E. B. (Ernest Binfield) Havell.

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BENARES, THE SACRED CITY




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BENARES

THE SACRED CITY

SKETCHES OF HINDU LIFE
AND RELIGION



BY

E. B. HAVELL, A.R.C.A.

LATE PRINCIPAL OF THE GOVERNMENT SCHOOL OF ART, CALCUTTA



IVith many Illustrations



SECOND EDITION



LONDON: W. TRACKER & CO, 2, CREED LANE, E C
CALCUTTA & SIMLA: TRACKER, SPINK & CO.



LONDON :

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
DUKE STREET, STAMFORD STREET. S.E, AND GREAT WINDMILL STREET. W.



PREFACE



It is, perhaps, because Benares is not forbidden, that such
a mine of human interest, and one of the most extraordinary
cities of the East, is now probably less known to most Euro-
peans than Lhasa. Even of the Europeans who have seen
Benares, few have any adequate conception of the ideas and
beliefs which many millions of our fellow-subjects associate
with it. Few, indeed, have either the time or the inclination
to read through the increasing accumulation of very solid
literature which deals with the philosophic side of Hinduism;
and the more popular missionary accounts (with our national
tendency to underrate the enemy's strength) generally make
the mistake of representing all Hinduism as a mass of de-
graded superstitions and idolatry, only held together by the
profound ignorance and backwardness of the Indian people.

These sketches are not offered as a contribution to oriental
scholarship, or to religious controversy, but as an attempt to
give an intelligible outline of Hindu ideas and religious prac-
tices, and especially as a presentation of the imaginative and
artistic side of Indian religions, which can be observed at few
places so well as in the sacred city and its neighbourhood
the birthplace of Buddhism and of one of the principal sects
of Hinduism.

The illustrations have been, for the most part, specially
prepared to elucidate the text, and include some of the re-



vi BENARES, THE SACRED CITY

markable discoveries made this year at Sarnath. They will,
it is hoped, give some idea of the wonderful artistic wealth
of Benares life, and at the same time be more instructive than
those of ordinary books of travel.

The authorities consulted include Sherring's Sacred City of
t'he Hindus\ The Life and Times of Sri Sankaracharya, by
C. Krishnasami Aiyar; and the works of Barth, Beal, Sylvain
Levi, Rhys Davids, Monier Williams, Max Miiller, Taylor,
and many others. My acknowledgments are due to Messrs.
E. J. Lazarus & Co., of Benares, for permission to use
Mr. Ralph Griffiths' translation of the Rig- Veda; and to
Messrs. Som Brothers, Calcutta, for extracts from Pandit
Tattvabhushan's translations of the Upanishads.

I am indebted to H.H. the Maharajah of Benares and staff
for much courteous assistance; and to Babus Abanindro
Xath Tagore, Dinesh Chandra Sen, and other Indian friends
for valuable information.

Mr. J. H. Marshall, Director-General of the Archaeological
Survey of India, Dr. Vogel, Messrs. Johnstone & Hoffman,
Calcutta, and Messrs. Saeed Bros., Benares, have kindly
helped me with some of the illustrations.

E. B. HAVELL.

CALCUTTA, October,



CONTENTS



Page

CHAPTER I. IN THE VEDIC TIMES

The Kasis The Yedic hymns The Upanishads The
ancient universities The story of the Flood Aryan ethics
The storv of Xachiketa I



CHAPTER II. THE HINDU EPICS HERO-WORSHIP

Vasishtha and Vishwamitra The caste system The preser-
vation of Sanskrit learning The Mahabharata and Rama-
yana Hero-worship in modern times - - - - - 17



CHAPTER III. THE ADVENT OF BUDDHA SARNATH AND THE
LATENT DISCOVERIES THE JAINS

The points of dispute between Buddha and the Brahmin
priests The tyranny of Brahminical rites Buddha's preach-
ing at Sarnath The Chinese pilgrims and their accounts of
Sarnath The recently discovered Asoka column and Buddhist
sculptures The story of the Deer-park History of Jainism - 32

