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tutions and deciding interpretations as long as the
dynasty lasted. We cannot refuse to see in this
strong and prolonged national independence the
real reason for the high degree of elaboration
attained by Sanskritic culture in Bengal. A
geographical cul-de-sac is always the place to look
for the integrity of customs and institutions else-



246 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

where disintegrated by foreign conquest. Accord-
ing to this law, we might expect to find in the
southern apex of Dekkan, and in Eastern Bengal,
traces of the past still vigorous, when in other
parts they had disappeared. In the lingering
memory of the life of the tolls and the learned
combats of the wedding parties we have such a
remnant of the mediaeval world, and it speaks with
no uncertain sound. Mithila, Nuddea, and Vikram-
pur were sparks from fire that had been Nalanda.
Benares, Hrishikesh, Nasik, and Ujjain still remain
to testify to us of a time when the life of mind and
spirit ranked above temporal good in the minds of
the forefathers. They were parts of an immense
conflagration of learning, which it should be the
business of India's sons once more to set alight.



THE CITY IN CLASSICAL EUROPE :
A VISIT TO POMPEII

IT is in the cities of classical Europe that we might
expect to find the most perfect and unconfused
expression of the civic sense. For religion meant
to the Roman neither more nor less than the sum-
total of those institutions and ideas which serve as
a binding-force to unite together, to tie together,
groups of men. Thus nothing was so vital to him,
nothing was in so real a sense his dharma, his
essential ideal, as his conception of the city-state.
Compared with him, even the Greek was Asiatic
and theocratic. The Acropolis or the mausoleum,
the university, the temple, or the tomb, far out-
topped in his case the sanctity of court and
market-place, of home and commune. But to the
Roman, on the contrary, the open Forum built in
a fashion not unlike that of an elongated mosque
where citizens assembled to discuss public affairs,
to hold meetings, and to celebrate festivals, the
open Forum was at once the heart, brain, and lungs
of the civic organism. Here men entered as
citizens ; here they heard the public news ; here
they made their political opinions felt. The Forum

was at once an informal senate and a club, and it

247



248 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

was the one essential feature that made the sum-
total of a group of buildings surrounded by walls
into that something more which we name a city.

Clearly however if we want to study the classical
city in detail, the ideal means of doing so would be
to discover one which had been arrested at that
particular stage in its development. Rome herself
has become since then a city of priests and
churches. She is the cradle of Christianity, not
classical at all. Marseilles was never more than
colonial, and is now post-mediaeval and modern.
By a strange catastrophe however which we dare
not call good fortune even for archaeologists, a
catastrophe that happened one summer day more
than eighteen hundred years ago, one such city has
been preserved for us under precisely these ideal
conditions. It is now more than a hundred and
fifty years since the long sleep of Pompeii under
the ashes of Vesuvius was disturbed. From the
23rd of August in the year A.D. 79 till 1748, the
peasant ploughed and reaped, gardens blossomed
and orchards flourished, in the soil above the
ancient streets, and none knew or dreamed of the
awful drama that had once been enacted beneath
their feet. To-day, most of Pompeii stands un-
covered within its walls, and if one enters by the
ancient Porta della Marina, the gate towards the
sea, and goes into the little museum on the right,
one finds record enough, the more vivid in that it
is unwritten, of that hour of sudden death. There
are students who are said to decipher the whole



A VISIT TO POMPEII 249

story of a human soul from a specimen of a hand-
writing. There are others who do the same by the
palm of the hand or the sole of the foot. But here
in the museum at Pompeii we find a surer means
of divination than any of these. In the solid mass
of fine ashes which fell over the doomed city on
that awful 23rd of August, numbers of people were
buried in the act of flight. And in recent excava-
tions it has been found possible to make casts of
several of their bodies, by filling the form in which
they had lain with plaster of Paris. The bodies
themselves, it must be understood, have been
carbonised and long ago disappeared, but a kind
of shell was formed round each of them, under the
pressure of the hot ashes, and into this hollow
shell plaster could be poured so as to take the
exact place of the corpse that once lay there. This
is the origin of the figures which lie in the cases
down the length of the museum. The forms are
naked, for the reason that the clothing must have
caked in the ashes and formed part of the mass
about them.

