« PreviousContinue »
the night on the river, in large boats, some of which are beautifully decorated, where dancing and singing go on for hours. The scene is exceedingly picturesque; and its effect is much heightened by the brilliant lights on the large boats. The festival continues till the evening of Wednesday, and was originally called Buddhuwá Mangal (Budh, Wednesday), but is now corrupted into Búrwa Mangal.
40. The Dangal Melá, held at the temple of Jagannáth and at Rámnagar, on the Thursday following the Búrwa Mangal. This, too, is a singing and dancing festival. Singing parties proceed to the temple, accompanied by crowds of listeners; and boats, laden with people, attended by singing and dancing girls, row about the river, proceeding as far as Rámnagar. This melá is of recent date.
The Buddhist Ruins at Sárnáth—Their Antiquity.-Summary of the
Narratives of Fa Hian and Hiouen Thsang, respecting the buildings formerly existing at Sárnáth and in its neighbourhood-Points of agreement in the Narratives. Modern Explorers of the Ruins.-Extent and Nature of the Remains.— The Great Tower-Description of it by Major-General Cunningham, and Account of his Excavations. -Age of Buddhist Topes or Towers. -Remains of a Buddhist Monastery-Mr. Thomas's Account of them.-Discovery of large numbers of Statues and Bass-reliefs.-Excavated Chamber.-Foundation of an Ancient Tower-Major-General Cunningham's Description of it.—The Chaukandí Tower.—The I'sipattana Hall, or Abode of Buddhist Devotees.- Remains of Vihara or Temple-monastery.-Small Building, containing Sixty Sculptures. — The Seal Chaityas—The Buddhist Formula--Sakya Muni, the historical Buddha-His visit to Benares,-Spread of Buddhism from Benares. - Decline of Buddhism in India.-Destruction of Buddhist Structures at Sárnáth, by fire.-Fall of Buddhism.
THESE ruins have, for years, excited much interest in the public mind, both on account of their antiquity and of their connexion with the Buddhist religion. The latest of them date, perhaps, from about the sixth or seventh century of the present era ; while the earliest may belong to a period several hundred years prior to that. Indeed, it is a historical fact, which admits of no question, that there were buildings in existence on this spot in the first ages of Buddhism ; and, although we can hardly suppose that remains of any
of them are still to be found, nevertheless, it is not improbable that portions of edifices erected previously to the Christian era,—such as foundations, walls, and sculptured stones, in a more or less fragmentary state,— are amongst the relics which have been preserved down
to our own times. - Two Chinese pilgrims, Fa Hian and Hiouen Thsang,
have thrown considerable light on the condition of Sárnáth during the later period of Buddhism. The former visited India in the beginning of the fifth century, A.D.; and the latter, towards the middle of the seventh. These keen and sagacious observers have left records of their travels in India, of the utmost importance to the historian and antiquarian. Their narratives are, for the most part, plain matter-of-fact productions, free from the haze and uncertainty of Hindu writings; and, wherever they have been tested by extraneous evidence, have been found to be, to a large extent, singularly correct. As great interest attaches to the accounts which they furnish respecting Sárnáth and Benares at those epochs, I have given them entire, in appendices to this work. That of Fa Hian I have extracted from “The Pilgrimage of Fa Hian,” translated by Mr. J. W. Laidlay, from the French edition of the "Foe Koue Ki” of MM. Remusat, Klaproth, and Landresse. This is very brief; but the narrative of Hiouen Thsang, on the contrary, is in detail. This I have myself translated from the “Mémoires de Hiouen Thsang,” the French version of the original Chinese work, executed by the celebrated Sinologist M. Stanislas Julien.
Before describing the Buddhist ruins at Sárnáth, I will give a short summary of the buildings existing at the two periods referred to, according to the representations of those distinguished travellers. Fa Hian says, that, “to the north-west of the town (Benares), at the distanco of ten li (less than two miles), you come to the temple situated in the Deer-park of the Immortal.” He also makes mention of a chapel, which, perhaps, was a small shrine; and of four towers, erected on spots celebrated in the life of Buddha, one being that where he delivered his first discourse on the new religion of Buddhism he was then founding. He states, in addition, that there were two seng kia lan, or monasteries, inhabited by ecclesiastics."
Hiouen Thsang, first of all, furnishes a brief account of the kingdom of Varanasi, or Benares, as it existed in his day, which was, he says, four thousand li, or about six hundred and sixty-seven miles, in circumference. It possessed thirty Buddhist monasteries, to which three thousand religious persons, or monks, were attached ; and a hundred Hindu temples, with ten thousand heretics, priests, devotees, and others connected with them. The greater portion of the population adhered to the Hindu doctrines. In the capital were twenty Hindu temples; so that the rest must have been scattered over the province: but what proportion of the Buddhist monasteries were there likewise, he does not mention. Towers, with many stories, and magnificent chapels, beautifully carved and richly painted, he saw in the city; and, also, a brazen statue of the
See Appendix A.
Hindu deity Maheswara, nearly a hundred feet high. To the north-east of Benares, and to the west of the Ganges,—but at what distance he neglects to say, was a Stupa, or sacred tower, built by Asoka, about a hundred feet in height; and, opposite to it, a stone column, "of blue colour, bright as a mirror."
About ten li (or one-third less than two miles) to the north-east of the Ganges, was the monastery of the Deer Park (now called Sárnáth), divided into eight parts, and entirely surrounded by a wall, within which were balustrades and two-storied palaces, of splendid construction, and a Vihara, or temple-monastery, two hundred feet in height, surmounted by a huge An-molo (or mango), in embossed gold. The foundations and stairs were of stone. Surrounding the monument were a hundred rows of niches, made of brick, each containing a statue of Buddha, in embossed gold. In the midst of the Vihara was a statue of Buddha, in bronze. To the south-west of this Vihára was a Stupa, of stone, raised by Aśoka; and, in front of it, a column, seventy feet in height, erected on the spot where Buddha delivered his first discourse. Near by were seven other Stupas, and, also, a number of ancient stone seats, fifty paces long, and seven feet high, placed there to commemorate the site where the four last Buddhas are said. to have taken exercise. A statue of Buddha, in the attitude of walking, was likewise to be seen.
Within the walls of the monastery were a multitude of sacred monuments, including several hundred Viháras and Stupas. To the west of the walls was a sacred tank, in which Buddha formerly bathed; a little to the west of