Narendra Damodardas Modi, the man who has the nickname Modi Laoxian on the Chinese internet meaning elderly immortal with special ability, is globally known as Hindutva Leader, especially regarding his utmost devotion to reviving his roots.
As Home Minister Amit Shah has stated Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought forth a “new age in 2014 by salvaging Hindus from humiliation and reviving forgotten centers of Hindu faith”. And why not? Modi has been a strong advocate for the revival of India’s temples and cultural heritage ever since his tenure started.
Temple Revivals during PM Modi’s tenure
Whether it’s restoring and rebuilding ancient temples, improving infrastructure and facilities for pilgrims visiting holy sites, or promoting the country’s cultural and religious heritage, Modi has been everywhere all over India and even aboard. From dreaming to make Kashi into a smart spiritual city to allocating land in UAE for the first-ever Hindu temple, Modi’s tenure has been nothing but an aww to every Hindu worldwide.
Transforming Kashi and Vishwanath Corridor
During his visit to Japan in 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his vision of developing Varanasi as the Indian equivalent of Kyoto, a prosperous and economically strong city in Japan with a rich cultural heritage. His aim was to transform Varanasi into a smart city, and in 2016, a project with the same name was officially launched.
PM Modi planned to leverage Kyoto’s success as a model for Varanasi’s development, both cities having a long and storied history. Ultimately, his goal was to elevate India’s status as a global economic powerhouse.
The Kashi Vishwanath corridor, a Rs 700 crore redevelopment project connecting the Vishwanath temple to Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi, was inaugurated by PM Modi in December of the previous year. The extensive project involved the demolition and relocation of local residents residing in narrow alleys and lanes around the temple complex.
Modi recognized the project’s historical significance in revitalizing the sociocultural legacy of the ancient city, which has been linked to Hindu philosophy for centuries. The temple complex was reconstructed and expanded from 3,000 to five lakh square feet, ushering in a new era for this revered site.
This Kashi Vishwanath Dham in a way is the occasion of Bhole Baba’s liberation. Our Lord was closeted within the four walls. I am not sure for how long He was trapped and had tough time breathing. Now, for the first time, several adjoining buildings were acquired. Not only will Bhole Baba be liberated but the devotees too will have a great experience.PM Modi’s speech in Kashi Vishwanath Temple (English rendering by PIB Delhi)
Kedarnath renovation project
When the Uttarakhand floods severely impacted the Kedarnath temple, which is devoted to Lord Shiva, in 2013, it was one of the preferred destinations of PM Modi, who has often spoken about his personal connection with it.
Upon coming to power at the Centre in 2014, the Modi government initiated a renovation project. As part of the “Swachh Kedarnath” initiative, which aims to enhance cleanliness and amenities for pilgrims visiting the temple, the Kedarnath Temple was refurbished in 2018.
The floods of 2013 had made all of us extremely sad. That time I was not the Prime Minister, I was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. I came here to do all that I could for victims. Through the work we are doing in Kedarnath, we want to show how an ideal ‘Tirth Kshetra’ should be, how it should be pilgrim friendly and the wellbeing of the priests should be given importance.Narendra Modi via Twitter
Formation of a Committee for the Ram Temple, Ayodhya
The foundation stone for the Ram temple in Ayodhya was laid during PM Modi’s tenure, as part of one of the flagship temple projects of the BJP. In 2015, Modi formed a committee to oversee the construction of the temple at the location where a mosque was demolished in 1992, causing communal unrest.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute case in 2020 was in favor of the Hindus, allowing for the construction of the Ram temple on the same site where the Babri Masjid once stood.
Today this call is reverberating not only in this Ayodhyathe city of Lord Rama, but its resonance is being felt across the entire globe. On this monumental occasion, I extend my heartfelt greetings to all the ardent devotees of Lord Rama, my fellow countrymen and the crores of Indian nationals spread across the continents.PM Modi’s Speech during Ram Mandir Bhumi Pujan (English rendering from Indian Express)
Mahakal Lok Corridor expansion, Ujjan
PM Modi launched the first phase of the Mahakal Lok Corridor on October 11, 2022, which aims to redevelop the Mahakaleshwar temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple complex, currently spanning 2.5 hectares of land, will be expanded to over 40 hectares, along with the Rudrasagar lake as part of the renovation plan.
