In my college days, at some point, sharing a scrapbook among friends to store your memories for a lifetime was in fashion—one of the columns in those scrapbooks used to be the most memorable day. When I got a chance to fill in such information, I spontaneously wrote – December 6, 1992. Yes, the day I was in Ayodhya, I witnessed the crumbling down of a colonial symbol in the form of the Babari structure.
In 1992, with the blessings and inspiration of my late father, I decided to join the Karseva at the age of 16-17. At that age, an emotional appeal about the Ram Temple inspired me to undertake this courageous journey. Still, I was conscious enough about the spirit of the Movement. The denial of the destruction of temples by the Islamic invaders by some intellectuals and politicians and asking for proof of the birthplace of Shri Ram were outrageous propositions for me in my teenage. The experience of 1990 Karseva was one of brutality and barbarism.
Hence, there was a sense of uncertainty coupled with heroism and enthusiasm. Compared to the Karseva of November 1990, there was a sense of confidence and positivity in 1992. I could feel that in the public who were travelling in large numbers by trains from various parts of Bharat. Until our entry in Ayodhya, the way ordinary people were welcoming and served food and water on the railway stations and roadside pavements only encouraged Karsevaks about the cause. The heavy security deployment did not deter the Karsevaks. Despite the crowded train compartments, that confidence and devotion kept us moving. After visiting Kashi and Prayag, by the late night of December 3, we had somehow managed to reach Faizabad, the only main junction to reach Ayodhya.
In 1992, entering Ayodhya was a painful experience for different reasons. Getting down at Faizabad junction and walking across the Saryu River through small lanes was physically and emotionally strenuous. The neglect of eternal Ayodhya was evident. Faizabad was the district headquarters. From water to sewage lines, everything was in bad shape. There were no proper shops, just roadside tea vendors who were apprehensive about the events and were still happy that it was bringing some activity to the temple town.
The eternity of Ayodhya was visible. In every lane, you would find some Ashram or educational institution imparting knowledge and rituals. Ramkot, Ram Ki Paudi, Kanak Bhawan, Hanuman Garhi, Nageshwarnath Temple, Tulsi Smarak, etc., have witnessed the eternity of Shree Ram’s birthplace. Bhajans and melodious instruments would ring from all corners in the evening. Still, the sense of neglect and sadness was perceptible. These people fought the battle for Ram Temple on the ground. Now, there was some hope for them. Thousands of Karsevaks were walking in with the chants of Jai Shree Ram and singing devotional songs. The barriers of caste, creed, language and sects were crumbling down. It was the first time I experienced the meaning of Ayodhya and the power of Ram as the ultimate unifier.
In 2024, the journey was entirely different. For the January 22 ceremony, I was one of the guests. Organiser (weekly) played a crucial role during the Movement when no media house gave space to the Hindu point of view. For me, the invitation was a recognition of the contributions made by my predecessors. With gratitude towards them and many others, I travelled to Lucknow by Train. We could move into a new, transformed Ayodhya on a four-lane highway in a car. This time, the welcome was grand, and flags and signboards on the roadside gave the feeling of the national festival being celebrated. While entering Ayodhya on January 20, the grand Surya Dwar (Sun God Medallion) became the new entry point. With widened roads and greenery, Ayodhya attained a completely new look with Hanuman and Angad’s statues welcoming you to the city of Suryavanshis. The entire Dharma Path leading to the Ram Janmabhoomi Sthan has been lit up with the Surya Stambha (Sun Pillars). Late Lata Mangeshkar Chowk (square) has become the new centre of attraction, with people approaching Ram Path would irresistibly click photos. Still, the ethos of historical places like Surya Kund and Ram Ki Paudi is maintained.
Though security was beefed up and vehicle entries were restricted for the Pran-Pratishtha ceremony starting January 20, people were walking in Ayodhya by various means. By the time I reached Ayodhya, thousands of devotees had already reached the sacred town. They were not celebrities; they knew that on January 22, the entry was limited to invitees and still, their devotion and commitment to experiencing the moment was perceptible.
The roads are widened, and infrastructure is improved a hundred times. Still, everything is intact: the lanes, the institutional memory of the town, the Ashrams and educational institutions. The eternal Ayodhya is being transformed into a world heritage centre.
Camping in Ayodhya
In 1992, for residents of Western and Southern states, the winter of Ayodhya was beyond imagination. The Karsevaks were camping as per the region. Maharashtra’s camp was very close to the Saryu River. The only luxury available was a big tent accommodating hundreds of Karsevaks on mattresses and thick carpets. Region-wise, food arrangements were available, usually puri-sabji. Though I was an active Swayamsevak then, I had not experienced the Sangh-style management of this scale. After traversing through Ayodhya’s bylanes, temples, and once the actual disputed site, we were primarily engrossed in Bhajans or assisting in some activity in the camp. It was a real hardship in the freezing winter, but still enjoyable. Shri Maniram Das Chhawani and Karsevakpuram were relatively smaller but still the epicentre of all the activities related to the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. All the key leaders used to hold meetings there. In the evenings, some prominent leaders would visit the camp, give updates on the developments, and give sermons on Ramayana.
