A day after the historic groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple, Ayodhya is back to its old rhythm. At the Hanumangarhi temple, constable Shri Ram is at work, asking devotees to maintain social distancing.
“It seems the number of devotees is more today,” the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) man posted at the picket outside the temple told PTI.
His guess is that they were waiting for the August 5 event to be over before coming for a “darshan” of Lord Hanuman.
Shri Ram’s four children also do the rounds of Ayodhya’s temples when they visit him from Gorakhpur.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered prayers at the Hanumangarhi temple on Wednesday, before heading to the venue of the bhoomi pujan for the Ram temple. There were barricades then on roads leading to area and most shops were shut.
But on Thursday, it was back to business.
Amit Kumar, who sells paraphernalia for prayers, was seen cleaning his shop. “I am opening my shop after about four or five days,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh observes a coronavirus lockdown on Saturdays and Sundays, and several shops had remained shut even during the next three days as restrictions came into force before the Ram Janmaboomi event.
“But we now hope that business will gain some momentum,” he said. Shopkeepers in the area said the construction of the Ram temple will be good for the trade.
“Devotees visiting during the past 10 days are demanding the photo of Ram Lalla Virajman,” Rakesh Modanwal said, referring to the deity for which a temple is now being constructed after last year’s Supreme Court verdict.
“At this time, it is the most sought after photo by the customers,” he said. Cloth merchant Ravi Chandra Gupta, who has a shop in a lane leading to Ram Janmabhoomi, complained about the impact of COVID-19 on business.
“Once the Ram temple is built, we hope it will help us and we will able to recover the losses which we have incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Sweet shop owner Rakesh Kumar is also optimistic about what the future holds.
“The construction of a Ram temple will have a positive impact on the 70-80 sweet shops around the Hanumangarhi temple,” he said.
The shopkeepers pay a monthly rent of Rs 1,000 to the temple management. Arvind Kumar said they have been running their shops in the area for three or four generations.
“The construction of a grand Ram temple will definitely help us to overcome the challenge of COVID-19,” he said.
Ayodhya woke to cloudy morning on Thursday. At the banks of the Saryu, people took a dip and clicked selfies. At Naya Ghat, they bowed before a half-submerged statue of Lord Hanuman.