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'I want to go in front of Ram Lalla and get blessings'

January 19, 2024 11:04 IST
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'Everyone is so excited. There is a lot of excitement everywhere. This was a long time desire of many people.'

IMAGE: Workers busy in construction work of the Ram temple ahead of its pran pratishtha ceremony, in Ayodhya, January 18, 2024. Photograph: Ishant/ANI Photo

Dr Bharat Barai, having recently undergone shoulder surgery, finds himself in India as a distinguished guest for the pran pratishtha ceremony of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on the 22nd of January.

One of Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's oldest friends in the United States

Despite this being a significant occasion, it won't mark Dr Barai's inaugural visit to Ayodhya; he had previously been there five months before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, in a visit arranged by the Vishva Hindu Parishad.

Dr Bharat Barai shares insights into the preparations, requirements, and instructions received by the invitees for the momentous event with's US Contributor Abhijit J Masih.


When did you first learn of the amantran?

I was in India since December on a family holiday. I extended my stay because of the amantran.

It was a family trip so we went to Rajasthan along with my two daughters and their family.

Then I attended the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Global Healthcare Summit in Delhi.

There I gave a guest lecture on breast cancer. Then the Baroda Medical College, which is my alma mater, invited me for their platinum jubilee celebration where they recognized two people in the last 75 years as legends of the Baroda Medical College and one of them was me.

My original ticket back to the US was on the 21st January, but when I received the first letter on 23rd December 2023, I extended my stay in India.

When and how did you receive the formal amantran?

It came in three stages. On 23rd December 2023, I got the first letter saying that a formal invitation will follow and this is information that you are being invited and it gave a number. All the invitations are numbered.

Then came the second letter on 3rd January 2024 which was a formal invitation.

It had the same four digit number followed by A for me and B for my wife.

We were instructed not to put the invitation on social media.

Then the third letter came three days ago where we were asked to upload our photograph and details of our vehicle in which we will arrive.

From what I learn, there will be seven layers of security and only residents of Ayodhya and the invitees will be allowed to enter the city. All the delegates from the USA are going together.

IMAGE: Workers prepare flowers to decorate Ayodhya ahead of the ceremony. Photograph: ANI Photo

What factors do you believe contributed to receiving the invitation for the inauguration?

I have been the chairman of the board of trustees for two temples in the Chicago area. In 2018, the World Hindu Congress was held in Chicago.

We had 3,200 delegates from 66 countries in the world. I was the chairman of the finance committee at that time. We collected $1.5 million.

In November 2023, the third World Hindu Congress took place in Bangkok, Thailand. For all these conferences, only 40% of the expenses are covered by the registration fees and 60% has to come from donations.

I helped with $75,000 as donations. So they have invited people from countries outside India, in small numbers of course, and about 25 people are from USA.

They are all associated with Hindu causes.

IMAGE: Workers carve stone sculptures for the Ram temple. Photograph: Amit Sharma/ANI Photo

Did you donate money for the Ram Mandir?

Did we want to contribute? Yes. Did we ask to contribute? Yes. But they said no as they did not have the permission to receive donations from abroad.

But I have learnt that in November they have given permission to receive contributions from foreign countries. So will I contribute if permitted legally? Yes.

IMAGE: Security personnel keep vigil at Lata Mangeshkar chowk ahead of the pran pratishtha ceremony. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

What preparations have you made for the visit, considering the scale and importance of the inauguration ceremony?

All I want to do is go in front of Ram Lalla and get the blessings. I should tell you that in July 1992, I had been to Ayodhya.

I spoke to Ashok Singhal (then the VHP president) who has passed away, that I wanted to go and see the structure there.

He made the arrangements and I went to Ayodhya with an MLA from Jhansi and I was able to do the darshan there.

I still have a photograph and it has a printed date that's why I remember that it was 10th July 1992.

Though cameras were not allowed, the MLA told the pujari to take the picture.

I stood under the middle dome where the Ram Lalla murti was and next to it was Kaushilya Ki Rasoi. I also did a little kar seva.

IMAGE: Dr Bharat Barai, extreme left, at the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Global Healthcare Summit in Delhi. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Bharat Barai

What preparations are being made in the US and what are the plans for the 22nd of January?

Everyone is so excited. In the USA, most of the temples are going to remain open, even though it will be the middle of the night there.

In Chicago there have already been so many car rallies. I know they are also planning to telecast live at Times Square in New York.

There is a lot of excitement everywhere. This was a long time desire of many people.

Does Mr Modi know that you are coming and did you get a chance to meet him during your stay in India?

Unfortunately, when I was in Delhi, he was touring the South and was in Lakshadweep.

Even when I am going to be in Delhi on 19th and 20th, his office said that he will be out of town.

If he was in town, I would have gone and said Namaste. Whether I will be able to meet him in Ayodhya, I have no idea.

Probably not, since they have invited 8,000 guests.

IMAGE: Dr Barai being felicitated as one of the legends of the Baroda Medical College during its platinum jubilee celebrations. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Bharat Barai

Do you have any sense of what to expect when you go to Ayodhya on 22nd January? Any itinerary that has been shared with you?

The arrangements are very nice. They have asked for information about where we are staying. Whether we need transportation from Lucknow, Gorakhpur etc.

They have asked information about the vehicle, license plate number and the description of the vehicle.

They are very precise. They told us to be seated before 11 am.

They are also going to e-mail a gate pass which will have our photograph.

So when that comes that will serve as our gate pass and that might have our seat numbers.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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