On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved a Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Apart from the following, the Trust will have six members, including government officials, who remain unnamed:
An erudite Hindu scholar, 93-year-old K Parasaran was born to a lawyer who was also a Vedic scholar, started his Supreme Court practice in 1958, and has gone on to enjoy the trust of every administration since the 1970s. During the Emergency, he was Advocate General of Tamil Nadu, and in 1980, was appointed Solicitor General of India by the Indira government. He served as Attorney General of India from 1983 to 1989 under Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, and in 1997, stepped in when a mentally unstable man claimed to be married to Priyanka Gandhi. The Vajpayee government awarded him Padma Bhushan, the Manmohan Singh regime gave him a Rajya Sabha seat.
Having cut down his court appearances after 2016, it were two big cases —Sabarimala and Ayodhya —that brought Parasaran back to Delhi from Chennai even as his three sons also became lawyers. In the Sabarimala case, Parasaran defended the ban on the entry of menstruating women in the temple, while in the Ayodhya case, he represented the government, his arguments often bolstered by scriptures. About Ayodhya, he said, “My last wish before I die, is to finish this case.”
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Shankaracharya Jyotishpeethadheeshwar Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati ji Maharaj
Shankaracharya of the astrology bench in Badrinath, he has his ashram in Prayagraj’s Alopibagh. Having the citation of Shankaracharya, Saraswati Maharaj is active in the Pyaragraj Kumbh. He has been connected to the Ram Mandir movement since the beginning and played an important role in convincing all the parties at every step.
Born in Jaunpur, he was named Somnath Dwivedi before taking sanyas. He is the student of Jyotishpeeth’s Swami Shantanad Maharaj. Saraswati Maharaj was earlier in news following a dispute with Shankarcharya Jyotishpeeth Peethadeshwar Sri Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati over him being made a ‘Shankaracharya’. The matter is still in court.
Vimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra
Fondly called ‘Raja Sahab’, Mishra is a descendent of the erstwhile Ayodhya royal family. He is also a member of the Ramayan Mela Sanrakshak Samiti and is a social worker. Mishra entered politics in 2009 and contested the Lok Sabha elections from Faizabad seat on a BSP ticket. He lost to the Congress’s Nirmal Khatri and distanced himself from active politics thereafter.
Mishra played a role in the Ram Mandir movement and is said to have provided the seat, which is currently at the makeshift temple for Ram Lala Virajman, after the demolition of Babri Masjid.
On Thursday, Faizabad Commissioner M P Aggarwal handed over the charge of the receiver of Ram Janmabhoomi site to Mishra. Until now, the commissioner was responsible for security and maintaining status quo at the site after the Supreme Court on October 24, 1994, appointed the Faizabad commissioner as the receiver of the site.
An active member of the VHP and a part of the BJP state executive committee, an “excited” Choupal said he had already reached Delhi, and “the trust will start functioning in 15 days”. The ‘first Dalit trustee’, the 65-year-old economics masters had been picked to lay the first shila (brick) for the foundation of a Ram temple in Ayodhya in 1989, and has been associated with the Ramjanmabhoomi movement since. A native of Kamrail village in Supaul, Bihar, Chaupal has been BJP MLC twice (2002-14), and contested a string of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections unsuccessfully.
Talking about laying the shila, he said it was decided that a person from a deprived section should lay the first brick, and VHP leader Ashok Singhal picked him. With Sita believed to be from Mithila, and Supaul part of Mithilanchal, he added that he had “an extra emotional connection with Ram”.
He always believed the courts would rule in favour of the Hindu side, the father of three added, as they had “sound argument, archaelogical and historical evidence”.
Jagatguru Madhavacharya Swami Vishwa Prashannatheerthji Maharaj
The 35th seer of the Pejawar Math in Udupi, Karnataka, Vishwa Prashannatheerthji Maharaj took over in December last year, after the death of his guru, Vishwesha Tirtha Swami. The Pejawar Adokshaja Math is one of the most important seats of the Dvaita school of Hindu theology, and its 34th pontiff played a crucial role in the mobilisation for a Ram temple in Ayodhya in the 1990s. Vishwesha Tirtha also blessed L K Advani before he set off on his temple rath yatra. At the same time though, the late pontiff was known for his advocacy of a more humane treatment of oppressed castes as well as his invitations for iftar.
Little is known about Prashannatheerthji’s political inclinations. Born as Devidas Bhat to a family of a Sanskrit philosopher in Pakshikere in Dakshina Kannada district, he was initiated into the monastic order in 1988 and served mostly in the shadow of Vishwesha Tirtha. The 53-year-old is known largely for a massive gaushala he runs and for padayatras to pilgrimage sites across the country every year.
Prashannatheerthji is said to have credited his appointment to the Ayodhya temple trust to his guru’s role.
Mahant Dinendra Das
Dinendra Das was made the mahant of Nirmohi Akhada in 2017 and represented the Nirmohi Akhada in the Ram temple case as a litigant. Das was born in Ayodhya and stays there.
In 1978, when he was only eight years old, Das was made the mahant of Ayodhya’s Rampur Baihari and assumed ‘vairagya’ (asceticism). Later, in 1992, he became a Naga sadhu in Ujjain and a year later was made the deputy sarpanch of Nirmohi Akhada. After the death of Akhada sarpanch Bhaskar Das, he was made the Akhada’s mahant.
Nirmohi Akhada is one of the 14 akharas recognised by the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad and belongs to the Vaishnava sampradaya.
Anil Mishra, who comes from Ambedkar Nagar district, is a renowned homeopathic practitioner and runs his own homeopathic clinic in Ayodhya for the past nearly four decades. He is also the registrar of Uttar Pradesh Homeopathic Board and is the District Homeopathic Officer of Gonda. He is set to retire from both posts soon.
Mishra is also connected to the RSS and is in-charge of the organisation’s Awadh prant (region). He opposed the Emergency as an active member of the RSS and later — in 1981 — got a degree in Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery. Mishra actively participated in the Ram temple movement.
After the announcement of trustees, he said he is obliged to have got a chance to serve Ram Lala.
Yugpurush Paramanand Ji Maharaj
Born in 1935 in Mawie Dham village in Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh, Paramanand Ji Maharaj is a member of the VHP margdarshak mandal. Associated with the Ramjanmabhoomi movement since its begining, he has attended almost all VHP meetings held over the temple. In November, a VHP meeting on this was held at his ashram in Haridwar. His Akhand Param Dham runs ashrams (including in Fatehpur), schools and gaushalas across the country, and his website features photos of him with the PM and RSS chief. Paramanand Ji has also been associated with the Ganga cleaning campaign.
A writer of over 150 books on spirituality and the Vedas, he travels around the world to deliver sermons and, in 2000, was invited to address a Millennium World Peace Summit of spiritual leaders, held in support of the UN.
Lately, as per a senior disciple, Paramanand Ji has been expressing his support for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in his preachings.
Swami Govinddev Giri Ji Maharaj
Born in 1949 in Belapur village in Ahmednagar district as Kishor Madangopal Vyas, Govinddev has continued the family tradition of giving religious discourses since the age of 17. After graduation in philosophy, he acquired ‘Darshanancharya’ degree from Varanasi and knows Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, English and Gujarati. In 1986, he formed the Gita Parivar that set up Bal Sanskar Kendras in 16 states, and four years later, founded the Maharishi Vedvyas Pratishthan which has set up 34 schools to encourage the study of Vedas and Sanskrit.
Govinddev has visited Nepal, the US, Canada, England, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Mauritius, Myanmar and Bhutan to give religious lectures, as well as started an ashram in Toronto, Canada.
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