« AnteriorContinua »
been variously, and with different success, formed upon the interesting subject.
Some affirm, with all the confidence of in. spired prophets, that they were formed during the reign of Solomon, the mighty king of Israel; and others, with equal fervour of disputation, ascribe their origin, and all the honour attending it, to the renowned Alexander, the monarch and the leader of the Macedonian armies.
But suppose, for one moment, we allow that navigators were sent by Solomon (which is, altogether, an unlikely and improbable event) 10 the Indian shores, in search of rare and magnificent ornaments for the Temple of Jerusalem, is it not the height of absurdity to imagine that those travellers should so far deviate from the particular objects of their voyage, as to fall foul of the huge rocks on the Indian shores or islands, and spend whole years of unwearied labour, and of assiduity in excavating vast and unmeaning caverns, by way of amusement or religious frolic ? It were, indeed, weak and more than foolish to give credence to such an idle supposition. And I believe it would be difficult to prove that the Macedonian hero penetrated further than the Indus, where he defeated
Porus; and all of his immense conquests and renowned exploits are accurately recorded, by justly celebrated historians. Besides, the sculpture, that surely ought to have much importance in such a decision, neither bears any resemblance to the Jewish history, nor yet to the exquisite taste and matchless execution of the Grecian arts.
I have frequently been much surprised at the vague opinions of persons,who ought to know better than to give way to such idle speculations. No one will deny the unsearchable antiquity of the Hindoo nations; and that almost all their arts, and sciences, and manners and cu toms, bear the undoubted stamp of originality, and that they materiallydiffer in the great characteristics of civilization, from all the nations of the world.
I think when these things are considered, and moreover that the Hindoos have, so far as we know, been much secluded from commerce and collisions with foreign nations, at least in the more early part of their history, it appears highly probable that these stupendous works of antiquity owe their origin to the ancient Hindoos, or Aboriginees of the country; notwithstanding their descendants no longer pay their religious homage to their deities.
The principal reason I have to offer in sufport of this supposition, is the existence of many similar excavations near Marre, and in other mountains situated in the very heart of the Mharatta empire; and the sculpture which adorns all these several caverns, is strikingly similar to that of the images, worshipped at this day, in the Hindoo Pagodas, and exactly resembling those rude statues which are so profusely scattered about the city of Dhuboy, where I hope we shall arrive to-morrow.
Those of the images which exhibit such a profusion of heads, and such a multiplicity of arms, are doubtless the personages of those Gods which stand first in the ancient Hindoo mythology. Their phiziogs being turned every way, denote their Almighty power and source of every blessing that accrues to mankind.
Our holy prophet, it is true, has strictly forbid every attempt to represent the Great Allah, the eternal God and mighty Father of the Uni
He has declared that in his wonderful works we may sufficiently behold him, contemplate the faculties and power of man, the noblest of all his works, and from him every gradation of animate or inanimate matter, down
to the meanest insect that crawls on the face of the earth, or the humblest flower of the valley; and in tracing the qualities and uses of the visi. ble parts of this beauteous creation, we shall behold in every gradation, in every feature, and in every lineament, however minute, the existence and manifestations of their Great Author.
But this prohibition has not altogether operated so powerfully upon the followers of Allah, as it ought to do; and wishing to have the pleasure of contemplating his visage whenever they thought proper so to do: they have manufactured divers and sundry rueful-countenanced heroes, in whom they have endeavoured to pourtray the features of their Great Prophet.
Yet I do not conceive the Hindoo representations of the Deity, to be more extravagantly ridi. culous or one wit inferior to those of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, or I may add the numerous idols which are worshipped by the modern Europeans, as well as the Asiatics.
The lofty mountains and wooded vallies that immediately surround the caves of Salsette, are most beautifully picturesque and sublimely romantic. Yet are their inhabitants barbarous, savage, vindictive, and cruel, for whatever may
have been the first intent of these remarkable excavations, they are now become the dwellings of vast tribes of monkies, bats, and bees; as well as the gloomy retreat of tigers, leopards, panthers, and other ferocious beasts of prey. .
Upon my last visit to these caves, I was witness of a scene the most heart-rending I ever beheld.
By the time that I had made every observation I thought proper upon their curiosities, the shades of evening were lowering upon the charming scene surrounding me. The sun was sinking in magisterial glory behind the blue mountains that faintly rose in the distant landskip and his dying beams obliquely shot athwart the flowry vale at my feet, and tinged all the waving woods below with yellow lustre. Not one breath of air played the wild notes of Æolus amid the luxuriant branches of the trees, or lisped, in tender accents, amongst the bending reeds, or verdent grass. All was silent, save an occasional scream from neighbouring monkies; or the sudden call of some night-bird quitting its diurnal abode to range the nightly regions of gloom and vapour.
As I slowly descended a narrow path that wound down into the valley before me, I sud.