Published On: Mon, Jan 22nd, 2024

India’s PM Modi opens £170m Ayodhya Hindu temple built on site of destroyed mosque | World | News

India‘s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated a controversial temple on the ground where a mosque had once stood.

Mr Modi looked solemn as he entered the grand temple dedicated to Hindu god Ram in Ayodhya, part of the state of Uttar Pradesh.

During the ceremony, he unveiled a black stone idol dedicated to the deity and placed at the heart of the 164-foot temple.

Mr Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) adheres to the Hindu nationalist ideology Hindutva, chanted Hindu religious verses before placing flower petals at the feet of the statue and delivering prayers. He then bowed and circled a sacred flame, completing a ritual Hindus believe infuses sacred life in the idol of a deity.

While traditional clarinets played devotional music and a military helicopter showered petals on the temple, thousands of people, including Bollywood celebrities and cricket stars, celebrated the grand launch.

The ceremony, called Pran Pratishtha, lasted for approximately an hour and was televised live.

Speaking outside of the £170million temple, Mr Modi said: “January 22, 2024 is not merely a date in the calendar but heralds the advent of a new era.”

This temple, paid for through private donations according to the trust looking after it, has been built on the site where the 16th-century Babri mosque once stood before Hindu mobs attacked and demolished it in 1992.

Its destruction ignited violence across the country and outrage around the world, leading to the death of around 2,000 people.

The movement to build a temple at the same site where the mosque was – which many Hindus believe to be the birthplace of Ram – has been backed by the BJP over the years and was one of the major factors turning the party into a key political player in the 1990s.

This ceremony has attracted huge criticism from some Hindu seers and members of the opposition who declined the invite to the event, saying it was not appropriate for a country like India that remains, according to its constitution, secular.

The ceremony comes a few months ahead of the general elections in India.

This event has been seen by many as the beginning of Mr Modi’s electoral campaign, and will likely attract the favour of many in a country where 80 percent of the population is Hindu.

The inauguration of the temple – of which Mr Modi launched only the ground floor, with the rest of the structure expected to be completed only by the end of the year – follows a long legal battle about the ownership of the land, handed in 2019 to the Hindus by the country’s Supreme Court.

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