Muhallas and Colonies of Kasi


People are shaped by their times and places. Ergo, the people of colonies and muhallas must be created in the image of their places of origin. I fear the blinding flash of generalization, but I think this difference can be applied, with some alterations, to all Indian cities. Colonies are very young in Varanasi, and in India. Muhallas, on the other hand, are much older. History is what the people of colony can’t share, because they don’t have it. Those of the muhallas do share a lot of history, for they have lived at the same place for generations and have heard the stories of their grandfathers from someone else’s grandfather and vice-versa. The oldest colonies of Varanasi (somehow, I can’t type Kasi here) are Kabir Nagar and Guru Dhaam, as far as I know. They are not as old as even our house in one of the muhallas that is over hundred years old.

Colonies have just started to acquire something like character, while the muhallas have theirs established and recognized. The Bengali Tola area is quite different from Madan Pura, which is not the same as Kedar Ghat or Harar Bagh. The difference is not in their physical specifics only, as the colonies to are planned and constructed differently. The difference is in the feel of the place, the spirit of place, that any kasiphile can put his fingers on. Galis are very different in their population and dwellings pattern than streets, and there are no galis in the colonies. Muhallas mostly have galis paved with stone blocks, sometimes they may have an occasional tar or concrete topped street. The houses in muhallas are predominantly of stone and bricks and of individual and independent ownership, while those in the colonies are concrete and brick structures, many of them apartments with diffused and diversified ownership patterns. The pattern and depth of relationship between the people living there is also very different. The intensity of relations, positive and negative both, is more in the muhallas. This isn’t my take at naive generalization. The claim is based upon the fact that families have been living there for generations and their relations carry the baggage of, at least, decades.


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