ACCOUNT OF THE
PAGODA AT PERWUTTUM
EXTRACT OF A JOURNAL BY CAPTAIN COLIN MACKENZIE,
COMMUNICATED BY MAJOR KIRKPATRICK.
[Extracted from Asiatic Researches, vol. 5, 1799, pp. 303-14.]
THE Pagoda of Perwuttum, hitherto unknown to Europeans, is situated near the south bank of the Kiltua, in a wild track of country, almost uninhabited, except by the Chinsuars, about
|Horizontal distance||65 miles W. of Inawada in Guntoor.
63 miles E. N. E. of Canoul.
And supposed to be 103 miles S. and ˝ E. of Plydrabad.
March 14th, 1764.—Having sent notice, to the manager of the revenues (the
principal officers of the circar) that I was desirous of seeing the Pagoda,
provided there was no objection, I was informed at upon, that I might go in. The
manager did not appear very desirous of paying any of the common civilities, but
the Brahmens crowded round to conduct me into the place. On entering the south
gate, we descended by steps, and through a small door, to the inner court, where
the temples are: in the centre was the Pagoda of Mallecarjee, the principal
deity worshipped here. It is square, and the roof is terminated by a pyramid of
steps; the whole walls and roof on the outside, are covered with brass plates,
which have been gilt, but the gilding is now worn off. These plates are joined
together by small bars and sockets, so that the whole may be taken off without
damage; the spire or pyramid is not above thirty feet from the ground; the
plates are [p.304] plain excepting a few embossed figures of women, some small ornaments, and on
the friezes of the doors, the pannels of which are also plated. A statue with
three legs is placed over each of the three entries; to support this uncommon
figure, a post is carried up, which, at first sight, gives it the appearance of
being empaled. On the west side of the pagoda inscriptions
are engraved very neatly on three sheers of brass plates. Opposite to the south
side, on a neat basement and pedestal ornamented with brazen figures of cows, is
a slender pillar about twenty-four or thirty feet high, entirely composed of
brass plates; it is bent; and from the joints, which plainly appear in the
plating, it seems to be laid on a bamboo enclosed within. The four sides of the
pedestal are covered with inscriptions, two in Gentoo or Tellinga, one in Grindam,
and one in Naggerim: the first seven lines of the latter in large well
defined characters, I copied; five smaller lines followed, which I could not
copy so exactly, the character being small, and the pedestal highly elevated.
Some characters are also engraved on the fillet and ornamental parts of the
moulding. From hence I was conducted to the smaller and more ancient temple of
Mallecarjee, where he is adored in the figure of a rude stone, which I could
just distinguish through the dark, vista of the front building on pillars.
Behind this building an immense fig tree covers with its shade the devotees and
attendants, who repose on seats placed round its trunk and carpeted. Among these
was one Byragy who had devoted himself to a perpetual residence here; his sole
subsistence was the milk of a cow, which I saw him driving before him: an orange
coloured rag was tied round his loins and his naked body was besmeared with
Some of the Brahmens came in the evening, with a copy of the inscriptions on two of the brass plates: they professed not to know exactly, the [p.305] meaning of them, being, they said, Sanscrittum Jigum. The same ignorance of the language of their religious books, seems to prevail through all these countries. The Brahmens in attendance here, are relieved at stated times, from Autcowr and other places, as this place is unwholesome and the water bad. One of them said, he had books at Autcowr, explanatory of the history of the Pagoda, and of the figures carved on the walls. Though they had never heard that any European had been here before, they did not express any surprise at this visit. Some of them applied for medical aid, but no fever prevailed among them at that time.
During the troubles of Sevi-row, the Chinsuars occupied the Pagoda, who stripped it of some ornaments and damaged it. Since Sevi-row had submitted the revenues derived from the resort of pilgrims, are collected for the canoul circar by a manager or aumildar, who resides within the enclosure, as do the sebundies and peons, stationed here to protect the pilgrims, who come from all parts at certain stated festivals.
The red colour, that predominates in the rock of this country, (which is a granite,) is very remarkable. The superstratum, which, in many places, forms the naked superfices of the soil, is of a black colour, and from the smooth shining surface it frequently exhibits, appears to have been formerly in a state of fusion, but goes to no great depth; the next stratum is composed of grains of a reddish colour, mixed with others of a white shining quartz, in greater proportion and of a larger size, so as to give the stone, when quarried, a greyish colour, which is more observable after it has been cut or chisseled. Iron is found in several parts of this mountainous tract, and so are diamonds, but the labour is so great, and the chance of meeting with the veins so very uncertain, [p.306] that the digging for them has been long discontinued; the following places were mentioned as producing them, viz.
