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Hiouen Thsang, was an effort not unlike that of a drowning man making desperate struggles to prolong his existence, and actually devising some plan whereby his existence is temporarily prolonged. But, at length, the moment of dissolution arrived. Its adversary, Brahmanism, became too strong for it, and, eventually, crushed it for ever. Its extinction occurred in the eleventh or twelfth century, when, says MajorGeneral Cunningham, “the last votaries of Buddha were expelled from the continent of India. Numbers of images, concealed by the departing monks, are found buried near Sárnáth; and heaps of ashes still lie scattered amidst the ruins, to show that the monasteries were destroyed by fire.” And, in a note, he adds: “I wrote this passage from my own knowledge, as I made many excavations around Sárnáth in 1835-36. Major Kittoe has since (1851) most fully confirmed my opinion by his more extended excavations in the same neighbourhood. He writes to me: All has been sacked and burned-priests, temples, idols, all together; for, in some places, bones, iron, wood, and stone are found in huge masses : and this has happened more than once.'
Mr. Thomas gives us further information. chambers on the eastern side of the square were found filled in with a strange medley of uncooked food, hastily abandoned on their floors — pottery of everyday life, nodes of brass, produced, apparently, by the melting-down of the cooking vessels in common use. Above these, again, were the remnants of the charred timbers of the roof, with iron nails still remaining
Bhilsa Topes, pp. 166, 167.
in them; above which, again, appeared broken bricks, mixed with earth and rubbish, to the height of the extant wall, some six feet from the original flooring. Every item bore evidence of a complete conflagration; and so intense seems to have been the heat, that, in portions of the wall still standing, the clay, which formed the substitute for lime in building the brick-work, is baked to a similar consistency with the bricks themselves. In short, all existing indications lead
a necessary inference, that the destruction of the building, by whomsoever caused, was effected by fire applied by the hand of an exterminating adversary, rather than by any ordinary accidental conflagration. Had the latter been the cause of the results now observed, it is scarcely to be supposed that so well-peopled a convent, so time-hallowed a shrine, should have been so hastily and completely abandoned.” Food, also, was found in several places; and Major Kittoe made the singular discovery of “the remains of ready-made wheaten cakes, in the small recess in the chamber towards the northeast angle of the square.” On the floor of a cell, likewise, a “large quantity of rice was found, together with portions of wheat and other grain, part of which was spread out, or, possibly, scattered at the moment of the destructive inroad that was brought to a climax in the conflagration of the monastery.” Again, Mr. Thomas says: “In the cells to the eastward were found, among other things, considerable masses of brass, melted up into nodules and irregular lumps, as chance gave them a receptacle amid the general ruin. Here, also,
Bengal Asiatic Journal for 1854, p. 472.
were seen, broken or whole, the pottery vessels of every day requirement; and the iron nails which connected the cross rafters, still fixed in the larger beams that had escaped complete combustion. Among other bits of iron-work, there remained a well-fashioned ring-bolt, that might pass muster at the present day. Of matters of domestic utility, I must not omit to mention a clay chirágh or lamp, of the pointed wick-holder description, which, though it has retained its position in that form in other parts of India, is now superseded, in local use, by the ordinary small circular saucers of baked clay.” 1
Thus perished Buddhism in India, where it had reigned, as the dominant religious power, for, at least, seven hundred years, and had exerted an influence of gradually diminishing strength during several hundred years more.
1 Bengal Asiatic Journal for 1854, p 476.
CHAPTER XIX. .
ANCIENT Buddhist Ruins at Bakariya Kund.—Remains of old Wall.-
Carved Stones and Ancient Pillars. -Remains of small Buddhist Temple.-Remains of larger Temple.—Traces of Buddhist Monastery.
A STRICT investigation instituted in places where Buddhism was once famous and powerful would, in most cases, bring to light certain relics which it has left behind. New discoveries of Buddhist remains are continually being made in various parts of Northern India, every instance of which is a fresh illustration of our conviction, that Buddhism has left numerous footprints of itself in all places where it eminently flourished. Seeing that it existed in Benares during many centuries, and was the dominant faith professed there,-casting into the shade the elder creed, and asserting proudly its triumph over it,-it is highly interesting to inquire what Buddhist remains are yet traceable in the city, whereby its historical position, as one of the chief seats of Buddhism, may be tested. Strange to say, until very recently, few or no remains, in the city proper, had been discovered; but the reason of this was, I believe, that they had never been carefully sought after. The extensive ruins at Sárnáth, described in the
previous chapter, are, at least, three miles distant from the present city.
Now, while the hope of finding any buildings of the early Buddhist period in Benares might be pronounced too sanguine, yet, on the other hand, he would betray a singular ignorance of the massiveness and durability of Buddhist architecture, who should venture to assert that it was otherwise than exceedingly likely that portions of buildings of the later Buddhist period were still existing, waiting to be discovered. Even as late as the seventh century, A.D., when Hinduism had regained much of its old prestige and influence, there were, as we have already seen, in the city and kingdom of Benares, according to the testimony of Tiouen Thsang, upwards of thirty Buddhist monasteries,—to most or all of which temples were, probably, attached, —and, with them, about three thousand priests and disciples were associated. It cannot be, for an instant, supposed that these monasteries, which were, unquestionably, built of strong material, have all been swept away with the lapse of ages, and have “left not a wreck behind.” Several of these were, doubtless, situated at Sárnáth and in its immediate neighbourhood. Indeed, the existence of the Sárnáth ruins, which are, mostly, of the later Buddhist period, is a strong argument for believing that portions, more or less considerable, of some, perhaps of most, of the remaining edifices, are still discoverable. We must not imagine, that, in any instance, they are existing in their original integrity ; but, on the contrary, that, where they exist at all, they have been appropriated by Hindus and Mohammedans, and, principally, by the latter, for