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a thousand horses at once. It was an ancient custom for Bramins to lay the sins of the nation on the head of a horse. It was done with solemn imprecations and religious ceremonies, and then the animal was turned loose to carry off the sins of the people. Bulls were rarely sacrificed, on account of their veneration for those creatures. Men, being higher than animals in the scale of existence, their blood was deemed more excellent as an expiation; and by being sacrificed it was supposed that they secured Paradise for themselves also. One of their most solemn sacrifices consisted of a man, a bull, and a horse. There is a tradition that in ancient times a young man and woman, richly decorated, were thrown into the Ganges, as an offering to the god of the river. In later times, they substituted images, instead of living beings. Human sacrifices were abolished at an early period, and animal sacrifices are totally disapproved by numerous sects. Men, horses, and bulls were formerly offered to the grim goddess Cali; but now her altars flow with the blood of kids only. To reconcile this custom with their tenderness for animals, a belief is inculcated that the human soul imprisoned in the brute is thus purified from all its sins, and, freed from degrading transmigrations, rises to the Paradise of Indra, and becomes a musician in his band.
Hindoos have many religious festivals, most of them observed either at the new moon or the full moon. They have six successive festivals, in commemoration of the six periods in which Brahma completed the work of Creation. On the twenty-fifth of December, people decorate their houses with garlands and gilt paper, and universally make presents to friends and relatives. This custom is said to be of very great antiquity. In November, they have a festival, during which they light up vast fires by day, and illuminate all their houses at night. At the full moon in October, they commemorate the circular dance of Crishna with the Gopias, which some learned men suppose to have an astronomical significance. During the great festival called Ramayana, the streets are filled with gorgeous processions, accompanied by dancers and musicians, playing on horns, gongs, cymbals, and drums. Dramatic representations illustrate the wonderful adventures of Rama; an incarnation of Vishnu, at different periods of his life, prince, conqueror, and holy hermit. Three children are dressed with high tinsel crowns, and painted with vermillion, to imitate the statues of Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshman. Hanuman, Rama's great general, is represented by a man armed with a club, with a mask like an ape, and an ape's tail tied to his back. In ancient times, it is said, these three children were poisoned at the end of the feast, that their souls might be absorbed in the deities they represented; but this was afterward prohibited.
The ignorance and credulity of the people have been at all periods practised upon by artful or self-deluded men. About the end of the year 1829, appeared an extraordinary child named Narayun Powar. He was the son of a peasant, and born in a village belonging to the Rajah of Sattara. When only eight years old, he was famous for his extraordinary power over snakes. "He enticed them from among rocks, stones, and ditches, played with them, and ran about naked with them twisted all round his neck and arms. Whether he fondled or chastised them, they took it all in good part. They came when he called, and went away at his bidding; but he was seldom easy without some of his favourite animals around him. Why they had this predilection for each others' company, and how he obtained such singular power over them, each one must explain according to his own theory; but it is a fact that several similar instances of serpent-taming have occurred in the East. In the time of the ancient anchorites, one of the signs of having become perfectly holy, completely identified with God himself, was the power of handling serpents without harm. Whether the parents of Narayun and the Bramins in his neighbourhood really believed his power was derived from such a source, or whether they saw fit so to represent it from motives of self-interest, is known to themselves. There was an old prediction by the poet Toolseedas that an extraordinary person would arise and redeem Hindostan from foreign dominion. He was not to be a mere man, but an incarnation of Indrajit, a hermit of such exalted holiness that he had the sublime reward of dying by the hand of Rama himself. Bramins sought to prove that the period predicted was precisely that of Narayun's birth, Mysterious words were said to have dropped from the child at various times, giving hints of his divine nature, and the purposes for which he had come to earth. He certainly did not seem to be much absorbed in heavenly things; for like other boys he was full of play and mischief, and particularly fond of gambling with small shells called cowries. However, they called him “ Narayun the Holy," and finally “ the living God Narayun." In his name they established a place of sacred bathing, where the sinful and the sickly were invited to come and wash away diseases and crimes. Rumours spread through the country that many cripples had been cured, and many blind received their sight. Bramins composed hymns in his praise, and four were appointed to keep record of all his words and actions. His disciples taught that men ought no longer to worship images of wood and stone, but place all their faith in this living divinity, come to deliver them from all foreign yokes, as Rama had rid the world of giants. In a few months, ten thousand pilgrims, many of them of wealth and rank, came to lay their offerings at the feet of Yarafun; and many who could not come, forwarded vows and offer ings. On every one who bathed in the waters, no bowed to the divinity, a tax was levied. His parents and the administering Bramins grew rich rapidly. A little girl, said to be an incarnated goddess, was chosen for his bride ; and it was rumoured that on a certain day he would cause a magnificently caparisoned horse to rise out of the earth, on which he would ride forth to meet her. The enthusiasm spread wonderfully, and infected all classes more or less. It is eren said that a European resident in India, a distinguished scholar, and a firm believer in Christianity, being asked his opinion, answered: “ The facts I hare heard
quite stagger me. The whole Hindoo population are thoroughly convinced of the divinity of this child, and are going mad after him. It is impossible to say what extraordinary means God may adopt for the spiritual recovery of the Hindoos. Ordinary means and missions seem to have failed with them.”
