President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday donated Rs 5,01,000 for the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. On the same day, the trust, set up to oversee the building of the temple, launched a countrywide contribution drive.

Govind Dev Giri, the co-president of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, met Kovind to seek the funds, reported the Hindustan Times. He was accompanied by Vishva Hindu Parishad Working President Alok Kumar and temple construction committee’s chief Nripendra Mishra and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Kulbhushan Ahuja.

“He is the first citizen of the country so we went to him to initiate this drive,” Kumar said, according to ANI. “He donated a sum of Rs 5,01,000.”

The VHP, an affiliate of the RSS, was at the forefront of the Ram temple construction movement. The trust has mandated it to collect funds for the temple’s construction.

“Shri Ram Mandir Nidhi donation campaign started today across the country,” the VHP said in a tweet. “Your excellency Shri Ram Nath Kovind ji, along with his family, gave his personal donation and gave his best wishes for the campaign.”

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also donated Rs 1 lakh for the construction of the temple. “Our family will also have a brick in the construction of Lord Shri Ram temple,” Chouhan said. “This is not a Ram temple, but the country’s temple. Shri Ram ji is the identity of India.” He said that it was a good thing that the construction of the temple is starting with public cooperation.

The campaign to collect funds will be carried out across 5,25,000 villages. The sum collected will have to be deposited within 48 hours in banks. The drive will end on February 27.

Volunteers of various organisations have issued three types of coupons – Rs 10, Rs 100, or Rs 1,000 – to seek contributions from Hindu households, according to NDTV. The trust has decided against using any government fund, money from abroad, or corporate donations.

Other religions can also contribute to the fund, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who launched the campaign in Patna, said. “But the thing is if it is a mosque, it is expected that Muslims will be at the forefront,” he said. “So, it is the Hindu community’s responsibility that they come forward for Lord Ram’s temple. We will certainly take cooperation from the followers of other religions too.”

The former Bihar deputy chief minister said that he hoped every Hindu family will contribute to the construction of the temple. “I’m sure that whatever fund is required for the temple, we will get it out of people’s cooperation,” he said.

Giri had in December said that the construction can cost up to Rs 1,100 crore, and would take about three-and-a-half years to complete.

The Ram temple’s construction began in August, over two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid its foundation stone at an elaborate ceremony in Ayodhya on August 5. Modi had laid a symbolic 40-kg silver brick in the sanctum sanctorum, or innermost sanctuary, to mark the start of the temple construction in Ayodhya. The celebrations were, however, toned down because of the coronavirus crisis.

A landmark Supreme Court verdict in November 2019 had paved the way for the construction of the Ram temple. The court had ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya would be handed over to a government-run trust for the construction of a Ram temple. The court had also said that the demolition of Babri Masjid was illegal and directed the government to acquire an alternative plot of land to build a mosque.

The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992 by ‘kar sevaks’ who claimed that an ancient Ram temple stood at the same site.

The Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation, a trust formed by the Uttar Pradesh government and the State Sunni Central Waqf Board, had in December unveiled the design of a mosque and a hospital to be built on a five-acre land allocated to it in the Ayodhya dispute case. The structure will be built in Ayodhya’s Dhannipur village.