The project’s total cost is estimated at Rs 705 crore, with the Mahakal corridor alone costing Rs 350 crore. The corridor, which stretches 900 meters, is flanked by two grand gateways- Nandi Dwar and Pinaki Dwar, each adorned with 108 intricately carved pillars and sculptures showcasing Lord Shiva’s life.
We also have to remember that where there is innovation, there is renovation also. What we lost in the era of slavery, today India is renovating it and its glory is being restored. With the blessings of Mahakal, the grandeur of India will give rise to new possibilities for the development of the whole world. The divinity of India will pave the way for peace for the whole world. With this belief, I bow my head once again at the feet of Lord Mahakal.PM Narendra Modi at inauguration of Shri Mahakal Lok in Ujjan (English rendering by narendramodi.in)
Char Dham Project
The Modi government launched the Char Dham project, aimed at linking the four revered pilgrimage sites of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. The Char Dham Yatra is a significant religious journey for Hindus, and the government is undertaking the construction of an all-weather road network to facilitate the pilgrimage.
Along with this, a parallel railway line is also under construction, connecting the holy cities of Rishikesh and Karnprayag in Uttarakhand. The railway link is anticipated to be completed by 2025, making travel more convenient and safer for the pilgrims.
The inauguration of Char Dham project is a tribute to those who lost their lives during Uttarakhand flash floods. I assure you that whenever you will come for Kedarnath, Badrinath yatra, you will remember this government and Nitin ji like Shravan is remembered. If facilities are provided, then which family in the country would not want to come here?PM Modi addressing public rally at Dehradun (English rendering by Finacial Express)
Revamping Temples of Jammu and Kashmir
The Modi government is renovating temple complexes in the Valley of Jammu and Kashmir as part of an initiative to restore and reopen temples that were closed due to the exodus of Hindus from the Valley, following the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. The project aims to revamp the estimated 4,000 temples in the region, with the goal of preserving the cultural heritage of the area and promoting religious harmony and peace.
While some experts dispute the total number of temples, with reports suggesting there are only around 952 temples in the Kashmir Valley, of which only 212 are operational. The renovation is seen as a crucial step to restoring the confidence of displaced Kashmiri Hindus and encouraging their return to their homeland.
Ladakh has the potential to become the biggest centre of Spiritual Tourism, Adventure Tourism, and Ecotourism. Ladakh can also become a major centre of solar power generation. Now there will be a proper use of its potential and new opportunities will be created for development without discrimination.PM Modi taking about potential of Jmmu and Kashmir in a Televised Speech (English Rendering by India Today)
Somnath Temple Restoration, Gujarat
The revered Somnath Temple in Gujarat has long been on PM Modi’s agenda for restoration. The temple is considered one of the 12 jyotirlingas of India, and Modi has been working on plans to revitalize it since his days as Gujarat’s Chief Minister. Last year in August, he inaugurated an exhibition center and a seaside viewing promenade as part of a tourism-boosting effort.
At the same time, he also unveiled the reconstructed precinct of old Somnath within the temple complex. To maintain contemporary safety and beautification standards, the temple complex has been spruced up, and the promenade has been built at a cost of Rs 47 crore.
The circumstances in which the Somnath temple was destroyed, and the circumstances in which the temple was renovated by the efforts of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, have a great message for us. The places of faith and culture like Somnath are important centers of what we want to learn from the past of the country during the Amrit Mahotsav of freedom.PM Modi during inauguration of Somnath Circuit house (English rendering by narendramodi.in)
Abroad Projects on Hindu Temples
Prime Minister Modi has been instrumental in promoting the construction and renovation of Hindu temples abroad. During his visit to the UAE in 2015, the UAE government allocated land for a Hindu temple. In 2018, the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for the temple, which is the first in the UAE. The temple will serve as a religious and cultural hub for the Indian community living in the UAE.
In 2019, PM Modi launched a multi-million-dollar renovation project for the Shreenathji temple in Bahrain’s Manama. The temple, which is over 200 years old and dedicated to Lord Sri Krishna, will be transformed into a three-story building after the renovation.
The temple will also be able to host Hindu weddings in the Bahraini capital. These initiatives have been well-received by the Indian diaspora living abroad and have helped to promote Hindu culture and tradition beyond India’s borders.
