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It is, perhaps, because Benares is not forbidden, that such a mine of human interest, and one of the most extraordinary cities of the East, is now probably less known to most Europeans than Lhasa. Even of the Europeans who have seen Benares, few have any adequate conception of the ideas and beliefs which many millions of our fellow-subjects associate with it. Few, indeed, hare either the time or the inclination to read through the increasing accumulation of very solid literature which deals with the philosophic side of Hinduism; and the more popular missionary accounts (with our national tendency to underrate the enemy's strength) generally make the mistake of representing all Hinduism as a mass of degraded superstitions and idolatry, only held together by the profound ignorance and backwardness of the Indian people. .
These sketches are not offered as a contribution to oriental scholarship, or to religious controversy, but as an attempt to give an intelligible outline of Hindu ideas and religious practices, and especially as a presentation of the imaginative and artistic side of Indian religions, which can be observed at few places so well as in the sacred city and its neighbourhood the birthplace of Buddhism and of one of the principal sects. of Hinduism.
The illustrations have been, for the most part, specially prepared to elucidate the text, and include some of the re