Celebrations in Ayodhya as temple dream nears fruition
Firecrackers lit up the sky and cries hailing the Hindu god Ram rent the slightly nippy November air in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya on Saturday as hundreds of men and women spilled on to the streets to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision that cleared the decks for a temple at the disputed site.
Cadre from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), one of the organisations spearheading the temple movement for three decades, burst crackers in almost every neighbourhood of the 500,000-strong town. Pilgrims walked down the cramped lanes that lead to the makeshift Ram temple, surrounded by iron barricades and under a tent, hoping to get a glimpse of the deity.
“This may have been my last darshan of Ram Lalla at this makeshift temple. Darshan will not be the same again,” said Prem Tiwari, 50, as he fought back tears. Tiwari had travelled around 190km from Kushinagar district for the pilgrimage to Ayodhya.
Behind him in the line were Golu Datre and Aditya Datre from Datiya in Madhya Pradesh, and echoed the same sentiment. “We hope for a darshan at a magnificent temple the next time,” they said.
Despite strict security restrictions, celebrations broke out in Ayodhya. Rajeshwar Patel, 21, and his friends rejoiced by lighting crackers. “Finally, the court has paved the way for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. I am happy and sure that the Ram temple will bring development,” said Ramesh Yadav, 27.
Ayodhya was ensconced in a blanket of security for weeks preceding the verdict with hundreds of armed personnel marching through its narrow streets, keeping tabs on social media posts, and conducting human and drone surveillance. The administration’s efforts paid off on Saturday with no incidents of violence reported.
“Not even a single incident has been reported, whether it is Muslim brothers or Hindu brothers, all have accepted the verdict. We have not faced any challenges. We have been patrolling all the areas, the situation is normal,” said Amar Singh, circle officer of Ayodhya.
Many residents said the decision capped decades of uncertainty and communal strife in a city where Hindus and Muslims had co-existed peacefully for centuries, in the shadow of the huge domes of the Babri Masjid that was ultimately demolished on December 6, 1992.
The city’s social fabric was stretched to the brink during the peak of the temple movement in the early 90s when thousands of kar sevaks, or Hindu devotees, flooded the city from all corners of India, marching towards the disputed site shouting slogans.
“It is time for restraint and not act as if we were teasing a community. The administration must check these celebrations,” said Anil Singh, professor at the local Saket Degree College.
Many Muslims said they welcomed the verdict. “It is a historic verdict…Since ages, Hindus and Muslims have lived together and this culture will continue,” said HS Mehandi, a local dentist.
But some people expressed reservations. We welcome the decision. But we are not fully satisfied. Our prime concern is to maintain peace and harmony in Ayodhya,” said Mohammad Farid, a local trader.
As darkness fell, people thronged the daily evening prayer ceremony on the banks of the river Saryu. Many went back home and lit lamps in their houses.
The one corner of the town that remained bereft of large-scale celebrations was the neighbourhood of Karsevakpuram, once the nerve centre of the temple movement. The compound, which houses the local headquarters of VHP, housing quarters for many devotees and a scale model of the proposed temple, saw very few visitors as the administration had barred any gathering of devotees at the spot.
“It is an irony that the Karsevakpuram is no more abuzz with kar sevaks on the day when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Ram temple,” said Sharad Sharma, regional spokesperson of the VHP, saying that no programmes were on at the moment.
Nonetheless, the Hindu activists who lived there described Saturday’s verdict as the brightest spot of their lives. “This is the happiest moment for crores of Hindus,” said Virendra Kumar, a full-time member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Next door, the workshop where artisans chisel stone slabs in preparation for the temple had fallen quiet. For the last 18 years, Rajnikant, 55, spent his day in the shadow of blackening stone slabs, using his tools to chisel patterns into sandstone, quietly confident that his work would adorn the temple one day. He passed away in August, three months before the Supreme Court finally allowed for his dream to be a reality.
(with inputs from agencies)
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