Book explores various facets of Banaras

The famous food items of the place: thandai, paan, malai toast, and more, also find place in the book

A new book traces the journey of Banaras through time and space, history and mythology, architecture and structure, as well as its geology and geography.

In “Banaras: Of Gods, Humans and Stories”, author-filmmaker Nilosree Biswas and photographer Irfan Nabi discern the engaging narrative of a unique chromosome that makes Banaras.

Traversing within the maze, its sacred topography, craft traditions, and gastronomic plethora, the book, brought out by Niyogi Books, examines the tenets of its weave.

According to Biswas, Banaras is primarily a people’s narrative.

“It’s a story that also has a built-in city space consisting of a sacred landscape, an imagined topography, designed and created through the combination of restructured symbolism, political and cultural stakes, shaping its most noted temples, venerated sites, shrines, fort-palaces, ghats and private houses on the river-front, around which the city exists till date,” she writes.

A city that has been visited, revisited, discussed, and written about umpteen times, what more could be said about it? Yet, Biswas found it “invigorating and complex enough to probe again”.

Biswas, through her words, and Nabi, with his camera, have tried captured the essence of the city – the connection between its clay and its clan; its past and present; its food, the eateries, the halwaais, and the myriad visitors tasting the flavours of Banaras; its temples and the pilgrims; its shops, markets, and tourists; its numerous ghats, budgerows, and boats; and between life and death on its cremation grounds.

Invoking the myths around the river goddess Ganga, the author calls her the ‘showstopper’ among the many marvels that the city offers.

“There is no veneration, no everyday reality, no living, no death, and no imagination of Banaras without the Ganges,” she says.

Nabi’s photographic visuals of the numerous worshippers taking a dip or the everyday bathers plunging into the holy waters complement her descriptions beautifully.

Biswas also identifies the historical and cultural significance of the temples standing tall on the ghats along the body of the long-running river.
The book also traces the journey of the traders of Banaras and how they have survived the ravages of time and technology: the wooden toy makers, musical instrument makers, minakaris, flower sellers, paanwalas, snacks sellers, the dairy product sellers, the wrestlers and their akharas, and the weavers of Banarasis.

The famous food items of the place: thandai, paan, malai toast, and more, also find place in the book.

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