The Doors of Kashi
April 30, 2013 | By Dr. Rajnish Misra
Kasiphile: A person who loves Kasi (etymologically, it comes from Kasi or Varanasi or Banaras and philia or love). Kasilogist: A person with (not just passing, but deep) knowledge of Kasi (etymologically from Kasi and logy or knowledge).
Kasiphiles love many things about their beloved city. The gate/doorways of the various buildings of the city are one of them. They are shown in the images above. Starting from the left hand top corner and going clockwise, one may see the images from Godowlia, Sonarpura, Bulanala, Rani Ghat, Mahanirvani Ghat, Chet Singh Ghat and Chowk.
There is one prominent element that can be seen in many of the images above: the arched top of the doorways. The arches are not plain, they have some kind of design around them and on their margins. The sides have pseudo-columns or half columns that form the base of the arch. Now, real Kasilogists may be able to give a detailed analysis of the architectural features. A lay man like me can only describe what he sees.
The Kashiraj Kali temple near Godowlia Crossing is just next door to the hospital where my father was born. The temple is run by a family of Maithil Brahmins related to our family. That’s why I had been to the temple several times. In my regular (initial and pragmatic) visits, I passed through the gate without registering its beauty. It was on my most recent visit, when I went to the place after a gap of around a decade, that I really saw the place for what it is. Luckily, I have some additional images of the same structure:
It’s delicately and finely carved. I wish that the banners of the grand Phulwari Restaurant were not there, obstructing the full view at the top and by the balcony. Moreover, the banner to the right, on the balcony, is clamped there with no regard for the sustainability of the atrocious usage. I don’t know whether the Archaeological Society of India should be doing something for this or not but such things may also be opposed at local level. The bundles of wool dangling to the left and the makeshift tarpaulin too mar the overall aesthetic experience.
The pattern of leaves and creeper stems around one central flower is repeated all over the top of the arch. Moving towards the eaves, one finds that the algae and moss from the previous monsoons have coated the structure completely, i.e. no maintenance for a long time. The whole chhajja over the roof bears witness to the fact. The corbels under the balcony and under the eaves have a complex structure with two globular nodes at the two hanging terminals.
The decorative carving on the sides of the gate can not be seen completely as the tarpaulin obstructs the view. Who may be the garlanded figure at the base, from whom the flowering tree originates? It may be Vishnu. I’m not sure. Ironically, garlands dangling from then morning garlands stall and the juju of chillies and lemon prove that the space under the balcony is permanently occupied.
The features of the Kali Badi bear some resemblance to the overhang and corbel of the building at Man Mandir Ghat as can be seen from the images below. The balcony has a more complex structure in comparison but there are many features of the buildings shown above that can be found in the stone buildings of Kasi. The photo gallery at the top proves it right.
There is a difference between temple/palace architecture and that of a house. Yet, Houses in Kasi do have some features in common (including the omnipresent commercial hoardings and banners that obstruct the full view). In the image below, there’s an old house that one can see while passing from Chowk Police Station towards Bulanala, around the opening to the gali that leads to Agrasen Mahajani School.
There are many similarities in the features of this house and that of the Godowlia Kali Badi. The double globuled corbels and the finely carved panels over the arch are similar. The domed balcony and the parapet are similar too.
Now have a look at the arched stone entrance to this house at Bulanala. The design of and over the arch is similar to the other arches discussed here. In the images below, the corbels are, once more, bi-globular (even under the balcony of the more dilapidated house to the left in the image with an auto in it). The repeated flower and leaf motif over the arches can be seen in the images below too.
There’s a corbelled verandah in my house in Kasi. Shamefully for me, I’ve forgotten what the corbels look like. What’s more I’ve forgotten the details of the arch over the entrance too. I do need revision! Or maybe, my friends Rishi and Atma must go on another snapping spree!
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