Masjid domes and temple spires, their green and saffron flags aflutter in the wind, line the 11 km road from Faizabad to Ayodhya. Tension engulfs the visitor right from the Hanuman Gardhi, 900 m from the Ramjanmabhoomi complex. There are six layers of security at which visitors are frisked/checked thoroughly as gun-toting guards watch from the watch towers.Hundreds of CCTVs scan every inch of the site.
Inside the heavily fortified complex, a narrow pathway, grilled from all sides, takes you to the main site, but no closer than 30 ft from the idol of the Ram Lalla installed in a makeshift temple. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is visible inside the tent. Chants of Sita Ram fill the air.
Outside the premises, around the point where visitors have to deposit their mobile phones, watches and other belongings, there innumerable shops selling toys, books, imitation jewellery and ubiquitous pictures of Lord Ram.
What you cannot miss are the CDs for sale. The shop-keepers play them endlessly on their TV screens 24x7. They show kar sevaks bringing down the mosque on the frenetic morning of December 6, 1992.
During the election season, with the Ramjanmabhoomi issue not really at the top of any party's agenda, the town went about its business and opinion was distinctly in favour of development and jobs for the town's young men and women. But the undercurrent is all about aastha, or faith, for construction of a bhavya, or grand, Ram temple. That's non-negotiable if you are a Hindu in Ayodhya.
Ramsevak, who runs a shop in the vicinity of the complex, says the CDs sell like hot cakes. ''Many visitors do say the heavy security makes them jittery but ever since the Babri Masjid demolition took place, visitors have been thronging this place.''
At the entrance to the complex, manned by the UP police, an elderly constable says yes, a grand temple will come up here one day. ''Even the archaeology department found evidence that a temple used to exist here,'' he says.
Rambabu Gupta, who runs a sweet shop right outside the Hanuman Garhi temple, remembers that he was 22 when the Babri Masjid was brought down. ''I voted for the BJP this time because only they can ensure that a grand Ram mandir is constructed here," he said. "You ask any person, young or old, here and
they will tell you that the Ram mandir is the core issue for all Hindus. It is a matter of faith.''
He hastens to add that it is not that the towns people are against Muslims. ''They can have a grand mosque across the Sarayu.''