Varanasi: Lauding the resilience of India's civilisational heritage here, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said tyrants like Aurangzeb tried to destroy Kashi but were consigned to the black pages of history while the ancient city is now writing a new chapter of its glory.
In a speech after inaugurating the Kashi Vishwanath Dham, which has renovated and expanded the temple's premises, Modi said India is now stepping out of the "inferiority" complex brought on it by centuries of slavery.
He asserted that the new Kashi corridor will give a decisive direction to the country and lead it to a bright future.
Arriving in the holy city, also his parliamentary constituency, Modi paid obeisance at the Kaal Bhairav Temple and then took a dip in the Ganga, from where he collected holy water for worship at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
In the evening, hours after the inauguration, he watched a spectacular Ganga aarti on the ghats, from a cruise boat that also carried chief ministers of BJP-run state. Fireworks lit the sky.
A new history is being created, he said in the speech that mentioned Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Muslim invader Salar Masud and British governor-general Warren Hastings.
Sultanates rose and fell but Benaras remained, he said.
"Tyrants attacked this city, tried to destroy it. History is witness to Aurangzeb's atrocities, his terror. He tried to change civilisation with the sword. He tried to crush culture with fanaticism.
"'But the soil of this country is different from the rest of the world. Here if an Aurangzeb comes, a Shivaji also rises," Modi said. The PM raised the chant of 'Har Har Mahadev', associated with Lord Shiva, several times.
"If a Salar Masud marches on, warriors like Raja Suheldev make him realise the power of our unity," he said. People of Varanasi forced Hastings to escape on an elephant's back, he added.
"See how the times change. Today, those synonymous with terror have been consigned to the black pages of history while my Kashi marches ahead and is writing a new chapter of its glory," the prime minister said.
Whenever the city has taken a turn, the country's fate has also changed, he added.
Many historians believe that Aurangzeb had ordered pulling down the temple to build a mosque. Modi also lauded Rani Ahilyabai Holkar for rebuilding the temple and Sikh king Ranjit Singh for gold-plating its domes.
He said the new complex of the Kashi Vishwanath Dham is not just a grand building, but a symbol of the "Sanatan culture" of India, its spiritual soul antiquity and traditions.
Modi expressed his gratitude to workers involved in the construction project, saying they did not let even the Covid pandemic stop them. In an interaction, he showered a group of them with flower petals.
The visit triggered a loaded remark by Akhilesh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party is the main opposition to the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh, where Assembly elections are due in less than three months.
Not just one month. He should stay there for two months, three months, he said, when told by reporters in Etawah that Modi was in Varanasi and the government planned month-long celebrations.
That's the place to stay. When the end nears, that's where one stays - in Benaras, Yadav added, prompting the BJP to call the remark cruel and uncivilised.
In his speech at the temple complex, the prime minister said if India is building a Ram Temple and the Kashi Vishwanath Dham, it is also laying down thousands of kilometres of optical fibre in sea, building millions of houses for the poor and working to send people to space.
He also recalled the work done on Buddhist and Sikh pilgrimage centres.
"The new India has heritage as well as development. It is not only proud of its culture but has equal belief in its capabilities," he said.
The premises, he said, is a confluence of the ancient and new. It is a testimony to ''our capabilities and nothing is impossible if there is a firm resolve''.
"The strength of the destroyers can never be bigger than India's 'shakti' and 'bhakti'. The world will look at us in the same way we look at ourselves," he said.
Prime Minister Modi also urged people to commit themselves to 'swachhta' (cleanliness), 'srijan' (creation and innovation) and continuous effort towards an 'aatmanirbhar' (self-reliant) India.
The prime minister said earlier the Kashi Vishwanath temple area was only 3,000 square feet which has now enlarged to about 5 lakh square feet.
He said Kashi is "imperishable" and is under the patronage of Lord Shiva.
People chanted Har Har Mahadev' as the PM's carcade rolled through the city. Modi also stopped at one place to accept felicitations.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP president J P Nadda and hundreds of seers and saints from across the country attended the ceremony.