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Wait for salvation in Kashi to get Shooter June 21st, 2019 from Times of India

Wait for salvation in Kashi

It is believed that death in Kashi means liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. For centuries, the sacred city’s labyrinthine lanes have beckoned the devout in their last days or, in several cases, their last years. But only a few are able to find space in ‘moksha centres’ or hospices where rooms are "reserved for death". With dozens of applications daily in the handful of moksha bhavans, the wait list can run into several years. But all that’s set to change. A new site for salvation that's coming up will be both "more sacred" and have enough rooms to make the wait shorter.

As part of the Kashi Vishwanath Dham (corridor) project, a government-funded moksha bhavan is being built, with equal number of rooms for men and women, that will accommodate about 50 people. Chief executive officer of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Vishal Singh told TOI that while one of the existing moksha centres in Kashi only allows couples, the other is for those on their deathbed. The latest moksha bhavan will have no such riders.

But what truly renders the new centre different from existing ones is the fact that it will come up in the most sacred part of Kashi — the Avimukt circle that falls between the Kashi Vishwanath temple and Manikarnika Ghat.

The three-storied building will also house a hospital and accommodation would be provided on first come first serve basis. “To develop the hospice at the most sacred site, the building of an ashram — Vriddha Sant Seva Ashram — has been purchased for Rs 2.5 crore,” Singh said. The dilapidated building has already been demolished and the new one will come up by 2021.

M B Shastri, an 80-year-old retired physics professor from Hyderabad, who has been staying with his wife at Mumukshu Bhavan in Assi area for the past 15 years, received the news with joy. “Kashi is the source of eternal light and those who die here attain moksha, according to our shastras. This comes as a boon for salvation seekers.”

But high demand for accommodation at these bhavans means not everyone gets a berth. Vinod Kumar Agrawal, manager , at the 40-room Mumukshu Bhavan, which was established in 1920 by Kashi Mumukshu Bhavan Sabha, said at least 50 people have been on the waiting list for the past five years.

Each year hundreds of people stream into Varanasi to breathe their last. An additional "mukti bhavan" will go a long way in helping them, said ashram officials at the other two bhavans.

Spread over four acres, Mumukshu Bhavan has a Sanskrit school, meditation enclaves and a charitable hospital. Four kilometers away is the Kashilabh Mukti Bhavan in Mishirpokhara that was established in 1958 by the Dalmiya Charitable Trust. But here only those in their deathbed get lodging. “If someone shows improvement in health, they are told to leave after a week,” said Anurag Shukla, manager of Kashilabh Mukti Bhavan.

Moksha centres run on donations and with their nominal charges are viable options for those seeking long-term stay. For instance, couples at Mumukshu Bhavan only pay Rs 100 plus electricity bill per month. Staying at Kashilabh Mukti Bhavan is free. In contrast, guesthouses in the city charge upwards of Rs 350 per night and hotels over Rs 1,000 for a night.

Senior priest of Kashi Vishwanath temple Amarnath Upadhyaya said, “Kashivas or living in Kashi includes four elements - stay here, be in the company of scholars, consume Gangajal and worship Lord Shiva. Those who adhere to all four are liberated from the cycle of birth and rebirth by the blessings of Lord Tarkeshwara, one of the forms of Lord Vishwanath.”

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