What’s so special in Subahe Banaras? – 3


There’s nothing new in the beauty of the rising sun and the play of its rays over the sky and river beneath, at least not in Banaras, and at least not when the sun is not enveloped by clouds. Day after day, every day, a Banarsi is exposed to the same scene in his city. This repetition may either convert him into an addict or make him resistant to the charms of subahe Banaras. One more digression is forcing its way through the clouds of logical reasoning: “It must be said that an addict of that beauty is in a divine company: Baba Vishwanath too is addicted to the beauty of his Kashi and can’t live away from it”.

Before I go any further, I must quote from, “The Kasi Meta-Narrative II” another post of mine:

Through a long process of cumulative essentialization, Kasi [Varanasi/Kashi/Banras] has been converted from a city into an idea, and de facto theories of a kasicentric world have been formulated. Non-residents find it very difficult to reconcile the ideal city with the material-real one. I have read account after account expressing shock, anger or frustration of the visitors to the city over this failure in reconciling the ideal city with the real one. There’s only one villain in the story: the evolutionarily ingrained impulse to essentialize in the mind of those with vested interests in propagating and adding to the city’s myth.


I am an essentializer myself, albeit a postmodern and post-Freudian manner. So, I try to expose my own essentializing appetites and methods in order to benefit from them. Instead of investing in the grand narrative of a kasicentric world, I try to create my own petits recits through strategic essentialization (a la Professor Spivak) of my variety. It’s actually an idea I am not fully adept at. So I googled it and got this on a page: “Essentialism is like dynamite, or a powerful drug: judiciously applied, it can be effective in dismantling unwanted structures or alleviating suffering” (postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/gayatri-chakravorty-spivak/). As an attempt is now being made to create the mini-narrative of subahe Banaras. I need to essentialize the term and the experience. Logic may take back seat for a while. Let the Romantic imagination soar and the evolutionarily ingrained impulse to essentialize take over.

“Seeing” the sunrise in Banaras does not equal “experiencing” it because experiencing  will involve not only the sensory experience but also its assimilation and impact on one’s psyche. Dawn is the time to reach the ghats, and Assi Ghat can be a good point to position oneself at. Looking towards the east from there one may wait for the first tinge of greyish crimson suffuse the black-blue sky.
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That will be a good beginning: looking at the eastern sky, waiting for the sun to rise. But the sky will not be the only general direction one looks at, and the eyes aren’t the only sense organs that receive impulses from the immediate surroundings. So, a person so stationed will also see the the ghats responding to the light and life giving powers of the sun, and the people of the neighbourhood streaming to the ghats. He will also witness the change in the colour of the river from blue-black to grey to a range of orange and crimson.
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Not just that, such a person will be listening to the bells, gongs and conch shells, the chanting of various mantras and the various sounds of life made by the people walking towards the river to take their dip. In a way, such a person will be inhaling the air suffused with the essence of the culture of the city. Looking Northward across the early morning mist, one will see the unique and majestic ghatscape of the city being unfurled like a scroll before him.
Although the ghatscape remains the same throughout the day, there’s some kind of alchemy through which  that the rising sun brings forth the best of the shades of the sandstone that is the basic building material for the whole ghatscape: the stone steps and the massive structures of stone that have stood on the ghats for centuries.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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