1. Saringamutta, near Jatta Reow, on the other side the Kistna, where the ferry and road to Amirabad crosses, N. B. A Pagoda here.
2. Routa Pungala, two parous distant, near Pateloh Gunga,
3. Goffah Reow, twelve parous down the river. N. B. a ferry or ford there. After the heavy rains, when the rivers fall, they are found sometimes in the beds. This place is near the ruins of Chindra-goowply-putriam, formerly a great town on its north bank, and now belonging to Amraritty.
The weather being warm, I was desirous of getting over as much of this bad road as I could before noon: my tents and baggage had been sent off at four. A., M. and I only remained at the Pagoda, with the intention of making some remarks on the sculptures of its wall as soon as day light appeared. But the Brahmens with the Rajpoot amuldar (who had hitherto shewn a shiness that I had not experienced in any other parts of the journey,) came to request, that, as I was the first European, who had ever came so far, to visit Mallecarjee and had been prevented from seeing the object of their worship, by yesterday not being a lucky day, I would remain with them that day, assuring me, that the doors would be opened at ten o'clock. I agreed to wait till that hour, being particularly desirous of seeing, by what means, the light was reflected into the temple, which the unskilfulness of my interpreter could not explain intelligibly to my comprehension. Notice being at last given, at about half past eight, that the sun was high enough, the doors on the east side the gilt Pagoda were thrown open, and a mirror, or reflecting [p.307] speculum, was brought from the Rajpoot amuldar's house. It was round, about two feet in diameter, and fixed to a brass handle, ornamented with figures of cows; the polished side was convex, but so foul that it could not reflect the sun beams; another was therefore brought, rather smaller and concave, surrounded by a narrow rim and without a handle. Directly opposite to the gate of the Pagoda is a stone buildings raised on pillars, enclosing a well, and ending in a point; and, being at the distance of twelve or fourteen feet, darkens the gateway by its shadow, until the sun rises above it: this, no doubt, has been contrived on purpose to raise the expectation of the people, and by rendering the sight of the idol more rare, to favour the imposition of the Brahmens. The moment being come, I was permitted to stand on the steps in front of the threshold without, (having put off my shoes, to please the directors of the ceremony, though it would not have been insisted on,) while a crowd surrounded me, impatient to obtain a glimpse of the aweful figure within. A boy, being placed near the doorway, waved and played the concave mirror, in such a manner, as to throw gleams of light into the Pagoda, in the deepest recess whereof was discovered, by means of these coruscations, a small, oblong, roundish white stone, with dark rings, fixed in a silver case. I was permitted to go no farther, but my curiosity was now sufficiently Satisfied. It appears, that this god Mallicarjee is no other than the Lingam, to which such reverence is paid by certain casts of the Gentoos; and the reason why he is here represented by stones unwrought, may be understood from the Brahmens' account of the origin of this place of worship. My interpreter had been admitted the day before into sanctum sanctorum, and allowed to touch the stone, which he says is smooth, and shining, and that the dark rings or streaks are painted on it; probably it is an agate, or some other stone of a silicious kind, found near some parts of the Kistna, and of an uncommon size. The speculums were of a whitish metal, probably a mixture of tin and brass.
These arts, designed to impose on the credulity of the ignorant superstitious
crowd, seem to have been cultivated successfully here, and the difficulties
attending the journey, with the wild gloomy appearance of the country, no doubt,
add to the aweful impression made on their minds.
The Brahmens having given me the following account of the origin of the Pagoda, I insert it here, as it may lead to farther enquiry, and by a comparison with other accounts, however disguised by fable or art, some light may be thrown on the Illusory, and manners of a people so very interesting.
"At Chundra-gumpty-patnum, twelve parous down the river on the north side, formerly ruled a Raja of great power, who, being absent several years from his house, in consequence of his important pursuits abroad, on his return fell in love with his own daughter, who had grown up during his long absence. In vain the mother represented the impiety of his passion: proceeding to force his daughter tied to these deserts of Perwuttum, first uttering curses and imprecations against her father; in consequence of which, his power and wealth declined; his city, now a deserted ruin, remains a monument of divine wrath; and himself, struck by the vengeance of Heaven, lies deep beneath the waters of Puttela-gunga, which are tinged green by the string of emeralds that adorned his neck." Here is a fine subject for a fable; it may, however, furnish a clue to history, as the ruins of this once opulent city are still said to exist. This account of the origin of the devotion here, bears a great resemblance to that of the pilgrimage to Mouserrat in Catalonia, mentioned in Baretti's travels.