CHAPTER IV. THE RISE OF MODERN HINDUISM

Asoka The decline of Buddhism The Hindu reformer
Sankaracharya The Bhagavat Gita Shiva-worship The
esoteric doctrine of Hinduism regarding the universe Hindu
philosophy and its comprehension by the masses Shiva and
the lingam Shiva in Hindu art 58



vii



viii BENARES, THE SACRED CITY

Page

CHAPTER V. IN THE CITY

The sacrificial virtue of the city and environs The up-to-date
Indian's transformation The cantonment Streets Symbol-
ism of Hindu temples The microcosm of Indian life Art
industries The dancing-girls Story of Vajrasena and Syama 71

CHAPTER VI. ON THE GANGES

The river at da\vn and sunrise Rites and ceremonies of the
bathers Ganges water Funeral rites The Diwali festival - 90



CHAPTER VII. THE GHATS Asi SANGAM TO NEPALI GHAT
Dasasamedh Ghat The Kali-puja Sitala Ghat Miinshi
Ghat Yogic exercises Chauki Ghat The pippal-tree The
Aghoris Kedarnath Ghat Shivala Ghat and fort Mud-
figures of Bhima The tulasi plant Man Mandil Ghat and
the observatory The Nepalese temple - 106

CHAPTER VIII. THE GHATS FROM MAKIKARNIKA TO BARXA
SANGAM

Scene at Manikarnika The well Scindhia Ghat A camping-
ground for Sadhus Ram Ghat and Panchganga The piazza
at Panchganga A bed of spikes A Vaishnavite nun - - 134

CHAPTER IX. THE TEMPLES AND SACRED WELLS

The different classes of Hindu deities Household worship
The Durga temple The Ahmety temple Annapurna temple
Vishweshwar The temple at Ramnagar The Maharaja's
palace Temple of Bhaironath Ganesha, the god of wisdom
The well of Knowledge and the well of Fate The Snake well 160

CHAPTER X. THE PANCH-TIRTH AND THE PILGRIMAGE OF
THE PANCH-KOSI ROAD THE PILGRIMAGE OF THE SOUL

The virtues of pilgrimages The Panch-kosi road and village
of Khandawa Shradha ceremonies for the repose of the souls
of the dead 186



CONTENTS ix

Page

CHAPTER XI. REMAINS OF OLD BENARES A HINDU-MUHAM-
MADAN RIOT A WEAVERS' COLONY

The study of Indian sculpture and painting Miniature stone
lemples Mosques built of materials from ancient temples
The Lit Bhairo Bakariya Kund - - 199

CHAPTER XII. BENARES UNDER BRITISH RULE

Chet Singh and Warren Hastings The murder of Mr. Cherry

Influence of British rule Benares and Neo-Hinduism - 210



ILLUSTRATIONS



Page

Manikarnika Ghat - - Frontispiece

A Vyas, or Public Reader, at Benares - 21

The Coronation of Rama and Sita - - - - 27

Site of Deer-Park, excavated 1905 - - - 41

Miniature Votive Shrine, excavated at Sarnath, 1905, showing the

sikra crowned by the amalika ornament - - - 43

Model of a Xepalese Buddhist Temple - 45
The Asoka Column, marking the place where Buddha began to

