Ram Lalla idol ended North-South divide: Sculptor Yogiraj | India News

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With his deep devotion and proficiency in his ancestral sculpting business, MBA-turned-master sculptor Arun Yogiraj, who has attained the status of a celebrity after giving shape to the Ram Lalla idol, talks about the uphill task, sacrifices he had to make to realise India’s dream and how it has helped bridge the North and South divide in an interview with TOI’s Ankur Tewari.Excerpts
How has the perception of people and your family changed after Jan 22 ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony? Do they treat you like God?
They are giving me immense love and respect. Though my family is proud of my achievement, I am still the same Arun for them. But, when I venture out, it’s a different world. The amount of love I am getting from people is overwhelming… Their love for Ram Lalla and me is the same.
How has life changed? How have you taken all the accolades coming in?
I was lucky that Lord Ram chose me for His idol. I also want to thank my ancestors and parents for knowledge transfer. Due to them, the whole of India recognises me today and wants to see me, talk to me and embrace me. But I want to remain grounded and give back all the love to my family and fans.
While carving the most-awaited idol, did you experience added pressure due to the debate over the North-South divide?
I gave special attention to detail to ensure that the idol did not reflect aesthetics that were typically South Indian as I wanted to encapsulate the whole of India in it. I had to make a lot of changes so that North Indian devotees don’t feel disconnected…. Now, it is interesting to see some people are finding a resemblance of Venkateswara Swami and others comparing the idol with that of Krishna’s in Gujarat and Mathura. This proves that the idol has ended all the divide. The only division today is geographical and different ways of life.
Today, devotees worldwide are thanking PM Narendra Modi for making Ram temple possible. What’s your take?
Lord Ram has been re-seated in his grand temple in Ayodhya after five centuries. Generations of generations left with the same wish, but it was PM Modi who realised this dream. Today, the world is recognising Bharat’s global march as a spiritual and cultural powerhouse under PM Modi. The youth is also driven towards our culture and heritage and it’s only due to two legends — Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath. Great leadership I must say.
You recently shared with fans the photo of the second Ram Lalla idol. What was the idea behind carving another idol? Which stone was used and where will it be kept?
When my idol got selected on Dec 29 last year, I was asked to stay in Ayodhya to coordinate the ‘vastra’ and ‘abhushan’ that Ram Lalla had to wear on the consecration day. Since I had no work, I carved the mini Ram Lalla from Krishna shila — the same stone from which the main idol was sculpted – out of fun. I later presented it to Champat Rai, general secretary of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra.
Tell us something about the sublime eyes of Ram Lalla which took the world by storm?
Aacharya Ganesh Shastri of Kashi had given me just a 20-minute ‘mahurat’ to carve the retina before taking a holy dip in the Saryu river and offering prayers at Hanuman Garhi and Kanak Bhawan in Ayodhya. My only thought at that moment was to ensure the eyes mesmerise the devotees as they would be seeing the idol from a distance of around 30ft. I think Lord Ram guided me. He wanted the divine eyes to be like this.
While carving out the idol, did you have any idea it would be the lucky one?
I just concentrated on my work. I gave my best and God chose me. But it was a lot of pressure. I really burnt the midnight oil and left no stone unturned to give shape to Ram Lalla idol as the whole country was waiting with bated breath. While carving the idol, I had almost lost one of my eyes when a tiny piece of stone pierced the cornea. I was on antibiotics for weeks. A lot of sacrifices had to be made during the course of giving shape to the idol. First, I had to do a lot of homework. I went through around 1,000 images of Ram Lalla to ensure the best result. I followed all rituals every day, avoided sugar and spices to stay calm. Every day, it was taking a new shape, but the Lord guided me.
If given a chance, will you settle down in Ayodhya, the town which has given you so much fame?
I don’t think of all these things. But, if Lord Ram wants me to do his ‘sewa’, I will bow to his wish. However, I love Mysuru too.
Today, everyone is showering praise on Arun Yogiraj, the man behind Ram Lalla idol. Tell us something about those who worked behind the scenes — your family?
My wife has always supported me through thick and thin. It was difficult for her to stay away from me. At times, my kids fell ill but she did not inform me. I am blessed to have her as she is the one who has kept me composed. She has played a key role in Ram Lalla idol and all credit goes to her.
Which other projects are you working on?
No project will ever be bigger than Ram Lalla. Presently, I am busy completing the backlog and will only be able to take on new projects afterwards.

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