« PreviousContinue »
impressive, and even awful. The gaunt, squalid figures of the devotees, their visible and, apparently, unaffected anguish and dismay, the screams and outcries of the women who surrounded them, and the great numbers thus assembled, altogether constituted a spectacle of woe such as few cities but Benares could supply.''
Formerly, a large annual melá or fair used to be held on this venerated spot; but, of late years, the place has been well-nigh abandoned, so that even the melá fails to attract more than a few dozens of people.
By the side of the Kapilmochan Tank a narrow road branches off from the high road, at right angles to it, and runs on to the river Barna, which it crosses, and thence winds, through the country, to the city of Ghazeepore. Judging from the depth to which it occasionally sinks, as compared with the fields on either side, it must be of considerable antiquity. The road is traversed by large numbers of people, and may be regarded as one of the chief outlets of the city in this direction. In the dry season a dam is thrown up across the Barna, over which passengers are permitted to pass, on the payment of a small toll ; in the rains the river becomes swollen and deep, and, consequently, the traffic of the road is conveyed over by means of a ferry. In olden times a spacious bridge, erected by the Mohammedan rulers of the country, spanned the river at this place, but fell into decay, and, eventually, into utter ruin. Its foundations are still visible in the bed of the stream; but they are very limited in extent. ' A few years ago most of the stones of the ruined bridge were taken away, and
utilized for the erection of the present Barna bridge, connecting the civil with the military lines. It has seemed to my mind a somewhat inconsiderate policy, on the part of the local authorities, that, while collecting a revenue from the ferry and the dam, they have never projected a new bridge, but have left the entire northern boundary of the city, for the space of between three and four miles, without any proper and adequate means of communication with the country beyond the Barna. Further up the river there is the Iron Bridge, and also that already alluded to; but these are too far off to be of any real benefit to the inhabitants of the city on the one side of the Barna, and of the numerous villages on the other side, throughout the whole of the tract to which I am referring, except by their making a considerable detour; and this, on account of the great distance to be traversed, is, I fear, in the case of many of them, impracticable.
Śivála Ghát.—The Old Fort.— Raja Cheit Singh : History of his Insur
rection and of the Proceedings of Warren IIastings in Connexion therewith.
SIVÁLA Ghát is interesting on account of its connexion with the insurrection at Benares in the time of Warren Hastings, the downfall of Raja Cheit Singh, the former Raja of Benares, and the destruction of his family, which followed that event. When Cheit Singh rebelled against the British Government, he was residing in a strong fort built upon the banks of the Ganges, above the Sivála Ghát. Warren Hastings was, at the time, living in the garden house of Mádhodás, situated in the Ausánganj Mahalla, nearly three miles off, on the western side of the city. The history of this famous insurrection is briefly as follows.
Raja Cheit Singh, although a great noble, exercising considerable
power and authority throughout his extensive domains,-in virtue of which he might, perhaps, be regarded as possessing a jurisdiction similar to that of many European princes,—yet was not, in truth, a reigning monarch, or even a great tributary chief. He had no authority beyond what he derived from the East
India Company; and his vast estates did not pay tribute, but a fixed annual rent, to the British Government. Warren Hastings says, “ that his father, Balwant Singh, derived the degree of independence which he possessed during the latter part of his life from the protection and intervention of our Government. His son, Cheit Singh, obtained from our influence, exerted by myself, the first legal title that his family ever possessed of property in the land of which he, till then, was only the Aumil, and of which he became the acknowledged Zemindar by a Sannad granted to him by the Nabob Shujah-ud-Dowlah (king of Oude, whose dominions, in those days, extended as far as Benares), at my instance, in the month of September, 1773. On the succession of the Nabob Assof-ud-Dowlah, the rights of sovereignty which were held by him over the Zemindary were transferred, by treaty, to the Company. Those rights were indisputably his, and became, by his alienation of them, as indisputably the Company's; and every obligation and obedience which is due from a Zemindar to the superior magistrate, by the constitution of Hindustan, became as much the right of the Company from Cheit Singh as it had been due to his former sovereign, with the additional ties of gratitude for the superior advantages which he was allowed to possess with his new relation. The unexampled lenity of our Government in relinquishing to him the free and uncontrolled rule of his Zemindary, subject to a limited annual fine, and the royalties of the Mint, administration of justice and police, ought to have operated as an additional claim on his fidelity, but evidently served to stimulate his
ambition, and, perhaps, to excite in his mind an opinion that he possessed an inherent right of selfdependency.” 1
Such being the nature of the relation subsisting between the Raja and the Indian government, it was only just and right, that, at a time of national peril, he should be called upon to contribute his quota of men and money towards the defence of his own estates and of the country in general. “On the first intelligence of the war with France, in July, 1778, it was resolved, in Council, that Raja Cheit Singh should be required to contribute an extraordinary subsidy for the expense which this new exigency had imposed on our Government; and the sum was limited to five lacks of rupees for the current year. After many excuses and protestations of inability, he, at length, consented, with a very ill grace, to the payment, and, with a much worse, discharged it.
The next year the same demand was repeated ; and he attempted, in like manner, to elude it, affecting to borrow money in small sums, and to sell his plate and jewels to raise it : nor was it paid at last, till he had reduced the Board to the extremity of ordering two battalions of sepoys to the neighbourhood of Ramnagar, and quartering them upon him, with their pay charged to his account, until the whole payment was completed.” 2
Fearing the anger of the Governor-General, the Raja, in the early part of the following year, despatched his confidential
manager, Lálá Sadanand, to him “to solicit,” says Warren Hastings, “my forgivenesss of his past
1 Warren Hastings's Insurrection in Benares, pp. 8, 9. 2 Insurrection in Benares, p. 3.