The silent sound of the River Ganges flowing, along the mystical Assi Ghats. Each linked to each other and dotted with many a majestic havelis, made as homes for erstwhile royals to age in. The pathos of the pious pyres burning the night away at the far end of this ghat. And the sheer beauty of the Ganga Aarti that invites over five million tourists to trudge to these dusty lanes in the hope of nirvana.
Step beyond this holi canvas and you land in the midst of a cacophonous bazaar that is like a wonderland of folk art, craft, weaves and street eats. Also home to the Kashi Vishwanath temple where one of the 12 Jyotirlingas resides. The most reverent of temples for Shaivaites to visit while alive.
Also the birth place of Shanti Banaras, a brand that is truly inter woven with the very fabric of this mystical city that Mark Twain calls ‘older than history’ itself. The Shah family, founders of Shanti Banaras could travel and reside across the globe but they find their feet tapping to a lyrical note only once back in Banaras. Each generation reveling in its folklore, its heritage of weaves and its local eat treats.
To mark its mystique, Shanti Banaras creates a conversational photo essay calling it SHANTI’S BANARAS. It Links some of the city’s best-kept secrets and its keepers with its vibrant weaves. A journey that takes you to ubiquitous terrains and people, the richness of the weaves blending in seamlessly with the raw vistas that mark the myriad stories of lives lived in this city.
The sights are many, the sounds as well: The image of a paan wala, filling his stained palms with a soft, melt-in-your-mouth maghai paan; the blue lassi wala churning away; the pahalwaans circling each other in their akharas. Or even the pandas (Holy men), the aarti bearers who light up the Ghats and many mandirs with their chants. The papad makers who leave flattened pulse fritters on their terraces to dry. Or the pigeon trainers who have their kabootars compete in a flight of fancy.
Music too fills this reverent air and has won the city a place in UNESCO’s Cities of Music list. Three acclaimed gurus: Pundit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Bismillah Khan and Girija Deviji were born to this soil. We drape a Sarod played in our rich gamuchas as he strums along in praise of his Lord. Shanti’s Banaras is a story of how life itself emulates the process of weaving, how each one of us blend a vibrant weft with a pensive warp!
They say, visit Nirvana when alive to feel that you are born once again.