Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe perform 'Ganga Aarti' in Varanasi

Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Saturday performed the 'Ganga Aarti' at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, which is one of the holiest places in Varanasi.

Abe, who was dressed in a traditional Nehru jacket, took part in the holy rituals along with Prime Minister Modi amid chants of holy mantras, flanked by priests.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre R) take part in the evening 'Aarti' ritual on the banks of the River Ganges at Varanasi on December 12, 2015. Japan will build India's first bullet train under a sweeping tally of agreements made following talks in New Delhi on December 12, deepening a partnership Prime Minister Narendra Modi said would "shape the course of Asia". Later the two leaders visited the Indian premier's parliamentary constituency of Varanasi, India's holiest city. Pic/AFP
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre R) take part in the evening 'Aarti' ritual on the banks of the River Ganges at Varanasi on December 12, 2015. Pic/AFP

A priest also tied a holy thread on Abe's wrist after he was finished with the Aarti. Both Prime Ministers then watched a cultural programme from a grand dias. Prime Minister Modi was also seen describing each event to his Japanese counterpart.

The preparations for today's grand event began weeks before with roads and ghats of Varanasi being cleaned round-the-clock to present a beautified city to the Japanese Prime Minister.

A huge make-shift stage was erected on the river bed with the help of pontoons. The city was enveloped in a thick blanket of security for the VIPs. The stage has been built by engineers of the Indian Army.

India and Japan had signed a pact to develop Varanasi as a 'Smart City' when Prime Minister Modi had visited Japan last year. The plan is to develop Varanasi on the lines of Japanese city of Kyoto.

Ganga Aarti is an exquisitely choreographed ritual performed daily on the banks of the river Ganges. The Aarti is held to pay obeisance to Goddess Ganga along with Lord Shiva, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe.

Prime Ministers were received at Varanasi's Babatpur airport by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav amid an orchestra of Dhols and folk music.

They will attend a banquet hosted by Akhilesh Yadav later this evening.

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