VARANASI: The ambitious Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in the heart of Varanasi is all set to be dedicated to the people by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, a mega project that is expected to boost tourism in the ancient city in a big way.
The inauguration of the state-of-the-art infrastructure surrounding the historic Kashi Vishwanath Temple near the iconic Dashashwamedh Ghat, on December 13 comes ahead of the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh early next year.
The gateways and other structures have been built with stones and other material using traditional craftsmanship.
There is a palpable excitement among majority of the residents of the temple town and domestic tourists flocking the holy shrine of the Hindus in the run-up to the high-profile event, in view of which the police security in Varanasi has been stepped up.
From saints and seers to shopkeeper and hotel owners, there is a smile on people's faces as they await the inauguration day with visible excitement.
Posters have been put up on ornate lampposts in streets, near the iconic temple -- one of the 12 Jyotirlingas -- hailing Modi for "realising the vision of this project".
The current structure of the temple was constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar around 1780, and in the 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had got it crowned with a golden 'shikhar'.
According to the website of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, the famous religious site is also known as 'Golden Temple'.
In many old maps, this name can be seen mentioned.
A posse of policemen, aided by supplementary forces, guard the temple premises, public roundabouts, and patrol the streets to ensure everything goes smoothly.
"Given the scale and importance of the programme, security has been stepped up across the city, especially in the areas surrounding the temple and the corridor. A large number of high-profile guests are slated to attend the event. And, over 2,000 people are expected to be among the attendees," a senior police official said.
The city, the parliamentary constituency of Modi since 2014, has been decorated ahead of the mega event -- 'Divya Kashi, Bhavya Kashi' -- especially the streets leading to the holy site, in and around Godowlia Chowk, and the residents of the temple town eagerly await the arrival of the prime minister.
Facades of buildings located on streets leading to the shrine have been painted in a uniform light pink colour, and many buildings have been illuminated.
Many hotels located near Godowlia Chowk have also lit been lit up by their owners to celebrate the occasion.
Senior BJP leaders earlier had announced that Varanasi will host a month-long cultural exercise following the inauguration of the "Kashi Vishwanath Dham" (Kashi Vishwanath corridor), and all BJP chief ministers and deputy CMs will attend the ceremony which will be broadcast live from over 51,000 places nationwide.
Over 3,000 seers, figures associated with different religious mutts, artistes and other noted people are expected to assemble at the venue on December 13 to witness the inauguration.
The ruling party in Uttar Pradesh has planned to install LEDs at all major Shiva temples and ashrams in all its mandal units to show the programme live.
Varanasi, also called as Benares or Kashi, in ancient texts and scriptures, is one of the oldest cities in the world, which is fondly also referred to as 'Shiv ki Nagri' or 'Baba ki Nagari', and mythically believed to be balanced on the trident of Lord Shiva.
After laying the foundation stone of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in March 2019, Modi had said, the project will be a model for "protection and preservation" of temples and a combination of modern technology with ancient faith.
He had also said this project will become a model for similar projects elsewhere and give a new global identity to Kashi.
The project had also drawn criticism from various heritage experts as a large number of old buildings were demolished to make way for the corridor that also provides a direct link from the temple to Ganga River.
Early December, the architect of the project, Bimal Patel had said, the original structure of the temple had not been tampered with while developing the site, adding, apart from beautifying the area, tourist facilities have been enhanced.
"The project includes the construction of Temple Chowk, Varanasi city gallery, museum, multipurpose auditoriums, hall, devotee facilitation centre, public convenience, salvation home, Godowlia Gate, Bhogshala, shelter for priests and sevadars, spiritual book space, and others," Patel had said in a statement issued by the Uttar Pradesh government.
About 70 per cent of the 5.50 lakh sq ft area of the project have been kept for green cover, he said, adding, "We worked towards fulfilling the prime minister's vision of reorganising the temple premises to restore its grandeur."
Varanasi Divisional Commissioner Deepak Agarwal had earlier said that 40 ancient temples were found following the demolition of buildings around the main temple.
These centuries-old temples, which were earlier hidden, are now visible.
They will be preserved and opened to the public.
Modi, in his address during its foundation stone-laying, had also observed that it was difficult to take people into confidence to give their properties and ensure the project did not take political colour.
"I thank people of Kashi, who gave their properties for Baba. This is the biggest 'daan' they have given for Baba," the prime minister had said.