Ayodhya awakens: anticipation builds as grand Lord Ram temple prepares to be unveiled

More than 4,500 workers are tirelessly labouring around the clock to complete the ground floor, with the construction site spanning 70 acres of carved pink sandstone and white marble.

In the bustling Indian town of Ayodhya, less than a month remains before the inauguration of a grand Hindu temple, and the atmosphere is vibrant with preparations for the significant event. Ayodhya, once a tranquil temple town in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh, has undergone a substantial transformation, receiving a $6-billion facelift in anticipation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reelection campaign centrepiece.

The town is now adorned with a new airport and improved roads, with workers diligently putting the finishing touches on the temple dedicated to Lord Ram, a revered deity in Hinduism. The inauguration, set to be conducted by Prime Minister Modi, is approaching, and the day before unveiling the upgraded airport and train station, the streets were adorned with flowers, accompanied by a heightened police presence.

Girish Sahastrabhojane, an engineer involved in the temple’s design, expressed excitement, stating, “Soon our Lord will be in his original place.” He emphasized the historical significance, noting Lord Ram’s birthplace and the anticipation among Hindus in India and abroad since 1992.

However, Prime Minister Modi’s political opponents have raised concerns, accusing him of exploiting religious sentiment for political gain. Several opposition leaders have declined invitations to attend the temple’s inauguration, citing political motivations.

On January 22, Modi is scheduled to offer prayers before an idol of Lord Ram at the temple, a project costing over 20 billion rupees ($240 million). More than 4,500 workers are tirelessly labouring around the clock to complete the ground floor, with the construction site spanning 70 acres of carved pink sandstone and white marble.

Wearing hard hats and safety shoes, workers are meticulously carving pillars and lifting stones amid towering cranes. Sahastrabhojane shared that the site could accommodate up to 125,000 people in a day.

The construction of the temple has long been a core aim of Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, and he has strategically woven its completion into his speeches ahead of the upcoming general elections, expected to secure him a third term.

The historical backdrop includes nationwide riots in 1992, where a Hindu mob demolished the Babri mosque, claiming it was built on the site of an earlier Hindu temple. In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of allowing Hindus to build a temple on the contested site, putting an end to years of legal disputes.

As Ayodhya transforms and prepares for the grand opening, the temple project remains a focal point of both religious and political significance. The completion of the temple reflects the aspirations of a significant portion of the Indian population while raising questions about the intersection of religion and politics in the country’s landscape.