Less than 12 hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day national lockdown over coronavirus fears, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was in Ayodhya and participated in an early morning ritual to shift the idol of Lord Ram from a tin shed inside the Ram Janmabhoomi (birthplace) to a temporary structure made of fibre.
The idol has been moved and will remain at the temporary structure till the temple is built at the site.
The Chief Minister, who reached Ayodhya late on Tuesday night, tweeted, calling this ritual on the first day of Navratri the beginning of the first phase of the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. A meeting to decide on the actual date of construction was to be held in the first week of April at the temple town, but it is not clear whether that will go ahead.
It was reported that the ceremony could be deferred amid the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the Novel Corona virus for which no vaccine has been developed yet; however, the Chief Minister chose to go ahead with it. At least 20 people attended the ritual. Visuals from the spot showed the Chief Minister leading prayers with many prominent saints from the town in attendance. Senior government officials including Ayodhya’s district magistrate and the police chief were present.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has requested people to avoid large gatherings to minimise the chances of contracting the highly infectious coronavirus, which has spread to several nations after it was first detected at a seafood market in China’s Wuhan.
The Home Ministry among a list of points to be followed during the lockdown had said that “All places of worship shall be closed for public. No religious congregations will be permitted, without any exception.”
PM Modi tweeted this morning:
The Ayodhya administration has already banned entry of pilgrims into the town till April 2. The country is under lockdown with all flights and trains stopped, except for the movement of essential items and services.
The Supreme Court in November last year ruled that the land in Ayodhya belongs entirely to the deity Ram Lalla or infant Lord Ram, in a landmark verdict that paved the way for a temple at the site claimed by both Hindus and Muslims for decades. The five-judge constitution bench also ruled that a “prominent site” in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh will be allotted for a new mosque.
Home Minister Amit Shah has said the Ram temple will be built within a matter of months.
The land assigned for a mosque in Ayodhya by the Uttar Pradesh government, in line with the Supreme Court order, is some 25 km from the temple-mosque site. The land is in village Dhanipur in Ayodhya, on the Lucknow highway, around 18 km from the district headquarters, UP minister Srikant Sharma said in February.