Jai Shree Ram

Anand Kamalakar
5 min readFeb 15, 2024

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© Pankaj Sisodiya

As expected and intended, the controversial consecration of the temple at Ayodhya in India was a grand success.

It was broadcast live across the country on TV and social media. Millions watched and celebrated with the Prime Minister and his elite guests, as they dedicated the temple and the deity, to the nation.

Thousands are now heeding the call and arriving at the temple site, from far and wide for a “Darshan” (to behold the deity) and show their allegiance to the project.

The airports are busy. The hotels are full. The bus and train stations are overflowing and security is tight. I am told there is police at every turn, making sure everyone stays in line. Considering the density of India, this is a monumental task.

People arrive in their devout best and leave impressed by what they see. A structure that is grand and beautifully carved out of stone by amazing artisans. Even though cranes hover above, busy completing the construction, it does not seem to phase the devotees entering the compound and then the sanctum sanctorum for a thirty second glimpse of the black stone idol, known as Ram Lalla (Child Ram).

As it is customary these days, the pilgrimage must be advertised on social media, or else it never happened.

Long postings with endless photos are flashed across Facebook. Short videos are posted on Instgaram and TikTok. Whatsapp groups are flooded with images as congratulations pour in of a significant mission accomplished.

“Like” and “Heart” emojis soon populate, showering applause from like minded friends and family.

Apart from the emojis, many write “Jai Shree Ram” in the comments. Which in its literal translation means, “Hail Lord Ram”. Also seen are emojis of saffron and gold flags with religious crests and over the top illustrations of Lord Rama and angry Hanuman face on orange flag. An image that has become ubiquitous across India today.

This is a public relations coup for the political party behind the temple project. The word is being spread by its devotees without any provocation. What better way to pull off a free campaign advert for an impending election.

There was a time when the words “Jai Shree Ram” held sanctity. When uttered it meant a sacred greeting, invoking righteousness, justice and piety that Rama, the central character of the Indian mythological epic Ramayana, is said to have embodied.

The greeting is a blessing, akin to the phrase “god bless you”.

There are many such phrases that are used in India, to show one’s devotion to whichever deity one believes in and then transfer it as a blessing. Jai Shree Krishna is a common greeting used in Gujarat. Jai Siya Ram or Jai Bajarangbali are others, and so on and so forth.

But, just like many things in this world, these words have been sullied and besmirched.

These three words have come to symbolize and suggest something far more insidious than what they literally mean

In the 1990s when the temple project began in earnest, “Jai Shree Ram” was co opted as a war cry. When the right wing Hindu groups decided to ratchet up the controversy around the mosque built upon the destruction of a temple back in 1528, they used these words as their slogan to rally the troops.

I remember seeing bricks embossed with these words, transported to Ayodhya by the devotees, with the goal of building a temple, when the mosque would eventually be razed to the ground. These bricks are implanted in the structure today.

The Kar-Sevaks (foot soldiers) were told they were on a sacred mission to reclaim what had been lost five hundred years ago. It was incumbent upon every Hindu to reclaim their lost heritage, no matter what.

As I watched on television in 1992, an army of zealous vandals gathered, egged on by those in power today, arrived at the site of the mosque, with hatred in their eyes, they were chanting “Jai Shree Ram” in their loudest voice possible.

And then they danced on the ruins, singing “Jai Shree Ram”.

As a result, today, these three words mean something unholy, when uttered in the present context, or by someone who has it plastered over their forehead.

Just like the sacred Hindu Swastika was once twisted and distorted to signify something ugly, these three words have come to embody a supremacist agenda.

The words “Allah oh Akbar” means “god is greater”. But when used by a terrorist before he beheads someone or a marauding army out to maim and kill, it means something completely different.

Chanting USA! USA!, while dropping bombs on another nation or vandalizing the Capitol Hill, says a lot about those uttering those words which would otherwise be innocuous.

The corruption of words is nothing new in the propaganda world we live in. Words and symbols have been twisted to serve a purpose through history.

The words “Jai Shree Ram” have been weaponized, to question one’s belief, and where one stands on the issue of some distorted sense of religion.

They have become a token to advertise one’s exalted status as a Hindu.

The building of the temple is seen as an act of absolution and redemption by many. It is seen as rectification and restitution. Therefore visiting it is perceived as a badge of honor.

And to others, like my mother, to whom history is not of deep concern, it’s akin to visiting a hyper-touted tourist destination to satisfy a curiosity.

There are thousands of temples to visit in India. Yet visiting this one and advertising to the world and ending the post with the words “Jai Shree Ram” has become a proclamation of where one stands on this historical political discourse.

Many in India seem to be drugged to the point of negating history, conflating history with mythology, and have no problem endorsing whoever does so.

Hinduism, as I understood, was meant to take an individual from Darkness into Light (Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya).

It is my hope that one day the words “Jai Shree Ram” will be returned to its original sentiment. When all it is meant to do, is to see the god in you and not in statues built by ideologues.

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Anand Kamalakar

Anand Kamalakar is a Brooklyn based documentary film director, producer and editor. His latest film is Colonel Kalsi (colonelkalsifilm.com)