The pace of work at a Ram Janmabhomi Nyas-run workshop in Ayodhya's Karsevakpuram has turned slow due to lack of funds and dwindling number of artisans and craftsmen, according to the in-charge of the workshop that has been running since 1990 to build a 'temple'.
At the Karsevakpuram's sprawling Karyashala, which also houses a wooden model of a 'proposed Ram Temple' in a glass encasement, many devotees stream in from various parts of India, some out of curiosity, other led by local tour guides.
Annu Bhai Sompura, in-charge of the workshop, points out to rows and rows of huge, ornately carved stones stacked up on the ground in the open in its premises, which he said are "ready-to-move blocks that can be easily assembled".
"Fifty per cent of carving work of stones has been completed, which means the first floor is ready. We are hopeful of getting a favourable judgement from the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya title suit, and once we get the green signal, the work on laying foundation would begin," he told PTI.
As per the plan, the grand temple, once built, will be 268 feet long, 140 feet wide and 128 feet high, from the ground to the apex point (shikhar) and a total of 212 pillars will be used, 78 years old Sompura, now 78 years old, said.
"Each floor would have 106 pillars, and each pillar would have 16 statues. So, artisans have completed carving work on these," he said.
The work for prefabrication of a temple is currently being funded through "voluntary donations" from devotees, Sompura said, adding, "funds are not coming much now, as they were earlier."
Asked, how many artisans are currently working at Karsewakpuram's Karyashala, he said, "About two craftsmen and a couple of labourers."
"Their numbers have come down, some of them have left for other work. They used to be about 150 in 1990," the in-charge said.
The artisans works from 7 am till 5 pm, and halt work only on days of Amawasya (New Moon Day). The Ram Janmabhomi Nyas is supported by right-wing organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Uttar Pradesh spokesperson Sharad Shama said, "We seek to build the temple at the earliest within the framework of the Constitution or through legislation". He claimed, "It was a long-standing issue which has nothing to do with elections."
Chorus has grown within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Sangh Parivar, seeking construction of a temple at the Ramjanmabhoomi through an ordinace.
Sompura, an Ahmedabad native, says, once the foundation stone is laid, it will take about "four-five years to complete the temple". "The other floor can be added on the site, we are anxiously waiting for the go-ahead," he said.
The stones are carefully numbered and can be joined like a "jigsaw puzzle" using white cement when needed, Mr Sharma said.
At the workshop, some of the pink sandstones which were carved intricately in the early 90s havedarkened over the decades but these will be cleaned up once the time comes for their use, Sompura said, as he points towards lintels, and columns and ceiling blocks, bearing beautiful floral motifs.
A row of 'vedis' were created at one end of the workshop premises, using bricks bearing letters of 'Shri Ram' chants while carved white Makrana marble blocks lay inside an enclosure, gathering dust.
"These white marbles would be used in the doorway frames, and were brought from our other workshop camp which is closed now. Stones were brought from Bansi Pahrapur in Rajasthan too, near Agra, and there was a facility for carving at Pindwara too, which has been closed," Sompura said.
The workshop which operates from 7 am to 5 pm, has turned into a museum of sorts for devotees and inquisitve people alike, and over 1,000 people visit the 'karyashala' every day, he said, adding, many make it their next stop after visiting the heavily-fortified Ramjanmabhoomi site.
Locals say a recent art project has turned the dull, drab walls of its compound into a lively canvas, as Ramayan-themed paintings welcome visitors from outside while inside chants of 'Sita Ram' can be heard.
Hanuman Yadav, a VHP worker and caretaker and guardian of the workshop, who is in his 60s, says the chants have been going without a break since 1990.
Hanuman points to the exhibits displayed on the walls of the white marble's enclosure, and says, "That faded picture is from December 6, 1992 when an army of karsewaks brought down the Babri Mosque. I was also present there on that day."
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