The BJP has a thing for temples. And building one is surely more appealing if the unsuspecting plot of land is in demon king, Ravan’s backyard. Luckily in this case, no existing structure needs to be brought down either.
So, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan made a rushed visit to Sri Lanka last week to lay the foundation stone – probably a more applicable translation for `bhoomi pujan’ – for a Sita temple in Ravan’s ancestral home. It’s going to come up in near the lap of little hills and water falls in a south-eastern province.
Apparently dizzy with the beauty of the place and the hopelessness of her situation, Sita couldn’t resist the temptation of walking through fire at that very spot to prove her chastity. (I could be wrong but didn’t Sita walk through hell – more applicable for agni pariksha, I guess – after returning to Ram and his Ram Rajya wherever that was? Or did she have to do it repeatedly for her righteous husband?)
Chauhan said the temple would strengthen Indo-Lanka ties. Ties I’m not too sure but tourism definitely.
There are around 52 Ramayana-related sites – yes, 52 -- on the island including the garden where a forlorn Sita spent her abducted period. In 2009 more than 4000 Indian tourists, aggressively egged on by Lankan tourism, regaled their pious taste for religious tourism.
Maybe Chauhan didn’t want to know it but not everybody here believes that Lanka and Ramayana are linked. The Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka said in November that the Ramayana trail is fiction of mythical proportions. Historian S Pathmanathan had told me that it’s a battle between history and traditions. ``I do not doubt the historicity of Ram. But the sites have no connection to the epic. I don’t think there is any evidence (to connect),’’ he had said.
For BJP a Ram, or a Sita, temple on a willing foreign soil could hardly harm. It was the same party which had called for anti-Lanka sanctions after allegations surfaced that the Tamil civilians were killed as the civil war came to end in May, 2009. But then, what’s that got to do with religious rites?