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of the well. A few years ago a fanatic offered himself in sacrifice to Siva, the god of the well, when the authorities caused the passage to be closed; but, on the priests representing that their revenues would greatly suffer, were it to be kept permanently shut, permission was given for it to be opened once a week, namely, every Monday.
This neighbourhood is exceedingly rich in temples of most elaborate workmanship. Some of them, from the summit to the base, are one mass of curious and intricate carving. Not that the designs represented on them, although in some cases elegant, display any very remarkable genius; yet the execution of them is a marvellous feat of chiselling. On the south side of Bisheswar stands one such temple. The gateways leading into the courtyard and into the fane itself are, both, profusely carved; and, in addition, the latter is crowded with figures intermingled with a multitude of short gilded spires.
Proceeding a little beyond these temples, we come to a small shrine dedicated to Saníchar, or the planet Saturn. The deity within, representing the planet, exhibits a silver head, beneath which depends an apron, or what has the appearance of
of such. The truth is, the idol is bodiless, and the apron conceals the want. A garland of flowers hangs from either ear, falling below the chin; while above the figure a canopy is spread, designed, I imagine, to illustrate the majesty of the god. It is said of this deity, that, for seven years and a half, he troubles the life of men in general, but that he exempts his own worshippers from the trials and disasters which, for this period, he brings on the rest of mankind.
A few steps further on is Annpúrņá, a goddess of great repute in Benares, inasmuch as, under the express orders of Bisheswar, she is supposed to feed all its inhabitants, and to take care that none suffer from hunger. The people have a tradition, that, when Benares was first inhabited, Annpúrņá found that the task of feeding so many persons was too heavy for her. Filled with anxiety, she knew not what step to take. The goddess of the Ganges, or Gangá, generously came to her relief, and told her, that, if she would bestow a handful of pulse on every applicant, she herself would contribute a lotá (a brass vessel) full of water. Annpúrņá was comforted with the suggestion, in which she acquiesced; and the arrangement thus made produced the most satisfactory results. In honour of Annpúrņá, “the supplier of food,” a custom prevails among all classes, by which hundreds and even thousands of the poor are daily supplied with food. It is this. Those persons that can afford it put aside a quantity of pulse, and moisten it over night, and, in the morning, give it away, in handfuls,
poor. Only one handful is given to each person; but, as he and all the members of his family can, each, procure a handful, after collecting a supply from a number of donors, they are able, by the middle of the day, to obtain, in the aggregate, a goodly quantity, which they first dry, and then either cook for food, or sell in the bazaar. I have been told that the great consumption, in this way, of this particular kind of grain is one reason why its price is so high in Benares.
On the ground in front of the entrance to the temple of Anppúrņá, beggars are seated, during most of the day,
to the poor.
some of whom have cups in their hands, into which the worshippers, as they go in and out of the temple, throw small quantities of grain or rice. Passing through the doorway into the quadrangle, a similar system of almsgiving and almstaking displays itself. The priests of the temple, too, receive offerings for the poor, in addition to the presents appropriated to themselves. In one corner of the enclosure is a stone box, which is the common treasury for the reception of the gifts intended for this object. In it may be seen a singular medley of rice, grain, water, flowers, milk, etc., which, though perhaps not unwelcome to a Hindu stomach, would revolt a European. Not that the whole of this medley is eaten; but the rice and grain and other edible substances are separated from the rest, and distributed among the applicants.
The temple of Annpúrņá was erected, 150 years ago, by the Raja of Poona. It possesses a tower, and also a dome, which is carved and ornamented after the Hindu fashion. The dome is sustained by pillars; and between them a bell
suspended, which is kept almost constantly sounding; for, as soon as one worshipper leaves it, another, having performed his devotions, takes his turn in beating it. The bells, in this and other Hindu temples, are not rung, but are beaten with the clapper or tongue depending from within. The carved portions of this temple were once partially or entirely painted; and the painting in the interstices is still visible. The goddess within the temple is regarded, by the natives, as a charming creature. She exhibits the taste of her sex in her fondness for ornaments; for, besides her necklace of jewels and her
silver eyes, she occasionally wears a mask of gold or burnished copper, and thus endeavours to enhance her beauty and fascinate her beholders. The temple occupies a large portion of the quadrangle, and stands in its centre. In one corner of this quadrangle is a small shrine dedicated to the Sun. The idol representing the Sun is seated in a chariot drawn by seven horses, and is surrounded by a glory indicative of the rays of light which he emits from his person in all directions. In a second corner is another shrine, in which is an image of Gauri 'Sankar, and the stone box or receptacle before alluded to. In a third is a large figure of Hanumán, the monkey-god, in bass-relief: and, in a fourth, a figure of Gaņeś, with the head of an elephant and the body of a man,
Not far from the temple of Annpúrņá is the temple of Sákhí Binayaka, or the “witness-bearing Binayaka.” Pilgrims, on completing the journey of the Pánch-kosí road, must pay a visit to this shrine, in order that the fact of their pilgrimage may be verified. Should they neglect to do this, all their pilgrimage would be without merit or profit. The temple is in a square, and was erected by a Mahratta, about one hundred years ago. On the road between these two temples is a red glaring figure of the god Gaņeś, with silver hands, trunk, feet, ears, and poll, squatting down on the floor, which is raised a little above the pathway. The oddity of this painted monster would excite one's laughter, were the mind not distressed at the thought that it receives divine honours.
Near the temple of Bisheswar, and to the south of Saníchar, is a small shrine, dedicated to 'Sukreśwar, which is visited by persons desirous of becoming parents of handsome sons. It is said that this god will bestow a fine son on his worshippers, even though fate should not have conferred one on them; and, so long as he lives in Benares, he will pass his time happily, and, at death, will depart to the realms of 'Siva.