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Mahashivratri: Fusion of Religious And Poll Fervour Engulfs Kashi as Devotees, Politicians Throng Holy City

By: Pragya Kaushika

News18.com

Last Updated: March 01, 2022, 22:03 IST

Varanasi

A group was seen taking a palki with Lord Bhairavnath’s idol to show it to Lord Vishwanath. Pic/News18

A group was seen taking a palki with Lord Bhairavnath’s idol to show it to Lord Vishwanath. Pic/News18

Lakhs of devotees had started queuing up at 2am with lines extending up to several kilometres. Many election candidates had also arrived to seek blessings for counting day.

It was the first Mahashivratri that Varanasi celebrated after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the re-development of the first phase of the Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor. The administration was overwhelmed as lakhs of devotees thronged the religious site synonymous with the city.

As the temple bells rang, the whole city appeared to be celebrating the day with pandits performing puja and decorating the Shivlings all around.

Almost every crossing or byway had its own celebration of Mahashivratri. Many in fact had rented DJ music systems for the children to dance to Lord Shiva’s bhajans.

Chock-a-block

For many, it was a rare sight as lakhs of devotees started queuing up at 2am to ensure that they were the first to have Lord Shiva’s darshan. Some of these queues extended for three to four kilometres as the morning crowd started arriving at the temple.

And with Varanasi going to the polls in the last phase of the Uttar Pradesh elections on March 7, the celebrations were heightened by the focus of the government and administration on the holy city. People from Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra were seen bringing their own Lord Shiva idols and palkis to the temple.

A group of women dancing in a circle as they chanted bhajans said that they have come as they are bhakts of Lord Bhairavnath whereas another group was seen taking a palki with Lord Bhairavnath’s idol to show it to Lord Vishwanath.

There were also young boys from Delhi Technical University who had come to visit the temple and to see the new corridor. “We had a day off and we wanted to have darshan at the temple, so we came,” said Ankit, a student of DTU.

Right on queue

While the administration ensured proper barricading, exit and entry routes and an app to get the exact number of devotees expected to arrive for temple management to prepare for the rush, there were people who had been standing in a queue since 8 in the morning and even at noon, the gate of the temple was a kilometre away.

According to divisional commissioner Deepak Aggarwal, by 2pm, approximately 2.73 lakh devotees had visited the temple.

Brajbhushan Ojha, professor at Banaras Hindu University and member and trustee Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Nyas, said that there is a jump of 20 per cent in the number of devotees following the corridor construction. “People are coming because of spirituality and faith but many have come to see the new corridor and also linking of Ganga to the corridor has attracted many devotees. This includes even those coming from abroad,” he said.

Seeking divine intervention for polls

With the counting of votes polled in five state elections to be held on March 10, there were rare sightings of some who were seeking the priests’ blessings to emerge victorious.

One of them was Rajesh Pathela, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate from the Muktsar assembly seat in Punjab. Lying at the feet of the temple priest, the candidate sought blessings for March 10.

BJP’s campaign around the temple

The party’s mahila morcha led by Saroj Pandey and national secretary Vijaya Rahatkar had groups that took out ‘damru’ yatras on the temple road. While they celebrated Shivratri, the chants of Modi-Yogi echoed all around. Scores of women asked those in queues to ask the women of the houses to vote for Modi and Yogi.

“It is a huge occasion for the residents of the city who are also voters. Plus, there are many in long queues to pray to Baba Vishwanath from surrounding areas and seats that are going to the polls in the last two phases. It was an act to connect voters with the party and show what the BJP has done for the Hindu religious places of faith,” said a senior party functionary.

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first published:March 01, 2022, 21:56 IST
last updated:March 01, 2022, 22:03 IST