The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Mangala Gauri Ghat and Temple
25º 18.875’ North and 83º 01.035’ East (Mangala Gauri Temple). 25º 18.876’ North and 83º 01.033’ East (Gabhastishvara Shiva ). 25º 18.873’ North and 83º 01.014’ East (Balaji Temple). ===== Exact location on a map =====-- Mangala Gauri/ or Bala Ghat, ==== Area ====-- 0.01ha (each of the two temple compounds).
The palatial building along the ghat was built by Peshva Raghoba ‘Balaji’ in 1735, after whom this is known as Balaji Ghat. Later in ca 1807 Lakshmana Bala of Gwalior repaired and renovated this ghat. In 1864 the British had captured it and later auctioned it to king Jiyajirao Shinde of Gwalior, who installed an image of Balaji (Vishnu). This building is called as Lakshmana Balaji temple. One of the inscriptions of mid 17th century glorifies this ghat and the temple of Mangala Gauri. The book on Banaras by Greeves, published in 1909, mentions this ghat as Bala Ghat. The puranic descriptions mention many of the water associated sacred spots near to this ghat, viz. Mayukharka Tirtha, Bhairava Tirtha, Vindu Tirtha, Tamravaraha Tirtha and Kalaganga Tirtha. Among the temples in this area, Mangala Gauri and Balaji are important.
Description and History
Among the nine mother goddess of “white” nature, Mangala is known as “goddess of auspiciousness”, and some of the text she is called Lalita Gauri. In the 12th century text Giravana-padamanjari (1600-60) the shrine of Mangala Gauri is described. The other divine images in this temple include Mangala Vinayaka, Mukha Prekshenika, Mayukha Aditya, Gabhastishvara, Mangaloda Kupa, and hundreds of votive lingas. Nearby, in the passing lane in a private house is a shrine of Carcika (house no. K 23/ 72), one among the eight Matrikas, who was described in the early writings on the primordial goddesses. The central linga in this temple is the one established by the Sun god, called Gabhastishvara, and his own disk in one of the pillars, called Mayukha Aditya whose face is surrounded by closed rays (house no.: K 24/ 34). According to puranic description the Sun god was fully disappeared while worshipping Shiva, therefore Shiva himself later manifested him in the form of Mayukha (rays). This indicates the narrative of a total solar eclipse and the solar carona, which remained in the sky after the sun has disappeared from view. This happened on 10th May 1054. The eclipse occurred at the ascending node of the moon, i.e. when the moon was moving from south to north, and therefore was associated with the demon Rahu. This happened before the writing of the puranic story narrated in the Kashi Khanda and probably later on narrated in the mythology. Full solar eclipse again happened in the 20th century on 18th April 1931. The temple of Balaji is located in a big palatial building (house no.: K 22/ 24). The long hall wad transformed into inner sanctum for the temple, and roof is flat which stands on the two series of 8 pillars in each. On a small altar in the inner sanctum four-handed Vishnu of blackstone is in standing pose, surrounded by Bhu-Devi (‘earth goddess’) and Sri-devi (‘goddess of glory’), and nearby is Vishnu’s vehicle Garuda.
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.
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.