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The Hindus make daily oblations of water to Yama. The second day of the month Karticu is sacred to him and his sister, the river goddess, Yamuna or Jumna, who entertained him on that day; in consequence of which an annual festival is held, in which sisters entertain their brothers. On this occasion an image of him of clay is made and worshipped, and then thrown into the river. He is also worshipped on the fourteenth day of the dark part of the month Aswina.
Some of the other names of Yama are Pitripeti, or lord of the Pitris ; Andhambara, from a wood from which fire is produced by attrition ; Antaka, the destroyer; Kala, Time; and Dundudhara, he who has the rod of punishment, &c. &c.
Fig. 3, plate 22, from the temple of Rama, represents Yama on his vahan, the buffalo. On his head is a rich crown, and he is adorned with the usual Hindu ornaments. In one hand he has a club, and in another the pashu or cord to bind the wicked. (See Pashu.)
Is the personification of fire, and the regent of the south-east division of the earth. He is variously described : sometimes with two faces, three legs, and seven arms, of a red or flame colour, and riding on a ram, his vahan or vehicle. Before him is a swallow-tailed banner, on which is also painted a ram. He is by others represented as a corpulent man of a red complexion, with eyes, eyebrows, head, and hair of a tawny colour, riding on a goat. From his body issue seven streams of glory, and in his right hand he holds a spear.
Agni is the son of Kasyapa and Aditi. His consort or sacti is Swaha, a daughter of Kasyapa.
The Brahmans who devote themselves to the priesthood should maintain a perpetual fire; and in the numerous religious ceremonies of the Hindus, Agni, the regent of that element, is commonly invoked. He is usually drawn with a forked representation of fire issuing from his mouth, which may denote the seven tongues of fire described by Mr. Colebrooke. “Pra
vaha, Avaha, Udvaha, Samvaha, Vivaha, Paruvaha, Nevaha (or else Anuvaha), all of which imply the power of conveying oblations to the deities to whom offerings are made."
In offering an oblation to fire, the priest utters this prayer. “ Fire ! seven are thy fuels; seven thy tongues; seven thy holy sages; seven thy beloved abodes; seven ways do seven sacrificers worship thee. Thy sources are seven. May this oblation be efficacious!” The mystical number seven is also used respecting Agni on other occasions.
“ In exciting fire and sprinkling water on it, he also makes an oblation to Agni, and concludes the sacrament to the gods with six oblations, reciting six prayers. Ist. Fire, thou dost expiate a sin against the gods (arising from any failure in divine worship), may this oblation be efficacious! 2nd. Thou dost expiate a sin against man (arising from a failure in hospitality)! 3rd. Thou dost expiate a sin against the manes (from a failure in the performance of obsequies)! 4th. Thou dost expiate a sin against my own soul (arising from any blameable act)! 5th. Thou dost expiate repeated sins! 6th. Thou dost expiate every sin I have committed, whether wilfully or unintentionally: may this oblation be efficacious."*
Numerous other oblations are made to Agni. He is thus the great moral purifier with the Hindus, as fire is physically the potent refiner of earthly matters. Agni is especially worshipped in every particular work requiring the agency of fire.
Sir William Jones, in allusion to the ancient Persians, says: “ while they rejected the complex Polytheism of their predecessors, they retained the laws of Mahabad, with a superstitious veneration for the sun, the planets, and fire; thus resembling the Hindu sects called Sauras and Sagnicars, the second of which are very numerous at Benares, where many Agnihotras are continually burning, and where the Sagnicars, when they enter on their sacerdotal office, kindle with two pieces of the hard-wood (serni) a fire, which they keep lighted through their lives, for their nuptial ceremony, the performance of solemn sacrifices, the obsequies of departed ancestors, and their own funeral pile.” The fire is produced by the attrition of the two pieces of wood.
* Asiatic Researches.
On the occasion of producing it for household and sacrificial fires, the priest recites this prayer: “Fires ! this (wood) is thy origin, which is attainable in all seasons, whence being produced thou dost shine. Knowing this, seize on it, and afterwards augment our wealth.”
