The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, India, was officially opened and consecrated on January 22, 2024. The astro-numerological significance of the inauguration date is an intriguing layer to the cultural and religious aspects. This event marked the commencement of the temple for worship and religious ceremonies. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the ceremony, emphasising its importance as the beginning of a new era. The temple's inauguration holds great cultural and religious significance for the Hindu community and is seen as a historic moment, reflecting the influence of Hindu nationalist politics and potentially signaling the start of the election campaign for Modi.
The Hindu epic Ramayana mentions that the return of Ram was a reason for celebration. He was the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya when circumstances forced him to move away from the kingdom to the forest along with his wife, Sita and brother Lakshman. During the 14-year exile period, he killed the demon king of Lanka for abducting Sita. There was merriment after the coronation of Lord Ram as the King since he was a noble, righteous person who loved his subjects. That was the origin of the term 'Ram Rajya', which means Ram's Kingdom'. This phrase evokes deep feelings of patriotism and religious beliefs in Hindus.
The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, India, stands on a site steeped in history and has been a source of religious and political conflict. It is believed to be situated at the birthplace of Lord Ram and was constructed on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid. The temple's location has been a contentious issue due to its disputed ownership and historical significance. Built on the site believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram, the temple replaced the Babri Masjid mosque that was demolished in 1992, leading to communal riots.
Several people of Indian origin from all over the world celebrated the consecration and probably hoped that India would now become Ram Rajya. One such nation is Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, which has about 68% Hindu population, descendants of indentured labourers during the slave trade eras. The nation celebrated the Ram temple dedication in India, and the Hindu Council of Mauritius organised a cultural program to honour the occasion.
Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth tweeted, "Jai Hind! Jai Mauritius!' on January 21, a day before the consecration ceremony, to express happiness upon the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya, highlighting strong Mauritius-India relations. Within temple premises and centres of towns and cities, large display screens were also arranged for the public to watch the live broadcast. The Arya Samaj, although monotheistic, requested the decoration of their temples. President Prithvirajsing Roopun attended a cultural programme organised by the Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation to mark the occasion. Mauritius and India have cultural and religious roots in common, such as some musical instruments and the languages Hindi and Bhojpuri. Like Hindu Indians, Ramayan reciting is favoured by Mauritians.
The development of infrastructure in Ayodhya, driven by the construction of hotels and various amenities, is a strategic plan to accommodate the anticipated surge in tourists, transforming the city into a pilgrimage destination. This initiative, under the Ayodhya Master Plan 2031, involves investments to upgrade the town's infrastructure, aligning with the Uttar Pradesh government's vision to put Ayodhya on the world tourism map. The expected economic impact includes job creation, increased local spending, and potential investments from businesses capitalising on the growing tourism industry. As Ayodhya undergoes this transformation, it not only addresses the accommodation needs of visitors but also solidifies its cultural and religious significance, aiming to attract more pilgrims and tourists, ultimately establishing itself as a prominent destination in India.
The consecration of the Ayodhya Ram Temple in India is hopefully a 'watershed moment'. Probably, it has achieved the religious and spiritual unity of Hindus all over the world. This event signifies a symbolic triumph for Hindu nationalist politics and is expected to contribute to the development of Ayodhya as a pilgrimage destination.
With national elections around the corner, the dedication of the temple to the country is a topic of potential criticism. On the other hand, this is also an opportunity for all religions to see beyond their differences and work towards the progress of India.