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Skating, cycling, walking — The journeys people are taking to reach Ayodhya

Skating, cycling, walking — The journeys people are taking to reach Ayodhya
Walking, cycling and even skating! Covering long distances amid bone-chilling cold, people from all over the country and cutting across religions are flocking to the temple town of Ayodhya ahead of the consecration ceremony on January 22. Driven by their faith in Lord Ram and carried through by the overwhelming religious mood in the country, they say they desire to be a part of the historic day and want to send out a message of love and unity.

Nitish Kumar, a resident of Bihar's Madhepura district, has cycled more than 600 km to reach Ayodhya.

"It took me seven days to cover 615 km from Bihar to Ayodhya. I have reached today. I was carrying a sleeping bag and some essentials with me on my cycle only to help me take some breaks on the way. I had decided to do this when the Supreme Court verdict came, I was still in school then," the 21-year-old told PTI.

"I will come next time with my family. We are a strong believer in Lord Ram. They will also be celebrating on January 22 but I wanted to be part of this historic day in Ayodhya," he added.

Kumar has adorned his bicycle with four flags -- a tricolour and three saffron flags bearing pictures and a 'Jai Shri Ram' message.

Soni Chaurasia, a Guinness Book record holder for the "longest dance marathon" (124 hours), is among the invitees for the consecration ceremony and is skating her way to Ayodhya from Varanasi.

"I left Varanasi on January 17 and will reach on January 22. I have skated this long before too but the weather right now is a challenge. The entire journey is 228 km. I am being accompanied by my coach and doctor who will follow me on a motorbike," Chaurasia told PTI.

Himanshu Soni, who is just 10 years old, set out for Ayodhya on skates from Rajasthan's Kotputhli on January 16 aiming to cover a distance of 704 km.

"My family is a believer in Lord Ram and when we looked around, the atmosphere is no less than Diwali right now. I wanted to be in Ayodhya on the day of the consecration ceremony and what better way to reach there other than pursuing my talent," Soni said.

Aiming to spread the message of Hindu-Muslim unity, Shabnam Shaikh is walking from Mumbai to Ayodhya.

"The total journey is over 1,400 km. I walk around 60 km a day and take multiple breaks. Being a girl, it is an obvious concern to look for a safe space to take breaks during the journey but wherever I am going I am being welcomed by people," she said.

Dressed as Mahatma Gandhi with round spectacles and a stick in his hand, Muttna Tirlapura, a resident of Karakitti in Karnataka, has marched over 2000 km on foot to reach Ayodhya.

"Gandhiji used to take 'Ram naam' daily. Who other than him to spread the message of Lord Ram! I am going places to spread this message only," said Tirlapura, who refers to himself as 'adhunik Gandhi' (Modern Gandhi).

Omesh Bhagat (47) who refers to himself as "Buddha Uncle" is on an all-India cycling tour with a message to save the environment.

With a solar panel installed on the backseat of his cycle, Bhagat has cycled over 13,000 km since May and has now reached Ayodhya.

"The religious mood that we see in the country is overwhelming. Have never seen this before. But there is also a message that though Ayodhya will see an economic boom now, we should not forget that we need to preserve the environment here," he said.

Naresh Gupta, a 36-year-old farmer from Kharsia in Chattisgarh walked barefoot for nearly 700 km to reach Ayodhya.

"It took me two months to reach here. I used to take several breaks. It was a memorable journey and I was determined to complete it. At times, the weather made it difficult to walk barefoot but I managed," Gupta told PTI.

Jaswinder Singh Lucky and his son, who are from Uttarakhand, are cycling to Ayodhya from the hill town. They will reach the holy city on January 20.

"The message we want to send out is of communal harmony. We are Sikhs and we believe in Lord Ram too," he said.

Similarly, Nitin Bhatia, a Sikh from Batala in Punjab, is cycling over 1,100 km to reach Ayodhya on the same day as Lucky and his son.

The first phase of the temple is nearing completion and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part in its consecration ceremony on January 22.

The Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in 2019, settling a temple-mosque dispute that dated back more than a century. The court backed the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site and ruled that an alternative five-acre plot must be found for building a mosque.