India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi today presided over the inauguration of a grand temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram in the northern city of Ayodhya, fulfilling a long-cherished dream of many Hindus. The inauguration marks the culmination of a decades-long campaign by Hindu nationalist groups to build a temple on the site of a 16th century mosque demolished by Hindu activists in 1992.
Massive Crowds Gather for Historic Event
As per reports, over 5 lakh people have gathered in Ayodhya to witness the inauguration, including saints, seers, politicians and cultural figures. The atmosphere is one of euphoria and celebration, with chants of “Jai Shree Ram” reverberating through the city. Devotees have been pouring in over the past few days to catch a glimpse of the new temple.
Elaborate security arrangements involving over 20,000 personnel, CCTV cameras and drones have been put in place, with Ayodhya virtually turning into a fortress. As per UP government statements, the event is being monitored from a hi-tech command and control center by senior police and administrative officials.
The consecration ceremony, known as ‘Pran Pratishtha’, was performed by a team of priests in the presence of PM Modi and other VIPs.
Temple Holds Deep Significance for Hindus
The construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya has been a long-standing demand of Hindu groups who revere the city as the birthplace of the deity Ram. Hindus believe Ram was a divine incarnation and an ideal king, and that a temple stood at his birthplace which was demolished in 1528 by Mughal invaders.
As analyzed, the Ram temple movement became a focal point for Hindu nationalism from the 1980s, when the BJP under LK Advani began a campaign to build a temple at the site occupied by the 16th century Babri Masjid mosque. This ultimately led to the demolition of the mosque by Hindu activists in 1992. The inauguration of the new temple thus marks the symbolic culmination of this temple movement.
|Key Events in Ayodhya Temple timeline
|1528: Babri mosque built at Ram Janmbhoomi by Mughal commander Mir Baqi
|1949: Idols of Ram Lalla placed inside mosque, premises sealed
|1984: Hindu groups form committee to liberate Ram Janmbhoomi
|1986: District Court orders reopening of premises for Hindu worship
|1992: Babri mosque demolished by Hindu activists
|2019: Supreme Court allots disputed land for temple construction
|2024: Inauguration of Ram temple by PM Modi
For devotees attending the event, the inauguration signifies the restoration of Hindu pride and correcting historical wrongs. “This is a historic day, like the homecoming of Lord Ram,” said Pilgrim Ram Pyari to Reuters.
Grand Temple Showcases Ancient Architecture
The new three-storied temple, built of sandstone and marble, encompasses an area of 2.7 acres. Its design incorporates elements showcasing ancient Hindu architectural styles, like the Nagara style noted for its elaborate spires.
As reported by multiple outlets, no steel or iron has been used in the construction, in line with ancient Hindu practices. The temple walls and pillars are adorned with intricate carvings depicting stories from Hindu scriptures.
The main sanctum houses a 1.8m idol of Ram Lalla (infant Ram) which was consecrated with Vedic rituals presided over by chief priest Acharya Satyendra Das. Made of gold and copper, the idol was sculpted by Mysuru-based artist Arun Yogiraj who described it as “the divine calling of his lifetime”.
Adjacent sanctums house idols of Ram’s companions Laxman and Hanuman. In the prayer hall, Ram’s siblings Bharat and Shatrughan also have their own idols, along with images of Vishwakarma, the architect of the gods. Outside, over 200 more pillars exhibit a carved pictorial narrative of the Ramayana epic.
The construction has been managed by the Sri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Trust set up on the Supreme Court’s directions, with contributions from devotees across India and abroad. Engineers, architects and sculptors from various states were roped in for the meticulously-planned project completed in a record three years’ time.
Milestone Event for Modi Govt with Eye on 2024 Polls
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP party, today’s mega event carries huge political symbolism in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Modi laid the first brick at the temple construction site in 2020, and the completion of the temple is being positioned as one of the biggest realizations of the BJP’s longstanding Hindu nationalist agenda.
Politically, this allows Modi to signal that his government has fulfilled the promises made to Hindu voters, an important constituency for the BJP. As commented by analysts, the event gives Modi the first major milestone for his 2024 campaign, allowing him to craft a narrative of strong, visionary leadership in the mould of an “iconic figure from Hindu mythology reincarnated as a modern ruler.”
The mega event also signals that contentious issues surrounding Ayodhya have been resolved under BJP rule. “A 500-year-old historical mistake has been rectified today, crores of people struggled for this…”, Modi tweeted.
However, some religious minorities and opposition parties continue to see the temple as a sign of the BJP advancing its ideological agenda. Several Muslim leaders have expressed apprehensions over the celebrations, and incidents of communal tension between Hindus and Muslims have been reported in some towns. The temple thus remains a politically divisive symbol, notwithstanding BJP positioning it as a marker of “national unity”.
What Happens Next for Ayodhya?
With the Ram temple assuming centrality in Ayodhya’s religious identity, several infrastructure projects are underway to develop the city into a global heritage destination. These include building roads, ghats, parks as well as amenities for pilgrims. According to the vision document released by the state government, Ayodhya aims to showcase the cultural grandeur of ancient India while blending tradition with modernity.
The current Mahant of the Ram Temple, Satyendra Das, has predicted that Ayodhya would surpass other global religious tourism destinations. “Very soon, this place would overshadow all global icons like Mecca, Vatican and Bodhgaya,” remarked the saint.
With its place cemented in history, Ayodhya seems poised to cater to ever larger legions of the Hindu faithful undaunted by years of strife and controversy.
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