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The Brahmini kites are equally voracious and more audacious, as it is not an uncommon occurrence for them to snatch poultry, or a joint of meat, if it happen to be uncovered, from a dish, as a servant is bringing it from the culinary offices to the table. Both these birds are destructive to snakes.
Garuda has many names. He is called Superna, from the beauty of his plumage, which in the pictures of him is of the rich colours of blue, red, and green, embellished with the variety of gems which usually adorn the Hindu deities. He is also termed Nag-antara, or the enemy of serpents; Vishnu-rat'ha, or the vahan of Vishnu, &c. &c.
Fig. 4, plate 4, from an ancient sculpture, represents Garuda in the act of prayer. He is furnished with wings, and has a human face, with a hooked nose of remarkable length. His hair is turned up in the front and formed into a club behind, not unlike the pictures of a petit maitre of the early part of the last century.
Fig. 5, in the same plate, from the temple of Rama, is Vishnu riding on the shoulders of Garuda, who has outstretched wings (although apparently running), with a head more resembling that of a bird than in the other figure.
Of this extraordinary simian demi-god I shall have occasion to say very little; but, after the gallant exploits which are related of him in the life of Rama, I cannot allow myself to pass over altogether in silence, this god of enterprise and attack. The common herd of beings may sink into oblivion in their graves, scarcely known in life, and wholly forgotten in death; but the illustrious conqueror cannot be so easily disposed of Time, which destroys the most splendid fabricks of human genius, venerates that sacred and undying monument of glory, the historic page, which records the hero's deeds, and renders his renown as imperishable as itself. At all events, whatever fate may attend these humble pages, we now learn from that unerring source, that Hanuman could only claim alliance to the monkey race, through his mother, Unjuna, who was a dignified female monkey of
wonderful lactescent celebrity, for on being told of the astonishing feats of her son, she, in derision (it may be presumed, that such insignificant mole hills should be turned into mighty mountains) pressed a little milk from her breast, which, like an overwhelming Himalaya torrent, swept down in its course whole regions of ghauts," which were, as Hindu legends relate, thus destroyed by this milky stream. The father of Hanuman was Pavana, the god of the winds; so that we find this celebrated opponent of Ravan is, by no means, to be compared to some chieftains of the present day, whose lofty flights of heroism have commenced from aeries of a very uncertain and doubtful character. It is at all events unquestionable, that the hero of my present biography was of no common origin; though some accounts make it different from that which I have just related, in which Pavana is made to play a very subordinate part. In these, Hanuman is represented as an incarnation of Mahadeo, and his mother as a married female Brahman, with the posterior appendages of a monkey. This lady, who could not become “ as women wish to be who love their lords,” performed austerities in honour of Mahadeo to procure that desirable object. Through the means of a charmed cake (that had been stolen by a kite from another female in a similar perdicament, just as she was about to taste it), which was conveyed to her by the order of Pavana, and of which she ate, the boon prayed for was obtained by the birth of Hanuman. The simian hero had no sooner entered the world than he displayed proofs of the aspiring mind, which afterwards led him to accomplish the deeds of renown that I have mentioned in the seventh avatar; for the first object of his mighty fancy was no other than the rising sun, which, as he made a spring from his mother's arms to possess himself of it, so frightened Surya, that he sat off, with Hunuman at his heels, to the heaven of Indra, who instantly launched a thunderbolt at the monkey god, and had nearly deprived Valmic of one of the most distinguished ornaments of the Ramayana. Pavana now steps forward, and performs a somewhat extraordinary part in the drama; for being indignant at the treatment of his son (though it is difficult to make out how Hanuman became so, which, by-the-bye, is a mere trifle on these occasions), he called to his assistance, as regent of the winds, all the strength of his attributes; with which he inflated Indra and the rest of the gods, and gave them the colic to so violent a degree, that to relieve themselves from the pain, they were glad to restore Hanuman, and severally to endow him with a portion of their own power. Hanuman is extensively worshipped, and his images will be found set up in temples, sometimes alone, and sometimes in the society of the former companions of his glory, Rama