Benares [Varanasi]

Illustrated London News

November 28, 1857


"Benares is situated on the northern bank of the Ganges, in lat 25 deg. 30 min. N, long 83 deg. 1 min. E. This is considered to be the largest and most populous city in Hindostan, its population (consisting of all classes, including natives of all parts of India, with considerable numbers of Turks, Tartars, Persians and Armenians) being formerly estimated at no less than 750,000 - now at 250,000. It is, however, very badly built; the streets being extremely narrow, and the whole town remarkably dirty.
"By the Hindoos it is usually styled Kusee, or 'the splendid' and, according to Brahminical legends, it was orginally constructed of gold, which, in cosequence of the wickedness of the people, became stone, and latterly has degenerated into mud and thatch. The city, with the surrounding country for ten miles distance, is held by the Hindoos to be sacred, and it is resorted to by great numbers of pilgrims. Many chiefs of distant provinces, who cannot visit it in person, are accustomed to send deputies thither to wash away their sins for them by proxy. It is a place of considerable commerce, and a noted mart for diamonds, procured chiefly from Bundelcund."


© Harappa 1997