On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers and laid the foundation stone for a grand temple at the site which was believed to be Lord Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The groundbreaking ceremony marks the formal start of the temple building, announced almost three decades earlier by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
LK Advani, 92, and Murli Manohar Joshi 86, the two BJP stalwarts who had led the campaign to build the temple in its early days, are said to have watched the live telecast of the event because of the coronavirus pandemic. Home Minister Amit Shah, from his bed in a Gurugram hospital where the 55-year-old top BJP leader was admitted last week due to the virus.
“A grand temple will now be built for our Ram Lalla who had been staying in a tent for decades. Today, Ram Janam Bhoomi breaks free of the cycle of breaking and getting built again – that had been going on for centuries,” PM Modi said at the event who expressed gratitude to all the people who had made huge sacrifices for the temple moment.
“India is creating a golden chapter in Ayodhya. The wait of centuries ends today,” PM Modi said in his televised address at the event.
During the rituals, PM Modi was using silver bricks. But bricks donated by devouts from around the world in 1989 will be used for the foundation stone. “There are 275,000 such bricks out of which 100 bricks have been picked with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ engraving,” the priest said as the Vedic rituals, which have been going on for three days, had come to an end.
Shortly after landing in the riverside town of Ayodhya from Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, PM Modi, dressed in traditional kurta and dhoti, offered prayers at the Hanuman Garhi temple. Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Tirth Kshetra Trust member Anil Mishra said this puja was performed to “seek permission from Lord Hanuman to start Ram Mandir construction work.”
PM Modi next headed straight to the temple for the ceremony. Security has been tight for the event, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the need to adhere to social distancing.
Only 175 guests have been invited. Among them are Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the ruling BJP’s ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
But the temple trust has ordered 100,000 packets of laddus for distribution to people and dignitaries.
PM Modi is the first prime minister to visit the Ram Janmabhoomi and give prayers in the sanctum sanctorum where the deity has been worshipped since 1949, worsening the controversy over the tiny plot of land on which a mosque was built in the 16th century. Hindus believe the Babri Masjid, built over a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, whose birthplace is also considered at the site.
The construction of the temple was made possible by a verdict of the Supreme Court nine months ago which ended a decades-long legal battle and awarded the site to Hindus. A 5-acre plot at another site has been given to the Muslim community to build a new mosque to make up for the 500-year-old Babri Masjid that was destroyed by a mob in 1992.