Sumeri Temple, Ramnagar, opp. Benares.
Photographer: Bourne, Samuel
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph with a view of a temple at Varanasi (Banaras) in Uttar Pradesh, taken by Samuel Bourne in the 1860s, part of the Bellew Collection of Architectural Views. The sacred city (known to Hindus as Kashi) on the banks of the Ganges is the most holy of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism (the others being Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchipuram, Ujjain and Dwarka), a place of pilgrimage and a key centre of Brahmanical learning. Its waterfront is lined with the stepped embankments called ghats where thousands of pilgrims come to perform ritual ablutions, and where the bodies of Hindus are cremated. Prominent from the time of the Buddha in the 6th century BC, Varanasi was also a flourishing commercial centre due to its strategic location. Famous for its sages and philosophers, the city was filled with religious buildings. In the 12th century, many were destroyed by Mohammed of Ghor, and most of the temples now date from the 18th century. They are characterised by soaring central spires or shikaras, surrounded by minor spires or shikarikas.