Maratha, Dravid … Banga in Kashi/Varanasi

Varanasi is the city that is also seen as a microcosm. With more gods and goddesses (33 crore=0.33 billion) in the city than people (few lakh=0.1 million), it can definitely boast of housing the whole pantheon of the Hindus. What’s more, it also holds the distinction of being one of the earliest cosmopolitan cities of at least India, long before the term was first used. Foreign nationals from all over the world come to see and experience the city. Some make it their second, and some, even primary home.

Many Hindus from all over the world look at Kashi as the centre of their spiritual world. There has been a steady influx of streams of Hindus from all parts of India to the city. Some came with their eyes on Kashi labh. Others, the more materialistic ones, with eyes on the various profitable possibilities that entrepreneurship could open to them. Then, there were some who came with others and were assimilated by the city. They all became Banarsis.

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I was never totally unaware of the importance of such migrant Banarsis in the development of the composite culture of the city despite my being such a migrant: third generation (no humour intended). Their real impact dawned upon me with its full force while I was doing a post on the ghats of my city. I discovered that most of our prominent ghats were made pukka or reconstructed by the Marathas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One cannot imagine the majestic ghatscape of the city sans the contributions of the Marathas.

Vishwanath ji 1909

Photo from Edwin Greaves’s Kashi: The City Illustrious

What’s more the one temple for which the city is known all over the world, the abode of the one and only God-king of Kashi: Kashi Vishwanath Temple was constructed by Queen Ahilya Bai Holker and the gold for plating its shikhar was donated by King Ranjeet Singh of Punjab. There is a large number of Banarsis who trace their origin to Punjab or Sind of the pre-partition India. There are a couple of Gurudwaras in Varanasi too.

I have known a family, my neighbours for over two decades, whose sons spoke Malayalam as their father’s and Hindi/Banarsi as their mother tongue. They are as more Banarsis than I, maybe more than I am. There are large areas in the city known for being populated mostly by the people who speak Tamil or Telugu as their father’s or grandfather’s mother tongue and Hindi as their own mother tongue.

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(Temple with South Indian Architectural Elements, Hanuman Ghat)

Hanuman Ghat is one such area. It has a high density of Tamil speaking Banarsis. They retain their links with their place of origin, their language and customs. They also send their roots deep into the soil of the city and have been amongst the foremost contributors in the field of culture and art. Similar to their contribution is that of the Bengalis of Kashi. It’s said that not even half a century ago Varanasi used to be the city with the largest number of Bengalis outside (then) Calcutta. The name of the region Bengali Tola, and that of the school Bengali Tola Inter College are remnants from such a past.

Bengalis have long been attracted towards the holy city of Varanasi. There have been many illustrious pandits of Sanskrit who either came to the city for their studies or came here to spread the light of knowledge among those willing to receive such knowledge. Their cultural contribution has also been immense. Who does not know about the contribution of Rani Bhavani to the cultural/architectural landscape of the city? The Kings of Kooch Behar and Panchkot have also made their various contributions to the same. And then, one mustn’t forget to mention the merging of the cultures of the Renaissance Calcutta that reached Kashi through the literate Bengalis with that of Banaras.

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Ochre in Varanasi

Ochre is one of the most popular Banarsi colours. It appears everywhere: on the walls of religious and secular buildings, on ghats, on clothes worn by the sadhus, even on objects one is not generally accustomed to see in ochre.

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An old house at Shivala, Varanasi

One possible explanation of the phenomenon that I can think of is that Varanasi, unlike most of the other cities of the world, has its origin in impulses that lean away from what may be called secular. Ochre is the colour of other-worldliness in India, and Kashi is said to be balanced on the tip of Shivji’s trident, i.e. out of the earth despite being in it. It is but natural that ochre dominates the cityscape and the ghatscape.

