Agra: Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh on Sunday opened the first Rashtra Mandir, dedicated to freedom fighters and social workers, at the Mankameshwar temple complex here.

The Rashtra Mandir is a unique temple in the name of people like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Annie Besant and Bhagat Singh.

Mahant Har Har Puri, who is the brain behind the shrine, told that "Nationalism today has to be the foundation of religion. Those who sacrificed their lives preaching sermons and values to ensure freedom with dignity for us have to be revered like gods and it is our duty to inculcate these values in our younger generation."The temple was opened in the presence of Gandhians from America, Britain and Japan. "The idea is people who visit the temple should return convinced that violence does not pay, and there are more important things in this world to fight for than petty politics," said Yogesh Puri, a key organiser.

The temple is designed simply with portraits of freedom fighters put up in the backdrop of the national flag. In the centre is a huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi with his famous three monkeys. "The moment you see all the great men together, your head automatically bows down in reverence and awe," commented culture critic Mahesh Dhakar.

Agra is the right place to have a temple of this kind, as a large number of domestic and foreign tourists visit the city daily. "They should go back with intellectual inputs, of the seminal ideas that have stood the test of time and will continue to remain beacons of hope for a strife-torn humanity," said Har Har Puri.

The inspiring portraits of Chandra Shekar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Ashfaq Ullah Khan, Tilak, Malviya, Mother Teresa, leave a deep imprint on visitors to the temple, which is walking distance from Agra Fort, right in the heart of the city. "Just as we revere and worship our ancestors during the pitr paksh, we must also do the same with these great men and women who have done so much for humanity. We look at them with respect as gods; their ideas will fuel our actions," said Vijay Kumar Handa of the Gandhi Hindustani Sahitya Sabha, Delhi. Handa told that "Very soon 100 Japanese kids will take to spinning on the charkha as a daily ritual. We are getting messages from China and other countries. Fed up with violence and senseless brutalities often resulting from mindless pursuit of materialism, more and more young people were seeing reason in what Gandhi said, did or wrote.""The momentum is now with the people and it is all the more necessary to educate people and guide them through propagation of Gandhian values," the chief of the centuries old Mankameshwar Matth told.

General V.K. Singh had visited the Mankameshwar temple last year and conducted some special puja. The idea of a Rashtra Mandir had excited him and he promised to open the temple when it was completed.