On the threshold of the Nassik caves we bid good-bye to the modern pigmy India, to the petty things of her everyday life, and to her humiliations. We re-entered the unknown world of India, the great and the mysterious.
The main caves of Nassik are excavated in a mountain bearing the name of Pandu-Lena, which points again to the undying, persistent, primaeval tradition that ascribes all such buildings to the five mythical (?) brothers of prehistoric times. The unanimous opinion of archaeologists esteems these caves more interesting and more important than all the caves of Elephanta and Karli put together. And, nevertheless—is it not strange?—with the exception of the learned Dr. Wilson, who, it may be, was a little too fond of forming hasty opinions, no archaeologist has, as yet, made so bold as to decide to what epoch they belong, by whom they were erected, and which of the three chief religions of antiquity was the one professed by their mysterious builders.
It is evident, however, that those who wrought here did not all belong either to the same generation or to the same sect. The first thing which strikes the attention is the roughness of the primitive work, its huge dimensions, and the decline of the sculpture on the solid walls, whereas the sculpture and carvings of the six colossi which prop the chief cave on the second floor, are magnificently preserved and very elegant. This circumstance would lead one to think that the work was begun many centuries before it was finished. But when? One of the Sanskrit inscriptions of a comparatively recent epoch (on the pedestal of one of the colossi) clearly points to 453 B.C. as the year of the building. At all events, Barth, Stevenson, Gibson, Reeves, and some other scientists, who being Westerns can have none of the prejudices proper to the native Pundits, have formed this conjecture on the basis of some astronomical data. Besides, the conjunction of the planets stated in the inscription leaves no doubt as to the dates, it must be either 453 B.C., or 1734 of our era, or 2640 B.C., which last is impossible, because Buddha and Buddhist monasteries are mentioned in the inscription. I translate some of the most important sentences:
«To the most Perfect and the Highest! May this be agreeable to Him! The son of King Kshaparata, Lord of the Kshatriya tribe and protector of people, the Ruler of Dinik, bright as the dawn, sacrifices a hundred thousand cows that graze on the river Banasa, together with the river, and also the gift of gold by the builder of this holy shelter of gods, the place of the curbing of the Brahmans’ passions. There is no more desirable place than this place, neither in Prabhasa, where accumulate hundreds of thousands of Brahmans repeating the sacred verse, nor in the sacred city Gaya, nor on the steep mountain near Dashatura, nor on the Serpents’ Field in Govardhana, nor in the city Pratisraya where stands the monastery of Buddhists, nor even in the edifice erected by Depana-kara on the shores of the fresh water [?] sea. This place, giving incomparable favors, is agreeable and useful in all respects to the spotted deerskin of an ascetic. A safe boat given also by him who built the gratuitous ferry daily transports to the well-guarded shore. By him also who built the house for travelers and the public fountain, a gilded lion was erected by the ever-assaulted gate of this Govardhana, also another [lion] by the ferry-boat, and another by Ramatirtha. Various kinds of food will always be found here by the scanty flock; for this flock more than a hundred kinds of herbs and thousands of mountain roots are stored by this generous giver. In the same Govardhana, in the luminous mountain, this second cave was dug by the order of the same beneficent person, during the very year when the Sun, Shukra and Rahu, much respected by men, were in the full glory of their rise; it was in this year that the gifts were offered. Lakshmi, Indra and Yama having blessed them, returned with shouts of triumph to their chariot, kept on the way free from obstacles [the sky], by the force of mantrams. When they [the gods] all left, poured a heavy shower…..» and so on.
Rahn and Kehetti are the fixed stars which form the head and the tail of the constellation of the Dragon. Shukra is Venus. Lakshmi, Indra and Yama stand here for the constellations of Virgo, Aquarius and Taurus, which are subject and consecrated to these three among the twelve higher deities.
