Part 2 out of 5
with colossal male and female figures, is a huge arch, in front of
which three gigantic elephants are sculptured in relief, with heads
and trunks that project from the wall. The shape of the temple is
oval. It is 128 feet long and forty-six feet wide. The central
space is separated on each side from the aisles by forty-two pillars,
which sustain the cupola-shaped ceiling. Further on is an altar,
which divides the first dome from a second one which rises over a
small chamber, formerly used by the ancient Aryan priests for an
inner, secret altar. Two side passages leading towards it come
to a sudden end, which suggests that, once upon a time, either
doors or wall were there which exist no longer. Each of the forty-two
pillars has a pedestal, an octagonal shaft, and a capital, described
by Fergusson as "of the most exquisite workmanship, representing two
kneeling elephants surmounted by a god and a goddess." Fergusson
further says that this temple, or chaitya, is older and better
preserved than any other in India, and may be assigned to a period
about 200 years B.C., because Prinsep, who has read the inscription
on the Silastamba pillar, asserts that the lion pillar was the gift
of Ajmitra Ukasa, son of Saha Ravisobhoti, and another inscription
shows that the temple was visited by Dathama Hara, otherwise
Dathahamini, King of Ceylon, in the twentieth year of his reign,
that is to say, 163 years before our era. For some reason or other,
Dr. Stevenson points to seventy years B.C. as the date, asserting
that Karlen, or Karli, was built by the Emperor Devobhuti, under
the supervision of Dhanu-Kakata. But how can this be maintained
in view of the above-mentioned perfectly authentic inscriptions?
Even Fergusson, the celebrated defender of the Egyptian antiquities
and hostile critic of those of India, insists that Karli belongs
to the erections of the third century B.C., adding that "the
disposition of the various parts of its architecture is identical
with the architecture of the choirs of the Gothic period, and the
polygonal apsides of cathedrals."
Above the chief entrance is found a gallery, which reminds one of
the choirs, where, in Catholic churches, the organ is placed.
Besides the chief entrance there are two lateral entrances, leading
to the aisles of the temple, and over the gallery there is a single
spacious window in the shape of a horseshoe, so that the light
falls on the daghopa (altar) entirely from above, leaving the aisles,
sheltered by the pillars, in obscurity, which increases as you
approach the further end of the building. To the eyes of a
spectator standing at the entrance, the whole daghopa shines with
light, and behind it is nothing but impenetrable darkness, where
no profane footsteps were permitted to tread. A figure on the
dag-hopa, from the summit of which "Raja priests" used to pronounce
verdicts to the people, is called Dharma-Raja, from Dharma, the
Hindu Minos. Above the temple are two stories of caves, in each
of which are wide open galleries formed by huge carved pillars,
and from these galleries an opening leads to roomy cells and corridors,
sometimes very long, but quite useless, as they invariably come to
an abrupt termination at solid walls, without the trace of an issue
of any kind. The guardians of the temple have either lost the
secret of further caves, or conceal them jealously from Europeans.
Besides the Viharas already described, there are many others,
scattered over the slope of the mountain. These temple-monasteries
are all smaller than the first, but, according to the opinion of
some archeologists, they are much older. To what century or epoch
they belong is not known except to a few Brahmans, who keep silence.
Generally speaking, the position of a European archaeologist in
India is very sad. The masses, drowned in superstition, are utterly
unable to be of any use to him, and the learned Brahmans, initiated
into the mysteries of secret libraries in pagodas, do all they can
to prevent archeological research. However, after all that has
happened, it would be unjust to blame the conduct of the Brahmans
in these matters. The bitter experience of many centuries has
taught them that their only weapons are distrust and circumspection,
without these their national history and the most sacred of their
treasures would be irrevocably lost. Political coups d'etat which
have shaken their country to its foundation, Mussulman invasions
that proved so fatal to its welfare, the all-destructive fanaticism
of Mussulman vandals and of Catholic padres, who are ready for
anything in order to secure manuscripts and destroy them--all these
form a good excuse for the action of the Brahmans. However in
spite of these manifold destructive tendencies, there exist in
many places in India vast libraries capable of pouring a bright
and new light, not only on the history of India itself, but also
on the darkest problems of universal history. Some of these
libraries, filled with the most precious manuscripts, are in the
possession of native princes and of pagodas attached to their
territories, but the greater part is in the hands of the Jainas
(the oldest of Hindu sects) and of the Rajputana Takurs, whose
ancient hereditary castles are scattered all over Rajistan, like
so many eagles' nests on high rocks. The existence of the
celebrated collections in Jassulmer and Patana is not unknown to
the Government, but they remain wholly beyond its reach. The
manuscripts are written in an ancient and now completely forgotten
language, intelligible only to the high priests and their initiated
librarians. One thick folio is so sacred and inviolable that it
rests on a heavy golden chain in the centre of the temple of
Chintamani in Jassulmer, and taken down only to be dusted and
rebound at the advent of each new pontiff. This is the work of
Somaditya Suru Acharya, a great priest of the pre-Mussulman time,
well-known in history. His mantle is still preserved in the temple,
and forms the robe of initiation of every new high priest. Colonel
James Tod, who spent so many years in India and gained the love
of the people as well as of the Brahmans--a most uncommon trait
in the biography of any Anglo-Indian--has written the only true
history of India, but even he was never allowed to touch this folio.
Natives commonly believe that he was offered initiation into the
mysteries at the price of the adoption of their religion. Being
a devoted archaeologist he almost resolved to do so, but, having
to return to England on account of his health, he left this world
before he could return to his adopted country, and thus the enigma
of this new book of the sibyl remains unsolved.
The Takurs of Rajputana, who are said to possess some of the
underground libraries, occupy in India position similar to the
position of European feudal barons of the Middle Ages. Nominally
they are dependent on some of the native princes or on the British
Government; but de facto they are perfectly independent. Their
castles are built on high rocks, and besides the natural difficulty
of entering them, their possessors are made doubly unreachable by
the fact that long secret passages exist in every such castle,
known only to the present owner and confided to his heir only at
his death. We have visited two such underground halls, one of
them big enough to contain a whole village. No torture would ever
induce the owners to disclose the secret of their entrances, but
the Yogis and the initiated Adepts come and go freely, entirely
trusted by the Takurs.
A similar story is told concerning the libraries and subterranean
passages of Karli. As for the archaeologists, they are unable
even to determine whether this temple was built by Buddhists or
Brahmans. The huge daghopa that hides the holy of holies from
the eyes of the worshippers is sheltered by a mushroom-shaped roof,
and resembles a low minaret with a cupola. Roofs of this description
are called "umbrellas," and usually shelter the statues of Buddha
and of the Chinese sages. But, on the other hand, the worshippers
of Shiva, who possess the temple nowadays, assert that this low
building is nothing but a lingam of Shiva. Besides, the carvings
of gods and goddesses cut out of the rock forbid one to think
that the temple is the production of the Buddhists. Fergusson
writes, "What is this monument of antiquity? Does it belong to
the Hindus, or to the Buddhists? Has it been built upon plans
drawn since the death of Sakya Sing, or does it belong to a more
That is the question. If Fergusson, being bound by facts existing
in inscriptions to acknowledge the anti-quity of Karli, will still
persist in asserting that Elephanta is of much later date, he
will scarcely be able to solve this dilemma, because the two styles
are exactly the same, and the carvings of the latter are still
more magnificent. To ascribe the temples of Elephanta and Kanari
to the Buddhists, and to say that their respective periods
correspond to the fourth and fifth centuries in the first case,
and the tenth in the second, is to introduce into history a very
strange and unfounded anachronism. After the first century A.D.
there was not left a single influential Buddhist in India. Conquered
and persecuted by the Brahmans, they emigrated by thousands to
Ceylon and the trans-Himalayan districts. After the death of King
Asoka, Buddhism speedily broke down, and in a short time was entirely
displaced by the theocratic Brahmanism.
Fergusson's hypothesis that the followers of Sakya Sing, driven
out by intolerance from the continent, probably sought shelter on
the islands that surround Bombay, would hardly sustain critical
analysis. Elephanta and Salsetta are quite near to Bombay, two
and five miles distant respectively, and they are full of ancient
Hindu temples. Is it credible, then, that the Brahmans, at the
culminating point of their power, just before the Mussulman invasions,
fanatical as they were, and mortal enemies of the Buddhists, would
allow these hated heretics to build temples within their possessions
in general and on Gharipuri in particular, this latter being an
island consecrated to their Hindu pagodas? It is not necessary
to be either a specialist, an architect, or an eminent archeologist,
in order to be convinced at the first glance that such temples as
Elephanta are the work of Cyclopses, requiring centuries and not
years for their construction. Whereas in Karli everything is
built and carved after a perfect plan, in Elephanta it seems as
if thousands of different hands had wrought at different times,
each following its own ideas and fashioning after its own device.
All three caves are dug out of a hard porphyry rock. The first
temple is practically a square, 130 feet 6 inches long and 130
feet wide. It contains twenty-six thick pillars and sixteen pilasters.
Between some of them there is a distance of 12 or 16 feet, between
others 15 feet 5 inches, 13 feet 3 1/2 inches, and so on. The
same lack of uniformity is found in the pedestals of the columns,
the finish and style of which is constantly varying.
Why, then, should we not pay some attention to the explanations
of the Brahmans? They say that this temple was begun by the sons
of Pandu, after "the great war," Mahabharata, and that after their
death every true believer was bidden to continue the work according
to his own notions. Thus the temple was gradually built during
three centuries. Every one who wished to redeem his sins would
bring his chisel and set to work. Many were the members of royal
families, and even kings, who personally took part in these labors.
On the right hand side of the temple there is a corner stone, a
lingam of Shiva in his character of Fructifying Force, which is
sheltered by a small square chapel with four doors. Round this
chapel are many colossal human figures. According to the Brahmans,
these are statues representing the royal sculptors themselves,
they being doorkeepers of the holy of holies, Hindus of the highest
caste. Each of the larger figures leans upon a dwarf representative
of the lower castes, which have been promoted by the popular fancy
to the rank of demons (Pisachas). Moreover, the temple is full
of unskillful work. The Brahmans hold that such a holy place
could not be deserted if men of the preceding and present generations
had not become unworthy of visiting it. As to Kanari or Kanhari,
and some other cave temples, there is not the slightest doubt that
they were all erected by Buddhists. In some of them were found
inscriptions in a perfect state of preservation, and their style
does not remind one in the least of the symbolical buildings of
the Brahmans. Archbishop Heber thinks the Kanari caves were built
in the first or second centuries B.C. But Elephanta is much older
and must be classed among prehistoric monuments, that is to say,
its date must be assigned to the epoch that immediately followed
the "great war," Mahabharata. Unfortunately the date of this
war is a point of disagreement between European scientists; the
celebrated and learned Dr. Martin Haug thinks it is almost antediluvian,
while the no less celebrated and learned Professor Max Muller places
it as near the first century of our era as possible.
The fair was at its culmination when, having finished visiting the
cells, climbing over all the stories, and examining the celebrated
"hall of wrestlers," we descended, not by way of the stairs, of
which there is no trace to be found, but after the fashion of pails
bringing water out of a deep well, that is to say, by the aid of ropes.
A crowd of about three thousand persons had assembled from the
surrounding villages and towns. Women were there adorned from the
waist down in brilliant-hued saris, with rings in their noses, their
ears, their lips, and on all parts of their limbs that could hold
a ring. Their raven-black hair which was smoothly combed back,
shone with cocoanut oil, and was adorned with crimson flowers,
which are sacred to Shiva and to Bhavani, the feminine aspect of
Before the temple there were rows of small shops and of tents,
where could be bought all the requisites for the usual sacrifices--
aromatic herbs, incense, sandal wood, rice, gulab, and the red
powder with which the pilgrim sprinkles first the idol and then
his own face. Fakirs, bairagis, hosseins, the whole body of the
mendicant brotherhood, was present among the crowd. Wreathed in
chaplets, with long uncombed hair twisted at the top of the head
into a regular chignon, and with bearded faces, they presented a
very funny likeness to naked apes. Some of them were covered with
wounds and bruises due to mortification of the flesh. We also saw
some bunis, snake-charmers, with dozens of various snakes round
their waists, necks, arms, and legs--models well worthy of the
brush of a painter who intended to depict the image of a male Fury.
