PATNA: As reports suggest that the BJP plans to elevate the construction of the upcoming Ram temple in Ayodhya as a pivotal electoral issue in the upcoming general elections, the ruling Grand Alliance government in Bihar, led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has granted approval for the comprehensive enhancement of the ancient Punaura Dham temple, dedicated to Goddess Sita.
Punaura Dham, a renowned Hindu pilgrimage destination in Sitamarhi district, holds significance as the birthplace of Goddess Sita, the consort of Lord Rama. Year after year, scores of pilgrims flock to this sacred site to pay homage to the revered deity.
Political analysts opine that this endeavor is strategically aimed at countering the BJP’s fervent “temple agenda” and attracting the Hindu electorate.
This decision to develop Punaura Dham, situated approximately 150 kilometers north of Patna, was ratified during a state cabinet meeting held recently. The proposal was initially put forth by the State Tourism Department, under the leadership of Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav.
“The cabinet has sanctioned a substantial sum of Rs 72.47 crore for the comprehensive development of Punaura Dham temple in Sitamarhi district. This is indeed a significant project,” stated S. Siddhartha, the Additional Chief Secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat Department. As part of this project, the state government has unveiled plans to establish ‘Sita Vatika,’ ‘Luv-Kush Vatika,’ a cafeteria, elaborate landscaping, pathways, and captivating animation shows.
Legend has it that during a severe famine in Mithila, the priest advised King Janak to plough the land. This act unearthed an earthen pot from which emerged the infant form of Mother Sita, as recounted in the tale.
Critics from the BJP, however, have derided these efforts, asserting that the Grand Alliance seeks no tangible gains from this venture. State BJP spokesperson Manoj Sharma questioned why Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had not exhibited interest in its development earlier, given the temple’s longstanding presence.
News sources report that the Ram temple in Ayodhya is anticipated to be open to devotees by mid-January of the following year. Preparations for the inauguration are expected to commence on January 14, with the date itself awaiting confirmation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The JD(U), in response to these claims, asserted that Nitish Kumar’s governance caters to all segments of society, not solely the Hindu demographic. Rajib Ranjan, JD(U)’s National General Secretary, contended that Nitish Kumar has worked tirelessly for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians alike. In contrast, Ranjan alleged that the BJP’s agenda revolves around fomenting communal tensions and promoting Hindutva.
Last November, JD(U) Minister for Planning and Development, Bijendra Prasad Yadav, criticized the Central government for allegedly neglecting Goddess Sita, questioning why the Narendra Modi government had not accorded similar attention to the birthplace of Goddess Sita, akin to Lord Ram’s. He ardently advocated for the construction of a grand temple in Sitamarhi dedicated to Goddess Sita, mirroring the development in Ayodhya.
Another prominent party leader, Bihar Legislative Council Chairman Devesh Chandra Thakur, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that justice had not been served to Mother Sita. Thakur passionately called for the Indian government to expeditiously acquire land for the construction of a magnificent temple dedicated to the Goddess in Sitamarhi, paralleling the grand temple in Ayodhya.
In this political and religious landscape, the spotlight is firmly fixed on Bihar’s commitment to revitalizing Punaura Dham, as the nation anticipates further developments in this evolving narrative.