April 23, 2019

Preserving cultural heritage of Kashi

Kashi is the heart of the Indian civilization. The heritage of the marvellous city is regarded as old as time itself and as American author Twain puts it the city is “older than history”.

Hailed as the city of Lord Shiva, who is affectionately called Bhole Baba, the city is famous for the Kashi Vishwanath temple, home of the most revered jyotirlinga, located in the bustling street of old Banaras. The temple attracts millions of pilgrims every year from across the country. The shrine is located in the congested lanes of old Kashi, with no direct link to Ganga river. Apart from the absence of the link, it is surrounded by hundreds of old houses which makes the temple hidden between the concrete structures

PM Modi laid the foundation stone of Kashi Vishwanath Dham project in March this year, which includes removal of the buildings surrounding the Kashi Vishwanath temple and providing direct connectivity between the shrine and the Ganga river. Starting of the project was a dream come true for PM Modi who thought about a similar kind of project in Kashi even before joining the arena of active politics.

After winning elections from Kashi in 2014 he had remarked –

“I have not come here (Kashi) but I was called”

While laying the foundation of Kashi Vishwanath Dham in March this year, PM Modi remarked –

" When I came for elections in 2014, I had said that I haven't come but have been called here. Today, I think that was an invitation for such work only and now that resolve has further strengthened.

Vishwanath Dham is a project that I have been thinking about for a long time. I have come to Kashi even before I was in active politics. Since then I would think that one must do something for the Temple Complex. With the blessings of Bhole Baba, my dream has come true”

The demolition of buildings around the temple, for the Kashi Vishwanath corridor project had started last year (2018), and the demolition led to the recovery of at least 40 very ancient temples. All those ancient temples were buried under other construction around them and people had built kitchens, bathrooms and much more atop those temples.

Centuries old ancient temples, earlier hidden are now visible, they will be preserved and will be opened to public.

Another area of concern was a direct link between Kashi Vishwanath Temple (KVT) and Ganga river. Now with a direct link between the temple and the Ganga river, one can reach the temple premises within minutes, without going around in the lanes.

The completion of project will give Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex a brand-new look and more space. Once situated in the congested space among the surrounding buildings, the temple complex will now have its area of own. A devout Shiva bhakt who takes a dip in the holy river every morning and pays his tribute to Lord Shiva in the temple can now see the temple from the Ghats. It means a lot to a Kashiwasi, who earlier had to go through many lanes to reach temple, after taking a dip in the holy Ganga.

Apart from Kashi Vishwanath Dham, other culturally significant areas are being developed too. Under HRIDAY yojana, life stories of stalwarts from Kashi such as Kabir, Tulsidas, Ravidas, Munshi Premchand, Bhartendu Harishchandra and Jaishankar Prasad were brought to life through mural paintings. Wall paintings of Kabir Chaura crossing, which was named after Saint Kabir are a tribute to the life of the great Bhakti saint who lived in Varanasi. Murals of Assi ghat, one of the most iconic Ghats of Varanasi, tell stories about the refined culture of Varanasi.

The famous townhall building of Maidagin, where Mahatma Gandhi started the freedom movement in Varanasi is refurbished and looks like a newly built structure. Manikarnika Ghat, which is the famed gateway to ‘Moksha’ in Kashi, is cleaner now. Also, more facilities are brought in apart from the beautification from Moksh Dwar to Lagayat ghat on Manikarnika ghat.

Preserving the intrinsic cultural heritage of Varanasi has been given the foremost importance under PM Modi, be it in form of beautification drives, development of murals, expansion of facilities, cleanliness drives or refurbishment of iconic structures.