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Fruit shop by a mutt, Chowki Ghat, Varanasi

There are many small and big temples in this city of temples and their colour is ochre. Other colours and orientations mingle with ochre in a commonly shared space. Secular and religious are not so much separated in Varanasi as in the world beyond its boundaries. I remember my surprise at seeing, for the first time, temples whose gates would remain closed for most part of the day and would open only during regular services. In Varanasi only the sanctum would be closed, that too for a pre-defined and announced number of hours.

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Chowki Ghat, Varanasi

Temples, mutts, ghats and other religious spaces are not secluded. The secular has entry there, and vice-versa. Pilgrims and tourists arrive in large numbers in the city during the season, i.e. from March to September. Travel agents and hotel owners ensure that their sightseeing and pilgrimage are managed efficiently. Hanuman Ghat is popular amongst the South Indian pilgrims: hence the high concentration of the related service providers in the area. With many Sumos and Ambassadors of the travel agencies there also stands an ochre car.

the ochre car fan the ochre car glass the ochre car

A car near Hanuman Ghat, Varanasi

My guess is that the car belongs to a nearby mutt.

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The Ghats of Varanasi

I had been planning to make a comprehensive list of the ghats of my city, with proof, i.e. their photographs. I would never have started it. At least not today. It’s my instinct that pushed me towards committing myself to the  task. There are around ten ghats of which I have no photographs at present. So, I have left them blank after the name. Let’s begin at Assi Ghat.

1. Assi Ghat

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2. Ganga Mahal Ghat

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3. Reeva Ghat (and Reeva Kothi): @”an extended part of Assi Ghat and its building was constructed by Lala Mishir, royal purohit of King Ranjit Singh of Punjab”.

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4. Tulsi Ghat: #Amrit Rao had it constructed in 1807 (along with Amrit Rao or Raja Ghat and Vinayak Rao Ghat).@in 1941 Baldeo Das Birala Made this Ghat pucca.

tulsi ghat complete

5. Bhadaini Ghat

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5.a. Chhedi Lal Jain Ghat:

Chhedi Lal Jain Ghat

6. Anandnayee Ghat (*earlier Rai Baldev Sahai Ghat):  @Earlier it was know as ‘lmalia Ghat’ in 1944 Mata Anandamai purchased this area from British. She made this ghat pucca in addition to run a Ashrama.

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7. Janki Ghat: In 1870 A.D. Maharani Kunwar of Sursand(Bihar) made this Ghat. Earlier it was know as “Nagamber ghat”.

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8. Vacchraj Ghat: *Lala Vacchraj of Ara had it constructed in 18th century.

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9. Jain Ghat: @ Before 1931 Jain ghat was the part of Vaccharaja ghat. Later Jain community made a pucca ghat and named it as Jain ghat.

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10. Shree Nishadraj Ghat: @Earlier it was a part of Prabhu Ghat till first half 20th cent.

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11. Panchkot Ghat: @A palatial building and a ghat was constructed by King of Panchakot (Bengal) in the later half of 19th cent.

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12. Prabhu Ghat: @made in the early part of 20th cent by Nirmal Kumar of Bangal.

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12. Chet Singh Ghat (*earlier Khidki Ghat): *Raja Balwant Singh [had it built through his] engineer Baijnath Mishra.

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13. Niranjani Ghat: @This Ghat belongs to Naga Saints who established ‘Niranjani Akhara’ in 1897. Originally it was a part of Chet Singh Ghat.

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14. Mahanirvani Ghat: @It’s named after Mahanirvani sect of Naga Saints . the famous Akhara is situated here. It has four small Shiva Temple made by Nepal’s Maharaja.

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15. Shivala Ghat: It has a colossal building constructed by Nepal King Sanjay Vikram Shah (19th cent), a Shiva Temple and the Brahmendra Math established by Kashiraj.

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15.a. Gulariya Ghat: constructed Pucca by Laloo Ji Agrawal.

15.b. Dandi Ghat: #Babu Sangam Lal had it constructed. @ It was constructed Pucca by Laloo Ji Agrawal.

