The bus service is part of the 15-destination Ramayan circuit comprising places closely associated with Lord Ram that was launched in 2014-15 to boost religious tourism.
New Delhi/Janakpur: PM Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart K.P. Oli Friday flagged off a direct bus service between Ayodhya and Janakpur, believed to be the birthplaces of Lord Ram and his wife Sita, respectively.
The bus service is part of the 15-destination Ramayan circuit comprising places closely associated with Lord Ram that was launched in 2014-15 to boost religious tourism. The circuit itself is part of the ‘Swadesh Darshan Scheme’, which proposes the development of 13 theme-based tourism circuits.
“Janakpur and Ayodhya are being connected. This is a historic moment,” Modi said at the inauguration.
“The circuit will pave the way for a strong foundation for economic growth, cultural strength and people-to-people contact between India and Nepal,” he added.
“I am glad to be here in Janakpur. I am here to pay respects to King Janak and Mata Janaki. I thank the PM of Nepal, Shri Oli, for accompanying me during this visit to Janakpur,” he added.
Thousands of people had gathered at the Janaki temple, established in Sita’s honour in 1910, as Modi arrived there for prayers ahead of the inauguration.
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“Today’s welcome in Nepal shows the affection the people of Nepal have towards the people of India,” Modi said.
This is Prime Minister Modi’s third official trip to Nepal, and the first high-level visit from India since the new Oli government was sworn in mid-February.
Like India, Nepal is a Hindu-majority nation.
Janakpur, according to the Ramayan, was named after its ruler, King Janak, Sita’s father.
Ayodhya, located roughly 500 km away on the banks of the river Sarayu, was the home of the Ikshvaku dynasty, to which Lord Ram belongs.
The town is also at the centre of a decades-old controversy that resulted in deadly riots in 1992 after Hindu zealots demolished the Babri masjid over claims that it was built at the site of Ram’s birth. The dispute stemming from different claims to the plot remains subjudice.
Reading between the lines
Delhi University professor and columnist Apoorvanand said the Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service was a bid to woo voters a year before the 2019 general election even as India’s bilateral relationship with Nepal remained tense.
“The relationship between India and Nepal has reached an all-time low under the leadership of PM Modi,” he said. “All his acts are aimed at polarising the votes of the Hindu community, and this will also help Modi consolidate his vote bank in Varanasi,” he added.
Varanasi, another town of religious significance to Hindus, is PM Modi’s parliamentary constituency.
However, Rakesh Sood, India’s former Indian ambassador to Nepal, begged to differ. He told ThePrint, “Both the countries have a strong religious link and one should not look at it (the bus service) with a political lens.”
(With inputs from PTI)
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