Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday signed off his 68th birthday with a visit to the famous Shiva temple Kashi Vishwanath here where he prayed for about 30 minutes, amid very tight security.
Modi drove through the lanes of Kashi Vishwanath temple, which has the Gyanvapi mosque adjacent to it, in his bulletproof vehicle. With SPG men throwing a security ring around him, the Prime Minister waved at the crowds waiting to catch a glimpse of him before entering the temple premises.
Accompanied by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Mahendra Nath Pandey, Modi sat cross-legged at the sanctum-sanctorum and offered the presiding deity 68 lotus flowers and received "prasad".
A special puja was performed by the priests present at the temple and yellow "chandan", "kumkum" and "bhasm" was smeared on the forehead of the Prime Minister. Modi animatedly listen to the hymns that were being chanted and seemed engrossed in the rituals, an official present at the temple told IANS.
Prime Minister Modi has been a regular visitor to the temple. PM Modi earlier donned the hat of a teacher during his visit to Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency, as he interacted with students at a primary school in Narur village here and gave them tips on life.
Soon after his arrival at the Babatpur airport where he was received by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and senior BJP leaders, he went on a chopper to Dereka from where he drove straight to the primary school.
He told children that sports is an integral part of development in formative years and that they should "go out and play". He also told the students, who gifted him red roses, that they should not shy away from asking questions, as doing so "is a key aspect of learning".
Greeting students on the Vishwakarma Puja, the Prime Minister also told the neatly dressed school children that it is important for them to understand the significance of skill development.
"It is important to learn various skills as this will help you for ever," Modi told the wide-eyed students who appeared elated at the fact that the Prime Minister was amidst them. After spending some 30 minutes with the children, the he drove back to Dereka where he would be spending the night at a guest house.
The Prime Minister earlier had a brief interaction with Aanganwadi workers who carried banners to thank Modi for increasing their daily wages. He mingled with them freely and enquired about their work, families and their issues. He also told them that they should become "Yashoda Maiyya" for thousands of children who need attention and better healthcare.
He is scheduled to gift many projects worth over Rs 500 crore to the people of his parliamentary constituency on his second day of the two-day visit, on Tuesday.
The entire city had been decked up as part of Modi's birthday celebrations. A large 68-kg cake of "laddoos" was cut by burqa-clad women at the Azam Park in Lahurabir locality here. Many of the women were from the minority wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
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The women also sang the happy birthday song for their MP and prayed for his long and healthy life. The intellectual wing of the ruling party held a 108-litre "Kesar Jal" "Rudrabhishek" along with milk of the holy Ganga river at the Ahilyabai Ghat and prayers were held for a long life of Modi. A "68-Kundalini Mahayajna" was also organized at the Panini Girls Degree College.
Girls took part in this yajna and offered "Aahutis" as they said Prime Minister Modi has done a lot for the empowerment of girls. Girl students also held a birthday bash for the Prime Minister at the Agrasen Kanya PG College's Bulanala campus. Cake was distributed on this occasion.
Some schools and colleges have undertaken a cleanliness drive and programmes of Yoga to mark the birthday of Modi. Tea parties have also been organised in some localities.
Several leaders, including President Ram Nath Kovind, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Adityanath tweeted their birthday greetings for the Prime Minister.