Photos: Delhi’s ghats on the Yamuna, where old flows with the new

Along the Yamuna River, 32 contiguous historic ghats in Delhi have sunk into oblivion over the years. A 10-foot wall hides them from the rest of the city. Behind the wall is a world struggling to keep pace with changing times, while keeping the old traditions alive. With rising pollution and water contamination the future of the ghats remain open to speculation. A look at the voices that live behind the ghats of the Yamuna in Delhi.

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST 12 Photos
1 / 12
On a hot summer afternoon, Ganesh Pandit (28) rows his boat through the waters of the Yamuna. The boatman has an Instagram account (@ganesh_ghat_no_24), and his 400 posts reveal a little-known side of Yamuna’s ghats in Delhi. His posts feature couples sitting cosily; models on the edge of a boat under the evening sky. “These ghats have become a popular location for pre-wedding and professional photoshoots in the last 2-3 years,” Ganesh said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

On a hot summer afternoon, Ganesh Pandit (28) rows his boat through the waters of the Yamuna. The boatman has an Instagram account (@ganesh_ghat_no_24), and his 400 posts reveal a little-known side of Yamuna’s ghats in Delhi. His posts feature couples sitting cosily; models on the edge of a boat under the evening sky. “These ghats have become a popular location for pre-wedding and professional photoshoots in the last 2-3 years,” Ganesh said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
2 / 12
Located along the busy Ring Road, Ghat Number 24 is one of the 32 historic ghats in Delhi, which have sunk into oblivion over the years. The noise from vehicles begins to fade as one enters a lane and walks towards the ghats. A 10-foot wall hides them from the rest of the city. Behind the wall is a world struggling to keep pace with changing times, while keeping its old traditions alive. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

Located along the busy Ring Road, Ghat Number 24 is one of the 32 historic ghats in Delhi, which have sunk into oblivion over the years. The noise from vehicles begins to fade as one enters a lane and walks towards the ghats. A 10-foot wall hides them from the rest of the city. Behind the wall is a world struggling to keep pace with changing times, while keeping its old traditions alive. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
3 / 12
Most ghats have single storey houses inhabited by families of priests who have been here for generations; old Lord Shiva temples, chabutras and akharas. Constructed in the early 20th century, most ghats—an important part of the city’s heritage have lost their original character. While performing traditional Hindu rituals continues to be the main source of income for some of the families, many are seeking alternatives. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

Most ghats have single storey houses inhabited by families of priests who have been here for generations; old Lord Shiva temples, chabutras and akharas. Constructed in the early 20th century, most ghats—an important part of the city’s heritage have lost their original character. While performing traditional Hindu rituals continues to be the main source of income for some of the families, many are seeking alternatives. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
4 / 12
Ganesh’s family has lived on the ghat for decades and kept their tradition alive. His father was an astrologer but now he has hired a young priest to manage the pujas, as he focuses on taking visitors on a boat ride for leisure and photoshoots. “My followers have been increasing every day. People now take appointment before coming. They like my red boat, as it comes out really well in photographs” he said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

Ganesh’s family has lived on the ghat for decades and kept their tradition alive. His father was an astrologer but now he has hired a young priest to manage the pujas, as he focuses on taking visitors on a boat ride for leisure and photoshoots. “My followers have been increasing every day. People now take appointment before coming. They like my red boat, as it comes out really well in photographs” he said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
5 / 12
Ganesh is particularly busy during winters which draw migratory birds, models and photographers alike. Ankur Anand working with a MNC got his pre-wedding shoot done at the ghats. “We didn’t want to go to a regular monument for the photo-shoot. This place, though dirty, served as a good background with the river, temples etc. With basic improvement in civic infrastructure, the ghats can turn into a great place.” (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

Ganesh is particularly busy during winters which draw migratory birds, models and photographers alike. Ankur Anand working with a MNC got his pre-wedding shoot done at the ghats. “We didn’t want to go to a regular monument for the photo-shoot. This place, though dirty, served as a good background with the river, temples etc. With basic improvement in civic infrastructure, the ghats can turn into a great place.” (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
6 / 12
The river has turned into a drain over the years. The once vibrant ghats which face utter neglect and civic apathy today aren’t as picture perfect as Pandit’s Instagram account would suggest. Only 2% of the river’s length passes through Delhi, yet the city contributes around 76% of its pollution load. Such is the water toxicity that the NGT had raised doubts over the quality of vegetables grown along the floodplains. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