One jadugar was especially remarkable. His head was crowned with
a turban of cobras. Expanding their hoods and raising their
leaf-like dark green heads, these cobras hissed furiously and so
loudly that the sound was audible a hundred paces off. Their
"stings" quivered like light-ning, and their small eyes glittered
with anger at the approach of every passer-by. The expression,
"the sting of a snake," is universal, but it does not describe
accurately the process of inflicting a wound. The "sting" of a
snake is perfectly harmless. To introduce the poison into the
blood of a man, or of an animal, the snake must pierce the flesh
with its fangs, not prick with its sting. The needle-like eye
teeth of a cobra communicate with the poison gland, and if this
gland is cut out the cobra will not live more than two days.
Accordingly, the supposition of some sceptics, that the bunis cut
out this gland, is quite unfounded. The term "hissing" is also
inaccurate when applied to cobras. They do not hiss. The noise
they make is exactly like the death-rattle of a dying man. The
whole body of a cobra is shaken by this loud and heavy growl.
Here we happened to be the witnesses of a fact which I relate
exactly as it occurred, without indulging in explanations or
hypotheses of any kind. I leave to naturalists the solution of
Expecting to be well paid, the cobra-turbaned buni sent us word
by a messenger boy that he would like very much to exhibit his
powers of snake-charming. Of course we were perfectly willing,
but on condition that between us and his pupils there should be
what Mr. Disraeli would call a "scientific frontier."* We selected
a spot about fifteen paces from the magic circle. I will not
describe minutely the tricks and wonders that we saw, but will
proceed at once to the main fact. With the aid of a vaguda, a
kind of musical pipe of bamboo, the buni caused all the snakes to
fall into a sort of cataleptic sleep. The melody that he played,
monotonous, low, and original to the last degree, nearly sent us
to sleep ourselves. At all events we all grew extremely sleepy
without any apparent cause. We were aroused from this half lethargy
by our friend Gulab-Sing, who gathered a handful of a grass,
perfectly unknown to us, and advised us to rub our temples and
eyelids with it. Then the buni produced from a dirty bag a kind
of round stone, something like a fish's eye, or an onyx with a
white spot in the centre, not bigger than a ten-kopek bit. He
declared that anyone who bought that stone would be able to charm
any cobra (it would produce no effect on snakes of other kinds)
paralyzing the creature and then causing it to fall asleep. Moreover,
by his account, this stone is the only remedy for the bite of a cobra.
You have only to place this talisman on the wound, where it will
stick so firmly that it cannot be torn off until all the poison is
absorbed into it, when it will fall off of itself, and all danger
will be past.
* Written in 1879.
Being aware that the Government gladly offers any premium for the
invention of a remedy for the bite of the cobra, we did not show
any unreasonable interest on the appearance of this stone. In the
meanwhile, the buni began to irritate his cobras. Choosing a cobra
eight feet long, he literally enraged it. Twisting its tail round
a tree, the cobra arose and hissed. The buni quietly let it bite
his finger, on which we all saw drops of blood. A unanimous cry
of horror arose in the crowd. But master buni stuck the stone on
his finger and proceeded with his performance.
"The poison gland of the snake has been cut out," remarked our
New York colonel. "This is a mere farce."
As if in answer to this remark, the buni seized the neck of the
cobra, and, after a short struggle, fixed a match into its mouth,
so that it remained open. Then he brought the snake over and
showed it to each of us separately, so that we all saw the death-
giving gland in its mouth. But our colonel would not give up his
first impression so easily. "The gland is in its place right
enough," said he, "but how are we to know that it really does
Then a live hen was brought forward and, tying its legs together,
the buni placed it beside the snake. But the latter would pay
no attention at first to this new victim, but went on hissing at
the buni, who teased and irritated it until at last it actually
struck at the wretched bird. The hen made a weak attempt to
cackle, then shuddered once or twice and became still. The death
was instantaneous. Facts will remain facts, the most exacting
critic and disbeliever notwithstanding. This thought gives me
courage to write what happened further. Little by little the
cobra grew so infuriated that it became evident the jadugar himself
did not dare to approach it. As if glued to the trunk of the tree
by its tail, the snake never ceased diving into space with its
upper part and trying to bite everything. A few steps from us was
somebody's dog. It seemed to attract the whole of the buni's
attention for some time. Sitting on his haunches, as far as
possible from his raging pupil, he stared at the dog with motionless
glassy eyes, and then began a scarcely audible song. The dog grew
restless. Putting his tail between his legs, he tried to escape,
but remained, as if fastened to the ground. After a few seconds
he crawled nearer and nearer to the buni, whining, but unable to
tear his gaze from the charmer. I understood his object, and felt
awfully sorry for the dog. But, to my horror, I suddenly felt that
my tongue would not move, I was perfectly unable either to get up
or even to raise my finger. Happily this fiendish scene was not
prolonged. As soon as the dog was near enough, the cobra bit him.
The poor animal fell on his back, made a few convulsive movements
with his legs, and shortly died. We could no longer doubt that
there was poison in the gland. In the meanwhile the stone had
dropped from the buni's finger and he approached to show us the
healed member. We all saw the trace of the prick, a red spot not
bigger than the head of an ordinary pin.
Next he made his snakes rise on their tails, and, holding the
stone between his first finger and thumb, he proceeded to demonstrate
its influence on the cobras. The nearer his hand approached to the
head of the snake, the more the reptile's body recoiled. Looking
steadfastly at the stone they shivered, and, one by one, dropped
as if paralyzed. The buni then made straight for our sceptical
colonel, and made him an offer to try the experiment himself. We
all protested vigorously, but he would not listen to us, and chose
a cobra of a very considerable size. Armed with the stone, the
colonel bravely approached the snake. For a moment I positively
felt petrified with fright. Inflating its hood, the cobra made
an attempt to fly at him, then suddenly stopped short, and, after
a pause, began following with all its body the circular movements
of the colonel's hand. When he put the stone quite close to the
reptile's head, the snake staggered as if intoxicated, its hissing
grew weak, its hood dropped helplessly on both sides of its neck,
and its eyes closed. Drooping lower and lower, the snake fell at
last on the ground like a stick, and slept.
Only then did we breathe freely. Taking the sorcerer aside we
expressed our desire to buy the stone, to which he easily assented,
and, to our great astonishment, asked for it only two rupees. This
talisman became my own property and I still keep it. The buni
asserts, and our Hindu friends confirm the story, that it is not
a stone but an excrescence. It is found in the mouth of one cobra
in a hundred, between the bone of the upper jaw and the skin of
the palate. This "stone" is not fastened to the skull, but hangs,
wrapped in skin, from the palate, and so is very easily cut off;
but after this operation the cobra is said to die. If we are to
believe Bishu Nath, for that was our sorcerer's name, this excrescence
confers upon the cobra who possesses it the rank of king over the
rest of his kind.
"Such a cobra," said the buni, "is like a Brahman, a Dwija Brahman
amongst Shudras, they all obey him. There exists, moreover, a
poisonous toad that also, sometimes, possesses this stone, but its
effect is much weaker. To destroy the effect of a cobra's poison
you must apply the toad's stone not later than two minutes after
the infliction of the wound; but the stone of a cobra is effectual
to the last. Its healing power is certain as long as the heart of
the wounded man has not ceased to beat."
Bidding us good-bye, the buni advised us to keep the stone in a
dry place and never to leave it near a dead body, also, to hide
it during the sun and moon eclipses, "otherwise," said he, "it
will lose all its power." In case we were bitten by a mad dog,
he said, we were to put the stone into a glass of water and leave
it there during the night, next morning the sufferer was to drink
the water and then forget all danger.
"He is a regular devil and not a man!" exclaimed our colonel, as
soon as the buni had disappeared on his way to a Shiva temple,
where, by the way, we were not admitted.
"As simple a mortal as you or I," remarked the Rajput with a smile,
"and, what is more, he is very ignorant. The truth is, he has
been brought up in a Shivaite pagoda, like all the real snake-charmers.
Shiva is the patron god of snakes, and the Brahmans teach the bunis
to produce all kinds of mesmeric tricks by empiri-cal methods, never
explaining to them the theoretical principles, but assuring them
that Shiva is behind every phenomenon. So that the bunis sincerely
ascribe to their god the honor of their `miracles."'
"The Government of India offers a reward for an antidote to the
poison of the cobra. Why then do the bunis not claim it, rather
than let thousands of people die helpless?"
"The Brahmans would never suffer that. If the Government took
the trouble to examine carefully the statistics of deaths caused
by snakes, it would be found that no Hindu of the Shivaite sect
has ever died from the bite of a cobra. They let people of other
sects die, but save the members of their own flock."
"But did we not see how easily he parted with his secret,
notwithstanding we were foreigners. Why should not the English
buy it as readily?"
"Because this secret is quite useless in the hands of Europeans.
The Hindus do not try to conceal it, because they are perfectly
certain that without their aid nobody can make any use of it.
The stone will retain its wonderful power only when it is taken
from a live cobra. In order to catch the snake without killing it,
it must be cast into a lethargy, or, if you prefer the term, charmed.
Who is there among the foreigners who is able to do this? Even
amongst the Hindus, you will not find a single individual in all
India who possesses this ancient secret, unless he be a disciple
of the Shivaite Brahmans. Only Brahmans of this sect possess a
monopoly of the secret, and not all even of them, only those, in
short, who belong to the pseudo-Patanjali school, who are usually
called Bhuta ascetics. Now there exist, scattered over the whole
of India, only about half-a-dozen of their pagoda schools, and
the inmates would rather part with their very lives than with
"We have paid only two rupees for a secret which proved as strong
in the colonel's hands as in the hands of the buni. Is it then
so difficult to procure a store of these stones?" Our friend laughed.
"In a few days," said he, "the talisman will lose all its healing
powers in your inexperienced hands. This is the reason why he let
it go at such a low price, which he is, probably, at this moment
sacrificing before the altar of his deity. I guarantee you a week's
activity for your purchase, but after that time it will only be fit
to be thrown out of the window."
We soon learned how true were these words. On the following day
we came across a little girl, bitten by a green scorpion. She
seemed to be in the last convulsions. No sooner had we applied
the stone than the child seemed relieved, and, in an hour, she
was gaily playing about, whereas, even in the case of the sting
of a common black scorpion, the patient suffers for two weeks.
But when, about ten days later, we tried the experiment of the
stone upon a poor coolie, just bitten by a cobra, it would not
even stick to the wound, and the poor wretch shortly expired. I
do not take upon myself to offer, either a defence, or an explanation
of the virtues of the "stone." I simply state the facts and leave
the future career of the story to its own fate. The sceptics may
deal with it as they will. Yet I can easily find people in India
who will bear witness to my accuracy.
In this connection I was told a funny story. When Dr. (now Sir J.)
Fayrer, who lately published his Thanatophidia, a book on the
venomous snakes of India, a work well known throughout Europe,
he categorically stated in it his disbelief in the wondrous snake-
charmers of India. However, about a fortnight or so after the book
appeared amongst the Anglo-Indians, a cobra bit his own cook. A
buni, who happened to pass by, readily offered to save the man's
life. It stands to reason that the celebrated naturalist could
not accept such an offer. Nevertheless, Major Kelly and other
officers urged him to permit the experiment. Declaring that in
spite of all, in less than an hour his cook would be no more, he
gave his consent. But it happened that in less than an hour the
cook was quietly preparing dinner in the kitchen, and, it is added,
Dr. Fayrer seriously thought of throwing his book into the fire.
The day grew dreadfully hot. We felt the heat of the rocks in
spite of our thick-soled shoes. Besides, the general curiosity
aroused by our presence, and the unceremonious persecutions of
the crowd, were becoming tiring. We resolved to "go home," that
is to say, to return to the cool cave, six hundred paces from the
temple, where we were to spend the evening and to sleep. We would
wait no longer for our Hindu companions, who had gone to see the
fair, and so we started by ourselves.
On approaching the entrance of the temple we were struck by the
appearance of a young man, who stood apart from the crowd and was
of an ideal beauty. He was a member of the Sadhu sect, a "candidate
for Saintship," to use the expression of one of our party.
