AYODHYA: Marking the beginning of construction of a Supreme Court-mandated Ram temple in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday performed ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ and laid the first stone of the temple at the Ram janmabhoomi site, calling it a “golden day” for the country. 

Addressing the gathering of 175 people, which included political and religious leaders, PM Modi said that India was “creating a golden chapter” and the event marked the end of wait that went on for centuries. He said that ‘Jai Siya Ram’ was resonating not only in Ayodhya, but across the world. 

“A grand temple will now be built for our Ram Lalla who had been staying in a tent. Today Ram janmbhoomi breaks free of the cycle of breaking and getting built again – that had been going on for centuries,” he said, beginning his speech with “Jai Siya Ram”.

Despite efforts to eradicate Lord Ram’s existence, he lives in our hearts and is the basis of our culture, PM Modi said. 

Drawing parallel with Independence Day, PM Modi said: “Janmabhoomi has got freedom today. Like August 15 is Independence Day for the country, today holds a similar significance for crores of those who devoted their lives for cause of Ram temple.”

PM Modi said that the temple will be a symbol of India’s culture and nationalist feelings, adding that the temple will open up new economic opportunities for the region. 

“From Kanyakumari to Kshirbhavani, Koteshwar to Kamakhya, Jagannath to Kedarnath, Somnath to Kashi Vishwanath- entire country is immersed in Lord Ram today,” he said. 

Terming the construction of temple as an “instrument to unite country”, PM Modi said that Lord Ram had taught that “motherland is even greater than paradise for its people”. 

RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and UP governor Anandiben Patel shared the dais with PM Modi during the groundbreaking ceremony. 

The guest list, including religious leaders who formed part of the movement that started in the 1980s, was restricted to 175 in view of the COVID-19 crisis.

As a priest chanted Sanskrit ‘shlokas’ and the ground-breaking ceremony got under way under a giant marquee decorated in shades of reds and yellows, Modi and the other dignitaries, all in masks, maintained social distancing and sat a safe distance away from each other.

Slogans of ‘Bharat Mataki Jai’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’ went up as the ritual ended and the prime minister laid the foundation of the temple.

The prime minister arrived in Ayodhya in a helicopter where Adityanath among others received him. Before the function to lay the foundation stone of the ‘Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir’, the prime minister took part in prayers at the Hanumangarhi temple.

From there, he travelled to the ‘Shree Ram Janmabhoomi’ where he performed prayers at the ‘Bhagwan Shree Ramlala Virajman’. He also planted a Parijat (Indian night jasmine) sapling.

He unveiled a plaque to mark the laying of the foundation stone and also release a commemorative postage stamp on the ‘Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir’.

For the BJP which was once forced to keep the “contentious” Ram temple issue aside to woo allies, the beginning of construction of a grand temple in Ayodhya is an ideological victory over its rivals with even many opposition leaders welcoming the development.

Incidentally, the ground-breaking ceremony by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the temple’s construction, in the presence of leading lights of Hindutva movement including RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, was conducted on Wednesday which coincides with the first anniversary of the annulment of Article 370, another key ideological plank for the saffron party.

On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court settled the fractious issue going back more than a century and backed the construction of a Ram temple by a trust at the disputed site. It also ruled that an alternative five-acre plot must be found for a mosque in the Hindu holy town.

Delivering a unanimous judgement on a case that had long polarised the country, the court said the faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the site was undisputed.

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement got a fillip in 1990 with then BJP president L K Advani’s ‘rath yatra’. Two years later, in December 1992, the 16th century Mughal-era Babri Masjid, built on what a large sections believe is Lord Ram’s birthplace, was demolished. 

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