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- From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan - 1/50 -
[[Transcribed by M.R.J.]]
FROM THE CAVES AND JUNGLES OF HINDOSTAN Translated From The Russian Of HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY
"You must remember," said Mme. Blavatsky, "that I never meant this for a scientific work. My letters to the Russian Messenger, under the general title: 'From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan,' were written in leisure moments, more for amusement than with any serious design.
"Broadly speaking, the facts and incidents are true; but I have freely availed myself of an author's privilege to group, colour, and dramatize them, whenever this seemed necessary to the full artistic effect; though, as I say, much of the book is exactly true, l would rather claim kindly judgment for it, as a romance of travel, than incur the critical risks that haunt an avowedly serious work."
To this caution of the author's, the translator must add another; these letters, as Mme Blavatsky says, were written in leisure moments, during 1879 and 1880, for the pages of the Russki Vyestnik, then edited by M. Katkoff. Mme. Blavatsky's manuscript was often incorrect; often obscure. The Russian compositors, though they did their best to render faithfully the Indian names and places, often produced, through their ignorance of Oriental tongues, forms which are strange, and sometimes unrecognizable. The proof-sheets were never corrected by the author, who was then in India; and, in consequence, it has been impossible to restore all the local and personal names to their proper form.
A similar difficulty has arisen with reference to quotations and cited authorities, all of which have gone through a double process of refraction: first into Russian, then into English. The translator, also a Russian, and far from perfectly acquainted with English, cannot claim to possess the erudition necessary to verify and restore the many quotations to verbal accuracy; all that is hoped is that, by a careful rendering, the correct sense has been preserved.
The translator begs the indulgence of English readers for all imperfections of style and language; in the words of the Sanskrit proverb: "Who is to be blamed, if success be not reached after due effort?"
The translator's best thanks are due to Mr. John C. Staples, for valuable help in the early chapters.
--London, July, 1892
In Bombay On the Way to Karli In the Karli Caves Vanished Glories A City of the Dead Brahmanic Hospitalities A Witch's Den God's Warrior The Banns of Marriage The Caves of Bagh An Isle of Mystery Jubblepore
FROM THE CAVES AND JUNGLES OF HINDOSTAN By Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Late in the evening of the sixteenth of February, 1879, after a rough voyage which lasted thirty-two days, joyful exclamations were heard everywhere on deck. "Have you seen the lighthouse?" "There it is at last, the Bombay lighthouse."
Cards, books, music, everything was forgotten. Everyone rushed on deck. The moon had not risen as yet, and, in spite of the starry tropical sky, it was quite dark. The stars were so bright that, at first, it seemed hardly possible to distinguish, far away amongst them, a small fiery point lit by earthly hands. The stars winked at us like so many huge eyes in the black sky, on one side of which shone the Southern Cross. At last we distinguished the lighthouse on the distant horizon. It was nothing but a tiny fiery point diving in the phosphorescent waves. The tired travellers greeted it warmly. The rejoicing was general.
What a glorious daybreak followed this dark night! The sea no longer tossed our ship. Under the skilled guidance of the pilot, who had just arrived, and whose bronze form was so sharply defined against the pale sky, our steamer, breathing heavily with its broken machinery, slipped over the quiet, transparent waters of the Indian Ocean straight to the harbour. We were only four miles from Bombay, and, to us, who had trembled with cold only a few weeks ago in the Bay of Biscay, which has been so glorified by many poets and so heartily cursed by all sailors, our surroundings simply seemed a magical dream.
After the tropical nights of the Red Sea and the scorching hot days that had tortured us since Aden, we, people of the distant North, now experienced something strange and unwonted, as if the very fresh soft air had cast its spell over us. There was not a cloud in the sky, thickly strewn with dying stars. Even the moonlight, which till then had covered the sky with its silvery garb, was gradually vanishing; and the brighter grew the rosiness of dawn over the small island that lay before us in the East, the paler in the West grew the scattered rays of the moon that sprinkled with bright flakes of light the dark wake our ship left behind her, as if the glory of the West was bidding good-bye to us, while the light of the East welcomed the newcomers from far-off lands. Brighter and bluer grew the sky, swiftly absorbing the remaining pale stars one after the other, and we felt something touching in the sweet dignity with which the Queen of Night resigned her rights to the powerful usurper. At last, descending lower and lower, she disappeared completely.
And suddenly, almost without interval between darkness and light, the red-hot globe, emerging on the opposite side from under the cape, leant his golden chin on the lower rocks of the island and seemed to stop for a while, as if examining us. Then, with one powerful effort, the torch of day rose high over the sea and gloriously proceeded on its path, including in one mighty fiery embrace the blue waters of the bay, the shore and the islands with their rocks and cocoanut forests. His golden rays fell upon a crowd of Parsees, his rightful worshippers, who stood on shore raising their arms towards the mighty "Eye of Ormuzd." The sight was so impressive that everyone on deck became silent for a moment, even a red-nosed old sailor, who was busy quite close to us over the cable, stopped working, and, clearing his throat, nodded at the sun.
Moving slowly and cautiously along the charming but treacherous bay, we had plenty of time to admire the picture around us. On the right was a group of islands with Gharipuri or Elephanta, with its ancient temple, at their head. Gharipuri translated means "the town of caves" according to the Orientalists, and "the town of purification" according to the native Sanskrit scholars. This temple, cut out by an unknown hand in the very heart of a rock resembling porphyry, is a true apple of discord amongst the archaeologists, of whom none can as yet fix, even approximately, its antiquity. Elephanta raises high its rocky brow, all overgrown with secular cactus, and right under it, at the foot of the rock, are hollowed out the chief temple and the two lateral ones. Like the serpent of our Russian fairy tales, it seems to be opening its fierce black mouth to swallow the daring mortal who comes to take possession of the secret mystery of Titan. Its two remaining teeth, dark with time, are formed by two huge pillars t the entrance, sustaining the palate of the monster.
How many generations of Hindus, how many races, have knelt in the dust before the Trimurti, your threefold deity, O Elephanta? How many centuries were spent by weak man in digging out in your stone bosom this town of temples and carving your gigantic idols? Who can say? Many years have elapsed since I saw you last, ancient, mysterious temple, and still the same restless thoughts, the same recurrent questions vex me snow as they did then, and still remain unanswered. In a few days we shall see each other again. Once more I shall gaze upon your stern image, upon your three huge granite faces, and shall feel as hopeless as ever of piercing the mystery of your being. This secret fell into safe hands three centuries before ours. It is not in vain that the old Portuguese historian Don Diego de Cuta boasts that "the big square stone fastened over the arch of the pagoda with a distinct inscription, having been torn out and sent as a present to the King Dom Juan III, disappeared mysteriously in the course of time....," and adds, further, "Close to this big pagoda there stood another, and farther on even a third one, the most wonderful of all in beauty, incredible size, and richness of material. All those pagodas and caves have been built by the Kings of Kanada, (?) the most important of whom was Bonazur, and these buildings of Satan our (Portuguese) soldiers attacked with such vehemence that in a few years one stone was not left upon another...." And, worst of all, they left no inscriptions that might have given a clue to so much. Thanks to the fanaticism of Portuguese soldiers, the chronology of the Indian cave temples must remain for ever an enigma to the archaeological world, beginning with the Brah-mans, who say Elephanta is 374,000 years old, and ending with Fergusson, who tries to prove that it was carved only in the twelfth century of our era. Whenever one turns one's eyes to history, there is
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