The Sadhus differ greatly from every other sect. They never appear
unclothed, do not cover themselves with damp ashes, wear no painted
signs on their faces, or foreheads, and do not worship idols.
Belonging to the Adwaiti section of the Vedantic school, they
believe only in Parabrahm (the great spirit). The young man looked
quite decent in his light yellow costume, a kind of nightgown without
sleeves. He had long hair, and his head was uncovered. His elbow
rested on the back of a cow, which was itself well calculated to
attract attention, for, in addition to her four perfectly shaped
legs, she had a fifth growing out of her hump. This wonderful
freak of nature used its fifth leg as if it were a hand and arm,
hunting and killing tiresome flies, and scratching its head with
the hoof. At first we thought it was a trick to attract attention,
and even felt offended with the animal, as well as with its handsome
owner, but, coming nearer, we saw that it was no trick, but an
actual sport of mischievous Nature. From the young man we learned
that the cow had been presented to him by the Maharaja Holkar, and
that her milk had been his only food during the last two years.
Sadhus are aspirants to the Raj Yoga, and, as I have said above,
usually belong to the school of the Vedanta. That is to say, they
are disciples of initiates who have entirely resigned the life of
the world, and lead a life of monastic chastity. Between the
Sadhus and the Shivaite bunis there exists a mortal enmity, which
manifests itself by a silent contempt on the side of the Sadhus,
and on that of the bunis by constant attempts to sweep their rivals
off the face of the earth. This antipathy is as marked as that
between light and darkness, and reminds one of the dualism of the
Ahura-Mazda and Ahriman of the Zoroastrians. Masses of people
look up to the first as to Magi, sons of the sun and of the Divine
Principle, while the latter are dreaded as dangerous sorcerers.
Having heard most wonderful accounts of the former, we were burning
with anxiety to see some of the "miracles" ascribed to them by some
even among the Englishmen. We eagerly invited the Sadhu to visit
our vihara during the evening. But the handsome ascetic sternly
refused, for the reason that we were staying within the temple of
the idol-worshippers, the very air of which would prove antagonistic
to him. We offered him money, but he would not touch it, and so
A path, or rather a ledge cut along the perpendicular face of a
rocky mass 200 feet high, led from the chief temple to our vihara.
A man needs good eyes, sure feet, and a very strong head to avoid
sliding down the precipice at the first false step. Any help
would be quite out of the question, for, the ledge being only two
feet wide, no one could walk side by side with another. We had to
walk one by one, appealing for aid only to the whole of our personal
courage. But the courage of many of us was gone on an unlimited
furlough. The position of our American colonel was the worst,
for he was very stout and short-sighted, which defects, taken
together, caused him frequent vertigos. To keep up our spirits
we indulged in a choral performance of the duet from Norma, "Moriam'
insieme," holding each other's hands the while, to ensure our being
spared by death or dying all four in company. But the colonel did
not fail to frighten us nearly out of our lives. We were already
half way up to the cave when he made a false step, staggered, lost
hold of my hand, and rolled over the edge. We three, having to
clutch the bushes and stones, were quite unable to help him. A
unanimous cry of horror escaped us, but died away as we perceived
that he had succeeded in clinging to the trunk of a small tree,
which grew on the slope a few steps below us. Fortunately, we
knew that the colonel was good at athletics, and remarkably cool
in danger. Still the moment was a critical one. The slender stem
of the tree might give way at any moment. Our cries of distress
were answered by the sudden appearance of the mysterious Sadhu
with his cow.
They were quietly walking along about twenty feet below us, on
such invisible projections of the rock that a child's foot could
barely have found room to rest there, and they both traveled as
calmly, and even carelessly, as if a comfortable causeway were
beneath their feet, instead of a vertical rock. The Sadhu called
out to the colonel to hold on, and to us to keep quiet. He patted
the neck of his monstrous cow, and untied the rope by which he
was leading her. Then, with both hands he turned her head in our
direction, and clucking with his tongue, he cried "Chal!" (go).
With a few wild goat-like bounds the animal reached our path, and
stood before us motion-less. A for the Sadhu himself, his movements
were as swift and as goat-like. In a moment he had reached the tree,
tied the rope round the colonel's body, and put him on his legs again;
then, rising higher, with one effort of his strong hand he hoisted
him up to the path. Our colonel was with us once more, rather
pale, and with the loss of his pince-nez, but not of his presence
An adventure that had threatened to become a tragedy ended in a farce.
"What is to be done now?" was our unanimous in-quiry. "We cannot
let you go alone any further."
"In a few moments it will be dark and we shall be lost," said Mr.
Y---, the colonel's secretary.
And, indeed, the sun was dipping below the horizon, and every
moment was precious. In the meanwhile, the Sadhu had fastened
the rope round the cow's neck again and stood before us on the
pathway, evidently not understanding a word of our conversation.
His tall, slim figure seemed as if suspended in the air above the
precipice. His long, black hair, floating in the breeze, alone
showed that in him we beheld a living being and not a magnificent
statue of bronze. Forgetting our recent danger and our present
awkward situation, Miss X---, who was a born artist, exclaimed:
"Look at the majesty of that pure profile; observe the pose of
that man. How beautiful are his outlines seen against the golden
and blue sky. One would say, a Greek Adonis, not a Hindu!" But
the "Adonis" in question put a sudden stop to her ecstasy. He
glanced at Miss X--- with half-pitying, half-kindly, laughing eyes,
and said with his ringing voice in Hindi--
"Bara-Sahib cannot go any further without the help of someone else's
eyes. Sahib's eyes are his enemies. Let the Sahib ride on my cow.
She cannot stumble."
"I! Ride on a cow, and a five-legged one at that? Never!" exclaimed
the poor colonel, with such a helpless air, nevertheless, that we
burst out laughing.
"It will be better for Sahib to sit on a cow than to lie on a chitta"
(the pyre on which dead bodies are burned), remarked the Sadhu with
modest seriousness. "Why call forth the hour which has not yet struck?"
The colonel saw that argument was perfectly useless, and we succeeded
in persuading him to follow the Sadhu's advice, who carefully hoisted
him on the cow's back, then, recommending him to hold on by the fifth
leg, he led the way. We all followed to the best of our ability.
In a few minutes more we were on the verandah of our vihara, where
we found our Hindu friends, who had arrived by another path. We
eagerly related all our adventures, and then looked for the Sadhu,
but, in the meanwhile, he had disappeared together with his cow.
"Do not look for him, he is gone by a road known only to himself,"
remarked Gulab-Sing carelessly. "He knows you are sincere in your
gratitude, but he would not take your money. He is a Sadhu, not
a buni," added he proudly.
We remembered that it was reported this proud friend of ours also
belonged to the Sadhu sect. "Who can tell," whispered the colonel
in my ear, "whether these reports are mere gossip, or the truth?"
Sadhu-Nanaka must not be confounded with Guru-Nanaka, a leader of
the Sikhs. The former are Adwaitas, the latter monotheists. The
Adwaitas believe only in an impersonal deity named Parabrahm.
In the chief hall of the vihara was a life-sized statue of Bhavani,
the feminine aspect of Shiva. From the bosom of this devaki streams
forth the pure cold water of a mountain spring, which falls into a
reservoir at her feet. Around it lay heaps of sacrificial flowers,
rice, betel leaves and incense. This hall was, in consequence, so
damp that we preferred to spend the night on the verandah in the
open air, hanging, as it were, between sky and earth, and lit from
below by numerous fires kept burning all the night by Gulab-Sing's
servants, to scare away wild beasts, and, from above, by the light
of the full moon. A supper was arranged after the Eastern fashion,
on carpets spread upon the floor, and with thick banana leaves for
plates and dishes. The noiselessly gliding steps of the servants,
more silent than ghosts, their white muslins and red turbans, the
limitless depths of space, lost in waves of moonlight, before us,
and behind, the dark vaults of ancient caves, dug out by unknown
races, in unknown times, in honor of an unknown, prehistoric religion--
all these, our surroundings, transported us into a strange world,
and into distant epochs far different from our own.
We had before us representatives of five different peoples, five
different types of costume, each quite unlike the others. All
five are known to us in ethnography under the generic name of Hindus.
Similarly eagles, condors, hawks, vultures, and owls are known to
ornithology as "birds of prey," but the analogous differences are
as great. Each of these five companions, a Rajput, a Bengali, a
Madrasi, a Sinhalese and a Mahratti, is a descendant of a race,
the origin of which European scientists have discussed for over
half a century without coming to any agreement.
Rajputs are called Hindus and are said to belong to the Aryan race;
but they call themselves Suryavansa, that is to say, descendants
of Surya or the sun.
The Brahmans derive their origin from Indu, the moon, and are called
Induvansa; Indu, Soma, or Chandra, meaning moon in Sanskrit. If
the first Aryans, appearing in the prologue of universal history,
are Brahmans, that is to say, the people who, according to Max Muller,
having crossed the Himalayas conquered the country of the five rivers,
then the Rajputs are no Aryans; and if they are Aryans they are not
Brahmans, as all their genealogies and sacred books (Puranas) show
that they are much older than the Brahmans; and, in this case,
moreover, the Aryan tribes had an actual existence in other countries
of our globe than the much renowned district of the Oxus, the cradle
of the Germanic race, the ancestors of Aryans and Hindus, in the
fancy of the scientist we have named and his German school.
The "moon" line begins with Pururavas (see the genealogical tree
prepared by Colonel Tod from the MS. Puranas in the Oodeypore
archives), that is to say, two thousand two hundred years before
Christ, and much later than Ikshvaku, the patriarch of the Suryavansa.
The fourth son of Pururavas, Rech, stands at the head of the line
of the moon-race, and only in the fifteenth generation after him
appears Harita, who founded the Kanshikagotra, the Brahman tribe.
The Rajputs hate the latter. They say the children of the sun
and Rama have nothing in common with the children of the moon and
Krishna. As for the Bengalis, according to their traditions and
history, they are aborigines. The Madrasis and the Sinhalese are
Dravidians. They have, in turn, been said to belong to the Semites,
the Hamites, the Aryans, and, lastly, they have been given up to
the will of God, with the conclusion drawn that the Sinhalese, at
all events, must be Mongolians of Turanian origin. The Mahrattis
are aborigines of the West of India, as the Bengalis are of, the East;
but to what group of tribes belong these two nationalities no
ethnographer can define, save perhaps a German. The traditions of
the people themselves are generally denied, because they are not in
harmony with foregone conclusions. The meaning of ancient manuscripts
is disfigured, and, in fact, sacrificed to fiction, if only the
latter proceeds from the mouth of some favorite oracle.
The ignorant masses are often blamed and found to be guilty of
superstition for creating idols in the spiritual world. Is not,
then, the educated man, the man who craves after knowledge, who is
enlightened, still more inconsistent than these masses, when he
deals with his favorite authorities? Are not half a dozen laurel-
crowned heads allowed by him to do whatever they like with facts,
to draw their own conclusions, according to their own liking, and
does he not stone every one who would dare to rise against the
decisions of these quasi-infallible specialists, and brand him
as an ignorant fool?
Let us remember the case in point of Louis Jacolliot, who spent
twenty years in India, who actually knew the language and the country
to perfection, and who, nevertheless, was rolled in the mud by Max
Muller, whose foot never touched Indian soil.
The oldest peoples of Europe are mere babes com-pared with the
tribes of Asia, and especially of India. And oh! how poor and
insignificant are the genealogies of the oldest European families
compared with those of some Rajputs. In the opinion of Colonel Tod,
who for over twenty years studied these genealogies on the spot,
they are the completest and most trustworthy of the records of
the peoples of antiquity. They date from 1,000 to 2,200 years B.C.,
and their authenticity may often be proved by reference to Greek
authors. After long and careful research and comparison with the
text of the Puranas, and various monumental inscriptions, Colonel
Tod came to the conclusion that in the Oodeypore archives (now
hidden from public inspection), not to mention other sources, may
be found a clue to the history of India in particular, and to
universal ancient history in general. Colonel Tod advises the
earnest seeker after this clue not to think, with some flippant
archaeologists who are insufficiently acquainted with India, that
the stories of Rama, the Mahabharata, Krishna, and the five brothers
Pandu, are mere allegories. He affirms that he who seriously
considers these legends will very soon become thoroughly convinced
that all these so-called "fables" are founded on historical facts,
by the actual existence of the descendants of the heroes, by tribes,
ancient towns, and coins still extant; that to acquire the right
to pronounce a final opinion one must read first the inscriptions
on the Inda-Prestha pillars of Purag and Mevar, on the rocks of
Junagur, in Bijoli, on Aravuli and on all the ancient Jaina temples
scattered throughout India, where are to be found numerous
inscriptions in a language utterly unknown, in comparison with
which the hieroglyphs will seem a mere toy.
