Lord Ram all set to take Times Square by storm

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, the same will be witnessed by thousands of Indian-Americans at the Times Square in NYC.

Setting the Indian media abuzz and keeping the coronavirus off primetime debates with the upcoming Ayodhya revelry on Thursday, Lord Ram is ready to take New York City’s iconic Times Square by storm.

Indian-Americans and followers of India’s religious and spiritual offerings have been ecstatic. The giant billboards of Times Square are instant publicity for many brands worldwide. Perhaps for the first time, the billboards will showcase India’s religious heritage and belief on that scale of grandeur and historic glory when Lord Ram and 3D portraits of the grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be beamed across the Times Square on Thursday to celebrate the temple’s foundation laying ceremony.

As the Prime Minister lays the foundation of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the same will be witnessed by thousands of Indian-Americans at the Times Square in NYC. While the coronavirus cannot take busloads of the Indian diaspora to Times Square, the majority of the 4 million-strong Indian American community will be seeing it live on TV, although thousands are believed to have confirmed their participation and are coming all the way from cities like Boston and Chicago, and from Ohio, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania, besides the NYC and New Jersey’s strong Indian-origin population standing as organizers and volunteers.

 “It’s a moment of a lifetime and a historic one for us Indian Americans and for the 1.8 billion Hindus worldwide,’’ says Jagdish Sewhani, a prominent diaspora leader and president of the American India Public Affairs Committee.

Sewhani is credited to be the man behind this ‘grand show of Indian culture and heritage’ and what many say “the growing influence of India’s stature on American soil”. “Interestingly it happened in a flash and with just a couple of calls among friends,’’Sewhani told The Daily Guardian. He added, “The moment we heard the news of PM Modi going to Ayodhya to lay the foundation of the Ram Temple, I called a couple of friends to ask if we can showcase the same to the world from the Times Square, and everyone sounded positive… time was a factor, but the band of relentless volunteers have worked day and night to make it happen.”

 Sewhani’s joy got a momentary disruption on Thursday when news about ‘cancellation of billboard display’, quoting the ad company, was flashed after some Islamic organisations reportedly protested the Hindu deity’s display on billboards. When contacted, Sewhani confirmed to TDG: “We’re going with the celebrations… this is fake news. We are only celebrating Ram Janmabhoomi pujan, nothing else.’’

It seems that Lord Ram will have to face some protests on foreign soil this time. Pakistan supporters have always protested big Indian events like Howdy Modi in Houston and the last UNGA meeting in September, but have been outnumbered by the strong Indian-American presence at both places. The Indian media seem puzzled about the actual outcome of this `unconfirmed news’, reportedly based on a website run by a fundamentalist group. When TDG questioned Sewhani again on Tuesday night, he reiterated the statement he made earlier saying, “Indian diaspora is now even stronger to make this show happen… we’re on with this and don’t believe fake news and rumors.’’

Another ‘showman’ of India in America, Dr Bharat Bharai, the Chicago based doctor, who had organised big events for PM Modi and the last pro-India demonstrations at the UNGA in NYC in September 2019, is euphoric and emotional. “The sacrifice and the struggle made for getting back the Ram Janmabhoomi of thousands of Hindus for the last 500 years have succeeded finally,’’ Dr Bharai, someone known to be very close to PM Modi in America’s Gujarati diaspora, told The Daily Guardian.

 Sewhani added, “Among the prominent billboards that are being leased for the occasion are the giant Nasdaq screen and the 17,000-sq-ft wrap-around LED display screen, considered among the largest continuous exterior displays in the world and the highestresolution exterior LED screen in Times Square.’’

 Sewhani credits PM Modi for the Ram Temple construction at Ayodhya. “Till six years ago, we never thought that this day would come soon, but due to Modi’s leadership, this day has come and we want to celebrate it in a befitting way.”

 Beginning from 8 am on 5 August till 10 pm, images of the words ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in Hindi and English, Lord Ram’s portraits and videos, 3D portraits of the temple’s design and architecture as well as pictures of the laying of the foundation stone by PM Modi will be displayed across several billboards, which are among the most striking and popular features of Times Square. Members of the Indian community will also gather to do the lighting and distribute sweets, besides the showcase of Indian heritage – music and dance to enthral the masses, who will gather at the Times Square from across the world.

India will come alive about 8000 miles away in NYC, said Dr Sampat Shivangi, the National Mental Health advisor in President Donald Trump’s administration. Calling it a unique event in the history of two nations, as Dr Shivangi said: “One that is our motherland India and another, the adopted one, the US.” “A celebration of this degree for the resurrection of Ram Janmabhoomi at the Times Square is something every Hindu in America has been looking up to for years and this will be a moment to cherish for generations,’’ he said.

There are at least 300- odd Hindu temples in the US and nearly 50 of these are in the New York and New Jersey areas, which are closest to the Times Square. Pramod Bhagat, a New Jersey resident informed that coronavirus fears may compel people to maintain social distancing and not be present at the spot in bus loads, “but small family gathering of bhajans and kirtans are being organised in households to celebrate and be a part of this historic moment”.

 Dr Shivangi added, “I can assure you the glimpses of these events will leave lasting memories that are being eagerly awaited. These visuals will show to the world that Hinduism is well and alive and that it is a universal dharma (religion).”

While the thousands of Indian-Americans present at the Times Square will rejoice the moment, Dr Bharai said, “The Hindu Mandir Executive Conference (HMEC) of the US and Hindu Mandir Priests Conference (HMPC) and VHP of America are organising a virtual collective national prayer across America to celebrate the historic Ram Janmabhoomi poojan in Ayodhya. It’s a dream come true. The chanting will start in the US and Canada from 8 pm to 9 pm US EST on August 4.”

Dr Bharai, who himself had done kar seva in Ayodhya, added: “This is the third time in the last several decades that IndianAmericans have organised massive events at the iconic Time Square — the live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at Madison Square Garden, Diwali and now Ram Janmabhoomi poojan.’’ He said the strong Indian diaspora, with mostly Hindus, are all for contributing to “the construction of the temple.”