Faith emerged victorious over terror as devotees converged along the banks of the Ganga to perform prayers amid heavy security arrangements on Wednesday morning, a day after a blast rocked this holy city, killing a two-year-old girl.
Undeterred by the terror strike, devotees, including foreigners, participated in aartis and performed other rituals along the Ganga banks, except the Sheetla Ghat, where entry was prohibited by the police after the blast on Tuesday evening.
With ecstatic shouts of Har Har Gange and Jai Ganga Maiya, devotees took a holy dip into the river.
"The usual activities here must be a befitting reply for those anti-national elements who want to terrorise us," Mohan Devi Prasad, a priest at the Assi Ghat, told reporters in Varanasi, some 300 km from Lucknow.
The prayers began along the banks of the river around 4 am with 'aartis' and blowing of conches.
"A large number of devotees, including foreigners participated in our 'aarti'...If you don't see the Sheetla Ghat and visit other ghats you would surely not find anything unusual here," said Mohan Prakash, a priest with the Prayag temple along the bank of the river.
"We want to give a clear message to the anti-social forces that they would not succeed in their ill-intention...We are in majority and those few in numbers have no strength to stand before us," he said.
A toddler was killed and over 20 people, including a few foreigners, were injured when a bomb exploded on the banks of the Ganga during maha aarti watched by hundreds and sparked off a stampede, authorities and witnesses said. The terror group Indian Mujahideen, in an e-mail, claimed responsibility for the blast.
Swastika Sharma succumbed to multiple splinter injuries and was pronounced dead by doctors following the deafening blast on the cemented steps leading to the holy river at the crowded Dashashwamedh Ghat between 6.15 and 6.30 pm.