Ram Navami or Ram’s birthday on April 15 is going to be extra special this year, courtesy the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Motor-driven and bullock-pulled chariots will carry a model of the proposed Ram temple at Ayodhya to let people pledge their commitment to the cause of building a shrine. Also, there will be events to encourage mass chanting of the god’s name in rural India.
The Hindu outfit plans to use all these and more on Ram Navami to revive passion for the temple, similar to the frenzy witnessed during the ’90s.
Significantly, the Ujjain Kumbh, when saints are expected to review the temple plan, will also be held in April, providing what many consider a perfect saffron build-up for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
Central to the Ram Mahotsav — the birthday celebrations from March-end to Ram Navami — will be small and big temples dedicated to the Hindu god in rural areas where chants, kirtans and mass pledges for the Ayodhya shrine are likely to be held.
“Along with celebrations that would include devotional songs and Shobha yatras, we would get people to take the temple pledge. This is surely a first,” confirms VHP leader Surendra Jain on phone.
Saffron foot soldiers have been asked to look for villages without a Ram temple. “We would like to worship and rededicate ourselves to the lord on the auspicious occasion. So we will definitely like to keep big or small idols of the lord in such villages where there are no Ram temples,” says Sharad Sharma, VHP’s Ayodhya-based veteran. Once the idols are placed, volunteers could then push for a makeshift structure.
Since most villages have a temple with a Ram idol, the idea to identify those without one could be ploy to polarize people on religious lines, observers felt.
“Ram is everywhere. It’s up to the cadre and Ram bhakts (followers) to take a call on how they want to hold the lord’s birthday celebrations in such places,” Sharma said.
Overall, the grand plan drafted by the RSS-affiliate VHP is to get nearly 100,000 villages across the country to join the lord’s birthday bash.
This essentially would be the launch of the second phase of the Ayodhya temple movement, according to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief Nritya Gopal Das.
The temple issue is sub judice but there is no dearth of leaders posturing over the issue. “If required, saints won’t hesitate to lay down their lives for the great cause,” said Mahant Kanhaiya Das of the Ayodhya Sant Samiti.
To showcase their renewed thrust in the post-Ashok Singhal phase, the VHP got two truckloads of stones for temple construction to drive into Ayodhya on December 20, igniting a major debate.
The arrival of stones happened barely 14 days after the 23rd anniversary of the demolition of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya on December 6. VHP leaders were worried at the rather thin turnout to their Hindu Pride Day on that day. Closer to the elections more such trucks are likely to head for Ayodhya.
The VHP is talking of employing more stone carvers at workshops in the temple town in an apparent attempt to lend credibility to its temple-talk which has been losing steam since the court-imposed deadlock over the Ram Janmabhoomi issue.
A campaign to rally lawmakers from across all parties to the temple cause is also on the table.