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reckoned Vaishnavas, it is no part of their faith to worship any deity,
or to observe any ceremonies and rites of the Hindus. They are
recommended, however, outwardly to conform to all the usages of
tribe and caste, and some even pretend to worship the usual divinities,
though this is not considered justifiable. The moral code of the
Kabir Panthis is, in many respects, creditable to them. Life, they
teach, being the gift of God, must not be violated by his creatures.
Humanity and truth are two of their cardinal virtues ; retirement
from the world is deemed desirable. -One of the most remarkable
sects is that of the Vallabhacharyas, who are widely diffused
throughout Western India. A leading principle with all sects is
reverence for, and implicit submission to, the spiritual teacher ; but
among the Vallabhacharyas this is carried to extravagance. The
spiritual chiefs, the direct descendants of the founder, bear the proud
title of Maharaj, or great king; and although they are nearly all
grossly ignorant, and often highly disreputable, yet, solely on account
of their descent, they enjoy the unlimited homage of their followers.
The object of their adoration is Vishnu in his incarnation as Krishna ;
and the main purport of their precepts is to inculcate absolute sub-
mission to the spiritual teacher. Hence has grown up the doctrine,
that the Guru or Maharaj is the impersonation of Krishna himself,
that God and the Guru are necessarily to be worshipped, and that
the sectary is bound to bestow on him ' his body, organs of sense,
life, heart, and other faculties, and wife, house, family, property, with
his own self.' The gross abuse which was made of this tenet became
apparent in a very remarkable trial, the so-called Maharaj Libel Case,
which took place in 1861 in the Supreme Court of Bombay, and
revealed the licentiousness of one of the then Maharajas of the sect
at Bombay. The defendant sued for libel by this Maharaj was a
highly respected and distinguished member of the sect, Mr Karsandas


Mulji, who had had the courage of calling, in a native newspaper, on
the Maharajas to reform, and to return to the ancient Hindu faith,
and whose public conduct on that occasion elicited the highest praise
of the court. For a fuller account of this sect, see the interesting
History of the Sect of Maharajas or Vallabhacharyas in Western
India (by Karsandas Mulji ; London, 1865), which also contains the
history of the ' Maharaj Libel Case ' above referred to.

Saivas. A noticeable sect among the Saivas are the Yogins, who
practise the most difficult austerities, in order to become absorbed
into the universal spirit, and thus liberated from repeated births.
The votaries of Siva, so called, hold that, by dint of these practices
such as continued suppressions of respiration, sitting in eighty-four
different attitudes, fixing the eyes on the tip of the nose they will
be finally united with Siva, whom they consider as the source and
essence of all creation. The Yoga doctrine from which the sect get
their name, is not confined to them ; it is a general system of philo-
sophical speculation, conjoined with corresponding practices, which
has always exercised great power over the Hindu mind, from its
countenancing the favourite tendency to the performance of auste-
rities. The word means 'concentration, abstract contemplation;'
and the fundamental idea is, that in order to escape the necessity of
successive births, and to become reunited with the Supreme Spirit,
the soul must become disentangled from all objects, or completely
indifferent. The means of attaining this state are the practice of
certain moral duties and religious observances, profound meditation,
and the performance of a variety of austerities consisting chiefiy
in painful postures, suspending the breath, and the like. These
practices are supposed to produce the most wonderful effects ; and
there are multitudes of professional Yogins, often nothing but lazy
mendicants and jugglers, who contrive to impress the vulgar with
a belief in their supernatural powers, and pretend to foretell future
events and cure diseases. There are instances where, for a con-
sideration, they allow themselves to be buried for a certain time ;
and it would really appear that a human being, after having under-
gone certain preparations such as the Yoga prescribes, may be shut
up in a box without either food or drink for the space of a month,
or even more, and yet remain alive. See A Treatise on the Yoga
Philosophy, by N. C. Paul (a native Hindu); Benares, 1851.

Saktas. Sakta, properly speaking, means a worshipper of any of
the female representations of the divine power ; but, in its special
and usual sense, it is applied to the worshipper of the female energy
or wife of Siva alone ; and the Saktas, properly so called, are there-
fore the votaries of Durga, Devi, or Kali. Since Siva is the type of
destruction, his energy or wife becomes still more so the type of all
that is terrific ; and, in consequence, her worship is based on the
assumption that she can be propitiated only by practices which
involve the destruction of life, and in which she herself delights.


