Why Rama Rajya Is Part Of The Basic Structure Of The Constitution
The new Constitutional Morality doctrine is against the spirit of Constitutional Rama Rajya, which can be said to be part of the basic structure of our Constitution.
It also weakens Article 26, which deals with the rights of all religious denominations to manage their own religious affairs.
By CS Rangarajan and Justice B Siva Sankara Rao (Retd)
Over the last few weeks, a debate has raged over our constitution. Some relate to the devolution of more powers to states, but from a Dharmic point of view, the significance of the illustrations used in the original constitution are of profound significance. Some voices have been raised about the depiction of Sri Rama, Sri Lakshmana, and Sita Devi in Part III of the constitution that contains the fundamental rights chapter.
The time has come to reiterate, strongly, the history, the thoughts and the debates which led to the unanimous acceptance of the same by the Framers of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly.
The idea behind using those illustrations is to depict India’s ancient heritage, culture, customs, life and the spirit of India till modern times. Would a great personality like Dr BR Ambedkar, who tooth and nail opposed anything that is remotely connected to Hinduism, have approved this? In fact, he personally presented the Illustrated Constitution to Dr Rajendra Prasad. There is no mention of a single member of the Constituent Assembly who opposed the idea.
The Constitution of India is a fascinating piece of art. What other book can guide your present and ensure your future while constantly acknowledging the past? Let us decode that a bit: we all know the Constitution to be a document that protects our rights as citizens; but what we don’t know is that each part of the Constitution begins with art that traces our 5,000-year-old history. The intricate gold pattern on the front and back cover itself borrows from the famous Ajanta murals.
The first part starts with a popular Indus Valley seal-mark, the bull. The rarity of this zebu motif seal has continued to puzzle historians because the humped bull is a recurring theme in many of the ritual and decorative arts of the Indus region, appearing on painted pottery and as figurines long before the rise of cities and continuing on into later historical times. The zebu bull may symbolise the leader of the herd, whose strength and virility protects the herd and ensures the procreation of the species. Or it could stand for a sacrificial animal. When carved in stone, the zebu bull represents the most powerful clan or top officials of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.
The part on citizenship is represented by India’s Vedic Age. This was a time when the worship of personified powers (Agni, Indra, Surya, etc.) was common practice and there was hardly any artistic rendition of these. Most sacred rituals and practices were only known to Brahmans and handed down orally to pupils. This was also the time when the popular epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata emerged.
You can’t miss the depictions alongside their titles. The part on Fundamental Rights has been depicted by an illustration of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and State Policy begins with the iconic scene of Arjuna and Krishna’s conversation before the Kurukshetra war.
Said Swami Vivekananda: “If I am God, then my soul is a temple of the Highest, and my every motion should be a worship. Love for love’s sake, duty for duty’s sake without hope of reward or fear of punishment. Thus, my religion means expansion, and expansion means realisation and perception in the highest sense - no mumbling words or genuflections. Man is to become divine, realising the divine more and more from day to day in an endless progress.”
The image of Buddha’s Enlightenment is lent to the part on rules relating to the President and Vice President. This was a time where the term ‘enlightenment’ could also be understood as the awakening of the human race from innocence to consciousness.
By the 8th century, spiritual and philosophical speculation had advanced and was more Kshatriya in origin than Brahman. So, this was a period of huge change in society. Lord Mahavira consequently dominates the page after.
The Gupta period is said to be the Golden Age of India. The combination of brilliant intellectual and spiritual development was characterised by great art and literature. The paintings of Ajanta, the texts of Kalidasa, the mathematical genius of Aryabhatta, all these were part of the Gupta period. At that time, India was contributing to 25 percent to world GDP, and held on to the No 1 position for close to 1,000 years.
Gupta Rule manifests itself in this artwork representing the Nalanda University (established at that time), where the intermingling of cultures was common. The transition phase from Ancient to Early Medieval times was marked by some great art again, especially in the South. This is depicted through a rendering of Arjuna’s Penance (at Mahabalipuram) and a Nataraja Chola Bronze on different pages.