preach. Discovered at Sarnath, 1905 - - - - 47

Buddha Preaching. Discovered at Sarnath, 1904 - 51

Carving on the Dhamek Stupa - 53

Excavations below Humayun's Tower, Sarnath, 1905 - - - 55

Shiva, as Natesa. From a bronze in the Madras Museum - - 69

The Goddess Durga a fresco painting - - - 74

A Benares Street - - - 77

A Village Temple in Bengal - - - - 79

Gai Ghat A Classic Group 80

An old Sacrificial Vessel ... - - 82

An old Benares Brocade - - - - 83

An old Benares Lota - 85

Temple at Dasasamedh Ghat - - - - 88

"Lighting up the recesses of the cave-like shrines-'' . - - 91

A Sannyasi's Water- Vessel 95

A Shivaite Rosary 9^

" He will sit like a living Buddha, motionless " 97

The Burning Ghat - . - - IO1



xii BENARES, THE SACRED CITY

Pagfr

Dasasamedh Ghat - 107

The Temple of Sitala 1 14-

A Sanskrit School - - 116

Carved Snakes at Chauki Ghat 1 18

An Aghori - 1 20

A Suttee Stone 1 2 1

"Another venerable hermit, seated on a leopard's skin ' 123

Shivala Ghat - 127

Balcony of Man Singh's Observatory 129

The Nepalese Temple 131

The Shrine of Ganga - 133.

" Groups of women . . . are performing puja" 135

" Like a painted frieze from Pompeii, or the decoration of an antique

vase " - 1 39-

Scindhia Ghat 141

An Encampment of Sadhus - 145

The Buildings at Ghosla Ghat 147

The Head of Bhima 148

Bhima completed - - 149.

Lamps for the Pitris 151

Lamp-stand at Panchganga - - 152

" Three old women, who pause to barter with a seller of pots and
pans, unconsciously posing themselves in their classic drapery

like the Fates, or the Weird Sisters" 153.

Palhvad Ghat 156.

A Vaishnavite Nun reading the Ramayana - - 157

The Salagram Stone - 161
Plan of Hindu Roofing - - -162

The Temple of Durga, or " Monkey Temple"- - - - 163.

Durga ... j6 7

Mask of Shiva - - 169'

In the Ahmety Temple: a Brahmin performing his sandhya - - 170

The Ahmety Temple 171

A Sacrificial Spoon - ... 175

The Temple at Ramnagar 178

Mask of Bhaironath 179,



ILLUSTRATIONS xiii

Page

Ganesha - - 181

The Well of Knowledge - - 183

The Panch-kosi Road - - 189

A Village Deity - - 190

The Temple and Tank at Khandawa 191

Ancient Carving, Khandawa Temple - 193

" Thin vaporous clouds of smoke rise from the funeral pyres. The
slanting rays of the morning sun cast long shadows across the

ghat" - - - - 195

Ancient Votive Stones - - 201

Tomb of Lai Khan - 203

" An idyll of peace and self-satisfaction - 207

Panchganga -.. - -.- . 215



CHAPTER I

IN THE VEDIC TIMES

History, in the conventional European sense, has
never possessed much interest for the Hindu mind.
Thoroughly permeated with the idea of the un-
reality of material things, the Brahmin priesthood,,
while taking extraordinary precautions to preserve
their inheritance of spiritual culture, have never
troubled themselves to mark the footprints which
kings and dynasties leave upon the sands of time.
It is chiefly through the exertions of European,
scholars, with the help of the old Buddhist records,
that the main outlines of Indian history, previous to
the Muhammadan invasions, have been made in-
telligible.

The detailed history of the petty kingdoms into
which northern India was divided would probably
possess little interest, even if it were sifted out of the
wild legends which Eastern imagination has woven
into it. Benares will always possess supreme interest
as the chief centre of the evolution of two of the great
world -religions Brahminism and Buddhism; but

o

while the development of Buddhism can be, to some
extent, traced and mapped out with exact dates and
events, the history of Brahminism must always be
regarded from a different stand-point.



2 BENARES, THE SACRED CITY

Of the antiquity of Benares there can hardly be
any question. From its peculiar situation on the banks
of a splendid river, with its eastern boundary con-
verted by the current into a magnificent natural
amphitheatre, facing the rising sun, it is not un-
reasonable to conjecture that even before the Aryan
tribes established themselves in the Ganges valley,
Benares may have been a great centre of primitive
sun-worship, and that the special sanctity with which
the Brahmins have invested the city is only a tradition
of those primeval days, borrowed, with so many of
their rites and symbols, from their Turanian pre-
decessors.

