Thursday 6 September 2018

RajGir : An Ancient Babylon - 3

It may have been early morning when he came. For the books say that the great company of goats was being led up at that moment for the royal sacrifice; fixed, it may have been, for about the hour of noon. Or it may have been about the time of cowdust, on the eve of the festival, and the herdsmen may have intended to stable their goats for that night outside the palace. In any case HE came, some say carrying on his shoulder a lame kid, followed by the patter of thousands of little hoofs. He came, moreover, in a passion of pity. A veritable storm of compassion had broken loose within Him on behalf of these, the helpless "little brothers" of humanity, who were caught, like man himself, in the net of pain and pleasure, of life and death; bewildered, like man, by love and sorrow, but who unlike man, for want of speech, could neither express their perplexity nor form a conception of release. Surely they crowded round Him, and rubbed themselves against Him again and again, the gentle, wondering, four-footed things! For the animals are strangely susceptible to the influence of a silent love that has no designs on their life or freedom. All the legends of the world tell us that they catch the hush of Christmas Eve, respond to the eager questioning of the child Dhruva, and understand that unmeasured yearning to protect them which may be read in the eyes of the Lord Buddha on the road that goes up to the palace of Rajgir.

We had been some time in the place, before we noticed that it was on one particular islet in the river below us, that the village deathfires might so often be seen at evening. It was a very ancient custom in India to burn the dead by the stream-side just outside the town. But this sandbank was far away from the village. Hardly could they have chosen a point less easily accessible. Ah, yes! certainly there was the explanation; the burning ghat of these peasants in the twentieth century must be still where their ancestors had chosen it, in the fifth, in the first-aye, even for centuries before that-may be immediately without the city of Rajgir. It takes a peculiar angle of vision, and perhaps a peculiar mood of passivity, to see the trees turn into a forest when the existence of such was previously unsuspended. So I shall not attempt to guess how many more evenings elapsed before, as we went along the roadway on the far side of the burning ghat, one of us noted the broken steps and the entwined tamarind and Bo-trees that marked the old-time ghat of Rajgir. Nor do I know how many more day went by before there came to some one of us the flash of insight that led us finally to discover that the mass of fallen masonry close by was that very ancient gateway of the city through which Buddha himself with the goats must have passed, and brought to our notice the dome-like head of an old Stupa lying in the dust a few feet away.

Passing through the gate and standing at the opening of the theatre-like valley, we find that the river which flows out of the city as one, is made up of two streams which between them encircle the royal city as a moat, even within its girdle of mountains and its enclosing walls. They join at this point. Leaving unexplored that which flows towards us from the left part of the garden of Ambapali, the Indian Mary Magdalene, and past the abodes of many of the characters who figure in the narrative of Buddha's life, we may turn to that branch which comes to us from the right.

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

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