« PreviousContinue »
by historical records. I had no opportunity to examine thoroughly the country lying between these remains and Sárnáth; but I feel satisfied that, at some point in these remains, a line of debris would be found connecting the two spots, with only a few breaks in its course, — the debris indicating the former existence of solid buildings, and being the broken relics of the
This point must not be searched for at the southern extremity of the ancient city, but at the northern extremity; and, perhaps, the line of junction may be the line of the mounds just now referred to : but of this I am not able to speak positively.
If these observations respecting the site of the early city be correct, it must follow that the derivation of the word Benares, as the city lying between the Barná and the Así, is utterly absurd, as applied to the most ancient city. That it may be taken to explain the word, as denoting the city of modern times, even as far back as the Gupta dynasty, and, perhaps, somewhat further, is, historically, unobjectionable. But Banár-así has nothing whatever to do with the most ancient city of Benares, and, as applied to it, would be a ludicrous misnomer. It seems, indeed, probable that the Buddhists were the first people to occupy, to any extent, the southern side of the Barná; and such a notion is remarkably substantiated by the existence of various Buddhist remains there, as described in this chapter ; but none of them, so far as I know, date from earlier than the Gupta period. It is, however, extremely likely that a small portion of the fragmentary remains found in this quarter belong to an epoch much anterior to this period; having
been, probably, attached to buildings existing there when Benares lay chiefly on the north side of the river Barná, and had suburbs or outlying edifices on its southern side. The Panchkosí road, or sacred boundary of modern Benares, -regarded, by many natives, as of immense antiquity,—is no older than the city which it encompasses, and must also be assigned to a comparatively recent date. Many pleasant and, perhaps, hallowed associations, connected, in the minds of multitudes, with Benares, as it now stands, will be found to possess but precarious foundation, when they discover that the Benares of today is by no means identical with the Benares of their remote forefathers.
SOURCE of the great wealth of Benares-Its chief articles of Commerce
Its native Bankers-Its Poor.-Increased desire for Education. The Government or Queen's College.—Monolith in the College Grounds. — The Normal School. — The Church of England Mission.— The London Society's Mission.—The Baptist Society's Mission.- Native Schools of various classes.— The Benares Institute.—Public Buildings in the Suburbs.—Monument to Mr. Cherry.-Influential Native Gentlemen of Benares.
BENARES is a city of great wealth, yet not of great trade. Just as there are fashionable places of resort in more civilized countries, to which multitudes of persons are drawn at certain seasons of the year, so, in India, there are places that are annually visited by crowds of people, but with this difference, that they are of nearly all ranks and conditions, and their object is, mainly, of a religious character. Of this type is Benares. Myriads of Hindus come on pilgrimage, every year, to the sacred city, not a few of whom are merchants, landed proprietors, and princes. Some of these latter classes are casual visitors; others, however, possess residences of their own in the city, where trusty servants, and, perhaps, one or two members of their families, habitually dwell. Rajas and men of high social position, in all parts of India, pride themselves on having a house in Holy Káśí.
For these reasons,
chiefly, it has come to pass that Benares is one of the richest cities in India.
Although religion, rather than trade, forms the principal occupation of the inhabitants of Benares, still the merchants constitute a numerous and important body. A considerable trade is carried on in sugar, saltpetre, and indigo, which are produced in the district. Silks and shawls are manufactured in the city; and Benares is especially famous for its gold embroidered cloths called Kincob (Kimkhwáb) and for its beautiful filigree work in gold. A large quantity of Manchester goods yearly finds a ready market here, and is sold for consumption in the neighbourhood, or is sent to other parts of the country. The most. important place of trade, however, for English cotton manufactures, in the North-western Provinces of India, is the city of Mirzapore, which, at one time, was the chief emporium, not only of these Provinces, but also of a large portion of Central India. One very striking sign of general prosperity, in Northern India, and, I imagine, in the country at large, is seen in the taste, now almost universal, for white or parti-coloured British fabrics of fine texture, which, although neither so durable nor so cheap as native products, are much more elegant. No persons except the poorest are destitute of one or more raiments made of English cloth ; and, in the cities and towns, no one considers himself fit for respectable society, if arrayed in cotton garments of native manufacture.
The bankers of Benares constitute an extensive fraternity. The habits of borrowing, and of plunging reck
lessly into debt, are lamentably prevalent in India. As multitudes are ready to borrow, it is a natural consequence that there should be many ready to lend, especially as the rate of interest is enormously high. This pernicious custom of society enriches a few, but impoverishes many, and greatly interferes with the comfort and happiness of the Hindu community generally.
While the number of persons with very small incomes in Benares is, undoubtedly, extremely large, yet, for a city of its size, I believe the number of abject poor is remarkably small. The sum needed for the support of a family there, would, in England, be regarded almost with incredulity. As labour, for the most part, is sufficiently abundant, there is no reason, therefore, why any family, the leading member of which is in health, should be in distress; yet, should he fall ill, unless other members of the family are able to work, it will, probably, be brought into difficulties, though not, at first, into misery. The friendly banker is then applied to, who, for a time at least, is usually willing to lend the family money, at high interest, expecting to be repaid when the sick person is restored to health ; but, at the same time, an incubus of debt will rest upon the household for many long months, and, it may be, for years.
The desire for education, above all in the English language, is rapidly increasing, from year to year, amongst nearly all classes of natives in Benares. At one time it was a hard matter to induce parents to send their sons to the Government and Mission schools, to receive a gratuitous education ; now they are eager to