Professor Rana PB Singh, having stayed in both Varanasi and Kyoto, offers a comparison of Kashi and Kyoto
Rana PB Singh | June 2, 2017
It’s said that to see as much of life as India can show, all one needs to do is visit Varanasi. The city, often called India’s cultural capital, has recorded continuous settlement of people since 1000 BC. But the modern city grew mostly in the early 18th century. It now has about 15 lakh residents. With about 3,300 Hindu shrines, small and big, and 1,388 Muslim places of worship, and being holy to both Buddhists and Jains, Varanasi is indeed a microcosm of Indian culture and pluralism. There are four universities, three deemed universities, over a hundred Sanskrit pathashalas, 150 Muslim schools, scores of colleges. And there are numerous centres for the learning of yoga and Hindustani classical music, making it a veritable centre of learning.
Read: Between chaos and Kashi
No hope without an awakening
Prof Rana PB Singh offers a comparison of Kashi and Kyoto
Kyoto Kashi/ Varanasi/ Banaras The Kamo river, the riverfront walkways with their shrines The Ganga, and the ghats along the banks of the river, considered holy by Hindus Full of lush greenery Only scattered tress, and no natural park Everywhere public spaces and green parks Very few public spaces and green parks Known as model of cleanliness and good governance Known as model of dirtiness and mal- or misgovernance Nara, Buddhist-Shinto suburb Sarnath, Buddhist site and suburb Around 2,000 temples and shrines. Some of them are Shinto, Buddhist or animistic and some are related to folk myth Around 3,500 Hindu shrines, 1,388 Muslim sacred places and shrines, 45 Sikh sites, four Jain sites, 42 churches, and 100 folk shrines Ancient city since 850 BCE Ancient city since 850 BCE Ancient capital till 1868 Cultural centre and capital of Kashi Kingdom, during 9th-12th century Strong public awareness and participation Only talk of ancient greatness and myth, no real participation and preservation of culture City of learning, seven universities City of learning, with five universities Centre of art, craft, music and culture Centre of art, craft, music and culture Most of the development and maintenance is by community organisations Most of the development and maintenance by government, with hardly any public participation Tradition and modernity go side by side, following the philosophy of ‘Lifenology’ and Suitogaku, which aim at creating productive human-nature interfaces. Tradition and modernity go their own individual ways. There’s talk of spirituality, but hardly any true practice. Rituals are practised without understanding their basis.
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