Kannoge, now comparatively a Native village, situated about midway between Cawnpore and Futtyghur, is said to have been the capital of Hindoostaun, and according to Hindoo tradition was the seat of the reigning Rajahs two thousand years prior to the invasion of India by the Sultaun Timoor. If credit be given to current report, the Hindoos deny that the Deluge extended to India as confidently as the Chinese declare that it never reached China.
These accounts I merely state as the belief of the Hindoos, and those the least educated persons of the population. The Mussulmauns, however, are of a different opinion; the account they give of the Deluge resembles the Jewish, and doubtless the information Mahumud has conveyed to his followers was derived from that source.
Some of the people are weak enough to conjecture that Kannoge was founded by Cain. It bears, however, striking features of great antiquity, and possesses many sufficient evidences of its former extent and splendour to warrant the belief that it has been the capital of no mean kingdom in ages past. The remarks I was enabled to make during a residence of two years at Kannoge may not be deemed altogether uninteresting to my readers, although my descriptions may be 'clouded with imperfections'. I will not, therefore, offer any useless apologies for introducing them in my present Letter.
Kannoge, known as the oldest capital of the far-famed kingdom of Hindoostaun, is now a heap upon heap of ruins, proclaiming to the present generation, even in her humility, how vast in extent and magnificent in style she once was, when inhabited by the rulers of that great empire. The earth entombs emblems of greatness, of riches, and of man's vain-glorious possessions; buildings have been reared by successive generations on mounds which embowelled the ruined mansions of predecessors.
The killaah (castle) in which during two years we shared an abode with sundry crows, bats, scorpions, centipedes, and other living things, was rebuilt about seven hundred years ago, on the original foundation which, as tradition states, has continued for more than two thousand years. The materials of which the walls are constructed are chiefly bricks.
It is worthy of remark, that the bricks of ancient manufacture in India give evidence of remarkable durability, and are very similar in quality to the Roman bricks occasionally discovered in England. At Delhi I have met with bricks that have been undoubtedly standing six or seven centuries; and at Kannoge, if tradition speak true, the same articles which were manufactured upwards of two thousand years ago, and which retain the colour of the brightest red, resemble more the hardest stone than the things we call bricks of the present day. After the minutest examination of these relics of ancient labour, I am disposed to think that the clay must have been more closely kneaded, and the bricks longer exposed to the action of fire than they are by the present mode of manufacturing them; and such is their durability, that they are only broken with the greatest difficulty.
The killaah was originally a fortified castle, and is situated near the river Kaullee Nuddie, a branch or arm of the Ganges, the main stream of which flows about two miles distant. During the periodical rains, the Ganges overflows its banks, and inundates the whole tract of land intervening between the two rivers, forming an extent of water more resembling a sea than a river.
At the time we occupied the old castle, scarcely one room could be called habitable; and I learned with regret after the rains of 1826 and 1827, which were unusually heavy, that the apartments occupied since the Honourable East India Company's rule by their taasseel-dhaars, (sub-collectors of the revenue), were rendered entirely useless as a residence.
The comfortless interior of that well-remembered place was more than compensated by the situation. Many of my English acquaintance, who honoured me by visits at Kannoge, will, I think, agree with me, that the prospect from the killaah was indescribably grand. The Ganges and the Kaullee Nuddee were presented at one view; and at certain seasons of the year, as far as the eye could reach, their banks, and well-cultivated fields, clothed in a variety of green, seemed to recall the mind to the rivers of England, and their precious borders of grateful herbage. Turning in another direction, the eye was met by an impenetrable boundary of forest trees, magnificent in growth, and rich in foliage; at another glance, ruins of antiquity, or the still remaining tributes to saints; the detached villages; the sugar plantations; the agriculturists at their labour; the happy peasantry laden with their purchases from the bazaars; the Hindoo women and children, bearing their earthen-vessels to and from the river for supplies of water: --each in their turn formed objects of attraction from without, that more than repaid the absence of ordinary comforts in the apartment from which they were viewed. The quiet calm of this habitation, unbroken by the tumultuous sounds of a city, was so congenial to my taste, that when obliged to quit it, I felt almost as much regret as when I heard that the rains had destroyed the place which had been to me a home of peaceful enjoyment.
The city of Kannoge has evidently suffered the severities of a shock from an earthquake: the present inhabitants cannot tell at what period this occurred, but it must have been some centuries since, for the earth is grown over immense ruins, in an extensive circuit, forming a strong but coarse carpet of grass on the uneven mounds containing the long-buried mansions of the great. The rapid streams from the periodical rains forcing passages between the ruins, has in many places formed deep and frightful ravines, as well as rugged roads and pathways for the cattle and the traveller.
