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The Key Figures Behind the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement

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Mandir Makers: The Men Who Fueled the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement

The Key Figures Behind the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement


The Ram Janmabhoomi movement, also known as the temple movement, refers to the political campaign starting in the 1980s that led to the 1992 destruction of the 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya which Hindu activists claimed was built after demolishing a Hindu temple marking the birthplace of the mythological Lord Rama.

The decades-long dispute ignited religious tensions across India, but culminated in the peaceful Supreme Court verdict in 2019 allowing the construction of a Rama temple on the disputed site.

The temple movement was spearheaded by various religious, political and social organizations affiliated with the Hindu nationalist Sangh Parivar. However, a few prominent Hindu nationalist leaders and activists came to symbolize the campaign and sacrificed tremendously to see their vision fulfilled.

L.K. Advani

L.K. Advani was a leading figure in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and helped propel the demand for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya into a major national issue in the 1980s.

As president of the BJP in the late 1980s, Advani embarked on a “Ram Rath Yatra” in 1990 to mobilize Hindu activists to the cause of building a temple dedicated to Lord Ram at the site. The journey across India culminated in communal riots and Advani was arrested by the government for inciting tensions between Hindus and Muslims. However, the yatra succeeded in bringing widespread visibility and enthusiasm to the temple cause.

Advani played a central role in catalyzing the movement from the political arena and harnessing the sentiment of Hindus who revendicated the site as the birthplace of Lord Ram. His effective leadership and advocacy was pivotal in the rise of the BJP and Hindutva politics in the following decades.

Murli Manohar Joshi

Murli Manohar Joshi is an Indian politician who played a prominent role in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Joshi served as the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from 1991 to 1993. He was instrumental in spearheading the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

Joshi participated in the milestone processions, rallies and public meetings that marked the early years of the movement. As a senior BJP leader, he helped galvanize popular support and participation in the campaign to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

In December 1992, Joshi was present at a rally in Ayodhya that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid structure. He was subsequently arrested and faced criminal conspiracy charges over the incident. However Joshi maintained that the demolition was spontaneous and not planned.

As a key architect of Hindutva politics, Joshi’s fiery speeches and mobilization efforts catalyzed the growth of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. His leadership role was vital in rallying Hindu nationalist fervor and making the demand for a Ram Mandir at the disputed site into a focal point of mass mobilization.

Uma Bharti

Uma Bharti was one of the most recognizable faces of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s. As a fiery activist and powerful orator, she galvanized thousands of Hindu youth in support of the campaign.

Bharti first burst onto the national scene when she became involved with the Ram temple movement as a teenager in the 1980s. She quickly rose up the ranks of the BJP and allied organizations like the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), using her charismatic and impassioned speaking style to draw massive crowds.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Bharti was at the forefront of numerous rallies, campaigns, and marches centered around the Ayodhya dispute. She traveled extensively to rally support and inspire Hindu youth to join the cause of building a Ram temple at the disputed site believed to be the deity’s birthplace.

Bharti was particularly instrumental in the campaign to perform shilanyas (foundational brick laying ceremony) for the Ram temple in 1989. As part of this campaign, she mobilized over 10,000 crack kar sevaks to march towards Ayodhya. Her fiery leadership of the movement catapulted her into the upper echelons of the BJP.

During the 1990 rath yatra led by LK Advani, Bharti marched alongside him for nearly the entire journey. She electrified crowds with her powerful speeches at pitstops along the way. When Advani was arrested in Bihar, she took over the leadership of the yatra briefly before also being placed under arrest.

Bharti was among the prominent faces present at the Babri Masjid site during its demolition on December 6, 1992. She continues to be an active voice in the movement demanding construction of a grand Ram Mandir at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Her role was instrumental as both an organiser and rabble-rouser in rallying mass support and activism for the Ram Janmabhoomi cause.

Kalyan Singh

Kalyan Singh served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh during the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. As Chief Minister, he pledged to follow the Supreme Court’s order to protect the disputed structure. However, the mosque was still demolished by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992 while he was Chief Minister.

Kalyan Singh expressed no regret over the demolition and called it an expression of national sentiment. He claimed he was proud of the kar sevaks who tore down the structure.

As a senior BJP leader, Kalyan Singh was one of the key figures in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s. He took a strong stance in favor of building a Rama temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

In 2019, Kalyan Singh said the BJP is committed to building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya and believes it will become a reality soon. He expressed his lifelong commitment to the cause of building a Rama temple at the site believed by many Hindus to be the deity’s birthplace.

Overall, as UP Chief Minister during the controversial demolition and a longtime supporter of the temple movement, Kalyan Singh played an influential role in the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign over the decades. His unwavering stance in favor of a Rama temple at the disputed Ayodhya site made him an important protagonist in the push to build a temple there.

Ashok Singhal

Ashok Singhal was one of the most prominent leaders of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s as the Working President of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Singhal joined the VHP in 1984 and quickly rose up the ranks to become its Working President in 1991. Under his leadership, the VHP launched a nationwide campaign to build a Ram Temple in Ayodhya at the disputed site believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.

Singhal was instrumental in drumming up support across India for the Ram Temple movement through rath yatras and mass mobilization. In 1992, he oversaw the gathering of over 200,000 Hindu activists, or karsevaks, in Ayodhya who ultimately tore down the Babri Masjid mosque at the disputed site.

