Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Tuesday announced that the state’s Faizabad district will be renamed Ayodhya, ANI reported. “Ayodhya symbolises our pride, it gets recognition from Lord Ram,” he said. “From now, Faizabad district will also be known as Ayodhya.”

Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram, is located in the Faizabad district. Last month, the state cabinet had approved a proposal to rename Allahabad as Prayagraj. In June, Adityanath’s government had renamed the Mughalsarai railway station as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay station.

On Tuesday, Adityanath said that a medical college, named after Ram’s father King Dasharatha, will be established in Ayodhya, and an airport will be built and named after Ram. A section of the crowd was heard shouting “build a temple”, PTI reported. A new world record was set during the celebrations, with 3,01,152 “diyas” (earthen lamps) lit up together on the banks of the Sarayu river, officials said.

The chief minister was speaking in Ayodhya as a part of the state government’s Diwali celebrations. South Korea’s First Lady Kim Jung-sook was also in the city to participate in the festivities and the ground-breaking ceremony for a memorial for a legendary Korean queen in Ayodhya. According to Korean legend, a princess from “Ayuta kingdom” – believed to be Ayodhya – had gone to Korea around 2,000 years ago, where she became Queen Heo Hwang-ok after she married King Kim Suro.

Kim also visited the banks of the Saryu river on Tuesday and welcomed artists dressed as Lord Ram and Sita as part of the “Ram Durbar”. The first lady had arrived in India on Sunday for a four-day visit. She reached Lucknow on Monday evening, and will leave for Agra on Wednesday to visit the Taj Mahal.

Adityanath had visited Ayodhya on Diwali last year as well. During his visit in 2017, he had said Ayodhya was the land of humanism where “everyone was treated equally”. He had also defended the decision to celebrate the festival in Ayodhya by citing “personal faith”.

Opposition criticises state government

Adityanath’s decision to change Faizabad district’s name was a ploy to cover up the state government’s failures, said Communist Party of India General Secretary S Sudhakar Reddy. “At the same time, the name change also reflects its anti-Muslim feelings,” he said. “First it changed the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj and now their move is to change the name of Faizabad because they think these are Muslim names.”

The Aam Aadmi Party called the decision “Tughlaqi [autocratic]”, and said Adityanath should considered public opinion on the matter. AAP leader Sanjay Singh claimed that the chief minister should change his name to Ajay Singh Bisht if he is so fond of changing names, PTI reported.

Singh said that despite the efforts of a nawab to change the name of the state’s Rampur district to Mustafabad, most people – including Muslims – kept using the old name.