Page images

that was another, in which he washed his monk's waterpot; and, a short distance to the north, was a third, in which he washed his garments. On one side of this last tank was a large square stone, which exhibited, it was believed, the marks of the threads of the Kacháya, or brown vestment, worn by Buddha. Not far from the tanks was a Stupa ; and, near to that, another; and, further off still, but at no great distance, was one more, situated in the midst of a large forest.

Nearly half a mile to the south-west of the monastery was a large and lofty Stupa, about three hundred feet in height, resplendent with the most rare and precious objects, and surmounted by an arrow. By its side was another Stupa, but of small size. About half a mile to the east of the Deer Park was a Stupa; and, close by, a dry tank, respecting which Hiouen Thsang gives a singular legend. To the west of the tank was the Stupa of the Three Quadrupeds.'

The narratives of Fa Hian and Hiouen Thsang strikingly agree in two respects. They both state, that, alike where Buddha delivered his first discourse, and where the five hermits came forward and paid him reverence, a Stupa or sacred tower has been erected. It is very probable that they saw the same towers. Indeed, in regard to the first, if any reliance can be placed on the assertion of Hiouen Thsang, that the tower which existed in his day was built by Asoka, the conjecture amounts to an established fact. This tower commemorated a most important circumstance in the history of Buddhism, and was spoken of as one

See Appendix B.

of the "eight divine towers ;" all of them having reference to certain leading events in the life of Buddha. It might be difficult to point decidedly to any further agreement in the two narratives ; although I am inclined to the belief, that “the temple of the Deer Park,” referred to in such a special manner by Fa Hian, was the Vihára, or temple-monastery, so particularly described and so prominently distinguished by Hiouen Thsang.

The mystery connected with these ruins, united with the indisputable fact that Buddhism once reigned paramount in India, and that Benares vas long one of its principal seats, has excited the curiosity of multitudes of persons who have burned with desire to know the secrets which, it was supposed, were enshrined within them. It is no wonder, therefore, that the excavations which have been carried on at Sárnáth, at various times, have been viewed with great interest by the educated portion of Europeans in India. It is to be regretted that their superintendence has occasionally fallen into the hands of inexperienced persons — inexperienced, I mean, so far as the ability to decipher inscriptions and intelligently describe what has been from time to time discovered is concerned. The most extensive excavations which have been made were effected under the personal superintendence of MajorGeneral Cunningham and Major Kittoe, who dug out of the ruins an immense number of statues, bassreliefs, and other curious objects. The former alone, in 1835, found about a hundred statues and bass-reliefs, all which worth preserving were sent to the Museum of the Asiatic Society in Calcutta. Mr. E. Thomas (late Judge of Benares), and Dr. F. Hall, also, following in the track of these great explorers, both made interesting discoveries. A considerable number of the Sárnáth relics have been deposited in the Government College of Benares, and are found both in the Museum and in the College grounds.

The ruins at Sárnáth consist of two towers, --separated by a distance of about half a mile or thereabouts,and of the walls and foundations of buildings which, for many years, remained covered over with earth, but have been lately exhumed. Moreover, there is a vast amount of broken bricks lying thickly scattered over the plain, some of which are grooved and carved, while all are hard and well-seasoned. Here and there, too, a statue, more or less mutilated, is to be seen. Near a stream which flows to the north of the plain, is a largo stone figure, the base of which is imbedded in the soil. This may have been a representation of Buddha; but it is now worshipped by the Hindus, who profess to derive great benefit from their homage to it. The figure is so mutilated, that it is difficult to say what it was originally.

The account given of the great tower by Major-General Cunningham, in his Archæological Report, printed in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (vol. xxxii.), is so elaborate and exhaustive, and, withal, so interesting, that, although lengthy, I give the extract almost entire. He says: “The Buddhist Stupa called Dhamek is a solid round tower, ninety-three feet in diameter at base, and one hundred and ten feet in

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »