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whom our ancient legislators have ranked amongst the lower orders of society. This class, perhaps, jealous of the Bráhmans, whose sacerdotal authority they have always opposed with a spirit of independence, or more naturally, apprehensive of competition in their trade, took particular care to conceal the sacred volumes which have descended to them, from the rest of the people; but as they have on their own part been long denied the benefit of Sanskrit literature, these treatises could be but of little use to themselves; and the consequence has been, that while the practical part of the science continued to be followed up amongst them as a kind of inheritance from generation to generation, the theory became gradually lost to the whole nation, if not to the whole world. Even the few scattered fragments which have escaped the hand which either jealousy or the fear of competition has raised to conceal or rather destroy the science, are now quite unavailable to those who kept them to themselves and to the priests. The former being compelled to refer to the latter for the interpretation of the superior dialect, and the latter to seek from the former for definitions of technical terms, which neither the one nor the other seem to have been able to explain or understand accurately. This circumstance, more than any other, has cost me considerable time and expense, without any adequate advantage. Our best dictionaries, at least the best that I have been able to procure, do not contain a single architectural term, and the best of our workmen have been so long disused to their own ancient style of building durable public edifices, that it is not to be wondered at they should now ascribe their ignorance of the art as revealed from heaven to the want of encouragement, which appears indeed to have ceased on the decline of native rule. Such is the state of knowledge among those to whom we could look for any illustration respecting an art, the study of which has been so long neglected in this country ; and the few manuscripts too, which have escaped the corroding hand of time inevitably contain numerous errors and defects which it requires no small labour and time to correct and supply. “These difficulties, combined with want of time on my own part to surmount them, discouraged me for a long while, and it is but lately I commenced to translate and to take down extracts and notes of some parts which I have been enabled to make out. There still remains a great deal to be done; nevertheless, great reason have I to think that what I have already executed will facilitate my future progress. At all events, if it please heaven, I hope to be able to send you at least a part of the work by an early opportunity: and though I cannot promise that my performance will be such as to meet
with the approbation of the Royal Asiatic Society, yet I trust it may not prove altogether
unacceptable to that learned body of men, inasmuch as it may tend to draw attention to this important subject, connected as it is with the state of arts and sciences in India in early days. “The subject itself is curious, and highly deserving the attention of the antiquarian and the philosopher. A correct account and accurate elucidation of the art of building practised by the Hindús, must throw considerable light on the early progress of architecture in general. Some of the western authors have traced a certain resemblance in the leading features of the buildings in Egypt and India, and have thence concluded that there has very early been a communication of architectural knowledge between the two countries. But it is not altogether improbable that this resemblance may be merely owing to accident; inasmuch as in architecture as well as in every other art indispensably necessary to the comfort of mankind, two or more nations may possess something in common, without having any intercourse with each other, for the wants felt by man being the same, it is not surprising that the remedies resorted to for supplying them should be also similar or nearly so. If, on the other hand, however, both these countries had actually any communication in early ages, it is hard to determine which of them may have been indebted to the other. The western writers on antiquities have not placed this matter beyond a doubt. And for my own part, I will not venture to affirm any thing with certainty, until I have collected sufficient information to form an opinion as to this alleged affinity in the architecture of Egypt and India. I humbly presume, therefore, that until the Silpa Sástra of the Hindús is correctly illustrated and laid before the public, the question as to whether the art owes its origin to the one or the other of the two countries must remain problematical. “Whilst the subject of my present research opens upon me such a wide field of delightful prospect notwithstanding the difficulties I already anticipated, I cannot but acknowledge, with painful sensations, my own incompetency for the task which your kindness has assigned to me, and regret most sincerely that it has not fallen into abler hands. Diligence and fidelity, however, in the execution of the work entrusted to me shall not be wanting on my part; but the result of my labours can be only commensurate to the ability I possess compared with the difficulty of the subject. “I hope what I have already said will give you some notion of the nature of the undertaking in which I am engaged, and of the little progress which I have hitherto been enabled to make in consequence of unavoidable delays arising partly from the diffi
culty of the subject, and partly from the want of leisure. You are too well acquainted with my trifling acquirements to entertain high expectations in the performance of the task assigned to me. I only propose to write a short but comprehensive Essay on Indian Architecture from the materials I may be able to collect: to which I shall perhaps add some descriptions of a few temples and porticoes, principally taken from the Carnatic, with corresponding designs. “Wishing you and your family every success and prosperity in life, “I remain, “Sir, “Your most obedient and faithful servant, (Signed) “ RAM RAz.”
E S S A Y
ARCHITECTURE OF THE HINDUS.
It is true that the Hindus were in possession of numerous treatises on architecture, sculpture, &c., which collectively are called the Silpa Sástra,” but unfortunately few traces of them remain. There appears to have been, according to some, thirty-two, and according to others sixty-four, standard treatises on the above-mentioned arts, but of these, excepting a few scattered fragments which are occasionally to be met with among the artists themselves, nothing but the titles of the works are now generally known to the learned. Speaking of these treatises, Sir William Jones expresses it as his opinion that they contained useful information on sixty-four different arts and manufactures; but while I admire his extraordinary talents and extensive knowledge of Asiatic literature, I cannot but think that he was misinformed as to the number of subjects comprised in the Silpa Sástra, as from the similarity of the contents of the remains of several of these the whole thirty-two, or sixty-four, if there did exist so many, must have treated principally, if not entirely, of sacred architecture and sculpture. In a series of memorial verses preserved among the artists, are recorded the names of the authors or titles of the above-mentioned sixty-four treatises. Of these, thirty-two are called Muc'hya, or principal, and thirty-two Upa or subordinate. I have not been able to ascertain who was the author of these verses, but they contain little more than the titles of the works in question, and which are mostly patronymics of the deities who were believed to have revealed the particular art or arts on which each work treated, or of the authors of the treatises themselves, the renowned Rishis or holy men, who are said to have flourished in the earlier ages. Many works of acknowledged antiquity attest the existence of a number of treatises on Silpa Sástra; and every artist proverbially knows that there have been thirty-two principal, and as many subordinate works on this subject. In a Tamil controversial work entitled Iru-samaya-villacam, or “the illustration of the two systems,” (i.e. of Vishnu and Siva), supposed to have been written in the fifteenth century by a Vaishnava,” in refutation of the doctrines of his opponents, or rather in commendation of his own, a work which is held in high estimation, especially among the Vaishnavas in Southern India, the author, in the course of his arguments to prove the supremacy of Vishnu over Siva, has been led incidentally to cite certain passages from the Silpa Sástra, which describe the sites to be assigned for the erection of temples for Vishnu and Siva: the former to be in the middle of the town or village, as the most acceptable place for a deity whose characteristic attributes are benignity, mercy, and preservation; and the latter without the village, as proper for one possessed of opposite qualities. This work recognizes a great number of the treatises abovementioned, and
treatises, and which will be hereafter noticed, there is reason to think that
* From silpa, manual art, and sástra, science. This term, though in its general signification it comprehends the whole of the mechanical arts, is applied commonly, and perhaps by way
of pre-eminence, to architecture.