Ayodhya | More than 2.5 lakh devotees paid obeisance at the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday while donations totalling Rs 3.17 crore were recorded on the first day after the consecration ceremony, officials said.
Amid the huge rush of devotees, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath held a meeting with officials in Lucknow to review the steps taken for crowd management and advised VIPs planning to visit the temple to inform the authorities in advance.
In a press statement issued by the state government, District Magistrate Nitish Kumar said more than 2.5 lakh devotees visited the temple till 10 pm on Wednesday, the second day after the consecration ceremony.
More than 5 lakh people had visited the temple on the first day, posing a challenge to the authorities.
Devotees made donations totalling Rs 3.17 crore in a day on 10 counters opened after the consecration ceremony and through the online mode, Anil Mishra, trustee of Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, said.
In the wake of the overwhelming response of devotees, the temple administration has extended the timings for darshan so that the maximum number of devotees can be accommodated, the statement said.
Devotees can now offer prayers between 6 am and 10 pm as against the earlier timings of 7 am to 11.30 am and 2 pm to 7 pm, it said.
Braving severe cold coupled with fog, people stood in long queues around Ram Path -- the main thoroughfare -- and the temple premises since morning.
"In adherence to the chief minister's directives, the administration and police were well-prepared to ensure security and convenience for the devotees," the statement said.
Strict security arrangements were in place as teams of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were deployed outside the temple premises.
All roads from Basti, Gonda, Ambedkarnagar, Barabanki, Sultanpur and Amethi were blocked 15 km ahead of their borders with Ayodhya to regulate the movement of vehicles entering the holy city, officials said.
Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) buses as well as
trains coming into Ayodhya have also been cancelled, district officials said.
Ayodhya Commissioner Gaurav Dayal said, "We are trying to ease the situation. We are allowing emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying perishable items to move into Faizabad but the entry into Ayodhya town is still closed."
"Vehicles from nearby districts have been barred from entering Ayodhya district," he added.
Asked about steps taken to manage crowds at the temple, Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar told PTI, "We have established a better queuing system for the devotees who are coming for darshan. The situation is under control."
Principal Secretary, Home, Sanjay Prasad told PTI, "Darshan is going on smoothly. We have established a public facilitation centre and a different exit route. There is no crowding now."
According to an official statement, Adityanath held a meeting with officials to review arrangements made at the temple complex to manage crowds and advised VIPs to inform the state government or the Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust about their visits a week before scheduling them.
"A multitude of devotees from across the country are flocking to Ayodhya Dham, eager to catch a glimpse of their revered deity Lord Shri Ram. Given the extraordinary influx, VIPs and distinguished individuals... it would be appropriate for them to inform the local administration, Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, or the Uttar Pradesh Government a week in advance before scheduling their visit," the statement quoted the chief minister as saying.
He also directed officials to stop additional roadways buses to Ayodhya for now.
People from across the country are visiting Ayodhya and it is the state government's responsibility to ensure their safety and convenience, as well as unhindered 'darshan' for devotees, the chief minister said.
He said people should stand in queues along Ram Path, Dharma Path and Janmbhoomi Path to ensure an orderly flow into the temple without overcrowding.
"Special consideration should be given to the elderly, children and women in queues. In line with the sentiments of the visitors, Ram Bhajans should be played at low volume on major roads. It is imperative that the behaviour of security personnel is dignified," he said.
He said a designated holding area capable of accommodating a large number of visitors should be established.
"Gradually release devotees from this area for darshan to ensure a smooth flow. Implement arrangements to safeguard their belongings such as luggage, shoes, slippers, and mobile devices," he added.
Adityanath asked officials to ensure the availability of drinking water at different locations for the devotees standing in queues and arrange wheelchairs for the elderly and disabled.
He also directed them to make provisions for bonfires and to lay out jute mats on the Ram Path, Bhakti Path, Dharma Path and Janmbhoomi Path given the cold weather.
"Ensure proper transportation facilities for devotees to reach their destinations post-darshan and worship. There should be arrangements for transportation by roadways buses," Adityanath said.
He asked officials to take strict action against unruly elements who may try to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in the temple town on Republic Day.
"It is imperative to ensure that no one's religious sentiments are insulted or disregarded through songs, music or slogans. In the event of any individual making efforts to spread hatred, it is essential to take strict action against them under the zero-tolerance policy," the chief minister said.