Yet, nevertheless, Professor Max Muller, who, as already mentioned,
was never in India, sits as a judge and corrects chronological
tables as is his wont, and Europe, taking his words for those of an
oracle, endorses his decisions. Et c'est ainsi que s'ecrit l'histoire.
Talking of the venerable German Sanskritist's chronology, I cannot
resist the desire to show, be it only to Russia, on what a fragile
basis are founded his scientific discussions, and how little he
is to be trusted when he pronounces upon the antiquity of this
or that manuscript. These pages are of a superficial and descriptive
nature, and, as such, make no pretense to profound learning, so that
what follows may seem incongruous. But it must be remembered that
in Russia, as elsewhere in Europe, people estimate the value of
this philological light by the points of exclamation lavished upon
him by his admiring followers, and that no one reads the Veda
Bhashaya of Swami Dayanand. It may even be that I shall not be
far from the truth in saying that the very existence of this work
is ignored, which may perhaps be a fortunate fact for the reputation
of Professor Max Muller. I shall be as brief as possible. When
Professor Max Muller states, in his Sahitya-Grantha, that the Aryan
tribe in India acquired the notion of God step by step and very
slowly, he evidently wishes to prove that the Vedas are far from
being as old as is supposed by some of his colleagues. Having
presented, in due course, some more or less valuable evidence to
prove the truth of this new theory, he ends with a fact which, in
his opinion, is indisputable. He points to the word hiranya-garbha
in the mantrams, which he translates by the word "gold," and adds
that, as the part of the Vedas called chanda appeared 3,100 years ago,
the part called mantrams could not have been written earlier than
2,900 years ago. Let me remind the reader that the Vedas are divided
into two parts: chandas--slokas, verses, etc.; and mantrams--
prayers and rhythmical hymns, which are, at the same time, incantations
used in white magic. Professor Max Muller divides the mantram ("Agnihi
Poorwebhihi," etc.) philologically and chronologically, and, finding
in it the word hiranya-garbha, he denounces it as an anachronism.
The ancients, he says, had no knowledge of gold, and, therefore,
if gold is mentioned in this mantram it means that the mantram was
composed at a comparatively modern epoch, and so on.
But here the illustrious Sanskritist is very much mistaken. Swami
Dayanand and other pandits, who sometimes are far from being
Dayanand's allies, maintain that Professor Max Muller has completely
misunderstood the meaning of the term hiranya. Originally it did
not mean, and, when united to the word garbha, even now does not
mean, gold. So all the Professor's brilliant demonstrations are
labor in vain. The word hiranya in this mantram must be translated
"divine light"--mystically a symbol of knowledge; analogically
the alchemists used the term "sublimated gold" for "light," and
hoped to compose the objective metal out of its rays. The two words,
hiranya-garbha, taken together, mean, literally, the "radiant bosom,"
and, when used in the Vedas, designate the first principle, in whose
bosom, like gold in the bosom of the earth, rests the light of divine
knowledge and truth, the essence of the soul liberated from the sins
of the world. In the mantrams, as in the chandas, one must always
look for a double meaning: (1) a metaphysical one, purely abstract,
and (2) one as purely physical; for everything existing upon the
earth is closely bound to the spiritual world, from which it proceeds
and by which it is reabsorbed. For instance Indra, the god of thunder,
Surya, the sun-god, Vayu, god of the wind, and Agni, god of fire,
all four depending on this first divine principle, expand, according
to the mantram from hiranya-garbha, the radiant bosom. In this
case the gods are the personifications of the forces of Nature. But
the initiated Adepts of India understand very clearly that the god
Indra, for instance, is nothing more than a mere sound, born of the
shock of electrical forces, or simply electricity itself. Surya
is not the god of the sun, but simply the centre of fire in our
system, the essence whence come fire, warmth, light, and so on;
the very thing, namely, which no European scientist, steering an
even course between Tyndall and Schropfer, has, as yet, defined.
This concealed meaning has totally escaped Professor Max Muller's
attention, and this is why, clinging to the dead letter, he never
hesitates before cutting a Gordian knot. How then can he be
permitted to pronounce upon the antiquity of the Vedas, when he
is so far from the right understanding of the language of these
The above is a resume of Dayanand's argument, and to him the
Sanskritists must apply for further particulars, which they will
certainly find in his Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhoomika.
In the cave, every one slept soundly round the fire except myself.
None of my companions seemed to mind in the least either the hum
of the thousand voices of the fair, or the prolonged, far-away
roar of the tigers rising from the valley, or even the loud prayers
of the pilgrims who passed to and fro all night long, never fearing
to cross the steep passage which, even by daylight, caused us
such perplexity. They came in parties of twos and threes, and
sometimes there appeared a lonely unescorted woman. They could
not reach the large vihara, because we occupied the verandah at
its entrance, and so, after grumbling a little, they entered a
small lateral cave something like a chapel, containing a statue
of Devaki-Mata, above a tank full of water. Each pilgrim prostrated
himself for a time, then placed his offering at the feet of the
goddess and bathed in the "holy waters of purification," or, at
the least, sprinkled some water over his forehead, cheeks, and breast.
Lastly, retreating backwards, he knelt again at the door and
disappeared in the darkness with a final invocation: "Mata, maha
mata!"--Mother, O great mother!
Two of Gulab-Sing's servants, with traditional spears and shields
of rhinoceros skin, who had been ordered to protect us from wild
beasts, sat on the steps of the verandah. I was unable to sleep,
and so watched with increasing curiosity everything that was going on.
The Takur, too, was sleepless. Every time I raised my eyes, heavy
with fatigue, the first object upon which they fell was the gigantic
figure of our mysterious friend.
Having seated himself after the Eastern fashion, with his feet
drawn up and his arms round his knees, the Rajput sat on a bench
cut in the rock at one end of the verandah, gazing out into the
silvery atmosphere. He was so near the abyss that the least
incautious movement would expose him to great danger. But the
granite goddess, Bhavani herself, could not be more immovable.
The light of the moon before him was so strong that the black
shadow under the rock which sheltered him was doubly impenetrable,
shrouding his face in absolute darkness. From time to time the
flame of the sinking fires leaping up shed its hot reflection on
the dark bronze face, enabling me to distinguish its sphinx-like
lineaments and its shining eyes, as unmoving as the rest of the
"What am I to think? Is he simply sleeping, or is he in that strange
state, that temporary annihilation of bodily life?..... Only this
morning he was telling us how the initiate Raj-yogis were able to
plunge into this state at will... Oh, if I could only go to sleep....."
Suddenly a loud prolonged hissing, quite close to my ear, made me
start, trembling with indistinct reminiscences of cobras. The
sound was strident and evidently came from under the hay upon
which I rested. Then it struck one! two! It was our American
alarum-clock, which always traveled with me. I could not help
laughing at myself, and, at the same time, feeling a little ashamed
of my involuntary fright.
But neither the hissing, nor the loud striking of the clock, nor
my sudden movement, that made Miss X--- raise her sleepy head,
awakened Gulab-Sing, who still hung over the precipice. Another
half hour passed. The far-away roar of the festivity was still
heard, but everything round me was calm and still. Sleep fled
further and further from my eyes. A fresh, strong wind arose,
before the dawn, rustling the leaves and then shaking the tops
of the trees that rose above the abyss. My attention became
absorbed by the group of three Rajputs before me--by the two
shield bearers and their master. I cannot tell why I was specially
attracted at this moment by the sight of the long hair of the
servants, which was waving in the wind, though the place they
occupied was comparatively sheltered. I turned my eyes upon
their Sahib, and the blood in my veins stood still. The veil of
somebody's topi, which hung beside him, tied to a pillar, was simply
whirling in the wind, while the hair of the Sahib himself lay as
still as if it had been glued to his shoulders, not a hair moved,
nor a single fold of his light muslin garment. No statue could be
more motionless. What is this then? I said to myself. Is it
delirium? Is this a hallucination, or a wonderful inexplicable
reality? I shut my eyes, telling myself I must look no longer.
But a moment later I again looked up, startled by a crackling sound
from above the steps. The long, dark silhouette of some animal
appeared at the entrance, clearly outlined against the pale sky.
I saw it in profile. Its long tail was lashing to and fro. Both
the servants rose swiftly and noiselessly and turned their heads
towards Gulab-Sing, as if asking for orders. But where was Gulab-Sing?
In the place which, but a moment ago, he occupied, there was no one.
There lay only the topi, torn from the pillar by the wind. I sprang up:
a tremendous roar deafened me, filling the vihara, wakening the
slumbering echoes, and resounding, like the softened rumbling of
thunder, over all the borders of the precipice. Good heavens! A tiger!
Before this thought had time to shape itself clearly in my mind,
the sleepers sprang up and the men all seized their guns and revolvers,
and then we heard the sound of crashing branches, and of something
heavy sliding down into the precipice. The alarm was general.
"What is the matter now?" said the calm voice of Gulab-Sing, and
I again saw him on the stone bench. "Why should you be so frightened?"
"A tiger! Was it not a tiger?" came in hasty, questioning tones
from Europeans and Hindus.
Miss X--- trembled like one stricken with fever. "Whether it was
a tiger, or something else, matters very little to us now. Whatever
it was, it is, by this time, at the bottom of the abyss," answered
the Rajput yawning.
"I wonder the Government does not destroy all these horrid animals,"
sobbed poor Miss X---, who evidently believed firmly in the omnipotence
of her Executive.
"But how did you get rid of the `striped one'?" insisted the colonel.
"Has anyone fired a shot?"
"You Europeans think that shooting is, if not the only, at least
the best way to get rid of wild animals. We possess other means,
which are sometimes more efficacious than guns," explained Babu
Narendro-Das Sen. "Wait until you come to Bengal, there you will
have many opportunities to make acquaintance with the tigers."
It was now getting light, and Gulab-Sing proposed to us to descend
and examine the rest of the caves and the ruins of a fortress
before the day became too hot, so, at half-past three, we went by
another and easier way to the valley, and, happily, this time we
had no adventures. The Mahratti did not accompany us. He disappeared
without informing us whither he was going.
We saw Logarh, a fortress which was captured by Sivaji from the
Moguls in 1670, and the ruins of the hall, where the widow of Nana
Farnavese, under the pretext of an English protectorate, became
de facto the captive of General Wellesley in 1804, with a yearly
pension of 12,000 rupees. We then started for the village of Vargaon,
once fortified and still very rich. We were to spend the hottest
hours of the day there, from nine in the morning until four in the
afternoon, and proceed afterwards to the historical caves of Birsa
and Badjah, about three miles from Karli.
At about two P.M. when, in spite of the huge punkahs waving to and
fro, we were grumbling at the heat, appeared our friend the Mahratta
Brahman, whom we thought we had lost on the way. Accompanied by
half-a-dozen Daknis (inhabitants 0f the Dekhan plateau) he was
slowly advancing, seated almost on the ears of his horse, which
snorted and seemed very unwilling to move. When he reached the
verandah and jumped down, we saw the reason of his disappearance.
Across the saddle was tied a huge tiger, whose tail dragged in
the dust. There were traces of dark blood in his half opened mouth.
He was taken from the horse and laid down by the doorstep.
Was it our visitor of the night before? I looked at Gulab-Sing.
He lay on a rug in a corner, resting his head on his hand and reading.
He knitted his brows slightly, but did not say a word. The Brahman
who had just brought the tiger was very silent too, watching over
certain preparations, as if making ready for some solemnity. We
soon learned that, in the eyes of a superstitious people, what was
about to happen was a solemnity indeed.
