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be easier to get thee away with so many people about."

" Yes, child, thou art right. And I will do nothing
so long as they seek not to make me like one of them-
selves. So thou wilt promise, is it not so ? "

" I will promise, amma. If thou canst die, so can I
also. I would do so gladly, for I am a widow, and none
will care if others treat me cruelly, as they have done
to-day. Yet I will do as thou hast asked me, and
after . . . ! But, Nakshatram, there is something I
should tell thee, for it may help thee."

" What is it, child ? " asked Stella, wondering in
what way this forsaken and ill-treated young widow
could help, where strong men had failed.

" On the south side of the temple wall," replied the
girl, " there is no gopuram. It is all thick forest up
to the wall, and no one seems to go there. But in a
dark corner there is a small wooden door. It was
through this door that Ida the dasi brought me into
the temple. I was frightened, and did not wish to
come into the temple, and, as I struggled to get back
to the door after Ida had pulled me through, I saw
Ida drop the key with which she had opened and then
locked it. She did not notice it, and I, thinking that
I might get an opportunity to-night to run away,
pushed it under some earth and stones with my foot."

" And it is there still ? " asked Stella anxiously.

" I think it must be," replied the child excitedly.

" Try, child, to find out somehow or other. In
half an hour's time it will be dark, and thou mayst then


be able to go to that side without attracting notice. If
it be possible bring it back with thee. And God grant
that it may be the means of our deliverance ! "


WHATEVER may have been the object and meaning of
sacrifice in the far-off Rig-Vedic period when patri-
archal riskis made their offerings to beneficent deities,
it is certain that the idea of atonement had fallen into
the background long before the development of Tan-
trika teaching. From the time that the Atharvaveda
and Brahmanas were adopted as the popular manuals
of religion, the beauty and simplicity of primitive
worship became lost in a maze of intricate rites ; while
the darkest forms of superstition (with their inevitable
train of evil customs), the crudest of infantile specula-
tions, and the wildest of imaginations were gradually
accepted and established as the highest expressions of
divine revelation.

Religion, originally an expression of man's spiritual
needs, had dwindled to a complicated system of magical
rites, many of which were simply cloaks for immoral
deeds. The true conception and heinous character of
sin were hidden away behind a crowd of puerile regula-
tions and errors connected with ceremonial acts and
social transgressions. Prayer was no longer used as a
means of pouring out man's soul to the Supreme or
his offspring, the minor deities ; for mystics and
ascetics had revealed the fact that the gods were not
superior to men either in holiness or spiritual influence,
and so prayer had been changed into spells and incanta-
tions to work the good and evil desires of those who
knew how to use them. There is a continual struggle


between the two different gods to outdo each other in
immoral and dishonest practices, and the power of the
victor lies in his accurate knowledge of a suitable
sacrifice ; and the priests, having realised this, are no
longer men of righteousness leading their brethren
nearer to God, but magicians striving to wrench from
the gods the knowledge that will give them power over
all things seen and unseen. With this knowledge
nothing, they are persuaded, is impossible. They no
longer attempt to teach men the supposed truths of
their early Vedas ; the Vedas themselves are gods and
the esoteric knowledge which they draw from them
they preserve in cabalistic expressions by which they
are able to bring to their aid all the demons, ghosts,
goblins, ogresses, rakshasas, panis, yatudanis, grahis,
heroes, and gods that fill the earth, air, and unseen
worlds. Beyond all other means of supernatural
power and propitiatory rites stands the Yajna, or
sacrifice. In no sense was it meant to be expiatory ;
it was simply an oblation of food to feed, ixourish, and
glut the ferocity and greed of the gods. Of piacular
sacrifice, as western nations understand it, there was
little or nothing, even during the early Brahmana
period. The whole purport of the ritual and all the
subsidiary rites was a supreme effort to drag super-
natural knowledge and power from invisible beings.
And this result could only be gained by a most rigid
observance of the most trivial precautions, all of which
were accompanied by special mantras. It mattered not
whether the object were good or bad, moral or immoral,
the success or failure of the Yajna depended solely
on an exact knowledge of the ritualistic details and the
careful enunciation of mystical words and syllables.
Whatever may be claimed for the beauty of purity of
the ancient Vedic religion, it nevertheless stands as an
historical fact that for more than two thousand years
the majority of Brahmins and the mass of the people


