Travancore Devaswom Board’s 250-year-old Varanasi inn set for new lease of life
The dilapidated building’s renovation will allow the TDB to offer boarding and lodging arrangements, at nominal rates, in the spiritual and historical city.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Travancore Devaswom Board’s (TDB) inn and Dharamsala in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, is now getting a facelift. The two-storeyed, 4,000 sqft structure, on the banks of the Ganges, is more than 250 years old, and also houses a Hanuman temple.
The dilapidated building’s renovation will allow the TDB to offer boarding and lodging arrangements, at nominal rates, in the spiritual and historical city, which is also the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The inn is situated on a narrow lane in the Sonapura area between Chowka Ghat and Kedar Ghat. It belonged to the Travancore royal family and was used early on by pilgrims as a resting place.
But over time, it fell into disuse and ruin. On the intervention of the Kerala High Court, the structure was handed over to TDB. But its restoration failed to take off, over ambiguity regarding who will foot the bill. Earlier this month, the TDB sanctioned Rs 2.50 crore for the project. Subsequently, the HC appointed 75-year-old T S Subramoney as nodal officer. Yet, issues persist.
Speaking to TNIE, Subramoney pointed out that Kerala-based contractors refused to take up the renovation work, citing logistic hurdles. “Initially, I approached the Varanasi Development Authority, but they refused to undertake the work, but promised us guidance. I then approached the Indian Institute of Technology, which agreed to monitor the project. The HC also gave its nod. Qualified engineers of the TDB have taken stock of the situation,” said Subramoney, a former research officer with the state economics and statistics department.
Last year, TDB president K Ananthagopan, along with other top officials, visited Varanasi. He told TNIE that estimates are being prepared and the TDB is hoping to complete the renovation in a year’s time.
“As per the TDB manual, the inn should provide lodging facilities and food to at least ten pilgrims every day. There are two buildings, one comprising 18 rooms and the other with 12 rooms. During my visit to Varanasi, I invited the Malayalis based there for a visit. Many were surprised to know about the property. Some old-timers recalled that some land had been taken over for the construction of an airport. But we don’t have any records to prove it,” Ananthagopan rued. The Cochin Devaswom Board also has a two-storeyed inn in the city that is run by a local group, he added.
Early this year, the TDB sent a tantric to Varanasi. V Jaiganesh is now the manager of the sathram. “I took up the challenging role to restore the glory of the property,” said Jaiganesh, a Thiruvananthapuram Thekke Nada native. “We hardly get any pilgrims, given the dilapidated state of the structure. But I have started conducting pujas for my friends and family members who live elsewhere,” the 46-year-old said. “On Saturday, I had the privilege of offering prayers at the Pithila Theertham, which opens only once a year to coincide with Akshaya Tritiya. Prime Minister Modi was here on Sivaratri. The Ganga Pushkar Mela which happens once in 12 years is ongoing at Varanasi,” he said.