Manifestation of the urban public realm at the water edges in India—a case study of the ghats in Ujjain

S Samant

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Samant, S. (1). Manifestation of the urban public realm at the water edges in India—a case study of the ghats in Ujjain. Cities, 21(3), 233–253.

Conservation , Public space , Religion , Revitalization , Water

Ghats have come about as a response to religious, spiritual and social needs along the water edges in India and have become places of human congregation. This study is limited to the main ghat area of the waterfront in Ujjain, a historic city and a significant Hindu spiritual center in India. The objective is to identify forces that underpin and threaten this valuable environment and propose strategies that could be implemented to salvage it. Research was conducted through detailed examination of physical aspects of the urban public realm, activity patterns and environmental conditions. Text, data and drawings were systematically collected through various sources. Key concerns are discussed in the light of current thinking on the subject to propose strategies and draw up conclusions for necessary conservation and revitalization to take place.

Main finding
Brief descriptions were provided regarding use patterns, the dimensions of spatial examination, and key structures such as temples and pavilions. Given the symbolic and religious significance of water in Hinduism and the cultural importance of the ghats in providing public spaces for a mix of activities (inclusive of domestic, spiritual and commercial), the author focused on broadly identifying how this crippling infrastructure could be saved and the water pollution reduced. Suggested for consideration were notions of: conservation, participatory planning, reuse, identifying infrastructural priorities, how the project would be delivered administratively, and the need to raise awareness among local people - all towards balancing the need to preserve tradition, save the ghats, and improve the environmental infrastructure. Each aspect under consideration provided ideas about implementation, funding sources, responsible parties, advantages/disadvantages, and extant examples. The author suggested ghats need to me moved from peripheral consideration toward part of local and regional planning.

Description of method used in the article
As a continuation of the author’s diploma research, field surveys were conducted of four ghat areas in the city to examine their architectural spaces and activity patterns. Included in the surveys were detailed observation notes and documentation with explanatory photographs included in the article. Additionally, the author collected a variety of texts, data, and maps and drawing from different sources. As a method of examination, the ghat areas were studied along different dimensions including: approach routes, land use, massing, and overall organization of the spaces with special attention given to key structures.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Participant Observation
Physical types
Other Waterfront
Geographic locations