There is an old relationship between Gujrat and Bahrain. I’ll be going to the temple and pray for the well being of all of you. I will launch the redevelopment of the temple. This Temple is a reflection of your faith and tribute to Bahrain’s multiculturalism.Televised speech of PM Modi for Hindu Community in Bahrain (Source: Zee News)
Criticism of Modi’s effort
The efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive and modernize ancient temples across India have been met with both appreciation and criticism. While many people see this as a much-needed step towards preserving our cultural heritage, others view it as an attempt to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda.
Prioritizing Hindu religion
One of the main criticisms of Modi’s temple revival efforts is that they prioritize Hinduism over other religions. While the Prime Minister has assured the public that his government is committed to the preservation of all religious monuments, some believe that the emphasis on Hindu temples is disproportionate.
The case of Babri Masjid led to exact same allegation. As the Muslim community was trying to prove the area belonged to a mosque where they prayed since 1949, the supreme court gave a verdict in favor of the temple’s existence in the same location since the 11th century.
Furthermore, critics accuse Modi of using temple revival as a tool to promote Hindu nationalism and polarize Indian society along religious lines. They argue that his government’s funding of temple restoration projects is not based on merit but rather on political considerations, with temples in BJP-ruled states receiving preferential treatment.
Aesthetics over accuracy
Another criticism of Modi’s temple revival projects is that they prioritize aesthetics over historical accuracy. While the government has allocated millions of rupees towards temple restoration projects, some people believe that the renovations often prioritize superficial changes that cater to tourists rather than preserving the historical and cultural significance of the temples.
The initiation to convert Kashi to Kyoto city, a smart and spiritual city, has been disliked by many people as they believe it will jeopardize the religious essence of the place. There were protests against Modi and Yogi Adhityanath with mostly anti-Modi slogans in the streets near Varanasi. Some leaders even stated we are not Kyoto but toto, referring to a large number of battery-powered automobiles.
Displacing marginalized people
Some of Modi’s temple revival efforts result in the displacement of local communities, particularly Dalits and other marginalized groups who may have been living in the vicinity of the temples for generations. They argue that the government’s focus on temple revival comes at the expense of the needs and rights of these communities.
The displaced people of Rudraprayag district due to the Chardham project protested against the project. 2500-3000 people who were affected by the project asked for higher land valuation and 10 lakhs INR as a rehabilitation cost.
Was the price of preservation too high?
Soon after the supreme court decision on the Ayodhya dispute, Modi tweeted “Being built in tune with law, it defines India’s spirit of social harmony and people’s zeal. It will be a testimony to the ideals of RamRajya and a symbol of modern India.” Though the decision has been against the beliefs of the Muslim community but has ended the centuries-long debate (since 1858) that caused many riots, disputes, and losses. Not only that, the court has allocated 5 acres of land for building a mosque which relieves those advocating for Babri Masjid.
There were no riots full of flames of smoke and loud screams like in 1992. A man from the Muslim community before the day of the verdict said “The judgment is okay as everyone says. Prime Minister Modi said everyone should accept it and so, we do“. By this statement What we can confer is that he is not the one who prioritizes any religion or any community, he is the PM of all, and he is the PM of India.
The people worried about the city losing the traditional touch are impressed by the renovation of ghats and LEDs in most of the sections. The places where people had to cross the road with vehicles still moving, now have flyovers. Pipe gas to houses and new railway tracks, both have enhanced the lifestyle of the Kashi people. 40 temple restoration and 23 new additions with bigger walking lanes, well-protected mosques, and easy access to Buddhist pilgrimage through ring road, Kashi has been the place where Modi’s initiation silenced the criticizers.
The displaced people due to the Chardham project are subjected to compensation based on the land act 2013. The valuation is the twice circle rate in urban regions of the area and four times in rural regions. Modi’s revival projects seem to be well-planned and well-structured, though it is evident that minor issues will surely emerge. Despite that, the 9 years of actions, cultural upliftment, and temple revivals are far more crucial than any obstacles that have arisen due to them.
PM Narendra Modi’s work on temple revival in India has been focused on restoring and rebuilding ancient temples, as well as promoting the country’s cultural and religious heritage. His efforts have been met with both praise and criticism, with some seeing it as a way to promote Hindu nationalism and marginalize minority communities. Whether or not one agrees with Modi’s politics or his approach to governance, it is clear that his commitment to promoting India’s cultural and religious heritage is an important aspect of his legacy as Prime Minister.