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^* They," as Col. Dalton remarks, " are frequently and very
truly denounced as the cause of sickness and propitiated
with sacrifices to spare their victims." *

* Tylor, ** Primitive Culture," i. lOO.
2 "Descriptive Ethnology, 188.

46 Folk-lore of Northern India.

Floods and Drowning People.

Floods are, as we have seen, regarded as produced by
demoniacal agency. In the Panjab, when a village is in
danger of floods, the headman makes an offering of a cocoa-
nut and a rupee to the flood demon. As in many other
places the cocoa-nut represents the head of a human victim,
which in olden times was the proper offering. He holds the
offering in his hand and stands in the water. When the
flood rises high enough to wash the offering from his hand,
it is believed that the waters will abate. Some people throw
seven handfuls of boiled wheat and sugar into the stream and
distribute the remainder among the persons present. Some
take a male buffalo, a horse, or a ram, and after boring the
right ear of the victim, throw it into the water. If the victim
be a horse, it should be saddled before it is offered. A short
time ago, when the town and temples at Hardwar were in
imminent danger during the Gohna flood, the Brahmans
poured vessels of milk, rice and flowers into the waters of
Mother Ganges and prayed to her to spare them.

In the same connection may be noticed the very common
prejudice which exists in India against saving drowning
people. This is familiar in Western folk-lore. It is sup-
posed to be alluded to in the " Twelfth Night " of Shakes-
peare, and the plot of Sir W. Scott's " Pirate " turns upon
it. Numerous instances of the same idea have been collected
by Dr. Tylor and Mr. Conway.* Dr. Tylor considers that it
is based upon the belief that to snatch a victim from the
very clutches of the water spirit is a rash defiance of the
deity which would hardly pass unavenged. Mr. Black '
accounts for the idea on the ground that the spirits of people
who have died a violent death may return to earth if they
can find a substitute ; hence the soul of the last dead man is
insulted or injured by anyone preventing another from taking
his place. This last theory is very common in Western folk-
lore. Thus Lady Wilde writes from Ireland ^ : — " It is be-

1 " Primitive Culture," i. io8 sq. ; " Demon ology," i. 205.

2 " Folk Medicine," 28 sq. ' " Legends," 82 sq.

The Codlings of Nature. 47

lieved that the spirit of the dead last buried has to watch in
the churchyard until another corpse is laid there, or to per-
form menial offices in the spirit world, such as carrying wood
and water, till the next spirit comes from earth. They are
also sent on messages to earth, chiefly to announce the
coming death of some relative, and at this they are glad, for
their own time of peace and rest will come at last." So in
Argyllshire,^ it was believed that the spirit of the last interred
kept watch around the churchyard until the arrival of another
occupant, to whom its custody was transmitted. This, as
we shall see in connection with the custom of barring the
return of the ghost, quite agrees with popular feeling in
India, and furnishes an adequate explanation of the pre-
judice against rescuing the drowning and incurring the wrath
of the former ghost, who is thus deprived of the chance of
release by making over his functions to a substitute.

Khwaja Khizr, the God of Water.

But besides these water spirits and local river gods, the
Hindus have a special god of water, Khwaja Khizr, whose
Muhammadan title has been Hinduised into Raja Kidar, or
as he is called in Bengal, Kawaj or Pir Badr. This is a good
instance of a fact, which will be separately discussed else-
where, that the Hindus are always ready to annex the deities
and beliefs of other races.

According to the Sikandarnama, Khwaja Khizr was a saint
of Islam, who presided over the well of immortality, and
directed Alexander of Macedon in his vain search for the
blessed waters. The fish is his vehicle, and hence its image
is painted over the doors of both Hindus and Muhammadans,
while it became the family crest of the late royal house of
Oudh. Among Muhammadans a prayer is said to Khwaja
Khizr at the first shaving of a boy, and a little boat
is launched in a river or tank in his honour. The same rite
is performed at the close of the rainy season, when it is sup-
posed to have some connection with the saint Ilisha, that is

* Brand, " Observations," 480.

48 Folk-lore of Northern India.

to say the prophet Ehsha. Ehsha, by the way, apparently
from the miraculous way in which his bones revived the
dead, has come down in modern times to Italy as a
worker of miracles, and is known to the Tuscan peasant as

Another legend represents Khwaja Khizr to be of the
family of Noah, who is also regarded by rural Muhammadans
as a water deity in connection with the flood. Others connect
him with St. George, the patron saint of England, who is the
Ghergis of Syria, and according to Muhammadan tradition
was sent in the time of the Prophet to convert the King of
Maushil, and came to life after three successive martyrdoms.
Others identify him with Thammuz, Tauz, or x\donis. Others
call him the companion of Moses, and the commentator
Husain says he was a general in the army of Zu'l Qarnain,
"he of the horns," or Alexander the Great."'

