Yesterday after my memorable visit to Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, I reached the holy ‘City of Lord Mahadev’ – Varanasi, located on the western banks of Ma Ganga and believed to be one of the oldest surviving cities in the world. Kashi has always been a very special spiritual destination for the devout. It is the land of Gods, land of Bhakti, land of cultural richness and the land of ‘Salvation’. I am fortunate to have visited the city of Baba Vishwanath.
I reached Varanasi along with my spouse, Smt. Usha Naidu in the evening and headed straight to the sacred Dashashwamedh Ghat to participate in the Ganga Aarti – world-renowned for its splendour and magnificence. I must say it was a surreal and divine experience, which will stay forever in my heart. The lighting on the Ghat, devotees waiting in boats, priests performing rituals invoking the deity Ganga, synced and slow waving of traditional oil lamps and offerings to mother Ganga – witnessing this magical and enchanting moment reminded me of what Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya has said about this divine river –
“Holi Ganga is a living symbol of an emotional bond that portrays Bharat as one originating from the Himalayas, traversing through a major part of the country and ending in Bengals merging with the ocean. The cultural unity of India is best depicted through the blue waves of this great river.”
It was heartening to see the organisers from Ganga Seva Nidhi, appealing to the people, before Aarti, to take a pledge to keep the holy river and its surroundings clean. Rivers are the lifeline of human civilization and everyone must strive to protect and rejuvenate them.
Today morning, I along with my spouse had the good fortune of visiting and praying at the ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga is one of the holiest shrines of Lord Mahadev. ‘Vishweshwar’ or ‘Vishwanath’ literally means ‘Ruler of the World’ and ‘Jyotirlinga’ means ‘Pillar of Light’, symbolizing the infinite nature of Lord Shiva. I prayed to the Lord for peace, prosperity and well-being of the people of India and the entire world.
Kashi Vishwanath temple is not just renowned for its spiritual significance. It also represents the resilience and strength of Indian cultural traditions. The present structure of the temple was built by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in the year 1780 and in the year 1839, two domes of the temple were covered by gold donated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Indeed, Kashi Vishwanath is a glorious symbol of our Sanatan Paramapra, our faith and our resistance to oppressors.
I also had the opportunity to visit the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, which was recently inaugurated by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. The project has created an easily accessible pathway to connect Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple to the banks of Holy Ganga. A number of facilities have also been created for the pilgrims under this project, including a Tourist Facilitation Centre, Vedic Kendra, Mumukshu Bhavan, Bhogshala, City Museum and Food Court. I was happy to know that the temple area, which was only 3000 square feet earlier, has now been enlarged to about 5 lakh square feet, enabling a much larger number of devotees to have Darshan of Baba Vishwanath.
The nearby Annapurna temple also has a rich and glorious history. I was told that the idol of Devi Annapurna, which was illegally taken to other country over a hundred years ago, has finally been brought back and placed in the original temple.
After the Darshan of Baba Vishwanath, I performed pooja at the famed Kal Bhairav Temple in Varanasi. Bhagwan Kal Bhairav, representing the fierce form of Lord Shiva, is known as the ‘Kotwal of Kashi’ and the protector of the city.
Later on, I went to Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Smriti Sthal which is a short distance away from the city of Varanasi. Dedicated to one of India’s foremost cultural and political icons, this memorial is built at the place where Pt Deendayal had breathed his last under mysterious circumstances while travelling by train from Lucknow to Patna in 1968. It was an overwhelming experience to stand at the feet of the 63-feet tall statue of the great statesman who dedicated his entire life in the service of his motherland. The memorial also has a 3-D virtual tour facility depicting the life journey of Pt Deendayal in virtual reality. I found it to be quite absorbing an experience.
Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, who was deeply rooted in Indian civilisational ethos, propounded the concept of ‘Integral Humanism’. In this, he stressed the need to shape our thinking from India’s rich knowledge tradition and called for the integration of man, society and nature.
‘Antyodaya’ which means the “uplift of the last person” was at the core of Pandit Deendayal Ji’s thoughts. His heart throbbed for the villages, the farmers, the Dalits and the marginalized. Working towards the upliftment of the downtrodden and bringing happiness to the most deprived sections will be the right tribute we can pay to Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya.
Through the glimpses of Varanasi I could get through my tour and my interaction with eminent persons and officials in the city, I returned confident that through the combined efforts of the state and central governments, Kashi is on its way to regaining its past splendour and glory. I wish the people of Banaras all the very best for their future.