Following his roadshow in Nashik, Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit on Friday (January 12) to the Kalaram Mandir situated along the banks of the Godavari in the Panchavati area of the city.
A day prior to this, Uddhav Thackeray, the chief of Shiv Sena (UBT), announced his intention to spend January 22 at the temple, coinciding with the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
This historic temple holds significance not only in the context of religious ceremonies but also due to its association with a pivotal agitation led by Babasaheb Ambedkar over 90 years ago, advocating for temple entry rights for Dalits. The question arises: why has this temple attracted major political leaders over the decades?
The epic story of Lord Ram unfolds numerous significant events at this site. During their 14-year exile, Lord Ram, along with Sita and Lakshman, spent initial years in Dandakaranya, a dense forest in central India that included Panchavati.
The name Panchavati is derived from the presence of five banyan trees in the area, where, according to the epic, Lord Ram, Sita, and Lakshman established a hut, considering the region auspicious due to the five banyan trees.
It was from Panchavati that Ravan, the demon king of Lanka, abducted Sita, setting off a chain of events leading to Ram’s journey southward to Lanka and the Ramayana war.
In 1930, B R Ambedkar and social activist Pandurang Sadashiv Sane led an agitation demanding temple access for Dalits. Ambedkar organized a protest outside the Kalaram temple on March 2, 1930, where Dalit protesters surrounded the temple with a sit-in, demanding the right to enter.
Facing opposition, the protesters persisted in a satyagraha at the Kalaram temple until 1935. Ambedkar’s earlier satyagraha in 1927 focused on asserting Dalit rights to use water in public places.
The Kalaram temple, housing a black statue of Lord Ram, was built in 1792 by Sardar Rangarao Odhekar, who dreamed of a black statue of Lord Ram in the Godavari. Recovering the statues from the river, he constructed the temple, and the place where the statues were found was named Ramkund.
The main temple’s features include 14 steps symbolizing the 14 years of Ram’s exile and 84 pillars representing the cycle of 84 lakh species. The temple is a revered destination for thousands of devotees daily.