If everything goes as planned, Ayodhya may have a grand Ram temple by 2024.
The foundation stone for the temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi site will be laid on August 5, an auspicious day according to the Hindu calendar. Those in charge of the ceremony have confirmed to CNN-News18 that the mahurat is at 12.15pm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath are some of the confirmed attendees, apart from the Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Trust and a few saints—a gathering of not more than 200 people is expected..
Modi will be laying the foundation stone, a silver brick weighing 40 kilograms, given to him by Sant Nritya Gopal Rai.
Mahant Kamal Nayan Das told CNN-News18, "Bhakts all over the country have immense faith in Ram Lalla. We were given this silver brick by some bhakts and that will be put as the foundation stone by PM Narendra Modi. Ram temple is a temple of faith of crores of Ram bhakts. We didn't have to procure this silver brick from anywhere."
The designated successor of Nritya Gopal Das, chairman of the Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, also says that, when built, the Ram temple in Ayodhya would become the third-largest Hindu temple in the world. "Some change in the design of the existing model has been proposed. However, there will hardly be any changes to the basic structure," he said.
Eighty-year-old Anu Bhai Sompura is the supervisor for the Ram Temple project. He has been with the Sompura Construction firm from Gujarat that has been part of at least a dozen temple projects over the past 30 years.
Back in Ayodhya after spending a couple of days in Ahmedabad, Anu Bhai told CNN-News18, "We are still waiting for the final design. However, material has been coming in. One lakh cubic square metre worth of stones have arrived and another two lakh worth would be needed. There has been some expansion plan. First it was a two-storey structure, but it is now expected to be a three-storey one."
He also revealed that around 250 workers would be employed for construction and labour would be contracted from Rajasthan.
The Sompura family has been involved in temple construction for generations. Chandrakant Sompura, 80, has designed 131 temples along with his sons, including the Gandhinagar based Akshardham temple, Ambaji temple in Palanpur and Krishna Janmasthan in Mathura. Chandrakant's father Prabhakar designed the famous Somnath temple in Gujarat.
CNN-News18 also spoke to Nikhil Sompura, Chandrakant's son. He said that if things go as per plan, the temple construction could take a maximum of 3.5 to 4 years time. There will be five domes now and not three as decided earlier, said Nikhil, adding that the proposed height from the ground to the dome will be 160 feet instead of the previously planned 130.
Many politicians such as Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi have been reported as being critical of the government for allowing the foundation ceremony in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic..
However, on Friday, the Allahabad High Court dismissed a petition by Congress supporter and activist Saket Gokhale seeking a stay on the Bhoomi Pujan programme while arguing that it would violate guidelines associated with 'Unlock 2.0'.
In November last year, a Supreme Court bench of five judges led by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi delivered a historic, unanimous judgement on the land dispute in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in favour of building a temple at the site. The Centre was entrusted with the task to set up a trust within six months that would oversee the construction.
On February 5, 2020, Prime Minister Modi announced the formation of the temple trust.
"The trust for the construction of Ram temple has been named Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra," he said in the Lok Sabha. "Uttar Pradesh has agreed to give five acres of land (for the possible construction of a mosque) to the Sunni Wakf Board as directed by the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya matter."
Later, home minister Shah had announced the names of the members of the trust. The body has since then held a number of meetings, including two with the PM, on the temple construction dates.