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Arnab Das, Suman Nath, Subrata Sankar Bagchi, Banaras in a Narrative of Nostalgia and Kitsch in:

Anthropos, page 19 - 36

Anthropos, Volume 115 (2020), Issue 1, ISSN: 0257-9774, ISSN online: 0257-9774, https://doi.org/10.5771/0257-9774-2020-1-19

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ANTHROPOS 113.2018: 395 – 422 Abstract. – The once more-or-less exclusively pastoral Todas of the Nilgiri Mountains in South India still retain vibrant beliefs in gods and goddesses they say once lived among them but thereafter became mountains; they tell also of ancestors who were once living Todas but subsequently became divinities. Beyond such indigenous convictions, Todas have absorbed a plethora of Hindu beliefs and ritual practices. Christian ideology has been propagated among Todas, with foreign-led Christian missionaries succeeded in establishing a breakaway Toda Christian community. But notwithstanding the many divergent sources of Toda religious ideology, the predominant and most public display of Toda ritual activity (apart from among Christian Todas) still centres on their unique sacred dairying cult, despite the rapid decline in the importance of buffaloes in the community’s modern-day economic life. This, together with their exclusively Toda deities and culture heroes seems to suggest a unique ethnic religion, frequently categorized as “non-Hindu.” But demonstrably Indic (therefore, if only loosely, “Hindu”) principles permeate Toda ritual activity. Most notable are the concepts of hierarchy and purity and those of prescribed ritual avoidance coupled with required ritual cooperation. In sum, Toda religion – like the Toda community itself – is at once unique and, at the same time, thoroughly Indic. [South India, Nilgiri Mountains, Toda] Anthony Walker, an Oxford-trained social anthropologist, retired as Professor of Anthropology at the University of Brunei Darussalam in 2011 and now lives in Kandy, Sri Lanka. His peripatetic career has included teaching positions at the Science University of Malaysia in Penang, the National University of Singapore, The Ohio State University, and the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. – He began his, still-ongoing, field studies with the Todas in 1962 and has also conducted long-term field research (since 1966) on the Tibeto-Burman speaking Lahu peoples of the Yunnan-Indochina borderlands. – For his major publications on the Todas see References Cited. The Todas believe in their Goddess Thekershi (Tö·kisy1). They worship Goddess Thekershi for protection during their eternal (perhaps “mortal” was intended) existence and they also worship God Ayan (Ö·n) to protect them after death. The Todas do not observe idol worship. Todas worship light, fire, mountains, trees, rivers, sky, sun, and moon, which are believed to be the major creations of their Goddess Thekershi.2 1 Introduction In his recent book “Religion. An Anthropological Perspective” (2015: 9), Professor Homayun Sidky, my much esteemed former PhD student at The Ohio State University, claims: “no single definition has been able to capture the entire picture” of the religious phenomenon. “For this reason”, Sidky writes, “some argue that religion is best thought of as a multifaceted phenomenon with many interpenetrating dimensions as opposed to being viewed as a unitary occurrence.” This indeed is my interpretation of religion as understood and practised by the once more-or-less exclusively pastoral Toda community 1 The orthography of Toda in this essay follows that of Murray Emeneau (1957: 19; 1984: 5–49), except that I have added hyphenation where I feel this might assist non-specialists with pronunciation, hence my To·r-θas and Töw-fił̣y, where Emeneau has To·rθas and Töwfił̣y. (Note, however, that I do not add hyphenation to Toda words when quoting directly – as I do frequently – from Emeneau’s various works. Further assistance with the pronunciation of Toda words rendered in Emeneau’s transcription can be had from Tarun Chhabra’s “A Guide for the Transliteration of Toda” in his 2015 book “The Toda Landscape,” pp. xxxvii–xliii. 2 From the pen of Pöḷ-xe·n, son of Mut-iŝky – his name anglicized as Pellican (n. d.) – a member of Ka·s patriclan, first president of the Nilgiri Toda Uplift Society, high school graduate and literate both in Tamil and English. The Diverse Faces of Toda Religion Anthony R. Walker ANTHROPOS 115.2020: 19–36 Banaras in a Narrative N stalgia and Kitsch Arnab Das, Suman Nath, and Subrata Sankar Bagchi Abstract. – An ethnographic study on the Indian city of Ba‐ naras, one of the “oldest continuously inhabited cities” of the world, helps us experiencing it as a multivocal, multilayered network of heritage, pilgrimage, and tourism that is either con‐ tinually engaged with the revivalist construction of space or de‐ constructed by the postcolonial discourse envisaging a tangible and dynamic order of space. The article intends to make an an‐ alytical inquiry into pilgrimage, tourism, and heritage in the context of space and time, while relating it to the popular ev‐ eryday event of Ganga Aarti in Banaras, which can be seen as a manifestation of nostalgic kitsch. [India, space, nostalgia, he‐ ritage, Hindu/cultural nationalism, kitsch, tourism, pilgrim‐ age] Arnab Das, PhD (Anthropology, University of Calcutta), M.Sc. (Social-Cultural Anthropology, University of Calcutta); Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cal‐ cutta (India). – He is member of different acade ic commit‐ tees, has participated in many national and international semi‐ nars and conferences, and has published in national and inter‐ national journals mainly on Indian Anthropology and West Bengal. – E-mail: arnab_katha@yahoo.co.in Suman Nath, PhD, teaches anthropology in Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Government College, New T wn, Kolkata. – He has published articles in several international journals and written books on issues of politics, policies, corruption and gover‐ nance. – His latest monograph is “Pe ple-Party-Poli y I ter‐ play in India” (2020). – He contributes to a number of blogs and writes articles in popular magazines and Bengali dailies. Email: sumananthro1@gmail.com Subrata Sankar Bagchi, PhD, Chair Professor in Anthropolo‐ gy, University of Calcutta, Kolkata. – He has been visiting pro‐ fessor / fellow at, e.g., Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt (Germany), University of Dundee (Scotland), and University of Ottawa (Canada). – He has written several arti‐ cles and books on human rights, Third World, and child labor. E-mail: ssbagchi2005@yahoo.co.in Since our first ethnographic contact in 2009 with Varanasi,1 one of the “oldest continuously in‐ habited cities” of the world, we could not escape the observation that tourism and pilgrimage form the fulcrum of everyday city life. Our exploration and extensive interaction with the people led us most frequently to the Dasaswamedh Ghat area, the part of the Ganga riverfront, which captures the highest attendance and attention of the local people, tourists, and pilgrims, especially at the popular devotional-cum-heritage event of “Ganga Aarti” (ritual of offering prayer to the Ganges riv‐ er). In this article, a brief discussion of the per‐ spectives from which Banaras has been studied is f llowed by a discussion of how it might be linked t the production of space for pilgrimage, tourism, and heritage. It then moves to a brief illustr tion of this particular inquiry. Finally, the article culmi‐ nates in taking up the qu stion of how the heritage (e.g., ghat , the iverfro t) entw nes the r pres n‐ tational pace of the restorative nostalgia and kitsch, as embodied in the quotidian yet spectacu‐ lar event Ganga Aarti. 1 Situated in Uttar Pradesh, a northern province of India, as per 2011 census of India, the city has a population of 1,201,815 people (; [22.11.2019]). It is indeed difficult to fix the name of the city. Like the recent official name Varanasi, other names like Banaras (earlier name), Kashi (scriptural and local name), Benaras, Benares, and Baneres (colonial nomenclature) have their respective reasons of nomenclature. We have used Varanasi, Kashi, and Banaras interchangeably. Anthropos 115.2020 The Perspectives of Banaras Writing up her recent successful mission of dig‐ ging up the past of Varanasi, city professor Vidula Jayaswal, the renowned archaeologist and an inex‐ tricable scholar on the studies of Indian past, be‐ gins the preface with, “Varanasi is not only one of the oldest living cities of the world, but is also a model reflecting a comprehensive picture of our rich culture heritage” (Jayaswal 2009: v; italics added). The occupation of Kashi (Varanasi) is considered to be continuous since her discovery during her excavation of the Astha site with chal‐ colithic remains of 1,200 B. C. Ascribing the rise of Varanasi to the Vedic period or even before, Jayaswal (2009: v) quotes P. V. Kane in the same page of the preface: There is hardly any city in the world that can claim greater antiquity, greater popular veneration than Ba‐ naras. ... it represents great and unbroken tradition of re‐ ligious sanctity and learning. ... Not only Hinduism but the principles of Budhhism ... were first proclaimed here (Kane 1973: 618). The assertion with which Jayaswal begins narrat‐ ing the past of Varanasi is not based merely upon the