The decade-long wait of Hindu devotees is going to end in January 2024. The construction work of the Bhavya Ram Mandir at Ram Janmabhoomi is progressing rapidly. Recently, some reports regarding the installation of a new idol of Lord Ram in the sanctum sanctorum of the upcoming Ram temple in Ayodhya were published, which made devotees inquisitive about what would happen to the present Ram Lalla’s idol that is placed in the ‘temporary Mandir’ or the ‘makeshift temple tent’ at the site.

Reportedly, a new five-foot-tall idol of five-year-old Ram Lalla will be carved on black stones brought from Karnataka. The original Ram Lall which made a ‘miraculous appearance’ in 1949, is much smaller in size.

Before we proceed, let’s briefly talk about the present Ram Lalla’s idol that is placed in the ‘temporary Mandir’ or the ‘makeshift temple tent’ at the site for the last 74 years.

The history of the struggle for the reclamation of Ram Janmabhoomi in Independent India began on a winter night in 1949. Murtis of Shri Rama and Sita Mata ‘miraculously appeared’ within the premises of the disputed Babri Masjid structrure. However, as such things often are, it was less a miracle and more a tale of human ingenuity and the devotion that people bear towards their Gods.

The Ram Lalla’s idol was placed inside the mosque under its central dome by some devotees on a December night in 1949. Prior to this, the Hindu devotees performed puja on the Ramchabutra, a raised platform in the outer court. The next morning, thousands of people congregated to see the Ram Lalla’s idol. The entire city of Ayodhya echoed with a religious slogan which went ‘Va bhavam kripala, dinna dayala, kaushalya hitkari.’ The event became known as the ‘Ramlala Ka Prakatya’.

Jawaharlal Nehru, who identified himself as a ‘secular’ leader, was the prime minister at the time. In Uttar Pradesh, as in the rest of the country, only the Congress Party was in power. In such a situation, the police in Ayodhya proceeded to file an FIR against Baba Abhayram Das, Sakal Das, and Sudarshan Das, as well as 50-60 others. Notably, the Murti was placed inside the Masjid by Baba Abhayram Das who is believed to have been from the Nirmohi Akhada.

Terming the Hindu devotees as ‘rioters’, the FIR registered on the 23rd of December, 1949 by Ram Dubey, officer-in-charge of the police station in the area stated, “At about 7 AM I reached Janam Bhoomi, I came to know from the constable Mata Pershad who was on duty, that in the night 50 to 60 persons had entered in the mosque by breaking lock, scaled the walls, established the idols of Shri Ram Lalla, written ‘Shri Ram’ on the wall with saffron and yellow colours. Constable Hans Raj who was present on duty at that time told them not to act in that manner but they failed to listen to him. The PAC force which was posted there was called but by the time it reached there, they had already entered the mosque.”

The Central and State governments were not pleased with what happened. On December 29, the Babri structure was locked by the administration, considering it to be a part of the disputed property. Hindu devotees went back to offering puja on the Ramchabutra, which they had been using prior to the installation of the Ram Lalla’s idol.

In 1951, on a plea from devotees, the court issued an injunction restraining the government from removing them which was then affirmed five years later by the High Court. Permission to conduct worship was also granted but the inner courtyard was locked. And thus, the struggle for Ram Janmabhoomi became dormant for the next three decades.

During all of this, Mahant Digvijay Nath of the Gorakhpur temple, along with saints, was present in Ayodhya. Mahant Digvijay Nath is none other than the then Mahant of Gorakhnath Muth, whose spiritual descendant is Yogi Adityanath. 

The most important event that happened during the lifetime of Mahant Digvijay Nath was the installation of the Murtis. It is also said that he was the chief architect of the plan. It is also said that Mahant Digvijay Nath was the first to realize that the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement had the potential to unite Hindus under a single banner. As it were, the Murtis were installed after a nine-day recitation of Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas which was organized by the Mahant himself.

