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Ayodhya, the story goes on
By S Ubaidur Rahman, Ayodhya

Scenes from Karsewakpuram
Scene from Karsewakpuram

Undeterred by the judicial wrangling continues the construction work for the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya. Frantic construction activity is going on in the town. City dotted with innumerable temples and ashrams is witnessing an unprecedented addition to the existing lists of temples. Acres and acres of lands have been purchased by each and every important math situated anywhere in the country be it north or south. The town has been turned totally saffron. Every conceivable place is being reshaped.

Not only the new temples are being constructed but old ones are also being given a fresh look. The administration is also assisting the ashrams to trace the lost and forgotten temples in this historical city. Luv Kush mandir in the vicinity of the demolished Babri Masjid is being reshaped. Dasrath Mahal the temple claimed to be the residence of Raja Dasrath, father of the lord Ram is also being given a new look. Konark Bhavan, Raj Gaddi and Char Dham are also being looked after well.

Scene from Karsewakpuram
Scene from Karsewakpuram

In the midst of all these work on proposed Ram mandir continues undeterred. A large number of heavy machines have been deployed to cut stones and hundreds of artists have been hired to carve these stones further. They work round the clock unmindful of any controversy arising anywhere on the question of the construction of the proposed temple. The sound never ceases. The artists do not seem to tire. They continue the work. It is Karyashala at Ram Ghat at Parikarma Marg. Annu Bhai Sompura who is supervising the carving of stone at this workshop informs this correspondent that the work is continuing since 1990. He says that more than fifty percent work is complete.

Visitors throng from all over the country to see the model of the proposed temple kept in this workshop or karyashala, as it is called in the city. The model is kept inside a glass box. They pay tributes at the proposed model. Though no fee has been imposed on the visitors but they themselves contribute generously for the cause.

Workshop supervisor Annu Bhai Sompura
Workshop supervisor Annu Bhai Sompura

Pillars for the proposed Ram temple are being carved here. Annu Bhai Sompura says that the work for the first floor is almost complete. He says that the work on pillars and beams is nearing completion and finishing touches are being given to the work done so far. This is not the lone workshop where work for the temple is continuing. There is one more karyashala a little further in the west. There are two more such workshops in Rajasthan. Sompura adds that the stones are being carried here in heavy trucks all along from Jaisalmer and Jaipur in Rajasthan. He further says that in another workshop in Gujarat the work has also been stepped up. He informs that 4500 cubic feet of structure is expected to come from this workshop every month.

One of the sculptors at the workshop Hanuman Singh says that none can stop them from constructing the temple at the Babri Masjid site. He says that what he and people working here need is only a green signal and the work will be completed in no time. He adds that the work on the first floor is complete. He further says that the structure is only to be assembled at the site. But everyone working here is not enthusiastic as him. Another sculptor from Bihar working on the pillars says that he is not much interested in the construction of the temple. He is working here only because he is getting a good return for his expertise. A few others too echo the same sentiments.

Meanwhile heavy machines have been deployed from other parts of the country to cut the stones. Heavy machines are busy cutting the stones and artists are reshaping them further. There are some who first cut the stones in the right shape and others who then work on the carvings of the stones.

A few furlongs away from here is another Karyashala. This workshop in the outskirts of the city is busy carving the beams for the temple. People working on the beams are around half in numbers than people working in the Ramghat workshop. This Karyashala is in Majha on Vasdev Ghat. Jagdish Bhai is supervising the works here. Artists are hired from all over the country to do the job. Jagdish Bhai when asked says that they have people here working from all over the country. Most of the people working here are from Rajasthan. Some others are from Orissa. A few belong to Bihar and some others from South India.

The site of the Babri Masjid is now highly fortified. More than a thousand policemen guard the area round the clock. People are allowed to visit the site only twice a day. The place is closed for the visitors by eleven and reopened again by 2 in the afternoon. None is allowed to carry anything while going there. No cameras are allowed here. A senior police officer deployed there tells this correspondent that photography is not allowed in this town. Other policemen also turn down any plea to take snaps near the site where Babri Masjid once stood.

Visitors pour in from all around the country. At two in the afternoon it is again time to open the site for darshan. A large crowd has gathered near the entrance. They seem more curious than enthusiastic for darshan. Sita Ram, a vendor who was insisting to buy the offerings from him says that the number of people has dipped and the number of visitors is further going down.

He says that around two thousand people now visit the site every day. Earlier it was around five thousand people or even more, he goes on to add. He says that business is very bad here. It was very good business a few years ago, he adds. When the prime minister had announced to construct the temple at the same site in December they had anticipated that the number of visitors will go up significantly and so will their business, but it is yet to materialize.

A significant development in the town and the nearby Faizabad is that people are feeling disenchanted with the Ram Mandir rhetoric of the RSS and the BJP. The BJP lost the civic polls in both Faizabad and Ayodhya by a huge margin in the elections held in December. People and pujaris both came out on the roads when the state government announced to turn Ayodhya into a heritage city.

There are people who don't buy the theory of Babri Masjid being the birth place of Lord Ram. There are people who on the other hand claim that Ram was born not on the Babri Masjid site but at other place. Hanuman Garhi temple is one such place. A pujari in the temple told this correspondent that the claim of the VHP and the BJP on the Babri Masjid as the birth place of Lord Ram is only a political stunt. He says that Hanuman Mandir is the place where Ram was born. Ram Janamsthan Mandir is a strong claimant in this respect. Everyone in the country believed that this is the birth of the Ram before the controversy on the Babri Masjid issue started.

Ramu, the rickshaw-puller, who carried this correspondent to Karsevakpuram was also very agitated over the attitude of the BJP and the RSS. He said that this party remembers the Ram Temple issue only when the elections approach otherwise it is kept in cold storage. He adds that the people have priorities other than this one and adds people give more importance to their basic needs than the construction of the temple at the site.

Others echo the same feelings. Ram Parsad Verma a vendor who sells garlands near the Babri Masjid site says that he comes here every day and never goes to see the makeshift mandir hurriedly set up on the site of the Masjid. For him his stomach has more appeal than the construction of the temple on the site.

Photos: S Ubaidur Rahman

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