With new amenities and conveniences, the project makes the Kashi Vishwanath temple accessible from the Ganga, making pilgrimage more holistic and easier.
On December 13, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will open the Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor in Varanasi. The PM, who also represents the constituency in the Lok Sabha, conceived the architectural reimagining of the temple complex around the ancient town’s presiding deity and connecting it to the river Ganga, which flows by 300 metres away.
The majestic façade of the temple complex is now accessible from the ghats via the corridor, allowing devotees, tourists, and visitors to reach the temple by boat from the riverfront.
The Rs 800 crore project was completed in record time by the local government and a design firm led by renowned architect Bimal Patel, who also designed Delhi’s new parliament building and central vista. Patel is the architect of the Sabarmati riverfront and Kankariya lakefront in Ahmedabad, as well as the Aga Khan Foundation in Hyderabad and the new IIM (Indian Institute of Management) campus in Ahmedabad.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision and brief
Patel explained the project by saying that the Prime Minister gave him a one-line brief: the project should make the heart happy. Patel recalled the PM telling him during a briefing, “Ek Aisa Rasta Banao Ke Mann Prafullit Ho Jaye.” “I believe the idea was to create a space between the temple and the river in order to provide a processional route similar to what might have existed in ancient times (when the river may have flowed alongside the temple),” Patel said.
After laying the foundation for the works on March 8, 2019, PM Modi continued to take an active interest in the development of the corridor. The Prime Minister was briefed at every stage, and his input and suggestions were taken into account. When we gave him a presentation and showed him a 3D model, he suggested some changes to the façade as it would appear from the river, wanted the ghat to be more architecturally significant, and suggested more disabled-friendly amenities than originally planned, according to Patel. As a result, the disabled, or ‘divyangs,’ would have unrestricted access to the entire climb from the ghat to the temple via ramps and escalators.
Mahatma Gandhi’s dream
According to Patel, it was Mahatma Gandhi who, while on a visit to the temple town in 1916, first thought of clearing the urban jungle around the ancient Kashi Vishwanath temple, the presiding deity of the city of Varanasi. Following a visit to the temple, a visibly outraged father of the nation spoke at the Benares Hindu University, saying that if our temples were in such a state, he wondered what our nation would be like. For those who have visited the temple, it has been hemmed in by urban development on all sides over time, and navigating the congested area has become a tourist’s nightmare.