Page images
PDF
EPUB

pilgrimage, proceeds to the Panchgangá Ghát, and bathes again in the river; and then, finally tracing his steps to the Maạikarņiká Well, washes in its loathsome waters. These ablutions being terminated, the poor deluded man is taught to believe that his sins have all been forgiven. There are two low turrets at the Pilpilla Ghát, between which the pilgrim must bathe, as the water beyond has no special sanctity.

This ghát is the last of the stairs, leading down from the city to the river, made entirely of strong masonry. The gháts to the north are constructed, in part, of a less durable substance, that is, from below towards the river; although, in the upper portions of these even, the stairs are solid, like the others. A short distance higher up the stream is Gáe Ghát, jutting out a little beyond the bank.

Two other temples in this neighbourhood are, possibly, of the same era as the Trilochan fane. The first is the temple of Nirbuddheswar, situated only a few steps to the south-east of this structure. It is an exceedingly plain edifice, without ornament or embellishment, and is, evidently, not much visited, except by pilgrims, and on festival days. The other is the temple of Ad-Mahádeva, at the entrance of which is a tiny shrine, faced with an iron grating. A priest from Trilochan was leading the way into the enclosure, when I felt myself irresistibly detained by the curiosities in this shrine. I observed several small pillars covered with silver tinsel, and, also, a figure of Hanumán gaudily painted in red, yellow, white, and black colours; while, on the floor, other idols were lying. In this cage-like place

sat an old man, squatting down beside these miserable divinities, his body occupying a large portion of the shrine. Presently he folded his hands together, apparently in deep devotion, and did homage to one or more of the images before him. He then rang a little bell, and quietly left the place. This man was the proprietor of the shrine, and had erected and dedicated it, and probably had purchased in the bazar the very idols which I saw him worship.

The temple of Afd-Mahádeva, like the temple of Nirbuddheswar, is unadorned and plain. In the porch is a very old chair, in which, in former days, a Vyás, or public reader of the sacred books, used to sit and read in the presence of a congregation gathered to hear him. This ancient custom has lost ground even in Benares, which professes to be the very citadel and defence of Hinduism. In front of the porch, to the east, is a peepul tree, with a platform attached to its base, upon which is a small shrine, containing a collection of idols; while opposite to it is a stone figure of the goddess Párvatyeśwarí in bass-relief. This divinity was formerly one of considerable repute, but, from some unknown circumstance, was destroyed, together with her shrine; so that no remains of the one or of the other can be discovered. The goddess, however, I am sorry to say, has been resuscitated by a Gujarati Brahman, residing in Benares, named Gor Jí, who manufactured the present idol, and placed it in this position, as representative of Párvatyeśwarí ; and it is now honoured, by the Hindus, with pilgrimages and offerings, like its predecessor. Gor Jí is a remarkable man, and has done

more to revive Hinduism, in this city, of late years, than, perhaps, any other person. Having diligently read the Ká'sí-khanda, he has searched about for the temples and idols referred to in that book; and, whereever he has found old temples in decay, or abandoned, or has discovered sacred sites now neglected and generally unknown, he has endeavoured to restore them to honour and popularity. One favourite method which he adopts is to inscribe an extract from the Káść. khanda, respecting a particular forsaken temple or site, on stone, and to set it up there, for the enlightenment of passers-by. In some cases, he merely writes the extract on a wall or other suitable place. This man feels, like many other rigid Hindus of the old school, that the ancient religion is falling into decay; that some of its old temples, formerly frequented by crowds, are now rarely trodden; and that many a hallowed spot, or niche, or grove, or fane, has been abandoned and forgotten.

Behind the peepul tree is a temple dedicated to Gaņeś, the God of Wisdom, an elephant-headed, largebellied, and very red deity, who has associated with himself a variety of deities, one of whom is a stone on which two snakes are carved in bass-relief ; but the stone is broken, and the two parts are placed, side by side, against the wall.

107

CHAPTER VII.

PANCHGANGÁ Ghát.—Legend respecting it. — Lakshmaṇbála Temple.

The Minarets. — Temple of Kámeswar. — The Machaudarí Tírth or
Place of Pilgrimage.

THE Panchgangá Ghát is one of the five chief places of pilgrimage on the banks of the Ganges. The Hindus believe that five rivers meet at this spot. Their names are Dhútapápá, Jarnanada, Kirañanadí, Saraswati, and (Ganga) Ganges. Respecting these streams, Mr. Prinsep makes the following observations:—"A virgin," he says,

"named D’horátpápá, whom Brahmá pronounces to be more pure than three and a half crores of the holy tiraths (places of pilgrimage), having cause of complaint against her admirer Dharma, politely pronounces a malediction upon him, and turns him into the Dharmanada (river of virtue). He, in revenge, converts her into a rock; but her father, Vedasoor, in compassion, metamorphoses her again into the Chandrakanta (moon stone), which, melting in the moon, forms a stream, called D'horátpápá (channel of sin), an appropriate bride for the river of virtue. The third stream, called Kirnnaddá (brook of rays), was produced from the perspiration of the Sun, while performing penance in honour of Mangulgouree (a form of Devi), on an ad

[ocr errors]

Each one

joining ghát. These three, with the Ganges and Saraswati, complete the number of Panchanada, to the satisfaction even of the deities themselves, who condescend to bathe on the spot during their residence in Kashi.” 1

Only one of these streams, namely, the Ganges, is visible; but the remaining four are supposed, by the credulous, to be somewhere under ground. The ghát is broad and deep, and exceedingly strong. Its stairs and turrets are all of stone, and, from their great number, afford accommodation to a multitude of worshippers and bathers. The turrets are low and hollow, and are employed as temples or shrines. contains several deities, which are, mostly, emblems of Siva. An ordinary observer would be in ignorance of the fact that these are filled with idols, and would scarcely imagine that he was walking upon the top of a long succession of shrines, and over the heads of hundreds of gods. He would have to descend several steps, before discovering the sacrilege which he was ignorantly committing; but, having done so, he would at once perceive that the turrets are open towards the river, and are, therefore, very convenient for devotional purposes.

The platform above the ghát, along which runs a narrow, though excellent, road, is below the steep bank of the river. From the platform a number of stairs thread their way up the bank, uniting the ghát with this quarter of the city. The same remark is, for the most part, applicable to the other gháts. They are all connected together by a road, which is, in some places, paved, and in the hot

· Prinsep's Views of Benares-Second Series.

« PreviousContinue »