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how much rain will fall, how the harvest will turn out, what amount of vermin will disturb good people in their slumbers, and other matters equally important to be known, and equally in his power to reveal. His substantial duties are to calculate nativities, to choose names for children, to bless, by his muntras, houses, tanks, and wells, at their opening; to consecrate new temples, and to transubstantiate new idols. He also celebrates all marriages and funerals; no other Bramhan being instructed in all the motions, flections, repetitions, and particularities necessary to the due performance of these rites. The Purshita is looked up to by all classes, even including the Bramhans. Every Prince keeps one at court, without whose sanction he will not set out to hunt, undertake a war, or embark in any concern of moment. All Purshitas must be married, and, if left widowers, must re-marry before they can again perform their most important duties. They are careful to train only their own sons in the ceremonial minutiæ, by which caution the honours and gains of office are preserved in the family.
The Guru is more a teacher and ruler than an officiating Priest. Did I give a faithful account of this hierarchy, it would be impossible to escape the suspicion of designedly insinuating resemblances between them and their European brethren. All, therefore, which I say respecting them shall be in the words of a Roman-Catholic Priest, altering, for sake of clearness, the arrangement :-“Each caste has its particular Guru ; but all of them are not invested with an equal degree of authority. There is a gradation among the Gurus themselves, according to the dignity of the castes they belong to ; and a kind of hierarchy has grown up among them, which preserves the subordination of one to another. In short, there is an inferior Clergy, very numerous in every quarter ; while every sect has its particular High Priests, who are but few in number. The place of residence of the Hindu Pontiffs is commonly called Singhasana, which signifies "a throne.......... Those who are elevated to this great dignity, receive in most cases marks of reverence, or rather of adoration, which are not rendered even to the gods themselves.......... Some of the Gurus are married ; but in general they live in celibacy...........Except during their visitations, the Gurus live in retirement. They commonly reside in a kind of monasteries, or insulated hermitages. The Gurus generally make a tour, from time to time, among their disciples, perhaps in a circle of two hundred miles from their place of residence. During this visitation, their principal, and, I may say, their only, object, is to amass money. Besides the fines which they levy from persons guilty of offences, or any breach of the ceremonies of the caste or sect, they often exact from their adherents a tribute to the utmost extent of their means........... The great Gurus never appear in public without the utmost degree of pomp; but it is when they proceed to a visitation of their district that they are surrounded with their whole splendour. They commonly make the procession on the back of an elephant, or seated in a rich palanquin. Some of them have a guard of horse, and are surrounded with numerous troops, both cavalry and infantry. Several bands of musicians precede them. Flags, in all the varieties of colour, wave round them, adorned with the pictures of their gods. Some of their officers take the lead, singing odes in their praise, or admonishing the spectators to be prepared to pay the mighty Guru, as he comes up, the honour and reverence which are due to him. Incense and other perfumes are burnt in profusion; new clothes are spread before him on the road; boughs of trees, forming triumphal arches, are expanded in many places on the way through which he passes. Bands of young women, or the
dancing-girls of the temples, relieve each other, and keep up with the procession, enlivening it with lewd songs and lascivious dances. This pompous show attracts a crowd of people, who throng to prostrate themselves before the Guru.”
