New Delhi: Under pressure from different quarters to call off the Ram Navami mela amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has finally cancelled the nine-day Ram Mahotsav festivities, which was supposed to start in Ayodhya from 25 March.
The mela this year had assumed added significance because it’s the first one since the Supreme Court cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya after decades-old court battle between Hindu and Muslim parties over the ownership of the plot in question.
Both the Ayodhya district administration and Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, which is overseeing the temple construction, have appealed to devotees to not congregate in Ayodhya for the Ram Mahotsav and instead celebrate at home.
Despite concerns raised by public health experts that huge crowd gathering at one place could pose health risks to thousands of devotees, the Uttar Pradesh government was earlier pushing ahead with the millennia-old Ayodhya Ram Navami Mela, which draws lakhs of pilgrims from across the country.
The decision to cancel the celebrations came after CM Adityanath called the religious leaders and impressed upon them to put on hold all religions, spiritual and cultural activities until 2 April.
In Uttar Pradesh, the total number of coronavirus cases has touched 23.
Champat Rai, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) international secretary and general secretary of the temple trust, told ThePrint: “This disease is spreading due to human to human contact. This is a century old Ram Navami festival but keeping the welfare of society in mind, we are cancelling this congregation. We want to protect our children and societies.”
Hoist saffron flags, chant vijay mantra
The VHP, which was at the forefront of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, has called on devotees to chant the 13-letter vijay maha mantra — “Shree ram jai ram jai jai ram” — and inspire others too.
In a statement, the VHP has also asked devotees to hoist saffron flags atop all houses belonging to Hindus and affix stickers of Shri Ram Janmbhoomi outside their house.
Milind Parandae, VHP general secretary, said, “During Ram Mahotsav, we have directed that devotees don’t take out big procession or chariot parade that could transmit coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, in a statement, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi has said the RSS has asked all swayamsevaks to follow the manta of “sankalp” and “samyam” (determination and restraint) to support initiatives like the ‘Janata Curfew’ Sunday.
All RSS shakhas will be held before 7 am or after 9 pm Sunday to implement the curfew, the statement added.