Banaras Ka Ujwal Bhavishya


In October 2016, Purpose Climate Lab spearheaded the 100% Uttar Pradesh campaign. It was around the time of the state elections and the time when news was out about India’s vision to move towards 100 percent electric mobility by 2030. In July 2017, we partnered with the second phase of the 100% Uttar Pradesh campaign, along with Design Fabric to really push the message and build awareness around clean energy solutions through The Banaras Project.

The idea: To use Banaras’ e-rickshaws to highlight clean and green transportation by turning them into beautiful, informative travelling design on clean energy.

How: By launching a country-wide open call for entries that would led to a design-sprint with three designers to create Taxi Fabrics for the e-rickshaws.

Over the next few months, the three chosen designers – Neethi, Tarini Sethi and Sumantra Mukherjee – along with the teams from Purpose Climate Lab and Design Fabric worked relentlessly to put together these uniquely design e-rickshaws that were officially launched in Banaras on November 1, 2017.

The residency program really allowed the three chosen artists to explore, understand and interact with the city and its people. In order to achieve that collaborative way of working, it was imperative to understand the mindset of the people and speak to them in a way that they would understand. “The designs really needed to be easy to grasp by anyone – a tea stall vendor or a university professor”, adds Sakshi Bhalla, senior strategist at Purpose Climate Lab.

But this is simply the beginning for the team. “The 100% Uttar Pradesh campaign goes on for the next six months and we will continue to use the e-rickshaws in all our engagements. The Swacch Urja Yatra that included the e-rickshaws designed by artists Neethi, Tarini Sethi and Sumantra Mukherjee and that launched in Banaras on November 1, will now move to Lucknow and Allahabad, stopping in between both these places in several districts to engage and connect with the local audiences”, quips Sakshi.


Having visited the holy city once, several years before the project, Illustrator Neethi was “super mesmerised and in awe of this magical land”. However, with the project’s strong brief on pollution and Climate Change, her visit this time around was accompanied with a different way of looking at things.

Among one of three designers chosen for The Banaras Project from a country-wide open call for entries, Neethi’s design was inspired by everything that she had observed and absorbed during her time in the city. “It was very organic in my head and I knew that I wanted to represent the ghats in a beautiful way and that I wanted to add magic to the landscape. I wanted to make an exaggerated version of everything being fuelled by solar power”, she emphasises.

After going through the design brief which focused on the positive aspects, solutions and way forward, Neethi came up with her concept, which was to focus on the “bright future of Banaras that you can create for yourself”. Her design engages citizens in a conversation and makes them feel like they are a part of the solution.

“Everybody wants a better future for their beloved city, which is why I thought it would be a great idea to show them how. My first thing was to mention that the city was powered by the people’s intention. I started off with the ghats, then there are buffaloes and solar powered boats on the seat. The roof of my e-rickshaw has a message which reads, ‘Swacch Banaras Ke Liye Swacch Urja’, which translates to ‘For a clean Banaras, let’s switch to clean energy’. I wanted this message to be designed non-directional, in that it could be read from either side of the e-rickshaw. And then I just added a lot of fauna and made it a nice, happy little space.” The artwork showcases Banaras as a beautiful, green, lush space which is magical, aspirational, and has multiple things co-exisiting.

Her inspiration really just came from everyday things, walking around the city, exploring its history and meeting new people. One of the key reasons why she applied for The Banaras Project was because she’d be wanting to add more meaning to her work. Working on a project with an NGO in Mumbai earlier this year really made her see things differently. “Prior to my volunteering experience, I was always a little cynical as to how does one’s voice make a difference? But after speaking to the man who runs the NGO, I realised how powerful our voices can be. That really put things in perspective. For me, art that makes sense and touches people is art that I’m interested in and so I wanted to work with The Banaras Project to spread my voice forward.”

Over the duration of the residency, the project became really close to her. “I will hold it close to me throughout my life because it has been a trigger to a lot of things. This project opened my eyes to the other side of things. I believe my e-rickshaw carries a strong picture of what Banaras could be in the future, and how everyone can be flag bearers of clean energy solutions.”

The Banaras Project is supported by 100% Uttar Pradesh