from the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan
Chapter Three -- In the Karli Caves
Caves* -- *secret libraries* -- *the
subterranean passages of Karli* -- *Elephanta*
-- *a fair at Karli* -- *the
cobra-turbaned Buni* -- *a snake-controlling
stone* -- *Bhuta ascetics* -- *the
Sadhu sect* -- *the Rajputs* -- *ancient
chronicles* -- *Professor Max Muller* -- *Gulab-Sing*
--*a tiger slain by a word* -- *the
Bajah caves* -- *the story of Maroba*
At five o'clock in the morning we had already arrived at the limit not only of driveable, but even of rideable, roads. Our bullock-cart could go no further. The last half mile was nothing but a rough sea of stones. We had either to give up our enterprise, or to climb on all-fours up an almost perpendicular slope two hundred feet high. We were utterly at our wits' end, and meekly gazed at the historical mass before us, not knowing what to do next. Almost at the summit of the mountain, under the overhanging rocks, were a dozen black openings. Hundreds of pilgrims were crawling upwards, looking in their holiday dresses like so many green, pink, and blue ants.
Here, however, our faithful Hindu friends
came to our rescue. One of them, putting the palm of his hand to his mouth,
produced a strident sound something between a shriek and a whistle. This
signal was answered from above by an echo, and the next moment several
half naked Brahmans, hereditary watchmen of the temple, began to descend
the rocks as swiftly and skillfully as wildcats. Five minutes later they
were with us, fastening round our bodies strong leathern straps, and rather
dragging than leading us upwards. Half an hour later, exhausted but perfectly
safe, we stood before the porch of the chief temple, which until then had
been hidden from us by giant trees and cactuses.
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 daghopa, 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.
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 [=Englishman in India] -- 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 a 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.
That is the question. If Fergusson, being bound by facts existing in inscriptions to acknowledge the antiquity 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?
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. Everyone 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.
= = = = = = = = = = =
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.
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 the enigma.
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.
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 contain poison?"
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.
"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 their secret."
"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 [=English in India], 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.
= = = = = = = = = = =
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 we parted.
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 motionless. 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 of mind. An adventure that had threatened to become a tragedy ended in a farce. "What is to be done now?" was our unanimous inquiry. "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.
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 manuscript 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 everyone 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.
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.
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, an, 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 ancient writings?
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.
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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 features.
"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.
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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
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.
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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.
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 and great." This tends to convince scientists that the cave was cut out by Buddhists. Another inscription, in the same cave, but over another 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.
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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 without issue.
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.
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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.