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The three engravings on the preceding page represent the three principal gods of the Hindoos, Bramha, Vishnu, and Siva. Among the learned Hindoos Brahm is the supreme god, from whom these three descended. Some suppose that the Hindoo traditions on this subject are a corruption of the Scripture bistory of Noah and his three sons. In assigning offices to these gods, the Hindoos call Bramha the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the destroyer
, or re-producer. Of the origin, character, rank, form, and appearance of these gods very different accounts are given by different persons, or as they are worshipped in different districts. The following explanations and remarks, gathered from the writings of various missionaries, will help the readers to understand the engraving
In Bengal Brahma is usually seen, as in whom are descended male and female gods. the engraving, with four faces and four In the seventh descent from the Supreme arms; having in his hands a portion of the we find Siva, from Siva sprang Vishnu, Veda or Hindoo scripture, a spoon, a rosary, and from Vishnu sprang Bramha, the and a vesselcontaining the water of ablution. creator. The manner in which men are
Vishnu holds in one right hand a shell created is said to be by lineal descent from used for a trumpet, and in the other a sort Bramha;--the brahmins from his head, the of quoit, from which irresistible fire flames kings from his shoulders, the merchants when whirled on the finger of Vishnu. from his loins, and the laborers from his feet. In one of the left hands is a sort of club, The people in general, whether learned and in the other a lotus-branch.
or unlearned, regard Siva as the great obSiva has in one hand a trident, and in ject of adoration. He has many names
, but another a rope for binding incorrigible is usually called Parama Sivan, that is, the offenders. His other hands are open. He divine Šivan. In the Hindoo triad he is has a third eye in his forehead. Serpents the destroyer, and Bramha is the creator, form his ear-rings. His necklace is com- and Vishnu the preserver. To destroy, posed of human heads.
however, is but to new model, or re-pro-
Siva is here usually represented as a man
with one head, three eyes, (the additional It is well known to those at all acquaint- one being in the forehead, on which also ed with the Brahminic system in India, that the half-moon is represented,) and two the Hirdoos are divided into two leading arms; as riding naked on a bull, and coversects, the Voishnuvus, or worshippers of ed with ashes-holding in one hand a drum, Vishnu, and the Soivinus, or followers of and in the other a conch. His image is, Siva. The remaining god of the Hindoo however, more properly made with five triad, Brumha, has no temples, and no gen. heads, and eight hands, in six of which are, eral 'worship, on account of being cursed severally, a skull, a deer, fire, an axe, a by Parvutee, the wife of Siva, for telling a rosary, and the rod of an elephant driver; lie. The sect of Vishnu, who is worshipped while of the remaining two, which are principally under the forms assumed in the empty, one is extended to bestow blessings, last three of his nine incarnations, is most and the other raised to forbid fear. numerous in Bengal, but is not without its But the image more commonly worshipadherents in the south of India. The ped in the Siva-pooja, is that of the lingu, Soivgus form, however, is the prevailing of lingam, which is a cylindrical stone sect among
the Tamul people, whether on placed upright in another at its base; or it the continent, or on this island. This sect may be made by squeezing a little clay in regard Siva as superior to the other two of the hand, and placing it on a leaf
, or some the triad, and even affect to call him the other seat. It is an indecent image, and supreme god, of whom, as an eternal spirit
, the history of its origin is too obscene to be their sacred books contain some intima. told;—yeť before this, men and women tions. Those who hold that there is an alike bow, and worship it together. He is
, almighty and unchangeable spirit, and yet sometimes, represented as a devotee, clothed worship Siva, who is allowed to have been in a tiger's skin, with a necklace of human born, and to be subject to death, contend skulls, and an alms-dish made from the that Siva is an incarnation, and the most skull of one of Bramha's heads in his hand. glorious incarnation of the supreme, whom they call the great Bramha.
But besides these three, the objects of worship of this being, whom all profess to ac- among the Hindoos are almost innumerable. knowledge, very different accounts There are twenty-one celestial deities, who are given. The popular opinion is, that the admitted into the devu lokum, or Siva's heaven; Supreme is a male and female spirit, from and besides these they reckon above three hundred
and thirty millions of inferior and terrestrial gods, was obliged to grant him power that on who are not admitted to this heaven. Among whatever he might lay his hand it should these are included the sun, moon, stars, deified be consumed. Having received the boon, men, evil spirits, beasts, birds, repules, rivers, the ungrateful giant sought to lay his hand
on Siva himself. The great god was obliged brooks, stones, &c.; all of which the Hindoos
to flee, and to conceal himself in a small suppose to be living creatures. The houses of berry, or fruit. Nor could he extricate himmany of the Hindoo princes contain courts filled self from his embarrassment until Vishnu with idols, each of which has an establishment came to his aid. of priests who perform the ceremonies of daily
In all their religious ceremonies not a worship.
particle is found to interest or amend the
heart; no family bible, "profitable for docThe images of the gods may be made of trine, for reproof, for instruction in rightalmost all the metals, as well as of wood, eousness, that men may be thoroughly furstone, clay, &c. Most of the permanent nished unto all good works,” no domestic images are made of wood or stone; those worship; no pious assembly where the vilwhich are destroyed at the close of festivals, lage preacher “attempts each art, reproves are made of clay. Small images of brass, each dull delay, allures to brighter worlds, silver, and gold, are not uncommon. The and leads the way." No standard of morals sculpture of stone images resembles that of to repress the vicious; no moral education, the popish images of the 12th century; in which the principles of virtue and rethose cast in brass, &c. exhibit a similar ligion may be implanted in the youthful progress of the arts. The consecration of mind. an image is accompanied with a number of Reverence for the gods, especially among ceremonies, the most singular of which is the poor, as might be expected, does not that of conveying sight and life to the image, exceed their merits; yet it is a shocking for which there are appropriate formulas, fact, that language like the following should with prayers, inviting the deity to come and be used respecting what the Hindoos supdwell in it. After this ceremony, the image pose to be the Providence which governs becomes sacred; and is carefully guarded the world: when it thunders awfully, refrom every offensive approach. The shas- spectable Hindoos say, "Oh! the gods are trus contain directions for making idols, giving us a bad day;" the lower orders say, and the forms of meditation used in worship The rascally gods are dying.” During a contain a description of each idol.
