from the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan
Chapter Four -- Vanished Glories
of the centuries* -- *Alexander Csoma de Koros*
-- *Nassik* -- *Shiva-worshippers
vs. Vishnu-worshippers* -- *the story of an elephant's
tail* -- *the Nassik caves* -- *natural
and Egyptian pyramids*
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.
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 Asiatic
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 manuscripts. 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.
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 way lay 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.
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 manuscript 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 manuscript. It was reported that
one of these manuscripts 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.
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 [gooseflesh]. 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.
= = = = = = = = = = =
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 dug out 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.
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 and Musr.
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! [He who lives, will see.]
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.