The construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya may or may not happen in the near future, but the reconstruction of a grand temple for Ram’s wife, Sita at her birthplace in Punaura Dham in Sitamarhi district of Bihar will start next week. The reconstruction of the Sita temple will be inaugurated by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. For the proposed temple complex, his government has allotted 20 acres of land. It was BJP national vice-president and Rajya Sabha MP, Prabhat Jha who came up with this idea and is spearheading the work along with CM Nitish.
Jha, while talking to The Sunday Guardian, said that a ceremony will be held on Tuesday to launch the reconstruction work and build a grand complex where, at present, a small temple exists.
“Everyone knows where Ram ji was born but very few are aware of where Sita ji was born. Both of them have equal importance in our lives. I have sent invites to all MPs and MLAs in the country, cutting across the party line to come to the event. Nitish Kumar ji is taking personal interest in the matter and without his involvement this would not have been possible. We want Punaura Dham to be developed like Nalanda and Vaishali. It will become the biggest religious centre of the country,” he said. Jha, who is originally from Sitamarhi, Bihar, is settled in Madhya Pradesh and has served as the state president of the party in the past.
The seriousness with which CM Nitish is taking the whole project can be gauged from the fact that the state government, in its Cabinet meeting on 17 April, sanctioned Rs 48.5cr for the redevelopment of the pilgrim site. Earlier, Bihar Governor Satyapal Malik, along with Jha had visited Punaura on Tuesday.
Jha is also being assisted by Hindu religious leader Rambhadracharya, a visually impaired person who speaks 22 languages and has authored more than 100 books. It was on his request that CM Nitish Kumar, within 10 hours, declared that the birth anniversary of Sita, 24 April, will be a public holiday in the state. He also passed a Cabinet order on the same day. Bihar is the only state to have Janaki (Sita) navami as a gazetted holiday, though Ram navami is a national holiday.
The 24 April event in Sitamarhi is expected to be attended by more than 3 lakh people. More than 150 buses are being put into service to bring pilgrims to Punoradham from all across the country. A large number of parliamentarians and legislatures are expected at the event. The invite that has been sent by Jha says that “Nitish Kumar will announce the grand reconstruction work of Punaura Dham on April 24, while taking part in the annual Janaki festival.” According to Jha, Nitish Kumar has agreed that the Sita temple complex at Punaura Dham will be developed on the lines of the Nalanda and Vaishali universities to attract students from across the world. The existing temple compound that houses, apart from the main shrine, a wedding hall, a pond known as Sita Kund and a Shiva temple, is spread across nearly 12 acres. It is not protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Ironically, Jha’s own party colleague, Mahesh Sharma, who is the Union culture minister, had said in Parliament that the birthplace of Sita is a matter of faith and there is no evidence to prove that she was born in Bihar’s Sitamarhi. Sharma’s said that in a written response to a question in the House on whether the Centre has any historical proof about Sita’s birthplace.