The ruling party will open a huge temple of Lord Ram, venerated by millions of Hindus, in northern India at his birthplace in January, fulfilling a vow in a flashpoint for Hindu-Muslim violence.
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The temple location in northern Ayodhya, where work is approaching completion, was disputed by Hindus and Muslims for decades.
India’s majority Hindus believe the location was Lord Ram’s birthplace and sacred before the Mughals destroyed a temple and erected the Babri mosque in 1528.
A Hindu mob destroyed the mosque in 1992, sparking riots that killed 2,000 Indian Muslims.
For over three decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has campaigned to build a Ram temple there.
India’s courts have fought Hindu and Muslim parties over site ownership. The Supreme Court gave Hindus the land and Muslims a plot in 2019.
Muslim groups were disappointed but stated they would accept the ruling with humility.
The Shri Ramjanmabhoomi Temple Construction Committee chairman, Nripendra Misra, said the ground level will be ready in December and worshippers can pray in January when the idol of Lord Ram is moved there.
Misra, a retired bureaucrat who was Modi’s principal secretary or head of staff until 2019, said Modi has been invited to the temple’s opening in late January after priests’ prayers.
“It will be good if the prime minister is present,” Misra added.
Misra said Larsen and Toubro is building the temple on a 2.67-acre (1.08 hectares) location in a 70-acre (28.33 hectares) complex. The second and final phase will be finished in December 2025.
He stated 40 million resident Indians donated over 30 billion rupees to fund the 15 billion rupee ($181 million) project.
He stated that 100,000 worshippers will visit the shrine everyday in the initial months.
BJP leaders and pundits believe the temple’s opening to bolster the party’s chances in May 2024 national elections, when Modi will seek a third term.
Misra said the opening time had nothing to do with elections. It was decided in 2020.”