Page images
PDF
EPUB

elephants, and the next, in succession, with lions, each of which stands on two small elephants. The lions have very spare bodies, and, in this and other respects, are grotesquely made; showing that the sculptors had no living model before them, and drew liberally on their own imaginations. The three upper rows exhibit divers figures of deities, incarnations, and other sacred objects. The three goddesses of the Ganges, the Jumna, and the Saraswatí have, each, a separate niche. Krishņa, too, has his place; but he is not alone, for two of his favourite gopís or milk-maids are close by. Indra (the king of the gods), Brahmá, Vishņu, and Mahadeva or Şiva (the three deities of the Hindu triad), Kuber (ihe god of wealth), Bhairo (the Divine Magistrate of Benares), the hero Rám and his wife Sítá, Hanumán (the monkey-god), Gaņeś, Baldeo (brother of Kșishņa), etc., are, each, honoured with a statue. Here, too, is Vayu, or the wind; Súrya, or the sun; Agni, or fire; and Chandramá, or the moon; the latter having rays of glory darting from her head, and being seated in a carriage drawn by two deer. A number of sacred personages, Rishis, are also represented, such as Nárad and Gajendramoksh, and, likewise, the thousand-armed Arjuna or Kártavírya, whom Parasuráma fought and killed. In the centre of the uppermost row, on the south side, is a figure of the goddess Durga, wife of Mahadeva; and, in a similar position, on the east side, is a figure of the bloody goddess Mahákálí, who thirsts continually for human victims. In a niche on the north side a strange feat of Krishṇa is depicted. This versatile deity, it is said, on one occasion diverted

the homage and adoration due to Indra to himself, at which Indra became exceedingly indignant, and determined to punish the worshippers of Krishṇa who had so dishonoured him and defrauded him of his rights. Gathering together the clouds of heaven, he commenced pouring down upon the earth a prodigious flood of water, with the object of drowning the people; but Krishņa, lifting up the mountain Govardhan, held it over the country like an umbrella, balanced on his little finger, so that, over an extent of one hundred and sixty miles, no rain fell, and the people were preserved in safety. In the sculpture, Krishņa is seen standing with his hand held up, supporting the mountain on the extremity of his little finger, while cattle are grazing in perfect security underneath.

On each of the four sides of the tower are two gilded faces, surrounded by a halo, one above the other, emblematic of the Sun; and, on the apex of the tower, is a circular, flat, gilded object, intended to serve the purpose of a glory to the head of Durga in the shrine below. On the platform facing three of the entrances to the temple are three figures in marble, one of which, namely, that opposite the south door, consists of a Nandi, or bull, designed for the service of Mahadeva. A second is opposite the north door, and is a Garud, a being in the form of a man, with wings behind the shoulders. The countenance is pleasing, and has been executed with much taste. The statue is surrounded by an iron palisade tipped with small brass knobs.

In front of the main entrance is the third figure,

which is that of a lion, intended as the Váhan or riding animal of Durgá. Over the entrance itself are peacocks, in bass-relief, standing with their heads towards each other. The door is not large, but is ribbed and massive, and is covered with brass; so that, viewing it from the front, it has the appearance of being made entirely of that metal.

The interior of the temple, like most Hindu shrines, is confined and gloomy. Directly opposite the door stands the goddess Durga. Her body is of marble, covered with gold, and is arrayed in a yellow dress partially concealed by a scarf. The image is in a small shrine, in front of which is a table; and on the table lie various vessels used at the hour of sacrifice. It is over this table, and before the face of the idol, that the sacred fire is waved. To the left is another table, of smaller dimensions, which, when I saw it, was completely covered with white blossoms of flowers. Near by, in a niche in the wall, are two idols, representing Krishna and his wife Rádhá. To the right of Durga is her five-headed husband Siva.

The tank and a garden in the neighbourhood were also the work of Raja Cheit Singh. The former is surrounded by a spacious ghát, the stairs of which are built of stone. On occasion of the natives of Benares proceeding on pilgrimage to this spot, they are accustomed to bathe in the tank; and sometimes large crowds may be seen assembled on the stairs. But so extensive are the gháts, that hundreds of persons might dress and undress upon them, without incommoding one another. The tank is a square, at each corner of which

is a temple. The pilgrims who come to bathe, therefore, pass and repass at least one temple.

The object of the pilgrimage to Rámnagar is somewhat amusing. It is said that Vedavyás, the compiler of the Vedas, once paid a visit to Rámnagar, intending to proceed to Benares; but, on reaching this place, and beholding the city in the distance, his soul was so ravished with delight, that he did not desire to enter the city itself. Remaining at Rámnagar, he signalized his visit by the institution of a pilgrimage, which should conduce to the welfare of its inhabitants and of all others in danger of future degradation. The sanctity of Rámnagar, it appears, was never equal to that of Benares; and, while all persons who died in the latter place, perforce, it is believed, obtained, after death, happiness and heaven, all those, on the contrary, who died in the former, had the misfortune to enter upon another life in the degraded and miserable condition of an ass. It was, consequently, the custom, report says, in the age of Vedavyás, and is still, for persons residing on the Rámnagar side of the river, which is called maga, when taken seriously ill, to repair to the Benares side, in order, if death should come, to die there, and so escape an asinine condition in the next birth. Vedavyás, however, taking pity on the maga land, established at Rámnagar a tírth or place of pilgrimage, to be honoured in the month of Mágh (JanuaryFebruary), promising, that whoever attended it should be delivered from the danger of becoming an ass after death. Not only do the people of Rámnagar perform this pilgrimage, but great multitudes from Benares,

likewise, resort thither, that they may make their own deliverance from asshood doubly sure. Pilgrims continually arrive during the whole of the month ; but Mondays and Fridays are days especially preferred, and on which the assemblages are greatest.

There is a temple dedicated to Vedavyas in the Raja's fort of Rámnagar. It is situated above the parapet overlooking the river. The approach to it is by the main stairs or ghát leading up from the Ganges into the fort. Upon the stairs to the left, in a small shrine, is a richly-dressed figure of Gangá, or the goddess of the Ganges, in white marble, seated on a crocodile, and having a crown on her head. She has four hands: one of them hangs down, a second is uplifted, a third grasps a lotos, and the fourth holds a brass vessel. Proceeding to the top of the stairs, and turning to the left, you enter a court, bounded on one side by the parapet of the fort, and open to the sky. Here are several shrines. In the first, Mahadeva resides. Another rests against the trunk of a tree, and contains various small deities. Near to this shrine is a platform, on which is a temple bearing the name of Vedavyás. There is, however, no image of him inside; and the object of worship is the emblem of Siva. On the floor of the platform is a carved disk representing the Sun; and, a short distance off, a figure of Gaņeś.

Mention has already been made of the Panch-kosí road, which encompasses Benares. This famous road forms the boundary of the sacred domain, on the extreme east of which the city stands. Its length is about fifty miles. Commencing at the river Ganges, and quit

« PreviousContinue »