After each heavy fall of rain, the peasantry and children are observed minutely searching among the ruins for valuables washed out with the loose earth and bricks by the force of the streams, and, I am told, with successful returns for their toil; jewels, gold and silver ornaments, coins of gold and silver, all of great antiquity, are thus secured; these are bought by certain merchants of the city, by whom they are retailed to English travellers, who generally when on a river voyage to or from the Upper Provinces, contrive, if possible, to visit Kannoge to inspect the ruins, and purchase curiosities.
There is a stately range of buildings at no great distance from the killaah (castle), in a tolerable state of preservation, called 'Baallee Peer Kee Durgah'. The entrance is by a stone gateway of very superior but ancient workmanship, and the gates of massy wood studded with iron. I observed that on the wood framework over the entrance, many a stray horseshoe has been nailed, which served to remind me of Wales, where it is so commonly seen on the doors of the peasantry. I am not aware but that the same motives may have influenced the two people in common.
To the right of the entrance stands a large mosque, which, I am told, was built by Baallee himself; who, it is related, was a remarkably pious man of the Mussulmaun persuasion, and had acquired so great celebrity amongst his countrymen as a perfect durweish, as to be surnamed peer (saint). The exact time when he flourished at Kannoge, I am unable to say; but judging from the style of architecture, and other concurring circumstances, it must have been built at different periods, some parts being evidently of very ancient structure.
There are two mukhburrahs, within the range, which viewed from the main road, stand in a prominent situation: one of these mukhburrahs was built by command, or in the reign (I could not learn which), of Shah Allumgeer over the remains of Ballee Peer; and the second contains some of the peer's immediate relatives.
From the expensive manner in which these buildings are constructed, some idea may be formed of the estimation this pious man was held in by his countrymen. The mausoleums are of stone, and elevated on a base of the same material, with broad flights of steps to ascend by. The stone must have been brought hither from a great distance, as I do not find there is a single quarry nearer than Delhi or Agra. There are people in charge of this Durgah who voluntarily exile themselves from the society of the world, in order to lead lives of strict devotion and under the imagined presiding influence of the saint's pure spirit; they keep the sanctuary from pollution, burn lamps nightly on the tomb, and subsist by the occasional contributions of the charitable visitors and their neighbours.
Within the boundary of the Durgah, I remarked a very neat stone tomb, in good preservation: this, I was told, was the burying-place of the Kalipha (head servant) who had attended on and survived Baallee Peer; this man had saved money in the service of the saint, which he left to be devoted to the repairs of the Durgah; premising that his tomb should be erected near that of his sainted master, and lamps burned every night over the graves, which is faithfully performed by the people in charge of the Durgah.
After visiting the ruins of Hindoo temples, which skirt the borders of the river in many parts of the district of Kannoge, the eye turns with satisfaction to the ancient mosques of the Mussulmauns, which convey conviction to the mind, that even in the remote ages of Hindoostaun, there have been men who worshipped God; whilst the piles of mutilated stone idols also declare the zealous Mussulmaun to have been jealous for his Creator's glory. I have noticed about Kannoge hundreds of these broken or defaced images collected together in heaps (generally under trees), which were formerly the objects to which the superstitious Hindoos bowed in worship, until the more intelligent Mussulmauns strayed into the recesses of the deepest darkness to show the idolaters that God could not be represented by a block of stone.
In a retired part of Kannoge, I was induced to visit the remains of an immense building, expecting the gratification of a fine prospect from its towering elevation; my surprise, however, on entering the portal drove from my thoughts the first object of my visit.
The whole building is on a large scale, and is, together with the gateway, steps, roof, pillars, and offices, composed entirely of stone: from what I had previously conceived of the ancient Jewish temples, this erection struck me as bearing a strong resemblance. It appears that there is not the slightest portion of either wood or metal used in the whole construction; and, except where some sort of cement was indispensable, not a trace of mortar is to be discovered in the whole fabric. The pillars of the colonnade, which form three sides of the square, are singular piles of stone, erected with great exactness in the following order:--
A broad block of stone forms the base; on the centre is raised a pillar of six feet by two square, on this rests a circular stone, resembling a grindstone, on which is placed another upright pillar, and again a circular, until five of each are made to rest on the base to form a pillar; the top circulars or caps are much larger than the rest; and on these the massy stone beams for the roof are supported. How these ponderous stones forming the whole roof were raised, unacquainted as these people ever have been with machinery, is indeed a mystery sufficient to impress on the weak-minded a current report amongst the Natives, that the whole building was erected in one night by supernatural agency, from materials which had formerly been used in the construction of a Hindoo temple, but destroyed by the zeal of the Mussulmauns soon after their invasion of Hindoostaun.
