Banaras Revisited : Snapshots From Memory Lane


In the year 1931 on March 31st  a girl was born to Ramchandra  and Varada Moghe. The eldest of six siblings  she grew up in Theosophical Society and did her schooling and graduation in the Rajghat Education Center of the Krishnamurti Foundation, a beautiful 300 acre campus full of trees, overlooking the confluence of the rivers Varuna and Ganga, on the outskirts of the ancient pilgrimage city of Varanasi.

Fortunate to be born in that time and place, she became a part of the rich cultural heritage of  her birthplace. Her home was a hub for Music, Theater, literature  and she grew up listening to music maestros like  Siddheshwari Devi, Kanthe Maharaj, Gohar Khan , Bismillah Khan.

Many personalities from politics, music, art, theater, literature visited TS and she was fortunate enough to Listen to them.  Famous writers of hindi like Jaishankar Prasad, Munshi Premchand , Sarojini Naidu stayed and worked from there. The family was closely associated with  J. Krishnamurti, and many others.

Her father taught at Basant College and her mother ,  a homemaker and a B.Sc graduate from Ferguson College, Pune , among other things, designed first of the kind science workbooks for small children in Hindi .

After post graduation from BHU her Job took her to Rishivalley in 1953. She frequently visited her parents and later  married a lecturer of science  who taught  at the boy’s college run by Krishnamurti Foundation now called Rajghat Besant School. My dad was a close associate of J.Krishnamurti and worked for the Krishnamurti foundation.

Her last visit in 1959 was the end of her romance with the city of  Banaras for the time being.

Now after 45 years My Ma took a sentimental trip down the memory lane with my brother who was born in TS Varanasi.

It was an emotional experience and not a religious one. Although the city had changed considerably since her time, she was able to go to places where she spent her childhood and yearly youth, the molsary, mango, neem trees under whose shade she played with her friends, the house where she stayed and the school and college where she studied.

Ma was married in Sarnath ( it was an inter caste love marriage ) . She was unable to take pix of the beautiful Sarnath due to some problem but fondly narrated to us about the majestic yet serene stupa and the excellent museum which shows the rich display of Buddhist and bramanic culture. The temple of Buddha with lovely wall paintings depicting the life of Buddha  by Japanese painters and the Bodhi tree where Gautam Buddha attained Bodhisattva.

The Ashoka pillar still stands there in Sarnath shinning beautifully even after so many years. Photography was not allowed at many places even near the major temples in Varanasi , the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Sankat mochan Temple.

At the age of 79 my ma has a spirit of a child and she managed the cope with the travel, crowd and narrow lanes full of bulls and cows and people, the heat and dust in spite of her very frail health  to look around and make the trip a memorable one for her.

I am glad  she was able to fulfill her desire and it was a joy to watch her describing all the details with so much happiness.  Now she wants to take us there and  that is one trip I am looking forward to.

I am sharing some of the pix  with all of you , A snapshot journey down the memory lane through my mom’s eyes. Hope you will enjoy.


Sunrise at the Ganges

Mom could not take many pictures in the city due to her health condition and as she puts it , she wanted to absorb it all in her eyes rather than in the camera so most of the pix are from the ghats and TS, Rajghat compound .

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Banaras has many ghats but some of them are famous for religious purposes. The boats are called Dongi in local language and the house boats are known as Bajda , the boat man is called mallhar.

A ghat is a very special type of embankments that are actually long flights of wide stone steps leading down to the river where people can take a holy dip.

Dashaswamedh ghat, manikarnika Ghat, Manmandir ghat are some of the famous ones. Manikarnika is where the cremations take place and also the last rites and rituals for the dead are performed by the Hindus.

After the breathtaking beauty of Ganges  Ma took some pix of TS  and Rajghat which are a treasure for all of us.

The buildings of the Theosophical Society were designed by Surendra Nath Kar an architect from Shanti Niketan. and the sculptures and reliefs at the Vasant college were created by Rudra Hanji fondly called Rudrappa , a friend of my grandfather. The old Banyan tree is a memorable part of ma’s childhood. The Montessori school where she is sitting on the steps is now an assembly hall. The steps were designed in a way so that children of the age group 3-4 could easily climb them.

Ma and a friend under the beautiful flower shed

The TS compound

Morning view of Ganges from Rajghat

The bridge on the river is the oldest and was the only bridge during ma’s childhood.

The Old Banyan Tree in TS

The Varuna river has been turned into a small Nalah ( a dirty river stream where all the drainage water goes) The pic shows the confluence of Varuna and Ganga .

Ma will complete 79 years on 31st march this year and I am delighted to travel back to her roots through her.

Thank you ma for the pix , for all the interesting stories, for the delicious mithai 🙂  and the prasad from the temples. It was the most memorable  day spent together.