have been guided in their ritual and religious thought
by the Brahmanas, Puranas and Tantras manuals
vitally connected with the Vedas and that already
within the Vedas themselves there lay the germinating
principles of Brahmin deification, caste system, female
degradation, and the rudiments of the idolatry, magic,
mysticism, and immorality of the Vamacharins,
Vallabhacharins, and popular Hinduism. Saivism, or
the special glorification of the third person in the
Hindu Triad, known in the Rig- Veda as Rudra, was
the steady degeneration from the earlier Brahminism
towards Tantrism. The last was the logical, and, as
regards practice, the inevitable result of the develop-
ment of the god's Sakti, or female manifestations.
And, in spite of all the subtle arguments of philosophers
to uphold the esoteric interpretation of the symbols,
deeds, utterances and idols of the god and goddess
in spite of the valiant attempts of social and religious
reformers to remove the glaring evils from their midst,
neither Brahminism nor popular Hinduism has re-
covered, nor ever can recover, from its dreadfully de-
grading influence. Puranas, Tantras, temples, sculp-
ture, art, drama, poetry, philosophy, customs all are
contaminated with it.

In some of the popular centres of Saivism the figures
on the temple walls, and the tenets and rites followed
by the temple votaries, are much worse than those
elsewhere. The temple in the tope belonged to the
more degraded set. The sculpture was glaringly
Tantrika ; the worship almost entirely phallic. Magical
rites and mystical ways were more sought after and
more closely observed than the directions of the Sastras.
The twofold object of the priests' ambition was the
complete possession of power temporal and spiritual
and the soul's future promotion in the transmigratory
grades of existence. And to this end they maintained
a rigid adherence to the two central doctrines of


their creed : the pre-eminence of the Brahmin as
the hereditary guardian of divine mysteries and
occult science, and the super-excellence of the Yajnas,
or sacrifices to Durga, the female manifestation of

While Kamalakshi, the young widow, was talking to
Stella, the priests were busily engaged in performing
the ritual connected with the twilight invocations called
the Sandhya. The Sandhya is a complicated cere-
mony made up of ablutions, mantras, gyratory move-
ments, cracking of fingers, libations, invocations to the
Triad, and special forms ofpuja offered to fire and water.
It is binding upon all orthodox Brahmins, and is re-
garded as the most sublime and the most effective of
all the daily ceremonies which they are called upon to
observe. It is neither interesting nor intelligible to
the uninitiated ; and to most, the minute directions for
suspension of breath and for touching the various
physical parts, appear foolishly childish, though the
initiated hold that every detail has an esoteric mean-
ing, and is of such vital importance that the slightest
omission vitiates the whole.

Darkness came on, and as it deepened the fear of
the girls increased ; for a new note of fierceness crept
into the rhythmical chorus of the priests, who had now
collected from all parts of the great court into a group
round the figure of Durga.

In front of the idol sat the old high-priest, reciting,
in his high-pitched quavering voice, the lines of some
metrical spell. At the end of every line the circle of
shishyas would answer with a peculiar syllable, having
the double purpose of pleasing a god, and at the same
time of guarding a special part of the body. And these
mystic syllables : " H'rim, H'rom, H'rum ; Im, am,
um ; Tarn, dam, dham ; Vam, Yam, Ksham," spoken
almost in a whisper in their first form, increased
gradually in power as the line was repeated faster and


faster, till at last they burst forth in fierce growls like
the angry baying of a pack of hounds.

At length there came a sudden silence ; a silence
almost more fearsome than the fanatical chant, for it
conveyed nothing to the two girls beyond the possi-
bility of a danger that was creeping nearer. Had they
been initiated into the secret process of mantras they
would have understood that it was the priests' great
effort to drag from the gods their goodwill towards the
supreme act that was to be consummated in the Purusha-
meda at moonrise.

For as the spell proceeded, the priests, in accordance
with their own Tantrika teaching, had completely closed
one nostril then the other, and afterwards the ears and
eyes, and finally their mouths, until the body was at
last held rigidly in a sort of trance ; while the mind
still dwelling upon the mystical sounds, and the purpose
to be achieved departed into higher regions to invoke
the aid of friendly deities.


