Page 1


Envisioning a Resilient Cultural Landscape Ghats on the Ganga, Varanasi, India

Department of Landscape Architecture College of Fine and Applied Arts University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

Table of Contents Summary 1 Introduction 2 Assi Ghat 3-12 Dashashwamedh Ghat 13-20 Manikarnika Ghat 21-30 Panchganga Ghat 31-40 Adi Keshav Ghat 41-48 Conclusion 49 References 50 Acknowledgements 51

Summary The monograph summarizes the result of a site workshop in Varanasi (Jan 4-10, 2016) by faculty and students from the Departments of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC), USA and Bhanubhen Nanavati College of Architecture for Women (BNCA), Pune, India. The landscape planning and design proposals outlined in the workshop were developed in a semester long studio (January-May 2016) at the UIUC campus. Sustainability is the key to landscape planning and management so that the invaluable and immense heritage of the ghats can be preserved for future generations. Sustainability can be achieved by the use of renewable source of energy, local materials and low-cost appropriate technologies. Climate adaptability of built structures and their potential for multipurpose use plus their recycling potential are important criteria. The built edge of the Ganga Riverfront in Varanasi is complex and layered, and is a dynamic landscape created by spatial practices. This complexity needs to be taken into account in the bottoms up planning approach using local energy and resources. This approach entails: • planning a resilient landscape that will recover from flooding events, • designing new structures for public conveniences that are portable, light weight, and modular, to be deployed as occasion demands and can be moved when the Ganga rises during monsoons, • energy production relying on solar power, • treating biodegradable waste contributing to Ganga’s pollution as a resource. Five ghats—Assi, Dashaswamedh, Panchganga, Manikarnika, and Adi Keshav Ghats-are selected for studies on spatial practices, sun and shade, flooding, and local point source pollution. Site designs and management strategies based upon site studies are proposed for these ghats.




The cultural landscape of the ghats was mapped to develop management programs and propose sustainable design solutions for sites and structures. Google Earth, survey map, wikimapia maps, reports, books, and photographs were consulted for developing the base map in AutoCAD to show buildings, ghats, streets and other open spaces, water bodies, vegetation and semi-fixed structures. Data on natural phenomenon—monsoon rains, sun and wind—on the ghat landscape was collected and analyzed to make use of renewable sources of energy and create comfortable microclimates. The symbolic meanings of vegetation and animals were interpreted, and their use of public spaces, and ways in which their energies and waste can be harnessed, were studied. Spatial practices—rituals and performances—as kind of enacted intangible heritage and their shaping of spaces and forms, was mapped. To understand how the urban edge is articulated to support the diverse range of activities on the riverfront, the spatial and formal design language of the ghats was studied. The formal grammar unites the vertical historic facades of riverfront buildings with the horizontal surfaces of steps and landings. The prototypical forms—bastions, burjes, balconies, jharokhas, aedicules, portals, pavilions and platforms—were studied in terms of basic shapes, colors, ornamentation, and building materials. The spatial grammar consists of volumetric enclosure created by buildings, colonnades, pavilions, trees, built niches, eaves, stairs, and built niches. The transition from enclosure to openness, and ways in which it is modulated and how level differences are negotiated and spaces created in thresholds, steps and landings, platforms, and terraces are shown. The flows of people and animals on the ghats was mapped and visual taxonomy of the human and animal activities resulting in waste that finds its way to the Ganga and contributes to ground and air pollution was developed. Cultural events such as aarti and cremation practice were analyzed as sequence of activities in time by showing how the body is engaged in spatial practices and noting typical postures and gestures. This mapping showed how the performance and its audience generate space. The life on the ghats changes in response to the river flow and the water level in dry and monsoon seasons. Mappings show how much of the ghats (and streets and other open spaces) come under water during the monsoons and how the excess stormwater from the city is finding its way into the Ganga and bringing with it liquid waste. The stone clad ghats are a large built up surface and are uncomfortable for the many activities during the peak days in summer. Places that receive the greatest amount of solar radiation during a hot summer day are mapped and location and form of shade devices in use are studied to speculate on how the solar energy can be productively

