Ram Temple Trust yet to decide whether main idol will be carved from Shaligram stone from Nepal

As the “Shaligram is considered a form of Vishnu”, it will be given a space where it can be worshipped whether or not the main deity is carved from that stone, SRJTKT chairman says

Updated - January 10, 2024 12:22 pm IST

Published - February 07, 2023 05:03 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Priests and local people offer prayers near the holy stone Shaligram (a representation of Lord Vishnu in Hindu religion) after its arrival from Nepal, at Karsewak Puram in Ayodhya, on February 2, 2023.

Priests and local people offer prayers near the holy stone Shaligram (a representation of Lord Vishnu in Hindu religion) after its arrival from Nepal, at Karsewak Puram in Ayodhya, on February 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust (SRJTKT), overseeing the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, is yet to take a call on whether or not the main deity of the temple will be carved out of the holy shaligram stone sent from Nepal.

Speaking to The Hindu, chairman of the construction committe of the Trust Nripendra Misra said that the members of the Trust have to first decide how exactly the deity will look. “There is already one idol of Ram Lalla there, but we have to have another deity, just behind the original idol. That idol of the deity has to be available for darshan from at least 25 feet away, so the decision is, it will be a standing Ram Lalla of 4-5 years of age,” he said. “Two features are extremely important. When a devotee looks at his lord, he wishes to meet the eyes of the god. And the other is the Charan (feet). So, two features are fixed. That the deity will be Samcharan (with its feet at a level available for worship), and that the features should be such that a child is there. Even if there is a bow and arrow carried, that will not be real but like a toy for a child,” he added.

Four prototypes are being created, in dolomite, in marble with a blue tinge, using another stone from Odisha, and using the shaligram, are being created. “On January 29, it was decided that the sculptors will see all the four. We will also take the opinion of experts on stones based in Mysuru, on their suitability,” he said.

Darshan by year-end

The Trust has drawn up a schedule to allow darshan in the temple by December 2023. “The ground floor with garbh griha (sanctum sanctorum) and pranprathistha (installation of deity) will be completed except for the iconography. The devotees, hopefully, will have darshan of their lord in the garbh griha, by that date,” Mr. Misra said, adding that Home Minister Amit Shah’s declaration at a political rally in Tripura last month that the Ram Temple will be ready to allow darshan on January 1, 2024 is drawn from the Trust’s schedule.

As for the shaligram which has already arrived in India from Nepal, Mr. Misra says that as per Hindu mythology, “shaligram is considered a form of Vishnu” and whether or not the main deity is ultimately carved from that stone, it will be given a space where it can be worshipped.

Reflective rays

A suggestion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also being incorporated for the idol of the main deity. According to belief, Lord Rama’s birth on Ram Navmi occurred at a time when the rays of the sun fell on his forehead, around noon. Mr. Misra said that the trust has asked an institute of astronomy in Pune to work out a way in which this can be manifest in the temple.

“We asked them if they can give us such a thing, because we now have to modulate, calibrate in a manner that when the sun’s rays come, then they get reflected on the forehead of the idol. So the sun’s rays will be received on some kind of a reflector and then computerised programming will be done to ensure that the sun’s rays fall on the forehead of the lord at 12 o’clock. The research work on this is complete. They have astronomically determined the dates for Ram Navmi and positions of the stars, for 19 years. After 19 years, the programming will have to be done again,” he said.

The trust has also acquired 71 acres of land, more than the 67.3 acres accorded to it under the Supreme Court judgement. If required, more will be acquired, Mr. Misra said, adding that the work was funded through donations from the public, and around ₹3,500 crore have been collected so far.

Building for the long term

The main architects of the temple are the Gujarat-based Sompura family, who specialise in temple architecture and had been contracted way back in 1992, at the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi movment. “The attempt is to ensure, through the special foundation material devised by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, that the temple stands for a long time, in the manner of ancient buildings still found standing,” said Mr. Misra. No steel is being used (considering longevity issues), and a 3.5 mere plinth of granite is being put in.

For many years, Ayodhya was the epicentre of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement as well as a source of communal conflict, but now, Mr. Misra says that in his interaction with locals, especially from the minority community, he has found that they are more concerned about everyday business issues.

“It was a surprise to me! I was principal secretary in Uttar Pradesh there when the agitation began at the time of [former U.P. Chief Minister] Mulayam Singh Yadav. I was managing the agitation, coordinating from Lucknow with the commissioner in Ayodhya. I was still principal secretary when Kalyan Singh [U.P. Chief Minister at the time of the Babri Masjid’s demolition] was there. So, I thought it’s a very tense kind of a place where everybody would be in conflict with each other,” he said. “But when I reached there and started to interact with people, I noticed that there was tension outside Ayodhya. There was no tension in Ayodhya. And everybody was more concerned about peace and order so that their life, in terms of business, those who wanted to worship, could. I didn’t get a sense of winning and losing among the people,” he said.

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