A City of Magical Lights

by Manu Parekh

From the first ray of dawn that lightens into a glow, banishing the inky darkness into a theatre of shade and light, to the silvered waves of the Ganga in full flow under a noon sun, from the crimson quickening of the evening vespers to the glimmer of lamps that keep time to the cadence of hymns, Banaras is a city of wondrous light. A skyline of temple spires creates arresting silhouettes, the ghats add a geometric austerity to the ensemble, and the flowing river is capricious, now nurturing and playful, now threatening and powerful, reflecting the day and night and the changing seasons in a measured rhythm that is eternal. As outside, so inside, the earthen lamps contain flames of illumination, faith and knowledge in their ephemeral flicker.

It is this enchantment and panorama to which Manu Parekh has devoted four decades of his career, mapping the city’s particular quality of light during its myriad moods of change. Distant homes and temple sanctorum offer a glimpse of its suggestion, while the sun, or moon, flatten an architectural detail, exaggerate a lengthening shadow. The holy river is mysterious: now a languid blue now lightened to a luminescent green, now turned red at sunset, still dark and brooding at dawn. 

In this exhibition, Manu Parekh brings together two of his oeuvres from the various series he has devoted to Banaras – his landscapes that capture the potency of faith that has ignited the city since its dawn, and the interiority of the temples where oblations take the form of worship, floral offerings kindling the holy flame. In combining the two, he offers a holistic view of the eternal city of divine light that has been his muse for the better part of his art practice