The stage is set for the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya. Although those involved in the movement are eager to get it done fast, it would be wise if there is wide consultation on the architecture of the temple. Hinduism’s rich heritage of temple construction requires that any shrine of such importance does not end up looking like something out of a Bollywood set. All the classic temples that have histories lasting hundreds of years are representative of not just culture, but also engineering and architectural techniques. Should not a temple in 21st century India be something similar in its magnificence? Similarly, the proposed mosque some distance from the ‘Babri Masjid’ site should also be the equal of such major monuments of the past.
How will these designs be finalised? Those who undertook the movement for the Ram Temple fear that, left to government, the bureaucracy will not just delay the construction but impart to it the dreariness of mediocrity. The Trust that will run the shrine should comprise India’s best and most independent minds, who would employ the best architects and engineers for the task. Scholars of religion, history and archaeology with knowledge of Vastu Shastra should vet the design and provide their recommendations. The attempt should be made to incorporate modern materials and techniques that would situate the construction in the 21st century.
It is obvious that this will take some time, but the importance of the process needs to be explained to all those concerned. It is an advantage that, presently, those in charge are Prime Minister Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath – persons who have the required moral authority to get this done the proper way. And, it is not just the temple, alone; a considerable part of the area around it would have to be developed in accordance with its importance. Devotees who will come from near and far should be able to experience the sanctity and beauty of the place well before they enter its portals. It is a happy augury that most modern temples built in India and around the world by the various sects have kept these principles in mind. Lessons can be taken from their experience.
At the same time, it must be ensured that the hoped for magnificence and functioning does not intimidate the poor from participating in the rituals. Any kind of VIP culture must be prevented from the start. It should also not be artificially sanitised, thereby preventing the usual presence of all the animals associated with the Hindu belief system. All these modalities should be worked out and the concerns addressed before going ahead.