A bit of hair cut from the skin of a tiger that has been killed,
neither by bullet, nor by knife, but by a "word," is considered
the best of all talismans against his tribe.
"This is a very rare opportunity," explained the Mahratti. "It is
very seldom that one meets with a man who possesses the word.
Yogis and Sadhus do not generally kill wild animals, thinking it
sinful to destroy any living creature, be it even a cobra or a tiger,
so they simply keep out of the way of noxious animals. There exists
only one brotherhood in India whose members possess all secrets,
and from whom nothing in nature is concealed. Here is the body
of the tiger to testify that the animal was not killed with a weapon
of any kind, but simply by the word of Gulab-Lal-Sing. I found it,
very easily, in the bushes exactly under our vihara, at the foot
of the rock over which the tiger had rolled, already dead. Tigers
never make false steps. Gulab-Lal-Sing, you are a Raj-Yogi, and
I salute you!" added the proud Brahman, kneeling before the Takur.
"Do not use vain words, Krishna Rao!" interrupted Gulab-Sing.
"Get up; do not play the part of a Shudra."
"I obey you, Sahib, but, forgive me, I trust my own judgment. No
Raj-Yogi ever yet acknowledged his connection with the brotherhood,
since the time Mount Abu came into existence."
And he began distributing bits of hair taken from the dead animal.
No one spoke, I gazed curiously at the group of my fellow-travelers.
The colonel, President of our Society, sat with downcast eyes,
very pale. His secretary, Mr. Y---, lay on his back, smoking a
cigar and looking straight above him, with no expression in his eyes.
He silently accepted the hair and put it in his purse. The Hindus
stood round the tiger, and the Sinhalese traced mysterious signs
on its forehead. Gulab-Sing continued quietly reading his book.
The Birza cave, about six miles from Vargaon, is constructed on
the same plan as Karli. The vault-like ceiling of the temple rests
upon twenty-six pillars, eighteen feet high, and the portico on four,
twenty-eight feet high; over the portico are carved groups of horses,
oxen, and elephants, of the most exquisite beauty. The "Hall of
Initiation" is a spacious, oval room, with pillars, and eleven very
deep cells cut in the rock. The Bajah caves are older and more
beautiful. Inscriptions may still be seen showing that all these
temples were built by Buddhists, or, rather, by Jainas. Modern
Buddhists believe in one Buddha only, Gautama, Prince of Kapilavastu
(six centuries before Christ) whereas the Jainas recognize a Buddha
in each of their twenty-four divine teachers (Tirthankaras) the
last of whom was the Guru (teacher) of Gautama. This disagreement
is very embarrassing when people try to conjecture the antiquity
of this or that vihara or chaitya. The origin of the Jaina sect
is lost in the remotest, unfathomed antiquity, so the name of Buddha,
mentioned in the inscriptions, may be attributed to the last of
the Buddhas as easily as to the first, who lived (see Tod's genealogy)
a long time before 2,200 B.C.
One of the inscriptions in the Baira cave, for instance. in
cuneiform characters, says: "From an ascetic in Nassik to the
one who is worthy, to the holy Buddha, purified from sins, heavenly
This tends to convince scientists that the cave was cut out by Buddhists.
Another inscription, in the same cave, but over an-other cell,
contains the following: "An agreeable offering of a small gift
to the moving force [life], to the mind principle [soul], the well-
beloved material body, fruit of Manu, priceless treasure, to the
highest and here present, Heavenly."
Of course the conclusion is drawn that the building does not belong
to the Buddhists, but to the Brahmans, who believe in Manu.
Here are two more inscriptions from Bajah caves.
"An agreeable gift of the symbol and vehicle of the purified Saka-Saka."
"Gift of the vehicle of Radha [wife of Krishna, symbol of perfection]
to Sugata who is gone for ever."
Sugata, again, is one of the names of Buddha. A new contradiction!
It was somewhere here, in the neighborhood of Vargaon, that the
Mahrattis seized Captain Vaughan and his brother, who were hanged
after the battle of Khirki.
Next morning we drove to Chinchor, or, as it is called here,
Chinchood. This place is celebrated in the annals of the Dekkan.
Here one meets with a repetition in miniature of what takes place
on a larger scale at L'hassa in Tibet. As Buddha incarnates in
every new Dalai-Lama, so, here, Gunpati (Ganesha, the god of
wisdom with the elephant's head) is allowed by his father Shiva
to incarnate in the eldest son of a certain Brahman family. There
is a splendid temple erected in his honor, where the avatars
(incarnations) of Gunpati have lived and received adoration for
over two hundred years.
This is how it happened.
About 250 years ago a poor Brahman couple were promised, in sleep,
by the god of wisdom that he would incarnate in their eldest son.
The boy was named Maroba (one of the god's titles) in honor of
the deity. Maroba grew up, married, and begot several sons,
after which he was commanded by the god to relinquish the world
and finish his days in the desert. There, during twenty-two years,
according to the legend, Maroba wrought miracles and his fame grew
day by day. He lived in an impenetrable jungle, in a corner of
the thick forest that covered Chinchood in those days. Gunpati
appeared to him once more, and promised to incarnate in his
descendants for seven generations. After this there was no limit
to his miracles, so that the people began to worship him, and
ended by building a splendid temple for him.
At last Maroba gave orders to the people to bury him alive, in a
sitting posture, with an open book in his hands, and never to open
his grave again under penalty of his wrath and maledictions. After
the burial of Maroba, Gunpati incarnated in his first-born, who
began a conjuring career in his turn. So that Maroba-Deo I, was
replaced by Chintaman-Deo I. This latter god had eight wives and
eight sons. The tricks of the eldest of these sons, Narayan-Deo I,
became so celebrated that his fame reached the ears of the Emperor
Alamgir. In order to test the extent of his "deification," Alamgir
sent him a piece of a cow's tail wrapped in rich stuffs and coverings.
Now, to touch the tail of a dead cow is the worst of all degradations
for a Hindu. On receiving it Narayan sprinkled the parcel with water,
and, when the stuffs were unfolded, there was found enclosed in
them a nosegay of white syringa, instead of the ungodly tail. This
transformation rejoiced the Emperor so much that he presented the
god with eight villages, to cover his private expenses. Narayan's
social position and property were inherited by Chintaman-Deo II.,
whose heir was Dharmadhar, and, lastly, Narayan II came into power.
He drew down the malediction of Gunpati by violating the grave of
Maroba. That is why his son, the last of the gods, is to die
When we saw him he was an aged man, about ninety years old. He
was seated on a kind of platform. His head shook and his eyes
idiotically stared without seeing us, the result of his constant
use of opium. On his neck, ears, and toes, shone precious stones,
and all around were spread offerings. We had to take off our shoes
before we were allowed to approach this half-ruined relic.
On the evening of the same day we returned to Bombay. Two days
later we were to start on our long journey to the North-West
Provinces, and our route promised to be very attractive. We were
to see Nassik, one of the few towns mentioned by Greek historians,
its caves, and the tower of Rama; to visit Allahabad, the ancient
Prayaga, the metropolis of the moon dynasty, built at the confluence
of the Ganges and Jumna; Benares, the town of five thousand temples
and as many monkeys; Cawnpur, notorious for the bloody revenge of
Nana Sahib; the remains of the city of the sun, destroyed,
according to the computations of Colebrooke, six thousand years ago;
Agra and Delhi; and then, having explored Rajistan with its thousand
Takur castles, fortresses, ruins, and legends, we were to go to
Lahore, the metropolis of the Punjab, and, lastly, to stay for a
while in Amritsar. There, in the Golden Temple, built in the centre
of the "Lake of Immortality," was to be held the first meeting of
the members of our Society, Brahmans, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc.--in
a word, the representatives of the one thousand and one sects of
India, who all sympathized, more or less, with the idea of the
Brotherhood of Humanity of our Theosophical Society.
Benares, Prayaga (now Allahabad), Nassik, Hurdwar, Bhadrinath,
Matura--these were the sacred places of prehistoric India which
we were to visit one after the other; but to visit them, not after
the usual manner of tourists, a vol d'oiseau, with a cheap guide-
book in our hands and a cicerone to weary our brains, and wear
out our legs. We were well aware that all these ancient places
are thronged with traditions and overgrown with the weeds of popular
fancy, like ruins of ancient castles covered with ivy; that the
original shape of the building is destroyed by the cold embrace
of these parasitic plants, and that it is as difficult for the
archaeologist to form an idea of the architecture of the once
perfect edifice, judging only by the heaps of disfigured rubbish
that cover the country, as for us to select from out the thick mass
of legends good wheat from weeds. No guides and no cicerone
could be of any use whatever to us. The only thing they could do
would be to point out to us places where once there stood a fortress,
a castle, a temple, a sacred grove, or a celebrated town, and then
to repeat legends which came into existence only lately, under the
Mussulman rule. As to the undisguised truth, the original history
of every interesting spot, we should have had to search for these
by ourselves, assisted only by our own conjectures.
Modern India does not present a pale shadow of what it was in the
pre-Christian era, nor even of the Hindostan of the days of Akbar,
Shah-Jehan and Aurungzeb. The neighborhood of every town that
has been shattered by many a war, and of every ruined hamlet, is
covered with round reddish pebbles, as if with so many petrified
tears of blood. But, in order to approach the iron gate of some
ancient fortress, it is not over natural pebbles that it is necessary
to walk, but over the broken fragments of some older granite remains,
under which, very often, rest the ruins of a third town, still more
ancient than the last. Modern names have been given to them by
Mussulmans, who generally built their towns upon the remains of
those they had just taken by assault. The names of the latter
are sometimes mentioned in the legends, but the names of their
predecessors had completely disappeared from the popular memory
even before the Mussulman invasion. Will a time ever come for
these secrets of the centuries to be revealed? Knowing all this
beforehand, we resolved not to lose patience, even though we had
to devote whole years to explorations of the same places, in
order to obtain better historical information, and facts less
disfigured than those obtained by our predecessors, who had to be
contented with a choice collection of naive lies, poured forth from
the mouth of some frightened semi-savage, or some Brahman, unwilling
to speak and desirous of disguising the truth. As for ourselves,
we were differently situated. We were helped by a whole society
of educated Hindus, who were as deeply interested in the same
questions as ourselves. Besides, we had a promise of the revelation
of some secrets, and the accurate translation of some ancient
chronicles, that had been preserved as if by a miracle.
The history of India has long since faded from the memories of her
sons, and is still a mystery to her conquerors. Doubtless it still
exists, though, perchance, only partly, in manuscripts that are
jealously concealed from every European eye. This has been shown
by some pregnant words, spoken by Brahmans on their rare occasions
of friendly expansiveness. Thus, Colonel Tod, whom I have already
quoted several times, is said to have been told by a Mahant, the
chief of an ancient pagoda-monastery: "Sahib, you lose your time
in vain researches. The Bellati India [India of foreigners] is
before you, but you will never see the Gupta India [secret India].
We are the guardians of her mysteries, and would rather cut out
each other's tongues than speak."
Yet, nevertheless, Tod succeeded in learning a good deal. It must
be borne in mind that no Englishman has ever been loved so well
by the natives as this old and courageous friend of the Maharana
of Oodeypur, who, in his turn, was so friendly towards the natives
that the humblest of them never saw a trace of contempt in his
demeanour. He wrote before ethnology had reached its present stage
of development, but his book is still an authority on everything
concerning Rajistan. Though the author's opinion of his work was
not very high, though he stated that "it is nothing but a
conscientious collection of materials for a future historian,"
still in this book is to be found many a thing undreamed of by any
British civil servant.
Let our friends smile incredulously. Let our enemies laugh at
our pretensions to penetrate the world-mysteries of Aryavarta,"
as a certain critic recently expressed himself. However pessimistic
may be our critics' views, yet, even in the event of our conclusions
not proving more trustworthy than those of Fergusson, Wilson,
Wheeler, and the rest of the archeologists and Sanskritists who
have written about India, still, I hope, they will not be less
susceptible of proof. We are daily reminded that, like unreasonable
children, we have undertaken a task before which archaeologists
and historians, aided by all the influence and wealth of the
Government, have shrunk dismayed; that we have taken upon ourselves
a work which has proved to be beyond the capacities of the Royal
Let it be so.
