Art and Culture of Varanasi
Every city in India, or rather in the world is identified by the practice people follow and live by a set of ideas and beliefs. In fact, custom and tradition make the city famous and worth living. One such city admired for its rich heritage of art and culture is Varanasi. The city has been a centre of attraction for learners, scholars, and saints for centuries. No wonder, it is called as the cultural capital of India. Some of the practices that started with the creation of the universe are still followed here.
By no means is it an exaggeration to say that Varanasi is an embodiment of the Hindus’ custom and tradition. Though the city has been plundered for several times and ruled by foreign hands, no amount of strength or power could ever take its soul from it. The religious conviction among people is so strong that they never skip a single step in their routine howsoever busy is their day’s schedule. If they have to be at the ghat in the morning for a bath, they will be there. If giving attendance for the Ganga aarti is in their routine, there is no way they will miss it.
Though Hinduism has been the primary religion in Varanasi, there is a wide impression of Buddhism and Jainism in the city as well. Therefore, the art and culture of Varanasi have many facets. Like all the primitive art in the world, the era of painting started in the city through caves when charcoals, stones, and sharp objects were used to express one’s feelings on the wall. The caves discovered in the city of Mirzapur, Manikpur, Singhanpur, Bhopal, etc. still have those stone block and wall paintings. Besides, the excavation work conducted at Sarnath and Rajghat also shows a connection of art with Varanasi. The ancient stupas, sculptures, monuments, and temples are the living testimony to the art of Varanasi. However, the ruins of the paintings are also an example of the Mughal’s intolerance towards Indian art.
Since the Mughals had ruled Varanasi for over three centuries, Varanasi began showing the glimpses of Mughal features in its art. From the beginning of the 18th century, it adapted the painting style of Bengal, Rajasthan, and the English as well. The maharaja of Banaras, Shri Ishwari Narayan Singh took the art form to a different level. He was an art lover and a patron of art. He encouraged several local artists to produce paintings, and sculptures that became a learning source for others. Legendary Indian poets, saints and writers like Shri Mulshi Prem Chand, Kabir, Tulsidas, and Bharatendu Harishchandra took art and literature of Varanasi to a great height. Further, the music and different colours of festivals send visitors into a state of trance.
Varanasi has also continued with its tradition of producing great wrestlers. The ancient form of akharas and the guru-shisya traditions are still prominent and offer a unique identify to the city. Overall, Varanasi enormously contributed to the nourishment of art, literature, music, and sport in India, and to learn which, the world still looks at this city with great regard.