I am actually put up in the neighbouring town of Faizabad. It is much bigger than Ayodhya and only a few kilometers away. I take a shared tempo from Faizabad and reach this holy place within fifteen minutes. It is feeling much hotter these days. It feels like summer has already started and it is only the start of March.
An interesting thing happened while I was in Gaya about a week ago. I asked someone for directions to the Vishnupad temple. Later he decided to follow me to the temple and have darshan as well. Then he told me something about Ayodhya.
‘The stones for building the temple are all ready. We are just waiting for a chance. The temple will be built in one night,’ he says. There is passion in his little speech. There is perhaps madness in his eyes. It is quite clear that when the temple is built, if at all, it would be the greatest day in his life. Zealot.
So here I am in Ayodhya. I should have had lunch at Faizabad. There is not a single decent or clean place for lunch here. I settle for some dried channa and guava.
What really interests me are the crowds. Is Ayodhya always like this or is it some special festival just for the day? No doubt it is a place of pilgrimage but I did not expect it to be this busy. I look at building architecture and take pictures. There is park for Vyasa. I look at vendors selling stuff. I take a portrait of a shoemaker at work. He is sawing off protruding bits of wood from wooden slippers. Leather products are not to be seen at Ayodhya. With such large streaming crowds, Muslims are also missing.
You have to be careful at Ayodhya from your primate cousins. The monkeys here are menace. If you carrying a plastic bag with some food, they will often follow you to snap at any chance of your distraction. I eat half the packet of channa and give our the rest to one of these macaques. She jumps at this rare treat, gathers the goods and scampers away with delighted shrieks.
Having seen Varanasi, I am not too excited at the prospect of visiting any temple at Ayodhya. The crowds are just the incentive that put me off. I lookat the temples from the outside. Finally I wander towards Ram Janmaboomi. A large queue is snaking towards the temple complex. There is no temple there today. I am told an image has been installed. Security is tight. There is a long things not allowed into the temple. I cannot motivate myself to join the queue and stand under the afternoon sun. The queue is moving at snail’s pace.
‘Come inside. You can take a few books on Hinduism. They are all free,’ tells a man with tilak on his forehead. I am not interested.
‘Join the queue. Have darshan,’ he tells with authority. People here will not ask you your plan. They will tell what’s to be done. They are right. Nothing else is acceptable.
I attempt to take a picture of the queue.
‘What are you doing?’ jumps this man. ‘Do you know the history of this place? You will be behind bars. This place has been hit by terrorists.’
I put away my camera and quietly leave Ram Janmaboomi. That’s it for Ayodhya. I head back to Faizabad to hunt for a late lunch.