahapuran it is mentioned that the last king of Ikshvaku dynasty was Sumitra. The vansh of Ram ended in Kaliyug and there is proof of this in the Puranas. Now the thing that connects Lord Ram with the sant samaj is Achyut gotra, the gotra of Lord Ram,” says Dineshcharyaji.
He adds, “As no one can prove himself to be a descendant of Ram through scientific methods, our holy texts are the second-best source. And the Puranas confirm that Ram belonged to Achyut gotra.”
In his book Jain Culture in Ayodhya: Evolution and Development, Ayodhya resident Dr Ramanand Shukla, a historian, mentions this lineage too, as well as how it was “lost”.
The kingdom of Ayodhya, also referred to as Saket, Prathampuri, Ikshvakubhoomi, and Awadhpuri at various times, was established by Vaivasvat Manu, he says. “Manu’s elder son was Ikshvaku and the Suryavansh started from here. The sixth king in the dynasty was Prith and on his name we call this planet Prithvi. His great grandson Shravasta established Shravasti. Another king in his dynasty was Bhagirath who is believed to have brought the river Ganga to Earth. Later in this dynasty was king Raghu and on his name we call Ram’s dynasty as Raghuvansh. His son was Aja, and his son was king Dashrath who, according to Ramayana, is the father of Ram,” says Shukla.
He adds, “Other important kings in the Ikshvaku dynasty were Kush’s 28th descendant Brihadbala, who fought in the Mahabharata on the side of the Kauravas. Last in the list is King Sumitra, who was defeated by Mahapadma Nanda, who is known as the founder of the Nanda dynasty. There was no Ikshvaku king in Ayodhya after that.”
Mahapadma Nanda is believed to have been the contemporary of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya, who lived in the fourth century BC. After that, Ayodhya became part of Magadh, and then Nanda and Maurya. As per popular belief, after Sumitra was forced to leave Ayodhya, he went to Rohtas (in Bihar) and the trail is lost after that, Shukla says.
What is clear is that the present royal family of Ayodhya, still venerated by the town, has nothing to do with Ram. They are said to be ‘Shakdweepiya Brahmins’, from somewhere near present-day Iran. According to popular belief, three ‘Shakdweepiyas’ known for their knowledge of medicines were called to Ayodhya from Shakdweep (near Iran) during the Ramayana period after a royal family member got leprosy. Later, around 250 years ago, their descendants were gifted Ayodhya during Nawab Saadat Ali Khan of Oudh’s time.
Present ‘Ayodhya king’ Yatindra Mohan Mishra, a respected name in the Indian literary world, admits, “Our history in Ayodhya is 250-300 years old and cannot be connected to epics, which are thousands of years old.”
Mishra continues to live in the Rajbhawan, situated less than a kilometre away from the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site.
Also within the same distance lives Shashank Shekhar. Wondering what purpose a hunt for Ram’s descendants would serve, he says, “If we consider claims that Ram was born in 5114 BC, more than 7,000 years have passed. How can we find a dynasty trail now?”
Ghanshyam, who runs a confectionery shop near the disputed site, feels the Supreme Court query has set off a debate which has no end or meaning. “Now people will randomly start claiming to be Ram descendants to gain media attention. This is disrespectful.”
Ankit Tiwari, an advocate, agrees. “The stories of Ramayana go back to when there was no other scientifically known civilisation. In that case, isn’t there a possibility that a significant number of people, all over the world, are descendants of Ramayana characters?”
Says Pandit Siya Kishori Sharan, a priest, “What is important is not who shares Ram’s bloodline but who believes in him. The true followers of Ram are his true descendants.”
The head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas — a trust set up for construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, which owns 42 acres of the acquired land around the Ram Janmabhoomi site — Mahant Nritya Gopal Das also wonders at this search. Saying “every human being is connected to the bloodline of Lord Ram”, he says, “If you want to find a direct descendant, then I can say that the BJP MP from Kaiserganj (130 km away), Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, is a direct descendant.”
The president of the Wrestling Federation of India, Brijbhushan Singh is one of the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, listed several cases against him, including attempt to murder, in his 2014 poll affidavit, and was once accused of sheltering members of the Dawood Ibrahim gang.