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Notes on the Antiquities of the Districts within the Bhopal Agency,
&c. by Capt. J. D. CUNNINGHAM, Engineers, Political Agent, Bhopal.
I send you two packages of inscriptions, copied during a tour of the districts within the Bhopal Agency, which I have just completed. I trust that they may reach you in safety, and that the few I have set apart from the rest may be deemed worthy of publication.
The existence of a “ Tope” near Bhilsa was known to myself as to others through the medium of the Asiatic Society's Journal, but as I had not the book by me at the time, I was not prepared to find so interesting and valuable a monument as I conceive this Tope to present. The whole country moreorer, on either side of the upper Betwah and North and South of Bhilsa, is full of antiquities, and I am glad that I have had an opportunity of bringing some of these relics to your notice.
In describing the localities, or the buildings, or the monuments, which have furnished the several inscriptions, I may indulge in some speculation, and it is therefore but candid, although it is hardly necessary, to remind you of my want of scholarship and indeed of any deficiencies in every way, excepting, perhaps, in a proper degree of interest in the history of the country and of the creeds which its inhabitants have professed. My lucubrations however will not take long to read, and they may be suggestive to others. No. VIII. New SERIES.
Bhojpoor.-I will first refer to Bhojpoor as the most southerly, or as being higher up the river Betwah than the other places. Raja Bhoj, of the Powâr or “Puar" tribe, whose date or identity is doubtful, is however believed to have represented both the race and the power of Vicramaditya, and in this part of Malwa he is generally considered to have flourished in the fifth century of our era. The legend related by Sir John Malcolm (Central India, I. 25) is also in every one's mouth, riz: that in order to mark his gratitude or his love, or to expiate the sacrifice voluntarily made by his mother of her own life in giving him birth, he was always bent upon accomplishing some good work, and that the brahmins prescribed the erection of an embankment which should arrest nine rivers and ninety-nine rivulets, probably with the view of providing irrigation for a tract of country lower down the river. A place was chosen close to where two of the main branches of the infant Betwah unite in order to pass through a narrow gorge about 18 miles to the south-east of Bhopal. The gorge in question was dammed across, as was likewise a hollow to the westward of the outlet. A large lake, or Thål, was thus formed, which inclosed a low range of hillocks, still distinguished as "the Island” by the name of its present village“ Deep" (Dwipa). The lake would appear to have been sixteen or seventeen miles in length and about seven or eight miles in breadthi, but after all the care and labour which had been expended, it was found that one stream was still wanting to complete the full number, and Bhopal, the Minister of the King, suggested the embankment of a ravine at the spot on which the city called after him now stands. By this means a considerable rivulet which rises south-west of Bhopal, was made to run south-easterly into the Betwah or into the newly formed lake, instead of north-easterly into the river at Bhilsa, as until that time it had done. It is to this day apparent that the rivulet in question has been forced from its original channel, and it forms now the real Betwah. The lake continued to exist until the erection of Malwa into a kingdom by the Affghan Ghorces in the 14th and 15th centuries, when it is related that Sooltan Hoshung lamented the loss of so much good land, and ordered the embankment across the Betwah to be destroyed. According to the common belief 360 villages now fill the bed of the lake of Raja Bhoj, and it is certain that the tract in question is one of the most fertile in Bhopal.
The remains of the embankment across the Betwah, show that it may have been about a hundred feet in height and perhaps three hundred yards in length at the top. The dam across the hollow is scarcely a mile in length, so that the place selected was in every way
well adapted for the object in view. The artificial part of this dam may be about 30 feet high where most lofty, and it forms a roadway from fifty to sixty feet in width. The embankment at Bhopal still serves its original purpose. All three have been formed of a mass of rocks and earth heaped together, and faced with blocks of stone from 3 to 6 feet long by 2 or 3 feet wide and 11 to 2 feet thick, laid so as to form a considerable angle and to present a sloping surface on either side. The work looks gigantic, and although the sandstone blocks were procurable on the spot, the prodigality of labour bestowed, shows rather the material power of the prince than the scientific poverty of his engineers. To the careless observer the whole work may appear to be one of the many idle acts of which despotism has been guilty, and yet I imagine that among the ancients of Asia as of Europe, more simplicity of mind and singleness of object prevailed than among the moderns of either continent. I doubt not that Raja Bhoj's labourers and mechanics sympathized with the motives of their prince, and readily presented themselves to execute a work, which may have conveyed some religious merit even to them, and which it is more than likely the Raja commenced with his own hands while he exhorted the workmen to persevere by personal attentions and occasional donations.
