Ayodhya / Rameswaram | Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday offered prayers at two ancient temples in Tamil Nadu linked to Lord Ram as preparations for the January 22 consecration ceremony in Ayodhya reached a fever pitch with temples across the country decked up to celebrate the event.
While security was further stepped up in Ayodhya from Saturday afternoon, the central government also issued an advisory to media outlets and social media platforms cautioning them against publishing any false or manipulated content related to the event in Ayodhya that can disturb communal harmony and public order.
At the newly constructed temple, special rituals were performed including bathing Lord Ram's idol and purifying the Garbh Grah (sanctum sanctorum) with water collected from various religious sites stored in 81 consecrated Kalash (urns). The idol was also offered flowers sourced from different regions of the country for a ritual known as "Pushpadhivas".
As many as 14 couples from the north, east, west, south and north-east parts of India have been chosen to be the yajmaans' (hosts) for the 'praan partisthaa' of Lord Ram, according to the organisers.
Prime Minister Modi, who is undertaking an 11-day ritual of temple visits and religious rites ahead of participating in the consecration ceremony, prayed at the famed Sri Rangam temple in Tiruchirappalli district and the Ramanathaswamy shrine in southern Ramanathapuram district.
He also took a holy dip at the Rameswaram 'Angi theerth' beach.
Prime Minister Modi listened to 'Kamba' Ramayana recitation by scholars at Sri Rangam, an ancient shrine linked to the Ramayana.
"Honoured to have got the opportunity to pray at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Prabhu Sri Ram’s connection with this Temple is long-standing. I feel blessed to have been blessed by the God whom Prabhu Sri Ram also worshipped," Modi later posted on X.
Wearing a 'veshti' (dhoti) and an angawastram (a shawl), Modi sat in that very place where poet Kambar first sang the Tamil Ramayana, reinforcing the deep connection between Tamil, Tamil Nadu and Lord Ram, religious scholars said.
The prime minister has visited several temples having a connect with the Ramayana like Andhra Pradesh's historic Veerabhadra temple, which has immense significance with its Jatayu episode and Thriprayar Sree Ramaswamy Temple in Kerala's Thrissur - part of a pilgrimage to the abodes of Lord Ram and his brothers.
He has also visited Ramkund and Shree Kalaram Temple in Maharashtra's Nashi and Guruvayur Temple in Kerala.
On Saturday, 'Vastram,' a shawl and clothes, were presented to Modi, a traditional way of a temple acknowledging devoutness. Local officials said the clothes will be taken to the Ram temple in Ayodhya, where the consecration of the grand temple will be held on Monday.
The Ramanathaswamy temple also has a connect to the Ramayana, as the Shiva linga there was installed by Lord Ram who along with Sita Devi prayed here.
With just two days to go for the consecration ceremony, the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya has been decorated with rich stocks of flowers and special lights for the mega event and the entire temple town is soaked in religious fervour.
The new 51-inch idol of Ram Lalla, carved by Mysuru-based sculptor Arun Yogiraj, was placed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple on Thursday afternoon.
The Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in 2019, settling the emotive temple-mosque dispute that dated back more than a century and paving the way for the construction of Ram temple. While building the Ram temple in Ayodhya has been a part of the core agenda of the BJP, the ruling dispensation has projected the event as a moment of pride when the country will redeem its ancient roots.
In its advisory, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said on Saturday that certain unverified, provocative and fake messages were being spread, especially on social media, which can disturb communal harmony and public order.
"Further, as part of their due diligence obligations, social media platforms are advised to make reasonable efforts to not host, display or publish information of the nature mentioned above," the advisory stated.
Barricades have been set up at the Ram temple site and other key areas like the Lata Mangeshkar Chowk in Ayodhya and the entry of vehicles has been restricted as authorities prepare to host a large number of people, including many prominent personalities.
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, business tycoons Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, and sporting icon Sachin Tendulkar are among India's crème de la crème who have been invited as state guests.
Personnel of the UP Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) were patrolling the streets on Saturday.
From Dharampath and Rampath, which are witnessing a deluge of devotees from different, to bylanes of the Hanumangarhi area and Asharfi Bhavan road, security personnel can be seen keeping a tight vigil on movements and activities.
Movable barriers with barbed wires were spotted virtually at every prominent crossroad in the temple city, as police use them to regulate traffic, especially during VVIP movements.
While about 8,000 people are on the long list of invitees, the 506 A-listers included prominent politicians, leading industrialists, top film stars, sportspersons, diplomats, judges and high priests.
Actors Akshay Kumar, Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal and Allu Arjun among others, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, BJP president J P Nadda and Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and several sitting and former judges, including Ranjan Gogoi have been included in the state guest list.
"After staying in a disrespectful state outside his house for 550 years, Shri Ram will be brought to his grand temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 'pran pratishtha'. It's a matter of pride for entire India," Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, adding that it is happening when India is on the path of emerging as a powerful and developed country.
He was addressing the passing out parade of the first batch of the five newly constituted Assam Police Commando battalions in Guwahati.
In a post on X, BJP president J P Nadda thanked the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which is in charge of the temple's construction and management, for inviting him to the January 22 "Pran Pratishtha" event and said he will watch the historic event from the Jhandewalan temple here.
The ruling party's leaders are likely to watch the ceremony from different parts of the country along with people, amid the suggestion from the leadership that they should visit the temple after January 22 when a large number of guests are expected.
Almost all opposition leaders invited to the ceremony have declined to attend it, with the Congress calling it a BJP-RSS event.
Temples across the country are organising special festivities to mark the occasion and saffron flags displaying images of Ram temple are adorning streets and buildings at many places.
A three-day programme began at the ancient Raghunath temple in Jammu to celebrate the consecration ceremony
"We have planned a grand function on January 21 and 22, featuring recitations of Ramayana, dance, music, and bhajans sung by artists. It will be broadcast live," said M K Ajatshatru Singh, former minister and trustee of J-K Dharmarth Trust.
The Raghunath Temple comprising seven shrines is one of the largest ancient temple complexes in north India.
"Shri Ram is coming back home to Ayodhya. We are very happy. We are taking part in the celebration at the Raghunath temple for all three days from today to seek the blessings of the Lord," a devotee Sangeet Devi said.
The apex court had 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.