Page images
PDF
EPUB

obviate the necessity of their travelling to Benares, and then returnilig to Gaya, another Pisach-Mochan has been erected in the latter place, as representative of that in Benares, where they may perform imijai or religious rites, and thus, after the payment of the prescribed fees to the priests (a sine qua non), acquire

the full stock of merit which would have accrued to ‘

them had they really visited the Pisach in Benares.

In addition to several small melds or festivals, a very.

large one is held every year at Pisach-Mochan. This melei is called Lot-a-Bhanta, from the singular custom which prevails, on that occasion, of grinding the vegetable called bhamfai, or egg-plant, and mixing it with flour, forming it into cakes, which are eaten at the meld. The tank is a square, with ghats or stairs on the four sides. A portion of the ghat, to the east, was erected, about eighty years ago, by Gopal Das Sahu; and the remaining portion, and also a temple on the bank, by a Hindu lady, named Mirch Bai, about the same time. The ghat and wall, to the west, date from the same period ; the former, together with the tower rising above it, having been erected by a Hindu, Balwant Bao Bakira, and the latter, by a Mohammedan, Mirza Khurram Shah, of Delhi. The ghz'it to the north was built more than a hundred years ago, by Raja Muralidhar; and that to the south, which bears upon it the marks of age, partly by Raja S’iva Sambar, some three hundred years ago, and partly by Binaik Rao, a few years since.

On the eastern bank of the tank, occupying a prominent position, are two temples, one of which is a

modern structure, and was built by Nakku Misr, a servant of the Government; and 'the other is that erected by Mirch Bai, already spoken of. The latter only presents features of interest. The foundations of this temple are raised some distance above the level of the neighbouring street. Its roof is flat; and, in the centre of it, a peepul and a banyan tree have fixed their roots, while their trunks rise up high into the air. On all the four sides of the temple are small shrines or niches, containing a great collection of idols. Here is Siva; next to him, the hideous head of the demon Pisach-Mochan; and, beyond it, the four-handed god Vishnu, holding in one hand a conch, in another a lotos, in a third a club, and in a fourth a discus, while a garland of lotoses hangs from his neck. Next to him is his wife Lakshmi, who has an image of the Sun on her left; beyond which is the figure of a Brahman, in stone. Then comes a shrine in which is a large red idol representing the Monkeygod Hanuman. All these are on one side of the temple; and immediately round the corner to the east is a curious figure of the god Ganes, who, instead of one elephant’s trunk, which he commonly possesses, has, in this case, five. All the remaining sides are similarly decorated with deities, with the exception of the west side facing the tank, which has fewer in number than the rest. Away from the temple itself, but resting upon the raised pedestal on which the temple stands, is one of those curious stones representing a multitude of tiny shrines, found in various places in Benares.

Suraj-kund is a large tank situated on the south-west side of the city, and originally consisted of twelve wells dedicated to the Sun. Two of the wells are still traceable beneath the surface of the water. A temple is above the tank; and on the same side are stairs leading down to the water. A few paces distant is a temple to the Sun, called, by the natives, Suraj-Narayan, which was erected by the Raja of Kotah-bundi, who is the owner of the land in this neighbourhood. On the floor of the temple is a large round flat stone, of ancient appearance, which is worshipped as the solar deity. The day for the special worship of the Sun is Itwar or Sunday. A small building stands detached from the temple, and, in a hole in its floor, the ceremony of the ham is performed, which consists in certain offerings consumed by fire.. Wood is first placed over the hole, upon which the offerings are scattered, and are then burnt to ashes. While the sacrifice is going on, it is customary for a Pandit to read portions of the Si’irya-purana, or the Purana inscribed to the Sun. This shrine is also called Sambadit, from A'ditya, the Sun, and Sdmba, son of Jambavati, a wife of Krishna. Tradition states, that one day this youth committed a very serious offence, for which his father pronounced a curse upon him, so that he became a leper. Whereupon his mother pleaded with Krishna for him; and, at length, the god said, that, if he proceeded to Benares and practised asceticism, if he built a tank and bathed in its waters, and if he made an image of the Sun and worshipped it, he should be healed of his disease. All this he is reported to have done; and, the tradition adds, he was healed. Hence, it is affirmed, the round stone above referred to is called Sambadit.

A mutilated figure of the god Ashtang-Bhairo stands near Suraj-kund, in a small temple open in front. There are eight idols bearing the name of Bhairo in Benares, to each and all of which pilgrims resort. .This image was mutilated by that fierce iconoclast, ‘the Emperor Aurungzeb.

The temple of Dhruveswar, or the Pole Star, is also in this quarter of the city. It is said that Dhruv, a Bishi or Saint, afterwards the Pole Star, once visited Benares, and that S’iva, honouring his sanctity and devotion, united his name with his own, so that they might be worshipped in the same temple, as a united and individual deity. But this legend is an outgrowth from popular etymology; for the word iéwar, in Dhruveswara, ‘Lord Dhruva,’ has been ignorantly confounded with a familiar synonym of S’iva, i.e., is’war, or ‘Lord’ by eminence. The old temple of Dhruveswar fell down some time since; and, in its place, a new one has been erected, which stands on an elevation at the corner of an extensive enclosure, in the midst of which is a large temple dedicated to Siva, built by some Gosains or devotees, upwards of seventy years ago.

129

CHAPTER X.

THE Man-Mandil Ghét-Temple of DalbhyeF'war.—Temple of the Moon or Somes'war.—The Man-Mandil Observatory erected by Raja Jay Sinh—Description of its Instruments.—The Nepalese Temple.

THE Man-Mandil Ghat is principally remarkable for the old Observatory, situated upon the banks of the Ganges at this spot, and which will, presently, be more particularly referred to. This lofty building gives a noble appearance to the ghat, and commands a fine view of the river. Near the entrance to it is a collection of ancient idols which have been worn away by time and perpetual sacrificial ablutions. Several of these are figures of monkeys, representing the god Hanuman. A flag waves from the top of a high staff at this spot, in honour of the Raja of Jaypore,— the proprietor of this entire Mahalla or ward of the city,—whose ancestor Raja Jay Sinh erected the Observatory. In a lane leading to the ghat is the temple of Dalbhyeswar, which deity is supposed to exercise great power over the clouds, in procuring rain. The image is in a cistern, low down in the centre of the temple. If the idol is properly worshipped and kept drenched with water, pious Hin

« PreviousContinue »