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Blog: Banaras, a city that preserves cultural heritage…

Ever since Narendra Modi started contesting elections from the Banaras Loksabha seat, something or the other has been continuously written about this place in the media. Many times it seems that everything has been written about Banaras and now there is nothing left to write. But, is it so?! Last week, I got a chance to go to Banaras for the first time. Before reaching there, I felt that something remains to be written about Banaras…! But, what is it that we don't know about Banaras...? What is there about Banaras that is still yet to be told to the people...?
Before starting the journey, when I talked about this with one of my journalist friends, a native of the same place, he said that he is not present in Banaras at this time but when you return from Banaras, you will have something like this. There must be something for sure that you would like to tell people about.
While sitting in 'Vande Bharat', the fastest-running train in India, I kept thinking about the akkhadpan of Banaras, the fragrance of the paan and food of Banaras, the bhaukaal of the people of Banaras, the stories of Madan Mohan Malviya and the Kashi Vishwanath Temple…, We have read, heard and seen a lot about all this in books, newspapers and films, now what would be new in it to add, which should be considered necessary to be written once and told again.
But, as soon as I got off the train at midnight and stepped onto the land of Banaras, I realized that there is a different atmosphere here. Coming out of the station, I felt that this is an environment in which care and indifference, coaxing and stubbornness are present simultaneously.
On the way to my host's home, I saw many signs that made me realize how beautifully this city has preserved its cultural heritage. Shiva temples, flower and prasad shops, clean statues of Mahamana at the corners and intersections, endless presence of Shiva symbols on shop signboards, and unusual cleanliness and purity in the air is a constant reminder of this, kept confirming.
During the two-day stay, there was continuous interaction with many different types of people. During this period, sometimes we talked about journalism, sometimes we talked about politics, sometimes we talked about literature and sometimes we talked about the intricacies related to human behaviour. But, discussions took place and did not turn into 'debate'.While being active in journalism in many different cities for the last two decades, it has rarely happened that things do not turn into ‘debates’. And, don't turn it into a bitter argument. But, despite trying many times on my own, the talks remained ‘talks’ and could not turn into a ‘debate’.
When I went through a bridge over the river Ganga of Banaras, I remembered my Yamuna of Delhi. Seeing the clean Ganga, it became difficult to believe that both the rivers are ‘real sisters’. As much as we have made the water of our Yamuna 'black' and 'frothy', the water of Banarasi Ganga was looking equally clear. Both rivers are in the same country. There may be some differences in government efforts, but public efforts also play a big role in preserving rivers and other natural resources. Perhaps this is the difference between us living in the national capital region and the people of Banaras, which was felt after seeing the current form of these two holy rivers. If we have completely failed to maintain the purity of our Yamuna river, at least the Banarasians have gone far ahead of us in this task.
While visiting Banaras Hindu University campus in the evening, I remembered Aligarh Muslim University. There was a difference of about 180 degrees between the two leading centres of education. I have had the opportunity to wander around both the universities in the evening. But, here too the difference is huge. I went to Banaras Hindu University for the first time whereas Aligarh University is in my home district. There is a completely different environment on both campuses. The beauty that was visible in Banaras is missing in Aligarh. The joy and energy that was visible in Banaras that Nafasat and Tawanai were never seen in Aligarh. Although I cannot call it a 'Darr ka mahaul' in Aligarh Muslim University, there is a different kind of peace on the campus of this university of Banaras.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple present on the Banaras Hindu University campus is probably the grandest temple built in any educational institution in India. The largest number of teenagers and youth were seen in the crowd present in the temple. It is believed that with increasing age the inclination towards temples also increases but no old people were seen here. If it is a university campus then probably most of the students will be there. Sometimes they were seen as having fun and sometimes the shadow of spirituality was seen falling on them. This was also a different kind of experience. 
Overall, the information about this city can be gathered by reading and watching about Banaras, but if you want to 'feel' this city then definitely come here once. My stay was only for two days, in which a lot of personal work had to be done, so I could not explore the city much. Next time whenever I go to Banaras, I will roam around a little more and try to understand the city more.

(Writer is a Journalist)


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