Never were seen symbols at once so graphic and
so tragic. It is the very act of death we see before
us. The human mind has smitten its own indelible
record of one brief moment on the only writing
surface that is absolutely within its power, the
prisoning body. Oh what sentences are these !
They reveal the past of the soul, as well as the
dread moment of inscription. Here is a man, who
has fallen backwards with his hands thrown up ;



250 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

on the breathless lips we hear the gasp of despair,
and from the sightless eyes see flashed back the
last picture they saw, the horror of the blast of fire
that met him from before, even as he found his
knees buried in the rising dust below. Here again
is a woman unaccustomed to struggle. She has
fallen forward, and her head is pillowed on her
arm. Like the man, it was death she met in her
hurried flight. But she met it with something like
resignation. Her whole attitude speaks of sub-
mission, of sweetness, of grace. Surely at the last
there was a touch of peace. It may be that she
was the last of her household, that the safety of
her children was assured. It may be she was
comforting some other, showing someone about her
how to die. Indian women also have met deaths
as terrible with this gentle acceptance, or even with
exultant triumph.

But we leave these graphs of the spirit stamped
upon the human body, and proceed to examine
that other record, the city itself, built by generation
upon generation of men, through nigh upon a
thousand years. In form it was of a type familiar
enough to us in India. Conjeeveram to this day,
or even the Hindu quarter of Calcutta, can furnish
us with something very like it.

The Street of Abundance and the Street of
Fortune were indeed, as their names imply, full of
rich men's houses. But they were narrow, as is
natural in sunny climates, where light is desired to
fall subdued between the houses. They were so



A VISIT TO POMPEII 251

narrow that two chariots could not pass, as the deep
ruts for a single pair of wheels bear evidence. But
they had footpaths, and perpetual stepping-stones
across the roadways from one to the other tell tales
of the heavy summer rains. They show us another
thing also : that probably the chariots were driven
in every case by a pair of horses. There was no
entanglement of traffic, however, such as is known
to us, for people did not drive hither and thither in
the city, but only in or out of it, and the ways to
other places were definitely laid down and mapped
the gate to the sea, the gate to Herculaneum,
and so on, and vehicles went always in a single
known direction. In the Street of Mercury we
have a couple of memorials which tell us much,
arches built in commemoration of visits paid to
the town by Caligula and Nero. They tell us in
the first place of a couple of days of civic festival.
The same arches would be made by ourselves with
bamboo wands and flags and flowers, and pulled
down in a day or two, and the occasion forgotten.
They were in these cases made of stone, intended
to be eternal. And truly, two thousand years later,
they will still be able to revive the uproarious scenes
of those two days of pleasure ! But they tell us
still more. They reveal to us the whole character
of the city. It was a week-end place, a city of
pleasure, a garden-city not using that term in the
decorous modern sense ! Caligula and Nero were
the most profligate of Roman Emperors, and
doubtless, in coming to Pompeii and being received



252 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

there with enthusiasm, they came unto their own.
We can imagine that ancient tales of Sodom and
Gomorrah, destroyed in fire by reason of their
wickedness, were not without their application to
the case of Pompeii. And yet the beauty of the
situation, of the culture of the inhabitants would
always offer the possibility of a lofty enjoyment
also ; and Cicero, we are told, retired to his house
there to write.

It does not need the Street of Tombs where
the so-called graves are only monuments covering
repositories for cinerary urns to remind us of the
similarity between the civilisation of Rome and that
of high-caste Hinduism. The houses themselves
consist of rooms built round an outer and inner
courtyard. In the most perfect of all that have
yet been discovered, the home of the Vetii, the
inner courtyard, and the kitchen with its clay-
built stove and metal dekhckis, are eloquent of this
similarity. In the middle of the outer court is
found in every case a small marble tank, built
doubtless for ablutions of face and hands or feet.
In the inner court of the Vetii, which may have
offered hospitality who knows ? to emperors on
their visits to Pompeii, there is a multiplicity of
small raised basin fountains, probably used for this
purpose as well as for ornament. For actual bath-
ing, we have a fresco of the bath of Diana, which
shows that a vase of water to be poured over the
person was as much the method of the Pompeian
as of the Hindu. And there were also the magnifi-



