The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has participated in ceremonies to dedicate a state-of-the-art temple in Ayodhya to the well-known Hindu deity Ram.
The newly constructed temple was built in the place of a 16th-Century Mosque which was destroyed in 1992 by Hindu protesters. Almost 2,000 people lost their lives in widespread riots that were started due to the mosque’s destruction.
The event was attended by thousands of invited visitors, including cricket players, businessmen, and famous actors.
However, the majority of the opposition and several Hindu seers boycotted it, claiming that Mr. Modi was utilising it for political purposes.
In the next few months, India will hold general elections. According to Modi’s political opponents, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will run for office on the temple’s name in a nation where 80% of people identify as Hindu.
Critics have further charged that the government is overreacting to what is effectively a religious holiday in a secular nation guaranteed by the constitution.
The event, which was shown live on television, saw Modi engaging in religious rites within the temple’s inner chamber alongside priests and Mohan Bhagwat, the leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the political movement that gives rise to Hindu nationalist organisations. The temple has just opened its ground level; the remaining portions of the building are not scheduled to be finished until the end of the year.
The ceremony, which was tagged Pran Pratishtha, loosely translated to “establishment of life force” from Sanskrit, lasted for around an hour. Hindus believe that an idol or picture of a god will come to life with sacred energy if certain rituals are conducted around a fire and mantras are chanted.
The temple completes a long-standing promise made by Hindu nationalists to erect a shrine to Lord Ram in Ayodhya. The volatile city is undergoing significant renovations to become a popular travel destination for pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
Many Hindus believe that Ram was born at Ayodhya, and that Muslim conquerors erected the Babri mosque on the site of a Ram temple, marking the precise location of the Hindu god’s birth. The BJP gained political prominence in the 1990s, partly due to a drive to build a temple at the same location.
After the mosque was demolished, there ensued a long legal struggle about the title of the site. The matter was settled in 2019 when the Hindus were granted the contested land by the Supreme Court. Muslims received land outside the city on which to erect a mosque.
Built on a 70-acre complex, the $217 million (£170 million) new three-story temple is centred by black granite and composed of pink sandstone. It spans 7.2 acres.
Last week saw the unveiling of a 51-inch (4.25-foot) statue of the god that was particularly commissioned for the temple. The idol is situated in the sanctum sanctorum on a marble pedestal.
In Ayodhya, since Monday morning, the new temple has been the destination of all roadways. Thousands of police officers have been sent in to control traffic and maintain security. Major highways are adorned with BJP flags in saffron hue and flags featuring Hindu gods; many of which have been garlanded with marigold flowers in vivid yellow and orange.
Among those in attendance were some of India’s most well-known figures, such as cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.
Modi had urged pilgrims to watch the ritual live on television rather than go in big numbers to Ayodhya in order to prevent congestion in the tiny city. In order to make it easier for people to witness the event, all of the BJP-ruled states have closed their universities and schools, proclaimed a full or half-day government vacation, and closed their stock exchanges.
As Modi’s requested that people light up lamps, supporters of the party in several Delhi areas have also flown saffron banners with pictures of Ram on their rooftops. The event is being screened in movie theatres, and large television screens have been erected in residential communities and town squares.
Modi had said that the temple is a major achievement, and that the country was “eagerly waiting” for the opening.
In a message earlier in the month, he said, “Many generations had looked forward to this moment,” further saying that he would be “representing all of India’s 1.4 billion people” at the consecration ceremony.
However, things took a negative turn when prominent religious figures claimed that since the temple was not yet finished, it was improper for Hindus to perform these rites there, and many opposition leaders chose to avoid the event.
A few states governed by the opposition have also revealed their own plans for the day. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, said she will lead an interfaith demonstration after praying at Kolkata’s famous Kali temple. Also, the eastern state of Odisha (Orissa), revealed huge plans to attract pilgrims to the Jagannath temple in Puri, one of the holiest places for Hindus.
Officials claim that once the Ayodhya temple is completed, they anticipate seeing more than 150,000 people per day.