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and, more especially, for its great antiquity. It is fabled to have been built by Shiva, of pure gold, but has long since degenerated into stone, brick, and clay, in consequence of the sins of the people. It is visited by more pilgrims than any other place in India. When travelling from Benares to Allahabad, a distance of only eighty miles, I estimated the number I saw by the way at twelve thousand, or one hundred and fifty to every mile.
The large building on the right, a part of which is to be seen, is a Mohammedan mosque. It stands upon the place once occupied by a very large and splendid Hindu temple, which contained an image of Shiva, said to have fallen on this spot from heaven. Soon after the commencement of the eighteenth century, Aurungzebe, a celebrated Mohammedan conqueror, demolished the temple and built this mosque. The Hindus say that the indignant idol, to escape the impious hands of the Mohammedans, while tearing down the temple, threw itself into a neighboring well. This circumstance rendered the water very holy and purifying. The well is in a spacious and beautiful pavilion, as represented near the centre of the engraving. It is built of stone, and consists of a roof supported by four rows of columns. On the left of the pavilion are three temples of a pyramidical form. The one in the centre is esteemed the most holy temple in Benares, because it contains the celebrated idol which concealed itself in the well. The Brahmins who officiate at this temple are also esteemed very holy. I will relate a few incidents illustrative of their character. They discovered that an aged pilgrim, who came there to worship, had a large sum of money about him. They told him that, if he would give them his money, and then, in the presence of the idol, cut his throat, the idol would immediately restore him to the vigor and freshness of youth. The deluded man believed them. He gave up all his money, entered the temple, called on the name of Shiva, and then cut his throat from ear to ear. Rev. Mr. Smith, who described to me this horrid transaction, saw him weltering in his blood. Mr. Smith also stated that, soon after he commenced his missionary labors in Benares, the Brahmins murdered a celebrated dancing girl in this temple, for the sake of the jewels which decorated her person. To prevent discovery, they cut off her head and threw it into the Ganges. They then cut her body into small pieces and strewed them about the streets, to be eaten by the dogs and vultures.
There are more than eight thousand religious mendicants in this city who li re on charity. Those who belong to the sect called
Purumhunse have professedly attained to a state of perfection, and are worshipped as gods. They are readily distinguished by their long hair and beards, which are never trimmed or cleansed, and also by their dress, which is neither more comely nor substantial than that which was in fashion before garments were made by sewing together fig-leaves. These reputed gods sometimes come in contact with men who have not attained to their state of perfection. Some years since, Mr. Bird, an English magist: ate of Benares, seeing a Purumhunse in his yard, ordered him to be gone, and threatened to horsewhip hirr, if he ever saw him there agaiu. A few days afterwards he came again, and found that Mr. Bird was faithful to his promise. The natives, who came running from every direction, were greatly enraged that an unholy foreigner should chastise one of their gods. Whatever power the whip may have had in exciting the wrath of this human god, still he did not dare to manifest it; for, had he uttered a single angry word, he would have lost all claim to perfection and divinity. He therefore said, with much apparent coolness and unconcern, “ It is all right, it is perfectly right; for I recollect that, in a former birth, this magistrate was my donkey. I used to ride him beyond his strength, whip and abuse him, and now I am justly suffering for the sins thus committed."
Engraving, No. 36 illustrates a custom which prevails in the northern part of Bengal. I allude to a species of infanticide. When an infant declines in health, the mother imagines that it is under the influence of an evil spirit, to appease whose wrath, she places her child in a basket and suspends it from the branch of a tree in which evil spirits are supposed to reside. The infant is generally visited and fed by its mother for three days. If it be not devoured by ants nor birds of prey, nor die through exposure to the cold and the rain, it is afterwards taken home. In the vicinity of Malda, an infant thus exposed fell from its basket and was immediately seized by a prowling jackal. Fortunately, the Rev. Mr. Thomas happened to pass that way just in time to prevent the child from being devoured. He had the satisfaction of presenting it alive to its mother. On another occasion, as he was passing under the same tree, he found a basket suspended from its branches containing the skeleton of an infant, the flesh having been devoured by the white ants.
Among the Jerejas, a fierce and warlike tribe, who live in the north-west part of Hindustan, great numbers of female infants are