An Indian Highest Court has said the disputed holy site of Ayodhya in northern India should be given to Hindus who want a temple built there, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled.
The case, which has been bitterly contested for decades by Hindus and Muslims, centres on the ownership of the land in Uttar Pradesh state.
Muslims would get another plot of land to construct a mosque, the court said.
Many Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of one of their most revered deities, Lord Ram.
Muslims say they have worshipped there for generations.
At the centre of the row is the 16th Century Babri mosque which was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, sparking riots that killed nearly 2,000 people.
In the unanimous verdict, the court said that a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) provided evidence that the remains of a building “that was not Islamic” was beneath the structure of the demolished Babri mosque.
The court said that, given all the evidence presented, it had determined that the disputed land should be given to Hindus for a temple to Lord Ram, while Muslims would be given land elsewhere to construct a mosque.
It then directed the federal government to set up a trust to manage and oversee the construction of the temple.
However, the court added that the demolition of the Babri mosque was against the rule of law.
Initially, a representative for the Muslim litigants said they were not satisfied and would decide whether to ask for a review after they had read the whole judgement.
However, the main group of litigants has now said that it will not appeal against the verdict.
Outside the court, the situation has been largely calm.
Hundreds of people were detained in Ayodhya on Friday ahead of the verdict, amid fears of violence.
Thousands of police officers have also been deployed in the city, while shops and colleges have been shut until Monday.
The government issued an order banning the publication of images of the destruction of the Babri mosque.
Social media platforms are being monitored for inflammatory content, with police even replying to tweets and asking users to delete them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted to the verdict on Twitter and said that it should not be seen as a “win or loss for anybody”.
What was arguably one of the world’s most contentious property dispute has finally come to an end.
The dispute over the plot has polarized, frustrated and exhausted India.
The reason is that this is not a humdrum civil matter. It was touched by faith (Hindus believe the plot was the birthplace of Lord Ram, a revered deity) violence (the demolition of the mosque in 1992) and subterfuge (idols of Lord Ram were placed in the mosque surreptitiously in 1949).
Saturday’s unanimous judgement by the five most senior judges of the court will hopefully lead to some reconciliation that the country badly needs.
The verdict showed “judicial craftsmanship and statesmanship where the letter of the law was adhered to, but the relief was molded, taking into account the ground realities,” lawyer Sanjay Hegde said. The judges appear to have gone by the evidence laid before it. “They have applied a plaster. Let’s not reopen the wounds,” Mr Hegde added.