The first definite historical event known about
Benares is that the Kasis, one of the Aryan tribes
which were then occupying northern India, established
themselves in the Ganges valley, near Benares, at
a date supposed to be between 1400 and 1000 B.C.
The origin of the Aryans is still a much-debated
question, but the researches of ethnologists have com-
pletely disturbed the theory of philologists, which
placed the home of the Aryan people in Central
Asia, and point to more northern and western
latitudes as the cradle of the race. Certainly the
Aryans brought with them into India all the habits
and ideas of northern people they were fair-skinned,
ate horse-flesh and beef, and drank fermented liquor
the soma juice, which they held to be the amrita, or
nectar of the gods. Like the ancient Britons they
were polyandrous. Their religion, at first, was a
simple adoration of the beneficent powers of Nature,
with little of the mysticism and dread, born of a
tropical environment. They worshipped the sky,



EARLY WORSHIP 3



Dyaus-pitar, as Heavenly Father, and Prithivi, the
earth, as Mother; Varuna, the all-embracing firma-
ment, the upholder of heaven and earth, king of
gods and men, who made the sun and moon to shine,
whose breath was the wind

" He knows the path of birds that fly through heaven, and sovran

of the sea,

He knows the ships that are thereon.
True to his holy law, he knows the twelve moons with their

progeny, J

He knows the moon of later birth.
He knows the pathway of the wind, the spreading-high and mighty

wind.
He knows the gods above."

Rig- Veda, Hymn 25. Griffith's translation.

They invoked Indra, the rain-god, as brother, friend,
and father, who heard their prayers; Agni, the Fire-
god, slayer of demons, who protected them day and
night from evil; Surya, " the soul of all that moveth
not, or moveth", and Savitri the sun and sunshine.
The early Vedic hymns are redolent with the fragrance
of a bright and genial spring-time, reflecting the joy
of a simple, pastoral life in the golden age, when the
children of men played with Mother Nature in her
kindest moods, and the earth and the stars sang to-
gether. The gloom and terrors of tropical forests, the
fury of the cyclone, the scorching heat, and the mighty
forces of the monsoon floods, had not yet infected
Aryan life and thought. Their poets loved to sing
the beauties of the dawn Ushas, the lovely maiden,
daughter of the sky; but her dark sister, Night, was
also to them a kindly divinity:

1 The days.
( B488) C



4 BENARES, THE SACRED CITY



" Friend of the home, the strong and youthful maiden,
Night, dear to Savitar the god, and Bhagu,
All -compassing, all-glorious, prompt to listen, hath with her

greatness filled the earth and heaven.
Over all depths hath she gone up, and mounted, Most Mighty One,

the sky's exalted summit.
Over me now the loving Night is spreading with her conspicuous

God-like ways like Mitra.
Excellent, high-born, blissful, meet for worship, Night, thou hast

come; stay here with friendly spirit.
Guard us the food for men that we have gotten, and all prosperity

that comes of cattle."

Atharva Veda. Book xix, 49. Griffith's translation.

They had no idols, and the nature-gods whom they
worshipped provided their only temples. The Aryan
ritual consisted of burnt-sacrifices, oblations of clarified
butter, and libations of soma-juice or milk, accom-
panied by hymns of praise and prayer. Far back in
time, in that dim region which modern historical
telescopes are ever trying to explore, the father of
the family was both sacrificer and priest; but when
the Aryans appeared in India, their ritual had already
become so complicated as to call for a separate class
of priests and poets, like the Druids the Brahmins
of ancient Europe. Caste was still unknown, but the
poets and thinkers of the people had already begun
to concern themselves with those speculations regard-
ing the origin of all things which form the basis of
modern Hinduism:

" There was neither existence, nor non-existence,
The kingdom of air, nor the sky beyond.

What was there to contain, to cover in
Was it but vast, unfathomed depths of water?

There was no Death there, nor Immortality.
No sun was there, dividing day from night.



EARLY RITUAL c

> J

Then was there only THAT, resting within itself.
Apart from IT, there was not anything.

