Benares Seen from Within

Benares Seen from Within

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Item Code: IDF478
Author: Richard Lannoy
Publisher: Indica Books, Varanasi
Language: English
Edition: 1999
ISBN: 1902716000
Pages: 640 (In Full Color & B & W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 12.3" X 9.25"

From the Jacket :

A rare combination of creative photography and cultural history put together by one man, this book both visually and textually is the most massive presentation of this extraordinary city ever attempted. It is the fruit of a lifelong interest in Benares from 1953 until the present day.

The populace of Benares lives within a historical environment spanning at least three millennia of continuous habitation. Though now beset with all the characteristic urban ills of the age, it is arguably the oldest living city in the world. A centre of learning since antiquity, its way of live has not essentially changed. Its fame as the spiritual capital of India was given added luster two thousand five hundred years ago when the Buddha commenced his ministry there. The book includes an absorbing account of the Buddha's life and the significance of his teaching today.

Lannoy's Benares is no tourist's idyll, nor yet is it an exercise in penddling a 'Third World' mythology of exotica garnished with grunge. Unflinching in his observations, yet enourmously sensitive to his subject, Lannoy records the everyday life of Hinduism' most sacred city. And it is not through the formal acts of ritual, but through the most ordinary gestures of riverside and marketplace that the charged, heightened drama of life in Benares unfolds.

The variety and range of themes is remarkable. Lannoy opens with a revealing account of the way he deals with the interplay between photographic instantaneity and sacred time. He then explains the metaphysical substructure of the city organized as a microcosm of the universe, and proceeds to find photographic equivalents for this, exploring the symbolism of Benares as cosmogram and centre of the Word. The reader is inducted into the distinctive atmosphere of the city by images which reach a psychological level of great intensity. He then weaves words and pictures together in cloth of daring originality and with full command of the historical background. The primeval worship of river, tree, Sun and Cosmic Pillar are shown to coexist with the highest flights of mystical and existential speculation, mastery of Yoga, meditation on the charkas and devotional fervour.

These themes are photographed as they are happening in daily life, along with fantastically animated street scenes, ritual and the arts of festivity. There is a searching critique of the city's troubled history of conflict between Hindus and Muslims, the politicization of the crisis between religion and secularism, and the lively account of leading personalities, artists, poets, thinkers and great sages. Lannoy presents an illuminating interpretation of the unique way of cremating the dead in the very heart of the city. He faces up to the more disturbing features of Benares, but maintains his deep and well-known sympathy for the variegated life of the Indian people. When the shutter opens, the inhabitants of Benares are revealed as bearing witness to a world of higher vision beyond common experience. Many pictures present the sheer human beauty, richness and simplicity of Indian life at his heart-warming best.

About the Author :

Richard Lannoy is the author of several books on India, including The Speaking Tree: Continuity and change in Indian culture and society, published by Oxford University Press in 1971 and still in print. He was on the founding staff of the ICA, London, where he set up a celebrated forum, the Independent Group. His photography was spotted by three key promoters of innovative young cameramen, Norman Hall of Photography Magazine, Albert Gilou, founder of Realites, and Ulrich Gasser, member of a Swiss group which ran Du. He assisted in the mounting of Henri Cartier-Bresson's first two London exhibitions. A photographic assignment for United Nations took him to the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and elsewhere in West Asia. Lannoy worked as a photojournalist for international magazines during the fifties and this led to specialization on India and several periods of residence with his Indian novelist wife in Benares. Several publishers backed out of contracts for his Beneres project, daunted by the considerable production costs on so large a book. It took many years in the wilderness before Lannoy plucked up courage to return to the city and launch into publication on his own, doing the design and layout himself. His thinking on Benares has never ceased for close on half a century. He lives in Bath, and equally regards his work as photographer, writer and painter as ways to advance a holistic view of life.

With over 600 photographs including 150 colourplates; three maps; glossary; bibliography; index.

 

CONTENTS

 

  Acknowledgements 6
  Foreword by Dr. Anand Krishna 8
  Preface 10
  Maps 12
Photographic Section  
1. Prelude - Forest of Ananda 15
2. Pilgrims and Bathers 45
3. The Riverside 71
4. Temples Worship Rites 107
5. Abode of the Gods 143
6. Yoga Gymnastics Ascetics 179
7. Forest of Artha - Lanes and Bazaars 205
8. Forest of Artha - Streetlife 249
9. Forest of Artha - Cityscape 275
10. Countryfolk 305
11. Crafts 337
12. Wisdom and Grace 361
13. Sarnath Renewed 377
14. Nocturn 405
Text Section  
Introduction: A Photographer's Way of Seeing 426
I. The Centre of the World 437
II. The Cosmogram 443
III. Benares as a State of Mind 445
IV. A Guide for Benares 451
V. The Interconnectedness of Things 453
VI. Forest of Bliss 461
VII. Shiva and the Lat Bhairo 466
VIII. Dissolution, Death and Regeneration 477
IX. The Meaning of Pilgrimage 492
X. Ganga 496
XI. Hinduism in Practice 503
XII. Abode of the Gods 503
XIII. Glimpses of History 508
  1. The Indo-Aryans 521
  2. The Ten-Horse Sacrifice 529
  3. The Kingdom of Kashi 530
  4. Centre of Learning 532
  5. The Buddha and Benares 534
  6. The Rise of Hinduism 552
  7. Centre of Commerce 554
  8. City of Master Weavers 556
  9. The Brahmin and the Outcaste 559
  10. The Muslim Period 568
  11. Astronomer King 575
  12. The British Period 584
  13. A New Phase 588
  14. Modern Times: The Limits of Secularism 591
  15. A New Passage to India 596
XIV. Renunciates and Holy Fools 604
XV. Wisdom and Grace 615
XVI. Night Thoughts 625
Glossary 629
Bibliography 633
Index 636

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