objective facts obtained from a distanced intel‐ lectual activity, but rather the meaning emerging from within existence itself, from life, and “factic‐ ity” (Heidegger 1962). It complies with the popu‐ lar “nostalgic” understanding of the residents of Varanasi that they “live in a (or the only) longest inhabited city of India.” The “facticity” lies pre‐ disposed towards nostalgia (Eck 1983). The dis‐ covery (read invention) of Varanasi by Mark Twain resonates with the same popular conviction, the same mythopoesis of Varanasi which we ob‐ tain from its common people living there for gen‐ erations: “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend ... Benares is thus the center of the earth” (Twain 1897: 176). Such an image of Banaras is critically related to a religious revivalism and innovation accommo‐ dated within and reiterated by a deep colonial-ori‐ entalist hegemonic framework (Desai 2007). This hegemony prevails over both the local commons and academic specialists. In revealing the frame‐ work, Desai (2003: 29) points out the triumph of colonialist agenda over nationalist undercurrent: Colonial scholarship had a marked preference for San‐ skrit, and in order to facilitate these investigations, scholars read Sanskrit texts such as the Kashi Khanda, the Khashi Kedar Mahatmya, and the Kashi Rahasya, in addition to gleaning information from Brahmins. This information was then compiled and catalogued, reflect‐ ing the colonial anxiety to preserve the subcontinent’s “timeless” traditions. ... Thus, in their efforts to create authentic representations of Hindu traditions, colonial representations of the city simultaneously rendered it both static and Hindu. How the “popular” as a colonial tool entangles with the postcolonial fragments in the rise of na‐ tionalism is exemplified in Chatterjee’s concept of naturalisation and hegemony of the “popular” (1993: 73): It has to be approached not by the calculating and ana‐ lytic of rational reasoning but by “feelings of the heart,” by lyrical compassion. The popular is the timeless truth of the national culture. But the “popular” as timeless is tainted by the colonial reason, as Rosaldo writes, “the ‘timeless’ traditional culture served as a self-congratulatory reference point against which Western civilization could measure its own progressive historical evo‐ lution” (1989: 31). Dirks also points to colonial‐ ism, “Even as much of what we now recognize as culture was produced by the colonial encounter, the concept itself was in part invented because of it” (1992: 3). Yet after the colonial period the “popular” became central and flourished into the multilayered symbolic and cosmological beliefs and performances of the people of Banaras. The landscape of Kashi (as Banaras is called Kashi in almost all Hindu scriptural references) may indeed be imagined (Eck 1998) as a popular entanglement of topography and mythology. However, Eck’s similar statement (1983: 5) might invite critical debates: “Kashi (read Banaras) is said to be the city of Shiva, founded at the dawn of creation. ... Today, Peking, Athens, and Jerusalem are moved by a very different ethos from that which moved them in ancient times, but Kashi is not.” Such valorisation of difference may lead again to the basis for comparison between Western metropolitan selves and non-Western peripheral others.2 Thus, it is no wonder, that scholars have for more than a century gathered similar explo‐ rations and reconstructions of Varanasi keeping Hinduism, pilgrimage, heritage, religious symbol‐ ism, myth, and sacred geography in focus.3 The 2 Appadurai (1988); Kahn (1989); Abu-Lughod (1991). 3 Sherring (1868); Sen (1912); Havell (1912); Newell (1925); Saraswati (1975); Elder (1977); Pieper (1979); Vidyarthi, Jha, and Saraswati (1979); Eck (1985, 1998); Singh and Singh (1980, 2006); Saraswati (1985); Singh (1987, 1989, 20 Arnab Das, Suman Nath, and Subrata Sankar Bagchi Anthropos 115.2020 less visible interest in tourism arose much later.4 However, Dodson (2012 a; 2012 b) has rightly em‐ phasised that although Banaras has acquired atten‐ tion regarding its importance for British colonial‐ ism and its central role in the revivalist and nation‐ alist movements, it has not been scrutinised through the methodology of post-colonial urban history before. However, the work of retrieving tangible Ba‐ naras had been started long ago through the de‐ construction of such mythical images. The ethnohistorical approach through which Cohn (1960, 1962 a, 1962 b, 1987) started to introduce the criti‐ cal visibility and the interpretive clarity of colonial reality led to other mature historical narratives on the political economy (Freitag 1989, 2006), occu‐ pational issues (Pandey 1960), colonial politics (Pandey 1990; Desai 2007), health (Cohen 1995, 1998; Doron 2011), and politics of representation of space, text, or intertexuality5 of Varanasi. The critical interpretation of Dodson (2012 a, 2012 b) in his “idea of Banaras” demystifies the concep‐ tion of the city as a religious, mythical, and eternal space and bares the affairs of colonial power to use Banaras as a laboratory for a “pure” Hindu community and tradition for the colonial project. With similar post-colonial arguments Johnson (1999: 187) has stated “heritage tourism is not just a set of commercial transactions, but the ideo‐ logical framing of history and identity.” Such projects indulged the indigenous reappropriations persisting through to the contemporary ideological framing behind the promotion of tourism and heri‐ tage that a nation state can use as “a sense of his‐ torical past, the revival of cultural heritage” (Leong 1997: 72). Demystifying Space: Heritage, Tourism, Pilgrimage, and Nostalgia For demystifying space Doreen Massey says “The past is no more authentic than the present ... And 1993, 2002, 2009 a, 2009 b, 2002); Bedi and Keay (1987); Tagare (1991); Hertel and Humes (1993); Parry (1994); Bakker (1996, 2009); Justice (1997); Gesler and Pierce (2000); Schilder and Callewaert (2000); Lannoy (2002); Michell & Singh (2005); Gengnagel (2003, 2011); Gutschow (2006); Singh and Rana (2006); Visuvalingam and Chalier-Visuvalingam (2006); Srivastava (2007); Bhatia (2008); Fleming (2009); and many others. 4 Singh (1993); Singh and Fukunaga (2000); Doron (2005); Korpela (2009, 2010 a, 2010 b, 2011, 2013). 5 Dalmia (1997, 2001, 2006); Bayly (1978); Dodson (2002, 2007, 2012 a, 2012 b); Desai (2007). ‘traditions’ are frequently invented or, if they are not, the question of which traditions will predomi‐ nate cannot be answered in advance” (1994: 141; italics added). For asserting the predominance of the abstract, conceived, static, and nostalgic space in Banaras, inventions have been used to encour‐ age “nationalisms, competitive localisms and in‐ troverted obsessions with ‘heritage’” (Massey 1994: 151). In the sense of “lived space” (Lefeb‐ vre 1991), Massey criticises that delving into the past for internalised origins and a timeless truth of place is an isolating and confining practice. To want to establish boundaries around place, to se‐ cure the identity of place is to be unwilling to change, to move on, to be open and, therefore, can be seen as “attempts to stabilize the meaning of particular envelopes of space-time” (Massey 1994: 5; italics original). Lefebvre’s interpretation helps grasping “the concrete (as distinct from the ‘immediate’)” (1991: 40) at both “micro” (specific architecture) and macro (city) levels, rather than an abstract model of understanding space. Lefebvre (1991: 40) while interpreting “the perceived – conceived – lived triad (in spatial terms: spatial practice, rep‐ resentations of space, representational spaces),” suggests that (social) space enfolds a multitude of intersections, each with its assigned location with the triad interconnected, “so that the individual member of a given social group, may move from one to another without confusion” (40) in a con‐ crete manner. According to Lefebvre (33, 38), “spatial practice” at the physical level embraces production, reproduction, and the particular loca‐ tions of space, all of which like the practical use of human body are mastered and appropriated by so‐ ciety. In contemporary society, the spatial practice includes the most extreme separation between the places it links together. For instance, in Banaras, the airway and extremely luxurious hotels are linked by similarly luxurious coaches. But the very same coach leads to the stiflingly crowded road where the rich tourists have to travel by foot to the open ghat, which is the space of earning of the poor informal hawkers and beggars. The con‐ ceptualised “representation of space” is the domi‐ nant, abstract space tending towards a system of intellectually worked-out signs (for instance, the tourist map of Banaras provided by the tourism department of the Indian state), whereas “repre‐ sentational space” is the dominated and hence pas‐ sively experienced space, which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate and which is di‐ rectly lived through its associated images and symbols, and hence the space of “inhabitants” and Banaras in a Narrative of Nostalgia and Kitsch 21 Anthropos 115.2020 “users,” who describe and aspire to do no more than describe (Lefebvre 1991: 33, 39). It may be exemplified by the way the people experience the spaces of heritage and pilgrimage that they retain in their commentaries