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besides a great number of Devedasses. Of course it is for their interest to inculcate a blind unquestioning faith in all they teach, and to load popular worship with images and ceremonies, for all of which they receive pay. It being admitted that images were necessary for the ignorant, as pictures are for children, and these images commanding a ready sale, they of course multiplied rapidly. They are of every variety of size and material, from gold to wood and clay, from thirty feet high to a finger in length. They are generally grotesque, deformed things, made by the smith and the potter, or rudely fashioned by the humble worshippers in preparation for some festival. The Bramins reconcile this with the Veda doctrine of God's unity, by saying these are mere subordinate agents fulfilling various offices in the universe under One Ruler. But the populace have no such idea. They believe all these gods and goddesses to be independent deities, with supreme power over the departments they govern. When a Hindoo buys an image, he goes to the priest to have certain ceremonies performed over it, which are supposed to endow it not only with life, but with supernatural power. If the idol be masculine, another ceremony must be performed to marry him to the image of some goddess. Not only their temples but their houses are full of these idols, some of which are extremely hideous. They offer them a portion of their food, fan them in warm weather, cover them from cold, and put them to bed every night. The Bramins tell many legends of their assuming various shapes and colours, and working miracles; all of which are readily believed.
There is universal belief in Evil Spirits, of various ranks and degrees of power, from gigantic demons, who attack the orbs of light, down to the malicious little Pucks, who delight in small mischief. They suppose these enter the minds of men, producing bad thoughts and criminal actions, and also take possession of the body, producing insanity, fits, and all manner of diseases. They can be cast out only by some form of holy words pronounced by the priest, with ceremonies prescribed for such occasions.
While Sir James Forbes was presiding judge in a Hindoo district, a petition was sent to him stating that a certain woman had been for a long time possessed by two Evil Spirits; and that the petitioner's daughter, having been with this woman, and witnessed certain conjuring tricks, and heard the devils talk, came home and fell down on the bed without sense or motion, and continued so for hours. She continued to have these fits for two months; at the end of which time, she told her parents that one of the devils had come out of the woman and entered into her, tormenting her all the time to offer it food and sacrifices. Dr. Buchanan mentions a man in Mysore supposed to be possessed by one of these demons, which caused him to fall down in fits. The whole village was in an uproar, and could only be appeased by the presence of a Bramin, who recited prayers, and strewed consecrated ashes over the individual. Amulets and charms, duly prepared by religious ceremonies, are worn as a protection against Evil Spirits, likewise against witchcraft. They have many magicians, most of whom are women. It is said they can bewitch people by keeping their eyes steadfastly fixed on them; that they can travel through the air invisibly; can bring intelligence from remote places with incredible swiftness; can read secret thoughts; and if thrown into the river with a stone tied to them, they will not sink.
Sir James Forbes mentions several individuals who were in possession of a singular power, seemingly supernatural; particularly a Bramin, who could see what was occurring in distant places, and read the thoughts of people who came into his presence. He confesses himself much puzzled by prophecies and revelations of this kind, which most undoubtedly occurred during his residence in India.
Some degree of chemical knowledge has existed among the Bramins for many ages. They are acquainted with the antidotes to many poisons, and have a chemical preparation, called Tantra, with which they rub the skin to enable it to resist the action of fire. When people are suspected of crime, Bramins are often called in to determine the question by ordeal. Sometimes the accused individual is ordered to swallow poison; sometimes he walks on redhot iron; sometimes a coin is put in a vessel of boiling oil, into which he plunges his arm and brings out the coin. The arm is previously washed by Bramins, who supplicate the appropriate deities, and afterward pronounce a benediction. If these dangerous experiments prove harmless, it is considered a sufficient proof of innocence.
Now, as in ancient times, they are firm believers in astrology, and watch the motions of birds and bees for omens. When a child is born, they consult the aspect of the stars to ascertain what were the signs of his destiny. When a ship is about to sail, or a bargain to be concluded, they go to a Bramin or a soothsayer, to decide whether a day is lucky or unlucky. Some days are proper for going to the north, others for going to the south. Some are supposed to be so entirely under evil influence, that they abstain from all manner of business. They have lucky hours, and even minutes, which they carefully appropriate to the transaction of very important affairs. The Bramins annually prepare an astrological almanac, defining what days are lucky or unlucky, for the various actions of life. But even if all other signs are propitious, a clap of thunder will usually make them relinquish any undertaking.
