A statue of Rama in Ayodhya

Jai Shri Ram[a] (IAST: Jaya Śrī Rāma) is an expression in Indic languages, translating as "Glory to Lord Rama" or "Victory to Lord Rama".[6] The proclamation has been used by Hindus as a symbol of adhering to Hindu faith,[7] or for projection of varied faith-centered emotions.[8][9][10]

The expression was used by the Indian Hindu nationalist organisations Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their allies, which embraced the slogan in the late 20th century as a tool for increasing the visibility of Hinduism in public spaces, before going on to use it as a battle cry. The slogan has since been employed in connection with the perpetration of communal violence against people of other faiths.[11][24]

Meaning

Jai Shri Ram means "hail Lord Ram" or "victory to Lord Ram".[6] Ram (or Rama) is a major deity in Hinduism.[25]

Antecedents

Religious and social

"Jaya Sri Ram", along with "Jaya Sita Ram", "Jaya Ram" and "Sita Ram", were used as mutual salutations by Ramanandi ascetics (called Bairagis).[26][27] "Ram Ram", "Jai Ram ji ki" and "Jai Siya Ram" have been noted as common salutations in the Hindi heartland (Sita or Siya is the name of Rama's consort).[28][6][29]

Photojournalist Prashant Panjiar wrote about how in the city Ayodhya female pilgrims always chant "Sita-Ram-Sita-Ram", while the older male pilgrims prefer not to use Rama's name at all. The traditional usage of "Jai" in a slogan was with "Siyavar Ramchandraji ki jai" ("Victory to Sita's husband Rama").[29]

Rama symbolism

The worship of Rama increased significantly in the 12th century, following the invasions of Muslim Turks.[22] The Ramayana became widely popular in the 16th century. It is argued that the story of Rama offers a "very powerful imaginative formulation of the divine king as the only being capable of combating evil".[30] The concept of Ramrajya, "the rule of Ram", was used by Gandhi to describe the ideal country free from the British.[22][31]

The most widely known political use of Ram began with Baba Ram Chandra's peasant movement in Awadh in the 1920s. He encouraged the use of "Sita-Ram" as opposed to the then widely used "Salaam" as a greeting, since the latter implied social inferiority. "Sita-Ram" soon became a rallying cry.[32]

Journalist Mrinal Pande states:[22]

The slogans raised... were never about Ram as an individual, let alone a warrior. They were about the duo: Bol Siyavar or Siyapat Ramchandra ki jai [victory to Ram, Sita’s husband].

1980s and forward

In the late 1980s, the slogan "Jai Shri Ram" was popularised by Ramanand Sagar's television series Ramayan, where it was used by Hanuman and the Vaanar Sena (monkey army) as a war cry when they fought the demon army of Ravan in order to free Sita.[33] Sagar himself acknowledged his contribution, claiming, "College boys don't say 'Hi' any more, they say 'Jai Shri Ram ki' 'Long live Shri Ram'."[34]

The Hindu nationalist organisation Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its militant wing Bajrang Dal, carried out a campaign saying "Ram-Ram Chhodo, Jai Shri Ram Bolo" ("Stop saying Ram-Ram, Say Jai Shri Ram").[35] During L. K. Advani's rath yatra to Ayodhya in 1989, the customary slogan Jai Siya Ram was replaced by "Jai Shri Ram".[36] The VHP, Bharatiya Janata Party and their Sangh Parivar allies used it extensively in their Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi movement.[33][37] Volunteers at Ayodhya at the time would write the slogan on their skin, using their own blood as ink to signify their devotion. The organizations also distributed a cassette named as Jai Shri Ram, containing songs like "Ram ji ki sena chali" (transl. the army of Rama is on the move) and "Aya samay jawano jago" (transl. the time has come for the martial youth to arise). All the songs in the cassette were set to the tunes of popular Bollywood songs.[38] Kar sevaks, led by the Sangh Parivar allies, chanted the slogan of "Jai Shri Ram" when laying a foundation east of the Babri Masjid in August 1992.[39]

Simultaneously the Rama pictography was changed to projecting a heroic, muscular, and angry Rama.[35][40][41] A muscular Rama, clad in saffron, was shown towering over an imaginary Ram temple in Ayodhya.[42] These images were labelled with the "Jai Shri Ram" slogan (written in the Devnagari script of Hindi).[43]

A 1995 essay published in Manushi, a journal edited by academic Madhu Kishwar, described how the Sangh Parivar's usage of "Jai Shri Ram", as opposed to "Sita-Ram", lies in the fact that their violent ideas had "no use for a non-macho Ram."[22] This also mobilised more people politically, since it was patriarchal. Further, the movement was exclusively associated with Ram's birth, which had occurred many years before his marriage to Sita.[44]

Sociologist Jan Breman writes:[45]

