Narendra Modi's Kashi-Viswanath Temple Corridor gets boost as SC clears demolition of shops hindering progress in Varanasi project

The Rs 600-crore Kashi-Viswanath Temple Corridor project got a shot in the arm on Wednesday when the Supreme Court cleared the demolition of six shops that were seen as a thorn in the side to create an open 50-feet wide corridor between the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple complex and the adjacent Ganges’ Manikarnika and Lalita ghats, reinforcing the Hindu tradition of a "mystical union" between the shrine and the river.

 Narendra Modis Kashi-Viswanath Temple Corridor gets boost as SC clears demolition of shops hindering progress in Varanasi project

Ganges river bank in Varanasi. Wikimedia Commons

The apex court ruling will help clear the area that houses 276 ancient buildings — constructed near the centuries-old temples to perpetuate a steady flow of income in Lord Shiva’s name. The 253 buildings have either been demolished or are in the process of being brought down by the autonomous Shri Kashi Viswanath Special Area Development Board.

The occupants of these buildings have given up their ‘rightful claims’ in lieu of compensation that is four times the market rate.

Once operational, the corridor will be a square complete with lodging facilities for pilgrims and devotees, hold a museum and an auditorium, and feature separate areas for rituals like havan and yagya. A food street is in the works, with Banarasi and Awadhi dishes on offer. A new bhogshala will be constructed to offer prayer to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity.

But, how did the controversy originate?

Mythology has it that Varanasi is the centre of the world where all gods dwell. Life ebbs, flows and gets its final deliverance, or moksha, at the world’s ancient city’s iconic ghats.

Varanasi’s mysticism has been captured by Mark Twain, “the father of American literature” in this immortal couplet: Benares is older than history/ older than tradition/ older even than legend/ and looks twice as old as all of them put together.

The project's opponents have hung on to its mythical past to peddle “Benarispan”.

For the uninitiated, “Benarispan” stands for a time warp and fierce resistance to change. It embodies a state of mind that celebrates the Hindu spiritual hub’s urban decay, with its congested alleys, overflowing garbage, and abiding faith in encroachment (locals can simply put up a stone structure and indulge in rampant illegal construction under the garb of religion and spiritual enlightenment).

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he picked Varanasi as his constituency in 2014, decided to change this. He has pushed for Varanasi's face-lift and development. This project of the prime minister runs counter to the more calcified tendencies of “Benarispan”, and has now received a significant boost from the Supreme Court.

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Updated Date: Jun 20, 2019 16:10:40 IST