The pillars I examined narrowly, and could not find any traces of cement or fastening; yet, excepting two or three which exhibit a slight curve, the whole colonnade is in a perfect state. The hall, including the colonnade, measures one hundred and eighty feel by thirty, and has doubtless been, at some time or other, a place of worship, in all probability for the Mussulmauns, there being still within the edifice a sort of pulpit of stone evidently intended for the reader, both from its situation and construction; this has sustained many rude efforts from the chisel in the way of ornament not strictly in accordance with the temple itself; besides which, there are certain tablets engraved in the Persian and Arabic character, which contain verses or chapters from the Khoraun; so that it may be concluded, whatever was the original design of the building, it has in later periods served the purposes of a mosque.
In some parts of this building traces exist to prove that the materials of which it has been formed originally belonged to the Hindoos, for upon many of the stones there are carved figures according with their mythology; such stones, however, have been placed generally upside down, and attempts to deface the graven figures are conspicuous, --they are all turned inside, whilst the exterior appearance is rough and uneven. It may be presumed they were formerly outward ornaments to a temple of some sort, most likely a 'Bootkhanah' (the house for idols).
I have visited the Durgah, called Mukhdoom Jhaaunneer, situated in the heart of the present city, which is said to have been erected nearly a thousand years ago, by the order of a Mussulmaun King; whether of Hindoostaun or not, I could not learn. It bears in its present dilapidated state, evidences both of good taste and superior skill in architecture, as well as of costliness in the erection, superior to any thing I expected to find amongst the ancient edifices of Hindoostaun.
The antique arches supporting the roof, rest on pillars of a good size; the whole are beautifully carved. The dome, which was originally in the centre of this pavilion, has been nearly destroyed by time; and although the light thus thrown into the interior through the aperture, has a good effect, it pained me to see this noble edifice falling to decay for the want of timely repairs. Notwithstanding this Durgah is said to have been built so many years, the stone-work, both of the interior and exterior, is remarkably fresh in appearance, and would almost discredit its reputed age. The walls and bastions of the enclosure appear firm on their foundations; the upper part only seems at all decayed.
The side rooms to the Durgah, of which there are several on each side of the building, have all a fretwork of stone very curiously cut, which serves for windows, and admits light and air to the apartments, and presents a good screen to persons within; this it should seem was the only contrivance for windows in general use by the ancient inhabitants of Hindoostaun; and even at the present day (excepting a few Native gentlemen who have benefited by English example), glazed windows are not seen in any of the mansions in the Upper Provinces of India.
I noticed that in a few places in these buildings, where the prospect is particularly fine, small arches were left open, from whence the eye is directed to grand and superb scenery, afforded by the surrounding country, and the remains of stately buildings. From one of these arches the killaah is seen to great advantage, at the distance of two miles: both the Durgah and the killaah are erected on high points of land. I have often, whilst wandering outside the killaah, looked up at the elevation with sensations of mistrust, that whilst doing so it might, from its known insecure state, fall and bury me in its ruins; but viewing it from that distance, and on a level with the Durgah, the appearance was really gratifying.
At Kannoge are to be seen many mukhburrahs, said to have been erected over the remains of those Hindoos who at different periods had been converted to the Mussulmaun faith. This city, I am informed, has been the chosen spot of righteous men and sainted characters during all periods of the Mussulmaun rule in Hindoostaun, by whose example many idolators were brought to have respect for the name of God, and in some instances even to embrace the Mahumudan faith. Amongst the many accounts of remarkable conversions related to me by the old inhabitants of that city, I shall select one which, however marvellous in some points, is nevertheless received with full credit by the faithful of the present day:--
'A very pious Syaad took up his residence many hundred years since at Kannoge, when the chief part of the inhabitants were Hindoos, and, as might be expected, many of them were Brahmins. He saw with grief the state of darkness with which the minds of so many human beings were imbued, and without exercising any sort of authority over them, he endeavoured by the mildest persuasions to convince these people that the adoration they paid to graven images, and the views they entertained of the river Ganges possessing divine properties, were both absurd and wicked.
'The Syaad used his best arguments to explain to them the power and attributes of the only true God; and though his labours were unceasing, and his exemplary life made him beloved, yet for a long period all his endeavours proved unsuccessful. His advice, however, was at all times tendered with mildness, his manners so humble, and his devotion so remarkable, that in the course of time the people flocked around him, whenever he was visible, to listen to his discourse, which generally contained some words of well-timed exhortation and kind instruction. His great aim was directed towards enlightening the Brahmins, by whom, he was aware, the opinions of the whole population were influenced, and to whom alone was confined such knowledge as at that remote period was conveyed by education.
