1 Lakh Diyas Lit, 1.11 Lakh Ladoos Made: How Ayodhya is Preparing for the Grand Ram Mandir Ceremony


1 Lakh Diyas Lit, 1.11 Lakh Ladoos Made: How Ayodhya is Preparing for the Grand Ram Mandir Ceremony

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Today, the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh will witness the Ram Mandir janmabhoomi pujan, the bricklaying ceremony of the temple in honour of Lord Ram, which will be erected on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood. The site had been a bone of contention, and tied up in litigation until the Supreme Court delivered its verdict last year, stating that a temple will be built on the original site, while land will be allotted for construction of a mosque at an alternate site.

The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust has organised the event, and has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the chief guest. However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the guest list had to be truncated, and Home Minister Amit Shah, who was diagnosed with the virus, will not be in attendance. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat are some of the other prominent guests after PM Modi.

Bharatiya Janata Party veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who were at the forefront of the campaign to have the temple built in the 1990s and early 2000s, will not be attending in person, possibly due to the pandemic, but have been invited via video link. Notably, the guest list features invitees from within the Sangh Parivar – the BJP-RSS combine – and not from other political parties, like the Congress or Shiv Sena. The latter played a role in the campaign to have the temple built but has been left off the list of invitees.

PM Modi is going to lay down a special 40 kilogram silver brick in his capacity as chief guest. Some non-BJP political leaders, like Asaduddin Owaisi, have hit out at the PM for participating in a religious ceremony while holding an office that is defined as secular according to the Constitution. However, others like Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh have welcomed the construction of the Ram Mandir.

Ayodhya is all geared up for the ceremony, like it’s an early Diwali. The mayor distributed one lakh diyas to welcome the prime minister and around 1.11 lakh ladoos are being prepared at Mani Ram Das Chhavni Peeth for distribution among locals after bhoomi pujan.

Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati of Kamikochi in Tamil Nadu, has sent silver coins to Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Tirath Kshetra Trust. These coins will be distributed to saints attending the bhoomi pujan.

The ceremony is expected to change the landscape of the city. According to an Indian Express report, the temple will pave the way for a new township, Navya Ayodhya, over 500 acres near Manjha Baretha along the Faizabad-Gorakhpur highway.

The culmination of a movement that has lasted almost 30 years, the Ram Mandir Janmabhoomi Pujan is historically significant, though only time will be able to tell in which way it shapes India’s future.