Out of this jumble of all the mythologies has been evolved
the Hindu god of water, the patron deity of boatmen, who
is invoked by them to prevent their boats from being broken
or submerged, or to show them the way when they have lost
it. He is worshipped by burning lamps, feeding Brahmans,
and by setting afloat on a village pond a little raft of grass
with a lighted lamp placed upon it. This, it may be noted,
is one of the many ways in which the demon of evil or
disease is sent away in many parts of the world.^ Another
curious function is, in popular belief, allotted to Khwaja
Khizr, that of haunting markets in the early morning and
fixing the rates of grain, which he also protects from the Evil

The Folk-lore of Wells.

In this connection some of the folk-lore of wells may be
mentioned. The digging of a well is a duty requiring infinite

1 Leland, " Etruscan Roman Remains," 242.

' Herklots, " Qanun-i-Islam," 21, 66sq , 292; Hughes, " Dictionary of
Islam, s.v.

' Frazer, " Golden Bough," ii. 185.

* Ibbetson, " Panjab Ethnography," 114;" Panjab Notes and Queries,"
ii. I ; iii. 7 ; i\' 68.

The Codlings of Nature. 49

care and caution. The work should begin on Sunday, and
on the previous Saturday night little bowls of water are
placed round the proposed site, and the one which dries up
least marks the best site for the well, which reminds us of the
fleece of Gideon. The circumference is then marked and they
commence to dig, leaving the central lump of earth intact.
They cut out this clod of earth last and in the Panjab call
it Khwajaji, perhaps after Khwaja Khizr, the water god,
worship it and feed Brahmans. If it breaks it is a bad
omen, and a new site will be selected a week afterwards.
Further east when a man intends to sink a well he inquires
from the Pandit an auspicious moment for commencing the
work. When that hour comes he worships Gauri, Ganesa,
Sesha Naga, the world serpent, the earth, the spade and the
nine planets. Then facing in the direction in which, accord-
ing to the directions of the Pandit, Sesha Naga is supposed
to be lying at the time, he cuts five clods with the spade.
When the workmen reach the point at which the wooden
well-curb has to be fixed, the owner smears the curb in five
places with red powder, and tying Dub grass and a sacred
thread to it, lowers it into its place. A fire sacrifice is done,
and Brahmans are fed. When the well is ready, cow-dung,
milk, cow urine, butter and Ganges water, leaves of the
sacred Tulasi and honey are thrown in before the water is

But no well is considered lucky until the Salagrama, or
spiral ammonite sacred to Vishnu, is solemnly wedded to the
Tulasi or basil plant, representing the garden which the well
is intended to water. The rite is done according to the
standard marriage formula : the relations are assembled ; the
owner of the garden represents the bridegroom, while a kins-
man of his wife stands for the bride. Gifts are given to
Brahmans, a feast is held in the garden, and both it and the
well may then be used without danger. All this is on the
same Hues as many of the emblematical marriage rites which
in other places are intended to promote the growth of

1 Frazer, "Golden Bough," i. 102.


50 Folk-lore of Northern India.

In Sirsa they have a legend that long ago, in time of
drought, a headman of a village went to a Faqir to beg him
to pray for rain, and promised him his daughter in marriage
if his prayer was successful. The rain came, but the head-
man would not perform his promise, and the Faqir cursed
the land, so that all the water became brackish. But he so
far relented as to permit sweet water to flow on condition
that it was given to all men free of cost. In one village the
spring became at once brackish when a water-rate was
levied, and turned sweet again when the tax was remitted.
In another the brackish water became sweet at the inter-
cession of a Faqir. In the Panjab there is a class of Faqirs
who are known as Sunga, or " sniffers," because they can
smell out sweet water underground. They work on much
the same lines as their brethren in England, who discover
springs by means of the divining rod.' In one of the tales
of Somadeva we have a doll which can produce water at
will, which is like Lucian's story of the pestle that was sent
to fetch water. When the Egyptian sorcerer was away his
pupil tried to perform the trick, but he did not know the
charm for making the water stop, and the house was flooded.
Then he chopped the pestle in two, but that only made
matters worse, for both halves set to bring the water. This
is somewhat like the magic quern of European folk-lore."