'Ardently zealous in the great work he had commenced, the Syaad seemed undaunted by the many obstacles he had to contend with. Always retaining his temper unruffled, he combined perseverance with his solicitude, and trusted in God for a happy result in His good time. On an occasion of a great Hindoo festival the population of the then immense city were preparing to visit the Ganges, where they expected to be purified from their sins by ablution in that holy river, as they term it. The Ganges, at that period, I understand, flowed some miles distant from the city.
'The Syaad took this occasion to exhort the multitude to believe in God; and after a preliminary discourse, explaining the power of Him whom he alone worshipped, he asked the people if they would be persuaded to follow the only true God, if His power should be demonstrated to them by the appearance of the river they adored flowing past the city of Kannoge, instead of, as at that moment, many miles distant. Some of his auditory laughed at the idea, and derided the speaker; others doubted, and asked whether the God whom the Mussulmauns worshipped possessed such power as the Syaad had attributed to Him; many Brahmins, however, agreed to the terms proposed, solemnly assuring the holy man he should find them converts to his faith if this miracle should be effected by the God he worshipped.
'It is related that the Syaad passed the whole day and night in devout prayers; and when the morning dawned the idolators saw the river Ganges flowing past the city in all the majesty of that mighty stream. The Brahmins were at once convinced, and this evidence of God's power worked the way to the conversion of nearly the whole population of Kannoge.'
The number of the inhabitants may be supposed to have been immensely great at the period in question, as it is related that on the occasion of their conversion the Brahmins threw away the cords which distinguish them from other castes of Hindoos, (each cord weighing about a drachm English), which when collected together to be consigned to the flames, were weighed, and found to be upwards of forty-five seers; a seer in that province being nearly equal to two pounds English.
The Brahmins, it will be recollected, form but a small portion of that community, and are the priesthood of the Hindoos, very similar in their order to the Levites among the children of Israel.
There are still remaining traces of monuments erected over the remains of converted Hindoos, which have been particularly pointed out to me by intelligent men, from whom I have received information of that great work which alone would render Kannoge a place of interest without another object to attract the observation of a reflecting mind.
Notwithstanding that the Ganges continues to water the banks of Kannoge, and that other proofs exist of idolatry having ceased for a considerable time to disgrace the inhabitants, it is still partially occupied by Hindoos, who retain the custom of their forefathers according to the original, whether descendants of the converted, or fresh settlers is not in my power to determine; but I may remark, without prejudice, from what I have been enabled to glean in conversation with a few Hindoos of this city, that they have a better idea of one over-ruling Supreme power than I have ever been able to find elsewhere in the same class of people.
I was much interested with an old blacksmith, who was employed at the killaah. On one occasion I asked him what views he entertained of the Source from whence all good proceeds--whether he believed in God? He replied promptly, and as if surprised that such a doubt could exist, 'Yes, surely; it is to Allah (God) the supreme, I am indebted for my existence; Allah created all things, the world and all that is in it: I could not have been here at this moment, but for the goodness of Allah!'
There are amongst them men of good moral character, yet in a state of deplorable ignorance, a specimen of which may be here noticed in a person of property employed in the service of Government, at the killaah; he is of the caste denominated Burghutt, --one of the tribe which professes so great reverence for life, as to hold it sinful to destroy the meanest reptile or insect; and, therefore, entirely abstain from eating either fish, flesh, or fowl: --yet, when I pressed for his undisguised opinion, I found that he not only denied the existence of God, but declared it was his belief the world formed itself.
I was induced to walk three miles from the killaah, on a cool day in December, to view the remains of a piece of sculpture of great antiquity. I confess myself but little acquainted with Hindoo mythology, and therefore my description will necessarily be imperfect. The figure of Luchmee is represented in relief, on a slab of stone eight feet by four, surrounded by about a hundred figures in different attitudes. Luchmee, who is of course the most prominent, is figured with eight arms; in his right hands, are sabres, in his left, shields; his left foot upon the hand of a female, and the right on a snake. This figure is about four feet high, and finely formed, standing in a martial attitude; his dress (unlike that of the modern Hindoo) is represented very tight, and, altogether, struck me as more resembling the European than the Asiatic: on his head I remarked a high-crowned military cap without a peak: the feet were bare. There can be no doubt this figure is emblematical; the Hindoos, however, make it an object of their impure and degrading worship.
