India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been in power since 2014, has once again demonstrated its ability to rally its support base.
On 22 January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a temple dedicated to Ram — one of the most popular deities in the Hindu pantheon — on the site where the 16th-century Babri Masjid stood until 31 years ago.
The Ram idol consecration ceremony was held amid devotional chants and in the presence of an assortment of thousands of politicians, businessmen, film and sports celebrities, government officials, and Hindu gurus and sadhus invited to Ayodhya city, located about 700 km from New Delhi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
On their part, the opposition Congress party and some of its allies did not attend the ceremony, calling it a BJP-RSS event.
India's parliamentary elections are due in about three months, and attending the Modi-dominated event would have diminished the stature of opposition leaders even further.
State television aired live coverage of the ceremony called “Pran Pratishtha" (infusion of life into an idol, according to Hindu beliefs) and running commentary singing praises for Modi.
The billionaires and screen celebrities who watched Modi perform the rituals and deliver a speech looked Lilliputian compared to Modi's epic presence.
He said: "This is a temple of national consciousness in the form of Ram. Lord Ram is India's faith, foundation, idea, law, consciousness, thinking, prestige and glory."
The government launched mass mobilisation efforts weeks ago to ensure the event would be a grand success and magnify Modi's image. Military helicopters dropped flower petals on those present as the ceremony got underway.
The BJP and its associates promoted the occasion as a Hindu awakening, prompting Ayodhya-themed ceremonies in towns and villages across India.
"We have to lay the foundation of India for the next one thousand years," Modi said.
The government announced a half-day office closure, while banks, hospitals, schools and some businesses also observed a holiday. The stock market closed for the day, and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) adjusted its trading hours accordingly. Some states announced a ban on meat consumption and sale.