Three Ram Lala (baby Ram) idols are being made in Ayodhya, from which the four Shankaracharyas, other senior sadhus and heritage experts will select one for installation in the new temple next month.
These three idols, each carved out of a single stone, are being made by three sculptors behind closed doors at Ramsevakpuran in the temple town.
Champat Rai, general secretary of the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust that is overseeing the temple and idol construction, told The Telegraph that the idols would be completed within “10-15 days”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a galaxy of VIP guests are expected at the inauguration of the temple and Pran Pratishtha of the idol on January 22, the last day of six-day rituals that will begin on January 17.
“Each idol will be four feet and three inches tall,” said Rai, international vice-president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad who has been in charge of the Ayodhya chapter
of the organisation for the past 25 years.
A source in the trust told this newspaper that two black rocks had been brought from the hills of Karnataka and one white marble rock from Rajasthan, on which the sculptors were carving out three idols of a five-year-old
“Some heritage science experts from IIT Hyderabad, the four Shankaracharyas
and other monks and experts from across India will pick the idol to be installed,” the source said.
“Durability and lustre will be important criteria for the selection, besides beauty and the possibility of protection from erosion in the long run. The experts will also study the effect of the application of sandal paste and vermillion on the idols.”
He said the temple would have two Ram idols. One of them will be the small idol of white marble that appeared in the Babri Masjid in 1949 and is now at a makeshift temple.
“This will be a movable idol, to be taken out on a chariot during certain festivals,” the source said.
The other idol — the one chosen from the three being made now — will be installed in the sanctum sanctorum and “fixed there forever”.
The source said that senior sadhus countrywide and astrologers from Varanasi had been asked to cite important days from the life of Lord Ram when national holidays may be declared by the central government.
Carvings inside the under-construction Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple. PTI picture.
“Ram Navami and Vijaya Dashami are already holidays, but some other important days in Lord Ram’s life may also be identified,” the source, a senior RSS functionary, said.
He said that some dates from the “history of the temple” may also be considered for declaration as national holidays.
“For example, Mir Baqi, the local chieftain of Babar, razed the temple on March 1, 1528,” he claimed, “and Ram bhakts demolished the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.”
He added: “A museum is under construction in Ayodhya to visually narrate the life of Lord Ram.”
The source said the ground floor of the three-storey temple was almost ready, complete with two mandaps (pavilions) and nine hawan kunds (oblation hearths).
“Pujas to Lord Ganesh and Lord Ram will be held in the two mandaps,” the source said.
He added that the construction of the second floor would be complete before the inauguration.
Rai said: “Seven thousand guests have been invited to the inauguration from across the country, including 4,000 sadhus.”
He said “representatives from 50 countries” had been invited but gave no details. The invitees include Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama and the Jain guru, Acharya Lokesh Muni.
Rai appealed to Ram devotees not to flock to Ayodhya as soon as the temple was inaugurated.
“Keeping in mind security reasons, we appeal to the people to offer prayers at the nearest Ram temples in their cities and villages when the Pran Pratishtha is conducted in Ayodhya on January 22,” he said.
“We will issue an advisory about their Ayodhya visit and they can start coming here in keeping with the schedule. The temple will be thrown fully open to all devotees after a few days.”
Sources suggested that the schedule might earmark specific dates for pilgrims from specific states.
Vimal Rajan, regional manager of the state transport department, said 30 electric buses would take the guests from their places of stay to the venue of the inauguration. They will also be given a tour of the Ram Path, a 13km circular road around the temple.