The famous ghats of Varanasi city with its cobweb of narrow alleys is undergoing change. Behind this change is an ambitious project of the BJP government — Rs 600 crore Kashi Viswanath Temple Corridor project renamed the Vishwanath Dham project.
Apart from the government funding, the project has come at another cost. More than 200 buildings have been demolished and a section of locals allege that the project is tampering the cultural identity of Kashi, known for its galis and buildings replete with cultural significance.
Government officials behind the implementation of the project, on the other hand, dismiss such accusations. Officials claim that owners of these properties have been given substantial compensation and the shopkeepers will be provided commercial space on a first-cum-first-serve on a priority basis. Amid such allegations and counter allegations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project in March this year.
ThePrint’s photo editor Praveen Jain takes us for a walk through these lanes.
Over 200 buildings have turned to rubble near the Kashi Vishwanath Temple after they were demolished to make way for the project | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain
2. Sabka sath, sabka vikas
A wall proclaiming BJP’s slogan “Sabka saath, sabka vikas” stands tall amid some demolished structures in the project area. While laying foundation of the project, PM Modi had claimed that the project could have been completed earlier had it not been for the lackadaisical approach of the previous Samajwadi Party government in UP | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain
3. But whose building is it?
Buildings in a state of semi-demolition. Around 250 out of 279 buildings in the area have been acquired by the government till now, but multiple ownership pattern of each building had been a major challenge for the project, officials say | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain
4. Temples revealed
While locals point to the “har ghar mein mandir” (Temple in every house) saying about Kashi, the administration claims to be surprised by the ‘discovery’ of temples inside houses during the demolition process for the project | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain
5. A culture unveiled
Nearly 50 temples, big and small, now stand exposed in the Kashi Vishwanath project area | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain
6. Open to all
From a small Shiva Linga to an heavily engraved black stone temple, these temples now have designated priests and are open to public. They will be part of the Vishwanath Dham project, officials say | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain
7. Boulevard to spirituality
After completion of the project, pilgrims will be able to see the Kashi Vishwanath temple from the ghats and the approach to it will include tree lined avenues, meditation centres and basic amenities like drinking water and toilets | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain
8. Open spaces a problem
The project had faced an initial hiccup after a section of the Muslim community had approached the Supreme Court with a plea against the project. Their plea had raised concerns about law and order in the area since the Gyanvapi mosque shares a boundary with Vishwanath temple and the project, they felt, would allow an assembly of around 200 people in the open areas of the project. Their petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court | ThePrint Photo by Praveen Jain