EXPLAINED: Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world

Telugu Bhaarath
Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world

On December 13 2021 Prime Minister Narendra Modi at this day inaugurated the first phase of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor project, which will connect two iconic landmarks - Kashi Vishwanath temple and Ganga ghats, in his constituency, Varanasi.

Kashi, Varanasi, or Banaras, the city that belongs to Bhagwan Shiva, has a history that dates back thousands of years. The city has been mentioned in several Scriptures include Rig Vega, Skand Mahapurana, Shiv Mahapurana, Ramayana, Mahabharata, and many others. Though some studies suggest that it came into existence around 1200 BC, the excavations that happened in nearby sites suggest it is much older.

Varanasi is closely associated with Sanatan Dharma, Jainism, and Buddhism. Notably, Buddha himself gave his very first sermon in 528 BC at Kashi. Mark Twain’s famous words about Kashi resonate with its history. He had said, “It is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

Varanasi is a southeastern city in Uttar Pradesh. It is located on the bank of the River Ganga. Kashi is one of the seven most sacred cities associated with Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism. For a long period of time, Kashi remained the center of religious, educational, and artistic activities.

When Islamic rulers and Mughals invaded India, Varanasi became one of the prime targets, and the attacks on the city date back to 1194. During the period of Islamic rulers, several Hindu temples were destroyed. Many scholars who lived in the city fled out of fear. In the 17th century, Aurangzeb demolished Kashi Vishwanath Temple and built a mosque in its place. By the 18th century, Marathas started working on its revival. It became an independent kingdom in the same period.

Mata Ahilyabai Holkar rebuilt the temple next to the mosque that was built on the site of the original temple. However, its revival saw another obstacle when the British came to power in India. It is noteworthy that during that time, Kashi thrived as a center for religion for Hindus. In 1910, the British made Varanasi a state with Ramnagar as headquarters. After independence in 1947, it became part of Uttar Pradesh.

PM Modi, who arrived at the dedication of kashi vishwanath dham, wore a light golden dhoti-kurta.
PM Modi, who arrived at the dedication of kashi vishwanath dham,
wore a light golden dhoti-kurta.

Sanatan Dharma breathes in Kashi.
Miles of ghats, religious bathing, temples, and places linked to Sanatan Dharma make Kashi one of the holiest places on earth. The city is bounded by a road known as Panchkosi. Devotees wish to walk that road and visit Kashi at least once in a lifetime. Many believe that living in Kashi during the last days assures Mukti or Moksha. Every year millions of pilgrims visit Kashi.
  • Baba Vishwanath Temple, Bhagwan Sankatmochan Dham, Maa Durga Temple, and many others are some of the main attractions in the city. Being associated with education, Kashi houses Banaras Hindu University and two others, along with countless schools and educational institutes.
  • Mahashivratri, the festival of Shiva, the Ganga festival, Bharat Milap, Bhasma Holi, and many other festivals attract hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists.
  • Not only Sanatan Dharma, but Kashi also has ruins of ancient  Buddhist monasteries and temples. There are temples built by the Maha Bodhi Society and by Burmese, Tibetan, and Chinese Buddhists.

What is Kashi Vishwanath Corridor?

The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor project was announced in March 2018. PM Modi accompanied by Governor Ram Naik and CM Yogi Adityanath laid the foundation stone for an extension and beautification project of the Temple area on 8 March 2019. (Video of the project).

Who is constructing the Corridor?  

The project is being personally supervised by PM Modi and funded by the UP Yogi Adityanath government. HCP Design, Planning, and Management Private Limited are constructing the corridor. The firm has submitted the detailed project report (DPR) of ₹750 crores which earmarked ₹460 crores exclusively for the construction work, ₹290 crores has been spent on purchasing buildings in the project area.

What are the salient features?

The project is being constructed on an area of 525,000 square feet or 12 acres. As part of the project, 27 new buildings will be constructed including Temple Chowk, Varanasi city gallery, museum, multi-purpose auditorium, hall, devotee facilitation center, public convenience, salvation home, Godowlia gate, Bhogshala, shelter for priests and sevadars, spiritual book space, and another number of facilities for devotees.

A 20-meter wide pathway will be constructed from the river Ganga to the Temple. For further details, listen to the lecture of Dr. Bimal Patel, Director of HCP Design, Planning, and Management Private Limited on the project.

Who is supervising the Corridor project? 

The Project is under the supervision of the Kashi Vishwanath Special Area Development Board. The Board was formed by an Act through an official gazette issued by the UP government. It received the assent of the Governor of Uttar Pradesh on 1 September 2018 and was published in the U.P. Gazette, Extraordinary Part I, section (K), dated 1 September 2018.

An Act to provide for the establishment of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Special Area Development Board to create, formulate, implement, regulate and maintain the Special Area under its jurisdiction for developing and maintaining the cultural, spiritual, mythological, and architectural aesthetics in such area to promote tourism in consonance with the rich cultural heritage thereof.

Major functions of the Board: (1) To prepare a plan for the Special Development Area; (2) To prepare a plan for rehabilitation, as may be required; and (3) To conserve the heritage that falls under its jurisdiction.

kashi vishwanath dham
kashi vishwanath dham

Are there any of the razed homes (land required for the project) belonging to members of the Muslim religion?

No, not even a single house demolished belonged to the Muslim religion. The website of the Board contains a list of the properties purchased for the purpose of demolition. The list includes 256 names and all are Hindus.

The Board’s website contains another list – an index of all the shopkeepers who have been compensated containing few Muslims but most of them are Hindus.
As part of the project, two separate compensations have been provided. First, to the owners of the houses/shops purchased for demolition, and second, to the shopkeepers who did not own the shops but have been working at the shops for years. The second form of compensation isn’t a payment for demolition but for loss of livelihood.

WATCH HERE About Kashi Vishwanath Corridor :

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