The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Identification
Boundaries and Coordinates
The city of Varanasi is located in the middle Ganga valley of North India, in the Eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, along the left crescent-shaped bank of the Ganga river. The Varanasi City is the district headquarters of the Varanasi District and the major part of the urban area, delimited by the Census as ‘Varanasi Urban Agglomeration’ (VUA; 82º 56’E - 83º 03’E and 25º 14’N - 25º 23.5’N, covering an area of 112.26 sq. km) and consisting of 7 urban sub-units. These urban units are: (a) Varanasi (i) Varanasi MC, ii. Lahartara OG), (b) Ramanagar MB, (c) Maruadih Railway Settlement (i. Maruadih Rly. Sett. NA, ii. Maruadih OG), (d) Varanasi Cantt, (e) Banaras Hindu University NA, (f) Phulwaria CT, and (g) Sheodaspur CT. For the 2011 Master Plan the VUA is planned to expand over an area of 144.89 sq. km (82º 54’E – 83º 04’E and 25º 13’N – 25º 24’N).
For the 2011 Master Plan, the VUA is planned to expand over an area of 144.89 sq. km (82º 54’E - 83º 04’E and 25º 13’N - 25º 24’N). The average height of the city from mean sea level is 77m., i.e: around 72m in the south along the Asi stream, and 83m at the high ground near the confluence of the Varana to the Ganga river in the north (known as Rajghat plateau). The nature and the character of the banks of the Ganga river has made the position of Varanasi so stable and enviable that it is among the few cities of the world which show little shifting in its site. The city proper is built on a high ridge of kankar (lime concretion) that forms the left bank of the Ganga for a distance of 5km, being quite above normal flood level.
The Ganga River and the Riverfront & Old City Heritage Zone of Varanasi, consisting of three main zones, is proposed for inscription in the World Heritage List. The detailed geographical data and maps, descriptive data and information on the present status of each of these heritage zones and properties are given in sequence. The following are their main boundaries:
- The Ganga river and the Riverfront Heritage Zone ( individual property no. 1- 65). On the Eastern side, this heritage zone is flanked by a strip of green belt of trees along the sand belt of the river. On the Western side, it is delineated by the road that connects the Asi locality to Rajghat via Shivala, Pandey Haveli, Godaulia, Chowk, Maidagin, Macchodari and Bhaisasur. The Eighty-four riverfront ghats cover a length of 6.8km along the crescent-shaped bank of the Ganga river, from the confluence of Asi drain in the south to the confluence of the Varana river in the north. These ghats are characteristic, with a unique flights of stone steps emerging from the river and leading towards the city- steps incomparable in the world for their magnificence. The 84th ghat, Adi Keshava Ghat, is not taken into consideration with a view to avoid the discontinuity of settlement between the last two ghats.
This whole area can be divided into SIX sub-zones/ Districts: (i) Rural Buffer District, the 300m wide green strip, lying between the eastern bank of the Ganga river and the edge of the settlement area, (ii) Landscape conservation District, the sandy-silty loam area subject to annual inundation and seasonally used to cultivate summer vegetables and melons and for summer recreation, (iii) the 5.5km long crescent shaped basin of the Ganga river from Nagwa to Raj Ghats, (iv) the 5.3km stretch of 83 Ghats (stairways to the bank) along the western bank of the Ganga river, (v) the Urban Preservation Sub-Zone, the Old City Heritage Sub-Zone, and (vi) the Urban Buffer Sub-Zone, a strip of 50m to 100m wide from the western road marking the boundary, of course sometimes its boundary goes along with the road towards west with a view to covering some very pertinent sites, e.g. Adi Vishvanatha and Razia Bibi Mosque in Bansaphatak.
- Core Heritage Area (no. 66-72). The core heritage area lies within the Old City Heritage Zone. It is demarcated by the path linking Vishalakshi Devi, Dharmakupa, Vishvanatha, Annapurna, Adi Vishvanatha and Razia Bibi Mosque. The Vishvanatha temple is the nucleus. There are about 70 important shrines and temples in this area.
- Outer Heritage Property, across the river (no. 73-74) This outer circuit is demarcated by the pilgrimage path that covers 88.6 km, starting from the Manikarnika Ghat, going south, south west, then north west and covering 108 shrines and temples. 4 major temple complexes have been included as heritage units.