Between the late sixteenth and early twentieth centuries, Banaras, the iconic Hindu centre in northern India that is often described as the oldest living city in the world, was reconstructed materially and imaginatively, and embellished with temples, monasteries, mansions, and ghats.
Aristocrats, priests, and pilgrims from across South Asia invested in Banaras and created a city that could realize and enhance textual prescriptions. They consolidated sacred sites and realigned pilgrimage routes, which were framed through innovative architecture and urban spaces. They transformed the city according to an imagination of the past, while also connecting it to their immediate cultural and political realities. As a result Banaras was re-conceptualized in terms of its built forms and ritual practices. At the same time, its past was re-imagined in a broader context of Indo-Islamic and colonial regimes. The city