A temple built almost a decade ago has finally caught the attention of the man to whom it is dedicated to—Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
Although apparently constructed back in 2006, it has risen to prominence only now as worshippers installed Modi’s statue and prepared for its inauguration on Feb. 15.
The temple was constructed on the outskirts of Rajkot in Gujarat, where Modi was the chief minister from 2001 to 2014—and for the last decade, devotees there have been offering prayers before his photographs. It was built on government land by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters who belong to an organisation called the Oum Yuva Group.
India’s junior agriculture minister, Mohan Kundariya, and Gujarat’s water supply minister, Vijay Rupani, along with workers from the party are likely to attend the inauguration.
But this isn’t the first temple in the honour of Modi, who has been worshipped in a small Uttar Pradesh village for over a year.
Still, the news of the Rajkot shrine triggered a string of tweets from the Indian prime minister, who is an avowed Hindu nationalist.
Dissuading his followers from deifying him, Modi prompted them to instead support the Clean India campaign.
The idol is reported to have cost as much as Rs1.65 lakh ($2,642)—and the money was raised through donations from neighbouring villages.
“We spent so much money on the idol because no artist could make an exact copy of Modi’s face and we kept on changing the idol for three to four years. Then finally we called artists from Odisha and they created this idol, which looks exactly like Modi,” Ramesh Undhad, who donated funds for the Modi temple in Rajkot village, said in an interview.
Finally, artists from Odisha constructed the marble statue.
The prime minister’s humility, however, hasn’t please all.
Lately, Modi has drawn much flak for the outfit he chose to wear during US president Barack Obama’s visit last month. His pin-striped bandhgala had tiny letters spelling out his full name, Narendra Damodardas Modi, again and again. Some say, the suit even cost the BJP the Delhi elections this week.
Not that deification of celebrities is unusual in India.
Last year, soon after the general elections, a temple was constructed to worship Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Telengana’s Karimnagar for supporting the creation of India’s newest state.
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Dalit icon Mayawati, former Tamil Nadu chief minister M.G. Ramachandran, actors Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar have temples built in their honour.