BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA, January 21, 2024: With anticipation for the sacred consecration ceremony of the Ram Mandir reaching a feverish pitch, temples and organizations across the United States are gearing up for celebrations with weeklong events set to culminate on January 22. The Hindu community in the U.S., particularly Indian Americans, are expected to participate in various festivities including huge billboards, car rallies, cultural programs, and religious ceremonies to commemorate the historic occasion.
The excitement is palpable in the Peach state of Georgia with strategically placed colossal Billboards featuring Lord Ram and the majestic shrine by CoHNA (Coalition of Hindus of North America) capturing the attention of onlookers since Monday, Jan 15. Placed in prime spots in downtown Atlanta, the images will be displayed for 24 hours till Tuesday, Jan 23. “We gave 2 different graphics which will be displayed every 80 seconds for about 10 seconds. Even though it is very expensive, it was worth it because of its prime location. It is in the most prime and busiest spot in downtown Atlanta. Traffic literally stalls there for more than 10-20 minutes. This is the biggest billboard (35 ft height x 100 ft Wide) in Atlanta which is also the prime spot (downtown connector near William street),” Rajeev Menon, VP, CoHNA said.
Also in a symbolic expression of solidarity, World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) organized a car rally to bring together members of the community and Hindu temples to mark the occasion. Participants of the car rally gathered at Shri Hanuman Mandir Alpharetta, GA, adorned with flags and banners reflecting the cultural richness of the occasion. The convoy traversed through the city of Atlanta all the way to Shri Shakti Mandir, Lake City, GA.
“We are delighted to organize the Shri Ram Yatra in Atlanta, providing a platform for our community to come together and celebrate this momentous occasion,” said Surinder Dhar, Convenor of the organizing committee. “This rally is a testament to the cultural diversity and unity within our community, and we invite everyone to join us in commemorating this historic event.”
VHPA in association with Chinmaya Mission Atlanta will set up of large screen displays in Mandirs for live broadcast of the ceremony, Mala distribution, Puja, Kirtan – Ram Dhun, Samuhik chanting of minimum one mala of Vijay Mantra – “Shree Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram”, Shri Ram Aarti, and Prasad distribution on Jan 22.
The Hindu Temple of Atlanta will present a Rama Nama Sankeerthanam, Sita-Rama Kalyanam, Maha Mangalarathi to commemorate the occasion and distribute Ayodhya rama mandir akshintalu to the devotees after the Kalyanam.
Shri Krishna Vrundavana, welcomed families to be part of preparatory classes for Shri Rama Raksha Stotra Chanting classes between 12th January to 21st January to culminate in a group chanting on 22nd January from 6:30 to 8:00 PM EST after Shri Ram Mandir – Murthi Pratishta on 22nd January 2024 in Ayodhya.
India American Cultural Association (IACA) hosted festivities to welcome Shri Ram with distribution of Akshatam from India, Laddus, and fireworks. The Sanatan Mandir of Atlanta also joined the celebrations with religious poojas and Vedic traditions.
An 823-foot statue of Lord Rama, aimed to surpass all existing records, becoming the world’s tallest, is set to adorn the banks of the Saryu River. A momentous occasion set to resonate with millions of faithful, January 22, 2024, will go down in history of Ayodhya city as a monumental date that marked the much-anticipated inauguration of the Ram Mandir including the Pran Pratishtha (consecration) ceremony scheduled between 12:20 pm and 12:45 pm. The grandeur of the temple, gilded with ornate carvings and architectural marvels, pays homage to the timeless values and principles enshrined in the epic Ramayana.
Representative of India’s rich religious and cultural heritage, The Ayodhya Ram Mandir Statue is an elaborate work of art designed in the Nagara style, characterized by its towering spires or shikhara with Kalash at the top, by chief architect Chandrakant Bhai Sompura. The Ram Mandir, built on an expansive 67-acre plot, is 161 feet excessive, three-storied, with each floor being 20 feet tall. The first floor is devoted to Lord Ram, the second floor to Lord Hanuman, and the third floor features a museum showcasing the history and culture of Ayodhya. In addition, there is a community kitchen, a medical facility, and a hall known as a “yajnashala”, where Hindu fire rituals, or yajnas, are performed. One of the temple’s remarkable features includes the large Shaligram stone, a black stone believed to represent Lord Ram and brought from the Gandaki River in Nepal.
The Mandir has a total of intricately carved 392 pillars and 44 doors with walls bedecked with sculptures and reliefs.
A fine amalgamation of traditional Indian architecture and modern science, the temple spanning 2.7 acres with built-up area of about 57,000 square feet has no iron or steel, since the life of iron is 80-90 years, and this temple is meant to last for centuries. The temple is built with the best quality granite, pink sandstone, and marble and there is no use of cement or lime mortar in the joints – only a lock and key mechanism using groves and ridges has been used in the construction of the entire structure.
Amidst global gaze on fervent preparations for the grand consecration ceremony, in a significant prelude to the upcoming ceremony, a special puja was held in the sanctum sanctorum before the idol of Ram Lalla was installed in the Garbha Griha of the Ram Mandir on January 19. The idol depicting a five-year-old Lord Ram, weighing nearly 200 kg and 51 inches tall is skillfully carved out of dark-colored stone by renowned sculptor Arun Yogiraj from Karnataka.