Kathmandu on Tuesday said Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s remarks that the “real” Ayodhya is in Nepal and Lord Ram was Nepalese reflected the many myths about the Hindu god and highlighted the need for further research on the “vast cultural geography” of the Ramayana.
The Nepal government outlined its position in a statement issued by the foreign ministry after Oli’s remarks, carried extensively by the Indian media, stoked a controversy. Indian priests called on Oli to keep religion out of regional politics, and groups affiliated to the ruling BJP condemned the remarks.
The controversy came against the backdrop of a border row between India and Nepal, which erupted after New Delhi opened a new road to Lipulekh on the Tibet border and Kathmandu published a new map showing Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepalese territory.
The Nepal foreign ministry’s statement referred to “various interpretations of the remarks” made by Oli on Monday during a celebration to mark the birth anniversary of Bhanu Bhakta Acharya, the author who translated Valmiki’s Ramayana into Nepali.
The statement clarified Oli’s remarks “are not linked to any political subject” and there was “no intention at all to hurt the feeling and sentiment of anyone”.
“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 civilisation,” the statement said.
The remarks, it added, weren’t meant to debase the “significance of Ayodhya and the cultural value it bears”.
The statement noted there is the annual tradition of celebrating “Bibaha Panchami”, or a symbolic marriage procession going from Ayodhya in India to Janakpur in Nepal to mark the wedding of Lord Ram and Sita. Janakpur is believed to be the birthplace of Sita.
The statement added the prime ministers of Nepal and India had launched the Ramayana tourism circuit in May 2018, of which the Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service is an important component. “These facts signify the bond of time honoured cultural affinity between our two countries and peoples,” it said.
During Monday’s event, Oli had said Nepal had “become a victim of cultural encroachment” and its history was manipulated. “Although the real Ayodhya lies at Thori in the west of Birgunj, India has claimed the Indian site as the birthplace of Lord Ram,” Oli was quoted as saying by the media.
“The place called Thori…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,” he added.
As Dasharath was the ruler of Nepal, it was natural that his son Ram was also born in Nepal, Oli contended.
The BJP condemned Oli’s remarks, with spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri saying Nepal’s ruling communist party would be rejected by the people in the same way they had been in India since these parties played with people’s faith.
“The prime minister of Nepal must keep Lord Ram out of regional politics. His comments are unwarranted. He must know that Lord Ram was a ‘chakravarti’ emperor and Nepal was also a part of his kingdom. Ties between India and Nepal are older than history,” said Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, chairman of Sri Ram Jamabhoomi Tirath Kshetra Trust.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and priests in Ayodhya also condemned Oli’s remarks.