By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, July 31 : Did you know that the man who designed the grand Ram temple decades back, took a rough measurement using his own feet because he was not allowed to enter with a measurement tape inside the then disputed land of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya?
Did you know, the man who designed the Ram temple comes from a family that has designed many top temples of India including Somnath in Gujarat and Mathura?
Meet the Sompuras — Chandrakant and Ashish Sompura, the family who designed the Ram temple, as they talk about the past, present and future of the temple in a tell all interview to IANS .
Q: Do you remember the first time you visited the site, when you were asked to design a grand Ram temple?
A: Back then, I went with Ashok Singhal to see the area. It was like a military cantonment. Mr Singhal was not allowed to enter the site and neither was I allowed to take measuring tapes inside. So I had to take a rough measurement using my own feet. Thereafter, a few models were made and presented to the VHP and Singhal. They approved this particular model which was then turned into a wooden structure. It was presented in front of other saints in Kumbh, who had then approved of it.
Q: When Ashok Singhal requested you to design a grand temple at Ayodhya, did you expect the whole dispute would be over one day?
A: Honestly, building a temple was tough till 1992, as the structure was still there. But when the structure (Babri Masjid) was brought down, We had hope that the temple building may be possible. After working with speed, it almost stopped by 1996. Only 8-10 workers used to carve in the ‘karyashala’. We thought temple construction would be impossible in the near future. But we became hopeful after (PM Narendra) Modi ji came to power and the matter reached the Supreme Court. But when SC gave its verdict, it was a joyous occasion for me.
Q: You are from a family that has designed the best of temples across India. What is unique about this piece of architecture that is distinct?
A: It was our family that designed Somnath temple, apart from others like Mathura, Palanpur etc. It is a big thing for us that the same family has designed the Ram temple. It is a matter of pride for us. However, the architecture remains the same — Nagraj style. The style in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh is the same for years — Nagraj style.
Q: Will there be a Ram statue inside the temple premises?
A: The said statue is not there in the 67 acre land. UP government has a seperate Ayodhya development plan, which may consist of a tall Ram statue. But, it is neither inside nor in the temple premises.
Q: When can we expect the Ram temple construction to be completely finished and thrown open for people to visit?
A: The construction of Ram temple should be over in 3 to 3.5 years. In other words, it should be over by mid or end-2023. We would like it to be completed as soon as possible.
Q: Do you remember what was the brief from Ashok Singhal, if any, when he contacted you decades ago?
A: Ashok Singhal had said that whenever the construction begins, Ram temple will be a huge thing. So his special request was to keep the sanctum sanctorum big enough. So we kept it 20 feet by 20 feet, back then. There’s hardly any temple in India with such a big sanctum sanctorum.
Q: Will you both be present on the day of bhoomi poojan, on August 5?
A: We will get to know on August 3, whether we have to go or not. We have heard that the final guest list is sent to the PMO, for security considerations. We are being told the penultimate list will be out on August 3.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])