and beyond. The dominant, abstract “representations of space” are explained in order to combine ideology and knowledge, at times within a (social-spatial) practice, but ideolo‐ gy only achieves consistency by intervening in so‐ cial space and in its production (44, 45), because “ideologies do not produce space: rather, they are in space, and of it” (210). Power, in order to con‐ trol all the levels of space (micro: architectural; macro: of urbanists, politician, and planners) in their entirety, maintains space “in a ‘disjointed unity’, as at once fragmentary and homogeneous: it divides and rules” (388). The unity of this whole “at once torn apart and squeezed together ... weighs down on the lower or ‘micro’ level, on the local and the localizable – in short, on the sphere of everyday life” (366). Thus, power in its repre‐ sentation and ideology in and of space are con‐ cretely available at the micro level, a part of ev‐ eryday life and routine of space. Eventually, the production of space for pilgrimage and heritage depends on “the ideological framing of history and identity” (Johnson 1999: 187) or “the ideological issues of those in power” (Timothy and Boyd 2003: 257). Although heritage is a contested con‐ cept,6 accepting Lowenthal, heritage “is the chief focus of patriotism and a prime lure of tourism. One can barely move without bumping into a heri‐ tage site. Every legacy is cherished. ... the whole world is busy lauding – or lamenting – some past, be it fact or fiction. To neglect heritage is a cardi‐ nal sin, to invoke it a national duty” (Lowenthal 1998: xiii). The above mentioned “idea of Banaras” (Dod‐ son 2012 a) as a religious, mythical, and eternal space has thrived in pilgrimage, but as heritage it could be developed into a stronger embodiment of present tourism if it could be sufficiently main‐ tained (Singh 2007, 2009 a, 2009 b) for suitable public access and display. Singh (2007: 5) reports, “For the first time in the history of Master Plans for Varanasi, some strategies of urban heritage and heritage zoning were proposed in the recent Mas‐ ter Plan (1991–2011 ...) to maintain and preserve the religious and cultural symbols of the ancient glory of Varanasi, and to identify necessary facili‐ ties and infrastructure and various heritage com‐ plexes.” The recent media reports confirm and 6 Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge (2000); Hall (1996); Lowenthal (1998); Tunbridge and Ashworth (1996). lament the utter failure of the Master Plan (The Times of India 2013 b) along with the growing ne‐ glect of the endangered heritage (Indian Express 2011, 2012), though a hope for a section of the he‐ ritage survived in the next plan merely for the Hindu pilgrims (The Times of India 2013 d), but not for tourism as such. In the Indian context, pilgrimage “is almost as old as the Indian civilization” (Singh 2004: 44). The religious duty of the Hindus is to perform pil‐ grimage in one’s lifetime to at least four sacred abodes of gods (dhams). Banaras being one of them, is psychically embedded among the Indians (Singh 2004). Similarly rooted are the myths that assign the places to corporeal attachments of gods and goddesses. Despite the breakthrough of mod‐ ern communication in the last century, pilgrimage still remains the preferred mode of tourism for many Indians (Jutla 2006; Singh 2004). The sym‐ bolic representations of images, signs, phrases, and narratives regarding the heritage of develop‐ ing countries like India are disseminated by travel guides, guidebooks, tourist brochures, pho‐ tographs, websites, blogs, etc. and help construct‐ ing destinations through phrases like “exotic,” “timeless,” “live heritage,” “authentic,” and “un‐ like west” especially to evoke curiosity in the Western tourists. It makes for good business in the global market of tourism.7 Quite similarly in Ba‐ naras, emerging from the consensus of the tour op‐ erators, hotels, travel-agents, and the politically backed “popular” construct, the convenient sche‐ dule of the venues and themes (presently available to the tourists) produce a dominant narrative of the city tour of Banaras. It includes principally: – The sunrise from the bank of the Ganga. – The ghats seen from a boat ride, listening to the mythological interpretations (of modern na‐ tionalist origin) from the boatmen of “popular” riverfront heritage and the whole sacred com‐ plex of Kashi. – Some popular Hindu temples (mainly of varied forms of Shiva, of Durga and Parvati [consorts of Shiva], of Vishnu, and of the mythical Lord King Rama and Hanuman) not being older than the 18th century and embodied by “popular” mythological interpretations. – Benaras Hindu University. – The “popular” archaeological relics, museums, stupas (mounds for Buddhist prayer), bihar (abode of the Buddhist monks) of Sarnath. 7 Bruner (1991); Cohen (1993); Silver (1993). 22 Arnab Das, Suman Nath, and Subrata Sankar Bagchi Anthropos 115.2020 – Ramnagar Fort of the earlier Hindu King of Kashi (believed to be the incarnation of God- King Rama) built in the 18th century (Mitra 2002) on the opposite bank of the Ganga and where the Ganga Aarti is held. – Guided visits to the shops. The arriving regular tourists travelling indepen‐ dently of dominant agents of tourism in Banaras, though small in number (Korpela 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013), obtain a greater opportunity of “exis‐ tential authenticity”8 than Korpela concludes about the “subjective (or intersubjective) authen‐ ticity” (Bruner 1989; Wang 1999) of such Western tourists, as “[t]raveling has made the young Euro‐ pean women in Varanasi understand their own identities more clearly” (Korpela 2006: 16). The same subjective and intersubjective (existential) authenticity of millions of pilgrims every year holds valid, but always in the “popular” Banaras. Due to the lack of any elaborate infrastructure and institutional provisions we found it extremely dif‐ ficult for any tourist or pilgrim to move out of the “popular” tour layout of the “idea of Banaras,” popular either by the courtesy of pilgrim guides (pandas), the local tourism industry, literature of the order of “Lonely Planet,” or by the innumer‐ able websites hosted to “help” people in an un‐ known corner of the world. Most of such guided tours end in knowing Banaras more as an Indian (read Hindu) heritage space than as a Buddhist one being confined in distant corner of the city and other traditions (Islam, Jain, and Christian) as loose entailments of frail glory. It is nonetheless evident that the “space of rep‐ resentation” for the tourists and the pilgrims large‐ ly coincide. This concurrence might satisfy the scopes for tourists regarding “tourist experiences (or authentic experiences) and that of toured ob‐ jects” (Wang 1999: 351), as the tourists find the pilgrims always engaged in their everyday heri‐ tage-confirming actions. The thickness of actions and actors in lived space of pilgrimage might en‐ sure the authenticity as negotiable and socially constructed (Cohen 1979; 1988), but it leaves out the critical dimension of “historical authenticity” (Waitt 2000; MacCannell 2011). The pilgrimage/ heritage scene in Banaras can bring out how the architecture and the production of city space have acted together in the creation of the present heri‐ 8 Belhassen, Caton, and Stewart (2008); Kelner (2001); Kim and Jamal (2007); Reisinger and Steiner (2006); Uriely (2005). tage landscape, which, indeed, was greatly con‐ structed during the modern period (Desai 2007). The heritage, by its retreat into the safe nostal‐ gic vision of the past, has constructed an industry related both to the escapist, nostalgic impulse and the misuse of the past (Hewison 1989), as a way of making a financial profit in both tourism and pilgrimage. Such nostalgia narrative, understood to be a “socially organised construction” (Urry 1990: 109) has to be selective rather than impossi‐ bly complete in their interpretation of the past. Ac‐ cording to Lowenthal (1998), quite akin to Ba‐ naras, such narratives lead to what Walsh (1992: 57) has called “an ‘ahistory’, a history that is de‐ void of historical forms and materials, is the medi‐ ation of the past into myth.” At heritage and pil‐ grimage attractions the past becomes commodified and mythic, creating depthless narratives produced by the whims of the present with a promise of keeping the past alive (Brett 1996; Urry 1990). Such promise of nostalgia as a way of empower‐ ing oneself by establishing a sense of continuity amidst discontinuity (Tannock 1995: 456) invokes a positively evaluated past in response to a defi‐ cient present (454). The nostalgic mood based on yearning or long‐ ing for past glory has the representational effect not only in Ganga Aarti, but also in the official he‐ ritage sites of temples, forts, and other “popular” traditional spatialisation of the annual festivals of Banaras (e.g., “Ramlila,” “Bharat Milap,” and “Nakkatyya” related to God Rama, “Nag Nathiya” related to God Krishna and numerous others relat‐ ed to the pantheon of gods and goddess). In the words of Susan Stewart (1984: 23), it is a “gener‐ alized desire for origin, for nature, and for un‐ mediated experience” which is, nonetheless, paral‐ lel to what Boym assigns (2007) as restorative. The Inquiry: Experience and Methods At almost every visit we were accompanied by one or more of our local friend / friends, whom we