(Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh)
I remember how, a long time ago, either Arup or Amol mama had told me a story related to the marble beauty in the image above. Once upon a time, not so long ago, Swami Dayanand Saraswati had come to Kasi. (No, dates are neither given nor asked for in such stories). His aim was to establish his interpretation of the vedas. He knew that if he established what he interpreted of the vedas in Kasi, the spiritual capital of India, he will have won a great and certain victory for his cause. Adi Shankaracharya had come to Kasi for the same purpose two millennia ago.
So, when Swami Dayanand Saraswati came to Kasi, he challenged the pandits to a shastrartha (an argument based on one’s insights on and interpretations of the shastras). The challenge was accepted and the day and place were decided upon. On that day, they all reached Anand Park beside Durga Kund and Temple Complex. They had a long and heated shastrartha. In the end, when Kasi’s pandits found Dayanandji too strong in his arguments, they resorted to abuse and hurling of shoes and slippers (I was told this part of the story dripping pride in the cunning of the ever-victorious Banarsi) and the Swami had to leave Kasi precipitously. Today the marble monument in the park stands paying homage to the great sage. As if, after ejecting the person unceremoniously, the city was celebrating his erudition and his spirit.
To reach this park one has to climb the steps of Assi Ghat, some time in late afternoon, take tea at the base of the tree by Pizzeria, and walk towards Assi Crossing. On reaching the crossing, one should neither turn towards Lanka nor towards Bhadaini, but press on towards Abhay Cinema Hall. after crossing the cinema hall one reaches the temple set in a spacious compound that became remarkable for me a long time ago when somebody told me that Pandit Narayan Mishra lived there (he was alive then). Who did not know the gentleman? He was a very famous person, social worker and if I remember it correctly, a reputed politician too.
So, after walking a couple of metres towards Durga Kund, one reaches the Kurukshetra pond that roughly faces the Padmashri Complex. Padmashri used to be a very popular Cinema Hall in yester years. I remember having seen few movies there with the whole extended family as a child, it was converted into a residential complex like Shivam, Vijaya etc. Change, the destroyer of past, keeps tormenting the kasiphiles and terrorizing the kasilogists in many ways. Urballaghology being one of the central streams of this blog, change must be analysed closely here.
Many cinema halls of the olden times have lost their audience in this age of multiplexes and movie downloading. I don’t know whether Kasi has any multiplexes or not. I suspect that it does, or will soon have one. The business of the cinema halls has gone down. So, they either start showing B or C grade movies (like Natraj did before being taken down) or close down. After their closure, they are either converted into malls or residential apartments. Not only cinema halls, many hawelis and buildings of Kasi have fallen to such times or are waiting for their turn. The very idea of a Devaki Nandan Khatri’s Haweli falling to the fell hands of fate fills my mind up with pain and revulsion. But I do feel in my bones that something like that may happen soon.
Let’s return where we began. So, one has nearly reached Anand Park where the marble structure stands. facing its main entrance is Durga Kund. I remember the Kund in its prime. It was the centre of life of the whole locality. People used to rech the Kund in the morning and treated it as a substitute to Gangaji. They used to take bath, clean their clothes and go to the temple for daily darshans. The Kund has been converted into a reservoir of green rotting water now. There are fenced walls on all the sides and nobody is allowed to reach it. It’s ornamental and devoid of the warmth of life today.
The main road that runs by the temple goes to Lanka and BHU. But that’s a long circuit, not apart of this one. One may turn right instead and go to Gurudham Temple that lent its name to the colony around it. The first time somebody told me about the temple was a couple of years ago. I was on a mini-circuit of Kasi with Professor Das Mahapatra: a kasiphile and an energetic traveller. It was he who told me about the temple. We decidede to visit it some day. That day has not come yet. Then, coincidentally, the lot of snaps my friend Atma sent from Kasi on my continuous pestering also had two of the temple.
(Photos: Dr. A. P. Singh)