While criticized for taking an aggressive stance, Singhal remained committed to building a grand Ram Temple at the disputed site. He was a key strategist who coordinated efforts with other Hindu nationalist groups to advance the movement in the 1990s. Though Singhal passed away in 2015 before seeing the temple completed, his legacy as a driving force behind the Ram Janmabhoomi movement remains.

Vinay Katiyar

Vinay Katiyar was a prominent face of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s. He was one of the founders of the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called the Bajrang Dal in 1984.

Katiyar was an aggressive leader and campaigner for the cause. As the convener of Bajrang Dal, he helped mobilize young Hindu activists from across the country to participate in the movement. Bajrang Dal volunteers played a key role in the kar seva campaigns, rallying support and mobilizing the masses.

Under Katiyar’s leadership, Bajrang Dal activists were at the forefront of the 1990 Ram Rath Yatra led by LK Advani. They provided security and managed logistics all along the route. When the Yatra was stopped in Bihar by the state government, Katiyar was one of the leaders arrested and detained.

In the build up to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, Katiyar took an aggressive stance and made provocative speeches calling for the construction of the Ram temple. He was among the leaders present at the disputed site on the day of demolition and played a key role in spurring on the karsevaks to bring down the mosque structure.

Post demolition, Katiyar continued to be involved with the movement for the construction of Ram temple. He also joined active politics with the Bharatiya Janata Party, using his prominence in the RJB movement to rise up the ranks. He served as a Lok Sabha MP representing Uttar Pradesh and held ministerial positions at the center.

Sadhavi Rithambara – Fiery Orator and Hindutva Icon

Sadhavi Rithambara was one of the leading female voices of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. A Hindu religious leader and politician, she rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s with her fiery speeches aimed at promoting Hindutva and advocating for the construction of a Ram temple.

Rithambara’s oratory skills made her immensely popular among supporters of the movement. She was able to rouse crowds with her emotional speeches calling for the liberation of Lord Ram’s birthplace from Babri Masjid. Her rallies and speeches attracted thousands of devotees who would respond passionately to her message.

Some of her most famous speeches were delivered in Ayodhya itself, within kilometers of the disputed site. In passionate language, Rithambara would argue that Babar had committed atrocities by constructing the Babri Masjid on the spot believed by many Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. She stressed the need to correct this historical wrong by replacing the mosque with a grand temple.

Rithambara’s speeches blanketed the Ram Janmabhoomi issue with strong Hindu symbolism and imagery. By portraying the movement as a fight to protect faith, she struck an emotional chord with supporters. Her words evoked nationalist and religious sentiments, as she insisted that freeing Ram Lalla and rebuilding the temple would lead to a “Hindu reawakening”.

Though known for her hardline stance, Rithambara’s speeches also included messages of unity. She urged Hindus to unite across caste barriers for this cause. However, her rhetoric was also laced with anti-Muslim sentiments at times. Some of her statements were seen as inflammatory by critics and accused of provoking tensions between the two communities.

As one of the few widely recognized female faces of the Hindu nationalist movement, Rithambara played an instrumental role in rallying support and enthusiasm for the Ram temple cause. The passion and zeal she infused through her powerful oratory turned her into an icon for many who shared her vision of Hindutva.


The key figures involved in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement were significant in catalyzing and propelling the campaign to demolish the Babri Masjid and construct a Ram temple on the disputed site. Their leadership helped mobilize hundreds of thousands of Hindu activists and brought major attention to the cause across India.

Several of the leaders, especially L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti later went on to hold positions in government as members of the BJP party. Their prominence in the movement helped boost their political careers and popularity. The BJP’s championing of Hindu nationalist policies closely tied to the Ram temple cause has been a major factor in the party’s electoral successes over the past three decades.

The Ram Janmabhoomi campaign had a polarizing effect on Indian politics and society. It strengthened a form of assertive Hindu nationalism and identity politics that emphasized the importance of reclaiming mosques built over Hindu holy sites during India’s Islamic rule. For its supporters, the Ram temple became a rallying symbol of Hindu pride and power. However, it also led to outbreaks of religious violence and deepened divisions between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities.

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement brought Ayodhya and the disputed site to national attention. It shaped the trajectory of many major political figures and parties. While achieving its goal of constructing a Ram temple, the campaign also exacerbated sectarian tensions that remain unresolved today. Its legacy is complex, demonstrating both the motivational power of faith-based movements as well as their potential to divide.


The Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the 1980s and 1990s was a pivotal period in India’s socio-political landscape. This movement sought to construct a temple for Lord Ram in Ayodhya, believed to be his birthplace, where the 16th-century Babri Masjid stood at that time.

Several key figures emerged as protagonists who drove this movement forward. They included politicians like LK Advani, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, all from the BJP, as well as VHP leaders like Ashok Singhal and Vinay Katiyar. The movement also drew support from Hindu religious leaders like Sadhvi Rithambara. Powerful regional leaders like Kalyan Singh of Uttar Pradesh played an important role as well.

Through rallies, campaigns, mobilization of volunteers and politicization of the issue, these protagonists ensured that the demand for a Ram Janmabhoomi temple remained in the public spotlight. Their leadership helped galvanize Hindu sentiment and reframe the temple construction as a matter of religious necessity and political will. This culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, changing the country’s political trajectory. Though controversial, the movement displayed how mass mobilization around a politico-religious cause could influence national politics. While the temple is still under construction, these protagonists etched their names in history as those who spearheaded one of India’s most impactful socio-religious movements of recent times. The Key Figures Behind the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. 

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