“We will start the work around Ram Navami next year. The government needs to constitute a committee which will take some time and once all the court mandated requirements are met with, we will start the work, ideally around April 2020,” says Chandrakant Sompura, the 'chief architect' of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
Sompura was assigned the task to design and build the temple almost 30 years ago by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, however, the court proceedings halted progress of the construction several times over.
With the Supreme Court’s verdict in favour of the Ram Temple, if he is chosen by the court-appointed trust, Sompura’s work will commence in a matter of months and the 76-year-old is quite excited to complete the project which was "long overdue".
“The decision was good and accepted by all parties involved – a temple will be built so will a mosque – and everything got settled peacefully and I feel good about it. We have already completed 40-50% of the work for the temple.”Chandrakant Sompura, Chief Architect for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya
Although Sompura has not yet been officially chosen, his temple design is already under construction.
The Sompuras have been temple architects for almost six centuries and have employed the Nagar Style of temple architecture (prevalent across north, west and central India) in almost all their creations. The family’s former patriarch, Late Prabhashankarbhai Oghadbhai Sompura, had designed the famous Somnath Temple in post-independence India.
He has authored 12 books on temple architecture and was also awarded the Padmashree. Such a rich legacy brought in more work for the family, who were roped in by the Birlas to build their famous Birla Mandirs, for the Akshardham in Gandhinagar and a World Record breaking Swami Narayan Temple in London.
When Chandrakant Sompura was working on the Birla Temple in the late 80s and early 90s, he came across VHP’s Ashok Singhal.
“Ashok Singhal was renowned among industrialists as a man who gave up his wealth and businesses for the Ayodhya Ram Mandir. He met the Birla brothers and requested them to lend their architect for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. That’s how I came across the VHP and Ashok Singhal.”
In 1990 before the Babri Masjid was demolished, Ashok Singhal took Chandrakant Sompura to the disputed site to take measurements:
“But there was heavy police security there and they said that we won’t be allowed to take any measurements or any photographs. We had studied that we can measure a ‘feet’ using our feet: for e.g. we walked 100 steps and it adds up to 1.5 feet with each step, which means 100 steps is 150 feet. That is how we managed to measure the periphery of the disputed site.”
‘The Pace of Construction Will Pick Up’
According to Sompura, the VHP gave him a free hand when it came to designing the temple.
“Ashok Singhal told me to design it the way I see it fit. Even after I submitted the design they didn’t make any suggestions from their end, instead they asked me to make a wooden replica which can be presented before the ‘Sant Samaj’ (Saints’ Society) during the Kumbh Mela. Again the design was cleared by the Sants without any alterations,” Sompura said.
According to Ashish Sompura, an architect and Chandrakant Sompura’s son, work for the construction of the temple was in full swing for at least two years after the demolition of Babri Masjid wherein they covered a lot of ground.
“In 1992 after the Babri Masjid came down the VHP ensured that the work picked up pace especially between 1992-94. There were four workshops running simultaneously – three in Rajasthan and one in Ayodhya’s Karyashala. However, subsequent court orders and stays halted the work.”
He continued, “However, the ground floor and the first floor are almost ready. The work above the first floor is pending, for e.g. the shikhars and domes. Only the plinth is pending because we neither had the land or any data regarding its dimensions.”
Although the budget is roughly Rs 535 crore as mentioned in the Sompura website for the entire temple complex, Ashish believes that the figure could rise depending up on the members of the newly formed Ram Mandir committee. However, the construction of the temple itself will cost around Rs 80-90 crore, he says.
“Though the work started in the 90s the technology has raced ahead so much that we can add many elements such as lighting, light and sound shows or even an IMAX theatre. So ideally there is no limitation on budget. These factors depend on the committee and the land allotted as it will decide how the cost will vary,” Ashish said in conclusion.