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Revival of Ganga Ghat Rituals, Helping Pilgrims: Modi’s Kashi Vishwanath Dham a Corridor to ‘New India’

Over 51,000 places have geared up to broadcast the mega ceremony of inauguration of the “Kashi Vishwanath Dham” (Kashi Vishwanath corridor) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday that will be followed by a month-long cultural exercise in Varanasi. If one sits down to trace the PM’s deep connection with the religious and spiritual city of Kashi, they will be led to Modi’s long history of association with it long before he became the Prime Minister of India.

Even before PM Modi began representing Varanasi in Parliament, he had several opportunities to visit the holy abode of ‘Baba Vishwanath’. While each subsequent visit further strengthened the bond of the PM with the city, it also further fuelled his desire to contribute towards the spiritual regeneration of the city and to return the city to its lost grandeur.

When PM Modi had come to Kashi to fill his nomination for elections, he had said “I have neither come here nor brought here, but I have been called by Mother Ganga herself”. With this in mind, he set on a path of rebuilding the city. The fruits of his labour soon became visible with the development of infrastructure and 360-degree transformation of Kashi. But, it was the lifelong dream of PM Modi to contribute towards helping Kashi Vishwanath Mandir attain the aura of the past. With this, he embarked on the odyssey of development of Kashi Vishwanath Corridor.

Restoring the lost tradition

Kashi had a centuries-old ritual of people taking a bath in the holy river Ganga, carrying Gangajal from there and offering at the temple. Over the centuries, due to rampant construction and encroachment in the adjoining area, this ritual started to fade. The unabated construction also made reaching the temple and ‘darshan’ an arduous task for the devotees.

It had been a desire of PM Modi for a long time to restore the age-old ritual. To achieve this, PM Modi conceptualised the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor to link River Ganga with Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

Facilitating Pilgrims

PM’s idea of the corridor revolves around preserving the spiritual fervour of the pilgrims that was hindered by the clogged streets and dirty surroundings when they moved from Ganga ghat to the Temple. PM’s vision was to transform this corridor in such a way that it would not only preserve the spiritual fervour of the pilgrims, but also go beyond their expectations so that their minds are filled with joy. So he asked the architects “build a corridor of such stature that blows the mind of every pilgrim”. With this in mind, the work for the corridor began.

Beginning of the endeavour

On the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor project on March 8, 2019, PM Modi had said, “I don’t know, maybe ‘Bhole Baba’ (Lord Shiva) must have decided that son you talk a lot. Come here and dare to speak. And maybe, call it Bhole Baba’s order or blessings, but today that dream is starting to come true.”

‘Sabka Prayas’ – A litigation free project

At the time of conceptualisation, it was considered an almost impossible project, considering the topography of the area, and the dense presence of population residing there as every inch of space was covered with one structure or the other. Acquisition of properties was therefore a major hurdle. PM Modi instructed officials to ensure that everyone is taken along through constant dialogue. Officials were asked by the PM to adopt a flexible and patient approach, and give time to resolve all grievances. The approach resulted in the project being litigation free.

The sacrifice of about 400 families resulted in land becoming available for the project.

The transformation

The extent of the challenge that was overcome can be ascertained through these before and after pics. This is how the site looked in 2017. Only a visionary leader could have seen what no one else was able to see for so long, which helped carve out this corridor and bring it into existence.

Design, development and monitoring – an eye for detail

While the land acquisition was one aspect of the project, the other part in the journey of the project was its design and development. Not only did PM Modi give the initial briefing to the architects, but also gave constant inputs and insights for the architectural design, including review through the 3D model of the project. His attention to detail is also reflected in his inputs on making the area disabled-friendly as well.

Along with designing of the project, PM Modi also played a proactive role in the execution as well. He monitored the progress of the project even during Covid times, through video conferencing.

In spite of Covid, with Baba’s blessings, the efforts of PM reflected in the completion of the project in record time. PM epitomised this spirit when he said, “Even in difficult times, Kashi has shown that she does not stop, she does not get tired.”

Unearthing lost heritage

PM Modi’s vision was also to ensure that while the properties clogging the proposed corridor were being removed, existing heritage structures be preserved as well. This foresight of the PM came handy when during demolition of the buildings, more than 40 ancient temples like Shri Gangeshwar Mahadev temple, Manokameshwar Mahadev temple, Jauvinayak temple, Shri Kumbha Mahadev temple, etc. were discovered that had over the years been subsumed in the multi-storeyed buildings along the way. These are no ‘small’ temples; each of them has a history that goes back to a few centuries. These rediscovered temples will further enrich the glorious heritage of the city.

This rediscovery of the lost heritage is in sync with the PM’s vision and tireless efforts for cultural restoration by bringing back the lost heritage, even from foreign lands. This was recently epitomised through his endeavour to bring back the rare idol of Maa Annapurna Devi from Canada, and getting it installed at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

New India – modern as well as spiritual

The odyssey of PM Modi for the development of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor reflects his unique approach of building a New India – a nation modern in outlook, standing confidently on the foundation laid through spiritual reawakening.

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