Legends if True

There is a temple in Kasi where I had never been, but have heard that it was infamous for the frequent disappearance of the devotees from there. Now I don’t know how much of it is true. I had never been there. I’ve already mentioned it. They say that the priests were involved in the process. I remember having seen a Dileep Kumaar and Balraj Sahani movie in which the actor playing Mr. Kumaar’s grandfather was a priest in an important temple of Kasi and used to get the pilgrims murdered in order to usurp whatever they had brought with them. I also remember having read it in Bana Rahe Banaras that disappearing pilgrims were not unheard of in Kasi. In the labyrinthine galis of Kasi, around the centre of the old city where the maze is the densest and the most confusing, stands that temple where dying lead one straight to moksha, and there was plenty of help around, even without one’s asking for it.

Raja Chet Singh is a legendary figure in Kasi. He was the King contemporary to Warren Hastings. I remember it from the famous couplet about Hastings’ fiasco in a skirmish with the Raja. Legends are woven around the heroes. So, there’s a legend of a tunnel connecting the Raja’s Palace upon the ghat that now bears his name, and his Ramnagar Fort on the other bank of Gangaji. In one corner of the huge Palace compound, if my memory serves well, there’s a flight of stone steps leading down from the ground level. The old timers tell stories of their childhood excursions into the underworld beyond that opening. Tunnels across rivers, dug deep in the river bed are not very uncommon today, but this tunnel, if not just a legend, beat them all by at least a century. Now, I am no civil engineer, but this much I can tell, that if it’s true then that tunnel is definitely very close to being one of the wonders of the world.

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