The New Kasi Circuit 5

Crossing the Bengali Tola region on the narrow fluvidrome that runs between Dashshwamedh Ghat and Kedar Ghat, we reach Mansarovar area. As there are many Andhra Ashrams and Kumarswamy Mutts in the whole Mansarovar-Kedar Ghat zone, pilgrims from the southern states of India may be seen in large numbers in the galis here. There are a couple of Idli-Dosa-Vada cum tea shops and many paid teelphone booths and internet cafes lining the main gali. The shops here also double as addas for the locals. Kasiphiles, old and new, gather at these addas: some of them twice a day. They pass these shops while going to Gangaji for their daily dip that’s known as Ganga Snan. While passing their own adda, they may slow down and greet their fellow spot dwellers with a loud Mahadev ( shortening of Har Har Mahadev) that gets the same greeting in return.

There came a time in Kasi when Jai Sri Ram competed with Kasi’s unique and apt greeting of hailing its king and central deity: Mahadev. The Saffron Wave was rising and Hindutva was becoming the buzzword in the years this competition took place. Jai Sri Ram was created with a slight change in the old and popular greeting term in the Hindi belt: Jai SiyaRam. In any study of urballaghology this phenomenon of  rise and fall of a traditional greeting style, followed by its eventual rise, will be deeply researched. This post has only touched the surface. Today, Har Har Mahadev has regained its old status in Kasi.

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Just as one passes one of the more popular Idli-Dosa-Vada shops in the gali, one reaches one of the most voluminous fluvidromes of the neighbourhood: Kedar Ghat Gali. In the image above, a part of the gali can be seen near Chowki Ghat. It goes straight to Kedar Ghat and its temple. This gali can be rightly called fluvidrome: with two floods every day, a large number of tributaries and distributaries, and a long winding course. If one wants to experience the city, one ought to spend a lot of time here: letting the flow of people and stimuli and ideas will result into the interaction of stimuli and people with the mind. That, in turn, will confirm one in kasiphilia, and if the practice is sustained, will turn one into a kasilogist too.

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The temple and gali of Kedar Ghat, it was told during the curfews of the nineties of the last century, were not deserted even when all the other roads and galis had no human presence, save that of the various kind of armed and police forces. One could reach that oasis of the presence of fellow humans and provisions through ghats and carry home the much needed daily bread (or the material to prepare it with). What we were told may have been an exaggeration, but as far as I have seen the area, it’s deserted only for few hours late at night. In the image above, the vegetables to the right area a happy prologue to a long tale. The whole gali has many such small shops, some of them demarcated by bricks and wicker baskets kept permanently on site. People come to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables here. There is a very large number of people whose daily routine includes shopping for fresh vegetables to be cooked at home that day. At Chowki Ghat one may get fresh fish caught from the river at specific point of times.

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At its terminus towards Lali Ghat, the gali branches leftward. The main gali continues towards Sonarpura and the branch reaches Harshchandra Ghat Road down a steep slope. After crossing Harishchandra Ghat, one reaches the Hanuman Ghat locality with dense Tamil population, and from there the gali moves on towards Shivala. This gali gives rise to galis flowing towards Gangaji and towards the Sonarpura-Shivala Main Road.

The main gali, that goes towards Sonrpura, has the famous Chintamani Ganesh Temple mid way between its both ends. There area a couple of more temples in the gali or a little into the galis originating from it, including the newly constructed Sai Baba Temple. The rise of the cult of Sai Baba is definitely a recent phenomenon. Urballaghology wise, the life cycle of change in public preference (or rage, as it’s called), is a matter of sociological analysis. I’m no sociologist. I can only offer personal insights of psychological kind. In the 1980’s it was Jai Maa Santoshi. In the 1990’s it was Jai Sriram. The new millennium brought Jai Sai Ram. People need emotional succor, some kind of support in these challenging times.

Sonarpura Crossing is where the gali meets three streets coming from Bhelupura, Godowlia and Shivala. Gopal Bhaiya’s Stationery Shop and Ashok Medicine Centre are the two landmarks (for me) of the crossing. He’s Gopal Bhaiya to me as the difference of our ages are in the range of my calling him so. Although people of all the ages used to call My father’s friend Shri Nepal Chandra, mamuda, i.e. uncle-brother. All these shops are now run by the people of the generation next to those who started the shops. The sands of time keep flowing and change is the price one pays for every moment of life in his march towards death.

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