Dandi Ghat

16. Hanuman Ghat : * Nand das gambler had steps of the ghats constructed. @”It is believed that grat saint Tulsidas has established a Hanuman Temple here during 18th cent. A.D. which made is famous as Hanuman ghat. The ancient name of this ghata was Ramesvaram ghat which was established by lord Ram himself.”@made pucca by mahant Hariharanath in c.1825.

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17. Pracheen Hanuman Ghat: @made pucca by mahant Hariharanath in c.1825.

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18 Karnatak State Ghat: @Was build by the state of Mysore (now know as Karnataka) in early twentieth century (c.1910).

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19. Harishchandra Ghat: @c. 1740 Narayana Diksit, a religious guru of pesavas renovated this ghat and made this partly pucca.

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20. Lali Ghat: @In c. 1778 this ghat was built pucca by Raja of Banaras.

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21. Vijay nagram Ghat: @made pucca in c. 1890 by the Vijayanagaram State of South India.

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22. Kedar Ghat: @According to a Gahadavala inscription ( c.C.E.1100). Svapnesvara Ghat existed close by this ghat, but now it has no representation.

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23. Chowki Ghat: @This ghat was built in c. 1790.

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24. Kshemeshwar Ghat: @Its old name was Nala Ghat, and was built in early eighteenth century.

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25. Mansarovar Ghat: * Raja Man Singh of Jaipur had it constructed @ c. 1585, and it was rebuilt in c. 1805.

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26. Narad Ghat: @The old name of this ghat is Kuvai Ghat. This was constructed by Dattatreya Svami, a monastery chief, in c. 1788.

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27. Raja Ghat: @Formerly known as Amrita Rao Ghat, this was firstly made by the first Maratha chief Bajirao Balaji in c.1720. This was rebuilt with stone slabs by Amrita Rao Peshva during 1780 – 1807.

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27.a. Khori Ghat: @Also known as Ganga Mahala Ghat, this was made pucca in late nineteenth century by Kavindra Narayana Singh.

28. Babua Pandey Ghat: @In c. 1805 this ghat was built in honour of a famous wrestler who established a wresting site (Akhara) there: his name was Babua Pande.

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29. Pandey Ghat: @In c. 1805 this ghat was built in honour of a famous wrestler who established a wresting site (Akhara) there: his name was Babua Pande.

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29.a. Sarveswar Ghat: @erected under the patronage of Mathura Pandey in late eighteenth century.

30. Digpatiya Ghat: @This was erected in c.1830 Raja of Digpatia (Bengal).

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31. Chausatti Ghat: *Bengal King Digpati had it constructed. @In c. 1670 King of Udaipur (Rajasthan) renovated this ghat.

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32. Rana Mahal Ghat: * Udaipur’s Maharana had it constructed in 17th century.

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33. Darbhanga Ghat (and Brij Rama Palace): @Together with magnifivent building along the ghat and a grand Siva temple in Nilakantha area, the king of Darabhanga (Bihar) made them in 1915.

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34. Munshi Ghat: *Sridhar Narayan Das, the munshi of the Raja of Nagpur had it constructed c. 1812-14

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35. Ahilyabai Ghat: *Queen Ahilyabai Holker had it constructed. @”At the place of an old site of Kevelyagiri Ghat, in c. 1778 queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore made this a pucca ghat. For the first time name of a person was added after the ghat. She was also responsible for re-building the Visvesvara Temple, as exists at present, in 1777.”

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35.a. Sitala Ghat: @In c. 1740 pt. Narayana Diksit the preceptor of Bajirao Pesava-1, made this ghat pucca.

36. Prayag Ghat: @The temple and the ghat-area were reconstructed by queen of Digpatia state (West Bengal).

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37. Dashashwamedh Ghat: *Sadasiv Rao Naik had it constructed in 1730./*Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in 1748?/ # 1935, Baji Rao Peshwa. @The southern part of the ghat was made pucca in 1740 by Bajirao Pesava-1, and late in c.1774 by Ahilyabai Holkar of lndore.

