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BARNA Sangam or Confluence of the Barna and Ganges. — A'dkesav
Temple.—Barna Ghát. - Ráj Ghát Fort : its use in 1857.—Remains of Buddhist Monastery.-Tank of Bhairo.-Lát or Pillar of SivaAncient Pillar.-Account of Disturbance in Benares when the pillar was thrown down.—The Ghazeepore Road.-Ancient Bridge over the Barna.
BARNA Sangam, so called from the confluence of the river Barna with the Ganges, is a highly venerated spot. To bathe in the uniting waters is regarded as a very meritorious act, sufficient to wash away the transgressions of a life-time. This Sangam is one of the five celebrated places of pilgrimage on the banks of the Ganges at Benares, and is, consequently, visited by the crowds of pilgrims which, at certain seasons, pour into the city. It also occupies an important place, as intimated in the preceding chapter, in the pilgrimage of the Panchkosí road. The pilgrims, having issued from the city at the Así Sangam, return to it by the Barna Sangam ; the former being its southern, and the latter its north-eastern, boundary. Here they halt, to perform the ceremonies prescribed for so sacred a place. Above the steep bank are four temples, which the Government has forbidden to be used. During the rebellion, they were in the hands of a man of a seditious and turbulent spirit, and were, consequently, seized by the authorities and closed. Subsequently, however, they were permitted to be reopened for religious purposes ; but they have been again closed, though from what cause I am in ignorance. These temples were all erected by the Diwan of the Maharaja Scindia, about one hundred years ago. The largest of them is dedicated to Adkeśav or Vishņu, a statue of which deity, dressed in gay robes, with a crown on its head, stands in the interior of the shrine. In the same chamber is another image, that of the Sun. The porch of the temple rests on ten pillars, and is situated on its eastern side. Below the porch various idols are deposited, two of which are worthy of notice. One is called Sangameswar, or the deity presiding over the confluence of the two rivers, which is simply Siva under another name. The other is the four-faced Brahmá-íswar or the god Brahmá. It is remarkable that this deity,—who, although the first member of the Hindu Triad, is rarely worshipped in any part of India, on account of his incest with his own daughter Saraswatí, as stated in Hindu writings, and believed by the people,-should have found a habitation here. Perhaps the reason of this circumstance may be, that, inasmuch as both Vishņu and Siva were already represented in these fanes, an image of Brahmá also was added, in order to complete the Triad. This union of the three members, in any one spot, is a most unusual occurrence; for, instead of cherishing love towards one another, they are supposed to be, and are generally represented as being, exceedingly jealous of each other's glory; and the sacred writings extol and disparage each in turn.
As worshippers are prohibited from entering these temples, a small platform has been erected on the ghát below, which is decorated with a select group of deities, who receive the homage due to the gods in the temples above. Here may be seen Sangameswar and, likewise, the sacred feet of Vishņu. The latter are, also, found at Maņikarņiká Ghát. Here are, also, the Monkey-god, two small stone figures of Satis, and a curious mythological stone, on the sides of which eight incarnations are carved in bass-relief.
On the summit of the Barna Sangam Ghát, a few remains of an old fort are visible. There is no doubt that, at one time, this fort commanded the city, which was then situated much nearer this spot than it now is. The population in the neighbourhood is exceed. ingly scanty; and the locality itself is now so far removed from the city, that it can be regarded as only a somewhat distant suburb of Benares.
To the west of the Barna Ghát is a plateau of elevated land, nearly a mile long and four hundred yards broad, overlooking both the city and the Ganges. The river Ganges forms a defence to the entire south-east face; the river Barna constitutes a wet ditch to the north and north-east faces; while an abrupt depression of the ground to the north-west,—said to be an old bed of the same stream,-completes the natural strength of the position. The advantage of this position, in a military point of view, was perceived by the old native rulers of Benares, who erected the fort above spoken of on the eastern edge of this tract, immediately above the Barna Sangam, but was not recognized by its British
governors until the year 1857, “of scarlet memory." The terrible events of that year brought out, in bold relief, the fatal absurdity of the policy which had led our military authorities to neglect the banks of the Ganges, and to place some of their largest and most important cantonments at an insecure distance from that river. On the 4th of June, 1857, the mutiny broke out at Benares, and, through the good providence of God, was speedily quelled, although, in the action that was fought, one hundred and eighty gallant British soldiers had to contend with two regiments of native infantry and one of cavalry. After the battle, the position of the European residents,—who were all cooped up in one large building, known as the Old Mint, and of the few English soldiers who protected them, was one of extreme peril; inasmuch as the military lines, including the Mint, were at a distance of at least three miles from the Ganges, with the city lying between; and it seemed a probable contingency that the routed sepoys, rallying again, would return to Benares, and, having excited to revolt its disaffected inhabitants, would come, in overwhelming numbers, upon the small and isolated party of Europeans, and cut off from them all means of escape, and all hope of successful resistance. This contingency, apparently so likely at the time, fortunately was not realized. The insecurity of the position held by the authorities was, however, soon discerned ; and, at an early stage of the rebellion, measures were taken for fortifying the elevated land in the rear of the Barna Ghát and in the neighbourhood of the old native fort. Embankments were thrown up
with incredible speed; and a citadel was soon completed, capable of making a stout resistance to a numerous enemy. The fortress was gradually strengthened, so that it may be regarded as having been, until abandoned, one of the strongest and most extensive in India. The heights overlook the entire city, which lies completely at the mercy of the force in occupation of them.
Several objects of interest to the antiquary are enclosed within the falls of the new fort. A spacious tomb, built by Lál Khán, a Mohammedan servant of a former Raja of Benares, is standing here. Passing through the western gate of the fort, you presently come to the building, which is situated a short distance off the road, on the right hand side. It occupies the centre of an extensive quadrangle, which is ornamented with four towers, one at each corner. The tomb itself consists of a massive tower, rising high above the rest, and is crowned with a dome, from the middle of which a spire emerges, pointing to the heavens. A large portion of its outer surface is still bright with the colours, chiefly blue, with which it was originally embellished. The colouring plaster, when minutely examined, has a glassy appearance, not unlike porcelain; and, although it has been for years exposed to a burning sun and to the periodic rains, yet it is questionable whether the colours have lost, from this cause, any of their freshness. The decay of the underlying masonry has, in some places, been a source of injury to the external plaster, by causing it to crumble away; but, where it has been preserved, the colours are strong and vivid. Within the building