Malcolm had heard that Raja Bhoj built a city on the banks of his lake, but it does not appear that he designed more than the erection of a temple, which was begun, but has never been completed. The temple stands on the hill at the southern end of the dam across the Betwah ; it is surrounded by the houses of a small village called Bhojpoor, but the only other remains, are some rude shrines dedicated to modern divinities, a plain Jain temple containing a figure of Parisnath, about 20 feet high, and the remains of the foundations of slight walls showing the square outline of a building never completed or nearly obliterated.
The temple of Raja Bhoj is dedicated to Shiv or Mahadeo. Its base forms a square of about 62 feet, and it may be nearly as many feet in height. The external walls are about 10 feet thick, and the unfinished dome of elaborate workmanship, is supported by four pillars, probably 40 feet high. The entrance is on the western side, and you ascend to the door lintel and then descend into the temple. The passages between the massive pillars and the external walls are necessarily narrow, and the pillars themselves are inelegant in their proportions. The space between them is wholly occupied with the “Lingam,” which, with its pedestal, forms a gigantic object nearly 25 feet high, and is an existing illustration of a passage in Wilson's Hindoo Theatre, to the effect, if my memory serves me right, that the “Saivas” had a god so big they were obliged first to build him and then his containing temple.
The Lingam with its sustaining aliar or pedestal, has an elegant and imposing appearance. The Lingam proper is a cylinder, with a slightly rounded top, of 7 feet and 2 inches in height by 5 feet 3 inches in diameter. It rests upon a single block 194 feet square by 31 feet in thickness, the upper surface having a channel parallel to the four edges, to carry off the water of oblations. The “ die” or body of the pedestal or altar is about seven feet square in section, but the accompanying elevation, drawn partly from memory, will give you a truer idea of the whole work than any description, although it cannot be quite accurate in details, and the proportions are certainly not so perfect in the drawing as I conceive them to be in the original. The pedestals of many Lingams are indeed almost faultless in their proportions and in the beauty of their ornaments, and at Bhojpoor greatness of dimension is added to perfection of form.
The temple was never completed, and partially hewn stones, or blocks rough as they were quarried, are still lying on the summit of the sandstone hill within three hundred yards of the building. One of these blocks is the half wrought “Kullus” or keystone of the dome, which measures eleven feet square by five feet in thickness. A ramp of earth and rubbish abutting against the eastern side of the temple still remains, to show the simple and efficient, if not very ingenious means, used for raising heavy blocks to the summits of buildings.
No formal inscription has been found, and as the temple was never finished it is probable that none was ever recorded. The inscription in five lines, now sent, is cut on the jamb of the doorway, and is probably the work of some pilgrim. The characters, although rudely executed and somewhat different in form from those now in use, are still legible, but the language is not understood by any Pundit in this quarter. You will observe that two dates occur in the inscription, the first “159" and the second “ 136,” and as in bad or hasty writing, an Indian “ seven" resembles a "one," I mention particularly that in reading the original this similarity has been held in view. The two inscriptions on the step and lintel of the doorway do not seem to be deserving of any notice.
On the pedestal of the Lingam are cut in well formed letters, the Sanscrit words “ achinted deoj” signifying “ the sign of the Incomprehensible,”* of which a transcript will be found among the inscriptions. It seems to me that this short sentence should teach us much, and I have long thought that “ Saivism” may yet be found to have once been, if it is not now, purer and more simple faith than is commonly supposed. I would discard a Phallic correspondence and all recondite regenerative meanings, as showing subsequent constructions rather that original design or import.f The peasantry of the wilder parts of India, still use a smooth pebble, or rounded blocks as the mark of the Divinity, or rather as a point of direction to their senses, and they will draw a trench round it on its sustaining altar of stone or tempered earth, to let their oblations of water run freely away, without even considering that they had formed or were worshipping the symbols of reproductive energy. “Ling” in its primitive acceptation means merely, a sign, a mark, and so little do the mass of worshippers know of what we consider its philosophic import, and so dull are their minds or so gross has their idolatry become, that in these days the plain pillar must often be shrouded in a case representing a human countenance, to convince them more certainly of the existence or place of the God. When the Brahmins quitted the Ganges, such of the tribes of Southern India as were not wholly barbarous, probably professed one form or other of Buddhism, with its ceremonies, and its images, and its indistinct apprehensions of a Divinity, and the new conquerors, may we call them Unitarians or
* These words have been separately read by another person as achuteddeoj or“ the mark of the everlasting God." There is little difference in the writing and none in the meaping so far as regards the argument in the text.
[The inscription on the Lingam is erg P2116207, Achintya dwaja ; and on the right jamb of the door, Sरा श्रीमाधवसुतजीकुं प्रणमति “ Salutation to the son of Iadhab." -Eds.)
+ Did an Athenian Magistrate or a Roman Matron, think of “phalloi" as emblems of fecundity or of reproduction, when the one allowed them to be borne through the streets during Dionysian festivals, or when the other tied them round the necks of brer children as charms against evil ?