India’s PM Narendra Modi Inaugurates Grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya Amidst Controversy
New Delhi — In a historic ceremony, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the much-anticipated Ram Temple in Ayodhya, replacing the 16th-century mosque that was demolished in 1992, triggering nationwide riots. The event was attended by thousands of invited guests, including prominent film stars and cricketers.
The $217 million temple, funded through private donations according to the temple trust, was inaugurated through a ceremony called Pran Pratishtha, symbolizing the establishment of the temple’s life force. The televised event showcased Modi participating in religious rituals alongside priests and Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of Hindu nationalist parties.
However, the ceremony faced criticism, with Hindu seers and much of the opposition boycotting it, alleging political motives by Modi ahead of the upcoming general elections. Critics argue that the government’s emphasis on a religious celebration contradicts India’s secular constitution.
The completion of the temple is expected by the end of the year, with only the ground floor currently open to the public. The temple’s construction fulfills a long-standing Hindu nationalist pledge and Ayodhya is undergoing a transformation to become a pilgrimage and tourist destination.
Ayodhya holds significance for many Hindus who believe it is the birthplace of Lord Ram. The Babri mosque’s demolition in 1992 fueled political prominence for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the subsequent legal battle over land ownership was resolved in 2019 by the Supreme Court, granting the disputed land to Hindus and allocating a separate plot for Muslims to build a mosque.
Muslims in Ayodhya expressed concerns and painful memories ahead of the event, some deciding to send their children out of the city fearing potential tensions. The three-storey temple, adorned with pink sandstone and black granite, covers 7.2 acres in a 70-acre complex, with a specially commissioned 51-inch statue of the deity placed in the sanctum sanctorum.
Security measures were extensive, with thousands of policemen deployed to manage traffic and ensure the safety of attendees. The presence of notable figures, including Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, added to the grandeur of the controversial event.