Day after verdict, Ayodhya begins to buzz
While a number of devotees thronged to see Ram Janmabhoomi, Eid celebrations in the temple town of Ayodhya were low key
A day after the Supreme Court's (SC) historic judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case, the banks of River Saryu, which flows through the city of Ayodhya, was buzzing with activity. While long queues formed outside the Ram Janmabhoomi as devotees thronged the temple, celebrations of Eid-e-Milad remained muted. Celebrations that had been planned were called off after the Supreme Court announced its verdict on Saturday.
At the same time, there was also a sense of calm and serenity. At 8 am on Sunday, a group of five women sat singing on the steps of the ghat bordering the river, singing "Sia Ram, Jai Jai Ram" in unison, while a little distance away, sadhus draped in saffron, offered prayers in waist-deep water.
Boatmen, who make a living by ferrying people across the Saryu and taking tourists on boat rides, pushed out their docked boats. According to local folklore, Ram, after killing Ravana, threw a lavish feast across the Saryu, or Saryu par, as it is said in Ayodhya. Further up the river's banks, one could see children playing in the greyish water.
The energy in Ayodhya on Sunday was different from that on Saturday. Pics/ Gaurav Sarkar
"Aaj subah sab bhakti ke he gaane baj rahe hain radio par," said a middle-aged woman who runs one of the few tea shops on the riverbank. She and her daughter were listening to the Faizabad radio and serving tea and kachoris to the regular crows of customers and tourists at their small, blue-coloured stall. After asking this reporter if the daal had enough salt, she beamed as she spoke of the SC's verdict, "Ayodhya mein shaanti waapis aa gayi hai."
Back to business
After exiting Saryu ghat, one must cross Ram Ki Paidi, one of the most revered and visited spots in Ayodhya after Ram Janmabhoomi, to reach the city. It is here that over 5 lakh earthen diyas are lit and set to sail on the river during Diwali. The energy here on Sunday was different from the day of the verdict. Hawkers were back selling religious merchandise and souvenirs; shops were open, and restaurants were serving food. However, one thing remained the same — large groups of policemen surveyed the area with bomb detectors at regular intervals. Security remained high with several checkpoints in the city.
Visitors and devotees thronged Ram Janmabhoomi all day. "It's only the first half of the day (the temple is open between 8am and 1pm, and 2pm and 7pm) and already more than a thousand people have shown up," said Hemant Mishra, who runs a locker service outside Ram Janmabhoomi. Visitors must deposit their phones, watches, and bags in the lockers as only cash and jewellery are allowed inside.
Right outside the gate leading to the temple, at 12:30pm, there were two serpentine restless queues in the scorching heat at the first police check post. A little further were two queues meant for women. Police frisked every devotee before letting them enter. The idol of Ram Lalla, located inside the temple, was adorned with new clothes and fresh flowers. Devotees prayed for a brief while, took prasad from the priest, and quickly shuffled ahead.
Celebrations inside homes
Sunday also marked Eid-e-Milad, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed, but celebrations on the streets of Ayodhya were negligible. Namaaz was offered at the usual time at mosques, but there were no processions, no loudspeakers, and no big metal utensils preparing food. "Today is a good day as it is Eid," said a 26-year-old Muslim, who did not wish to be named. "The years-old dispute (of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid), has been settled, but I donot agree with it. People are celebrating, bursting crackers. We have chosen to celebrate at home."
Hawkers were back on Ayodhya's streets and restaurants resumed serving food on Sunday
At a mosque next to Shri Ram Hospital, evening prayers were offered as usual. The lane right next to the mosque was cordoned off and was being guarded by the police. In the lane opposite the mosque was a Muslim neighbourhood called Kajiyana, where a group of young men sat chatting next to a cigarette shop. "Our maulana of Faizabad decided yesterday that there will be no public celebrations, keeping in mind the SC verdict," said 32-year-old Ijaaz Ali, a businessman. He said that there was an initial plan to celebrate Eid on Saturday, and have a bigger celebration in Faizabad on Sunday.
Muslims celebrated Eid-e-Milad at home after religious leaders told the community to call off celebrations
"It was initially thought that the SC verdict will come between November 13 and 15, but suddenly on Friday night, the announcement about the judgment next morning was made. Our religious leaders have appealed everyone to maintain peace. We are celebrating Eid at home with our families."
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