|Sita ki Rasoi|
|What's New - Ayodhya Judgement Responses|
Amidst the burst of information and opinions about the Ayodhya judgment many people have been baffled by references to "Sita ki Rasoi". Since this 'rasoi' is being mentioned along with Ram Chabootra, as part of the one-third land awarded to the Nirmohi Akhara, it can easily be mistaken for just one more piece of disputed 'property'. ButSita ki rasoi is more than a shrine. It is not just a historical artifact. It is also an idea that could help resolve far deeper problems than the Ayodhya conundrum.
About a year before the Babri Masjid was demolished the philosopher Ramchandra Gandhi visited the troubled site. His attention was arrested by the one thing that none of the media reports had mentioned. Posted above the main arch of the mosque was a sign that said "Janmasthan Sita ki Rasoi".
Outside the mosque's northern wall 'Ramu' Gandhi found a platform where a rolling board and rolling pin were being worshiped as deities. In those humble objects of daily life Ramu perceived powerful symbols of "generativeness" going back to our ancient aboriginal roots. Ramu concluded that the Ramkot mound in Ayodhya was, in ancient times, a sacred fertility grove. This shrine to mother earth or Divine Mother came to be known, in Puranic times, as Sita ki Rasoi and later represented by the board and rolling pin as symbols of nurturing love.
In December 1992, within days of the demolition, Ramu Gandhi published a seminal philosophical tract titled "Sita's Kitchen: a testimony of faith and inquiry". What is at stake in Ayodhya, Ramu insisted, is not merely the honour of all of India's spiritual traditions, including Islam, but the "fate of life and civilization on earth."
That may seem like an overly lofty claim since the material evidence was seemingly nothing more than a roti-making kitchen tool! What did Ramu see that needs even closer attention today? First, Sita ki Rasoi offers us entry into a dimension of 'faith' and 'belief' that is utterly non-sectarian. When Swami Vivekananda said that Sita is the quintessence of India he was not speaking as champion of a particular religion. He was referring to the highest aspiration of the human condition. For Sita, said the Swami, never returns injury.
This does not mean that we can ignore or wish away the long chain of injury and counter-injury underlying the Ayodhya dispute. But the motif of Sita ki Rasoi can serve as a prism that throws light on how we could deal with this conflict.
So, its important to contend with the compound title of the shrine at Ayodhya: "Janmasthan sita ki rasoi". As Ramu wrote: "the Sita whose kitchen is also the birthplace of Ram is only in manifestation his consort; in reality she is Mahalakshmi, Godhead, Self; and Sita's kitchen is the entire field of her self-imaging Sakti, powerfully represented by the earth."
Many a secularist may lament that Ramu, who also happened to be a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari, endorsed the idea that Ram was born on that particular spot!
On the contrary, Ramu drew on his detailed knowledge of Hindu theology to argue that those who insist that the sanctum sanctorum of the mosque is the precise and exclusive place of Ram's birth commit blasphemy. Why? In cultures across the world, certain woods or other areas have been nurtured as sacred. Over centuries people have imbued such spaces with a special energy through concentrated celebration and veneration of divine omnipresence. But to limit that divinity to a particular spot is blasphemy.
Let us grant that those who insist on a particular spot being the birth place of Ram may not be trying to limit the omnipresent divine. They are driven by the need to expiate centuries of angst about the 'otherness' of a mosque — as the symbol of an interloper, a conqueror.
So can the prism of Sita ki Rasoi truly light a path that seems otherwise darkened by never-ending conflict? This question demands an answer that will satisfy those who may treat Sita as a symbol of pacifism and say that not returning injury is the way of fools.
These are the voices of dualism—the conviction that the only way to be true to yourself is to either annihilate or at least subjugate the 'other'. Ramu Gandhi saw Sita ki Rasoi as a symbol of the deep rebuttal of dualism by aboriginal spirituality, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Indian Islam. Seen in this light the Babri edifice has appeared to many worshippers of non-dualism as "a testifying tree" that could have grown only in the sacred soil of Indian bhakti.
This is not to deny that this tree is studded with thorns of past and present vandalism. After all, when the Babri structure was demolished 18 years ago, the shrine marked Sita ki rasoi was also buried under debris. What happens next could well depend on how different people look at Sita ki Rasoi.
For some it may be just a relic that needs to be physically replaced. But what about that stream of Hindus who experienced the demolition of the medieval mosque like a second banishment of Sita from Ayodhya? As one such Hindu, Ramu proposed that the best way to honour the spirit of Sita ki rasoi was to turn Ayodhya into the venue for a sub-continental congregation of atonement. As people of all faiths worked together on this goal — other seemingly intractable conflicts would also look less daunting.
But this depends on whether you see Ayodhya primarily as the location of a bitter dispute. Or as Sita ki Rasoi, a sacred zone of timeless antiquity, which empowers us to overcome the darkness of dualism.
Rajni Bakshi, a senior journalist, writes about social and political movements
Read more: Why Sita ki Rasoi could be key to the future - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/special-report/Why-Sita-ki-Rasoi-could-be-key-to-the-future/articleshow/6674425.cms#ixzz136b2xzBV