The long-awaited inauguration ceremony for the Ram Mandir temple built in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya was held on January 22nd, 2024. The extravagant rituals conducted over multiple days led up to a grand opening event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other prominent figures. However, the temple and ceremony have proven controversial due to the disputed history of the temple site.
Background on the Ayodhya Dispute
The Ram Mandir temple has been at the center of a decades-long dispute between Hindus and Muslims in India. The locationhosted a 16th mosque known as Babri Masjid, beforea mob of Hindu activists demolished it in 1992, sparking communal riots across India.
Many Hindus claimed that the mosque had been built after destroying a pre-existing Ram temple that marked the birthplace of the revered god Lord Ram. The legal dispute over ownership of the land went all the way to India’s Supreme Court. In 2019, the Court ruled that the site should be handed over to a trust appointed by the central government to oversee the construction of a Ram temple.
|Key Events in Ayodhya Dispute
|Babri mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur
|Idols of Lord Ram appear inside mosque, triggering disputes
|Hindu activists form committee to liberate Ram Janmabhoomi site
|Babri mosque demolished by Hindu activists
|Allahabad HC rules disputed land be divided 3 ways
|Supreme Court awards site for Ram temple construction
The 2019 verdict was seen as a major political victory for Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has long supported the Ram temple cause to appeal to their Hindu nationalist base.
Grand Opening Ceremony Begins
The consecration ritual known as ‘Pran Pratishtha’ was performed over 11 days from January 12th to 22nd under the guidance of head priest Acharya Satyendra Das. The ceremony involved purification rituals, installation of idols, and recitation of Hindu scriptures by priests and volunteers.
The Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust which oversees the temple’s construction made extensive arrangements to host the grand event while maintaining security. The Trust has reportedly spent over ₹200 crore on preparations for the inauguration.
On January 19th, the idol of Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram) crafted by sculptor Arun Yogiraj was placed in the inner sanctum of the main temple. This marked the first time the public got a glimpse of what the idol looks like.
The Ram Lalla idol has been kept under high security monitored by CCTV cameras and will continue to have round-the-clock armed protection even after the opening.
Prime Minister Modi Attends as Chief Guest
The highlight of the ceremonies was the grand opening event on January 22nd attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the chief guest along with other VIPs.
PM Modi participated in various rituals over the 11 day ceremony. He reportedly slept on the floor and observed a strict fast during this time, only drinking water and coconut water.
In an audio message released earlier, PM Modi described himself as “emotional” over getting the chance to attend this long-awaited event. Political analysts see his prominent role in the temple inauguration as part of launching his campaign for the 2024 national elections where he will seek a third term.
Who Else Attended the Ceremonies?
In addition to PM Modi, numerous other political leaders and celebrities have been extended invitations to participate in the rituals.
- UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath
- Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan
- Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal
- Shankracharya Vijayendra Saraswati
- Yoga Guru Ramdev
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
- Actors Sunny Deol, Manoj Joshi
- Singers Kailash Kher, Jagjit Singh
- Cricketers Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina
- Olympic medalists Mary Kom, PV Sindhu
Hindu religious groups and temple trusts from around India have also sent delegations to participate in the mega event.
Overall, around 5 lakh devotees are expected to converge in Ayodhya over the days of the ceremony even as some have criticized holding this mass gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Temple Construction on War Footing
All eyes are now on finishing the temple construction after the consecration rituals conclude.
The Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has set Diwali 2024 (October) as their target for completing construction. But many say the timeline is unrealistic considering less than 30% of construction had been completed as of December 2022.
|Ram Mandir Construction Status
|Total project cost
|Funds collected so far
|Construction completed before Jan 2022
|New deadline for completion
Work is progressing on war footing to try meeting the lofty deadline. Multiple wings of the temple complex are being constructed simultaneously by Larsen & Toubro Ltd which is the main contractor.
The Trust has decided to keep some parts of the temple project on hold for now such as the proposed meditation hall. Their priority is completing the main temple along with basic facilities needed to allow devotees to offer worship when construction finishes by October 2024.
Robust Security Measures for Event
Given past incidents of violence related to the temple dispute, security has been of paramount concern in the lead up to the opening.
CCTV & Surveillance
Over 200 CCTV cameras with facial recognition technology powered by AI have been installed to monitor crowds. Anti-drone systems are also in place to prevent any misuse of private drones around the venue.
Around 35,000 Uttar Pradesh police personnel have taken charge of security arrangements in coordination with paramilitary forces like the NSG. Recently, 200 UP Police commandos even underwent special NSG-style training for three weeks to handle potential terror threats.
No one aside from designated temple priests and authorized personnel are allowed to go near the Ram Lalla idol. Mobile internet services may be limited in nearby districts if required to check the spread of misinformation. Devotees at the temple are not allowed to carry any electronic devices or accessories while praying.
Authorities say they want to ensure water-tight security so the joyous occasion is not disrupted by some anti-social element trying to sabotage the mega event. But some civil rights advocates have expressed concern at the restrictions curtailing people’s freedoms.
What Comes Next for the Ram Temple?
Now that the consecration rituals which give spiritual life to the deity are complete, the Ram Lalla idol can accept worship and offerings from devotees. But regular prayers and rituals inside the inner sanctum will likely not begin right away.
The priority for the Ram Mandir Trust is completing the remaining construction over the next 9 months. Once the work finishes later this year, the temple management will make arrangements for regular puja and aarti offerings.
By next Diwali, devotees should be able to do parikrama of the entire temple complex and get a proper darshan of Ram Lalla in an architecturally complete shrine, as long dreamed of by temple proponents.
The opening of India’s tallest and grandest Ram temple at this disputed site is certainly a historic moment for the country. However, it remains contentious with some minority groups protesting the temple inauguration. For PM Modi and the ruling BJP, the mega event represents a political win that could pay dividends in upcoming state and national elections.
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