Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the juospital. Wiler İLE i Tererved without reference to the cast of HTIOL 2 ne ovner. EHF recovers, he cannot be reclaimed bui remnih t, Druw water for other creatures 1101 anit ti wort. The Si Jams Fortes visited this piace. I wm ful o HORES. dxel sheet., goats, monkeys, poultry, birds, and all arec toise, Enown to have been there sevent-ive Vents. One wari wa arrinted 10 TUTE, muce, an vermir. The cursebre frequent.T hired treppur for a stipriaec sum tags nicta among fleas and bugt, on: conation of owing them a feast without molestation

Piotu pilgrims we offer mat on the road carrying a soft broom to fweer the grounā, last they should tread on inHects, and with mostrvotered to Itoid inhaling tbem. A learned Bramin, maoh intereste in sciente, took great dehght in erscoring the rury of an inglish resident, who one day showed him a solar microscope to convince him that the precautions of devotees were taseless, inasmuch as erery draught of water was filled with animalcala The Braunin became very thoughtful, and offered large sums for the instrument. Being diffcult to obtain in India, the owner for some time refused; but at last, overcome br repeated importunities, be gave it to him. He instantly seized a large stone and dashed the microscope into a thousand atoms. In answer to the angry expostulations of his foreign friend, be said: “O that I had remained in the happy state of ignorance wherein you found me! As iny knowledge increased so did my pleasure, until I bebeld the wonders of that instrument. From that moment I have been tormented with doubt and perplexed by mystery. I am now a solitary individual among millions of people all educated in the same belief with myself; all happy in their ignorance. So may they ever remain! I shall keep the secret in my own bosom, where it will corrode my peace and disturb my rest. Forgive me, my valuable friend; and, O, bring here no more implements of knowl. edge and destruction.”

Many causes have been at work to produce a gradual degeneracy in the manners, customs, and opinions of the Hindoos. Knowledge of the Vedas is confined to the learned, and few ever heard of such a doctrine as the unity of God. The great mass of the people are neglected by the Bramins, who are either taken up with the acquisition of temporal power, or striving to obtain spiritual elevation for themselves, by contemplation and penances. Such instruction as the populace do receive, rather serves to confuse their moral perceptions. Thefts, perjury, or murder, may be atoned for by presents to the priests, and the performance of prescribed ceremonies, without further inconvenience to the culprit; while killing a cow, selling beef to a European, offending a Bramin, or being converted to a foreign religion, involves either the penalty of death, or total excommunication from society by loss of caste. Everywhere the limitations of caste come in to narrow the sympathies and impede the progress of intellect. Hindoos are by nature remarkably kind, gentle, and charitable; but their tender-heartedness disappears the moment it comes in collision with the laws of caste. If a Bramin sees a Pariah drowning, he must not even extend a long pole to save him; for by so doing he would incur pollution involving loss of caste. A Christian missionary ventured to employ a converted Pariah to teach other Hindoo converts; but they protested strongly against such an innovation. “How is it possible," said they, “to allow a Pariah to come into our houses to pray ?” Four hundred persons left the congregation in consequence, but twenty remained to hear the Christian Scriptures read by a man who was socially their inferior; and those twenty were more valuable than the four hundred would have been, with the Pariah silenced.

Hindoo worship makes no provision for the instruction of the people in religious ideas or moral duties. It consists of a routine of ceremonies. Every image is regularly served with rice, fruit, and flowers, which after a prescribed time are removed for the use of priests and their attendants. Perfumes and incense are considered among the most acceptable offerings. Large quantities of frankincense were carried from Arabia to Hundostam st a period so remote that the mse of it is mentioned in the ancient poem, Ramaram. Among consecrated plants, the Soms, or Moon Plant, is peonar? sacred. The juice is a holy drink which Bramins taste on certain religious occasions, after having offered prescribed prayers. They say it is not Becessary to understand the prayers which they mechanically repeat from the Vedas. It is sufficient to know what deity is addressed, and what event is the occasion for supplication or thanksgiving In many cases, mysterious virtne is sscribed to reciting the form of words alternately backward and forward

