Published July 22, 2021 | Version v1
Journal article Open

New monuments for the new India: heritage-making in a 'timeless city'



The ambitious Kashi Vishvanath Corridor in Varanasi (India) was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2019. Set to turn the site into a ‘world-class’ pilgrimage destination, the project entails the construction of a monumental path that connects the Ganges river to the city’s main Hindu temple. In the middle of the area under ‘beautification’, stands the Gyanvapi mosque – a longstanding target of Hindu nationalist campaigns to ‘liberate’ supposedly originally Hindu places of worship from Muslim presence. By combining ethnographic material collected through longitudinal research with a critical analysis of local Hindi newspapers, I trace the genesis of the Corridor as a ‘heritage project’. I suggest that, through it, a new heritage regime is being put forward to suit, and provide evidence for, current Hindu nationalist projections of India as a Hindu nation. However, I also argue that this regime is not just the result of a top-down agenda, but originates from a counter-intuitive process: bottom-up mobilisations of heritage by residents (who were eventually evicted) seem to have informed, if not provoked, subsequent official narratives and the branding of the Corridor as heritage.


Lazzaretti 2021-New Monuments for the New India.pdf

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