As the birthplaces of Ram and Sita, Ayodhya and Janakpurdham are cities that in many ways are inseparable. Established first through Tulsidas’ epic ‘Ramcharitamanas’ and later Valmiki’s ‘Ramayana’, the link between Ayodhya and Janakpurdham through the union of Ram and Sita became part of popular folklore through filmmaker Ramananda Sagar’s TV series ‘Ramayan’ in the late 1980s. The connection between the two cities have been kept alive not just through cross-border movements of ordinary people of these places for pilgrimage but also through exchanges of performative arts and culture led by theatre artists and sponsored by the states. In more recent times, the connection between the ‘sister cities’ has taken an ‘infrastructure turn’ through the Indian PM Narendra Modi’s multi-year project called the Ramayana Circuit committed to building and expanding road networks, railway lines and construction of new temples and hotels.

This paper is primarily based on two key events – ‘Deepotsav’, the festival of lights organised in Ayodhya in November, 2023, and ‘Pran Pratishtha’ the consecration of Ram Mandir on the 22nd of January in Ayodhya, earlier the site of the now-fallen Babri Masjid, the Muslim place of worship and faith. In the former event, a theatre group from MINAP – ‘Mithila Naatyakala Parishad’ – travelled to Ayodhya for performing a play based on the epic Ramayana, alongside artists from other parts of the world such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Russia among others. The ‘Pran Pratistha’ was globally telecasted – a spectacular monumentalization of the ‘homecoming’ of little Ram, the event was celebrated with equal vigour in Janakpurdham, particularly in front of the Janaki Mandir. By treating a plethora of conversations, narratives, visuals, plays, imageries, iconographies, paraphernalia and pamphlets as (in)formal ‘datasets’, the paper critically addresses a poignant question: If and how do these cross-border movements of people and things also become conduits through which ‘politics’ takes shape as an ‘unintended consequence’ – one that could facilitate the ‘quiet encroachment’ of Hindu majoritarianism?