The first caves are dugout in a conical hillock about two hundred and eighty feet from its base. In the chief of them stand three statues of Buddha; in the lateral ones a lingam and two Jaina idols. In the top cave there is a statue of Dharma Raja, or Yudhshtira, the eldest of the Pandus, who is worshipped in a temple erected in his honor, between Pent and Nassik. Farther on is a whole labyrinth of cells, where Buddhist hermits probably lived, a huge statue of Buddha in a reclining posture. and another as big, but surrounded with pillars adorned with figures of various animals. Styles, epochs and sects are here as much mixed up and entangled as different trees in a thick forest.
It is very remarkable that almost all the cave temples of India are to be found inside conical rocks and mountains. It is as though the ancient builders looked for such natural pyramids purposely. I noticed this peculiarity in Karli, and it is to be met with only in India. Is it a mere coincidence, or is it one of the rules of the religious architecture of the remote past? And which are the imitators—the builders of the Egyptian pyramids, or the unknown architects of the under ground caves of India? In pyramids as well as in caves everything seems to be calculated with geometrical exactitude. In neither case are the entrances ever at the bottom, but always at a certain distance from the ground. It is well known that nature does not imitate art, and, as a rule, art tries to copy certain forms of nature. And if, even in this similarity of the symbols of Egypt and India, nothing is to be found but a coincidence, we shall have to own that coincidences are sometimes very extraordinary. Egypt has borrowed many things from India. We must not forget that nothing is known about the origin of the Pharaohs, and that the few facts science has succeeded in discovering, far from contradicting our theory, suggest India as the cradle of the Egyptian race. In the days of remote antiquity Kalluka-Bhatta wrote: «During the reign of Visvamitra, first king of the Soma-Vansha dynasty, after a five days battle, Manu-Vena, the heir of ancient kings, was abandoned by the Brahmans, and emigrated with his army, and, having traversed Arya and Barria, at last reached the shores of Masra…..»
Arya is Iran or Persia; Barria is an ancient name of Arabia; Masr or Masra is a name of Cairo, disfigured by Mussulmans into Misro and Musr.
Kalluka-Bhatta is an ancient writer. Sanskritists still quarrel over his epoch, wavering between 2,000 years B.C., and the reign of the Emperor Akbar (the time of John the Terrible and Elizabeth of England). On the grounds of this uncertainty, the evidence of Kalluka-Bhatta might be objected to. In this case, there are the words of a modern historian, who has studied Egypt all his life, not in Berlin or London, like some other historians, but in Egypt, deciphering the inscriptions of the oldest sarcophagi and papyri, that is to say, the words of Henry Brugsch-Bey:
«… I repeat, my firm conviction is that the Egyptians came from Asia long before the historical period, having traversed the Suez promontory, that bridge of all the nations, and found a new fatherland on the banks of the Nile.»
An inscription on a Hammamat rock says that Sankara, the last Pharaoh of the eleventh dynasty, sent a nobleman to Punt: «I was sent on a ship to Punt, to bring back some aromatic gum, gathered by the princes of the Red Land.»
Commenting on this inscription, Brugsch-Bey explains that «under the name of Punt the ancient inhabitants of Chemi meant a distant land surrounded by a great ocean, full of mountains and valleys, and rich in ebony and other expensive woods, in perfumes, precious stones and metals, in wild beasts, giraffes, leopards and big monkeys.» The name of a monkey in Egypt was Kaff, or Kafi, in Hebrew Koff, in Sanskrit Kapi.
In the eyes of the ancient Egyptians, this Punt was a sacred land, because Punt or Panuter was «the original land of the gods, who left it under the leadership of A-Mon [Manu-Vena of Kalluka-Bhatta?] Hor and Hator, and duly arrived in Chemi.»
Hanuman has a decided family likeness to the Egyptian Cynocephalus, and the emblem of Osiris and Shiva is the same. Qui vivra verra!
Our return journey was very agreeable. We had adapted ourselves to Peri’s movements and felt ourselves first-rate jockeys. But for a whole week afterwards we could hardly walk.