MAHESH MADHAV GOGATE
Title of Research
Making ‘Heritage Ecologies’: A Study of Urbanisation and Water Bodies in Varanasi City
Brief Content of my Research
This research effort explores two broad themes of this radical transformation of Varanasi’s wetland ecologies. In the first theme, I will discuss how nineteenth century British colonial discourses on urban sanitation and the steady emergence of modern public works initiated aggressive strategies for eliminating or severely undermining Varanasi’s waterbodies. In particular, I point out, how after the complete annexation of Varanasi in 1794 by the British East India Company, their attitudes on sanitation, hygiene and modernity helped craft discourses that now viewed the revered temple tanks in as being profane and contaminated. I will also explore how early urban modernization efforts under colonial conditions such as the expansion of roads, building public parks led to several projects for eliminating water bodies.
In the second theme, I develop the notion of ‘heritage ecology’ by discussing the various urban planning strategies, reclamation and conservation policies particularly addressing the water bodies that have been initiated in post independent Varanasi. It is argued that while in the early decades of independent India, Varanasi city remained largely captive to unplanned development exercises that essentially amplified colonial urban policies, since 2016, however, several new environmental initiatives for the city’s water bodies were begun. In particular, I study and discuss three main restoration and conservation programmes that are aimed at the revival water bodies as heritage ecologies.
Lakṣmī Kuṇḍa (Temple Tank), Varanasi, India Lolārka Kuṇḍa (Temple Tank), Varanasi, India