Assi Ghat Assi ghat is the southernmost ghat in Varanasi. It is at the confluence of Ganga and Assi Nala and is an auspicious site for bathing especially on Makar Sankranti. The symbolic significance of Assi Nala lies in its being equated with the sword of goddess Durga who had killed the demons Shumbha-Nishumbha with it and then thrown it on the ground. Today, Ganga has shifted from the ghat leaving a large silt deposit on the flood plain. The ghat is being extended southwards and new hotels are being constructed on the flood plain. There is no green cover on the newly built paved areas. The steps of the 19th century Sangameshwara temple are a popular place to sit, especially for Banaras Hindu University students. The local landmark is a large banyan tree with the Kundodareshwara Shivalinga. It is a popular ghat for tourists to begin their journey and is surrounded by hotels, souvenir shops, bookstores and restaurants. The public life of the ghat follows the rhythm of daily life. Follwing the morning aarti and yoga sessions in Subah-e-Banaras, activities in the morning are slower and more private like bathing and praying. At noon, the ghat is energetic, the activities become recreational and more tourists get involved in the life on ghat. After the evening aarti, the ghat gradually quietens down. Platforms are being used to pray, sell, bless people, sleep, rest, and change clothes before and after holy dips. 1

Two major waste problems in Assi ghat are cow dung and domestic sewage from nearby residences. Cows and buffalos hang out in the ghat eating garbage and littering the place with their dung. A buffalo field is proposed for housing the cattle in the nearby public maidan. Fresh flowers used in aarti performance would be gathered to feed the cattle and their dung would be collected in the bio-digester. The buffalos can be milked in the field and dairy products can be sold in booths along the pavement inside the field. To deal with liquid waste, three programs are developed. The first one is rain gardens along Assi Nala to filtrate runoff water before it goes into Ganga. The second one is filtration pool and underground storm water harvesting pool. Rain and floodwater would be filtrated and stored in reservoir for local use. The third one is bathing pool for holy dip.


Domestic sewage flows into River Ganga through Assi Nala. A rain garden is proposed for filtration where the Nala meets the Ganga. Native plants would be planted for absorbing pollutants and filtrating the waste. Besides, the rain garden is able to enhance water retention ability to prevent this area from flooding during a storm. Less than eight percent of the ghat is under shade at the noon of June 1st and the average temperature in summer can be up to 38 degrees Celsius. More shade devices are required and portable structures made by bamboo and heavy canvas cloth are proposed in addition to planting more trees. From the abundant sunshine, solar energy can be harvested by solar panel and transformed into electricity to be used in boat engines, cell phone charging station, restrooms and changing rooms as well as nearby residences. The existing parking space at Assi Ghat is inadequate. It is extended by demolishing a few old buildings in poor condition. One way streets are proposed to regulate traffic. Autorickshaws powered by solar power will be parked separately from buses and cars and a charging station is proposed. A tourist center with a gallery on culture and history of Varanasi and an interpretation center for international tourists and medical emergency aid is designed. The structure is made from bamboo and covered with a canvas cloth. Bamboo and wood structures are ecofriendly and easily replaceable if damaged in floods. The soaring roof of the tourist center will make it a landmark easily identified by visitors.


