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Updated December 25th, 2023 at 15:18 IST

Exclusive/ Ram Mandir is the coming true of pledge taken years ago on the banks of Saryu: Sadhvi Ritambhara

Republic caught up with Sadhvi Ritambhara, one of the pioneers of the Ram Mandir movement. Here's an excerpt from the exclusive chat.

Harsha Chandwani
Sadhvi Rithambara
Sadhvi Rithambara | Image:Sadhvi Rithambara
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The Ram Mandir or the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony is to take place on January 22, 2024, for which thousands of invites have been sent to guests by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust. However, it may be noted that the first invite was sent to Sadhvi Rithambara.

The Sadhvi, fondly called as ‘Didi-Maa’ by her followers, is one of the key persons involved in the Ram Janmbhoomi Andolan in 1990. Her struggles during that period inspired many karsewaks to join the massive Ram Mandir Andolan that later became the Jan Andolan.

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Republic spoke Sadhvi Rithambara in an exclusive interview, where she spoke on the Ram Mandir inauguration, and on her journey and challenges faced by her during the Ram Mandir Andolan. Excerpts from the interview.

You are the first one to be invited for the inauguration of the Ram Mandir. Is it a dream turned into reality?

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Not only me, but the entire Sanatan is filled with happiness, which cannot be expressed. We gave our soul to the Ram Mandir Andolan, and the ones who couldn't join in the Andolan gave their blessings. Many dedicated their children towards the Andolan.

I want to describe the dedication and involvement of everyone as follows: "Raghav ke Rananjay bane, Madhav ke Dhananjay bane, Maharana Pratap ki aan bane, Chhatrapati Shivaji ki shaan bane aur Jhansi Ki Rani ka oj chit me dharan kiya, Panchali ka kop bhi chitt me dharan kiya" . The zeal of the public to give their life for Lord Ram (in the Andolan) was magnificent. They were committed. Every individual wanted to be part of the Ram Mandir Andolan.

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Today, after years of struggle, the Ram Mandir is being inaugurated and Lord Ram will be established in his birthplace. We cannot describe how ecstatic we are today.

How would you describe your struggles and challenges faced in 1990 during the Ram Mandir Andolan?

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The initial phase was like the origin of River Ganges, like how Ganga originates from a small place and later many rivers and lakes combine into the holy river and it becomes vast. The Ram Mandir Andolan was similar. It originated from the Saryu river in Ayodhya. I am witness to the origin of the Andolan. I took the waters of the Saryu river in my hands and promised to Goddess Saryu that I will dedicate my life to Lord Ram, and that all of us saints together will establish Lord Ram in a grand Ram Temple.

We prayed to the Saryu river and sought strength from the Goddess, so that she doesn’t let us go weak in our journey, and protects us in order to achieve our goal. That is how our Ram Mandir Andolan began. 

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I started doing sabhas and delivering speeches all across the country and we gathered mass support. I could recall how the first sabha was on the stairs of a closed shop. It was in the morning and the shutter of the shop was closed.

That’s when we started the slogans "Jai Shree Ram " and a crowd started gathering. From those stairs of the closed shop to doing sabhas under trees, we used to send a message that why not our Lord Ram be installed and ensconced in the Temple. That was the origin of our movement. 

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I was young at that time and dedicated myself to Lord Ram. Today, when I look back, I feel satisfied and happy that I committed myself to a cause and a movement.

We were surrounded by political hurdles a lot of the time. But to our surprise, the society had already made up its mind that "Those who are not with Lord Ram, they are with no-one". My image was tarnished at that time and people used to look down upon me and make me feel as if I am a terrorist. 

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But my Guruji Parmanand used to guide me by saying, ‘Hardships will come and go; one can't taste the Amrit unless they taste poison like (Lord) Mahadev. I followed my Guruji’s path and meditated a lot.

How did you survive that time? There were FIRs against you for aggressive speeches.

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It was a very difficult time. Every hour, I used to disguise my look, so the police officials don’t recognise me. I was banned from Uttar Pradesh that time. But I had also decided that I will do sabhas.

In Lalitpur, after my sabha, police officials came to arrest me when I was having lunch at one of the karyakarta’s residence. But I disguised myself as an old lady, changed my clothes, took a child in my hands and left the venue. 

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On many days, I have only eaten daal and slept in railway stations or bus stations in order to not be caught. I used to keep a small bag with me, which had a variety of clothes like printed suits, old age shawls, sarees, costumes of tantriks or sadhus. Whenever I held a gathering, after the sabha I used to change my look and outfit to fool police officials. I cut off my hair when I was in Delhi, staying in Chhatarpur at Satyapal Bhutani’s residence. The entire house was covered by the police to arrest me, but I shaved my head and changed into a housewife and left from that place. These were the tricks I used at the time to save myself from the police, as Section 153 was registered against me.

When did the VHP get support from political leaders, especially from the BJP, and when did the Rath Yatra begin?

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After a year of continuous movement on ground, we realised that we have received massive traction. So we invited all the political parties to support us in the Ram Mandir Andolan. But none of the parties supported us. The Congress tried to bribe saints by offering huge money but we gave a befitting reply. 

After that, LK Advani started the Rath Yatra. We all know how the Rath Yatra mobilised the crowd. We at that time had no intention to demolish the Babri Masjid, but the karsevaks were agitated and no-one could stop them.

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The Rath Yatra saw all big leaders coming together like Uma Bharti, Ashok Singhal, Vijayaraje Scindia and others. That’s how we gathered trust from the ground.

Do you recall any moment with any big faces at that time?

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Yes, I do remember Ashok Singhal was hurt. His head was bleeding during our procession but he didn't stop. He went on leading the group towards the Babri Masjid. That was the aggression on-ground and today when I recall this, I still get goosebumps. It was a difficult time. No one could imagine the hardships we have been through.

Do you think people indulged in a lot of politics at the time?

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Of course. All the parties hesitated because of the minority vote bank. The UPA at the time didn't even think before crushing our karsevaks, who dedicated their life to Lord Ram. Congress at the time was into appeasement politics and they still are doing it. 

I believe Lord Ram will forgive them if they wholeheartedly apologise for their deeds. The Opposition parties should not do politics on Lord Ram.

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Lord Ram is for everyone and now ‘Our Lord Ram’ is finally home. This is a long wait and the thrill amongst karyakartas cannot be described. I believe the Opposition should come to Ayodhya and our Lord Ram will forgive them.

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Published December 25th, 2023 at 15:02 IST

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