The entire nation was transfixed on TV screens for hours when Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Kashi and inaugurated the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. I could call it Vishwanath Ganga Path that has put us back on the path of harmony between spirituality and scientific temper. Kashi as the centre of learning since eons as also the centre of spirituality symbolises it the best.
As a Hindu it was an emotional moment for me. When I visited Kashi last as a pilgrim, it was as dilapidated as most of our ancient temples. When one goes to any old teerth keshtra (pilgrim centre) with fervent devotion, one becomes tense and comes out anxious and agitated because of arrangements there. It was the same in Kashi. The small 3000 sq ft campus that was dominated by the symbol of cruel violent invaders in the shape a mosque built on the top of the 3000-year-old temple (as per historic documents) and you reached it crawling through small lanes. It saddened you immensely when you saw the ancient Nandi facing the mosque (the original temple) and not the sacred Shivling like in any temple Today, you can pay visit to this temple feeling uplifted and calm. This is how a pilgrimage should be. I recall the travel to the last Kumbh in Prayag where the arrangements were as impeccable and you felt elated. I do not know how we can glorify run down, dirty, dingy temple towns. I think every pilgrim centre needs face lift, better infrastructure and better facilities so faith of people is enhanced and they come out in uplifted mood, rather than feel relieved that they are out of the temple. We need to stop selling poverty and unhealthy environment.
Kashi is one of the oldest, may be the oldest living city. We will come to know when archaeological surveys are over. It is mentioned in Vedas and Skanda Purana. It is the birth place of four Jain Tirthankars. Sarnath near Kashi is the holy place where Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after self-realisation. Ganga ghat is the place where Goswami Tulsidas wrote immortal Ram Charit Manas and Hanuman Chalisa. It is where Shankaracharya wrote in Kashi Panchakam. It was so important that every preacher and realised spiritual personality including Guru Nanak Dev came to Kashi. It was the centre of learning and spiritual dissemination. All these hoary memories got buried in the decaying city because it never got any attention from any government, probably because it was too Hindu for their comfort.
Kashi Vishwanath and Varanasi represent the worst side of the bigoted violent invaders. The first attack and destruction of the temple and the town took place in 1035 and ended with the seventh most wanton destructions in 1669 by Aurangzeb. Kashi was attacked repeatedly by the invaders and pillaged and destroyed. At one time 1000 temples were destroyed at one go, replaced by equal number of mosques. Why? Because, they knew that if you wish to break the resistance of a society, attack and destroy its centres of reverence. But it is to the credit of this civilisation that it rose and rebuilt Varanasi-Kashi and the temple and built new ones every time when it was attacked and sought to be destroyed.
When one of the Muslim rulers levied infamous Jizya tax, Hindus from Gujarat, Bengal, Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra poured in funds to pay the tax. It showed that culturally we were one and our brave forefathers understood this well. After the last rebuilding of Kashi Vishwanath by revered Ahilyabai Holkar 250 years back, Maharaja Ranjit Singh offered one ton of gold to cover the domes of the temple.
Kashi Vishwanath is one of the twelve jyotirlingas that are spread across Bharat, which tells us that our ancients had very clear idea of the geography of Bharat. This geographical and cultural oneness was further reinforced by Adi Shankaracharya when he established four Mathams of learning across four corners of Bharat.
Our history shows us the resilience and fighting spirit of Hindu civilisation to save and protect Sanatan Hindu Dharma and Sanskriti. Modi ji pointed out in his rousing speech that whenever an Aurangzeb came, a Shivaji stood up. In fact, the attack on Kashi and destruction of ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple so incensed Jijamata that she inspired Shivaji to fight the invaders. Thus, this destruction was the death knell of Mughal empire. The latest renovation symbolises the renaissance of the ancient Bharatiya spirit and the knowledge system for which Kashi has been famous. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya chose Varanasi for his path breaking Banaras Hindu University for this very reason. He wished to restart this process of rejuvenation.
Deendayal Upadhyay, the founder General Secretary of Bharatiya Jan Sangh (predecessor of Bharatiya Janata Party) used to say, “We don’t wish to live in the past. We wish to learn from the past, get inspiration from it to build a better future.” Modi ji shared the same sentiment today. Those who tell us to forget history are the ones who use it to insult and ridicule Hindu society. They use it to white wash the pillage of our once prosperous nation, the rapes, the holocaust of million of Hindus and destruction of temples.
The day today will be marked in the history as another step towards rejuvenation and renaissance of Bharat as a nation and Hindu society as the longest surviving culture in the world. As Modi ji said, “You are what you think.” He has given a renewed sense of pride to the nation that is globally respected now despite international trolls supported by anti-culture, anti-religion lobbies. Time for establishing Bharat as Vishwa Guru has begun. It is for us to realise the dream of our sants and rishis.