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The God Who was Homeless for 500 Years: Dismantling Western Media’s Reporting on the Ayodhya Ram Temple

The God Who was Homeless for 500 Years: Dismantling Western Media’s Reporting on the Ayodhya Ram Temple

  • By reporting the controversy from a myopic viewpoint, the Western media has hurt the sentiments of many minority Indians and Hindus who call the West their home.

The consecration of the Ayodhya Ram Temple in India has received widespread coverage in the Western media. Most reports primarily dwell on the controversial aspects and political implications for India. Some portray the event as a cause of Muslim worry and Hindu triumphalism. A comprehensive picture of the temple’s historical, societal, and spiritual symbolism has been missed. In creating an incomplete, opinionated, and narrow narrative, the Western media’s coverage of this topic not only soured Hindus’ largely peaceful global celebrations of a historical moment but also resulted in a lost opportunity for people of all faiths to learn positive lessons.

Religious Symbolism

Most reports call the Ram temple a product of a political movement and state that some Hindus believe it to be Lord Ram’s birthplace, but ignore the religious and spiritual significance of these beliefs. Neither Ram’s heroic role in molding universal civilizational values and ethos nor the significance of the birthplace of Hindu heroes is acknowledged in any of these reports. Also, the fact that the Hindu God remained homeless for almost 500 years to the anguish and agony of over 20 generations of Hindus finds no mention. Most authors seem to have fallen into the familiar trap of viewing ancient Hindu traditions through the lens of their faith, possibly due to ignorance or contempt for Hindu belief systems and their instruments.

Real-life heroes, whose lives and actions inspire society, are revered as role models by Hindus. Their birthplaces carry special meaning. It is customary for many Hindus to visit these holy places, experience the divinity there, and offer respect. This also applies to Indian independence movement leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar, whose birthplaces have been converted to large memorials (Kirti Mandir and Bhim Janmabhoomi respectively) by the administration and see increasing visitations each year. 

Ram is considered one of the most divine lifeforms and civilizational icons for Hindus of all backgrounds. The building of a temple at Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya could be viewed as an honor to his life and legacy in this context. Many Hindus also believe that divinity on earth exists in the form of a unifying truth (sat), higher conscience (chit), and spiritual bliss (ananda). A consecrated idol (vigraha murthi) symbolizes and humanizes these utopian virtues. It provides a means to view the divinity through the devotees’ visual senses and emanates spiritual vibrations that help them embody these noble virtues. Noting these aspects would have made a fairer read to the global affairs followers of Western media outlets.

Historical Context

To spice up the controversy around the Ayodhya Ram Temple, media reports in the West focus on its recent history, involving the demolition of the Babri Masjid (previously called masjid-i-janamsthan, i.e. the mosque at the birthplace) in 1992. The specific site, however, has a millennia-long history, which has been accounted for by India’s judiciary, when awarding the site’s land ownership to the Hindus through a legal process spanning several decades. Archeologists, historians, and faith leaders of all hues were involved in this judicial process. Different Indian courts during different political administrations have accepted the evidence that an early medieval temple existed at the said site before its violent destruction by foreign invaders and that a symbolic mosque-like structure was built on its ruins. 

Multiple battles ensued over the five centuries succeeding this first disruptive event, some turning excessively violent and fatal. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs died in these battles. In reporting just the recent demolition of the structure rather than the whole truth, and not mentioning the historical injustice meted out to the Hindus by the original perpetrators through gross spiritual abuse, the Western media commits a major omission. And to top it, some reports also portray Hindus as “guilty” of celebrating their fairly earned right. The fact that most Hindus view the Ram temple as a small measure of restorative justice after five centuries of struggle for what was theirs to begin with, is conveniently or deliberately left out by most Western reporters and opinionists. Ironically, they ignore or question the justice delivered by an independent and apolitical judiciary in this case, while lamenting the politicization of judiciary in their countries.

Societal Impact

Reporting on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir in the West focuses on societal and communal implications within and outside India. Some reports highlight tensions and anxieties, especially among Muslims, while others warn about changes to India’s secular character. However, several important aspects of India’s harmonious handling of the issue and celebrations are overlooked. 

