Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/The Celebrated Hindoo Temples and Palace at Madura

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The celebrated Hindoo temples, & palace, at Madura.


The singularly interesting remains represented in the accompanying engraving, occur in the immediate neighbourhood of the ancient city of Madura, which is situated in the southern Carnatic, and was formerly a place of very considerable importance.

Madura was celebrated as the seat of learning in this part of the world, its college being famous all over the East, and, previous to the changes which took place after the Mohammedan conquest, exercised a strong degree of influence over the entire of the native population. It continued to flourish during seven centuries, its institutions securing to both male and female children, for the sex was not degraded in those days, an education of a very liberal nature. According to the rules established at the foundation of this college, every person, without respect to caste, was eligible to become professors, upon showing the requisite qualifications; and at a somewhat late period, when the prejudices of the Brahminical faith had become more confirmed, two persons presented themselves, who were Pariahs, a brother and sister. An attempt was made to exclude these candidates; but, confidently appealing to the laws passed upon the establishment of the college, and being found to excel all other competitors, they were elected, and continued to be at the head of the institution during the remainder of their lives. Tunvaluver, the brother, and the author of many distinguished works in the Tamil language, became the president; and to Avyia, the sister, the country was indebted for the best elementary treatises which ever appeared, her productions being to this day the class-books of the scholars of the highest rank and caste in all the Hindoo schools in the Peninsula of India. It is worthy of remark, that the neglect of female education, and the moral slavery to which the women of India have been reduced, have exerted a very injurious effect on the condition of all classes of society—learning has declined, and the character of the people has suffered in proportion.

In the education of their women, the Hindoos were influenced by the soundest principles, justly observing, that to the sex the care of the male children must necessarily be entrusted at a period of life in which they would receive their earliest and strongest impressions. Had this wise system continued, India would have presented a very different aspect at this time; but in adopting Mohammedan prejudices, it has effectually prevented the advance of knowledge, and the progress of civilization and refinement.

The ruins at Madura are objects of particular interest in the present day, on account of the attempts which are making to revive learning in the East, and to restore the college at this place to its original splendour. In consequence of the influence which was exercised by this college for seven centuries over the Hindoos in the southern peninsula of India, two celebrated Jesuit missionaries, Robertus de Nobilius, and Beschi, flourishing in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, formed plans for its revival, but, owing to dissensions in their order, were unable to carry them into effect. The father of Sir Alexander Johnston, and the late Colonel Mackenzie, who resided at Madura in 1783, having procured an account of the ancient college, and copies of the plans of Robertus de Nobilius and Beschi, in that year formed a plan of their own for the revival of this college; and Colonel Mackenzie, who was an officer of engineers, and who was then superintending the building of the house for Mr. Johnston, which is known at Madura by the name of Johnston's House, and which is now the proper of Sir Alexander Johnston, at the request of Mr. Johnston laid out this house in such a manner as should enable him, whenever an opportunity might offer, to convert it into the Hindoo college which he had planned. No such opportunity, however, occurred during the lives of Colonel Mackenzie and Mr. Johnston; but, as the house is still the property of Sir Alexander Johnston, he has offered to make over all right which he has to it, according to the original plan of his father, to any individual or society who may agree to carry that plan into effect; and he is now in communication with a society abroad, who have the intention of sending out to Madura six men eminently distinguished in different branches of science, for the purpose of establishing themselves at Madura, and educating the Hindoos of that part of India, and circulating amongst them the arts and sciences of Europe.

In addition to their magnitude and splendour, the buildings delineated in the accompanying engraving, are remarkable for their dissimilitude to the general style of Hindoo architecture. Upon inquiry it has been ascertained, that the departure from the usual mode exhibited in some portion of the palace was occasioned by the suggestions of the Jesuit missionary, Robertus Nobilius, before mentioned, who, with a view to the introduction of the religion which he advocated, recommended the ornamental appendages of angels, whose appearance has puzzled many of the learned, surprised by the confusion of various styles, which, however, notwithstanding their departure from recognized rules, give to the whole an imposing character.

The great temple covered an amazing extent of ground, and, in addition to the numerous shrines dedicated to the favourite deities; Trimulnaig, the founder, erected a magnificent choultry for the accommodation of travellers and wayfarers within its walls. These remains are now beginning to excite a very great degree of attention, and drawings illustrative of them have_been sent to Rome, a place which will probably furnish many scientific and intellectual travellers, anxious to further the views for the dissemination of knowledge, now directed to so interesting a portion of the British empire in the East.