Ayodhya | From Nihang Singhs to ISKCON and temple trusts from across the country to locals in Ayodhya, various community kitchens are being run here to serve 'langar' food to devotees as the Ram Temple consecration ceremony nears.
Devotees flocking to the holy city can savour fresh cooked hot meals at these community kitchens which are operational at every nook and corner of the city.
Khichdi, aloo puri, kadhi chawal, achar, and papad are among the common menu at these langars with the supply of hot tea bringing respite to devotees amid the bone-chilling cold.
A group of Nihang Sikhs, led by Baba Harjit Singh Rasulpur, arrived in Ayodhya on Friday to run a two-month 'Langar sewa' in the Char Dham Mutt for the pilgrims arriving here to pay obeisance to Ram Lalla in the newly-constructed temple. "I am the eighth generation of Baba Fakir Singh and want to highlight the sacrifices of Nihangs among Ram devotees," said Harjit Singh, a member of the Nihang Sikh group.
"This langar is a tribute to the struggle launched by our ancestors for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The service will go on for two months," Harjit told PTI.
The Mahavir Temple trust of Patna is running the 'Ram ki Rasoi' community kitchen here.
"Over 10,000 devotees are fed hot meals here in a day, the number is expected to jump when more people will visit the temple once it is opened for public after the Pran Pratistha ceremony. The expenses are funded by the Mahavir temple trust and people from across the country have been sending donations, both monetary as well as raw material," a 'sevadar' at the kitchen told PTI.
ISKCON is welcoming pilgrims coming to Ayodhya with lunch prasad along with distribution of Vedic literature.
"ISKCON welcomes all the pilgrims coming to Ayodhya for the darshan of Lord Sri Ram. Daily 5,000 pilgrims are being served lunch prasad along distribution of Vedic literatures and 'sankirtan' by devotees of different nationalities," said Yudhistir Govinda Das, spokesperson, ISKCON India board.
The first phase of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is nearing completion and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part in the consecration of the Ram Lalla idol on January 22.
The Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in 2019, settling a temple-mosque dispute that dated back more than a century. The court backed the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site and ruled that an alternative five-acre plot must be found for building a mosque.
Ayodhya is all decked up ahead of the 'Pran Prathishtha' ceremony. Streetlights on flyovers have been decorated with artworks depicting Lord Ram, including cutouts of bow and arrow, and ornamental lamp posts are carrying designs themed on the traditional 'Ramanandi tilak'.
The locals who are enthused with the economy boom that is unfolding in the temple town are also joining hands to offer free meals to devotees.
"Lord Ram has blessed us with new means of livelihood which will continue for the rest of our lives. For two months, we are offering free food at our restaurant. We are also constructing new guest houses for the pilgrims," said Brakesh Shukl, owner of a dhaba near Asharfi Bhawan.
Meanwhile, Gauri Shankar Sewa Dal from Chandigarh is heading to Ayodhya to run a one-month long langar service.
Pritam, a member of the religious organisation, said, "We will serve makke ki roti and sarson ka saag. Our langar will start from January 23, a day after the consecration ceremony and will go on for a month." Gearing up for the big day, the city is decked up with saffron flags and huge cutouts of Lord Ram that have been placed on the median of the Ram Path while continuous chants of 'Siya Ram' and 'Jai Siya Ram' can be heard everywhere, being played on loudspeakers installed at temples in the vicinity.
Ramlilas, Bhagwat Kathas, Bhajan sandhyas and cultural programmes are being held at different places across the city. The banks of the Saryu river where thousands flock every evening for the aarti have also been decked up.
Some of the trees on Dharm Path near the Lata Mangeshkar Chowk have been decorated with special pieces made with inverted baskets and lights, adding to the aesthetic feel of the revamped holy city