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PANCHGANGÁ Ghát.—Legend respecting it. - Lakshmaṇbála Temple.
The Minarets. - Temple of Kámeswar. The Machaudarí Tírth or
THE Panchgangá Ghát is one of the five chief places of pilgrimage on the banks of the Ganges. The Hindus believe that five rivers meet at this spot. Their names are Dhútapápá, Jarṇanada, Kirañanadí, Saraswatí, and (Gangá) Ganges. Respecting these streams, Mr. Prinsep makes the following observations:—“A virgin,"
"named D'horátpápá, whom Brahmá pronounces to be more pure than three and a half crores of the holy tíraths (places of pilgrimage), having cause of complaint against her admirer Dharma, politely pronounces a malediction upon him, and turns him into the Dharmanada (river of virtue). He, in revenge, converts her into a rock; but her father, Vedasoor, in compassion, metamorphoses her again into the Chandrakanta (moon stone), which, melting in the moon, forms a stream, called D'horátpápá (channel of sin), an appropriate bride for the river of virtue. The third stream, called Kirnnaddá (brook of rays), was produced from the perspiration of the Sun, while performing penance in honour of Mangulgouree (a form of Devi), on an adjoining ghát. These three, with the Ganges and Saraswatí, complete the number of Panchanada, to the satisfaction even of the deities themselves, who condescend to bathe on the spot during their residence in Kashi.” 1
Only one of these streams, namely, the Ganges, is visible; but the remaining four are supposed, by the credulous, to be somewhere under ground. The ghát is broad and deep, and exceedingly strong. Its stairs and turrets are all of stone, and, from their great number, afford accommodation to a multitude of worshippers and bathers. The turrets are low and hollow, and are employed as temples or shrines.
Each one contains several deities, which are, mostly, emblems of Siva. An ordinary observer would be in ignorance of the fact that these are filled with idols, and would scarcely imagine that he was walking upon the top of a long succession of shrines, and over the heads of hundreds of gods. He would have to descend several steps, before discovering the sacrilege which he was ignorantly committing; but, having done so, he would at once perceive that the turrets are open towards the river, and are, therefore, very convenient for devotional purposes.
The platform above the ghát, along which runs a narrow, though excellent, road, is below the steep bank of the river. From the platform a number of stairs thread their way up the bank, uniting the ghát with this quarter of the city. The same remark is, for the most part, applicable to the other gháts. They are all connected together by a road, which is, in some places, paved, and in the hot
Prinsep’s Views of Benares-Second Series.
weather, is, in parts, covered over with an awning, under which the people walk. From this road innumerable stairs, chiefly of stone, pass up the banks, and communicate with the alleys and streets leading into
One of the flights of stairs rising up from the Panchgangá Ghát enters a large building, known as Lakshmaņbála, which it ascends, and then issues into a lane at the summit of the bank, leading into the streets of the city. The building, although presenting an extensive frontage towards the river, is, in reality, hardly more than a mere casemate to the bank. It is used as a temple, and is dedicated to Lakshmanbála. The principal room is in an upper story, the roof of which is supported on carved wooden pillars of a deep black colour. The walls are embellished with paintings, many of which are representations of green trees, while others are pictures set in frames. Devotees are seated in the room, counting their beads, and muttering to themselves the names of their gods. Music is also performed, the plaintive strains of which fall upon the ear pleasingly. Near the players, at one end of the room, are three idols, in a row. That in the centre is dressed in blue, and has a blue turban on his head, and a garland thrown over his shoulders, hanging down in front. On his left is a gilded disk, let into the wall, displaying nose, eyes, cheeks, and mouth, and a nimbus, and is intended as a representation of the Sun. On his right is a disk, representing the Moon, made of a pale metal, probably silver, and exhibiting the various parts of the face, as in the case of the Sun, but without gilding or glory. A few feet in front of these idols, a small lamp is kept burning. The worshippers pass in and out of this room, and perform their devotions as though it were an ordinary temple. It is the only temple in Benares, however, so far as my observation has extended, in which persons, seating themselves on the floor, engage formally in religious exercises. The temples in Benares, and in Northern India generally, with their courts, porches, and subordinate shrines, though they, in some instances, cover a considerable area, are, for the greater part, of very narrow dimensions, and contain only one small room,
in which, besides the presiding deity, several inferior divinities are frequently placed, leaving not room enough for a dozen persons to present their offerings at one and the same time, and to observe the prescribed ceremonies in an orderly manner.
Ascending another series of stairs from the Panchganga Ghát, you approach the lofty mosque of Aurungzeb, known, by the natives, as "Mádhudás ká Dewhrá.” The edifice itself is above the bank of the river; but its foundations sink deep into the ground; and their enormous stone breastworks extend far down the bank. Indeed, it is said that the foundations of the mosque are as deep as the building is high. Although more than a century and a half has elapsed since this structure was reared, yet it appears as solid and strong as on the day of its completion. The massive pile is on the very edge of a steep bank or cliff; yet not a stone of it has been loosened. There is a high wall, next to the street running by the western side of the mosque,