Ayodhya(UP) | An idol of the new Ram Lalla was consecrated at the Ayodhya temple on Monday, a landmark event led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who also gave a clarion call to go beyond the grand mandir's construction to build the foundation of a "strong, capable and divine" India of the next 1,000 years.
As the inauguration of the temple marked the culmination of a decades-long campaign, mostly under the Hindutva banner, to reclaim a disputed religious site in Ayodhya, Modi said it was the advent of a new era.
Lakhs of people watched the ‘pran pratishtha’ (consecration) ceremony on television at their homes and in neighbourhood temples, savouring the historic moment just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and 34 years after BJP veteran L K Advani's iconic 'Mandir Wahin Banayenge ' speech during his Rath yatra that shaped Ram mandir politics.
Scrapping of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya and the implementation of a
Uniform Civil Code(UCC) have been BJP’s poll plank for decades.
Hymns and songs about Lord Ram reverberated in temples and special prayers and bhandara events were held as the country soaked in religious fervour on the occasion.
Army helicopters showered flower petals on the new-age architectural marvel as the consecration ceremony was underway. And celebrations broke out in this Uttar Pradesh temple town resonating with a blend of spirituality and revelry with people singing and dancing.
'Ramdhun' played in the streets in this town from early morning, as security personnel kept a tight vigil across Ayodhya district.
While the Ram temple was decorated with "rich stocks" of flowers and special lights, streetlights on flyovers were decorated with artwork
depicting Lord Ram as well as cutouts of bow and arrow, and ornamental lampposts had designs themed on the traditional "Ramanandi tilak".
The consecration rituals began from the Saryu river banks on January 16 and were completed Monday afternoon. The first phase of the temple built by a trust has so far cost Rs 1,100 crore. The temple complex is expected to open for public on Tuesday.
The prime minister walked inside the temple premises with a silver 'chattar' (umbrella) placed on a red folded dupatta.
Dressed in a golden kurta teamed up with a cream dhoti and patka, he took ‘sankalp’ for the ceremony and later moved to the sanctum sanctorum for the rituals.
"January 22, 2024 is not merely a date in the calendar but heralds the advent of a new era," Modi said shortly after he performed a series of rituals in the ‘garbhagriha’ – the sanctum sanctorum -- with the consecration taking place during the 84-second 'Abhijeet muhurta' starting 12.29 pm. He prostrated himself before the 51-inch idol that depicts the child Ram. A vedic priest was also present.
"Today, our Ram has arrived. After a long wait for ages, our Ram has arrived. Our Ram Lalla will no longer live in a tent. Our Ram Lalla will stay in a magnificent temple," Modi said in his address to a large number of invitees, including seers, leading figures from different fields and those part of the decades-long Ram Janmabhoomi movement for building the temple.
With the temple being built and divine powers "witnessing" the occasion, he asked people to take a pledge in the current time of immense "positive energy" to build a strong and capable India of the next 1,000 years after the temple has been built.
"Ayodhya is asking us all, every devotee of Ram, every Indian as to the next course of action as the grand temple of Shri Ram has been built. What next? We have to from today, from this sacred moment lay the foundation of India of the next 1,000 years. Going beyond the temple's construction, we all Indians take a pledge to build a strong, capable, grand and divine India."
In remarks aimed at critics, Modi said some people used to say that the Ram temple's construction would set off a fire in the country and asked them to reconsider their views.
"I would urge those people to rethink. Ram is not fire but energy, Ram is not dispute but solution, Ram is not merely ours but of everyone and Ram is not only the present but also eternal, he said, adding the temple is also a
symbol of peace, patience, harmony and amity in Indian society."
Modi also said the "extraordinary and emotional moment" is not merely about triumph but also humility and underscores Indian society's maturity in resolving historical disputes.
The ceremony took place in the presence of UP Governor Anandiben Patel, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Bhagwat said Ram Rajya is coming and everyone in the country should shun disputes and stay united.
The new idol depicts Ram at the age of five, and was carved from black stone by Mysuru-based sculptor Arun Yogiraj. It was draped in a yellow dhoti, and adorned with stone-studded jewellery and flowers in shades of red, yellow and purple.
Fifty traditional musical instruments from across the country were part of a devotional "mangal dhwani" that resonated during the ceremony. Orchestrated by Ayodhya's celebrated poet Yatindra Mishra, the rendition was supported by New Delhi’s Sangeet Natak Akademi
Devotees arrived from several parts of the country to the temple town to be part of the occasion, though the main ceremony was only for the invitees. "Jai Shri Ram' slogans also rent the air.
A temple-mosque dispute had simmered over the spot where the 16th century Babri mosque stood.
Many Hindus believe that the mosque was constructed after the demolition of a temple that existed on the site of Lord Ram’s birthplace. Kar sewaks demolished it on December 6, 1992 triggering communal riots that left hundreds dead.
After a long legal battle, the top court in 2019 ruled in favour of the construction of the temple. It also ordered allotment of a five-acre plot for building a mosque.
The Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir has been constructed in the traditional Nagara style. Its east-west length is 380 feet, width 250 feet and height 161 feet. It is supported by 392 pillars and has 44 doors.
The pillars and walls showcase intricately sculpted depictions of Hindu deities.
Outside, Ayodhya resident Anil Singh called it a “priceless moment” that he
would treasure forever. “As a resident of Ayodhya, I feel proud that I live in this spiritual city,” he said.
Mysuru-based sculptor Arun Yogiraj, who chiselled the 'Ram Lalla' idol, said he considers himself the luckiest person on the earth and believes that it is Lord Ram who chose him for the task.
As soon as Modi left the temple premises, the temple was thrown open to invitees. Hundreds rushed in, creating complete chaos in the chamber before the ‘garbhagriha’.
The prime minister also visited Kuber Tila shrine, unveiled a statue of Ramayana figure Jatayu and showered petals on workers who built the temple.
Senior BJP leaders including party chief J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah watched the live streaming of the consecration ceremony. The 96-year-old Advani, who was invited for the ceremony, was not present.
Top opposition leaders skipped the temple inauguration, calling it an RSS-BJP event.