A lively book talk was organized by IAS Association, Rajasthan on the Facebook page of IAS Literary Society, Rajasthan. The conversation was based on the book ‘Banaras of Gods, Humans and Stories’ written by author and filmmaker, Ms Nilosree Biswas. She was in conversation with IAS Literary Secretary, IAS Association, Rajasthan and Secretary & Commissioner, Department of Science and Technology, Government of Rajasthan, Ms Mugdha Sinha. The photographs in the book have been provided by Irfan Nabi. The talk focused on the journey of the book, the connection of Rajasthan and Banaras, the contribution of women to the city, coexistence in Banaras and the role of the River Ganga to the city.
Talking about a significant aspect of Banaras, Ms Biswas said that the ‘Banarasi-Pan’ which is the behavioural pattern transmitted to people who visit Banaras frequently makes one want to keep coming back to the city. One starts to get drawn to the small outings of the Banarasi people. Like, they step out of their homes, go to the nearby tea stall and chit chat. Here, people talk about the most mundane stuff and by the time they return home they have lost track of time. In the evenings, they visit the ghats, relax and chit chat. One can hear the sounds of ‘Temple Aarti’ (temple worship) or a sudden call of ‘Nimbucahi Wala’ (lemon tea seller). There is something very striking and distinct about the landscape of Banaras.
Talking about the connection between Banaras and Rajasthan, she said that Rajasthan is deeply linked with Banaras. A city full of ‘karigars’ (craftsmen), Banaras has been in history as one of the ever-bustling trading hubs. It always had patrons interested in crafts and many artists from different regimes made the city their base. A huge section of this base was from Jaipur and Jodhpur, particularly in the jewellery section, weaving, metalwork, Jadau, and stone setting. Many prominent noble families from Rajasthan made sure to visit Banaras at certain times of the year and make it a second administrative place. There has been a continuous engagement between the two States at religious, spiritual, functional and object art levels.
She further said that Ganga is integral to Banaras. It cannot be segregated from the city. The Ghats and the river have graced many artists’ canvas including E.B. Havell, British and European watercolour painters, James Prinsep and others. Another aspect of Ganga is that it is the reason why Banaras became a prosperous trading hub. It was always a place of commerce. Banaras’s identity is deeply related to the presence of the Ganges.