Imagens das páginas


"AND near those mighty temples stand,
The miracles of mortal hand,
Where hidden from the common eye
The past long buried secrets lie ;
Those mysteries of the first great creed
Whose mystic fancies were the seed
Of every wild and vain belief
That held o'er man their empire brief."

The Old Temples of India. Hypogæa, or Subterraneous Caverns.

Traditions of the East. Priests and People. Temples of Aboo. Why Islands were selected. Pious journeyings. Mr. and Mrs. H.

Misonary-bit fanatics. A Pic-nic. Beauties of an Indian morning. Scenery in the harbour. Native boats, Sea Birds and picturesque objects. Closer view of Elephanta. The Landing. Delicious shade from the Sun. Stone Horse and Elephant. The handiwork of Father Time. Tamarind Tree and Flowers. Punkah Painting. Native Village. Excavated Rock. Birds of Night. Landscape changes. The Great Temple of Elephanta. Tale of a Tiger. Description of the Interior of the Cavern. Parting with Friends, &c., &c.

The old temples of India have long claimed from the antiquary a large share of attention; not only on account of the peculiarity of their construction, but also because the period of their erection appears in almost every case to be involved in the deepest

[ocr errors]

obscurity. The hypogæa, or subterraneous cavern structures, concerning which we have, at present, to speak, are, perhaps, the most remarkable monuments of human labour and perseverance to be met with in Asia. Their prodigious extent, massiveness of structure, and variety of design, lead us almost to doubt whether many of them were not originally natural cavities, enlarged and beautified by the hand of man. In the mountains of the Soubah of Cashmere, no fewer than twelve thousand of these grotto caverns have been explored, and found to be composed of a series of apartments and recesses supposed to be hewn out of the solid rock. Those of Kailasa, near Ellora, which are 247 feet long, and nearly 15 wide, are said to contain all the mythological deities of the Hindoos, though much injured and defaced by time. Many of them contain statues of colossal dimensions, and their walls are covered over with elaborate embellishments of the most fanciful deseription. But we can place no dependance on the current traditions of the East respecting them, and it would be fruitless to attempt to trace their early history. The ancient chronologers of India would seem to have had extraordinary notions of time; seeing that they tell us of kings, who reigned thousands of years; and of rajahs, who attained an age far beyond the nine hundred and sixty-nine years of the Methuselah, mentioned in the sacred Scriptures. The Brahmins are regarded by the people of India, as were the monks of old in our

[ocr errors]

own country, as oracles of wisdom and piety. They alone are believed to have power to reveal the secrets of the past, or to draw aside the curtain which mercifully shrouds the future from human eyes. Their statements and writings only serve yet further to perplex the confused accounts that have been handed down from past ages, and to make our conjectures more uncertain and unsatisfactory, Thus, the wonderful mountain-caves and temples, situated near the once flourishing, but now nearly deserted city of Dowlatabad, are said to have been built by one Ecloo, Rajah of Ellichpore, and to be seven thousand nine hundred years old ; such, at least, is the antiquity assigned to them by the venerable priests who generally conduct the visitor over these Hindoo temples once, doubtless, thronged by worshippers-now, lonely and silent. The temples of Aboo, a lofty mountain range about forty miles from the military station of Deesa, in Guzerat, have not been long discovered, and are peculiarly interesting to the traveller from the circumstance of their all being carved out of black marble ; but they have just as doubtful a date assigned to them as those of Dowlatabad, though, perhaps, (the hardness of the materials of which they consist being taken into account,) with more probability. It is necessary to bear in mind, that structures of this description suffer very little from exposure to the dry atmosphere of a country like India. In our own humid climate, the case is widely different, Here we sometimes find churches and public buildings crumbling into decay in the course of a single century; and even the vaunted stone of Caen, in Normandy, cannot withstand the “skiey influences” of two. It may appear, at first sight, singular, that a people so skilful in the fine arts as, if we may judge by these beautiful monuments of a past generation, must have been the inhabitants of Hindostan, * should have selected such lonely and uncouth places for the site of their idol temples. Islands, subterranean caves, and almost inaccessible mountains, appear to have been their favourite localities for the erection of buildings, which, as we cannot doubt, were intended as places for the daily celebration of their peculiar worship. It is, however, to be considered, that, from time immemorial, India has been a prey to marauding chiefs and lawless usurpers, who robbed, desolated, or destroyed almost every important place, which they visited in their frequently occurring predatory excursions. Many of the idols set up in these temples during the hours of devotion were thought to be of great value; and it is not uncommon even now to see them formed of gold or silver, having for eyes diamonds and other precious stones. These idols offered great temptations to the plunderer; and it was necessary, therefore, in order to carry on the ceremonies inculcated in the sacred Vedas, and, at the same time, to preserve the riches of the temple from the spoiler's hand, that these buildings should be erected in places presenting great natural advan

[ocr errors]


tages in the way of security. The officiating priests and other officers connected with these religious establishments were accustomed to reside

upon spot, in rooms set apart for their accommodation ; and the deluded worshippers who came, often laden with offerings, to pray, cared little for distance, or for the difficulties of the road; seeing that the more dangers they encountered in these their pious journeyings, the more acceptable they believed their service to be. Of the licentious character of the rites celebrated in these Pagan temples, it is needless here to speak. They have passed away. Enough, however, remains to show us their nature—while wandering over some of these ruinous structures, once polluted by the exercise of a vile and debasing superstition, and crowded by a degraded multitude who were even, we may conclude, little better than the people of Sodom, and like unto those of Gomorrah, the words of the prophet Jeremiah flashed across my mind :-“ Every man is brutish in his knowledge : every founder is confounded by the graven image : for his molten image is falsehood—they are vanity and the work of others : in the time of their visitation THEY SHALL PERISH.”

."* Having said thus much in

• The Right Rev. M, Russell, in his views of ancient and modern Egypt, says-" There is a striking resemblance known to subsist between the usages, the superstitions, the arts, and the mythology of the ancient inhabitants of Western India, to those of the first settlers on the Upper Nile. The temples of Nubia, for example, exhibit the same features, whether as to style of architecture or the form of worship to which they were devoted, with the similar buildings which have been recently

« AnteriorContinuar »