Manmohan visits Kashi Vishwanath temple, Dasashwamedh Ghat

March 15th, 2008 - 12:33 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), March 14 (IANS) If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took time off his hectic schedule to reach here Friday, a day ahead of the Benaras Hindu University (BHU) convocation, he clearly had plans to visit places close to his heart. Manmohan Singh landed at the Babatpur airport here at 4.25 p.m., and was shortly thereafter flown in an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter to the BHU campus, from where he drive down to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

The prime minister and his wife Gulshan Kaur offered prayers at the ancient temple that is not only among the most revered of all Shiva temples in the country, but was also one of the three contentious Hindu shrines along with the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple at Mathura and the Ram Janmbhoomi temple at Ayodhya.

The temple adjoins the 17th century Gyanvapi mosque, said to have been erected on a razed portion of the Kashi-Vishwanath temple during the reign of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. And Hindu hardliners have been demanding restoration of that portion in recent years.

Former prime ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Chandra Shekhar, P.V. Narasimha Rao and H.D. Deve Gowda had also visited the shrine in the past.

After the prayers, Manmohan Singh went to Varanasi’s famous Dasashwamedh Ghat on the bank of the Ganga, with which he associates some cherished memories of his late father Gurmukh Singh. He attended the evening arti (prayer) at the ghat.

Sources close to the prime minister had earlier disclosed how his father spent a full month at the Dasashwamedh Ghat after he suddenly took seriously ill on coming here as a trader from his Nah village in Chakwal area of Punjab (now in Pakistan).

A saint here not only provided the stranded Sikh shelter but also nursed him back to health. Gurmukh Singh returned home after recovery.

A source close to Manmohan Singh confirmed that he was more than pleased to readily accept the invitation to be chief guest at the BHU convocation Saturday, as it would give him an opportunity to spend some time on the that banks of the Ganga which he sees as the place that gave his father a new lease of live.

The convocation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, after which the prime minister would fly back to Delhi around noon. The BHU, among India’s oldest universities, will also confer an honorary D.Litt. on the prime minister.

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