Изображения страниц
[ocr errors][graphic]

W. Clerk lich 41. Dean se soho

Durga Puja. The House of a rich Hindu iluminated on the occasion of the Durga Pya,or festival in honor of the Goddess Durga.

Published by Parbury, allen & C. London, 1832.


evinced their hospitality by suppers, and ample supplies of wine, which have been unfortunately too frequently abused by persons, who have not been of the most respectably behaved of our countrymen.

The images exhibited on these occasions, of which the figures in the frontispiece are correct specimens, are made of a composition of hay, sticks, clay, &c., and some of them are ten and twelve feet high. On the morning after the puja, hundreds of them are conveyed on stages through the streets of Calcutta, accompanied as I have before described, to be cast into the river. During the whole of the day, as some of them are brought from villages at a considerable distance from the holy stream, the uproar and din are indescribable. Immense sums of money are expended on these festivals. In Calcutta alone, it has been calculated that no less a sum than half a million is, or at least was, annually spent. A few years ago it was said that some of the most wealthy of the Hindus expended each a lac of rupees (£12,500).

Fig. 4, plate 17, is another representation of Durga from the temple of Rama. She is here also ten-armed, holding in her hands various weapons. Fig. 1, plate 20, represents her with four arms, having in her hands the sword, the trident, the damara, and a cup containing a human head.

Numerous images of Durga, in gold, silver, and other metals, are made ; and she is worshipped by the Vishnaivas as well as by the Saivas. The cow is regarded as one of her forms.

I now come to the martial deeds of Durga, which have obtained for her so important a position in the Hindu Mythology. It is with no inconsiderable share of reluctance that I place the gods, in accordance with my authorities, in situations of so much wretchedness and humiliation, as to have required the interposition of the extraordinary skill and intrepidity displayed, on many occasions, by Durga, who, in the all-work kind of employment of destroying giants, was as redoubtable as our renowned champion, the infant fascinator, Jack the Giant-killer.

Fig. 4, plate 17, and fig. 1, frontispiece, represent her in the act of killing, after a desperate battle, Muhisha, the king of these monsters, who had reduced the gods to such straits, by having in the shape of an immense

buffalo conquered Indra and his celestial bands, that they were wandering about the earth without, if I may use a homely expression, shoes or stockings to their feet, “ as common beggars.” Muhisha, having obtained possession of Swerga, deprived its immortal inmates of their amrita, and reduced them to such a plight, that Brahma at length took compassion on them, and conducted them to Vishnu and Siva, whose omniscience would appear to have been taking a temporary slumber; but on being roused by the wretchedness of Indra and his vanquished hosts, radiant flames issued from their mouths, as well as from the mouths of the other principal deities, which blending themselves together, formed a female (Durga or Katyayini) of celestial beauty, with ten arms, into which the gods delivered their weapons, the emblems of their power, with which she attacked and slew the monster Muhisha, and restored to the gods their celestial abodes.

On this occasion she received from Vishnu the discus; from Siva, the trident; from Varuna, the conch or shell; from Agni, a flaming dart; from Vayu, a bow ; from Surya, a quiver and arrows; from Yama, an iron rod or mace; from Brahma, a bead-roll; from Indra, a thunderbolt; from Kuvera, a club; from Viswa-karma, a battle-axe; and from Samudra (the sea), precious stones and offensive weapons ; from the milky ocean, a necklace of pearls ; from Mount Himala, a lion for a charger; and from Ananta, a wreathed circlet of snakes. The other gods presented to her various other gems and instruments of war. Her person was similarly formed. One god gave her a head, another arms, another legs, and others a nose, breast, feet, &c. &c.

Sir John Malcolm, in the Transactions of the Bombay Literary Society, in allusion to the Durga Puja, or Dusrah, has stated, that the Hindu soldiers have converted the animals and instruments of modern warfare into emblems of their Bellona. Thus the horse is invoked to carry his master, first to victory and then to repose. The flag-staff is the ensign of Indra ; the sword is celebrated under several names; the bow and arrows are also praised; and even fire-arms have their proper pre-eminence of adoration. The Hindu artilleryman, at all times, regards the gun to which he is attached as an object of superstitious reverence, and usually bestows on it


[ocr errors]


the name of some deity. During the Durga festival, the cannon belonging to the army are painted, praised, invoked, and propitiated by every species of offering.

Sir John Malcolm has also observed, that on the western side of India, nine nights (or now ratree) only of the Dusrah (ten nights) are appropriated to the worship of Durga, the tenth day being considered as a distinct festival, sacred to Rama and Arjun, in celebration of the victories of these heroes. The sami-tree, from having concealed the mighty bow of Arjun, is, on this occasion, an object of especial reverence, and every man who follows arms is expected to shoot an arrow at it, or a branch of it brought from a distance, on the Dusrah.

“ The ritual ceremonies of the Dusrah, or tenth day, consist, according to some Hindu books, in a procession from the town or village of all the Hindu inhabitants to the sacred sami-tree. The procession must move in a northeasterly direction; and if there be no tree on the spot, a branch is brought from a distance, and planted there for the occasion. Every man who follows arms as a profession must shoot an arrow at this, and placing a leaf or two in his turban, return with shouts of joy to his house. Kings and chiefs are directed to assemble on the morning of this festival all their armies and followers, and to march in all their state to the verge of the city or camp, where their soldiers are to perform the ceremony abovementioned. By this act they are believed not only to propitiate the deities, but also to avert the baneful influence of Seetha * Matta (the goddess of small-pox), famine, and all other misfortunes, from their territory. Many other things are prescribed to be observed in the Dusrah or Desara; these consist chiefly in devotions to the gods, gifts (particularly new clothes) to friends and relations, and presents of money and food to Brahmans. This is also considered as a fortunate day to receive all gifts or payments. The debtor pleases his creditors by a trifling present in money; the tenant his landlord, by one in produce ; and each considers it peculiarly fortunate to receive on this day even a trifle of that which constituted his expectations or actual subsistence. I have

* Or Shetula.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »