Sunday, October 30, 2011


New York (PTI) - The 18th century Balaji Ghat, situated along the river Ganges in Varanasi, is among over 60 endangered cultural heritage sites in the world that are in dire need of preservation, according to World Monuments Fund (WMF), a private foundation.  Last month, WMF President Bonnie Burnham announced the “2012 World Monuments Watch”, a list of 67 cultural heritage sites in 41 countries that need immediate assistance.  The sites include the Nasca lines and Geoglyphs in Peru, palace and garden of China’s Nanyue Kingdom, England’s Coventry Cathedral and the floating fishing villages in Vietnam.  The 67 sites “vividly illustrate the ever-more pressing need to create a balance between heritage concerns and the social, economic and environmental interests of communities around the world,” WMF said in a statement. 

Balaji ghat is an important example of the buildings constructed along the Ganges to serve pilgrims worshiping at the holy river in Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.  Collapse of the main building of Balaji ghat, likely from decay of the wood, points to inadequate conservation, maintenance as well as poor heritage protection.  Inclusion in the watch will support a plan to restore the building for use as a cultural centre and help to continue an ancient tradition of pilgrimage and enlightenment,” World Monuments Fund pointed.  In addition to promoting community pride, heritage preservation can have a positive impact on local populations during difficult economic times by providing employment and development of well-managed tourism.  American Express, a founding sponsor of the World Monuments Watch, will contribute five million dollars in support of the programme over the next five years, Burnham said.

Varanasi Ghats, also known as Kashi or Benares, India, is the oldest holy city of Hindus.  Hindus consider it most auspicious to die in this sacred place.  The Balaji Ghat, in Varanasi, India, is one of the buildings constructed along the Ganges to serve pilgrims worshiping at the holy river.  Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, and a Hindu pilgrimage destination.  During His travels to Vrindāvana, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu arrived with great happiness at the holy place called Kāśī.  There He took His bath in the bathing ghat known as Manikarnikā.

Kāśī is another name for Vārānasī (Benares). It has been a place of pilgrimage since time immemorial. Two rivers named Asih and Varunā merge there. Manikarnikā is famous because, according to the opinion of great personalities, a bejeweled earring fell there from the ear of Lord Vishnu. According to some, it fell from the ear of Lord Śiva. The word mani means “jewel,” and karnikā means “from the ear.” According to some, Lord Viśvanātha is the great physician who cures the disease of material existence by delivering a person through the ear, which receives the vibration of the holy name of Lord Rāma. Because of this, this holy place is called Mani-karnikā. It is said that there is no better place than where the river Ganges flows, and the bathing ghat known as Manikarnikā is especially sanctified because it is very dear to Lord Viśvanātha. In the Kāśī-khanda it is said that one who gives up his body at Manikarnikā is liberated simply by remembering Lord Śiva’s name.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda :
Śrī Caitanya Caritāmrita - Madhya-līlā
Chapter 17: “The Lord Travels to Vrindāvana”
Verse 82 - Bhaktivedanta VedaBase

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