The inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,800 crore, inches closer with the consecration ceremony scheduled for January 22. The inauguration will happen in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders, including UP CM Yogi Adityanath, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, UP Governor Anandiben Patel, and president of the temple trust Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. Here are some of the developments that have taken place so far.
The ceremony: The Pran Pratishtha ceremony, which began with the first prayers on Tuesday, January 16, will span seven days and culminate on January 22. As no visitors except those who have been invited will be allowed to attend, huge crowds are expected in Ayodhya starting from the day after the inauguration.
Shankaracharyas decline to attend: Around 8,000 people have been invited for consecration on January 22. But among religious leaders, all four Shankaracharyas from Dwarka, Sringeri, Puri, and Joshimath Maths have declined the invitation to attend the event. The Shankaracharyas, while supporting the Ram temple, have expressed concerns about the consecration taking place before the completion of the construction of the temple and criticised the Union government for turning it into a political show.
Political parties not attending: The Congress party finally announced that they would not be taking part in the consecration ceremony as they view it as a political event, with the BJP-RSS giving it an election flavour. Other parties like the CPI(M) and Samajwadi Party have also declined to attend the event. While DMK leaders criticised the politics of the inauguration, only Tamil Nadu CM Stalin’s wife Durga is said to have been invited.
Celebrities likely to attend: Apart from political leaders such as BJP veteran LK Advani and BJP president JP Nadda, the invitees include Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Kangana Ranaut as well as cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. Industrialists Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata, and Gautam Adani have also been extended an invitation. Actors Arun Govil and Dipika Chikhlia, who played the roles of Ram and Sita in the popular 1980s TV serial Ramayan, are also expected to attend the ceremony. Delegates from around 50 countries have also been invited.
Modi’s schedule in run-up to inauguration: PM Modi announced that over the next two days he will pray at the Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh and also hear verses from the Ranganatha Ramayana in Telugu. On January 17, he will pray at the Guruvayur Temple and Thriprayar Shree Ramaswami Temple in Kerala.
Dry day and meat ban: Some of the BJP-ruled states have declared a dry day on January 22. The states are Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, Uttarakhand, and Chhattisgarh. The meat traders in the city of Lucknow have also decided not to sell meat on the day. The Uttar Pradesh government has declared a holiday for all schools.
Increased security measures: Security measures have been amped up and multiple drones and even Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology for facial recognition is being used to ensure safety on January 22. Expectedly, CCTVs have been fitted all over the city of Ayodhya.
Airport and railway station inauguration: On December 30, the revamped Ayodhya railway station was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi. Two Amrit Bharat and six Vande Barat trains were also flagged off on the day. The Maharishi Valmiki International Airport in Ayodhya was also inaugurated on the same day. The airport, which became operational on January 6, is expected to handle the anticipated heavy rush of people from January 23.