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Narendra Modi propitiates gods in Varanasi

Varanasi: After months of a nerve-racking election campaign and the maddening deluge of supporters thereafter, India's soon-to-be prime minister Narendra Modi spent Saturday evening propitiating gods here in the temple town of Varanasi.

Narendra Modi
Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi (R) performs the "Ganga Puja" religious ritual with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Rajnath Singh (2nd R) and other senior BJP leaders on the banks of the River Ganges in Varanasi, the constituency from where he contested the national elections, on May 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN

After landing at the Babatpur airport, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader flew in a chopper to the reserve police line grounds from where his heavily guarded cavalcade drove to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

As he walked through the narrow lanes leading to the seat of Lord Shiva, Modi was surrounded by a battery of National Security Guard commandos and special troopers of the Uttar Pradesh Police's anti-terrorist squad.

Accompanied by BJP president Rajnath Singh and close aide Amit Shah, Modi performed a 45-minute puja at the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, one of the 12 'jyotirlingas' in the country.

Sitting cross-legged, the Gujarat chief minister performed the puja aided by 11 specially commissioned priests.

He asked the priests not to hurry and do the puja as per norms, a source inside the temple told IANS.

Modi then performed the 'jalabhishek' (offering of Ganga water on the gold plated Shiva linga) after which a concoction of honey, jaggery, crushed sugar, ghee, curd, milk and 'bhasma' was offered to the reigning deity of Kashi.

He completed the puja by offering 'bel patra' and lotus flowers, Subodh Shastri, a priest at the temple, told IANS.

Chandan (sandalwood paste) was then smeared on his forehead and he was gifted a cloth and 'rudraksha' as a memento from the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Modi left for the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of the Ganga where he took part in the evening 'Ganga Aarti' and spent more than 90 minutes at the banks of the river.

As the soulful renditions and vedic hymns were sung, Modi tapped along and seemed lost in the spiritually charged atmosphere.

He later admitted in his address that he felt like a child in the lap of his mother and assured the people that he will do everything he can to make a turnaround of the polluted river.

Taking part in the aarti that was started by the Ganga Seva Nidhi in 1999, Modi said it was an exhilarating experience and urged people to contribute in their own ways to establish the city as a centre of cultural and spiritual excellence.

Exhorting people to begin with ensuring that they did not dump garbage on the city roads, he said he felt as if he has been mandated by Goddess Ganga to clean up the river and usher in a change in the temple town.

He said whatever he was saying during the evening was straight from his heart and should not be interpreted according to political parameters.

Modi rued the recent developments when he was not allowed to hold rallies in the city and said the Varanasi election was unique in the sense that a party candidate was not allowed to campaign and speak to his electorate.

But the fact that people voted in multitudes for him indebted him for ever, he added.

Modi took a dig at the Congress and other opposition parties, saying how people gave them so less seats that they are now forced to make a coalition for opposition!

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