Among the themes planned by the Yogi government, the concept, idea and political willingness to create Shabri’s Garden is significant. It is a celebration of gender and diversity in dharma.
Yogi Adityanath’s government is working towards including a few landmark themes within the ambit of the projects related to building the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
Among these is the brilliant and ambitious idea of creating a park dedicated to Shabri -- the old woman who, in Maharishi Valmeeki's Ramayana meets Ram in the Aranya Kanda.
This Economic Times report says: “A 100-acre ‘Eye Theme Park’ is being built with a symbolic Ram Setu or bridge to take visitors across a man-made lake from ‘Shabri Garden’ to ‘Ashok Vatika’...” All these themes are expected to be completed before 2023 as per this report.
Among the themes planned by the Yogi government, the concept, idea and political willingness to create Shabri's Garden is significant. It is a celebration of gender and diversity in dharma.
In the building of the Ram Temple, which is a dharmic milestone for Hindus, the spiritual essence of a woman dedicated to seva will be upheld and given space in consonance with the present-day dharma-guided cultural revival.
A Shabri Garden is a tribute to many aspects: to Shabri and her seva, to Ram building a connect with her in order for her to reach the ultimate moment in bhakti, and also to dharma. It is also a tribute to Ram's quality of being a good listener.
The conversations between Ram and Shabri, as it unfolds in Valmeeki Ramayana's Aranya Kanda, points at how well Ram understood Shabri's action (she had bitten into each berry to check its taste before offering it to Ram), her life and her quest.
The trigger for including Shabri in the Ram Temple found its voice at the 2nd Adivasi Vidyarthi Sammelan in Goa, where Governor Satya Pal Malik said that he was yet to hear of people demanding the idols of Kevat and Shabri in Ram Durbar.
“I will write letter to it [the temple trust when it is formed] urging them to install idols of people who fought with him, on the side of truth. That is the true India,” he said.
It is indeed in the fitness of things to go back to Ram's tryst with Shabri via the sacred path of building the Ram Temple.
In these projects, the Yogi Adityanath government would do well to restore some part of the flora mentioned in the Ayodhya Kanda and Aranya Kanda of Rishi Valmeeki's Ramayana. 'Kuvalaya' -- the lotus -- must be part of the Shabri Garden. It will symbolise Shabri's meditation and keep the conversation between Ram and Shabri continuing and alive.
The other two significant concepts that are slated to be part of the Temple project plan are the Bhajan Sandhya Sthal and a Ram Lila Academy.
The Bhajan Sandhya Sthal, with the right minds curating segments of devotional music dedicated to Ram and Ramayana, could prove to be a continuing cradle of expressions collected from across India and from Ram bhakts spread across the globe.
The compartmentalised approach to caste-specific celebrations in music will automatically get eroded. And bhajans that mention Shabri need a true and spirited cultural revival.
It must be noted that the few meaningful platforms dedicated to the celebration of Ram bhakti across India have either faded away or have dropped Ram and Ramayana from their priority list, owing to a skewed idea of “inclusion” from the organisers.
The Bhajan Sandhya Sthal will help centralise the celebration of devotional music in Ayodhya's heart. From Ayodhya to Fiji, from Ayodhya to the islands in the far West, a lot is waiting to be connected through music.
Taking musical expressions dedicated to Ram to the bhakti srota -- Ayodhya -- will channelise a living heritage. It will also ignite the passion in bhaktas to push for and hear the many lesser-known expressions that continue to live in India's forests, villages, and towns.
The Ram Lila Academy is a genius concept. It will not only open the world to Ayodhya's Ram Lila but also embrace evolved versions from the ASEAN countries, and most importantly, celebrate caste diversity.