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but without gilding or glory. A few feet in front of these idols, a small lamp is kept burning. The worshippers pass in and out of this room, and perform their devotions as though it were an ordinary temple. It is the only temple in Benares, however, so far as my
observation has extended, in which persons, seating themselves on the floor, engage formally in religious exercises. The temples in Benares, and in Northern India generally, with their courts, porches, and subordinate shrines, though they, in some instances, cover a considerable area, are, for the greater part, of very narrow dimensions, and contain only one small room, in which, besides the presiding deity, several inferior divinities are frequently placed, leaving not room enough for a dozen persons to present their offerings at one and the same time, and to observe the prescribed ceremonies in an orderly manner.
Ascending another series of stairs from the Panchgangá Ghát, you approach the lofty mosque of Aurungzeb, known, by the natives, as “Mádhudás ká Dewhrá." The edifice itself is above the bank of the river; but its foundations sink deep into the ground; and their enormous stone breastworks extend far down the bank. Indeed, it is said that the foundations of the mosque are as deep as the building is high. Although more than a century and a half has elapsed since this structure was reared, yet it appears as solid and strong as on the day of its completion. The massive pile is on the very edge of a steep bank or cliff; yet not a stone of it has been loosened. There is a high wall, next to the street running by the western side of the mosque,
which is continued round to the north-east corner. A door in the northern wall opens the way into the enclosure, in full front of the mosque; the latter being situated on its southern side. From the eastern side commences the long flight of stone stairs descending to the river. The enclosure is not sufficiently spacious to give the observer an ample view of the minarets; but, nevertheless, it is extensive enough to enable him to gain a satisfactory idea of their symmetry and elegance. The mosque itself exhibits nothing striking, and, indeed, can hardly be called beautiful. It is plain and common-place; and, were it not for the minarets rising above, it would not be accounted a noticeable object in Benares. The minarets themselves have a delicate gracefulness about them which it is impossible to portray in words; and my photographic representation fails to convey the exactness and exquisiteness of the reality. I do not remember their exact height; but it is not less than one hundred and fifty feet, reckoning from the floor of the mosque. When it is remembered that the bank of the river on which this edifice stands is nearly the same number of feet above the bed of the stream, it will at once be perceived that the minarets occupy a very prominent position in a panoramic view of the city. Although many of the buildings of Benares, especially those in the neighbourhood of the gháts, are of a great height, yet they are all overtopped by the minarets, the clear forms of which, pointing upwards to the sky, may be discerned at the distance of many miles from the city. They were, originally, some fifty feet higher than they now are, and were cut down to their present height, in con- . sequence of exhibiting signs of weakness and insecurity. There is a staircase in each tower, from the summit of which you gain a complete view of Benares and its suburbs, and of a portion of the surrounding country; but the ascent and descent are attended with considerable fatigue.
It is astonishing that this mosque, although so much visited by Europeans, and regarded, by them, as one of the chief sights of Benares, should be almost abandoned by the Mohammedans. On Fridays, a small number of the faithful assemble within its walls for religious purposes, but on no other day; and, during the remaining six days of the week, it is handed over to the care of two men. These consist of a Mullá and his servant, who alone have charge of the building. It seems that the office held by the Mullá was formerly held by his ancestors, who received it, possibly, from Aurungzeb himself.
A small village was, at one time, in possession of the mosque, from the proceeds of which its expenses were partially paid: but it has lapsed to the Government; and, consequently, the expenses of repairing and cleaning the mosque, so far as I was able to learn, are defrayed by the contributions of visitors. Its existence in this part of city, which is almost entirely inhabited by Hindus, affords the strongest proof of the rancour and violence with which the emperor Aurungzeb opposed the idolatrous practices of the people, and endeavoured to propagate his own religion. Tradition says, that, on the site of the mosque, a temple once