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Ghát, is a strikingly picturesque object, and does not fail to arrest the attention of every visitor to this quarter of the city. In its external appearance, it is altogether unlike the shrines erected by the Hindus for the practice of their religion.
DasásamEDH Ghát and Temple. Legend of Dasásamedh.—Siddheswari
Temple.-Chandra-Kúp, or Well of the Moon.- Temple of the goddess S'ankatá Deví.—S'ankatá Ghát.-— Rám Ghát.
To the south of the Man-Mandil Ghát is the Dasáśamedh Ghát, a spot exceedingly venerated by the natives of the city, as well as by pilgrims and devotees, and much frequented for its supposed sanctity.
It is one of the five celebrated places of pilgrimage in Benares. The other four are Así Sangam, Maņikarņiká, Panchgangá, and Barná Sangam. These five places, in addition to their proper attractions, are associated together, and furnish the devotee with a complete course of pilgrimage, in the same manner as a journey to Jagannath, or Gayá, or Benares, or Hardwár, is regarded as such. Proceeding from Así Ghát or Sangam, at the extreme south of the city, the pilgrim, having already performed proper religious ceremonies at this ghát, arrives at Daśášamedh, and worships the gods in the temple there, and, passing thence to Manikarņiká, bathes in the well. Having done this, he advances to Panchgangá, and on to Barná Sangam, the northern extremity of the city, at both which places he bestows the customary offerings, and pays reverence to
the deities peculiar to them. He has thus traversed the city from south to north, having kept upon the bank of the river throughout the whole distance, and passed over every ghát. This pilgrimage is called the Panch-tírth, to perform which is considered a very meritorious act.
The legend connected with the Daśáśamedh temple and ghát, as the foundation of the sanctity of both, and on account of which the Hindus regard them as the very gateway to heaven, must not be omitted here. It is another of the legends connected with the famous Divodás. It is said that Siva and Gaurí (his wife) were sitting together, one day, on the Mandaráchal mountain, when the former exhibited great distress of mind at not having received any intelligence from Benares for some time. The city was then in the hands of Raja Divodás, who, as already narrated, on accepting its sovereignty, had expelled from it all the gods, and Siva, the head of them all, amongst the number. Although Siva had sent several persons, successively, to inquire into the state of the city, yet none of them had returned ; inasmuch as, on reaching it, every one had been so captivated with its tranquillity and blessedness, as to have been powerless to quit so happy a region. In his anxiety, Siva thought to himself, that, should I send Brahmá (the first god of the Hindu triad), who is a dear friend of mine, he will, without fail, bring me word again about its condition. He then fixed his thoughts on Brahma, who, in obedience to the secret summons, was immediately at his side. On arriving, Siva unburthened his mind to him, and wished
him to proceed to Benares, and, when there, to devise some plan for the expulsion of Raja Divodás from the government of the city. Brahmá was quite ready to do what he could towards assisting his friend, and so took his departure for Benares, mounted on a goose. On reaching the holy city, he was enraptured with its appearance. He went all about it, and visited its temples, bazars, and gháts, with ever-increasing delight, and, at last, selected a spot for his own residence, and transformed himself into the form of an aged Brahman. After a time he sought an interview with the Raja, and was received by him with much respect. The Raja begged he would ask of him whatever he wished to have. Brahmá replied to this kind solicitation, that he would take nothing from him, but that he had come to Benares for the performance of ascetic rites. While conversing together, it struck Brahmá, that, if he could cause the Raja to commit a sin, no matter how small, he would be obliged to lay down his authority over the sacred place, and to quit the kingdom. He, therefore, requested the Raja to give him all the essential materials for a special sacrifice, hoping that some little mistake would be made in the number or quality of them. These materials consisted of water taken from twenty-seven wells, leaves plucked from twenty-seven trees, and a multitude of other ingredients, twenty-seven times told, and derived from twenty-seven different sources. The Raja, in reply, said,
Good, take materials, not for one sacrifice merely, but for ten.” Presently, Brahmá left the Raja, and went and sat down upon the banks of the Ganges,
where materials for ten such sacrifices were brought to him. Not one ingredient was missing; all were perfectly complete. Brahmá then offered the ten sacrifices; and at each of them, a horse was consumed. The spot on which the ten sacrifices were offered Brahmá called Daśáśwamedha Ghát, or ghát of the ten horse-sacrifices,—from da'sa, ten; aśwa, a horse; and medha, sacrifice, which became, thenceforward, in Hindu estimation, a place of eminent sanctity, and endued with the power of conferring a multitude of blessings on all who sacrificed and bathed there.
Brahmá constituted Daśášamedh the prince of places of pilgrimage, equal to Prayág (Allahabad). Should a Hindu, therefore, wishing to proceed to Prayag, at the time of the melá or religious festival there, not be able to undertake the journey, he may, at this ghát, ebtain all the merit which he would have acquired, had he actually completed the pilgrimage to Prayag, and bathed at the sacred junction of the Ganges and the Jumna. Brahmá also dedicated two images in honour of Siva, one of which he called Daśáśwamedheśwar, and the other, Brahmeswar. The former is a plain black stone, of enormous dimensions, being not less than five or six feet in girth, and three or four in height, in front of which is a bull, also of large proportions. The other image is much smaller. Whoever worships Daśáśwamedheśwar will, it is supposed, escape all future transmigration; and his soul, instead of passing into a man, a mouse, or a frog, will go straight to paradise,—that is, the heaven of Siva. In like manner, he who worships Brahmeswar will,