Ayodhya, Jan 21: Acharya Satyendra Das, the chief priest of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, has reacted sharply after several opposition party leaders refused to attend the 'Pran Pratishtha' ceremony in Ayodhya on Monday, saying that Lord Ram does not belong to any one political party but is a symbol of collective consciousness and unites millions of Indians living in the country and elsewhere.
Acharya Satyendra Das has been living in Ayodhya since his early childhood and has been worshipping in the same temple since the last 32 years, much before the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. He is still the chief priest of the newly-constructed Ram temple.
Acharya Satyendra Das in an exclusive conversation with IANS spoke on several issues, including worship at the Ayodhya temple.
Reacting to the several opposition party leaders raising questions about the 'Pran Pratishtha' ceremony, Acharya Satyendra Das said: "There is an atmosphere of fervour in the entire country regarding the Pran Pratishtha ceremony of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya, but some political party leaders are raising questions about the timing of this auspicious and momentous occasion. I want to tell the critics of this grand inauguration event that Shri Ram does not belong to any one person, He belongs to every Indian. Shri Ram does not belong to any one political party.
"Therefore, if there is faith in God, then one has faith in God. This is beyond politics and only those who have faith and reverence in Him will worship Him. Please be kind to Shri Ram, everyone should visit Him to get his blessings and accept Him as God and you will be benefitted by it... if you don't do so then no problem, so let those who believe in Shri Ram work in their own way."
"Somewhere in between, Congress leaders started asking, why was there a need for a new statue of Prabhu Shri Ram? Shiv Sena also makes a different kind of rhetorical statement, " said Satyendra Das, adding "Shiv Sena supported the decision of building a new statue of Shri Ram. However, Congress has never been cooperative... rather it was anti-Ram."
"But Shiv Sena remained with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement since the time when party founder Bal Thackeray was alive. They had great faith and belief in Shri Ram and even when the disputed structure collapsed during the time of Kar Seva, Shiv Sena activists and workers were present there. Shiv Sena should follow the same ideology which Bal Thackeray was known for and carry on his ideology. Shiv Sena should continue to believe in God and continue to respect God. Uddhav Thackeray should also follow the same path as his late father."
Commenting on whether Congress leaders would visit Ram temple ceremony or not, Acharya Satyendra Das says, "See, God says that those who come from deceitful intentions have no importance. Those who come with dedication will get the same results and only they will get recognition."
The chief priest of the temporary temple of Shri Ram Lalla, said: "The priests of the newly constructed Ram temple in Ayodhya have not been appointed yet. This has to be done in Shri Ram Janmabhoomi pilgrimage area. Yes, I can definitely tell that some selected priests are being trained."
On the question of what kind of training will be provided to the priests selected for the newly constructed Ram temple, Das adds: "There are many sects in Sanatan Dharma."
"Everyone has their own way of worshipping God. It is different for Shaivites, Vaishnavites and Shaktas. The system of Nathpanthis is also different. Everyone has information about their worship methods. Training is also being given for worshiping Shri Ram Lalla. The temple of Shri Ram Lalla is a temple of Ramanandi Vaishnav tradition. Worship will be done here according to this tradition. Similar training is being given to selected priests."
Das said: "New priests have been selected to offer prayers in the grand Ram temple built in Ayodhya. Recently applications for puja were issued, after which they have been selected. Imparting training is very important to these priests."
"There should be such a system in every temple that one who has knowledge of worship should be selected," he said.
The chief priest of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple said that at present four assistant priests, including him, are looking after the temple, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust will decide how many more priests would be selected."
Reacting to the settlement of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid by the Supreme Court and how do you feel about Ayodhya now, Acharya Satyendra Das said: "The problem of Ram Lalla staying in a tarpaulin for 28 years is now over. Now a grand temple has been built in Ayodhya. The Pran Pratishtha ceremony of the Ram Temple will take place on January 22 after which Ram Lalla will reside in it. Therefore, all the problems that existed here are over. Now only Ram Lalla should be worshiped and his devotees should have 'darshan' of him easily."
Regarding the development of Ayodhya as a spiritual and tourist destination, Das says: "Development is taking place at a brisk pace. Especially our Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who keeps coming here regularly. He has visited Ayodhya at least 40 to 45 times and reviewed the developmental works here. That is why the work is progressing faster. All previous government's neglected Ayodhya. Now Ayodhya is getting revamped in a new way."
"PM Modi also took special interest in the development of Ayodhya. It was because of him that a new airport was built here. The construction of bus stations, railway stations and roads are being widened. In this way, Ayodhya has developed very well, due to which the people who come now are very happy. Now people from all over the country and abroad can come here for Ram Lalla's darshan. They will not face any problems now."
Eighty-three year old Acharya Satyendra Das had been worshiping Ram Lalla as a priest for about nine months before the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. He also obtained the degree of an acharya from the Sanskrit Vidyalaya in 1975. In 1976, he taught as an assistant teacher in Sanskrit College, Ayodhya.
After the demolition of the disputed structure, on March 5, 1992, the then receiver of the disputed site appointed him as the priest.
"Initially the monthly remuneration was only Rs 100, but it started increasing in the last few years. Till last year, only Rs 12,000 monthly honorarium was being received, but this year it has increased," Das said.