Varanasi: For years, the Kashi Vishwanath temple has been a part of Vijay Yadav’s weekly routine. The 28–year-old, who lives in the Pandeypurneighbourhood of Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi city, walks to offer his prayers to Hindu god Shiva, often braving masses of people, animals and garbage in the cramped lanes that lead to the centuries-old shrine.
Now, Yadav feels the new Kashi Vishwanath corridor will transform the area, and the city. “Earlier, there was space crunch in the temple complex. The corridor has created a lot of space…5,000 devotees may remain present in the corridor at any time,” he said. “It is really grand.”
Yadav is one of many devotees in Varanasi who are looking forward to the inauguration of the ₹700 crore Kashi Vishwanath Corridor on Monday. Many of them have memories attached to the old cobbled streets and the neighbourhood, but admit that the mega facelift project was necessary.
“People want comfort and facilities during their visit. PM Modi knows it well, The corridor has rejuvenated and beautified the Kashi Vishwanath temple complex,” said Ashwini Chaubey, another pilgrim who lives in the Pandeypurneighbourhood.
The redevelopment project, comprising 24 buildings constructed over 550,000 sq. ft, comes months ahead of a high-stakes election in Uttar Pradesh, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to return to power for a second consecutive term.
Local BJP leaders say that as the project was envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and driven to completion by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, it will be a showpiece of the party’s poll campaign, especially in eastern Uttar Pradesh that sends 120lawmakers to the state’s assembly, out of a total of 403 seats.
“This is matter of faith for us. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has added to the glory of sanatan dharma by getting the corridor constructed,” said BJP leader Somnath Vishwakarma.
Moreover, as the temple complex attracts seven million tourists and devotees from across the country, the corridor is a key developmental project that is likely to rake up revenues, said officials.
It has also fanned the party’s popularity among the Hindu religious communities and holy men. “The corridor has transformed the entire landscape of the area around the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It is a direct link between the Baba Kashi Vishwanath Temple and River Ganga,” said Pandit Prasad Dikshit, a trustee of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Nyas, which oversees the temple’s functioning.
Congress leader Shailendra Singh, however, criticised the project and said the Kashi Vishwanath Temple had been commercialised in the name of the corridor.
“The corridor will give a political mileage to the BJP in the coming election, as the ruling party has started to showcase it already,” said Kaushal Kishore Mishra, a professor at the Banaras Hindu University.