At the commencement of an eclipse, people rush to the rivers to bathe, and throw water toward the sun, with many invocations. Prayers on such occasions are worth a hundred times as much as at any other time; for they believe that a powerful demon seizes on the sun and puts him in great anguish, from which he may be relieved by the prayers and donations of human beings purified by ablutions.
When they travel, they often carry with them the image of a serpent wreathed round a pole six or seven feet high; and every morning the whole company pay adoration to it.
The death of a cow or calf is thought to be a sure indication that the deities are offended. On such occasions there is great lamentation in a family. The owner of the animal often leaves home for two or three years, to perform long pilgrimages of expiation. The water of a cow is used in various ceremonies of religious purification; for similar purposes, they likewise make a preparation from the dung of a perfectly black cow. When it has lain in the shade till it has become perfectly dry and hard, Bramins carry it to some of the sacred places, burn it on a pile of chaff, and gather the ashes into vessels. They then sift it three times, recite prayers over it, sprinkle it with clean water, and make it into small lumps, which they dry, and perfume with the essence of flowers. They dissolve them in water, and, turning toward the sun, sprinkle it on their foreheads and breasts, with appropriate prayers. They use it to avert misfortunes, and peculiarly to keep off the Spirits of Death, who are sent for human souls. Bramins and saints keep a large supply of this article for devotees. They have great horror of touching the dead, or any thing that has been in contact with a corpse. If a man even hears that a relative has died in a distant country, he is deemed unclean, and must purify himself by religious ceremonies. If a whole year has passed since the death, merely touching water is considered sufficient purification.
Water is supposed to cleanse the soul, and guard from evil. When a child is born, priests sprinkle it, and sprinkle the dwelling, and all the inmates of the house bathe. They do this from an idea that it keeps off Evil Spirits. People perform ablutions before they eat; and priests purify themselves with water, accompanied with prayers, on innumerable occasions. When a man is dying, Bramins hasten to plunge him into a river, believing that the departing soul may be thus freed from impurities before it quits the body. Some rivers are deemed more peculiarly holy and efficacious than others; such as the Ganges, the Indus, and the Crishna. The water of the Ganges is used on all the most solemn occasions. Images of the deities are washed with it; and Bramins are sprinkled with it, when inducted into
the priestly office. Happy above other men is he who is drowned in that sacred stream. Once in twelve years, the waters of Lake Cumbhacum are supposed to be gifted with power to cleanse from all sin. As this period approaches, Bramins send messengers in every direction to announce when the great day of ablution will take place. The shores are crowded with a vast multitude of men, women, and children, from far and near. They plunge at a signal from the officiating Bramin, and in the universal rush, many a one is suffocated, or has his limbs broken. Water from Ganges is kept in the temples, and when people are dying they often send from a great distance to obtain some of it. Before devotees put their feet into a river, they wash their hands, and utter a prayer.
some processes of purification, the Bramin rubs mud on the man, and then plunges him three times, throwing in a handful of rice each time as an offering. During this process, he says: “O Supreme Lord, this man is impure, like the mud of this stream; but as water cleanses him from this dirt, do thou free him from his sin."
Fire is deemed a still higher degree of purification than water. Thus whole families were supposed to be redeemed from sin by the self-immolation of a widow on the funeral pile. Saints who destroyed themselves by fire were believed to ascend to the higher degrees of Paradise, and enjoy an immensely long period of heavenly bliss. In honour of some of their deities, they walk over burning coals, to the sound of musical instruments, faster or slower, according to their degree of zeal. Some carry their children in their arms, that they also may receive a share of the benefit. If sins which require fire are not purified in this world, it is supposed they must pass through a fiery process in the next.
Blood, being the seat of life, was always considered a very efficacious atonement for sin. The gods were supposed to be propitiated according to the number and value of the victims. When great national benefits were to be obtained, or evils averted, they sometimes sacrificed