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Epaper Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Editorial

The Banaras that I know and have Known Now

July 14, 2022 05:33 PM

Varanasi (Banaras, Kashi), the abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, and the ancient seat of learning, is the cultural, religious and spiritual capital of India. Varanasi has a unique vibrant culture developed through ages where life revolves around the river Ganges. The uniqueness of Banaras is its harmony that promotes all cultures, beliefs and value systems.

 

The Hindus believe that they will attain salvation (moksha) if they die in Varanasi. So, they come to Banaras at old age to die there and consequently to reach heaven. Those who cannot afford, get their ashes scattered in the river Ganges. Several cremation Ghats encircle the banks of the Ganges. The city has produced legends in several musical instruments like, shehnai and tabla etc.

 

 

In the words of Mark Twain, "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together!" The words of Veda Vyas and the Rishis of Upanishads, the sermons of Buddha, the message of the Gita and the saying of the hundreds of saints and teachers reverberate in this holy city of Banaras. Banaras Hindu University, established by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, is renowned educational institutions offering quality programmes in almost all domain of knowledge under one roof.

 

 

In spite of multifarious significance in socio-cultural milieu, Banaras- the land of Buddha, Tulsidas and Kabir, remained an undeveloped city in terms of infrastructure and logistics necessary for spiritual and economic vibrancy. Banaras housed narrow and congested roads and lanes, dilapidated steps, roaming around bullocks and Ghats with plenty of dirt and filth. Travel in the city was time consuming and approaches to temples, their premises and Ghats were too congested and thus inconvenient for the devotees to travel and perform puja and rituals. Severity of these could be gauged from a proverb attributed to Banaras that is

 

“रांड-सांड-सीढ़ी-सन्यासी, इनसे बचो तो सेवो काशी".

 

 

Turning point came when Shri Narendra Modi, one of the greatest sons of Bharat Mata, was elected from Varanasi Parliamentary constituency in 2014. Banaras has witnessed a furry of development activities since then. Now the city and its outskirt is completely transformed with a new look beyond recognition. The widened roads with dividers, the systematically arranged shops and residences along the road sides, covered drains, beautifully planned chaurahas etc. provide altogether a new avatar to the holy city.

 

 

The Kashi Vishwanath temple, the centre of Aastha to crores of Sanatanis from India and abroad, has been totally revamped, the temple premise has been made spacious with well-planned and decorated stone carvings, and a sprawling corridor connecting main deity with the Ganges has been built imparting gorgeous look to the entire temple complex. This has facilitated millions of pilgrims to have a hassle-free bath in Ganges and worship of Baba Vishwanath with Ganga Jal in order to purify themselves. Ghats have been renovated and thousands of devotees witness Ganga Aarti every evening at several locations.

 

 

The International Cooperation and Convention Centre named 'Rudraksh' Convention Centre has been built with ultra-modern facilities for academic and spiritual deliberations. The trade facilitation centre and crafts museum have also been built. A large sewage infrastructure project has been launched. Roads of the city have been widened. Multi-level parking at Godaulia, Ro-Ro Vessels for tourism development and a three-lane flyover bridge on the Varanasi-Ghazipur highway add value to the holy city in its transport system. The Ring Road has been completed in record time, making traffic movement across the city much easier and helping decongestion of roads. Over 17-km-long airport road developed under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi-Ji is called the Gateway of Varanasi today. Railway stations have been modernised.

 

 

For improving health facilities and mitigating health hazards, Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya Cancer Centre, and Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital have been created and made operational. A 100-bed Mother and Child Heath Wing and 450 bedded Super-Speciality Hospital in Banaras Hindu University has been created. A 500 bedded "Kashi Covid Response Centre" was created in BHU as a model to combat COVID during second phase of its outbreak. The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s kitchen for facilitating mid-day meal scheme has been built. Banaras has become beneficiary of about 143 rural projects under Jal Jeevan Mission. A mango and vegetable integrated packhouses project in Karkhiyaon are being carried out.

 

 

A close look at the developments amply demonstrates that Prime Minister Modi is committed to transforming Kashi into a world class smart city. All development works are well-planned and executed in the time-bound manner on the model of Clean Kashi and Green Kashi. Banaras has undergone unimaginable and unbelievable growth and progress during the last eight years. After his election as the Member of the Parliament from Varanasi successively for two terms in 2014 and 2019, our beloved leader Shri Modi-Ji, has put in his heart and mind to ensure that his constituency becomes role model of wholesome development for others to emulate. All these developments have certainly increased the influx of tourists to the city, have created job new opportunities for the rich and poor alike, and ease of doing rituals and business.

 

 

My visit to Kashi for Akhil Bhartiya Shiksha Samagam on 7th-9th July, 2022 after a lapse of ten years made me realise that I am visiting this city for the first time. Kudos to the commitment and dedication of our dynamic, visionary and pro-poor Prime Minister Modi-Ji for affecting 360o transformation to the holy city of Banaras. In my opinion, not only the electorates of Varanasi but every Sanatani should pray for a long, healthy and fulfilling life to our most respected Prime Minister for giving Kashi what it really deserved.

 

 

Raghavendra P. Tiwari
Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda

 

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