The water of many wells is efficacious in the cure of
disease. In Ireland, the first water drawn from a sacred
well after midnight on May Eve is considered an effective
antidote to witchcraft.^ In India many wells have a reputa-
tion for curing barrenness, which is universally regarded as
a disease, the work of supernatural agency. In India the
water of seven wells is collected on the night of the Diwali,
or feast of lamps, and barren women bathe in it as a means
of procuring children. In a well in Orissa the priests throw
betel-nuts into the mud, and barren women scramble for
them. Those who find them will have their desire for

1 "Sirsa Settlement Report," 178.

2 "Katha Sarit Sagara," i. 258 ; Clouston, "Popular Tales," i. 118.

3 Lady Wilde, "Legends," 124.

The Codlings of Nature. 51

children gratified before long.* For the same reason, after
childbirth the mother is taken to worship the village well.
She walks round it in the course of the sun and smears the
platform with red lead, which is probably a survival of the
orginal rite of blood sacrifice. In Dharwar the child of a
Brahman is taken in the third month to worship water at
the village well.^ In Palamau the Sarhul feast is observed
in the month of Baisakh (May), when dancing and singing
goes on and the headmen entertain their tenants. The
whole village is purified, and then they proceed to the village
well, which is cleaned out, while the village Baiga does a
sacrifice and every one smears the platform with red lead.
No one may draw water from the well during the Sarhul.^
Hydrophobia all over Northern India is cured by looking
down seven wells in succession.

In the Panjab the sites of deserted wells are discovered by
driving about a herd of goats, which are supposed to lie
down at the place where search should be made. Some
people discover wells by dreams ; others, as the Luniyas,
a caste of navvies, are said, like the Faqirs in Sirsa, to be
able to discover by smell where water is likely to be found.
I was once shown a well in the Muzaffarnagar district into
which a Faqir once spat, and for a long time after the visit
of the holy man it ran with excellent milk. The supply had
ceased, I regret to say, before my visit. The well of life
which can survive even the ashes of a corpse is found
throughout the Indian folk-tales."

Sacred Wells. ■

Sacred wells, of course, abound all over the country.
Many of them are supposed to have underground connec-
tion with the Ganges or some other holy river. Many of

^ Ball, "Jungle Life in India," 531 ; "Panjab Notes and Queries," ii.
166; Temple, "Legends of the Panjab," i. 2; Lady Wilde, "Legends,"
236 sqq.

2 Campbell, " Notes," 404.

^ Forbes, "Settlement Report.'' 41.

* Knowles, " Folk-tales of Kashmir," 504, with note ; " Katha Sarit
Sagara," i. 499.

E 2

52 Folk-lore of Northern India.

these are connected with the wanderings of Rama and Sita
after their exile from Ayodhya. Sita's kitchen (Sita ki
rasoi) is shown in various places, as at Kanauj and Deoriya
in the Allahabad District.' Her well is on the Bindhachal
hill in Mirzapur, and is a famous resort of pilgrims.
There is another near Monghyr, and a third in the Sultan-
pur District in Oudh. The Monghyr well has been provided
with a special legend. Sita was suspected of faithlessness
during her captivity in the kingdom of Ravana. She threv/
herself into a pit filled with fire, where the hot spring now
flows, and came out purified. When Dr. Buchanan visited
the place they had just invented a new legend in connection
with it. Shortly before, it was said, the water became so
cool as to allow bathing in it. The governor prohibited the
practice, as it made the water so dirty that Europeans could
not drink it. " But on the very day when the bricklayers
began to build a wall in order to exclude the bathers, the
water became so hot that no one could dare to touch it, so
that the precaution being unnecessary, the work of the
infidels was abandoned." ^

At Benares are the Manikarnika well, which was produced
by an ear-ring of Siva falling into it, and the Jnanavapi, to
drink of which brings wisdom. The well at Sihor in
Rajputana is sacred to Gautama, and is considered efficacious
in the cure of various disorders. At Sarkuhiya in the Basti
District is a well where Buddha struck the ground with his
arrow and caused water to flow, as Moses did from the
rock. There are, again, many wells which give omens. In
the Middle Ages people used to resort to the fountain of
Baranta in the Forest of Breclieu and fling water from a
tankard on a stone close by, an act which was followed by
thunder, lightning and rain.^ At a Cornish well people used
to go and inquire about absent friends. If the person "be
living and in health, the still, quiet vv^aters of the well pit
will instantly bubble or boil up as a pot of clear, crystalline
water ; if sick, foul and puddled water ; if dead, it will

' Fiihrer, '' Monumental Antiquities," 80, 134.

