« PreviousContinue »
Dattatreya. This Yogí, with the Moon and Durvásas for brothers, was son of Atri. He is a rare object of homage in the present day. Mánsarwar was built by Raja Mán Sinh. At this one spot there are, I conjecture, upwards of one thousand idols.
Near the eastern entrance of Mánsarwar, at the corner of a street, are two antique figures, one of which stands on a pedestal, while the other is inserted in the wall of a house. The former is Bálkfishņa, who is kneeling down, while his head and chest are thrown back so as to assume a very remarkable appearance; the head being in a horizontal instead of a perpendicular position. The other is Chaturbhuj. A few steps further off is Máneswar, a temple erected by the same Raja Man Sinh spoken of above. The Raja was influenced, most probably, by his own name, in selecting the divinity he has here honoured with a shrine.
In this neighbourhood, but in a south-westerly direction from Mánsarwar, is the monstrous idol Tilubhandeswar, which is, by measurement, fifteen feet round and four and a half feet high. It is simply a large stone, and resembles the idol Jágeswar, in the Ausánganj Mahalla of the city, to which, as already observed, the gentry and nobility of Benares pay their devotions. Tilubhandeswar is so called because, it is said, the god daily increases in size to the extent of one til, a seed of sesamum, from which oil is extracted and sold in the shops. The god inhabits a temple, the basement of which, together with a small piece of ground in connexion with it, is raised to a considerable height above the streets in the neighbourhood, the ascent being ef
fected by steps. The temple, consequently, is a prominent object in this quarter of the city. A sculptured bull lies crouching in the verandah opposite the idol. On either side of the entrance to the temple are small shrines, containing a number of idols, one of which bears the strange name of Sámkátik. This idol is rare in the Benares temples. Passing round to the east side of the temple, several niches in the wall are seen. These contain numerous idols. In one is a representation of the sole of Vishņu's foot, in marble, besides three snake-gods, three emblems of Mahadeva, and an old figure of Gaņeś. Another has a large black idol of Siva, with head, hands, and feet. This idol is very seldom found in Benares; as Siva is almost always worshipped through a phallic symbol, which is the commonest and most popular object of adoration in every quarter of the city. The idol is good-looking, and is seated in a meditative posture, its hair falling in ringlets upon its shoulders. A plantain-tree, carved in stone, stands on either side of him; and, in a corner, is a figure of Sámkátik who is reading to Siva. The verandah of the temple was once beautifully embellished; but the small and delicate paintings which crowd the roof and capitals of the pillars are exceedingly faded.
On a second platform, lower than that on which the Tilubhandeswar temple stands, is a peepul tree, resting upon which is a large mutilated statue. Its head is two feet in height, and a foot in breadth; and its body is of proportionate size. The height of the head is partly owing to the mode in which the hair is arranged upon it; for it is plaited and bound round the crown, so as to
have the appearance of a high head-dress. The face is round, and not at all of the Hindu expression. The Brahmanical cord passes over one shoulder, and descends to the waist; but, notwithstanding this circumstance, I am strongly inclined to think that the figure is rather of the Buddhist than of the Hindu era. The presence of the cord is no difficulty in the way of this supposition; inasmuch as several of the pre-historical Buddhas were Brahmans. The hair is arranged in a manner altogether different from that which the modern Hindus practise. It is said that Aurungzeb mutilated this statue. The thighs are imbedded in the ground; but the legs, I was told, from the knees downwards, are not in existence. The statue is symmetrically proportioned, and its parts are finely chiselled. Hindu sculptors of the present day are utterly incapable of producing such a piece of workmanship; and, therefore, one is curious to know how it came here, and from what place it was brought. The priest in attendance gave it the name of Bírbhadra, a famous messenger of Siva. A multitude of idols, not fewer than thirty, are placed around him and the trunk of the tree against which he leans. There is a neem tree a few paces off, at the foot of which reclines the eight-handed goddess Ashțbhují; and close to her is a collection of nine deities. In the enclosure of this temple are several images of considerable antiquity. A bull, especially, in the lower enclosure, bears marks of immense age, and formerly, it is said, stood in front of the idol Tilubhandeswar.
On the way from Kedárnáth temple to Daśáśamedh temple various objects of interest are to be seen. At
one place several strange idols have been fixed into the walls, from which they jut out in bass-reliefs, and catch an occasional sprinkling of holy water, or flower blossoms, from the passers-by. Among them are the Naugrah, or planets, represented as deities. The temple of Dulareswar, also, although modern, is worthy of notice. It was erected by a Bengali, named Sátu Bábú, more than fifty years ago, and is dedicated to Siva. It contains a large symbol of this divinity, in jet-black stone or marble, from which a slab, of the same kind of stone, projects at right angles. The lofty temple stands in the centre of the enclosure; and on either side is a row of seven temples, all built uniformly, with towers above, and conical symbols of Siva below. The god in each of the fifteen temples in this enclosure is decorated with a white streak, made with sandal-wood, which is renewed and obliterated daily.
At Chauki Ghát, on the banks of the river, is a peepul tree, part of the trunk of which is encompassed with masonry, to the height of several feet; and out of its centre the tree seems to spring. The pedestal thus formed is literally crowded with idols. Several are figures of snakes; and one represents the heads of five snakes in a row, the necks being erect, and the heads curved, as though in the attitude of springing. All are in stone; and the entire collection does not number fewer than fifty. In front of this peepul tree is the temple of Rukmeswar; and several other temples are close at hand. In Ahyabar Galí, a narrow street, is a banyan tree, which
has a pedestal round its base, somewhat similar to that of the peepul tree just described; but, in this case, a small shrine is attached to the pedestal. Near it is an old figure of Gaṇeś. In Kewal Galí a swing is hung up in what, at first sight, appears to be a shop. Beyond the swing, by the opposite wall, sits the tenarmed goddess Durga, with a crown on her head, decorated with gay clothing, and set off by a nimbus painted on the wall behind; her priest having intended her to look, not like a mere queen of earth, but like the queen of heaven. By the swing sits the priest, who, when so disposed, places in it some of the idols of the shrine, but not Durga herself, and gratifies them with a swing.
The idols and fanes in the Bengali Tolá, and, indeed, in this neighbourhood generally, are exceedingly
All the latter, with, perhaps, one exception, and most of the former, are of comparatively recent date. In regard to the temples, it is possible that part of the Tilubhandeswar temple may be old. The priest told me, that, at the back of one of the small shrines at the entrance to the temple, was an inscription, which stated that the temple was erected by a Raja upwards of four hundred and sixty years ago. He rubbed off part of the whitewash, in order that I might see a portion of it. The horizontal lines of the inscription, however, were intercepted by the idol in the shrine; and, therefore, it was impossible to interpret what was written. It would be interesting to have the entire inscription copied; for, if the temple is really of the date traditionally assigned to it, this