heavy rain, a woman of respectable cast Such are the objects adored by the Hin- frequently says, "Let the gods perish; all doos. Such is the deplorable state into my clothes are wet.", A man of low caste which the mind continues to sink, after it says, "These rascally gods are sending has once renounced the doctrine of the more rain." unity of God. Divine worship is confess One missionary says, “The manifest edly the highest act of reverence and effect of idolatry in this country, as held up homage of which man is capable. How
to thousands of Christian spectators, is an shocking then, how afflicting to a philan- immersion into the grossest moral darkness, thropic mind, to see man prostrate before a
and a universal corruption of manners. The beast, or a log of wood. How greatly is the Hindoo is taught, that the image is really horror increased when this prostration of God, and the heaviest judgments are deintellect respects many millions.
nounced against him, if he dare to suspect Their worship is a round of unmeaning that the image is nothing more than the and often tiresome ceremonies, in which the elements of which it is composed. The heart has very little concern, and of which Tuntru-saru declares, that such an unbeno part can be considered the fruit of real liever will sink into the regions of torment. love to the object worshipped. The greatest In the apprehensions of the people in genenemies of the gods, by the performance of eral, therefore, the idols are real deities; religious austerities, obtain power with them, they occupy the place of God, and receive and even over them, and there is no princi- all ihe homage, all the fear, all the service, ple of reciprocal love so much as recognized and all the honor which he so justly claims. between the gods who are worshipped and The government of God is subverted, and their worshippers. It is often a strife be- all the moral effects arising from the knowltween the two for power. Thus Siva, by edge of his perfections, and his claims upon the force of penance performed by a giant, his rational creatures, are completely lost.”
We learn from the second commandment of the decalogue that it is exceedingly offensive to that God who is a spirit, and who requires those who worship bim to worship bim in spirit and in truth, who is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders, to make any images of him; and those who do make them justly expose themselves to the reproof of Isaiah, "To whom will ye liken God, or what likeness will ye compare to him?
Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: all nations before him are as nothing, and are counted as less than nothing and vanity.”
any of them.
But what shall we say when these idols are monstrous personifications of vice; and when it is a fact that not a single virtuous idea is ever communicated by
With what amazing indignation must God look down on hundreds of millions, whom he has made, and whom he daily upholds, who thus misrepresent his nature and character, and pay their worship to idols of brass and wood and stone, which their own hands have made, instead of the holy and eternal Creator, who is God over all, blessed forever. How should all we who know and love the only true God feel grieved at the dishonor and wrong done him, and say with Elijah, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of bosts, for they have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain tby prophets with the sword.”—How just is Paul's description of the heathen, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
There is nothing in the character, attributes, or works of their gods, the contemplation of which is adapted to elevate, enlarge, or purify the mind; nothing to cause an intelligent moral being to regard them as objects baving a just claim to love, veneration, homage, or obedience. On the other hand there is every thing to fill the mind with contempt and abhorrence. They afford no holy and safe example to follow. The more a Hindoo worshipper tries to imitate his gods the more flagrantly wicked and loathsome he becomes. Not a crime can be named, which the gods have not committed and sanctioned, and which the worshipper is not called daily to contemplate with approbation.
The Hindoo festivals, or seasons of worship, instead of exerting a sobering, restraining influence on the worshippers, only call them together to indulge in the scenes of noisy confusion and the most unbridled riot and debauchery. The festival of Doorga, the most crowded and popular of all the Hindoo festivals
, after exbibiting scenes of moral pollution, wbich must not be described, closes with libations to the gods, so powerful as to produce general intoxication. What must be the state of morals in a country, when its religious institutions and public shows, at which the whole population is present, thus sanctify vice, and carry the multitudes into the very gulf of depravity and ruin.
Men are sufficiently corrupt by nature, without any outward excitements to evil in the public festivals; nor have civil nor spiritual terrors, the frowns of God and governors united, been found sufficient to keep within restraint the oferflowings of iniquity; but what must be the moral state of that country, where the sacred festivals, and the very forms of religion, lead men to every species of vice! These festivals, and public exhibitions excite universal attention, and absorb, for weeks together, almost the whole of the public conversation; and such is the enthusiasm with which they are hailed, that the whole country seems to be thrown into a ferment: health, property, time, business, every thing is sacrificed to them. In this manner are the people prepared to receive impressions from their national institutions. If these institutions were favorable to virtue, the effects would be most happy; but as in addition to their fascination, they are exceedingly calculated to corrupt the mind, the most dreadful consequences follow, and vice, like a mighty torrent, flows through the plains of Bengal, with the force of the flood-tide of the Ganges, carrying along with it young and old, the learned and the ignorant, rich and poor, all casts and descriptions of people--into an awful eternity!
Yet such is the religion of a hundred millions in India; and such substantially is the religion of four hundred millions of idolaters inbabiting various parts of the world.