Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after laying the first brick for a Ram Temple at Ayodhya at a mega ceremony today, described it as an emotional moment for the entire country. A long wait had ended today, he said.
"Every heart is lit; it is an emotional moment for the entire country. A long wait ends today... Crores won't believe that they have seen this day in our lifetime. For years, our Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram) lived beneath a tent, now he will reside in a grand temple built by Ram bhakts. Today, Ram Janambhoomi has been liberated," said the Prime Minister.
He chanted "Siyavar Ram Chandra ki Jai!" and "Jai Siya Ram" as he started addressing a gathering of spiritual leaders at Ram Janmabhoomi after laying a 40-kg silver brick to mark the start of temple construction.
"Today, this chant is not only reverberating in Ayodhya but across the world," said the Prime Minister.
PM Modi returned to the holy city after 29 years to participate in the "Bhoomi Pujan" or a groundbreaking ceremony for the temple, which meets a core promise of the ruling BJP. The BJP has for years pushed for a Ram temple at the site where the 16th century Babri mosque once stood before it was razed in 1992 by activists who believed it was built on the ruins of a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram. The 2.77 acre site was claimed by both Hindus and Muslim until the Supreme Court last year handed it over for a Ram temple.
In a gold silk kurta, white dhoti and mask, the Prime Minister began his visit with prayers at a Hanuman temple and then proceeded to Ramjanmabhoomi.
"Ram sabke hain, Ram sab mein hain. Lord Ram is present everywhere and in different avatars. Lord Ram is present in every characteristic that is synonymous with 'Bharat' (India)," PM Modi said.
"Witness the remarkable power of Ram. Buildings were destroyed, attempts were made to destroy his very existence. But Ram is still entrenched in our minds and is the heart of our culture."
The Ram temple, he said, would become a modern symbol of India's traditions, devotion and national sentiment. "The temple will also symbolise the power of the collective resolution of crores of people. It will keep inspiring future generations," said the PM.
"Shri Ram is the common thread of unity in diversity in the country."
He also quoted Lord Ram as saying: "Bhay binu hoi na priti (Only a strong nation can bring peace)." This was seen as a message for Pakistan and China.
PM Modi last visited Ayodhya in 1992 as convenor of a campaign led by then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi.
He had taken a vow that he would return to the holy city in Uttar Pradesh only when a Ram temple was built.
The "Bhoomi Pujan", held at a time recommended by astrologers, was curtailed because of the coronavirus battle. Home Minister Amit Shah is in hospital with the virus. A priest and 14 policemen on duty near the temple site also tested positive last week.
PM Modi kept his mask on for much of the rituals. "Lord Ram was always symbolised maryada (dignity) and the current COVID-19 situation demands that our maryada should be --'Do gaz ki doori, mask hai zaroori'," he cautioned.