That such a worship must lead to the brutalisation of those addicted
to it, and degenerate into the grossest licentiousness, is but natural ;
and it will easily be understood that the Sakta religion has become the
worst of all the forms which the various aberrations of the Hindu mind
have assumed. Appealing to the superstitions of the vulgar mind, it
has its professors, chiefly amongst the lowest classes ; and, amongst
these, again, it prevails especially in Bengal, where it is cultivated
with practices even scarcely known in most other provinces. The
works from which the tenets and rites of this religion are derived are
the Tantras ; but as in some of these works the ritual enjoined does
not comprehend all the impure practices which are recommended
in others, the sect became divided into two leading branches, the
Dakshinacharins and Vamacharins, or the followers of the right-
hand and left-hand ritual.

The Dakshinacharins are the more respectable of the two. They
profess, indeed, to possess a ritual as pure as that of the Vedas.
Nevertheless, they annually decapitate a number of helpless animals,
especially kids, and in some cases pommel the animal to death with
their fists, or offer blood without destroying life practices contrary
to the Vedic ritual. The Vamacharins, on the other hand the type
of the Saktas and amongst these especially that branch called Kaula
or Kulina, adopt a ritual of the grossest impurities. ' The principal
ceremonies,' says Professor Wilson, ' comprehend the worship of
Sakti, and require for that purpose the presence of a female as the
living representative and type of the goddess. This worship is
mostly celebrated in a mixed society, the men of which represent
Bhairava (or Siva as the Terrific), and the women, Bhairavi (Sakti or
Devi as the Terrific). The Sakti is personated by a naked female,
to whom meat and wine are offered, and then distributed amongst
the assistants ; the recitation of various mantras and texts, and the
performance of the Mudra, or gesticulations with the fingers, accom-
panying the different stages of the ceremony ; and it is terminated
with the most scandalous orgies amongst the votaries. The mem-
bers of this sect are very numerous, especially amongst the Brahma-
nical caste ; all classes are, however, admissible, and equal at the
ceremonies of the sect.'

The primitive Aryas reared no temples to their gods, and formed
no images or symbols of them. Yet modern Hinduism is pre-
eminently the religion of temples and of idols. While the temples are
grand and elegant, the idols are mostly rude, grotesque, and hideous.
This arises, partly at least, from their excessively symbolical char-
acter. Four or more arms mark the power of the chief gods ;
several heads, superior wisdom ; Kali's necklace of skulls, and
mouth smeared with gore, her destructive prowess. Most of the
idols carried in procession are made for the occasion, and are
thrown away when the ceremony is over. A common practice is
for individuals to squeeze a lump of mud from the Ganges into the


shape of an image, or of a lingam, bow reverently to it, offer rice,
fruit, or flowers, present invocations and supplications, and then
throw it away.

Hindu worshippers are divisible, as among us, into lay and clerical ;
the latter consisting of regular priests, and of monks or devotees to
a religious life, whose lives are one endless round of ceremonies.
The daily devotions of the lay Hindu vary with his social position
and greater or less zeal. The favourite places for performing them
are the ghats or flights of steps with which the margins of rivers
and of tanks are lined. There they perform their ablutions, offer
water to ancestors, and invoke their favourite god. Many content
themselves with merely making the marks of their sect on their
bodies, and invoking, with uplifted hands, Vishnu, or Siva.

