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Uttar Pradesh

Ayodhya decked up for bhumi pujan

August 05, 2020 07:22 AM


Ayodhya decked up for bhumi pujan
RAM TEMPLE: PM Modi to attend foundation laying ceremony scheduled at 12.40pm today

Preparations underway at Ayodhya ahead of Wednesday’s bhumi pujan ceremony. DEEPAK GUPTA/HT PHOTO
Pawan Dixit

AYODHYA : Police barricades, saffron banners, walls with a fresh coat of paint and the sounds of Vedic chants resonated across a decked-up Ayodhya as the temple town awaited its big day on Wednesday, when the first brick will be laid for the Ram temple.

As many as 21 priests conducted a three-hour Ramacharya Puja on Tuesday morning, part of the three-day Vedic rituals that began on Monday and will end with the bhoomi pujan at the Ram Janmabhumi on Wednesday afternoon that will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It was followed by Purvang Anushtan, Sri Ram Shodash Matrika, Vishnu Puja and Chaturved Parayan. Simultaneous Vedic rituals also began at the Hanuman Garhi temple on Tuesday.

“Lord Hanuman is considered to be protector of Ayodhya. So, before the construction of Ram temple begins, we are performing this puja at Hanuman Garhi to seek his (Lord Hanuman’s) permission to start construction work of Ram temple,” said Anil Mishra, member of Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which is overseeing the temple’s construction.

The temple trust had on Monday released the main invitation for the ceremony that listed PM Modi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath and UP governor Anandiben Patel as guests. The invitation, which had an image of Ram Lalla, or infant Ram, on the obverse, was issued in the name of Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. “Sacred soil from more than 2000 teerth sthan [pilgrim spots] and water from more than 100 rivers has been brought to Ayodhya for Bhoomi Pujan,” the trust tweeted.

The city, roughly 130km from Lucknow, is cloaked in security with 4,000 security personnel manning the site and 75 check posts blocking approach roads. The district borders was sealed from Monday night. “Over 300 police personnel, who are younger, fit and healthy as well as tested negative for Covid-19 infection, have already been handpicked for deployment in VVIP security,” said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.

Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, chairman of Sri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, has donated a 40-kg silver brick for the bhoomi pujan. PM Modi will use this brick to lay the foundation stone of the temple on Wednesday. However, the brick will be removed after the ceremony. Several devotees have donated silver bricks to the trust. All of them will be used for the ceremony, people aware of the developments said.

“Later, these silver bricks will be encashed and the money will be used for the construction of the temple,” said Mahant Kamal Nayan Das, successor-designate to chairman of the trust.

When the Prime Minister lands at the Saket College helipad in Ayodhya at 11.30am on Wednesday, he will have a special ring of protection comprising local police personnel who have recovered from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the state’s deputy inspector general of police said on Tuesday.

The PM will spend roughly three hours in the temple town for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Ram temple and authorities are confident that the group of 150 recovered personnel — who experts say develop antibodies to the disease and are therefore unlikely to contract the infection or spread it , at least for the next few months — will be crucial to protect him from the threat of Covid-19.

“It’s in the protocol for protecting the Prime Minister that he must be guarded by healthy personnel. Now what can be healthier in these times than a Covid-19 warrior,” said UP deputy inspector general of police Deepak Kumar.

The recovered personnel will form the first layer of protection for the PM in a city where the disease has claimed 16 lives with 604 active cases. They will also be posted at key positions in spots the PM is expected to visit to ensure that all security personnel in Modi’s proximity are not an infection threat.

The decision was made public a day after a second priest at the existing makeshift Ram temple tested positive for Covid-19 and authorities expressed concern that local residents were flouting social distancing guidelines. Last week, a junior priest and four other personnel were found to be infected with the virus that has claimed 1,800 lives in the state.

To combat the threat of the infection, authorities have decided on a strict protocol that includes testing all guests, enforcing wearing of masks and sealing the district borders so that people from outside cannot gather at the site. The government has also appealed to local residents to remain at home and follow the event on television.

“We are confident now that no one will be infected because we have tested anyone who will come within eight feet of a VIP,” said district magistrate Anuj Jha, who is also a member of the temple trust.

Jha added that even people who put up the tents and the drivers of motorcades were tested and found negative for Covid. ”Everyone will wear a mask, ,everyone will maintain social distancing and it’s going to be fine,” he said.

Two leaders who were an integral part of the Ram temple movement — former deputy prime minister LK Advani and former education minister MM Joshi — will not be there. The decision was taken keeping in mind their advanced age and the threat of the coronavirus disease, trust general secretary Champat Rai had said in a press conference.

Before the PM’s arrival for bhumi pujan, priests will complete several Vedic rituals, including Maha Ganpati, Ambika pujan, Varun pujan, Shodash matrika, Sapath Grahan matrika, Ayush mantra jaap, Nav Prastar Khand Shila pujan and graha shanti puja.

A water-proof pandal has been put up at the venue for the ceremony. A stage has also been set up from where Modi is expected to address the gathering.

The guests will be allowed entry to the venue from 10 am and they will have to undergo Covid-19 test before entering the venue. Rapid testing kits will be used which will give result in 15 minutes. District health department will deploy its team for carrying out the tests, officials said.

Meanwhile, Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati of Kamikochi, Tamil Nadu, sent silver coins to the temple trust, as did Jayendra Saraswati on behalf of the Ashok Singhal Foundation, an organisation named after the late president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). The coins will be distributed to seers who will attend the bhoomi pujan.

Meanwhile, about 11.1 million ladoos were being prepared at Mani Ram Das Chhavni Peeth to be distributed among locals after the foundation laying ceremony.

The temple’s groundbreaking ceremony marks the beginning of the end of a religious dispute that dates back to 1885, when a Hindu priest petitioned the local court to build a temple where the 16th-century Babri Masjid stood.

Religious tensions, simmering since Ram idols appeared under the central dome of the mosque in 1949, exploded on December 6, 1992 when thousands of Kar sevaks, or Hindu religious volunteers, scaled the mosque and demolished it. A political upheaval ensued that resulted in the dismissal of the state government even as a wave of communal riots swept India, killing thousands. The government took control of the site and surrounding areas and the battle for the site moved from the streets to the courts.

The construction of the temple was cleared in a landmark verdict by the Supreme Court last year in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit. A five-judge bench of the apex court awarded the 2.77 acre disputed site to the representative of Ram Lalla and instructed the Centre to set up a trust to oversee the construction of a temple. It also gave the main Muslim litigant, the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, five acres of land at an alternative site in the district for a mosque.

A separate criminal suit for the mosque demolition – where Advani and Joshi are accused – is being heard by a special Central Bureau of Investigation court, which completed recording statements of all 32 accused people on July 28.


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