Dr. Rana P. B. Singh (born 15 December 1950) was born in a village and educated in the city of Varanasi. From Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi he was awarded an M. A. (1971) and Ph. D. (1974) in geography. He has visited USSR, Japan and USA and gave lectures in many universities. As Japan Foundation scientist he studied Japanese village and agriculture (1980). In 1981 he was a Visiting Professor of Geography, and Urban and Environmental Systems at Virginia P. 1, and State University, Blacksburg. Presently he is the Executive member and Head of the Indian Branch of the International Working Group on the Geography of Belief Systems (IWG-GBS), President of the Association of Pilgrimage Studies (APS) , and Corresponding member of the IGU Commission on Geographic Thought. He is also Co- editor of the Journal of Pilgrimage Studies, and Associate Editor of the National Geographical Journal of India. As one of the experts he is also involved in UNESCO's sponsored Project on World Cultural Heritage Conservation Plan. He teaches geography at the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. To his credit there appear six monographs, eleven co-edited volumes, and about hundred research articles and reviews. His present research is devoted to the integration of cosmology, religion and environment-called as geomancy.
Every literature has culture-and-society tradition which attempts to project the intrinsic reality of a place: "Where Cultural Symbols Meet." In India, city of Varanasi is known as the Cultural Capital of India, and the holiest city for Hindus. Naturally, with this inherent quality the city has drawn attention from literature which produced creative writings based on people and landscape of this city. Among them ten such literature are taken here for consideration. Both the levels-microscopic and telescopic-are implied in this context with an aim to reflect upon the long time span, starting from eleventh century to present.
The present book consists of ten chapters arranged in the scale of time; and glories and negative spots both are high- lighted in their perspective and context while comparing with other contemporary writings. Everywhere the scriptures are cited to view their religious interlinkages. This way one can understand the holistic personality of this great city in all the possible ways-topophilic and topophobic. The book is the first attempt of its kind to project literary images of a city; atleast no Indian scholar has yet tried in this line.
Finally, at the end, based on all the ten chapters an integrated essay, "Varanasi: Multiplicit Images", is added to project the total picture of the city at a glance. Without any biasness the bad and good spots are reflected while presenting portraits of Varanasi. Of the total ten chapters eight are based on writings in Hindi, one in Persian, and one in English. This does indicate that the local colour can be perceived mostly through the local language/dialect, and folk and oral traditions prevailing there.
The first and foremost sense of obligation is due to two great personalities, my Guru, Prof. R. L. Singh and Dr. Bhanu Shankar Mehta (the Banarasi, par excellance) whose blessings have given me a vision to work in the field of literary geography. Many established writers, the literary geographers, have shown me the right track and way to follow on it, among them I am especially grateful to Profs. Cristopher L. Salter (Columbia, USA), J. Douglas Porteous (Victoria, Canada), Douglas C. D. Pocock (Durham, UK), David Lowenthal (London, UK), Denis E. Cosgrove (Loughborough, UK), Kenneth R. Olwig (Copenhagen, Denmark), and Ashok K. Dutt (Akron, USA) who have kindly sent their works and suggestions on the subject matter. In Banaras Hindu University, Dr. Kashinath Singh and Dr. Shivprasad Singh, both from Hindi department, have been proved as rational critics and inspirers. But I am solely responsible for any inconsistancy and investigation.
Sri Vishwanath Singh has realised the utmost need of this publication, and has very kindly supported this project through 'Vishwanath Singh Research Fund'; I am highly obliged to him.
Writing a book about the lived experience of landscape and people needs a humanistic environment which might serve as home setting symbol where built and social systems form together a collectivistic condition for understanding and expressing the scenes. This setting has been created by my family-wife Usha, the two sons, Pravin and Prashant, and the two daughters, Pratibha and Prabha. They have made the setting multifaceted-tense, ease, harmonious and many times sentimental, without which it was not possible to march on the road of literary-perceptive exposures. In all the ways they deserve my gratefulness and obligation.
Let me very humbly warn the reader that the task of writing this book completely lacks the intension of geographic orientation, but I do confess that it is also an essential part of geography to describe the place-exposures based on common experiences. I hope that the work will help somehow in reviving the sense of geographicality as propounded by a great geographer Vidal de la Blache and most recently by many young literary geographers like Ted Relph, Denis Cosgrove, Ken Olwig, etc. For reading this book a pre-requisite of literary taste and experiencing landscape and people would be a great help.
Without undue claim, very humbly I can place on record that perhaps this is the first book of its nature which describes all the literary sources on a city lifeworld.
Literature as source material for the understanding of culture, people and belief system is now realized as one of the basic means of intimate sensing; in fact, "evocative descriptions of geographical places by novelists and poets are of great benefit to both students of literature and students of geography" (Mallory and Simpson-Housley 1987: xi). Of course, the imaginative literature is the creation of an individual's interaction with the environment, the depth of its exposure depends upon the intensity of intimate sensing, experiences, and finally the art of expression for the larger mass. In early twentieth century it has already been noted that, " ... Some novelists have had an even clearer vision for the facts of geography that are of most significance to the average man than do professional writers on geographic thought" (J. K. Wright 1926:490). Even before, Wright has strongly emphasized the inherent quality of creative literature preserving closely the sense of place and the culture of the inhabitants. He has remarked that, "Some men of letters are endowed with a highly developed geographical instinct. As writers, they have trained them- selves to visualize even more clearly than the professional geographer those regional elements of the earth's surface most significant to the general run of humanity" (Wright 1924b: 659).