We cannot afford space to enter into the endless ceremonial
impurities in which the Hindus believe. Among no other people,
perhaps, has this pestilent superstition assumed such extravagant
proportions. So numerous are the apprehensions of defilement, that
the Hindu lives in constant fear ; all freedom of action is stifled,
and one of the most ingenious races of mankind rendered the most
helpless. As an example of the ceremonial which trammels the
simplest action of private life, we quote the following from Cole-
brooke's essay On the Religious Ceremonies oj the Hindus :

' Here, too, as in every other matter relating to private morals, the
Hindu legislators and the authors of the Pura'nas have heaped
together a multitude of precepts, mostly trivial, and not unfrequently
absurd. Some of them relate to diet ; they prohibit many sorts of
food altogether, and forbid the constant use of others : some regard
the acceptance of food, which must on no account be received if it
be given with one hand, nor without a leaf or dish ; some again
prescribe the hour at which the two daily meals which are allowed
should be eaten (namely, in the forenoon and in the evening) ;
others enumerate the places (a boat, for example) where a Hindu
must not eat, and specify the persons (his sons and the inmates of
his house) with whom he should eat, and those (his wife, for instance)
with whom he should not. The lawgivers have been no less par-
ticular in directing the posture in which the Hindu must sit; the
quarter towards which he ought to look, and the precautions he
should take to insulate himself, as it were, during his meal, lest he
be contaminated by the touch of some undetected sinner, who may
be present. To explain even in a cursory manner the objects of all
these, would be tedious ; but the mode in which a Hindu takes his
repast, conformably with such injunctions as are most cogent, may
be briefly stated, and with this I shall close the present essay.

'After washing his hands and feet, and sipping water without swal-
lowing it, he sits down on a stool or cushion (but not on a couch nor
on a bed) before his plate, which must be placed on a clean spot of
ground that has been wiped and smoothed in a quadrangular form,


if he be a Bra'hmanaj a triangular one, if he be a Ksha'triya ; cir-
cular, if he be a Vai'sya; and in the shape of a crescent, if he belong
to the fourth tribe. When the food is first brought in, he is required
to bow to it, raising both hands in the form of humble salutation to
his forehead; and he should add : " May this be always ours ;" that
is, may food never be deficient. When he has sitten down, he
should lift the plate with his left hand and bless the food, saying :
" Thou art invigorating." He sets it down, naming the three worlds.
Or if the food be handed to him, he says : " May heaven give thee,"
and then accepts it with these words : " The earth accepts thee."
Before he begins eating, he must move his hand round the plate, to
insulate it, or his own person rather, from the rest of the company.
He next offers five lumps of food to Yama by five different titles ; he
sips and swallows water ; he makes five oblations to breath by five
distinct names Prana, Vyana, Apana, Samana, and Udana; and
lastly, he wets both eyes. He then eats his repast in silence, lifting
the food with all the fingers of his right hand, and afterwards again
sips water, saying : " Ambrosial fluid ! thou art the couch of Vishnu
and of food."'

The extravagances to which the Yoga doctrine leads, have been
thus described : ' Some [of those fanatical yogins or yogis] tear
themselves with whips, or repose on beds of spikes, or chain them-
selves for life to the foot of a tree. Others keep their hands closed
till they are pierced through by the growth of the nails. Others
make vows to remain standing in a certain position for years, with
their hands held up above their heads, until the arms wither away
from inaction, and become fixed and powerless. Others, again,
undertake to carry a cumbrous load, or drag after them a heavy
chain. Some crawl like reptiles upon the earth for whole years, or
until they have thus made the circuit of a vast empire. Others
measure with their bodies the road to Jaggernaut, or, assuming as
nearly as possible the form of a ball, or a hedgehog ensconced in his
prickly coat, roll along from the banks of the Indus to those of the
Ganges, collecting, as they move in this attitude, money to build a
temple, or dig a well, or to atone for some secret crime. Some
swing before a slow fire in that horrid clime ; or hang for a certain
. time suspended with their heads downwards over the fiercest flames.
Others, turning their heads over their shoulders to gaze at the
heavens, remain in that posture until it becomes impossible for them
to resume their natural position, while, from the twist of the neck,
nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach. The grand act of
penitence of sitting exposed to five fires, as commanded by Menu,
was witnessed by the traveller Fryer nearly two hundred years ago.
A yogi exhibited this example of self-torture, the most tremendous
perhaps that can be conceived, in the sight of a vast multitude at
a public festival, during forty days. Early in the morning, after
having seated himself on a quadrangular stage, he fell prostrate, and


continued fervent in his devotions till the sun began to have con-
siderable power. He then rose, and stood on one leg, gazing stead-
fastly at the sun, while fires, each large enough, says the traveller,
to roast an ox, were kindled at the four corners of the stage, the
penitent counting his beads, and occasionally with his pot of incense
throwing combustible materials into the fire to increase the flames.
He next bowed himself down in the centre of the four fires, keeping
his eyes still fixed on the sun. Afterwards placing himself upright
on his head, with his feet elevated in the air, he stood for the extra-
ordinary space of three hours in that inverted position ; he then
seated himself with his legs across, and thus remained, sustaining
the raging heat of the sun and the fires till the end of the day.' *