had gained during our first ethnographic visit in 2009. Our experience of the everyday habitat of the city hauled us generally to the eastern part of the city and particularly to the east-central part around Godowlia Chauk. The eastern arc of the city along the riverbank of Ganga is so dense in terms of a long inhabiting population, businesses, tourists, and pilgrims that it is quite difficult to ex‐ ecute any sharp change of physical construction like the drastic changes occurring quite rapidly in Banaras in a Narrative of Nostalgia and Kitsch 23 Anthropos 115.2020 other parts of the city. Since that second visit to Varanasi in 2010 to the sixth visit in 2013, we be‐ came the regular explorers of the thickest physical heritage and its visitors, especially in and around the crowded ghats. As Varanasi is well connected to the Indian cap‐ ital New Delhi and other cities by road, rail, and air, the city has a very brief period of sleep at night. The road from Godowlia Chauk (junction) connecting the most popular and iconic temple of Shiva (Biswanath Mandir) and joining the city with the Dasaswamedh Ghat, the busiest and sup‐ posedly the most sacred ghat, with its varied rhythms of different periods from early morning to night, appears bizarrely crowded and randomly noisy. Unlike most other roads in Varanasi, the cultur‐ al tourists from India and abroad, the pilgrims, the informal vendors of all sorts, and the beggars stay on or walk by foot together everyday down this road. Since the colonial period, it links Dasaswamedh Ghat and the door of the Biswanath Temple, the cynosure of Benaras. The Biswanath Temple and Ganga Aarti are a must visit for the tourists and the pilgrims. We have visited Ganga Aarti for more than thirty days in the last six visits to Banaras since 2009. Participation by minute ob‐ servation of the practices in the city spaces and ghats, interviewing priests, informal hawkers, small traders, pilgrims, Indian tourists, police per‐ sonnel, inbound tourists, and the organisers of the event by prior appointments were supplemented by seeking unobtrusive scope of conversation with Indians and inbound tourists before and after the event. Thus, the choice of informants has always been purposive. All our interviews were open-end‐ ed, few unstructured, and most semistructured. The ghats: The Space of Heritage Despite the norms of the Government Order (GO) – first issued in 1998 and revised in 2000 –, many illegal constructions were made in the area falling within 200 metres from the riverbank in the previ‐ ous years. The Allahabad High Court issued the landmark judgment on July 27, 2012, that the Varanasi Development Authority and the district administration of Varanasi shall ensure that no fur‐ ther construction takes place within 200 metres from the highest flood level at the banks of the river Ganga in Varanasi. It also ordered the demo‐ lition of all the illegal construction made so far in that area (The Times of India 2012). The identifi‐ cation of ghat inclusive muhallas (neighbour‐ hoods) as the most substantial region of Varanasi heritage is also indicated by the report of the meet‐ ing in the capital of India: “It was also proposed that the ministry of Tourism would provide blue plaques which can be used all over the city to indi‐ cate prominent houses and establishments, partic‐ ularly in areas around ghats” (The Times of India 2013 c). This official control of state over the space of “heritage” is paradoxical with its practical neglect, lack of interest due to its surrender to the private businesses of tourism and added interest in earn‐ ing from bribes from all rule-breaking occupants including beggars and indirect indulgence to ille‐ gal construction in that area. The almost seven kilometre long sweep of the ghats, separately named, one after the other without break, many possessing a stunning grandeur comprising of palatial buildings, pavilions, and sculptured tem‐ ples with gaudily ornate walls, tapestries, domes, and pillars of distinct architectural styles. Some of the ghats host a parasitic growth of box-like hous‐ es beside the rubble of collapsed sidewalls or in the narrowly open gap between two buildings. With this backdrop at the top of the ghats, widely built grand stone staircases intercepted by wide terraces at different heights run down into the river and with individual angularity merge with each other in a zigzag form. The architectural opulence is limited to the ghat areas and the adjoining habi‐ tat. The condensed past gradually fades and dissi‐ pates into the flow of time in the inner city and its expanding periphery of the west. Similarly, on the ghats one may fail to notice the scarce presence of Muslims in everyday practices, which is stronger in the less focused inner city in spite of the fact that almost one third of the total population (1,435,113 in 2011 according to the Census of In‐ dia) of Banaras comprises of Muslims (Singh 2012), and that there are 1,388 shrines and sacred sites of the Muslims, in contrast to over 3,300 shrines and sacred sites of the Hindus (Singh 2012). This intriguing plan of the city resulted from the religious politics of 18th- and 19th-century north‐ ern India (Desai 2012). Such ingredients of the city’s constructed character, the picturesque imagi‐ nation (Twain 1897: 190 f.), the colonial percep‐ tion of the city’s ancient and “pure” tradition, and the nationalist imagination conceive to denounce Islam as a foreigner, invader, and a contaminating presence (Desai 2012). Much focus has been given to establish how the “heritage” might claim an open, vibrant, and inclusive space to accommo‐ 24 Arnab Das, Suman Nath, and Subrata Sankar Bagchi Anthropos 115.2020 date different cultures accumulated through time.9 It is not before the beginning of the 19th century (especially since the riot of 1809) that the modern politicisation of religious nationalism started dis‐ rupting the inclusive urban heritage of the city. The ritual motivation of the Marathas to restore certain sacred places, such as Varanasi, “did not imply the existence of a sense of the religious war based on ethnic or communal consciousness” (Bayly 1985: 187). On discussing the invention of ethnic nationalism in the above context, Jaffrelot (2007: 6) states, “The development of Hindu na‐ tionalism is therefore a modern phenomenon that has developed on the basis of strategies of ideolo‐ gy-building, and despite the original characteris‐ tics of a diverse set of practices clubbed under the rubric of Hinduism.” To mention a context of interviewing a group of middle-aged local friends, who included two Mus‐ lims and were seen to assemble at the ghat for spending the leisure in the afternoon, is self-con‐ firmatory about the lived space of not only the ghat or any specific heritage site but Banaras at large. Mr. Ansari stated: If the government would take care of the everyday prob‐ lems of the people, we would have been more eager to cooperate with the issues of the tourists and devotees. In fact, everybody, especially any political leader seeks own interest only. And heritage? During my childhood, I have played with my friends, Muslim, Hindu, Sindhi, Punjabi, never thought who they were, in the courtyards of Gyanvapi Mosque and Biswanath Temple without any restriction. While we had to accept the dividing rules for the entries into many such places in the city, why can’t we accept not to come at Dasaswamedh Ghat during Ganga Aarti or not to crowd the ghats even? In fact, in our adolescence I have not seen so many temples busy with earning from the devotees. … Things have changed after the demolition of 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. My son hardly comes to the ghat, but we can’t forget our friends. What the other friends asserted was their dissatis‐ factions with the governance. Mr. P. added: You were asking about the ghats; every business on the ghat is known to the police and administration. They know that the illegal arrangements of stay in many of such palaces are done by the caretakers filtering in only the safer inbound tourists, who would not uncover their clandestine business. They prefer those things, which are comfortably underground, so that they can earn, take ad‐ vantage of the weakness. You know, from the lowest lev‐ 9 Pandey (1960); Freitag (1989; 2006); Bayly (1978); Dodson (2002; 2007; 2012 a; 2012 b); Desai (2007). el to the top level of administration the huge amount of daily bribes (risvat) from this region gets distributed. ... There is no plan of transparent use of the ghats for flour‐ ishing tourism or pilgrimage. With the ritual ambience and touristic gazes around, the ghats may be viewed as a planned re‐ duction of the previous culture to a spatial fortifi‐ cation of Hindu nationalist power for promoting “the primacy of gaze in a kind of ‘logic of visual‐ ization’” (Lefebvre 1991: 41). The fortification of power in the name of timelessness represents space “in the form of buildings, monuments and works of art. Such frontal (and hence brutal) ex‐ pressions of these relations do not completely crowd out their more clandestine or underground aspects ... and its police” (Lefebvre 1991: 33). More so than the police, the policing of the space is embodied in the performers of the space of Kashi, which is the most dominant abstraction (or panoptic architecture of power) of sacred space of performances. The Ganga Aarti is