' "Eastern India," ii. 43. ' Rhys, "Lectures," 184.

The Codlings of Nature. 53

neither boil nor bubble up, nor alter its colour or stillness." '
Many other instances of the same fact might be given. So
in Kashmir, in one well water rushes out when a sheep or
goat is sacrificed ; another runs if the ninth of any month
happen to fall on Friday ; in a third, those who have any
special needs throw in a nut ; if it floats, it is considered an
omen of success ; if it sinks, it is considered adverse. At
Askot, in the Himalaya, there is a holy well which is used
for divination of the prospects of the harvest. If the spring
in a given time fills the brass vessel to the brim into which
the water falls, there will be a good season ; if only a little
water comes, drought may be expected."

Hot Springs.

Hot springs are naturally regarded as sacred. We have
already noticed an example in the case of Sita's well at
Monghyr. The holy tract in the hills, known as Vaishnava
Kshetra, contains several hot springs, in which Agni, the
fire god, resides by the permission of Vishnu. The hot
springs at Jamnotri are occupied by the twelve Rishis who
followed Mahadeva from Lanka.^


Waterfalls, naturally uncommon in the flat country of
Upper India, are, as might have been expected, regarded
with veneration, and the deity of the fall is carefully pro-
pitiated. The visitor to the magnificent waterfall in which
the river Chandraprabha pours its waters over a sheer
precipice three hundred feet high in its descent from the
Vindhyan plateau to the Gangetic valley, will learn that it
is visited by women, particularly those who are desirous of
offspring. On a rock beside the fall they lay a simple
offering consisting of a few glass bangles, ear ornaments

^ Hunt, " Popular Romances," 292.

- Atkinson, " Himalayan Gazetteer," ii. 793, 798.

=» Ibid., iii. 38.

54 Folk-lore of Northern India.

made of palm leaves, and cotton waist strings. In Garhwal
there is a waterfall known as Basodhara, which ceases to
flow when it is looked at by an impure person.'

Sacred Lakes.

There are also numerous lakes which are considered
sacred and visited by pilgrims. Such is Pushkar, or Pokhar,
the lake par excellence, in Rajputana. One theory of the
sanctity of this lake is that it was originally a natural
depression and enlarged at a subsequent date by super-
natural agency. " Every Hindu family of note has its niche
for purposes of devotion. Here is the only temple in India
sacred to Brahma, the Creator. While he was creating the
world he kindled the sacred fire; but his wife Sawantariwas
nowhere to be found, and as without a woman the rites
could not proceed, a Gujar girl took her place. Sawantari
on her return was so enraged at the indignity that she
retired to the height close by, known as Ratnagiri, or * the
hill of gems,' where she disappeared. On this spot a
fountain gushed out, still called by her name, close to which
is her shrine, not the least attractive in the precincts of
Pokhar." Like many of these lakes, such as are known in
Great Britain as the Devil's Punch-bowls, Pokhar has its
dragon legend, and one of the rocks near the lake is known
as Nagpahar, or " Dragon Hill." There is a similar legend
attached to the Lonar Lake in Berar, which was then the
den of the giant Lonasura, whom Vishnu destroyed."'

Most famous of all the lakes is Mana Sarovara in Tibet,
about which many legends are told. " The lake of Mana
Sarovara was formed from the mind of Brahma, and thence
derived its name. There dwell also Mahadeva and the
gods, and thence flow the Sarju and other female rivers, and
the Satadru (Satlaj) and other male rivers. When the
earth of Mana Sarovara touches any one's body, or when

1 Atkinson, " Himalayan Gazetteer," iii. 26.

- Tod, "Annals," i. 814 sq. ; Conway, " Demonology," i. 113 ; " Bcrar
Gazetteer," 169.

The Codlings of Nature. 55

any one bathes therein, he shall go to the Paradise of
Brahma ; and he who drinks its waters shall go to the
Heaven of Siva, and shall be released from the sins of a
hundred births ; and even the beast which bears the name of
Mana Sarovara shall go to the Paradise of Brahma." It is
said that the sons of Brahma, Marichi, Vasishtha and the
rest of the sages proceeded to the north of Himalaya and
performed austerities on Mount Kailasa, where they saw
Siva and Parvati and remained for twelve years absorbed in
meditation and prayer. There was very little rain and
water was scanty. In their distress they appealed to
Brahma. He asked them what their wishes might be.
The Rishis replied, " We are absorbed in devotion on
Kailasa, and must always go thence to bathe in the
Mandakini river ; make a place for us to bathe in." Then
Brahma, by a mental effort, formed the holy lake of Manasa,
and the Rishis worshipped the golden Linga which rose
from the midst of the waters of the lake.'

