The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Cauki Ghat and Environs
25º 18.028’ North and 83º 00.405’ East (Rukmangeshvara, B 14/ 1). 25º 18.093’ North and 83º 00.414’ East (Kshemeshvara, B 14/ 14).
Exact location on a map
-- This ghat is known for an old holy fig, Pipala (Ficus religiosa) tree at the top of the steps which shelters a great array of stone figures of snakes, nagas. In its present form the ghat was built in ca 1790. Havell (1905: 118-119) described this ghat: “under a fine old pipala-tree, there is a small shrine and a great number of old carved stones, some of snakes twined together like Mercury’s caduceus, with the lingam placed between. The worship of snakes, especially as emblems of the Earth Goddess is one of the most ancient of Indian cults, and these stones, together with some fine figure-sculptures let into the upright face of the platform which surrounds the tree, are probably relics of the early Buddhist period”. Closely to this tree is the shrine of Rukmangeshvara, and at some distance lies Naga Kupa (“snake Well”). On the occasion of festival honouring snake, Naga Pancami, falling on the 5th light-half of Shravana (July-August), these shrines are especially worshipped. It is also opined that in the 3rd century, together with Dashashvamedha Ghat, this ghat was an important seat of the kings of Bharashiva Naga dynasty whose headquarters was at Allahabad (Prayaga). Further connection is also traced with the existence of Naga Kupa and fragments of Naga images found near Naga Kupa, close to Vindhyacala, 75km southwest of Varanasi. Naga is a symbol of fertility and friendship with the forest culture; Naga is the most beloved ornament of Shiva, who is also called Naganatha, the “lord of snakes”. The northern part of the Cauki ghat is called Kshemeshvara, or Someshvara Ghat. On the name of Kshemaka, a demon devotee of Shiva, a Shiva temple was built in the early 18th century. In the 19th century there was a sewer drain that meets here, therefore Prinsep (1822) and Sherring (1868) both referred this as Nala Ghat. By mistake in the pronunciation this ghat is wrongly called Someshvara. The northern part of the ghat was renovated by the Kumara Svami Math in 1958, and in the followed years the monastery of Kumar Svami was established here. In the same year the government of Uttar Pradesh has built the entire ghat pucca.
Present state of conservation
Except by the two temple trusts and the local public organisations, those work on their own ways, there are no specific action plans, programmes and strategies for conservation and preservation of the ghats.
Specific measures being taken for conserving the specific property
It is expected that by the support of active people participation, awareness to save the age-old rich heritage, and development under the Master Plan (and its judiciary control) the ghat heritage will be protected and conserved for the better befit to the society.
The temples are owned by the respective Temple Trusts; the ghat area by the Municipal Corporation.