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Benares division, except on special occasions and at special festivals, obtains only a very inferior share, there was a time when the two stood in a reverse relation to one another, and Benares Proper was the common resort of Hindu votaries, while the Káší division was its mere suburb, and scarcely honoured at all, and the Kedár division was a jungle, where, possibly, stood a secluded temple or two, and a few austere naked ascetics resided in savage simplicity.
Although I regard the central portion of the city, or that which distinctively bears the name of Káśí, as, speaking generally, less ancient than the division to the north of it, I would not have it supposed that I doubt the considerable antiquity of a certain portion of it. I refer especially to the foundations of many of the buildings in the streets immediately adjacent to the Ganges; and I conceive it to be not at all improbable, that, even in those early ages when the city extended for miles on the banks of the great river to the north and northeast of the Barna stream, its southern extremity not only included of the modern city what I have termed Benares Proper, but also a thin band of what is now the Káší division of the city, stretching along the Ganges in a south-westerly direction, as far, possibly, as the Daśášamedh Ghát.
While, as already remarked in a previous chapter, the present form of Hinduism in the city is Puranic, yet I would apply that term, in an emphatic und special manner, to the Káśí division, because of the strong and very intimate association which it has with the latest development and manifestation of Hinduism in the Puráņas, and with the present features of idolatry amongst the Hindu race. The temples which stud the streets, the idols worshipped in them, the religious observances practised by the people, in short, the materialistic and sensuous characteristics of the Hindu faith, as exhibited there, are, to a very great extent, Puranic in their origin.
Respecting ancient Hindu buildings in the city, no definite and trustworthy information whatever can be gathered either from the lips of Hindus or from the writings which have come down to them from past ages. That remains of such buildings actually exist somewhere, admits of no question; but we are left utterly in the dark concerning them, and have to depend entirely upon personal observation, in searching them out. One would have supposed, that works written upon Benares and in its praise, such as the Káší. rahasya, which numbers thirty chapters; the Kási-máhátmya, which contains five ; and Kasi-khanda, taken from the Skanda-purana, which consists of one hundred chapters, would have shed some light on this interesting subject: but the authors and compilers of these books have contented themselves with bare generalities, and have not troubled themselves about the epoch of any one temple, or ghát, or well, or other structure to which they may have referred. It is not known, with certainty, when the above works were written ; but this, however, is well ascertained, that not one of them was written till several hundred years after the date of the Buddhist edifices the remains of which have been discovered in the city.
The Hindus do not resort to all temples equally, but only to those which are well known, and which, they have reason to suppose, were frequented by their forefathers. New temples are constantly springing up in various parts of the city, some of which far surpass the old shrines in magnificence; but these are regarded as family temples, and are, for the most part, visited only by the relatives of the persons who have erected them, and by members of the caste to which they belong. The thirty-six castes,-into which Hindus are sometimes divided, practically shun such temples, although I am not aware that they cherish any dislike to them; while all regard the other class of temples as peculiarly their own, and flock to them indiscriminately. Pilgrims also have the same feeling, and will have nothing to do with the new shrines.
One of the temples’in Benares Proper, which may be regarded as not of recent date, is the well-known temple of Trilochan or the Three-eyed, from tri, three, and lochana, an eye,--so called from the following circumstance. It is said, that, on one occasion, when Siva was wrapt in meditation, he was visited daily by Vishņu, who always brought with him a thousand separate flowers, which he sacrificed to Siva when in the act of worshipping him. One day Vishņu had brought his thousand flowers, as usual; and, having placed them ready for sacrifice, his attention was drawn off from them for a short period. Embracing the opportunity, Siva quietly purloined one of the flowers. Ignorant of the circumstance, Vishņu presently set about his devotions, offering his flowers one at a time, and counting the number offered. What was his surprise, when, on arriving at the nine hundred and ninety-ninth, he found that one was missing! He was totally unable to account for the loss; but, as he had no other at hand, and it was necessary to complete the sacrifice which he had begun, he removed an eye from its socket, and offered it instead. On applying the eye to the forehead of the idol, it adhered to the spot on which he placed it. Siva immediately began to see with it, and from that time forwards possessed three organs of vision.
There is, however, another tale connected with this temple and the third eye of Siva. Tradition affirms, that the emblem of this god, which is worshipped in his temple, having passed through the seven pátálas or subterraneous regions, had made its home in this place. Gaurí, wife of Siva, was, at this time, seeking, but could not find him. Siva, with his third eye, the eye of reflection,--distinguished from his other two eyes, which are merely eyes of observation,-perceived her. It is commonly believed, that, on the site of this temple, the three rivers, the Ganges, the Jumná, and the Saraswati, meet. Moreover, three notable deities are spoken of as residing here, corruptly called Saraswateśwar, Jamaneswar, and Nirbuddheswar. The first two idols actually do exist here, and are pointed out in the enclosure of the temple; and the last has a separate temple to herself, at a short distance from the Trilochan fane. It is not at all unlikely, that, formerly, this idol was also worshipped in this place; for all three are referred to in the Káší-khanda, in connexion with it.
The fruits of performing religious ceremonies in the Trilochan temple are regarded, by the idolater, as of a varied character. As, in his estimation, it is high up in the scale of sanctity, it is not surprising that he imagines great blessings are to be obtained from the worship of its idols. That mystery in Hindu idea, called spiritual emancipation, which, in this land, means the destruction of personal identity, or the annihilation of self and absorption into Brahma, preceded, it may be, by a transmigration through the bodies of other creatures, on the death of the present body, is, in his belief, as effectually secured here as elsewhere. Moreover, there is a special benefit attached, by the people generally, to the performance of religious rites in this temple; namely, that, whoever does so, should he fall ill in any other part of the country, and die, is certain not to sink into hell, but to enjoy everlasting happiness. In the month of Baisakh, should any one remain in this temple, uninterruptedly engaged in religious exercises during the whole of one day and night, without sleeping, he is promised eternal liberation as his reward.
The temple stands in the midst of a quadrangle, and is of recent date, having been built a few years ago by Náthú Bálá, of Poonah ; but the priests state that the quadrangle itself is upwards of three hundred years old. There is little question, however, that the original Trilochan temple was earlier even than this. Some of the numerous idols deposited within the circuit of the quadrangle exhibit signs of an age equal to, if not greater than, that ascribed to the earlier fane. On entering the