such another spatial event; another negotiation between the authentic and illu‐ sionary past is performed in the present and known to be the authentically traditional and aes‐ thetically recreational event in the list of must-do things in Banaras. The Space of Ganga Aarti: Nostalgia and Kitsch Aarti (also called arti or arati), literally meaning “before night,” is a ceremony in which “one’s en‐ tire existence and all facets of material creation are offered to the Lord.” It is also “a reminder to be vigilant, before our materialistic night again rises to the fore” (Rosen 2006: 196) and very common as a domestic ritual of worshipping the household deities. The particular event of Ganga Aarti has been conceived and run by two consanguineous Brahmin families, whose authority over the reli‐ gious performance is well embedded in the local social structure, either in terms of wealth or in terms of the legitimate holding of the traditional action. If one searches the phrase Ganga Aarti with re‐ spect to Varanasi on the internet, nearly eight hun‐ dred web pages are seen to host the event, more than five hundred different video clips have been uploaded on the popular website , but hardly a few discuss the facts related to the event, because popularity and grandeur only matter for the commoners. Let us examine the rel‐ Banaras in a Narrative of Nostalgia and Kitsch 25 Anthropos 115.2020 evant political-ideological backdrop (more direct‐ ly that of Hindu nationalism) behind the emer‐ gence of the event in early 1990 s or more precise‐ ly in 1992. Ideology and Representation of Space The ideology of Hindu nationalism can be traced back to the 1870 s as a reaction to the British gov‐ ernance of India. The Sanatanis, the more ortho‐ dox Hindus among the Hindu groups of that time, were committed to “Sanatan Dharma” (the Eternal religion) and “developed major strongholds in the United Provinces (the region rechristened Uttar Pradesh after independence), this being the cru‐ cible of Hindu orthodoxy and home to holy cities such as Haridwar and Varanasi” (Jaffrelot 2007: 12). The Sanatanis provided leadership to “the for‐ mation of the Hindu Sabha of the United Provinces in the mid-1910 s, which happened as a reaction against the extension of a separate elec‐ torate in favour of Muslims at the municipal lev‐ el.” The leader of this Hindu Sabha, Madan Mo‐ han Malaviya, was a well-known Sanatani, fa‐ mous for his orthodoxy and his interest in educa‐ tional matters and best remembered for his initia‐ tive for the founding of the Banaras Hindu Uni‐ versity (BHU) in 1916 (Jaffrelot 2007: 12). Subsequently, the “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh” (RSS) as an organisation was formed in the mid-1920 s and rapidly developed into the largest Hindu nationalist movement with the inten‐ tion to propagate the Hindutva ideology (Jaffrelot 2007: 16). In 1951, RSS set up a front organisa‐ tion, “Bharatiya Jana Sangh” (forerunner of the present “Bharatiya Janata Party” or BJP, estab‐ lished in 1980) and provided a sort of centralised structure to hitherto unorganised heads of various Hindu sects with the formation of the “Vishva Hindu Parishad” (VHP – World Council of Hin‐ dus) in 1964 (Jaffrelot 2007: 19). In 1984, the Hindutva movement in the form of the Ayodhya campaign started. Ayodhya, a town in Uttar Pradesh, was approximately one hundred kilome‐ tres away from Banaras and is described in the Hindu tradition as the birthplace and capital of the God-King Lord Rama. A Rama temple once puta‐ tively occupied the site until it was destroyed in the 16th century on the orders of Babur, the first Mughal emperor, and was replaced by a mosque, the “Babri Masjid.” Hindu nationalist militants put an end to the deadlock regarding their claim to this site by demolishing the mosque on December 6, 1992. This operation and the ensuing Hindu-Mus‐ lim riots – 1,200 dead within a few days – invited highly disturbing political consequences all over India and led to the ban on the RSS and the VHP (Jaffrelot 2007: 20 f.). In keeping with the Ayod‐ hya campaign (1992) in July, the question of “lib‐ erating” the Biswanath Temple of Kashi arose with the BJP-VHP-RSS and they moved on to per‐ form the “adoration” (puja) called jalabhisek to Lord Sringar Gauri in Kashi. The move succeed‐ ed: the base of a cult has been established where today along the western wall of the Gyanvapi Mosque the effigy of Lord Sringar Gauri is al‐ legedly buried beneath debris. A new cultural tra‐ dition was born. Every Monday during the month of Sravana (July-August), thousands of devotees reach there to perform mahapuja, the great adora‐ tion (Assayag 1997: 45 f.). When we questioned the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Banaras about their biggest law and order maintenance event for the control of pilgrims, the answer was the Sravana visit of the pilgrims. Since the Indian independence and until the be‐ ginning of 1990 s, the electorate opted for the sec‐ ular political parties (Indian National Congress, Janata Dal, Communist Party of India), which from the 1990 s subsequently turned into the favour of the Hindu nationalist party (Bharatiya Janata Party). Onward the 1990 s, in both the larg‐ er Varanasi parliamentary constituency (except one term) and in the smaller legislative constituen‐ cy of Varanasi South or the city proper, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been victorious. The entire political narrative of the existing Hindu nationalism in Banaras claims a vision of stability and authenticity in some conceptual “golden age,” or “Vedic age,” or the mytho-historical age of gods and goddesses. It is not surprising to find that the Ganga Aarti is aligned towards the rise of Hin‐ dutva nationalism by the BJP-VHP-RSS. All the direct and indirect responses of the lead‐ ership of the organisations executing Ganga Aarti have expressed a favour towards the highly organ‐ ised, regimented, and disciplined religious-ethnic (or Hindu) nationalism in India. The production of space in the strictly regulated and disciplined event of Ganga Aarti is embedded in and backed by the same ideology and aspiration towards pow‐ er. Mr. S., the Brahmin priest of the aarti ex‐ plained: Banaras is both debobhumi (space of the deities) and tapobhumi (space of penance). The locality was known as Anandban (forest of bliss). The beauty of space creat‐ ed by Shiva convoked all the deities in Kashi. In aarti, mother Ganga is the first to obtain the service. We vouch 26 Arnab Das, Suman Nath, and Subrata Sankar Bagchi Anthropos 115.2020 to offer everything to her feet; hence, the performers bow down to the land below. After that, they slowly stand up to offer prayers to all other deities, including Shiva on the west. This representation of “space-natural and social, practical, and symbolic ... come into being ... inti‐ mated by myths, ... only actualized in and through (religio-political) space” (Lefebvre 1991: 34). Such a narrative “turns to the past to find/ construct sources of identity, agency, or communi‐ ty, that are felt to be lacking, blocked or threatened in the present” (Tannock 1995: 454) and simplifies the past in three phases (1995): prelapsarian gold‐ en age (e.g., age of mythical creation or Vedic age), a lapse, fall, or catastrophe (e.g., age of de‐ cay, starting from the contact with the profane Is‐ lam to reaching a climax during the contact with British), and third, the postlapsarian world (e.g., the present revivalist nationalism of Hindutva). The huge popularity of this privately owned event substantiates that it has served the needs of the present through the fantasies of the past, by turning history “into private or collective mytholo‐ gy, ... refusing to surrender to the irreversibility of time that plagues the human condition.” The state‐ ment of the organisers mentioned below (cf. 29ff.) upholds “a new understanding of time and space that makes the division into ‘local’ and ‘universal’ possible” (Boym 2007: 8) As nostalgia it intends to restore “the habits of the past and the habits of the restoration of the past” (2007: 14; italics origi‐ nal). Boym adds: “Restorative nostalgia stresses nostos (home) and attempts a trans-historical re‐ construction of the lost home” (2007: 13; italics original). It is both the spatialisation of the said habits and the temporisation of lost space of Ba‐ naras (read Anandaban). If we look at the produc‐ tion of the spatio-temporalisation of nostalgia in Ganga Aarti, we find that it is ridden with para‐ doxes spatially, as it is also in the cases of claims of mythological origin over the recently built tem‐ ples. Such paradoxes begin from the very site of rep‐ resentation of the space on the riverfront. If we are asked to point out the ghats on which two separate aartis take place, the most definite answer would be on the two sides of Prayag Ghat, because both claim to hold it in the Dasaswamedh Ghat, one of the most sacred ghats, intercepted by Prayag Ghat. The road from the Godowlia Chauk to the river‐ front bifurcates to reach the two ghats; the left one is between Rajendra Prasad Ghat and Prayag Ghat and that on the right is between Sitala Ghat or Ahilyabai Ghat and Prayag Ghat. On the right ghat, one may see a plaque on the wall claiming it to be Dasaswamedh Ghat, and on the entrance of the left ghat one may read the erected and decorat‐ ed stone slab inscribed with the narration