Textual Analysis of a City II

Legend and history play equal parts in the text of Kashi and the text is richer and more complex than both.


In a series of linked posts, a conspicuous logical link is a good point to begin at. There’s a mosque dominating the ghatscape above. It’s the structure that has always attracted those painting, sketching or photographing from around Panchganga Ghat. Banarsis call it Beni Madho ka Dharhara. Beni Madho is the way they pronounce Veni Madhav or Bindu Madhav, another name of Lord Vishnu. A mosque that bears the name of a Hindu god! I’m sure that Emperor Aurangzebe turns (clockwise or anticlockwise) around five degrees in his grave every time the mosque is designated thus!

History says that there used to be one of the greatest and biggest temples of India at exactly the same spot. The temple of Bindu Madhav was second only to the famous Jagannath Temple of Puri for the Vaishnavs of India, and that of Vishweshwar, that the emperor had destroyed too, the first for the Shaivites. Aurangzeb adopted the hard stance, in contrast to that of his great grandfather Akbar during whose reign the Vishweshwar temple was constructed on behalf of Todarmal by his son Gobardhan. Kashi received his ire very intensely because it was the heart of the Hindu India, the main seat of idolatry.

The temples of Vishnu and Shiv were destroyed by the conquerors and the material was re-used in the construction of the mosques after the Emperor true to his religio-political inclinations decreed that all the temples of the idolators must be razed to ground. There was nothing new about the incident, neither in the history of India, nor in that of Banaras.

Today, the ghat upon which the mosque stands, and the neighbourhood around are Hindu. Aurangzeb had chosen one of the five core ghats on the riverfront for his mosque. Probably he wanted to add insult to the injury of the Hindu populace, not only of the city but also of the country.

In contrast to the towering behemoth on the left hand side, there are small boats on the river that fills the right hand bottom of the image. Boats have always been there in nearly all the descriptions of Banaras and its ghats. Softly they float on the liquid flow.

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