Page images
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed]




Sweat of Vishnu, a stagnant pool fed with the washings of idols in neighbouring temples. Thousands go down the stone steps to wash away their sins in the dirty waters.

The temple of Dourga Khound, in the south of the city, usually called by Europeans the “Monkey Temple,” is curiously interesting. This beautiful temple stands beside a broad bank surrounded by stairs. It is built of stone, and coloured a blood-red tint from base to summit. Columns, walls, and spires are all elaborately carved. Though dedicated to Dourga or Satis, the wife of Síva, it is practically consecrated to the monkey god, Hamman. A wonderful collection of monkeys is maintained here; the animals, of all ages, cluster about the walls and spires, or roam the court-yards, chattering and grimacing. The payment of a rupee to the Brahmin for biscuits results in a headlong rush into the temple of hundreds of monkeys: mères de famille, with young ones clinging to them—small monkeys, large monkeys, and every kind of green-grey abomination, all scrambling, kicking, and screaming.”

The Munikurnika Ghât, on the river-side, is the burning-place in which, above all others, an orthodox Hindu would like his body to be consumed. Rich people hasten to Benares as death approaches, that by being burnt at this spot they may attain eternal felicity, and hither corpses are brought for hun

WINDOW OF THE MÂN MUNDER, BENARES. dreds of miles by pious relatives. A dense, horrible smoke bangs over the place, beneath which the attendants stir up the funeral piles with long iron rods, or expedite the burning by pouring oil on the flames. Around are numerous upright slabs in honour of widows who have performed Sáti.

The story of the rite of Suttee is one of the many sad stories of superstition in India. Before its abolition the rite had the prestige of twenty centuries of observance. As regards the word Suttee it is merely the ordinary way of spelling Sáti, “a good wife," from the root

, Sát. To say that a person became a Suttee, or performed the rite of Suttee, is equivalent to saying that she became a model partner.

In 1805, Lord Wellesley, who had passed a law forbidding mothers to throw their

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In the Revenue Survey executed by command of the Emperor Akbar, in 1596, there is a brief entry referring to the rent-paying village of Kalikata. Nearly a century later (in 1686) Job Charnock, president of the English merchants at Hooghly, in consequence of difficulties with the Mogul authorities, removed the English factory to Sutánatí. The settlement soon extended to the adjacent hamlets of Kalikata and Govindpore, and these three mud- villages on the bank of the Hooghly gradually developed into the town of Calcutta. In 1689 the East India Company made it their head-quarters for Bengal, and soon afterwards built the original Fort William, and purchased the three villages from Prince Azim, the son of the Emperor Aurangzebe.

The principal event in the history of Calcutta is its capture in 1756 by Surajah Dowlah, the Nawab or Viceroy of Bengal. This prince, on the death of the old Viceroy, his father, had conceived the idea of driving the English from the country and plundering the fort, which he doubted not was rich with untold treasures. Upon a frivolous pretext he commenced hostilities, and with an army of 70,000 horse and foot and 100 elephants he marched against the city. After several repulses he captured it, and drove the English into the fortress. Here ammunition was short, and the greater number of the occupants took to the ships and sailed down the river. Mr. Holwell and about 250 effective men held the fort for a time; but the ammunition was soon exhausted, several of the defenders were killed, and at length, overpowered by vast numbers, the English yielded. The Nawab promised personal safety to the brave defenders, but in spite of this he shut up the 146 survivors of the defence in a strongly-barred room eighteen feet square, henceforth known in history as the “ Black Hole of Calcutta.” There were only two windows, both opening westward and shadowed by a projecting verandah, so that but little air could enter; other parts of the fort were at the time in flames, and the atmosphere was therefore unusually oppressive, so that the sufferings of the prisoners from thirst and from the foul and stifling air became terrible to the last degree, and in a few hours many died. In the morning it was found that only 23 out of the 146 survived. Of those who escaped from the terrors of that ghastly night, one was a lady, Mrs. Carey, eleven were gentlemen, and the remainder English and native soldiers.

For seven months after this Calcutta was a Mohammedan city, officially styled Alínigar; and at the expiration of that time—namely, in January, 1757came retribution. Five ships of war, carrying 2,400 English soldiers and sepoys, under the command of Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive, sailed up the Hooghly, and after an attack of only two hours' duration Calcutta was re-taken. The town was found to be in a very ruinous condition ; the old Church of St. John and most of the houses of English residents had been demolished, and everything of value taken away.