Prominent features of Hinduism are pilgrimages to sacred places
(fountains, rivers, cities), and religious festivals. A visit to Benares,
especially, is considered to secure eternal happiness. Benares,
situated in the interior of Hindustan, on the northern bank of the
Ganges, is emphatically the holy city of India. It forms, the
Hindu legends say, no part of the terrestrial globe, but rests on a
foundation of its own, one of the prongs of Siva's trident in con-
sequence of which earthquakes are unknown at Benares. The
shortest residence in this blessed spot secures the happy resident,
even though he be an Englishman, an immediate absorption into
Brahma ; and one instance is actually recorded of a benighted
Englishman availing himself of the privilege, and bequeathing a
sum of money to the Brahmans for the erection of a temple after his
death. Ward, who relates the story, adds : ' I suppress the name of
my countryman from a sense of shame.'

There is another name even more familiar than that of Benares to
those who have heard anything of the Hindus and their religion
that of Jaggernaut. The town of Jaggernaut, or Puri, stands on
the dry sandy coast of Orissa ; and the huge black temple of the
idol is visible far and wide to the passengers of ships sailing in the
Bay of Bengal. It is a vast obelisk or grotesque-shaped pyramid,
constructed of enormous blocks of granite brought down from the
neighbouring mountains, and rises to the height of three hundred
and fifty feet. The temple is surrounded by a lofty wall, enclosing
a spacious area, and round the interior of the wall runs a gallery,
supported by two rows of pillars. The faces of the temple are
covered over with sculptures, and the top of it is crowned with
copper balls and ornaments, which flash and glitter in the sun.
The temple and its precincts are inhabited by priests, and by num-
bers of dancing-girls ; and the worship of the god is mixed up with,
or rather consists of, all that is vicious and licentious. The great
annual pilgrimage to Jaggernaut, to attend the festival which takes
place in June, is, all things considered, the most striking exhibition

* Library of Entertaining Knowledge ' Hindoos.'


of the fanaticism of the Hindus. Dr Claudius Buchanan, in his
Christian Researches, gives a description of the festival, at which he
was present. ' We know that we are approaching Jaggernaut (and
yet we are more than fifty miles from it), by the human bones which
we have seen for some days strewed by the way. At this place we
have been joined by several large bodies of pilgrims, perhaps two
thousand in number, who have come from various parts of northern
India. Some of them with whom I have conversed say that they
have been two months on their march, travelling slowly in the
hottest season of the year, with their wives and children. Some
old persons are among them, who wish to die at Jaggernaut.
Numbers of pilgrims die on the road, and their bodies generally
remain unburied. On a plain by the river, near the pilgrims'
caravansera at this place, there are more than a hundred skulls. . . .
I passed a devotee to-day who laid himself down at every step,
measuring the road to Jaggernaut by the length of his body, as a
penance of merit, to please the god.'

The 1 8th of June was the great day of the festival. 'At twelve
o'clock this day the Moloch of Hindustan was brought out of his
temple, amidst the acclamations of hundreds of thousands of his
worshippers. When the idol was placed on his throne, a shout was
raised by the multitude, such as I had never heard before. . . . The
throne of the idol was placed on a stupendous car or tower, about
sixty feet in height, resting on wheels which indented the ground
deeply as they turned slowly under the ponderous machine. Attached
to it were six ropes, of the size and shape of a ship's cable, by which
the people drew it along. Thousands of men, women, and children,
pulled by each rope, crowding so closely, that some could only use
one hand. Infants are made to exert their strength in this office ;
for it is accounted a merit of righteousness to move the god. Upon
the tower were the priests and satellites of the idol surrounding his
throne. I was told that there were about a hundred and twenty
persons on the car altogether. The chief idol (which is supposed
to represent the dead Krishna) is a block of wood, having a frightful
visage, painted black, with a distended mouth of a bloody colour.
His arms are of gold, and he is dressed in gorgeous apparel. The
other two idols (representing Siva and Subhadra) are of a white
and yellow colour.' After the procession had proceeded a little way
it stopped, ' and now the worship of the god began. A high-priest
mounted the car in front of the idol, and pronounced his obscene
stanzas in the ears of the people, who responded at intervals in the
same strain. " These songs," said he, " are the delight of the god.
His car can only move when he is pleased with the song.'" Other
disgusting ceremonies then followed, and, adds Dr Buchanan : ' I
felt a consciousness of doing wrong in witnessing them. But a scene
of a different kind was now to be presented. The characteristics of
Moloch's worship are obscenity and blood ; and now comes the blood.



