A real prince of Ayodhya? “Please, no!” protests Yatindra Mishra, 28-year-old Hindi poet who was given a Rashtriya Ekta Award this Friday by the Congress for his work to promote communal peace in the very eye of our national storm. “It’s true I am the son of the last ruling dynasty of Ayodhya. But I’m so irritated that all the work I do culturally was overshadowed two years ago in Indian media by the Korean connection.”
Mishra’s rajvansh goes back a mere 350 years, when Sahadat Ali Khan, Nawab of Avadh, bestowed the riyasat of Ayodhya on his loyal Brahmin soldier Dwijdeo Mishra of the Kasyapa gotra, for quelling revenue rebels in Mehendauna in Eastern UP. The Mishras thus became the last royal rulers of Ramrajya. But a couple of years ago, the prime minister of Korea invited Mishra’s father to play a ceremonial role in commemorating the national link to Ayodhya: 2,000 years ago, a princess of Ayodhya had been shipped off as a bride to the Khmer prince Suro. They had ten children, of whom nine became Buddhist monks while one built Korea. His descendants now form the 10 million-strong Kim clan.
“What I’d like my fellow-Indians to realise afresh is that politics has completely wrecked the life of Ayodhya’s ordinary people. We have a Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb here. (An euphemism for the mutually participatory co-existence of Hindu and Muslim culture). It is typical of Avadh. The Hanumangarhi temple was built by the Nawab of Avadh. And Sundar Bhavan, the famous Ramji temple, had a devoted caretaker, Munne Mian, who looked after it for fifty years until his death two years ago.”
Mishra, who did not study at La Martiniere, Lucknow, but at the downhome Kendriya Vidyalaya, then acquiring an MA in Hindi literature and a degree in microbiology from Lucknow University, says, “I plunged into local culture, because it seemed obvious that someone needed to get involved. Today we have a deal with Virgin Records of UK for old archival recordings, whereby royalties go either to the artists themselves or to their survivors. The artists who have passed on include Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Onkarnath Thakur and Kumar Gandharva. Living artists so far include Girija Devi of Benares on whom I wrote a book in Hindi. It got me noticed in the Hindi literary world. And then, Hans Harder, Professor of Indology at Martin Luther King University, Berlin, saw fit to