It is a "Blut und Boden" (blood and soil) movement which aims to purify Bharat (the Motherland) from foreign elements.... The damage that the nation sustained is, to a significant extent, the consequence of the gentleness and indulgence that the people showed in the face of the repressive foreigners. The softness and femininity that came to be dominant in Hinduism, a change that was wrought by the cunning machinations of the enemy, now must make place for the original, masculine, powerful Hindu ethos. This explains the warlike, extremely aggressive character of the appeal for a national revival launched by the advocates of Hindutva. An interesting aside here is that the greeting "Jai Siya Ram" has been transformed into the battle cry "Jai Shri Ram" ("Long live Lord Ram"). The Hindu supreme god has assumed the form of a macho general. In the original meaning, "Siya Ram" had been a popular greeting of welcome in the countryside since time immemorial... The Hindu fanatics have now also banished her from the popular greeting by changing Siya to "Shri" (Lord), thereby suppressing the feminine element in favour of masculine virility and assertiveness.

— Jan Breman, "Ghettoization and Communal Politics: The Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion in the Hindutva Landscape", Institutions and Inequalities: Essays in Honour of Andre Beteille

An Indian political analyst decried the political use of the slogan in 2019, and said that "it now seems to have official sanction."[46] In December 2022, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi while giving a speech in Madhya Pradesh attacked BJP and RSS by raising the question "Why they always chants "Jai Shri Ram" and not "Jai Siya Ram".[47][48] Reacting to his question, a minister in Madhya Pradesh and a senior BJP leader Narottam Mishra replied "I think Rahul Gandhi's knowledge is only limited to children’s rhyme ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep', the name of Ram is prefixed with 'Shri' which is also used for Lord Vishnu's wife Lakshmi and Sita Ji".[48] The BJP's Amit Malviya also reacted to Rahul Gandhi's attack by posting a video in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his Ram Mandir ceremony speech with "Jai Siya Ram".[47][49]

The Wire said in 2023 that "We are yet to see any condemnation of the 'misuse' of the sacred name Ram by any religious leader or body."[50]

Usage

Numismatics

Gharib Nawaz, ruler of the Manipur Kingdom, issued bell metal coins with the phrase "Jai Shri Ram", "Shri Ram" and "Jai Shri" in 18th century.[51][52]

Violent incidents

There have been some reports of violent incidents being associated with the slogan, in which the allegations were later found to be false.[77] In June 2019, a group of 49 artists, academics and intellectuals wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to put a stop "to the name of Ram being defiled" as a war cry. They demanded that strict action be taken against using the slogan for violent purposes.[78]

Politics

In June 2019, the slogan was used to heckle Muslim MPs as they proceeded to take their oath in the 17th Lok Sabha.[79] In July that year, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen stated in a speech that the slogan was "not associated with the Bengali culture",[80] leading to some unknown groups publishing his statement on billboards in Kolkata.[81] The slogan has also been used to heckle West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on multiple occasions, triggering angry reactions from her.[81][82][46]

The slogan was used by lawyers to celebrate the 2019 Supreme Court decision to allow a Ram temple to be built on the disputed Ayodhya site where a mob had demolished the Babri Masjid mosque in 1992.[83] In August 2020, following the ground-breaking ceremony of the Ram Temple, Ayodhya, the slogan was used as a chant in celebrations in New York.[84]

Popular culture

Kabir Khan used the phrase in his 2015 film Bajrangi Bhaijaan

The slogan is painted on the walls of a mandir[b] in a house in the 1994 film Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!.[85]

It is used as a salutation in the 2015 film Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The director states that he grew up hearing "Jai Shri Ram" as a benevolent expression, "rooted in our culture", but that the words have become aggressive.[28] A 2017 Bhojpuri film, Pakistan Me Jai Shri Ram depicts the hero as a devotee of Ram who enters Pakistan and kills terrorists while chanting the slogan.[44] Stickers stating Hello nahīṃ, bolo Jaya Śrī Rāma (transl. "Don't say hello but say Victory to Rama") became popular on the vehicles and telephones of people running small businesses.[38] A 2018 song, "Hindu Blood Hit", features psychedelic repetitions of the slogan and goes on to warn Indian Muslims that their time is up.[86] Another song from 2017, "Jai Shree Ram DJ Vicky Mix", hopes for a time in the future in which "there will continue to be a Kashmir but no Pakistan".[7] The song "Jai Shree Ram" is part of the film music in the 2022 action-adventure Ram Setu.[87][88] The 2023 film Adipurush had a song with the same name.[89]

In 2022, Jujaru Nagaraju, a handloom weaver in Andhra Pradesh weaved a 60 metre long silk sari with "Jai Sri Ram" written over 30 000 times in 13 Indian languages.[90]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Also known as Jai Sri Ram,[1][2][3] Jai Shree Ram,[4] or Jai Shri Rama.[5]
  2. ^ Prayer room in this case.

References

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