Is Nepal the origin of Lord Rama?

On July 14, Nepal PM triggers a debate: “Where is Ayodhya, the origin of Lord Rama?”. The real Ayodhya lies at Thori in the west of Birgunj. India has claimed the Indian site as the birthplace of Lord Ram,” said Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Monday while rejecting the traditional “belief” that Nepali daughter Sita was married to an Indian Prince Ram.

Oli was speaking at an event to commemorate the birth anniversary of poet Bhanubhakta, credited with the first authentic translation of Valmiki’s Ramayan into the Nepali language. “The place called Thori, near Birgunj is the real Ayodhya, where Lord Ram was born. In India, there is a great dispute on Ayodhya. But, there is no dispute in our Ayodhya,” Prime Minister Oli was quoted as saying by his press advisor Surya Thapa. Politically, Oli’s comment comes as a refutation of India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s comment made last month when he had said India and Nepal have a “roti-beti” relation referring to cross-border marriages. However, Oli’s remarks have sparked off a debate on the “real” location of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram and the capital of his kingdom as mentioned in ancient texts.

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Condemning Mr. Oli for his remarks, BJP national spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri said that the Communists in Nepal will be rejected by the masses in the same way they have been in India, even as Left parties in India played with people’s faith. “Lord Ram is a matter of faith for us, and people will not allow anybody, be it Prime Minister of Nepal or anyone, to play with this,” he said in New Delhi.

Oral history, as compiled into the Ramayan by Valkimi, places Ayodhya in modern Uttar Pradesh. Ramayan tradition identifies Ayodhya as the birthplace of Ram for around 3,000 years, based on literary evidence. Lack of archaeological evidence has kept the debate raging for years. The statement, however, was not only opposed by Indian citizens but by Nepali citizens as well. Nepal PM has been taking many controversial decisions and making controversial statements in the recent days, one of which was releasing of Nepal’s map with Indian city. While Oli’s unexpected territorial claim followed by allegations that India was behind moves to have him dethroned have been rejected by New Delhi, some have looked at it with suspicion even in Nepal, accusing Oli of playing the India card to hide his own government’s alleged failures. Oli’s recent claim about Lord Rama, too, has drawn sharp reactions from both India and Nepal.

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However, clarification on the statement of Nepal PM has been given now. The Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to shield Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s comments on Lord Ram from criticism by clarifying that he did not mean to debase the significance of Ayodhya and the cultural value it bears. The MFA said the remarks were not linked to any political subject and were not intended to hurt the feelings and sentiment of anyone. It added that as there have been several myths and references about Lord Ram and the places associated with him, the PM was “simply highlighting the importance of further studies and research of the vast cultural geography the Ramayana represents to obtain facts about Shri Ram, Ramayana and the various places linked to this rich civilization.” “As there have been several myths and references about Shri Ram and the places associated with him, the Prime Minister was simply highlighting the importance of further studies and research of the vast cultural geography the Ramayana represents to obtain facts about Shri Ram, Ramayana and the various places linked to this rich civilization,” it added. The ministry further said, “It may be underlined that the tradition of celebrating Bibaha Panchami where a marriage procession coming from Ayodhya, India to Janakpur, Nepal takes place every year. The Prime Ministers of Nepal and India launched the Ramayana Circuit in May 2018, of which Janakpur-Ayodhya Passenger Bus Service is an important component. These facts signify the bond of time-honored cultural affinity between our two countries and peoples.”