Hyderabad: Triumph of Sri Rama
by Sandhya Jain on 06 Apr 2012 19 Comments

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.

[See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvjsgp8Mx-I]


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.


Hindu anxiety was not misplaced. Earlier in January this year, the Andhra Pradesh government stunned devotees by banning the ringing of bells in the Sri Bhagyalakshmi Temple in the Char Minar area. It also banned the performing of ‘maha-arti’ and deployed police to implement the ban. This triggered tensions over the fate of the Yatra, and the temple emerged as the focal point for the Yatra.
After initially taking a hardline and trying to browbeat the organizers to cancel the celebrations, the administration let better sense prevail. The first indications that all would be well came some days ago, when the Hyderabad Police began making elaborate arrangements for the security of the procession and devotees, and the smooth flow of traffic to minimize inconvenience to the public during traffic diversions on account of the Shobha Yatra. The Yatra route was also worked out with the organising committee and; Thakur Raja Singh was released on 24 March 2012.

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.


The best part of the celebration was the fact that unlike 2011, the Hyderabad Police did not compel Hindus to divert the procession from their regular route. All along the 7-km route, participants reported great joy and fun, with young children dressing up as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bhose, Maharana Pratap, besides of course, Sri Rama, Lakshman, Sita Ji, Hanuman and the Vanar Sena.
One of the most mysterious developments of the day was that some prominent mosques were wrapped up with cloth for the day, and the community as a whole absented itself from public appearances. It was of course, gratifying that the rabble rousers who had opposed the Yatra did not appear in the streets and create trouble, but never in the city’s history have the religious structures of ANY community been ‘shrouded’ in this manner and literally shut down. It was inexplicable.
For the Hindu community of Andhra Pradesh, this was the second great triumph after the agitation some years ago against church encroachment on the Tirupathi Hills forced then chief minister YSR Reddy to declare the entire seven hills as the body of Lord Venkateswara and ban the ingress of any other religion in the place.

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.

Under Nizam rule, Muslim religion and culture were naturally dominant, and Hindus lived a quietist existence, which remained unchanged under the secular dispensation that emerged at independence. Hindu festivals were largely private family affairs, with quiet temple prayers and celebrations.


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.




[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Ramnavami-Old-City-on-tenterhooks/articleshow/12487209.cms

[2] http://www.newswala.com/Hyderabad-News/Notification-on-Traffic-diversions-in-view-of-Sri-Ram-Navami-10491.html 

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