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LEGEND respecting Divodás. — Temple of Divodáseswar. — The Well
Dharm-kúp.-Rádhá-Krishna.-The Nág Kúán or Serpent's Well.-
ALTHOUGH the city of Benares is now regarded as sacred to S'iva, and as a place over which he exercises divine authority, yet it is commonly believed, by the inhabitants, that there was a time when such a divinity was not worshipped here, but divine honours were bestowed on a Raja called Divodás. The tradition, too, is sanctioned by the Ká'sí-khanda. It is said, that this personage, whom Brahmá raised to the dignity of Raja of Benares, and vested with jurisdiction over both gods and men, took it into his head to banish all the gods from the city. This ruthless act seems to have produced immense consternation throughout the Hindu pantheon; but the Raja possessed such supernatural power, that the deities were thwarted in all their efforts to reenter the city. Headed by Siva, they formed a conspiracy to unseat him, and, in order to effect their purpose, attempted to inveigle Divodás into some act of sin; knowing, that, the moment the sin was perpetrated, his divine power and authority would come to an end, and they would regain their lost dignities and prerogatives. But this miserable and disgraceful design, though instigated and approved by Siva himself, came to nothing; for Divodás was a man of unspotted purity and of the strictest integrity. At last, Gaņeś hit upon a scheme, which was singularly cunning and successful. In the character of a great Guru or teacher, he appeared, one day, at the door of the Raja's palace, and solicited an audience with him. This the Raja granted, and, in course of conversation, was so much pleased with the intelligence, learning, and sanctity of his new acquaintance, that he wished to sit at his feet, as his disciple. With this request Gaņeś refused to comply; but, taking advantage of the Raja's good opinion of him, he induced him to consent to follow out whatever instructions should be communicated to him in a dream. These instructions simply were, that he should quit Benares. Feeling bound to fulfil his promise, he abandoned the government, abdicated the throne, and retired from the place, and was, thereupon, conveyed, by Siva himself, to the Kailás mountain. On his departure, the gods reentered the city, and Siva became their supreme ruler and the head of the city. These are reported to be the old deities of Benares; and to them pilgrimages are made. The myriad deities which have been introduced, at various times, into the city, since this imaginary emigration of the gods, must, therefore, be looked upon in the light of interlopers.
In endeavouring to extract a few grains of truth out of this strange mythological story, we are led to suppose that there was a time when Benares was not imbued with Hinduism as it is now. This Raja Divodás, who, no doubt, was a real personage, may be conceived to have resisted the encroachments of Hinduism, on its first approach to Benares, but was, eventually, obliged to succumb to it, and to surrender his crown to the Brahmanical invaders; or, it may be, that, in a remote age in the history of Hinduism, the Raja may have become possessed of the city, perhaps by right of conquest, and, being attached to another creed, may have forthwith expelled the Brahmans, together with the symbols of their religion, from the place, but, after violent opposition on their part, was, at length, outwitted and supplanted by them. The second supposition contains some show of historical truth; inasmuch as it is a well-established fact, that Brahmanism was compelled to retreat before Buddhism, not only in Benares, but throughout a large portion of India; and that Buddhism, after being the paramount religion for many centuries, was compelled, in its turn, to retreat before Brahmanism. As there is no record of any other creed having become supreme in Benares besides these two, which, we know, successively were so, it is not unlikely that Divodás, who was, evidently, a sworn enemy of the Brahmans and their gods, was a Buddhist. This ejection from the city by a subtle and knavish scheme, may, perhaps, be only another mode of expressing the downfal of the religion which he had strenuously supported, and the return and triumph of the Brahmans.
The temple of Divodáseśwar, in which Divodás is worshipped, stands in a court a short distance from Mír Ghát. The idol consists of a black emblem of Siva. It is not alone, but is associated with other gods, one of whom is called Bisbáhuka, or the Twenty-handed
See Appendix C.
Divinity, and is the occupant of a niche in the wall. In front of the entrance to the temple is a high diwat or lamp-stand, on the sides of which a number of small oil-lamps are placed, on certain occasions, in honour of Divodás. In the centre of this court is Dharm-kúp, one of the famous sacred wells of Benares. Its mouth is begirt partly by a wall and partly by five small shrines standing side by side; and the entrance to the enclosure thus made is by a door opening through the wall on the eastern side. This enclosure is of narrow dimensions, yet contains several objects of interest. Close by the door is an enormous stone emblem of Mahadeva, four feet in height, fixed firmly in the ground. Each of the five shrines has a chamber or stall, in which several idols are deposited, one of which contains a representation of S'iva as Panchmukhi,--that is, the 'five-faced’ god. In another, I counted as many as sixteen images; and my attention was arrested by a number of time-worn stone figures imbedded in the boundary wall. No one could furnish any reliable information respecting these interesting objects; but it was suggested that they were figures of the goddess Sítalá or Small-pox. The well has a palisade round its mouth, and is very deep; and it is worthy of remark, that the reservoir below, holding the water, is not circular, as is usual, but quadrangular.
Dharm-kúp, the name of this well, from dharm, religion, and kúp, well, is, I am disposed to think, not of Hindu, but of Buddhist, origin. Dharma or Dhammothe former being Sanskrit, the latter Pali—constitutes one of the three grand divisions of the Buddhist faith ; and, in the Pali writings, Buddha himself is often spoken
of as Dhammo. In the time of Asoka, the common term employed to denote this religion was Dhammo, which is found inscribed on Buddhist monuments reared by him and standing to the present day. In the passage leading to the court, is a temple dedicated to Dharmeswar, or Lord Dharma,—that is, the deity who personifies dharm. If Dharm be regarded as the Buddhist creed, then this appellation would refer to the supposed divine head of such creed, or Buddha. This entire Mahalla or ward of the city is called Dharm-kúp, thereby showing, that, in all likelihood, the well is as ancient as the Mahalla itself. The antiquity of the well, therefore, is placed beyond all doubt; and its connexion with Buddhism, at some period of its history, is invested with some probability. We do not forget that the term dharma, meaning virtue, merit, justice, duty, piety, and many other things, is in constant use among Hindus; but still, perhaps, it has hardly that strong and distinctive signification of a system of religion, of a national faith, which it had with the Buddhists in India in former times.
Returning to the street, a few steps bring us to a temple inhabited by the goddess Višalákshí,—literally, 'the large-eyed,” an epithet of Párvatí, Siva's wife,whose crowned head only is visible, the rest of her person being covered with a yellow cloth. A short distance from this spot is Mír Ghát, leading down to the river. The ghát is narrow, but strongly made; and its stairs are placed at convenient intervals for persons ascending and descending them, so as to induce as little fatigue as possible by the exercise. In passing down the ghát, you