Credit for the successful Sri Ram Navami Shobha Yatra in Hyderabad on 1 April 2012 must be given where it is due – to the devotees who sought to demonstrate that no city in the punya bhumi of Bharat can diminish or expel Sri Rama merely because it has a substantial Muslim population, and to Chief Minister Nallari Kiran Reddy and his administration, particularly the Police, who ensured a peaceful and successful celebration of the birthday of the Prince of Ayodhya.
Sunday’s triumphant procession erased the anxiety building up in the nation as a whole, regarding the fate of the celebrations in the city of the erstwhile Nizams. The weeks preceding Rama Navami day have been extremely stressful for the Hindu community as there was too much unnecessary uncertainty regarding the State Government’s attitude towards the festival, especially after its organiser Thakur Raja Singh, a Telugu Desam municipal councilor of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, was arrested on some pretext on 12 March 2012, a move widely seen as an attempt to scuttle the yatra.
Although Hindus comprise as much as 89% of Andhra Pradesh population, Akbaruddin Owaisi, an MLA of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen which is in alliance with the ruling Congress party, raised temperatures by deriding and denigrating Sri Ram in a manner injurious to communal harmony.
Owaisi also demanded a ban on all Hindu yatras on festivals such as Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, even though the Shobha Yatra of 2011 had passed off peacefully.
The Shobha Yatra, when it finally happened with the collaboration of umpteen Hindu organizations, was truly grand, a triumph of Sri Rama, comparable to his return to Ayodhya in the hoary past, with ecstatic devotees turning up in numbers said to touch a whopping three lakhs! And it was completely joyous and peaceful. Not a single untoward incident was reported from anywhere, which suggests that despite provocation and instigation, the common citizen of both communities did not want to mar the sanctity of the day. Several devotees from Delhi, Mumbai and neighbouring Karnataka arrived in the city, hoping to participate in the historic celebrations, and they were not disappointed.
Andhra Pradesh derives much of its eminence on the Hindu civilisational spectrum from the spiritual contributions of Sant Bhadrachala Ramdas, Swami Ramananda Teertha, the famous Vijayanagar ruler Krishna Deva Raya, and the poet Tallapaka Annamacharya.
In the Old City, only one grand procession was allowed to each community – one for Muharram and the second for Ganpati. Then suddenly in February 2010, the Prophet’s birthday, Milad-un-Nabi, ignored all over the orthodox Muslim world, was observed with unprecedented gusto.
This was obviously an assertion of communal might, and Hindus decided that they also needed some positive affirmation. The very next month, in March 2010, devotees took the Rama Navami celebrations out of the temple compounds and in to the streets.
A few days later, the hitherto low key Hanuman Jayanti also became a huge jamboree. It resulted in clashes between two groups and days of curfew followed in the Old City. This year, the wisdom of Maryada Purushottam dawned, and the day passed in celebration.
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