The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

The-Ram-Mandir-in-Ayodhya

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The Ram Temple, known as the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, stands as a place of Hindu worship situated in Ayodhya, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India. Among adherents of Hinduism, there exists a prevalent belief asserting its positioning at the purported birth site of Rama, a central deity in the Hindu pantheon.

Historically, the locale housed the Babri Masjid mosque, which traces its origins to the 16th century CE. The installation of idols depicting Rama and Sita within the mosque premises dates back to 1949, prior to the contentious events leading to its destruction in 1992.

In a landmark decision rendered in 2019, the Supreme Court of India decreed the allocation of the disputed land to Hindu devotees for the construction of a temple, with Muslims being designated an adjacent parcel in Dhannipur for the erection of a mosque. The judicial pronouncement leaned heavily on a comprehensive report furnished by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which unearthed structural remnants beneath the razed Babri Masjid, indicative of a pre-existing edifice antedating Islamic influences.

On the 5th of August, 2020, the inaugural ceremony for the commencement of Ram Mandir’s construction, known as bhumi pujan, was officiated by Narendra Modi, the incumbent Prime Minister of India. Oversight of the temple’s ongoing construction lies under the auspices of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust. Subsequently, on the 22nd of January, 2024, Modi undertook the role of Mukhya Yajman, overseeing the ceremonial rites and partaking in the prana pratishtha, or the consecration ritual, marking a pivotal moment in the temple’s development trajectory. The orchestrations of the prana pratishtha were orchestrated by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra.

The Ram Mandir project has not been immune to controversy, with allegations ranging from financial impropriety in donation utilization to the marginalization of key activists associated with the cause, all amidst accusations of political exploitation by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

History of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

A locale of historical significance, the former site of the Babri Masjid, established in the 16th century, holds a tale of contentious episodes. It saw the placement of idols of Rama and Sita within its precincts in 1949, preceding its tumultuous demolition in 1992. The year 2019 marked a significant juncture when the Supreme Court of India adjudged the disputed land in favor of the Hindu community for the construction of a temple.

Simultaneously, an alternative parcel was earmarked for the Muslim community to erect a mosque. The court’s decision rested heavily on a report from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), positing evidence of a pre-existing non-Islamic structure beneath the razed Babri Masjid. Despite skepticism from detractors, the court accorded validity to the ASI report after meticulous scrutiny.

Delving further into antiquity, Rama, revered as an incarnation of Vishnu, is central to Hindu mythology, particularly as depicted in the ancient epic Ramayana, which identifies Ayodhya as his birthplace. The mosque’s inception traces back to 1528 under the directive of Mir Baqi, a commander under Babur’s reign, on the hallowed grounds of the Ram Janmabhoomi. Historical records, including accounts by the Jesuit missionary Joseph Tiefenthaler, cite the mosque’s construction involving the demolition of the Ramkot temple and the Bedi, the purported site of Rama’s birth.

The annals of time reveal episodes of religious discord, with documented instances of strife surfacing as early as 1853. By the late 19th century, administrative measures were instituted, prohibiting Hindu rituals within the mosque premises and designating an external platform for such practices.

Transitioning to more contemporary epochs, the events of December 1949 witnessed the surreptitious installation of sacred images within the Babri Masjid, a catalyst for subsequent fervent gatherings. Subsequent years saw administrative interventions, granting Hindus exclusive rights for worship at the site. The 1980s heralded a resurgence of Hindu nationalist sentiments, culminating in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s fervent campaign to reclaim the site and erect a temple in homage to Rama.

The crescendo of tensions peaked in December 1992, as fervent supporters orchestrated the demolition of the mosque, triggering widespread communal violence and unrest. The aftermath of the demolition reverberated across the Indian subcontinent, manifesting in riots and targeted attacks on Hindu temples in neighboring countries.

In the years that ensued, legal wrangling ensued, culminating in the Allahabad High Court’s decree in 2010, delineating the disputed land into three factions. However, the ultimate resolution came with the Supreme Court’s verdict in 2019, adjudicating in favor of the construction of a Ram temple under the auspices of a government-appointed trust.

