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Panaji (Goa) [India], September 24 (ANI): Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurated the maiden edition of 'Bharatiya Prakash Sthamb Utsav' or Indian Lighthouse Festival at the historic Fort Aguada in Goa on Saturday.

According to the officials, the festival is aimed at rejuvenating the rich maritime history of India's 75 iconic lighthouses and unravelling the illustrious stories of the world. At the flagship venue of this maiden event, Fort Aguada, the meet was also attended by Chief Minister of Goa, Pramod Sawant.

Speaking on the occasion, the Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said,"With the launch of this festival, we are enabling a process to rejuvenate the age-old classics in 75 Lighthouses across coastal India with the sole purpose of unravelling the rich heritage of these iconic sites and present them to the world. Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, India is surging ahead towards becoming an Atmanirbhar Bharat. In this pious effort of nation-building, we are trying to bring the vision of Modi ji to life by making the iconic Lighthouses become catalysts of educational, cultural and tourist hotspots.""Today, we pay our gratitude to the vision and leadership of our visionary leader, Narendra Modi, who championed the transformation of our distinctive lighthouses into captivating heritage tourism sites. For far too long, the silent sentinels of coastlines were left ignored while serving the light of hope to scores of sailors and ships amidst the darkest nights. The "Lighthouse Festival" is our endeavour to change that. It is our mission to inform, engage, and educate all of you about the vital role these historic beacons have played in our nation's history.

" he addedThe Ministry of Ports, ShippingWaterways is aiming to leverage the Indian Lighthouse Festival to shore up the base for Public public-private partnership route to develop the historic into a world-class tourist destination. The Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships has already identified 75 such lighthouses, and this festival is a testament to the commitment of the government to celebrate and preserve our maritime heritage.

Speaking further, Union Minister Sonowal said,"The "Lighthouse Festival" is a magnificent celebration that promises to be a captivating journey through time and beauty, a journey that will illuminate the hidden gems of our maritime history and reveal the untold stories of our historic lighthouses. As a part of the Reform to Transform initiative, the Narendra Modi Government enacted the Marine Aids to Navigation Act, 2021 by repealing the Lighthouse Act, 1927 to provide a framework for the development, maintenance and management of aids to navigation in India.

Under this, we introduced the innovative concept of a Heritage Lighthouse wherein the central government may designate any aid to navigation under its control as a heritage lighthouse. In addition to their function as aids to navigation, such lighthouses will be developed for educational, cultural, and tourism purposes. This festival is not just about knowledge; it's about creating value and opportunities. Beyond the festival, our vision is to promote lighthouses as tourism destinations, to breathe new life into these historic structures, andto create opportunities for local communities and businesses.

" he addedDuring the day-long programme, a session titled'Vanguards of Our Shores: Lighthouses as Testaments of India's Past and Present' was held, organized by Bharat Pravah, an initiative of the Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics, where famous historian and archaeologist, Prof. Vasant Shinde of the Rakhigarhi fame, spoke about the historical significance of Lighthouses in India's maritime history.

Sunil Gupta, Maritime Archaeologist and OSD at the Pradhanmantri Sangrhalaya, New Delhi; and Vasu Uspakar, Director of the Goa State Museum also spoke at the intriguing session. The Joint Secretary of MoPSW also presented a case for the Ministry's approach towards the Lighthouse Heritage Tourism Development and the investment opportunities across 75 Lighthouses in this phase.

The key highlights of India's First Lighthouse Festival are cultural exhibitions, sessions highlighting maritime history and culture, classical performances, light and sound shows, melodious evenings with celebrity singers, flavours of the coast and community engagement. (ANI)

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