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38. Rajendra Prasad Ghat: @In 1979 in memory and honour of the first president of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad (1884-1963). This ghat was renamed, and made pucca by the Municipal Corporation of Varanasi. In fact, this ghat was northern extension of Dasasvamedha Ghat. And until late nineteenth century a stone statue of horse was at the ghat witnessing the “ten-horses sacrifices” performed by Bhara Siva Nagas in second century, that is how the old name “Ghoda Ghat” (“Horse Ghat”). It is believed that same horse image is shifted to Sankatmochana temple.

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39. Manmandir Ghat: *Amer’s Raja Man Singh had it constructed. Later Jai Singh had an observatory constructed there in 1737. @The old name of this ghat was Somesvara, but in c.e. 1585 when Raja Savai Mana Singh (of Amber) made his palace and ghat this is named after him.

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40.Tripura Bhairavi Ghat: @ In late 18th century king of Banaras and Pt. Mayananda Giri had patronize to make this ghat pucca.

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41.Meer Ghat (*earlier Jarasandh Ghat): *Meer Rustam Ali had the ghat and a fort constructed here in 1735.

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39.a. Phuta/Naya Ghat 1: @This was and old site of Yajnesvara Ghat and was made pucca by Svami Mahesvarananda in mid 19th century.

39.b. Nepali Ghat: @ It was built pucca in c.1902 by Nanhi Babu.

40. Lalita Ghat

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40.a. Umraogiri/Amroha/ Bauli Ghat: @ The old name of this ghat was Raja Rajesvari Ghat and was made in early nineteenth century by a rich merchant, Babu Kesava Deva.

41. Jalasen/Jalasayi Ghat: @ In the mid- nineteenth century the nearby building and the ghat were built.

jalasen ghat

41.a. Khirki Ghat: @Close to in 1940 Baldeo Dasa Birla has built a pilgrims rest house.

42. Manikarnika Ghat: *Sadasiv Rao Naik had it constructed in 1730./ # Sadashiv Rao Naik, working for Baji Rao Peshwa, had it constructed in 1735. Later it was reconstructed by Devi Ahilyabai in 1791. @This is the first ghat made pucca by the two king brothers in C.E.1302. Again in 1872 repairing and renovations were done.

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42.a. Bajirao Ghat: @Bajiriao Pesava built this ghat in c. 1735, that is how it is named after him, and also a palace. Later in 1830 queen Baijabai of Gwalior get it repaired and rebuilt ; she had also erected the colonnade around the Jananavapi well.

43. Scindia Ghat: * Queen Baija Bai had it constructed in 1828. @Formerly it was known as Viresvara Ghat, after the temple of same name lying at the top. In 1780 Ahilabai Holker of Indore made the ghat pucca. In 1829 queen Baijabai had get it repaired and remodeled; and again in 1937 Daulatarao Scindhia made the entire ghat pucca.

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44. Sankata Ghat: *Nephews of Bishambhar Pandit’s wife had it constructed in 1828. @In late 18th cent. king of Baroda made this ghat, but 1825 Beniram Pandit’s widow, known as “Panditain”, and nephews built this ghat pucca together with a building structure of the temple of Sanktha Devi.

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45. Ganga Mahal Ghat 2: This, in fact, is an old part of Yamesvara Ghat. King of Gwalior had built it in early 19th cent., and lather on repaired and rebuilt by Govinda Bali Kiratankara.

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46. Bhonsle Ghat: *Nagpur’s Bhonslas has it constructed #in 1795. @In c. 1780 Maratha king ‘Bhonsala’ of Nagpur made this ghat, and lather in 1795 this was a made pucca together with the establishment of the temple of Laksmi narayana and a place.

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46.a. Gulariya/Naya Ghat 2: This was made pucca in c. 1960.

47. Ganesh Ghat: @During 1761-1772 Madhorao Pesava made this ghat fully pucca and also done extensive repairing.

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48. Mehta Ghat: @Formally this saw part of the preceding ghat, but after the construction of V.S.Mehta hospital (1962)this is known to the name of latter one. The Varanasi Municipal Corporation made this ghat pucca in 1960s.

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49. Ram Ghat: #Maharaj of Jaipur had it constructed.

