Who comes to your mind when you think of Ram bhakti (devotion)? Bhagwan Hanuman, of course, qualifies as the biggest Ram bhakt on this planet. Throughout Ramayana, Bhagwan Hanuman is the one who was supposed to protect Bhagwan Ram and at the same time epitomise the culture of devotion towards Shri Ram. Even beyond the Ramayana epic, it is Bhagwan Hanuman who forms the centre of devotion towards Shri Ram.
It is therefore only natural that it took a ‘Hanuman’ to give a much-needed momentum to the reconstruction of a grand temple at the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram. We are talking about Hanuman Prasad Poddar, a witness to the historical appearance of the Ram Lalla idol at the Shri Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya in December 1949.
The Ram Mandir reconstruction process is bound to go down in history as one of the longest legal battles and movements in human history for reclaiming the civilisational legacy. It was Poddar, among several others, who ensured that the movement remained alive. Poddar, a freedom fighter, litterateur, philanthropist and above all an ardent supporter of a grand temple at the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram in the ancient city of Ayodhya, founded the Gita Press- the largest publisher of Hindu texts in the world.
Poddar was born in Shillong, in 1892. Throughout his life, Poddar remained devoted to the cause of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. For several years, he kept arranging clothes and prasad (offerings) for Ram Lalla. Not just this, he also devoted several columns in his publication- ‘Kalyaan’ to the cause of Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan (movement).
Hanuman Prasad Poddar was among the leading faces who formed the backbone of the Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan. Poddar was considered close to the then Mahant of the Goraksha Peeth, Digvijaya Nath. Moreover, he also aligned with Sant Baba Raghavdas of Deoria, Baba Abhiram Das of the Nirmohi Akhara and Ramchandra Parmahans of Digambar Akhara as a part of the crusade for a Ram Mandir. Nirmohi Akhara was, of course, a party to the Ram Mandir matter before the Supreme Court as well.
Hanuman Prasad Poddar had once also appealed to the Muslim community to allow Hindus to build a temple at Bhagwan Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya. Poddar believed that such a step would maintain communal harmony between the two communities.
True to his name, Poddar kept serving Shri Ram and other devotees but never disclosed it himself. He kept arranging essentials for prayer and clothes for Ram Lalla, with an eye on the Ram temple, as and when would come into being. He also rendered financial assistance to other devotees whenever needed, but never mentioned it. Hanuman Prasad Poddar remained committed and selfless when it came to the cause of a Ram temple, while he also contributed to two other sites of extreme significance for Hindus around the world- Kashi and Mathura.
Lalmani Tiwari, a senior employee at Gita Press told Jagran that Hanuman Prasad Poddar, who was also known as Bhaiji, had discussed the Ram Mandir movement and the developments around the same across editorials and articles of several editions of Poddar’s publication- Kalyaan.
He passed away in 1971. But throughout his life, he ensured that a grand Ram Mandir became a reality, if not during his life then after his life. He came with a heavy burden of justifying his name and proving that he remains an unparalleled Bhagwan Ram devotee in the contemporary period. If Ram Mandir reconstruction has started, it is largely because of this Hanuman from Gorakhpur.