Lucknow: While Hindu groups are jubilant over the Supreme Court verdict which paved the way for construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya last week, the head priest of the makeshift temple of Ram Lalla at the controversial site-Acharya Satyendra Das-has kept his fingers crossed.
“I am performing puja at this makeshift temple twice a day, as I have been doing since past 27 years. I am not sure whether this ritual would be continued when the construction of the proposed Ram Temple starts at this place,” Acharya Satyendra Das tells Free Press Journal.
Acharya Das, who quit his professor 's job at Sanskrit Mahavidyalay of Ayodhya when the Allahabad High Court appointed him chief priest of India's most controversial temple in 1992, says, “The verdict doesn't mention these technicalities. There has been no discussion by anyone over the Puja process during the construction phase which might take two to three years. I hope, things will be clear once the Trust is constituted by the Centre as per the apex court directive.”
The saint who is in his seventies says that he can perform rituals at the passage during the construction time, if authorities ask him to do so.
Mr Das is also unsure about his role in the upcoming magnificent temple. He says, “I don't know what would happen once the temple is ready. The new temple will have to install the deity Ram's idol as per religious norms. The new temple might have a new set of priests also. If I am asked to continue, I will do with pride.”
“Jis roop me Bhagwan Ram mujhe Rakhenge, Main rahunga. My only dream is that the Temple should be one-of-its-kind in the world. It must attract a large number of Indians and foreign tourists to Ayodhya,” says the man who performs puja twice a day under heavy security since 1st March 1992.
“I joined as a head priest nearly nine months before that fateful day when Babri Mosque was demolished. I witnessed the entire incident,” says Das who is one of the most respected persons in Ayodhya because of his frank views over the issue.
Mr Das' team of five priests are the only one who can enter the controversial premises, for puja purpose only. They had been issued specific passes for that. Devotees and visitors can have darshan from distance at the designated time. Photography is strictly banned as per the Court's order.
He gets Rs1.02 lakh from the court receiver (Divisional commissioner) every month which includes salaries of five priests including himself, four workers and Bhog for deities for which Rs30,000 has been fixed by the court.
The makeshift temple has Lord Ram's childhood statue along with his three brothers (baal roop). “All are miniature idols, Ram Lalla's being the biggest one, over five inches high. Others are four and three inches,” describes Mr Das who lives a simple life in a modest accommodation nearly four kilometer away from the temple.
The Bhog is offered four times and aarti is performed five times a day. The temple is open for public from 7 am to 11 am in the morning and 1-5 pm in the evening, as stated by the Court. All rituals have to be performed before 7 am and after 5 pm, says Acharya.