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which is continued round to the north-east corner. A door in the northern wall opens the way into the enclosure, in full front of the mosque; the latter being situated on its southern side. From the eastern side commences the long flight of stone stairs descending to the river. The enclosure is not sufficiently spacious to give the observer an ample view of the minarets; but, nevertheless, it is extensive enough to enable him to gain a satisfactory idea of their symmetry and elegance. The mosque itself exhibits nothing striking, and, indeed, can hardly be called beautiful. It is plain and common-place; and, were it not for the minarets rising above, it would not be accounted a noticeable object in Benares. The minarets themselves have a delicate gracefulness about them which it is impossible to portray in words; and my photographic representation fails to convey the exactness and exquisiteness of the reality. I do not remember their exact height; but it is not less than one hundred and fifty feet, reckoning from the floor of the mosque. When it is remembered that the bank of the river on which this edifice stands is nearly the same number of feet above the bed of the stream, it will at once be perceived that the minarets occupy a very prominent position in a panoramic view of the city. Although many of the buildings of Benares, especially those in the neighbourhood of the gháts, are of a great height, yet they are all overtopped by the minarets, the clear forms of which, pointing upwards to the sky, may be discerned at the distance of many miles from the city. They were, originally, some fifty feet higher than they now are, and were cut down to their present height, in consequence of exhibiting signs of weakness and insecurity. There is a staircase in each tower, from the summit of which you gain a complete view of Benares and its suburbs, and of a portion of the surrounding country; but the ascent and descent are attended with considerable fatigue.
It is astonishing that this mosque, although so much visited by Europeans, and regarded, by them, as one of the chief sights of Benares, should be almost abandoned by the Mohammedans. On Fridays, a small number of the faithful assemble within its walls for religious purposes, but on no other day; and, during the remaining six days of the week, it is handed over to the care of two men. These consist of a Mulla and his servant, who alone have charge of the building. It seems that the office held by the Mullá was formerly held by his ancestors, who received it, possibly, from Aurungzeb himself.
A small village was, at one time, in possession of the mosque, from the proceeds of which its expenses were partially paid: but it has lapsed to the Government; and, consequently, the expenses of repairing and cleaning the mosque, so far as I was able to learn, are defrayed by the contributions of visitors. Its existence in this part of city, which is almost entirely inhabited by Hindus, affords the strongest proof of the rancour and violence with which the emperor Aurungzeb opposed the idolatrous practices of the people, and endeavoured to propagate his own religion. Tradition says, that, on the site of the mosque, a temple once stood, which was removed in order to make room for it; and there is every reason to believe that the tradition is true. The Government takes care of the minarets, and keeps them in order.
The temple of Kámeswar, in the northern division of Benares, is one of the few temples, in the city, not of comparatively modern date; and yet, like them, it by no means belongs to a very distant epoch. It is remarkable, also, for the vast accumulation of shrines and images within its boundaries. At the entrance, towards the street, is a temple, with a group of deities inside, who are supposed to guard the passage. Passing along, we come to the first court, in which is a kettledrum, which is beaten at intervals during the day, in honour of the presiding divinity. Proceeding into the second court, an extraordinary sight presents itself. The entire area of the quadrangle is literally filled with temples, so that it seems impossible to insert another. The quadrangle is not large, when compared with some others in Benares. All the temples are painted red, and have short steeples. The principal one is dedicated to Kámanánáth, or Kámeswar, the Lord of Desire, who, according to Hindu belief, assists his worshippers in the realization of whatever they aspire to achieve. Another temple is inhabited by the god Rám, Sítá (his wife), the goddess Lakshmí, and the Sun. The temples altogether amount to ten or a dozen, each containing several idols.
On the north side of the enclosure is a peepul tree; and on a platform, surrounding its base, is a group of idols. One of these is Narsinh, an incarnation of
Vishņu, and a monster of horrible appearance.
His birth is said to have been out of a pillar or post, which split down the middle, in order to admit him into the world. The two parts of the pillar are represented in the stone figure, one being on each side of the idol, which, in the form of a man with two horns on his head, is seated in the fork of the divided pillar, gloating over the victim who lies prostrate across his lap. This is a daitya or demon, whom he is disembowelling and pulling to pieces with his nails, and greedily drinking his blood. Besides other images, there is the usual emblem of Siva, with a snake creeping up it; and on the horizontal stone, which is always connected with it, are carved ten other emblems, exact counterparts of the entire idol, with the exception of the snake. On the sides of the quadrangle, long narrow rooms open on the centre of the square; and these may be regarded as so many separate shrines, inasmuch as they are occupied by groups of deities. Two of these are filled with the peculiar emblems of Siva; and one of them holds as many as twenty-five. A third has a
figure of Narsinh, similar to that just described, and, also, the goddess Machaudarí, an immodest figure, seated on a peacock. There is, likewise, in the same room, an image of the Rishi Durvásas, whose asceticism is said to have been so vigorous, that he was raised, by its instrumentality, to an equality with the gods, and sat with Vishņu as his peer.
The temple of Kámanánáth is connected with a depressed plain close by, which was formerly an extensive jhíl or pond, and was then called the Machaudarí Tírth,