Screen grab from TV

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday conducted the ritualistic ‘bhoomi pujan’ to mark the building of the grand Ram Mandir at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

Modi, in a gold silk kurta and white dhoti, arrived by chopper to the riverside town – his first visit in 29 years — and prayed at a Hanuman temple before laying a 40-kg silver brick in Ram Janmabhoomi, at a site disputed for decades until the Supreme Court handed over ownership to Hindus last year.

The historic event showcases the triumph of one of India’s longest campaigns, one that found resonance with millions in the country and abroad.

Slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev rent the air as the ritual ended and the Prime Minister laid the foundation of the temple.

Bhajans and ‘shlokas’ were heard as the town, decked with flowers and yellow and saffron flags, celebrated the start of a grand Ram Mandir.

The Prime Minister first offered prayers at the Hanumangarhi temple – a shrine to Lord Hanuman.

He went to Ramjanmabhoomi or the birthplace of Lord Ram to pray at the shrine to ‘Ram Lalla’, the infant Lord Ram, before proceeding to the site of the main ‘bhoomi pujan’ of the Ram Mandir.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and around 170 spiritual leaders attended the ceremony.

Iqbal Ansari, a litigant in the temple-mosque dispute, was the first person to be invited.

BJP veterans LK Advani – who led the Ram Mandir movement in the 1990s – and Murli Manohar Joshi attended the event through video-conference because of coronavirus precautions.

The Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, tasked with building the temple, reportedly issued a last-minute invite to the two leaders.

Modi, who in 1990 was one of the organizers of the nationwide campaign for a temple at the site where the 16th century Babri mosque once stood, participated in religious rituals before laying a silver brick to symbolize the construction of the temple.

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