The much-awaited inauguration of the Ram Mandir (Grand Ram Temple) in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh is finally taking place on January 22, 2024 after years of legal disputes and delays. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be presiding over the elaborate religious ceremonies to mark the occasion. The inauguration has stirred mixed reactions across India – many Hindu devotees are celebrating while some minority groups have concerns over rising religious tensions.
Lead Up to the Inauguration
The Ram Janmabhoomi movement, seeking to construct a temple dedicated to Lord Rama on a site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid (Babri Mosque) stood before being demolished in 1992, has been ongoing since the 1980s. There were protracted legal battles between Hindu and Muslim groups over ownership of the land.
In 2019, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of the Hindus, stating that the site should be handed over for the construction of a Hindu temple. The judgment fueled the rise of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since coming to power for a second term in 2019, the BJP has delivered on key ideological promises like abrogating Kashmir’s autonomy and now constructing the temple for their most devoted base.
Over $200 million has been collected from Indian tycoons and diaspora groups worldwide for the temple’s construction.
|Key Developments in Ayodhya Dispute
|Babri mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur
|First recorded communal clashes over site
|Idols of Lord Ram appeared inside mosque, leading to disputes
|Hindu group begins campaign for temple at site
|Mosque demolished by Hindu activists
|Allahabad HC rules site be divided into 3 parts
|SC gives site to Hindus, alternate land for mosque
Now after over 70 years of disputes and campaigning by Hindu groups, the dream temple is finally complete and ready for consecration rituals to formally open it.
Grand Inauguration Events
The inauguration ceremonies for the Ram Mandir are taking place over 4 days from January 21-24, with attendance likely over 200,000. PM Modi will preside over the key rituals on Jan 22. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said Rs 2,000 crore has been allocated for improving infrastructure in Ayodhya.
Key events include:
- Jan 21 (Saturday): Gathering of seers, VIPs.Symbolic shifting of Ram Lalla idol to new temple site.
- Jan 22 (Sunday): Modi to perform 14 key inauguration rituals. Lighting of 1.6 lakh diyas, fireworks.
- Jan 23 (Monday): Additional inauguration events with chief guests.
- Jan 24 (Tuesday): Planting of 32,000 temple trees at new site.
The ceremonies involve Hindu rituals like bathing the idol in Panchamrit and installing it under the temple’s central dome. The idol spent the night on a flower-decked boat, crossing the Saryu river elating devotees who had been waiting for this moment for decades.
Massive Security Arrangements
Ayodhya has been brought under a heavy security blanket in view of the high profile event. Over 26,000 security personnel from police and paramilitary forces have been deployed, including 650 senior officers. Facial recognition systems with over 500 cameras are being used to monitor every movement.
Covid precautions are also strict – all attendees must have a negative RT-PCR report and vaccination certificate. Thermal screening is being done at transport and darshan points.
Officials want to prevent any communal disharmony or untoward incidents from marring celebrations that have taken decades of campaigning by Hindu groups. However, many minority Muslim voices in India have openly expressed their grief and helplessness over the razing of the 16th century Babri mosque they held dear.
Temple Tourism Boom Anticipated
With its inauguration, Ayodhya hopes to cement its place among India’s major religious tourism destinations like Varanasi, Mathura and Dwarka. The Uttar Pradesh government has already approved airport expansion plans and allocated over $15 million for Ayodhya tourism infrastructure projects.
Some estimates predict Ayodhya’s annual tourism footprint could cross $500 million, catalyzed greatly by domestic pilgrims wishing to visit Lord Ram’s newly consecrated birthplace.
The Ram Mandir Trust plans to build a temple corridor modeled on Vatican City around the main shrine. This would have accommodation facilities for devotees, Vedic study centers, etc – generating devotional as well as revenue value for Ayodhya.
Brands have also jumped on the Ayodhya bandwagon – special Ram Mandir merchandise, packaged food and beverages are already on sale seeking to cash in on religious-themed consumption.
Thus the inauguration could give a big boost to real estate and hospitality in the city. However, concerns remain on how equitably its economic gains are shared.
What Next After the Grand Opening?
With Uttar Pradesh elections coming up in 2024, this show of strength around a major BJP ideological objective could bolster their prospects. However, concerns remain around rising religious polarization and erosion of India’s secular values under Modi’s leadership.
Now the challenge will be maintaining peace and driving balanced development in Ayodhya even after the inauguration fervor recedes. Creating “Ram Rajya” or an equitable, harmonious kingdom for all citizens regardless of religion, as Lord Ram embodied, should be the ultimate goal.
For centuries Ayodhya has been a contested city laden with historical symbolism. This inauguration and BJP’s ascendancy promises major change, for better or worse remains to be seen. Modi’s speech emphasizing “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas” to represent all Indians will be closely watched.
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