"The princess was called Mallica-davi, and lived in this wilderness. Among her cattle, was a remarkably fine black cow, which she complained to her [p.309] herdsmen, never gave her milk. He watched behind the trees, and saw the cow daily milked by an unknown person. Malica-davi informed of this, placed herself in a convenient situation, and beholding the same unknown person milking the cow, ran to strike him with an iron rod or mace, which she held in her hand; but the figure suddenly disappeared, and to her astonishment, nothing remained but a rude shapeless stone. At night the god appeared to her in a dream, and informed her, he was the person that milked the cow; she, therefore on this spot, built the first temple that was consecrated to the worship of this deity represented by a rude stone."
This is the second temple that was shewn yesterday, where he
is exhibited in the rude state of the first discovery, and is called
Mudi-Mulla-Carjee or Mallecarjee; the other temples were afterwards built in
later times, by Rajas and other opulent persons. The lingam, shewn by reflected
light in the gilded temple, has also its history and stories, still more absurd
and wonderful, attached to it. It was brought from the (now deserted) city of
Chundra-goompty-patnam. The princess, now worshipped as a goddess, is also
called Brama-Rumbo, or Strichillum-Rumbo, from whence this Pagoda is called
Strichillum. She delights peculiarly in Perwuttum, but is called by eighteen
It may be proper here, to take notice of the carvings on the outer walls, as they are remarkable for their number, and contain less of those monstrous figures than other buildings of this kind. It would appear that the stories represented on several divisions, or compartments, are designed to impress on the mind some moral lesson, or to heighten the reverence inculcated for the object of adoration here. The customs and manners of the Gentoos; their arms, dress, amusements, and the parade and state attendant on their sovereigns, in former times, might be elucidated by a minute inspection of the figures repre- [p.310] sented on the walls; drawings of which, and translations of or extracts from, any books or inscriptions, that might be found, having relation to them, would be useful to that end.
The several Pagodas, Choultries, and Courts, are enclosed by a wall 660 feet long and 510 feet broad. In the centre of this inclosure are the more ancient buildings already described. Below, the level of the principal gate, a road or avenue, twenty-four feet broad, goes parallel without to this wall, from whence is a descent by steps to gardens on the north side; from the cast gate a double colonade runs, 120 yards, forming a street; an oblong tank is on the well side, from which water was conducted to reservoirs in the gardens, but these are now entirely neglected; the town or pettah covered the south side, and the S. E. angle; the form of the inclosure is an oblong square, with one square projection to the west. The great gateways are, as usual, supported by stone pillars, leaving apartments for the guard on each side the entrance: they are covered with spires of brick work; and this, with the pillar between, being retired some feet within the line of walls, shews that they are of more modern construction, though the spires are rather ruinous: and it may be proper to remark, that these brick spires, formed of several stories with small pilasters, of no regular order, and the niches ornamented with figures in plaster, seem to be the latest invention used in the Pagodas; those with pyramidal roofs, step-fashion, and the summit crowned, sometimes by a globe, are more ancient and of several sizes, so low as four feet in height; built of stone, and seem to be the first improvement on the early rude temples of rough stones set up on end to cover the image of the god. These first attempts are frequently seen among the hills. The wall of the inclosure is built of hewn blocks of the greyish stone, from six to seven feet long by three high, exactly squared and laid together, and about eight or nine rows of these, from the level of the interior [p.311] pavement, leaves its height, from twenty-four varied to twenty-seven feet; the whole of the wall on the outside (being 2,100 feet by twenty-four, allowing 240 for the opening of the gates and square projection on the west side) is covered with carvings and figures sculptured out of the block. Every single block has a rim, or border, raised round it, within which, the carving is raised on a level with the rim, designed evidently, to protect the figures from injury, while raised upon the wall.
