« PreviousContinue »
To the early Arab and Persian travellers Gangetic India was an unexplored tract. Albirûnî, who wrote about A.D. 1000, had, however, heard of the holy fame of Benares, which he compares, not inaptly, to Mecca.? Mahmûd of Ghaznî is said, on doubtful warrant, to have advanced as far as Benares, and to have made a few converts there, during his ninth incursion. In 1194, Shihâbuddîn, after defeating the Kanaujan monarch, Jayachandra, marched on that city, where he is reported to have demolished near a thousand Hindu temples. The subsequent history of the place, for
named in the Ayeen Akbery, in Mr. Gladwin's translation of which, Vol. III., pp. 255, 256, Mathurâ and Avantikâ are disguised as Mehtra and Ownitka.
At least thirty or forty epithetical designations of Benares are scattered through the Kâsî-khanda. Half of that nu er, or thereabouts, from this or some other work or works, have been noted by native lexicographers. One of them, Panchanadatîrtha, “ the quinquamnian resort,” refers to five rivers, the Kiraņâ, Dhûtapâpâ, Saraswati, Gangâ, and Yamuna :
किरणा धूतपापा च पुण्यतोया सरस्वती।
LIX., 114, 115. Four of these streams, in small quantities, are believed to emerge into the Ganges, through subterraneous channels, just in front of the Panchagangâ landing.
Relation des Voyages, etc., by M. Langlès and Father Reinaud, Vol. I., Preliminary Discourse, pp. XLVIII., XLIX.
? Father Reinaud's Mémoire Géographique, Historique et Scientifique sur l'Inde, etc., p. 288.
3 English Ayeen Akbery, Vol. II., p. 35.
4 Major Stewart's History of Bengal, p. 36. Elsewhere we read, that, “having broken the idols in above a thousand temples, he purified and consecrated the latter to the worship of the true God.” Colonel Briggs's translation from Farishta, Vol. I., p. 179.
many centuries, is well-nigh a blank. Its religious character was not, in the eyes of its Islamite masters, a thing to recommend it; and commercial or political importance it had none." Even Akbar, with all his toleration of Hinduism, and occasional partiality to it, did nothing to prop the sinking fortunes of Benares. Its decline was uninterrupted; and, under Aurangzeb, who changed its name to Muhammadâbâd, it reached, at last, the depth of its ignominy. At the command of that harsh bigot, its principal temples were laid in ruins, and mosques, constructed from their materials, were reared on their half-destroyed foundations. The Observatory, built by Mânasimha 4 about A.D. 1600, is, it may be, the only noteworthy Hindu edifice of the
Fiscally, too, it had come, in the days of Akbar, to be of very secondary note. See the Ayeen Akbery, Vol. II., Appendix, p. 28.
2 I have met with this substitute for Benares in an Urdû book written within the last hundred years. It was originally meant, of course, as a poignant insult. Deservedly, it never obtained, it is believed, any currency.
The Muhammadan names of Delhi, Agra, and Patna are of everyday use. Less familiar are Jahangirâbâd, Mustafa'âbâd, Islâmâbâd, and Mûminâbâd, for Dacca, Rampoor, Chittagong, and Brindabun.
3 Captain Orlich, in the tenth letter of his Reise in Ostindien, says that Akbar entertained the project of establishing a mosque over the Jnânavâpi well. No one at all acquainted with Akbar's character could give this silly legend the least credence. The story looks like an addition to the tale, that, when Aurangzeb threw down the old temple of Visweswara, its phallus cast itself, unassisted, into the Jnânavâpi.
* Raja of Ambherî. One of his descendants, Jayasimha II., who flourished rather more than a century after him, provided the Observatory with astronomical instruments. From Raja Mânasimha the building was called, from the first, Mânamandira, now corrupted into Mânmandil.
city, still entire, of so great antiquity. For nearly all that is striking in its architectural embellishment, Benares is beholden to the Marathas; and to the zeal and enterprise of the same energetic race the resuscitation, in the decline of Hinduism, of much of its former influence is, in large measure, indebted. There is no ground for believing that Benares, in comparison of what we now see it, with its thousand temples,' and their concomitants of holy harpies and willing victims, can ever have boasted a larger population, a prestige of greater potency, or more affluent prosperity.
F. H. JULY, 1868.
Bishop Heber uninquiringly states that the Observatory was “founded before the Musalman conquest.” Captain Orlich says it was founded by Jayasiñha: he does not distinguish which Jayasimha. But it would be endless to point out the mistakes of careless travellers.
Even Mr. James Prinsep,-Benares Illustrated, Second Series from consulting Tavernier with insufficient attention, refers the conversion of the Mânmandil into an Observatory to Jayasimha I.
An excellent account of the Benares Observatory, by Pandit Bâpâ Deva Sâstrin, is given in the Transactions of the Benares Institute for the Session 1864–65, pp. 191–196.
Such was Mr. James Prinsep’s estimate in 1828–1829. As to the extent of the city, " the measured length along the banks of the river, by survey, is barely three miles; and the average depth does not exceed one mile.” Benares Illustrated, p. 12. Hiouen Thsang found Benares, in the seventh century, of not far from the same dimensions. Vide supra, p. xxvii.