This landmark decision paved the way for reconciliation, with plans underway for the construction of both a temple and a mosque, symbolizing a new chapter in the annals of Ayodhya’s history.

Architecture

In 1988, the original blueprint for the Ram Mandir was formulated by the Sompura lineage hailing from Ahmedabad. This family, spanning over 15 generations, has left their architectural mark on more than a hundred temples globally, including the renowned Somnath temple. Heading the architectural endeavor was Chandrakant Sompura, aided by his progeny, Nikhil Sompura and Ashish Sompura, both proficient architects.

In 2020, a revised rendition, albeit with modifications, was drafted by the Sompuras, adhering to the guidelines outlined in Hindu scriptures such as the Vastu shastra and the Shilpa shastras. Envisaged to span 250 feet in width, 380 feet in length, and towering 161 feet in height, the temple’s dimensions position it as the third largest Hindu temple upon its fruition. Architecturally, it adopts the Māru-Gurjara style within the Nagara architectural framework, predominantly found in the northern regions of India. A scale model of the proposed edifice was unveiled during the Prayag Kumbh Mela in 2019.

Elevated on a multi-tiered platform, the main structure of the temple encompasses three levels, with five mandapas adorning the sanctum sanctorum and the entrance passageway. The Shri Ram Darbar, situated on the first floor, comprises five halls – Nritya Mandap, Rang Mandap, Sabha Mandap, Prarthana Mandap, and Kirtan Mandap – all embellished in the Nagara architectural style characterized by ornate shikharas. Alongside housing deity statues, the temple features dedicated shrines for Surya, Bhagwati, Ganesh, and Shiv at its corners, with Annapurna and Hanuman temples flanking its northern and southern wings.

The foundation boasts a substantial 14-meter-thick roller-compacted concrete layer, simulating natural rock formations, topped with a 21-foot granite plinth to prevent moisture penetration, eliminating the use of iron. Accessibility provisions such as ramps, lifts, and facilities catering to the elderly and differently-abled individuals are integrated. Accommodating up to 25,000 pilgrims, a dedicated facility center offers medical assistance and locker services. Emphasizing environmental sustainability, the design allocates 70% of the 70-acre expanse as verdant spaces, prioritizing water conservation efforts.

Distinguished by a total of 366 columns, each adorned with 16 idols, the temple’s design incorporates representations of Shiva’s incarnations, the Dashavataras, the Chausath Yoginis, and the twelve manifestations of the goddess Saraswati. The staircases boast a width of 16 feet, conforming to scriptural directives dictating an octagonal sanctum sanctorum for temples dedicated to Vishnu.

Encompassing a land area of 4.0 hectares, the temple complex encompasses additional amenities such as a prayer hall, lecture halls, educational facilities, and ancillary services like a museum and cafeteria, spanning over 23 hectares. With a capacity to accommodate 70,000 visitors, Larsen & Toubro undertook the construction project pro bono, assuming the role of project contractors. Collaborating institutions including the Central Building Research Institute, National Geophysical Research Institute, and several IITs provided expertise in soil analysis, concrete supply, and structural design.

Utilizing 600,000 cubic feet of sandstone sourced from Baansi, Rajasthan, the temple’s construction eschewed conventional iron and steel, employing ten thousand copper plates for stone block fusion. Symbolizing a gesture of cultural significance, Thailand contributed soil to the Ram Janmabhoomi, further cementing their support following an earlier gesture of sending water from two Thai rivers to commemorate the temple’s inception.

Per the temple trust’s assertions, the final architectural scheme incorporates dedicated shrines for Surya, Ganesha, Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, and Brahma within the temple precincts.

Deity

The construction of the Ram Mandir commemorates the birth of Rama at his Janmasthan, making the presiding deity of the temple the infant form of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu. Tulsidas referred to this infant form as Ram Lalla, meaning ‘Child Rama’. However, the idol of Rama placed in 1949 came to be known as Ram Lalla Virajman among local Hindus.

