« PreviousContinue »
sides of the existing terrace, which must, consequently, date from the same epoch. It would be desirable, if the consent of the Mohammedans could be obtained, to remove the external wall, by which these cloisters have become almost completely hidden, in order to ascertain their extent and condition.
This series of cloisters formed, we conjecture, the lowermost story of a Vihára or Temple-Monastery which once enclosed the entire space occupied by the terrace, and rose to the height of, probably, two or three storeys above it. On the southern side stood the chief temple, which, on the suppression of Buddhism, passed into the hands of the adherents of another religion, who transformed it according to their own tastes. The mosque on this side is altogether composed of the remains of an ancient temple, of large dimensions and of very elaborate workmanship. The high pillars, moreover, on its northern face have been transferred from the same spacious building. These remains are, chiefly, Hindu; and it is unquestionable that the edifice, which was destroyed in order to make way for the mosque, was an old temple of Bisheswar. An excellent ground-plan of this temple, prepared from a minute examination of the extant remains, was drawn by Mr. James Prinsep, and published, by him, in his “Views of Benares.” The remains are, however, not entirely Hindu. Some portions, judging from the elaborate ornamentation of certain details which it was the custom of the Buddhist architects to leave plain, seem to be of Jaina origin, and to have been appropriated by the builders of the Hindu temple. If this
supposition be correct, the mosque, with its terrace, exhibits a singular architectural anomaly; and, furthermore, points to no fewer than four religious communities, namely, Buddhist, Jaina, Hindu, and Mohammedan. The square terrace pillars, with their cruciform capitals, are so simple in structure, that, compared with the highly carved and decorated pillars of medieval and later Buddhist times, they almost belong to another style, which might be called early Buddhist or Hindu, accordingly as one or other of these communities is supposed to have invented it. It is not our object to discuss the interesting and important topic, who were the first Indian sculptors and builders of permanent edifices ; yet it is one that, by and by,—when materials have been sufficiently accumulated, which they have not been at present ---must be thoroughly investigated. After such investigation, the antiquity and, possibly, the origin of these terrace-pillars may be definitely ascertained.
ANCIENT REMAINS, No. X.
A'd-Bisheswar Temple and neighbouring Mosque.
Ad-Bisheswar is the name of a lofty temple situated a short distance from Aurungzeb's mosque just referred to, and in sight of it; and it is held, by some persons, to be the most ancient temple of this deity. Only a doubtful interpretation of its name may bear out this supposition; for the temple itself, from the pinnacle to the base, has nothing really ancient about it. On the eastern side of the enclosure, the ground takes a sudden rise of eighteen feet, forming a terrace manifestly
of artificial construction. On this side there is a retaining wall of stone masonry, which is wanting on the southern side of the terrace, where there is only an earth bank. The other two sides of the terrace are covered with buildings, so as to prevent the exact determination of its boundary in these directions. On the flank contiguous to the A'd-Bisheswar enclosure stands a mosque, erected some eighty years ago or less, but not finished, for want of money. It was built of stones found on the spot, with new Chunar slabs added. The terrace existed before, with the buttress, and is, evidently, of ancient construction.
The building is in two divisions,-each of which is twenty-three feet and a half in length, -connected together by a massive wall, five feet and a half thick, composed of large blocks of stone. This wall projects considerably beyond the building into the courtyard to the east, and has the appearance of a huge buttress; but what its object is,—seeing that the mosque, which is entirely of stone, is amply sustained by its columns and walls, and requires no such additional support,-it is hard to say. Possibly, the buttress is pierced with a staircase, that led, formerly, to an upper story which the buttress supported; and the Mohammedan architects, not caring to remove the massive prop, have retained it in the mosque. They appear, moreover, to have confined themselves chiefly to materials lying upon the spot; as, in three places, carved pillars, similar to those sustaining the centre aisle, have been adopted as architraves. There are fourteen columns in the interior of the mosque, which are peculiarly, but not exten
sively, carved, and are crowned with ornamented capitals. The western wall is strengthened, externally, by three rounded buttresses, which are of the Pațhán dynasty, like those found at Jaunpore, and were built at the same period. They did not exist in the Buddhist period, and were added as much for ornament as for strength. All the mosques about old Delhi have them.
There is no doubt, in our mind, that the A'd-Bisheswar temple stood on this site, and was destroyed by the Mohammedans, who, as usual, transferred its stones to their own mosque. The neighbouring temple bearing this name the Hindus built, with the connivance of their friends, the Mohammedans, of course for the purpose of perpetuating the worship of their old idol, A'd-Bisheśwar. Yet, while allowing that the edifice which stood on the site of the present mosque when the Mohammedans took possession of it was the temple of A'd-Bisheswar, we are, nevertheless, equally certain, that the primitive building was of a Buddhist character. We were inclined, at one time, to imagine, that, from its proximity to the Buddhist Vihára (No. X.) just described, it must have been a part of that monastery; but two reasons have led us to abandon this idea. One is, that a separate terrace, of extensive dimensions, was appropriated to this structure, whatever it was, and that, between this terrace and that of No. X., the ground is depressed, corresponding to the depression of all the neighbouring
and the second is, that the styles of architecture of the ancient buildings, upon or around the two terraces, differ exceedingly. We are led to conjecture, therefore, that the original structure was Buddhist, but later, in
date, by several hundred years than the vihára erected on the terrace opposite. It was, probably, a quadrangle, encompassing the four sides of the terrace. Nothing remains of it, except the massive transverse wall, with the buttress, and the lower portion of the retaining wall. The amount of stone material expended on the present comparatively small building is exorbitantly great, and furnishes a proof that an edifice of much larger dimensions formerly stood here.
ANCIENT REMAINS, No. XI.
Stone Pillar.- Sone ká Táláo.
Before closing this chapter, we would direct attention to a stone pillar, standing in the midst of a tank between the city of Benares and the Buddhist remains at Sárnáth. The tank is called Sone ká Táláo, or the Golden Tank, and is situated on the opposite side of the river Barná, near the road which branches off from the high road leading to Ghazeepore, and not far from the point of its junction with several other roads. The road is a portion of the Panchkosí, or sacred boundary of Benares. Proceeding along it for somewhat less than a mile, you arrive at the tank, which is to the right of it, and is approached by a strong and well-built ghát, on which are several Buddhist figures, brought, most probably, from Sárnáth. It is three hundred yards in length, and one hundred and forty in breadth. In the midst of it is a round pillar, eighteen feet high, and upwards of nine in circumference, composed of great blocks of stone, cut in quadrants, and put together without cement or mortar. There is no inscription on