At first within the darkness veiled in darkness,
Chaos unknowable, the All lay hid,

Till straightway from the formless void made manifest
By the great power of heat was born that germ."

Rig- Veda. Hymn of Creation.

There had also sprung up the idea of the com-
pelling power of prayer and sacrifice, which became
the key-note of the later Brahminical ritual. Certain
individuals, families, or tribes acquired a reputation
for the success which followed their sacrifices and
prayers, and by a post hoc, propter hoc line of reason-
ing, it was assumed that the divine powers could
not only be propitiated, but coerced into granting the
favours desired, w r hether it was victory over enemies,
wealth, rain, recovery from sickness, or spiritual
benefits.

The hymns and prayers which seemed specially
efficacious were handed down to posterity as most
precious legacies, and the rule of sacrifice gradually
developed into a complicated science, the practice of
which required the most exact knowledge and ex-
perience. The priestly office thus tended more and
more to become a hereditary position of great power
and responsibility, for though the virtue ascribed to
a successful sacrifice was great, the disasters which
would result from a blundering performance might
involve a whole tribe or kingdom in ruin.

Every tribe had a purohita, or high priest, who
always performed the proper sacrifices before a battle,
and claimed a liberal share of the booty which might



6 BENARES, THE SACRED CITY

i

be gained from a victory. The composers of the
sacred hymns, now known as the Rishis, or sages,
also expected and generally received handsome re-
wards for their services. But some of them have
celebrated the niggardliness of their patrons in sar-
castic verses, which shows that their minds were not
always above worldly considerations. One disappointed
author, who had composed an ode to the Ashvins,
the twin heralds of the dawn, and received as a
reward a chariot without horses or harness, expresses
his indignation thus:

"This teamless chariot I received from the Ashvins, owners of

many horses. It gratified me greatly!
It must get on somehow with me to the place where men drink

soma, the precious car!

Dreams and wealthy niggards, both are unprofitable.
Let me have nought to do with them."

Though the purohitas and priests thus occupied
a very important place in Aryan society, they were
as yet entirely subordinate to the nobles and chiefs
of the warrior class, and were very far from the
position of absolute supremacy which they gained
for themselves in later times. As in the middle
ages in Europe, the functions of warrior and priest
were often combined. Many of the finest hymns pre-
served in the sacred books of the Hindus were com-
posed by the Kshatriyas, or fighting chiefs.

A very important part of the sacred lore treasured
in the religious literature of the Hindus is contained
in the Upanishads, the records of the debates on
metaphysical questions and the theory of sacrificial
practice which excited the profoundest interest of
our Aryan forefathers. Kings, nobles, and priests,



RELIGIOUS LITERATURE 7

i

wise men and women, took part in the discussions.
The greatest freedom of thought was allowed, and
the rules which regulated the debates were only those
which were approved of as likely to lead to sound
conclusions. The rewards for debaters who showed
profound thought and argument were not less liberal
than those which were given to successful composers
and sacrificers, but the penalties for those who in-
fringed the rules of logic, or spoke foolishly, were
heavy.

These disputations, or " Brahmodyams ", after-
wards became so much a national institution, that,
if we may believe the Sanskrit traditions, even kings
would yield their thrones and become the servants
or pupils of the wisest philosophers. The methods
of the Inquisition, and the argument of the sword
and stake, never became popular with Hindu religious
teachers. Whatever may be urged against the Hindu
system, it must be admitted that it has always stood
for absolute liberty of conscience. One religious
movement after another has swept over Indian soil,
but until the Muhammadan conquest it was never con-
sidered justifiable, or necessary, to suppress the voice
of the preacher and the argument of the philosopher
with torture, bloodshed, and judicial murder.

The old Buddhist records, though referring to a
considerably later time than the Vedic period, throw
much light on the character of these ancient universi-
ties, and on the distinctions which were given as
rewards of learning.

