'Rammay' Ayodhya set for consecration ceremony, temple town decked up

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Preparations underway at the Ram temple for the consecration ceremony, in Ayodhya

Preparations underway at the Ram temple for the consecration ceremony, in Ayodhya

Ayodhya: The much-awaited Ram temple consecration will be held here on Monday in a grand ceremony with Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the rituals, following which the shrine will be opened for the public a day later.

The "Pran Pratishtha" ceremony will begin at 12.20 pm and is expected to end by 1 pm. The prime minister will then address a gathering of more than 7,000 people, including seers and prominent personalities, at the venue.

Lakhs of people are expected to watch the event live on TV and online platforms as BJP-ruled states and Odisha have declared a holiday while the central government has announced a half-day off.

As authorities made final preparations in a decked-up Ayodhya, considered the birthplace of Lord Ram, temples across the country and abroad have announced special festivities to mark the occasion.

From Washington DC to Paris to Sydney, events have been planned in various parts of the world on January 22. These programmes are either being organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or Hindu diaspora groups in 60 countries.

Fourteen couples from various parts of India will be the "yajmaans" (hosts) for the "Pran Pratishtha".

The rituals ahead of the consecration ceremony began on January 16, and according to temple trust general secretary Champat Rai, these will end on January 21.

The new 51-inch idol of Ram Lalla, sculpted by Mysuru-based Arun Yogiraj, was placed in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple on Thursday afternoon. The first image of the new idol with eyes covered with a cloth was released on Friday.

Rai has said the entry into the temple will be from the east side and exit from the south side. The entire temple superstructure will eventually be three-storeyed -- G+2. Visitors will climb 32 steps from the eastern side to reach the main temple.

The temple complex, built in the traditional Nagara style, will be 380 feet long (east-west direction), 250 feet wide and 161 feet high. Each floor of the temple will be 20 feet high and have a total of 392 pillars and 44 gates.

The government is pulling out all stops to prepare for the big day with police personnel deployed across the city as part of a multi-layered security plan.

Movable barriers with barbed wires attached to them can be spotted at every prominent crossroad in the temple city, as police use them to regulate traffic, especially during VVIP movements.

Multiple NDRF teams trained to tackle chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, drowning incidents and disasters like earthquakes have been deployed.

The administration has made arrangements to deal with any health emergency, especially in view of the biting cold. Beds have been reserved at city-based and district hospitals and the medical college here. Specialists from AIIMS have provided focused emergency response training to doctors at healthcare institutions.

The grand Ram temple has been decorated with "rich stocks" of flowers and special lights and the entire city is drenched in religious fervour or as is the common refrain among the locals, "Ayodhya Rammay ho raha hai".

Streetlights on flyovers have been decorated with artworks depicting Lord Ram, including cutouts of bow and arrow, and ornamental lamp posts carry designs themed on the traditional "Ramanandi tilak".

"Shubh Ghadi Aayi", "Taiyar hai Ayodhya dham, virajenge Shree Ram" and "Ram fir lautenge", "Ayodhya me Ram rajya" are among the slogans on posters and hoardings splashed across the city.

Various verses from the Ramayana are also printed on posters at prominent places like the Ram Marg, the Saryu River bank and Lata Mangeshkar Chowk.

Ramlilas, Bhagwat Kathas, Bhajan sandhyas and cultural programmes are going on at different places here. The banks of the Saryu River are also decked up where thousands flock every evening for the "aarti".

On January 22, public sector banks, insurance companies, financial institutions and regional rural banks across the country will also remain closed for half the day. Stock exchanges NSE and BSE have also announced a trading holiday.

While more than 7,000 people are in the long list of invitees, the select list features 506 A-listers.

Those attending the "Pran Prathishtha" also include people linked to the agitation for the temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi.

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, business tycoons Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, and sporting icon Sachin Tendulkar are among the prominent people to be invited.

Almost all opposition leaders invited to the ceremony have declined to attend the ceremony, with the Congress calling it a BJP-RSS event.

But there are others, not on the list, who are heading to Ayodhya in their unique ways -- walking, cycling and even skating.

Covering long distances amid bone-chilling cold, people from all over the country and cutting across religions are flocking to the temple town driven by their faith in Lord Ram and carried through by the overwhelming religious mood in the country.

From Lord Ram image-adorned bangles to 56 varieties of "petha" and from traditional items like a 500-kg iron-copper "nagada" and the "Onavillu" bow to offerings of rice, ladoos and vegetables, a diverse array of gifts are flooding in from across the country.

Also featured in the list of gifts for the January 22 event are special perfumes from Kannauj, 500 kg "kumkum" leaves from Amravati, grains collected at a Ram temple in Delhi, flowers from Bhopal and papers with Lord Ram written 4.31 crore times from Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara.

The Ram temple management committee has received other offerings such as a 108-foot incense stick, a 2,100-kg bell, a giant lamp weighing 1,100 kg, gold footwear, a 10-foot-high lock and key and a clock that simultaneously denotes time in eight countries, among others.

More than 3,000 gifts from Sita's birthplace in Nepal's Janakpur have also arrived. A Sri Lankan delegation brought a special gift from the Ashok Vatika, a garden mentioned in the Ramayana.

From Nihang Singhs to ISKCON and temple trusts from across the country to locals in Ayodhya, various community kitchens are being run here to serve "langar" food to devotees.

The consecration ceremony is being held after the first phase of the temple’s construction, made possible by a historic Supreme Court judgment in 2019 on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit. The Hindu litigants argued that the Babri Mosque was constructed at the site of a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram.

In 1992, the 16th century mosque was demolished by "kar sevaks".