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To the early Arab and Persian travellers Gangetio India was an unexplored tract.' Albirûnî, who wrote about A.D. 1000, had, however, heard of the holy fame of Benares, which he compares, not inaptly, to Mecca.' Mahmûd of Ghaznî is said, on doubtful warrant, to have advanced as far as Benares, and to have made a few converts there, during his ninth incursion. In 1194, Shihabuddîn, after defeating the Kanaujan monarch, Jayachandra, marched on that city, where he is reported to have demolished near a thousand Hindu temples. The subsequent history of the place, for
named in the Ayeen Akbery, in Mr. Gladwiņ's translation of which, Vol. III., pp. 255, 256, Mathurâ and Avantikå are disguised as Mehtra and Ownitka.
At least thirty or forty epithetical designations of Benares are scattered through the Kasi-khanda. Half of that number, or thereabouts, from this or some other work or works, have been noted by native lexicographers. One of them, Panchanadatirtha, “ the qninquamnian resort,” refers to five rivers, the Kiraņâ, Dhûtapâpâ, Saraswati, Ganga, and Yamuna :
'किरणा धूतपापा च पुण्यतोया सरस्वती।
LIX., 114, 115. Four of these streams, in small quantities, are believed to emerge into the Ganges, through subterraneous channels, just in front of the Panchagangå landing.
1 Relation des Voyages, etc., by M. Langlès and Father Reinaud, Vol. I., Preliminary Discourse, pp. XLVIII., XLIX.
• Father Reinaud's Mémoire Géographique, Historique et Scientifique sur l'Inde, etc.,
p. 288. • English Ayeen Akbery, Vol. II., p. 35.
• Major Stewart's History of Bengal, p. 36. Elsewhere we read, that, “having broken the idols in above a thousand temples, he purified and consecrated the latter to the worship of the true God." Colonel Briggs's translation from Farishta, VoL L., p. 179.
many centuries, is well-nigh a blank.
Its religious character was not, in the eyes of its Islamite masters, a thing to recommend it; and commercial or political importance it had none.' Even Akbar, with all his toleration of Hinduism, and occasional partiality to it, did nothing to prop the sinking fortunes of Benares. Its decline was uninterrupted; and, under Aurangzeb, who changed its name to Muhammadâbâd,' it reached, at last, the depth of its ignominy. At the command of that harsh bigot, its principal temples were laid in ruins, and mosques, constructed from their materials, were reared on their half-destroyed foundations. The Observatory, built by Måpasiṁhaabout A.D. 1600, is, it may be, the only noteworthy Hindu edifice of the
Fiscally, too, it had come, in the days of Akbar, to be of very secondary note. See the Ayeen Akbery, Vol. II., Appendix, p. 28.
? I have met with this substitute for Benares in an Urda book written within the last hundred years. It was originally meant, of course, as a poignant insult. Deservedly, it never obtained, it is believed, any currency.
The Muhammadan names of Delhi, Agra, and Patna are of everyday use. Less familiar are Jahangirâbâd, Mustafa'âbâd, Islamabad, and Mûminâbâd, for Dacca, Rampoor, Chittagong, and Brindabun.
Captain Orlich, in the tenth letter of his Reise in Ostindien, says that Akbar entertained the project of establishing a mosque over the Jnânavâpi well. No one at all acquainted with Akbar's character could give this silly legend the least credence. The story looks like an addition to the tale, that, when Aurangzeb threw down the old temple of Viśweśwara, its phallus cast itself, unassisted, into the Jnânavapl.
• Raja of Ambherl. One of his descendants, Jayasimha II., who flourished rather more than a century after him, provided the Observatory with astronomical instruments. From Raja Mânasimha the building was called, from the first, Mânamandira, now corrupted into Mânmandil.
city, still entire, of so great antiquity. For nearly all that is striking in its architectural embellishment, Benares is beholden to the Marathas; and to the zeal and enterprise of the same energetic race the resuscitation, in the decline of Hinduism, of much of its former influence is, in large measure, indebted. There is no ground for believing that Benares, in comparison of what we now see it, with its thousand temples,' and their concomitants of holy harpies and willing victims, can ever have boasted a larger population, a prestige of greater potency, or more affluent prosperity.
