City of Benares. Sepr. 1814
Artist: Smith, Robert (1787-1873)
Medium: Pencil on paper
Pencil drawing of Varanasi by Robert Smith (1787-1873) in September 1814. This is one of 27 drawings (29 folios) of views made during a march from Benares (Varanasi) to Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, probably en route for Almora in 1814. Inscribed on the original cover is: 'No. XIII. Ganges & Luknow'. Captain Robert Smith was a military engineer with the East India Company and was in India from 1805 to 1833. He designed a number of buildings in India and also repaired various Indian monuments including the Kutb Minar and the Jami Masjid at Delhi.
Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is situated on the holy River Ganges. The river was said to have descended from heaven to earth and is regarded by Hindus as amrita, the elixir of life; those who touch the water are said to be absolved of sin. The waterfront of the city is lined with over 100 ghats, or long flights of stone steps where residents and pilgrims come to perform their ablutions and worship in the temples. Varanasi, founded in the sixth century BC is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus and is known as a tirtha, or ‘crossing place’ which allows the devotee access to the divine and where gods and goddesses can come down to earth.