Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/Sassoor, in the Deccan
SASSOOR, IN THE DECCAN.
The most remote and secluded places in India frequently display to the astonished eyes of the European traveller scenes of beauty and of splendour, which, if situated in any other country, would attract crowds of tourists to the spot. Imagine the surprise of a party journeying through a tract of country of no great celebrity, when suddenly coming upon a scene like this which is represented in the engraving. There splendid ghauts, shrines, and temples arise at the confluence of two inconsiderable streams; a circumstance which in the eyes of the Hindoos always invests the spot in which it occurs with peculiar sanctity. This junction takes place near the fortified hill of Porrundah, to the south-east of Poonah. The principal temple is dedicated to Mahadeo, under another name, and is surrounded by several shrines, sepulchral monuments, and memorials of the immolations of widows on the funeral piles of their husbands. Although very few Hindoo castes bury their dead, in many instances the ashes are collected, and preserved in buildings prepared for their reception; while the burning of widows is esteemed so honourable, that it seldom fails of being properly commemorated. The valley of Sassoor is a sort of oasis in the desert, the adjacent country being singularly rocky and barren; the contrast therefore of its splendid buildings, its cool transparent waters, and the fine trees which have been carefully planted in the surrounding gardens, produces a striking effect upon the eye. The adjacent walled building is a palace of one of the great Brahmin family of Prorundhuxee, whose fortunes for upwards of a century have been closely connected with those of the Peishwas, princes who have made a very conspicuous figure in the affairs of the Deccan. Like many other buildings of the same description, this palace is strongly fortified, and in 1818 its garrison held out for ten days against a division of the British army. The covered carriage in the foreground is a representation of a native equipage, much in request with females of rank, called a Rhat, or Rheta; it is drawn by two milk-white bullocks, the favourite colour of these animals, and the canopy of fine scarlet cloth is ornamented at the top with a gilt pine-apple, while two Mahratta horsemen form the escort.
The usual idlers of an Indian ghaut, are to be seen bathing, praying, gossiping, or drawing water, together with the never-failing Gossain, who may be distinguished by the flowing drapery, which he holds up over his right arm. Beyond the steps of the ghaut, under the spreading foliage of some pine-trees, the small camp of the European party, to whom we are indebted for a sketch of this beautiful scene, appears a proof of the excellent taste shown by the servants of an Anglo-Indian establishment, who generally contrive to pitch the tents in some peculiarly delightful place.
The neighbouring town of Sassoor contains a considerable number of substantial brick and stone buildings, and the adjacent fortress of Porbunder commands a very fine view of the surrounding country, which is seen to great advantage at sunrise. The valley in which both the town and the fortress stand, is richly cultivated, being watered by those fertilizing streams, which in India are so highly valued as to become objects of veneration. Hence the beautiful pagodas which rise upon the banks, affording, with their accompanying ghauts, a scene of recreation and enjoyment to every class of the inhabitants, and offering to the wayfarer rest and refreshment.—If we trace the institutions and superstitions of the Hindoos up to their true source, we shall find that they originated in very natural and laudable feelings; and it must ever be a source of regret to the philanthopic mind, that so good-intentioned a people should not have been guided by true lights, and that their religious enthusiasm should have been perverted and thrown away upon idols.