Before the build-up of the mass movement of the late 20th century, efforts were made by both Hindu and Muslim leaders to resolve the issue amicably. K.K. Muhammed, the Muslim archeologist at the heart of finding crucial historical evidence for the judicial land settlement has often detailed how Leftist historians misled the Muslims, hampering a mutually acceptable resolution. The Supreme Court, while hearing the issue, also formed a mediation committee to bring the opposing parties to one table for “mind, heart, and healing – if possible”. The 5-bench court, also consisting of one Muslim justice, later unanimously awarded the disputed site of 2.77 acres to Hindus and a piece of land almost twice the size to Muslims at a different location, thereby allowing both a temple and mosque to be built in Ayodhya. 

The media reports missed the core message of interfaith harmony, a characteristic of India’s syncretic culture, which was evident in the archeological, judicial, construction, and consecration processes. 

Accepting this verdict, the 13th Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, urged Muslims to accept the verdict and not stretch the matter further. Invited to the Ram Mandir’s consecration ceremony, Iqbal Ansari, a Muslim litigant in the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute, said that the dispute had ended completely and asked people to visit Ayodhya to seek the blessings of Lord Ram. While celebrating the Ram Temple’s inauguration in countries like the U.S., some Hindus also invited Interfaith leaders and civic officials to share their joy and spread the inclusive message of the occasion and Shri Ram’s life. 

The above examples demonstrate that India’s secularism has turned more sincere and vibrant and is omnipresent in the fabric of society, contrary to the reporting in the media. Unfortunately, the media reports missed the core message of interfaith harmony, a characteristic of India’s syncretic culture, which was evident in the archeological, judicial, construction, and consecration processes. Rather than commenting on the imagined fragility of India’s social harmony, the Western media could’ve reported on the positive messages from the developments. 

See Also

Media Motivations and Agendas

Controversies make sound news. Sensationalism, framing choices, and editorial perspectives can shape how people perceive the news. Showing the happenings in a country like India in a poor light attracts Western readership. Many in the West prefer to view India as an “ally” in the Western world’s geo-political ambitions, rather than acknowledge its rising stature as an independent, economic, and inclusive democratic power leading the Global South. Also, in the world of competitive religion, Hindus are viewed as heathens, easy conversion targets, or pliable allies by aggressive followers of the dominant Abrahamic religions. Media houses owned by the stronger believers, therefore, would have an unfavorable view of any new Hindu structure rising. The Ram Mandir’s reporting in the West showcases the usual superficial understanding of India’s democracy and a Western stereotypical view of its diversity and values. It, therefore, unsurprisingly fits a familiar pattern of such reporting in the past.

However, what the Western media glaringly failed to report was the viewpoints of the Hindus peacefully residing in the West, immersing in devotion and remembrance of Shri Ram and uniting with joy and inspiration on the momentous occasion. Instead, the media got busy opining on the political implications for India’s Prime Minister while caring little to show how most Hindus living in the West think about this civilizational reckoning, what it means to them, and why. A controversy has two sides. Ideally, both sides should have elements of truth and reality that are relevant to all their constituents, but the Western media was hardly able to overcome the lure of propaganda, sensationalism, and anti-Hindu, anti-India bias in reporting on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir. Social media on the other hand was replete with Hindus exercising their free expression of joy, unity, devotion, and celebration of the moment. 


Throughout the centuries-long struggle related to the birthplace of Shri Ram (Ram Janmabhoomi), Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and others in Ayodhya and around have all borne immense losses. In reporting the controversy from a myopic viewpoint meant to highlight political and societal divisions in India, while deliberately leaving out its important historical, spiritual, and syncretic facets, the Western media has hurt the sentiments of many minority Indians and Hindus who call the West their home. While the Ayodhya Ram Mandir’s inauguration invokes compassion and homage to all those who lost something in the struggle, it also celebrates the triumph of truth, justice, righteousness, auspiciousness, peace, and unity of all sections of society, while respecting differences and diversity. This is the sublime message of Shri Ram’s life, the Ramayana, and the Sacchidananda (truth-consciousness-bliss) element embodied as Ram Lalla. And it is immensely relevant to believers of all faiths and communities in the world and times we live in.

Anil Kothari is an Oklahoma City-based mechanical engineer, yoga practitioner, and yoga teacher.

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