A VISIT TO POMPEII 253

cent public baths, of which those of the Forum
must have constituted the most fashionable club-
house of the city. Especially was this true of the
tepidarium, or middle hall, where bathers who had
already put off the outer garments could sit or
stand for warmth about a large bronze brazier
which acted as a hearth, while they prepared them-
selves for the bath by using the oils and essences
taken from the niches in the walls. In the streets
outside are laid bare the metal pipes, stamped in
relief with the names of the makers, by which
water was conveyed to houses and baths from the
town-reservoirs. But in the streets too we find
water-troughs with raised drinking-fountains, offer-
ing refreshments to man and beast. And in one
case the stone edge is worn where the hands
of generations of drinkers have rested, as they
leaned over it to fill their cups at the tap and drink.
Ah ! the pathos of such silent witness to the busy
life that once filled the empty world about us.
Here in the market-hall, when it was first excavated,
was found a little heap of fish-bones, where the
stall of fried fish had been, and where already a
number of people had eaten on that last dread day,
before its tragic noon. The ruts worn deep in the
paved roads by the wheels of carts and chariots ;
the snake approaching a nest of eggs, that we see
so constantly painted on the walls as a warning to
passers-by that these streets are sacred to ALscula-
pius, the God of hygiene and cleanliness ; the
notice, again, painted on the walls in red letters, as



254 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

the equivalent of the modern poster ; it is by such
trifles as these that the deepest emotion of Pompeii
is conveyed. Life, common, everyday, vivacious,
duly compounded qf the trivial and the great,
brought suddenly to a stop this is the spectacle
that we have before us, the spectacle of one bright
summer morning unexpectedly made eternal by
death.

There were shops in these streets scattered up
and down amongst the residences. And it is
interesting to think for a moment of the kinds that
could not be preserved. Obviously stores of cloth
would be destroyed. Nor can we imagine the steps
of the public buildings without their country-people
bearing baskets of fruit and flowers and vege-
tables from without the city. Of these, however,
there necessarily remains no trace. But the bakers'
shops are there, with their ovens and their mill-
stones ; even, in one case, with their loaves in the
closed oven, carbonised but intact. And the oil-
shops remain, though the oil is long ago dried into
the empty vessels. And the wine-shops abound.
Truly was Pompeii a city of temptations !

It is in the Basilica and the Forum, however,
that one arrives at the classical significance of
Pompeii. There was an older forum, small and
triangular in shape, containing a significant little
Temple of the Thunderbolt, and the fall of a meteor
may well have been the original reason for building
the city on the chosen spot. But at the time of its
historic catastrophe the town had much increased,



A VISIT TO POMPEII 255

and had built for itself a new and larger forum.
A long open space in the middle is surrounded on
three sides by a columned pavement, and at the far
end, facing the ring of deep-blue mountains in the
background which forms the glory of the site, a
temple of Jupiter stands on a tremendously high
platform, the altar of public sacrifice. Here we
can see the citizens pacing up and down, or meet-
ing in earnest groups to discuss or gossip. Here
we can see the couriers come in with public news
from Rome. Here in the middle the orators
addressed the, crowds. Or here, again, the citizens
thronged, whatever their personal creed or habits,
to watch, on appointed days of public festival, the
slaying of the sacrificial bull. Immediately adjoin-
ing is the Basilica or High Court. Again we
have the same plan of buildings, but the aisles here
were probably roofed, and the nave alone left open.
And here, to judge from the magnificence of the
appointments, it would appear that the legal and
judicial aspects of life absorbed as large a share of
the intellect of Roman as of modern civilisation.
At the end may be seen the great statues and the
sacred symbol of justice which screened from
public view the high cell or apartment in which
the judge listened to opposite pleadings and
sentenced the accused. In the cell below this
daised chamber the prisoners awaited their turns,
while the door at the bottom of the short staircase
was guarded doubtless by a couple of men-at-arms.
Outside, the aisles of the Basilica formed a kind of



256 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

cloister or Bar Library in which the rival lawyers
met, walked, and talked.

