You have probably heard about the ambitious government (Central plus State) plan called “Ganga Corridor”. The government is speedily buying all the houses around Vishwanath Temple at 3-4 times their price and demolishing them to create a huge space around the temple, which will be connected to the river through a corridor (said to be 56 m wide!) up to Lalita Ghat. The idea is to make room for the very large number of people coming for the darshan of Vishwanath, and minimizing the possibility of stampedes, etc. This constitutes an important part in the plan to make Varanasi a “smart city” (and we are not to deny that several good works have been done in this context).
C. M. Yogi Adityanath ji has promised that this plan would take care of the Heritage (by which he means, I understand, individual buildings). But it is difficult to imagine how Heritage can be preserved while destroying a huge portion of Pakka Mahal (the heart of Banaras) from Vishwanath to Lalita Ghat… The maze of galis in the Pakka Mahal constitute one of the most important parts of Varanasi’s heritage. This plan would also probably change and distort the unique and renowned riverfront of Banaras.
From the Heritage point of view this is a terrible blow, breaking all the rules to be followed in historical cities. The original design of Kashi is being distorted. This is being done by outsiders, without taking care of the unique tissues of the city and without consulting or taking advice from the knowledgeable people in Varanasi.
In this work of demolition, dozens of temples, enclosed in many of these houses, are being destroyed without further consideration (photos enclosed). The area around Vishwanath Mandir is formed by a network of temples. Some people point out that many of these temples were encroached and puja was hardly offered; still, to buy the houses and destroy the temples does not seem the best solution… All the devatas reside in Kashi, and the place of their temples is not interchangeable: their location has a sense. “Development” changes are being done in the city to increase its touristic potential, forgetting that Kashi is, first of all, a sacred tirtha. This whole work is being done in secret, as the media is doing a conscious boycott to news related with this subject. If a Muslim ruler would have done this work of indiscriminate temple destruction, all the Varanasi public would have stand up and fight, but this work of desacralization is being done without hardly any protest.
Of course, it is not a simple thing to improve this city of Varanasi… But it seems that the authorities want to make a showcase of Varanasi, plenty of show, lights and newly designed avenues, while not giving attention to the traditional sacred pattern of the city.
As most people are unaware of what is happening, we request you to share and make known this information among your friends and acquaintances who have an interest in this city of Kashi.
With best regards