The Guru is by this author stated to have temporal power, “ which consists chiefly in a superintendence over the different castes, by enforcing the due observance of their general and particular customs, and punishing the refractory. They have also the power of expelling from the tribe, and of restoring those who had been expelled........... They possess an equal extent of spiritual jurisdiction. The Sashtangam, or prostration of the eight members, is made before them; and when followed by their benediction, or asirvadam, is effectual for the remission of all sins. The look even of a Guru has the same efficacy.........But if the benediction of the Gurus and the other little tokens of their favour, which they bestow on their disciples, have so wonderful an influence in attracting the respect and reverence of the silly populace, their curse, which is not less powerful, fills them with terror and awe. The Hindu is persuaded that it never fails to take effect, whether justly or unjustly incurred.......... Sometimes they tell of a person struck dead on the spot by the curse of the Guru : sometimes of one suddenly seized with a shivering through every joint, which goes on, and will never cease until the malediction is stayed. At other times, it is a pregnant woman whom they describe as miscarrying by it; or a labourer, perhaps, who was doomed to see all his cattle perish in a moment. Nay, I have heard from these men stories still more ridiculous, and given with the utmost gravity : of a man, for example, being changed into a stone, and of another converted into a hog, by their Guru's malediction.” *
The ministry of Hinduism, then, includes all the best-educated men of the country, whom honours, rights, and education enlist to defend it manfully. Large numbers of them carry their influence into the various walks of secular life. Many, also, are supported in leisure, partly by presents, partly by temple-revenues, and partly by landed endowments given by the devout of other times, who thereby earned the reputation of piety, and hoped to make peace for their souls. The peculiar honours of this numerous caste depend on their religion ; by it, also, the pecuniary interests of all are advanced, and upon it the livelihood of many wholly depends. These considerations, added to natural prepossessions, make them almost universally zealous defenders of their system. It is an error, incident to those who judge of others by their own light, to deem it impossible that men of keen intellect, like the Bramhans, can believe the absurdities of the Shastras. But the human mind has not a more difficult work than to emancipate itself from views inculcated in childhood, identified with every interest, and sweetened by gifting ourselves with flattering distinctions.t
* “Description of the People of India,” &c., pp. 64, et seq.
+ Voltaire, in his zeal to prove Heathenism immaculate, rejects as impossible superstitions that, had he lived a little longer, he must have recognised as existing. Respecting the alleged worship of the devil, he says: “One must have much hardihood, and little reason, in order to believe it possible to take for a god a being supposed to be condemned of God to punishment and shame eternal, an abominable and ridiculous phantom, occupied in throwing us into the abyss of his torments." Alas for human nature! Many a man, of natural intellect perhaps not behind that of Voltaire himself, is this day the melancholy proof that is one must have much hardihood and little reason” to assert, L'idée d'adorer le diable n'est jamais tombée dans la tête d'aucun homme. Had Voltaire been born in a Ceylonese village, instead of in Christendom, he might himself have “ adored the devil.”
From detached portions of the Shastras a few Bramhans have extracted a philosophical system, holding which they despise the grosser superstitions as only for the mass. Perhaps an equal number believe all religion to be a grand imposture. But the great bulk of them sincerely believe and uphold the reigning system. On points of religion, their clear intellects are completely and wofully benighted.
Of the morals of the Bramhans, and, indeed, of the people in general, it may be said that, though deplorably low, they are not near so bad as the gods they serve. Had their system of religion been suffered by Providence to produce all its legitimate effects, Hindustan would have been a Sodom, in which even an angel might dread to pass a day. But while man's bad heart has been allowed to exhibit its own shame, by the abominations it has brought forth under guise of religion, Divine Mercy has restrained the practical workings of its corruption within limits which permitted the existence of society. Perhaps, in general morality, the Bramhans are rather above than below the rest of the people. Their avarice, however, and excessive eating, are proverbial ; their pride is excessive; and in all public offices they oppress and exact without mercy. They are consequently more dreaded than venerated. In their absence, the lower classes bitingly express hatred ; but no sooner does one appear, than his influence is manifest. At all grand ceremonies their presence is essential ; and this, with their fasts, their ablutions, the power ascribed to their muntras, and, perhaps more than all, their great superiority in education and manners, gives them a high command over the whole people. Their bearing is always proud, sometimes really noble. Many carry all the marks of high intellectualism. To our eye, the brown complexion is less favourable to the expression of mind than the white; but I have seen some Bramhans on whom it was impossible to look without an impression of the kind received from those élite faces among ourselves, where, at a glance, you see history, classics, and poetry, researches, arguments, and meditations, all bound in the clear vellum of the brow, and lettered in lines of thought. It may be fairly doubted whether this remarkable priesthood would not present as large a proportion of persons capable of high mental effort, as any other class of men in the world; and sure I am that, when the day of India's regeneration has come, it will yield choice examples of those rare and lovely mortals in whom the gentleman, the genius, and the Christian combine.
