For Modi, India's marathon election ends where it all began

Old temples are seen on the banks of River Ganges on January 29, 2018, in Varanasi, India.

Varanasi, India (CNN)The River Ganges, or the Ganga to Indians, is one of Hinduism's most sacred waterways. Considered the personification of goddess Ganga, it is worshiped by millions of the faithful.

It flows through Varanasi, one of Hinduism's holiest sites and among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Millions of pilgrims flock to its temples and ghats -- or riverbank -- every year.
It is also politically significant. When Narendra Modi, then a state-level leader for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), decided to seek national office in 2014, he chose the ancient city as his constituency.
    Cows bathe in the River Ganges in Varanasi.
    "I feel Ma Ganga (Mother Ganges) has called me," Modi said in 2014. "I feel like a child who has returned to his mother's lap."
    Varanasi was also the stage for the finale of India's elections -- the largest the world has ever seen -- as polling concluded there on Sunday, four days before results are announced.
    In a speech on Tuesday, Modi reiterated his 2014 message to the people of Varanasi ahead of voting.
    "It is often said that whosoever come to Kashi (the ancient name for Varanasi) even once, becomes part of the city. In the last five years, I have experienced this every passing moment. In molding me and giving a direction to my political and spiritual being, Kashi has a huge influence on me," he said, seeking re-election from the city.
    Varanasi is famous for its large number of holy men -- or Sadhus -- who come to the city to live a spiritual life.