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dane egg, which produced our world. Every masculine deity has a feminine companion, through whose agency new forms of being are produced. Lacshmi, Goddess of Abundance, who presides over harvests, is mate of Vishnu, the Preserver. Siva has numerous wives, according to his various titles in the multifarious departments of destruction or change. Under the name of Iswara, he is wedded to Isa, or Isi, supposed to represent Nature, which in all languages is metaphorically called she. As changer of the seasons, and promoter of germination, he unites with Parvati, Goddess of Illusions or Enchantments. As Time, the Destroyer, his mate is the dark goddess Cali, with four hands, full of deadly weapons, a necklace of human skulls, and a girdle of slaughtered giants' hands.
There is a very striking difference in the habits of the Asiatic and European mind with regard to ideas deemed by us indelicate. Hindoo Sacred Writings abound with metaphors drawn from sexual love, to illustrate the intimate and fruitful union of God with Nature. So completely do they mingle natural and spiritual ideas on this subject, that even voluptuous scenes in their amorous poetry are often allegorical descriptions of the blessed absorption of a sanctified human soul into the Divine Soul of the Universe. Sir William Jones remarks :-"It never seems to have entered the heads of Hindoo legislators, or people, that anything natural could be offensively obscene; a singularity which pervades all their writing and conversation, but is no proof of the depravity of their morals."
Hindoo theology teaches that there exists an eternal unchangeable relation of mutual dependence between all things in the universe. The gods cannot exist without offerings from men, and men cannot subsist without gifts from the gods. Their Sacred Books declare that "the virtuous guide the sun by their truth, and sustain the earth by their holy sacrifices.” Departed souls are dependent on the good offices of those who survive them; therefore it is enjoined that sacrifices be performed for the souls of ancestors as far back as the third generation. There must be daily offerings of water, with prescribed prayers; and on the first day of every new moon more elaborate ceremonies and prayers. It is supposed that these help to abridge the term of punishment for sins committed in the body. If neglected, the desolate spirit may be left to hover about the grave of its buried form, or linger long in some inferior animal, or suffer torment in the infernal regions.
The division of society into castes is a part of their system of regular gradation and mutual dependence. They consider their own nation set apart from others, a pre-eminently pure race, to whom the laws of divine wisdom have been peculiarly intrusted. They regard other nations as barbarian, and consider it pollution to intermingle with them by marriage, or even by eating with them. Foreigners are not allowed to read their Holy Books, or approach their consecrated groves and fountains. Sir James Forbes speaks of a Mahometan who, bathing in one of their sacred pools, unconscious of prohibition, had both his hands cut off. If a member of any other nation bappens to enter the hut of one of his Hindoo servants, the furniture is tossed out of doors, because it is deemed polluted by his presence. Bishop Heber says:-“We came to a shed where a man with his wife and children were cooking their supper. The man called out to us for heaven's sake not to come near them, for he was a Bramin, and our approach would oblige him to fling away his food.”
Among themselves, they are divided into four great castes, and these again are subdivided into several branches. The highest are the Bramins, or priests, supposed to have issued from the mouth of Brahma, to pray, read, and instruct. The second are Cshatriyas, princes and warriors, sprung from the arms of Brahma, to fight and govern. The third are Vaisyas, from his belly and thighs, to supply the necessities of human life by agriculture and commerce. The fourth are Soodras, from his feet, to serve as mechanics and labourers. Numerous inferior classes have sprung up from unlawful intermixtures. The lowest and most degraded of all these are the Pariahs, who now constitute about one-fifth of the population. They are obliged to bury the corpses of criminals, and are allowed to hold no property but dogs and asses. They are forbidden to enter the temples, or dwellings of any of the other castes; to eat in their presence, or even to drink from their wells. The Code of Menu says: “Let no man who regards his duty, religious or civil, hold any intercourse with them.” Each caste is perpetually separated from another by the strictest prohibitions. One must never presume to perform any business or duty that has been appropriated to another. It is a disgrace and a sin to intermarry or intermingle. They are not even allowed to eat with each other. It is a heavy punishment to be degraded into a lower caste; for it involves a social stigma, banishment from family and friends, and transmission of disgrace to posterity. No degree of talent or merit can regain the position forfeited by an ancestor's fault.
