Kashi to Kyoto - Mission Possible?

Kashi to Kyoto - Mission Possible?


On a recent 5 day visit to Japan, India's PM Modi inked a pact with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for the development of Kashi to Kyoto. Development has always been high on the agenda for the NDA government and this is the latest step in the direction. Protocol was broken to ink the pact, as the PMs met in the heritage, smart-city of Kyoto to carry this agreement further and discuss it completely. An MoU has now been signed between the two nations to develop the holy city of Kashi/Varanasi on the same lines as Kyoto.

The Japanese heritage city of Kyoto has retained its Buddhist links despite massive development. Now Kashi will be developed to retain its ancient heritage while acquiring modern amenities and facilities. The MoU is to be followed by the Smart Heritage City programme between the 2 countries. As per this programme, Kyoto will give information and assistance in conservation plus modernisation of the temple city. It will also seek to boost art, academics and culture of the city.

Yes, it is possible...

The city of 10,00 shrines or Kyoto is a good example of development without compromising on conservation. Varanasi also boasts of several ancient and holy temples as well as the ghats. The intrinsic similarities between the 2 cities make Kyoto a good model to follow for Kashi in some respects. It will be easy for the programme experts from Kyoto to chalk out the areas where Kashi can work on development without hampering its ancient cultural heritage.

Both the cities have ancient rivers and they themselves are holy harking back to ancient times. Rivers are lifelines for civilisation and cultures. India's holy river Ganga is polluted beyond help but the experts from Kyoto could provide tips for environmental conservation that may just rescue it.

Smart cities aim at rejuvenation of the culture of the city along with its technology. Kyoto is a good example of a city which has world class amenities and an ancient culture living side by side. Pacts such as these will also increase Kashi's international exposure to experts who can provide knowledge about how to rescue India's holy city.

Public opinion in Varanasi itself is also supportive. Kyoto is the epitome of living Japanese culture and Kashi is the city of temples. Lateral planned expansions while preserving the ecology of the city will bring about sustainable development. This is wholly in line with development that is responsible and has a conscience. This is likely to elicit cooperation from NGOs and city leaders as well.

Artists of Kashi have welcomed the plan as far as it protects the heritage of the city. This includes dance, music and fairs as well as festiivals. Development of tourism will also boost Kashi's economy and industries. Kashi to Kyoto has found support in many quarters.

No, it is a difficult task!

Kyoto and Kashi have been likened to chalk and cheese by some analysts. Kyoto has undergone modernisation while retaining its Buddhist heritage. Varanasi has not kept pace with development at all. Superior infrastructure such as clean roads and tree lined boulevards are a reality in Kyoto. They are only a dream in Kashi as of now. Pacts and agreements are nothing new. It is the effective implementation of these that can yield good results and this includes the proposed Kashi to Kyoto transformation. Whether this happens remains to be seen.

Kyoto has already achieved infrastructure milestones such as the Late Biwa canal while rivers Yodo, Katsura and Kamogawa flow through the city. The Ganga is choked and polluted to the extent that some say it is beyond repair and they may not be far from the truth. A few experts cannot handle the monumental problems being faced by India's longest and holiest river in Kashi. Whether the Ganga clean-up poll promise translates into action is also attracting naysayers. Even the SC voiced its concerns regarding the clean-up of the holy river recently.

Kashi is a medley of colors and cultures from the Aghors and Vaishnavism to the first sermon of Buddha and the silent strength of Jain saint Parashavnath, rhyming with the beautious work of ancient Muslim weavers of the city. From Ramayana to the Maulvis and from BHU to the ghats, Kashi is a distinctive city with a distinct identity. To retain this identity while bring in the development is a challenge not to be scoffed at. Pacts are all very well, but action is what we need right now.


Any renewal programme for Kashi must take the good, the bad and the ugly into account before proceeding further. Whether this is mission possible or impossible remains a elusive answer at present. The way things are moving, it could go either way, much like the dynamic vibrancy and pluralism of Kashi, India's holy temple city where millions converge in a faith that binds them to a higher power.
Post your comment


  • RE: Kashi to Kyoto - Mission Possible? -Mukteshwar (09/08/14)
  • Every thing is possible if one has made the commitment to do that. Every mission depends on its soldiers, if the soldiers involved in the mission contribute their 100 % honesty . This mission is not impossible but yes it is difficult, as today we are having more dishonest workers than honest . This Modi's mission of Varanasi to Kyoto is possible if everyone working on this mission give their full contibution . Not only the people who are working on this mission are required to give their full contirbution but also the people for whom this mission is being started should contribute little from their side . As this mission is going to give the people of varanasi a lot of advantages in all respect . Like if varanasi will be a developed city there will be more companies which will produce many other opportunities for the people from all the sectors of the society .
  • RE: Kashi to Kyoto - Mission Possible? -Teena Bhatia (09/08/14)
  • PM Narendra Modi visited Japan which fetched him lots of praise as he brought huge investment of USD 35 billion to country. The huge investment will be utilized for completion of various projects especially building of smart cities and infrastructure development. The first target city is Kashi which as per PM Narendra Modi is set to go Kyoto way. It is not going to be a cakewalk for PM Narendra Modi. Let us analyze why it seems mission impossible in India:

    • Kashi and Kyoto are different in terms of modernization, transportation and infrastructural growth.

    • The people of the Varanasi are not open-minded and their conservative approach is the biggest hurdle in growth. It is clearly visible by their act of throwing wastes in River Ganga which is key source of drinking water in Varanasi.

    • Kyoto city was able to preserve its monuments and temples during the modernization process whereas it will be a tough task in Varanasi as the heritage sites are in dilapidated State. Any harm to existing glory can lead to disputes in city.

    • Kyoto has got well designed transportation structure known for its neatness whereas Kashi is famous for its squalid state.

    • Ghats in Kashi are in worst shape whereas Kyoto has got number of navigable waterways and canals which acts as significant infrastructure milestone.