The Ritual of Hinduism is hyper-redundant. Taking the Bramhan at the moment of rising, it directs him, with a minuteness we may not copy, in the most private acts. The method of cleaning his teeth follows, with the tree off which he must break a twig for a brush, the prayer he must offer to the tree for leave, and the kind of place where he may throw away his twig-brush when he has done. Then follows the rubric of the bath, how he is to perform it, what prayers he is to say while in it, and what on emerging out of it. Dubois says: “It would be tedious to describe the variety of gestures and movements which the Bramhan exhibits in such cases. But we may select one particular, namely, the sign of the cross, which he distinctly makes as a salutation to his head, his belly, his right and left shoulders.” He is also instructed how to sacrifice to the sun, to adorn his forehead, to hold his breath, and to pray to the tree Raci. Then are carefully prescribed his acts on returning home, his preparatory sacrifice before meals, his offering of part of the food to the dead, and his mode of eating. But, as necessary to give even the faintest idea of the overload
of ceremony laid on the poor Bramhan, we give Colebrooke's description of the rites by which those who have an earthly calling are permitted to escape the more cumbrous duties binding on a Bramhan not so limited for time. When about to partake of his morning meal, “ sitting down in a place free from all impurities, and setting a vessel containing fire on his right hand, the worshipper hallows the ground by throwing away a lighted piece of cusa-grass, while he recites the appropriate text, and then places his fire on the consecrated spot, repeating the prayer which is used, when the household and sacrificial fires are kindled by the attrition of wood. He next lays cusa-grass on the eastern side of the fire, with its tips pointed towards the north, exclaiming, 'I praise divine fire, primevally consecrated, the efficient performer of a solemn ceremony, the chief agent of a sacrifice, the most liberal giver of gems. He spreads it on the southern side, with its points towards the east, repeating the commencement of the Yajur Veda. 1. 'I gather thee for the sake of rain. 2. 'I pluck thee' (at this he is supposed to break off the branch of a tree) “for the sake of strength. 3. ‘Ye are' (he touches calves with the branch he has pulled off) “like unto air. May the liberal generator of worlds make you' (here he touches, or is supposed to touch, milch cows with the same branch) happily reach this most excellent sacrifice.' In like manner he lays grass on the two other sides of the fire, on the western side with the tips to the north, crying, “Fire! approach to taste my offering ; thou who art praised for the gift of oblations ; sit down on this grass, thou who art the complete performer of the solemn sacrifice.' And on the northern side, with the tips pointed to the east, saying, "May divine waters be auspicious to us,' &c. When all these ceremonies are completed, he stirs the fire, and sprinkles water upon it; after which, having his hands smeared with clarified butter, he offers food three several times, repeating, * Earth! sky! heaven!' Five similar oblations are then performed : one to the regent of fire; one to the god of medicine; one to the assembled deities ; one to the lord of created beings; and one to the creator of the universe. Six more oblations are then offered with six prayers, each oblation having its separate prayer. 1. Fire! thou dost expiate a sin against the gods : may this oblation be efficacious!' 2. “Thou dost expiate a sin against man. 3. “Thou dost expiate a sin against the manes. 4. • Thou dost expiate a sin against my own soul.' 5. Thou dost expiate repeated sins. 6. Thou dost expiate every sin I have committed, whether wilfully or unintentionally : may this oblation be efficacious!' He next worships the fire, making an oblation with the following prayer :- Fire! seven are thy fuels ; seven thy tongues; seven thy holy sages ; seven thy beloved abodes ; seven ways do seven sacrifices worship thee; thy sources are seven; be content with this clarified butter ; may this oblation be efficacious !' As the sacred lamp was lighted for the repulsion of evil spirits, before the oblations to the gods and manes were presented, it is now extinguished, while recitation is made of the following text :-“In solemn acts of religion, whatever fails through the negligence of those who perform the ceremony, may be perfected solely through meditation on Vishnu. The oblations to spirits are next offered; the performer depositing portions of food in the several places prescribed for it, having previously swept each place with his hand, and sprinkled it with water. Near the spot where the vessel of water stands, he makes three offerings, saying, “Salutation to rain! to water! to the earth!' He makes them at both doors of his house to Dhatri and Vidhatri, or Bramha, the VOL. IV. - FOURTH SERIES.