of the mythical backdrop of the Dasaswamedh Ghat. Without looking for any archaeological hard ev‐ idence about the actual name of the two ghats we acquire the information that the Ganga Aarti in 1992 started first between Sitala Ghat and Prayag Ghat by the Brahmin lineage in charge of holding priesthood at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Due to the dis‐ pute among the male cousins of the lineage vis-àvis the money earned from the event, Mr. M. start‐ ed his event after two years (twenty years back) in a more gorgeous manner. Every local inhabitant knows that the aarti beside Rajendra Prasad Ghat has a brighter outfit and excels more in scale and details than the other and it will run like this for‐ ever, because its owner Mr. M. is better educated, has a greater reputation, and a stronger support of his family business and has a much better network among the local elites. Both associations accept that the event was conceived to worship the God‐ dess Ganga, whose legend of origin from the mat‐ ted locks of Shiva produced the human civilisation on its two banks. Thus, the pious Hindus have the sacred duty to worship the goddess, so that she can bless her people with a better flow of the sa‐ cred water for the wellbeing of all. Although the organisers of the aarti claimed to have all the necessary documents and supportive testimonials for their legitimate right to the ghats, it was not possible to verify the compatibility be‐ tween the legal limit and the practical limit of en‐ joying the rights to hold an everyday event of a scale unparallel to any other event on the ghat. The space of Ganga Aarti entered the focus of na‐ tional security when on December 7, 2010, the aarti was under way and a massive bomb blast killed a two-year-old girl and injured over 21 peo‐ ple including some foreigners. Atiq Khan (2010) reports in The Hindu, one of the authentic dailies of India: The blast, occurring a day after the 18th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, was so powerful that the stairs leading to the Shitla Ghat were ripped apart. With the Indian Mujahideen reportedly claiming respon‐ sibility for the explosion, the incident marked the return of terrorism in Uttar Pradesh. [...] This is the second time in around six years that Varanasi has been targeted by terror outfits. The banned Indian Mujahideen (IM) group sent a five-page mail to the media houses and claimed Banaras in a Narrative of Nostalgia and Kitsch 27 Anthropos 115.2020 responsibility for the blast, “attributing” it to the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid and warned of more such attacks.10 The entire incident added to the religious significance of the Ganga Aarti. By the time, it attracted national and international at‐ tention, we had reached the city in the month of February, 2011. On all the entries to the site of the Ganga Aarti the security system comprising of metal detectors, body searches, snap dog patrols, and army postings were maintained rigorously. The strictness was quite similar to the other points of terrorist attacks in India and lasted one year, till 2012. Western tourists enjoyed some relaxations in the system of security checks. Many Indian tourists and pilgrims were observed reacting to this discrimination. Another paradox of control over the space as a consequence of the terrorist bomb blast may be pointed out in the setting of several wide lens close circuit cameras from above the electrical posts in the ghat. The paradox lies in the owner‐ ship of the associations of the Ganga Aarti over the surveillance system and not that of the police. We did not obtain any satisfactory legal answer from the Superintendent of Police of Banaras as to how a private initiative could own a security sys‐ tem in a public space. Perhaps the hearsay that there is an unwritten negotiation between all of the tourism industry and the Ganga Aarti associations to enhance the protection of the inbound tourists that is unofficially approved by the local police and the administration is correct. Setting aside numerous other serious sites of he‐ ritage, the visit to this evening event of nearly three hours is an almost mandatory part of the city tour schedule of every tour operator and star hotel and reflects the representational potential of the event in the tourism sector. According to some lo‐ cal residents of Banaras, the associations of Ganga Aarti have a share of the profit from the tourism industry. The head organiser of the bigger aarti claimed, “Kashi is recognised as the capital of Hindu culture all over the world. All who need a darsan (perceiving by eyes) of the timeless truth of the universe are supposed to come to Banaras and watch the aarti, because it comprises the time‐ less essence of Hinduism. This aarti is one of the reasons of the rise of tourism in Banaras.” The representation of the space of Ganga Aarti is found also in the traffic rules for the road join‐ ing Godowlia Chauk to Dasaswamedh Ghat. One hour before and after the aarti, all vehicles except 10 The Times of India (2010); The Hindu (2011); Outlook In‐ dia (2010). for the ones belonging to the local administration are strictly forbidden to enter the road. Only pedestrians are allowed in order to keep the traffic manageable for the hours of aarti participation. During these three and a half hours, “bribes” to the police are not allowed unlike the convention of bribing in the other hours of the day. Another tacit adjustment of the rules about the control of infor‐ mal hawkers and vendors on the ghats is evident by the complete disappearance of all the hawkers except the sellers of tourist souvenirs, local orna‐ ments, the flower lamps to float during aarti, and the few fake carriers of sacred lamp and blessed materials. All of them have to pay for the police despite the arbitrary clearance of all when decided by the police. Spatial Practice Arriving at those ghats at 1 p.m., one may see wa‐ ter spurting from huge pipes flooding the ghat and rinsing the dirt off while other preparations of cleansing the utensils have started. Almost five hours of labour for the whole process of arrange‐ ment are duly paid off on a monthly basis. Neon lights focus on the ghats from above the vertical iron pillars and the high sidewalls of the ghat. The standing sets of microphones are set before the singers and readers of the chants and are attached to the loudspeakers to spread the orchestrated sound in all directions from the event. Adding sev‐ eral glossy display boards further supports authen‐ ticity at the site. These boards contain the range of events and activities done by the organiser and the range of appearance of dignitaries like the Ameri‐ can ambassador to India, other foreign dignitaries, the ministers of both state and central levels, many reputed artists, the members of legislative assem‐ blies, and parliament and other elite patrons. All the wide stone stairways and the space be‐ side the platforms along with special balcony ar‐ rangements for the inbound tourists to watch the event from ten to fifteen feet above the ghat are all filled up before the beginning of the event. The count of spectators might vary during the days as the space on either side of the ghats and the river is not limited. According to our manual count of the floating and stationary crowd of spectators on a winter weekend, the peak period for the tourists, reached a thousand. Before the actual event commences all lights start flooding the space, the chandeliers are lit, burning sandal sticks spread aroma, resins burn to produce misty smoke, the garlands of flower deco‐ 28 Arnab Das, Suman Nath, and Subrata Sankar Bagchi Anthropos 115.2020 rate the throne, and the flickering fire of the huge lamps glows all around. There is a variation in the inaugurating statements of the event. It introduces the backdrop of the emergence of Varanasi, the purpose of Ganga Aarti, the significance of the he‐ ritage of Varanasi, the legends of the river Ganga, etc. The devotional group or solo bhajans (devo‐ tional songs) follow next to build up the ambience to pray to the Goddess Ganga to accept the wor‐ ship and adoration. The skilled singers accomplish their duties with sincerity and enchant the specta‐ tors, as they appear engrossed in it. The event en‐ ters its core part with the commencement of the sound of a conch (sankhanaad), chants, and wor‐ shipping by the centrally seated Brahmin priest. His actions of worship conduct the whole chore‐ ography of the young, slim, and bright-skinned performers clad in shinning traditional saffron dress and cloth, moving in perfect unison of pos‐ tures which mean to offer rounds of prayer with symbolic materials, mainly cleaner, fire, sandal, smoke, wind, water, flower, and sound of conch (in local terms: jal, puspa, agarbatti, guguloban, kappur, geha, fire, pankha, chamar, sankh) initiat‐ ed from the feet of the deity to all directions, though the primary direction is the river itself. The directions are for all the deities of the Hindu pan‐ theon conceived in the numerous corners of space. Throughout the event, the bells ring in the rhythm of the chants. As it is for the wellbeing of all liv‐ ing in and coming to the micro-universe of Ba‐ naras, the performance ought to be guided, accord‐ ing to Mr. M.’s interpretation, by the sacred Vedic vow (sankalp) to dedicate all the auspicious ef‐ fects of actions, including