The story that began that night culminated eventually with the Supreme Court verdict on the 9th of November, 2019.×157&!1&btvi=6&fsb=1&xpc=TfTjQGNxGC&p=https%3A//

The ‘temporary Mandir’ or the ‘temple tent’ remained in the same structure till March 2020, when the Ram Lalla idol was shifted to a temporary structure at Manas Bhawan in Ayodhya ahead of the construction of the Ram Mandir. The Ram Lalla idol was placed on a 9.5 kg silver throne in the new structure. With the shifting of the idol, the site was cleared for the construction of the grand Ram temple.

Arun Yogiraj to carve new Rama Lalla idol using Krishna Shila, Pran Pratishtha ceremony likely on Makar Sankranti

In January this year, Nepal dispatched two Shaligram (non-anthropomorphic representation of Lord Vishnu in Hindu religion) stones to India’s Ayodhya which to be used for the construction of idols of Ram and Janaki which will be placed in the main temple complex of the under-construction Ram Mandir. The stone convoy had passed through multiple places where devotees of all ages gathered to see and worship the Shaligrams stones. Ultimately, the two Shaligram stones weighing 127 quintals were brought from Gandaki Nad in Janakpur, the birthplace of Sita, to Ayodhya where they were received with tremendous enthusiasm.

However, later it was decided that the Shalagram received from Nepal will not be used for the Ram Lalla’s idol, and instead, black stone from Karnataka will be used to carve Lord Ram in his childhood form to be placed in the sanctum sanctorum. The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust informed last week that a 5-foot-tall idol will be carved using black stone (Krisha Shila) from Karnataka.

A member of the Trust said that it was a tough decision to rule out the Devshila rocks from Nepal for Ram Lalla’s statue. Trust general secretary Champat Rai said they selected “Krishna Shila” following consultations among seers, geologists, sculptors, experts of Hindu scriptures and trust office-bearers.

At its two-day meeting which concluded here late Tuesday evening, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust finalised the specifications of the idol.

Udupi seer Vishwaprasanna Tirtha Swami, a member of the trust, said that noted sculptor Arun Yogiraj of Mysore will carve out the standing idol of Ram Lalla in the form of an archer. “The new idol of Lord Ram, in his five-year-old avatar, will be five-foot tall. The idol will be in a standing posture armed with a bow and arrow,” he said.

“Arun Yogiraj will carve the idol out of stone brought to Ayodhya from Karnataka’s Karkar and Hegge Deven Kote villages…. The sculptor will finalise the stone which the idol will be carved out of,” he added.

Five rocks from Karkala, a small town around 60km from Mangalore in Karnataka were brought to Ayodhya in March. The stones have been sourced from the banks of river Tungabhadra. The idol will be based on the sketch of internationally-acclaimed artist Vasudeo Kamath.

The Trust has further reportedly decided to plan the grand Pran Pratishtha ceremony on Makar Sankranti in January 2024 when Ram Lalla’s standing idol, depicting the childhood of the deity, will be enthroned at the sanctum sanctorum of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Devotees are eagerly waiting for the new idol of Ram Lalla that is to be placed in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple on the festival of Makar Sankranti next year, Champat Rai said.

Earlier in January, Ram Mandir Trust secretary Champat Rai had said that they had shortlisted stones from Karnataka, Odisha and Maharashtra for the idol. According to him, the 5-foot-tall idol will be installed at a height of 9 feet in the sanctum sanctorum and at such an angle that the rays of the rising sun will touch the forehead of Lord Ram. “We have constituted a team of experts from CSIR-CBRI, and the Centre of Astronomy and Astrophysics to install the idol in such a way that the rays of the rising sun touch the forehead of the idol,” Rai had added.

At that time, three names were widely discussed for the creation of the new idol of Lord Ram that will be installed at the sanctum sanctorum of the newly constructed Ayodhya Ram temple- Ram Vanji Sutar, Arun Yogiraj, and Vasudeo Kamath. Ultimately, Arun Yogiraj was selected, who had recently carved the Adi Shankaracharya statue installed at Kedarnath.

