A file photo of the banks of River Saryu in Ayodhya
A file photo of the banks of River Saryu in Ayodhya | PTI
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New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government is choosing tradition over expert advice and pushing ahead with the millennia-old Ayodhya Ram Navami Mela despite the coronavirus pandemic. The mela (fair), which draws lakhs of pilgrims from across the country, will be held from 25 March to 2 April. 

While the Ayodhya chief medical officer has raised concerns about the implications of a huge crowd gathering at one place right now, the administration has brushed them aside. This, despite the Adityanath administration issuing advisories against mass gatherings, including for Holi, with the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) also calling off the India-South Africa ODI matches scheduled to be held in Lucknow and Kolkata this month.

The mela this year has 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 a decades-old court battle between Hindu and Muslim parties over the ownership of the plot in question. 

The fair will start with a ceremony where the idol of the reigning deity, infant Ram or Ram Lalla, will be shifted from its makeshift tent to a massive fibre-glass structure amid preparations for the construction of a temple in his honour. This ceremony will be led by the Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, which is overseeing the temple construction, with the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) planning a concurrent nationwide programme to celebrate the occasion.

The VHP has discouraged mass mobilisation for the programme, but will go ahead with its plans to place Ram idols or photos in 2.75 lakh villages and perform puja to commemorate the November 2019 Supreme Court judgment. 


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A big ceremony for Ram

On 25 March, the first day of the Chaitra (first month of Hindu calendar) Navratri, the Ram idol will be established inside a bullet-proof, water-proof fibre glass structure that will be 21 feet in length and 15 feet in width. 

It was brought to Ayodhya Sunday. As the idol is placed there, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will perform the first aarti the same day.

The Ram Navami Mela, a traditional annual event in Ayodhya, will kick off the same day.

The mela sees lakhs of devotees converge on Ayodhya to offer prayers at different temples. On the night of Ram Navami, the birth of Ram is celebrated at decorated temples. Devotees take a dip in the Saryu and aarti and puja follow.

VHP president Alok Kumar told ThePrint that postponing the event was not an option.

“The shifting of Bhagwan Ram from the makeshift tent to the chabutara (platform) is long due. It’s a shubh muhurat on 24-25 March and the event can’t be deferred,” he said. 

“The trust (which includes a VHP member) decided in the first meeting to carry out this programme… Lord Ram’s been in a tent for the last 28 years… Before the construction of the temple starts, in the shubh muhurat, this ceremony will take place.”

Speaking about the nationwide programme planned by the VHP, Kumar said, “We have planned a grand Ram mahotsav from 25 March until Hanuman Jayanti, which falls on 8 April to felicitate the Ram temple judgment. 

“In 2.75 lakh villages, a Ram idol or photo will be established and puja performed, but due to the coronavirus threat, we have advised that big mass programmes be avoided on this duration.”


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CMO has flagged concerns

Ayodhya chief medical officer (CMO) Ghyanshyam Singh has been flagging concerns about going ahead with the mela, wondering how the lakhs of attendees would be screened and protected from infection. 

On Monday, the CMO cited the chief minister’s advice against large gatherings to say they didn’t have “infrastructure to screen and hand out masks to 5 lakh people”.

“I have advised the district administration to cancel the Ram Navami mela this time,” he said.

However, Ayodhya district magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha, a member of the temple construction committee, snubbed the CMO. 

“This is part of the tradition and we will take precautions but there is no plan to cancel the Ram Navami mela,” Jha added. “The district administration has been making preparations for the past one month.”

The VHP head for Ayodhya district, Sharad Sharma, told ThePrint that Ram Navami was special for devotees. “This is part of our faith and, every year, Ram Navami celebration is held. But more people will take a dip in the Saryu this year on Ram Navami… There is no question of cancelling the mela and Ram mahotsav.”

BJP leader Ved Prakash Gupta, the local MLA, said it was the “duty of the district administration to distribute masks to protect devotees… but the option of cancelling Ram Navami mela is against tradition and faith”.

Temples across India discourage gatherings 

In other parts of the country, the coronavirus pandemic led temples to issue a series of steps and advisories Sunday to keep devotees safe. 

The chief executive officer of the Shirdi Sai Mandir Sunday has appealed to devotees to stay at home, while the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has echoed the claim, asking foreigners and NRIs in particular to not visit at all for 26 days.

On Monday, the Siddhivinayak trust decided to shut down Mumbai’s famous Siddhivinayak temple in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has suspended the Kartarpur Corridor pilgrimage, while the Swami Narayan Temple has canceled big events worldwide. The Datia-based Pitambara Peeth has also cancelled large gatherings of devotees.


Also Read: How coronavirus spread in India — 39 of the first 50 patients came from Italy, Iran, China


 

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17 Comments Share Your Views

17 COMMENTS

  1. Many of the peoples putting their lives in risk. This should not happen. I’m a Muslim and even we are praying namaz in our homes. I’m concerned about peoples life. Please UP government has to stop this Mela. Prime minister and the governor of that state have to put pressure on UP government to stop this.

  2. Has you followed your this news ? If no , than why not . If you followed then you should must publish the outcome .

  3. Are we not concerned about the outcome of such a mass mela. It will prove to be much more disastrous than bio – weapons used by any enemy country against us. Let Lord Rama prevail over the good wisdom of Ram Temple mela organisers.

  4. Jai Sri Ram,

    This is a public health issue. Please bear this in mind. The Hindu population in India will reduce significantly, if the celebrations go ahead. The choice is yours! As the saying goes ignorance is bliss.

  5. This is stupidity at its best. Faith isn’t going to save you if you get sick. Wow. Didn’t know Indians would be so naive about things. When it finally hits you. You will understand.

  6. Please place reason over faith. Keep yourself and others safe. God can’t help us unless we help ourselves first. It doesn’t make sense to have such a huge gathering and put everyone at risk.

  7. There is no value of professional expertise in this system. A 50-60 year old doctor needs whole career to become a district CMO, and then has to take orders from maybe a 22 year old generalist IAS who has to be always addressed ‘sir’. We expect this system to produce any innovation or have value for professional expertise!

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