the wealth obtained from the people and the fame, glory, and sacred blessings to the wish of the High God. Representational Space If we consider the lived experience of the organis‐ ers of the Ganga Aarti, Mr. B., the organiser of the event at the right to Prayag Ghat, was brief and re‐ luctant to engage in any discussion. He busied himself by repeatedly proclaiming that the earning from the event was not as high as might be imag‐ ined. It was spent to continue the event. Whereas Mr. M., the head of the organisation of the event at the left to Prayag Ghat, was open-minded and re‐ flected freely. In a somewhat critical attitude to‐ wards the organisers of the other ghat Mr. M. says: The aarti of the other ghat is professional and in my ghat it is emotional. I am not boasting about myself and defaming the other out of jealousy. As individuals, we are merely the media of the execution of the wish of God. We cannot exploit the wish for self-interest. Taking vows (sankalp) before the guide (guru) while commenc‐ ing any sacred action is most important. The attitude (prabritti) to the work is built up accordingly. I am an enthusiastic servant cook, bawarchi, in the kitchen of the Mother Deity Ganga. The quality of support and raw materials she would provide I would cook accordingly. When we asked Mr. M. about the contribution of hotels and other tourist outlets, he replied without any direct answer: Whatever is earned from this event is spent to meet the needs of the poor and to serve the Mother Deity Ganga. The people leave the site after the donation as if there is nobody to look after the use of the money, but the invisi‐ ble heavenly watcher is there always to see and judge all ends. I may show you the list of the beneficiaries in edu‐ cation, marriage, health causes, and many other minor purposes. Thus, it is for the auspicious causes of people and religion (dharm), not for our personal consumption. I do not take even a cup of tea from the earning of the association. While recording the lived experience of the Indian spectators, the cleanliness of the ghat, the wide and open stairways to sit on the tiers of ground without blocking the sights for the others, the sen‐ sory stimuli, the grandeur of scale of the familiar ritual togetherness with other Indians from differ‐ ent corners of the country, and even with the peo‐ ple from different countries one comes up with a cathexis of devotional emotion and an exoticisa‐ tion of the familiar. Such narrations of feelings are recorded from the numerous Indian spectators. The commonest criticism of the local people in‐ cluding some Brahmins of the event is that it has been invented recently for tourists, backed by the hotels, more for the sake of recreation in the name of religious heritage. The sceptics and the ortho‐ dox declare the entire plan as a mere show of pomp and splendour that empties the religious fer‐ vour of the event. The devotees do not require leaving their footwear to follow any ritual to pray before God. How may it then be considered a sa‐ cred participation? A version of local judgment clarifies the emergence of the event as the brain child of the father of Mr. M. as a form of sincere care for the river and the heritage of Banaras and to establish awareness about keeping the ghats and the river clean from pollution. The aged father of Mr. M., a locally reputed Brahmin elite, discussed with other elites and traditional scholars of the city regarding the best way to promote the spirit of he‐ Banaras in a Narrative of Nostalgia and Kitsch 29 Anthropos 115.2020 ritage as the foundation of any such event. Thus, Ganga Aarti came into existence, but its immense success became the origin of the dispute between the two cousins and within two years the event was split into two. Mr. Pandey, one of the local in‐ formants told us: It started as devotional, but you cannot control it from being received as recreational. The people, irrespective of religious identity, come here in a relaxed mood in the afternoon, take tea or cigarette from the tea stall, engage in gossip, do not need to go through any compulsory rit‐ ual, as one has to do in temples. Mere watching a bright event might make it completely recreational. But the se‐ quencing of the event is surely a product of tradition. The inbound tourists are observed as being the careful spectators of the event. They are not in a position to judge the objective authenticity. In their opinion, the huge number of Indians as sin‐ cere participants in the ritual event added heritage value. The tourists guided by the tour operators get the briefing about the sequence of the perfor‐ mance in order to understand it. They are happy with the perfect staging of ritualistic heritage that appears as exotic, mystic, colourful, and meaning‐ ful as well. One of the comments was, “it is sim‐ ple, organised, splendid, creative, and pleasing.” Their narrations are more indicative of a negotiat‐ ed or constructed image of authenticity rather than “staged authenticity” (MacCannell 1973) or “pseudo-event” (Boorstin 1964). The ghats, in general, despite being open to all, secular and public, are marked by the rare pres‐ ence of the Muslims. Ganga Aarti is further parochialised by the conspicuous absence of the Muslims, especially after the bomb blast on De‐ cember 7, 2010. The spatial use organised and controlled by the association and participated in by the people hides the dispute over the “represen‐ tation of space.” It is a public space, but represent‐ ed “guiltlessly” as private to the associations. Tru‐ ly, the social existence of space depends on “an in‐ tense, aggressive and repressive visualization” (Lefebvre 1991: 286). The wide recognition and attendance of the Ganga Aarti in Dasaswamedh Ghat is founded on the otherwise rare, direct access of road from the city to the ghat, the central location of the con‐ necting road in the city, the higher concentration of police control over this central ghat, the mytho‐ logical backdrop of the ghat, and the ensuing re‐ pute of the ghat for other ritual events all along the day. It is not the essence of the timeless truth in the perfect ritual performance as argued by Mr. M. that draws people but rather the scale, grandeur, popularity, networking, campaign, and convenience of access that matter the most for its wide recognition. The habitual misconception regarding the Brah‐ min identity of the performers has its root in popu‐ lar Hindu beliefs that the worship of deities is solely done by the Brahmins. Actually, the young slim and fair complexioned men in their late 20 s and early 30 s are recruited not considering their caste identity but rather according to the desired imagination of the producer of the event. At present, there are approximately twenty boys spe‐ cially trained for the bodily movements. A few of them happen to be Brahmins. Nostalgia and Kitsch in the Representational Space Ganga Aarti suggests a space which is not tight but rather loose and porous and which brings out a representational space of everyday voices, even the most critical ones mentioned above. This “sa‐ cred event” taken together with the sacred sites of the pilgrims and tourists of Banaras do not pro‐ duce a singular narrative but a growing series of socially constructed interpretations of the past, ex‐ ploited by nationalist organisations and offering an ideologically-laden past to serve tourism, local‐ ism, or nationalism. Such a “rhizome heritage” (Landzelius 2003) incorporates a continual mak‐ ing and remaking of memorial sites, where nostal‐ gic gazes oscillate from officially sanctioned heri‐ tage sites to the spaces beyond them, to the routine material cultures, daily practices, popular events (Thrift 1999), e.g., everyday unofficial Ganga Aarti, an increasing number of new temples, and regular rituals in them. Embedded in the daily routine of the people this phenomenon called kitsch is interpreted by Kun‐ dera as a ‘‘folding screen set up to curtain off death,’’ which unmakes “difference between the sublime and the paltry” and lets “the human exis‐ tence lose its dimensions and to become unbear‐ ably light” (1984: 253 f.). According to Binkley (2000: 134 f.), kitsch “en‐ dorses a repetition of the familiar and a grounding in an affirmation of the everyday, ... an aesthetic expression that endorses the sense of convention‐ ality, rhythm and meter of aesthetic forms, and their embeddedness in daily life.” It is faithful “to conventions, and its rootedness in the modest ca‐ dence of daily life, works to re-embed its con‐ sumers, ... and to shore up a sense of cosmic co‐ herence in an unstable world of challenge, innova‐ 30 Arnab Das, Suman Nath, and Subrata Sankar Bagchi Anthropos 115.2020 tion and creativity.” Also the supplement of Lindquist in proclaiming kitsch as “quintessential‐ ly populist and popular ... to soothe, to give hope, to nourish sentiment, to naively beautify drab and brutal life” (2002: 341) is reflected in the respons‐ es of the participants. Let us now visit the lived experience of the or‐ ganiser again in order to seek further support to kitsch “in its appeals to sentiment, ... to re-embed its consumers on the ‘deepest’ personal level” (Binkley 2000: 135). Mr. M. in his late 70 s is known to be a respectable local elite Brahmin of Banaras. During the discussion, he became emo‐ tional while talking about death and beyond: Whether one becomes the richest