In 2021, the entire country was in awe of the magnificent statue of Adi Shankaracharya that was unveiled by PM Modi during his visit to the holy shrine of Kedarnath. It was Arun Yogiraj, an artist from Mysuru, who was to be credited for the splendid 12 feet tall idol of Adi Shankaracharya installed in Kedarnath. He spent nine months of relentless work to build the statue and bring it into its current form. 

Apart from building the magnificent idol of Adi Shankaracharya installed at Kedarnath, Arun’s other works include the famous 14.5-feet white marble stone sculpture of the Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar in Mysuru. So was the life-size White marble sculpture of Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, and various statues at the railway station. 

On the occasion of Engineer’s Day last year, Mr Arun Yogiraj, also known as Arun Shilpi, created a monolithic stone statue of Sir M V for the Mangalore PWD office. In addition to these, Arun Shilpi has also built an idol of Lord Venkateshwara. The sculptor is also known for the creation of an imposing statue of Lord Hanuman. 

Yogiraj belongs to an illustrious family of sculptors. His father Yogiraj Shilpi, was one among the eight children of B Basavanna Shilpi, a Mysuru palace artist who was appointed to work on the Gayatri Temple, the Bhuvaneshwari Temple and similar other tasks. The revered Shilpa Sri Siddhalinga Swami, a sculptor to the royal family of Mysuru, was the teacher of Basavanna Shilpi. 

Notably, Yogiraj had on March 23, taken to Twitter to share a picture of what he called the ‘Iconography of Sri Ram.’ In his tweet, Yogiraj explained each and every aspect of the idol.

The rationale behind the construction of the new Ram idol

While Hindu devotees across the country await the opening of the Bhavya Ram Mandir in Ayodhya with bated breath, one question that is playing in their mind is when one Ram Lalla idol is already present, why do we need the second idol? OpIndia spoke to Vishwa Hindu Parishad (South Bihar) district head Kameshwar Choupal to understand the rationale behind the decision.

Choupal is also a member of the Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust. He has also been a member of the Bihar state legislative council. He was the one who laid the first brick in the foundation of Ram Janmabhoomi temple on 9th November 1989. Speaking to OpIndia, Choupal said, that the discussions that have occurred thus far would be presented to the trust, and that the media will be informed of everything in this respect only after the trust’s permission. He said that along with Arun Yogiraj, Padma Bhushan recipient Vasudev Kamat’s name was among the sculptors being discussed. He stated that no one person is specifically chosen for this role, but that everyone is given the opportunity to express their ideas.

On being further asked whether both the idols would be placed in the sanctum sanctorum of the upcoming Ram Temple, Chaupal explained, “One of these is known as ‘Utsav Murti’ while the other is called ‘Pran Pratishtha Murti’. Pran Pratishtha idols cannot be moved anywhere, they stay where they are installed. At the same time, ‘Utsav Murti’ is taken out in events like Jhankis or Shobha Yatras.”

Kameshwar Chaupal revealed that the new idol of Lord Ram being carved out will be placed on a pedestal in the garbha griha of the new temple. This way, a devotee would be able to see the idol clearly from head to toe from a distance of 19 feet where the security barricade will exist.

The existing idol will be placed in the temple in the ‘Pran-Pratishtha’ ceremony in January 2024. Since this idol is smaller in size, it is evident that it will be enshrined as the ‘Utsav Murti’ and will be taken out for Jhankis and Shobha Yatras while the new idol would be placed as the ‘Pran Pratishtha Murti.’

When asked what the new idol would look like, Chaupal said that everything will be evident in this regard at the Trust meeting in the last week of May. He stated that while negotiations are still taking place, it is not appropriate to make any definitive statements.

He stated that the specific date and time for the Pran Pratishtha ceremony has not yet been decided and that it will be fixed after the Achrayas discuss and decide the auspicious Mahurat for the same.

He, however, confirmed that as decided before the grand ‘pran pratishtha’ (installation of the deity) ceremony will be organised at the upcoming Ram Temple in Ayodhya in January 2024 before it is opened for devotees.