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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 17:27 GMT
Faith and passion at Ayodhya
Hindu holy man sits next to an Indian soldier
Hindus plan to build a temple on Rama's birthplace
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By BBC News Online's Sanjoy Majumder in Ayodhya

Down a narrow Ayodhya lane, with ancient derelict buildings on either side, lies Ramsewakpuram, the colony of Ram volunteers.

Inside the heavily secured gates Hindu volunteers and skilled craftsmen are chipping away at sandstone blocks, carving the ornate pillars with which they hope to build a magnificent temple to mark the birthplace of the Hindu God, Rama.

The stones have been quarried in far away Rajasthan and brought across the northern plains of India to Ayodhya.

Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans, the chairman of the Ram temple trust
Mahant: 'Hindus are barred from their holiest of sites'
Intense faith and passion drive the movement to build the temple to Lord Rama at the site of the demolished Babri Mosque.

"The Muslims have Mecca. No Muslim cleric is barred from visiting that holy site," says Mahant Ramchandra Paramahans, the chairman of the Ram temple trust.

"It is only here in India that Hindus are barred from their holiest of sites and we cannot tolerate that."

It is late evening and the Mahant is sitting with other Hindu activists. Religious hymns play in the background in an air of serenity which seems absurdly removed from the tension of religious violence witnessed in India recently.

"It is so, so hard to visit the site. You have to go through metal detectors and intense police checks - all just to pray and make offerings. It is demeaning," says one young volunteer.

Evading roadblocks

But Hindu activists are happy to overcome these obstacles, many travelling hundreds of miles with their entire families to volunteer their services.

Vedant travelled to Ayodhya from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

He and a group of several hundreds travelled by train and road, even cutting across country lanes to avoid police roadblocks on the highways.

  • 1. Proposed Ram temple
  • 2. Site where VHP placed symbolic pillar
  • 3. Site of demolished mosque

      Click here to read more about the disputed site

  • "It is easy if you know how," he says with a smile.

    "There are many who will help you. We received food and shelter all along the way."

    And when in trouble, there was always a friendly policeman to look the other way.

    "Not all of them are so strict. Many are devout Hindus too, after all," he says.

    But not all his friends were as successful. From the original group, only 10 are still left in Ayodhya.

    They include women, young children as well as the old.

    "Every person you see here is driven by his faith," says Hari Ram, one of the Mahant's attendants.

    "They have given up a lot to be here. All for our cause. It is no mean sacrifice."


    Across town, nestling the high walls which surround the disputed site, is a narrow stockyard.

    Villages across India collected money and sent a symbolic brick to help construct the Rama temple

    Atma Chetan, keeper of the temple bricks
    Inside, hundreds of thousands of bricks are carefully stored, each inscribed with the name, Rama.

    They were brought here nearly 15 years ago, from villages across India and are now in the safekeeping of 76-year-old Atma Chetan.

    "Villages across India collected money and sent a symbolic brick to help construct the Rama temple," he says.

    "Many of the bricks were also sent by Hindus living outside India."

    Now they lie waiting, for when they can be lifted across to the site and assembled along with the carved columns and pillars from Ramsewakpuram.

    See also:

    13 Mar 02 | South Asia
    Ayodhya ceremony 'to go ahead'
    10 Mar 02 | South Asia
    Muslim leaders reject Ayodhya plan
    09 Mar 02 | South Asia
    Call for army at Ayodhya site
    07 Mar 02 | South Asia
    Hindu hardliners 'will abide by court'
    05 Mar 02 | South Asia
    Hindu hardliners 'agree compromise'
    14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
    Country profile: India
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