The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Gaya/Gaia Ghat
25º 19.081’ North and 83º 01.325’ East (Mukhanirmalika Gauri Temple, K 3/ 42). 25º 19.083’ North and 83º 01.337’ East (Gai Ghat, centre). ===== Exact location on a map =====-- Gaia Ghat
0.028ha (a block of separate properties)
In the ancient mythologies this ghat was eulogised as Gopreksha Tirtha, together with a description to pay visit to the Mukhanirmalika Gauri (“the Pure Faced goddess”). This ghat has a reference in the Girvana-padamanjari, a 17th century text, as Gaya Ghat. In one of the early paintings of 17th century (Jaipur Museum) many cows are shown drinking water at this ghat. This scene indicates to the tradition of carrying cows here for drinking water. In the 12th century the southern limit of the main city was defined by this ghat. As a symbolic relic of that period one can see Patan Darwaza in the vicinity. In the upper side of the ghat in a huge temple compound containing images of Hanuman, Lakshmi Narayana, Mukha Nirmalika Gauri, several Shiva lingas and a chamber of Shitala, and also a newly added image of Santoshi Mata.
=== Description and History ===: -- At the ghat there is a metre high image of a cow (Gaya/ Gaia), symbolising the earth, thus the name Gaya Ghat. The rituals and festivities associated to this ghat, symbolised by Gaya, reminds James Lovelock’s Gaia theory that deals with “the Earth as Living organism” – life regulates life on Earth. Says Lovelock (1995) that the greatest realisation in a life is the stage where “life itself is a religious experience”. The southern part of the ghat was made pucca in the early 19th century by the king of Nepal, Rana Shamasherbahadur. And, the southern part of the ghat was made pucca in the same period by Balabai Shitole, wife of Malavaji Narasimha Rao Shitole, a finance minister of the state of Gwalior. Balabai Shitole had extended this ghat towards north, the portion of which is sometimes called Balabai Ghat. At this place exists the temple of Badri Narayana, that is why this is called Badrinarayana Ghat. In the upper part of the southern section there is a palace, built by the king of Nepal, on the terrace of which there are three Shiva temples; and in the northern part is a big building and Lakshmi Narayana temple. In 1940 the Nepal palace was purchased by Dalmia, a famous industrialist, for her mother’s last days in Kashi. This palace is now called Dalmia Bhavan and presently used as a guesthouse and part of it for children’s school. One part of the building is used as rental house. In 1965 the government of Uttar Pradesh has made repairing and also made the whole ghat pucca. On the occasion of full-moon day of Paush (December-January), a special festivity in honour of Vishnu in the form of Nara-Narayana is celebrated. Also, on 3rd light-half of Vaishakha (April-May) there takes a sacred bath ceremony.
Present state of conservation
Except by the 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 their Temple Trusts; the ghat area by the Municipal Corporation.
- Map 49. The Ghats, from Gaya to Trilocana: Location of shrines