« PreviousContinue »
the youth of the tree, it was inserted in the earth immediately at its base, and that, as the tree grew, it gradually enveloped the stone, which, being large and strongly fixed in the ground, was not expelled, but, on the contrary, became more firmly set by the lateral pressure of the tree. This explanation is strengthened by the supposition that the tree was the sacred peepul, the trunk of which is so strangely corrugated, as often to appear to consist of a multitude of small trees united together. Preparations were made for erecting a temple around this sacred stone; but the person who had undertaken the task died before much progress had been made in the work. Fragments of carved stones are lying about, which were, doubtless, originally destined for the new temple : but there is now little chance of its ever being raised; as no Hindu likes to prosecute an enterprise begun by another man, inasmuch as, when completed, he believes that all the merit resulting from it will go to such person and not to himself.
In the Ausánganj Mahalla is the well-known fane of Bará Gaņeś, or the Great Gaņeś. An alley branches off from the main road, and conducts to this temple. At an angle of the alley is a low shrine, dedicated to Jagannáth, containing three figures, of horrible ugliness. On the right is Jagannath; on the left is his brother Balbhadra; and, in the middle, is their sister Subhadrá. The two former have arms, but no hands or feet; while the latter is destitute of arms, as well as of feet. These large-mouthed, goggle-eyed, round-faced deities are equal in frightfulness to some of the idols
made and worshipped by the savages of the Fiji Islands in the South Seas. In another place, in a corner of this alley, are two Satís, that is to say, two figures of women, in bass-relief, placed upon a square pedestal, in commemoration of the cremation of widows on the funeral pile of their husbands at this spot. In addition to the Satís, there are two other objects of interest placed upon the pedestal. One is a bass-relief sculpture of a small figure, much worn by time. The other presents, in a small compass, most elaborate chiselling; the design illustrated being of a complicated character. There is a central figure, in an erect posture, but headless; and, in the back-ground, a nimbus surrounds the space formerly occupied by the head. On either side are several other figures, but of smaller stature, and also a column, with a capital, on the summit of which is a diminutive statue of a man. Between the columns, but raised above them, in a line with the central object beneath, is, likewise, another small statue of a man. Altogether, this delicate piece of statuary exhibits ten human figures, besides various other objects, all which are defined with considerable nicety. It is not easy to comprehend the general design which the sculptor had before his mind, or to furnish a satisfactory account of this work of art. It is, certainly, far superior to modern productions of Hindu art; and I suspect it is not, properly, of Hindu origin at all.
The towers of two temples are seen rising high above the Satís; and in the adjoining enclosure stands the temple of Bará Gaṇeś. The quadrangle is open to the sky; but it has a covered verandah, supported on pillars, running round the four walls, on their inner side, opposite to the temple, in the centre. In the midst of the temple is a large idol of Gaņeś, the elephant-headed god, with silver hands and feet. The head is decorated with a gilded nimbus. Inside the temple, four bells are „suspended; and immediately over the doorway, and in front of the idol, three small mirrors are placed, the object of which, possibly, is to produced a threefold image or reflexion of the idol ; for even a reflexion of a god is accounted a sacred object, and worthy of veneration. On either side of the threshold, leading into the temple, is another idol of Gaņeś; but both are well worn, and, evidently, many centuries old. The present temple was erected only some twenty-four years ago; but the priests say that these two figures have always existed here. The extensive verandah of the quadrangle contains several other figures of Gaņeś, of, apparently, as great antiquity as those just described.
THE Piśách-Mochan Tank. – Legend of the goblin Pisách. – The
Festival of Lotá-Bhantá, or the Egg-plant.—The Gháts and Temple of Pisách-Mochan.-Súraj-Kund or Tank of the Sun.—The Hom or Burnt Sacrifice.—The god Ashtang-Bhairo.— Temple of Dhruveswar or the Pole Star.
In the outskirts of the city, on its western side, is a large square tank or reservoir, called Piśách-Mochan, built in a regular manner, with gháts or stone stairs leading down to the water. On the bank, towards the road, are several temples, containing a great many images of various deities. Piśách-Mochan is a noted place of pilgrimage among the Hindus. All pilgrims coming to Benares must visit it; and all the residents in the city must bathe in its waters at least once a year. These waters are considered to have a peculiar efficacy in ensuring deliverance from the power of demons and all kinds of evil spirits, in preventing horrible dreams, or destroying their bad effect, and in removing sickness. The word Piśách means ghoul or bad spirit, and Mochan, release or deliverance. The history of this sacred place is said to be as follows. On one occasion, a very powerful demon had the temerity to approach the holy enclosure in which Benares is situated. He was, however, stopped, at the Panchkosí road, by the deities stationed there. But, although they contended bravely with him, yet, being
stronger than they, he overcame them, and, crossing the road, entered the enclosure. He then pursued his course, until he reached the spot where the PiśáchMochan tank is now situated, and would have effected an entrance into the holy city itself, had not Bhaironath, the koțwal or deified Chief Magistrate of the place, met him there. An encounter immediately commenced between these two worthies, which ended in the magistrate cutting off the head of the common enemy. Having performed this act of valour, Bhaironath conveyed the head to his royal master, Bisheswar, and stated all the circumstances of the conflict. But the demon, though overcome and bodiless, had lost neither his life nor his tongue; and, therefore, he implored Bisheswar not to banish him from the city, but to allow him to reside on the spot where he was decapitated. He also had the boldness to request, in addition, that all pilgrims proceeding to the city of Gayá should be directed first to visit him. To this the king gave his consent, but stated that he should allow no other evil spirit to visit Benares, and that he, the demon, was to take care that none ever did so.
Such is the quaint story which the Hindus believe respecting this place. The great ugly head of the demon, carved in stone, is seen on the top of the ghát by the side of one of the temples. All pilgrims, too, proceeding to Gayá, pay honour to this Piśách; and in case any, travelling from distant parts of the country, should, from ignorance or other causes, reach Gayá without having first come to Piśách-Mochan, in Benares, they are immediately questioned on the matter. To