Banaras is History

Life is living in the present. Who has time to turn the pages of tomes of history before plunging headlong into the fast flowing life-river; especially when it offers unadulterated pleasure? The massive pillared and buttressed sandstone palaces that constitute most of the Banaras ghatscape may not be older than the first half of the eighteenth century, but that does not subtract an iota from their grandeur and the cornucopia of happy sensations they offer to a hedonist, especially when the first rays of the sun kiss them at dawn. How could stone be so delicately carved as to give a semblance of fragility of the glass or of poetry flowing along the bend of the leaves and tendrils?

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Rending the pall of the morning mist, the soft sun rays at dawn, descend gradually from the sky, illuminating first near then far, the whole wide crescent in stages. Boats float softly on the river, pilgrims and tourists awake, early to soak in the spectacle of the rising sun from behind the silhouetted shrub line on the other bank, and cover the fluid flow in one sweep, paint it crimson first and then yellow. Yellow, not crimson, glows the sandstone grey on the ghatscape. Yellow; the steps feet trod on, yellow the stone walled hills man-made.

Life opens eyes, shining warm upon the crescent’s stone and river. Life wakes up to start, a fresh new day afresh and streams through river going rivers: the galis, on the river bank. Some would stay asleep, half or full, till noon, beckon the morning hours and the soft glowing sun, begins to burn. But those who earlier come take their dip and pray, get a tilak and leave, to run their day long course and finally return to rest, back when evening arrives.

Banaras is history, from the farthest bend in the river in the north, to the city unfolding radially outwards to south.There are spots and pieces of history everywhere. The consciousness of that history is not a universal gift. There are times when the native dyed in the wool Banarsi lives and dies as a perfect example of this type without referring to the historicism of his city consciously even once. And then, there have been foreigners annd outsiders, interested in the city or cities in general, whose sense and awareness of that historicism makes it possible for them to analyse it better than any native: analyse it, if not imbibe it and live it.

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