Page images
PDF
EPUB

The caves of Salsette are interesting, as I think they present us with the civil architecture of India at a very early period. Most of these small caves appear evidently to have been private dwellings: each of them has a little portico, and a cell within, at one end of which there is a raised part, which, on my visiting them, I imagined was designed for a bed place; but since that time, a passage in Sacontala* has made me conjecture that it was the consecrated hearth where the sacred fire was kept, and this appears to me to be confirmed by the circumstance that there is near the largest and first cavern, one to which I was obliged to be lifted up, when I found a considerable platform, and a figure of the deity in the back ground. Now, the height to which this platform is raised, corresponds with the description of Dushmanta's hearth, and might have belonged to the superior of that society, which, from the number of caverns, their contiguity, and the conve

* Dushmanta.—Wardour, point the way to the hearth of the consecrated fire.

Wardour. This, oh king, is the way (he walks before). Here is the entrance of the hallowed enclosure; and there stands the venerable cow to be milked for the sacrifice, looking bright from the recent sprinkling of mystic water.-Let the king ascend. (Dushmanta is raised to the place of sacrifice on the shoulders of his wardours.)

Sacontala, Act 5th.

niences of baths and reservoirs with which they are supplied, we may conclude once inhabited the now deserted mountains of Salsette. These scenes brought to my mind the opening of Mason's Caractacus:

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Mine eye descries a distant range of caves
Delv'd in the ridges of the craggy steep;
And this way still another.

On the left

Reside the sages skilled in nature's lore, &c.

The rocky hill in which these dwellings are dug, contains probably some hundreds of caves, of different sizes. I saw a great number; but, I believe, scarcely half of those which are known. One of them appears to have been a temple: it is of an oblong form, terminating in a semicircle, in which is one of those solid masses which the Jines and Bhaudd'has suppose to cover part of the ashes of their respective saints, and which are sometimes, as in Salsette, and at Carli in the Mahratta mountains, formed of rocks, wrought in their native bed; and sometimes, as in the temple courts of all the sacred places I saw in Ceylon, built of brick or other materials, plaistered over with

1

[merged small][ocr errors][graphic][graphic]

fine chunam or stucco, and generally of a conical form. These monuments or altars, as they have been sometimes called, are often without ornament; frequently, however, they are very much enriched, and have generally on the top a member which spreads a little, so as to form a kind of umbrella, which you know is, in the East, the ensign of dignity.

The great caverns both at Canara, in Salsette, and at Carli, are supported by polygonal pillars, with peculiar bases and capitals, possessing considerable dignity and solidity, though they are far behind the Greek columns in elegance. I send you some sketches of specimens of these, and also of some which supported the entrances to some of those smaller caves which I take to have been dwellinghouses. At Carli, these dwellinghouses are in different stories, in the perpendicular face of the rock, and communicating with each other by stairs within, while the outside only presents here and there a window, or a colonnade. At Canara, the dwellings enter from without; before each door there is usually a reservoir, and in most of them I found excellent water. The communication between distant parts of the mountain is facilitated by winding paths, or steps hewn in the rock; and on the summit there are larger reservoirs and baths, which were probably in

« PreviousContinue »