Gandhinagar, Oct. 7: The Swaminarayan temple was thrown open to the public this morning under tight security, 12 days after the militant attack that left 33 dead and 74 injured.
Thousands thronged the majestic complex to witness the opening, which coincided with the first day of Navratri, as people, not only from Gujarat but adjoining Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, queued up.
That fear was the last thing on their minds was evident when over 800 gathered at the Gate No. 1 before Swami Ishwaracharan Das performed the reopening ceremony. Co-operation minister Vadibhai Patel, Gandhinagar district collector H.J. Haider, SP Rakesh Brahmbhatt and 80 sadhus were present at the ceremony.
For the last 10 years, the temple, as a rule, has remained closed on Mondays. But today, temple authorities decided to break the rule. The temple was to have reopened on September 29, but it was delayed because of the inauspicious “Shraddh” period.
Shanti and her husband L.R. Chaddha came from Jaipur out of sheer curiosity. “All our family members and relatives advised us not to go to Gandhinagar but we were determined. So, we are here today and we find this place splendid,” said Shanti.
The couple spent four hours on the sprawling complex and kept asking the staff where the militants had killed the pilgrims and where the commandos had mounted the counter-attack.
Curiosity was the abiding theme. It brought Asha Siddhi from Mansa, in north Gujarat, and Thakorebhai Tailor from Songadh in south Gujarat. Though he had seen the temple several times, Mahesh Parmar, a resident of Gandhinagar, also came to see the temple “out of curiosity”. He had wanted to see the temple on September 29 but the authorities had suddenly postponed the reopening.
Tailor and Parmar, who are not first-time visitors, found no difference except the security that has been beefed up. But no one was complaining.
Everyone appreciated the government decision to tighten the security — 70 state reserve police force jawans have been deployed at the premise. Only one gate, where a metal detector is installed, is open.
Among the visitors was a team of 20-odd teachers from Pitlwad town in Madhya Pradesh, who are involved in preaching non-violence. With the cleaning, repairing and restoration work on the premises completed, Govind Ram Verma, the leader of the team, could not visualise the September 24 incident. He was clearly baffled. “Why did they kill people in the temple'” he kept asking.
Is it a failure of our politicians' Govind Ram had many questions unanswered but like other visitors, his faith was unshaken. As Swami Brahmbihari explained: “What we see today is an aura of greater respect and faith.”
Spiritual aura and dignity has not been disturbed. Which is why so many people have turned up despite that terrorist attack.”