Page images
PDF
EPUB

at which we are situated they resemble mole-hills in a field of grass. These twenty-four monstrous towers down there, grouped like the tents of an encampment, belong to the temple of Chri Ragam, the largest of the sanctuaries of Vishnu—where I am going to-morrow to see the passing of a solemn procession. The town is situated at the base of the overhanging rock, and the complicated network of streets, the profusion of many coloured temples and the mosques that are so white as to look bluish, are marked out as on a highly coloured map; the holy ponds, which seem to swarm with black Aies, shine like mirrors in the sun; these are no Aies, however, but Brahmins at their morning ablutions.

All the sounds of the animated and seething life below mingle as they rise up to us; the noise of the joyful town, the rumbling of zebu carts, the tom-toms and bagpipes of the streets, the croakings of the eternal crows, the screams of the eagles, the psalms from the many temples beneath our feet, and the braying of the sacred horns that never cease to echo round the sides of the rock on which we stand.

[ocr errors]

THE IRON PILLAR OF DELHI

VINCENT A. SMITH

THE great mosque built by Qutb-ud-din 'Ibak in 1191

1 A. D., and subsequently enlarged by his successors, as well as its minaret, the celebrated Qutb Minar, stands on the site of Hindu temples, and within the limits of the fortifications known as the Fort of Rai Pithaura, which were erected in the middle or latter part of the Twelfth Century to protect the Hindu city of Delhi from the attacks of the Mussulmans, who finally captured it in A. D. 1191. These buildings are situated about nine miles south of modern Delhi, or Shahjahanabad, and lie partly within the lands attached to the village of Mihirauli (Mehrauli).

“ The front of the masjid (mosque) is a wall eight feet thick, pierced by a line of five noble arches. The centre arch is twenty-two feet wide and nearly fifty-three feet in height and the side arches are ten feet wide and twentyfour feet high. Through these gigantic arches the first Mussulmans of Delhi entered a magnificent room, 135 feet long and thirty-one feet broad, the roof of which was supported on five rows of the tallest and finest of the Hindu pillars. The mosque is approached through a cloistered court, 145 feet in length from east to west and ninety-six feet in width. In the midst of the west half of this court

[graphic][merged small]

stands the celebrated Iron Pillar, surrounded by cloisters formed of several rows of Hindu columns of infinite variety of design, and of most delicate execution.”

The presence of the infinitely various Hindu columns is explained by the fact that the mosque was constructed out of the materials of twenty-seven Hindu temples, of which some are known to have been Vaisnava and some Jaina. These temples were, with slight exceptions, utterly overthrown, so that one stone was not left upon another. The exceptions that the lower portion of the surrounding walls of the raised terrace on which the mosque stands is the original undisturbed platform of a Hindu temple on the exact site of which, in accordance with the usual practice, the mosque was erected; and that the tall pillars immediately behind the great arch are in their original position.

The Iron Pillar stands in this courtyard at a distance of ten or eleven yards outside the great arches of the mosque. Until Mr. Beglar, in 1871, excavated the base of the pillar, most exaggerated notions of its size were current. Sir Alexander Cunningham himself believed the total length to be not less than sixty feet, and the weight to exceed seventeen tons. Equally mistaken notions were current concerning the material of the pillar which, probably on account of the curious yellowish colour of the upper part of the shaft, was commonly believed to be a casting of brass, bronze, or other mixed metal. An accurate

1 Cunningham.

« PreviousContinue »