Shree Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor - Temple Area Regeneration project in India

Varanasi (Kashi) or Benaras is one of the oldest living cities of the world and is also known as the spiritual capital. It is a confluence of spirituality, tradition and culture. The ancient city is on the cusp of change, as the administration looks to marry tradition with modernity under the ambitious Kashi Vishwanath Dham Project. Spread across 5,00,000 square feet, the project was launched by the Prime Minister of India in 2018 who also happens to be the Member of Parliament from this constituency. The project aims to provide world class facilities to the visiting pilgrims who throng the place from across the globe to worship Lord Shiva in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The general public is happy that the project will ease their daily congestion nightmares but some say the heritage needed to be prioritized. The temple which was built in 1718, area around it became very difficult to service and keep clean resulting in an unhygienic neighborhood. Access to the temple was severely restricted, unsafe and difficult for those with mobility issues.
Highway to heaven
Fig 1: Aerial view of the project area
Designed by architect Bimal Patel, the project is aimed at easing traffic congestion in and around the temple precinct, provide better facilities to tourists, connect the Kashi Vishwanath temple with the Ganga ghat through 3 decorated gates, creating a Ganga view gallery to extend an unhindered view of the river and preserve the existing heritage structures. 
The total project cost is about INR 850 crores which includes INR 450 crores for land acquisition of around 400 properties and temples in the project area and also rehabilitation of around 100 shop owners who were dependent on the temples for their bread.
Some salient features of the project are:
  1. There will be a 20-25 feet wide corridor from the Lalita Ghat in Varanasi to the Mandir Chowk in the temple premises.
  2. The project connects the temple with the ghats of the Ganga, with a paved walkway around 320 metres long and 20 metres wide. 
  3. This will enable at least 2 lakh devotees to be present at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at a given point in time.
  4. The project includes multiple amenities for pilgrims such as Yatri Suvidha Kendras, guesthouses, hospice, library, and museum.
  5. The project includes building an ample number of public toilets at various places where pilgrims visit in large numbers.
  6. It plans for extensive security arrangements and a widened emergency entrance for vehicles and ambulances to enter the temple area.
  7. Other facilities inside the premises include a Ganga-view cafe, a Mandir Chowk surrounded by emporium space on three floors.
  8. Food courts, shops, a spiritual bookstore, a VIP guest house, Mumukshu Bhawan, Vedic Kendra, Bhog Shaala, a tourist facilitation centre.
  9. Three Yatri Suvidha Kendras, toilet blocks and two museums - City Museum and Varanasi Gallery that could be run on PPP mode.
  10. The whole area is planned as a non-motorized zone and to ensure this a 850 square meter car parking is planned at the cordon of the project.
  11. 3D mapping, restoration and reconstruction of some portion of the temples and strengthening the present structure of the temple.
Varanasi, by design: Vishwanath Dham and the politics of change - The Hindu
Fig 2: 3D view of the proposed facilities in the project

The project has also not been without controversies. A concern was raised by the environmentalists and others that this project will lead to change in the course of River Ganges. The administration claims all necessary permissions were taken by them. From a planners perspective, this project is set to become a model for many other cities in India to regenerate their decaying old cities and infuse a new vision in them.
Kashi Vishwanath Corridor: PM Modi's flagship project to be constructed  with same stones used in Taj Mahal - The Financial Express
Fig 3: Illustration of Mandir Parisar after completion

Kashi Vishwanath Corridor: PM Narendra Modi's dream project to realize  soon, global tender releasing on Dhanteras - The Financial Express
Fig 4: Some photos of the Kashi Vishwanath Dham Project

This transformative project is set to be inaugurated by December 2021. Kashi Vishwanath Dham project is set to be a case study for Urban Renewal in India. While the land was been cleared for construction, some 30 odd 15th - 17th century temples were also discovered and their links traced to the Skand Puran. The authorities have ensured that even these temples are conserved in this project. 

Comments

Urban RenewalHeritage ConservationSpiritual TourismRegeneration
Related Projects
Statue of Unity
Sabarmati Riverfront
Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration
Sardar Sarovar Project
CHAMBAL EXPRESSWAY
;