The ancient cities of Varanasi and Kyoto are custodians of their national cultural heritage. And on August 30, the first day of India’s Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s five-day visit to Japan, Varanasi and Kyoto signed a pact that will enable the world’s oldest living cosmological city to turn into a smart, modern eco-friendly city.
Varanasi, the holy Hindu city which Modi represents in the Indian parliament, will be developed as a ‘smart city’, using the experiences of Kyoto. Kyoto, home to over 2000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, is renowned for its ability to merge the modern with the ancient, and is symbolic of the development of Japan – where cutting edge technology is used to preserve their historic legacy.
On August 31, just hours before he flew to Tokyo for formal talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister Modi was given a presentation by Kyoto Mayor Daisaka Kadokawa on how the ancient tradition of Japan’s cultural capital has been preserved while developing it into a modern city. The mayor explained to an attentive Modi how residents of Kyoto helped clean the city and keep it free of litter. The prime minister was impressed to know that local students, as the mayor explained, proactively participated in cleaning up the city and reducing the garbage to 40%.
Prime Minister Modi also presented a map of historic Benares to the mayor of Tokyo. “In India we plan to work to develop heritage cities and that’s why I wanted to understand some things (in Kyoto),” tweeted Modi.
“The reason I came to Kyoto was primarily cultural. Kyoto has maintained its cultural heritage despite lot of troubles. Kyoto has incorporated modern needs with its cultural heritage. This city was built on the foundation of its cultural heritage. In India, we are also trying to create a heritage city,” Modi stressed.
Dressed in a flowing white kurta pyjama and bandhgala, Modi also visited the Toji and Kinkaku-ji temples, the iconic Buddhist shrines, and found time to offer prayers and meditate in their elegantly quiet premises.
The Kyoto-Varanasi pact has set the stage for rekindling civilizational ties between India and Japan, which will deepen the spiritual foundation for the burgeoning multi-pronged modern-day partnership.