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49.a. Laxman Bala Ghat: Peshwas had it constructed in 19th century.

50. Jatar Ghat

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51. Raja Gwalior Ghat: @[Jatar Ghat, Raja Gwalior Ghat] and also Rama ghat were erected by the patronage of Madhorao Pesava in c. 1766. In fact, they are the two ends of the same ghat.

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51.a.Mangla Gauri Ghat: This was built by Balaji Pasava-I in 1735, after whom this is also known as Bala Ghat. Later in c.1807 Lakmana Bala of Gwalior repaired and renovated this ghat.

51.b. Venimadhav Ghat

52. Panchganga Ghat: *Sripat Rao had it constructed./# In 1580 Raghunath Tandon and in 1755 Pant Pratinidhi of Andhra State had it constructed. @The ghat was made of stone steps in 1580 by Raghunatha Tandan (Todara Mala?), the finance secretary of the Mughal King Akbar. In c. 1735 Bajirao Pesava-I together with Sadasive Naik rebuilt and repaired it. Again in 1775 renovations and repairing were done by Sripatirao Pesava, and Pant Pririnidhi of Andha.

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53. Durga Ghat: *Pandit Narayan Dixit Kaigaonker had it constructed in 1740.# Nana Phadnawis had it constructed. @In 1772 Narayana Diksit, a guru of Pesavas, had purchased land from local resident fishermen and built two ghats: Durga and the succeeding one, Brahma Ghat. This was rebuilt and repaired in c. 1830 by Nana Phadanavisa, a Divana of Gwalior State, whose building at the top of the ghat is know as Phadanavisa Wada.

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54. Brahma Ghat: *Pandit Narayan Dixit Kaigaonker had it constructed in 1740.

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55. Bundi Parkota Ghat: @Formerly it was known as Raja Mandira Ghat. In c. 1580 king of Bundi, Raja Surajana Hada made this ghat; and it was made pucca in mid nineteenth century.

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56. (Adi) Sheetla Ghat: @This is an extended part of the preceding ghat, also made by Hada in c. 1580, but later in 1772 was repaired and rebuilt by narayana Diksit.

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57. Lal Ghat: @This ghat was erected by a rich merchant in c. 1800 after whose name it is now known. As part of this ghat in 1935 Baldeo Das Birla has built a small ghat called as Gopi Givinda Ghat at the top of which exists a pilgrims’rest house made by him.

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58. Hanumangarhi Ghat

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59.Gopi Govind Ghat

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60. Gai Ghat: #Bala Bai Shitole had it constructed. @In early 19th cent. the ghat was made pucca by Balabai Sitole of Gwalior.

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61. Badri Narayan Ghat: @This ghat was earlier known as Mahatha/Matha, or Balabai Ghat Balabai of Gwalior had patronize to make this ghat pucca in early 19th century. Later on the Municipal Corporation of Varanasi had get it repaired and renovated.

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62. Trilochan Ghat: @The renovations and repairings were done by Narayana Dixit in c. 1772. Later around 1795 Nathu Bala of Pune made the ghat pucca.

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63. Gola Ghat: @Since late 12th cent. this site was used as ferry point and was also known for a number of granaries(gold), from where the name Gola Ghat devired.

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64. Nandeshwar Ghat: @This ghat in early 20th cent. by the local neighbourhood residents.

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65. Sakka Ghat

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66. Teliyanala Ghat: @Legends say that the area was dominated by the oilpressing caste (Teli) settled along a small drain (nala) meeting here, that is how the name derived.

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67. Naya/Phuta Ghat: @During 18th century the ghat – area became deserted (Phuta), but later on it was renovated. This way the ghat was formerly known as phuta, and later as Naya. In 1940 Narsingh Jaipala Chainput-Bhabhua(Bihar) made this ghat pucca.

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68. Nishad Ghat

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69. Prahlad Ghat: @In 1937 with the construction of a new Nisada Ghat in the centre (where exists Satsanga Akhara), now the ghat is divided into two parts : the southern and northern..

