- Mon, Dec 1, 2008
Gazette & Courier - Monday, March 15, 1875
The streets of Benares, India
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benares [also known as Banaras or Varanasi). From the New York Observer - We took a gharry to see the town. We rode through the new part of the city, where the streets are broad and well macadamized, and smooth as a floor. Beautiful shade trees are planted all along the broad streets. There are many modern houses and shops, and some of them have large yards, beautifully ornamented with trees, shrubs, and flowers. We did not, however, drive through all the streets, for in the old part of the city http://gallery.photo.net
hoto/2643448-lg.jpg they are not over 5 or 6 ft. wide. Many of these narrow streets are lined on either side with substantial stone houses, 6 or 7 stories high.
/ These streets are so crooked and winding that one needs a guide to go most anywhere, and certainly to get out of them. The shops of the same kind of business are congregated in one street. We went through quite a long street, and every shop was devoted to workers in brass. The same holds good as to iron workers, the silver and gold workers.
/ It is a great manufacturing city, and many curious things are made here. There are shops of every kind, and every trade is represented. Every shop is open to the street. We visited them, and were particularly interested in the workers in brass. They manufacture and carve, in the most beautiful manner, the vases and all the utensils used in housekeeping. These shops are filled with all types of brass goods, and every article is as bright as gold. Every dealer will be after you to buy his wares at some price, and you will very likely get loaded with goods. We visited the tin and ironsmiths, and thought we never saw such a variety of goods before.
/ The jewelry shops and stores are filled with very rich and costly goods. We were left to wonder where such beautiful and expensive wares of silver and ornaments of gold jewels could find a market. There is quite a street where slippers are made, apparently enough to supply all India. We saw shops where saddlery hardware was made. It is all very interesting and curious, and all those shops were filled with Hindoos, and not an idle person in the number.
/ One of the most interesting places in the city is where the accoutrements and uniforms of the soldiers and others are made. We visited the shop where all kinds of Oriental fabrics are made. The looms were in motion, and human muscle furnished the power. Apparently there is nothing so cheap as man power. These nearly naked men seem to work with the regularity of a machine. These shops are in the lower story of the houses. The first story is used not only for shops, but frequently for stabling cattle.
/ Of all the curious and costly products of the looms of this city, the celebrated Brocade of Benares http://www.indianselections.net/wall-hangings.html is the most wonderful. We visited one of these establishments, but made no purchases. We have often read of this fabric - the gold cloth of the famous city. Our guide led the way up several flights of stone steps. The passageways, as well as the stairs, were all narrow as well as winding. We reached the store room, but nothing but the stone floor and naked walls were in sight, but soon a salesman appeared and unlocked some massive doors and spread out a sheet upon the floor, and upon that, piece after piece of the beautiful brocade. We saw no piece that cost less than 60 dollars a yard, and several pieces that cost twice that sum.
/ Some of these brocades seemed half gold, but the cloth was as soft and pliable as though all silk...We wondered at the skill of the weaver and admired his work, but the polite merchant was compelled to replace his beautiful fabrics in their place of safety, and we, with many thanks and bows took our leave. There is an indescribable charm about the streets and street sights of this ancient city.
/ The aristocracy, consisting of the princes and priests and wealthy merchants, are all elegantly dressed, many of them in costly silks; but the laboring classes have the merest apology for clothing, many of them wearing only the dhotee, or a piece of cotton cloth about their loins, while most of the children http://gallery.photo.net
hoto/3340407-lg.jpg are entirely naked.But we soon get used to this costume of the laboring classes, for we see it everywhere in warm climates. Half of the people of the town seem to live in the streets and transact all their business there. All kinds of goods are offered you as you walk along the streets, but the Hindoo is always polite and respectful.
/ We saw a great variety of small paintings on isinglass, illustrative of the customs and habits of the people. Those of the military represent the officers and the common soldiers, the priests and the people. The most curious of all these illustrations are those of the religious beggars. They assume costumes according to caste, and are very numerous, and many of them very degraded.
/ There are some horses and cows in the street, but I did not see a single bull at large. There are but few horses in Benares, and they are seldom used to draw heavy loads or bear burdens. They are harnessed before the most curious little cart in the world. The harness is composed of a kind of saddle, unto which the thills of the cart are fastened clear up on the back of the horse. The cart itself is a rude affair. The thills are bent so that they have to go by the horse’s side, and then crook up on to his back. It has a little top about as large as an umbrella, and often has bells hanging to it. It is only the rich that can afford one of these outfits.
/ The common people use the little bullock, but he is nimble and trots off like a horse. We visited the parks and gardens of the city, were greatly interested in the beautiful and luxuriant tress of this favored land. Most of these trees are new to us, and as we look upon them for the first time, we are amazed at the richness of the foliage. There is a boundless variety of shrubs and trailing vines and flowers in these wonderful gardens. There is no frost to stiffen the ground or to chill the air, and all these trees and shrubs are forever green.
/ The old leaf ripens and is pushed from its place by the new ones, but the stalk is never bare. There is no winter here, but there are long seasons of dry weather, but these beautiful gardens are kept fresh and verdant by irrigation. The water is raised for that purpose by immense wells by rude machines, here worked by oxen. The water is conducted all over the gardens in cement conduits. It is all very laborious, but human muscle is very cheap in India.
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