PM Modi opens Phase I of Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kal Bhairav temple in Varanasi ahead of the inauguration of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor on Monday. Pic: Twitter

PM Modi opens Phase I of Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated the first phase of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency, where he was welcomed warmly by the residents.

The mega project is expected to boost tourism in the ancient city in a big way, and work on phase I was completed on time despite the COVID pandemic.

The inauguration of the state-of-the-art infrastructure surrounding the historic Kashi Vishwanath Temple near the iconic Dashashwamedh Ghat comes ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh early next year.

“The blessings of Lord Vishweshwara, a supernatural energy awakens our inner soul as soon as we come here,” Modi said as he began his address to chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’.

The PM said the corridor was not just a grand ‘Bhavan’ but a symbol of India’s ‘Sanatan’ cultural traditions. “The Kashi Vishwanath temple premises, which were only around 3,000 square feet, has now become about 5 lakh square feet. Now, 50,000 to 75,000 devotees can come to visit the temple and its premises,” Modi said.

Phase 1 of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Dham has been constructed at a cost of around Rs 339 crore. The first phase is spread across 5 lakh sq feet and comprises 23 buildings. The gateways and other structures have been built with stones and other material using traditional craftsmanship.

It was Modi’s vision for a long time to facilitate pilgrims and devotees of Shiva as they had to encounter congested streets and surroundings with poor upkeep while they went about the age-old custom of taking dip in the holy river, collecting its water and offering it at the temple, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). To realise this vision, Shri Kashi Vishwanath Dham was conceptualised as a project to create an easily accessible pathway to connect Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple to the banks of the river Ganga, the statement added.

Facilities for devotees

The corridor will provide a variety of facilities to pilgrims, including ‘yatri suvidha kendras’, tourist facilitation centre, vedic kendra, mumukshu bhavan, bhogshala, city museum, viewing gallery, food court among others.

The foundation stone of the project was laid in 2019 and will cost about ₹ 800 crore. After laying the foundation stone of the corridor, Modi had said the project would be a model for “protection and preservation” of temples and a combination of modern technology with ancient faith. He had also said this project would become a model for similar projects elsewhere and give a new global identity to Kashi. Over 300 properties were acquired without litigations to implement the grand plan. About 1,400 shopkeepers, tenants and homeowners were rehabilitated.

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More than 40 ancient temples were rediscovered during the work on the project. They were restored while ensuring there is no change in the original structure, the PMO statement said.

Architect of the project, Bimal Patel said a few days back: “The project includes the construction of Temple Chowk, Varanasi city gallery, museum, multipurpose auditoriums, hall, devotee facilitation centre, public convenience, salvation home, Godowlia Gate, Bhogshala, shelter for priests and sevadars, spiritual book space, and others.”

About 70 per cent of the 5.50 lakh sq ft area of the project have been kept for green cover, he said, adding, “We worked towards fulfilling the prime minister’s vision of reorganising the temple premises to restore its grandeur.”

History of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The current structure of the temple was constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar around 1780, and in the 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had got it crowned with a golden ‘shikhar’.

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According to the website of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, the famous religious site is also known as ‘Golden Temple’. In many old maps, this name can be seen mentioned.

Criticism of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor

The project had also drawn criticism from various heritage experts as a large number of old buildings were demolished to make way for the corridor that also provides a direct link from the temple to Ganga River.

Project architect Bimal Patel responded to the criticism by saying that the original structure of the temple had not been tampered with while developing the site, adding, apart from beautifying the area, tourist facilities have been enhanced.

(With inputs from agencies)

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