or the most educated or the most powerful in the world, one would long for a drop of gangajal (sacred water of Ganga) and a leaf of tulsi (a sacred plant) at the final moment of life before death. Before death one might rely on one of the two ef‐ fects of a virtuous life; one is mukti and the other mokhsa. Mukti settles the destination of soul to the tiers of sacred realm: debolok, bahulok, brahmalok, baikunthlok, swargalok. In mokhsa, the soul (atman) dis‐ solves into the great father (parampita / paramatman). Mother Ganga blesses with mokhsa. After serving the mother, I am not sure whether I am blessed or not. The best blessing that I have realised in my life so far is the miraculous cure of my brain cancer. ... I denied to accept the medical proposal and decided to leave it to the bless‐ ings of Mother Ganga and param pita. We only noted his happiness and sentiments echoed in his oft-repeated explanations for the success of the quotidian ritual of Ganga Aarti. All the three repetitive features Binkley (2000) inter‐ prets about kitsch: (a) to be the emulation of the signs of class status (142); (b) to be consumed within the spaces and habits of daily life, expressing a sentimentally ide‐ alised image of the quotidian (143); (c) to be the sweetening of raw human feeling with melancholy and nostalgia (145), which is asserted by his lived experience of Ganga Aar‐ ti. It attests further to “a return to a sense of continuity, a ‘closed system’, ... the repaired existential cocoon” (149). Such restorative nostalgia “ends up reconstructing emblems and rituals of home and homeland in an attempt to conquer and spatialize time” (Boym 2007: 15). Similarly, the representational space of Lefebvre “speaks. It has an affective kernel or centre ... It embraces the loci of passion, of action and of lived situations, and thus immediately im‐ plies time” (Lefebvre 1991: 42) as obtained from Mr. M.’s portrayal of his unfulfilled desire or dream: That time should come, when every muhalla (neighbour‐ hood) of the riverfront will have their respective asso‐ ciations of Ganga Aarti, like ours. In every sham (evening), in perfect punctuality, bhajan (devotional songs) will start on the ghats. The tempered and ca‐ denced melody of bhajan will drift around the shadowy sky of Banaras. With sankhanaad (sound of conch shell) in the air at every ghat, the Brahmins will start holding this Ganga Aarti; there will be a three-mile-long orches‐ tra of lights, bells, incense, flowers, and chants in uni‐ son. I can challenge, that so far as I understand the for‐ eigners, they will arrange for helicopters to watch the spectacle. If the corporate houses are interested, I will be glad to cooperate with such a venture. I will help with all the skills, materials, manpower, or whatever needed for it. Thus, Mr. M.’s everyday Ganga Aarti also figured in the representational spaces, spaces of nostalgic time – “or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it forms such spaces” (Lefebvre 1991: 116), “which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate” (Lefebvre 1991: 39) as unique, sym‐ bolic, spectacular, and provokes further manifesta‐ tions. Confirming such provocation, according to Uttar Pradesh Tourism Deputy Director Avinash Mishra, a light and sound show “based on spiritual themes will probably be performed at Assi ghat” soon (The Times of India 2013 a). It stresses a greater sense of the visual, which gives rise to sen‐ sual experiences and “enables the gaze to be end‐ lessly reproduced and recaptured” (Urry 1990: 3) by the potential spectators from different corners of the world. The nostalgic polity will soon take on the up‐ coming government package and is supposed to spread it over the sites of religious, touristic, and cultural importance in Banaras. These sites may witness renovation and face-lifting that promises to “restore” their old glory (The Times of India 2013 a). Getting back to what we had started off with, we may find the facticity of nostalgia as em‐ bedded in the “popular” Indianness even introduc‐ ing serious academic work. In fact, “restorative nostalgia does not think of itself as nostalgia, but rather as truth and tradition” (Boym 2007: 13). Moreover, the nostalgia is transformed into enter‐ tainment, a consumable artefact that is deliberately amnesiac about history. Banaras in a Narrative of Nostalgia and Kitsch 31 Anthropos 115.2020 Conclusion The event, Ganga Aarti, and all such similar kitsch are not only confined to Banaras but is supposedly spread all over India and establishes that “an en‐ trepreneurial mode of selective memory has achieved amazing commercial success, though the price of selective memory has been indiscriminate amnesia” (Kammen 1993: 536). Coeval with the present aggrandising and globalising market econ‐ omy such restorative nostalgia fosters to claim “a pure and clean homeland” (Boym 2007: 10). Let us finally examine, whether Boym’s following claim over economy and politics holds true for Banaras heritage, which is now politically sub‐ sumed under Hindu Nationalism: “The nostalgic politics has also been conceptualised to produce a ‘glocal’ hybrid of capitalism and religious funda‐ mentalism” (Boym 2007: 10). Postcolonial theory’s culturalist obsession has led to the renunciation of all “Western” discourses (both capitalism and socialism, for instance) as various expressions of its “cultural personality,” complicit with the imperialist project. Liberated from the tyrannies of rational analysis, it can only give credibility to the emergent form of political resistance conceived under the omnipresent sign of culture and recast its politics as the salvation of an imperiled “national culture,” something politi‐ cally conducive to Hindu nationalist propaganda (Bhatt 1997; Nanda 2003). Way back in 1996, Jaffrelot notes: “The new elite (of BJP) that has emerged and follows those in command in the global framework no longer tries to keep up the socialist rhetoric but is follow‐ ing the capitalist path” (Jaffrelot 1996: 432). By this period over the last fifteen years, BJP has wel‐ comed the New Economic Policy reforms, eco‐ nomic liberalisation, and customised cultures of capitalism, whereby capital itself has been reartic‐ ulated as expressive of a cultural essence. Ulti‐ mately, this has meant merely suturing the allpowerful neo-liberalism with the nationalist vanity of a sovereign national culture. It has been seam‐ lessly reworked into the nationalist “cultures of capitalism,” the official rhetorical position of the Hindu nationalist BJP (Das 2002). Retaining the vocabulary of swadeshi (Indianism) for emotive affect such nationalism as a hybrid of capitalism and religious fundamentalism has indigenised the latest capitalism to depict the global economy as instrumental to the (Hindu) nation. Just before the submission of this article, the information is quite befitting with the perception with the study that BJP has selected the parliamentary constituency seat of Benaras for Narendra Modi, the prospec‐ tive Prime Minister of India in the sixteenth Loksabha Election. References Cited Abu-Lughod, Lila Writing against Culture. In: R. G. Fox (ed.), Recaptur‐ ing Anthropology. Working in the Present; pp. 137– 162. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press. Appadurai, Arjun Putting Hierarchy in Its Place. Cultural Anthropology 3/1: 36–49. Assayag, Jackie The Body of India. Geography, Ritual, Nation. Etno‐ gráfica 1/1: 33–56. Bakker, Hans Construction and Reconstruction of Sacred Space in Vārāṇasī. Numen 43/1: 32–55. 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Abstract

An ethnographic study on the Indian city of Banaras, one of the “oldest continuously inhabited cities” of the world, helps us experiencing it as a multivocal, multilayered network of heritage, pilgrimage, and tourism that is either continually engaged with the revivalist construction of space or deconstructed by the postcolonial discourse envisaging a tangible and dynamic order of space. The article intends to make an analytical inquiry into pilgrimage, tourism, and heritage in the context of space and time, while relating it to the popular everyday event of Ganga Aarti in Banaras, which can be seen as a manifestation of nostalgic kitsch.

References
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Appadurai, Arjun
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Abstract

Anthropos is the international journal of anthropology and linguistics, founded in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt, missonary and member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Its main purpose is the study of human societies in their cultural dimension. In honor of Wilhelm Schmidt‘s legacy, the cultivation of anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, and religious studies remain an essential component oft he Anthropos Institute – the organizational carrier of the journal.

Zusammenfassung

Anthropos - internationale Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde wird vom Anthropos Institut St. Augustin seit 1906 zweimal jährlich herausgegeben. Ursprünglich als Sprachrohr für katholische Missionarsarbeit geplant, gilt sie heute als wichtige Fachzeitschrift der allgemeinen Ethnologie. Sie behandelt sowohl kulturelle als auch sprachliche Themen in mehreren Sprachen, mit Schwerpunkt auf den Völkern des gesamtamerikanischen und afrikanischen Kontinents.