In anticipation of the unveiling of a massive temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Ram on a location they believe to be his birthplace on Monday, thousands of Indians danced in the streets while donning saffron clothing and waving saffron flags and chanting religious phrases.
As Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s party seeks a rare third term in elections that are scheduled for May, the ceremony in the northern city of Ayodhya is being portrayed as a momentous occasion for the Hindu majority of the world’s most populous nation.
“The construction of the Ram Temple is an instrument to unite the country,” Prime Minister Modi stated in a statement that appeared on the front pages of newspapers prior to an event that millions of Indians, both domestically and internationally, will see.
Delivering on a major 35-year pledge made by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the temple has been a divisive political issue that has propelled the party to popularity and authority.
Hindus in India believe that this location is the birthplace of Lord Ram, and it was sacred to them even before the Muslim Mughals destroyed a temple there in 1528 to construct the Babri Masjid, or mosque.
The land was given to Hindus by the Supreme Court in 2019, and Muslims were given a separate plot on which to build a new mosque.
The major event on Monday is scheduled to begin at 12:20 p.m. (0650 GMT) and last for around 40 minutes. During this time, rituals completing consecration ceremonies that started more than a week ago will be performed, and a blindfold will be lifted from the 51-inch (130-cm) black stone deity.
Movie stars, athletes, and prominent business executives are among the approximately 8,000 guests who are anticipated to attend the invitation-only event.
Over 10,000 law enforcement officers have been dispersed throughout the 3 million-person metropolis to ensure safety and prevent trespassers.
The temple’s administration anticipates at least 100,000 visits each day within the first several months once it opens to the public on Tuesday.
India’s religious fervor has been stoked by the consecration; following Modi’s request for it to be observed as another Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, many states declared Monday a holiday, stock markets were closed, and homes and businesses were lit up.