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buted by Hindus to the pilgrimage, there is no doubt that there is a great charm about this old country road in the crisp air of a late December morning, and something of the Vedic spirit in the simple piety of the old traditions which cling to it.
From Manikarnika the crowd of pilgrims, young and old, rich and poor, wend their
way along the ghâts to Asi. Sangam on the south, where the little stream called Asi flows into the Ganges. Crossing this, a path leads along the river for some distance through fields of wheat and barley, then widens out into a broad avenue lined by splendid mango-trees. Framed in the noble colonnade of their massive trunks and the deep rich foliage are vistas of tender green cornfields, varied with clumps of sugarcane, patches of yellow mustard and marigold, and the lilac of linseed flowers. The pilgrims pause to pay their devotions at the little wayside shrines placed between the trees. At one place the road is strewn for some distance with broken moulds, where a colony of brass-workers is engaged in making the vessels for which Benares is famous. Next we pass a Hindu monastery.
The first day's halting place is at Khandawa, a typical Hindu village, six miles from Manikarnika along the sacred road. As you approach it you may see a kid lying by the roadside, sacrificed by some lowcaste villagers to appease the spirits of evil. Here a bamboo with a red flag marks the altar of Dêvi, perhaps the Earth goddess of the Dasyus, or another of the primitive aboriginal divinities afterwards brought into the Hindu pantheon as one of the wives of Shiva. At a little distance from the village is the usual collection of huts occupied by potters, rope and basket
makers, and others whose low-caste occupations render them undesirable as inhabitants. These locations are survivals of the early Aryan times when the darkskinned Dasyu slaves, who plied the lowest trades, were not allowed within the Aryan pale. The potters are twirling the clay on the primitive native wheel a relic of almost prehistoric times, and women with a stately pose and gait are carrying on their heads the finished vessels, baked in a heap of cow-dung fuel,
for sale in the village.
Another roadside shrine farther on contains a rude carving of an ancient village deity, hardly higher in the artistic scale than the fetish of a South Sea savage. Beyond this a row of magnificent tamarind trees, whose gnarled and twisted trunks prove their venerable age, affords a grateful shade for the pilgrims, and a splendid portico for one of the dharmsalas, or rest-houses, in which they may halt and take their food. The village itself is nestled round a spacious tank, one of those splendid public works
which A VILLAGE DEITY
Hindu rulers and pious benefactors of olden days bestowed on their posterity.
It is a refreshing contrast to the narrow, crowded streets of the city, the dirt, bustle and unrest, the plethora of monstrous idols and their never-ending rites—this broad expanse of placid water mirroring the
tall red spire of a fine old temple, and the dense, rich foliage of the sacred trees which cluster round it. It is in the village life, and not in the life of the crowded cities, that Hinduism is seen at its best. The organization of the village communities, dating back from the
earliest Aryan settlements, has still in some parts of India survived all the storms of contending races and creeds, and remained the political unit of the state. The change which British administration has brought about in this respect seems to be a doubtful advantage. The ordinary affairs of such village communities are administered by a hereditary headman, or patel, assisted by a council of elders called the panchayet, exercising certain kinds of judicial and legislative powers, and acting as intermediaries between the government and the people. Among the recognized officials, having specific duties and privileges, are hereditary police, traders, and artisans; the priest who performs religious ceremonies, and sometimes the dancing girl who assists at festivities; the guru who is the village schoolmaster, and the accountant who acts as finance minister for these miniature republics. They are paid by allowances of grain, or by the grant of cultivated land as hereditary possessions.
Khandawa, however, has not retained its ancient Hindu constitution, but has become part of a zemindary, the system of private proprietorship which grew out of the Mogul method of collecting land-revenue. The old temple is one of the few within the limits of Benares which date farther back than the first Muhammadan invasion. It is much bolder and finer in style than the modern Benares temples. Embedded in one side of the portico are a few fragments of sculpture belonging to a still older shrine. Among them is a piece of vigorous carving of those quaint and playful dwarf-like figures which are frequent in Indian sculpture of the early Buddhist times, when the disembodied spirit was believed to resemble a human dwarf in size and appearance. The only touch of modernity about the temple is an English eightday clock, presented by the owner of the village, so that its inhabitants might know the time of day. It is hung up inside the shrine over the phallic emblem of Shiva.
Round about the temple are picturesquely grouped