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FURTHER Account of Ancient Remains recently discovered in Benares
and its vicinity.-Meaning of the epithets 'ancient' and 'old' in relation to Benares. - Ancient Remains, No. I., in Raj Ghát Fort — Ancient Remains, No. II., near Ráj Ghát Fort.—Ancient Remains, No. III., Small Mosque in the Budáon Mahalla.—Ancient Mound or Ridge.--Ancient Remains, No. IV., Tiliyá Nála and Maqdam Sahib. -Ancient Remains, No. V., Lát Bhairo,—Ancient Remains, No. VL., Battis Khambhá — Ancient Remains, No. VII., Arhai Kangura Mosque.—Hindu Temple of Kirtti Bisheswar.--Ancient Remains, No. VIII., Chaukhambhá Mosque.--Ancient Remains, No. IX., Aurungzeb's Mosque, near Bisheswar Temple.--Ancient Remains, No. X., Ad-Bisheswar Temple and neighbouring Mosque.-Ancient Remains, No. XI., Stone Pillar standing in Sone ká Táláo.-Note.
FULLY satisfied, as we believe most persons are, that Benares is a city of extreme antiquity, we have endeavoured to ascertain to what portion's this epithet will apply. And by the term 'old' is meant, in this chapter, not a few hundred years merely, although a city six or seven hundred years old is generally regarded as an ancient city. But it is necessary to remember that Benares lays claim to an antiquity of several thousands of years; and, undoubtedly, it is referred to in various ancient Hindu and Buddhist writings. Consequently, we are not satisfied with discovering, in it, edifices erected half a dozen centuries ago, any more than we should feel satisfied with discovering edifices of a similar date in Jerusalem, or Damascus, or Rome. The terms ancient' and 'old' will, therefore, not .be applied here to buildings erected five hundred or even eight hundred years ago, but to those of an anterior period.
That wonderful mass of lofty houses, separated by narrow lanes, and packed together in such wild disorder,--appearing, in fact, like one immense structure of gigantic proportions,—which extends along the banks of the Ganges for more than two miles, having a circumference of at least six, and which is regarded, by all visitors of Benares, with great curiosity, although built, for the most part, of solid stone, and presenting, largely, the aspect of hoary age, has no right to the epithet of 'ancient.' Some of the buildings of which it is composed have been standing fully five hundred years; yet there are very few indeed, if any, that have not been erected since the commencement of the Mohammedan period in India. Nevertheless, speaking generally, this, together with a part of the northern boundary of Benares, is the oldest portion of the present city; while the vast expanse of buildings lying south and west beyond it, and occupying four or five times its area, is, chiefly, of recent date.
The question which we have attempted to investigate is, what is there in Benares more ancient than, say, the epoch of Mahmúd of sazní, who invaded India in the year of our Lord 1001? Are there any remains of the preceding Hindu, Jaina, and Buddhist periods ? And is there any remnant whatever of the first Hindu period, before the rise of Buddhism,- perhaps in the sixth century B.C.,---or even before that religion became paramount, in the reign of Asoka, B.c. 250 ?
When, after diligent search and careful scrutiny, we endeavoured to find proofs of the existence of Benares during these earlier periods, we soon ascertained that they were scanty, and, with a few exceptions, unimposing. The débris of ancient Benares, as was stated at the commencement of this work, may be traced in the multitude of carved stones, portions of capitals, shafts, bases, friezes, architraves, and so forth, inserted into modern buildings in the northern and north-western quarters of the city. These fragments exhibit a great diversity of style, from the severely simple to the exceedingly ornate, and are, in themselves, a sufficient proof of the former existence of buildings of styles of architecture corresponding to themselves, yet differing, in many important respects, from the styles of modern Hindu and Mohammedan structures, and coinciding with those of ancient temples and monasteries of the Gupta and pre-Gupta periods, the ruins of which still exist in various parts of India. Were these the only remains found in Benares, they could not fail to awaken much curious interest in the mind of the antiquarian ; and he would, naturally, carry on a process of induction in regard to them, and would say to himself: "Here are the stones; but where are the buildings ? What was their form? What their
age ?” And, with the help of the ruins of other places, he would be able to answer most of these questions satisfactorily, and would, to a large extent, describe the buildings to which the stones at one time belonged, and also determine the
epochs of their erection. Our belief is, that the most ancient ruin yet discovered in India exhibits nothing older than some of these Benares stones, now embedded in modern walls and parapets, and scattered about in divers holes and corners of the city.
The fact that such old fragments are found in Benares, conjoined with the circumstance that an exceedingly small number of structural remains of any pretension to high antiquity are traceable in it, goes far to prove that the city has been, not once, but several times, destroyed, until, except in rare instances, and these chiefly, though not exclusively, consisting of foundations and basement mouldings,-not one stone of the ancient city has been left upon another, and the foundations of its temples and its palaces have been torn up, so that their places are no longer known. Moreover, there is no manner of doubt, that the site of Benares has considerably shifted, and that, at one time, it came quite up to the banks of the river Barná,—which flows into the Ganges on its northern boundary, from which it is now distant nearly half a mile,--and stretched far beyond the opposite bank. Consequently, the Hindu pilgrim, who performs his wearisome journey of perhaps many hundreds of miles, with the object of reaching holy Káśí, and of dying in the city of his fathers, is labouring under a very grave delusion; for the city which he visits has been chiefly erected under Mohammedan rule, and on a spot for the most part different from that which his fathers trod; and the fanes in which he worships are not the spacious temples which his ancestors built, but either the pinched and contracted cage-like structures which Mohammedan emperors grudgingly suffered their idol-loving subjects to erect, or modern imitations of the same.
I shall now proceed to describe such ruins and remains of ancient edifices, whether Hindu or Buddhist, —those at Bakaríyá Kund, spoken of in the preceding chapter, excepted,—as we have discovered in Benares and its immediate suburbs.
ANCIENT REMAINS, No. I.
In Raj Ghat Fort. These remains are in the interior of the fort at Ráj Ghát, in the outskirts of the city on its northern boundary. There is a small tongue of highland, about fifty feet above the plain below, extending to the junction of the Ganges and the Barná, which, in the mutiny, was strongly fortified, and has been styled, ever since, the Ráj Ghát Fort. There is a belief, amongst the natives, that this spot was selected, ages ago, for a similar object, by the traditional Raja Banár. It is probable that, formerly, the whole of this elevated space was built over, and that the Raja governing the city had his chief residence there. It is the natural key, not only of modern Benares, but also of the country for several miles round; and a well-equipped force in possession of it would with difficulty be approached and dispossessed. The Government has lately abandoned this grand strategical position, on the ground of its alleged unhealthiness.
A short distance to the right of the main road leading into the fort, may be seen the ancient remains which I will now describe, and which, next to the Buddhist