A member of the Buddhist order who had thoroughly
mastered one section of the philosophical books was
exempted from the common drudgery of monastic



8 BENARES, THE SACRED CITY



duties. As he progressed the rewards were propor-
tionately increased. When he could expound two
sections he was allowed to reside in a furnished upper
room. The privileges attached to expert knowledge
of the third and fourth sections were the services of
a number of attendants, first of a lower class, and then
of lay -disciples, called "pure men", upasakas. For
the fifth section he was granted an elephant carriage,
and finally when he attained to complete knowledge
of all six sections he was entitled to the dignity of an
escort.

When one of the members had won all that pure
scholarship could gain, and had acquired a reputation
as a great teacher, he had the right to call together
and preside over a meeting for philosophical discus-
sions. In this convention he would be the judge of
the merit or demerit of the debaters, commending
some and reproving others. If one of them should
become distinguished above the rest for elegant lan-
guage, profound logic, and depth of thought, he would
be placed upon a splendidly-caparisoned elephant and
escorted from the convent with great state and dignity.
But when a member presented an ill-reasoned argu-
ment, or tried to sustain it by breaking the rules of
logic, and was feeble and clumsy in his rhetoric, the
assembly would paint his face, smear him with dirt,
and then take him from the monastery to some de-
serted place, or throw him in a ditch. " Thus they
distinguish between worth and demerit, between the
wise and the foolish."

The natural evolution of Aryan thought and religion
had so far produced three classes of literature first the
Vedic hymns, which I have already described; secondly



BRAHMANAS AND UPANISHADS 9



the Brahmanas, which embody the priestly traditions of
sacrifice; and thirdly the Upanishads, or philosophical
discussions. Sanskrit scholars have made widely dif-
ferent estimates of the periods covered by these three
classes. No doubt the hymns of the Vedas reflect
traditions of the Aryans long antecedent to the time
when they reached India. Max M tiller has fixed the
date to which they belong as approximately B.C. 2000;
other authorities place them as far back as B.C. 6000;
while an Indian scholar, Mr. Tilak, from a study of the
astronomical data given by the Rig- Veda, and from
the description of the dawn and sunrise, and the
phenomena of the seasons, believes that some of them
refer to a time when the original Aryan home must
have been at or near the Arctic circle.

The Brahmanas probably represent a development
of Hinduism, for the most part, if not entirely, Indian.
The age of their first compilation has been put be-
tween B.C. 1300 and B.C. 1 100, but there are many later
additions extending to perhaps B.C. 600. They are an
extraordinary compilation of ritual practice and ex-
planation, evolved by the imaginations of the priestly
families, who piled form upon form and rite upon rite,
until the simple piety of the early Aryans was buried
in a mass of superstitious observances.

To European readers they are chiefly interesting for
the light they throw upon modern Hindu ritual, and
for the Aryan legends regarding the creation and the
flood which have been preserved in them. The story
of the deluge is as follows:

The seventh Manu of the fourteen mythical pro-
genitors of mankind was one day washing his hands
when he caught a fish. The fish spoke and said,



io BENARES, THE SACRED CITY



" Take care of me, and protect me from the big fish
that would eat me, and I will one day save you ".
Manu asked, " From what will you save me?" The
fish answered, " A flood will come and destroy all
living creatures. I will save you from that." Manu
kept the fish in a jar, until it grew so big that it begged
to be put into a ditch, at the same time telling Manu
to build a ship to prepare for the coming catastrophe.
Manu built the ship accordingly, and as the fish grew
too big for the ditch, carried it down to the sea. When
the flood came, Manu tied the ship to the horn of the
fish, which dragged him swiftly towards the northern
mountains, the Himalayas. Arrived there, the fish
instructed him to tie his ship to the mountain-top, and
then swam away.

As the flood subsided, the ship gradually descended
the slope of the mountain, and Manu left it to perform
worship and sacrifices. After a year a woman was
produced from the sacrifices. Manu asked, " Who art
thou?" "Thy daughter," she replied. "How, illus-


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