Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

There is a ‘Ram’ in every house in this Bengal village

- Koushik Dutta letters@hindustant­imes.com

You can call it a Ram Janmabhoom­i of a different kind. About 750 km away from Ayodhya, in Paschim Sanabadh in Bankura district of West Bengal Lord Rama is ‘born’ almost every year in different avatars. All male children are christened in a way that carry “Ram” as a prefix or suffix to their names.

It’s a practice that is being followed for about 500 years and even youngsters are not keen to break it even in this age of fancy names.

The area has also come to be known as Rampara. All the 150 males who live here have Ram before or after their names.

“When our forefather­s began to reside in the area they set up a temple of Ram who is our “kul davata”. We love him so much that we have made him a part of out name,” said Rammay Mukherjee, a local who runs a music school in the memory of his father, Ramkali.

Rammay’s grandfathe­r Ramballav had six sons and all carried the word Ram in their name. The other three bothers of Rammay are no exception.

“We are just not bothered about the swirl of politics and controvers­y all around. It’s our own identity and we do not want to break it,” said Ramcharan Mukherjee, a youth in his twenties who is now preparing for competitiv­e job exams. He has a post graduate degree in commerce.

“We were told that according to the 2011 census, there are 3,626 villages in the country that are named after Ram. But we are yet to hear of any village where all the residents carry that name,” said Ramcharan with an evident tinge of pride in his voice.

Significan­tly, adjoining villages such as Badullara, Jalhari, Kapistha and Hir, under Anchuri gram panchayat of Bankura I block are dominated by Muslims, and they live in harmony with the residents of Paschim Sanabadh.

“It’s their tradition and we respect them for carrying it along. There is no instance of quarrels between us, forget fights,” said Anwar Sheikh, a resident of Badullara.

“The area has got a separate identity for this tradition of the villagers,” said Arabinda Chatterjee, a professor of Bengali in Bankura University and a researcher of folk traditions.

Chatterjee touched upon links that are about 1,200 to 1,500 years old with Ayodhya. “Once the area was developed in commerce, businessme­n from Ayodhya used to come through the Darakeshwa­r river that is almost dead now. There was a port near this place then. They used to take silk and medicinal plants from this region,” he said.

“Some brahmins form Ayodhya. But the local king was a non-brahmin. He gave land to the brahmins who came from Ayodhya, and some of them settled here. They also set up a Ram temple about 400 years ago that is now been renovated. You can trace the tradition of adding Ram to the name to this history” Chatterjee explained.

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