PM Modi uses silver brick to lay the foundation stone of Ram Mandir
Loud cheers of Jai Shri Ram, the chanting of Vedic hymns and the blowing of conches greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as stepped into the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Uttar Pradesh Ayodhya town at 12.07pm on Wednesday.
Inside, 175 guests waited patiently in chairs spaced two-feet apart under a waterproof canopy in shades of red, gold and yellow. Outside, in the temple town, people thronged shops with television sets to watch the event, and rooftops of houses near the temple site became vantage viewing points as people jostled to get a glimpse of the Prime Minister. “Bhoomi pujan (the ground breaking ceremony) is a new beginning for us and end of a bitter past,” said Sujeet Bahadur, 65, a local resident who is old enough to remember the movement for the Ram temple.
Dressed in a traditional silk dhoti and gold-coloured kurta, Modi offered prayers to the infant deity, Ram Lalla, at the makeshift temple and performed a circumambulation, before planting a sapling .He then participated in the ground breaking ceremony.
The Vedic ceremony, presided over by Senapati Shastri of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham in Tamil Nadu, began with prayers to Ganesha, the Hindu god of beginnings. Hymns dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Kaal Bhairav and Goddess Kali, the clan deity of Ram, were also recited. A 40kg silver brick donated by temple trust chief Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, was used for the ritual.
The main foundation-laying event began at 12.45pm, a pre-ordained time decided by astrologers and seers. The priests dug a pit in the sanctum sanctorum of the proposed temple, the silver brick was removed and nine other bricks, engraved with the words ‘Jai Shri Ram’ [Hail Lord Ram], placed instead. All the bricks were donated by devotees around the world in 1989, when Hindu groups started mass mobilization to build the temple in what they believed is the birth place of Lord Ram.
A lotus and the PM’s personal offering, a kalash (holy pitcher) made of five metals sacred in Hindu traditions (gold, silver, copper, iron and zinc) was placed on the bricks. A copper plaque donated by Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, one of Hinduism’s holy seats, inscribed with Sanskrit hymns was also laid at temple’s foundation. As the PM offered prayers, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel, chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Salil Singhal, nephew of late Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal, and his wife looked on. All were wearing masks.
Soil from at least 2,000 Hindu holy sites and water from at least 100 sacred rivers were used for purification and other rituals. The 175 guests included 135 seers from various spiritual traditions and eminent people from Ayodhya.
“Nine bricks are kept here... these were sent by devotees of Lord Ram from around the world in 1989. There are 2,75,000 such bricks, out of which 100 bricks with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ engraving have been taken,” said a priest officiating the ceremony.
The ceremony lasted 40 minutes, after which the PM released a postage stamp on the Ram temple designed by the Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan, an organisation of the Uttar Pradesh government’s culture department. Adityanath presented a three-feet high statue of Kodanda Ram carved from rosewood to PM Modi. Kodada (literally, with bow) Ram represents the deity from the period during which Ram was looking for Sita after her abduction in the epic Ramayana.
In the evening, fireworks lit up the sky and tens of thousands of earthen lamps glittered across the town as locals said they hoped the ceremony marked a new beginning.
Authorities said 100,000 lamps were lit along the banks of the Saryu river.
“Lord Ram belongs to everyone. Ram temple will also bring overall development to Ayodhya,” said Iqbal Ansari, son of the oldest litigant in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit decided by the Supreme Court last year.
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