Page images

kálí fled, and ascended to heaven in the form of a balloon, followed by the army, which soared up to the skies in pursuit of her. After a time the army descended to the earth again, and encamped on Bindhyachal; but Mahákálí kept on her way, until she came to . Gaurí, to whom she narrated the circumstances of her journey, adding that a vast army was on its way to capture her. On receiving this intelligence, Gaurí became incarnate in a body, possessing a thousand arms, of such gigantic dimensions, that it reached from earth to heaven. When Durg beheld her, he was smitten with her beauty, and declared to his people, that whoever amongst them should capture her should sit on the throne of Indra.

Excited by the prospect of obtaining such a high distinction, several regiments of the army made a rush upon Gaurí, with so great an uproar, that the four elephants which supported the earth on their backs became terrified, and fled, in dismay, to Bindhyachal. Gauri was delighted at seeing them, and, in her own defence, immediately created an army of gods and instruments of warfare. A large number of the enemy were slain through the power and activity of the goddess; and Durg himself, smarting under the loss he had sustained, now took part in the conflict. Holding in his hands a trident, a sword, a bow, and arrows, he came on with irresistible impetuosity, and, approaching Gaurí, inflicted upon her a heavy blow. The goddess fainted, but, presently recovering herself, arose and ordered the gods to engage with the foe. The battle between the gods and the demons now became general,

during which Durg and Gauri fought together, and, fighting, ascended to heaven and descended to the earth again. On reaching the earth, the demon seized a stone, and threw it at the goddess, who, on its coming near, breathed a curse upon it, and reduced it to powder. He then laid hold of an entire mountain, and, raising it up, hurled it at Gauri; but she crumbled it, also, to powder, and, with her weapon, struck the demon, who, uttering a loud cry, fell to the ground. The merciless goddess then cut off the head of Durg; and, all the enemies being slain, the battle was most satisfactorily ended. The gods now approached Gauri, and began to extol her for her valour and exploits, and showered flowers from heaven on the earth below. The celestial danseuses, musicians, and minstrels,—Apsarases, Gandharvas, and Kinnaras,-were summoned, and, together with the gods, Munis, and Rishis, joined in rendering praise to Gaurí. Gratified with the honour paid to her, the goddess gave utterance to these words: “Whoever shall repeat what has been written in my praise shall be delivered from pain and fear; and I will make myself present, when invoked with eulogies that name me. I will, also, change my appellation to Durgá, by which, in future, I wish to be addressed, because I have slain the demon Durg." Having said this, she vanished; and order was everywhere re-established.

Such is the history of this Hindu deity, which, for wildness and marvel, is not surpassed by the legendary stories connected with the Middle Ages. Let us look at the temple where the goddess holds her court. This is situated in the midst of a quadrangle surrounded by high walls. The main entrance is on the western side, opposite the high road. In front of the doorway, and contiguous to the road, is a building, called the Naubat-kháná, in which a large kettle-drum is beaten three times a day, in honour of the goddess. The upper part of this building is open on its four sides, the effect of which is, that the sound proceeding from the drum is obstructed as little as possible. On either side of the Naubat-kháná, but more retired from the road, and nearer the wall of the quadrangle, are two small temples, and, in the space between them, two stone pillars. The first of these is about ten feet in height, with a basement of a foot more, and is surmounted by a large figure of a lion. The other is about two feet in height, and is used as an altar for sacrifices. Near it is a wooden post, to which the victim is bound. On its being slaughtered, the head is laid on the altar, and offered to Durga.

Passing through the narrow doorway into the interior of the enclosure, the first objects that meet the eye are two sculptured lions, one on either side of the pathway, with their faces directed towards the chief entrance to the temple, leading through the porch straight to the goddess. They are in a couching posture, and are intended for the use of Durga, whenever she wishes to ride out for an airing. Immediately on the left of the lions are two small shrines, one of which is dedicated to Gaņeś, whose figure, in bass-relief, juts out from the inner wall; and the other is dedicated to Mahadeva, the emblem of which deity, in white marble, stands on the floor of the shrine, while a diminutive

[ocr errors]


figure of a bull, also of marble, kneels in front. To their right is another shrine, in honour of Mahadeva. On the sides of the enclosure, extending all round it, is a platform or terrace, built into the four walls, and covered in with a roof: it furnishes room for accommodating large numbers of persons, and protecting them from the sun and rain. Here I saw a painted devotee, absorbed in meditation, seated before a few leaves of a Sanskrit book. His right hand was in a sock, and held a málá or rosary, which, concealed from observation, it revolved; and, as he muttered his mantras, he counted the beads unceasingly. Upon this platform is a curious little building, with an iron grating in front, looking like a cage or den for the abode of some wild beast, but which is none other than the residence of the golden-faced goddess Bágeśwarí. A short distance from this shrine is an immodest figure of a woman,

in bass-relief.

Between the platform and the temple, which, together with its porch, occupies most of the remaining space of the quadrangle, a broad path runs, separating the former from the latter. In this path, on the south side, is a stone scaffolding, from the arch of which a bell is suspended, the gift of a Raja of Nepal; and on either side of the arch is a small figure of a lion. The temple and the porch, although united together, forming one edifice, are, in reality, two distinct buildings, and were erected at two different periods. The temple was erected by Rani Bhawání, as before mentioned, during the last century; while the porch was erected by a Subahdar, or superior commissioned native officer, a few years ago.

The porch stands upon twelve elaborately-carved pillars, the designs of which are fantastic, yet not without taste. All the pillars are similarly carved. Their base rests upon a floor raised about four feet from the ground; and they are surmounted by a dome, with cupolas at each corner, connected together by a breast-work. The inner part of the dome is embellished with a variety of colours; but the painting, in several places, has suffered injury. From the centre of the dome a large bell is suspended, which, it is reported, was presented to the temple, by a European magistrate of Mirzapore, about forty years ago. This tale, incredible as its sounds, and the truth of which I am not prepared to vouch for, is commonly believed by the people.

The temple is built after the orthodox model of Hindu temples, but not with that excessive display of minute carving and sculpture, representing monstrous and indecent figures, which may be seen on many Hindu edifices of more modern times. Yet its carving is not scanty. The cornices, indeed, of the doors, situated on each of the four sides, are so covered with carving, as to be liable, to some extent, to the remark just applied to more recent buildings. But the upper part of the temple, notwithstanding the multitude of small cupolas surrounding the steeple and rising up to its very apex, exhibits a simplicity of design which every one must behold with pleasure and admiration. Each cupola terminates in a gilded point; and the steeple has a gilded trident crowning its summit. The cornices of the doors above spoken of have the peculiarity of a double arch, -an inner and an outer. Over the outer arch are figures of men, in

« PreviousContinue »