Varanasi, a historic city in central India, attracts pilgrims from all over the world. Varanasi, one of the most important religious centers and the holiest of all Hindu towns, is home to a plethora of sacred monuments, including temples, forts, and river banks, but one that is often ignored is a shrine dedicated to the country itself.
Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta, the university’s founder and liberation warrior, established the Bharat Mata Mandir (literally, Mother India Temple) on the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith campus in Varanasi. Instead of worshipping a god or goddess, the temple features a massive marble topographical map of the Indian subcontinent. The deity of the temple is the map.
Bharat Mata Mandir’s construction began in 1918 and was finished in 1924. Mahatma Gandhi laid the foundation stone for the temple in 1936.
On the temple’s floor is a large relief map depicting the united Indian subcontinent. Mountains, grasslands, and oceans are depicted in an exaggerated vertical scale on the map. It even depicts the country’s continental shelf and different islands. The oceans around the continent are filled with water and the land areas are decked with flowers every year on the occasion of India’s Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations.
Aside from modern India, the map depicts Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, based on the nationalistic concept of “Akhand Bharat” (Undivided India), which holds that all of the countries listed are one country.
Many Hindu nationalists still dream of a grand Indian reunion more than seventy years after India’s division and multiple wars with Pakistan.