8-bit Varanasi

Varanasi is the holiest Hindu city. It’s the city you’ve seen on National Geographic — the one with all the steps leading down to the Ganges, the one where the masses go to bathe and clean their clothes and purify their souls and, if they’re lucky, be cremated upon death. One of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world, it’s a cacophony of sites and sounds and smells unlike anywhere we’ve been in India thus far.

This post, though, is about Space Invaders.

invaders in varanasi

invaders in varanasi

These were all over Varanasi: paintings on the ghats, mosaics in the passageways. With twisting alleys, crumbling stone structures, and wandering Sadhus coming at us from every direction, Varanasi feels like it hasn’t changed in two hundred years. Which made these paintings and mosaics all the more incongruous.

invaders in varanasi

invaders in varanasi

Hinduism is said to have 330 million gods, depending on who you ask and how deeply you want to explore the theology. The keeper of Aurangzeb’s mosque in Varansi told us that, to Hindus, “the sun is a god, the river is a God, the cow is a god, the tree is a God.” Had we found the symbols of a sect worshiping Inky and Blinky alongside Ganesh and Vishnu?

invaders in varanasi

invaders in varanasi

The invader above is painted on a building that is part of the Harishchandra Ghat, one of the two points in the city where bodies of the faithful are burned. We spoke to a member of the family who runs the burning ghat, an older man with glasses and betel-stained teeth, walking hand-in-hand with his young grandson. “What are these paintings?” I asked him.

“Some symbolic thing,” he replied.

“Who made them?”

“Some tourist,” is what I heard him say. Jenny heard him say, “Some Buddhist.” We’re not sure which it was.

“Do the people like these symbols?” I asked him.

“Well, nobody’s been killed. So why not?”

invaders in varanasi

invaders in varanasi

invaders in varanasi

Of course I did some Googling when I came home. These imagers were placed here by an artist called Invader. He roams the world creating exactly these kind of installations — thirty-five cities so far.

invaders in varanasi

invaders in varanasi

According to Invader’s site, there are fourteen invasion points in Varanasi. Without knowing how many we were looking for, we found and photographed thirteen of them.

invaders in varanasi

I look forward to returning to Varanasi; I want to find number fourteen.

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13 responses to “8-bit Varanasi

  1. Yeah invader rocks! He’s everywhere

  2. Pingback: Just wonderful things » Invaders line the walls of Varnasi

  3. Pingback: 8-bit Varanasi | DesiPundit

  4. That is awesome!

    it made my morning less boring. thank you so much! :]

    cheers!

  5. At last the WordPress dashboard has sent me something worth reading! Very informative and funny. Great work! Keep it up!

  6. Pingback: Space Invader up in India : Remain Awesome!

  7. Great work. Mail me when you come back to Varanasi. I would help you finding the fourteenth. I was having boat ride 2 months ago and my boat rower asked me about those symbols. I couldn’t answer him. If you have more information please mail me at nandan@booti.org

  8. Weird. But think of all the Photoshopping opportunities that have been opened to you!

  9. Pingback: Varanasi: city of life and death « Inversion Layer

  10. Funny enough – I was in New York recently and saw one of these on a building as I was riding the bus somewhere around GCS! I had seen an art book called “Invasion: Los Angeles” that chronicled all of the Invaders in LA. No idea they were around the world!!!

  11. An invader? That’s interesting… I’ll try to do some research of my own when I go there.

    A symbol in India might mean just about anything. It may be the symbol of a political party (there are thousands of them), or one of the hundreds of symbols in every religion and its subgroups. Or a symbol depicting a cult, or an occupational group. Or (nowadays) a brand trademark.

    This is my first comment. I stumbled upon your blog by accident today. Excellent content!

  12. Shame your image links seem to have died 😦

  13. Tremendous things here. I am very satsfied to peer your article.
    Thanks a lot and I’m having a look ahead to copntact you.
    Will you kindly drop me a mail?

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