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Vishņu, and a monster of horrible appearance.
His birth is said to have been out of a pillar or post, which split down the middle, in order to admit him into the world. The two parts of the pillar are represented in the stone figure, one being on each side of the idol, which, in the form of a man with two horns on his head, is seated in the fork of the divided pillar, gloating over the victim who lies prostrate across his lap. This is a daitya or demon, whom he is disembowelling and pulling to pieces with his nails, and greedily drinking his blood. Besides other images, there is the usual emblem of Siva, with a snake creeping up it; and on the horizontal stone, which is always connected with it, are carved ten other emblems, exact counterparts of the entire idol, with the exception of the snake. On the sides of the quadrangle, long narrow rooms open on the centre of the square; and these may be regarded as so many separate shrines, inasmuch as they are occupied by groups of deities. Two of these are filled with the peculiar emblems of Siva; and one of them holds as many as twenty-five. A third has a figure of Narsinh, similar to that just described, and, also, the goddess Machaudari, an immodest figure, seated on a peacock. There is, likewise, in the same room, an image of the Rishi Durvásas, whose asceticism is said to have been so vigorous, that he was raised, by its instrumentality, to an equality with the gods, and sat with Vishņu as his
peer. The temple of Kámanánáth is connected with a depressed plain close by, which was formerly an extensive jhíl or pond, and was then called the Machaudarí Tírth,
or place of pilgrimage, which, like other tanks in Benares, was frequented by many pilgrims, who worshipped in the temple and bathed in the pond. The jhíl was drained, some years ago, by Mr. James Prinsep, the famous archæologist, when stationed at Benares. Its removal must, on sanitary grounds, be regarded as a beneficial measure; and no injury has been sustained by the people, as the river Ganges flows only a few steps off.
The Machaudarí Tírth is now abolished; and, consequently, the number of pilgrims frequenting the temple of Kámanánáth has greatly diminished.
TEMPLE of Jágeswar, a Resort of the Native Aristocracy of Benares.
Kásí-Deví, Goddess of the City of Benares. —. Karnghanta Tálko or Tank. — Temple of the demon Bhút-Bhairo. — Temple of Bará Ganes.—Jagannath.-Satís.
In the Iswar-Gangi street, situated in the Ausánganj Mahalla or ward of the City, is the aristocratic temple of Jágeswar,—more correctly, Yájeśwara, ‘Lord of Sacrifice, that is, Siva,—to which all the nobility and gentry of Benares, from the Maharaja downwards, occasionally resort. Ascending a flight of steps, you enter the outer court of the temple, where are several shrines standing in a row, each of which contains an assemblage of small idols. This court forms a platform; and, as it is spacious, clean, and orderly, it serves as an agreeable lounge, in the cool of the day, for persons frequenting the spot. But the object of interest here is the temple of Jágeswar, which is in a court of its own, walled in all round. The temple occupies a large portion of the enclosure; but there is, nevertheless, a nårrow space between it and the walls, so that worshippers are able to carry out their favourite custom of traversing the circumference of the temple a multitude of times. The portico rests on pillars; and its floor is paved with small square slabs
of polished marble. In the centre of the portico, facing the door of the temple, crouches a large bull, called Nandi, the animal on which the god rides. But what would one fancy the size and form of the idol which the élite of Benares, its men of opulence, of illustrious birth, of intelligence, and education, reverently worship, and before whom they beat their heads upon the threshold, and even prostrate themselves upon the floor, and to whom they pay that supreme homage and adoration due only to the Lord God Almighty ? It might be supposed that it was an object of surpassing splendour, with diamond-sparkling eyes, and a body of gold, adorned with garlands, necklaces, and bracelets, of costly value and of dazzling beauty. But its pretensions are of a very different order; for it is simply an enormous block of stone, round and black, six feet in height, and twelve in circumference. The tradition is, that, on one occasion, the gods assembled to perform a great sacrifice, and that out of the burning oblation issued S'iva, in the shape of this stone. Above the temple is a capacious spout, looking not unlike a chimney, placed immediately over the shapeless idol below. In the hot weather this spout is kept filled with water, which dribbles perpetually upon the god, through one or more holes in the bottom, and keeps him cool. At the entrance to the temple from the portico are two small shrines, one on each side of the door.
Adjoining the Ausánganj Mahalla is the Mahalla of Káśípura, where, at the junction of several narrow streets, stands a banyan tree, near which is a temple
divided into two chambers. In one of these chambers, in a niche let into the wall, sits Káśí-deví, or the goddess of Benares. Pilgrims, making the tour of the city for the purpose of performing their devotions at its most celebrated shrines, do not fail to visit this tutelary deity. The spot is also interesting to the natives, as being, in their estimation, the centre of Benares, though it is exceedingly doubtful whether it is so in reality. A few steps bring us to the Karnghanta Táláo, a tank named from the goblin Ghanțákarņa,
Bell-eared. This tank is in a quadrangle, between which and the neighbouring street a garden is situated. On descending a flight of steps, you enter the quadrangle. At the foot of the steps is a platform extending all round the enclosure; and from it is a succession of stone stairs leading down to the water of the tank. On the south side of the platform overlooking the tank are three temples, one of which, namely, that in the middle, is of considerable interest. It is dedicated to Vedavyás, the compiler of the Vedas, and is called Vyáseśwar. The deified compiler is seated in a niche in the wall, and is decorated with a garland, and also with armlets and anklets. There is another temple, erected in honour of this famous man, in the palace of the Maharaja of Benares at Rámnagar; but there he is associated with Siva, and is worshipped through the emblem of the latter divinity, whereas, in the temple at Karņghanţa Táláo, he is represented by an image of his own. In the month of Sawan, multitudes of people, especially women, visit this tank, bathe in its unclean water, and worship the peepul, kadam, and banyan trees.