Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

CIS

zealous devotee, who conceived the novel idea of honouring the sacred city by describing an immense circuit round it, which he, first of all, trod himself, and which, doubtless to his surprise, was afterwards trodden by other persons, until, gradually, the custom was established,-an idea no more novel and strange than others which the Hindus every day put in practice.

It ought to be remembered with gratitude, by the Hindus of Benares and Northern India generally, that the British Government of India, instead of pursuing the destructive and prohibitive policy of the Mohammedan rulers, has taken the Panchkosí road under its own charge, and, in a spirit of beneficence deserving of the highest praise, defrays the expenses of its annual repairs. It would be a happy circumstance if Benares itself received the same proportion of attention as this road around it. Threaded with narrow streets, above which rise the many-storied edifices for which the city is famous, it is, without doubt, a problem of considerable difficulty, how to preserve the health of its teeming population. But, when we reflect on the foul wells and tanks in some parts of the city, whose water is of deadly influence, and the vapour from which fills the air with fever-fraught and cholera-breeding miasma; when we consider the loathsome and disgusting state of the popular temples, owing to the rapid decomposition of the offerings, from the intense heat of the sun; when we call to mind the filthy condition of nearly all the by-streets, due to stagnant cesspools, accumulated refuse, and dead bodies of animals ; and when, in addition, we remember how utterly regardless of these matters, and incompetent to correct them, is the police force scattered over the city, the difficulty becomes almost overwhelming. The importance, however, of cleansing the city cannot be overestimated. And it is because it is at once so immensely important as well as difficult, that the undertaking should not be left in the hands of one man, though he should be the ablest and most energetic in all India. The Magistrate of Benares, and his assistants, have a multitude of duties to perform, besides watching over the interests of the city; and, therefore, they are totally unable, and, I believe, must feel themselves so, to originate and carry out all those schemes of utility which are required. What is needed in Benares is the establishment of a municipal corporation, similar to that which exists in various other cities of India. Such a body would accomplish great results in promoting, in various ways, the social welfare of the people. I am satisfied that there is no city in the country where such a corporation is more urgently required, and where its establishment would be more beneficial. In other respects, too, besides those mentioned, I regard the present time as peculiarly favourable for carrying out this project. The staff of Government officials in Benares, just now, is well adapted for aiding in the promotion of the objects of a municipality. Men of industry and enterprise, as some of them are, would find ample scope for their talents. Europeans of ability, unconnected with the Government, and, also, natives of influence, fitted to render useful assistance, might readily be found. With men like the Maharaja of Vizianagram and Raja Deo Narain Singh, late members of the Legislative Council of India, and other natives of this stamp, united with well-selected Europeans, not all Government officers,-men of observation, and capable of deviating, if need be, from old stereotyped forms and beaten tracks, and striking out a path for themselves,—the prosecuting of wholesome sanitary reforms, the completing of effectual drainage, the opening out and widening of thoroughfares for the free admission of air, and the purifying of the religious edifices, should be a labour undertaken heartily, and prosecuted with enthusiasm. Under the auspices of a corporation thus constituted, we should soon see a thorough transformation of the city; but, at the same time, we are perfectly sure that it is only by such a body that the radical changes, so imperatively demanded in this region of palaces and filth, in this hot-bed of periodical disease, can be effected. It is my earnest hope, that, in these days of progress, the time-honoured city of which I have been writing will not be left in the rear, as, in some respects, it now undoubtedly is, but will soon be ranked amongst the foremost cities in the land, in regard to all measures tending to advance the prosperity and happiness of the native community.

CHAPTER XV.

BARNA Sangam or Confluence of the Barna and Ganges. — A'dkeśav

Temple.-Barna Ghát.-Ráj Ghát Fort : its use in 1857.—Remains of Buddhist Monastery.—Tank of Bhairo.- Láț or Pillar of Siva.Ancient Pillar.— Account of Disturbance in Benares when the pillar was thrown down.—The Ghazeepore Road.—Ancient Bridge over the Barna.

Barna Sangam, so called from the confluence of the river Barna with the Ganges, is a highly venerated spot. To bathe in the uniting waters is regarded as a very meritorious act, sufficient to wash away the transgressions of a life-time. This Sangam is one of the five celebrated places of pilgrimage on the banks of the Ganges at Benares, and is, consequently, visited by the crowds of pilgrims which, at certain seasons, pour into the city. It also occupies an important place, as intimated in the preceding chapter, in the pilgrimage of the Panchkosí road. The pilgrims, having issued from the city at the Así Sangam, return to it by the BarnaSangam ; the former being its southern, and the latter its north-eastern, boundary. Here they halt, to perform the ceremonies prescribed for so sacred a place. Above the steep bank are four temples, which the Government has forbidden to be used. During the rebellion, they were in the hands of a man of a seditious and turbulent spirit, and were, consequently, seized by the

[ocr errors]

authorities and closed. Subsequently, however, they were permitted to be reopened for religious purposes ; but they have been again closed, though from what cause I am in ignorance. These temples were all erected by the Diwan of the Maharaja Scindia, about one hundred years ago. The largest of them is dedicated to Adkeśav or Vishņu, a statue of which deity, dressed in gay robes, with a crown on its head, stands in the interior of the shrine. In the same chamber is another image, that of the Sun. The porch of the temple rests on ten pillars, and is situated on its eastern side. Below the porch various idols are deposited, two of which are worthy of notice. One is called Sangameswar, or the deity presiding over the confluence of the two rivers, which is simply Siva under another name. The other is the four-faced Brahmá-íśwar or the god Brahmá. It is remarkable that this deity,—who, although the first member of the Hindu Triad, is rarely worshipped in any part of India, on account of his incest with his own daughter Saraswatí, as stated in Hindu writings, and believed by the people, should have found a habitation here. Perhaps the reason of this circumstance may be, that, inasmuch as both Vishņu and Siva were already represented in these fanes, an image of Brahmá also was added, in order to complete the Triad. This union of the three members, in any one spot, is a most unusual occurrence ; for, instead of cherishing love towards one another, they are supposed to be, and are generally represented as being, exceedingly jealous of each other's glory; and the sacred writings extol and disparage each in turn.

e

[ocr errors]

n

« PreviousContinue »