1OUR first sketch is of long ago, when the American continent was only known to its own wild inhabitants, and England was just beginning to emerge from barbarism.
2King Richard I., the famous crusader, reigned over England from A. D. 1189 to 1199. Upon his death the treacherous John ascended the throne, from whom the famous Magna Chartawas wrung by an exasperated and persistent people. About this time, that is, the close of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century, Hindoostan was literally what its name signifies — the place or country of the Hindoos. The whole extent of country north of the Vindhya range of mountains was divided into petty kingdoms, governed by Rajas possessing more or less power, according to the customs and laws of the different castes. The four largest and most prosperous kingdoms were those of Delhi, or Yoginipoor, as it was then called, which was held by the division of Hindoos called Tomara, Ajmere by that of Chauhan, Canauj, by the one called Rathore, and Guzerat by the Bagheelas.
3The Raja of Delhi had no male children, and, about A. D. 1 1 80, adopted his grandson, Prithwi, the young Raja of Ajmere, so that Delhi and Ajmere, the Toraaras and Chauhans, were united under one government.
4The Raja of Canauj was also a grandson of the Raja of Delhi, and had been indulging secretly the hope of one day inheriting his throne. He was, of course, greatly disappointed and enraged when the preference was given to his cousin, the Raja of Ajmere, and after the death of the grandfather rivalries and wars became the order of the day between the two kingdoms. This unhappy state of things greatly accelerated the progress of the Mahomedans, who were slowly but surely encroaching upon the north-western frontier of Hindoostan.
5The kingdom of Canauj included Nepal, in the Himalayas, and extended as far west as the rivers Chumbul and Bunas, and — the Hindoos claim — even to the Indus. Its capital, the city of Canauj, was situated on the Ganges river, about midway between Cawnpore and Futtaghur. Both Hindoo and Mahomedan writers extol the beauty and magnificence of this city, whose glories have long since passed away. It is described as "a city which raised its head to the skies, and in strength and beauty might boast of being unrivaled."
6Sanjogata, the subject of this sketch, was the daughter of Jaichand, the Raja of Canauj. Hindoo writers represent her to have been of great personal beauty, and of superior intelligence and amiability. When the troublesome feud broke out between her father and the Raja of Delhi, Sanjogata was just blooming into womanhood and was yet unmarried. This fact shows us that the objectionably early marriages now customary among the Hindoos were not general at that period.
7The Moslem invaders had not yet frightened the people by their lawlessness into the practice of keeping their women in seclusion, and a fair degree of liberty was allowed them. It seems probable, too, that they even had some power of choice in regard to their husbands granted them.
8Soon after the accession of Prithwi, or Prithiraj, as he was then called, he gave a series of brilliant entertainments in honor of the event. By the coalition of the two governments he had become ruler of a much larger kingdom than would otherwise have been under his sway. His name, Prithwi, signifying earth, was, therefore, joined to the title of Raja, slightly abbreviated, so that his name and title joined formed the high-sounding cognomen of " King of the Earth." It was also a clever way of avoiding a dispute as to whether he should be called the Raja of Delhi or Ajmere. The rejoicings progressed merrily, and were concluded by a peculiar and expensive religious festival, called the Aswamedha. The Raja of Canauj was filled with bitterness, envy, and rancor, and resolved by one grand outlay to outshine his young rival To this intent he made preparations to celebrate a most ancient and sacred Hindoo festival, called the Rajshui, which, in order to be perfect, must be participated in by all Hindoo princes living at the time.
9Prithiraj, of course, was not invited to the celebration, and another young Raja, a friend of his, was also slighted. Their places were filled by their effigies, made of gold, and Raja Jaichand strove to heap obloquy upon them by assigning to the effigy of Prithiraj the post of porter, and to his friend that of scullion, in the hall of sacrifice. He also planned to give interest to the occasion by allowing his beautiful daughter to choose her husband from among the assembled princes. At the close of the religious ceremonies she was to be led through the hall to choose her future lord, and was to signify her choice by throwing a necklace of flowers, called the barmala, or marriage garland, around the neck of the fortunate prince. The marriage ceremonies, conducted with all the pomp and splendor possible, were to conclude the great festival, after which the Raja could rest satisfied that he had outdone his rival, even though that rival was ruler of two kingdoms.
10But, alas for the certainty of even royal plans! The princess Sanjogata, like her mother, Eve, had thought a great deal on forbidden subjects, and having heard rumors of the beauty and gallant conduct of Prithiraj, had in her heart resolved that he should be her choice.
11She kept her own counsel, however, until the right time for action arrived, then, without allowing herself to think of the sorrow she would cause her aged father by her willfulness, she walked quietly along when led through the long lines of anxious and expectant princes, until, having reached the door where stood the golden effigy of Prithiraj, she threw the garland around its neck !
12The confusion and dismay of the assemblage were overwhelming. The poor old Raja was overcome by chagrin at having his plans for triumphing over his rival so unceremoniously overturned by his own daughter ; but there was no help for it, and the festival was hastily and sadly concluded. Our princess must have been in dire disgrace, but probably her romantic attachment to the prince she had never seen kept her from yielding to despondency. She seems to have been one of those sporadic champions of woman's rights who are scattered here and there through the annals of the past ; but we would scarcely expect that such independent action in a Hindoo princess of the thirteenth century would be unchecked and unpunished.
