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over the temples, the sacred wells, streams, and reservoirs, and other holy places about the city. They superintend the worship of the people, and give directions re~ specting the numberless ceremonies which are performed. Every sacred spot has some peculiarity connected with it;
_ and it is of great moment that no punctilio should be
omitted. They receive the offerings, the alms, the public dinners, and the good things which devout Hindus are ever ready to bestow. Some of them—not a few in number—are termed “Sons of the Ganges,” and are chiefly found on the banks of that stream, aiding the devotions of the numerous worshippers daily resorting thither.
Devotees and pilgrims, separately, or in crowds, are seen entering or departing from the city constantly throughout the year, especially on occasion of great festivals. They come from all parts of India. Many carry back with them the sacred water of the Ganges, in small bottles hermetically sealed, placed in baskets hanging from the extremities of poles, which they bear upon their shoulders. The poor deluded sensualist, whose life has been passed in abominable courses, or the covetous malwijan or native banker, who has made himself rich by a long course of grinding extortion, or the fanatical devotee, more simple than a babe, yet sometimes guilty of the foulest crimes, still comes, as of old, from the remotest corners of India, as the sands of time are slowly ebbing away, and, fearful lest the last golden grains should escape before his long journey is ended, makes desperate efforts to hold on his course, till, at length, arriving at the sacred city and touching its hallowed soil, his anxious spirit becomes suddenly calm, a strange sense of relief comes over him, and he is at once cheered and comforted with the treacherous lie, that his sins are forgiven and his soul is saved.
In Benares, therefore, Hinduism may be said to dwell at home, in the bosom of its best friends and admirers,
courted by princes and wealthy natives, and aided and
sustained by innumerable resources and appliances of a material character, which give symbolical significance to its existence and authority. Her thousands of temples, her myriads of idols, her swarms of pilgrims, her hosts of daily worshippers, together with the pomp and circumstance and multifarious representations of idolatry, in their vast aggregate, cause the Hindu religion to be visible to the eye, in this city, in a manner and degree unknown elsewhere. Were a stranger, visiting Benares, to wander about amongst its shrines and sacred places, and to take note merely of the manifold signs and manifestations of Hinduism which he would find there, and then to quit the city without inquiring further, without turning his attention to those silent and unobtrusive, yet potent, influences which are undermining it in every direction, and are in operation throughout all classes of native society, even in this capital and fortress of idolatry, he would imagine that the city was wholly devoted to the practice and ceremonies of heathenism, that no ray of light had penetrated its midnight darkness, and that it was an impracticable and impossible task to attempt its enlightenment and reformation.
We come, therefore, to this conclusion,——justified, I think, by the foregoing observations,—that there are few cities in the world of greater interest to the Christian and the philosopher than the sacred city of the Hindus. Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay are commercial centres of India, directing, to a large extent, the trade of the country. But they do not speak to the masses, who never ask their opinion, and are never guided by their
authority on any subject connected with their. social _
or religious usages. Benares, on the contrary, is the living oracle of the nation, and governs the Hindu with a despotic hand, in all his sacred rites and practices, about which he is vastly more concerned than about anything else. Presiding over the religious destinies of one hundred and eighty millions of people, whom she in-spires with her spirit, and controls at pleasure, it is a matter not merely of curiosity, but also of great importance, to know what part she is likely to take in that extraordinary movement, of mental awakening and religious reform which has already commenced in India. It is not for her to fall back, and resign her position of influence. Her place is in the front rank. l/Vhile all India is making progress, intellectually and morally, she must advance likewise. But she must do more. She has always been a leader of the people, in everything sacred: such she will, I hope and believe, continue to be. And, judging from the eagerness of many of her sons in the pursuit of knowledge, from the quickened moral perceptions of the population generally, and from the sympathy which multitudes cherish for the new and liberal ideas that are spreading over the country at large, she bids fair to fulfil the predictions of her truest and sincerest friends.
No Architectural remains dating prior to the third century before Christ yet found in India.—Ancient Hindu Edifices of the primitive period, not of a rude character.—Did the Hindus borrow from the Assyrian and Persian Sculptors'I—Ancient remains found chiefly in the northern quarter of the city.--Mohammedan lust for Hindu edifices.
-—Shifting tendency of the modern city.-—vOrigin of the appellation “ Benares.”
THE great antiquity of Indian civilization is proved, directly and indirectly, in so many ways, that it has
_ come to be regarded as one of the ordinary truisms
about which all the world is agreed. Yet it is remarkable that, although it admits not of the smallest question, no evidence in its favour should be afforded by any monument of art hitherto discovered in the country. There is no known specimen of architecture existing, of any character, the date of which carries us back beyond the third century before Christ. The pillars of Asoka, which belong to this period, are the very earliest sculptured remains yet found. “Of these,” says Mr. Fergusson, “one is at Delhi; having been re-erected by Feroze Shah in his palace, as a monument of his victory over the Hindus. Three more are standing near the river Gunduck in Tirhoot; and one has been placed on a pedestal in the fort of Allahabad. A fragment of another was discovered near Delhi, and part of a seventh was used as a roller on the Benares road by a Company’s engineer ofldcer.”1 There is reason for supposing that some of the Bhilsa topes may be assigned to this epoch, while others are, undoubtedly, of a somewhat later date. Of the cave-temples, so interesting not only to the archaeologist, but likewise to all lovers of the curious, not one was excavated earlier than the first century before Christ. The great Karlen cave dates from the beginning of the Christian era. The Ajunta caves belong to several epochs; and some may be as recent as the ninth or tenth century A.D. The Viswakarman cave at Ellora is of the seventh or eighth century A.D. Among the caves in Behar there is one called from Lomasa the Rishi, which, from certain peculiarities in its construction, may, it is conjectured, have been excavated prior to the Christian era, although the inscription which covers it is referred to a period so late as the fourth century after Christ.
It has been asserted, on strong authority, that no ancient temples or religious monasteries, apart from the cave structures, exist in India, on the ground that the pre-Buddhist Hindus were as yet simple and unsophisticated, and performed the rites of their religion, to a great extent, without idols or temples; or, if with them, those objects were made of perishable material. The fact of no temples or other edifices having been discovered is regarded as a powerful reason in substantiation of this assertion. Now, to say the least, it is exceedingly premature to hazard such an opinion founded on such a basis, inasmuch as the study
1 Fergusson’s Handbook of Architecture, p. 7.