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Preparations before the consecration ceremony of Ram Mandir, in Ayodhya on Sunday

Preparations before the consecration ceremony of Ram Mandir, in Ayodhya on Sunday

A vibrantly lit Ayodhyadham, its buildings, highways and streets decorated with marigold flowers, groups dancing on stages erected on either side of the four-lane Ram Path and loudspeakers installed on street lamps across the temple town. bhajans have set the stage for pran pratishthaor consecration ceremony, of the Ram Mandir on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the rituals on Monday, after which the shrine will be opened to the public a day later.

Some 7,000 people are on the long list of guests at the ceremony. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, business tycoons Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, and sports icons Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli are among the VVIPs invited to the event. While many are expected to fly out on their planes on Monday morning, some film personalities had already arrived in the temple city on Sunday.

While the Uttar Pradesh government was investing enormous resources of men and materials to make the event a success, some of the most excited devotees, who have flocked to Ayodhya from all over the country to witness the ceremony of a long-cherished dream, felt that the atmosphere had transported them. them Treta Yuguntil the day Lord Ram returned to claim his kingdom.

Locals were obsessed with the promise of a ‘New Ayodhya’, the rapid development that the Tier II city of about 3 million people has witnessed since 2022.

Most opposition leaders have decided not to attend the afternoon ceremony and Prime Minister Modi’s subsequent speech, in which he could detail, with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections less than two months away, the contribution of your government in meeting the objectives. in one of the central agendas of Sangh Parivar.

The road medians have cutouts of Lord Ram, while either side has huge billboards of Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath detailing the ~31,000 crore development work, the ‘assurances of Modi’ or announcing the consecration ceremony. Only the billboards of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, few and far between, acknowledge the contribution of Mahant Avaidyanath, Ramachandra Paramhans and others. The Maharashtra government has put up some hoardings with Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde acknowledging the support Bal Thackeray’s movement received. The fences also hide the ruined centuries-old buildings of “old” Ayodhya.

The Sangh Parivar has attempted to balance social equations. He announced on Saturday that 15 couples from Other Backward Classes (OBC), Tribals, Sikhs and others, including Dom Raja from Varanasi, will also be the yajaman at the ceremony along with Modi, Adityanath and others. “It is a festival of Hindu unity, a national festival,” Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) All India Prachar Pramukh Sunil Ambekar told Business Standard.

In its last cabinet meeting, the Adityanath government adopted the state superconducting policy by 2024, increased the support price of sugarcane as a “gift” on the occasion of the consecration ceremony and approved new private educational institutions to send a message that it was marking the beginning of development. while ascribing to tradition. “Vikas bhi virasat bhi,” reads a poster with the prime minister’s silhouette outside the sprawling media center near Ram Katha Park. The roads are also dotted with statues of characters from the Ramayana – Ahilya, Shabari and others.

The local administration has contacted Muslims in the city to allay their fears of any untoward incident. When Muslim religious organizations wrote to the state police expressing fear of law and order problems in view of the arrival of a large number of outsiders in the city, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief Alok Kumar said the minority, which makes up 14.5 percent of the district. , they had nothing to fear and benefited from comprehensive development.

“This is not new, but from the days of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The Muslims of Ayodhya are people of Shri Ram as almost all of them are associated with the temples here and earn their living by making clothes, jewelery and other items required for worshiping Lord Ram. There is no conflict here,” he stated.

Traders have witnessed an increase in sales, such as florists, several of whom are Muslim, one of whom admits that he and his family were a little nervous, but mostly due to the influx of out-of-towners in recent years. days. It is common to see men on motorcycles chanting Jai Sri Ram slogans.

Sanjay Gupta, owner of Kirti Bakers in Ram ki Paidi, says he has started stocking products, such as a premium brand of wafers or energy drinks, a hit among sadhus and young men alike, which previously saw minimal demand. “The kind of tourists coming to Ayodhya has changed since 2022-23. “If I used to stock confectionery products, such as cream puffs and cakes, which I sold for ~5 or ~10, now I get better quality ‘puddings’ and sweets that cost twice as much,” he said.

In several stores you can find spectacular new refrigerators from beverage companies, as well as notices from banks that will soon open ATMs in the area. Signs throughout the city are uniform as are the colors and art on their shutters. Near Hanumangarhi, workers are busy painting the ground saffron, while a discount khadi shop does brisk business in yellow and saffron shawls, jackets and shirts.

Some merchants have suffered due to road widening and construction activity, but say they are waiting for the promised compensation. The two dozen hotels have done good business. The government has created “tent cities” with capacity for 8,000 pilgrims, and food is prepared for almost 2,000 each day. Multi-storey parking complexes, e-buses and golf carts to transport pilgrims are also completed or in the works.

“As a local, I am amazed at the development that has taken place in recent years. It’s like a dream. As with all dreams, one is afraid that it will end. Hopefully, this one won’t. But the administration needs to plan for the future to make development sustainable,” says Shailendra Kumar, professor at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University.

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