The Varanasi Heritage Dossier/Tulasi Ghat and Arka Vinayaka
25º 17.490’ North and 83º 00.385’ East (Tulasi Ghat, Pipal tree); 25º 17.510’ North and 83º 00.387’ East (Arka Vinayaka).
Exact location on a map
Tulasi Ghat, well known; Arka Vinayaka near Bhadaini (old Lolarka) Ghat.
Approx. 1.1ha (Asi Ghat, temple complex, Akhara, etc.); and 0.001ha (Arka Vinayaka)
The old ghat of Lolarka has been re-named in memory of its association with Tulasi (CE 1547-1623), a great bhakta poet who wrote the Ramacaritamanasa, a Hindi version of the Ramayana story. Tulasi passed the last period of his life here. After climbing the steps, in the right is the Hanuman image installed by Tulasi and a piece of boat and wooden sandal (khandaun) used by him. This small shrine is attached to a house owned by Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra. On the upper side of the ghat there are four shrines consisting images of Shiva and Hanuman. In 1807 Amrit Rao, the adopted son of Raghoba, built this ghat and also patronised the building. Later, repairs and extensions were completed by Mahant Svami Nath. In 1941 Baldeo Das Birla made this ghat pukka stone stairs. Attached to this ghat are a guesthouse, a Sanskrit School and the Cleaning Ganga Laboratory. In the open platform at the Tulasi Ghat every year in the Hindu month of Karttika (October-November) Krishna Lila (a theatrical performance of Lord Krishna’s life) is performed over the course of a week period. Rama Lila, initiated by Tulasi, is also continued during the month of Asvina (September-October) for a period of 17 days. The first and the last few days’ performances are held here. Looking up one can see the Tulasi Akhara (wrestling site), initiated by Tulasi, the 16th century, where in the morning hours many people, mostly milkmen, practice Indian style of wrestling. Arka Vinayaka: At the high bank of Ganga, lying under the holy fig, the Arka (“substance carrier”) is referred to as the first in the group of 56 Vinayakas/Ganeshas that marks the seven-round spiral circuit of pilgrimage. Arka Vinayaka is the protector of southeast edge of the sacred circuit. In the same compound there is a small image of Bhadra Vinayaka. Returning west again follow the lane. At the small turning in the left the Amarnatha Shiva linga (Amareshvara) represents the replica of the famous ice-form linga in the Kashmir Himalaya. This is about 2m below the surface and to be seen from the lane itself.
Present state of conservation
The Sankat Mochan Foundation and the Ganga Cleaning Campaign (Swatch Ganga Campaign), both supervised and headed by Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, are involved in such programmes, but there is no specific emphasis on conservation and preservation of heritage properties. Addition of new buildings, which no way fit into the heritage landscape, is an example of lack of civic sense, public awareness, and lack of knowledge of the ancient rich heritage.
Specific measures being taken for conserving the specific property
No specific measures are taken to conserve and preserve the Ghat area and the temple, except that Sankat Mochan Foundation is taking all the care, maintenance, the Ganga Cleaning Campaign (Swatch Ganga Campaign).
The Tulasi Ghat area is owned by Sankat Mochan Foundation; and Arka Vinayaka temple is owned by individual trust and looked after by local committee.