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The introduction to the European public of an “ Essay on Hindú Architecture,” and by a Hindú, would seem to mark an epoch not only in the history of the science but also in that of the Hindús themselves.
Their palaces, their temples, the stupendous pyramidal gateways leading to the latter, the colonnades and porticoes with which they are surrounded; some of " a thousand pillars,” others equally remarkable for their elevations, richness, and grandeur of design, have for ages been the objects of admiration to the traveller in the East ; and, though it had long been known, proverbially, that the Hindús possessed treatises on architecture of a very ancient date, pescribing the rules by which these edifices were constructed, it remained for the author of this essay to overcome the many, and almost insurmountable obstacles to the substantiation of the fact, and to the communication of it to the European world in a well known language of Europe.*
* The Royal Asiatic Society is chiefly indebted to one of its members, Richard Clarke, Esq., for the accomplishment of this important and desirable object. This gentleman, then recently returned from India, suggested to Rám Ráz to undertake some work which should
As of most other sciences among the Hindus, the rules and
precepts of architecture and sculpture had been, with some solitary exceptions, locked
up in the Sanscrit language; and, as the study of this language was limited, in general, to the higher classes ; the only means of improvement left to the artist, who in all cases would be of a subordinate class, were the verbal instructions delivered to him by these superiors, when they might happen to require his assistance; together with the impress on his mind resulting from practical experience. To reduce the knowledge thus acquired to a system, and to promulgate it in a language comprehensible by the vulgar, would, in most cases, have been thought an encroachment on the privileges of the higher orders; and being, therefore, handed down unavoidably from father to son by tradition only, it must, in the natural course of events, have been often obscured or totally lost. Moreover, the study of this, as well as of other sciences, has been very generally laid aside by the higher classes for acquirements more in unison with the tone and feelings of the times ; while the treatises themselves, scattered and neglected, became nearly valueless to all but the humble artisan, who gathered up here and there a fragment, and hoarded the occult lore, sometime to be learnt by stealth, or as best might suit the purpose of his lordly and priestly master.
impart to the European world, through the Royal Asiatic Society, information not yet before them; and he recommended the “ Architecture of the Hindús” as a topic worthy of the abilities and talents of his native friend. The circumstances under which he acceded to the proposition, though already brought to the notice of the public in “ Rickards's India," merit and indeed claim insertion in an introduction to his work. They are detailed in two letters from the author to Mr. Clarke, extracts from which will be found in a subsequent page.
To collect these remains from far and near; to read, collate, and comprehend them, with the terms and phraseology of the science, was no ordinary undertaking: the assistance of the artist on the one hand, of philologists on the other ; corroboration by reference to existing edifices, and the ability to exhibit the results at length deduced, in the technical and scientific language of a foreign people, were all equally necessary to the completion of the task.
It must, however, be understood that the author does not profess to give the whole system of architecture as known to the Hindús at any particular period, or indeed, a complete translation of such portions of those treatises as he was able to collect; but, from his deductions and illustrations, such an exposition as might enable the European reader to form an opinion of what that system may once have been.
Such was the attempt of RÁM RÁz.* How far he has been successful the public must decide. Men,t whose authority will, it is believed, be readily acknowledged, have spoken of his work in terms of the highest commendation; and if it shall appear that he has established the claim of his countrymen to the possession, in an eminent degree, of a knowledge in the art, - and this at a period when its principles were but little understood among Europeans, he will have accomplished a task which he fondly looked forward to with every confidence of success; and one, it is hoped, which
* It is painful to state, that ere the result of his labours has pased through the press, accounts from India have announced the decease of this most worthy member of the Royal Asiatic Society.
+ Messrs. William Wilkins, R. A., William Daniell, R. A., and Charles Cockerell, F.S. A.(Vide the Tenth Annual Report of the Royal Asiatic Society, p. 29.)
cannot be uninteresting, or devoid of utility, to the followers and promoters of science in general.
The present may not be an improper occasion, as the author of the accompanying essay is no more, to offer a few brief notices of his life. They are, however, merely such as the recollections of the writer to whom the subject of these notices was intimately known for several years, can supply, yet they may, perhaps, as a tribute to his memory, be received with indulgence.
Rám Ráz was born at Tanjore, in the Carnatic, about the year 1790. He was small of stature, of a delicate frame, of a fair complexion for an Asiatic, and had a remarkably brilliant and piercing eye. On public occasions there was in his manner, though on the whole graceful and easy, a diffidence which might lead the cursory observer to undervalue his abilities; but by those to whom he was known in private, it was more justly attributed to innate modesty and humility. His name implies that he was of a superior caste ; and he used to boast of being a collateral descendant of Rám Ráj, or Rám Ráz,* the last of the kings of Vijayanagar; and as the name is often met with in the genealogy of those princes, it is not improbable that it may have thus descended to him.
His parents, it would seem, were poor; and that he was partly indebted to fortuitous circumstances for the little education which he received when a boy; a portion of this, however, fortunately for him, consisted in learning to read and write the English lan
* Ráj or Rája, according to the Sanscrit pronunciation: Ráz or Ráza, according to the pronunciation of the same term in the vernacular languages of the South of India.