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Banaras: City of Light

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  222 ratings  ·  27 reviews
This is the acclaimed study and interpretation of Banaras, the holy place of the Hindus.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published August 11th 1999 by Columbia University Press (first published April 12th 1982)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  222 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india, religion, australia
Passport - check
Indian visa - check
Vaccinations - check
Airline ticket - check

and now I KNOW where I am going:

"Kashi may be located on the plains of North India, on the banks of the Ganges, on the tip of Shiva ' s trident, or where the nose and the eyebrows meet. Wherever that place is, it is the place where one is able to see into the true nature of things. 'In Kashi,' it is said, 'one sees one's own soul.'"

Namaste ya'll
Yigal Zur
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
the best book on this amazing city which never stops to surprise me even after dozens of visits.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would rate this book 6 on a scale of 1-5. The author has done a phenomenal job of researching and understanding and learning about India, Hindu culture, mythology, philosophy, rituals, practices and so on. She has understood the very pulse of Benaras and has penned it to minute details.
After reading this book, I have a deep yearning to visit Benaras in this lifetime and if I have get liberation there, nothing like it. Om Namah Shivaya !
LA Brower
Jul 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-ish-stories
If you're heading to Varanasi, read this first. It will enliven every step of your visit.
Sairam Krishnan
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scholarly retelling of the oral histories and traditions that make Banaras, or Varanasi what it is today. I was there last month on a sudden visit that I couldn't plan properly, and therefore couldn't read up on enough. However, for people who are going to make the trip, and who, like me, are city-bred Hindus and are ignorant of much of what makes up the religion they follow, this is a much needed book. Banaras's beliefs and mythic concepts are a great place to start learning about what constitu ...more
Prasad BSV
Apr 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I remember reading this book cursorily many years back, when a friend lent me a copy with high recommendations. After an unplanned and brief first visit to Banaras earlier this year, I realised that I really knew very little about the great city, even though I spent days browsing the internet before the visit. I obtained this book among several others on return, and have thus far read the majority of them carefully, making profuse notes. This review is the result of this near - simultaneous and ...more
Geoffrey Cobb
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-culture
This is a great book and after reading it I had a better grasp of Hinduism. It is not light reading though.
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ashish
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
A very detailed novel.The love of Diana Eck for the sacred geography of Kashi has been poured in the pages. It meticulously covers all the aspects of Varanasi: the geography, the times of various yatras and pilgrimages and of course the mythological stories. It is does not mince words in describing how the numerous temples fell because of the muslim pillagers and invaders.Treasured and such fantastic,old and divine temples have been lost to us due the impositions of preserving this "shared cultu ...more
Tarun Rattan
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Banaras is where civilisation began and this book traces those first steps of mankind in a masterly account. This book is an achievement and is a scholarly journal covering the history of the most important city on the face of earth. Humans might have originated in Africa but they only got civilised when they first reached the shores of Ganges and populated this first city known by myriad set of names like Varanasi, Banaras, Kashi and so many others. Hindus believe that Banaras has always been t ...more
Udit Srivastava
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I recently made a two day solo trip to arguably the oldest city in the world-Varanasi and explored it on foot.
This book caught my attention at New Delhi airport and something inside me felt attracted towards it.
It is a wonderfully researched piece of work which details the history, myths , legends behind every significant place in this city . It just feels like you are travelling the city with Prof. Diana as your guide.
She takes you from the bylanes of Kachori Gali to Rajghat Plateau and again
Sriram Ravichandran
Such a masterpiece wouldnt have been possible without the Anugraha of Ishvara himself. Diana Eck carefully records the minutest details of the city, its history, its vast riches of temples, the Ganges and many ghats in its banks and what it means to Hindus who visit, live and die here. She has relied on the rich textual history provided in the Puranas and other texts while carefully balancing the symbolism with the facts provided.

Above all, Eck takes the reader on a spiritual journey on what it
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most enlightening books I have read this year. It's wonderful to note the depth the author has gone about Kashi.... and how many books she has read and consulted people to gather information! I didnt know so much abt Kashi being a Hindu and an Indian.

Hats off ma'am. And This is the longest I have have spent to read a book nearly 2 years....
Chris Lemig
Jul 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Not your standard bathroom reader to be sure. Dense, scholarly but suprisingly readable. Recommended to anyone traveling to Bararas (the holy city of the Hindus) in the near future. (Oh, I'm so witty!).
Abhiram Bathina
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An in deep and research backed with facts book. Must read for people visting banares, gives you new things to add to your adventure. The writer deals with some subjects with such compassion you would find find those places and experience them.
Deepak Singhanwal
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book I was was looking for and loved. If you wan tto know about The city, there is no other scripture you would need.
Siddhartha Das
Banaras - explained through mythological, theological, geographical and in a common sense way
Zachary Krug
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
nice introduction to banaras; good balance of mysticism tempered by solid historical research
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
I learned much, much about Hinduism via geographical, architectural and historical details about one of the spiritual centers.
Connor Usry
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: educational
Enthralling book about the intertwined myth and history of Banaras (aka Varanasi, aka Kashi...etc). A must read for anyone who is visiting the city; it shed light on so many of the subtleties of the city I would have missed out on.

Eck does an incredible job of demonstrating how impossible it is to separate the facts from the legends of the holiest city in Hinduism. He lays out stories of the Gods for the Hindu layman, like myself, that relate directly to the forming and importance of Banaras. E
Sushmita Rai
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I personally love the way she writes all the details. This February I got a chance to visit banaras. It was a short time visit and I want to know as much possible about BANARAS but unable to as I was having very short time.
Than from here I got recommendation about this book that it is one of the best book on banaras and I bought this book without giving another thought. And I really enjoy the book, this was like I can feel each and everything that she has written.
If you also want to know about b
Suruchi Sharma
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Definitely a great and insightful introduction to the city. Some mythological stories might seem familiar for some, especially for Indians who have been hearing the tales of the Hindu gods and goddesses since childhood. There are a few very interesting anecdotes that one finds between those familiar ones which make it worth a read. Excellent research and an objective reportage.
Feb 11, 2020 added it
A perfect guide in your hand to look and feel Benaras on go.
Divya Garg
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book so researched, so full of light, vast, deep, profoundly written.... like the place Banaras...Kashi...Varanasi is.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Rather dry but incredibly detailed, and presumably well re-searched, this provided me with more information about Banares than I could ever want, or need, to know. 2 stars because it would be an excellent resource but far too involved for someone like me who was looking for a travel book in a more general sense.
Cathy Douglas
There's nothing wrong with this book, it's just boring. Some of it is good, when she discusses the various Shiva cults and so forth. But a lot of it is details: town geography, details of who-worshiped-whom-when, and other things that weren't that interesting for a non-Hindu general reader.
fairly well written, but easy to get caught up in the sanskrit terms and various names of deities... i couldn't finish it.
Srijata Roy
rated it it was amazing
Oct 10, 2018
Shoubhik Ganguly
rated it liked it
May 09, 2019
Jim Jenkins
rated it it was amazing
May 25, 2011
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