The Bramins, above all others, are endowed with exclusive privileges. Religious ceremonies, public or private, can be performed only by their ministry. They offer sacrifices and prayers for themselves and for others. Every important epoch in human life, and every national emergency, require their aid. The civil law is all contained in the Sacred Books, which they alone are allowed to study and explain; consequently, they are the only lawyers and judges. All knowledge of medicine is derived from the same volumes; and sickness being considered a punishment for transgression, penances and religious ceremonies are imposed as remedies; therefore they are the only physicians. Astronomy, of which astrology forms an important portion, is also revealed in their Holy Books; hence the priests are relied upon to make astronomical calculations, and predict future events by the stars. This exclusive possession of such knowledge as exists, has, of course, been a source of perpetual emolument.
Every Hindoo priest is a Bramin; but all the Bramins are not priests. Those who expound the Sacred Books take precedence of other Bramins. The highest order of this powerful hierarchy are called Guroos. At stated seasons, these princely Pontiffs travel through their respective districts, to examine seminaries, visit inferior priests, attend great festivals, administer prescribed rites in the temples, or perform solemn ceremonies in the sacred groves. Their retinue and equipage are very magnificent Pioneers precede the splendid procession, to level high places in the roads, and fill up ravines. The lower castes retire to a distance while they pass by, lest their shadows should happen to touch them, or the consecrated air be polluted by inferior breath. The most sanctified among these priests are not only venerated, but absolutely worshipped with low prostration, when they appear in public. Some of them are believed to be incarnated deities. The rajahs, or princes, belong to the warrior caste; but they are restrained and regulated by the High Priests, whom they treat with profoundest reverence. Princes who become holy devotees acquire spiritual rank in addition to their hereditary dignity; but even under such circumstances, they are bound to treat Bramins with deferential humility. It is deemed an act of the highest piety to defend the priesthood from any danger, to bestow alms upon them, or make them heirs of worldly wealth. They are exempted from taxes and from corporeal punishment. To kill a Bramin intentionally is an inexpiable crime, and even to kill one by accident requires to be atoned for by terrible penances. The funeral pile for them must be lighted, as it is for the holiest sacrifices, with fire obtained by the friction of wood from the sacred groves. The obsequies must be solemnized with sacrifices to the Sun and the Planets, consisting of a ram, or a he-goat, without blemish. These ceremonies must be performed in a place previously consecrated by prayer, and sprinkled with holy water.
Soodras, and the castes below them, are expressly forbidden to devote themselves to a life of religious contem. plation, to read the Sacred Books, or hear them read. The inequality of laws resulting from these lines of demarcation in society may be easily conjectured. If a Bramin kill one of his own caste, it is ordained that he perform severe penances in the forest during twelve years. If a Cshatriya involuntarily kills a Bramin, his term of penance is twenty-four years; if a Vaisya does the same, it is thirtysix years; if a Soodra, it is forty-eight years.
The education of a Bramin, if conducted with strictness, is somewhat arduous. In his youth, he is bound to be scrupulously chaste, to learn Sanscrit, study the Sacred Books, which are very voluminous, and treat his spiritual teachers with the most implicit obedience, however severe their requirements may be. In manhood, it is his duty to marry and rear up children to succeed him in his holy office. As he may contract pollution by the approach of a foreigner, or coming near any dead body, or touching any vessel or garment that has been used by one of inferior caste, or having an insect get crushed in the folds of his priestly robes, it is necessary to spend a great deal of time in performing ablutions and ceremonies of purification. He is forbidden to cause the death of any creature except for sacrifice, and therefore eats no flesh except that of victims. Wine and strong drinks are forbidden. He is required to be strictly virtuous, modest in conversation and manners, benevolent in his social relations, and faithful in the discharge of religious functions. If a Bramin has obeyed these rules, he may, if he chooses, transfer the duties of his sacerdotal office, and retire into the forest, to devote himself to a life of spiritual contemplation. If he intends to do this, he makes a feast for friends and relatives, and bestows farewell presents on them. The priests perform a great variety of ceremonies and recite prayers. He lays down the triple cord, which he has always worn as the external sign of his superior caste, assumes the her mit's coarse garment of woven bark, and bids adieu to the world. If his wife and children choose to accompany him,