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no Hindu temples—including the temple of Bșiddhkál, which has, undoubtedly, an antiquity of several hundred years,—whatever exist, to which the epithets 'old' and 'ancient’ can properly be applied; thereby corroborating what has been previously asserted, that the modern city has, to a large extent, shifted from its original site. The priests tell you, that, where temples now stand, others once stood, and that the deities now worshipped have been worshipped at these precise spots through all past time; but this, of course, is said with the object of extolling their gods. No dependence can be placed on tradition, in ascertaining the dates of temples, so long as your informant can only state that a certain temple, on a certain site, had a predecessor on that site, and that predecessor had a previous one, and so on, in an endless series.
There are, in the division of Benares Proper, a few Hindu temples, which, perhaps on good grounds, lay claim to an antiquity of several hundred years; but the number of such temples is very small. The central portion, or Kásí, which now constitutes the heart of the city, cannot, so far as my knowledge extends, make even such a boast. Yet it is the favourite resort of Hindus, and is literally choked with its abundant population and the pilgrims who, from all parts of India, are perpetually flocking thither. Its temples and idols, its symbols of idolatry, and its priests, are all on so vast a scale as to defy calculation; while, as if in honour of this portion of it, the entire city is spoken of, throughout India, as Káśí. But, although the Kasí division now receives the lion's share of respect and attention, and the
Benares division, except on special occasions and at special festivals, obtains only a very inferior share, there was a time when the two stood in a reverse relation to one another, and Benares Proper was the common resort of Hindu votaries, while the Kásí division was its mere suburb, and scarcely honoured at all, and the Kedár division was a jungle, where, possibly, stood a secluded temple or two, and a few austere naked ascetics resided in savage simplicity.
Although I regard the central portion of the city, or that which distinctively bears the name of Káśí, as, speaking generally, less ancient than the division to the north of it, I would not have it supposed that I doubt the considerable antiquity of a certain portion of it. I refer especially to the foundations of many of the buildings in the streets immediately adjacent to the Ganges; and I conceive it to be not at all improbable, that, even in those early ages when the city extended for miles on the banks of the great river to the north and northeast of the Barna stream, its southern extremity not only included of the modern city what I have termed Benares Proper, but also a thin band of what is now the Káśí division of the city, stretching along the Ganges in a south-westerly direction, as far, possibly, as the Dasásamedh Ghát.
While, as already remarked in a previous chapter, the present form of Hinduism in the city is Puranic, yet I would apply that term, in an emphatic and special manner, to the Káśí division, because of the strong and very intimate association which it has with tie latest development and manifestation of Hinduism in the
Puráņas, and with the present features of idolatry amongst the Hindu race. The temples which stud the streets, the idols worshipped in them, the religious observances practised by the people, in short, the materialistic and sensuous characteristics of the Hindu faith, as exhibited there, are, to a very great extent, Puranic in their origin.
Respecting ancient Hindu buildings in the city, no definite and trustworthy information whatever can be gathered either from the lips of Hindus or from the writings which have come down to them from past ages. That remains of such buildings actually exist somewhere, admits of no question; but we are left utterly in the dark concerning them, and have to depend entirely upon personal observation, in searching · them out. One would have supposed, that works written upon Benares and in its praise, such as the Káśírahasya, which numbers thirty chapters; the Kási-máhátmya, which contains five; and Kásí-khanda, taken from the Skanda-purana, which consists of one hundred chapters, would have shed some light on this interesting subject: but the authors and compilers of these books have contented themselves with bare generalities, and have not troubled themselves about the epoch of any one temple, or ghát, or well, or other structure to which they may have referred. It is not known, with certainty, when the above works were written ; but this, however, is well ascertained, that not one of them was written till several hundred years after the date of the Buddhist edifices the remains of which have been discovered in the city.
The Hindus do not resort to all temples equally, but only to those which are well known, and which, they have reason to suppose, were frequented by their forefathers. New temples are constantly springing up in various parts of the city, some of which far surpass the old shrines in magnificence; but these are regarded as family temples, and are, for the most part, visited only by the relatives of the persons who have erected them, and by members of the caste to which they belong. The thirty-six castes,-into which Hindus are sometimes divided, -practically shun such temples, although I am not aware that they cherish any dislike to them; while all regard the other class of temples as peculiarly their own, and flock to them indiscriminately. Pilgrims also have the same feeling, and will have nothing to do with the new shrines.
One of the temples in Benares Proper, which may be regarded as not of recent date, is the well-known temple of Trilochan or the Three-eyed,—from tri, three, and lochana, an eye, --so called from the following circumstance. It is said, that, on one occasion, when Siva was wrapt in meditation, he was visited daily by Vishņu, who always brought with him a thousand separate flowers, which he sacrificed to Siva when in the act of worshipping him. One day Vishộu had brought his thousand flowers, as usual; and, having placed them ready for sacrifice, his attention was drawn off from them for a short period. Embracing the opportunity, Siva quietly purloined one of the flowers. Ignorant of the circumstance, Vishņu presently set about his devotions, offering his flowers one at a
time, and counting the number offered. What was his surprise, when, on arriving at the nine hundred and ninety-ninth, he found that one was missing ! He was totally unable to account for the loss; but, as he had no other at hand, and it was necessary to complete the sacrifice which he had begun, he removed an eye from its socket, and offered it instead. On apply. ing the eye to the forehead of the idol, it adhered to the spot on which he placed it. Siva immediately began to see with it, and from that time forwards
possessed three organs of vision.
There is, however, another tale connected with this temple and the third eye of S'iva. Tradition affirms, that the emblem of this god, which is worshipped in his temple, having passed through the seven pátalas or subterraneous regions, had made its home•in this place. Gaurí, wife of S'iva, was, at this time, seeking, but could not find him. Siva, with his third eye, the eye of reflection,—distinguished from his other two eyes, which are merely eyes of observation,-perceived her. It is commonly believed, that, on the site of this temple, the three rivers, the Ganges, the Jumná, and the Saraswati, meet. Moreover, three notable deities are spoken of as residing here, corruptly called Saraswateśwar, Jamaneswar, and Nirbuddheswar. The first two idols actually do exist here, and are pointed out in the enclosure of the temple; and the last has a separate temple to herself, at a short distance from the Trilochan fane. It is not at all unlikely, that, formerly, this idol was also worshipped in this place; for all three are referred to in the Káší-khanda, in connexion with it.