The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's much-hyped 100-day purnahuti yagya concluded on a dull note in Ayodhya on Sunday.
After performing a brief ceremony, VHP leader Ashok Singhal led a procession to the banks of the Saryu river, where ashes from the yagya were immersed amidst chanting of Vedic hymns.
Carrying the ashes in earthen urns on their heads, VHP activists raised cries of bachcha-bachcha Ram Ka... janmabhoomi ke naam ka [every child of
Ram is devoted to his birthplace].
Despite the presence of VHP bigwigs, the event failed to attract the local crowds or even some of the prominent Hindu sadhus, who have otherwise been closely associated with the temple movement.
Apparently, the locals have had enough of the VHP's demand to build a Ram temple at the disputed site.
In sharp contrast to the commencement of the yagya in February, when Swami Prabhu Das Maharaj was specially invited from Haridwar, Sunday's ceremony was carried out by Singhal himself.
Ram Janambhoomi Trust chief Ramchandra Paramhans did not attend the ceremony, while the vice-chief of the Trust, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, showed up only after the yagya was over.
The only other well-known person at the ceremony was Praveen Togadia, the international general-secretary of the VHP.
There were not more than 4,000 people at the venue. The VHP had claimed that there would a 20,000-strong crowd.
Except for women, who appeared to have turned up essentially due to their devotion, only VHP activists were visible. A section of the crowd was from far off states like Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
Asked what had brought her to Ayodhya, Nirmala, a resident of Hyderabad, said: "Well, I came here to participate in the purnahuti yagya, but it is so disgusting that they have not even allowed us inside the yagyashala."
"It is such a farce to let the true devotees get in only after the yagya is all over," she added.
"The VHP leaders talk big and profess the ideals of Hinduism, and here at Ramsewakpuram, they do not care to provide even a covering for women to take their bath, not to speak of the bits of hay that one is expected to use for their bed," complained Jageshwari from Andhra Pradesh.
Jagdish, a sweetmeat-seller wondered if the VHP had anything on its agenda beyond just minting money in the name of the temple.
Another shopkeeper, Ram Sunder, went a step further. "Can you imagine that the VHP claims to have spent Rs 1.5 crore on erecting a very ordinary pandal at the Ramsewakpuram to provide a shelter to the devotees over the 100-day period when the number of visitors rarely exceeded 100 on any given day."
Shopkeeper Vikram said: "Traders in this town make their living largely out of the devotees who keep pouring in, but the VHP's actions always provoke heavy police deployments, which have in turn reduced the number of devotees... thereby seriously affecting our earnings."
While describing the event as a "grand success", Singhal said: "We will pursue our goal to build the temple, as per the decision taken by the Sadhu Samaj of this country."
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