Sri Rama Jayam

Indu Viswanathan, Ed.D.
6 min readJan 21, 2024

It is rare these days for any of us to experience large-scale historical events that are truly uplifting and hopeful, that touch the spirit, that restore integrity and balance, that we can connect on across communities, that can be a signal of harmony across the globe.

One is unfolding right now in front of us.

I am talking, of course, about the Prana Pratishta of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, India, on January 22, 2024.

If you are not aware of what that is, ask yourself why. Who benefits from you not knowing about the restoration of one of the most important religious sites of the third largest religion in the world? Why should this matter to you if you aren’t Hindu or aren’t Indian?

Or, if you have heard about it, and the only discourse you have come across warns you that it is a dangerous move towards religious intolerance, ask yourself why that is. Who benefits from convincing you it is divisive, when it only takes a little digging into the facts to understand that it is exactly the opposite?

The reclamation of Sri Ram Janma Bhumi (The Birth Place of Sri Rama) is remarkable for at least three reasons:

It is the result of the most notably successful land back movement in global history.

Its success was premised on a process of truth and reconciliation across faith leaders of indigenous and settler colonist communities. It was not the result of foreign intervention and it was not taken back by force. It was mediated with compassion and honesty.

No one argues with the fact that India is the birthplace of Hinduism. Anyone who knows even a little about Hinduism acknowledges that The Ramayana is a central text for Hindus, and that Rama lives large in our hearts. The Ramayana is a part of our lives, from when we are very young children. In fact, the decision leaned on the fact that everyday Hindus continuously worshiped at that site, even during the 500 years that the mosque was standing atop the demolished Ram Mandir, built by settler colonists to remind Hindus that we had been conquered. The Supreme Court’s verdict was that the site of Rama’s birth would be returned to the Hindus to build a temple, and that the Muslim community would receive a large parcel of land in Ayodhya to relocate their mosque. This was accepted by the leaders of both communities in an unprecedented peaceful agreement.

It is a contemporary expression of indigenous resilience and excellence. The entire world suffers from the bigotry of low expectations when it comes to the sophistication of indigenous civilization. In fact, it is this very bigotry that gives the Aryan Invasion theory teeth — to be taught and internalized as history even in the United States — despite sufficient scholarship to undermine its credibility. According to even the most well-intended progressives, indigenous civilizations are “supposed to be” primitive and indigenous communities are “supposed to be” demolished in numbers. Sadly, most indigenous populations across the world have been decimated, but that is not what defines indigeneity. Those indigenous people that remain have largely been converted out of their pagan traditions, with, perhaps, some cultural traces remaining.

Except for Hindus.

This is why people have a hard time understanding or believing that we are indigenous. There are too many of us. But take a look at the frameworks of indigenous knowledge traditions and societies. (Check out the charts at the bottom of this article.) Indigeneity is not defined by historical colonization. It is not based on genetics; between rape and forced conversion of indigenous people, how can genetics factor? Indigeneity is not based on a purely material interpretation of our condition after colonization but on our metaphysical relationship to existing in the world. The reality that Sanatana Dharma is an indigenous tradition is unmistakable. Hindus shatter our implicit biases about what constitutes indigeneity.

There are three forms of temples in Hinduism — the temple of the cosmos, the human form, and the physical building. All three of them are the abode of the Divine. That is what the Prana Pratishta is — it is the ceremony that welcomes the Prana (energy) of the Divine Sri Rama into His home in Ayodhya. The temple was built with funds raised across all economic strata of Indian society — whatever people could give, they did. The joy that we can feel emanating from across the world from that sense of indigenous belonging and restoration is palpable.

You can only have harmony on land marked by colonization when integrity is returned to the sacred places with compassion and truth.

That is what is happening — in Ayodhya and in hundreds of millions of indigenous Hindu hearts around the world — on Monday.

I’ll end with a story about my father, who was born on Rama Navami, before Independence.

I am sitting beside Appa’s hospital bed the day after his triple bypass. He is beginning to look like Appa again, which is remarkable. I hold his hand. Look at what he’s just come through. The delicacy and miraculousness of all of this is beyond my cognition, but it is palpable. It is clearly a strain for him to speak, but he wants to. Because he’s Appa.

You know, right before my surgery, I scanned my own heart. And there was not one trace of hate in it. Not even dislike. There is nobody that I hate or dislike in this world. There was only love in my heart. I reviewed my life, and thought, I am satisfied. That if this is my last moment, if I don’t survive this, then I know I led my life according to Dharmic principles. And that when they open my heart, they will find only love there, only Sri Rama there. And when they wheeled me into the operating room, I said, Sri Rama Jayam. Sri Rama Jayam.

I nod and hold his hand a little tighter. I know his heart. I know, I have seen, that it is an ocean of love. Not just for our family, but for every living being on this planet. His love is the kind of radical love that people give TEDtalks on but you rarely get to experience up close. It is the kind of love that stops me in my tracks time and again because of its boundlessness.

These moments are storms that wash away everything that doesn’t matter, that isn’t deeply rooted in the earth. In the days leading up to and after Appa’s surgery, our entire family around the globe rallies around us. Love and bhakti. WhatsApp messages and phone calls reassuring us that they are praying, that archanas are happening in kovils around the world. I can feel our ancestors’ blessings. Divine blessings of love. Amma, Uma, and I reflect on how glad we are to be Hindu, that this is the worldview that guides us, that grounds us, that holds us with so much love and grace and makes us nimble and unshakable.

A couple of months after Appa’s surgery, Amma invites their friends over on a Friday to chant shlokas. My modest childhood home is filled with the aunties and uncles I grew up with, mostly humble IBM researchers like my dad, with similar immigration stories and a shared joy of scientific discovery and bhakti. We sit together and chant, in the same space where we had prayed for over four decades, resonating with the vibration of the Sanskrit. It feels timeless, boundless, like we could be anywhere, anywhen. After we namaskaram to the Deities and offer them flowers, without a word, one by one, the gray-haired aunties and uncles who are younger than Appa, namaskaram to him.

My eyes are filling up with tears even now, as I remember that moment over two years later.

Hearts filled with love.

Sri Rama Jayam.

To learn more about the charts below click here.



Indu Viswanathan, Ed.D.

Mother | Daughter | Immigration & Teacher Education | Dharma | Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu