« PreviousContinue »
figure of a bull, also of marble, kneels in front. To their right is another shrine, in honour of Mahádeva. On the sides of the enclosure, extending all round it, is a platform or terrace, built into the four walls, and covered in with a roof: it furnishes room for accommodating large numbers of persons, and protecting them from the sun and rain. Here I saw a painted devotee, absorbed in meditation, seated before a few leaves of a Sanskrit book. His right hand was in a sock, and held a málá or rosary, which, concealed from observation, it revolved; and, as he muttered his mantras, he counted the beads unceasingly. Upon this platform is a curious little building, with an iron grating in front, looking like a cage or den for the abode of some wild beast, but which is none other than the residence of the golden-faced goddess Bágeswari. A short distance from this shrine is an immodest figure of a woman, in bass-relief.
Between the platform and the temple, which, together with its porch, occupies most of the remaining space of the quadrangle, a broad path runs, separating the former from the latter. In this path, on the south side, is a stone scaffolding, from the arch of which a bell is suspended, the gift of a Raja of Nepal; and on either side of the arch is a small figure of a lion. The temple and the porch, although united together, forming one edifice, are, in reality, two distinct buildings, and were erected at two different periods. The temple was erected by Rani Bhawání, as before mentioned, during the last century; while the porch was erected by a Subahdar, or superior commissioned native officer, a few years ago. The porch stands upon twelve elaborately-carved pillars, the designs of which are fantastic, yet not without taste. All the pillars are similarly carved. Their base rests upon a floor raised about four feet from the ground; and they are surmounted by a dome, with cupolas at each corner, connected together by a breast-work. The inner part of the dome is embellished with a variety of colours; but the painting, in several places, has suffered injury. From the centre of the dome a large bell is suspended, which, it is reported, was presented to the temple, by a European magistrate of Mirzapore, about forty years ago. This tale, incredible as its sounds, and the truth of which I am not prepared to vouch for, is commonly believed by the people.
The temple is built after the orthodox model of Hindu temples, but not with that excessive display of minute carving and sculpture, representing monstrous and indecent figures, which may be seen on many Hindu edifices of more modern times. Yet its carving is not scanty. The cornices, indeed, of the doors, situated on each of the four sides, are so covered with carving, as to be liable, to some extent, to the remark just applied to more recent buildings. But the upper part of the temple, notwithstanding the multitude of small cupolas surrounding the steeple and rising up to its very apex, exhibits a simplicity of design which every one must behold with pleasure and admiration. Each cupola terminates in a gilded point; and the steeple has a gilded trident crowning its summit. The cornices of the doors above spoken of have the peculiarity of a double arch, an inner and an outer. Over the outer arch are figures of men, in bass-relief, each seated on a bird, and holding a kind of guitar in his hands; while the second or inner arch is ornamented with figures of Durga and other deities. The cornices of the door, at the main entrance to the temple leading through the porch, exhibit designs of a different character from the rest. Figures of men riding on lions are carved upon the face of the outer arch ; and of Gaņeś and two women, upon the face of the inner.
In the interior of the temple is a small shrine, the residence of the goddess, painted over with bright glaring colours. The idol within is covered with tinselled cloth, and has a face of brass, or of silver, or of other kind of metal, according to the whim of the priests, who keep a stock of masks on hand, which fit on the head of the image. It is also decorated with a garland, rising like horns above its head; and with several necklaces of gold coins hanging low down as far as the chest. A small lamp burns inside the shrine; and immediately in front of the latter is a silver bath sunk into the ground. Flowers are strewn about, the offerings of the worshippers, and, being permitted to decay, emit an effluvium in the highest degree pernicious to all who approach the place.
On the north side of the outer wall of the quadrangle is one of those noble tanks which abound in northern India. It is within the jurisdiction of the temple, and, so far, may be regarded as sacred; but its waters are not held in special estimation for religious purposes, although they are of great domestic utility to the neighbourhood.
A short distance to the east of Durga Kund, in the direction of the river, is Kurukshetr Táláo, which is a tank constructed by Rani Bhawání, in commemoration of the battle fought at Kurukshetr, an account of which is found in the Mahábharata.
The tank is square, and is built with stone stairs, leading down to the water. It is famous as a place of pilgrimage at the time of a solar eclipse, on which occasion vast crowds of people bathe in the water, with the view of frustrating the efforts of the voracious demon, who persists in temporarily swallowing the moon. On its western side is a temple built by the same lady.
In this Mahalla, which is called Bhadainí, to the north-east of Kurukshetr Táláo, is the Lolárik Kúán or well. This sacred well has a double mouth, or entrance, the water being in one reservoir, communi. cating with the two shafts or mouths from below. At the time of my visit, it was about twenty feet deep, and the height of the shafts above the water, about fifty feet. Each shaft is of stone, and is surrounded by a parapet; and, between the two parapets, a path runs, broad enough for walking purposes. The two shafts differ, both in form and size. That to the east is round, and is some forty or forty-five feet in circumference. The shaft to the west is in the form of a parallelogram, and is three hundred feet, or upwards, in circumference. On three of its sides are broad stairs, leading down to the water. Descending one of these stairs, you come to the water below, which flows beneath a high arch, connecting together the two shafts. The entire well, as it now exists, was the work of three persons, namely, Rani Ahalya Bai, a Raja of Behár, and Amrit Rao ; but it is uncertain by whom the original well was built. In a niche on the stairs is a disk of the sun, which is so much worn, that it was with some difficulty that, by the fading light of the waning day, I could distinguish the carving upon it. This sacred object is worshipped on the day devoted to the sun, that is, our Sunday. On a platform, about half-way down, is a figure of the god Gaņeś, in a standing posture, which gives a very ludicrous appearance to his protuberant abdomen, and his elephant-head. By his side is a mutilated figure, — not, I am satisfied, of Hindu origin,—with a head-dress rising to an apex, having a knob standing out in front. The temples are bound by a fillet; and around the neck is a double necklace fastened by a clasp. Several other sculptures on the walls of the south stairs arrested my attention, as being very different from modern works of Hindu art, both in design and in execution. They are partly bass-reliefs of figures cut on separate stones and inserted into the walls. They must, therefore, have been brought from some other building, of a date anterior to the erection of the walls now containing them. The temple of Bhadreśwar stands on the south side of the wall, and displays a large emblem of Siva.