"It was Ravana rajya earlier. Now it is Ram Rajya."
In Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath made sure that the "gods" literally descended from the heavens in his attempt to celebrate a grand Diwali in his first year as the chief minister.
The lead actors of Ramlila, Ram, Sita and Lakshman, in full costume, arrived in a government chopper and landed on the banks of the river Saryu. Another chopper followed, that showered flowers. This was to replicate the victorious journey of the trio by the Pushpak Vimana, a mythical flying chariot, as detailed in the Ramayana.
Once on land, the chief minister welcomed them and carried out a symbolic coronation of Ram, dressed in traditional attire with a glittering headgear. Adityanath was accompanied by tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi and state Governor Ram Naik.
The chief minister later led the actors in a small procession to a nearby stage set up not far from the site where the Babri mosque was razed in December 1992.
In his speech, Yogi Adityanath brought Ayodhya to the forefront with a grand, eyeball-grabbing spectacle without mentioning the controversial issue of Ram temple construction. "For 70 years, many have been deprived of food, power connections and (are) without a roof above their heads. The Centre and state governments' efforts at providing them all this is Ram Rajya for them," said the chief minister.
He said that in his "Ram Rajya", there is no discrimination on the basis of "caste and religion".
"Ayodhya gave India and the world, the concept of Ram Rajya...where there is no pain or grief... The real meaning of Ram Rajya is a home for all...electricity and cooking gas for every home. Ayodhya's glory should be restored," he said.
Meanwhile, 1.75 lakh diyas (earthen lamps) dazzled during the evening aarti on the river banks. This was an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.
At least 380 artistes had come from different corners of India and abroad (Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia) to perform in the 3-km-long Shobha Yatra.
Even as the chief minister steered clear of the Ram Mandir issue, opposition party members felt that the political sub-text was not to be missed. Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal said that every time BJP finds itself in a corner on the issue of governance, the party takes refuge in the name of Lord Ram. "Jab inko kuchh nahin milta ... yeh Bhagwan Ram ki god mein baith jaate hain" (Whenever they don't have anything to rest upon, they start talking about Lord Ram)," he said.
Meanwhile, Twitter was left quite amused with Ram-Sita arriving on a chopper and questioned if the state government was justified in spending so much money on the festivity while ignoring the lack of civic facilities.