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Mapping Banaras

A new guidebook introduces the intrepid explorer to India’s holiest city, its sights, sounds and smells, in a refreshing, user-friendly avatar

Amid the maze of guidebooks and travelogues that woo the tourist and explorer to Banaras (Varanasi), a mint-fresh travel book, breaks down one of India’s most-visited cities into 12 well-chronicled walks that line its corners and contours.

Ghats map
MAP COURTESY/ BRITISH LIBRARY, LONDON


Kedar temple, in red and white stripes in south Indian style, seen from the river

Needless to say, its ghats along the Ganga are placed as the centerpiece for most walks. Unlike many titles under this genre that give the reader a cosmetic view of the city, typically rehashed and rewritten from secondary sources, this informative title hand-holds the intrepid traveller, quite literally as one heads into the other Banaras — less-seen and rarely-documented — and the best part, it’s easily navigable for first timers who wish to figure the chaos that is Banaras.

Stairs leading up to Tulsidas monastery
Stairs leading up to Tulsidas monastery

The imposing Alamgiri mosque at Panchganga Ghat
The imposing Alamgiri mosque at Panchganga Ghat


We liked the use of rare maps, sourced from London’s British Library that lend it a vintage touch.

Fishermen outside Nishadraj temple, Kedarnath Lane
Fishermen outside Nishadraj temple, Kedarnath Lane

A weaver at work at a handloom.
A weaver at work at a handloom. pics courtesy/ Constantino Schillebeeckx

There are must-dos as well, including mentions of the famous tea shops, weavers, mithai haunts and other local attractions that often get missed out.

Madanpura residents admire a cart of bangles for sale
Madanpura residents admire a cart of bangles for sale

Nandini Majumdar’s eye for detail and insight into the heart and soul of the area is a bonus for the reader.

Cobalt and turquoise-coloured tiles on the arched doorways of Lal Khan’s tomb
Cobalt and turquoise-coloured tiles on the arched doorways of Lal Khan’s tomb

Despite being one of India’s most photographed cities, the frames by Constantino Schillebeeckx give the reader a different, 360-degree panorama, where one can play companion along with the photojournalist along the gullis and ghats of this holy city.

Walks through India’s Sacred City
Banaras: Walks through India’s Sacred City, Nandini Majumdar, Roli Books, Rs 595. Available in leading bookstores.

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