Shah also said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi should clarify whether he is in favour of the Centre's decision on Article 370 (Photo: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images).

THE Indian Council for Cultural Relations will organise the fifth International Ramayana Festival here between September 17-19 as part of the Indian government’s exercise to project the cultural aspect of India’s soft power.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah will inaugurate the festival, which will see participation of groups from eight countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, ICCR president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe told reporters on Friday (13).

After the national capital, the festival will be held in Lucknow between September 20-22 and in Pune on September 21.

The groups will also visit Ayodhya, the holy town where Lord Ram is believed to have been born.

Asked if they will also visit the Ram temple at the disputed site, the exact place where Hindus believe Ram was born, Sahasrabuddhe said it is “natural”.

There will be, however, no performance in the town.

He said cultural dimension is an important aspect of soft power and the Union government since 2015 has projected it strongly.

Groups from Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius and Fiji will also participate in the festival, Sahasrabuddhe, a Rajya Sabha MP and the vice president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said.

In the festival, which is generally organised before Navaratra, artists showcase cultural interpretations of the epic.

“It is a culturally significant event as it provides a chance to witness different versions of an epic that has been traditionally transmitted by each country in its own way,” an ICCR statement said.

The first festival in 2015 was inaugurated by prime minister Narendra Modi.