13 May, 2021

A Town Divided

Eye of the storm: a pilgrim centre that has ruefully seen its leanest decade go by

T. Narayan
A Town Divided
In a town devoted to Lord Ram, monkeys are worshipped as incarnations of the faithful Hanuman. That is why people in Ayodhya are as concerned about the condition of the primate population as the human one. And everyone in Ayodhya now complains that since December 6, 1992, "the monkeys of Lord Ram have been dying of starvation". For centuries the entire township of Ayodhya—and its primate population—survived solely on the donations of pilgrims. But ever since Ayodhya became the vortex of the VHP's Ram temple movement, the city has been largely abandoned by peace-loving visitors.

The bathing ghats, the maze of narrow streets lined with shops selling religious paraphernalia and most of the nearly 6,000 historic and ancient temples that give Ayodhya its character are deserted. A big change from the pre-December 6, 1992, days when on any given day about 30,000 people would visit the town. "The only occasions we see a crowd is when frenzied kar sevaks storm the town during programmes organised by VHP," says Kalawati Mishra, who sells Ram idols at Hanuman Garhi, the main temple...

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