Let everyone try to remember, as we ourselves remember, that not
very long ago a poor Hungarian, who not only had no means of any
kind but was almost a beggar, traveled on foot to Tibet through
unknown and dangerous countries, led only by the love of learning
and the eager wish to pour light on the historical origin of his
nation. The result was that inexhaustible mines of literary
treasures were discovered. Philology, which till then had wandered
in the Egyptian darkness of etymological labyrinths, and was about
to ask the sanction of the scientific world to one of the wildest
of theories, suddenly stumbled on the clue of Ariadne. Philology
discovered, at last, that the Sanskrit language is, if not the
forefather, at least--to use the language of Max Muller--"the elder
brother" of all classical languages. Thanks to the extraordinary
zeal of Alexander Csoma de Koros, Tibet yielded a language the
literature of which was totally unknown. He partly translated it
and partly analyzed and explained it. His translations have shown
the scientific world that (1) the originals of the Zend-Avesta,
the sacred scriptures of the sun-worshippers, of Tripitaka, that
of the Buddhists, and of Aytareya-Brahmanam, that of the Brahmans,
were written in one and the same Sanskrit language; (2) that all
these three languages--Zend, Nepalese, and the modern Brahman
Sanskrit--are more or less dialects of the first; (3) that old
Sanskrit is the origin of all the less ancient Indo-European
languages, as well as of the modern European tongues and dialects;
(4) that the three chief religions of heathendom--Zoroastrianism,
Buddhism and Brahmanism--are mere heresies of the monotheistic
teachings of the Vedas, which does not prevent them from being
real ancient religions and not modern falsifications.
The moral of all this is evident. A poor traveler, without either
money or protection, succeeded in gaining admittance to the
Lamaseries of Tibet and to the sacred literature of the isolated
tribe which inhabits it, probably because he treated the Mongolians
and the Tibetans as his brothers and not as an inferior race--a
feat which has never been accomplished by generations of scientists.
One cannot help feeling ashamed of humanity and science when one
thinks that he whose labors first gave to science such precious
results, he who was the first sower of such an abundant harvest,
remained, almost until the day of his death, a poor and obscure
worker. On his way from Tibet he walked to Calcutta without a
penny in his pocket. At last Csoma de Koros became known, and
his name began to be pronounced with honor and praise whilst he
was dying in one of the poorest parts of Calcutta. Being already
very ill, he wanted to get back to Tibet, and started on foot again
through Sikkhim. He succumbed to his illness on the road and was
buried in Darhjeeling.
It is needless to say we are fully aware that what we have undertaken
is simply impossible within the limits of ordinary newspaper articles.
All we hope to accomplish is to lay the foundation stone of an
edifice, whose further progress must be entrusted to future generations.
In order to combat successfully the theories worked out by two
generations of Orientalists, half a century of diligent labor
would be required. And, in order to replace these theories with
new ones, we must get new facts, facts founded not on the chronology
and false evidence of scheming Brahmans, whose interest is to feed
the ignorance of European Sanskritists (as, unfortunately, was
the experience of Lieutenant Wilford and Louis Jacolliot), but on
indubitable proofs that are to be found in inscriptions as yet
undeciphered. The clue to these inscriptions Europeans do not
possess, because, as I have already stated, it is guarded in MSS.
which are as old as the inscriptions and which are almost out of
reach. Even in case our hopes are realized and we obtain this clue,
a new difficulty will arise before us. We shall have to begin a
systematic refutation, page by page, of many a volume of hypotheses
published by the Royal Asiatic Society. A work like this might be
accomplished by dozens of tireless, never-resting Sanskritists--a
class which, even in India, is almost as rare as white elephants.
Thanks to private contributions and the zeal of some educated Hindu
patriots, two free classes of Sanskrit and Pali had already been
opened--one in Bombay by the Theosophical Society, the other in
Benares under the presidency of the learned Rama-Misra-Shastri.
In the present year, 1882, the Theosophical Society has, altogether,
fourteen schools in Ceylon and India.
Our heads full of thoughts and plans of this kind, we, that is to
say, one American, three Europeans, and three natives, occupied a
whole carriage of the Great Indian Peninsular Railroad on our way
to Nassik, one of the oldest towns in India, as I have already
mentioned, and the most sacred of all in the eyes of the inhabitants
of the Western Presidency. Nassik borrowed its name from the
Sanskrit word "Nasika," which means nose. An epic legend assures
us that on this very spot Lakshman, the eldest brother of the
deified King Rama, cut off the nose of the giantess Sarpnaka,
sister of Ravana, who stole Sita, the "Helen of Troy" of the Hindus.
The train stops six miles from the town, so that we had to finish
our journey in six two-wheeled, gilded chariots, called ekkas, and
drawn by bullocks. It was one o'clock A.M., but, in spite of the
darkness of the hour, the horns of the animals were gilded and
adorned with flowers, and brass bangles tinkled on their legs.
Our waylay through ravines overgrown with jungle, where, as our
drivers hastened to inform us, tigers and other four-footed
misanthropes of the forest played hide-and-seek. However, we had
no opportunity of making the acquaintance of the tigers, but enjoyed
instead a concert of a whole community of jackals. They followed
us step by step, piercing our ears with shrieks, wild laughter
and barking. These animals are annoying, but so cowardly that,
though numerous enough to devour, not only all of us, but our
gold-horned bullocks too, none of them dared to come nearer than
the distance of a few steps. Every time the long whip, our weapon
against snakes, alighted on the back of one of them, the whole
horde disappeared with unimaginable noise. Nevertheless, the
drivers did not dispense with a single one of their superstitious
precautions against tigers. They chanted mantrams in unison,
spread betel over the road as a token of their respect to the
Rajas of the forest, and, after every couplet, made the bullocks
kneel and bow their heads in honor of the great gods. Needless to
say, the ekka, as light as a nutshell, threatened each time to fall
with its passenger over the horns of the bullocks. We had to endure
this agreeable way of traveling for five hours under a very dark sky.
We reached the Inn of the Pilgrims in the morning at about six o'clock.
The real cause of Nassik's sacredness, however, is not the mutilated
trunk of the giantess, but the situation of the town on the banks
of the Godavari, quite close to the sources of this river which,
for some reason or other, are called by the natives Ganga (Ganges).
It is to this magic name, probably, that the town owes its numerous
magnificent temples, and the selectness of the Brahmans who inhabit
the banks of the river. Twice a year pilgrims flock here to pray,
and on these solemn occasions the number of the visitors exceeds
that of the inhabitants, which is only 35,000. Very picturesque,
but equally dirty, are the houses of the rich Brahmans built on
both sides of the way from the centre of the town to the Godavari.
A whole forest of narrow pyramidal temples spreads on both sides
of the river. All these new pagodas are built on the ruins of
those destroyed by the fanaticism of the Mussulmans. A legend
informs us that most of them rose from the ashes of the tail of
the monkey god Hanuman. Retreating from Lanka, where the wicked
Ravana, having anointed the brave hero's tail with some combustible
stuff set it on fire, Hanuman, with a single leap through the air,
reached Nassik, his fatherland. And here the noble adornment of
the monkey's back, burned almost entirely during the voyage,
crumbled into ashes, and from every sacred atom of these ashes,
fallen to the ground, there rose a temple.... And, indeed, when
seen from the mountain, these numberless pagodas, scattered in a
most curious disorderly way, look as if they had really been thrown
down by handfuls from the sky. Not only the river banks and the
surrounding country, but every little island, every rock peeping
from the water is covered with temples. And not one of them is
destitute of a legend of its own, different versions of which are
told by every individual of the Brahmanical community according
to his own taste--of course in the hope of a suitable reward.
Here, as everywhere else in India, Brahmans are divided into two
sects--worshippers of Shiva and wor-shippers of Vishnu--and between
the two there is rivalry and warfare centuries old. Though the
neighborhood of the Godavari shines with a twofold fame derived
from its being the birthplace of Hanuman and the theatre of the
first great deeds of Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu, it possesses
as many temples dedicated to Shiva as to Vishnu. The material of
which the pagodas consecrated to Shiva are constructed is black basalt.
And it is, exactly, the color of the material which is the apple of
discord in this case. The black material is claimed by the
Vaishnavas as their own, it being of the same color as the burned
tail of Rama's ally. They try to prove that the Shivaites have no
right to it. From the first days of their rule the English inherited
endless lawsuits between the fighting sectarians, cases decided
in one law-court only to be transferred on appeal to another, and
always having their origin in this ill-omened tail and its pretensions.
This tail is a mysterious deus ex machina that directs all the
thoughts of the Nassik Brahmans pro and contra.
On the subject of this tail were written more reams of paper and
petitions than in the quarrel about the goose between Ivan Ivanitch
and Ivan Nikiphoritch; and more ink and bile were spilt than there
was mud in Mirgorod, since the creation of the universe. The pig
that so happily decided the famous quarrel in Gogol would be a
priceless blessing to Nassik, and the struggle for the tail. But
unhappily even the "pig" if it hailed from "Russia" would be of no
avail in India; for the English would suspect it at once, and
arrest it as a Russian spy!
Rama's bathing place is shown in Nassik. The ashes of pious
Brahmans are brought hither from distant parts to be thrown into
the Godavari, and so to mingle for ever with the sacred waters
of Ganges. In an ancient MS. there is a statement of one of Rama's
generals, who, somehow or other, is not mentioned in the Ramayana.
This statement points to the river Godavari as the frontier between
the kingdoms of Rama, King of Ayodya (Oude), and of Ravana, King
of Lanka (Ceylon). Legends and the poem of Ramayana state that
this was the spot where Rama, while hunting, saw a beautiful antelope,
and, intending to make a present to his beloved Sita of its skin,
entered the regions of his unknown neighbor. No doubt Rama, Ravana,
and even Hanuman, promoted, for some unexplained reason, to the
rank of a monkey, are historical personages who once had a real
existence. About fifty years ago it was vaguely suspected that the
Brahmans possessed priceless MSS. It was reported that one of these
MSS. treats of the prehistoric epoch when the Aryans first invaded
the country, and began an endless war with the dark aborigines of
southern India. But the religious fanaticism of the Hindus never
allowed the English Government to verify these reports.
The most interesting sights of Nassik are its cave-temples, about
five miles from the town. The day before we started thither, I
certainly did not dream that a "tail" would have to play an important
part in our visit to Nassik, that, in this case, it would save me,
if not from death, at least from disagreeable and perhaps dangerous
bruises. This is how it happened.
As the difficult task of ascending a steep mountain lay before us,
we decided to hire elephants. The best couple in the town was
brought before us. Their owner assured us "that the Prince
of Wales had ridden upon them and was very contented." To go
there and back and have them in attendance the whole day--in fact
the whole pleasure-trip--was to cost us two rupees for each elephant.
Our native friends, accustomed from infancy to this way of riding,
were not long in getting on the back of their elephant. They
covered him like flies, with no predilection for this or that
spot of his vast back. They held on by all kinds of strings and
ropes, more with their toes than their fingers, and, on the whole,
presented a picture of contentment and comfort. We Europeans had
to use the lady elephant, as being the tamer of the two. On her
back there were two little benches with sloping seats on both sides,
and not the slightest prop for our backs. The wretched, undergrown
youngsters seen in European circuses give no idea of the real size
of this noble beast. The mahout, or driver, placed himself between
the huge animal's ears whilst we gazed at the "perfected" seats
ready for us with an uneasy feeling of distrust The mahout ordered
his elephant to kneel, and it must be owned that in climbing on her
back with the aid of a small ladder, I felt what the French call
chair de poule. Our she-elephant answered to the poetical name
of "Chanchuli Peri," the Active Fairy, and really was the most
obedient and the merriest of all the representatives of her tribe
that I have ever seen. Clinging to each other we at last gave
the signal for departure, and the mahout goaded the right ear of
the animal with an iron rod. First the elephant raised herself
on her fore-legs, which movement tilted us all back, then she
heavily rose on her hind ones, too, and we rolled forwards,
threatening to upset the mahout. But this was not the end of our
misfortunes. At the very first steps of Peri we slipped about in
all directions, like quivering fragments of blancmange.
