The temple town of Kashi echoed with chants of ‘Har Har Mahedev’, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe created history of sorts when they performed Ganga aarti together at the beautifully decorated Dashashwamedh ghat on Saturday evening.
Abe not only meticulously followed the rituals as instructed by BHU professor Chandramauli Upadhyay, who performed the Vedic rituals at the ghat along with priests of the Ganga Sewa Nidhi, but also clicked pictures of the festivities with his cell phone. In between, he also chatted with Modi, enquiring about all the rituals and the history of the ghat.
Along with the Vedic priests performing the rituals, 18 Riddhi Siddhi girls (twin sisters) also recited the verses of the Maha aarti. Later both the PMs offered milk to the Ganga and allowed the priests performing the Ganga pujan to smear their forehead with sandalwood paste as part of the tilak ceremony.
Earlier, Abe and Modi arrived at the ghat to the cheers and applause of locals. The visiting dignitary made it a point to take off his shoes before performing the rituals at the ghat where chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, governor Ram Naik and Union minister Kalraj Mishra were also present.
After completing a part of the rituals of the hour-long aarti, both the PMs waved to the crowd at the Dashashwamedh ghat and its adjoining Sheetla and Rajendra Prasad ghats and proceeded to sit on a special stage set up for them for viewing the rest of the puja.
Abe animatedly watched the rituals and even raised his hands in the air as ‘Har Har Mahadev’ was chanted at the end of the aarti. The ghat that had been decorated with marigold flowers, sourced especially from Kolkata for this historic occasion.
At the end of the Maha aarti, both the Prime Ministers were offered mementos – a shawl, Rudraksha rosary, and a special plaque depicting the faces of both the PMs made by architect Shyam Lal Singh.
Officials said the majestic aarti on the banks of river Ganga left everyone spellbound, reminding them of the famous quote of historian Mark Twain: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
Varanasi holds a special place in the religious and cultural tradition of Japan as the city is also home to Sarnath, a place about 12 km from the main city where Gautam Buddha had delivered his first sermon upon attaining enlightenment.
Harnessing history for a visionary future: The PMs take forward the Kyoto-Varanasi Partnership pic.twitter.com/ltfFTMKUJb— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) December 12, 2015