MEANWHILE, within the temple itself a curious scene
was taking place. In order to give the reader some
idea of its significance, it is necessary to introduce him
into one of the dark secret chambers of the temple.
In the course of this narrative it has often been hinted
that the temple and its precincts were more or less
riddled with these gloomy recesses. They were part
of the necessary accessories of Tantric teaching not
only with a view to facilitating the impudent trickery
and impostures practised upon the credulity of the
pilgrims, but also for the purpose of hiding deeds which
could only be done with safety in profound secrecy.
The reader has, of course, never before entered this


dismal chamber, but it is possible that he may remember
having been permitted a passing glimpse of its ghostly
interior. For it was in the same room that the rasapana
ceremony was performed some nights before. Even
beyond the accumulations of dirt, the monstrously fat
figure of the grinning goddess, and the low slab ceiling
streaked with the smoke of strange sacrifices there
was still something repulsively evil in its appearance.
For as the human countenance is coarsened and
brutalised by persistence in unnatural wickedness, so
also in much the same way did this haunt of the Durgite
magicians bear visible signs of the malignant proclivities
of the deity who had presided over the crimes com-
mitted there.

At this moment the intense darkness of the secret
recess was broken by the dull red glow of fire that
smouldered in a large curiously-chased brazier. From
the brazier dark fumes now and then rose in spiral
columns filling the place with a heavy scent that was
almost narcotic in effect. Fragrant spices, scented
gum resins, sandal- wood, durbha grass, bits of fig tree
and tulsi plant, and mysterious compounds lay in a
heap near the brazier, ready to feed the fire.

A man and a woman, both scantily clothed, sat near
the fire. In the uncertain light of a fitful flame they
looked like a ghoulish couple preparing an iniquitous
feast. Dead silence reigned in the chamber ; for the
pair sat perfectly motionless, and no sound from out-
side could penetrate the thick walls which surrounded
them. They had just completed their oblation to the
fire, and were waiting for a sign expected by the woman.
For them the burning material inside the brazier was
no longer a fire it was the palpable and visible form of
a god. The metamorphosis had taken place by virtue
of the man's mantra, as it does or is supposed to
do every time the orthodox Brahmin makes his homam
or offering to a fire. But it was the sakti or female


counterpart of the god for whom they now looked,
and her presence could only be brought about by the
woman's deeper knowledge of incantatory spells. And
so they waited and watched ; and as the fire died down
to a few embers their own forms became merged in
the darkness that surrounded them. Not only silence
but darkness also now reigned in the chamber.

At last the woman's voice broke the silence :

" It has failed," she said in a voice that the other
hardly recognised.

" Nothing at all ? " asked the man in a tone of
mingled rage and disappointment.

" Nothing," was the curt reply.

" Then we must repeat it ? " questioned her com-

" As thou wilt " ; and, as she answered, the woman
threw some white powder upon the dying embers. A
blue flame sprang up with a hissing sound, and as the
woman fed the flame with dried tulsi plant and twigs
of sacred fig tree there was soon a bright fire, by the
light of which it was easy to recognise the faces of
Ramayya the priest and Ida the chief of the Deva-dasis.

Ramayya's features were convulsed with rage. He
rose to his feet and proceeded to do and to say things
which might seem incredible to those unlearned in the
vigorous methods used by Hindu gods and Hindu
worshippers. He stood in front of the horrible figure
of the goddess, cursing her right and left and pouring
out against her all the virulent invectives his tongue
could lay hold upon, and then, having exhausted his
vocabulary, he began to batter her face with his fist,
saying, as he did so :

" May Shiva, thy lord, desert thee for the daughter
of the white chief if thou dost not listen favourably to
the petitions which we make to thee this night ! "

Ida looked on unmoved. Such words and actions,
so far as her conception of divine claims were concerned,


were the natural insults to heap upon a god that re-
mained obdurate. She had often done the same kind
of thing and worse. She would have probably
vented her spite against the obstinate goddess to-night,
but Ramayya was there to do it for her, and so she
herself was left free to use the more conciliatory
methods of persuasion.