So the Nairn Tal Lake is sacred to Kali in one of her
numerous forms. The goddess Sambra, the tutelary deity
of the Chauhan Rajputs, converted a dense forest into a
plain of gold and silver. But they, dreading the strife which
such a possession would excite, begged the goddess to
retract her gift, and she gave them the present lake of salt.'
The people say that the Katur valley was once a great lake
where lived a Rakshasa named Rana who used to devour the
inhabitants of the neighbouring villages. Indra's elephant
Airavata descended to earth at the place now known after
him by the name Hathi China, and with his mighty tusks
he burst the embankment of the lake and the water flowed
away, so that the goddess Bhrawari, whose shrine is there
to this day, was enabled to destroy the monster.

The Lake of the Fairy Gifts.

In the Chanda District of the Central Provinces is the

^ From the "Manasa Khanda" ; Atkinson, "Himalayan Gazetteer,"
ii. 308.
- " Rajputana Gazetteer," ii. 131.

56 Folk-lore of Northern India.

lake of Taroba or Tadala, which is connected with an
interesting series of folk-lore legends. A marriage procession
was once passing the place, and, finding no water, a strange
old man suggested that the bride and bridegroom should
join in digging for a spring. They laughingly consented,
and after removing a little earth a clear fountain gushed
forth. As they were all drinking with delight the waters
rose, and spreading over the land, overwhelmed the married
pair. " But fairy hands soon constructed a temple in the
depths, where the spirits of the drowned are supposed to
dwell. Afterwards, on the lake side, a palm tree grew up,
which appeared only during the day, sinking into the earth
at twilight. One day a rash pilgrim seated himself on the
tree and was borne into the skies, where the flames of the
sun consumed him." This part of the story reads like a
genuine solar myth. " The palm tree then shrivelled away
into dust, and in its place appeared an image of the spirit of
the lake, which is worshipped under the name of Taroba, or
* the palm-tree deity.' Formerly, at the call of pilgrims,
all necessary vessels rose from the lake, and after being
washed were returned to the waters. But an evil-minded
man at last took those he had received to his house, and
from that day the mystic provision wholly ceased."

This legend of the fairy gifts which are lost through the
selfish greed of some mean-spirited man has been admirably
illustrated by Mr. Hartland. It is also told of the Amner
Lake in Elichpur, of the Karsota Lake in Mirzapur, and of
many other places.'

Many of these lakes possess subaqueous palaces beneath
their waters. At Cudden Point in Cornwall, the unhallowed
revelry of a party of roisterers is heard from under the waves.'
In one of Somadeva's stories the hero dives after a lady, and
comes on a splendid temple of Siva ; Sattvasila falls into the
sea and finds a city with palaces of gold, supported on
pillars of jewels; Yasahketij plunges into the sea and finds
a city gleaming with palaces that had bright pillars of

' " Science of Fairy Tales," chapter vi. ; '• Berar Gazetteer," 148.
^ Hunt, " Popular Romances," 194.

The Codlings of Nature. 57

precious stone, walls flashing with gold, and latticed windows
of pearl. So in the sixth fable of the second chapter of the
Hitopadesa, the hero dives into the water and sees a princess
seated on a couch in a palace of gold, waited on by youthful
sylphs. The sage Mandakarni alarmed the gods by his
austerities, and Indra sent five of his fairies to beguile him.
They succeeded, and now dwell in a house beneath the
waters of the lake called from them Panchapsaras. At the
Lake of Taroba, the tale of which has been already told, on
quiet nights the country people hear faint sounds of drum
and trumpet passing round the lake, and old men say that
in one dry year when the waters sank low, golden pinnacles
of a fairy temple were seen glittering in the depths. This
is exactly the legend of Lough Neagh, immortalized by
Thomas Moore.

The Shahgarh Lake.

A lake at Shahgarh in the Bareilly District is the seat of
another legend which appears widely in folk-lore. When
Raja Vena ruled the land, he, like Buddha, struck by the
inequality of human life, retired with his young wife Sun-
dari or Ketaki to live like a peasant. One day she went to
the lake to draw water, and she had naught but a jar of
unbaked clay and a thread of untwisted cotton. In the
innocence of her heart she stepped into the lake, but the
gods preserved her. After a time she wearied of this sordid
life, and one morning she arrayed herself in her queenly
robes and jewels, and going to the lake, as usual, stepped

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