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Addressing Myth and Reality

Part 2 Project 2009
Priyadarshi Shrivastava
Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute Mumbai India
Project Statement

Varanasi: (Benares or Kashi) is a famous Hindu holy city situated at the banks of the river Ganges in Northern India. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
The culture of Varanasi is deeply associated with the river Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious center in northern India for thousands of years.
Regions near the banks of river Ganga are extremely crowded and house several Hindu temples, narrow winding lanes and road-side shops. Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats, most of which are bathing ghats, while some others are for cremation.
Hindu religion believes in life after death and reincarnation. Hindu religion also talks about the ultimate goal of life as moksha (salvation) by which you will be out of this cycle and become a part of the god himself.
Death is of utmost importance in Varanasi, as if one dies here, MOKSHA is achieved. Old people from across the India come to Varanasi and wait for their death, for which the city inhibits hundreds of Old Age Home. Today these homes are islands cut off from the rest of the city.

Proposal: My project is basically to imbibe the moksha feeling, connecting the experience of the inmates to the everyday life of the city wherein, the old people experience life as it ends and its transition from humans to god.
The project is to do justice with the sentiments of old people and strengthening the belief system with which they come to Varanasi and also to give them a dignified life with peaceful death which they aspire in their last days.
In this project addressing ‘myth’ and ‘reality’, both were important as the belief system in supernatural is so intense here that it affects everyday life of the inhabitants. The project took place at, and in such a way, where the mythical and the everyday intersected. The experiences designed were to allow the different stages of life to interact with one another evoking the journey of a person’s life as they wait for their death.


Priyadarshi Shrivastava


There are few cities in the subcontinent as immersed in myth as the city of Benares. There are legends emanating from every part of the city creating rituals marking the land with an aura that deeply affects the everyday lives of its inhabitants. Thus, space in Benares cannot be understood in conventional terms. It constantly oscillates between the mythical and the everyday. Priyadarshi’s project attempted to come to grips with these oscillations by exploring one such institution that was unique to the geography of Benares.
It is said that if one dies in Benares one is released from the eternal cycle to life and death. This has led to the development of many old age homes whose sole purpose is to provide shelter to those who come to the city specifically to die. Today these homes are islands cut off from the rest of the city. Priyadarshi wanted to transform this relationship and to connect the experience of the inmates to the everyday life of the city.
To locate his intervention Priyadarshi carefully studied the imagination of the city within historical and mythological maps. He also studied how these imaginations of the city had led to certain values associated with different parts of the city leading to particular rituals and practices. He then went about overlaying these imaginations to locate places where the mythical and the everyday intersected.
He chose a site on the banks of the river Ganges which was surrounded by spaces loaded with meaning in Hindu religion. In his project he incorporated these and also added new functions that represented the five stages of a person’s life according to Hindu philosophy.
The building was planned as a complex series of courtyards that cascaded down to the river, each programmed in different relationships with each other and the old people’s home. In some you could see the sun rise over the holy river, in others you could watch young men exercise in the morning light or hear the ritual chants of holy men celebrating the birth of a child or hear children playing in the school yard.
The experiences of these spaces were to allow the different stages of life to interact with one another evoking the journey of a person’s life as they wait for their death.


Tutor(s)
Prof Rohan Shivkumar
2009
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