Wednesday 5 September 2018

RajGir : An Ancient Babylon - 2

How beautiful is the country that lies stretched before us! Outward from the mouth of our twisting pass, at Christmas time or thereabouts, it will be covered in the green of rice and other crops, with every here and there a field of white opium-poppies in full bloom. But now, at the change of the season in October, we see here fields as patches of many-coloured earch-purple and brown and red - and we remember the words of Buddha, half laughing doubtless yet full of affectionate memory and tenderness, of one who said to a disciple in a much-patched garment that he reminded him of the rice-fields about Rajgir.

A quarter of a mile behind us the hills open out into a circle, and here lie the ruins of the ancient city of kings - wonderfully clear and distinct in every part of them. We almost might trace out the very lines of the bazaars. With regard to streets and roads, it sounds dangerously near truism to say that they retain their positions with little change from age to age; yet I do not know that the fact has been much noted. Here in Rajgir at any rate, where hundreds of cows and buffaloes, sheep and goats, are driven daily by the herds to and from the ancient ruins, many of the main roadways remain much as they must have been in the dim past. Here, for instance, is the through fare that ran through the city, with traces at a certain point near the centre of the palace walls, bastions, and gateways;and here beyond the palace are the outlines of the royal pleasure-grounds, with their wonderfully engineered ornamental waters intact to this day! All through this little mountain-arena and the pass that leads to it, indeed, there has been an extraordinary amount of hydraulic engineering. It would seem as if the fame of the hot springs must have been the original cause of the royal settlement in this natural fortress, and the artificial development of its streams the main occupation of the kingly line thereafter. Even now below our own walled and moated manor lies an empty tank that two thousand years ago most likely held lotuses in a park. Even now, the river that runs through two and even three streams, forming a network that is enough to show us the attention that must have been paid in ancient India to the problems of irrigation, in order to give birth to so marvellous a degree of hydraulic science. Far away in Central India is a monumental building, of an age some two hundred years later than that of old Rajgir, which shows by its ornamental cascades the same engineering genius and the same royal idea of beauty and magnificence as we find here. Well may the Indian people glory in the ancestry which already lived in this splendour, which that of Northern and Western Europe went clad in painted woad.

There can be a few places in the world so old as Rajgir, about which so much is definitely known and so much safely to be inferred. It was in all probability about the year 590 B.C. - in a world in which Babylon and Phoenicia and Egypt and Sheba were of all facts most living and important- it was about the year 590 - BC that there came along the road leading into the valley yonder, one whose very form was radiant with feeling and thought, that lifted him above the common world into that consciousness that makes history.

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


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