Wright's provokings are seriously considered by many geographers seeking alternative for better understanding of man-environment-interation through the exposures of preserved qualities instead through the illusionery quantitative abstractions. This alternative has encouraged for rediscovering the literary heritage of geography (Pocock 1981a: 9). In this context the quest for understanding starts from, what Heidegger calls 'being-in-the world', a pre-scientific account which deals with the everyday, immediate or original relationship that people have with their surroundings (Relph 1986: 16) This quest in geography is transferred so as to understand "man-in- the world", but with the phenomenological approach both "man" and "world" are analysed in relativistic perspective which an individual intimately perceives and experiences. This experience need to be described in relation "to the ties of the region, landscape, space and place that link people to the earth - his way of experience and fate" what French historian Eric Dardel called as geographicality (Pickles 1985:44; also Relph 1986: 17). Many literators have preserved the indepth insights of this aspect in their writings which can be taken as source material to understand geographicaluy of the local place and landscape.
2. Geography and Literature
The first attempt, of course without surity, to treat literature in analysing regional geography is by the British geographer H. C. Darby (1948) who detailed the regional geography of Thomas Hardy's Wessex. The earlier writings followed Darby's line and mostly considered regional novels capturing the full flavour of a rural region, especially a single novelist's depiction of a single region. Pocock's (1981a: 12-13) all three traditions fall into this general category, viz word painting, which develops a holistic expression having full vision of a region; the geography behind literature, where literature is examined in reference to the physical processes involved in its formation while comparing the regional reality; and the search for geography in literature, "treating writings as a literary quarry from which to construct a more general literary topography" (Pocock 1981a: 13). Jay's work (1975) of reconstructing the Black Country from the works of Brett Young is one of the best known examples of the third tradition. But all these three approaches may be labelled as 'traditional' by Porteous (1985:118). Works by Aiken (1979), Cosgrove (1979, 1984), Gilbert (1972), Hoy and Elbow (1976), Lanegran (1972), Murton (1976), Salter (1978), and Wyckoff (1979) have also somhow or other followed similar perspectives. The latest work by S. Daniels (1988) has paved the path of literary geography as one of the fascinating fields of practice where landscape, image and text are integrated to describe the geographicality of the region.
During late 1970s the philosophical dialogue have created an atmosphere for adding new dimensions in the subject, especially focusing humanistic approach which already received recognition in the wider field of human geography.
3. Intimate Sensing and Humanistic Focus
"Since the body is the measure of all things for man, language and literature abound with comparisons of the human body to places, landforms and buildings" (Lutwack 1984:77). This refers to "body-earth metaphor" to be expressed through an intimate sensing - "the appraisal of land and life at ground level, and is by far the more complete for it involves not only the visual sense but also sound, smell, taste and touch, body and soul as well as knowledge" (Porteous 1986a: 250). To handle intimate sensing, naturally a holistic framework and approach is needed. Many of the practioners of literary geography have followed humanistic frame in this context. This can be better explained if the traditional tools of literary criticism are also to be taken together. The best known source is Lutwack's The Role of Place in Literature (1984); this is a ground breaking study of the uses of metaphors and images of place in literature. The author is familiar with the works in geography of the similar nature, it is therefore the book provides substantially potential insights for future work. This issue has already been strongly supported by Tuan (1978), and Mills (1982).
The interaction among people-place-vision and insight through literary and art sources while comparing with personal experiences and field investigation help in reaching quite closer to reality. Cosgrove (1979, 1984, 1985) has been successful in analysing the evolution and formation of landscape in this way. Logical interlinkages, historical events and symbolism—all together have been taken to prepare the portrait of the landscape.
The literary works need to "be interpreted according to the antimomies of home: away, insider: outsider, roots: root- lessness, and place: placelessness" (Porteous 1985: 120). Porteous' works (I 986b, 1987) dealing with the writings of Malcolm Lowry are the examples in this direction; they provide a guideline for the geographers' march in this direction. The dilemma of insider-outsider perspectives are further described by Seamon (1981), and more recently in India by Singh (1985); in both the cases urban region has been taken as base.
While making critical remarks Silk (1984) has classified the main characteristics of current work in Geography and Literature into three major approaches - formalist approaches, the culture-and-society tradition, and Marxist approaches. He has argued that, "a materialist analysis is necessary which views literature (and art in general) as one of the many practices in a society based on a particular mode of production, and that examination of the intrinsic features of any text-'the words on the page'-must be linked with that of its extrinsic features" (Silk 1984: 151). But beyond this lies the state of mind and soul which could be understood through experiential feelings and focus on humanistic approach. In fact, "traditional and humanist approaches are complementary" (Porteous 1985: 120).
The emotional bonds and value assignment to a place is the subject of variation according to the vital power a place possessed. The creative literature fully absorbs this power and the aesthetic quality to make the place alive like an organic reality. D. H. Lawrence (I964: 6) has rightly noted that, "Different places on the face of the earth have different vital effluence, different vibration, different chemical exhalation, different polarity with different stars; call it what you like. But the spirit of place (genius loci) is a great reality".
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