Design Grammar

Architecture Grammar

Spatial Grammar


Spatial Practice


Flooding and Rain Garden

Water Maps

Section 1-1 1cm=10m

Section 2.2 1cm=10m 7

Waste and Sun


Buffalo Field


Section 9

Entrance Interpretation Center Flow

Plan 10

Site Plan

1. Interpretation Center 2. Parking Lots 3. Bathing Tank 4. Floating Dock 5. Sedimentation 6. Terraced garden 7. Tent Campus 8. Craft Market 9. Buffalo Field 10. Catwalk 11. Biodigester 12. Solar Panels 13. Assi Nala 14. Rain gardens





Bamboo Structure

Dashashwamedh Ghat This popular ghat is accessible from the city center-Godowlia Crossing-and attracts a large number of visitors. The road leaving to the ghat divides itself on either side of a vegetable market and ends into steep steps. The ghat was originally at the confluence of Godowlia Nala (now paved by the road) and Ganga. The southern part is the old Dashashwamedh ghat and has the shrines to goddess Sheetala, Dashashwamedheshwara and Dashahareshwara. The northern part is known as Prayag ghat, alluding to the original Prayag at the confluence of three sacred rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. It has the shrines of Shulatankeshwara as well as Ganga. Adjacent to it are Rajendra Prasad ghat, named after the first president of India. Beyond that is the Man Mandir ghat with the magnificent palace built by Man Singh of Amber, Rajasthan in 1585-1605 CE. On its roof is the famous astronomical observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh in 1710 CE and now a protected ASI monument. The visual culture of Dashashwamedh Ghat is rich with a variety of architectural forms and religious iconography. Color, textures, spires, fenestration, steps, platforms, boats, among other elements, are repeated at irregular intervals and form the unifying element in a very complex visual structure. The iconic image of the ghats is today threatened with visual clutter from encroachments and billboards resulting in loss of aesthetic value. In mapping architectural grammar six basic elements---cube, cylinder, cuboid, triangle, semi-circle and trapezoid—were identified. The ghat buildings have these elements in different combinations. There are four kinds of spaces--closed, close-open-close, semi-open-close, and semi-open. Historic buildings using the traditional architectural grammar have close-open -close spatial structure. Dashashwamedh ghat is very famous because of aarti performance every evening that bring a large number of visitors. The street leading to the ghat is very congested with people, animals, and vehicles. It is divided into a bustling commercial street and vegetable markets. Traffic jams occur often because of the narrowness of the street, vendors, and animals. The most important event in Dashashwamedh ghat is the evening aarti bringing a large number of visitors. Visitors view the aarti, from steps, balconies and terraces, and from boats.


At other times in the day, people are praying, getting massages, shaving, trimming, preaching, selling, sleeping, resting, cleaning, and bathing. Dashashwamedh Ghat gets a lot of sunshine and there no shade structures on the landings and steps. The solar energy can be harvested by solar panels and transformed into electricity for emergency lighting and other purposes. The Ganga is flooding more often because of deforestation upstream and constriction in its flow locally caused by silt deposition on the east bank. The ghat is flooded during the monsoons. It is not uncommon to stumble into rotting piles of offerings. Some of this waste finds its way into the Ganga, littering the shoreline. The waste from temples and shops, by local residents and tourists can be classified into three kinds: garbage, ritual offerings, and cow dung. A cycle for recyclable waste is developed according to the types of waste and location of waste sources. Flowers and leaves used in aarti performance can feed cattle and be composted. Plastics and paper should be recycled. The goal of the design is to organize the public space of the ghat into the fruit market and sculpture square. The original wedgeshaped space at the fork in the street is transformed. The original motorcycle parking lot is redesigned into a bazaar and a leisure square. The area closer to the ghats is transformed into a food plaza, with a few illegal encroachments demolished. Along the street shade corridors are designed with local traditional materials such as jute and bamboo. To bring greenery into the ghat, a vertical garden is designed using hydroponics. The umbrella gallery on the ghat can also be made with jute and bamboo. To increase accessibility, a ramp is designed at the north entrance. Floating platforms are designed to increase the audience space during the aarti performace.


