Page images

the Ganges, down the road leading towards the cantonments, thence making a detour as far as Durga-kund until he again reaches the Ganges, he will at once be convinced that the aspects of the city differ greatly from one another. He will be especially struck by the apparent newness and freshness of the houses on the southern side, as compared with those on the northern side; and his attention will be, or ought to be, powerfully arrested by the venerable appearance of many of the buildings on the cantonment road just alluded to, and in its neighbourhood.

There is still a scattered population on the southern bank of the Barna, living in small villages or hamlets; and, to the north of the present city, between it and the Barna, mausoleums, dargáhs, mosques, and even Hindu buildings, most of which are in ruins, are found in abundance, showing that, as late as the Mohammedan period, this portion of the city, now become its suburbs, was possessed of considerable magnificence, and, indeed, was a favourite place of resort to its Mohammedan rulers. The tendency of Benares to change its boundaries—for it shifts continually in a south-westerly direction-is well illustrated by the position of the three fortresses which the Rajas of Benares have occupied at various periods of its history. The oldest fort was situated at Barna Sangam, or the confluence of the Barna and the Ganges; and a few remains of it are still standing. In its day it no doubt formed a part of the city, and was its chief defence; but now it is only a remote suburb, with a mere handful of people in its immediate neighbourhood. The second in point of time is the fort at S'iválá Ghát, some four miles further south-west in the midst of a dense population: it was the residence of Cheit Singh, in the time of Warren Hastings, but is no longer inhabited by the Rajas of Benares. The third fort is that in which the present Raja dwells, and is situated at Rámnagar, upwards of a mile to the south-east of siválá Ghát, on the opposite side of the river, where a considerable population has sprung up.

At present, as has long been the case, the city is known by the two names of Káśí and Benares; the latter designation being a corruption of the Sanskrit Váraņasí, Varáņasí and Varaņasí.' On these words, as significative terms, we have only uncertain grounds for speculation. Káśí, the namo most favoured by the Hindus, is considered to mean 'splendid.' Varanasi is explained as a compound of Varañá and Así, which refer, it is conjectured, to the two streams bearing these names, and severally flowing into the Ganges to the north and south of the city, of which they thus constitute to some extent a natural boundary. In some late Brahmanical writings, Benares is spoken of as lying between the Varana and the Así; but, in fact, it lies at a considerable distance from the Varaná in one direction, and in the other, while it has passed over the small rivulet of the Así, and now embraces it within itself, it is evident that at one time it was a long way distant from that. stream. The Varaná (or Barna, as it is popularly called,) contains a considerable body of water in the rainy season ; but the Así continues a small stream all the

वारणसी, वराणसी. वरणसी.

and gave

year round. There is another derivation current among the natives, perhaps worthy of mention. It is said that a certain Raja Banár formerly ruled over Benares;

his own name to the city. It would appear, that, with the followers of Buddha, the popular name of the city was not Káśí, but Benares; and, on the other hand, that, while the city commonly bore the name of Benares, the circumjacent country was called Káśí. The Chinese pilgrim Fa Hian, who travelled in India at the commencement of the fifth century A.D., remarks, in the journal of his travels, that, following the course of the river Heng (Ganges) towards the “west, he came to the town of Pho lo nai (or Benares), in the kingdom of Kia shi." The ancient Buddhist writings of Ceylon also make reference to the Sárnáth portion of the old city as existing “in the kingdom of Káší.” At one time, therefore, during the prevalence of the Buddhist religion in India, the territory surrounding Benares, and including the city, was called the Káśí kingdom or country, and it is not unlikely that both Káśí and Váránasí were terms interchangeably employed to designate the surrounding country even after the decline and downfall of the Buddhist religion in India. Dr. F. Hall concludes, I find, that so late as the eleventh century A.D., " at a period when Káśí was, presumably, the more popular name of the city of Benares, the circumjacent territory was known as Váránasí.". Indeed, the inscription which gave rise to this remark makes use of the word Váránasí as do

Laidlay's Pilgrimage of Fa Hian, p. 307.
Bengal Asiatic Society's Journal for 1862, page 5, Note.

noting the circumjacent territory. This use is found in a land-grant issued by Raja Vinayakapála, and may be as late as the middle of the eleventh century.

Further information respecting the ancient city, being, for the most part, derived from the examination of ruins found in various places, and therefore of a technical character, and not perhaps of interest to the general reader, although of much importance to the archeologist and to all concerned in the physical aspects of old Benares, is given in several chapters towards the close of the volume. I proceed now to a description, in detail, of some of the noteworthy characteristics of the city as it at present exists. I would premise, however, that such of the peculiarities of the city as are about to be referred to are by no means intended as an exhaustive catalogue of the whole. There are very many others, more or less remarkable, which any one on the spot, interested in the subject, would, very likely, find to be deserving of his attention.



PURANIC form of Modern Hinduism. — Increase of Temples in Northern

India-Number of Temples in Benares. — Temple of Bisheswar, the idol-king of Benares. —Ancient Temple of Bisheswar, now a Moham. medan Mosque. — The Well Gyán Bápí. — Temple of Ad-Bishes war.

- The Well Kásí Karwat. — Temple of Sanichar.— The goddess Annpárna and her temple. - Temples of Ganes and S'ukreswar.

The form of religion prevailing among the Hindus in Benares, and throughout a large portion of India, is Puranic, which, in all probability, originated in the country generally at the time when the Buddhist religion began to lose its hold upon the people, or about the fifth or sixth century A.D. Vedantism more or less tinctures the philosophical creed of many; but the staple religion of the masses is the lowest and grossest form of idolatry — the worship of uncouth idols, of monsters, of the linga and other indecent figures, and of a multitude of grotesque, ill-shapen, and hideous objects. Some of them are wild parodies on the animal kingdom, representing imaginary creatures made up in a variety

There is no city in India in which the reverence paid to images is more absolute and complete than in Benares. It is remarkable, too, as showing the extent to which the spirit of idolatry has permeated all classes, that pandits and thinking men, who ought to know better, join in the general practice. The only

of ways.

« PreviousContinue »