Idol of Ram Lalla sculpted by Mysuru's Arun Yogiraj selected for installation at Ram temple: Rai

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Ayodhya, Jan 15 (PTI) A new idol of Ram Lalla sculpted by Mysuru-based Arun Yogiraj has been selected for installation at the Ram temple in Ayodhya, temple trust's general secretary Champat Rai said on Monday.

Replying to queries at a press conference here, he said the current idol of Ram Lalla, which is being worshipped for the last 70 years, will also be kept in the sanctum sanctorum of the new temple.

The Ram temple "Pran Pratishtha" (consecration ceremony) is being organised here on January 22, and according to Rai, it will begin at 12:20 pm.

The new idol whose consecration ceremony will be done is made of stone and "in my assessment it weighs somewhere between 150-200 kgs", he said.

Rai said the idol depicts the deity as a five-year-old boy in standing posture and added that "on January 18, the idol will be placed at its 'aasan' in 'garbh griha' (sanctum sanctorum)".

"The 'muhurt' for the ceremony has been decided by Varanasi-based Ganeshwar Shastri Dravid. A large number of people of Kashi and Ayodhya know him and revere him," he said.

Rai said the complete process of the "karmakand vidhi" for the sacred ceremony will be led by Laxmikant Dixit of Varanasi. Both Darvid and Dixit are luminaries in their fields, the general secretary of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra said.

The temple will remain closed on January 20 and 21 and people can pay obeisance to the deity again from January 23, he said.

The city is getting decked up for the grand ceremony at the temple, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend.

Over 7,000 people have been invited by the temple trust and they include cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, and billionaire industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, according to official sources.

Rai said the idol of Ram Lalla sculpted by Mysuru-based Yogiraj has been selected by the trust from among three idols. The idols have been carved separately by three sculptors, he said.

Members of the trust have praised the idol carved by Yogiraj, who in the past has sculpted statues of Adiguru Shankaracharya at Kedarnath in Uttarakhand and that of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which was installed at the India Gate canopy.

Temple construction committee chairperson Nripendra Misra in an interview to PTI on January 4 had said that at an emergency meeting held earlier, trust members had graded the three statues on a scale. Rai would share the decision at "an appropriate time", he had said.

"It is clear, the trust will take all three statues. In the future, how those statues will be used, the trust will decide. One of the three statues will be installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple," Misra had said.

Rai said the rituals in the run-up to the "Pran Pratishtha" will begin from Tuesday and these will continue till January 21.

On January 22, the minimum essential rituals (vidhi) needed for the "Pran Pratishtha" will be conducted, he added.

The idol for which the consecration ceremony will be done will also be part of a ritual called 'adhivas', during which the 'jal niwas', 'fal niwas', 'anna niwas', 'aushadi niwas' and 'ghee niwas' for the idol will be done.

Prime Minister Modi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and president of the temple trust Mahant Nritya Gopal Das will be inside the sanctum sanctorum on January 22, Rai said.

The ceremony will be attended by all the trustees of the temple trust, seers of about 150 sects and more than 500 people associated with the construction of the temple, who have been named the "Engineer Group".

Rai said gifts are coming from many places, including Mata Sita's maternal home Janakpur in Nepal. Water has come from Mansarovar, Amarnath, Gangotri, Haridwar, Sangam of Prayagraj, Narmada, Godavari, Nashik and Gokarna among other places, he added.

"The general tradition of our society is to give gifts. Hence, a gift in a thousand baskets has come from Virganj in South Nepal, an area connected to Mithla. There are grains, fruits, clothes, dry fruits, gold and silver in it. Similarly, people associated with Sitamarhi have also come, people from the place where Sita Mata was born have also brought gifts. People have also brought gifts from Ram ji's maternal hometown Chhattisgarh," Rai said.

The Ram temple complex, built in the traditional Nagara style, will be 380 feet in length (east-west direction), 250 feet in width and 161 feet in height, Rai had said earlier. Each floor of the temple will be 20 feet high and have a total of 392 pillars and 44 gates. PTI KND ABN ANB ANB