Design Grammar



Spatial Practice


Activity Mapping




Sun, Water and Waste


Green Walls in Man Mandir Ghat

Farmer’s Market



Site Design Legends: 1. Streetscape of Dashashwamedh 2. Fruit Booth 3. Sculpture Plaza 4. Landmark 5. Sunshade 6. Plants pool 7. Leisure Plaza 8. Bazaar 9. Food Plaza 10. Strampe 11. Vertical Garden 12. Umbrella Gallery 13. Docks 14. Floating Platform 15. No-boundary Clean Tank for Bath 16. Underground Parking Lot 17. Temple 18. Sewage Treatment Plant 19. Lookout




1 5 6 7 8 16



18 10 11 19

12 14 13



Manikarnika Ghat

Manikarnika Ghat is the oldest ghat on the Ganga. It is especially sacred because it is the meeting point of Shiva and Vishnu traditions. It is the beginning and end point of the panchkroshi parikrama, the symbolic circumambulation of the universe. The ghat is the great cremation ground where all who die will be guaranteed moksha. Shiva is eternally present here and whispers the taraka mantra in the ears of the dying. The formal language of this ghat can be read in iconic riverfront image. The diverse spaces of niches, bastions, and aedicules are articulated by activities performed every day. The layering of spires and jharokhas of temples and palaces, and riverfront platform adds to the visual complexity. Built to adapt to the highly changeable water levels of the Ganga, the ghat has been continuously remolded by spatial practices. The cremation ground has a relatively high elevation, and only the 100-year flood can fully inundate it. During the monsoon season cremation is shifted from the lower flood plain to the higher terraces. Manikarnika Ghat is popularly known as the ‘burning ghat’ because of its cremation pyres. The dead are carried to the ghat through a narrow alley accompanied by a group of mourners for a dip in the Ganga. The air is thick with smoke and ashes from the burning logs, and the surrounding buildings are covered with soot. The dominant wind direction here is from west to east, which blows most of the ashes, dust, and smoke produced by cremation to the Ganga River. The temperature may reach 60 Celsius degree under the scorching June sun. After the cremation, ashes are collected, and relatives of the deceased will have their heads shaven and will take a bath to remove the pollution of death. The cremation route looks like a pumping heart from above symbolizing the cycle of life and death, and the energy exchange between this world and the eternal Ganga. The mourners are the protagonists in the cremation scene, while the residents, tourists, and pilgrims are the audience of this death drama. The land use pattern is chaotic and confusing. Log storage, vehicle parking, and docking boats carrying the logs take up most of the open space of this ghat. It is too congested to offer any breathing space, reinforcing the gloomy atmosphere. Cows, goats, and dogs wander everywhere, and tourists can walk wherever they want, undermining the solemnity and sense of privacy of the cremation practice. However, the disorganized small commercial zones of tea stalls and vending shops dotting this sad ghat energize it with public life.


Although Manikarnika Ghat is sacred, it is unhygienic. Surface drainage of waste water pollutes the Ganga. Solid waste—plastic bottles, bamboo, flowers, dung, and ash—also finds its way in to the Ganga. The abundant waste may be considered a resource. New cycles of waste treatment are proposed, including community education in the waste recycle workshops and vending units, thus improving the economy for the floating population living around this ghat. Women and children can become wastepickers, reprocessors, and traders. Organic waste composting can produce biogas or methane, which can be used in cremation. The proposed burning stoves fueled by biogas in the cremation platforms are supplemented with ritual wooden logs for burning, Manikarnika Ghat is reclaimed with organized movement patterns, reduced congestion and pollution, more open spaces, and privacy for the cremation practice. Through design interventions, waste becomes a resource, air is cleaned, and the local economy is improved. The entering alley is for pedestrian only, and retaining walls and cow-catchers will prevent animals from entering the cremation ground. Mourners are guided by processional gates to the ghat, and will be able to register, buy logs, and wait for the cremation. The deceased will be cremated on individual burning platforms rather than be crowded together on the silt bed. Lotus-shaped filtration screens will reduce air pollution and collect ashes, while also providing a sense of privacy and make the mourners feel comfortable when they are watching their beloved ones being cremated. The screens are made of nonflammable translucent material. Lotus is the shared symbol of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, who sustain life and conquer death.


