Our destination was visible now, as the boat changed its course and made its way towards the western bank of the Ganga.
The Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor was a pet project of the current Prime Minister of India, who also represented Varanasi as its member of parliament. He had taken the task headlong as soon as he had become the Prime Minister of India. What he had proposed to do had been dismissed by many as an impossible project – he had intended to clean out the area surrounding the main temple and build a ‘corridor’ where several modern amenities, a museum, a guest house, restaurant etc could be housed.
The areas surrounding the Kashi Vishwanath temple had been populated by hundreds and thousands of families, living and dying and marrying and working since hundreds of years. Generations of people, who lived in the narrow lanes surrounding the ancient shrine, had not known any other home, or work place for that matter. Getting them to move, to relinquish their home of generations, would be a mammoth task; and it had been!!!
The committee incharge of the relocation had taken years to talk to the people, convince them of the need of the project, offer them adequate compensation in terms of money, housing, alternate employment. But it had succeeded in the end. The people, and their welfare committees, had agreed in the end, and the relocation had begun, without litigation!!!!
The house, and shops, were vacated, and slowly the task of demolishing them had begun to clear the area surrounding the ancient site so that the corridor could be built. The area to be demolished was cordoned off, entry restricted, and then work begun in right earnest. As the demolition progressed, the engineers, and restoration specialists had been amazed to find several other ancient temples, and sacred shrines buried inside the mass of houses that surrounded them. The temples were carefully preserved, and later restored, and were added to the corridor project.
The project proposed to make the ancient shrine of Gyanvapi, and the adjacent Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga accessible from the Ganga for the devotees, as it had been since times immemorial. A devotee should be able to approach the Ganga for a ritual bath, and then take the water from the holy river for anointing of the deity who resided in the temple. It was this proposed access site, from the ghats, which we approached now.
A huge dwaar, or gate, had been built on the bank of the Ganga which marked the eastern entrance of the KV Dham corridor. The gate was at the end of a flight of step which started from the bank of the Ganga and ended at the level of the corridor. The work on the flight of steps was still unfinished, and a make-shift jetty of plastic floats marked the place where a permanent boat landing would come up later. It was on this make-shift platform that KG waited for us, to welcome us to the Ganga Dwaar of the KV Dham Corridor.
To be continued………
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