The next few pages illustrate all that we seemingly remember of our history: A scene from Akbar’s court depicting Mughal rule (known for pioneering art and architecture), which eventually leads to the rise of the Maratha and Sikh empires, epitomised by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Guru Gobind Singh. Shivaji and the Sikh regime eventually weakened Mughal rule and European trade gave way to what we know as Imperial rule.
The freedom struggle is depicted by a series of heroes starting with Rani Lakshmibai and going on to Tipu Sultan and Gandhi’s Dandi March. This part also takes into account Gandhi’s tour of Noakhali as the great peacemaker. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose also has an artwork dedicated to him.
A few people have started suggesting that the illustrations on the Original Constitution were only for the purpose of illumination or decoration and but this is not correct.
Article 363 specifically prevents the courts from interfering with any treaties or agreements entered into by any ruler of an Indian state before the constitution came into effect, and this article is critical to protect the Rights of Hindu Deities. The subtle move to quietly delegitimise the pictures drawn into the Original Constitution falls within the ambit of article 363. These rare drawings are not just an embellishment, but it is vital to remove any such doubts remaining in the minds of ordinary citizens in this regard.
The Constitution of India that is Bharat, which was adopted on 26 November 1949, and which came into force on 26 January 1950, had pictures of Shri Rama, Sita Devi and Sri Lakshmana returning from Lanka to establish Rama Rajya at Ayodhya. Thus, even though it was not actually part of any of written Articles, Rama Rajya, it can be argued, forms a part of the very basic structure of our Constitution. Mahatma Gandhi was also keen to establish Rama Rajya.
One of key principles of Rama Rajya is that the state shall not renege on its constitutional promise and this key principle was violated when several commitments made to the rulers who merged their kingdoms were broken. These promises were incorporated in the Constitution by Sardar Patel, but were removed through the 26th amendment.
The pledge given to erstwhile rulers by Sardar Patel in the Constituent Assembly was flagrantly dishonoured by enacting the 26th amendment. The eminent jurist and constitutional lawyer, the late Nani Palkhivala, felt that this action of the government of India was in breach of constitutional morality. He firmly believed that: “The survival of our democracy and the unity and integrity of the nation depend upon the realisation that constitutional morality is no less essential than constitutional legality. Dharma (righteousness; sense of public duty or virtue) lives in the hearts of public men; when it dies there, no Constitution, no law, no amendment, can save it.”
In his day, Rabindranath Tagore had this to say: “Hinduism is a very profound subject. It is not easy for any and every person to sound the depth of the religion established by the Rishis. It is just as well not to meddle with it without a full understanding.”
On 13 October 2017, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in a matter concerning the rights of Swami Ayyappa, the Sabarimala Deity, without understanding the spirit of Constitutional Rama Rajya in the artwork of our Constitution, referred several questions to a Constitution Bench. In the process, it disturbed a settled Kerala High Court judgment based on a Public Interest Litigation.
K Parasaran, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and former Attorney General of India, remarked in his arguments that when wrong questions are posed it is bound to lead to wrong answers. Therefore, the genesis of the Constitutional Morality doctrine described by the then (and still) Attorney General, KK Venugopal, was very dangerous. It was used by a five-judge Supreme Court bench which, on 28 September 2018, delivered the Sabarimala judgment, which effectively ended the rights of the Deity by allowing women of reproductive age to enter the sanctum sanctorum.
Our Hindu Deities have incarnated in our temples with the pious purpose of protecting Dharma. Even after several attempts through multiple invasions the Deities have ensured the protection of Dharma in large parts of Bharat and efforts to make Sanatana Dharma extinct in the very land of its origin were repelled. The new Constitutional Morality doctrine is against the spirit of Constitutional Rama Rajya, which can be said to be part of the basic structure of our Constitution. It also weakens Article 26, which deals with the rights of all religious denominations to manage their own religious affairs, inserted on the interventions of the Kanchi Paramacharya.
The Constitutional Morality doctrine can lead to a situation where Santana Dharma’s various Sampradayas get “reformed” out of existence by the judiciary through a simple public interest litigation (PIL) process. The ancient Mathas which protected Sanatana Dharma during multiple invasions, whose rights article 26 protects, can thus perish if subjected to judicial reform.
