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COLONY OF WEAVERS
event to a satisfactory termination was much impressed by the evident distress of the people. “The gaunt, squalid figures of the devotees, their visible and apparently unaffected anguish and dismay, the screams and outcries of the women, and the great numbers thus assembled, altogether constituted a spectacle of woe such as few cities but Benares could supply."
The famous lât of Bhairo is now reduced to a height of a few feet. It is covered with copper sheeting, painted red, and worshipped as a lingam. No Muhammadan is permitted to approach it.
At Bakariya Kund, in the northern quarter, there are also remains of ancient buildings, adapted by the Muhammadans, and a ruined tank. Except to ardent archæologists, there is more human interest in the colony of weavers close by, making the cloth of gold and silver, the rich brocaded silks and muslins for which Benares is famous. . The preparation of the silk for the looms is made in the open air, under the trees. Very beautiful it is to see the long lines of crimson, saffron, or purple, vibrating with iridescent tints in the chequered light of sun and shade, and the men and women passing up and down twirling the spindles from which the gossamerlike thread is unwound.
Watching this, one realizes the favourite simile of the Vedic poets, likening their hymns to the weaver's web stretched between earth and heaven; the priests and the people weaving into it the weft of sacrifice and prayers unceasingly, until the glorious fabric of immor- . tality was made.
BENARES UNDER BRITISH RULE
Benares for a brief period played a very conspicuous part in the early history of the British empire, and filled an eventful chapter in the life of the first governor-general. The treatment of Raja Chết Singh of Benares by Warren Hastings was one of the principal indictments against the latter in the famous seven years' trial. ..
Under Mogul rule Benares ceased to have any great political importance, and when that empire crumbled to pieces after the death of Aurangzib, the city and district became subject to the Nawab of Oudh. In 1775 Warren Hastings, who had previously interfered to prevent the Nawab from confiscating the zemindary, concluded a treaty by which the feudatory rights of Oudh were transferred to the British Government. The latter then granted a charter to Raja Chết Singh confirming him in his possessions, subject to an annual fixed rent or tribute, and conferring upon him various rights and privileges which he had not enjoyed before. These concessions nevertheless did not prevent the Raja from taking advantage of the extraordinary difficulties of Warren Hastings' position to evade his obligations as a vassal and dependent of the East India Company. . . ::
The financial embarrassments of the Company, increased by the terrible famine of 1770, the wars with Haidar Ali in Mysore and with the Mahrattas in Bombay, had forced Hastings to call upon the Raja for further monetary aid and a special contingent of troops. The right of the sovereign power to exact such aid from its vassals was indisputable. Under the Mogul rule any disobedience to such demands would have been visited with confiscation of the vassal's possessions, and imprisonment, or death. . But Chết Singh, who was well informed of the dissensions in the Council at Calcutta, and of the critical state of the Company's affairs, hoped that with diplomatic procrastination he might soon be in a position to defy the British power. He paid the first year's subsidy with an ill grace and protestations of poverty, the next year's not until two battalions of Sepoys had been quartered upon him, and the Company's troops in the field had been reduced to dire distress for want of money. The demand for a contingent of cavalry was not complied with at all.
In 1781 Hastings felt himself strong enough to bring the recalcitrant Raja to account. Francis, his bitterest enemy, had retired to England after the historic duel, to vent his malice with fresh schemes and misrepresentations. The difficulties with Impey and the Supreme Court, brought about by the foolish attempt to impose the strict letter of the English law upon Indian courts of justice, had been arranged satisfactorily. On the other hand, the straits to which the Company's finances had been reduced made it imperative to raise fresh funds without further delay. On the 7th July Hastings left Calcutta by river.
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