For the Pran-Pratishtha ceremony, again, Karsevakpuram and Shri Maniram Das Chhawani were the epicentres of the activity, though with a more enlarged infrastructure. Bharat Kuti of Karsevakpuram, at one point Ashok Ji Singhal’s main centre, was buzzing with preparation for the grand ceremony. Most of the Karyakartas involved in the preparation were camping in the Karsevakpuram, accommodating around 15 people in a tent. All invitees were accommodated in the tent city developed in the Shri Maniram Das Chhawani, each with 2-3 beds and a makeshift attached toilet facility. The entire premise was divided into zones named after rivers, such as Yamuna Khand, Saryu Khand, etc. Regional coordinators ensured their guests were smoothly escorted to their designated tent rooms. Annapurna, the makeshift mess facility, served simple but complete meals to all the invitees.
This time, I was travelling from Delhi. So winter was not a problem. Even the accommodation was luxurious compared to the 1992 one. I could empathise with the guests from the Western and Southern parts of Bharat. Even the Sun God was kind enough on January 21 and 22.
December 6 and January 22: History in the Making
I vividly remember the night of December 5, 1992. Acharya Dharmendra Ji, otherwise known as firebrand Sant associated with the Movement, was giving a message of symbolic Karseva by taking a handful of sand from Saryu to the site, as per the decision taken in the Dharma Sansad’s Margadarshak Mandal. There was a reason for conveying this message. The three-month deadline given by the Union Government to resolve the issue through negotiations was over. The legal jugglery was going on to delay the decision. The Babri Masjid Action Committee challenged the acquisition of land by the Uttar Pradesh Government. On December 4, 1992, the Allahabad High Court concluded hearing the challenges to the acquisition but reserved judgment. The Union Government was not ready to take the decision. Hindus were losing patience. Karsevaks’ sentiments were perceptible, resulting in the demolition of the disputed structure.
Despite all efforts by the leaders to stop any damage to the structure, Karsevaks decided to challenge the fake secularism. They were not fanatical mobs, as many media companies tried to portray. The descriptions related to attacks on Muslims or mosques are cooked up by some communists who were responsible for the instigation of the Islamists. Karsevaks lost patience because of the insensitive and fraudulent approach of the secular brigade. The way Karsevaks shifted Ram Lalla’s Murty, cleaned up the surface and constructed the makeshift temple, everything was surprising. There was anger and frustration, but it was not an act of senseless barbarism. It was a calculated risk Hindus took to get rid of the symbol of slavery. By the morning of December 7, the Murty of Ram Lalla was installed in the makeshift temple, and Karseva concluded with grand Aarti. By then, the atmosphere of uncertainty was prevailing. Kalyan Singh Ji had resigned as the State’s Chief Minister, the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh Governments were sacked, and the Union Government ordered central forces in Ayodhya. The disputed structure was gone, but Ayodhya became more fortified. Ram Lalla would have to be in the tent, which was a concern for everybody. Mandir Bhavya Banayenge was the resolve.
For January 22, 2024, there was clarity about the programme after receiving the formal invitation. From the invitation cards to digital registrations, everything was meticulously planned. When we started to join the grand ceremony in e-buses specially arranged from the tent city, it was clear who would sit in which block. It was a smooth clearance if you had a registered barcode and Aadhar card. The luggage scanning system was in place. All celebrities were walking down like commoners from the main entry gate on the Sugriv Qila side to the security checkpoints. Vedic chants welcomed everyone. The volunteers took out the footwear of all invitees and handed over tokens very respectfully.
Many familiar and known people could interact after the guided entry to the respective block. They all were mesmerised by the grandeur of the temple and the artistic decoration made for the Pran-Pratistha ceremony. The auspicious timing of 12.20 PM as the starting of the actual rituals was known, but still, there was anxiety and curiosity. Melodious and devotional performances by famous singers compelled everyone to join the chorus of Ram Dhoon. Again, in front of Shri Ram, all the barriers were broken. The entry of the Prime Minister and other dignitaries added new enthusiasm and excitement. When Pran-Pratishtha rituals were over, and everyone got the first Darshan of Ram Lalla, it was a sense of satisfaction. Almost everyone was in tears – Blissful tears. The actual Darshan was nothing short of spiritual bliss. Even the Sandhus and celebrities could not stop themselves from rushing for the Darshan once the formal program was over. The devotees thronged the temple premises, anxious to see Ram-Lalla in person. Stopping them was a difficult task.
Preparations for celebrating Ram-Deepwali were already underway in Ayodhya. Bhajan Samiti’s, Ashrams, Akhadas and individuals who decided to be in Ayodhya on the Pran-Pratishtha day started celebrating. Every corner was lit up with lights and Diyas as if the life of Ayodhya was restored. The resolution made on December 6, 1992 – Mandir Bhavya Banayenge – was fulfilled.
What has changed in the land of peace with the restoration of Ram Lalla’s abode must be understood through the lens of devotees who see the eternal Ayodhya ji in a transformed Avatar.
Along with the life of Ayodhya, the soul of Bharat was restored. As the Prime Minister echoed the sentiments of everyone present, “This Mandir is not just a mere shrine; it is the manifestation of Bharat’s vision, philosophy, and insight”. The anxiety and uncertainty of December 6 was gone. There was a sense of immense satisfaction. At the same time, it was also a realisation of greater responsibility. As the RSS Sarsanghachalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat reminded the qualities of citizens of Ramrajya, “They had no arrogance, they adhered to authenticity, and they not just talkers but doers. They did their duties and had no ego”. We perhaps need to start a new form of Karseva where the virtues and righteousness that Prabhu Sri Ram stands for become our national character.
Today, if some friends, like my college days, ask to write about the most memorable day of my life, I would have to change the date from December 6, 1992, to January 22, 2024.