The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Jalashayi and Khiraki Ghats
25º 18.513’ North and 83º 00.611’ East (Jalashayi Ghat, north part).
Exact location on a map
Jalashayi and Khiraki Ghats
Jalashayi Ghat is also called Jalasen Ghat. According to folk legend Lord Shiva sleep in the deep water of the Ganga at this ghat, that is how the name Jalashayi. The earlier description of this ghat was mentioned under the name Mokshadvareshvara Ghat, as narrated in the Giravana-padamanjari, a 17th century text. It was believed that portion of the spirit of the corpse can go under the deep water to meet Shiva, which results to provide passage to the heaven by the bliss of Shiva. This belief has converged into a ritual that the corpse first to be put into water, near this ghat, before putting it on the funeral pyre. In the early 20th century the ghat was made pucca by Baldeodas Birla, who has also built a rest house for the attendants coming with the corpse. However, presently very few attendants take shelter in the rest house. No religious activities is performed at this ghat. The ghat serves as ferry station for transporting the wood to be used in cremation. -- Khiraki (“the window”) Ghat was earlier developed as a built structure from where attendants can watch the cremation. Presently this is defunct. Nearby to it under an old fig tree there are several Sati stones, reminding the tradition of ‘religious suicide by the wives on the funeral of their dead husbands’. Close to cremation ground such stone statue showing husband and wife is commonly scattered.
Present state of conservation
Except by the rest houses directly taking care of its properties, there are no specific action plans, programmes and strategies for conservation and preservation of the ghats. The guest house trusts maintain their properties according to their own perspectives without specific plans. Many of such guest houses and buildings are illegally occupied by the residents there in.
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 rest house related properties along the ghat are owned by the respective trusts; the houses and other properties by the inhabitants; and the ghat area is owned by the Municipal Corporation.