|Three elephants, Karla cave entrance|
Agra, April 28, 1879.
My dear Doctor, my very dear friend:
How I do regret that you are not with us I How often I think of you, and wonder whether the whole of your archeological and poetical soul would not jump out in fits of rapture were you but to travel with us now, instead of squatting with your legs upon the ceiling, no doubt,-in your cold room of Orange street! Here we are travelling for this last month by rail, bullock- cart, elephant, camel and bunder boat, stopping from one to three days in every town, village and port; seeing subterranean India, not the upper one, and-part and parcel in the archaic ages of Manu, Kapilas and Aryanism.
True, ever since the beginning of March we are being toasted, baked and roasted. The sun is fierce, and the slightest breeze sends waves of red hot air, puffs like from a baking furnace, full into your face and throat, and suffocates you at every step. But how I love the ineffable coolness and glory of the mornings and after sunset here. The moon of America, is at best, when compared with that of India, like a smoky olive-oil lamp.
We get up at four and go to bed at nine. We travel more by night and in the morning and afternoons. But I want to tell you something of our travelling. I will skip the landscape parts of it, and stop only at the ruins of old cities and spots, deemed ancient already, during the Macedonian invasion-if there ever was one-by the historians in Alexander's suite.
|Karla Caves, entrance|
The first temple, after having passed a large entrance-portico, fifty-two feet wide with sculptured figures and three colossal elephants barring the way, is dedicated to Siva, and must be of later date. It is of oblong form and reminds strikingly of a Catholic cathedral.(3)
|Great Chatya, Karla Caves|
It is one hundred and twenty-six feet long and forty-six broad, with a circular apse. The roof, dome-like, rests on forty-one gigantic pillars with rich and magnificent sculptured figures. As you can see in Fergusson's Cave-Temples, the linga is a dome surmounted by a wooden chattar or umbrella, under which used to sit the Maharaj-Hierophant, and judge his people. The linga is evidently empty inside, and used to be illuminated from within during the initiation mysteries (this is esoteric, not historical), and must have presented an imposing sight.
I know that it has a secret passage inside leading to immense subterranean chambers, but no one as yet has been able to find out the outward entrance. Tradition says that the Mussulmans, looking out for the pagoda-treasures, had once upon a time destroyed some masonry around the linga in order to penetrate into it. But lo! there began creeping out of it gigantic ants and snakes by the million, who attacked the invaders, and, having killed many of them, who died in fearful tortures, the Mussulmans hurried to repair the damage done and retired.
A SHRINE OF THE SAKTI.
Right above this temple are two stories more of temples to which one has to climb acrobat-like, or be dragged upward. All the face of the ghaut' (mountain) (4) is excavated, and the neighboring temple is dedicated to Devaki. Passing on: after having passed a subterranean tank full of water, and mounted four dilapidated steps to a balcony with interior rock benches and four pillars, one enters into a large room full of echoes because surrounded by eleven small cells, all sculptured.
|Image from Temple of Ekvira Devi|
I cannot say that we felt very secure while sleeping on that balcony, without windows or doors, with nothing between us and the tigers who roam there at night. Fortunately, we were visited that night only by a wild cat which climbed the steep rock to have a look at us, or rather at our chickens, perhaps.
NORTHWARD TO ALLAHABAD.Returning through Bombay, we went to Allahabad, eight hundred and forty-five miles from Bombay the ancient Pragayana of the Hindus, and held sacred by them, as it is built at the confluence of the Ganges and Jumna rivers. One of Asoka's columns is yet in the centre of Akbar's Fort.(6) But it was so hot-one hundred and forty-four degrees in the sun-that we ran away to Benares, five hours distant from there.
BENARES, THE HOLY CITY. There's much to see in ancient Kasika, the sacred. It is the Rome of Hindu pilgrims, as you know. According to the latest statistics there are five thousand temples and shrines in it. Conspicuous among all is the great Durga Temple, with its celebrate
|Durga Temple, Varanasi|
CAWNPUR AND THE MASSACRE.
From thence to Cawnpur, the city of Nana Sahib, the place where seventy-eight English people were murdered during the Mutiny, and thrown by him into a well. Now a magnificent marble monument, a winged angel, presumably a female, stands over it; and no Hindu is allowed inside!! The garden around is lovely, and the inscription on the tombs of the slaughtered ones admirable. ''Thou will not, 0 Lord,'' says one of them from Joel (I don't remember verbatim) "allow the heathen to prevail over thy people, "-or something to that effect.(7) The heathen are termed ''criminal rebels'' on every tomb!
|Kanpur Well site|