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The story behind the iconic monkey image of the Ram Mandir movement

Ayodhya today

On October 30, 1990, Karsevaks stormed over barricades and raised saffron flags atop the Babri Masjid. After security personnel pulled them away, a monkey sat on the mosque’s central dome, preventing one of the flags from being removed -iconic monkey

It was October 30, 1990, a day that India will never forget. An iconic shot from that historic day in the Ram Mandir campaign has returned to our collective consciousness as the country prepares for Lord Ram’s idol’s ‘Pran Pratishtha’ (consecration) ceremony in Ayodhya today.

On October 30, 1990, around 28,000 Uttar Pradesh Armed Constabulary personnel were deployed in Ayodhya to foil the Ram Mandir ‘Kar seva’ sponsored by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

The security was so tight that then-Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav claimed, “Ayodhya mein parinda bhi par nahi maar sakta”.

The entire approach to the Babri Masjid was closed, and a sea of armed khaki-clad men guarded it.

“Amid the struggle between the karsevaks and the security personnel, a sadhu who knew how to drive jumped onto the seat of a police bus that was used to detain some karsevaks,” Swami Vigyananand, Joint General Secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, told IndiaToday.

Swami Vigyananand

Swami Vigyananand describes it as a “watershed moment” because “the sadhu plowed through the barricades and opened the road for hundreds of karsevaks.”

“Karsevaks braved hundreds of security personnel and marched to the disputed Babri Masjid. Some of them managed to climb onto the dome of the disputed edifice and plant ‘Bhagwa Dhwaj’ (saffron flags),” adds Swami Vigyananand.

The security forces stationed there quickly began lathi-charging and firing at the karsevaks.

“Facing the offensive by the security personnel, the karsevaks were forced to retreat by the evening,” according to Swami Vigyananand.

Officials wanted the saffron flags taken from the domes, but they encountered a peculiar circumstance.

“They discovered a monkey perched on the mosque’s central dome. The police officers saw the monkey as an avatar of Lord Hanuman, who had appeared to protect the flag. “They were unwilling to disrupt it,” he recalls.

“The monkey remained beside the flag for hours. Swami Vigyananand relates that late at night, after the monkey had left the dome, three-four jawans climbed atop it and removed the flag.

The VHP official shared with IndiaToday. the iconic photograph of the monkey atop the dome, which was published in numerous Hindi media on November 1, 1990.

Though official records state that 20 persons were killed in the police firing ordered by Mulayam Singh Yadav on October 30 and November 2, eyewitnesses say the number was much higher. According to an Ayodhya-based journalist who documented the attack on the karsevaks, the volunteers were fired upon from a helicopter.

India Today’s monkey image from July 1992

The monkey (Hanuman’s symbol) appeared frequently during the Ram Mandir movement.

Another photograph from India Today’s archives adds to the story. This photo was taken by Pramod Pushkarna on July 23, 1992.

‘Kar sewa’ for the Mandir was discontinued after the terrible killings of the karsevaks and resumed in July 1992. According to Swami Vigyananand, even though karsevaks arrived in Ayodhya, the program was postponed.

A monkey is also seen in the 1992 photo perched on the Babri Masjid’s central dome.

“I was intrigued that while security personnel and barricades prevented people from reaching the disputed spot, a monkey had reached the top of the dome,” Pramod Pushkarna told when asked why he took the photo.

Photojournalist Pramod Pushkarna, 76, says he visited Ayodhya multiple times during the Ram Mandir Movement. He claims that people were referring to the monkey as “Hanuman ka avatar”.

Ayodhya had many restrictions back then. We used to sneak behind buildings or climb onto roofs to snap pictures. Pushkarna states, “That was when the Ayodhya Movement was at its peak.”

He also describes how a group of journalists rescued and transported a bleeding Ashok Singhal, the then-VHP Working President, to the hospital. Singhal was severely hurt during the police lathi-charge on the karsevaks.


The allusion to monkeys in the Ayodhya Mandir case may also be found in the autobiography of KM Pandey, who, as the Faizabad district judge on February 1, 1986, ordered that the doors of the Babri Masjid be opened for devotees to ‘darshan’ of the Ram Lalla statue.

In his book ‘Voice of Conscience,’ released in the 1990s, Pandey mentions a “divine power” that guided his decision.

On the day that the order to open locks was issued, a Black Monkey sat on the roof of the courtroom where the hearing was taking place, holding the flag-post. Thousands of people from Faizabad and Ayodhya gathered to hear the court’s final orders, offering him groundnuts and assorted fruits. Surprisingly, the alleged Monkey did not take any of the offers and left the scene when the last order was issued at 4.40 p.m.,” says Pandey.

“The District Magistrate and SSP led me to my bungalow. The aforementioned monkey was on the verandah of my bungalow. I was astonished when I saw him. “I just saluted him, treating him as some divine power,” he writes in ‘Voice of Conscience’.

The High Court overruled KM Pandey’s order to unlock the doors of Babri Masjid. It was to be part of a long legal process that began with a FIR in 1858, after Nihang Sikhs barged into the contested mosque and performed a ‘havan’.


Senior barrister and former attorney general K Parasaran, who successfully argued the case for Ram Lalla Virajman, also mentioned monkeys in a film about the Ram Janmabhoomi issue.

On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court’s five-judge panel issued a momentous decision ordering that the 2.77 acres of land be given over to a Ram Janmabhoomi foundation for the construction of a Ram temple.

K Parasaran stated that the verdict was handed on a Saturday, and the following Monday, 30-40 monkeys arrived out of nowhere on the terrace of his Delhi home – iconic monkey

“I was out on the open terrace on the second story when approximately 30 or 40 monkeys arrived. “I can’t imagine so many monkeys, especially at 8.45 p.m.,” says Parasaran.

“They were playing, jumping, and kicking… Lord Ram took care of it; he waited 69 years for it, according to Parasaran.

Throughout the Ram Mandir movement, followers saw monkeys as celestial manifestations. One of the threads included the iconic October 1990 image of the monkey, which appeared in newspapers.

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