Indian devotees splurge on jets, gold idols as Hindu temple opens

AYODHYA:

The private jet parking lots at airports near the Indian city of Ayodhya are full and the shops have run out of gold-plated idols, as wealthy devotees prepare for the invite-only opening ceremony of one of Hinduism’s holiest temples.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani are among the 8,000 or so attendees at Monday’s inauguration event for the Ram Temple, which devotees believe is built on the birthplace of Lord Ram, a sacred Hindu deity.

The construction of the temple, which began after the Supreme Court awarded the site to Hindus in 2019 more than two decades after a Hindu mob razed a mosque there, triggering deadly riots, fulfils a key campaign promise of Modi and his Hindu nationalist party.

Read BJP-promised temple transforms Ayodhya: Muslims, locals feel neglected

The opening ceremony, organised by the trust that built the temple, comes months before a national election which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is widely expected to win, and the who’s who of India is expected to be there.

“It’s become like a status symbol to be invited to this event,” said Rajan Mehra, CEO of Indian luxury charter service Club One Air, adding that his fleet, which includes the Dassault Falcon 2000, is booked to make multiple trips next week.

Officials estimate 100 private jets will descend on Jan. 22 on Ayodhya airport, filling it to capacity. Slots at Varanasi, a city around four hours away by car, are also full, as are jet spaces in Gorakhpur airport, which is a three-hour drive away.


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