The locus of past and possible political battles — the ‘disputed site’ — will not be part of the Ram museum. “This will be an exclusive museum which will be part of a larger holistic plan. The idea is to depict the mahima (grandeur) of Ram and Ramayana. The disputed site will not be touched by the project,” Sharma said. “It is on high priority and the scale will depend on funds available. We will do this next year.”
Work will start soon on the detailed project report, the minister said. The museum is proposed to be modelled on the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in Delhi – which features a sound and light show, boat ride and a film on Swaminarayan – and house archaeological material related to the deity.
The government plans to develop all sites related to Ram in and around Ayodhya and revive the town as a major cultural centre. When asked about the political ramifications – the museum may near completion in 2017 when UP elections are due – the minister said, “Tourism we can develop. We are not saying we are going to make a Ram mandir there.”
The government is already working on a chain of five circuits, he said. “For every year we will declare a different circuit. Ramayana circuit will start with the centre somewhere in Ayodhya and Chitrakoot and definitely we go to Makohda in Basti, then Janaki kund in Unnao and nearby areas and places relevant to the life of Ram…that is our idea,” he said.
As part of the plan, the government will also host what it calls are cultural activities centred on Ram and Ramayana at events abroad, including Festivals of India and travel marts. Ministry officials said the government has already asked Uttar Pradesh to send a proposal for the project under the Centre’s Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) scheme. The culture ministry, also headed by Sharma, will be asked to work on the museum and other cultural content related to Ram and Ramayana.
“We have requested the state government to develop the proposal under the PRASAD scheme. Cost estimates are open-ended as of now and depend on the outline and scale of the proposal. This is actually an inter-state project as well so we will talk to other states as well,” Tourism Secretary Lalit Pawar said. Rakesh Tiwari, director general of Archeaological Survey of India, said that discussions on the Ramayana circuit are still at a preliminary stage and the ASI will help the tourism ministry with all related inputs.
“We will help develop the circuit in whichever way the government asks us to. Cultural bodies are also going to be roped in to bring alive the folklore and legends associated with Ramayana,” said Tiwari. Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts has already been at work – it had last year invited papers on Ramlila.