« PreviousContinue »
The Hindus do not resort to all temples equally, but only to those which are well known, and which, they have reason to suppose, were frequented by their forefathers. New temples are constantly springing up in various parts of the city, some of which far surpass the old shrines in magnificence; but these are regarded as family temples, and are, for the most part, visited only by the relatives of the persons who have erected them, and by members of the caste to which they belong. The thirty-six castes,-into which Hindus are sometimes divided, -practically shun such temples, although I am not aware that they cherish any dislike to them ; while all regard the other class of temples as peculiarly their own, and flock to them indiscriminately. Pilgrims also have the same feeling, and will have nothing to do with the new shrines.
One of the temples in Benares Proper, which may be regarded as not of recent date, is the well-known temple of Trilochan or the Three-eyed,—from tri, three, and lochana, an eye,—so called from the following circumstance. It is said, that, on one occasion, when Siva was wrapt in meditation, he was visited daily by Vishņu, who always brought with him a thousand separate flowers, which he sacrificed to Siva when in the act of worshipping him. One day Vishņu had brought his thousand flowers, as usual; and, having placed them ready for sacrifice, his attention was drawn off from them for a short period. Embracing the opportunity, Siva quietly purloined one of the flowers. Ignorant of the circumstance, Vishņu' presently set about his devotions, offering his flowers one at a time, and counting the number offered. What was his surprise, when, on arriving at the nine hundred and ninety-ninth, he found that one was missing ! He was totally unable to account for the loss; but, as he had no other at hand, and it was necessary to complete the sacrifice which he had begun, he removed an eye from its socket, and offered it instead. On applying the eye to the forehead of the idol, it adhered to the spot on which he placed it. Siva immediately began to see with it, and from that time forwards possessed three organs of vision.
There is, however, another tale connected with this temple and the third eye of S'iva. Tradition affirms, that the emblem of this god, which is worshipped in his temple, having passed through the seven pátálas or subterraneous regions, had made its home in this place. Gaurí, wife of S'iva, was, at this time, seeking, but could not find him. Siva, with his third eye, the eye of reflection,—distinguished from his other two eyes, which are merely eyes of observation,-perceived her. It is commonly believed, that, on the site of this temple, the three rivers, the Ganges, the Jumná, and the Saraswatí, meet. Moreover, three notable deities are spoken of as residing here, corruptly called Saraswateswar, Jamaneswar, and Nirbuddheswar. The first two idols actually do exist here, and are pointed out in the enclosure of the temple; and the last has a separate temple to herself, at a short distance from the Trilochan fane. It is not at all unlikely, that, formerly, this idol was also worshipped in this place; for all three are referred to in the Káśí-khanda, in connexion with it.
The fruits of performing religious ceremonies in the Trilochan temple are regarded, by the idolater, as of a varied character. As, in his estimation, it is high up in the scale of sanctity, it is not surprising that he imagines great blessings are to be obtained from the worship of its idols. That mystery in Hindu idea, called spiritual emancipation, which, in this land, means the destruction of personal identity, or the annihilation of self and absorption into Brahma, preceded, it may be, by a transmigration through the bodies of other creatures, on the death of the present body, is, in his belief, as effectually secured here as elsewhere. Moreover, there is a special benefit attached, by the people generally, to the performance of religious rites in this temple; namely, that, whoever does so, should he fall ill in any other part of the country, and die, is certain not to sink into hell, but to enjoy everlasting happi
In the month of Baisakh, should any one remain in this temple, uninterruptedly engaged in religious exercises during the whole of one day and night, without sleeping, he is promised eternal liberation as his reward.
The temple stands in the midst of a quadrangle, and is of recent date, having been built a few years ago by Náthú Bálá, of Poonah; but the priests state that the quadrangle itself is upwards of three hundred years old. There is little question, however, that the original Trilochan temple was earlier even than this. Some of the numerous idols deposited within the circuit of the quadrangle exhibit signs of an age equal to, if not greater than, that ascribed to the earlier fane. On entering the
high-walled enclosure, the large number of images which meet the eye on both sides and in front is somewhat amusing. Most of them, though not all, are of diminutive size, and are placed in separate shrines, in groups of five, ten, twenty, and upwards. On the left, by the wall, are two temples, one of which is surmounted by a low spire or steeple, and the other by a small dome; and the tiny deities to whom they are dedicated are partly deposited upon the floors of the temples, and partly inserted into the walls. Figures of bulls, likewise, intended for these gods to ride on, are placed
On the right-hand side is a series of shrines occupied by assemblages of idols. There is, also, an image looking like a huge club, which is not honoured with a residence, but stands apart from all the shrines. It is made of stone, and is three feet high above its base, and ten inches or a foot in thickness. Its name is Kot-Lingeswar, from the circumstance that its surface is supposed to have a koți or ten millions of the emblems of Siva carved upon it. The actual number cut out on the superficies of the stone is not more than a few hundred; but the Hindus are not particular in their definition of numbers. In the south-west corner, a peepul tree grows, near the foot of which, in a chapel or niche attached to its trunk, is a figure of the monkey-god Hanumán; and, close by, two images of Gaņeś and S'ítalá (or the goddess of Small-pox) have been let into the wall. On the south side, a small shrine contains the black ugly figure of the goddess Bárņarasí, presented, I was told, by Raja Banár, a reputed old Raja of Benares. There are other deities, but smaller in size, in the same shrine, such as Gaņeś and the Sun; but these appear to hold a subordinate position in the place.
In front of the porch of the Trilochan temple, which stands in the middle of the enclosure, is a double temple. Each division is open on its three sides, and, from the number and assortment of its idols, is a veritable pantheon. It would be curious to know the reason for making such collections of deities. I believe it is simply whim or caprice, similar to that which prompts children to accumulate a large number, and a great variety, of playthings. It is, also, evidently, a childish motive which has dictated the methodical, not to say picturesque, arrangement of idols on the floors of temples, and around the walls of their enclosures. In regard to some collections of idols, however, there is no doubt that they have been gradually made by the worshippers in the temples in which they are found, who, in their zeal, have presented idols, as well as money and other gifts, to their favourite shrines.
The porch of the Trilochan temple is painted red, and is sustained by eight pillars, four in front, and four attached to the wall behind. Its roof is embellished with pictures; and on the floor, directly opposite to the entrance of the temple, is a bull, in white marble, in a recumbent posture. Two bells are suspended in the porch, which are struck by the worshippers, after performing their devotions. The wall of the temple, adjoining the porch, exhibits several curious objects. There is a figure of Gaņeś, in white