Chants of "Jai Shri Ram" echoed on the banks of the Saryu river as actors portraying the roles of Lord Rama and Sita arrived at Ayodhya on a chopper decked up to resemble the mythological Pushpak Viman - in a recreation of Lord Rama's return from 14 years of exile to Ayodhya - as part of a grand 'Deepotsav' celebration, attended by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and senior ministers were also in attendance for the event in the flower-bedecked and gaily lighted temple town on Wednesday evening. Tonnes of flower petals were showered as the actors portraying the characters from the Ramayana arrived at the venue of the Ram Lila.
As part of the Deepotsav, a record 1.73 lakh diyas or earthern lamps will be lighted on the banks of the Saryu. The event is being hosted by the Tourism Department of the Uttar Pradesh government. The state government placed full-page advertisements in newspapers and the entire government machinery has been pressed into service to make the event a grand success.
The Chief Minister has said the efforts by his government to "recreate the treta yug Diwali" was aimed to promote Ayodhya as a tourist draw, but opposition parties have alleged the BJP is trying to drum up support for its communal politics. "This is all being done with an eye on the Gujarat elections and the BJP leaders are trying to deflect the attention from its failure in UP," a senior BSP leader said.
A Samajwadi Party leader said the past governments have been promoting Ayodhya as a tourist destination and the Adityanath government's mega event was "merely to whitewash its failures". Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has trashed the opposition charges as baseless. Senior Congress leader Alok Sharma said the event was being held with an eye on the Gujarat elections. "I hope the BJP also finds equal focus for the innocent infants who died in Gorakhpur due to shortage of oxygen," he said. Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the Deepotsav, that will commence after dusk.