The book presents a rich and surprising account of the recent history of the north Indian city of Banaras. Supplementing traditional accounts, which have focused upon the city’s religious imaginary, this volume brings together essays written by acknowledged experts in north Indian culture and history to examine the construction of diverse urban identities in, and after, the British colonial period. Drawing on fields such as archaeology, literature, history, and architecture, these accounts of Banaras understand the narratives which inscribe the city as having been forged substantially in the experiences of British rule. But while British rule transformed the city in many respects, the essays also emphasize the importance of Indian agency in these processes. The book also examines the essential ambiguity of modernization schemes in the city as well as the contingency of elements of religious narrative. The introduction, moreover, attempts to resituate Banaras into a wider tradition of urban studies in South Asia. The book will be of interest to not only scholars and students of north Indian culture and urban history, but also anyone looking to gain a deeper appreciation of this remarkable, and complex, city.
"What makes this book so effective is that while the authors make use of disverse methodologies and materials, they each offer detailed histories and narratives to make the city come to life in all its interconnected complexity. This book will interest scholars and students of South Asia, for it skilfully uses the city as a lens through which to view the institutions and legacies of colonialism, as well as the inner workings, stories, and poetry that make the city so easy to mythologize." – Andy Rotman, Smith College, Religious Studies Review 2013