They fanned out across the vast country, knocking on doors in the name of a cause that would redefine India.
These foot soldiers and organizers, including a young Narendra Modi, collected millions of dollars to be socked away for a long fight to build a grand Hindu temple in Ayodhya, in northern India. Across 200,000 villages, ceremonies were arranged to bless individual bricks that would be sent to that sacred city, believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.
The bricks, the campaign’s leaders declared, would not just be used for the temple’s construction on land occupied for centuries by a mosque. They would be the foundation for a Hindu rashtra, or Hindu nation, that would correct what right-wing Hindus saw as the injustice of India’s birth as a secular republic.
Nearly four decades later, the cornerstone of that sweeping vision has been laid.
Mr. Modi, now the country’s prime minister, inaugurated the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Monday — the crowning achievement of a national movement aimed at establishing Hindu supremacy in India by rallying the country’s Hindu majority across castes and tribes.
“Today, our Ram has come. After centuries of patience and sacrifice, our Lord Ram has come,” Mr. Modi said during the ceremony. “It is the beginning of a new era.”
The moment is both one of triumph for Hindu nationalists and one of jubilation for many others who care little for politics. Ram has a wide following in India; excitement around the temple’s consecration had been building for weeks, with saffron-colored pennants strung across a million streets and markets, and posters of Ram advertising the event everywhere.