Namaskar! Best wishes to all of you on the occasion of Ganga-Pushkaralu festival! Since all of you have come to Kashi, you all are personally my guests on this visit; and we believe that a guest is akin to God. Even though I could not be present there to welcome you due to some pre-occupations, but I wish I could be amidst you all. I congratulate the Kashi-Telugu Committee and my Parliamentary colleague G.V.L Narasimha Rao ji for this event. This Ganga-Pushkaralu festival at the ghats of Kashi is like the confluence of the Ganga and the Godavari. It is a celebration of the confluence of ancient civilizations, cultures and traditions of India. You might remember that a few months back, the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam was organized here on the land of Kashi. Just a few days ago, I had the privilege of participating in the Saurashtra-Tamil Sangamam. I had said at that time, this 'Azadi Ka Amritkaal' is the confluence of diversities and different streams of the country. The nectar of nationalism is oozing out of this confluence of diversities, which will keep India vibrant till the infinite future.
Everyone associated with Kashi knows that Kashi and its people have a deep connection with the Telugu people. As soon as a Telugu person arrives in Kashi, the people of Kashi feel that a member of their own family has arrived. The people of Kashi have been welcoming you all for generations. This relationship is as ancient as Kashi. The devotion of Telugu people towards Kashi is as sacred as Kashi itself. Even today, people from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana alone constitute a significant proportion of the number of pilgrims visiting Kashi. Telugu region has given Kashi so many great saints, so many Acharyas and sages. When the people of Kashi and the pilgrims go to visit Baba Vishwanath, they also visit Tailang Swami's ashram to seek his blessings. Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa used to call Tailang Swami the living Shiva of Kashi. You are already aware that Tailanga Swami was born in Vizianagaram. There have been several great souls like Jiddu Krishnamurti, who are remembered even today in Kashi.
Brothers and Sisters,
Just as Kashi adopted and embraced the Telugu people, similarly the Telugu people have kept Kashi close to their hearts. Even the holy shrine Vemulawada is also known as Dakshina Kashi. The black thread that is tied on the hands in the temples of Andhra and Telangana is still called Kashi Daram. Similarly, be it the Kasikhandamu treatise of Srinath Mahakavi, the Kashi Yatra character of Engul Veeraswamayya, or the popular Kashi Majili Kathalu, Kashi and the glory of Kashi is equally & deeply embedded in the Telugu language and Telugu literature. If an outsider sees all this, it would be difficult for him to believe that how can a city so far away be so close to the heart! But this is the heritage and tradition of India which has kept the belief of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat' alive for centuries.
Kashi is also the city of liberation and salvation. There was a time when Telugu people used to walk thousands of kilometres to come to Kashi. They used to face several obstacles in their journey. In modern times, those circumstances are changing rapidly. Today on one hand there is the divine splendour of Vishwanath Dham, and on the other hand there is the grandeur of the ghats of Ganga. Today there are streets of Kashi on one hand, and a network of new roads and highways on the other. People from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana who have come to Kashi earlier must be experiencing the change taking place in Kashi. There was a time when it used to take hours to reach Dashashwamedh Ghat from the airport. Today, due to the construction of a new highway, people are saving a lot of time. There was a time when the streets of Kashi were full of dangling electric wires. Now the electric wires are laid underground in most of the places in Kashi. Today, be it the many kunds of Kashi, or the pathways leading to the temples, or be it the cultural places of Kashi, everything is being revamped. Now even boats with CNG have started plying in river Ganga. And that day is not too far when people visiting Banaras will also get the facility of ropeway. Be it the Swachhata Abhiyan or the cleanliness of the Ghats of Kashi, the people and the youth of Banaras have made it a mass movement. The people of Kashi have done this with their hard work. They have put a lot of effort. So, I can't praise and appreciate the people of Kashi enough through this programme!
I will also say with full confidence that my people of Kashi will leave no stone unturned to serve and greet you. Baba's blessings, the darshan of Kalabhairav and Maa Annapurna is splendid in itself. Just a dip in Ganga ji will make your soul blissful. Besides this, there is also 'Kashi ki lassi' and 'thandai' for you to savour this summer. The taste of Banaras ki Chaat, Litti-Chokha, and Banarasi Paan will make your trip even more memorable. And I will make one more request to you. Like the wooden Etikoppaka toys are famous in your place, similarly Banaras is also famous for wooden toys. Our friends from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana can take back with them wooden Banarasi toys, Banarasi sarees, Banarasi sweets, and many such things. These things will increase your joy manifold.
Our forefathers had established the essence of India in different centres, which completed the form of Mother India. If there is Baba Vishwanath in Kashi, there is Mallikarjuna in Andhra and Lord Raj-Rajeshwar in Telangana. If Kashi has Vishalakshi Shaktipeeth, Andhra has Maa Bhramaramba, and Telangana has Raj-Rajeshwari. All such sacred places are important centres of India and hold its cultural identity. We must see this diversity of the country in totality. Only then will we be able to know our perfection; and only then will we be able to awaken our full potential. I am sure that festivals like Ganga-Pushkaralu will continue to take forward this resolution of national service.
With this expectation, I once again wish you all the very best! May this journey of yours be fruitful, comfortable and fill your mind with divinity by taking back new memories from Kashi. This is what I pray for at Baba's feet. Once again, my heartiest thanks to all of you.