The Paintings of Sita Ram, Part 8

BY: SUN STAFF - 25.5 2023

Part of the ghats at Benares
Painting by Seeta Ram, c. 1814
British Library Collection

A serial presentation of the extraordinary collection of Sita Ram's early 1800's watercolors depicting Indian temples and landscapes.

As the artist Sita Ram attended the expeditions of Hastings across northern India, he painted many scenes of the holy bathing ghats along the Ganges. In the image above we have a scene from Kanpur, which is located about 500 km. south of Rishikesh. Rishikesh is about 20 kilometers north of Haridwar, which was featured in our previous segment.

The scene above depicts the Brahmavarta ghat with attached temple, and other buildings including a mosque, at Bithur. Described by the British Library staff, "Bithur, located near Kanpur on the Ganges river, is known for the Brahmavarta ghat, at which it is believed that "Brahma celebrated the completion of the creation of the world by a horse sacrifice at this place.'"

The watercolor is entitled "View of the Brahmavarta ghat with attached temple, and other buildings including a mosque". Inscribed below by the artist is this statement: 'Bithoor - Bathing place with Hindoo Mundell, and at the Right a Musgid.'

This painting is included in the folio, 'Views by Seeta Ram from Cawnpore to Mohumdy, Vol. IV', which includes illustrations of Hastings' journey from Calcutta to Delhi during the period 1814 to 1815.

Kanpur, on the way down from Rishikesh, before Varnasi
Painting by Seeta Ram, c. 1815
British Library Collection

About 330 km. southeast of Kanpur is the holy site of Varnasi, at which Sita Ram produced numerous beautiful illustrations of the bathing ghats. Several of these will be covered in the segments ahead.

In the image just above we see 'Part of the ghats Benares'. This painting is dated 1814, a year prior to the Kanpur scene at top. Of course, the Hastings party travelled north from Calcutta, and all of the Varnasi scenes published by the British Library were painted before the more northerly scenes.

Library staff describe the scene: "The waterfront of Varanasi is lined with over 100 ghats, with long flights of stone steps where residents and pilgrims come to perform their ablutions and worship in the temples. An idealized view of the ghats, possibly Manikarnika Ghat, and temples in the background."

Below the painting title, Sita Ram has made this inscription: 'Another view of Benares with Munkunca Ghaut to the left and a Mundell dedicated to Mahadeo to the Right.'

This watercolor is included in 'Views by Seeta Ram from Benares to Nazibghur, Vol. III'.