13Of course the Raja of Delhi was informed in due time of his rival's discomfiture, and the preference so openly expressed for himself by his courageous daughter, and, like a true knight of " ye olden tyme," he quickly made a bold raid upon the court of the Raja of Canauj, and succeeded in carrying the princess off in open day. They were hotly pursued, but reached Delhi in safety, where their marriage was celebrated amid great rejoicing. For one short year they enjoyed uninterrupted happiness, but at its close their luxurious life was suddenly broken in upon by the re-appearance of the dreaded Mahomedan army upon the frontier. Shabab-oo-Deen had advanced upon Delhi two years previous, and had been repulsed ; but now, with large reinforcements, he again marched upon the royal city.
14Sanjogata encouraged her husband to defend his capital bravely. She begged him not to think of his own life, or of her, but to do his duty, remembering that " to die well is to live forever." "Let your sword divide your foe," she said, " and I will be your partner in the future life." Probably she meant by this that if he should fall she would not long survive him.
15The Raja hastened to call a council of war and to notify his allies, and shortly all was in readiness to begin the campaign.
16It was the custom among the Hindoos of old, that when the head of a family went forth to battle he took solemn leave of all his female relatives, who exhorted him as he left to be courageous and brave.
17Sanjogata performed her part in this ceremony with fortitude and enthusiasm until — as was customary — she endeavored to fasten the helmet that hid the face of her beloved husband. A presentiment seized her that she would never gaze upon his countenance again, and she became so agitated with grief that she could not secure the clasps. Another had to perform this office, and the Raja, with one last glance and a cheerful farewell, hastened to his place at the head of his army. Sanjogata gazed sadly after him and exclaimed : "I shall never see him again in Yoginipoor, (Delhi,), but in the region of Swarga (heaven) I shall again behold him! "
18Her presentiment was correct. The Hindoo army was routed, and Prithiraj, the last Raja of Delhi, was slain upon the field. Sanjogata fasted and wept during the progress of the conflict, and when convinced that the Raja had indeed fallen, she ordered a pyre to be erected and was burned upon it, deeming this the surest and readiest means of rejoining her husband.
19This is the first authentic instance of " Suttee," or widow-burning, mentioned in Hindoo writings, but probably the custom prevailed to some extent before this time. It would seem, however, that it was only to be followed voluntarily.
20Poor unfortunate princess! Ignorant of the God of love and all comfort, her yearning love for her slaughtered husband led her to forestall the day when by a natural death she might rejoin him, by giving herself in the bloom of life to the flames. We can admire the devotion of this brave young creature, while we lament the ignorance and superstition that led to this fearful act of self-sacrifice.
21She was the last Ranee who reigned in Yoginipoor, and with the close of her short career was Hindoo power in Delhi ended.
22Shabab-oo-Deen did not remain long in Hindoostan, but he left a favorite slave, named Kutub-oo-Deen, upon the throne of Delhi, who founded the dynasty of the Slave kings. This Mahomedan ruler began the building of the famous pillar named after him, the Kutub Minar. It stands about eleven miles from the present city of Delhi, the intervening space being covered with mounds and ruins of the old city, the Yoginipoor of the Hindoos. According to Hindoo tradition the Kutub Minar was begun by Prithiraj for the use of his young bride, that she might every morning view from its summit the river Jumna, several miles distant.
23Sanjogata, it seems, was a worshiper of the sun, and the river Jumna is supposed to be a daughter of that luminary, and the fair idolatress could thus pay her devotions to both divinities at the same time. Mahomedans, of course, deny this, and say it was designed and built in commemoration of the establishment of Moslem power in Hindoostan. It was completed by Altamash-oo-Deen, the son-in-law and successor of Kutub-oo-Deen, about 1235. It is said to have been much higher than at present, but after the lapse of six centuries it is difficult to ascertain facts of detail. It is now two hundred and thirty-eight feet above the level of the ground, and is wholly unconnected with any other building. The diameter of the base is forty-seven feet two inches, with an upper diameter of nearly nine feet. There are five stories and five galleries, including the one at the top. The building is nearly all of red sand- stone, and has a spiral staircase within of the same material extending to the top. The lowest story is covered with flutings alternately angular and circular ; on the second story the flutings are all circular, and on the third angular.
24The fourth section is faced with marble, having a belt of dark stone at the bottom ; and the fifth is of sandstone, with two belts of marble, and some ornamental work in marble close to the summit. On the top is an iron railing. It has suffered from earth- quakes somewhat, and on this account a cupola that crowned its summit was taken down early in the present century, when the British Government had the whole structure put in perfect repair, at an out- lay of over twenty thousand pounds. The cupola stands near the great pillar, in a much humbler but safer position than formerly. A lightning conductor is now attached to the pillar, which, it is hoped, will prevent any farther injury from this source.
25It is wonderful that such a high and isolated structure — the highest single pillar in the world — has withstood the sirocco blasts and the rainy seasons of over six hundred years !
26The conquest of Delhi and Ajmere by the Mahomedans was followed the succeeding year (1193) by that of Canauj, and shortly after by that of the remaining Hindoo principalities, and the rule of the Crescent remained in force in Hindoostan until 1757, when it too, in its turn, was overcome and destroyed by the English power, and a brighter day dawned upon the long oppressed and benighted races of Hindoostan.
27Yoginipoor is partly covered with the ruins of yet another ruined city, and the site of the once surpassingly beautiful city of Canauj can scarcely be identified. "Sic transit gloria mundi!"