The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Jagannath temple complex, Assi
(GPS co-ordinates): 25º 17.591’ North and 83º 00.746’ East. Exact location on a map: Asi Ghat, towards Nagawa, House No. B 1/ 151 Close to the turning towards Asi Ghat, on the right is the entrance gate to the temple.
aREA (in ha.) of proposed property: 7.87ha originally in early 20th century: 35m X 225m; main temple complex: 35m X 44m.
The area of the temple complex symbolises the Puri Kshetra of Orissa. With the support of Beni Ram and Vishambhar Ram, the two prominent and rich citizens of the Bhonshala estate of Nagpur living in Banaras, the Svami built a temple honouring Jagannatha in 1802. This is the replica of the famous Jagannatha temple of Puri, Orissa.
Beni Ram and Vishambhar Ram started the Ratha Yatra festival in 1806 they. Every year during the month of Ashadha (June-July) the wooden idol of Jagannath from this temple is brought to the garden of Pandit Beni Ram in the Rathyatra area for celebrating the famous chariot festival, of course in abbreviated form compared to what takes place in Puri. On the 7th day of light fortnight of Ashadha (June-July), a chariot procession festival (Ratha Yatra) that lasts for 3 days attracts a huge mass of visitors. This festival presents an abbreviated form of the world-famous Ratha Yatra of Puri (Orissa), started by the chief priest of Puri, Svami Brahamachari, who came to Varanasi in exile in 1790, and later died here in 1815. The procession is taken out of Jagannathaa Temple (near Asi Ghat) by carrying the images of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra to Ratha Yatra Crossing on the Godaulia-Mahmoorganj Road. For the 3-day period, the road is crowded with the people gathering from the neighbouring countryside. Many temporary shops adorn both sides of road and are known for special cookies like nan-khatai, a crisp and very soft biscuit.
The images in the temple are of Jagannath, his brother Balarama and their sister Subhadra. In the backside chamber, attached to the wall is the 4m high image of Pracanda Narasimha, a huge image on the wooden plate; nearby to it is the image of devotee Prahalada. The compound is divided into three sections linked by gates. The main temple is in the southern part, the last section. The frontal boundary is decorated by the networking of red sandstone. Outside of the main temple, in the open space is Garuda facing the Jagannatha. In all the four corners of the inner compound there are images of Vaishnavite divinities, like Rama Pancayatana, Lakshminarayana, Krishna and Kaliyamardan form of Krishna. On the square base-platform the temple plan is in rectangular shape. The main spire is 16m high.
Present state of conservation
The temple complex is the victim of illegal and immoral encroachments, construction and mismanagement. The huge complex of great heritage importance, of course unique in early 20th century with pilgrimage path, flower gardens, sacred water pool (Chandan Talab), green gardens, is now in danger. The catastrophe like illegal constructions and additionally running of a big hotel in the compound itself, and above all completely lack of civil sense, public awareness, altogether turned to a great loss to the city.
Specific measures being taken for conserving the specific property (if any) No specific measures are taken to conserve and preserve the temple, except to continue and maintain the daily religious activities by the Pujari’s family living therein.
The temple complex owned by an individual who on tent basis allotted the quarters, which are built in course of time illegally.