Banaras: Cosmic Space of Life, Light and Twilight

Banaras: Cosmic Space of Life, Light and Twilight

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Item Code: NAH302
Author: Dilip Kumar
Publisher: Indian Mind, Varanasi
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 8186117180
Pages: 175 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 220 gm
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About the Book


Banaras : Cosmic Space of Life, Light and Twilight presents a short survey of a unique city which can be seen as various dimensions A place of oldest civilization, A kingdom of Hindu pilgrimage, the river Ganga, A Centre for Oriental and Sanskrit studies etc. It gives useful quantity of information and insight on the city, its history, culture; daily activities of typical inhabitants of Banaras and many more. As other tourist points located in other parts in India or the world are very much visible, in Kashi/Varanasi/Banaras people need to dive deep into its occult ocean of knowledge for true experience of ever vibrant settlement on this planet. No matter it is fade out or luminous. Enjoy Banaras!


Dilip Kumar heretically the inhabitant of Kashi studied in Banaras Hindu University presently running a prestigious book shop in Varanasi. Proud to say that his greatest grandfather’s family have been building contractors and helped making many of Grand Mansions and Forts in those times for those kings and Royal families of Banaras by bringing stones and boulders from Chunar mountains.




In the ancient Vedas and Puranas, Kashi or Banaras finds its origin as a place of abode of Lord Shiva, with its base on Lord Shiva’s trident. It is believed that this place was ruled by the famous king Divodas and the like; Dhanvantari, the propounder of Ayurveda, is also believed to have his roots in Kashi. There is no authentic account of the initial history of Banaras available, but the recorded history establishes Kashi as a pioneering place and centre for religion, philosophy, trade, art and culture before the time of Lord Gautam Buddha.


Since ancient times, Kashi or Varanasi or Banaras has been known as a centre of religion, education, spirituality and culture; indeed, Kashi is also often recognized to be the mirror of Indian culture. This widely-acclaimed centre of excellence in the fields of medicine, art and literature is accepted as one of the oldest cities, not only in India, but in the whole world. The literati compare it with the oldest cities of human civilisation like Jerusalem, Rome, Peking, Athens, and so on. Perhaps this city is the only example of continuous culture over the last five thousand years.


There are many reasons for writing this book. One, in recent times no any comprehensive handbook was written for general readers and enthusiast who want to explore a general overview of Varanasi. There are different kind of books and articles written by known scholars which were either very much specified focused on particular topics or are bigger in size and voluminous that are out of reach to common visitors in Varanasi, and secondly the widespread demand for A book which explain details about Ghats of Banaras, Temples, Spiritual Luminaries etc. I am very much grateful to the inhabitants of Banaras who have helped me in preparation of this book. I am indebted to all authors whose books/ Articles have given me scholastic information. Finally I am very much thankful to my friend and unparalleled Artist and Scholar Dr. Gautam Chatterjee who always encouraged me to write a book on Banaras excess to common pilgrims visiting Banaras.


From last few decades, due to industrial wastes, unauthorized construction and lack of awareness of people living in the city resulting the river Ganga highly polluted. Also mounts of dirt and garbage can be seen everywhere. Efforts are being made to keep clean the city and the river. But there is gigantic task which will require good planning and latest method of technology only the collective will of the people of Banaras can keep both the city and the river clean. I will quote the experience of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, on his short visit to Varanasi before independence:-


In Benares:

“The journey was from Calcutta to Rajkot, and I planned to halt at Benares, Agra, Jaipur and Palanpur en route. I had not the time to see any more places than these. In each city I stayed one day and put up in dharmashalas or with pandas like ordinary pilgrims, excepting at Palanpur. So far as I can remember, I did not spend more than Rs.31 (including the train fare) on this journey.


In travelling third class I mostly preferred the ordinary to the mail trans, as I knew that the latter were more crowded and the fares in them higher.


The third class compartments are practically as dirty, and the closet arrangements as bad, today as they were then. There may be a little improvement now, but the difference between the facilities provided for the first and the third classes is out of all proportion to the difference between the fares for the two classes. Third class passengers are treated like sheep and their comforts are sheep’s comforts. In Europe I travelled third, and only once first, just to see what it was like, but there I noted no such difference between the first and the third classes. In South Africa third class passengers are mostly Negroes, yet the third class comforts are better there than here. In parts of South Africa third class compartments are provided with sleeping accommodation, and cushioned seats. The accommodation is also regulated, so as to prevent overcrowding, whereas here I have found the regulation limit usually exceeded.


The indifference of the railway authorities to the comforts of the third class passengers, combined with the dirty and inconsiderate habits of the passengers themselves, makes third class travelling a trial for a passenger of cleanly ways. These unpleasant habits commonly include throwing of rubbish on the floor of the compartment, smoking at all hours and in all places, betel and tobacco chewing, converting of the whole carriage into a spittoon, shouting and yelling, and using foul language, regardless of the convenience or comfort of fellow passengers. I have noticed little difference between my experience of the third class travelling in 1902 and that of my unbroken third class tours from 1915 to 1919.


I can think of only one remedy for this awful state of things that educated men should make a point of travelling third class and reforming the habits of the people, as also of never letting the railway authorities rest in peace, sending in complaints wherever necessary, never resorting to bribes or any means for obtaining their own comforts, and never putting up with infringements of rules on the part of anyone concerned. This, I am sure, would bring about considerable improvement.


My serious illness in 1918-19 has unfortunately compelled me practically to give up third class travelling, and it has been a matter of constant pain and shame to me, especially because the disability came at a time when the agitation for the removal of the hardships of third class passengers was making fair headway. The hardships of poor railway and steamship passengers, accentuated by their bad habits, the undue facilities allowed by Government to foreign trade, and such other things, make an important group of subjects, worthy to be taken up by one or two enterprising and persevering workers who could devote their full time to it.


But I shall leave the third class passengers at that, and come to my experiences in Benares. I arrived there in the morning. I had decided to put up with a panda. Numerous Brahmans surrounded me, as soon as I got out of the train, and I selected one who struck me to be comparatively cleaner and better than the rest. It provided to a good choice. There was a cow in the courtyard of his house and an upper storey where I was given a lodging. I did not want to have any food without ablution in the Ganges in the proper orthodox manner. The panda made preparations for it. I had told him beforehand that on no account could I give him more than a rupee and four annas as dakshina, and that he should therefore keep this in mind while making the preparations.


The panda readily assented, ‘Be the pilgrim rich or poor,’ said he, ‘the service is the same in every case. But the amount of dakshina we receive depends upon the will and the ability of the pilgrim.” I did not find that the panda at all abridged the usual formalities in my case. The puja was over at twelve O’ clock, and I went to the Kashi Vishvanath temple for darshan. I was deeply pained by what I saw there. When practicing as a barrister in Bombay in 1891, I had occasion to attend a lecture on ‘Pilgrimage to Kashi’ in the Prarthana Samaj hall. I was therefore prepared for some measure of disappointment. But the actual disappointment was greater than I had bargained for.


The approach was through a narrow and slippery lane. Quiet there was none. The swarming flies and the noise made by the shopkeepers and pilgrims were perfectly insufferable.








About Banaras



The Ghats of Banaras: A Living Panorama of Life



Banaras the Land of Gods and Goddesses



Saints, Sages, Scholars and Ascetics



Glimpses of Fairs and Festivals of Banaras



Music and Musicians



Food, Art and Industries



Death in Kashi



Tourist Interest



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