Negotiating Faith and Culture: De- Orientalising hegemonic representations of the ancient city of Banaras

Maya Vinai1 & Vinai Sankunni2

1 Assistant Professor, Dept of Humanities and Social Sciences, BITS-Pilani (Hyderabad Campus). ORCID:  Email:

2 Director, Support – Global Delivery Center, WPP Group of Companies, Kantar Operations

Volume IX, Number 3, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n3.20

Received July 30, 2017; Revised September 05, 2017; Accepted September 15, 2017; Published September 20,  2017.


Banaras has forever remained an enchanting place since millennia. If the colonial era pinned down, Banaras as an exotic site for theology and spirituality; the post-colonial era has witnessed the de-mystification process of legends and beliefs associated with Banaras. However, every time Banaras is bracketed, a new facet emerges. This paper presents two contesting visions of Banaras and also the argument that; there can be no absolute version of truth because such deliberations not just posit a conflict within the national imagination but also creates falsifications across borders. The universalized and monolithic understandings offered on Banaras from the elite metropolitan locations and through media have paved way for creation of certain stereotypes regarding Banaras in the public imagination. This in turn, has led to a shelving and obstruction to the multiple realities and unaccounted stories on Banaras. In this paper, to understand the hidden nuances of the cityscape of Banaras we have looked at Pankaj Mishra’s popular novel The Romantics along with a local boatman’s perspectives on aspects like choice of profession, their historic contribution to the city, presence of electric crematoriums, various development policies introduced by the government, and regular conflicts with the hegemonic groups to possess the ritual space.

Key words: Banaras, representation, hegemony, alternate narratives, counter establishment, boatmen, legends, modernity.

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