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hundred thousand temples to the city, made this stipulation, that they were all to be commenced and finished in one day. The plan hit upon was, to cut out on blocks of stone a great many tiny carvings, each one representing a temple. The separate blocks, therefore, on the work being completed, exhibited, from top to bottom, and on all sides, a mass of minute temples. These blocks are still to be seen in various parts of Benares, the largest being situated above the Dasáśamedh Ghát, near the Mán Mandil Observatory. In regard to the number of idols of every description actually worshipped by the people, it certainly exceeds the number of people themselves, though multiplied twice over: it cannot be less than half a million, and may be many more. Indeed, the love for idolatry is so deep-seated and intense in the breast of the Hindu, that it is a common thing for both men and women to amuse themselves, with a pious intent, with manufacturing little gods from mud or clay, and, after paying divine honours to them, and that, too, with the same profound reverence which they display in their devotions before the well-known deities of the temples, to throw them away.
I recall to mind a remarkable instance of this. One day on entering the courtyard of the temple of Annpúrņá, the goddess of plenty, my attention was arrested by an aged woman seated on the ground in front of a small clay figure, which, I ascertained, she had, with her own hands, manufactured that morning, and to which she was solemnly paying homage. Close by was a brazen vessel containing water, into which every now and then she dipped a small spoon, and then gently poured a few drops upon the head of the image. She then reverently folded her hands, and muttered words of prayer, occasionally moving one hand to her face, and with finger and thumb compressing her two nostrils, in order that, holding her breath as far as possible, she might increase the merit of her worship and the efficacy of her prayer. I did not stay to the end; yet I well knew the result, as the same thing is constantly done in Benares. Having completed her devotions, she rose, took the image which she had worshipped in her hands, and threw it away, as of no further use.
Benares, like Athens in the time of St. Paul, is a city “wholly given to idolatry.” The Hindu, it should always be remembered, is, in his own fashion, a religious man of very great earnestness; but his religion takes the form of idolatry. Idolatry enters into all the associations and concerns of his life. He can take no step without it. He carries his offerings publicly in the streets, on his way to the temple in the morning, and receives upon his forehead, from the officiating priest, the peculiar mark of his god, as the symbol of the worship he has paid him, which he wears all the day long. As he walks about, you may hear him muttering the names and sounding the praises of his gods. In greeting a friend, he accosts him in the name of a deity. In a letter on business, or on any other matter, the first word he invariably writes is the name of a god. Should he propose an engagement of im. : portance, he first inquires the pleasure of the idol, and a lucky day for observing it. At his birth, his
horoscope is cast; when he is ill, the gods must be propitiated; when he is bereaved, the idol must be remembered ; at his death, his funeral rites are performed in the name of one or more deities.
In short, idolatry is a charm, a fascination, to the Hindu. It is, so to speak, the air he breathes. It is the food of his soul. It is the foundation of his hopes, both for this world and for another. He is subdued, enslaved, and befooled by it. He is, however, a willing slave, a willing devotee; for he loves idolatry, together with its superstitions and ceremonies, with all the ardour of religious frenzy. Moreover, it is of great importance to bear in mind, that, as a man can hardly be better than his religion, the nature of the Hindu partakes of the supposed nature of the gods whom he worships. And what is that nature ? According to the traditions handed about amongst the natives, and constantly dwelt upon in their conversation, and referred to in their popular songs, which, perhaps, would be sufficient proof for our purpose, yet, more especially, according to the numberless statements and narratives found in their sacred writings, on which these traditions are based, it is, in many instances, vile and abominable to the last. degree; so that the poor idolater, when brought completely under its influence, is most deplorably debased. Virtue, truth, holiness, civilization, enlightenment, human progress, all that contributes to individual happiness and to a nation's prosperity, cannot be properly appreciated by him. His soul's best affections are blighted, and his conscience is deeply perverted. Idol
atry is a word denoting all that is wicked in imagination and impure in practice. These remarks are especially true of rigid and thorough Hindus, like the Gangaputras, or "sons of the Ganges," who may be regarded as representing, in their own persons, the complete results of their strange religion. To speak plainly, and yet without extravagance, the moral nature of such Hindus has become so distorted, that, to a large extent, they have forgotten the essential distinctions of things. Their idol-worship has plunged them into immoralities of the grossest forms, has robbed them of truth, has filled their minds with deceit, has vitiated their holy aspirations, has greatly enfeebled every sentiment of virtue, has corrupted the common feelings of humanity within them, has disfigured and well-nigh destroyed the true notion of God which all men in some shape are believed to possess, has degraded them to the lowest depths, and has rendered them unfit alike for this world and for the next. Idolatry is a demonan incarnation of all evil—but, nevertheless, as bewitching and seductive as a Siren. It ensnares the depraved heart, coils around it like a serpent, transfixes it with its deadly fangs, and finally stings it to death. Idolatry has, for many centuries, drunk the life-blood of the Hindu with insatiate thirst, has covered with its pollutions the fair and fertile soil of India, has drenched the land with its poisoned waters, and has rendered its inhabitants as godless as it was possible for them to become.
Most of the temples are of modern date; but many of them occupy, in popular belief, the sites of immemorial shrines long since displaced by their successors. It is, therefore, a common reply which one receives, on inquiring the date of any given shrine, that it is without date, and has always existed. These original sites are numerous; and each has a history of its own. For instance, the pandits say that Gaņeś is worshipped in fifty-six places, the goddess Yogani in sixty-four, Durga in nine, Bhairo in eight, Siva in eleven, Vishņu in one, and the Sun in twelve; all which date from the mythical period, when Divodása, the famous Raja of Benares, whose name is a household word among the people, was prevailed on to permit the gods to return to their ancient and sacred home. But these places do not, by any means, represent the present number of shrines at which these deities are venerated. Gaņeś especially, the god of wisdom, son of S'iva and Párvatí, is very extensively worshipped in Benares; and there is scarcely a temple in some niche or corner of which his monstrous figure may not be found.
The temple receiving the highest meed of honour in the whole city is that dedicated to the god Bisheswar, or S'iva, whose image is the linga, a plain conical stone set on end. Bisheswar is the reigning deity of Benares, and, in the opinion of the people, holds the position of king over all the other deities, as well as over all the inhabitants residing, not only within the city itself, but also within the circuit of the Panchkosí road or sacred boundary of Benares, extending for nearly fifty miles. In issuing his orders, he acts through Bhaironáth, who is the deified kotwal or god. magistrate of Benares and its extensive suburbs. Every matter of importance is presumed to be brought in a