Photograph of the Great Mosque of Aurungzeb and adjoining ghats in Benares. India

Benares. The Great Mosque of Aurungzebe, and Adjoining Ghats
Benares. The Great Mosque of Aurungzebe, and Adjoining Ghats

Custodian: University of Glasgow Library Special Collections

Reference: Dougan 96, item 11

The Gyanvapi or Alamgiri Mosque was built in Varanasi (also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi) around 1670 during the reign of the sixth Mughal Emperor, Aurungzeb (1618–1707), adjacent to the well of knowledge from which it takes its name. It is located on the western bank of the Ganges.

The Mosque was built on the site of and using materials from an earlier Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple was replaced in 1780 on the other side of the well of knowledge by the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, now one of the holiest and most significant Shiva temples.

Located close to the Mosque and Temple is the Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi's principal ghat, or series of steps which lead down to a body of water, particularly a holy river such as the Ganges or Ganga. Hindu worship rituals take place here on daily as well as during festivals.

Photographer: Samuel Bourne

Material: albumen print photograph

Dimensions: 240 x 295mm

Condition: the print will have been toned but slight fading to bottom and right edges.

Collection information: Dougan 96 comprises a large album containing 175 photographs (albumen prints produced from wet collodion negatives) of South Asia, taken c. 1860–70. Most of the photographs are the work of Samuel Bourne, considered among the finest 19th-century landscape photographers. The majority of the images feature urban and rural scenes in India; others were taken in Pakistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Burma.

Samuel Bourne worked in India in 1863–70 in partnership with Charles Shepherd. Many of Bourne's images have an almost pastoral appearance reflecting the influence of his English background. Bourne used the wet collodion process, which required that the glass negative plate be coated and sensitised, before being exposed in the camera while still moist and developed immediately afterwards. This made it essential that the photographer had a portable darkroom, in Bourne’s case a tent. His extensive equipment also included hundreds of glass plates up to 300 x 375mm; cameras; chemicals; and all the domestic provisions to survive in remote locations. At times he needed an entourage of sixty people to help him, and had to in inhospitable conditions which ranged from sweltering heat to freezing cold.

Photographs numbered above 2080 were probably taken after Bourne left India and have been attributed to Colin Murray (1840–84) who took Bourne's place at Bourne and Shepherd. There is little information for dating the Murray prints but they are probably from the early 1870s. Bourne produced over 2000 images in seven years; the numbers on prints photographed by Murray rise only a few hundred more.

The Dougan collection documents the development of photography from the 1840s to the early 20th century. It was purchased in 1953 from Robert O. Dougan, at the time the deputy librarian of Trinity College, Dublin.