F.H. JULY, 1868.
Bishop Heber uninquiringly states that the Observatory was “ founded before the Musalman conquest.” Captain Orlich says it was founded by Jayasimha: he does not distinguish which Jayasimha. But it would be endless to point out the mistakes of careless travellers.
Even Mr. James Prinsep,-Benares Illustrated, Second Series,from consulting Tavernier with insufficient attention, refers the conversion of the Mânmandil into an Observatory to Jayasimha I.
An excellent account of the Benares Observatory, by Pandit Bâpû Deva Sästrin, is given in the Transactions of the Benares Institute for the Session 1864-65, pp. 191-196.
Such was Mr. James Prinsep’s estimate in 1828–1829. As to the extent of the city, “the measured length along the banks of the river, by survey, is barely three miles; and the average depth does not exceed one mile." Benares Illustrated, p. 12. Hiouen Thsang found Benares, in the seventh century, of not far from the same dimensions. Vide supra, p. xvii.
THE SACRED CITY OF THE HINDUS.
EARLY history of Benares.-Sanctity of the city.-Mythic character of
Indian history. - Ancient Buddhist records respecting Benares. Sákya Muni, or Buddha, preached the doctrine of Buddhism first in Benares.-Antiquity of Benares.—Hiouen Thsang's account of his visit to the city in the seventh century of the Christian era.Macaulay's description of Benares. — Connexion of Benares with the religious history of half the human race.--Its connexion with Buddhism.--Life and labours of Buddha-Benares subsequently to the fall of Buddhism in India - The Brahman. --Sons of the Ganges. --Devotees and pilgrims.-Benares, the religious centre of India The early history of Benares is involved in much obscurity. It is, indisputably, a place of great antiquity, and may even date from the time when the Aryan race first spread itself over Northern India. Although such a supposition is incapable of direct proof, yet the sacred city must, undoubtedly, be reckoned amongst the primitive cities founded by this people. When it was first built, and by what prince or patriarch, is altogether unknown.
But of its great antiquity, stretching back through the dim ages of early Indian history, far into the clouds and mists of the Vedic and pre-historical periods, there is no question. It is certain that the city is regarded, by all Hindus, as coeval with the birth of Hinduism, a notion derived both from tradition and from their own writings. Allusions to Benares are exceedingly abundant in ancient Sauskrit literature; and perhaps there is no city in all Hindustan more frequently referred to. By reason of some subtle and mysterious charm, it has linked itself with the religious sympathies of the Hindus through every century of its existence. For the sanctity of its inhabitants
of its temples and reservoirs—of its wells and streams of the very soil that is trodden-of the very air that is breathed—and of everything in it and around it, Benares has been famed for thousands of years. The Hindu ever beholds the city in one peculiar aspect, as a place of spotless holiness and heavenly beauty, where the spiritual eye may be delighted and the heart may be purified; and his imagination has been kept fervid, from generation to generation, by the continued presentation of this glowing picture. Believing all he has read and heard concerning this ideal seat of blessedness, he has been possessed with the same longing to visit it as the Mohammedan to visit Mecca, or the Christian enthusiast to visit Jerusalem; and, having gratified his desire, has left the memory of his pious enterprise to his children, for their example, to incite them to undertake the same pilgrimage, faithfully transmitting to them the high ambition which he himself received from his fathers.
Unfortunately, Hindu writers have shown a singular neglect of chronology, and an utter distaste for noting and recording historical facts in a simple and consecutive manner. This is the more remarkable, when it is remembered that many of them have been accustomed to close thought, and have prided themselves on their intellectual acumen; that they have originated