The illuminating Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi brought Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe together to share their camaraderie over Ganga’s condition — which Abe looked visibly concerned about — and the aarti that had Modi in an attentive mood for the entire duration, at times even bringing to Abe’s notice the steps and gestures of the rituals.
For Abe, donning a ‘Nehru jacket’, the shining glory of the ghats along the Ganga could not hide its condition as he looked at the river several times, even as his delegates and the Indian PM watched over the aarti performed by 18 devkanyas and nine young priests amid roaring chants of shlokas and sound of conch shells.
As part of the memorandum of understanding signed by Modi and Abe in August 2014, the Japan International Cooperation Agency is extending support in the cleaning of Ganga to make it pollution-free under the Ganga Action Plan.
Earlier in the day, the two prime ministers were received at Babatpur airport at 4.40 pm by Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
They arrived at the Dashashwamedh Ghat at 6.06 pm and walked straight to the stairs close to the river.
After the aarti, they went further upstairs where two stages had been erected for the dignitaries. While one was shared by Modi and Abe and two of their staff members, the chief minister and the Governor had their chairs placed at the another.
The crowd below greeted the PMs with chants of “Har Har Mahadeo” and shouts of “Modi Modi”, and increased the tempo when the two leaders stood up to wave at them.
For the occasion, Dashashwamedh Ghat had been decorated with marigold flowers and the buildings nearby illuminated with laser lights; the adjoining Sheetla and Ahilyabai Ghats wore LED bulbs and earthen lamps.
Among the select ones to share the space with the dignitaries was a section of the crowd in traditional attires of different states. Representatives of a social organization — ‘Ganga Sewa Nidhi’ — met the PMs on the stage and offered rudraksh mala, shawl, and mementos having photographs of both Modi and Abe.
As the hour-long programme came to an end, the PMs and other guests left for the hotel where they had dinner with select dignitaries.