One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the holiest in India, Varanasi has attracted pilgrims from all over India for over 2500 years. No account of the travels of Indian visitors and pilgrims to the city, however, is available because of the non-existence of the tradition of recording impressions of such visits by Indians.
Nor is there any record of foreign travellers visiting Varanasi until four centuries ago. It was then that travellers from the West started visiting Varanasi on a regular basis, and left animated accounts of their visits. Later a number of landscape artists, almost entirely from Britain, began coming to India towards the end of the eighteenth century, and make superb sketches of Varanasi when they visited the city.
The views of Varanasi by the visiting landscape artists gave not only the outside world but also the Indians themselves the first ever visual impression of the scenic splendours of the holy city. Until then no such visual record existed because of the lack of the genre of landscape painting in an otherwise rich Indian art.
Assembled from public and private art collections in India and abroad, these views are now being published together, along with a short survey of travellers' accounts of their visits to Varanasi, for the first time.