The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Seer lives in sheer hope

Tiruttani (Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border), July 6: Ram, so the legend goes, stopped here to offer prayers on his way to Lanka. Mission accomplished, he stopped again on his way back to worship at the Subramanya Swami Temple.

More than 3,000 years down the line, Swami Jayendra Saraswati’s raised hands sent a ripple of fervour through the devotees, but the ancient shrine failed to mirror that legend-shaping success as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board rejected his Ayodhya formula.

The Kanchi Sankaracharya appeared unruffled as he walked away from the crowd of devotees that had gathered for the consecration of the temple after a gap of 18 years.

“I don’t think it has come like that (total rejection) as yet,” he said, reacting to the board decision. “Even if they (law board members) reject it, the talks (between him and Muslim leaders) would continue.”

The seer said his information was that some — he did not name anyone but it appeared they might be board members — had suggested that the talks could resume after the Chatur Masya, an approximately two-month period from July 13 when sadhus do not leave their place of stay.

Asked if Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had spoken to him today, he shot back: “Why should he'”

The Sankaracharya said he would “give his response” if the board members gave reasons for “rejecting” his formula. He confirmed that he had replied to the clarifications sought by board chief Maulana Rabey Nadwi to his proposals sent last month and was willing to give “fresh proposals” if the members were open to the idea.

Even in the past, “they have got back to us” after proposals that came to the discussion stage had been rejected, the seer said, adding that he was still “very much hopeful” of finding a negotiated settlement.

All these thoughts must have crossed his mind when at 9.30 this morning he sat cross-legged, his hands folded, at the temple as the sivacharyas chanted mantras and poured the sacred water into the kalasams, the high point of the consecration ceremony.

The temple, perched atop one of the arms of the Eastern Ghats on the way to Tirupati, is also a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. Pilgrims, after climbing its 365 steps, come across a small, open hall in its northern outer enclosure called Nawab Vaadhiya Mandapam. Here, on festival days and other holy occasions, Muslims play musical instruments for Lord Muruga.

The seer made it a point to stress on religious harmony. “Ayodhya is a matter of faith and let us not make it a prestige issue,” he said, regretting it has been reduced to a “faith-versus-prestige” issue.

Asked if he had any message for the two communities, he said the issue could be resolved only through “love, mutual understanding and dialogue” and by shedding “hate”.

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