Mirzapur: The Town of Ghats
January 1, 1970
by Anurakti Srivastava
What Mirzapur reminds me of the most is my childhood. More than anything, the raw freshness and the fresh rawness is all I needed as a perfect environment to grow in. In one picture, it is where I grew running up and down the stairs, hiding near the verandah, growing bone by bone, inch by inch. The fondest of my memories are the ones with my nani and nana, my grandparents, and everyone else around in it. And even though I’ve been there so many times, but this time it was an extraordinary journey, the kind that is unforgettable, and inexplicable.
My journey starts off from Navi Mumbai, a city growing on the outskirts/far end of Mumbai, Maharashtra, where I take my local train to get off at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. We board the train, and next day’s evening, I find myself in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. From there, we take a cab that takes approximately two and a half hours to reach Mirzapur: The Town of Ghats.
Located by the river Ganges, Mirzapur is a Muslim dominated, small town, a little ahead of Cheelh. One can get there from Varanasi/Banaras as well.
The three day trip to Mirzapur, also my mother’s hometown, has left me in awe with the colors, scents and the freshness of the town. It’s not a surprise if you spot various cows and street animals on the roads. The roads constantly flowing with wires over head, the fragile corners of the streets, the peculiar narrow lanes between buildings, the ghats, everything in Mirzapur is beautiful in its own unnerving way. What seemed to trigger my head the most was, the waters, the architecture and the culture. India is particularly a country rich in heritage, and the essence of its beauty lies in its ethnic and authentic vibes, which Mirzapur definitely tries to represent.
The architecture of Mirzapur, from what I understand, has come to life because of the Muslim dominance, and a probable Persian influence. Intricate stone work completely draws one’s attention. The motifs, and the carvings on the stone is symmetrical and beautiful.
These intricate pieces of architecture can mostly be seen in temples, masjids, ghats and also sometimes in old houses. Some temples have been regarded to have been built ages ago. The Shani Mandir, or the temple of the God Shani, was built about 500 years ago, claims Mr. Srivastava, the caretaker of the temple.
The Shani Mandir is located right at the entrance of Pakke Ghat, a ghat that is considered to be one of the most beautiful ones in Mirzapur. The architecture has always made the madness of being in Mirzapur, more lively.
Distinguished forms of architecture can be seen in Mirzapur and that’s one thing that has definitely taken my heart away.
When speaking about the ghats of Mirzapur, one can only imagine, the feeling of sitting by the Ganges, in complete silence, the breeze flowing through their hair; absolute bliss in solitude. The rush, and the calmness, together is what the ghats are all about. The Ghats of Mirzapur, located by the river Ganges, are famous spots for anyone from beyond the borders of this town to come visit. On the other hand, for the local people, the ghats are a way of cleansing, the soul and the body too.
One can find families, their children, bathing in the Ganges. Purifying their soul and body. The holy water of the river Ganga, is said to wash the sins of a person. The beauty of the Ghats lie in the waters, the view, the polite existence of the people and inner peace.
There are several ghats in Mirzapur. One can only do so much to find peace.
Most of the ghats are divided for males and females. No male can enter into the female side of the ghat, and vice versa, to maintain the order. These ghats also have changing cabins structured right at the ghat, also architecturally beautiful.
At most of the ghats, one can find Pandits, or Sadhus, holy people, who offer God’s blessings, prasad (devotional offering to God, or an offering from God), and pray for your well being. One of these Pandits that I met at Pakka Ghat, was the man who applied Chandan Tika/Tilak. Chandan is Sandalwood, and Tika or Tilak is a spot of colored powder mixed with water, usually red, used for religious purposes, as a blessing from the Pandit, or as an ornamentation, on the forehead.
Mirzapur in all terms is a culturally sound place. Since it is a Muslim dominated place, festivals like Eid are celebrated with much more excitement. One can see local Masjids, located from street to street. But even though Mirzapur is dominated by the Muslim community, it doesn’t fail to offer religious relief to the Hindu or any other community. As I earlier mentioned in the blog, the Ghats of Mirzapur, that the place is primarily famous for, is considered holy by the people belonging to the Hindu community. The river Ganga is considered pious by Hindus.
Let’s take some time to talk about the food of Mirzapur. As compared to any other city, the food here is relatively spicier. For instance Gol Gappe, which essentially are round puris with spiced masala mashed potato, and flavoured water, also known as Pani Puri at a lot of other places, is served 7 for a plate of 15 bucks, ends up making ones nose runny, and especially left my head throbbing.
Jalebi, is one sweet dish, which I personally love at Mirzapur. The dish is spiral shaped, batter deep fried and soaked in sweet syrup. The dish is extraordinary here, even though it is available all over India, because the Jalebis here are thick and gooey in the middle, and the syrup is delicious. But not is this the only good thing about the Jalebi they make here. They serve Jalebi with Dahi, or curd, which tastes even better because the taste of the curd cuts through the sweetness of the Jalebi and it makes the dish to die for!
This is what Mirzapur stands to be all about, the extraordinary Ghats, the overwhelming waters of the river Ganga, the aromatic food, the bright colors, beautiful people, the slender streets and the vibes that have left me craving for more air to inhale from the city.