In Pictures: Giving Ayodhya A Facelift With Global Expertise And Desi Wisdom

·6-min read

The face of Ayodhya is all set to get a makeover and at the task is a French artist Chifumi, among others, whose fondness for the ‘Maryadapurushotham‘ has him bringing Shri Ram to life in colours on the walls of his ‘Nagari’.

A boatsman who was taking pilgrims for a ride atop the Sarayu was heard saying, 'those who trusted him and went along with Thakurji they went beyond, while the likes of us who weren't brave enough probably stayed back and will keep coming back until he sees us through'.

He was describing the Jal Samadhi of Prabhu Shri Ram into the Sarayu - he walked into the Sarayu, and that was the last time Ayodhyavasis had a glimpse of him. But in a few months time, the city will once again be able to get a glimpse of their 'Thakurji' in the Womb of Sarayu through an art work that is bringing to life an image of Shri Ram under water.

Ayodhya beautification
Ayodhya beautification

“You will see Lord Rama inside the Sarayu nadi (river),“ says Meenakshi Payal, Project Director of Mojarto, the agency that’s handling the beautification project in Ayodhya. “It is the inside view of the river in which he took a gupt samadhi,“ says Payal, explaining the artwork that is manifesting at the pump house.

Mural of RAM on one side and that of Sita on the adjacent wall at the pump house in Ayodhya
Mural of RAM on one side and that of Sita on the adjacent wall at the pump house in Ayodhya

Payal has worked with a French artist Chifumi Krohom to bring the glimpses from Treta Yug to life in this era on the walls of Ayodhya.

French artist Chifumi bringing Shri Ram to life on the walls of the pump house at Ayodhya
French artist Chifumi bringing Shri Ram to life on the walls of the pump house at Ayodhya

“It is true that he is in every particle of the universe but as far as the tale goes, he is said to have melted into Sarayu. So you will see him inside the river as if he was becoming a part of the universe,” explains Payal as she takes us on a visual imaginative journey of how Ayodhya will look once coloured with both faith and facts combined.

The mural in the making
The mural in the making

We are also planning a 3D effect work at the back of the pumps house, which is a rectangular space - so it has something on all four sides. There you will see a large Lord Hanuman standing in metal painted but the 3D effect will make it look like he too is looking at Shri Ram from afar,” she explains about the work in progress.

Work in Progress For Beautification of Ayodhya - in picture are Meenakshi Payal of Mojarto and artist Chifumi
Work in Progress For Beautification of Ayodhya - in picture are Meenakshi Payal of Mojarto and artist Chifumi

This is part of the large beautification project that will see the Ram Ki Paidi and eight heritage ponds being beautified with artwork, sculptures and installations. But it can't be the work of an agency alone, says Payal, as Ayodhya would have to be beautified by the people who belong to Ayodhya.

This is why they have made room for community engagement and called for artists and students from in and around Ayodhya to come and volunteer to make history come alive again in this historic city.

The revamp of Ram Ki paidi underway
The revamp of Ram Ki paidi underway

“This is to enable local students and aspirants to work with an international artist - as Chifumi is one of the best in street art,” says Payal adding that not just will it enable creation of many more Chifumis but also probably enable them to do something bigger than what he is doing right now.

The pump house before beautification
The pump house before beautification

Chifumi and Mojarto have previously worked in Varanasi and Delhi and for Ayodhya too, his reading of ‘Ramayana in French and ours in Hindi have been taken into account, enabling different perspectives that have helped us collaborate and conceptualise this work for Ayodhya says Payal.

The pump house where the art work is in progress
The pump house where the art work is in progress

The Ayodhya Art project is in association with Namami Gange and in collaboration with Ayodhya Development Authority. Work has begun to clean the Ram Ki Paidi of the distortions that had taken place over the years and to restore its former grandeur.

“We have started scrapping the cement off the Ram Ki Paidi - which is a heritage structure - it has been exposed to pollution and the like on one hand and has undergone alterations on the like on the other - by people who are trying to save it have put cement and the like,” explains Payal.

The Ram Ki Paidi facade is being cleaned and restored
The Ram Ki Paidi facade is being cleaned and restored

“But the building has been built using lime and mortar - and so we are scraping off all the cement and restoring the structure with lime and mortar and using traditional ingredients itself - gud and gugal - the ancient way of making buildings - that’s what we are also using for restoring the facade of the heritage structure to bring it to its former glory,” she adds.

Work is on to revamp the heritage structures at Ram ki Paidi using traditional methods
Work is on to revamp the heritage structures at Ram ki Paidi using traditional methods

8The colours, too, are being restored to the traditional ‘kathai rang‘ so that it is also visually in sync with the Ram Mandir, which will be a similar hue of red. “This is to ensure a visual harmony between the future and the past,” she adds.

There are also plans for hosting public engagement activities on the ghats like food festivals, provide space for dying arts like acrobats, given that the city looks forward to hosting tourists from across the world. ‘How to contain them, engage them for a longer period, instead of it being about just a visit to the popular sites’ is the thought behind the effort,’ elaborates Payal.

The mural of shri ram with French artist Chifumi in the foreground
The mural of shri ram with French artist Chifumi in the foreground

There are artists who will be coming from Switzerland, Germany, Spain as well as Nepal to work on the beautification of Ayodhya.

”Because Nepal has a very deep connection with us. They are the first Hindurashtra and they think that Ram ji is from Nepal. There are people from other countries with international exposure and we really want people from Ayodhya get that kind of exposure and to get to work with them,” she adds.

The Sita Mural on the all adjacent to the Ram Mural at the Pump house
The Sita Mural on the all adjacent to the Ram Mural at the Pump house

Work is on to deck up the city and see a more ‘visually enchanting Ayodhya‘ as it gears for a grander Deepotsav this year which will see 7.5 lakh lamps being lit.

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