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View from the River Ganges of the burning ghats, Benares (U.P.). Probably 14 December 1873

View from the River Ganges of the burning ghats, Benares (U.P.). Probably 14 December 1873

Artist: Lear, Edward (1812-1888)

Medium: Watercolour

Date: 1873

Shelfmark: WD2330

Item number: 2330

Length: 16.4

Width: 26

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Painting

Water-colour painting of the burning ghats on the River Ganges at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh by Edward Lear (1812-1888), probably 14 December 1873. The painting is signed with the monogram: 'E.L.'


The river banks at Varanasi are lined with continuous stone steps or ghats. Each of the hundred or so ghats has a lingam and occupies its own special place in the religious geography of the city. Early morning bathers occupy the ghats as do Brahmin priests offering puja together with people practising meditation and yoga. Hindus regard the Ganges as amrita, the elixir of life, which brings purity to the living and salvation to the dead. The ghats shown in the drawing are, from left to right, the Jalsain, Manikarnika, Dattatreya and Scindia. Manikarnika Ghat is Varanasi’s pre-eminent cremation ground. The ghat is perpetually crowded with funeral parties, as well as the Doms, its Untouchable guardians.

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