Design Grammar Skyline

Formal Language




Flows Residents and Domestic Pilgrims





Air and Water Pollution


Ganga level 100-year flood


Dry season/normal






Site Design


Energy Flows and Waste Cycle



Lotus Filtration Screen

Panchganga Ghat

Panchganga, as the name suggests in Hindi, means the confluence of five forms of Ganga at one place. Panchganga Ghat celebrates this confluence and is a lively public space. The confluence of rivers namely Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Kirna and Dhutpapa, extends to a confluence in culture, heritage and music as well. There is the magnificent Dharhara Mosque angled to the edge of the ghat, and across a plaza is the rebuilt Bindu Madhav temple, a popular temple of Lord Vishnu. The mosque stands at the site of the original temple demolished by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Panchganga has a rich musical and literary heritage encompassed in the works and life of Saint Kabir, the famous poet and his teacher Saint Ramananda. In the present century, Panchganga Ghat is associated with the late Ustaad Bismillah Khan, the famous Shehnai player who performed in Balaji palace. The design grammar of Panchganga Ghat is an interesting mix of various architectural elements--ranging from temple spires to domical mosque roof along with minarets. Typical cube like aedicules are situated in tiers at the edge of the steps. They house shrines for the most part with a few being merely storage spaces. Octagonal platforms, bastions, and colonnades are other permanent structures. The ghat also has bamboo poles used for holding oil lamps during the auspicious full moon night of Kartik Poornima.The spatial grammar is constituted by varying volume of spaces. The open spaces at the edge of steps narrow down and become compact as one moves towards the streets on the dramatically steep steps. These characteristics render a unique visual and spatial quality to Panchganga Ghat. Panchganga ghat can be divided into different zones depending upon the type of built structures and open spaces. The temples, the historic palaces and the residential buildings form the built fabric. The spatial practices of residents, visitors and animals on the ghats articulate the design grammar. The movements by the people and animals mark the areas that are concentrated with different day to day as well as special activities. The daily activities consist of bathing, worshipping, vending as well as relaxing and other leisure activities. Throughout the day, these activities are carried out by varying number of residents and visitors. The interesting characteristic of these activities is that there is a large range of postures and gestures. The postures vary but they have a general repeating pattern. The study of spatial practices defines the significant areas and spaces that carry a potential to be developed in a sustainable way allowing orderly flow of the people on the ghat.


The stray cows and those owned by local residents roam freely on the ghat littering it with dung. There is also the organic kitchen waste from residents’ households. Residents and visitors produce waste in the form of wrappers, plastic bags, leaves, and flowers. On the proposed heritage trail, waste should be disposed of properly so that it does not become a hindrance when people walk especially through narrow alleys and stairways. The proposed waste management system consists of portable trash bins with outer shells that can be painted whereas the inside plastic container can be easily lifted upon and settled back into the dustbin. The outer cover of the trash bin can be painted by local talented artists and the inner container is made of lightweight plastic. The bins are located where waste is generated. They can be moved on the ghat as they have wheels and the biodegradable refuse collected in them can be dumped into the compost tumbler. The idea is to collect organic waste that can be composted and used in the proposed silt garden. In the site plan heritage buildings and temples are connected with a heritage trail. Deployable and foldable structures at the entry plaza, haat and the kund can be used for activities and performances and foster community practices. Changing rooms are proposed on the aedicules at the edge of the ghat Along the stairways murals depicting the myths and legends can be displayed. The roof of Balaji Palace can be used for recreation, music performances as well as for viewing the Ganga aarti. A garden is designed on the edge of steps where large amounts of silt are deposited currently. It is planted water lotuses, lilies and Nymphodus Krishnakesara that add color. The heritage trail enhances the fading music culture of the Panchganga ghat. It is designed to take the visitors on a walk through the lanes and riverfront connecting palaces, temples and other historic buildings as well as performative spaces, kund, and exhibits.The trail begins at the entry plaza near Balaji Palace leading to Balaji temple and further to Kangan Mahal, Dharhara Mosque and other landmarks. The journey opens up at a Haat near the plaza between the mosque and Bindu Madhav temple. It further moves through a sequence of other temples and lead to the proposed kund, a bathing tank for residents and visitors to bathe in clean water. It has five streams of water flowing towards Ganga as a symbolic representation of the confluence of five holy rivers. The landing above the kund has lightweight bamboo structures where performances of classical music create the perfect ambience for visitors to feel captivated with the aura of majestic Ganga. Further down the trail, the visitor is introduced to the life of Saint Kabir through murals depicting scenes from his life. The final destination of the trail is the daily Aarti performance to worship Ganga. The foldable bamboo structures used as changing rooms and performative spaces can be relocated once the water level rises. 32

