Overlooking the tranquil waters of the Ganga, on the Tulsi Ghat and in the shadow of the blasts at the Sankatmochan temple of which he’s the mahant, Veerbhadra Mishra greets an unending line of well-wishers come to express solidarity. His temple, he says, has always been open to all. "There is no bar on caste, gender or nationality; even Muslims come here. Yeh aastha ka kendra hai
(it is a centre of faith)," he says. "For 400 years, this has been Kashi’s most holy spot." Violated by the blasts, he adds, ruefully, "I don’t know what I’ll do about the security now."
A few kilometres away, at the Madrassa Yatimkhana Mazharul-Uloom—an institution which belongs to the Deoband school and of which he is a product—Maulana Abdul Batin Nomani, the mufti of Benares, sits cross-legged on a carpet in his office. The fourth in his family to succeed to the post, he says: "So far, the peace has held, but we need to be alert to ensure that it continues to do so."
For the mahant, his immediate concern is how to preserve the open spirit of the shrine he presides over....