Religious models for the people are of a lower character than they were in the ancient times. There are now few devotees who attenpt to copy the austere virtue of old hermits; but popular reverence for such characters has produced a swarm of mendicants, who imitate only their extravagancies. These are often described by travellers under the name of Fakeers, or Yogees. On their forehead and arms they usually wear the perpendicular line emblematie of Siraites, or the horizontal line of Vishnuites It is marked by the priests with a composition made of burnt sandal-wood, tumeria, and cow-dang. Doubtless many of these devotees sincerely beliere that they expiste their own sins and those of others, by their severe suffer ings. Some dig a grave and remain buried in the earth, leaving only a small aperture for the admission of food An English gentleman in the neighbourhood of Calcutta, perceiving a strange-looking creature in a hole of the ground, beat it till the blood flowed, without causing any movement, or any remonstrance. It was a Fakeer who had vowed himself to that mode of torture. Some stand in one constrained posture for years and years Others crawl on their hands and knees round an extensive empire. Some roll their bodies over the ground from Indus to Ganges, collecting money to dig a well, or build a temple, in atonement for some sin. Many of them go entirely naked, and come to look like wild beasts, with nails of twenty years growth, dirty matted hair, and arms withered by being held aloft for years. Women of distinction compete with each other for the honour of feeding such saints.

All of this class do not renounce the world so completely. There are communities of them, on whom the devout bestow houses and lands. They make money by agricul- . ture and trade, and send out beggars to procure alms. There is a community of Sivaite saints, who are accustomed to sell their military services to the highest bidder; being willing to fight against everything but their own religion. They stimulate their courage by excessive use of intoxicating herbs and drinks, though wine and spirituous liquors are strictly forbidden by their Sacred Books, and ceremonies of purification are prescribed for a religious man who has merely drank water from vessels that have contained such liquors. Associations of female devotees, said to be far from austere in their lives, reside in some of the temples of Siva. The Fakeers usually wear garments of yellowish red, similar in colour to the bark-cloth worn by ancient anchorites. There appears to be sacredness attached to the colour; for there is an express law forbidding Bramins to sell red cloth, or woven bark.

Like the ascetic sages of ancient time, these modern Fakeers are great travellers. They are met everywhere, from the confines of Russia to Cape Comorin, from China to Bombay. They wander about in armed troops, on pilgrimages to holy cities and sacred wells, levying contributions as they go. To extort charity from passengers, they stun their ears with loud bells, or strike together plates of brass. Some of them are handsome, robust men. They eat everything but beef, and are often immoderate in the use of food and intoxicating liquors. When they arrive at villages, they dance and sing songs describing the amours of Siva or Crishna, for which they receive a reward of food or money. On one occasion, Bombay was so infested by these mendicants, that they became an intolerable nuisance. The governor deemed it imprudent to make any direct attempt to disperse them. But he issued an order that all beggars and idlers should be set to cleaning the great ditch surrounding the fortifications, and the next day not one of the saintly fraternity was to be found. Bishop Heber, speaking of the sacred city of Benares, says: “Fakeers' houses occur at every turn, adorned with idols, and sending out an unceasing tinkling of discordant instruments; while religious mendicants of every sect, offering every conceivable deformity, which chalk, cow-dung, disease, matted locks, distorted limbs, and disgusting attitudes of penance, could show, literally line the principal streets on both sides. I saw repeatedly men who had kept their hands clenched till the nails grew out at the backs; or hopping on one foot, the other having shrunk close up to the hams, from a vow never to use it. Devotees go about with small spears thrust through their tongues and arms, or with hot irons pressed against their sides. Their countenances denote suffering, but they evidently glory in patient endurance, thinking doubtless that they are expiating sins by their agony. These beggars keep up the most pitiful cry for alms.” Among some sects, persons of every caste, even Pariahs, can become Fakeers. These are little respected by the higher classes of Hindostan, and the Bramins especially avoid them. Yet some of the Bramins themselves are by no means worthy of the reverence which their station and office demands. Within the temples they not unfrequently fight and scratch each other, scrambling for the fees and offerings. In days of primitive simplicity a Bramin was not allowed to take a second wife, unless the first bore him no children, or committed some great misdemeanor; but they now marry fifteen, twenty, or a hundred wives, as suits their convenience. The Code of Menu strictly forbids receiving money or gifts in exchange for a daughter or female relative; but in these days, parents, even of the highest castes, do not scruple to dispose of young daughters to whoever will pay the most, though he be old or diseased. The expenses for the maintenance of the priesthood are enormous. One temple in the Deccan maintained forty thousand officiating Bramins,

hly avoid ? classes of cers. Thess of every

« PreviousContinue »