Spotlight back on him, Ram temple architect says work will take up to 3 years

Leena Misra
Nearly 40 per cent of the work on the temple stands completed, Sompura said.

CHANDRAKANT SOMPURA, the Ahmedabad-based architect who had started work on the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya for the VHP, says it will take between two-and-a-half and three years to construct the entire temple once work restarts.

Nearly 40 per cent of the work on the temple stands completed, Sompura said. Estimated to cost Rs 50 crore to Rs 60 crore, the temple will be built with pink sandstone, to be mined and brought from Bansi Paharpur, Rajasthan.

The same stone was used to build the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, also a work of Sompura. In fact, he has built over 100 temples, including Swaminarayan temple in Neasden — said to be the largest temple in the world.

Somapura turned 77 on Friday, a birthday he shares with BJP veteran L K Advani, who led the Ram Mandir movement. Saturday’s Supreme Court verdict has meant the bouquets of roses and orchids that came on his birthday has been pushed to the background.

On Saturday, the desk in his home-office stood covered with copies of maps, a 3D image and visual representations of the Ayodhya Ram temple.

Sompura didn’t say much on the SC verdict, limiting himself to a one-liner — “The best thing about the verdict is that it has been fair to both parties” — and is waiting to get back to work: “Now it is up to the government - what it decides in three months (to set up a committee), how much funds will come...all that will matter.”

The project was so far being handled by the VHP, and had been planned as per directions of Ashok Singhal, the organisation’s late president. But with the SC now directing for setting up of a trust, it is not clear whether the VHP will be a part of it.

Sompura, who does not have any formal training in architecture and, according to his son, Ashish, learnt everything from his father Prabhashankar, a Padma Shri awardee who designed the Somnath temple, made the first drawings of Ram temple in 1989 and finished designing it in six months. He last visited the site five or six years ago. In 1996, when his son Ashish graduated from the school of architecture at Vallabh Vidyanagar in Anand, he was immediately made a part of the Ram temple project team. “Work was on in full swing after the kar seva. I was just out of college and felt proud handling the prestigious project. We have a team at the site even now, but with funds drying up, work was stalled,” Ashish said.

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According to Sompura, the unique feature of the temple will be its ashtakon (octagonal) characteristic, a rarity among temples, the Surya mandir in Ranakpur, Rajasthan, being one such. It will also be the first public temple of Ram Lalla (infant Ram) and will have two storeys, he said. “The ground floor will have the Ram Lalla sanctum, and on top will be the Ram darbar (with Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman idols),” he added.

According to Ashish, work on the temple started in 1993, soon after kar seva (which followed the Babri Masjid’s demolition on December 6, 1992), when the Sompuras were given an approximation of how much area it would occupy. “The temple will be built as was planned. What can change are the peripherals,” Ashish said.

Temple details

To be built in the Nagar style, the original design has the main temple, four other temples dedicated to Sita, Lakshman, Ganapati and Hanuman, and four gates — one facing each direction — to access the temple complex. Each gate would be designed as per the architectural styles of the region it faces. “For instance, the south gate would be like a gopuram,” Sompura said.

A walk-through exhibition, sant niwas, kala kunj to host Ram kathas, dining area, staff quarters, administration block and library and research centre are part of the original plan.

 

Measuring 135x240 feet, the Ram temple will be on a raised platform, with all four features typical of a Hindu temple — the chauki (verandah), nrityamandap (semi-covered porch), gudh mandap (covered porch) and garbha gruha (sanctum sanctorum) — in one axis.

The entire construction is expected to use 2.5-3 lakh cubic feet of sandstone, Ashish said.

He did not disclose the number of columns the temple will have, but said its distinguishing feature will be the 16 statues to be carved on each column. The idol in the sanctum will be made of marble.

Sompura’s website details the temple as having a giant plinth of 270 feet in length, 126 feet in width and 12’3 feet in height. The total height of the temple is to be 132 feet. The sanctum sanctorum will be 20x20 feet, where Shri Bal Swarup Ramji’s idol will be installed, and there will be a Shri Ram Darbar under the dome on the floor above.

The temple will have a total of 212 pillars, as per the plan.