The long-awaited inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is set for January 22nd, 2024. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the consecration ceremony, along with a host of other dignitaries. The event marks the culmination of decades of campaigning by Hindu nationalist groups to build a temple on the disputed Babri Masjid site.
Guest list includes celebrities and industrialists
The guest list for the Pran Pratishtha event reads like a who’s who of Indian society. Alongside politicians like Modi, the ceremony will be attended by major industrialists like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani. Several Bollywood celebrities have also received invites, including Kangana Ranaut and Vivek Oberoi.
Ranaut praised the idol of Ram Lalla which will be consecrated, saying:
“I had always imagined Lord Ram to be an embodiment of dignity, grace and youthfulness. The idol reflects exactly that.”
Major Hindu groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) will have a prominent presence too.
|Narendra Modi, Yogi Adityanath
|Kangana Ranaut, Akshay Kumar, Vivek Oberoi
|Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Ratan Tata
Security preparations utilize AI and drones
Extensive security precautions are being taken, including the use of AI and anti-drone measures.
Over 200 UP police personnel have undergone specialized NSG-style training for providing security during the event. AI-based systems will be deployed to monitor CCTV feeds to automatically detect suspicious activity. Radio frequency jammers and anti-drone equipment will also be utilized to counter any potential aerial threats.
The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has taken special care to ensure that heritage sites in Ayodhya are not disturbed. The group is working closely with the state government to guarantee smooth proceedings.
Rituals underway ahead of final ceremony
A series of Vedic rituals are already underway in the lead-up to the Pran Pratishtha on January 22nd. These rites are meant to infuse divinity into the idol of Ram Lalla before it is consecrated.
Earlier controversies had erupted over whether the formal consecration could take place while construction activities were still ongoing. However, several Hindu priests and spiritual figures stated that rituals purifying the premises had already been completed prior to idol installation.
First look at Ram Lalla idol revealed
The first images of the Ram Lalla idol were widely shared on the 19th of January. The striking black-stone figure depicts a youthful Ram, holding a bow and arrow, clad in golden robes. The exact details of the idol had been kept secret up to this point by temple authorities.
Right-wing supporters hailed the reveal across social media platforms. The hashtags #JaiShriRam and #RamMandir began trending as devotees expressed their delight and reverence.
Meanwhile, some geologists have claimed that the stone used to carve Ram Lalla was sourced from an extremely old underground rock formation dating back billions of years. While additional verification may be needed, it demonstrates the care taken by sculptors in choosing an appropriate stone medium for the deity.
Modi observing strict ascetic rituals
In the days leading up to the grand celebration, reports emerged that PM Modi himself has been following strict ascetic rituals in preparation.
Sources say that Modi has given up cereals, spices, salt, greens, etc. over the past 11 days. He has also not been sleeping on a bed. Such observances indicate his sincerity and the solemnness with which he is approaching the event.
Modi tweeted that he will remain focused in prayer and service until the 22nd.
Massive crowds expected across Ayodhya
Ayodhya has been decked out for celebrating its long-awaited moment in the spotlight. Huge billboards, banners, and building wrappings featuring Lord Ram overlook the city.
The Railway Ministry is even running a special Ramayana-themed train to shuttle devotees around holy sites.
Massive crowds are expected in the lead-up as believers stream in from across India to witness the consecration. Experts say this event could play a significant role in political messaging ahead of the 2024 national elections.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has rather bombastically dubbed it as a “new dawn” for Hindu resurgence amidst foreign religious influences. However, Muslim groups and secular critics remain concerned about the marginalization of minority communities under the pretext of religious nationalism.
Timeline of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir dispute
The Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute has dragged on for over a century. Right-wing Hindu groups, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have claimed that the Babri Masjid stood on Ram’s birthplace.
Tensions erupted in 1992 when activists tore down the 16th century mosque, sparking riots leading to over 2000 deaths. Here is a brief timeline:
|Babri Masjid built by Mughal Emperor Babur’s commander Mir Baqi
|First recorded incidents of communal violence over site
|Idols of Ram appear inside mosque. Site locked as disputed
|VHP begins campaign for Ram Mandir
|Babri Masjid demolished by Hindu activists
|Allahabad HC rules that land be split, but temporary status quo remains
|SC awards entire plot to Hindu side to construct temple
|Inauguration of Ram Mandir
While this inauguration represents the conclusion of an important chapter in the history of the site, it remains to be seen if it can truly serve as closure. The legal dispute may have ended, but the gulf between communities is yet to be fully bridged.
What next after the inauguration?
January 22nd will be a major publicity shot in the arm for the BJP and Prime Minister Modi who has promised the construction of a grand Ram Mandir for decades.
Modi is likely to leverage this achievement while campaigning across India for the 2024 elections. Playing up religious symbolism has benefited him electorally in the past.
Meanwhile, the officially constituted trust overseeing the temple will continue expanding the complex. Further structures like a museum and research center have been planned.
Tourism centered around Hindu pilgrims visiting Ayodhya is expected to drastically pick up. Local businesses have invested heavily in hotels and amenities catering to the anticipated footfall. Even corporate hotel chains like Marriott have launched properties hoping to cash in.
However, questions will remain on how Muslims who earlier lived and worked in Ayodhya would be rehabilitated. There are already accusations about attempts to eradicate vestiges of the Islamic heritage surrounding Babri Masjid.
The consecration ceremonies rather unambiguously stake the claim of Hindu right-wing organizations over the sacred town that has been bitterly contested for multiple generations. Nevertheless, the functions themselves are likely to proceed peacefully with the utmost care as both government and temple authorities look to avoid any embarrassing security lapses.
What is less certain is whether communal tensions stirred up by the long conflict will also fade. The milestone event undoubtedly carries huge emotive and electoral potency regardless of one’s personal religious persuasions. Indian politics has proven repeatedly that few decisions related to matters of identity and faith can ever achieve truly unilateral consensus.
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