I don’t know the history of these buildings. For me, they have always been there. The four storeys and the central position of the building on the summit of the gradient with Bans Phatak on one side and Bulanala on the other, make it inevitable that whoever comes that way can’t miss the huge hills of these houses rising before eyes. There are two rivers in Kasi. One of them is known all over the world. The other one, fluvidrome (street-river), is known in its entirety only to the Kasiphiles.
It is on the main course of the fluvidrome (street-river) connecting Chowk with Godowlia that this hill is located. A building of four storeys is not very uncommon in Kasi. Its pakki mahaal has many areas that have a whole gali of buildings that high. It’s the position of these buildings at the highest point of the steep rise of Bans Phatak that makes these buildings central and remarkable. As one reaches Chowk Police Station that’s just opposite to these buildings, one sees a wide pool from where the rivers originate and travel downwards, towards south and north through the city. The distributaries keep branching to right and left on the descent and the tributaries keep meeting the main stream on the ascent. These distributaries and tributaries are generally galis that wind their long tortuous way to the defining river of Kasi: Gangaji.
Looking at the images above, one would be in a better position to appreciate the origin of the metaphor. The streets above are rising towards the central plateau of Chowk. People pour in as the day matures. The volume of the flow is the maximum twice: two floods per day, at around ten a.m. and at around seven p.m. Galis are the narrow streamlets that bring the persons and vehicles that fill the fluvidromes. Some of these galis themselves rival some lesser fluvidromes in their peak daily flow.
The shorter and smaller streamlets start at the street and end, after bends and branchings, into the central river: the mother Ganga. One such gali can be seen in the image to the left above. The image to the righ is of another gali: comparatively longer and broader. This gali is like many other galis that lead towards any of the famous, central or important shrines of Kasi. There are shops catering to the needs of the people of the locality and of those who come to worship daily in or occasionally visit the shrine.
(Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh) (Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh)
There is one very strong similarity between these galis and streamlets: there are bridges at places to connect the two banks, houses in this case. There are many bridges on the streamlets of the galis in Kasi, just as there are bridges on Kasinath’s river.
The gali’s openings onto Gangaji, appear like the mouth of the river delta: vary narrow at times, and numerous. People carried from all over the city are brought to the central river of Kasi through these streamlets. They reside in the houses that line these galis.
The building-hills of Kasi, especially on the riverfront, are a unique and distinctive marker of the city. The river that comes from the Himalayas, breaking its way through the mountain ranges with resilient lofty peaks, meets peaks in miniature on the plains, in Kasi.