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70. Rani Ghat

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71. Shri Panch Agni Akhara Ghat

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72. Sant Ravidas Ghat

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73. Bhaisasur Rajghat: @Upto 1887 this was a famous ferry ghat. On 1st jan. 1887, Lord Duffrin bridge (road-cum-rail) was made and its importance as ferry points had lost.

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74. Adi Keshav Ghat: The Chitnis family had it reconstructed. @The ghat was made pucca in 1790 by a Divan of Scindhia State.

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* => an article on ghats of Varanasi.

# => Sukul, K.N. Varanasi Down the Ages. Varanasi: Bhargav Bhushan, 1974.

@=> varanasi.nic.in

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The Mobile Paperweight

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Ghats of Varanasi have always been sites of public activities, as and as long I have known them. They show and screen change in the city and they resist it too in many ways. They are the most permanent markers of the city’s face in popular imagination. People come to the ghats at different times of the day for different purposes. One of the most popular purposes in the morning is ganga snan, or taking a dip in the river that gives life to the city. While many take their customary dip, few chant, recite or read their shlokas or Ramcharitmanas. It’s their vocational duty, and their means of earning their daily bread too in many instances.

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The gentleman at the centre of the above photograph, the one wearing a blue-green sweater, looks like any other professional reader on the ghats. I had passed him while going from Bhadaini Ghat towards Anandmayee Ghat. I would not have clicked these images had I not marked a curious paperweight upon his book. So, I clicked away (and stole a couple of prolonged glances too) for a couple of minutes.

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It’s only by zooming in that I could be sure of capturing clearly what I could see and hear on the ghat that morning. So, I zoomed in and captured the mobile paperweight (or the paperweight mobile. or the paperweight that was a mobile or a mobile that was a paperweight?) on the holy book that he must have been found reading nearly a decade ago at the same time and place.

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The sound of the background music and the chanting wafted in the morning air. No, it was not live. The recorded chant of the book’s content arose from the book itself, rather from the paperweight on it. It’s urballaghologically important, this phenomenon, because change has permeated up to the deeper cultural layers of the city’s existence. The substitution of human voice by the mechanical one is just one instance of that change in the city.

People change; so do places. There’s nothing strange in the descent of change on to my city and its people, is there? If change is not strange, is my resistance to it strange? One of them must be uncommon, strange, or, at least they should be mutually exclusive. If both of them are natural, nature becomes some sort of game: a joke at my expense. Doesn’t it?

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Gurudham Temple, Varanasi

DSC02633 gurudham entrance inside

Who are these gentlemen posing in front of an ancient looking building? And what is that building? They are Vivek and Ganesh. No, they are not my old friends or acquaintances. I met them for the first time when I went visiting that place. That brings us to the second question: what is that building? They had told me, those gentlemen, that one could google “Gurudham” and obtain information regarding the same. So, I googled it. They had mentioned the name of Mrinalini Bangroo as the brain behind the project, and there were a couple of pages providing information on her too. The gentlemen in the images above had already told me that their organization was behind similar work in Udaipur and Jaipur.

  gurudham ramp 2

Google took me to pages on The Times of India (timesofindia.indiatimes.com) website and Jnana Pravaha website from where I found some information on the temple. Raja Jai Narayan Ghoshal had it constructed c.1814. There’s a huge compound of a secondary school bearing his name at Ramapura in Varanasi. He was a philanthropist, and with will and means to leave his name behind him, after him. So we remember the Raja at the completion of two hundred years from the year of the temple’s construction because of what he left behind for the Banarsis.

gurudham ramp

The first time somebody had mentioned the temple in my presence was a couple of years ago. Professor Mahapatra had called it unique; the only one of its kind, as far as its being the abode of guru is concerned. I had thought of going to the place myself, but couldn’t. Then my friend Dr. A. P. Singh sent me a couple of photographs that gave a fair view of the complex and I could postpone actually visiting it. In my penultimate trip to my city I could manage to reach the temple, but the gates were closed. Finally, in my last trip, when I was passing through the street facing the temple, I saw the gates open and some construction activities going on.

