Posts Tagged ‘river

24
Apr
17

Ghats of Kolkata

The Ganges, above all, is the river of India, which has held India’s heart and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of the Ganges from her source to the sea, from old times to new speaks about India’s civilisation and culture.  The story about great empire’s rise and fall and much more. Kolkata The capital West Bengal has a great and heroic past. The city owes its creation to its position along the east bank of the River Hooghly, a distributary of the river Ganges.

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Kolkata is one of the big metropolitan cities of India. It bears its unique heritage and culture. One can find various kinds of people from different background and culture. And most of all people with various occupations. It’s so strange that people here make their living on jobs that outside world can never imagine. This is Kolkata where you will find everything from heritage to modernism, all living at their own pace and we the people of Kolkata embraced it with open arms.
Doing this documentation I wanted to focus on few parts of this great city’s cultural heritage. The social life and mostly the profession.

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The Late Harappan period about 1900–1300 BC, saw the spread of Harappan settlement eastward from the Indus River basin to the Ganges-Yamuna doab, although none crossed the Ganges to settle its eastern bank. The disintegration of the Harappan civilisation, in the early 2nd millennium BC, marks the point when the center of Indian civilisation shifted from the Indus basin to the Ganges basin. This river is the longest in India. During the early Vedic Age of the Rigveda,  Indus and  Saraswati river were the major sacred rivers but not the Ganges. Later three Vedas gave much more importance to the Ganges.

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The Gangetic Plain became the cradle of successive civilisations from  Mauryan to  Mughal Empire. In West Bengal, the main branch of Ganga- Padma, passes through the Farraka Barrage, a gigantic barrier designed to divert the Ganga waters into the Hooghly branch and away from the Padma. Completed by the Indian government in the early 1970s, it was intended to help flush out the increasing silt deposits in the Hooghly to improve navigation and to provide Kolkata with irrigation and drinking water.

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The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshiped as the Goddess Ganga in Hinduism. It has also been important historically as many former provincial or imperial capitals have been located on its banks. Today there are thousands of people depend on the river for their living and need. People have spent their life on the river practising different professions and this went on generations after generations.

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Mullick Ghat is named after Hurro Chunder Mullick. It is the best first thing in the morning but at any time of day, you can’t fail to be impressed by the hundreds of flower sellers plying their trade. There are huge mounds of aromatic pink and orange garlands, and baskets piled high with petals for temple-goers. The flower laden baskets of dizzying sizes are carried on the head with extraordinary poise back up the steps and onto Howrah Bridge.

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There is an enclosed area near the banks where wrestling is practised, they call it in local language as Kushti Ankhra.

Beneath the bridge, men, women and children doing their daily chores like washing, playing, praying, working in and around the river. The vast cantilever bridge provides an impressive modernist backdrop to the dilapidated old temple on the Hooghly’s banks. The pujaris stay right beside the river and temple to help people in their needs.

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Travelling from Mullick Ghat, now we are headed towards another very important and busiest ghats of Kolkata, the Babu Ghat. It also can be considered as one of the bathing ghats where people visit for different purposes like the first bathing ritual of a newborn or an ancestral death. Babughat is also been used for drowning the Durga idols after Dasami. And it’s one of the busiest bus stands of Kolkata travelling to different parts of India. One can notice many interesting profession along the ghats. From barber to pujari, tea maker, idol maker, coin exchange and many more. But among them unique is the local parlour situated along the ghat, they call it Tel Malish.

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The Hooghly river flows a short stretch of 1.5 km between Babu Ghat and Prinsep Ghat that is open and visible. The Prinsep Ghat built in 1843 stands magnificently among the ruins. Rich in Greek and Gothic inlays, the monument was restored by the state public works department in November 2001 and has since been well-maintained.  The Man-O-War jetty that belongs to Indian Navy is properly maintained but has no architectural significance.

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The stretch of riverfront between Kingsway Babu ghat and Fairlie Place Ferry ghat particularly the Circular Railway track is an open defecation ground all year round. Thus to develop the place a park is built. Millennium Park is one of the newest development. It was developed by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) on the land of Kolkata Port Trust. The park on the river front is an ideal place to enjoy a romantic evening with splendour of  River Hooghly presenting a majestic backdrop. It is a major tourist attraction of the city.

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The tradition of clay image making was established during the 18th-19th centuries as a distinctive feature of Bengali culture. Today a large number of artists work in Kumartuli in the North of Kolkata. There are about 200 studios in Kumartuli which serve both as workplace and home. An average studio is a ‘fenced-off’ space with an earthen floor. During the festival, the alleyways of Kumartuli are packed with images drying in the sun. The potters who make these images are called Kumars and they often have surname as Pal or Paul. Their work is seasonal and they use clay from the rivers.

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In the early 1800s, Dakshineswar was a small village along the eastern banks of the River Ganga. Dense forest surrounded the area where the famous Dakshineswar temple stands today. It was 300 years back when Durgaprasad Roy Choudhury and Bhavaniprasad Roy Choudhury, members of the renowned Savarna Roy Choudhury family settled there.

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The famous Dakshineswar temple which houses the Goddess Kali was founded by Rani Rashmoni following a dream she saw when she was about to start her pilgrimage to Benaras. The temple ferry ghat is another important ghats of Kolkata. Thousands of people come every day to bath in the sacred river and then go for puja. Interesting people and professions can be seen along the ghat, from children to women all are engaged in a peculiar profession like filling water bottles from the river, searching for coins inside the water using a magnet or by diving deep. The market area is surrounded by the temple that helps to flourish the business.

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Bagbazar Ghat, on the Hooghly River, is an old one. It was once called Raghu Meeter’s Ghat after Raghu Mitra, son of Gobindram Mitra renowned as the Black Zamindar but once was one of the wealthiest and most influential natives of Kolkata in the early days of the British East India Company. There is a steamer jetty next to Baghbazar Ghat with a paved staircase. Steamers carry passengers to the opposite bank of the river to the office localities around B.B.D. Bagh and Esplanade. The old ghat is used by bathers, people collecting Ganges water for performing religious ceremonies and for mundane tasks like unloading country boats carrying various materials. The main attraction of the ghat is the Ganga Arati which is performed daily. In the afternoon with the backdrop of the river and sky, the ambience becomes mesmerising.

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The stretch of the river passes from Baghbazar Ghat straight to Nimtola Ghat. It is situated at Jorabgan of Kolkata. Jorabagan is a neighbourhood in North Kolkata. As a neighbourhood, it covers a small area but its importance is high because of the police station and the assembly constituency. Nimtala Ghat in the neighbourhood is the burning ghat where Hindus cremate the dead. Many renowned people have been cremated and among them was Rabindranath Tagore. The place is marked with a memorial structure of him. Nimtala ghat now has an electric crematorium along with the old style.  The places surrounded here has a different flavour from all other ghats. The market sells commodities for cremation and needless to say about its importance. There is a big temple of lord Shiva and people surrounded there are snake charmers earning money by telling mythological stories.

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I have tried to cover all the important ghats of Kolkata providing details and history of each. Hope you will enjoy it.

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