In 1989, Ram Lalla became a litigant in the court case concerning the disputed site, recognized as a “juristic person” by the law. Represented by Triloki Nath Pandey, a senior VHP leader considered to be Ram Lalla’s closest ‘human’ friend, Ram Lalla’s interests were advocated for. With the installation of a new idol in the sanctum sanctorum as the Mūlavirāt mūrti, the main presiding deity, the Mandir Trust has announced that the Ram Lalla Virajman idol from 1949 will now be utilized as the Utsava mūrti, the idol for festivals

Construction

The commencement of the first phase of Ram Mandir construction by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra trust took place in March 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in India led to a temporary halt in construction activities. On 25 March 2020, Ram’s idol was relocated to a temporary site in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath.

In anticipation of the temple’s construction, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) orchestrated a ‘Vijay Mahamantra Jaap Anushthan’, where individuals congregated at various locations to recite the ‘Vijay Mahamantra’ – Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram, on 6 April 2020, aiming for “victory over obstacles” in the temple’s construction.

Champat Rai, the General Secretary of the Sri Ram Janmbhoomi Kshetra Trust, officially announced 22 January 2024 as the slated date for the installation of the Ram Lalla idol in the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum). On 25 October 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a formal invitation to attend the ceremony.

In 2020, Mahant Sitaram Das, the national spokesperson of the Nirmohi Akhara, criticized the BJP’s decision to have the temple foundation laid by Narendra Modi, stating that the task should be entrusted solely to religious priests. Several Hindutva proponents, including social media influencers, raised objections regarding the temple’s design and Muslim involvement, alleging Islamic influences in the Ram Mandir.

Champat Rai, the general secretary of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra trust, addressed these concerns by affirming that the temple’s sculptors were experts, dismissing any religious connotations. Pandit Ashok Sharma, the vice-president of the Hindu Mahasabha, accused the BJP of politicizing the entire project.

Opposition parties, along with certain BJP members, have censured the BJP for exploiting the temple for political gain. Congress President, Mallikarjun Kharge, questioned Home Minister Amit Shah’s authority after he announced the temple’s opening date. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy queried Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s involvement in the temple’s inauguration. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor criticized the Indian media for diverting attention from critical governance issues by excessively focusing on the temple.

Bhumi Pujan ceremony

On the occasion of Bhumi Pujan, the attire of Ram Lalla was tailored by Bhagwat Prasad and Shankar Lal, fourth-generation tailors dedicated to crafting garments for Rama’s idol.

The temple construction recommenced officially following a Bhumi-Pujan (ground-breaking ceremony) on 5 August 2020. Preceding the groundbreaking ceremony was a three-day-long Vedic ritual, culminating in the placement of a 40 kg (88 pounds) silver brick as the foundation stone by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the preceding day, 4 August, the Ramarchan Puja (Puja of Rama’s feet) was conducted to ceremonially invite all major deities into the temple.

During the Bhoomi Poojan ceremony, soil and holy water were collected from various sacred sites across India, including the Triveni Sangam of the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati rivers at Prayagraj, the source of the Kaveri river at Talakaveri in Karnataka, and the Kamakhya Temple in Assam. Soil was also sourced from Hindu temples, gurudwaras, Jain temples nationwide, and the four pilgrimage sites in Char Dham to bless the temple.

Ahead of the ceremony, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought Hanuman’s blessings by offering prayers at the Hanuman Garhi Temple in Ayodhya. Speeches were delivered by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Mohan Bhagwat, Chief of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, Chief of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Nritya Gopal Das, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Some priests and religious leaders, including Swaroopanand Saraswati, raised objections, asserting that 5 August was not ritually auspicious and the ceremony lacked proper ritual observance, including a havan. Arundhati Roy, a critic of PM Modi, noted that the chosen date coincided with the anniversary of the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. The Pakistan Foreign Office criticized India for constructing a temple on the former site of the demolished Babri Masjid.

