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SECTARIAL MARKS—AUSTERITIES AND PUNISHMENTS. 165
marked with the chuckra (or wheel) on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and sometimes with a lozenge on the breast.
According to Bartolomeo, the two marks under No. 10 denote the medhra or womb of Bhavani, and are used by the two sects of Siva and Vishnu. The same author describes, No. 36, the villa or bow, as the mark of Rama; but I do not recollect to have elsewhere seen it.
AUSTERITIES and PUNISHMENTS.
The Hindus subject themselves to more devotional austerities, penances, and mortifications, some of which are of a temporary and others of a permanent character, than, perhaps, any people in the world. The punishments which they have prescribed for themselves in a future state I have already noticed, in my account of Yama, the Hindu Pluto, in page 113, of which representations are given in plate 28. In my account of Siva, I have also described, in page 67 and following pages, and shewn in the plate just mentioned, some of the self-inflicted penances, tortures, and mortifications, to which this extraordinary people frequently devote themselves. I have, however, yet to notice the tapass, or propitiatory austerities, practised to obtain the more especial divine favour and blessings of the gods. This consists in standing on one toe, the shin of the same leg having the heel of the other foot resting upon it. The arms are at the same time raised over the head; and the eyes must, during the day, be constantly gazing upon‘the sun. See fig. 4, plate 28 ; and fig. 8, plate 26. The latter represents Arjun, one of the Pandu brothers, performing tapass to propitiate Vishnu, in order to obtain from him a celestial weapon, -to enable him and his brothers to reconquer their patrimonial dominions, of which they had been unjustly dispossessed.
In the performance of the tapass the prescribed acts of devotion are termed mana, or the devotion that proceeds from the heart in profound silence ; vauk, or devotion audibly pronounced; neyana, or devotion accompanied by religious ceremonies, purifications, &c. Arjun, in the performace of his tapass, took food, during the first month of his austerities, only once
in four days; during the second month, once in seven days; during the third, once in a fortnight; and during the fourth month he subsisted alone on, what he was no doubt liberally supplied with on one of the loftiest peaks of the gigantic Himalaya,—air; resting all the time, as represented in the plate, on the tip of his great toe.
In the articles SIVA, YA MA, and THE PANDUS, and in the plates beforementioned, the subject will be found more particularly noticed.
Among the many abominations which stain the practice of the Hindu religion, that of the suttee, with the no less barbarous practice of infanticide, are of the greatest. Many, and very strenuous, attempts have been made by the governments of India to abolish the latter, with. (as will be seen under the article infanticide) very limited success; for, although the tribes, among whom it prevailed, promised much to the humane interceders for infant preservation, and for a time partially kept the word of promise to the sense, they soon returned to their former cruelties; and infanticide, at the present day, is, it may be feared, almost as much practised as ever.
In respect of suttees, or female immolation on the funeral pile of a deceased husband, it is gratifying to be enabled to withdraw the melancholy veil, and display a brighter and more cheering prospect. The humane exertions of the Indian governments have, at length, commenced upon, and it may be hoped, will consummate, what for a long time was considered could not be attempted without a daring invasion of the religious principles and privileges of the Hindus (which we had pledged ourselves not to intermeddle with), and a consequent hazard to the foundation upon which the security of our eastern possessions rests. Its positive abolition, by the means of legal prohibitory enactments, has been lately notified; but against this benevolent and most laudable measure powerful opposition has been made by many wealthy and influential Hindus. Aided, however, by the diffusion of knowledge among the more enlightened of others of them, it is to be trusted that this'decided and humane interference will soon be attended with all the success which can be desired for it, and which it so eminently and manifestly deserves.
