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Modi to open Hindu temple on razed Babri mosque site


DE Online Desk
India’s PM Narendra Modi is taking part in a ceremony to open a grand temple to popular Hindu god Ram in Ayodhya city.
The temple replaces a 16th-Century mosque razed by Hindu mobs in 1992. The demolition had sparked nationwide riots in which nearly 2,000 people died.
Thousands of invited guests, including top film stars, industrialists and cricketers, are attending the event.
But some Hindu seers and most of the opposition are staying away, saying Mr Modi is using it for political gains.
General elections are due in India in the next few months and Mr Modi’s political rivals say the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be seeking votes in the temple’s name in a country where 80% of the population is Hindu.
Mr Modi, who is leading the ceremony, is opening only the ground floor of the temple on Monday – the rest of the structure is expected to be completed only by the end of the year.
The temple fulfils a decades-long Hindu nationalist pledge to build a shrine to Lord Ram in Ayodhya – the flashpoint city is getting a major makeover to transform it into a destination for pilgrims and tourists from across the world.
Many Hindus believe that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram and the Babri mosque was built by Muslim invaders on the ruins of a Ram temple at the exact spot where the Hindu god was born. The movement to build a temple at the same site was a major factor that propelled the BJP into political prominence in the 1990s.
A protracted legal battle about the ownership of the land followed the mosque’s demolition. It was resolved in 2019 when the Supreme Court gave the disputed land to the Hindus. Muslims were given a plot outside the city to build a mosque.
In Ayodhya, some Muslims told the BBC that the day evoked fear and painful memories for them. Some said they would send their children out of the city, fearing tensions might be stoked when the streets filled with Hindu devotees from around the country.
Critics have also accused the government of going overboard with what is essentially a religious celebration in a country which – according to its constitution – is secular.
Constructed at a cost of $217m (£170m), the new three-storey temple – made with pink sandstone and anchored by black granite – stretches across 7.2 acres in a 70-acre complex.
A 51-inch (4.25-ft) statue of the deity, specially commissioned for the temple, was unveiled last week. The idol has been placed on a marble pedestal in the sanctum sanctorum.
On Monday morning in Ayodhya, all roads lead to the new temple. Thousands of policemen have been deployed to ensure security and manage traffic. Saffron-coloured flags of the BJP and those with images of Hindu gods dot major roads, many of which have been decorated with bright yellow and orange marigold flowers.
Monday’s ceremony, scheduled to take place just after midday (06:30GMT), is called Pran Pratishtha, which loosely translates from Sanskrit into “establishment of life force”. Hindus believe that chanting of mantras and a set of rituals performed around a fire will infuse sacred life in an idol or a photograph of a deity.
Some of India’s biggest celebrities, including Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, have arrived at the site of the temple to attend the event.


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