Temple to rise on rubble of mosque

INDIA'S MOST contentious building project, the temple to Ram which Hindu nationalists want to erect on the god's alleged birthplace, has been secretly under construction for the past seven years, India was stunned to discover last week. The architect is the man responsible for the huge Hindu temple, the Swaminarayan, in Neasden, north London.

The intended site of the temple, in the north-Indian town of Ayodhya, resembles a war zone. This is the spot where in 1992 the destruction of an ancient mosque, the Babri Masjid, by the nationalists, sparked communal rioting which took hundreds of lives. Today the site is shrouded in barbed wire and dotted with watchtowers. The mosque ruins are patrolled by soldiers 24-hours a day.

Work began, it has been revealed, at the end of 1991, with just eight craftsmen. In 1995, with more than pounds 1m in contributions amassed, work began in earnest. Three firms of stone masons, two in Rajasthan and one in Uttar Pradesh, are pre-fabricating the decorated sandstone blocks with which the temple will be constructed.

At one of the three sites, at Karsevakpuram in Uttar Pradesh, only three miles from the disputed site, stone-cutting machines slice huge lumps of sandstone into columns, and 150 artisans chisel the forms of gods, goddesses and decorative frills and furbelows on to them.

The news of the Ayodhya temple's surreptitious construction, revealed by the Week magazine, has shocked the opposition parties and thrown the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, so recently flush with its nuclear coup, on to its back foot.

The general-secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), one of the extremist Hindu organisations devoted to building the temple, added fuel to the fire, saying actual construction of the temple could start within two years, and would be initiated whether or not the BJP is still in power in Delhi.

"No power on earth," he said, "not even the Supreme Court, can stop the VHP from building a Ram temple at Ayodhya."

Militant statements like this have sent BJP ministers scuttling for cover. The building of the Ram temple was a central plank of the BJP's election manifesto - the home minister Lal Krishna Advani and other BJP ministers face criminal charges for their role in the mosque's demolition.

But, to fashion a "national agenda" acceptable to all its disparate coalition partners, all reference to Ayodhya was dropped from the government's programme. In response, the leading Congress politician Rajesh Pilot demanded to know whether the government was pursuing a "hidden agenda"; and, perhaps in protest at the fact that it probably is, the opposition walked out.

The site of the temple which the VHP and its allies wish to build at Ayodhya is one of the strangest and most disturbing plots of land in the country. Drawn by the controversy, and perhaps also by pious feelings towards the god Ram, aggressive Indian chauvinists are thick on the ground: it may be the only place in India where a white man feels distinctly unwanted, and implicitly under threat.

Wracked by one invasion after another over the past millennium, Ayodhya looks as if it has reconciled itself to living amidst the ruins. It is dusty, shabby, decrepit, uncared for.

Only after thorough and serious security checks is one allowed to proceed to "darshan" - "god-viewing" - at the small white tent containing an image of the god Ram, which the zealots erected following the demolition of the mosque. After a couple of seconds, one is prodded forward. The pilgrimage is over.

Ayodhya is tense because more than anywhere in India, it is where the communal energy of the Hindu nationalists has been concentrated: it is where they have chosen to stand and fight. The VHP has built Ram up into a mighty ruler, and thus the symbol of the nation.

The substance of the Hindu complaint is true: Muslim invaders did, in their own intolerant zealotry, destroy many Hindu temples, and sometimes built mosques on the same sites. Ayodhya is where the militant Hindus - by no means representative of all practitioners of the religion - plan to get their grand revenge.

The Ram temple is intended to be four times the size ofLondon's, so its building will be a correspondingly greater challenge - especially if it is done in the teeth of bitter opposition.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection