Varanasi — Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe received a grand welcome in the city of Varanasi (also called Kashi) when they touched down at the Lal Bahadur Shashtri International Airport at around 4:30 pm. They were received by Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
We caught some memorable moments of the day as the visit turned out to be a grand affair.
The Prime Minister of Japan announced that a convention centre would be built in Varanasi with Japanese assistance. This will surely enhance the cultural-spiritual bonding between the two nations.
Shehnai maestro of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Pandit Mahendra Prasanna played a Japanese welcome song at the Assi Ghat to welcome Abe and Modi. He also played Vandemataram to celebrate the honour of the nation and to remind the gathering that Varanasi was listed in the Creative Cities Network as the City of Music by UNESCO.
Banners and welcome hoardings everywhere
All the major crossings were cleaned and decked up to welcome Modi and Abe. One just couldn’t miss the welcome boards made up of flowers, installed in most localities that the two dignitaries are likely to visit. The hoardings also carried welcome messages.
Local residents decorated their houses and shops with Modi and Abe’s posters and the flags of both the countries.
As per the traditional customs, whenever a foreign chief visits the temple city with the country’s prime minister, the mayor gives him a ‘key’ to enter the city and, on his or her return, the country’s representative returns the key. The tradition was observed for the Modi-Abe visit, too, by Varanasi Mayor Ram Gopal Mohle.
Maha Ganga aarti at the decked-up Dashaswamedh Ghat
With heightened security arrangements, the historical Dashaswamedh Ghat turned into a fortress. For the special Ganga aarti organised for Modi and Abe, 9 priests instead of 5 performed it while 18 young women in traditional attire assisted them. The beauty of the ghat was seen to be believed.
Both the prime ministers enjoyed the spiritual ambience and culture of the city. They offered prayers to Goddess Ganga by performing the Ganga aarti.
Nearly 7,000 security personnel were pressed into service for the high-profile visit that lasted about four hours. Security at the normally crowded ghat was taken over by the Army and the Navy while scuba divers of the National Disaster Response Force were deployed around the makeshift stage, which had been erected with the help of pontoons on the river bed.
Personnel of the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) were camping in the city since Tuesday. They were assisted by the National Security Guard, Anti-Terrorist Squad, Central Para Military Forces and the Uttar Pradesh State police.
Overall, this was a visit wish that made the people of Varanasi happy. It generated the hope for a Kyoto-like Kashi in future.