The river has turned into a drain over the years. The once vibrant ghats which face utter neglect and civic apathy today aren’t as picture perfect as Pandit’s Instagram account would suggest. Only 2% of the river’s length passes through Delhi, yet the city contributes around 76% of its pollution load. Such is the water toxicity that the NGT had raised doubts over the quality of vegetables grown along the floodplains. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
7 / 12
A scavenger sifts for valuables. On the neighbouring ghat, octogenarian Ram Nath has been performing aartis twice a day for over five decades. Before he prepares for the aarti, he washes his hands, feet and face with the river water. “I know the river has become extremely dirty, as several drains flow into it.” “But no matter how dirty the river might be, it is Goddess Yamuna for me,” he said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

A scavenger sifts for valuables. On the neighbouring ghat, octogenarian Ram Nath has been performing aartis twice a day for over five decades. Before he prepares for the aarti, he washes his hands, feet and face with the river water. “I know the river has become extremely dirty, as several drains flow into it.” “But no matter how dirty the river might be, it is Goddess Yamuna for me,” he said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
8 / 12
In a bid to keep tradition alive, the Yamuna Ghat Panda Association has been conducting maha aarti every last Sunday of the month. The ghats then transform into a mystical place, attracting many people. “Our young generation doesn’t want to continue with the traditional occupation. We are trying to keep it alive through these events,” said Suresh Sharma, chief of the association. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

In a bid to keep tradition alive, the Yamuna Ghat Panda Association has been conducting maha aarti every last Sunday of the month. The ghats then transform into a mystical place, attracting many people. “Our young generation doesn’t want to continue with the traditional occupation. We are trying to keep it alive through these events,” said Suresh Sharma, chief of the association. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
9 / 12
Till the mid-80s, people from across the city and areas in Haryana used to come here to offer prayers and spend leisurely time, participating in swimming competitions, boat rides, etc. While some ghats have retained a bit of that old-world charm, others have changed beyond recognition. The ghats have also witnessed a demographic shift, with a large number of migrants from UP and Bihar making them their home. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

Till the mid-80s, people from across the city and areas in Haryana used to come here to offer prayers and spend leisurely time, participating in swimming competitions, boat rides, etc. While some ghats have retained a bit of that old-world charm, others have changed beyond recognition. The ghats have also witnessed a demographic shift, with a large number of migrants from UP and Bihar making them their home. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
10 / 12
Lalita Devi (40) moved here from Bihar 15 years ago since accommodation is cheap. While her husband works as a daily wage labourer, she makes garlands. A majority of women here do so to earn a livelihood. The fragrance of roses and marigolds fills the narrow lanes on Ghat no. 28. “There are so many temples nearby. We get a contract from the sellers. They pay us Rs 10-20 for 25 garlands,” Lalita said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

Lalita Devi (40) moved here from Bihar 15 years ago since accommodation is cheap. While her husband works as a daily wage labourer, she makes garlands. A majority of women here do so to earn a livelihood. The fragrance of roses and marigolds fills the narrow lanes on Ghat no. 28. “There are so many temples nearby. We get a contract from the sellers. They pay us Rs 10-20 for 25 garlands,” Lalita said. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
11 / 12
There is still hope that these crumbling ghats may soon be restored to their former glory. Following a National Green Tribunal order, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is working on rejuvenating the riverfront. It has roped in INTACH’s natural heritage division to do a detailed study on the eco-system and the historic significance of the area. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

There is still hope that these crumbling ghats may soon be restored to their former glory. Following a National Green Tribunal order, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is working on rejuvenating the riverfront. It has roped in INTACH’s natural heritage division to do a detailed study on the eco-system and the historic significance of the area. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
12 / 12
“These ghats were active riverfronts of the city. With funding from the trading community of Chandni Chowk, these Mughal-era ghats were reconstructed during 1902. During our survey, we found hexagonal projections in the river which are typical of Mughal-era architecture. We are now trying to prepare a plan to make them more accessible to public,” said Divay Gupta, principal director and head of architectural heritage, INTACH Delhi. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

“These ghats were active riverfronts of the city. With funding from the trading community of Chandni Chowk, these Mughal-era ghats were reconstructed during 1902. During our survey, we found hexagonal projections in the river which are typical of Mughal-era architecture. We are now trying to prepare a plan to make them more accessible to public,” said Divay Gupta, principal director and head of architectural heritage, INTACH Delhi. (Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2019 10:28 AM IST
SHARE
Story Saved