The narrow alleys leading up to Varanasi’s Kashi Viswanath temple, seething with humanity, materiel, holy cattle and the decaying detritus of religious offering, is a microcosm of Varanasi—ancient, unchanging and unflappable, one of the world’s great pilgrimage towns. Even Covid-19 restrictions haven’t silenced its historic lanes: over 100 people are engaged in the ongoing work of the Kashi Viswanath Corridor project, a five lakh square feet area being developed to provide access to the temple. Loud, juddering earth-movers and heavy dumpers often drown out the sound of temple bells and conches in the labyrinthine quarter.
New structures have sprouted in the lanes, replacing some heritage buildings, as serpentine bylanes are widened for spacious pathways from the three ghats on the Ganga to the Vishwanath temple. The corridor, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will cost an estimated Rs 600-crores, accommodate lakhs of devotees and enable a direct view of the temple from the ghats.