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noting the circumjacent territory. This use is found in a land-grant issued by Raja Vinayakapála, and may be as late as the middle of the eleventh century.
Further information respecting the ancient city, being, for the most part, derived from the examination of ruins found in various places, and therefore of a technical character, and not perhaps of interest to the general reader, although of much importance to the archæologist and to all concerned in the physical aspects of old Benares, is given in several chapters towards the close of the volume. I proceed now to a description, in detail, of some of the noteworthy characteristics of the city as it at present exists. I would premise, however, that such of the peculiarities of the city as are about to be referred to are by no means intended as an exhaustive catalogue of the whole. There are very many others, more or less remarkable, which any one on the spot, interested in the subject, would, very likely, find to be deserving of his attention.
PURANIC form of Modern Hinduism.- Increase of Temples in Northern
India.—Number of Temples in Benares.—Temple of Bishes war, the idol-king of Benares.-Ancient Temple of Bisheswar, now a Mohammedan Mosque. — The Well Gyán Bápí. — Temple of Ad-Bisheswar. —The Well Kásí Karwat. — Temple of Saníchar.—The goddess Annpúrņá and her temple. —Temples of Ganes and S'ukreswar. The form of religion prevailing among the Hindus in Benares, and throughout a large portion of India, is Puranic, which, in all probability, originated in the country generally at the time when the Buddhist religion began to lose its hold upon the people, or about the fifth or sixth century A.D. Vedantism more or less tinctures the philosophical creed of many; but the staple religion of the masses is the lowest and grossest form of idolatry the worship of uncouth idols, of monsters, of the linga and other indecent figures, and of a multitude of grotesque, ill-shapen, and hideous objects. Some of them are wild parodies on the animal kingdom, representing imaginary creatures made up in a variety
There is no city in India in which the reverence paid to images is more absolute and complete than in Benares. It is remarkable, too, as showing the extent to which the spirit of idolatry has permeated all classes, that pandits and thinking men, who ought to know better, join in the general practice. The only
persons that do not heartily engage in it are converts to Christianity, to whom we may add many of the young men educated at the public colleges and schools, who either abandon it, or, while mechanically performing, out of deference to their parents and friends, the prescribed religious duties, have already perceived the hollowness and absurdity of Hinduism, and do not scruple occasionally to betray their sentiments, and even to scoff at their own religion. To this class, which is constantly increasing, should be added those persons,the number of whom may be large, but which it is impossible to calculate, who have paid serious attention to the exposition of Christian truth by missionaries, and who, although not outwardly accepting Christianity, are yet to some extent convinced of the falsity of Hinduism.
Since the country has come into our hands, a great impetus has been given to the erection of temples, and to the manufacture of idols, in Northern India. In Benares, temples have multiplied at a prodigious rate; and this rate, at the present moment, is, I believe, rather increasing than diminishing. Judged merely by its external appearances,
Hinduism was never so flourishing as
With general prosperity and universal peace, and with a Government based on neutral principles, and largely tolerant of the national religious systems, Hinduism, under the leadership of men of the old school, -princes, pandits, banyas (tradespeople), and priests,— is making extraordinary efforts to maintain its position against the new doctrines of European civilization and religion, which they now begin to recognize as formidable opponents. The remarks of the Rev. Dr. Mullens, on the extension of Hinduism, materially and outwardly, in “Christian Work” for July, 1864, strongly bear out the preceding observations :
it is now.
“There can be little doubt,” he says, “that a hundred years ago, the temples, mosques, and shrines of India, belonging to all the native religions, were by no means in a flourishing condition. Large numbers, indeed, must have been in a state of decay. The anarchy that prevailed throughout the Mogul empire after the death of Aurungzeb, the constant wars, the terrible visits of foreign armies, the civil contests, the struggles of petty landholders, all tended to produce a state of insecurity which paralysed trade, which even hindered agriculture, and involved all classes in a poverty which the empire had not suffered for many years. Never were invasions more fierce ; never were famines more cruel. Though freed from the persecutions of the bigoted emperor, the temples suffered grievously from the general want; and it was, probably, only in the Mahratta provinces that Hinduism flourished; in them realizing its prosperity from the plunder of successful Mahratta armies, whose piety rewarded the shrines of their protecting divinities with a shower of endowments and offerings which remain in measure to the present day. Hinduism now is, externally, in a much more flourishing condition than it was
All over North India especially, the native merchants and bankers who have prospered by English protection, by contracts with English armies, by the security given by English law to their extensive trade, have filled Benares and other cities with new and costly shrines ; and many a Raja, and many a banker, when visiting in state the holy city, has poured into the lap of the attendant priests unheard-of sums, which must have satisfied even their covetous and grasping souls. Thus strangely has the revival of prosperity under English rule added something of external strength to the ancient idolatry, the resources of which had, in so many places, begun to fail. The new school, enlightened and doubting, ceases to build new temples, or endow the old ones. The old school, prospering in trade, growing in wealth, still trusting to the ancient superstitions, and anxious to earn merit for themselves, build new temples and present new gifts; though feeling that the days of their faith are numbered, and that other views are gradually pressing their own into oblivion.”
This temple-building movement, singular as it is, is really no ground for discouragement whatever, and must not be permitted to blind our eyes to the great transforming work which is being accomplished in Benares and in Northern India generally. I regard it as a movement, to a large extent spasmodic, intended to counteract the Christian influences which, in so many ways and in so many places, are operating upon the community. Undoubtedly, it is quite true that the religious sentiments of a Hindu would prompt him to devote a considerable portion of his wealth, acquired in times of tranquillity and national prosperity, to sacred purposes. At the same time, he is quickened and stimulated in this desire, at the present day, by a strong and painful conviction that his religion is in danger, that his children are growing up unsound in the Hindu faith, and that a new creed, to which the foreign rulers and governors of his country are attached, is moving the hearts of multitudes of his own race and tongue, which he must resist with all his might, and must do so now or never. Notwithstanding, therefore, all that is being done by Brahmans, Hindu priests, and other determined idolaters, to sustain Hinduism, and to thwart Christianity, it is a fact, admitting of distinct proof, that the one is on the decline and the other is in the ascendant, the one is decaying and crumbling to pieces, while the other is daily becoming stronger and more influential.
It remains to be seen whether the new religion or the