Page images
PDF
EPUB

to other chronological determinations. In so recent a composition, and one having to do with real localities, there must, almost of necessity, be many facts interwoven with the fictions: the attempt to discriminate them would, perhaps, be remunerated. The Benares of the present day offers numerous and varied objects of interest to the contemplation of the devout Hindu; and yet, a very few of them excepted, to speculate touching their age, in reliance on the data hitherto made available, would be much too perilous for prudence.

· Unless we are deceived by identity of names, scores of these are enumerated in the Kasi-khanda.

In the last chapter of that work, cycles of pilgrimages are prescribed, as means to particular ends, precisely as at this hour. Thus, there is one round to warrant the practitioner from liability to further metempsychosis ; another, to secure the attainment of Rudrahood; a third, to ensure emancipation before death. These for samples.

Saints whose aspirations are less ambitious are promised store of good things in future for repeating the Panchatirthika daily. This consists in: (1) ablution, without disrobing, in the pool of Chakrapushkariņi, with a propitiation-service addressed to the gods, manes, Brahmans, and beggars ; (2) reverential salutation to Aditya, Draupadi, Vishņu, Daņdapâņi, and Maheswara ; (3) visual contemplation of Dhundhivinayaka; (4) a dip of the fingers in the Jnânavâpi well, with adoration of Nandikeśa, Târakeśa, and Mahâkâleswara ; and, finally, (5) a second visit to Daņdapâņi.

Of seven preeminently holy places Kasi is named first; the others being Kânti, Mâyâ, Ayodhyâ, Dwaravati, Mathurâ, and Avantika :

काशी कान्ती च मायाख्या वयोध्या द्वारवत्यपि ।
मथुरावन्तिका चैताः सप्त पुर्योत्र मोक्षदाः ॥

VI., 68. Mâyâ is Hurdwar. I am not sure whether or not Kântî is the same as Kânchi. The rest are well known. These places are, all,

[ocr errors]

To the early Arab and Persian travellers Gangetic India was an unexplored tract. Albirûnî, who wrote about A.D. 1000, had, however, heard of the holy fame of Benares, which he compares, not inaptly, to Mecca.? Mahmûd of Ghaznî is said, on doubtful warrant, to have advanced as far as Benares, and to have made a few converts there, during his ninth incursion. In 1194, Shihâbuddîn, after defeating the Kanaujan monarch, Jayachandra, marched on that city, where he is reported to have demolished near a thousand Hindu temples. The subsequent history of the place, for

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

named in the Ayeen Akbery, in Mr. Gladwin's translation of which, Vol. III., pp. 255, 256, Mathurâ and Avantikâ are disguised as Mehtra and Ownitka.

At least thirty or forty epithetical designations of Benares are scattered through the Kasi-khanda. Half of that number, or thereabouts, from this or some other work or works, have been noted by native lexicographers. One of them, Panchanadatîrtha, “the quinquamnian resort,” refers to five rivers, the Kiraņâ, Dhûtapâpâ, Saraswati, Ganga, and Yamuna :

किरणा धूतपापा च पुण्यतोया सरस्वती।
गंगा च यमुना चैव पञ्च नद्योत्र कीर्तिताः ॥
अतः पञ्चनदं नाम तीर्थ त्रैलोक्यविश्रुतम् ।

LIX., 114, 115.
Four of these streams, in small quantities, are believed to emerge
into the Ganges, through subterraneous channels, just in front of the
Panchagangâ landing.

Relation des Voyages, etc., by M. Langlès and Father Reinaud, Vol. I., Preliminary Discourse, pp. XLVIII., XLIX.

? Father Reinaud's Mémoire Géographique, Historique et Scientifique sur l'Inde, etc., p. 288.

3 English Ayeen Akbery, Vol. II., p. 35.

* Major Stewart's History of Bengal, p. 36. Elsewhere we read, that, “having broken the idols in above a thousand temples, he purified and consecrated the latter to the worship of the true God.” Colonel Briggs's translation from Farishta, Vol. I., p.

179.

many centuries, is well-nigh a blank. Its religious character was not, in the eyes of its Islamite masters, a thing to recommend it; and commercial or political importance it had none. Even Akbar, with all his toleration of Hinduism, and occasional partiality to it, did nothing to prop the sinking fortunes of Benares. Its decline was uninterrupted; and, under Aurangzeb, who changed its name to Muhammadâbâd, it reached, at last, the depth of its ignominy. At the command of that harsh bigot, its principal temples were laid in ruins, and mosques, constructed from their materials, were reared on their half-destroyed foundations. The Observatory, built by Mânasiñha* about A.D. 1600, is, it may be, the only noteworthy Hindu edifice of the

1 Fiscally, too, it had come, in the days of Akbar, to be of very secondary note. See the Ayeen Akbery, Vol. II., Appendix, p. 28.

2 I have met with this substitute for Benares in an Urdû book written within the last hundred years. It was originally meant, of course, as a poignant insult. Deservedly, it never obtained, it is believed, any currency.

The Muhammadan names of Delhi, Agra, and Patna are of everyday use. Less familiar are Jahangirâbâd, Mustafa'âbâd, Islâmâbâd, and Mûminâbâd, for Dacca, Rampoor, Chittagong, and Brindabun.

3 Captain Orlich, in the tenth letter of his Reise in Ostindien, says that Akbar entertained the project of establishing a mosque over the Jnânavâpî well. No one at all acquainted with Akbar's character could give this silly legend the least credence. The story looks like an addition to the tale, that, when Aurangzeb threw down the old temple of Visweswara, its phallus cast itself, unassisted, into the Jnânavâpî.

Raja of Ambherî. One of his descendants, Jayasimha II., who flourished rather more than a century after him, provided the Observatory with astronomical instruments. From Raja Mânasiñha the building was called, from the first, Mânamandira, now corrupted into Mânmandil.

[ocr errors]

city, still entire, of so great antiquity. For nearly all that is striking in its architectural embellishment, Benares is beholden to the Marathas; and to the zeal and enterprise of the same energetic race the resuscitation, in the decline of Hinduism, of much of its former influence is, in large measure, indebted. There is no ground for believing that Benares, in comparison of what we now see it, with its thousand temples,' and their concomitants of holy harpies and willing victims, can ever have boasted a larger population, a prestige of greater potency, or more affluent prosperity.

F. H. JULY, 1868.

Bishop Heber uninquiringly states that the Observatory was “ founded before the Musalman conquest." Captain Orlich says it was founded by Jayasimha : he does not distinguish which Jayasimha. But it would be endless to point out the mistakes of careless travellers.

Even Mr. James Prinsep,–Benares Illustrated, Second Series from consulting Tavernier with insufficient attention, refers the conversion of the Mânmandil into an Observatory to Jayasimha I.

An excellent account of the Benares Observatory, by Pandit Bâpû Deva Sâstrin, is given in the Transaction of the Benares Institute for the Session 1864-65, pp. 191-196.

Such was Mr. James Prinsep's estimate in 1828–1829. As to the extent of the city, “the measured length along the banks of the river, by survey, is barely three miles; and the average depth does not exceed one mile." Benares Illustrated, p. 12. Hiouen Thsang found Benares, in the seventh century, of not far from the same dimensions. Vide supra, p. xxvii.

1

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »