Nearly 10,000 police and paramilitary troops guarded the northern town of Ayodhya, where authorities feared Hindu-Muslim clashes or an attack by Islamic guerrillas.
Devotees prayed at the site, where thousands of Hindu nationalists used spades, crowbars and their bare hands to tear down a 16th century mosque in 1992.
Many Hindus believe that Ram, the supreme Hindu deity, was born at the site and that the mosque was built by Mogul emperor Babur on the ruins of a Hindu temple he ordered desecrated. The mosque demolition triggered riots that killed 2,000 people across India. Since then, Hindu hard-liners have campaigned and collected cash donations to build a majestic temple on the site in Ayodhya, about 350 miles east of the capital, New Delhi.
But the government, led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist party, has barred any construction on the disputed site until the country's Supreme Court gives its verdict on a slew of related petitions.
There, a dozen men and women in saffron-colored clothes poured sacred water out of ceremonial clay pots into the river. Images of Hindu gods and goddesses were placed in a truck decked out as a chariot.
At the prayer site outside a small, temporary temple built near the spot where the mosque stood, more than 7,000 devotees from several Indian states offered flowers and clarified butter to a sacred fireplace in a centuries-old Hindu ceremony that traditionally included animal sacrifice.
``The temple will be built here!'' they shouted.
In many areas, police outnumbered the devotees. Police said Saturday that intelligence reports indicated a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, planned to attack the small temple, where Hindus keep idols of their gods and goddesses.
People coming to Ayodhya for the ceremony were frisked and ordered to pass through metal detectors.
The temple campaign, led by the World Hindu Council, was blamed for triggering another round of religious violence in February that killed nearly 1,000 people in the western state of Gujarat. The violence began when Muslims attacked a train carrying Hindu nationalists from Ayodhya.