Liminal Spaces: the River-ghāt as threshold, boundary, and urban palimpsest

Öffentlicher Vortrag von Prof. em. Supriya Chaudhuri (Jadavpur University, Kolkata) im Rahmen des Ethnologischen Kolloquiums

Datum: 5. März 2024
Zeit: 16.15 Uhr
Ort: Universität Luzern, Raum 4.B02

The ghāt (a term describing a set of built stone steps leading down to a river or pond, or an element of the physical landscape) is a typical feature of Indian land-water interfaces, and is used in different religious, commercial and social contexts. It enables access to the water for bathers, for boats to be moored at ferries, for goods to be traded on waterways, and for sacred rituals linked to Hindu life and death, including cremation. The Hindu sense of the ghāt as a threshold, a liminal space between land and water, life and death, is powerfully recorded in literature and art. Ghāts have special sanctity in cities along the course of the Gangā or Yamunā or their tributaries. In serving a multiplicity of functions – as bathing areas, as sites for athletic exercise, for musical performance, and for sacred rites – ghāts are also sites of what the geographer and urbanist Jacques Lévy calls co-spatiality. This paper will focus on river-ghāts in Kolkata and Varanasi, to examine complicated histories of building, settlement and destruction, patronage, legal disputes over title and access, and the sedimentation of social and religious life. It will be accompanied by illustrative images.