In the ancient city of Varanasi, which draws pilgrims from all over the world, stands a unique ‘Bharat Mata Mandir’ – a temple with a marble map of undivided India.
The temple, which often gets missed by the teeming pilgrims thronging the city is, however, a favourite among foreign tourists who are frequent visitors to the city regarded as a spiritual capital of the country.
Located in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus, it was constructed by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta between 1918 and 1924 and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on October 25, 1936.
In the centre of the building, there is a map of undivided India comprising Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma (now Myanmar) and Ceylone (now Sri Lanka) on makrana marble.
The interesting feature of the map is the detailed layout of mountain ranges and peaks, 450 to be precise, plains, water bodies, rivers, oceans and plateaux among other geographical bodies which form this part of the world and its scale and depth mentioned alongside.
Pointing out at the Mt Everest and K2 peaks, the Great Wall of China, small pecks in the oceans around the sub-continent forming even the smallest of islands with the help of a laser torch, caretaker Raju Singh said that on the Republic Day and the Independence Day, the water bodies depicted in the map are filled with water and the land areas are decorated with flowers.
It was constructed under the guidance of Durga Prasad Khatri by 30 workers and 25 masons and their names are mentioned on the plaque in one corner of the building.
One inch of the area in the map covers 6.40 miles on land and from a window installed at the ground level in the basement, the difference among the heights of the various peaks is clearly visible, Singh said.
Interestingly, Rashtra Kavi Maithili Sharan Gupt, one of the most renowned modern Hindi poets, wrote a poem on the inauguration of the temple which is also put up on a board in the building.
Though Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been taken up under the Smart City project with a number of schemes, and Rs 1.33 crore has been sanctioned under the National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) yojna when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited here on January 4.
A certain amount of money is earmarked for beautification work around the building.
“There is an urgent need to take up restoration work inside the building where there are rare maps of India on the walls during various rulers in history for which INTACH experts had also visited it some time ago,” Singh said.
The prime minister is a frequent visitor to his constituency and in case he visits the building even once, it will be of great help also for highlighting its importance, Singh pointed out.
The building is presently being looked after Gupta’s family, he added.