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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.132

In the Name, the City has Lived: An Ethnography the ghat-names of Banaras (India)


  • Dr. Sweta TIWARI

Primary authors


Banaras (India) is a holy city. It is the centre of Hindu pilgrimage. The city is the fountainhead of the Hindu pilgrimage in India. It is lived city. The River Ganges flows through the city and is marked by cosmic powers. There are 84 ghats that give a half-moon like geomorphologic shape to the river. Each ghat is named. While not everything is named, things that are named have some emotional value. Place names or toponyms act as cultural mnemonics which anchor the history, memories, political struggle and practices of the landscape. The article is based on a year-long fieldwork on the ghats of Banaras. It explores how the ghat names contribute to developing an emotional history of pilgrimage about the cityscape since time immemorial. Banaras has distinct symbolic cartography hinged on the ghats along the holy river Ganges. The article looks into the names of these ghats. It elaborates on the various meaning and emotions attached to the names that have shaped the religious sentiments towards the city. It also focuses on the functions of the ghat-names in nurturing the narratives of the past. The information contained in the names encodes cultural knowledge and are highly emotive. They help in developing a common attitude towards tangible and intangible sacredness of the place. The article portrays how ghat names shape the actions, motives, sentiments, and social relations which permeate over history and cosmology in such a way that evocative and emotive geography of the city continues to narrate its saga.