The 'Ladies Changing Room' on one of the Ghats. Incorrectly spelt but thankfully present for the convenience of women coming to bathe at these Ghats
A line in Sanskrit is beautifully debossed into the walls
Meticulously created into the form of an iron grill - for the Shree Rudra Path Mandir
The quaint signage of the Surmi Gents Beauty Parlour located at Bengali Tola at Dashashwamedh in Varanasi
Jaya Guru - written in Bengali over a house in Bengali Tola
A vibrantly painted 'Ravi's Chai Shop' behind the Kedar Ghats in Varanasi
Step signage's leading to the Shri guesthouse located on Dashashwamedh Ghat, and next to it is a Benarasi Sari shop evident by the signs
A signage in Kannada about priests in Kashi who can perform rituals according to the Andhra traditions
A Korean sign that indicates the presence of a tea stall
A 'curio' shop that is government approved, within the narrow lanes of Varanasi
A tea stall on the Pandey Ghat, this signage was painted by the Korean tourists, for the benefit of tourists. In fact this Ghat has been nicknamed as the Korean Ghat, amongst the locals as the guest houses is frequented by Korean Tourists
Om Ele - ctric shop. The spelling has been split to be accommodated within the small niche of the shop doors. This quaint Electric Product shop is located near Bengali Tola
The day to day life of Kashi draws from diverse cultures and religions. A short walk into the lanes and by lanes of Kashi takes you through a series of areas predominantly visited by Hindu's, Bengalis, Tamils, Koreans, English, Muslims, Malyali's, Andhra etc. This is not only obvious by the types of shops, cafes and architecture, but is easily recognizable due to the bold signage's painted in various parts of the city.
Confidently painted 'mistakes' like 'Quriyo aka 'Curio' and conveniently labelled shops, doha's deeply etched into walls, or metal grills bearing the name of the temple are all contributors to the beautiful hand done typography visible in all parts of Varanasi. From an artistic viewpoint it is intresting to see how this typography has imbibed some part of the surface it was written on, or how a material like iron has been manipulated carefully to create words. Even sand and cemented walls are not spared when a sholka or quote has been carefully etched into its surface, gaining readibilty over time due to the settled dust within its crevices.
The purpose of a sign or a notice is to attract the public hence they may be complex or detailed, or for convenience be painted in a specific regional language in order to attract only a certain segment of people. Peoples relation with words, and how they connect with them can be seen when 'chai' is written as 'tchai', or for instance when a simple teashop on the ghats is labelled aptly by Korean tourists as 'Tea and Boat'. Words become visuals, they become sounds, they become the carriers of culture.
Tagged as one of the holiest cities Kashi sees a foot fall of a few hundred tourists everyday from India and abroad. Making this city a sponge, that is absorbing a little from each culture. It could be food or rare musical instruments, collectives of writers or sourcing universal clothes for trade, classes to learn Hindi and centres to learn Yoga, but people need to be informed of its existence. The city of Kashi is a collage of different cultures, typography and signage's being just one of the obvious indicators.