The journey came to a sudden pause. We were picked up in a hasty
way, replaced on our respective seats, during which proceeding
Peri's trunk proved very active, and the journey continued. The
very thought of the five miles before us filled us with horror,
but we would not give up the excursion, and indignantly refused
to be tied to our seats, as was suggested by our Hindu companions,
who could not suppress their merry laughter.... However, I bitterly
repented this display of vanity. This unusual mode of locomotion
was something incredibly fantastical, and, at the same time, ridiculous.
A horse carrying our luggage trotted by Peri's side, and looked, from
our vast elevation, no bigger than a donkey. At every mighty step
of Peri we had to be prepared for all sorts of unexpected acrobatic
feats, while jolted from one side to the other by her swinging gait.
This experience, under the scorching sun, unavoidably induced a
state of body and mind something between sea-sickness and a delirious
nightmare. As a crown to our pleasures, when we began to ascend a
tortuous little path over the stony slope of a deep ravine, our
Peri stumbled. This sudden shock caused me to lose my balance
altogether. I sat on the hinder part of the elephant's back, in
the place of honor, as it is esteemed, and, once thoroughly shaken,
rolled down like a log. No doubt, next moment I should have found
myself at the bottom of the ravine, with some more or less sad
loss to my bodily constitution, if it had not been for the wonderful
dexterity and instinct of the clever animal. Having felt that
something was wrong she twisted her tail round me, stopped
instantaneously and began to kneel down carefully. But my natural
weight was too much for the thin tail of this kind animal. Peri
did not lose hold of me, but, having at last knelt down, she moaned
plaintively, though discreetly, thinking probably that she had
nearly lost her tail through being so generous. The mahout hurried
to my rescue and then examined the damaged tail of his animal.
We now witnessed a scene that clearly showed us the coarse cunning,
greediness and cowardice of a low-class Hindu, of an outcast, as
they are denominated here.
The mahout very indifferently and composedly examined Peri's tail,
and even pulled it several times to make sure, and was already on
the point of hoisting himself quietly into his usual place, when
I had the unhappy thought of muttering something that expressed
my regret and compassion. My words worked a miraculous transformation
in the mahout's behavior. He threw himself on the ground, and
rolled about like a demoniac, uttering horrible wild groans.
Sobbing and crying he kept on repeating that the Mam-Sahib had
torn off his darling Peri's tail, that Peri was damaged for ever
in everybody's estimation, that Peri's husband, the proud Airavati,
lineal descendant of Indra's own favourite elephant, having
witnessed her shame, would renounce his spouse, and that she had
better die.... Yells and bitter tears were his only answer to all
remonstrances of our companions. In vain we tried to persuade
him that the "proud Airavati" did not show the slightest disposition
to be so cruel, in vain we pointed out to him that all this time
both elephants stood quietly together, Airavati even at this critical
moment rubbing his trunk affectionately against Peri's neck, and
Peri not looking in the least discomfited by the accident to her tail.
All this was of no avail! Our friend Narayan lost his patience at
last. He was a man of extraordinary muscular strength and took
recourse to a last original means. With one hand he threw down a
silver rupee, with the other he seized the mahout's muslin garment
and hurled him after the coin. Without giving a thought to his
bleeding nose, the mahout jumped at the rupee with the greediness
of a wild beast springing upon its prey. He prostrated himself
in the dust before us repeatedly, with endless "salaams," instantly
changing his deep sorrow into mad joy. He gave another pull at
the unfortunate tail and gladly declared that, thanks to the "prayers
of the sahib," it really was safe; to demonstrate which he hung
on to it, till he was torn away and put back on his seat.
"Is it possible that a single, miserable rupee can have been the
cause of all this?" we asked each other in utter bewilderment.
"Your astonishment is natural enough," answered the Hindus. "We
need not express how ashamed and how disgusted we all feel at this
voluntary display of humiliation and greed. But do not forget
that this wretch, who certainly has a wife and children, serves
his employer for twelve rupees a year, instead of which he often
gets nothing but a beating. Remember also the long centuries of
tyrannical treatment from Brahmans, from fanatical Mussulmans, who
regard a Hindu as nothing better than an unclean reptile, and,
nowadays, from the average Englishman, and maybe you will pity
this wretched caricature of humanity."
But the "caricature" in question evidently felt perfectly happy
and not in the least conscious of a humiliation of any kind. Sitting
on the roomy forehead of his Peri, he was telling her of his
unexpected wealth, reminding her of her "divine" origin, and
ordering her to salute the "sahibs" with her trunk. Peri, whose
spirits had been raised by the gift of a whole stick of sugar-cane
from me, lifted her trunk backwards and playfully blew into our faces.
On the threshold of the Nassik caves we bid good-bye to the modern
pigmy India, to the petty things of her everyday life, and to her
humiliations. We re-entered the unknown world of India, the great
and the mysterious.
The main caves of Nassik are excavated in a mountain bearing the
name of Pandu-Lena, which points again to the undying, persistent,
primaeval tradition that ascribes all such buildings to the five
mythical (?) brothers of prehistoric times. The unanimous opinion
of archaeologists esteems these caves more interesting and more
important than all the caves of Elephanta and Karli put together.
And, nevertheless--is it not strange?--with the exception of the
learned Dr. Wilson, who, it may be, was a little too fond of forming
hasty opinions, no archaeologist has, as yet, made so bold as to
decide to what epoch they belong, by whom they were erected, and
which of the three chief religions of antiquity was the one professed
by their mysterious builders.
It is evident, however, that those who wrought here did not all
belong either to the same generation or to the same sect. The
first thing which strikes the attention is the roughness of the
primitive work, its huge dimensions, and the decline of the sculpture
on the solid walls, whereas the sculpture and carvings of the six
colossi which prop the chief cave on the second floor, are
magnificently preserved and very elegant. This circumstance
would lead one to think that the work was begun many centuries
before it was finished. But when? One of the Sanskrit inscriptions
of a comparatively recent epoch (on the pedestal of one of the colossi)
clearly points to 453 B.C. as the year of the building. At all
events, Barth, Stevenson, Gibson, Reeves, and some other scientists,
who being Westerns can have none of the prejudices proper to the
native Pundits, have formed this conjecture on the basis of some
astronomical data. Besides, the conjunction of the planets stated
in the inscription leaves no doubt as to the dates, it must be either
453 B.C., or 1734 of our era, or 2640 B.C., which last is impossible,
because Buddha and Buddhist monasteries are mentioned in the inscription.
I translate some of the most important sentences:
"To the most Perfect and the Highest! May this be agreeable to Him!
The son of King Kshaparata, Lord of the Kshatriya tribe and protector
of people, the Ruler of Dinik, bright as the dawn, sacrifices a
hundred thousand cows that graze on the river Banasa, together
with the river, and also the gift of gold by the builder of this
holy shelter of gods, the place of the curbing of the Brahmans'
passions. There is no more desirable place than this place, neither
in Prabhasa, where accumulate hundreds of thousands of Brahmans
repeating the sacred verse, nor in the sacred city Gaya, nor on
the steep mountain near Dashatura, nor on the Serpents' Field in
Govardhana, nor in the city Pratisraya where stands the monastery
of Buddhists, nor even in the edifice erected by Depana-kara on the
shores of the fresh water [?] sea. This place, giving incomparable
favors, is agreeable and useful in all respects to the spotted
deerskin of an ascetic. A safe boat given also by him who built
the gratuitous ferry daily transports to the well-guarded shore.
By him also who built the house for travelers and the public fountain,
a gilded lion was erected by the ever-assaulted gate of this Govardhana,
also another [lion] by the ferry-boat, and another by Ramatirtha.
Various kinds of food will always be found here by the scanty flock;
for this flock more than a hundred kinds of herbs and thousands of
mountain roots are stored by this generous giver. In the same
Govardhana, in the luminous mountain, this second cave was dug by
the order of the same beneficent person, during the very year when
the Sun, Shukra and Rahu, much respected by men, were in the full
glory of their rise; it was in this year that the gifts were offered.
Lakshmi, Indra and Yama having blessed them, returned with shouts
of triumph to their chariot, kept on the way free from obstacles
[the sky], by the force of mantrams. When they [the gods] all left,
poured a heavy shower....." and so on.
Rahn and Kehetti are the fixed stars which form the head and the
tail of the constellation of the Dragon. Shukra is Venus. Lakshmi,
Indra and Yama stand here for the constellations of Virgo, Aquarius
and Taurus, which are subject and consecrated to these three among
the twelve higher deities.
The first caves are dugout in a conical hillock about two hundred
and eighty feet from its base. In the chief of them stand three
statues of Buddha; in the lateral ones a lingam and two Jaina idols.
In the top cave there is a statue of Dharma Raja, or Yudhshtira,
the eldest of the Pandus, who is worshipped in a temple erected
in his honor, between Pent and Nassik. Farther on is a whole
labyrinth of cells, where Buddhist hermits probably lived, a huge
statue of Buddha in a reclining posture. and another as big, but
surrounded with pillars adorned with figures of various animals.
Styles, epochs and sects are here as much mixed up and entangled
as different trees in a thick forest.
It is very remarkable that almost all the cave temples of India
are to be found inside conical rocks and mountains. It is as
though the ancient builders looked for such natural pyramids
purposely. I noticed this peculiarity in Karli, and it is to be
met with only in India. Is it a mere coincidence, or is it one
of the rules of the religious architecture of the remote past?
And which are the imitators--the builders of the Egyptian pyramids,
or the unknown architects of the under ground caves of India? In
pyramids as well as in caves everything seems to be calculated with
geometrical exactitude. In neither case are the entrances ever at
the bottom, but always at a certain distance from the ground. It
is well known that nature does not imitate art, and, as a rule,
art tries to copy certain forms of nature. And if, even in this
similarity of the symbols of Egypt and India, nothing is to be
found but a coincidence, we shall have to own that coincidences
are sometimes very extraordinary. Egypt has borrowed many things
from India. We must not forget that nothing is known about the
origin of the Pharaohs, and that the few facts science has succeeded
in discovering, far from contradicting our theory, suggest India
as the cradle of the Egyptian race. In the days of remote antiquity
Kalluka-Bhatta wrote: "During the reign of Visvamitra, first king
of the Soma-Vansha dynasty, after a five days battle, Manu-Vena,
the heir of ancient kings, was abandoned by the Brahmans, and
emigrated with his army, and, having traversed Arya and Barria,
at last reached the shores of Masra....."
Arya is Iran or Persia; Barria is an ancient name of Arabia; Masr
or Masra is a name of Cairo, disfigured by Mussulmans into Misro
Kalluka-Bhatta is an ancient writer. Sanskritists still quarrel
over his epoch, wavering between 2,000 years B.C., and the reign
of the Emperor Akbar (the time of John the Terrible and Elizabeth
of England). On the grounds of this uncertainty, the evidence of
Kalluka-Bhatta might be objected to. In this case, there are the
words of a modern historian, who has studied Egypt all his life,
not in Berlin or London, like some other historians, but in Egypt,
deciphering the inscriptions of the oldest sarcophagi and papyri,
that is to say, the words of Henry Brugsch-Bey:
". . . I repeat, my firm conviction is that the Egyptians came
from Asia long before the historical period, having traversed the
Suez promontory, that bridge of all the nations, and found a new
fatherland on the banks of the Nile."
An inscription on a Hammamat rock says that Sankara, the last
Pharaoh of the eleventh dynasty, sent a nobleman to Punt: "I was
sent on a ship to Punt, to bring back some aromatic gum, gathered
by the princes of the Red Land."
Commenting on this inscription, Brugsch-Bey explains that "under
the name of Punt the ancient inhabitants of Chemi meant a distant
land surrounded by a great ocean, full of mountains and valleys,
and rich in ebony and other expensive woods, in perfumes, precious
stones and metals, in wild beasts, giraffes, leopards and big monkeys."
The name of a monkey in Egypt was Kaff, or Kafi, in Hebrew Koff,
in Sanskrit Kapi.
In the eyes of the ancient Egyptians, this Punt was a sacred land,
because Punt or Pa-nuter was "the original land of the gods, who
left it under the leadership of A-Mon [Manu-Vena of Kalluka-Bhatta?]
