IndiGo pilot chants 'Jai Shri Ram' as first flight to Ayodhya takes off

"Passengers chanted mantras, recited Hanuman Chalisa and sang Bhajan"

Ayodhya International Airport | PTI Ayodhya International Airport | PTI

IndiGo pilot Ashutosh Shekhar chanted "Jai Shri Ram" on the aircraft's public announcement system as the first flight to the temple town of Ayodhya took off from Delhi on Saturday.

Addressing the passengers, 43-year-old Shekhar said he felt fortunate that his company entrusted him with the responsibility to fly the first flight to Ayodhya, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the airport in the town in Uttar Pradesh.

He introduced his co-pilot Nikhil Bakshi and cabin in-charge Kirti to the flyers.

While Shekhar was addressing the passengers, his wife Sweta Ranjan recorded this "memorable" event on her mobile phone.

"It was a lifetime experience," Ranjan told PTI.

"Passengers chanted mantras, recited Hanuman Chalisa and sang Bhajan throughout the about-an-hour journey from Delhi to Ayodhya. The whole atmosphere in the cabin was spiritual, she added.

Talking about the passengers, Ranjan said they were dressed in saffron colour outfits and many of them tied saffron headgear.

"They were carrying gangajal, incense sticks, flowers and sweets. Some of them even carried saffron flags with 'Jai Shri Ram', 'Om' or 'Swastika' on them," Ranjan said, adding that the atmosphere was almost the same when the flight was returning to Delhi with devotees. Union minister V K Singh also travelled in the return flight.

The inaugural flight started at 2:40 pm and landed in Ayodhya at 4 pm. On return journey, the flight took off at 4:40 pm and reached Delhi at 5:55 in the evening.

A day before, Shekhar's father, 75-year-old Mukteshwar Singh, had spoken to PTI and said that it was proud moment for the family as his son would pilot the first passenger plane to the new airport after its inauguration by the prime minister.

"Lord Ram has been kind to us," said Shekhar's mother Madhurani Singh (68).

"Since the day he entered the aviation sector, it was my dream to see him flying an aircraft to Ayodhya. It has come true after 12 years. What could be more joyous than seeing a dream being fulfilled," she said.

This is a "divine moment", said Mukteshwar Singh.

He added that his family's association with Ayodhya goes back four generations when his great grandfather visited the city to become a disciple of Shri Ram Vallabha Kunj Janki Ghat.

Shekhar is a disciple of Guru Shree Ram Shankar Das ji Vedanti of the city, his family members said.

"It is a very emotional moment for the whole family. I believe he came into the aviation sector because of the blessings of our gurus. Today, he is flying the first aircraft to Ayodhya.... It is a matter of great pride for the family," Mukteshwar Singh told PTI.

"Both my children are very happy. We believe that our happiness and by the grace of our divine association with the birthplace of Lord Ram," Ranjan said.

The airport inauguration came days before the consecration ceremony at the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22. 

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