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are attracted by a row of shrines on the left, embellished in strong glaring colours; and, at one angle of the ghát, a temple is seen on the right-hand side, filling up the corner in that direction, on arriving at which you come in sight of the river. It is dedicated to RádháKřishņa, that is, to Krishạá and his wife, who are standing side by side. They are both completely dressed; Křishna has tinsel drapery about him, and presents a somewhat rakish appearance. He is playing on a flute; yet is, nevertheless, holding in each hand a marigold and a rose-not artificial, but natural flowers. The temple contains a number of small paintings, a red idol of Gaņeś, and a tiny shrine in white marble, which cost the sum of one hundred rupees, or ten pounds.
The Nág Kúán or Serpent's Well is situated in a ward of the city called after the name of the well, or Nág Kúán Mahalla, which adjoins the Ausán Ganj Mahalla. This well bears marks of considerable antiquity; and, from the circumstance of an extensive district of Benares being designated by its name, there is no doubt that it must be regarded as one of the oldest historical places the present city possesses. The construction of this well was, probably, nearly, if not quite, coeval with the building of the Mahalla or ward itself, which, we may imagine, was described as that part of the city containing the well—the well being the most important and noticeable object there : and so, gradually, the inhabitants associated the Mahalla with the well, and called them by the same name. The ward is in the north-western part of the city, at some distance from the Ganges. The quarter lying to the east of this ward, that is, between it and the Ganges, is, as I have already remarked, in all likelihood, the oldest portion of the present city; and, therefore, the Nág Kúán ward would have been, originally, in its suburbs. It is even possible that one of the first places built in these suburbs, and frequented by the people, was this well, and that its existence was one of the reasons, perhaps the chief, for the settling of a population in its neighbourhood. No person in Benares can tell when the well was made; but there is a reference to its existence in the Kasikhanda.
Steep stone stairs, in the form of a square, lead down to the well; and a broad wall of good masonry, six or seven feet thick, surrounds them at their summit, rising to the height of four or five feet above the ground. Each of the four series of stairs has an entrance of its own. Their junction below forms a small square, in the centre of which is the well. De
. scending twelve stone steps, you reach the water, which is stagnant and foul. Beneath the water is a sheet of iron, which constitutes the door leading to a still lower well, which, perhaps, may be the old well in its original state. The stairs, I suspect, are not of great date. On the inside of those to the east is an inscription, to the effect, that, in 1825 Samvat, or nearly one hundred years ago, a Raja extensively repaired the well. It is possible he may have built the stairs then. Many of the slabs of stone of which they are composed display carvings on their external surface, some of which bear unmistakeable marks of considerable antiquity. These slabs were, doubtless, taken from dilapidated buildings in the neighbourhood. A thorough examination of them, especially of the more ancient among them, would, I am satisfied, not be unproductive of interesting results. The wall was also repaired by Mr. Prinsep about thirty years ago.
At this well the Nág or Serpent is worshipped. In a niche in the wall of one of the stairs is a figure representing three serpents; and, on the floor, is an emblem of Mahadeva in stone, with a snake crawling up it. The well is visited, for religious purposes, only once in the year, namely, on the 24th and 25th days of the month Sáwan, when immense numbers of persons come to it, on pilgrimage, from all parts of the city. The women come on the first day, and the men, on the second. They offer sacrifices both to the well and to Nageswar, or the Serpent-god.
Near the wall of the stairs, on the south side, stands a large peepul tree; and at the foot of it are several old mutilated images, one of which has extensive carvings upon it. There is, also, a small low temple close by, containing figures of Hanuman and other deities. Outside the door of the temple are two strange antique idols, in bass-relief. One has, apparently, four legs, and is graced with a nimbus. The other is in an erect posture, with a chatr or umbrella over its head. I have grave doubts respecting the Hindu origin of these idols and of some of the mutilated images referred to above.
In the adjoining Mahalla of Jaitpurá, a short distance from the Serpent’s Well, is the temple of Bageswarí. Her face consists of a compound of eight kinds of metal, which is of a pale hue, and highly burnished. She wears on her head a large crown, surmounted with balls, like the coronets of the nobility. Her person is covered with a cloth; and from her neck depend several garlands of flowers. The goddess is seated on a lion in a recumbent posture. These figures are in a chapel in the inner chamber of the temple, which appears to have been once painted of a silvery white. The verandah leading to this chamber contains paintings, in fresh glaring colours, representing mythical subjects of great interest to the credulous Hindu. In the small quadrangle is a stone statue of a lion, the váhan or riding animal of the goddess, which was presented to the temple by Lál Bahádar Sinh, Raja of Amethi. This Raja has dedicated four similar statues of the lion to the service of the principal deities of four other temples in Benares : one is in the temple at Durgá Kund; a second is in the Chausațhí-deví temple, in the Bengali Tola; a third is in the Siddhimátá-deví temple, in the Bulhánálá; and a fourth is in the possession of the Gujarati Pandit Gor Jí, awaiting its ultimate destination. In the niches in the wall of the quadrangle are various divinities. In one are three figures, representing Rám, Lakshman, and Jánakí, cut in black stone or marble. In another is an old figure of Agwán, the porter of Bágeśwari; and by his side is a second figure, still older, about whom no one could give any information. A third niche holds the goddess Bindhyachalá, seated on the back of a lion. In a chamber in one corner of the enclosure I observed a large red idol, which I soon discovered to be the ill-formed Ganes. On one side of this chamber is a row of images, and, on the floor, a singularly-carved figure, called Naugrah, which embodies in itself all the planets. On the exterior face of the temple-wall is a niche, four or five feet in height, which is filled up by the god Hanumán. He is painted bright red, and stand with hands folded; while on one shoulder sits the god Rám, and, on the other, his brother Lakshman.
In sight of this temple are two others, namely, the temples of Jwarahareswar and Siddheswar, which, together with Bágeswari, are regarded as old places of pilgrimage. Jwara signifies fever; hara, destroying or conquering : so that Jwarahareswar is famous for his supposed power of dissipating fever. The worshipper, on approaching the idol, vows, that, should he recover, he will present to it dúdhbhangá, that is, dúdh or milk; bháng, leaves of hemp; and sweetmeats, mixed up together. Siddheswar professes to grant ability to consummate any undertaking in which a man may wish to engage.
Near these temples are several tombs to devotees, and also a number of mutilated figures, which, it is said, have been dug up in this neighbourhood. Several of these are placed together on a small mound of earth. They are not all worshipped, which is rather strange, considering how prompt the Hindus are to worship carved images of every kind. But the reason of their not being worshipped is, I imagine, because they are so unlike the idols that are now found in Hindu temples. They are more delicately sculptured, and are more