Ram Mandir: Tens of thousands of devotees visit new temple in India's Ayodhya

Hindu temple was built on the site of a 16th-century mosque demolished in 1992 by supporters of the BJP

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Tens of thousands of devotees gathered at the Ram Mandir in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya on Tuesday, a day after the Hindu temple was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Crowds arrived at the temple to pay respect to Rama Lalla – the child form of Hindu deity Lord Rama – from midnight, but were not allowed to enter until the morning.

Devotees carrying saffron flags and wearing scarves of the same colour chanted “Jai Shri Ram” or “Hail Rama”.

“I have grown up listening stories about Ram Mandir,” Navneet Saurabh, who travelled about 680km from New Delhi, told The National.

“Having read it even in my curriculum, I am excited that finally I am able to witness this historic moment. Many people fought hard over it for decades and now our temple has been rebuilt at Ram Janambhoomi. It reclaims our faith in building Ram Rajya [the reign of Rama].”

Many braved the winter cold and slept on roads near the temple as thousands of armed police stood guard along the 13km long corridor.

Several people were injured in a rush to enter the temple. Police used batons to control the crowd after people broke through security barriers at one area.

Devotees from across the country have travelled to pray at the temple since last week. Many Hindus said it was an important moment for them.

“I cannot wait to pay darshan [obeisance] to Ram Lalla,” said Venkatesh Prasad, a software engineer who came from southern Bengaluru city.

The priest of the temple, Acharya Satyendra Das, said the sea of devotees seemed to mirror the time of Lord Rama, who was a king-deity.

“So many devotees have come to Ayodhya now and Jai Shree Ram chants are echoing here,” said Mr Das. “It seems that we have gone back to Ayodhya during the times when Lord Rama lived here.”

A statue of Lord Rama as a child, weighing 200kg and about 2.5 metres tall, was installed last week in the main sanctum of the multimillion-dollar temple.

Mr Modi inaugurated the site in a ceremony attended by actors, business tycoons, sportspeople and politicians.

He presided over a consecration ceremony performed by Hindu priests, which lasted several hours and was broadcast live on state-run television and dozens of private channels.

The grand temple is controversial as it stands on the site of a 16th-century mosque, the Babri Masjid, that was torn down in 1992 by supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindu groups.

They claimed the mosque was built after the demolition of a Hindu temple, a claim rejected by the Supreme Court

Construction of the temple began in 2020, months after the court unanimously ruled that the disputed land be given to Hindus.

The judgment came after decades of litigation, violence and sectarian acrimony.

The court directed the federal government to set up a trust to build the Ram Mandir while Muslims would be given land elsewhere for the construction of a mosque.

An extra force, along with civil police, was sent to the route leading to the temple to maintain order due to the high number of devotees.

Updated: January 23, 2024, 12:12 PM