In its religious aspects the life of Pompeii was
confused enough. Here is the temple of an
Egyptian deity, here again of a Greek. The two-
faced image of Janus, native to the : soil, is con-
fronted by the new-fangled worship of the Emperor.
Who knows but the hope spoken in Christianity
had been whispered behind some of these roofless
walls, ere there arrived the hour of their destruc-
tion ? Religion appears to be largely, with these
Romans, an act of reverence to the ancestors, a
wise pact with the powerful Infinite to guard the
home. But when we come to their public build-
ings, and to the organisation of their public life, to
their theatres and their fencing-schools, their monu-
ments and their statues, their court of justice and
their forum, we have reached a stronghold which
they hold with no uncertain grasp. In civic
organisation, in the civic consciousness they are
supreme, these doughty Romans ; and when they
become a circle of predatory peoples, theocratic
countries, alarmed for their own survival, may learn
at their feet of that efficient self-organisation which
is the beginning of strength. Wherever the seed
of India has been blown, it has grown up into
world-faiths : wherever the seed of Rome has
fallen, it has raised up mighty nations. Its action
may lie in terror ; its reaction produces strength.



A STUDY OF BENARES

EVEN in great places we cannot always command
the passive moments of rare insight. It was already
my third visit to Benares when I sat one day, at an
hour after noon, in the Vishwanath Bazar. Every-
thing about me was hushed and drowsy. The
sadhu-\\ke, shopkeepers nodded and dozed over
their small wares ; here the weaving of girdle or
scapulary with a mantram, there a collection of
small stone Shivas. There was little enough of
traffic along the narrow footway, but overhead
went the swallows by the invisible roadways of the
blue, flying in and out among their nests in the
eaves. And the air was filled with their twittering,
and with the sighing resonance of the great bell in
the Temple of Vishweswar, as the constant stream
of barefooted worshippers entered, and prayed, and
before departing touched it. Swaying, sobbing,
there it hung, seeming as if in that hour of peace
it were some mystic dome, thrilled and responsive
to every throb of the city's life. One could believe
that these ripples of sound that ran across it were
born of no mechanical vibration, but echoed, here
a moan, there a prayer, and yet again a cry of
gladness, in all the distant quarters of Benares :

257 R



258 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

that the bell was even as a great weaver, weaving
into unity of music, and throwing back on earth,
those broken and tangled threads of joy and pain
that without it would have seemed so meaningless
and so confused.

A step beyond were the shops of the flower-
sellers, who sell white flowers for the worship of
Shiva across the threshold. Oh what a task, to
spend the whole of life, day after day, in this
service only, the giving of the flowers for the image
of the Lord ! Has there been no soul that, occupied
thus, has dreamed and dreamed itself into Mukti,
through the daily offering ?

And so came to me the thought of the old
minsters of Europe, and of what it meant to live
thus, like the swallows and the townsfolk and the
flowers, ever in the shadow of a great cathedral.
For that is what Benares is a city built about the
walls of a cathedral.

It is common to say of Benares that it is curi-
ously modern, and there is on the face of it a
certain truth in the statement. For the palaces
and monasteries and temples that line the banks
of the Ganges between the mouths of Barna and
Asi have been built for the most part within the
last three hundred years. There is skill and taste
enough in India yet to rebuild them all again, if
they fell to-morrow. Benares as she stands is
in this sense the work of the Indian people as
they are to-day.

But never did any city so sing the song of the



A STUDY OF BENARES 259

past. One is always catching a hint of reminis-
cence in the bazars, in the interior, and in the
domestic architecture. Here is the Jammu Chhattra
for instance, built in the Jaunpur Pathan style,
common in Northern India from the twelfth to
the fourteenth centuries. Not far off again, we
have a glimpse of a roof-balustrade that retains
many of the characteristics of an Asokan rail, so
clearly is it a wooden fence rendered in stone. I
have seen a pillared hall too, in a house looking out
upon the Ganges, that might almost have known the
two thousand years that its owners claimed for it.
And here in the bazar of Vishwanath we are tread-
ing still, it may be, that very pathway through the
forest that was followed by the Vedic forefathers,
when first they saw the sun rise on the East of the
great river, and offered the Horn where the golden
grate of Vishweswar stands to-day, chanting their
rijks in celebration of worship. 1

Nothing holds its place longer than a road. The
winding alleys between the backs of houses and
gardens in European cities may, at no distant
date, have been paths through meadows and corn-
fields. And similarly, in all countries, a footway
is apt to be a silent record of unwritten history.
But who shall recover the story of this little street,
or write the long long poem of the lives and deaths
of those whose feet have passed to and forth along
its flagstones in four thousand years ?

i The allusion here is not only to the Sanskrit rijk, but also to
the early Norse rijks and runes.



