PM Modi inaugurates Hindu Temple on controversial site in North India

PM Modi inaugurates Hindu Temple on controversial site in North India

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated a temple dedicated to Hindu deity Ram on the site where the 16th century Babri Masjid stood until 31 years ago.

The Ram Lalla (infant Ram) idol consecration ceremony was held amid devotional fervor and in the presence of an assortment of thousands of politicians, businessmen, film and sport celebrities, and Hindu gurus and sadhus invited to Ayodhya town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

“It is my great privilege to be part of this divine programme. Hail Siya Ram!” Modi said.

Indian military helicopters dropped flower petals on the Ayodhya temple as the ceremony was held and Modi performed rituals.

Ayodhya passions were witnessed across India in ceremonies, celebrations and rituals marking the occasion promoted as Hindu awakening by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its associates.

The federal government announced a half-day office closure until 2.30 pm, while banks, hospitals, schools and many private businesses also observed a holiday.

The stock market was closed on Monday and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) adjusted its trading hours in line with the government half-day closing.

Some states, including Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Assam, announced meat bans.

The temple, being constructed by a trust set up by the Indian government, is built on a 2.7 acre site within a vast complex.

Hindus who support the temple believe the mosque was built on the spot where lord Ram was born.

Prominent historians and scholars do not accept the claim.

Millions of dollars are being collected through private donations to build the temple.

The trust undertaking the temple work invited people from different walks of life to participate in the consecration ceremony called “Pran Pratishtha.”

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat and president of the temple trust Mahant Nritya Gopal Das were prominent participants along with former cricket captains Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Rajnikant, Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, and India’s richest businessmen Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani.

Diaspora Hindus were also asked to hold events and ceremonies to coincide with the event in India, and many listened to these calls enthusiastically in places like Mauritius, the United Kingdom, Australia and Fiji.

“Gratifying to witness celebratory moment marking reawakening of national pride all over,“ Indian vice president Jagdeep Dhankhar wrote in a social media post.

“January 22 is etched in history as defining moment of ‘tryst with divinity’ in our civilisational trajectory,“ he said.

The temple’s opening marks the fulfillment of a decades-long Hindu nationalist campaign, which led to the destruction of the Babri mosque on December 6 in 1992 by a mob of tens of thousands of “Karsevaks” (religious workers).

More than 2,000 people were killed in the violence across India, including in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Madhya Pradesh states, in the aftermath of the mosque’s destruction.

The site remained the centre of legal and political battles, with the Supreme Court of India in November 2019 handing over the place to Hindus to build the temple despite holding that the razing of the mosque was illegal.

The Babri Masjid was built in approximately 1528-29 by Mir Baqi, a Mughal commander serving under Emperor Babur.

The court allotted a piece of land to Muslims to build a new mosque, 25 km away from the Ram temple. This new mosque will not be called the Babri Masjid.

While the Ram temple movement turned the BJP into a massive political force from being a marginal party until the razing of the mosque, Muslims also accused the Congress party for letting the dispute grow into a nationally divisive issue through its “soft Hindutva.”

Idols were placed in the mosque by Hindus in the middle of the night in 1949.

Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister then.

The mosque’s gates were shut following the row.

The locks were opened in 1986 and the place opened to Hindu worshippers when the Congress was in power and Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi the prime minister.

Many Muslims accused the Congress party government and P.V. Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister, of inaction when the mosque was razed to the ground in 1992 by frenzied mobs.

The temple’s foundation stone was laid on 5 August 2020 by Modi.

When the Ram temple is fully developed, the government hopes Ayodhya, located about 135 km from the state capital Lucknow, will become a major draw for devout Hindus.

The temple’s estimated cost is US$217 million while about US$2 billion is being spent on the city’s infrastructure development apart from private investment in hotels and other facilities usually associated with tourist attractions.

“This marvel of engineering stands as a symbol of endurance designed and constructed to last a thousand years,“ S.N. Subrahmanyan, chairman and managing director of Larsen & Toubro company, was quoted as saying in a local media report.

Modi on December 30 inaugurated Ayodhya’s Maharishi Valmiki International Airport, named after the poet Valmiki known as the author of the epic Ramayana that narrates the story of Ram.

He also inaugurated the redeveloped Ayodhya railway station that day.

The timing of Monday’s consecration ceremony drew accusations of political opportunism from the BJP’s rivals as the publicity surrounding it is expected to boost Modi’s re-election bid in the parliamentary elections due before May.

The Congress and some opposition parties declined to attend the ceremony, calling it a BJP-RSS event, while many people point out the temple was built after demolishing a mosque and see it as a symbol of injustice. – Bernama


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