Design Grammar

Domical Temple




Minarets and Domes


Temple Spire

Octagonal Platform



Spatial Practice






Residents’ Movement Visitor’s Movement

Animal Waste

Human Waste

Waste by Animal defacataion

Domestic kitchen waste

Waste by Visitors throwing trash

Waste by offering flowers for prayer

Portable Trash cans


Water and Sun

Energy Cycle 36

Deployable Structure


Changing Rooms


Tea Stall

Musicians’ Gallery

Wall Murals

Solar Lights on Aakashdeep

Panchganga Kund

Silt Garden 39

Site Design

Silt Garden


Adi Keshav Ghat

Raj Ghat plateau lies on the northern most end of Varanasi ghats at the confluence of Varuna River and the holy river Ganga. The ghat stretch in Rajghat plateau consists of three ghats—Prahlad Ghat, Rajghat also known as Ravidas Ghat, and Adi-keshav Ghat. Adikeshav Ghat is one of the five most auspicious of Varanasi ghats. In addition, the Rajghat plateau consists of important landmarks such as Malviya Bridge, Kashi Railway Station, and the Archaeological Park. Since it lies in the outward curve of the riverbank, it is more prone to erosion. Silt deposition has always been a problem throughout the ghat. The confluence of Varuna River and Ganga River to the north also makes it susceptible to floods, submerging large areas under water, thereby making it inaccessible during monsoon. Unlike other ghats in southern stretch, Raj ghat plateau is sparsely settled. While Prahlad ghat is densely populated, it lacks any daily event that would attract tourists or even locals from the inner core of the city to the riverbank. There are local household activities such as washing clothes and drying on the steps, daily bathing, bathing animals, children playing, and chatting people. Probably because of less number of people on the bank, very few tea stalls and vendors are present. The largest flow of people is through Malviya Bridge for traveling to and from Ramnagar on the east bank of river. The Rajghat plateau has distinct architectural grammar such as chattri, decorated balcony, and columns of Rani Mahal but at the same time it incorporates typical elements of the ghat stretch with the presence of marhi (platfoms) and aedicules along the steps on the bank. The squatter settlement and other neighborhoods in the vicinity have been producing waste directly disposed into the river. This has caused pollution of the holy Ganga to such an extent that bathing in the river is now unhygienic. The waste includes flower garland, wood, vegetables, cow dung, and agricultural produces, all of which are bio-degradable. However, other waste products like oil from burning lamps, plastic bottles, detergents and soap, and pesticides are non-biodegradable and have a negative impact on the river ecology. In addition to these waste products, the major problem is open-air excreta from humans and animals, creating an unhealthy environment and discouraging tourists who could have otherwise entered the ghats from Kashi Railway Station. Similarly, wastewater from the inner city flows into the river, increasing Ganga’s pollution. Each ghat in Rajghat plateau has its own specific and distinct problems that need special consideration and call for a distinct design strategy. Prahlad Ghat for instance, has dense settlement already established through buildings that cannot be removed. Thus the design intervention for Prahlad Ghat is to provide one ecotoilet for ten families. The eco-toilet consists of changing rooms and toilets situated close to the bathing tanks. 41