It is with a view to protecting Sanatana Dharma from the very dangerous Constitutional Morality doctrine that the historic Rama Rajya Ratha Yatra started from Ayodhya to Rameswaram on the auspicious day of Mahashivaratri, with a sankalpa of the temple for Sri Rama at Ayodhya and the establishment of Rama Rajya under the leadership of His Holiness Sree Sakthi Saanthananda Maharshi Swamiji. The divine objective of this historic Yatra is made clear by the fact that Rama Rajya Ratha was received in the Swami Ayyappa temple in Lucknow before the actual start of the Yatra from Ayodhya, and the devotees of Swami Ayyappa had recited Ramayana slokas for the success of the Yatra in the temple.
The Supreme Court of India, which has in its emblem the motto “Yato Dharmastato Jayah” (Where there is Dharma, there is Victory),
यते धर्मस्ततॊ जयः
has correctly observed: “In the adharma flowing from (any) wrong decision in a court of law, one fourth each is attributed to the person committing the adharma, witness, the judges and the ruler”.
धर्मेण हन्यते व्याधिः हन्यन्ते वै तथा ग्रहाः। धर्मेण हन्यते शत्रुः यते धर्मस्ततॊ जयः।।
It is by following Dharma that we gain victory over diseases. This is the advice contained in the Mahabharata. At a time when our nation is facing its biggest crisis in the form of Covid-19, the threat from China, and serious economic challenges, this advice is very significant.
It is therefore very important to make it explicit that Rama Rajya is a basic structure of our Constitution. This will ensure that the principle of Constitutional Morality, which governs the interpretation of our Constitution, is guided by the ideals of Rama Rajya Dharma.
The question is: How do we recognise Rama Rajya, which is contained in the spirit and illustrations of the Original Constitution, as a part of the basic structure? A Deity Rights Resolution, given through an Executive Order, is one way to make this happen. Article 363 does not allow the courts to interfere in treaties entered into before the Constitution was adopted, and this includes the Deity Rights agreed with the ruler of Travancore, who ruled in the name of Sri Padmanabhaswamy.
The spirit of Rama Rajya Dharma was followed by many ancient kingdoms and they did not pursue the option of a separate Constitution for their respective states as they believed in the promises made by Sardar Patel when they signed the instruments of accession to the Indian Union. It is for this reason that letters of support are being sought from ancient families of rulers on the lines of an earlier letter by Shri Krishnadevaraya family. Establishing Rama Rajya is clearly the pious purpose of the grand temple of Sri Rama at Ayodhya from the historic sankalpa done on behalf of the nation on 5 August 2020.
We chose a Dharmic republic by exercising the choice given by our creator in the famous Bhagavad Gita sloka to follow Dharma and establish Rama Rajya instead of a Christian or Islamic Republic. The picture of Sri Krishna giving this advice to Arjuna is part of our Constitution along with picture of Sri Rama and Sita Devi.
The Travancore ruler, Sri Padmanabha Dasa Bala Rama Varma, took great care through negotiations with the Dominion Government of India before the Covenant and Instrument of accession was signed, and ensured that the obligation of Thrippadidanam, to administer the kingdom as per the principles of Rama Rajya or Rule of Dharma, continues to live in our Constitution.
It was only after he ascertained this fact that he, as Raj Pramukh adopted the Constitution of Bharat for the United State of Travancore-Cochin. It is important to highlight that many reform measures adopted in the Travancore Rama Rajya find their place in the fundamental rights chapter, the most important among them being the Temple Entry Proclamation in the form of Article 25 (that Sri Padmanabha showed the way in the matter of Temple Entry for the entire nation is acknowledged officially by the then Governor General, C Rajagopalachari, or Rajaji). Thus, the Travancore Rama Rajya can be said to be the inspiration for our Constitutional Rama Rajya.
(CS Rangarajan is the hereditary archaka-cum-trustee of the Chilkur Balaji Temple in Telangana, and convenor of the Temples Protection Movement. Justice B Siva Sankara Rao is a former judge of the Telangana High Court)
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.