Swaha, the sacti of Agni, resembles the younger Vesta, or goddess of fire, of the Romans, who had no images in their temples to represent her, Thus Ovid has said,
“ No image Vesta's semblance can express;
Neither have I met with an image of Swaha. Those of Agni are usually seen in pictures. In the collection of the late General Stuart was a basalt sculpture of him, seated on a couchant ram, the back ground waved with flames. The Romans, although they had no images of Vesta in their temples usually placed one in the porches* or entrances of their houses, and offered daily sacrifices to her. The Hindus have, as I have before stated, also their sacred household fires.
It has been justly observed, that nothing could be a stronger or more lively symbol of the Supreme Being than fire: accordingly we find this emblem in early use throughout all the east. The Persians held it in veneration long before the time of Zoroaster; the Prytanei of the Greeks were perpetual and holy fires, and Eneas carried with him to Italy his penates (or the household gods), the palladium, and the sacred fire.
Agni has several names. His heaven is called Agni-loka. Fig. 4, plate 22, represents him on a ram : in one hand is a spear, in another a lotus flower, and in a third a bead roll.
* Hence the name of Vestibulum.
“ By the autumn led,
Wilson's Translation of Mudra Rakshasa.
The honour of having given birth to this goddess, the personification of the sacred stream of the Ganges, has been claimed for their deities, as I have related in my account of Siva, both by the Saivas and Vishnaivas, the former alleging that she sprang from the locks of Siva, and the latter urging that she issued from the foot of Vishnu. It would be highly desirable to have this important point placed, indisputably, beyond farther discussion ; but as both parties adhere most pertinaciously to their opinions, I fear an attempt of the kind would impose upon a mediator a task of no little difficulty, and probably of some danger. I shall, therefore, content myself with imagining that she was heaven-descended, leaving the reader to determine whether the head of Siva gave her birth, or whether that deity merely caught her in his plaited locks as she was rushing impetuously to the earth, to prevent her crushing it by her fall. This the Vishnaivas assert; and as their assertion is as likely to be true as any other, it may be as well to leave the matter as it is. From the heaven, however, of either Vaicontha or Kailasa, we must allow her to have come, which she was induced with much difficulty to do, to restore to King Suguru the sixty thousand sons whom that procreative deity Brigu had caused his wife to have at one birth, and who, for some malpractices, had been reduced to ashes. In her passage towards the, sea she was swallowed by a holy sage for disturbing him in his worship; but, by some channel or other, she contrived to make her escape, and having divided herself into a hundred streams (now forming the delta of the Ganges), reached the ocean, where, it is fabled, she descended into Patala, to deliver the sons of Suguru.
All castes of the Hindus worship this goddess of their sacred stream. Numerous temples are erected on the banks of the river in honour of her, in which clay images are set up and worshipped. The waters of the river are highly reverenced, and are carried in compressed vessels to the remotest parts of the country; from whence also persons perform journeys of several months' duration, to bathe in the river itself. By its waters the Hindus swear in our courts of justice.
Mr. Ward informs us that there are 3,500,000 places sacred to Gunga; but that a person, by either bathing in or seeing the river, may be at once as much benefited as if he visited the whole of them.
For miles, near every part of the banks of the sacred stream, thousands of Hindus of all ages and descriptions pour down, every night and morning, to bathe in or look at it. Persons in their dying moments are carried to its banks to breathe their last: by which means the deaths of many are frequently accelerated; and instances have been known wherein such events have thereby been actually produced. The bodies are thus left to be washed away by the tide; and from on board the ships in the neighbourhood of Calcutta, numbers of them are seen floating down every ebb, with carrion crows and kites about them feeding upon their entrails.
Several festivals are held during the year in honour of Gunga. She is described as a white woman with a crown on her head, holding a water-lily in one of her hands, and a water vessel in another, riding upon a sea animal resembling an alligator (see fig. 1, plate 23), or walking on the surface of the water with a lotus in each hand.