The first and lowest row of these stones is covered with figures of elephants, harnessed in different ways, as if led in procession, many of them twisting up trees with their trunks.—2nd. The second row is chiefly occupied with equestrian subjects; horses led ready saddled and their manes ornamented, others tied up to pillars, some loose; a great many horsemen are represented, engaged in fight, at full gallop, and armed with pikes, swords, and shields; others are seen hunting the tyger, and running them through with long spears. The riders are represented very small in proportion to the horses, probably to distinguish the size of the latter, as a smaller cast seems intended to be represented among the led horses, where a few are seen lower in size. Something resembling the Acheen breed of horses. All these figures are very accurately designed. It is remarkable, that several figures are represented gallopping off as in flight, and at the same time drawing the bow at full stretch; these Parthian figures seem to have entirely dropped the bridle, both hands being occupied by the bow; some of them are seen advancing at full speed, and drawing the bow at the same time. This mode appears to have been practised by the Indians, as it is highly probable, that the arts of common life only, are here represented in the lower row. —3d. On the third row, a variety of figures are represented, many of them hunting pieces; tygers (and in one place a lion) attacked by several persons; [p.312] crowds of people appear on foot, many armed with bows and arrows, like the Chinsuars; many figures of Byrraggies or Jogies are seen distinguished by large turbans, carrying their sticks, pots, and bundles, as if coming from a journey; some leaning on a stick as if tired, or decrepid from age; others approaching with a mien of respect and adoration.—The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh rows, are filled (as it would appear from the scanty information I was able to obtain) with representations of several events regarding the deities of the place, or expressive allegories of the moral and religious dogmas of the Brahmens; and probably some may record particular events of real history.—The eighth has fewer carvings than the rest, some stones are occupied by a single flower of large size, perhaps intended for the sacred flower (lotos): and some, though but a few, by the figure of a god.—The ninth, or upper row, is cut into openings, in the manner of battlements, and the stones, between each of these apertures, are alternately sculptured with the figures of the Lingam, and a cow shaded by an umbrella, to signify its pre-eminence.
To examine the particular groups represented, would have taken up much more time than I could spare, but I particularly noticed the following: First, a figure with five heads, weighing two figures in a balance: one of them appears to have a little out-balanced the other. From what I could understand from the Brahmens, this was meant for Brahma weighing Vishnu and Siva, or Sulramica; the latter is heaviest. This alludes to the different sects, or followers of Vishnu and Siva. Another figure also represented two persons weighed in a balance, both equal, but the explanation of this I could not learn.
Second. Several people pulling at the head and tail of a great snake, which [p.313] is twisted round a Lingam. This I had seen casted on the walls of the pagoda of Wentigmetta, near Sidout, in September 1792.
3d. Elephants treading a man under foot.
4th. A naked figure of a woman approaching the Lingam: in her left hand she holds the small pot used for ablution; in her right a string of beads (Ingam valu): a hand appears issuing from the Lingam.
The Brahmens explained the meaning of this sculpture, "Acuma Devi naked, approaching to worship the Lingam; a hand appears suddenly from it, waving, and a voice is heard, forbidding her to approach in that indecent situation." A maxim of decency, in the height of religious zeal is here inculcated.
5th. The story of Mallecarjee and the sacred cow (the origin of the pagoda) is represented in two different places. The cow appears with its udder distended over the Lingam, which differs from the account of the Brahmens in not being represented as a rough stone; a person near a tree is seen, as if looking on; a kind of division seems to separate these figures from a woman, in a sitting posture, with an umbrella held over her, to denote superior rank; on the right, behind a tree, is a figure very indistinct, probably intended to represent the herdsman: the trees are badly executed.
6th. Among the number of animals in the procession on the second hand third row, two camels are represented with a person on each, beating the nagra, or great drum.
7th. In one compartment the figure of an alligator, or crocodile, with its
scales and monstrous teeth is seen, running open mouthed, to devour a person
lying before it; two women are standing near a third seated; they are looking on
a child near them. I got no explanation of this.
8th. An elephant and tyger fighting.
The sculptures on the south and east sides are in good preservation; those on the west and north are more injured by the weather. The age of the first temple might perhaps be discovered from the inscriptions, if a translation of them could be obtained. I could gain no information on this head; but I suspect the building to be of higher antiquity than the knowledge, or, at least, than the use of gunpowder among these people; because among so great a variety of arms as are sculptured upon the walls, swords, bows, pikes, arrows, and shields of a round figure, the matchlock is not be found, though a weapon so much in use among the poligars. On enquiring of the Brahmens the meaning of these carvings, one of them replied, "it was to shew how the Gods lived above;" but indeed they seem to have lost all traces of any knowledge they may have formerly possessed, and to be sunk into the profoundest state of ignorance.