I could not help expressing my surprise on finding this idol in such excellent condition, having had so many samples throughout Kannoge of the vengeance exercised by Mussulmaun zeal, on the idols of the Hindoos. My guide assured me, that this relic of antiquity had only been spared from the general destruction of by-gone periods by its having been buried, through the supposed influence of unconverted venerating Brahmins; but that within the last thirty years it had been discovered and dug out of the earth, to become once more an ornament to the place. My own ideas lead me to suppose that it might have been buried by the same convulsion of the earth which overturned the idolatrous city.
I observed that a very neat little building, of modern date, was erected over this antiquity, and on inquiry found that the Hindoos were indebted to the liberality of a lady for the means of preserving this relic from the ravages of the seasons.
There is in the same vicinity a second piece of mythological sculpture, in a less perfect state than Luchmee, the sabred arm of which has been struck off, and the figure otherwise mutilated by the zealous Mussulmauns, who have invariably defaced or broken the idols wherever they have been able to do so with impunity. On a platform of stone and earth, near this place, a finely-formed head of stone is placed, which my guide gravely assured me was of very ancient date, and represented Adam, the father of men!
I heard with pain during my sojourn at Kannoge, that the house of God had been made the resort of thieves; a well-known passage of Scripture struck me forcibly when the transaction was related.
I have before stated that the mosque is never allowed to be locked or closed to the public. Beneath the one I am about to speak of (a very ancient building near to Baallee Peer's Durgah), is a vaulted suite of rooms denominated taarkhanah, intended as a retreat from the intense heat of the day; such as is to be met with in most great men's residences in India. In this place, a gang of thieves from the city had long found a secure and unsuspected spot wherein to deposit their plunder. It happened, however, that very strict search was instituted after some stolen property belonging to an individual of Kannoge; whether any suspicions had been excited about the place in question, I do not recollect, but thither the police directed their steps, and after removing some loose earth they discovered many valuable articles, --shawls, gold ornaments, sabres, and other costly articles of plunder. It is presumed, --for the thieves were not known or discovered, --that they could not possibly be Mussulmauns, since the very worst characters among this people hold the house of God in such strict veneration, that they, of all persons, could not be suspected of having selected so sacred a place to deposit the spoils of the plunderer.
The process of obtaining nitre from the earth is practised at Kannoge by the Natives in the most simple way imaginable, without any assistance from art. They discover the spot where nitre is deposited by the small white particles which work through the strata of earth to the surface. When a vein is discovered, to separate the nitre from the earth, the following simple method is resorted to: --large troughs filled with water are prepared, into which the masses of earth containing nitre are thrown; the earth is allowed to remain undisturbed for some time, after which it is well stirred, and then allowed to settle; the water by this means becomes impregnated with the nitre, and is afterwards boiled in large iron pans, from which all the dirt is carefully skimmed, until the water is completely evaporated, and the nitre deposited in the pans.
I know not how far the admixture of animal bodies with the soil may tend to produce this article, but it is a fact, that those places which bear the strongest proofs of having received the bodies of both men and beasts, produce it in the greatest abundance.
The retirement of Kannoge afforded me so many pleasant ways of occupying time, that I always look back to the period of my sojourn at the old killaah with satisfaction. The city is sufficiently distant from the killaah to leave the latter within reach of supplies, without the annoyance of the bustle and confusion inseparable from a Native city. In my daily wanderings a few peasantry only crossed my path; the farmers and citizens were always attentive, and willing to do us such kind offices as we at any time required. They respected, I may say venerated my husband; and I must own that my feelings oblige me to remember with gratitude the place and the people whence I drew so many benefits.
Here I could indulge in long
incurring the penalty of a departure from established custom, which in
most well-populated parts of Hindoostaun restrains European ladies from
the exercise so congenial to their health and cherished habits. Should
any English-woman venture to walk abroad in the city of Lucknow, for
--to express their most liberal opinion of the act, --she would be
by the Natives as a person careless of the world's opinion. But here I
was under no such constraint; my walks were daily recreations after
of quiet study in the most romantic retirement of a ruined killaah,
if luxury consists in perfect satisfaction with the objects by which we
are surrounded, I may boast that it was found here during my two years'
 This is incorrect. Hindu
refer to a deluge, in which Manu, with the help of a fish, makes a
and fastening her cable to the fish's horn, is guided to the mountain,
and then he, alone of human beings, is saved. --J. Muir, Original
Texts, part ii (1860), p. 324.
~~ Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali index page ~~ Glossary ~~ FWP's main page ~~