Sunday, September 7, 2014

68. Bhakt and their faith

"The castes below that of the writers have not much of a showy religion ; indeed they may almost be said to have none. On this account, however, they are not worse than those people of the higher castes who make loud professions of it ; but on the whole better, be: cause having no cloak to cover their crimes, they are more plain hearted and generally more honest. There are some men among them here and there who, all their life time, abstain from taking even a single mouthful of meat ; they keep beads and count them
"and repeat the names of some gods. By doing this, and more particularly by abs;aining from meat, and doing two or three other trifling things, which people of their castes do not and which we shall just mention, they are called Bhakts or Saints. The religion of those castes, that are lower than that of the writers, consists in the following practices. When they rise in the morning and while they are yet only half awake, they repeat the name of R;lm, one of their incarnations or sometimes of some other god. They bathe in the forenoon.betweeii ten and twelve, which is just before taking their breakfast. When they are about to retire for the night, they agiin tw:33 or thrice repeat the name of R;im. This is the whole of their daily religion. Sometimes they also have pooja ; then they call a Brahmin to perform it for them in their houses and of course pay him for the trouble. As these people have not got much of an external religion' or at least not so much as. those of the higher castes have, they have no priests to wait on them regularly and therefore pay them just at the time when they require their services. Another and a very important part of their religion is also inviting Brahmins and giving them dinners. The food is not dressed by the inviters ; but the priests themselves cook after they are provided with the articles, which are flour, clarified butter, some vegetables, salt, spices, sugar, milk, curdl ed milk, and one or two other things. A part of the floor of a room or of the small yard in front of the house is consecrated by being plastered with cow-dung and water ; this is generally done by the inviters them selves. After the place is purified one or two Brah mins begin to cook. Unmarried girls or virgins are considered a kind of sacred beings, and inviting a number of them and giving them food is also a religious
act ; it is considered meritorious and is often observed by them. These girls of different castes, however, eat separate. They also shew themselves religious by observing the various Hindoo festivals and having va rious sorts of dishes which is almost the sole induce ment to observe them and of which they principally consist. Their religion, moreover, consists in the wor ship of Brahmins, and whenever they meet a man of this caste, they say, Pdldgan Mdhdrdj, that is, / wor- ship your feet, great Sir ! Some of them actually throw themselves down at the feet of Brahmins in the act of worship. This religion of which we have spoken in the pre ceding lines is that of the middle classes such as agri culturists, mechanics, ifec. But the lowest castes have scarcely any religion at all. They are" considered by others and consider themselves as outcasts from socie ty and not tit to profess and practise any sort of reli gion. They can eat without bathing ; do seldom re peat the name of any god ; and Brahmins will not go into their houses to perform pooja and to eat. Some times, though very seldom, a priest performs pooja for somebody of this lowest class in his own house ; the unclean person cannot of course join it, but must be a mere distant spectator. A person of this -caste must not touch a Brahmin, but must offer his respects and worship at a distance. Though these people are con sidered so unclean by the priests, yet the latter will take good care never to refuse their pice ; these are never thought unclean, and they will even accept lrom them dry articles of food, such as grain, flour, fa. But on the whole, people of these lowest classes have not got even a show of religion ; they are con sidered too mean in the scale of existence to be reli gious. According to the Hindoo religion elephants, monkeys, cows, mountains, rivers, and trees rank higher, and we may say infinitely higher, than people of these classes. The priests are always ready to work on the creduli ty of the people. Whenever an epidemic prevails among children, they have a fine opportunity to lead women by the ear ; goddesses are recommended to be worshipped and offerings to be made to them, which offerings are of course appropriated by the crafty Brah mins to their own use. Women generally worship some goddess or other ; and sometimes when there is no image of a goddess in a neighbourhood, a Brahmin secretes an image in a small hole dug on purpose, with a little loose earth on the image, leaving a part of it exposed, so that it can be seen ; and then gives out to the people living about the place that a goddess has graciously- appeared there and calls upon all to worship her. Scores of people, but especially women flock to the place, see the image, believe it to have really come out of the earth, and begin their worship with prostrations, offerings &c. Occasionally, when a priest secretes an image in a hole, he puts under it a few handfuls of the pulse called chand in a moistened state ; the pulse, when moistened well, (which is al ways the case) swells in the course of an hour or two to double its size and raises part of the image above the surface of the earth ; the people can see the image rise, but not knowing its cause take it for a miracle or something supernatural, and worship the image with redoubled faith and zeal to the great satisfaction and profit of the priest. Now and then one of this class pretends to have been favoured with a night vision by a goddess, who, he says desires a temple to be erected for her ; in this he sometimes succeeds and at others not. The writer knows a certain place in this station where sometime ago there was no image of a goddess but a cunning Brahmin has set it up there now. He commenood his operations just as has been said, (though withou the help of the pulse) and has succeeded. The women of the place always resort to it, more particularly in the hot season, when some sickness or other is always prevalent in their families ; at such times there are a good many about the place, and the trade of the priest flourishes better. He has been allowed by the owner of the piece of land to build a hut there in which he lives. A small white platform of masonry is raised under a tree on which the image is placed ; a small well has been dug from which worshippers are supplied with water for purposes of purification and offerings ; and the man has there two or three flower beds also, from which flowers are presented to the image. He once pretend ed, that the goddess, who is worshipped there, had appeared to him in a dream and said that a temple must be built for her on the spot. This order has not been executed yet, nor is there any great likelihood of its being attended to soon, because the people about the neighbourhood are poor. The writer once passing by a temple of a goddess heard one or two of these religious robbers sing out to worshippers this lucrative doctrine, Diin charhao debi nidi ; Papi nark ny jiio bhilf. That is, present offerings to our mother the goddess, O sinners, and you will not go to hell. Sometimes, mis chievous Mohomedan boys or men throw away these images from their places into holes or ponds unobser ved, and then the priests give out, that the god or god dess has become angry and left the place in conse quence."

(Reference: "Domestic Manners and Customs of the Hindoos of Northern India" By: Baboo Ishuri Dass, Medical Hall, Benares, 1860, page-83-84-85-86-87)


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