The Birs in the city of Banaras are almost always said to be the Dih[*] Babas, or guardian deities, of specific neighborhoods, a formal expression of their identity with and patronage of a group or area. Moreover, this
urban Dih[*] Baba appears to be a projection of rural patterns of sacred geography, another example of the penetration of a rural world view with its gramadevata[*] into the urban environment in the minds of lower-caste people, and witness to the connectedness of rural and urban areas.
The appeal of the Bir[*] Babas to their worshippers has many facets: issuing forth as the deified dead of the lower classes, the Birs[*] are directly identified with those whom they champion. They are among the immanent and "awake" deities in whom people hold their faith in the degenerate age of the Kali[*] Yuga. The establishment, worship, and celebration of the shrines require no orthodox mediation; at the same time these activities are difficult to oppose overtly. The increasingly conspicuous celebration of Bir Baba shrines and the growth in the actual number of shrines is no doubt part of the trend toward lower-class patronage of public events and celebrations noted by Nita Kumar (1984), with the Birs providing a religious and organizational focus for social groups who lack other appropriate objects of patronage.