Varanasi treats Macron and Modi to a cultural extravaganza

Macron waved at the cheering crowd before exchanging a few words with Modi and boarding a decorated boat anchored on the banks of the Ganga

india Updated: Mar 12, 2018 18:45 IST
Sudhir Kumar
Sudhir Kumar
Hindustan Times, Varanasi
Varanasi,Emmanuel Macron,Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath enjoying boat ride in the Ganga in Varanasi on Monday.(HT Photo)

The ancient city of Kashi extended a traditional welcome, complete with glimpses of rich Indian culture and heritage, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron during their visit to the ghats on Monday.

A boat ride on the Ganga treated the two leaders, accompanied by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, to a cultural extravaganza comprising discourses, music and dance performances and religious programmes such as the Ramlila. Upon reaching Asi Ghat in the afternoon, a group of women welcomed them with beats of the damru (pellet drum) and chants of ‘Har Har Mahadeva’. As many as 121 priests chanted Vedic mantras and blew conch shells while people showered the visiting dignitaries with flower petals. Macron later stopped to take a look at a Ram Darbar tableaux.

Macron waved at the cheering crowd before exchanging a few words with Modi and boarding a decorated boat anchored on the banks of the Ganga. Hundreds of onlookers waved Indian and French flags as the two set sail again.

Guarded by special trained commandos, the boat reached the historic Tulsi Ghat where a 50-foot painting of the two leaders had been put up. The two leaders witnessed a Ramlila conducted under the guidance of professor Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, chief priest of the Sankatmochan temple. This was followed by the recital of Ramcharitmanas couplets and a traditional wrestling contest (also known as dangal). The events at Tulsi Ghat were organised by professor Vijay Nath Mishra.

Later, Macron benefited from a glimpse of the Buddhist mode of offering prayers at Prabhu Ghat. At Chet Singh ghat, Modi and Macron watched in rapt attention as priests delivered religious discourses and demonstrated the nuances of meditation. A group of 25 artistes from Mathura performed the Mayur dance as Modi and Macron passed Kedar Ghat. “Performing for Prime Minister Modi and French President Macron felt great. We tried to give our best performance, and we hope they liked it,” said Geetanjali Sharma, who led the troupe.

At Mansarovar Ghat, a group of Kabir panthis played the ‘ektara’ (a single-stringed instrument) and recited Kabir’s couplets. Artistes of Banaras Gharana also presented a kathak performance. Children presented a welcome song as the two leaders waved at them appreciatively.

As the two leaders reached Dashashwamedh Ghat, the French president was told about the famous Ganga aarti. They then alighted from the boat and left for their hotel.

Earlier in the day, Modi and Macron inaugurated a solar power plant at Dadar Kala village in Mirzapur. They dedicated the facility to residents of the district.

Tushar Malik, project manager of French company Engie, told HT over the phone that his firm had set up the solar power plant at an estimated cost of Rs 650 crore. Modi and Macron also visited the Deendayal Upadhyay Hastkala trade facilitation centre and a crafts museum in Varanasi, where theatre artistes presented a special Ramlila performance.

The French president also observed workers weaving sarees and stoles on handlooms and powerlooms, and interacted with a few craftsmen and artisans.

Modi, Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik and chief minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier received Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri international airport in Varanasi. Big hoardings that bore welcome messages along with pictures of Modi and Macron were put up across the city on the occasion.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 18:42 IST