The Rajah of Sattara manifested great uneasiness at the pretensions of Narayun. The wife of one of his ministers, who for several years had been subject to singular trances, had prophesied that he was destined to restore the old Hindoo empire; and the rival claims of the peasant boy excited his jealousy. But while the enthusiasm was at its height, the child died. He was one day exhibiting as usual his perfect control over snakes, which were brought to him in great numbers by strangers, when a Pariah produced a very large one, declared to have been brought all the way from Benares. Narayun seized hold of it boldly, but for the first time he found a serpent he could not manage. It became irritable and bit him mortally. His death was attributed to magic, and it was confidently predicted that he would rise on the third day. When this hope failed, they said it would certainly occur on the eighth day. A crowd of pilgrims waited to witness his resurrection, and finally dispersed disappointed and sorrowing. Rumours were afloat that he had actually appeared in different places. Some tried to propagate the belief that his soul had lodged in the body of a Bramin, who would eventually fulfil all that had been promised of him. But finally it all passed away, and his worshippers came to the conclusion that he was merely an incarnated demon, who came on earth for a while to amuse himself with mortals.
The Christian missionaries of various sects, who have been in India for many years, have made little perceptible progress in changing the faith of the people; but many causes are at work to fulfil the prophecy connected with the fall of Siva's Staff at Benares. Hindostan being the seat of very lucrative commerce, a variety of foreign nations have contended for possession of it. Mahometans
from Tartary began their conquests as early as A. D. 976; and after a long succession of bloody wars, during which they destroyed a vast number of temples, and carried off immense treasures, they firmly established their religion in large districts of the country. Many adopted the faith and costume of their conquerors, and others were finally allowed freedom to worship in their own way. One of the principal mosques was formerly a Hindoo temple. They killed a cow in it to prevent any of the natives from entering it.
On the Malabar coast are more than two hundred thousand Nestorian Christians, whom the Hindoos call Nazarenes. They have had a regular establishment of bishops and clergy there for more than a thousand years. In the fifth century, Jews, fleeing from the oppression of Christian countries, were allowed by a compassionate Bramin to settle in Hindostan. They are now numerous in some portions of the country. Fire-Worshippers, escaping from the Mahometan conquerors of Persia, in the seventh century, begged for a shelter, and had their claim allowed, on condition that they would eat no beef, and never kill ox or cow. They have scrupulously kept this promise, and large numbers of them reside in India, under the name of Parsees. The Portuguese, who have long had possessions there, established the Inquisition at Goa, and Catholic missionaries have been scattered through the country. France and Denmark have settlements there. Great Britain has conquered several kingdoms, and her laws govern millions of the people. She has had Episcopal bishops resident there for many years, and numerous missions from dissenting sects.
Consequently, the landscape of India is dotted all over with Hindoo pagodas, Mahometan mosques, Jewish synagogues, Catholic cathedrals, and Protestant churches. The Hindoos, though remarkable for tenacious attachment to their own forms of faith, are very ready to admit that all modes of worship are acceptable to God, if performed with sincerity of heart. It is a common maxim with them that