A DAY after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli flagged off the Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service, the first batch of 66 pilgrims arrived here on Saturday morning, around 8.30 am. For some, it was their first visit to Ayodhya; for others, it brought back memories of their previous visits.
With the direct bus service linking the 400-km distance between the two key places on the Ramayana Circuit, the birthplaces of Ram and Sita, all of them said they were looking forward to more frequent visits now. “It used to be a difficult journey. It would take two days if we came via train, as there is no direct train. It was easier this time, it took us just 10 hours,” said Shushila Devi, one of the pilgrims.
“We came here about five years ago, but since there was no public transport, we had to come as part of a religious tour group. Now, we can come whenever we want, it is a welcome change,” said Babal Nand, a lawyer who had come with his wife.
The first batch of pilgrims, in two buses, was hand-picked by Nepal’s tourism ministry. They were accompanied by two Nepal ministers, Saroj Kumar Kushwaha and Usha Yadav, and Janakpur’s Deputy Mayor Rita Kumari Mishra.
“For years, we had been promised such a service. As soon as we received information about this bus service, we enrolled ourselves. The ghats of Saryu in Ayodhya are considered very auspicious. But only a few could afford to make the trip,” said Neelam Mishra, 62, who was accompanied by her daughter and son-in-law. She recalled that during her last trip to Ayodhya, about three years ago, she had hired a private vehicle from Janakpur.F
“There were thousands who wanted to come on this trip… This bus service has been due for about 10 years now,” said Janakpur’s Deputy Mayor Rita Kumari Mishra, adding that this was her first visit to Ayodhya. Welcoming the pilgrims, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the travel time would further come down to 6-7 hours, once the Ram-Janki Marg was developed. Invoking cultural ties between India and Nepal, from Pashupatinath to Kashi Vishwanath, and now Janakpur to Ayodhya, he said: “There are several such threads which link us together. These cultural relations are more significant than any political relations.”
Stating that his government had started work on schemes worth Rs 133 crore in Ayodhya, he said the Ramayana Circuit would connect Nepal, as well as Sri Lanka. Among those on the dais with Adityanath were Nritya Gopal Das of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, State Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Industries Minister Satish Mahana, local MP Lallu Singh and local MLAs.