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As worshippers are prohibited from entering these temples, a small platform has been erected on the ghát below, which is decorated with a select group of deities, who receive the homage due to the gods in the temples above. Here may be seen Sangameswar and, likewise, the sacred feet of Vishņu. The latter are, also, found at Manikarņiká Ghát. Here are, also, the Monkey-god, two small stone figures of Satís, and a curious mythological stone, on the sides of which eight incarnations are carved in bass-relief.
On the summit of the Barna Sangam Ghát, a few remains of an old fort are visible. There is no doubt that, at one time, this fort commanded the city, which was then situated much nearer this spot than it now is. The population in the neighbourhood is exceedingly scanty; and the locality itself is now so far removed from the city, that it can be regarded as only a somewhat distant suburb of Benares.
To the west of the Barna Ghát is a plateau of elevated land, nearly a mile long and four hundred yards broad, overlooking both the city and the Ganges. The river Ganges forms a defence to the entire south-east face; the river Barna constitutes a wet ditch to the north and north-east faces; while an abrupt depression of the ground to the north-west,—said to be an old bed of the same stream,—completes the natural strength of the position. The advantage of this position, in a military point of view, was perceived by the old native rulers of Benares, who erected the fort above spoken of on the eastern edge of this tract, immediately above the Barna Sangam, but was not recognized by its British governors until the year 1857, "of scarlet memory.' The terrible events of that year brought out, in bold relief, the fatal absurdity of the policy which had led our military authorities to neglect the banks of the Ganges, and to place some of their largest and most important cantonments at an insecure distance from that river. On the 4th of June, 1857, the mutiny broke out at Benares, and, through the good providence of God, was speedily quelled, although, in the action that was fought, one hundred and eighty gallant British soldiers had to contend with two regiments of native infantry and one of cavalry. After the battle, the position of the European residents,—who were all cooped up in one large building, known as the Old Mint,—and of the few English soldiers who protected them, was one of extreme peril; inasmuch as the military lines, including the Mint, were at a distance of at least three miles from the Ganges, with the city lying between; and it seemed a probable contingency that the routed sepoys, rallying again, would return to Benares, and, having excited to revolt its disaffected inhabitants, would come, in overwhelming numbers, upon the small and isolated party of Europeans, and cut off from them all means of escape, and all hope of successful resist
This contingency, apparently so likely at the time, fortunately was not realized. The insecurity of the position held by the authorities was, however, soon discerned ; and, at an early stage of the rebellion, measures were taken for fortifying the elevated land in the rear of the Barna Ghát and in the neighbourhood of the old native fort. Embankments were thrown up with incredible speed; and a citadel was soon completed, capable of making a stout resistance to a numerous enemy. The fortress was gradually strengthened, so that it may be regarded as having been, until abandoned, one of the strongest and most extensive in India. The heights overlook the entire city, which lies completely at the mercy of the force in occupation of them.
Several objects of interest to the antiquary are enclosed within the falls of the new fort. A spacious tomb, built by Lál Khán, a Mohammedan servant of a former Raja of Benares, is standing here. Passing through the western gate of the fort, you presently come to the building, which is situated a short distance off the road, on the right hand side. It occupies the centre of an extensive quadrangle, which is ornamented with four towers, one at each corner. The tomb itself consists of a massive tower, rising high above the rest, and is crowned with a dome, from the middle of which a spire emerges, pointing to the heavens. A large portion of its outer surface is still bright with the colours, chiefly blue, with which it was originally embellished. The colouring plaster, when minutely examined, has a glassy appearance, not unlike porcelain; and, although it has been for years exposed to a burning sun and to the periodic rains, yet it is questionable whether the colours have lost, from this cause, any of their freshness. The decay of the underlying masonry has, in some places, been a source of injury to the external plaster, by causing it to crumble away; but, where it has been preserved, the colours are strong and vivid. Within the building are three tombs, and on the platform outside are four more.
A few steps from the outer wall of the fort is a long building, sustained by a quadruple row of stone columns. On examination, it is evident that the building, although now a continuous whole, may formerly have consisted of two detached parts. One proof of this is, that the pillars of one portion are all uniform, while those of the other are very different in character, and that the roof of the first division is lower than the roof of the second. All the pillars are carved; and some of them, namely, those in the loftier room, which are of a variety of patterns, are most elaborately sculptured. As specimens of native art, they occupy a high position : indeed, I know of nothing superior to them among genuine native productions. They exhibit a refinement of taste, and yet a correctness and beauty of execution, that are rarely to be met with in India, except in ancient sculpture. The favourite lotos-plant, with its flower, its seed-pod, its stalk, and long flowing leaves, which have an exquisite effect in representing the tracery known as the scroll-pattern, and the Brahmani duck in various attitudes, are some of the prominent objects carved upon the pillars.
It is because this style of architecture has not been produced in India in later days, that we must assign this fine colonnade to an ancient epoch. Nor are we in doubt as to the period to which it should be referred. Its similarity to the later Buddhist architecture of the opening centuries of the Christian era is amply sufficient to solve the question of its date. In my belief, there existed, on this spot, a Buddhist monastery, of which the colonnade formed a portion of one side of its enclosure. A further description of this building is given in the twentieth chapter.
At Ráj Ghát a pontoon bridge crosses the Ganges in the dry season, but not during the rains; and along it an immense amount of traffic of all kinds passes to and from the railway station on the other side. To the south of Ráj Ghát, but at some distance off, is Praládh Ghát, stretching out a little into the stream. It is picturesquely situated, and commands a fine view of Benares and its suburbs.
To the north of the road leading from the Ráj Ghát Fort to the cantonments, at a distance of from three quarters of a mile to a mile from the former place, is the Kapilmochan Tank. It is also called Bhairo ká Táláo, or the tank of Bhairo. This is a strong and wellbuilt structure, the stairs and foundations being of solid stone. On the high ground to the north of the tank stands a pillar, from seven to eight feet in height, and three in thickness, situated in the midst of a slightlyelevated stone chabútra or platform. This is the Lát or pillar of Siva. It is representative of an ancient pillar, which formerly stood on this spot, and was thrown down by the Mohammedans, in a struggle between them and the Hindus, some sixty years ago. The original Lát was famous among the Hindu population, both for its antiquity and for its sanctity. There is some ground for supposing that the present pillar is a fragment of the ancient one; and that it, very