Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Mahabarat has but a few words to give us an idea of ancient Indraprastha. The town is described to have been fortified by being intrenched on all sides, and surrounded by towering walls. A beautiful palace contributed to adorn the infant city, which gradually attained to eminence, and became the seat of learning, genius, and art. Merchants frequented from different quarters for the purposes of trade, the city rose in affluence, and bore glorious testimony to Judishthira's universal supremacy.'* Nobody needs to be told that the towering walls now surrounding Delhi, as well as the fort and palace within their precincts, are other than those referred to by the poet. In its present form, the Poorana-Killah is altogether a Mahomedan structure, and there does not exist a single carved stone of the original city of Judishthira.' But the spot is classic ground in every inch, and stands before us covered with the glory of ancient deeds. Here stood the citadel defended by the Gandira of Arjoona,—but now occupied, perhaps, by the Keela Kona mosque of Hoomayun. There, probably, was the chamber in which the Pandava brothers held council with Krishna and Vyas,—but on which now stands the Shere Mundil, or the palace of Shere Shah. Yonder

Yonder may have been the spot on which was erected the great hall of Rajshuy Yugnyaa political ceremony resembling the lerées and durbars of our modern Viceroys. Never was there such an august assemblage of the élite of old India. The occasion had been graced by the presence of a hundred thousand Rishis, together with all the crowned heads of the realm. There were princes from Cashmere and Camboja beyond the Indus, from Anga and Assam, and from Bungo and Berar, to do fealty to the sovereign head. Rich diamonds and pearls,-gold that had been watched, perhaps, by the fabled Yacsha,—valuable brocades and other choice specimens of silk,-curious iron and ivory manufactures, -weapons of different variety, invented by the military genius of the ancient Hindoos,-furs and feathers of great rarity,—and horses and elephants, are mentioned to have been brought by the Rajahs for presents in token of their allegiance. In the midst of all, the gaze and admiration of the assembly was that inestimable diamond on the royal crown, which in our ages is known under the name of Koh-i-noor. Judishthira was no myth. The coins of his time have been discovered. His era was in all records and documents prior to the Samrat of Vicramaditya. But' there is not a stone, or broken column, for the New Zealander of Macaulay—a being long before anticipated in the foretold Yarana of our Puranists—to sit upon, and moralize over the evanescence of great cities, and cast horoscopes of empires. He wanders sorrowfully, and bethinks him of Indraprastha, that once triumphed in existence, and promised itself immortality. His imagination paints that city to have covered the banks of the Jumna for several miles, to have been fortified by many a tower and battlement, and to have sheltered within its walls large numbers of a busy population--a city in which the nobles dwelt in splendid palaces, and were clothed in the richest products of the loom-in which envoys and ambassadors paraded the streets in chariots, and upon elephants-in which heroes were nursed in amphitheatres to perform the most daring exploits-in which poets celebrated the deeds of warriors, and sages discussed the most erudite points in philosophy—and in which flourished the arts and sciences that gave the leadership of the human race to the Aryan Hindoos, and left in their hands the development of the civilization of mankind. But over these the hand of irrevocable time has spread a pall never to be lifted, and the race, who acted all this glorious drama, has passed away, leaving very little upon record to tell the tale of their times, for the Hindoos either never had, or have unfortunately lost, their Herodotus and Xenopbon.'

pendent sources, mutually support each other, and, therefore, seem to me to be more worthy of credit than any other Hindoo dates of so remote a period.'— Cunningham.

* Rev. Bannerjee's Encyclopædia Bengalensis.

Indraprastha was a city of which posterity can now hardly trace the site. The only spot that has any claim to have belonged to that ancient city, is a place of pilgrimage on the Jumna called the Negumbode Ghaut. Popular tradition regards this ghaut as the place where Judishthira, after his performance of the Asuramedha, or the horse sacrifice, celebrated the Hom." The position of Negumbode is immediately outside the northern wall of the present city. There is held a fair

* Local tradition contradicts the Mahabarat, which states the As. wamedha to have been performed at Hastinapoor on the Ganges. The Negumbode may be the spot where Pirthi-raj celebrated his As. wamedha. But it had acquired a sacredness from before the time of that prince, and was a place of resort where his grandfather Visal Dera had put up an inscription to transmit the fame of his conquests.

[ocr errors]

whenever the new moon falls on a Monday. It is said to be held in honour of the river Jumna. The stream has receded from the steps of the ghaut, and there grow on its top a few shady trees. The traveller, in coming up the bridge of boats, has a view of this ghaut on his right.

Sleeman's story of a full-grown fly sitting upon Judishthira's dish of rice, and prognosticating the approach of the millennium, is all bosh. In Delhi, flies then must have been as much a plague as now.

The rooms are full of them. They attack you in countless myriads, and there is no respite for their annoyance. Domitian is perhaps emulated here in every household.

In vain did Hoomayun try to do away with the name of Indrapat, and substitute that of Deen-pannan. None but pedantic or bigoted Mussulmans make use of this name.

The common people either called it Indrapat or Pooranah Killah. Neither could Shere Shah have it called after him as Sheregurh ;—the voice of tradition is not easily silenced. Historians state that Hoomayun repaired the old fort of Indrapat. In that case, there must have been ancient foundations on which the present massive walls and lofty towers have been built, and it rests with the antiquary to investigate whether any such foundations really exist, and might not be traced to the age of Judishthira. The Pooranah Killah, as it now stands, is nearly rectangular in shape, and its walls are over a mile in circuit. There was a ditch round it, once communicating with the Jumna. The fort had four gates, one in the middle of each face,

of which the south-west gate alone is now open. This gateway is ornamented, as are other parts of the battlements, with encaustic tiles. Inside the walls, the space is filled with huts, -and a petty Mussulman Izardar now lords over the ground on which stood the citadel and palace of the Pandavas.

It was getting near the hour of breakfast, and nothing would have made us so glad as to have found out the famous kitchen of Dropudee, and seen some vestige of its ancient luxury. But the principal object that now meets the eye in the interior of the Pooranah Killah, is the Keela Kona mosque, said to have been commenced by Hoomayun and completed by Shere Shah. This mosque has five horse-shoe arches, decorated with blue tiles and marble, and is a favourable specimen of the architecture of the Affghan period.' It is in capital preservation, with the exception of the central arch, the work on the top of which has been a good deal ruined. The Keela Kona ‘is perhaps one of the most tasteful mosques in or near Delhi, and is remarkable for its richly inlaid work and graceful pendentives. The prevailing material of the centre arch is red cut sandstone and black slate, and towards the ground white marble and black slate ; the carving throughout being very ornate. The two side arches are composed of simple redstone, picked out with yellow glaze and black slate finely carved; the outermost arches are still plainer in construction, the outer walls changing from red to grey stone. Under the archways are the entrance arches, that of the central arch being

« PreviousContinue »