The bathing tank is fed with water from the Ganga after undergoing filtration so that people in the community are able to bathe in hygienic and clean water. The water for toilet is collected through rainwater harvesting and distributed through gravity by positioning tanks at the roof of each unit. The human waste produced from the toilet is collected in a mixing tank, directed to the bio-digester. The methane gas produced thereby is distributed to the community as cooking gas and the slurry extracted from the bio-digester is then directed to the bio-fertilizer. The fertilizer is utilized in the community garden producing fresh vegetable. Thus, the proposal is to create a healthy community through proper hygiene and organic food consumption. The area of Rajghat under Malviya Bridge is designed as a threshold for entering the riverfront. The entrance plaza consists of a parking lot, welcome garden, tourist/ information center, and open-air exhibition area with connection to the Archaeological Park. The mustard field extends into year-round farming utilizing fertilizers extracted from the bio-digester. Hence, the use of pesticides from farmland flowing into the river is mitigated. Streetlights, boat maintenance dock and charging stations are some of the other facilities. The pastoral landscape and the sparse settlement at Adi-Keshav Ghat are an opportunity to create an ashram, an ancient learning center that would attract students from all over the world to study Vedic texts. The ashram consists of a two-storied building, a front courtyard, a rear courtyard, and other amenities. In the courtyard and the open colonnade at the ground floor students learn, study, chant, and do daily rituals. During festivals when there is high flow of pilgrims, the upper story provides pilgrim lodging. The front courtyard faces Ganga, and incorporates activities such as bhajan-kirtan (ritual singings), ritual dances, yoga, kushti (wrestling), chanting of mantras, and other activities. The rear courtyard is a tranquil zone with ample trees where one can seat and meditate. This landscape is conducive to gaining enlightenment, either through conversations or by detaching self from everyone. The ashram revives the ancient learning traditions associated with Varanasi. The amenities include eco –toilets, washing and bathing tanks utilizing water from Ganga after purification. While in monsoon getting water from Ganga would not be a problem, in dry season when the water level of the river itself drops down, water stored in the tank underneath the front courtyard is utilized for washing, and cleaning. Additionally, solar energy and biogas will help in sustaining the ashram community. Trees are planted on the bank to hold up the soil and prevent erosion. In addition to strengthening the bank, trees (Fiscus religiosa) provide shade and become social spaces. The eco-toilet preventing direct disposal of human excreta to the river, bio-retention basin for water filtration before it reaches the river, mustard farm that remediates chemical from the rail-yard, bio-fertilizer replacing chemical fertilizers, solar energy, rainwater harvesting, vegetation on the bank, attenuate direct pollution to the Ganga, revive the river ecology, and encourage a healthy and sustainable community to flourish.


