RAJGHAT BRIDGE ~ A WITNESS OF CHANGING TIME

RAJGHAT VARANASI

The oldest remains of Varanasi city have been found in the Rajghat area itself. From the remains found in the excavations by archaeologists, it appears that there were human settlements here EVEN BEFORE 800 BCE. In the excavation at Rajghat, many Punch marked coins and black earthenware have also been found. From these articles it is concluded that-:

  1. Before the foundations of Mauryan Empire were layed (The Mauryan Empire, formed around 321 B.C.E. and ended in 185 B.C.E), Varanasi city was already completely established in Rajghat.
  2. Various coins received before the Mauryan Empire period show that by that time Rajghat had already made a lot of progress in the field of trade.

RAJGHAT IN HINDU RELIGIOUS TEXTS

Ancient Banaras near Rajghat is also mentioned in religious texts of Hindus, Buddhist and Jain.

The confluence of rivers (SANGAM) is considered very sacred in Hinduism, in the Rajghat area is the confluence of the Ganges and Varuna rivers. At one place in the RIGVEDA (written around 1500-1000 BCE) there is a mention of the river VARNAVATI. Varnavati is very likely the ancient name of Varuna river. The area between Varuna and Asi river was later known as Varanasi.

UTTAR PATH , BADSHAHI SADAK , GRAND TRUNK ROAD

A very important and historical route passes through Varanasi (Rajghat area) which we know today as Grand Trunk Road. This road starts from Chittagong in Bangladesh and goes through Lahore to Kabul in Afghanistan.

During the Mughal period it was known as BADSHAHI SADAK. It was the backbone of India’s trade during the reign of CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA. (The very first ruler of The Mauryan Empire ~ 321-297 BC)
The description of this route is found at many places in the ancient texts of the Hindus. It is also described in the Mahabharata, back then this route was known as UTTARPATH. The Indian Grand Trunk Road portion is also a part of the ambitious Golden Quadrilateral project.

A NEW FAITH

According to a Jataka story, Gautam Buddha after attaining enlightenment in Gaya came to a place called Sarnath in Varanasi by this route itself and gave his first sermon.

MUGHAL EMPIRE AND RAJ GHAT

The Rajghat area was known as Bag-Badshah during the Mughal period. During this period, except for the construction of some graveyards, mosques, no remarkable construction work is seen in this area.

During this period only mosques were built by demolishing Hindu temples whose ruins are still present today. If you want to know more about such temples and mosques then please visit this blog post of mine:- https://nithinks.com/2021/12/06/the-search-for-hindus-lost-temples-in-the-city-of-templesvaranasi/ For almost 600 years, there was no such construction in Raj Ghat which could be mentioned or is worth mentioning.

HISTORY OF INDIAN RAILWAY

In 1853, rail service was started in India by the Britishers. After the First War of Independence in 1857, the British people came to know about the importance of postal services, Telegram and railways. An excellent postal system, and means of transport were needed to control this vast territory.

The British wanted such a modern means of transport in India that can transport them to any part of the country, within 24 hours. They thought, this was important to suppress rebellions if any of them are started. Undoubtedly this was possible only through railway.
Hundreds of big and small bridges were constructed in the country while the railway network was being layed down. At the same time, the construction work of the railway bridge over the Ganges river in Varanasi was completed.


RAJ-GHAT BENARES
TEMPORARY PONTOON BRIDGE AT THE RAJ -GHAT . (1869)

Before the construction of Dufferin Bridge was completed, there used to be a temporary pontoon bridge at the Raj Ghat. During the rainy season, it was removed when the water level of the river Ganges rose.  

‘Views of Benares, from the River Side’ taken by Brajo Gopal Bromochary in 1869.

 

* SOME INTRESTING FACTS RELATED TO RAJGHAT BRIDGE *

@ It is a two-floor bridge. It was the first bridge in the Indian sub-continent, which had a railroad both on the top and the bottom.

@ The construction of the bridge started in 1882 AD and was completed in 1887 AD.

@ The cost of construction of this bridge was Rs 750,000. This was a huge amount in the 1880s.

@ The length of this bridge (Rajghat to Padav) built on the river Ganges is 1048.5 meters.

@ Being situated in the Rajghat area of ​​Varanasi, this bridge has been known by the local people as “Rajghat bridge” since its construction. Even today the local residents know it by the name of Rajghat bridge.


THE DUFFERIN BRIDGE

O.& R. R. C0 — This bridge was built jointly by the engineers of Oudh (Awadh) and Rohilkhand.

THE DUFFERIN BRIDGE – This bridge was inaugurated by Lord Dufferin on 16th December 1887 AD. From that day onwards this bridge was named the Dufferin Bridge.

Malviya Bridge :- After independence, on 5 December 1947, the name of this bridge was changed to Malviya Bridge after Madan Mohan Malviya.


There are stairs leading from the Kashi railway station to the ghat. (towards the river Ganges)


A small bridge like structure(can be clearly seen in the image above) has been created for the convenience of rail passengers so that they can go directly from the bridge to the Kashi railway station. Even today this bridge like structure is in use by pedestrians and cyclists.


There were always gunmen stationed here to protect the bridge during the British Raj.

A book namedDufferin’s Bridge” was published from Banaras in 1887 AD, only 50 copies of this book were printed. In this book, plan maps and some other important information related to the bridge was mentioned.

BRITISH RAJ AND RAJ GHAT

In 1781, the people of Varanasi revolted against the East India Company and hundreds of British soldiers were killed in this rebellion, many of them were killed in Padao and Ramnagar (near Raj Ghat). If you don’t have any Idea about Benares rebellion then I will recommend you to read this blog post of mine where I have mentioned all the details about it that I could possibly find :- https://nithinks.com/2020/08/14/benares-rebellion-15august-1781/
The British had to bear heavy losses in the first freedom struggle of 1857 as well. Learning from these incidents, the British avoided any kind of interference in the religious affairs of the Hindus.
On the other hand Hindus also viewed any British action with great suspicion.

Hindus were not happy even at the time of the construction of this bridge, many Hindus believed that the Ganges river holds the status of the most sacred river in Hinduism and the British wanted to humiliate the Hindus by building a bridge over it.

It was believed by many that the construction of this bridge could enrage Ganga Maiya and spread an epidemic. In order to deal with these problems, the British requested the king of Banaras to explain to his subjects that Hindu religion would not be harmed in any way by the construction of the bridge, and instead it would make the lives of the pilgrims much easy. Initially there was opposition, but gradually the voices of the protest subsided and the people of Varanasi accepted this new change.


Author: nitinsingh

Postgraduate in International relations. Experience in writing in various journals, from BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE to India's one of the oldest hindi daily. I like to write on international relations, religion, religious conflict. Social media has bridged the distance between writing and reading. Now writing is not just the expression of one's own thought, but also knowing the expression of people on various subject.

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