Hor and Hator, and duly arrived in Chemi."
Hanuman has a decided family likeness to the Egyptian Cynocephalus,
and the emblem of Osiris and Shiva is the same. Qui vivra verra!
Our return journey was very agreeable. We had adapted ourselves
to Peri's movements. and felt ourselves first-rate jockeys. But
for a whole week afterwards we could hardly walk.
A City Of The Dead
What would be your choice if you had to choose between being blind
and being deaf? Nine people out of ten answer this question by
positively preferring deafness to blindness. And one whose good
fortune it has been to contemplate, even for a moment, some fantastic
fairy-like corner of India, this country of lace-like marble palaces
and enchanting gardens, would willingly add to deafness, lameness
of both legs, rather than lose such sights.
We are told that Saadi, the great poet, bitterly complained of his
friends looking tired and indifferent while he praised the beauty
and charm of his lady-love. "If the happiness of contemplating
her wonderful beauty," remonstrated he, "was yours, as it is mine,
you could not fail to understand my verses, which, alas, describe
in such meagre and inadequate terms the rapturous feelings
experienced by every one who sees her even from a distance!"
I fully sympathize with the enamoured poet, but cannot condemn
his friends who never saw his lady-love, and that is why I tremble
lest my constant rhapsodies on India should bore my readers as much
as Saadi bored his friends. But what, I pray you, is the poor
narrator to do, when new, undreamed-of charms are daily discovered
in the lady-love in question? Her darkest aspects, abject and
immoral as they are, and sometimes of such a nature as to excite
your horror--even these aspects are full of some wild poetry, of
originality, which cannot be met with in any other country. It is
not unusual for a European novice to shudder with disgust at some
features of local everyday life; but at the same time these very
sights attract and fascinate the attention like a horrible nightmare.
We had plenty of these experiences whilst our ecole buissoniere
lasted. We spent these days far from railways and from any other
vestige of civilization. Happily so, because European civilization
does not suit India any better than a fashionable bonnet would
suit a half naked Peruvian maiden, a true "daughter of Sun,"
of Cortes' time.
All the day long we wandered across rivers and jungles, passing
villages and ruins of ancient fortresses, over local-board roads
between Nassik and Jubblepore, traveling with the aid of bullock
cars, elephants, horses, and very often being carried in palks.
At nightfall we put up our tents and slept anywhere. These days
offered us an opportunity of seeing that man decidedly can surmount
trying and even dangerous conditions of climate, though, perhaps,
in a passive way, by mere force of habit. In the afternoons, when we,
white people, were very nearly fainting with the roasting heat, in
spite of thick cork topis and such shelter as we could procure,
and even our native companions had to use more than the usual
supplies of muslin round their heads--the Bengali Babu traveled
on horseback endless miles, under the vertical rays of the hot sun,
bareheaded, protected only by his thick crop of hair. The sun
has no influence whatever on Bengali skulls. They are covered
only on solemn occasions, in cases of weddings and great festivities.
Their turbans are useless adornments, like flowers in a European
Bengali Babus are born clerks; they invade all railroad stations,
post and telegraph offices and Government law courts. Wrapped in
their white muslin toga virilis, their legs bare up to the knees,
their heads unprotected, they proudly loaf on the platforms of
railway stations, or at the entrances of their offices, casting
contemptuous glances on the Mahrattis, who dearly love their
numerous rings and lovely earrings in the upper part of their
right ears. Bengalis, unlike the rest of the Hindus, do not paint
sectarian signs on their foreheads. The only trinket they do not
completely despise is an expensive necklace; but even this is not
common. Contrary to all expectations, the Mahrattis, with all
their little effeminate ways, are the bravest tribe of India,
gallant and experienced soldiers, a fact which has been
demonstrated by centuries of fighting; but Bengal has never as
yet produced a single soldier out of its sixty-five million
inhabitants. Not a single Bengali is to be found in the native
regiments of the British army. This is a strange fact, which I
refused to believe at first, but which has been confirmed by many
English officers and by Bengalis themselves. But with all this,
they are far from being cowardly. Their wealthy classes do lead
a somewhat effeminate life, but their zemindars and peasantry are
undoubtedly brave. Disarmed by their present Government, the
Bengali peasants go out to meet the tiger, which in their country
is more ferocious than elsewhere, armed only with a club, as
composedly as they used to go with rifles and swords.
Many out-of-the-way paths and groves which most probably had never
before been trodden by a European foot, were visited by us during
these short days. Gulab-Lal-Sing was absent, but we were accompanied
by a trusted servant of his, and the welcome we met with almost
everywhere was certainly the result of the magic influence of his
name. If the wretched, naked peasants shrank from us and shut their
doors at our approach, the Brahmans were as obliging as could be desired.
The sights around Kandesh, on the way to Thalner and Mhau, are very
picturesque. But the effect is not entirely due to Nature's beauty.
Art has a good deal to do with it, especially in Mussulman cemeteries.
Now they are all more or less destroyed and deserted, owing to the
increase of the Hindu inhabitants around them, and to the Mussulman
princes, once the rightful lords of India, being expelled. Mussulmans
of the present day are badly off and have to put up with more
humiliations than even the Hindus. But still they have left many
memorials behind them, and, amongst others, their cemeteries. The
Mussulman fidelity to the dead is a very touching feature of their
character. Their devotion to those that are gone is always more
demonstrative than their affection for the living members of their
families, and almost entirely concentrates itself on their last
abodes. In proportion as their notions of paradise are coarse and
material, the appearance of their cemeteries is poetical, especially
in India. One may pleasantly spend whole hours in these shady,
delightful gardens, amongst their white monuments crowned with
turbans, covered with roses and jessamine and sheltered with rows
of cypresses. We often stopped in such places to sleep and dine.
A cemetery near Thalner is especially attractive. Out of several
mausoleums in a good state of preservation the most magnificent
is the monument of the family of Kiladar, who was hanged on the
city tower by the order of General Hislop in 1818. Four other
mausoleums attracted our attention and we learned that one of them
is celebrated throughout India. It is a white marble octagon,
covered from top to bottom with carving, the like of which could
not be found even in Pere La Chaise. A Persian inscription on its
base records that it cost one hundred thousand rupees.
By day, bathed in the hot rays of the sun, its tall minaret-like
outline looks like a block of ice against the blue sky. By night,
with the aid of the intense, phosphorescent moonlight proper to
India, it is still more dazzling and poetical. The summit looks
as if it were covered with freshly fallen snow-crystals. Raising
its slender profile above the dark background of bushes, it suggests
some pure midnight apparition, soaring over this silent abode of
destruction and lamenting what will never return. Side by side
with these cemeteries rise the Hindu ghats, generally by the river
bank. There really is something grand in the ritual of burning
the dead. Witnessing this ceremony the spectator is struck with
the deep philosophy underlying the fundamental idea of this custom.
In the course of an hour nothing remains of the body but a few
handfuls of ashes. A professional Brahman, like a priest of death,
scatters these ashes to the winds over a river. The ashes of what
once lived and felt, loved and hated, rejoiced and wept, are thus
given back again to the four elements: to Earth, which fed it
during such a long time and out of which it grew and developed;
to Fire, emblem of purity, that has just devoured the body in
order that the spirit may be rid of everything impure, and may
freely gravitate to the new sphere of posthumous existence, where
every sin is a stumbling block on the way to "Moksha," or infinite
bliss; to Air, which it inhaled and through which it lived, and
to Water, which purified it physically and spiritually, and is
now to receive its ashes into her pure bosom.
The adjective "pure" must be understood in the figurative sense
of the mantram. Generally speaking, the rivers of India, beginning
with the thrice sacred Ganges, are dreadfully dirty, especially
near villages and towns.
In these rivers about two hundred millions of people daily cleanse
themselves from the tropical perspiration and dirt. The corpses
of those who are not worth burning are thrown in the same rivers,
and their number is great, because it includes all Shudras, pariahs,
and various other outcasts, as well as Brahman children under three
years of age.
Only rich and high-born people are buried pompously. It is for
them that the sandal-wood fires are lit after sunset; it is for
them that mantrams are chanted, and for them that the gods are
invoked. But Shudras must not listen on any account to the divine
words dictated at the beginning of the world by the four Rishis
to Veda Vyasa, the great theologian of Aryavarta. No fires for them,
no prayers. As during his life a Shudra never approaches a temple
nearer than seven steps, so even after death he cannot be put on
the same level with the "twice-born."
Brightly burn the fires, extending like a fiery serpent along the
river. The dark outlines of strange, wildly-fantastical figures
silently move amongst the flames. Sometimes they raise their arms
towards the sky, as if in a prayer, sometimes they add fuel to the
fires and poke them with long iron pitchforks. The dying flames
rise high, creeping and dancing, sputtering with melted human fat
and shooting towards the sky whole showers of golden sparks, which
are instantly lost in the clouds of black smoke.
This on the right side of the river. Let us now see what is going
on on the left. In the early hours of the morning, when the red
fires, the black clouds of miasmas, and the thin figures of the
fakirs grow dim and vanish little by little, when the smell of
burned flesh is blown away by the fresh wind which rises at the
approach of the dawn, when, in a word, the right side of the river
with its ghotas plunges into stillness and silence, to be reawakened
when the evening comes, processions of a different kind appear on
the left bank. We see groups of Hindu men and women in sad, silent
trains. They approach the river quietly. They do not cry, and
have no rituals to perform. We see two men carrying something
long and thin, wrapped in an old red rug. Holding it by the head
and feet they swing it into the dirty, yellowish waves of the river.
The shock is so violent that the red rug flies open and we behold
the face of a young woman tinged with dark green, who quickly
disappears in the river. Further on another group; an old man
and two young women. One of them, a little girl of ten, small,
thin, hardly fully developed, sobs bitterly. She is the mother
of a stillborn child, whose body is to be thrown in the river.
Her weak voice monotonously resounds over the shore, and her
trembling hands are not strong enough to lift the poor little
corpse that is more like a tiny brown kitten than a human being.
The old man tries to console her, and, taking the body in his own
hands, enters the water and throws it right in the middle. After
him both the women get into the river, and, having plunged seven
times to purify themselves from the touch of a dead body, they
return home, their clothes dripping with wet. In the meanwhile
vultures, crows and other birds of prey gather in thick clouds
and considerably retard the progress of the bodies down the river.
Occasionally some half-stripped skeleton is caught by the reeds,
and stranded there helplessly for weeks, until an outcast, whose
sad duty it is to busy himself all his life long with such unclean
work, takes notice of it, and catching it by the ribs with his
long hook, restores it to its highway towards the ocean.
But let us leave the river bank, which is unbearably hot in spite
of the early hour. Let us bid good-bye to the watery cemetery
of the poor. Disgusting and heart-rending are such sights in
the eyes of a European! And unconsciously we allow the light wings
of reverie to transport us to the far North, to the peaceful village
cemeteries where there are no marble monuments crowned with turbans,
no sandal-wood fires, no dirty rivers to serve the purpose of a
last resting place, but where humble wooden crosses stand in rows,
sheltered by old birches. How peacefully our dead repose under
the rich green grass! None of them ever saw these gigantic palms,
sumptuous palaces and pagodas covered with gold. But on their
poor graves grow violets and lilies of the valley, and in the
spring evenings nightingales sing to them in the old birch-trees.
No nightingales ever sing for me, either in the neighboring groves,
or in my own heart. The latter least of all.
Let us stroll along this wall of reddish stone. It will lead us
to a fortress once celebrated and drenched with blood, now harmless
and half ruined, like many another Indian fortress. Flocks of
green parrots, startled by our approach, fly from under every
cavity of the old wall, their wings shining in the sun like so
many flying emeralds. This territory is accursed by Englishmen.
This is Chandvad, where, during the Sepoy mutiny, the Bhils streamed
from their ambuscades like a mighty mountain torrent, and cut many
an English throat.
Tatva, an ancient Hindu book, treating of the geography of the
times of King Asoka (250-300 B.C.), teaches us that the Mahratti
territory spreads up to the wall of Chandvad or Chandor, and that
the Kandesh country begins on the other side of the river. But
English people do not believe in Tatva or in any other authority
and want us to learn that Kandesh begins right at the foot of