India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi opens the doors of the Ram temple in Ayodhya

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Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated a Hindu temple in Ayodhya amid tight security: “22 January 2024 is not just a date on the calendar, but heralds the advent of a new era,” he said in his speech. As he spoke, outside, tens of thousands of singing and dancing devotees thronged the streets of the city, while military helicopters dropped flower petals from the sky, according to AFP.

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The event also marked the launch of his re-election campaign. The shrine dedicated to the Hindu god Rama has been built on land where a mosque stood for centuries before it was demolished in 1992. That incident sparked the worst religious riots since independence in 1947, which left as many as 2,000 people dead.

Only the ground floor of the site was opened on Monday. When fully available, it is expected to receive around 150,000 visitors a day, including devotees and tourists, according to international media.

“The Lord has made me an instrument to represent all the people of India,” Modi said before the unveiling as he prayed at the feet of the human-sized statue, adorned with garlands of flowers and jewellery.

The atmosphere outside the temple was festive with tens of thousands of chanting and dancing devotees thronging the streets of the northern city of Ayodhya, while military helicopters dropped flower petals from the sky. Only a few members of Ayodhya’s Muslim community joined the street party.

Modi’s consecration of the temple, along with Hindu priests, has once again projected him as a defender of the faith ahead of the general elections scheduled for next May. The BJP is favourite for a third consecutive victory, partly thanks to the prime minister’s successful strategy of appealing to Hindu sentiment. Opposition parties have boycotted the temple ceremony, calling it a thinly disguised campaign rally.

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The temple began construction in 2020 and has been a nationalist promise for decades. The temple measures one hectare and occupies a complex that spans 28 hectares. The building has three floors and is built on 6,503 square metres of white marble, reports the BBC. A 130-centimetre figure of the god Ram, whom it commemorates, is to be placed on a pedestal.

-Thailand News (TN)

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