Tuesday 4 September 2018

RajGir : An Ancient Babylon - 1

Up, up, up. The long array of steps seems endless, as we climb the steep hillside to reach the dwelling that has been lent us for a few weeks' habitation; and, after all, when we come upon it, it is nothing but a nest of robberbarons, this old manor-house of the Rajas of Annwa. A nest of robber-barons, truly, perched half-way up the mountain and concealed from sight, and yet with a wide stretch of country well in its purview. Curiously small and unfortified to Western thinking, it consists of two parts - a court on the inside guarded against intrusion and crowned with wide terrace-roofs; and without, a few rooms ranged about two sides of an open square. Its feudal and mediaeval character lends the building and interest which its undeniable beauty well sustains. But far beyond either of these considerations is the exciting fact that we are to keep house for twenty-one days in a spot where for a period of from twenty-five to thirty centuries there has been continuously a human habitation. For the great staircase by which we have climbed the rugged hillside is undoubtedly constructed over the foundations of the ancient walls of Rajgir, and the earliest predecessor of the Barons of Annwa must have chosen for his family stronghold to develop one of the buttresses of the guardroom of the selfsame walls, occurring on a small plateau. Below us lies the floor of the winding pass with the stream that forms a moat at the foot of our mountain-stairway. In front a great curving staircase, constituting what our modern railway companies would call 'a loop' of the fort, protects those temples and lot springs fo Rajgir which still form the objective of a yearly Hindu pilgrimage. And out in the open, a stone's throw away as it seems in this clear plain atmosphere but really perhaps a mile by the road, is the modern village of Rajgir, anciently Raja-Griha, the city or dwelling-place of kings.

Already the villagers are showing us friendly attentions. The servant who has come with us was born a few miles away, and his women folk are arriving with our first meal in hospitable readiness. The peasant-guard have established themselves in the outer rooms for our protection, and a small boy of the neighbourhood is clamouring to be taken on as an attendant. It is as if we were guests of Semiramis in Nineveh of old! It is like pitching our tent on the ruins of Babylon and entering into friendly relations with lineal descendants of the ancient inhabitants!

  ...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd

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