On 8 March 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, his dream project, envisioned to dramatically transform Varanasi.
In March 2014, Modi, who was then the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, announced that he would be contesting from Varanasi, the holiest Hindu city, and the seat of ancient knowledge and the embodiment of Dharma. The inspired choice of constituency held a great signalling value in the run up to the 2014 election but what has happened since his election is the real story of the star constituency – the story of a Member of Parliament (MP) putting in sincere efforts to change the life of his constituents, not just walking away after an easy win.
The main temple, Kashi Vishwanath temple, which is located on the left bank of the river Ganga, is surrounded by narrow and small claustrophobic lanes. The prime place of worship in the city, and perhaps the country, struggles to manage humongous crowds in its congested lanes during festive times, which is literally round the year. Roughly 3,000 – 5,000 people visit the temple every day and on special occasions like Mahashivratri and Shravana masa, it reaches over 1 to 3 lakh.
Kashi Corridor, estimated to cost Rs 600 crore, is the first massive makeover of the ghats launched after 1780 AD when the Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore renovated the temple and the surrounding areas.
Once completed, the corridor will ease congestion and provide pilgrims and travellers with other amenities such as wider and cleaner roads and lanes, better streetlighting, and clean drinking water.
The features of Kashi Corridor are as follows:
- The 50-feet-wide Kashi Vishwanath Corridor will connect the ancient shrine and one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples to the famous ghats of Varanasi. The corridor will directly connect Ganga’s Manikarnika and Lalita Ghat to the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple.
- This pathway, a 50-feet wide road, will help pilgrims move easily from the Kashi Vishwanath temple to the ghats on the Ganga. Thousands of devotees throng the Kashi Vishwanath temple daily, and this number goes to more than a million on special occasions. The current narrow pathways leading to the temple create long queues and inconvenience to devotees. The pathway will solve the access and crowd-control problem. Once developed, the temple will be accessible from the Manikarnika and Lalita ghats.
- Along the corridor, pilgrims and travellers will see a newly built museum and showcasing Varanasi’s ancient history and culture.
- New Yagyashalas for religious functions like havan and yagya
- The project also includes lodgings for priests, volunteers and pilgrims together with an enquiry centre to help tourists about the city and its other places of attractions and amenities
- A massive auditorium for gatherings, meetings and temple functions.
- Food Street to serve tourists and pilgrims delicious Banarasi and Awadhi dishes.
As the Varanasi residents improve their ease of living, it is tautological that the resident God of Kashi Lord Shiva sees changes around Him too.
The Yogi government has been on an anti-encroachment drive in the city, which has unearthed more than 80 old temples, which had been appropriated by private parties! The government has also acquired more than 300 houses, eventually to be demolished, to create the Kashi Vishwanath Pathway.