Devotees visiting the historic Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi will no longer have to jostle for space when they walk through the narrow lanes that lead to the temple. The religious endowment department of the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to give the famous temple a makeover, which includes cleaning and widening the lanes and a beautification of the area around the temple.

Navneet Sehgal, secretary of the religious endowment department, said that an architect from Varanasi has been roped in to work on ways to decongest the temple surroundings and explore possibilities of a wider route toward it.

The government-managed trust that runs the temple since 1983, Sri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Nyas Parishad has approved the complete gold plating of the temple dome and the UP government has undertaken a programme to clear the surroundings of the temple, which has one of the 12 Shiva Jyotirlingas (stone icon of Lord Shiva).

Other than the gold plating of the dome, the temple tower’s bottom portion and the towers of Sri Bhubaneshwar, Sri Tarakeshwar and Sri Dhandapani temples will also be gold plated. It is estimated that 19 kg of gold and 4,000 kg of copper will be required for the project.

The existing temple structure, which has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, was first built by the Maratha monarch Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780. It has half of its sandstone dome covered in gold.

“The roads leading to the temple need to be widened in order to facilitate pilgrims and also deal with an emergency situation. We have identified nine buildings and complexes that we plan to acquire and demolish in order to widen the road,” Sehgal said.

The trust also plans to beautify the small temples of Kaal Bhairav, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri that are located in the same complex. The government is also working on a project that would allow devotees to get a darshan of the Shivling, which is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference and presently housed in a silver altar.

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