The early mornings were cold and foggy along the river. The first rays of the sun illuminated the landscape on the riverfront. The sound of the morning bells, women bursting out in hymns, and the smell of incense sticks would seem to start the day. With people bustling into activity, the faint sound of the waves hitting the ghats could still be heard.
Winner | RTF Essay Writing Competition May 2021
Category: Essay: Complex Pasts – Diverse Futures
Participant: Vibha Lohade
The rest of the day along the ghats would be marked but people performing various everyday rituals. People came to seek blessings and wash themselves in the holy waters of the river, feeling the cold water against their skin. The sweets frying in the oil, mixed with the smell of the flowers would make you wonder. The sounds and smells were mysterious, which would make you contemplate of your presence there and moreover your role in the activity.
In the evening, the same spaces would be filled by more and more people coming to seek something innate. People of faith would gather, just to look around, sit and observe their place in the universe. Some people would take a dip in the waters of Godavari, some offer flowers, some pray, some work, some meet friends, some just sit and comprehend the space of the ghats. But the end would be the same for me every day, staring endlessly into the streets. The streets were mysterious and dramatic; sometimes even devious and attractive.
These are the memories I have of my hometown. My mind still flies back to the days of my childhood were the ghats and river marked my mornings and the streets were hiding spots in play.
With evidence of rock-cut architecture from the 4th century to its evolution to the contemporary times; a rich historic past, layers of narratives, and associated memories of the community; lies a forgotten heritage- the city of Nashik.
From ancient times, the city has been under many administrative rules- Maurya Dynasty, Satavahanas from Paithan, Vakatakas, Chalukyas, Yadava Dynasty, Bahamani rulers from Gulbarga, Nizamshahi rulers from Ahmednagar, and then the Mughal rulers from Delhi. Nashik was known as Panchavati before the Ramayana period. As per mythology, Lord Rama made Nashik his abode during the 14 years of his exile. According to legend, Lord Laxman, by
the wish of his brother Lord Rama, cut the nose of “Shurpnakha” and thus this city was named
In 150 BC, Nashik was the country’s largest marketplace. Later in 1487 AD, when the city came under the Mughals, it was renamed Gulshanabad. Under the Maratha rulers, Nashik got the status of their second capital after Pune, also known as the ‘Land of the Brave’. The Marathas expanded the city and established Sarkarwada as their kacheri in Nashik.
The British rulers from 1818 AD onwards expanded the city and built many new religious spaces, schools, bridges, and government buildings as well as the railway station. The Britishers made an effort to retain the religious places. In 1930, Satyagraha was launched under the leadership of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar for the entry of Dalits in Kalaram Temple. And later in 1932, Babasaheb organized his temple entry movement for the abolition of untouchability in Nashik.
The area along the banks of the river Godavari is home to historically significant religious and heritage structures. Settlement emerged along the river; temples and buildings came up according to suit the activities and daily rituals of the people. The ghats became a place for recreation, trading, and commerce. Different typologies of buildings came up to cater to the needs of the people. The ghats changed their form becoming wider to accommodate more people during festivals. Bridges were built to connect the ghats. Progress started happening in the area with increasing trade and commerce.
The old core of Nashik is the center for commercial, civic and social activities; depicting a multitude of narratives and associations with the people. It is the crux of activity and the culture, traditions, and festivals add to the vitality and vibrancy of the old core. Markets, traditional wadas, ghats, rivers, and temples form the main essence of the city. The area has heritage and religious significance as it has many old cultural structures such as Kalaram temple, Sita Gufa, Naroshankar temple, and Ramkund Ghat. There are about 30 temples and 5 major temple complexes in the area. Different activities take place at different times along the ghats, throughout the year. The Kumbh Mela, also known as ‘Sinhastha’ is a religious mela held every 12 years in Nashik. It is a major pilgrimage and religious festival in Hinduism, where devotees come from all over the country to take a dip in the holy waters of the river Godavari.
However, being a site of progress, it is increasingly necessary and difficult to uphold the peculiarities of the old core of the city. With the changing times, the historic core of Nashik has witnessed the ramifications of rapid urbanization and hence the city faces the loss of its essence and heritage values. This change has also led to the diminishing of its image of the city.
Upholding the rich history of the place; reviving the culture and traditions of these historical cities and bringing back the memory that people have with the place is essential. History is a bridge unbounded by any boundaries of religions, castes, colours; where people can keep aside their differences and spread the message of solidarity.
The chronological evolution of buildings in a neighbourhood is the apparent narrative of the socio-cultural and political development over the years. When an event happens and time elapses, it is the space of the event that remains in our minds. Such spaces continue to have attached memories and associations and have a deep impact on the people associated with the space. Our memories are products of our body’s experience of the physical space around us. Space can have a permanent place in a person’s mind if it engages the person on multiple levels of consciousness. These spaces evoke and engage our understanding of self and our place within time and will continue to hold an important place in the built environment.
The memory that people have with a place is an association that binds people with the place creating a strong feeling of belonging to the place. The memory gives a tangible presence to the place. It also highlights the psychological significance of the place, making the place a focal point for cultural spirit and social interaction, leading to a better community. Spaces should not only be architecturally cognizant of their surroundings but also should cater to the needs of a given community and relate to the associations with the history of the place.
Our history carries great responsibility in the foundation of who we truly are (Poortman). Humans are in constant dialogue and interaction with the environment so it is impossible to detach the image of self from the situational and spatial constructs (Laurence, 1 September 2003). Time causes the development of a variety of narratives, evoking nostalgia in the space and forming a variety of spatial experiences. The memory and history of a site lead to a newly imagined or even continued sense of place. The historic significance and essence of a place tell a continued story and highlight the intangible feelings associated with them. But this domain of time is experienced unconsciously and is placed in layers of the society, that can be unfolded only through architecture.
The physical interpretation of memory is not only concerned with history but also shapes our ethical understanding of the current times. Therefore, it is very important to go back to the past. The past makes a hopeful future.