Kathmandu, Nov 4: Describing his visit to Nepal as a "pilgrimage", President Pranab Mukherjee highlighted the age-old cultural relations between India and Nepal underlining the importance of Pashupatinath temple, Varanasi and Rameshwaram for solace seekers of both the countries.
Mukherjee, who was accorded a civic reception and handed over the key to the city of Kathmandu by Chief of its Municipal Corporation Rudrasingh Tamang, wrote in the visitor's book that Kathmandu is not only the political capital of Nepal, but also a spiritual center for the people in the region.
"I am particularly happy to visit this holy city once again. Needless to say, Kathmandu has expanded greatly since my last visit. I congratulate the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office for their unfailing dedication in managing and maintaining this rapidly growing city - despite the inevitable challenges," he wrote.
Addressing the gathering which included Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda", Mukherjee, the first Indian President to visit Nepal in 18 years, said: "My visit to Nepal is also a kind of pilgrimage - it is a mission of friendship to foster ever greater understanding and cooperation between our two countries."
"Thousands of our citizens visit Nepal in search of solace at the holy temple of Pashupatinath and Muktinath. Similarly people from Nepal visit Varanasi in the North and Rameshwaram in the South in search of spiritual inspiration," he said.
Earlier, Mukherjee, 80, who is on a three-day state visit to Nepal, started his day by offering prayers at the historical Pashupatinath Temple where he was welcomed by 108 Batuk (Hindu boys) chanting 'Swasti mantras' amid musical resonance of panchai baja and thime baja (traditional musical instruments).
He performed a special puja called 'Rudrabhisekh', which included bathing the Shiva Linga with 'panchamrit', consisting of milk, curd, honey, sugar and ghee, and lighting one lakh cotton lamps or 'lakh batti' at the holy Hindu shrine.
The temple, a UNESCO world heritage site, is visited by thousands of Hindus from across the world and considered one of the most sacred temples across the world.
Later, the President was conferred an honorary D. Litt by Kathmandu University (KU) in recognition of his contribution to the international relations, public administration and leading a successful political career.
I deeply value the Honorary Doctorate as a gesture of friendship and humbly accept it on behalf of the people of India #PresidentMukherjee— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) November 3, 2016
Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also the University Chancellor, conferred the Honorary Degree of D. Litt. on Mukherjee at a function in Kathmandu.