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13 thoughts on “Banaras Revisited : Snapshots From Memory Lane

  1. Tiku: this was heartwarming! God bless your mom! Have heard lots of stories of Banaras from hubby as he attended BHU
    love
    bina

    Hi Bina , thank you for visiting. Glad you enjoyed the journey with us

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  2. Wow! Lovely photographs! I have never been to Benaras – except in passing on the way to other places , now I think I would love to go there – with a camera of course 🙂

    Thanks IHM 🙂 wanna make a trip with me . yes we need to have a good camera , the city has so much to offer . Glad you enjoyed

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  3. Hearfelt appreciation to you Mom, for undertaking that journey !! It is indeed a special one !!! Re-visiting the roots has such a calming and soothing effect on us and your words reflect the happiness on hearing the stories.

    The pics are fab – like the flowery shed !!! 🙂

    Thanks Uma. Yes any such journey is heartwarming. I am glad she could make it.

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  4. That was indeed one great trip down memory lane. Thanks for sharing them. The look of joy on your mom’s face is priceless to say the least. The pics are great too.

    Thank you zephyr . Yea I always tell mom I feel I am in the presence of creator when I see you and why not .. she created me out of herself .

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  5. Beautiful nostalgic post that captured the beauty of Banaras wonderfully both in words and pictures 😀

    Keep up the beautiful work 😀

    Cheers!!

    Thank you Chatterbox 🙂 It really came from the depths of my heart. glad you liked it

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  6. Can find my roots to Benaras too! Took mom last year in search of them; Benaras is also its bylanes and old buildings, as much as its ghats and Ganga. And the connection to every nook and corner never fades!

    Loved revisiting them once more here !

    Thanks for commenting Horus .. Yes I saw the snaps taken by you, the link you sent. It is wonderful to see so many people connected to banaras

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  7. Just came to know about your post from Solilo’s tweet. Loved this post Tikuli. I love the city of Benaras. I have spent a lot of time in Benaras and keep going there on and off.
    Despite all the negative aspects of such an anciemnt city I love it nevertheless.:)
    Will write about it sometime.

    I LOVE the pics:)
    Happy Birthday to Aunty:)

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  8. great to see pics of banaras , my mom grew up there so have been to Banaras quite a few times , the noisy city , the calmness of ghat , the eat outs, the gallis all of it has its own charm unlike any other city in India .

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  9. I was very pleased to see these photographs. I am trying to get as much information as possible about the Theosophical Society in Benaras (Varanasi) around the years 1912-1915. I am trying to put together the life and times of my grandmother, Johanne Nielsen, who was born in Denmark. She married Bulaki Ram Chopra, a barrister, and came to India. She changed her name from Johanne to Janaki Bai and lived at the Theosophical Society from 1914 until her sudden death in 1915. I am putting together a collection of her letters, and would like some pictures of what the Theosophical Society might have looked like while she was there. Her daughter, Sakuntala was also a very keen theosophist. Any help from you would be very much appreciated. Thanks in anticipation. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Hello Nilambari
    I would love to know more about your grandmother and mother. Ma says that all those old families have shifted from TS and many contemporary of my grandparents are no more alive.
    I can give you a name an email where you can contact .
    Mr. S.Sundaram
    G.Sec The Theosophical Society
    Varanasi
    his email is theosophy-vrs@yahoo.com
    Do check the website of TS ,search on Google will get you there. There is a library and archives where you may get the information you need.
    Did your ma stay at TS ? If yes , when?
    Ma is also looking for people of her time.
    Do get it touch with me on
    tikuli@gmail.com

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  10. Tiku, you have not indicated full name of your mother and father.
    I studied at Rajghat from 1947 to 1952 and have very fond memories of all our teachers when Gulluji was our Principal. My sister studied at Vasantashram Kamacha from 1944 to 1953 – so between two of us we know the whole crowd of that time- JK used to come every Dec and lecture on Philosphy which we attended but everything went over our heads.at that time ! !
    Would like to know more.

    Vinay Khanna
    C-79, G.K.- I , New Delhi – 110 048

    M 919818301089
    14 Nov 2011

    Thanks for visiting and commenting Mr. Khanna . My mother’s name is Sushama Varma (she was Moghe) at that time. My father’s name is J.N.Varma. My grandfather Ramchandra Moghe taught English at Vasant college. my mom was born and brought up at TS at kamaccha that time vasant college was in TS. Later shifted to rajghat in early 50s. They are childhood friends. The boys college where dad taught has been merged in the Rajghat school now.my dad worked with Krishnamurty ji for sometime. My parents were friends with Mr. Madhavachari and krishnaji considered dad as his friend too.
    Ma would be happy to connect with you. what is the name of your sister ? May be ma knows her . you can email mom at Varma.sushama@gmail.com

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