Page images

division of the road, towards Kapildhárá, certain indisputable marks and signs of age are apparent; but these, I hold, are not connected with the Panchkosí road, but rather with Sárnáth and other Buddhist sites in this neighbourhood.

Again, roads which have been trodden for many centuries, not to say thousands of years, are commonly much worn, and, occasionally, sink far below the adjacent soil. The limestone soil of Benares and the surrounding country is no exception to this rule. The old Ghazeepore road, which crosses the Panchkosí to the west of Kapildhára, is, in one place, several feet below the fields on either side; which circumstance is valid proof of its being, to say the least, somewhat ancient. But the Panchkosí is, throughout, on a level with the land through which it winds its way, or nearly so. If the road were traversed by only a few persons yearly, this argument would not be very strong; but, seeing that innumerable pilgrims pass along it in the course of the year, it is, in my opinion, almost physically impossible that it should be of ancient date. Upon the whole, I am inclined to the belief, that, previously to the repair of the road by Rani Bhawání, there was a narrow path only, which the Hindus, dreading the vengeance of the Mohammedans, occasionally traversed in small numbers; but for how long this path had been a pilgrim's walk, it is impossible to conjecture. From the very great scarcity of old remains, however, it is my firm belief that it can lay no claim whatever to antiquity, properly so called ; and the probability is, that it was originated by some

zealous devotee, who conceived the novel idea of honouring the sacred city by describing an immense circuit round it, which he, first of all, trod himself, and which, doubtless to his surprise, was afterwards trodden by other persons, until, gradually, the custom was established,-an idea no more novel and strange than others which the Hindus every day put in practice.

It ought to be remembered with gratitude, by the Hindus of Benares and Northern India generally, that the British Government of India, instead of pursuing the destructive and prohibitive policy of the Mohammedan rulers, has taken the Panchkosí road under its own charge, and, in a spirit of beneficence deserving of the highest praise, defrays the expenses of its annual repairs. It would be a happy circumstance if. Benares itself received the same proportion of attention as this road around it. Threaded with narrow streets, above which rise the many-storied edifices for which the city is famous, it is, without doubt, a problem of considerable difficulty, how to preserve the health of its teeming population. But, when we reflect on the foul wells and tanks in some parts of the city, whose water is of deadly influence, and the vapour from which fills the air with fever-fraught and cholera-breeding miasma; when we consider the loathsome and disgusting state of the popular temples, owing to the rapid decomposition of the offerings, from the intense heat of the sun; when we call to mind the filthy condition of nearly all the by-streets, due to stagnant cesspools, accumulated refuse, and dead bodies of animals

; and when, in addition, we remember how utterly re

gardless of these matters, and incompetent to correct them, is the police force scattered over the city, the difficulty becomes almost overwhelming. The importance, however, of cleansing the city cannot be overestimated. And it is because it is at once so immensely important as well as difficult, that the undertaking should not be left in the hands of one man, though he should be the ablest and most energetic in all India. The Magistrate of Benares, and his assistants, have a multitude of duties to perform, besides watching over the interests of the city; and, therefore, they are totally unable, and, I believe, must feel themselves so, to originate and carry out all those schemes of utility which are required. What is needed in Benares is the establishment of a municipal corporation, similar to that which exists in various other cities of India. Such a body would accomplish great results in promoting, in various ways, the social welfare of the people. I am satisfied that there is no city in the country where such a corporation is more urgently required, and where its establishment would be more beneficial. In other respects, too, besides those mentioned, I regard the present time as peculiarly favourable for carrying out this project.

The staff of Government officials in Benares, just now, is well adapted for aiding in the promotion of the objects of a municipality. Men of industry and enterprise, as some of them are, would find ample scope for their talents. Europeans of ability, unconnected with the Government, and, also, natives of influence, fitted to render useful assistance, might readily be found. With men like the Maharaja of Vizi

anagram and Raja Deo Narain Singh, late members of the Legislative Council of India, and other natives of this stamp, united with well-selected Europeans, not all Government officers,—men of observation, and capable of deviating, if need be, from old stereotyped forms and beaten tracks, and striking out a path for themselves,—the prosecuting of wholesome sanitary reforms, the completing of effectual drainage, the opening out and widening of thoroughfares for the free admission of air, and the purifying of the religious edifices, should be a labour undertaken heartily, and prosecuted with enthusiasm. Under the auspices of a corporation thus constituted, we should soon see a thorough transformation of the city; but, at the same time, we are perfectly sure that it is only by such a body that the radical changes, so imperatively demanded in this region of palaces and filth, in this hot-bed of periodical disease, can be effected. It is my earnest hope, that, in these days of progress, the time-honoured city of which I have been writing will not be left in the rear, as, in some respects, it now undoubtedly is, but will soon be ranked amongst the foremost cities in the land, in regard to all measures tending to advance the prosperity and happiness of the native community.



Barna Sangam or Confluence of the Barna and Ganges. — A'dkesav

Temple.—Barna Ghát.-Ráj Ghát Fort : its use in 1857.—Remains of Buddhist Monastery.—Tank of Bhairo.-Lát or Pillar of Siva.Ancient Pillar.-Account of Disturbance in Benåres when the pillar was thrown down.—The Ghazeepore Road.—Ancient Bridge over the Barna. BARNA Sangam, so called from the confluence of the river Barna with the Ganges, is a highly venerated spot. To bathe in the uniting waters is regarded as a very meritorious act, sufficient to wash away the transgressions of a life-time. This Sangam is one of the five celebrated places of pilgrimage on the banks of the Ganges at Benares, and is, consequently, visited by the crowds of pilgrims which, at certain seasons, pour into the city. It also occupies an important place, as intimated in the preceding chapter, in the pilgrimage of the Panchkosí road. The pilgrims, having issued from the city at the Así Sangam, return to it by the Barna Sangam; the former being its southern, and the latter its north-eastern, boundary. Here they halt, to perform the ceremonies prescribed for so sacred a place. Above the steep bank are four temples, which the Government has forbidden to be used. During the rebellion, they were in the hands of a man of a seditious and turbulent spirit, and were, consequently, seized by the

« PreviousContinue »