The city of Ayodhya has played a central role in Indian history and culture since thousands of years. More recently, over the last three decades, it has played a central role in Indian politics as well. As the elections of 2019 approach, and a semblance of finality is expected over the Ram Mandir issue, the city is going to be one of the focal points which decides the electoral fate of more than a billion people. As the date of the day-to-day hearing nears and talks of the government bringing an ordinance gain steam, the RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat publicly asked the government to bring about an ordinance earlier this week. This was followed by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the Mahant of the Gorakhnath Math which has been associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement for decades, asking the party cadres to prepare for the temple.
Just last week, the city finally began preparing itself for the temple. A three-day long festival was organised, wherein artists from various parts of the country came to Ayodhya. The Ayodhya Art Festival 2018 had over two hundred artists who painted hundreds of walls across the city. The theme of the festival was Bhagwan Ram and his Life, and it was further divided into eight aspects of his life.The city looks decked up now, and ready to finally build the Ram Mandir once again.
The festival was inaugurated by the mayor of Ayodhya, Rishikesh Upadhyay, with a ‘Shankhnaad’. This was done in the presence of hundreds of saints and artists. The festival was curated by Shantanu Gupta, the author of Yogi Adityanath’s first biography The Monk Who Became Chief Minister, and co-curated by Pushkar Sharma. Well-known artists like Karan Acharya participated in the festival. Acharya is known for his Rudra Hanuman depiction, which took the entire country by storm. The closing ceremony saw the distribution of awards and was attended by historian Meenakshi Jain, who’s pioneering work on Ayodhya is yet to be refuted by those masquerading as ‘eminent historians’.
In the course of the festival, several walls across the city were painted with depictions of the Ramayana. Social media was thronged with images of the paintings which appeared in different parts of the city. Some of the painting which went viral were Karan Acharya’s ‘Return of Bhagwan Ram to Ayodhya’, ‘Chhote Se Bhagwan Ram’ at the entrance of the city, and ‘Ravan-Vadh & Laxman the Gyan Seeker’. The third one, painted by Satyam Shukla, Pravendra Pandey and Pritha Malhotra bagged the first prize.
The curators of the festival said that the initiative would attract many more tourists and devotees in the future. They also added that they plan to take the festival to other holy cities across the country. Not only will this be an excellent opportunity for artists who have religion and history as themes in their art, but it is also likely to benefit the cities in question and instil pride in people with regards to their heritage.
All in all, it was a commendable effort. Both artistically as well as culturally, it was an important step. With the Ram Mandir being around the corner, and with Bhagwan Ram all set to finally return to Ayodhya, the art festival was timed to perfection. The art around the city will serve as a befitting welcome to Bhagwan Ram.