Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday performed the 'bhoomi pujan' of a Supreme Court-mandated Ram temple in Ayodhya, bringing to fruition the BJP's 'mandir' movement that defined its politics for three decades and took it to the heights of power.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were among those who attended the event at the site where a large number of devout Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.
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.
After the Bhoomi Pujan, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat addressed the crowd.
Bhagwat said, "So many people had sacrificed, they couldn't be here physically. There are some who couldn't come here, Advani ji must be at his home watching this. There are some who should've come but couldn't be invited because of the situation (COVID-19)."
"Poore desh mein aaj anand ki lehar hai. Sadiyon ki aas poore hone ka anand hai. Sabse bada anand hai Bharat ko atmanirbhar banane ke liye jis atma vishwas ki awashikta thi uska sagun-saakaar adhishthan aaj ho raha hai," the RSS chief added.
Rememberin the struggle to achieve success to now build a Ram Temple, Bhagwat said, "We'd taken a resolution. I remember the then RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras telling us that we'll have to struggle for 20-30 yrs, only then will this be fulfilled. We struggled for 30 years & in the 30th year, we've attained the joy of fulfilling our resolution."
"Our country believes in 'Vasudev Kutubhkam' i.e. World is One Family. We believe in taking everyone along. Today is a new beginning of a new India," Bhagwat said.