After the tower had proceeded some way, a pilgrim announced that
he was ready to offer himself a sacrifice to the idol. He laid himself
down in the road before the tower, as it was moving along, lying on
his face, with his arms stretched forwards. The multitude passed
round him, leaving the space clear, and he was crushed to death by
the wheels of the tower. A shout of joy was raised to the god. He
is said to smile when the libation of blood is made. The people
threw cowries, or small money, on the body of the victim, in appro-
bation of the deed. He was left to view a considerable time, and
was then carried by the Hurries to the Golgotha, where I have just
been viewing his remains.'

When the British took possession of the place in 1803, they con-
tinued the tax that the Mahrattas had formerly levied upon the
pilgrims, and out of it paid a sum to the priests for the maintenance
of the establishment ; but for some years past the management of
the matter has been given up into the hands of the native authori-
ties. The attendance at the Jaggernaut festival is represented as
sensibly falling off in recent years ; and the latest accounts speak of
the car of the god as having been left sticking in the road through
lack of enthusiasm in the multitude to drag it.

Vishnu, with Lakshmi, reposing on Shesha the Serpent, contemplating
the Creation, with Brahma springing from a lotos to perform it.


JAIONG the large body of negroes held in a state of
bondage, or othenvise living in a condition unfavourable
to mental development, there have at various times
occurred instances of intelligence far beyond what could
have been expected in this unhappy and abused, or at
least neglected race. In the United States of America an instance
occurred during last century of a coloured man shewing a remark-
able skill in mathematical science. His name was Richard Banneker,
and he belonged to Maryland. He was altogether self-taught,
and having directed his attention to the study of astronomy, his
calculations were so thorough and exact, as to excite the approbation
of such men as Pitt, Fox, Wilberforce, and other eminent persons ;
and an almanac which he composed was produced in the House of
Commons as an argument in favour of the mental cultivation of the
coloured people, and of their liberation from their wretched thraldom.
Elsewhere, we have presented the history of the gallant and unfor-
tunate Toussaint 1'Ouverture, a negro of St Domingo, whose name
will ever be cherished by the friends of suffering humanity ; and we
now lay before our readers a few sketches of the lives of coloured
individuals, who, though less celebrated than Toussaint, are equally
worthy of remembrance, and of being placed along with Richard
Banneker. We begin with a notice of



THOMAS JENKINS was the son of an African king, and bore
externally all the usual features of the negro. His father reigned
over a considerable tract of country to the east of, and, we believe,,
including Little Cape Mount, a part of the wide coast of Guinea,
which used to be much resorted to by British vessels for the purchase
of slaves. The negro sovereign, whom the British sailors knew by
the name of King Cock-eye, from a personal peculiarity, having,
observed what a superiority civilisation and learning gave to the
Europeans over the Africans in their traffic, resolved to send his
eldest son to Britain, in order that he might acquire all the advan-
tages of knowledge. He accordingly bargained with a Captain
Swanstone, a native of Hawick, in Scotland, who traded to the
coast for ivory, gold-dust, &c. that the child should be taken by him
to his own country, and returned in a few years fully educated, for
which he was to receive a certain consideration in the productions
of Africa. The lad recollected a little of the scene which took place
on his being handed over to Swanstone. His father, an old man,
came with his mother, who was much younger, and a number of
sable courtiers, to a place on the side of a green eminence near the

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 36 of 58)