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How could I miss such a chance? Although I had some official sort of work to do, I went in and there I met Vivek. He is from Delhi-NCR, just like the firm he represents. He was happy to know that I cared for the temple and was interested in what they were doing to save it. I was happy to know that finally, at least one heritage structure of Varanasi will not go to ruins. Wait. Let’s not conclude so fast. I was happy about the positivity of the very thought that the flow of destructive change could be, will be, stopped at least in one instance in my city. I was happy to see the application part of urballaghology, and to find a possible cure to my urballaghophobia: victory over change at last.

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Some well meaning persons had tried their hands at the repair work in the compound earlier too. The traces can be seen, alas! even today. Look at the incongruity of the bricks and cementing material of the original temple wall and that of the brick and cement used to repair later in the image to the left above. A similar incongruity can be seen betweeb the whole entrance sealed with brick and cement and the doorway with blue wooden doors in the image to the right. Vivek had told me that lakheria bricks were used in the original construction, and gara, a mixture of slacked lime, jaggery and surkhi, was used to bind the bricks together.

lime and water tubs gurudham surkhi and sand heaps, gurudham temple reconstruction

Surkhi (burnt bricks powder) and coarse sand can be seen in heaps in the image below to the right. To the left can be seen water and slacked lime tubs. Sand and surkhi are converted into a gluey gruel when mixed in the lime solution. I was also shown jaggery and urad daal soaked in water inside a low-ceiling room of the compound. They are added to the mixture to make the whole cementing material hold the bricks strongly. I personally know of several neighbourhoods that are over a century old with houses constructed of the same material. The temple complex itself is two centuries old. So, the construction made with this material lasts really very long for sure.

lakheria vs other bricks

There is an added advantage when brick and gara are used in construction, especially in areas with climate like that of Varanasi: it acts as an insulator against the extremes of the temperature, especially  in summer. It binds not only brick but also stone very well. The proof is in the centuries old houses of Varanasi. Stone is a central structural component of the houses in Varanasi. How can one imagine Varanasi without those stately stone gateways, arches, jharokhas, corbels and parapets?

ruined roof

So, they are using the material that was used in the original construction, or, when it’s not possible, as is the case of lakheria bricks, they are using something that at least looks like the original, instead of the prominent patchy eyesores plastered on the same building everywhere. The old and rotten wooden lintels will be replaced with new ones, as is the standard practice in such buildings. Stone components of the temple are a different matter. The colour of older stone and that of the new slabs may not be the same, as is seen in many other cases in the same city. That makes the new work appear patchy. Still, I hope they get this element right too.

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The one thing that they can never reclaim from the jaws of time is the old expanse and grandeur of the compound and its buildings that has been engulfed and converted into a petrol pump and a big jewellery shop. I was informed that people have built houses and shops on the land of the temple’s compound. The old naubat khana gates have now been sealed with bricks etc. because the area right behind it has been converted into Aishwarya.

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On the side facing the naubat khana gates is an Indian Oil petrol pump (there are two more in the vicinity, one by Barhar Kothi and the other opposite what used to be Gunjan Talkies once).

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Badhar Kothi, Varanasi

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Twice in my previous visit to my city was I asked not to take pictures: once at Tulsi Ghat and then in Badhar Kothi. No, I was not wearing or carrying anything that made me be foregrounded: nothing but a small hand-held camera. Still, it was better than the prohibition on entry into Panchkot compound that I had to face the visit before the last one. I could enter the compound and take a couple of snaps of the temple. Or, probably, it was because I had clicked before they could realize that I was photographing the compound in which they have their shops etc.

badhar kothi  temple

So, I could not take detailed photographs of the temple and the compound inside. I had always feared that change would engulf the old and valuable sites of my city. Well, my primary concern was change at the material level. I had not thought much about the same at socio-intellectual level. The prohibition culture towards which I had indicated in one of my posts about Banaras Hindu University has spread to the interiors of the city.

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badhar kothi  entrance

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