The image of Lord Ram and the grand Ram Temple to be built in Ayodhya beamed across a giant billboard at the iconic Times Square in New York City, where members of the Indian community gathered in large numbers to celebrate the ‘Bhoomi Poojan' performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The portrait stands eight stories tall and is nearly as big as a football field, spanning almost an entire block on Broadway -- the centre of the Times Square.
Nearly 24 million LED pixels, each containing tiny red, blue and green lights make up the display, giving it higher resolution than even the best of today's top-of-the-line television sets.
While the organisers had planned to beam the photos from 8 AM to 10 PM on Wednesday, the image of Lord Ram and the temple was displayed for about four hours till 1 PM, reported PTI.
“Extremist groups can try to stymie us but they cannot silence Hindus. Come celebrate our RamJi in Times Square tonight at 7:30 for a diya lighting!! (There will be no displays in the evening)”, the organisers said on the website ramcelebration.org.
Prominent community leader and President of the American India Public Affairs Committee Jagdish Sewhani and organiser of the event said that the members of the Indian community gathered in huge numbers to celebrate the historic day when Prime Minister Modi performed the Bhoomi Pujan' of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Indian-Americans, who bought the ad space at America's most glitzy, flashing, bustling advertising mecca, beamed the portraits at a cost of course. The exact cost of each banner is not known but runs into thousands of dollars for a day.
Just five days ago, Hindu leaders from New York and New Jersey decided to put this event together. Hundreds of community members and volunteers worked round the clock to collects funds and organise the event.
Dressed in cultural attires, members of the Indian diaspora from across the New York tri-state area and many travelling from other states gathered in the evening at Times Square where the organisers had planned to light diyas, sing Bhajans and distribute sweets.
Chanting Jai Shree Ram' and waving flags and banners, the people celebrated the ground-breaking ceremony of the temple in Times Square.
"We really feel happy and energetic, so many people are here celebrating the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram temple. It's a really big moment for me and for all the Indians across the world," a resident told ANI.
"This is really exciting as I am living away from home. It has been a few years. You see something like this in New York< City is very exciting. I know I was here a few years ago when Modiji had come to Madison Square Garden and there was a great scene here. People gathered, celebrated and cheered... I am excited to see the photo on the billboard," said Ruchi, a spectator.
“I am from New Jersey and I am here to be a part of the Ram Janmabhoomi celebration today. It feels great to be a part of it. Our previous generations struggled for over 500 years," said Manju Nath, another US resident.
Sources as per PTI said that the company running the billboard cited legal obligations to say they could not run political advertisements.
The sources, however, added that the image was not political in nature.
They said that the image of Lord Ram being displayed at Times Square, even if for four hours and not for the entire day as initially planned, is unprecedented and historic in itself.
Sewhani had earlier said: This is not a once in a lifetime or a once in a century event. This is an event that comes once in the life of mankind. We had to give it a befitting celebration and what better place than the iconic Times Square to commemorate the 'Ram Janma Bhoomi Shilanyas'.
Under Prime Minister Modi, the construction of the Ram Temple is a dream come true for Hindus all over the world. Till six years back, we never thought that this day will come soon but due to Modi's leadership, this day has come and we want to celebrate it in a befitting way.
However, some groups had voiced opposition to the celebration in Times Square and the display of the image of Lord Ram and the temple on the billboards.
Coalition Against Fascism in India, Hindus for Human Rights and Indian-American Muslim Council had signed a petition to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio against the display of the image on billboards.
The Coalition Against Fascism in India had organised a protest at Times Square at the same time that members of the Indian community gathered to celebrate the occasion.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, also opposed the celebration at Times Square.
With inputs from Agencies