Twenty-five years ago, Lord Hanuman had “descended” in Sushil Dutta’s dreams, bidding for his “tall” statue. Due to lack of enough funds, its construction seemed like a fantasy then.
Fast forward to 2024, the construction of a 51-foot towering statue of Hanuman is in full swing at a juncture of quiet and crooked lanes of Geeta Colony in east Delhi.
It is set to be inaugurated on January 22. Incidentally, the pran pratishtha (ceremony to consecrate Ram Lalla idol) at the controversial Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya is scheduled on the same day.
Dutta, the general-secretary of the Pracheen Shidh Shree Hanuman Mandir, said that they (the temple and its members) “have nothing to do” with the developments in Ayodhya and that the date for its inauguration was decided way before the announcement of pran pratishtha at Ram Temple.
“January 22 holds immense auspiciousness in the Hindu calendar this year, prompting our decision for the inauguration,” he said.
According to Dutta, the Hanuman idol is emblematic of a society that respects people of all faiths.
He said, “Our temple is open for all. You can practice any religion, but our arms are open for you. You see, all our workers inside the temple are Muslims. In fact, the person who kept the holy kalash (metal pot) at the top of the idol is Muslim. They are all like our children. Religion does not teach us to discriminate. It’s the politicians!”
The construction of the 51-ft idol began 15 months ago, in October 2022 during Navaratri.
Sanjay Kapoor, the chief secretary, emphasises that the temple’s essence remains unchanged, with the new statue only “enhancing” its spiritual aura.
“The mandir existed from before. Only the statue is new. The idols that were in front have been shifted to the back for the construction of the statue,” he said.
Dutta explains the delay in initiating the project, stating, “We invest funds in social issues and I believe that taking care of our faith is also among important issues. We invest in the education of poor children. Our members also raise money to help poor families get their daughters married. So, what’s the harm in using some of our funds in catering to our religious sentiments? We are not using it to spew hate! Because we don’t want to launder funds and use money efficiently, it took us more than two decades to start building the idol.”
Unequivocally, Dutta asserted, “No politician is involved here. We have intended to keep politics away from this strictly. Our invitation transcends politics and political parties and we do not in any way endorse any kind of discrimination. Everyone is our own — Hindus and Muslims alike.
“The workers who are constructing the idol are all Muslims. We do not care what religion or faith someone follows. Someone’s faith is their personal matter and we are respectful of it. To deny work or entry to someone based on their religion or faith is not what we believe in. In fact, every year during Navratri, the person who creates the Ravana effigies is Muslim. It’s one family that has been doing it for us since 1958. This is what we have always been known for and we want to stand by that.
“It’s politicians who divide people. They want to create their own vote-banks, which is also why we want to keep politicians away,” said Dutta.
All set for inauguration
“First a miniature was made and based on that, the main idol is made. On the day of inauguration, we will illuminate the sky with firecrackers and light 31 diyas.
“This is the only tall Hanuman statue with a chhat (roof).”
Engrossed in beating the metal, Mohammad Siraj said that he has been working with the temple committee “for a while”.
“It’s me who kept the kalash up on the top,” said Siraj, who is barely tall, gleefully.
“I have also become a Hanuman Bhakt (devotee) now,” he added, with a smirk. “There is not a moment that we have been made to feel unwelcome here. In fact, for the past two days, I was sick and could not even speak. It was sir (Dutta), who arranged for all the medicines and treatment only for me to feel well,” said Siraj, who is a resident of Loni.
Dutta claimed to employ people from the marginalised communities “because they should get work”.
“It is our responsibility to give everyone work and not discriminate against people or pit one against another,” he said.
As the towering Hanuman statue nears completion, Geeta Colony is preparing for a grand inauguration.
Dutta shared the message they wish to impart, “Everyone should prosper. You cannot move forward by leaving someone behind. Be it a temple, mosque, or gurudwara — after all, they are places of worship. Everyone has different religious structures, but we must live together with love.”
The Hanuman statue has invoked a deep religious fervour among the people of the neighbourhood.
“It’s like a living legend watching over us,” said a resident. “This statue now embodies the soul of Geeta Colony. You can now spot us from the top.”
Local shopkeepers echo the sentiment.
“People will come for Hanuman ji’s blessings so that will also get us more customers,” said a juice vendor.
During Patriot’s visit, residents — young and old — paused in their routines to look up at the statue and pray with folded hands.
However, a few residents raised questions on “misutilisation of money”.
“Is this grand gesture really what our community needs?” a local shopkeeper wondered aloud.
“Shouldn’t our focus be on essential needs like better infrastructure and sanitation,” she asked.
“I can’t help but think, was this statue necessary? We have more pressing issues in Geeta Colony, like infrastructure and sanitation. You can see the condition of the roads for yourself. They are broken all over and full of potholes. Maybe the funds could have been utilised differently,” said another shopkeeper, as the colony witnessed the ebb and flow of life.