and Sita. He is supplicated by the Hindus on their birth-days to obtain longevity, which he is supposed to have the power to bestow; and which, of course, he unhesitatingly grants; or which, at least, the disinterested Brahmans of his temples unhesitatingly promise. As the god of enterprise, offerings should be made at his shrine by night. Hanuman is called Maruty, from Pavana being chief of the Maruts, or genii of the winds. He is also called Muhabar. A few years ago, a monkey, perfectly white, was caught in the Burmese territories. It was considered to be rare, and excited much admiration; as one only had before been seen like it, for which the king of Ava had sent a golden case, and to celebrate its happy arrival, from which the most fortunate auguries were drawn, expended, according to the Calcutta India Gazette, no less a sum than twenty thousand rupees in sacrifices and rejoicings. What happy exaltation might have awaited the other gentleman who succeeded him, had he lived, it is impossible to say: but he died, although a Burmese woman, who was suckling her child, prayed to have the nursing of him, and fairly divided her nurture and maternal attention between the human infant and the simian nursling. Figs. 3 and 5, plate 9, from drawings, represent Hanuman armed for battle; 4 ditto, from a cast, trampling on a Daitya ; 5, conveying the mountains for the bridge, to enable Rama to invade Lanka. Plate 10 represents Hanuman and his monkeys, with Rama, making oblations to Vishnu and Lakshmi. This plate is from a large and beautiful carving, brought, I imagine, from a temple. It has been richly emblazoned. Fig. 1, plate 11, is from the temple of Rama, and represents Hanuman relating his adventures to Rama, Sita, and Lakshman; and fig. 2, from the same place, trampling on the Rakshasa, who attempted to stop his progress in conveying the medicinal plant for the cure of Lakshman.
* Ghauts, or gauts, mountains.
This sea-born goddess of beauty and prosperity, the consort, or sacti of Vishnu, was obtained by him at the churning of the sea. She is painted yellow, sitting on the lotus or water-lily, and holding in her hand, sometimes the kamala or lotus, at others, the shell or club of Vishnu. At her birth she was so beautiful that all the gods became enamoured of her; but . Vishnu at length obtained her. She is considered as the Hindu Ceres, or goddess of abundance.
Lakshmi has various names:—among which are Sri or Sris, the goddess of prosperity; Pedma or Kamala, from the lotus or nymphoea being sacred to her; Rembha, the sea-born goddess; Varahi (as the energy of Vishnu in the Varaha avatar); Ada Maya, the mother of the world; Narayana, Vidgnani, Kaumali, &c. (which see.)
This goddess was the daughter of Bhrigu; but, in consequence of the curse of Durvasa (an incarnation of Siva) upon Indra, she abandoned the three worlds, and concealed herself in the sea of milk, so that the earth no longer enjoyed the blessings of abundance and prosperity. . To recover her, the gods churned the milky ocean, as related in the Kurma avatar. After some labour, and having thereby obtained the moon (which Siva instantly seized and placed in the middle of his forehead, where it still shines) and some other things, Sri, as Rembha, the sea-born goddess (the Venus Aphrodites of the Greeks), was produced, seated on her sacred lotus, and resplendent as a blazing sun. Thus was abundance and prosperity again restored to the three worlds; at which the gods expressed their satisfaction in a very becoming and celestial manner, by dancing, singing, splendid decorations, and other similar signs of heavenly rejoicing. Siva, who will be hereafter shown to be somewhat of a libertine among the Hindu divinities, wished to possess her; but as he had already stuck the Lunar
crescent in his forehead, Vishnu urged his claim to, and obtained for his share this ocean gem of beauty and prosperity. The festivals in honour of Lakshmi are held in the months Bhadra, Aswinu, Karteku, Poushu, and Choitru. The ceremonies are performed before a corn-measure filled with rice in the husk, which is decorated with a garland of flowers, shells, &c. No sanguinary sacrifices are offered. The chewing of the cud by the cow arose from a curse of Lakshmi, that her mouth should be always in a state of uncleanliness, in consequence of a falsehood told by the animal to the goddess. Fig. 6, plate 4, represents Lakshmi standing on a lotus pedestal. In one of her hands is the kamala or lotus; the other is held up in a forbidding attitude. In fig. 2, plate 7, she appears as Varahi in the third avatar, having four heads (one a boar's), and eight arms holding various weapons. In several of the other plates she is represented, either in company with Vishnu, or as his sacti in his different avatars. In fig. 2, plate 23, she is seen with Parvati and Suraswati, emblematical of the three sacred streams
of the Gunga, Yamuna, and Suraswati.