Changing Kasi (2)


Kasi was preparing itself for Deepawali. Stalls were set up to sell idols of Lakshmi-Ganesh. In the stall above, on one side are displayed the traditional, simple and folk kind of idols, and on the other side are the products of modern imagination. Modern attracts more people, is costlier, sells more and brings more revenue to the keeper of the stall. If I remember it correctly, this snap was taken at Assi, near Lolark Kund, in the afternoon.


The snap above was taken in a narrow gali near Prahlad Ghat on the same day in the morning. It is special for one reason: the stall contains only traditional products, only the hue of the blue colour of the pots and that of the brown colour of the clay horse are not as they used to be.


This last snap in the series of shops selling Lakshmi-Ganesh is from Chowk, from right in front of Chowk Police Station complex. It serves a different clientele. Therefore, it looks totally different. The design and colour of ther idols is predominantly (if not only) modern. These stalls indicate very clearly towards a kind of change that’s taking place in the people and society of Kasi. They have their roots in their traditions, and are modernizing too, at their own pace. Various sections of the society are modernizing at their various rates.

The mohalla of Prahlad ghat where the snap in the middle was taken has a homogeneous population of people who were born and brought up there. Moreover, many of them belong to the same trade. Therefore, the stall keeps the things they are most likely to buy. Assi is traditional but comparatively more upmarket: so, the kind of hybridized set of products. The stall at Chowk caters to a heterogeneous clientele but it’s composed of a large number of people of the business class: from katras and shops in the neighbourhood.

These images, if such a generalization is permitted, show the spread and rate of modernization in the traditional city of Varanasi. The traditional and the modern represent two very different aesthetic preferences. Aesthetics, here, is just a matter of prevalent taste, totally programmed and arbitrary. The ascendance of one over the other is a natural process, but death of  the traditional can not be allowed. At least, it can’t be allowed in this case and for many other cases of changes in my city for which the idols are a metaphor.


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