“Now we come to a building worth looking at,” said Sir Modava, as they passed beyond the assemblage of palaces. “This is the mosque of Aurungzeb. Those two lofty minarets are one hundred and forty-seven feet high. They are very slender, and look like a couple of needles; but, though they are only eight and a quarter feet in diameter on the ground, they have spiral staircases reaching to the top. If you wish to land and go to the cupola you can do so.”
“I pray thee have me excused,” interposed Uncle Moses; and Dr. Hawkes said “Me too!” And no one cared to ascend to such a height.
“This mosque was built by the Emperor Aurungzeb, on the site of a Hindu temple of Siva, which he caused to be pulled down, to the scandal of the worshippers of that deity, for it marked the spot where Vishnu himself first appeared to man. A flight of one hundred stairs leads to the mosque, which the Hindus formerly ascended on their knees when they went to the worship of Vishnu. But we have gone as far in this direction as we need go.”
The Sylph came about, and went back up the river, landing above the funeral pyres. From the ghat, they walked into one of the crowded streets. They were conducted by Sir Modava to a square, which was thronged with natives. In the middle of it was a small round temple, the spire of which was overlaid with plates of gold. At the present day this is the holy of holies of the Hindus. Its principal object of adoration is a plain stone post, which is believed to form a part of the very body of the deity, Siva in this instance.
The narrow streets, through which the party made their way with difficulty were very clean. They were thronged with pilgrims from all parts of India, dressed in their best garments, loaded with gold and silver ornaments. The men were carrying great brass trays, piled up with flowers, as offerings for the various deities. The little stalls, which were the stores, made the thoroughfares look like bazaars. They passed no end of temples; and all of them were small, though they were very pretty, what there were of them.
Emerging from these narrow streets, the company came to a section where the avenues were broad, with handsome houses built upon them. This portion was practicable for carriages, and half a dozen culeches were drummed together after some delay; and the ladies were glad to be seated again, for they had had a long and tiresome walk through the narrow and crowded streets. Sir Modava directed the drivers, and when he said Dourga Khound no one knew what he was to see next. The word means the Fountain of Dourga; and when they came to it they agreed that it was one of the most beautiful buildings in Benares, though it was painted all over with red, which made it look rather fantastic.
Sir Modava said nothing about the use of the building, and led the way into the enclosure. The moment they entered the grounds they realized that the Hindu gentleman had worked a surprise upon them; for the yard was filled with monkeys, and the walls were covered with them. The chattering creatures immediately surrounded them, holding out their paws for something. Sir Modava gave the most dignified one a rupee, and Lord Tremlyn made a similar gift to another.