" The time passes," said Ramayya irritably, returning
to the brazier. " Let us proceed with the sacrifice."

' We must repeat the holocaust then," replied Ida.
" But first renew thy promise."

" It shall be as thou desirest, Ida. Thou knowest
me. I have never yet failed thee," answered the priest

" True, Ramayya. And I shall have the girl's jewels
especially the tiara which thy brother makes her
wear ? "

" I have sworn it at the feet of Durga," replied the
priest. " We took the jewels when we took the child
and they are both accursed."

" If the sign for which the Jyothis are searching the
heavens doth not appear, thou wilt hand the girl over
to me ? " she continued interrogatively.

" Thou shalt have her for the present at least."

" And thou wilt make the white Collector surfer ? "
hissed the dasi.

" Aye ; for more reasons than one he shall suffer
and die sooner or later by my hand," answered the priest

" Let us go on, then," said the dasi. " The fire is
ready. Say thy mantra, and make the offering. And
perchance the goddess will be more willing to reveal
the fate that lies in store for thee."

So Ramayya repeated his powerful mantra, offered
his oblations of rice, and ghee, and sandal-wood, and
incense, and coco-nut, and other such things ; made
a low obeisance to the fire, then sat down and stared


into the brazier, meditating on many strange thoughts.
In the meantime Ida was employed in following the
details of her own ritual. By means of a wand made
of durbha grass she sprinkled herself and the place she
sat upon with sacred water from a pot near by. In
weird chants and mystic language she then began to
recite the theogonies of her ancestral deities ; and
having done her customary puja to each and invoked
the presence and aid of all, and having risen from her
humble prostration before the sacred fire, she proceeded
to sing, with lavish praises, the virtues of her mother-
goddess till the fire assumed the shape she desired,
when she also sat down and gazed with Ramayya into
the blue flame that flickered in its centre.

Thus once more silence prevailed inside the magi-
cian's den, as it prevailed also outside around the
Durga idol, where the band of priests and their disciples
were concentrating their faculties upon the higher
spheres of mantraic activities.

At length Ida sprinkled a dark substance over the
blue flame.

The blue flame died out, leaving a dark column of
smoke in its place ; the fragrant smell of frankincense
gave way to an overpowering smell of asafoetida, and
soon after a beautiful reddish-yellow flame burnt where
the blue one had been. The atmosphere of the place
was by now almost unbearable ; but Ramayya was
used to the difficulties of the Black Art, and, knowing
that even a cough or a sneeze was sufficient to break
a spell, he fought back the inclination to indulge in
these and repeated mentally all the counteracting
mantras suitable to the occasion.

His violent efforts at last met with their desired

" The goddess hath heard ! " droned a voice unlike

" And her answer ? " gasped the priest, who, like


many thoroughly wicked men, was more suspectible to
magical influences than to any threat or fear of divine

" Is partly written in the sky the rest is not so
easy to read," answered the dasi, whose gaze was now
like one talking in a dream.

" Ah ; thou meanest the tailed star which the Jyothis
are searching for. Yet that is a small part of what
I would know. Canst thou no tell me more ? "

" It is difficult," was the answer.

" Yet thou must go on. We have sworn the oath
at the feet of the goddess," replied the priest angrily.

" As thou wilt, Ramayya. Nevertheless it may profit
thee nothing, and, as thou knowest, I have no wish to
do thee harm."

" It matters not. Read on ; I would know all
even the worst."

" Hearken then. The vision is blurred and will last
but a short time. Yet this know : trouble and diffi-
culty and sorrow are preparing for thee this night.
But hold ! it is not all evil ; it is not all sorrow.
There is much that thou wouldst have mixed with it.
The girl will be at thy mercy how long, how short
a time I know not. Ah ! 'tis well for thee. Thou
wilt soon reign and thy reign shall be a long one.
And in the years to come and I see thee old thou
wilt be close upon the heels of thine enemies and ! "

The reddish-yellow flame had died out suddenly,
leaving only the red glow of the embers to light up
the evil faces of the two Durgites.

" It is over, then ? " murmured the priest excitedly.

' Yes," answered the dasi quietly in her natural tone.

