Ayodhya is turning into a battlefield of sorts again as UP moves closer to polls, this time over who does more for Lord Ram.
While the BJP government at the Centre last year announced setting up of a Ramayana museum in the holy town and sanctioned Rs 151 crore for a Ramayana circuit that will include the museum, Akhilesh Yadav’s SP government in the state has now announced a Rs 20-crore facility, bhajansthal, to promote preaching of the Ramayana.
And, in the game of one-upmanship for the Hindu votes, no one is leaving the chance to belittle the effort of the other. For now, the SP has accused the Centre of announcing the museum project without even procuring land for it.
“Unki baatein saari hawa mein hai (They are speaking in the air). They have not approached the state government with any plan or land proposal,” UP minister for forests and the Ayodhya MLA, Pavan Pandey, told ET.
“Where will the Ramayana museum come up? They cannot build it in the air. First of all they have to tell us what is their budget for the museum, or which department will initiate it.”
The Ramleela Park or bhajansthal that the SP government has announced will mainly have a hall filled with pictures depicting scenes from the Ramayana and there will be recitals from the epic all day, he said. The state government has also approved a proposal to have pictures of Ram and
Hanuman painted along the entire stretch of the Saryu River in Ayodhya.
“We are also planting neem, peepul and parijat trees along Saryu to give the town that ancient feel,” Pandey said. “Apart from bhajans and kirtans, the bhajansthal that will have a seating capacity of 5,000 people and will also host Ramkatha pracharaks and traditional story tellers.”
The minister said the state government already has a design in place. In October last year, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma visited the proposed site for the Ramayana Museum in Ayodhya.
In the same month, PM Modi, during his Dussehra rally in Lucknow, avoided making any direct reference to the issue of Ram temple at Ayodhya but did include “Jai Sri Ram” as part of his address to a huge gathering at the Aishbagh Ramlila Ground — an indication that the party won’t leave any opportunity to benefit in the polls from its association with the Ram temple movement.
The BJP’s proposed museum will showcase the life and teachings of Lord Ram in an interactive facility with modern technologies like laser show, virtual storytelling and electronic walls.
Among the museum’s structure will be 10 galleries, depicting Lord Ram’s life, and a four-floor central atrium called Ram Darbar. All of these, said officials at the Ministry of Culture, are part of the Ramayana circuit stretching from Ayodhya in UP to Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
“The Centre is very serious about the proposal,” said an official. It has already allotted Rs 151 crore for the Ramayan circuit and Rs 85 crore will be spent on the museum, he added. “The beautification of Ayodhya will take place in two parts. It has already started with building toilets, changing rooms and illumination of ghats.”
Pandey said CM Akhilesh Yadav recently met all important priests of Ayodhya, including some who were part of the Ram Janmabhumi movement. “Mahant Janmejay, Bhagwantdas, Falahariji maharaj — all those mahants who have supported the Ram Janmabhumi andolan are firmly supporting Akhilesh now.
Our government has also developed the parikrama spots of Ramnagari,” he said.