Meet the Sompuras, master architects of Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir

The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the ‘bhoomi pujan’ of which was performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5 is being built by the Sompura family of temple architects, led by the patriarch Chandrakant Sompura. 

The family from Palitana town in Gujarat has built more than 200 grand temples around the country and elsewhere, including the grand Somnath Temple that was opened in 1951, the Akshardham temples, and the Krishna Janmasthan in Mathura.

Chandrakant Sompura, 77, had started work on the temple to Ram Lalla in Ayodhya 30 years ago, after he first visited the site with then Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Ashok Singhal. Industrialist Ghanshyamdas Birla asked him if he would take up the Ram Mandir project, and introduced him to Singhal. Sompura had worked on several of the Birla temples then.

His son, Ashish, 49 has made the site plan of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir. He is working out the details with Larsen & Toubro, the company that has been awarded the contract to build the temple.

The art of temple building came to Ashish largely from his father and great grandfather Prabhashankar, who built the Somnath Mandir in Prabhas Patan on the Gujarat coast inaugurated by the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, in 1951. Prabhashankar, who was later honored with the Padma Shri, lost his son, Balwantrai, who was then 51, in an accident while Balwantrai was returning from a renovation project of the Badrinath temple.

But for the family, the Somnath temple is the closest to their heart. The Sompuras believe that their ancestors were taught the art of temple building by the divine architect Vishwakarma himself. 

Their ancestor Ramji built the Jain temple complex on the Shetrunjay hills of Palitana, commissioned to him by a sugar merchant from Bombay who named the main dwar ‘Ram pol’ after him, says Sompura. He did not go to any formal school of architecture, having learnt it from his grandfather and father and the shastras, he says — his sons and others who joined in the temple project are, however, trained engineers or architects.

The last time Sompura himself went to Ayodhya was around five years back. His sons Nikhil, 55, and Ashish have taken over the execution of the project, and Ashutosh, 28, the civil engineer son of Nikhil, has joined them after training for two years in temple architecture through site visits and home schooling.

Chandrakant Sompura

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