The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Ahilyabai Ghat
(GPS co-ordinates): 25º 18.334’ North and 83º 00.627’ East (central part at bank side)
Exact location on a map
Ahilyabai Palace (Indore Estate) and the Ghat.
0.23ha (block of the palace and the ghat)
The old name of the ghat was Kevalagiri Ghat, but in 1778-1785 the ghat was extended and was completely re-built by the patronage of queen Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Madhya Pradesh. In honour and memory the ghat is named after her. James Prinsep (1831) has mentioned the name Kevalgiri Ghat, which indicated that the ghat was known by this name till then. Later, Sherring (1868) mentioned the name Ahilyabai Ghat, reflecting upon the change of the name.
Built by Ahilyabai, it is one of the many edifices built under the sovereign patronage who, from her residence of Maheshwar, was the builder of several temples in the city, among which included are the Vishvanatha temple and the Manikarnika Ghat. There is a palace and residential district inside the compound. The service court is situated in front of the palace, which continues down towards the ghat built on the Ganga river. There is also a group of religious buildings including temples and servants’ quarters, some of which are used as akhara (wrestling site). Next to the palace, a Brahmapuri made up of ten houses is built along a street running parallel to the river and protected at both ends by gates. These houses were all built at the same time, which explains the regular and symmetrical appearances of their facades. Towards the old part of the city, a gateway crowned with a noubat (kettledrum) protected the compound.
By its ascendancy and the diversity of its composite elements, the Indore Estate Palace forms a significant example of those principalities making the riverfront unique an excellent and confers on it a particular localisation. The view of the Indore Estate, seen from the river or the ghat, has two perspectives:
Downstream, a group of three temples: the main one with a dome and two small sanctuaries. In the same enclosure, there is a ground floor building, where the instruments used in akhara are stored; (2) Upstream from the palace, adjoining a building with three floors; they are, in fact, the upper floors of the Brahmapuri. Traditionally the Brahmapuri , “city of Brahmins”, is the place of residence of the Brahmins and the pujari (the priest serving the temples of the Queen) and their families. Two entrances of different status regulate the interior alley of the Brahmapuri. One, upstream, opens by a perpendicular lane onto the river, and is not part of the complex but is used in the monsoon season, when passing from one quarter to another by means of the ghat is impossible.
The other is the main access and opens by a straight flight of steps onto a lateral façade of the palace, in the heart of the Indore Estate. The Brahmapuri is composed of two lines of houses, coming from a two-metre-wide alley parallel to the course of the Ganga. The framework of the fragment is about six metres wide on the façade. The constructions having a façade opening onto the river are of a nobler workmanship than those at the rear.
In addition to the palace, there is a huge residential compound (No. D 18/ 16), and a Hanuman temple (No. D 17/ 18), and also the two temples at the ghat. In the open porch and the veranda of the Hanuman temple there are many divine images. The Shiva temple (No. D 18/ 21), in the upper part, is built on the raised roof. Built in the Dorika style, the pavilion is based on the twelve pillars, and consists of pavilion, inner sanctum and open porch. The main entrance faces the east, and the upper part of the gateway contains image of the Ganesha. In the inner sanctum, the niches contain images of Surya, Ganesha, Annapurna (goddess) and Vishnu. There also exists an image of Hanuman, which results to call it Hanuman temple by local people. The spire of the temple is an example of the Nagara style. The upper part of the pavilion converges into a dome.
Present state of conservation
Except repairing no specific measures of conservation are in process. The open veranda and porches towards the riverside are victim of encroachments.
pecific measures being taken for conserving the specific property
No specific measures are taken by the Ahilyabai Indore Estate Trust, or the VDA or the Municipal Corporation to conserve and save this area. However, the Trust had made some repairing, of course in a very bad way and without any consideration of heritage preservation. It is expected that by the support of active people participation, awareness to save the age-old rich heritage, and system of Master Plan Development (and its judiciary control) the heritage will be protected and conserved for the better benefit to the society.
The palace by the Ahilyabai Indore Estate Trust, and the ghat by the Municipal Corporation.