Ah, the galis of Kashi! How happy was I when I first met something like them after a long and painful separation! It happened at Sealdah, Kolkata. After that it happened in Udaipur around the heart of the walled city: Pichola Lake, also in old Bangalore and old Delhi and Ghaziabad. Banaras is the point of origin and the search must end there too. Its glimpses I have found in other cities. Glimpses only. I have matched notes with my brother too. About the Ghaziabad galis he felt that they bore some resemblance to those of our city.
Why so much about the galis of Kashi? Because they form one of the two strands of the Kashi Experience, the other being ghats and Gangaji (I know you are thinking about Ida and Pingla when I mention the ghats, Gangaji and the galis, some may also enquire about Sushumna). The ghatscape is the Sushumna if the galis are Ida and Gangaji Pingla. The city spread in an unplanned manner (but there’s method in this madness), sprouting roots close to where water was, i.e. near Gangaji. Therefore, the densest settlements of the city are along the river, just like those around Pichola in Udaipur.
The galis of Kashi: winding, unpredictably changing, and for the novice in the art of navigation – impossibly difficult, are a good read any time of the day. For the beginners, it’d be best to avoid reading them at the peak hours of morning and evening rush, i.e. between seven to nine on both sides of the meridiem. Beginning with relatively calm and quiet galis of old Kashi will be the best.
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