260 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

Truly the city, even as she stands, is more ancient
than any superficial critic would suppose. It was
here at Sarnath, in the year 583 B.C. or there-
abouts, that the great message pealed out whose
echoes have never died away in history, "Open
ye your ears, O Monks, the deliverance from death
is found ! " And the importance which the Deer-
Park thus assumes in the life of Buddha, both
before and after the attainment of Nirvana, suffi-
ciently proves its importance as the university of
philosophy of its own age. Three hundred years
later Asoka, seeking to build memorials of all the
most sacred events in the history of his great
Master, was able, as the recent excavations show
us, to make a tiny stupa with its rail in some cell,
by that time already underground, whose site had
been especially sanctified by the touch of Buddha's
feet. We thus learn, not only that the Deer-Park
of Benares (so called, probably, because pains were
taken to keep it cleared of larger game) was im-
portant in the year 583 B.C. and again in 250 B.C.,
but also that it was sufficiently a centre of resort
throughout the intervening period to guarantee
its maintenance of an unbroken tradition with
regard to points of extremely minute detail. But
it was not Sarnath alone that saw the coming and
going of Buddha in the birth of the great en-
lightenment. Nor was it the Abkariyeh Kand alone
that had already formed an important religious
centre for ages before the early Mohammedan
period. The very name of the Dasasvamedh Ghat



A STUDY OF BENARES 261

and Bazar commemorates a period long enough
to have included ten imperial sacrifices, each one
of which must have represented at least a reign.
Probably throughout the Pataliputra age, that is
to say from 350 B.C. to A.D. 528, Benares was
the ecclesiastical and sacrificial seat of empire.
It contains at least two Asokan pillars, one in the
grounds of the Queen's College, and the other,
as we now know, at the entrance to the old-time
Monastery of Sarnath. And we know with cer-
tainty that in the youth of Buddha it was already
a thriving industrial centre. For the robes that
he threw aside, perhaps in the year 590 B.C., to
adopt the gerua of the sannyasin, are said in many
books to have been made of Benares silk.

But this is in truth only what we might have
expected. For the water-way is always in early
ages the chief geographical feature of a country,
and the position of Benares at the northward bend
of the river determines the point of convergence
for all the foot-roads of the South and East, and
makes her necessarily the greatest distributing
centre in India. Thus she constitutes a palimpsest,
not a simple manuscript, of cities. One has here
been built upon another ; period has accumu-
lated upon period. There are houses in the
crowded quarters whose foundations are laid, as it
were, in mines of bricks, and whose owners live
upon the sale of these ancestral wares. And there
is at least one temple that I know of whose floor is
eight or ten feet below the level of the present



262 FOOTFALLS OF INDIAN HISTORY

street, and whose date is palpably of the second to
the fourth century after Christ.

If then we may compare large things with
small, Benares may be called the Canterbury of
the Asokan and post-Asokan India. What Delhi
became later to the militarised India of the Rajput
and the Moslem, that Benares had already been to
an earlier India, whose eastern provinces had seen
Buddha. At Sarnath the memory of the great
Sannyasin was preserved by the devoted members
of a religious order, either Buddhist or Jain. At
Benares the Brahmans laboured, as citizens and
householders, to enforce the lesson that none of
his greatness was lacking in the Great God. The
Shiva, clad in the tigerskin and seated in medita-
tion like a Buddha, who is carved in low relief at
the entrance to Elephanta in the harbour of
Bombay, was the Hindu ideal of the later Buddhist
period. And so the Vedic city, through whose
streets had passed the Blessed One, became the
sacred city of Shiva ; and to make and set up his
emblem there the form in stone of the formless
God was held for long ages after the same act


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