protector and creator. He presents them to the eight points of the compass, adding a salutation to them and to the regents of them. To Bramha, to the sky, and to the sun, he makes oblations with salutation, in the middle of the house. He then offers similar oblations to all the gods, to all beings; to twilight, and to the lord of all beings. After the sacrament of spirits, thus performed, the worshipper, shifting the sacramental cord, and looking toward the south, drops upon one knee, and presents a sacrifice to the manes of ancestors, saying, “Salutation to progenitors ! may this ancestral food be acceptable !"" After all this, he may take his meal. But, as we before remarked, these are only the abridged forms prescribed for those whose circumstances debar them from performing the full service, which is of five-fold tediousness. Did any Bramhan seriously undertake to observe every direction of his rubric, not a single moment of his life would remain for any useful purpose.
The sacrifices clothed in such voluminous ceremony are, in themselves, very simple. The Alati consists only in holding on a copper plate a lighted lamp of rice-paste, and in making several circles; and the more august Homam, in kindling the sacred fire, pouring upon it oil or liquid butter, and throwing into it some grains of rice. It will be observed, that both fire and water are made holy by the muntras of the Purshita, and are important in every sacrifice, and to keep up a perpetual fire was a privilege of the highest value.
Of the prayers used on various occasions, many specimens have been already furnished. Mere repetition of the different names of a god is a form of prayer much approved. To show its virtue, the natives often referred me to a case narrated in the Vishnu Purâna, where a hater of Vishnu was so full of animosity, that he never ceased abusing him, and thus necessarily repeated his appellations, the consequence of which was, that though killed by Krishna for his wickedness, he obtained instantly the highest of all rewards,—absorption. You often hear the mendicant Friars rhyming at great length the names of their favourite deity. Of all prayers, the Gayatri has the most marvellous powers. It is addressed to the sun, and is thus rendered by Dr. Wilson of Bombay : “Om earth! sky! heavens! we meditate on that adorable light of the resplendent sun: may it direct our intellects !” This prayer is from the Rig-Veda, and is a holiness altogether transcendental in Bramhanical esteem. From the YajurVeda, Dubois quotes the following morning prayer :-“May the sun, may sovereign will, may the gods who preside over our will, and chiefly thou, O moon! pardon the sins I have this night committed by my will, by my memory, by my speech, by my hands, by my feet, by my belly." He gives also the following prayer to the tree Ravi, after one of similar import to the sun : “ Thou art the king of the trees; thy root resembles Bramha, thy branches are like Shiva ; thou grantest the remission of sins, and a blessed world after death, to those who have honoured thee in their lives by the ceremonies of the cord and of marriage, to those who have offered thee sacrifices, have gone round about thee, have saluted and honoured thee. Destroy my sins, and grant me a happy world after I die.” Of the prayers contained in the Sama-Veda, several have been given under different heads ; but we add one or two more :
“ O Indra! wherever, whether in some strong chest, or in some hill or well, treasure worthy of regard is laid up, thence do thou bring it to us." (Page 39.)
“O most powerful Indra, we desire that joyous sensation, which, arising