Eve Of The Eclipse Of The Moon, 25th November 1825.
Artist: Prinsep, James (1799-1840)
Plate 7 from the second part of James Prinsep's 'Benares Illustrated'. Prinsep (1799-1840), an antiquary and colonial administrator was assay master at the Benares Mint between 1820-30. The lithographs published in this collection were based on his original sketches of the various views of the 'holy' city of the Hindus. Of this view he writes: ' Conjunctions of the planets, eclipses and Sankrant, or the Sun's entrance into the zodiacal signs, are accounted the most auspicious moments for bathing in the Ganges...For two or three days previous to such an event, pilgrims and travelling parties...assemble in groups upon the terraces and balconies of the temples and houses near the river. Every vacant spot is put in requisition and hired out by the square foot...the scene bears more the character of a fair (mela)...At the eclipse of the 25th Nov. the crowd was unusually great, and no less than forty lives were lost in the press of bathers at the first glimpse of the moon's obscured visage. Most of the figures in the view were drawn and finished on the spot...The smoke on the left hand points out the spot on which the dead are burned, a place dedicated to Vishnoo...In the crowd are seen a couple of Missionaries distributing tracts with zeal as ardent, and perhaps as unavailing as that of the poor Suttees themselves...'.