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Nripendra Misra on Ram temple construction in Ayodhya: ‘The time schedule really chasing me is December 2023. I don’t want to fail the nation’

India’s young are confident of the nation’s rise as a big power, of their ability to solve “the issues of the country,” and the Ram temple, under construction in Ayodhya, should become “one more reason for (them) being proud,” said veteran bureaucrat Nripendra Mishra who heads the construction committee of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.

Misra underlined that he was “really, really, really,” chasing a deadline of December 2023 so that the first phase of the temple is ready by January 2024 – marked by the shifting of the Ram Lalla from the makeshift temple to the sanctum sanctorum of the new temple.

To that effect, as many as 1,100 workers are busy 24 by 7 at the site installing pillars and arches, carving relief, polishing surfaces and on the columns and arches that stand on 2.77 acres on a foundation of “engineered soil” that runs 15 metres deep and has 47 layers.

Ram temple construction site in Ayodhya Around 1,100 workers are working at the temple complex. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

“The temple is being designed and built to last 1,000 years,” said Misra. And the entire process is being documented as a template for engineers of the future. Surrounding the temple, that will eventually be three-storied, work is also in progress on the percota (outer perimeter) over 6.33 acres. The larger temple complex, which the Trust hopes will be a grand modern religious pilgrimage, includes several facilities for pilgrims as well.

About 4.75 lakh cubic feet of the special pink sandstone (Bansi Paharpur) is required for just the main temple, said a senior engineer of L&T who, along with Tata Consulting Engineers, are in charge of the project.

Ram temple construction site in Ayodhya Behind the temple, Misra said, is a unique and unprecedented public-private partnership of science and faith

A rishi-muni complex of seven temples; 98 murals on the lower plinth depicting key events as described in 98 shlokas picked from Valmiki’s Ramayana; the 51-inch Ram Lalla (aged 4-5 years) standing on a lotus, and a perimeter of 730 metres with a temple each on its four corners, are some of the highlights of the temple complex being built over 70 acres.

Read | Nripendra Misra InterviewRam temple construction site in Ayodhya As many as 1,100 workers are working 24×7 at the site installing pillars and arches. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

Misra, a retired IAS officer belonging to Uttar Pradesh cadre, acknowledges that the history of the temple movement has been “divisive”. But the November 2019 unanimous judgement of the Supreme Court was a “glowing example of how the heat of the nation, the temperature, emotions of the nation gets absorbed by the judiciary… and then give a judgment where there were no winners and losers”, he said.

A key message to the construction committee was to ensure that all communities felt the temple belonged to them. This is manifest, Misra said, in the seven temples being built in the complex and dedicated to those who were associated with Ram during his 14-year exile. Called the ‘rishi muni’ complex, the seven temples will be for Valmiki, Vashishtha, Vishwamitra, Agastya, Shabari, Jatayu and Nishad.

Another key message of inclusivity, Misra said, is to construct a gopuram (a monumental tower at the entrance of a temple) so that devotees from South India feel at home. “I have been told that unless South Indian devotees see a gopuram when they enter the temple, they will never adopt it fully,” said Misra.

Ram temple construction site in Ayodhya The sanctum sanctorum where the idol of Ram Lalla will be installed. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

The detailed work on the columns, pillars and arcs is being undertaken by sculptors brought from Odisha’s Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Sonar and Balasore. They have been assigned to carve images in the spaces left on the sides of the pillars at the entrance leading to the sanctum sanctorum. There are five mandaps – open spaces – around the sanctum sanctorum viz., Gud mandap, Rang mandap, Nritya mandap, Keertan mandap and Prarthana mandap. The shikhar above the sanctum sanctorum will have a height of 161 feet and 10 inches.

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While Ashish Sompura and CK Sompura are the architects for the temple, the Trust has engaged L&T for construction of the temple and Tata Consulting Engineers as the project management consultant.

Ram temple construction site in Ayodhya Nripendra Misra himself visits the temple for four days in a month, and takes review meetings every Saturday. 

Behind the temple, Misra said, is a unique and unprecedented public-private partnership of science and faith: from engaging the National Geophysical Laboratory Research Institute in Hyderabad for soil testing and roping in IITs for their advice on the foundation best suited for the temple superstructure to engaging the Indian Institute of Astrophysics as well as the Central Building Research for aligning the architecture such that sunlight falls on Ram’s forehead on Ram Navmi day.

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Misra himself visits the temple for four days in a month, and takes review meetings every Saturday. “When the moment I get up to the time I sleep, there is always this time schedule, and the time schedule really really really chasing me is December 2023. I don’t want to fail the nation, I do want the Lord to be installed here,” he said.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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