WITH this noble bănd or embankment, and its terraced ghât or descent of marble, there is certainly nothing: to compare in Europe, and it is one of the finest things even in India. It is about thirty miles north of Udaypur, and is drawn across a gorge between two hills, through which formerly the Gumti flowed southwards from the outer spurs of the Aravalli Hills, and is formed of an enormous rampart of earth faced on the south or lower side by a plain wall, crowned by small chhatris, or canopies of marble. On the north side is the descent or ghâţ to the lake formed by this dam, built throughout of white marble, and 1,115 feet in length. It runs N.W. by W. and S.E. by E., and above its western end is the fort and palace of Râjnagar,--the modern town being on the southern base of the hill; while at the other end, the band is flanked by the Kankrauli hill, once fortified also, and on which, among other remains, are the ruins of a fine old temple. But “when Jeswant Rao Pandit, Sindhia’s general, occupied the palace,” says Mr. Fergusson1 “Jamshir Khan took possession of this temple, and pulled down the greater part of the building to erect fortifications with the materials; and it is sad, indeed, to see columns and cornices heaped up as a bulwark for the defence of a Marâthâ or Pindâri. Even the beautiful spire of the vimana has been partly destroyed, and replaced by a round tower—the keep of this profane citadel. Notwithstanding all this, it is even now a picturesque and, in some respects, a beautiful ruin.”
The bănd, like the fort and palace of Râjnagar, was constructed by Râja Singh, who ruled on the throne of Mewar or Udaypur from 1653 till 1680, and forms an artificial lake, called from him RÂJASAMUDRA, said to measure, when full, about twenty miles in circumference. A mile further east, at the town of Kankrauli, the embankment is again resumed, but though probably never finished in the same style, the ghât is there much ruined. A short distance beyond the town it trends away to the north, and there consists simply of a great embankment of earth, faced with terraces of stone, probably intended to be faced also with marble, and the embankment planted with trees.
The ghât consists, first, of a terrace paved with marble, 15 feet 9 inches wide; from this there is a descent of 6 ft. 3 in. by means of nine steps, divided lengthwise into ten divisions, each of about 74 feet in length, separated by piers or bays generally of about 21 feet in width, but two of them 71 ft. 9 in., and a third 58 ft. 2 in. wide, and extending 36 feet outwards. The terrace at the foot of these steps is 4 ft. 7 in. wide; and there is then a second flight of nine steps similarly divided, descending 5 ft 10 in. to a terrace, which, In the large bays or piers, extends forwards about 90 feet, with a breadth in front of 27 feet, where they are crowned by beautiful pavilions, two of them—those shown in the Photograph—consisting of sixteen columns each, and, to quote again from Mr. Fergusson, “all richly sculptured in different patterns, and altogether with more elegance of form and detail than could well be expected from their age;” the third, however,—the one on the smaller pier, and partly shown in the left of the view,—“has only twelve columns; but more sculpture is lavished on its small dimensions than on either of the others ; and it is really a very elegant and fairy-like building.”
“The roofs,” he continues. “like the pillars, are of white marble, most of the compartments being sculptured with considerable elegance, though, it must be confessed, they are not to be compared with the specimens at Chandravati” (Jalrapattan) “and Baroli, either for design or execution. This arises partly from the inferiority of the workmen employed on them, but also from the ornaments not being of the same purity of style, but belonging to the class which was introduced in the reign of the great Akbar—a strange jumble of Hindu and Muhammadan features, neither being pure nor distinct, but mixed one with another, so as to make up a style rich and elaborate, it is true, and often highly picturesque, but which one can with difficulty tolerate, after being familiar with both as they existed in their purity before the reign of that monarch.
“The figure sculpture partakes of the corruption of that age, and certainly is inferior to the architectural details, though portions of it are pleasing, and some of the mythological combinations were new to me and somewhat startling;” on the roof of the middle canopy are figures with wings and crowns which must have been borrowed from some Western source; in the eastern one are dancers in a circle round a central flower, devas, apsarases, geometric figures, gandharvas with human heads and the bodies and feet of fowls, &c.
Between each pair of piers, and on the same level with the canopies, are two triumphal arches; originally there have been six, but one is entirely gone, one lies a mass of ruin, a third has lost the toran between the pillars which support the lintel or architrave, and of the most westerly only parts of the pillars are left.
A third descent of 6 ft. 3 in. by nine steps, leads to another terrace, which, however, when the lake is full, after the rains, is generally covered with water. The next descent is of 6 ft. 4 in., but is accomplished by narrow stairs descending in front of the last terrace—the steps being at right angles to it, and landing on a narrow terrace that sweeps round the advanced piers in curved lines; again from this there is another descent, seldom exposed, even in the driest season. The height of the top of the embankment above the water when the view was taken was about 33 feet. On the piers, under the face of the second terrace, are niches, all—except one which contains an image — filled with long inscriptions relating the history of the Rânâ’s family, and the origin and expense of the bănd. Above, also, there lies a well-carved figure of Lakshmî, somewhat defaced: and on the east end of the bănd is a small temple, apparently of Chandî, while at the other end there is a rest-house.
Ninety-six lakhs of rupees were contributed by the Rânâ, his chiefs, and opulent subjects, for this great work,2 of which the material was from the adjacent quarries. “But,” adds Tod, “magnificent, costly, and useful as it is, it derives its chief beauty from the benevolent motive to which it owes its birth; to alleviate the miseries of a starving population, and make their employment conducive to national benefit, during one of those awful visitations of Providence, famine and pestilence, with which these states are sometimes afflicted.” It was in fact a famine relief work.
It was in Samvat 1717, or A.D. 1660, that this famine took place, and the following extract from the Râja Valâsa, as given by Tod, is a simple yet terrific record of its effects:—
“The chief of Mewar, deeply meditating on this extreme distress, determined to raise a monument, by which the wretched might be supported, and his own name perpetuated. This was seven years in constructing, and at its commencement and termination all the rites of sacrifice and oblation were observed. “ The Rânâ went to implore favour at the temple of the ‘four-armed’;3 for though Aśâḍ month was over, not a drop of rain fell from the heavens; and, in like manner, the months of Śâwan and Bhâdun passed away. For want of water the world was in despair, and people went mad with hunger. Things unknown as food were eaten. The husband abandoned the wife, the wife the husband—parents sold their children. Time increased the evil; it spread far and wide; even the insects died: they had nothing to feed on. Thousands of all ages became victims to hunger. Those who procured food to-day, ate twice what nature required. The wind was from the west, a pestilential vapour. The constellations were always visible at night, nor was there a cloud in the sky by day, and thunder and lightning were unknown. Such portents filled mankind with dread. Rivers, lakes, and fountains were dried up. Men of wealth meted out the portions of food. The ministers of religion forgot their duties. There was no longer distinction of caste, and the Śudra and Brahman were undistinguishable. Strength, wisdom, caste, tribe, all were abandoned, and food alone was the object The char varan (four castes) threw away every symbol of separation; all was lost in hunger. Fruits, flowers every vegetable thing, even trees were stripped of their bark, to appease the cravings of hunger; nay, man ate man! Cities were depopulated. The seed of families was lost, the fishes were extinct, and the hope of all extinguished.”