Modi"s Varanasi visit coincides with 100th anniv of Prince of Wales royal visit to Benares

  • | Tuesday | 14th December, 2021

Varanasi, Dec 14 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi"s ongoing visit to Varanasi has coincided with the 100th anniversary of the then Prince of Wales" royal visit to the temple town in December 1921, when he too was given a rousing reception and had formally opened new buildings of the Banaras Hindu University.  On December 13, Modi arrived here in the morning and later inaugurated the first phase of the ambitious Kashi Vishwanath Dham project after taking a holy dip in Ganga and offering prayers at the ancient Kashi Vishwanath temple.In a coincidence of sorts, exactly a hundred years ago, the then Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VIII, had arrived in Benares on December 13, 1921 as part of his royal tour of India.The prince had arrived in Bombay (now Mumbai) on November 17 and later visited Bikaner, Bharatpur, Lucknow and Allahabad, before arriving in Benares (now Varanasi) on a single-day visit, according to archival records.The British royal was accorded a rousing reception and a grand welcome by the Maharaja of Benares at his iconic Ramnagar Palace across the river after the prince arrived early morning in the city, famed for its ancient temples, especially the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which has now assumed a new avatar under the ambitious Kashi Vishwanath Corridor project of the government.The royal guest was received at the city station and from there the Prince went off in a car to historic Nadesar House.Nadesar House is a heritage property in Varanasi, and currently serving as a luxurious hotel, run by the Taj group.The Maharaja later made a state call on the Prince at Nadesar House, and then returned the call by visiting the king at his palace in Ramnagar, a major tourist attraction in the city today.According to "His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales" Tour in India 1921-22" published by the then British government in Delhi in 1923, the royal guest had arrived in Benares in the morning after travelling from Allahabad, where he attended a number of events on December 12.Prince Edward had then returned the visit of the Maharaja of Benares, fondly called by local people as "Kashi Naresh", by taking a river route from Nagwa Ghat on the main city side, and came back to the temple town side taking a motor boat, travelling via the Ganga river, amid ceremonial arches, decorated boats floating around adding to the festive atmosphere, according to the book.The prince had lunch with the Maharaja of Benares, who offered "itr", "paan" and "har" to the Prince before his departure. Perfume, betel leaves and marigold garlands have special significance in the culture of Benares, which is considered the spiritual capital of India.Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi, who was given a princely welcome on his arrival in the ancient city on Monday morning, with people showering rose petals and adulation and cheering and chanting "Har Har Mahadev" and "Modi, Modi" from balconies, verandahs and roof tops, also took a river route to travel during the course of his visit.He took a river cruise to reach Lalita Ghat on way to inaugurate Kashi Vishwanath Dham, and then in the evening enjoyed spectacular Ganga "arti" and light and sound show at the ghat from the comforts of the cruise, in the company of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and chief ministers of other BJP-ruled states.If the Prince was Wales was given a royal 31-gun salute on his arrival and departure from the Maharaja"s palace, the prime minister was honoured with a dazzling display of fireworks on the banks of the holy Ganga, whose water, Modi had offered as "jalabhishek" to Lord Shiva in the Kashi Vishwanath temple premises.From massive murals depicting art and cultural heritage of Benares to illumination of several buildings near the Kashi Vishwanath temple site, Varanasi has also been decked up to welcome Modi, whose visit ends Tuesday evening, after which he is scheduled to return to Delhi.According to the archival records, Prince Edward on December 13, 1921 had also visited the campus of the historic Banaras Hindu University, and was conferred an "honarary degree of D.Litt." in a special convocation ceremony held on the premises of the university, whose foundation stone was laid by Lord Hardinge on February 4, 1916. He was also offered a traditional Indian turban of gold silk during the function.The prince, on the occasion had also formally opened the new buildings of the university, according to the records."The building of the Arts College, the Physical Laboratory, the Power House, several workshops of the Engineering College, three hostels and some residential quarters were all ready by 1921. The formal opening ceremony of the new buildings was performed on the December 13, 1921, by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales," according to website of the BHU."It is my proud privilege, as Chancellor of the Benares Hindu University, to preside at this important function, when the University is honouring itself by conferring its highest degree on the illustrious Heir to the British Throne, and to extend on behalf of the University, which represents in a special degree, the whole of Hindu India, a loyal and enthusiastic welcome to Your Royal Highness," the then Maharaja of Mysore had said in his address at the function, as quoted in the official tour book of 1923.BHU campus is located near Nagwa Ghat, and Modi"s evening cruise which had started from Sant Ravidas Ghat had crossed by Nagwa Ghat as well.The prince had visited India as the British Empire"s ambassador on behalf of his father King George V to thank India for the essential role it had played during the First World War. Moreover, the visit was intended to strengthen bonds between Britain and its Empire at a time of mounting calls for India"s independence.Prior to Edward VIII, Benares has played host to other British royal guests too, including the then Prince and Princess of Wales (later King George V and Queen Mary) who visited the city during their 1905-6 India tour and also stayed at Nadesar House. And, during his royal visit to India in 1876-77, the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) had also visited the holy city and also laid the foundation stone of a hospital which was originally named after him. PTI KND ZMN

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