Crowd Flow And Patterns To Be Studied Closely This Ramnavami For Future Planning: Nripendra Misra
Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust is studying crowd management and will submit a report in six months.
To put in place an effective mechanism in the upcoming Ram temple in Ayodhya to handle congestion, the flow of pilgrims and devotees and patterns of their movement will be closely studied this Ramnavami at the end of the month, according to Nripendra Misra, chairman of the construction committee of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.
The trust that is overseeing the construction of the temple has also engaged RITES, a PSU under the ministry of railways that specialises in customising infrastructure solutions, to study crowd management within the temple premises and also outside Ayodhya and submit a report in six months, he said.
"Ram Navami is coming, and the organisation will just watch the pattern in which devotees come and the crowd gathers, the way people come to the river Saryu for a dip, and then proceed to Hanuman Garhi," Misra said. "There is an accepted form in which devotees visit Ayodhya, and these traditions are not going to change. Ultimately, RITES will have to consider all this before suggesting an approach to us. We are also giving them our input, and they are giving us presentations regularly," he said.
For the first time since the construction of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir kicked off in August 2020, the trust and the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government are planning grand Ram Navami celebrations in the city. The nine-day "mahotsav" will start on March 22 and end with Ram Navami on March 31, during which 200 artists are scheduled to perform in events being organised by the culture department.
Misra, a seasoned bureaucrat who has held important positions in the past, including principal secretary to PM Narendra Modi, said the character of Ayodhya will change after 2024, and the city needs to be planned well to accommodate thousands of tourists and vehicles. "There are still very few places to stay. The expectations of the devotees will be different depending on their backgrounds. Very soon we will have an airport, and with train services, connectivity will not be a problem, but foolproof facilities need to be put in place to handle the crowd that, on special days, is expected to number between 2.5 and 7 lakh in a mere 12 hours, he said.
"Valmiki Temple In The Ram Temple Complex Was PM's Idea"
The temple complex will have a temple dedicated to Maharishi Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, and also temples dedicated to Shabri, the elderly ascetic from the tribal community who was an earnest devotee of Lord Ram; Nishad Raja, his childhood friend; and the guru of Lord Ram, sage Vashishta, Rishi Vishwamitra and Ahalya Devi, who are part of the Ramayana. The construction of these temples will be completed by December 2025, while the main temple is expected to be ready by January 2024.
Misra said the idea came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. "In one of his expectations that he talked to us about, he said how Baal Raam became Maryada Purushottam when he returned from exile. It was in these 14 years that he had shown the virtues of how one must conduct himself in the world. Ram strongly believed in Samrasta (harmony), which is having no preference for caste or religion and treating everyone as an equal in society. The PM suggested that we must have Lord Valmiki in the temple, because it was he who really discovered Ram and ensured that he remained etched in the memory of the Hindus for eternity," he said.
It was decided to have temples dedicated to others, such as Vashishta, Rishi Vishwamitra, Ahalya, Shabri, and Nishad Raja, in the temple complex because all of them have distinct qualities, he said. "We couldn't show Sita because the deity is a child, Ram Lalla. There are two more revered places there—Sita Rasoi and Sita Kund, and a view was taken that Sita kund will be redone and preserved." he said. "We will have a Shakti temple in the parkota of the temple, as seen in south temples for parikrama. In this parkota where the Shakti temple would come, the prasad of the Bhagwan will be cooked. Hence, it will take the form of a sita rasoi and will also represent nari shakti." Internally, there will be bronze murals of Lord Ram and smaller temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman and others.
"Art Work Of Deity In Ayodhya Ram Temple To Be Ready In Two Weeks"
"The existing deity of Ram Lalla will be moved to the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) as it is," said Misra.
"Lord Ram and his three brothers, including Hanuman. All that is already there in the temple. But there has to be another pran pratistha (consecration) of a deity. Some broad characteristics have been specified, which include his complexion and that he should be in the age group of four to five years, should represent the features of Raghuvansh and that the eyes and feet should be aligned so that the devotee is able to seek his blessings from his eyes and offer his reverence to the feet," he said.
Misra said the trust had engaged about eight artists who are almost at the final stage of completing the artwork of the deity Ram Lalla's description. "We have been very particular. Last time we sent the artwork back because Ram Lalla is Ajanubhavu (a person whose hands are so long that they touch the knees), the proportion of the body in terms of what is above the waistline and what is below was different. One view was that the deity should show one hand to bless people, but another view was that the deity is a child and cannot be shown in that form. The collective view was that he should be shown playing with a bow and arrow. In the next 10 days, the final art figure of Ram Lalla will be chosen," he said.
The trust is also in the process of deciding what stone the deity will be made of. "The choices are granite, dolomite, different forms of marble, and the stone found in Karnataka (Chikkaballapur). There will be a meeting of sculptors, and their opinions will be sought on what stone would suit the artwork the best. Once that is finalised two sculptors will be chosen to give the artwork a clay figure. From clay, they will convert to fiber, and from fibre, they will carve into stone. The plan is to finish all this by September because it will take about two months of rituals for the pran pratistha," Misra said.
It is important to note that two sacred Shaligram stones, weighing 31 tonnes and 15 tonnes, have already arrived in Ayodhya from Galeshwar Dham in Janakpur. Mostly found in riverbeds, Shaligram is a stone that is revered by Hindus as it is believed to be a representation of Lord Vishnu.
"People from Nepal often say, in a lighter vein, that it's dowry from Sita to Ram. But there is a predominant view in North India that we should not have a black statue of Ram. A much stronger view is that one cannot cut the shaligram which is an avatar of Vishnu, and Ram himself is an embodiment of Lord Vishnu. So there are options. If the Shaligram is not chosen, it will be given a very rightful, religious location in the complex so that devotees are able to offer their prayers," Misra said.
"Covid-19 Delayed The Completion By A Year, But The Temple's Construction Is On Track Now"
When the judgement came and the constitution of the trust was announced in early 2020, the impact of Covid-19 was already visible, Misra said. The appointment of the implementing agency, such as L&T, was done, and committees were formed, but the mobilisation of technical and other workers, particularly labourers, was not easy. The schedule was reworked after Covid-19 cases went down, and a three-phase construction programme was made. Phase one was the completion of ground-level construction, the installation of the deity in the garba-graha, and making arrangements for devotees, while phase two was the completion of the temple, excluding the iconography, by December 2024, and phase three was the completion of the temple in all its descriptions, including the iconography, parkota and other temples in the complex. "We are keeping to the schedule of the three-phased construction of the temple up until December 2025. If Covid-19 hadn't come in the way, we would have finished by December 2024."
Role Of Seers
Very early in this assignment, Misra said he understood the sentiments of the natives of Ayodhya, which includes the sadhus, and also the seers across the nation, whose role in the temple agitation was crucial, and that their sense of sentiment and sense of priority had to be honoured.
"It was different from the normal experience I had gained over the years. Here, there is an element of informal administration. As an example, as it was clear there would be no financial support from any government, the funds were mobilised by a donation drive by Sangh and VHP workers in over four lakh villages. The trust had a construction committee, but it also took advantage of the services of retired structural engineers who worked pro bono. I had to adjust to this kind of work where there was no hierarchy and people treated each other as equals, with their common signature being that they were all men of high integrity. It was a new experience for me, but a man learns irrespective of age," he said.