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Kashi Corridor: Yet Another Heritage “Devalaya” Being Razed To Ground

I received a sudden call from mahant Anjani Kumar Tiwari of ‘Putliwala-Shivala’, located at CK 35-31, Bansphatak, Varanasi. In his stoic calmness, he stated that his temple may not survive the ‘hammer’ of the government-controlled Kashi Vishwanath Temple administration as it falls within the premises of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor (KVC). He added that the temple dates back to the sixteenth century, and had idols of beautifully crafted ‘putli’/ ‘pari’, simply the fairies or extra celestial bodies.

The Mahant had a stay order, but the contractor still directed the laborers to hit the parikrama path of the intricately carved Temple. The Mahant was pushed to talk to the government-appointed CEO of KVC, Sunil Verma, who of course did not respond. As the mehant narrated his ordeal, his voice occasionally was interrupted by sounds of hammer hitting the Temple. 

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The now demolished doorway with three shikharas atop (on the right)

The Temple in its original form was surrounded by the Pradakshina Patha, which had an enclosure wall surrounding itself. Next to the mandapa, there stood doorway with three beautiful shikharas atop. The enclosure wall of the temple is composed of a ‘decorative arcade’, with meticulously crafted columns. The cusped arches and the spandrels were covered entirely by interlaced floral patterns. Between each arch, a beautiful stone image of ‘pari’ or fairies was placed, each playing a different musical instrument. These fairies even adorned the exterior of the temple enclosure walls. 

Fairies (now missing) at the exterior of the wall (now demolished) of the enclosure.
Missing fairies from the enclosure wall, now demolished

When the author last visited the said temple, it was purposefully made to look out of place by the ugly walls of the newly constructed KVC. The beautiful enclosure of the Temple along with the doorway that had three shikars was demolished like it never existed. Vigrahas in the outer walls were missing except that of Bajrang Bali, the one carved in Red Munga. He rested on one of the columns.

The shikhar of the Mandapa was damaged by careless handling, and other vigrahas in the outside wall of the sanctum were damaged by the debris of construction. The cops sat with boots on, at the place where the enclosure once stood. Now, only the sanctum of the temple survived within the premise of thick walls and iron grills of the corridor. However, devotees had no access to the deity and now, the temple would, like many others, vanish in thin air. 

Heritage enclosure replaced by grills, Damaged Hanuman Vigraha resting in the Mandapa (when author last visited)

It is indeed a very sorry state of affairs, for the monuments, temples, and artifacts that are more than a century old are not only legal ‘Heritage’, but such rare temples are apple to the eyes of photographers, conservationists, and aesthetics lovers. 

Much has been spoken about the antiquity and tradition of Kashi. It has been projected that Kashi Vishwanath Corridor inaugurated last year by the PM, has resurrected the lost tradition of the most important sacred space of Hindus. But glitters of light have failed to hide the ugly dark reality of the corridor from the dharmik Hindus who have been living the culture of Kashi. Many protesting voices against the destruction of more than a hundred temples of pauranik importance and more than a thousand shivlingas have dampened because of the general apathy of the government and the people for its heritage and sacred spaces. 

Although Temple officials with their powerful and ever-present machinery have successfully advertised that they ‘discovered’ devalayas and dev-vigrahas while clearing the ‘encroachment’ by the ‘greedy brahmins’, these ‘hidden gems; would be open for public view once they are preserved following the protocols of ASI and dictum of Dharmashastras. Reality is very far from the official statements and documentaries.

Those temples were well documented in research by scholars of international repute like Rana Singh or Neil Gutschow etc. Local Pundit Kuber Nath Sukul had documented every pauranik dev-vigrah, and shivlingas along with their address in his Magnum Opus ‘Varanasi Vaibhav’ half a century ago. The pujari who did the ‘seva-rajbhog-arti’ of the deity for generations, was being systematically denigrated as an ‘encroacher’ by the corridor loyalists to kill any protesting voice.

if we see case of this particular temple ‘Putliwala Shivala’ , the walls that supposedly ‘encroached’ the temple were as old as the temple itself. As if such character assassination of Kashi Wasis was not enough, many of the ‘discovered’ temples have been demolished to make Hotels. 

No developed country in the world hammers its beautiful sculpted temples and the deities that are repositories of faith of people. European countries like Switzerland even preserve its medieval ‘huts’ and tourists all around the world throng to relive the time of yore. But officials in India, especially those who are in charge of the ‘oldest living city, Kashi’ have a deviant idea of development. 

While I am writing, at least three centuries old  ‘PutliBai Shivala’ is being hammered by the government-controlled KVC administration. The government acquired the Mahant’s house with the promise that the temple would not be demolished and that once the corridor is completed, he would be allowed to continue to serve the deity. From the fate of other Pauranik temples, it was clear to the Mahant that his temple would not survive.

The government has already demolished the enclosure of the temple; the boundary wall was not ordinary, as several ‘antique’ Dev-vigrah and ‘fairies’ resided in the wall. Mahant told the writer of this article that thirty-six such ‘fairies’ which adorned the wall of the temple are missing. Notably, every such fairy is said to have a value of crores in the international market.   

The modus operandi for the ‘development’ of this particular temple remains the same.  Hundreds of police personnel are dotting the place, not letting anyone click pictures. Local brahmins already accepted the fate of their sacred space, many have their lips sealed for the ‘greater good’ of the ‘Hindu-Rashtra’.

The owner of the temple remains isolated in his fight. And Hindus whose hearts usually smolder at the very sight of the Mosque at Gyanvapi might be sharpening their philosophical sword to explain how the demolition of the ‘Putli Wala-Shivala’ is the will of Vishweshwar himself. 

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