In 2017, the Hindu Mahasabha accused the BJP, Bajrang Dal, and other Sangh Parivar organizations of hijacking the Ram Mandir issue despite their minimal involvement in its long-standing legal battle. In 2020, Pramod Joshi, the national spokesperson of the Hindu Mahasabha, claimed that the true credit for the Ram Mandir belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha, lamenting their exclusion from the bhumi pujan ceremony, which he argued should have been their prerogative. He criticized the formation of the temple committee at the BJP’s central office, sidelining the Hindu Mahasabha.

2021–present


The temple trust initiated a nationwide “mass contact and contribution campaign” targeting an outreach to 550-600 million individuals. Contributions, starting from ₹1 (1.3¢ US) and upwards, were welcomed on a voluntary basis. On January 1, 2021, former President Ram Nath Kovind set the precedent by making a substantial donation exceeding ₹5 lakh (US$6,300) towards the Ram Mandir construction.

This gesture was emulated by numerous leaders and prominent figures nationwide. As of April 2021, donations totaling approximately ₹5,000 crore (US$630 million) had been amassed from contributions across India. Nearly 150,000 activists affiliated with the VHP actively participated in the donation drive. Notably, the temple trust also received contributions from members of the Muslim and Christian communities.

In August 2021, a designated viewing area was established for the public to witness the ongoing construction activities at the temple site. Subsequent to the groundbreaking ceremony, approximately 40 feet (12 m) of debris was cleared, and the remaining soil was compacted. The foundation was constructed using roller-compacted concrete, comprising 47–48 layers, each measuring 1-foot (0.30 m) in height, completed by mid-September 2021. However, progress faced delays due to electricity supply issues in Mirzapur, hindering the cutting of sandstone.

In early 2022, the temple trust released a video showcasing the 3D visualization of the planned temple construction, along with pertinent information. In January 2023, two Shaligram rocks, estimated to be 60 million years old, weighing 26 tonnes and 14 tonnes respectively, were transported from the Gandaki river in Nepal. These rocks were utilized for sculpting the idol of Ram Lalla in the sanctum sanctorum.

By August 2023, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust reported that 70% of the groundwork and 40% of the roof work had been completed. In December 2023, significant progress was made, with the entire base and the six smaller temples surrounding the main temple, including the sanctum sanctorum, nearing completion. Only the ground floor was opened for consecration. The temple’s construction is anticipated to conclude by the end of 2024.

Ram Mandir Ayodhya inauguration

On January 22nd, 2024, the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya marked a momentous occasion in Indian history. Revered by Hindus, the temple dedicated to Lord Ram signifies a sacred site, concluding a prolonged dispute that had been a focal point of tension for decades.

The inauguration ceremony was a grand affair, graced by the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other esteemed dignitaries. Thousands of devotees congregated in Ayodhya to partake in the joyous celebration of the temple’s opening.

Although the temple remains under construction, the first phase, encompassing the sanctum sanctorum and the mandapa (hall), is now accessible to the public. Darshan timings are scheduled from 7 am to 11:30 am and from 2 pm to 7 pm.

The unveiling of the Ram Mandir has elicited varied responses. While some view it as a triumph for Hinduism and a symbol of national solidarity, others express concerns regarding potential exacerbation of religious tensions. It’s crucial to acknowledge the complexity of the Ram Mandir issue, recognizing the multitude of perspectives surrounding it.

Here are some additional insights about the Ram Mandir:

  • The temple is being constructed on land previously occupied by the Babri Masjid, a mosque demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, sparking widespread riots resulting in numerous casualties.
  • In 2019, the Supreme Court of India decreed that the land rightfully belonged to Hindus and sanctioned the construction of a temple.
  • Oversight of the temple’s construction is entrusted to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, a Hindu organization.
  • The temple’s completion is envisioned in three phases, with the final phase slated for conclusion by 2025.

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