10 8



7 5

















Panoramic View 43

Land Use

Activity Mapping


Design Grammar

Waste Map

Flood Map

Waste Water Map


Energy Cycle


Site Design



Conclusion As funding becomes available through initiatives such as HRIDAY (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojna) for urban development and infrastructure improvement, Namami Ganga Programme under the National Mission for Clean Ganga, and Kyoto-Varanasi Partner City Agreement for making Varanasi a ‘smart heritage city’, it is imperative that the ghats be reclaimed and restored not in an ad hoc way but through comprehensive planning and managment. This will be especially useful in nominating Varanasi Ghats for the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Our earlier report Ghats of Varanasi on the Ganga in India (2014) proposed site plans for the entire stretch of ghats aiming to increase legibility, performativity, health, and resilience. This report builds on the previous project by outlining detailed design proposals for the panch tirthas—Assi, Dashashwamedh, Manikarnika, Panchganga and Adi Keshav. The sustainable model for landscape management can be first implemented in them setting a precedent for reclamation of other ghats. The resilience of Varanasi and its ghats in face of cultural upheavals has been proved time and again. Climate change and unprecedented levels of pollution however may cause irreparable damage to heritage. Sustainability is the key to landscape management especially when the cultural landscape embodies heritage of the kind Varanasi Ghats do. Heritage is for future generations, and its sustenance is tied to planning policies and design interventions that can be effectively implemented using local energies and resources. Sustainable heritage management entails that planning be contingent upon the impact of climate change on Ganga’s flow. It should aim for a resilient landscape, one can that recover from flood events that are recurring with increasing frequency. Making Varanasi a ‘smart heritage city’ entails that its most iconic landscape, the Ganga Riverfront, be managed by using a systems approach. Water, sun, flora and fauna have tremendous symbolic value in traditional thought and ritual practices. Each natural element is integrated in complex systems of ecological and cultural processes. These self-organized systems should be managed to produce renewable energy, treat waste as a resource, and promote heritage interpretation.


References Alley, Kelly, “Rejuvenating Ganga: Challenges and Opportunities in Institutions, Technologies and Governance”, Tekton, vol. 3, no. 1, March (2016): 08-23. Doron, Assa, Richard Barz, and Barbara Nelson (eds.) An Anthology of Writings on the Ganga: Goddess and River in History, Culture, and Society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015. Eck, Diana. Banaras City of Light. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1993. Gutschow, Niels. “The Panchkroshi Temple.” Banaras: The City Revealed, vol. 7, no. 2. Eds. George Michell and Rana P.B. Singh. Mumbai: Marg Publications, December 2005. 92–97. Hegewald, Julia A.B. “Ghats and Riverside Palaces.” Banaras: The City Revealed, vol. 7, no. 2. Eds. George Michell and Rana P.B. Singh. Mumbai: Marg Publications, December 2005. 66–77. Krishnan, Sudarshan. Deployable and Adaptive Structures: http:// Parry, Jonathan. “Death and Cosmogony in Kashi.” Contributions to Indian Sociology, New Series, 15. 1–2 (1981): 337–365. Singh, Rana P.B. “Varanasi Cosmic Order and Cityscape: Sun Images and Shrines.” Architecture+Design, November–December (1994): 75–79. Singh, Rana P.B. and Pravin Rana. Banaras Region: A Spiritual and Cultural Guide. Varanasi: Indica Books, 2006. Tiwari, Reena. Space-Body-Ritual: Performativity in the City. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2010. Walker, Brian and David Salt. Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. Washington: Island Press, 2006.


Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA Faculty Professor Amita Sinha Students Saloni Chawla Yini Chen Mamata Guragain Fang Shao Wanhui Zuo

Dr. B N College of Architecture for Women, New BNCA campus Faculty Professor Shubhada Kamalapurkar Professor Sandhya Nivsarkar Students Fourth Year B.Arch Aarati Deshpande Rajnandini Kolte Raveena Mothghare Revati Tongaonkar Shivani Natu Shraddha Kemse Simran Kaur Tanvi Dubbewar Third Year B.Arch Minisha Khandelwal Pavitra Bhaskaran Pooja Sharma Riddhi Bhootda Ritika Mantri Saavni Patil Soumya agarwal Tanvi Lapalikar Yamini Patil Fifth Year B. Arch Aishwarya Deshmukh Lavisha Borana Nikita Jain

Acknowledgements Ajay Ratan Bannerjee Chandra Prakash Chawla Divay Gupta Rajat Malhotra Rana P.B.Singh Shikhar Singh Shyamlal Singh The project was partially funded by the Wadsworth Grant, Department of Landscape Architecture.

Graphic Design by Saloni Chawla 51

2016 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, USA

Varanasi ghats 2016  

The monograph describes a sustainable approach to reclaiming the five most important ghats--Assi, Dashashwamedh, Manikarnika, Panchganga, an...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you