Inner Light

Varanasi's Indica Books occupy a niche- and do well by it. Specialists in books on Indology and on the city of Banaras, they have an eclectic backlist... And great production value, which comes to view when one sees the superb quality of their wonderful book of photographs by Richard Lannoy.

Benares seen from within (and as it happens, over decades) is "a rare combination of creative photography and cultural history put together by one man, this book both visually and textually is the most massive presentation of this extraordinary city ever attempted. It is the fruit of a lifelong interest in Benares from 1953 until the present day.

Lannoy's Benares is no tourist's idyll, nor yet is it an exercise in peddling a 'Third World' mythology of exotica garnished with grunge. Unflinching in his observations, yet enormously sensitive to his subject, Lannoy records the everyday life of Hinduism's most sacred city. And it is not through the formal acts of ritual, but through the most ordinary gestures of river-side and marketplace that the charged, heightened drama of life in Benares unfolds."

This major contribution to the study of urban culture was first published in 1999, and has now been issued in a more accessible format and a reduced price, its text substantially revised, as Benares: A world within a world. "Though now beset with all the characteristic urban ills of the age, Benares is arguably the oldest living city in the world to retain its original cosmic orientation. A center of learning since antiquity, its way of life has not essentially changed until the last few years.

Among other themes, Lannoy writes about the metaphysical substructure of the city, the ancient cults of the pillar and the sun-wheel, the Buddha, yoga, commerce and weaving, pilgrimage, and extends its survey up to the present, with Hindu-Muslim conflicts, the tension between religion and secularism, and a lively account of the great woman-saint Anandamayi Ma. Illustrated with many photographs by the author."

Another view of the eternal city. From the inside, from the outside...

In various sections on our site, Urban Studies, Art, and so on.
Benares, the view from within, in hardcover, 640 pages, Rs 3500, ISBN: 1902716000
Benares, a world within a world, in paperback, 420 pages, Rs 375, ISBN: 8186569251