Twelve months later-in June, 1757--Clive routed the Indian forces at Plassy, Surajah Dowlah was deposed and killed, and Meer Jaffier, the nominee of the English, became Nawab, and indemnified the merchants of Calcutta for their losses to the amount of nearly £800,000. Commerce, which had flourished even while the Mogul Empire was in its death-struggles, now revived, and it is from this period that modern Calcutta dates. Henceforth its history is one of smooth prosperity, unmarked by civil war or any great disaster.

The site of Calcutta as the capital of British India is generally acknowledged to be bad.




(City of God). With the downfall of the Mogul Empire, evil days came on this great city. Mahrattas and Pathans and others pillaged it, till in 1801 it was ceded to the English. During the Mutiny of 1857 it was the scene of a serious outbreak. On June 6th the native infantry revolted, burnt and plundered the station, and massacred the Europeans. On the 11th General Neill arrived with reinforcements; shot and shell from the fort showered on the streets and bazaars, involving friends and foes in a common ruin. The city was much damaged, and during the reign of martial law terrible vengeance was taken. Six thousand human beings, supposed to be more or less guilty, were hanged on trees and sign-posts. But that day of terror has passed, and Allahabad bids fair to far outshine its ancient splendour; ruins are being cleared away, and handsome buildings are rising ; by a magnificent bridge across the Jumna, the East Indian Railway enters the city from the east; two bridges of boats cross the Ganges; broad, handsome roads, planted on each side with trees, mark the English quarter, and several main roads cross the network of narrow streets forming the native town. “This city,” says Rousselet, “is destined to become in a very short space of time much larger than it is now. No other city, indeed, could be so wonderfully adapted for a capital. Situated at the point of junction of the Ganges and Jumna, it commands the great fluvial highways; and being at an almost equal distance from Bombay, Calcutta, Lahore, and Madras, it is the centre at which all the railways of the great Indian continent meet; and finally, its healthy though warm climate, and its soil, adapted for superior cultivation, give it such advantages over the present metropolis that it is difficult to understand why the English still persist in ascribing this position to Calcutta."

The chief lion of Allahabad is its famous fort, 2,500 yards in circumference, the Ehrenbreitstein of India. From earliest ages a stronghold stood here, long before Akbar built the picturesque castle which has been modified into the present citadel by cutting down the high towers, topping the stone ramparts with turfed parapets, and fronting them with a sloping glacis. Across the two rivers it frowns defiance to every foe. Well might Sir Henry Lawrence, in the days when trouble was coming, telegraph to “ keep Allahabad safe.” When burning cantonments, murdered garrisons, opened gaols, and plundered treasuries seemed to presage the collapse of the English power in Upper India, a handful of men heroically stood their ground here till detachment after detachment arrived and the turning-point was reached.

The imperial hall of Akbar, 17:2 feet long, forms the splendid arsenal of the fort. Just within the fortress gateway stands the celebrated column of the Buddhist Emperor Asoka, dating from 240 B.C. Close by is an underground temple said to contain an undying banyan-tree, which has, however, been leafless for more than a century.

There are two or three mosques, serails, and mausoleums of minor importance in Allahabad, and numerous good modern buildings-viz., the Government offices and courts, barracks, Roman Catholic Cathedral, Central College, and Town Hall. The town has no particular trade or manufacture of its own, but enormous quantities of goods pass through it, and it is becoming a great exchange mart for the North-western Provinces.

At the full moon in January takes place the great Magh Mela, when innumerable pilgrims come to bathe at the confluence of the rivers—a spot looked upon as specially From early dawn, that is to say from four o'clock in the morning, till the sun is some distance above the horizon, crowds of the inhabitants of Calcutta, European and native, enjoy the cool morning air in the broad, noble park, esplanade, plain, or common, called the Maidan. On one side the Maidan is bounded by the river, with its forest of masts, and on the other by a crescent of about two miles of elegant white houses mingled with

[graphic][merged small]

rich foliage, and here and there the spire of a church. These houses of the rich merchants of Calcutta are elaborate in every form of luxuriousness and magnificence — ideal dwellings which English architects have not dreamt of in their wildest dreams. Within the park are numerous foot-paths, garden-plots, and broad level carriage-drives bordered with stone balustrades, where in the evening all the wealth and fashion of Calcutta assembles.

That portion of the Maidan known as the “Course " encloses a labyrinth of luxuriant walks called Eden Gardens, where strollers witness the grand display of equipages of all kinds, from European carriages and the four-in-hand to the humble one-horse chaise, all mingling freely with the native palanquins and hackeries.

« PreviousContinue »