South Korean First Lady Kim Jung-sook arrived in Ayodhya on Tuesday to attend Diwali festivities in the holy city and began her tour by offering tribute at the Queen Heo Memorial.
Kim visited the site, along with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and attended a ground-breaking ceremony for upgrade and beautification of the memorial dedicated to the legendary princess of Ayodhya who went to Korea.
Later she went to the banks of the Saryu river to welcome artists donning the avatar of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita, who arrived at Ram Katha Park in a ceremonial chopper as part of 'Ram Durbar'.
Kim garlanded 'Sita' as they descended from the helicopter and Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Adityanath welcomed Lord Ram and Laxman by garlanding them.
Union Minister V K Singh also attended the grand event in Ayodhya.
Kim's standalone visit to India, which began on November 4, has rekindled interest in the legendary princess who married a Korean king.
According to Korean legend, the Princess of Ayodhya went to Korea in 48 AD and married King Kim-Suro.
A large number of Koreans trace their ancestry to this legendary princess, who is known as Queen Heo Hwang-ok.
"The legend of Queen Heo Hwang-ok binds the two countries together culturally, and her visit will further promote our people-to-people ties," a senior official at the cultural wing of the South Korean Embassy in India told PTI.
Huge hoardings, bearing message -- 'South Korean First lady Kim Jung-sook - Welcome to Ayodhya -- and her picture, have been put up across the city.
An agreement regarding the Queen Suriratna Memorial Project was signed to facilitate upgrade and expansion of the existing monument commemorating Princess Suriratna (Queen Hur Hwang-ok).
In July, the two countries signed the agreement for expansion of the Suriratna memorial project.
Uttam Das, a seer from Ayodhya, told PTI, "It was a matter of honour for Ayodhya that the she was visiting Ayodhya."
"A princess of Ayodhya had gone there around 2,000 years ago, and now the First Lady is visiting Ayodhya, life has sort of come full circle," he said.
Bihar Governor Lalji Tandon, South Korean envoy Shin Bongkil also took part in the celebrations.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said Ayodhya and South Korea have an ancient link which forms the cornerstone of historical and civilisational bonds between India and the East Asian country.
'It is a matter of immense joy and pride that Mrs Kim Jung-sook, First Lady of the Republic of Korea visited Ayodhya and also wore traditional Indian clothing. The people of India deeply appreciate this gesture,' Prime Minister Modi tweeted in English and Korean.
'Ayodhya and South Korea have an ancient link. This link forms the cornerstone of historical and civilisational bonds between India and the Republic of Korea,' the PM said in another tweet.
Over 3 lakh diyas lit on banks of Saryu river in new world record
A new world record was set in the holy city of Ayodhya on the eve of Diwali on Tuesday with over three lakh diyas or earthen lamps lit up simultaneously on the banks of the Saryu river, officials said.
Rishi Nath, official adjudicator of the Guinness World Records, made the announcement that the record was created at the Deepotsav event on the ghats.
"A total of 3,01,152 diyas were lit up simultaneously for a period of five minutes, which is a new record," Nath said in the presence of Adityanath and South Korean First Lady.
The target was to illuminate a total of 3.35 lakh diyas on both sides of ghats at Ram Ki Paidi in Ayodhya.
"It beat the earlier record set in Haryana in 2016, where at an event 1,50,009 diyas were lit," Nath said and hailed the new record as 'phenomenal'.