AUGUST 5, 2020
Declaring August 5 as a “golden day” in India’s history, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke ground and laid a silver brick, the first in the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya at the site believed to be the Hindu god’s birthplace and where the Babri Masjid once stood.
Modi offered prayers to nine stone blocks with Lord Ram inscribed on it amid chanting of religious hymns to symbolise the start of construction, which is expected to take three and a half years.
Modi wore a traditional gold kurta and white dhoti, along with his face mask.
Beginning his speech with ‘Jai Siya Ram’, Modi compared the day to August 15. “Many generations sacrificed everything in India independence movement. Just as August 15 is testimony to the sacrifices made by lakhs of people, the Ram Mandir bears testimony to centuries of struggle,” the PM said.
“Just as people from all sections of the society had rallied behind Mahatma Gandhi to free India, the socially disadvantaged, Dalits, adivasis, every section had helped lay the foundation for Ram Mandir,” he added.
With RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat looking on from the dais, Modi said, “Many attempts were made to remove the very existence of Lord Ram. Structures were demolished, but finally Ram Janmabhoomi has become free of the cycle of destruction and resurrection. For crores of people in India, centuries of wait is ending. It is a very emotional moment for them. They can’t believe that in their lifetime, they are witnessing this pious moment. Ram Lalla who lived in a tent for all these years is finally going to be seated in a grand temple.”
The construction of the temple in Ayodhya has been at the core of BJP’s election pitches since the early 1990s when LK Advani’s rath yatra culminated in the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid in December 1992, which in turn sparked a cycle of communal riots and tensions.
Sending out the message that “Ram is everywhere, Ram belongs to all”, Modi said the temple symbolises India’s rich heritage and will be an inspiration for all of humanity.
“Social harmony was the core principle of Lord Ram’s governance. We have to cement the stones for construction of Ram temple with mutual love, brotherhood,” he said.
The groundbreaking or ‘bhumi pujan’ ceremony follows a ruling by the Supreme Court last November favouring the building of a Hindu temple on the disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.
“Just as people accepted the Supreme Court’s verdict in Ram Janmabhoomi case with grace, they should welcome the construction of the grand Ram Temple with warmth towards others,” the PM said.
The main roads in Ayodhya were barricaded and about 3,000 paramilitary soldiers were guarding the city, where all shops and businesses are closed. Last week, a priest and 15 police officers at the temple site had tested positive for the coronavirus, which has infected 1.9 million people in India and killed more than 39,000.
“Had this function been held on normal days all these roads would have been chock-a-block with people. Millions of people would have come to Ayodhya to witness this historic event,” temple priest Hari Mohan said.
Only 175 religious saints, priests and Hindu and Muslim community representatives were invited to the ceremony.
Water from Indian rivers in 2,000 earthen pots sent by various Hindu temples and Sikh shrines was poured at the site.
Those invited to the groundbreaking ceremony include Iqbal Ansari, the main Muslim litigant in the Supreme Court case, who now supports building the temple in Ayodhya.
The court also ordered that Muslims be given 5 acres (2 hectares) of land to build a new mosque at a nearby site.
The temple will be around 72 meters wide, 91.5 meters long and 49 meters high with five domes with a total area around 84,000 square feet. The complex will also have a prayer hall, lecture hall, visitors’ hostel and museum.