Political leaders and priests, among the 175 guests in attendance at Ayodhya's Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan today, strictly followed social distancing at the ground-breaking ceremony even as people gathered on terraces of houses lining the path to be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The ceremony marking the start of the Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya was held today with all Covid safety measures in place - barring the restriction on congregation of more than 50 people, which was relaxed for the grand event - as India continued to log more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases taking its total to 19 lakh.
With the ceremony being attended by so many guests, many of them above 65 years of age, seats inside the venue were carefully arranged at a distance of six feet, and dignitaries, including PM Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, could be seen in masks, among the measures necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
However, outside the venue, in homes lining the path to the Ram Mandir site, people gathered in large numbers, some without masks, to catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister and take photographs.
Besides PM Modi, who laid a 40-kg silver brick at the temple site, other guests include Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat, Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj, Iqbal Ansari (former litigant in Ayodhya land dispute case) and Yogi Adityanath.
Senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, key to the temple movement, attended the ceremony virtually in keeping with the Covid safety protocol.
Home Minister Amit Shah testing positive for coronavirus days after attending a cabinet meeting with the Prime Minister had raised questions about the safety of guests at the event. Days before that, a priest, Pradeep Das, and 14 policemen in Ayodhya had also tested positive for coronavirus.