It is more than just a well-produced collection of essays, it is an important one too. It places itself in a context of the gradual erosion of Varanasi’s architectural heritage and current efforts to preserve it by taking the basic step of detailing this heritage. It’s a pleasure to have a record of not just the famous ghats and temples of Varanasi but also of the less documented expressions of the Sultanate and Mughal (mosques, tombs) and British (churches, town hall) periods. Clare Arni’s lovely photographs are used functionally to illustrate points and concerns. A particularly interesting chapter is on the patrons of the built heritage of old Banaras: merchant-bankers, trading networks, Maratha rulers, other north Indian ruling elites and the local royal family. Another on the ghat stretch discusses how the moving waters of the Ganga and the still ghats and buildings have mutated and defined each other over time. The only problem for a layperson interested in architecture is the struggle with references such as “Palladian version of the Neo-classical” without the benefit of a glossary.

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