The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Pancaganga Ghat and Temple
25º 19.012’ North and 83º 01.107’ East (Pancaganga Ghat, centre).
Exact location on a map
0.016ha (the temple compound and nearby area)
This is one of the five water-front sacred most sites, and believed to be the meeting points of five drains, viz. the Ganga, the Yamuna, the Sarasvati, the Kirana and the Dhutapapa, among which only the first one is visible and the rest are vanished, or assumed in the form of manifestation. In the Gahadavala period (11th-12th century) this was a popular and prominent ghat, patronised by the royal family. Since that period there was a famous temple of Vindu Madhava, which was demolished and converted into a mosque in 1673, that is how the ghat was called Veni Madhava Ghat, presently this is the lower part of the ghat. The two water-front sacred tirthas mentioned in the ancient mythologies are the Vindu Tirtha and Pancanada Tirtha. The KKh (59.116-144) describes its glory very highly, and even today this is the second most important ghat after Dashashvamedha, with respect to devotees paying visit and the merit perceived by the people.
This was the chief resort of a great teacher of Vedanta, Ramananda (CE 1299-1411) to whom Kabir (1398-1518), a great reformist bhakti poet, accepted as guru. Ramananda’s monastery is still there. Tulasi (1547-1623), the poet par excellence of the medieval period and author of Ramacaritamanasa, had passed a number of good years of his life (ca 1580s-90s) at this ghat where he composed the famous writing, the Vinaya Patrika (“The Petition to Rama”), describing the glory of Vindu Madhava temple (VP, 61-63; cf. Allchin, 1966: 129-132; compare KKh 60, 61).
The ghat was made stone stepped (pucca) in 1580 by Raghunath Tandan (Todar Mala ?), the finance secretary of the Mughal emperor Akbar. This information has been supported by an inscription, which till a decade ago was in one of the niches. In 1735 Bajirao Peshva-I together with Sadashiva Naik rebuilt and repair it. In 1665 the French traveller Jean Baptise Tavernier, a dealer in jewels, paid a visit to Banaras and described the Veni Madhava Ghat and grand temple of Veni Madhava at the riverside, which he called a “great pagoda”.
=== Description and History ===: After destruction in 1673, the original image of black-marble Vishnu is kept in the nearby house of Lakshmanabala, now known as Vindu Madhav Temple, and attracts thousands of devotees and pilgrims. This rest house converted into a temple (house no. K 22/ 33) was built in the early 19th century by the king of Aundha Estate of Satara district (Maharashtra), on the first floor of the building. It contains a long veranda, in the southern part (enclosed as inner sanctum) of which is the main image of Vindu Madhava. The roof of the temple is made of good quality wood and stone slabs. There are two entrance gates, separated by a veranda, opposite site of which is the residential quasrter for the priest family. There are gates from the east and north to the inner sanctum. There is no circumambulatory path around the inner sanctum. To the left of the entrance gate, is an image of Vishnu’s vehicle Garuda, a divine bird, and to the right is Hanuman, Rama’s monkey-servant. These are the pieces of the original temple and are excellent examples of miniature and column architecture. One can also have a good view of paintings of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu in the hall, while in the corner compound is a chamber containing “72 lingas Shiva”, and several images of Shiva, Ganesha, Vishnu, etc.
Most of the other temples belong to 19th-20th century. However, the only old temple in this area is Rama Mandir of Kanganvali Haveli (K 22/ 25), built in the early 17th century by the king of Amer (Rajasthan), Mirza Raja Jaisingh, originally as a Vedic School. This is described by the French traveller Jean Baptise Tavernier (in 1665). Nearby to it is Tailanga Svami Math (K 23/ 95), established by a great saint of 19th century Tailanga Svami, which contains a huge linga called Tailangeshvara. At the ghat, close to the river front, there are “the dozen of three-sided cubicle shrine rooms that open out into the river. Some contains a lingam or an image, such as the lanky reclining images of Vishnu sleeping down upon the serpent Shesha. Others are nearly bare and used primarily for yogic exercises and meditation. The arati (ritual of offering oil lamps) in honour of the Sun god and the goddess Ganga River at the time of sunrise is most attractive when seen in the morning. There are many shrines of the goddess Ganga along the ghat. It is believed that during the Hindu month of Karttika (October-November) the waters of the river Ganga, Varana, Asi, Yamuna (which meets the Ganga at Prayag, 125 km west) and the two lost streams of Kirana and Dhutapapa, the five rivers, meet here. Hence the name Panchaganga (i.e. Pancha-, five; -ganga, sacred river) Ghat. In the month of Karttika the ritual of offering oil lamps to ancestors, hung up in the air on bamboo poles (akasha dipas) is performed by the ghatias (ghat-priests) on behalf of the devotees who subsidise the cost of the materials involved. The stone column on the terrace, built by Ahilyabai Holkar in late 18th century, can hold 1008 oil lamps at festive days in honour of ancestors. There is a stone pillar with a 1008 sockets stone made structure to hold the lamps lighted on the night of full moon in the month of Karttika.
Present state of conservation
Except by the temple trust 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 temple is owned by their Temple Trust; the ghat area by the Municipal Corporation.