Bum Bhola: Vijay Nagram Ghat, Kasi

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A narrow tunnel like passageway links Vijay Nagram Ghat with the parallel gali that leads to Kedar Temple. In my childhood I used to be drawn towards the passage because of the (then) eerie quality it had: its walls returned echoes of the sounds made.

The point from where light is coming in the image above is the opening to the ghat. There are electric bulbs that fight with the darkness  inadequately at night. Then, if there’s an electricity cut on a night of no or faint moon light, the whole passage becomes pitch dark. To add complication to the passage, tramps and beggars spend their nights lying by the sides. So, a person unaware of the fact may actually step over them, and a person fully aware and conscious faces the dilemma of whether not using the passage at all or navigate sans light in the dark. Then, after crossing the passage, he reaches a flight of around seventy stairs leading to Gangaji, but no stair is visible. There is a definite danger of his stumbling down and, in the least, breaking a couple of bones. But then, when he succeeds, he finally reaches his favourite spot from where to see nearly the whole ghat-scape of Kasi.

In the images below, the spine of stone slabs over bricks that runs towards Gangaji is very important. It is on one of these slabs that the person finds his favourite spot, in many cases, every single healthy, non-rainy evening of his life.

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In the sunlight, the ghat is teeming with life, light and colours. The image to the right is VN Ghat. The ghat on the left hand side is Kedar Ghat. Generally crowd can be seen on ghats in mornings and evenings. The people who come there normally come to take bath in Gangaji. Vijay Nagram Ghat is different. The evening crowd here is generally of people who come for their constitutional adda. The steps of the ghat and the stone slabs on the spine running through the middle of the images are covered by the people who have their favourite spots too.

Young boys to old men they all come there. But yes, I have seen very few women there. No female adda goers on ghats, it seems! Probably because  the traditional society of the people residing within the radius of a walking distance from ghats does not encourage their females roaming out like their males. Moreover, being a male, I never thought about the strange phenomenon of no female addas in the public spaces of ghats or paan/tea shops. These places are monopolies of males. In Banaras that I knew, or the part of the city I belong to and speak about, females have belonged to homes. The scenario is changing gradually but the old city remains traditional till date.

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