Modi hails a new ‘divine India’ as he inaugerates restored Hindu temple destroyed by Muslim invaders

Modi

Millions across India tuned in to watch the opening of a vast Hindu temple on Monday, in a ceremony considered to be the crowning moment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi months before he seeks to win a rare third term in elections, which was destroyed half a millennia ago by Muslim invaders.

The inauguration of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir – a temple devoted to Lord Ram – in northern India’s Ayodhya is more than 30 years in the making and epitomises the realisation of Modi’s dream to create what he has called a "new India."

“Today our Lord Ram has come. After centuries of waiting, our Ram has arrived. After centuries of unprecedented patience, countless sacrifices, renunciations, and penances, our Lord Ram has arrived,” Modi said in a speech to a 7,000-strong crowd that included movie stars, top cricket players and tycoons, from the newly-constructed temple bedecked with colourful flowers.

“Ram is not a dispute, Ram is the solution,” he added.

Monday’s ceremony fulfils a long-standing promise to voters by Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government that propelled them to power in 2014. For years, Modi and his political allies vowed to build a temple on the site of a 16th century mosque destroyed by during a riot 1992.

The mosque was built atop of the birthplace of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu and principal deity of Hinduism and its demolition catapulted the BJP into mainstream politics, winning a general election four years later.

“From today, from this sacred time, we have to lay the foundation for the next 1,000 years. By moving ahead of building the temple, now we all take the oath of building a national, capable, successful, beautiful, and divine India,” Modi said.

Inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple Monday, Modi presided over the Pran Pratishtha, or consecration ceremony, of an idol of Lord Ram, one of Hinduism’s most revered deities. Depicted as a young boy, the statue of black stone was adorned with gold jewelry, gemstones, diamonds and flowers.

Outside, military helicopters flew over the temple and city releasing flower petals over the vast building and crowds of dignitaries below.

Among the speakers at the event was Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the right-wing parent organisation of the BJP, who said the temple “has become a symbol of a new India that will stand tall.”

“It has been said, and we know, that today in Ayodhya, along with Lord Ram, India’s self has returned,” he said.

Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state where Ayodhya is located and one of the country’s most polarising political figures, called the Ram Mandir India’s “national temple” and an “important ritual of cultural reawakening.”

Throughout the day, saffron flags flew high and marigold flowers adorned building entrances as tens of thousands of devotees thronged the streets of the ancient town in celebratory processions.

“For 500 years Lord Ram was living in a hut,” devotee Acharya Mohanjodaro Bharadwaj told CNN, referring to the moment the Mughal-era mosque was built. “Today Modi made him sit inside a temple, the whole country is celebrating it like it’s Diwali.”

Celebrations were held across the country, with politicians encouraging people to take part in festivities in their homes and temples, ensuring it would be a national event.

Uttar Pradesh declared Monday a public holiday, with schools and liquor shops closed across the state.

Hundreds of members of the Indian diaspora gathered in New York on Sunday to celebrate the inauguration under a massive image of Lord Ram projected on a screen in Times Square. Indian embassies around the world hosted watch parties.

The site of the temple was once home to the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque, built during the Mughal empire that ruled India from 1526 to 1858. The mosque was built on the ruins of a Hindu temple, destroyed by Babar, the first Mughal emperor of South Asia.

India’s Supreme Court in 2019 granted Hindus permission to build the temple on the contested site, effectively ending the dispute.

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