" And thou believest it true, Ida ? " asked the man

" Has it ever been false ? " replied the woman

But before the priest could reply, a door opened


suddenly, and the priests who had been carrying out
the ceremonies near the Durga idol began to stream
into the chamber. In the flickering flames of the
candelabra, which some of them were carrying, their
glittering eyes and excited faces looked more fiendish
then ever.

Ramayya's brother, the aged high-priest of the
temple, who was the first to enter, held a smoking
thurible in his trembling hands. By his side walked
a young acolyte carrying a large, covered tray. A
quick glance of angry suspicion passed between the
brothers as they looked at each other.

" We missed thee, Ramayya," said the old priest
with assumed calmness.

" 'Tis true, brother. Yet, as thou see'st, it was not
that I was unmindful of the ceremonies necessary for
our success," answered Ramayya, lifting his hands to
his forehead in acknowledgment of the other's priestly
superiority, but at the same time lowering his eyelids
to hide the jealousy that gleamed behind them.

" Ah ! 'tis well, little brother ! Thou hast been
engaged on one of the mysteries, then ? How went the
signs ? "

" We have offered to the seven planets, to the seven
Rishis, and to the three kinds of fire. The signs were
favourable in all, brother."

" And Ida ? "

" Hath found only omens that were good, excepting
the tailed star which lies in the wake of Surya"

11 'Tis true, little brother. The Jyothi watching
from the central gopuram found it but a few minutes
ago. It is the unfavourable sign of these foreign devils
in the tope, so we have come hither to deal with them
according to our ancient wisdom." And as the old
priest spoke he made a sign to the acolyte by his side
to remove the covering from the tray which he was
holding. The young Brahmin did so, and the sight


revealed might have been burlesque in the extreme
had it not been for the deadly purpose which moved
those who beheld it.

Upon the tray were two ludicrous figures formed of
soft, damp dough. In spite of their fantastical shapes
and accoutrements it was impossible to make any error
as to their nature and purpose : they were grotesque
caricatures of the two men in the tent, and with these
the priest and his satellites were about to perform a
telepathic rite practised in India long before the dawn
of western civilisation.

After a number of preliminary precautions and
mantraic utterances against possible intervention on
behalf of the two victims, the sympathetic models were
set up in front of the goddess and solemnly stabbed
by the priests, who had prepared themselves long
thorns for the purpose. When this was over, they
were then suspended over a fire, which one of the
priests had brought on a chafing-dish, and cooked
slowly till they were hard and dry ; after which they
were cut up into pieces and swallowed by the priests,
who celebrated the gruesome act with one of their
mantraic chants.

This magical rite, like the Gayatri and the use of
mystical words, may at first sight seem very childish
and ridiculously absurd, but the reader has still to
realise that it was intended to synchronise with and
invisibly assist a more criminal procedure of the priests'
emissaries who were at that moment doing their best
to carry out literally that which the priests were doing

Moreover, these things symbolical figures, mystical
sounds, mantraic forces, etheric doubles, charms,
amulets and spells lose a good deal of the apparent
puerility associated with them, when it is taken into
consideration that they are in general use for all kinds
of purposes, good and bad, not only amongst the quacks


and charlatans of the country but also amongst the
intellectual classes of the Hindus, and are also philo-
sophically dealt with in treatises by various occultists
connected with the esoteric section of the Theosophical
Society in India.


THE conclave of Shivite potentates was exultant.
Unanimity prevailed amongst them : they were all as
one heart and one mind in the matter. It had been
resolved that one should die for the many, and there
was no dissentient voice on the score of humanity or
legality. With others, under the more direct super-
vision of the foreigner, it might be expedient to adapt
themselves to new ways and new ideas, but for them-
selves they preferred the customs of their ancestors.
They would have nothing to do with the heresy : " Tem-
pera mutantur, nos et mutamur in Hits." Why should they
surrender these things which the gods and demi-gods
had found so effective ?

The knowledge of the Yogi was the proof of the
efficacy of the rite which he had commended to the
high-priest. His astronomical forecast had been almost
too wonderful to believe, yet there, standing in the sky,

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Online LibraryS. (Samuel) FoskettThe temple in the tope → online text (page 16 of 24)