It must not be imagined that the Brahmans have legally possessed the means of dragging the devoted victim to the pile, by any other chains than those of superstition. Although the Shasters recommend, and contain regulations for the practise of the rite, the sacred ordinances not only
do not expressly, as some have supposed, enjoin it, but distinctly point out in what manner a woman, after the decease of her husband, shall be taken care of; and leave it optional with her, either to burn herself, or live a future life of chastity and respectability.- If, they say, after marriage her (the woman’s) husband shall die, her husband’s relations ; or, in default thereof, her father’s; or, if there be none of either, the magistrate, shall take care of her: and, in every stage of life, if the person who has been allotted to take care of a woman do not take care of her, each in his respective. stage, the magistrate shall fine them. The ordinance, nevertheless adds, that it is proper for a woman to burn herself with the corpse of her husband; in which case she will live with him in paradise three crore and fifty lacks, or thirty-five millions of years. If she cannot burn she must observe an inviolable chastity. If she remain always chaste she will go to paradise; if not, she will go to hell. A woman usually declares her determination to become suttee during the dying moments of her husband: having once declared it, she is seldom induced to alter it. She may, however, do so if she pleases, as it is stated, “if the woman, regretting life, recede from the pile, she is defiled; but may be purified by observing the fast called Prrljupatya. This fast, according to Mr. Colebrooke, extends to twelve days. The first three she may take a spare meal; the next three, one on each night; the succeeding three days nothing may be eaten, but what is given unsolicited; and the last three days are a rigid fast. There are. various disqualifications against the performance ‘of suttee, such as a woman being pregnant, having an infant child, &c. 8:c.
The main crime of theBrahmans then has been the fabrication, from these flimsy materials, of the soul-enfeebling chain of superstition, and decking
it with flowers of heavenly promise. Although some ladies might, for so long a period, be better satisfied with other company than that expressly promised, immediate beatitude, an almost immortal life in heavens of ineffable delight, and other enjoyments whose gross sensualities are concealed by the dazzling brilliancy of oriental colouring, are among the irre~ sistible charms which are held forth to enthral the mind, and lead the victim of marital selfishness, too often, to become a Suttee. In short, we are told that the gods themselves reverence and obey the mandates of a woman who becomes one.
There is, besides these, another powerful motive which operates in conjunction with them. Among the Hindus a woman, after the decease of her husband, loses entirely her consequence in his family, and is degraded to a situation little above that of a menial. She is told that if she become a Suttee, she will not only escape from that life of assured debasement and contempt, but will ascend to a state as pre-eminently exalted; and will thus (whatever the crimes of the parties may have been) save both her own soul, and the souls of her husband and her husband’s family from purgatory and future transmigration. If, then, it be considered that by her immolation she imagines that she emancipates herself from present misery, and obtains exemption from that attendant upon future births in the shape of animals of all descriptions, and that she moreover raises her family in the estimation of society, we shall the less wonder that, in briefly exchanging such positive evil for so much of promised and expected good (and that exchange, too, commonly countenanced and apparently reverenced by all that she holds most dear and sacred), the shrinking timidity of her sex should be overcome, and every domestic, every social, and every tender bond should be burst asunder, with sometimes an heroic fortitude and firmness, which excite, and blend into one overwhelming feeling of horror, our indignation, our pity, and our admiration.
Whatever may have been the origin of female immolation and infanticide in the east, pride and avarice are the unquestionably existing causes, operating by the means which I have just described. And to the same fount alone, we should blush to say, may be traced the sources of female immo
lation (for such in fact it is) in the west. Pride and avarice have been the shrines at which the lives of the one on the funeral pile or in the bowl of milk, and the minds of the other in the gloomy recesses of the conventual cell, have been alike sacrificed and destroyed.
Courage and a disregard of life, in whatever manner the mind of the sufferer may have been worked upon, or whatever opiates may have been administered to lull the faculties, and deaden the apprehensions of “ that bourne from which no traveller returns,” are not, however, always displayed; for it is too true, that sometimes the miserable victim is led forth, decked in her gayest paraphernalia, for the melancholy pageant, feeble, trembling, half intoxicated with drugs, dreading to go on, yet sufliciently conscious that it is too late and in vain to attempt to recede.
It is meritorious to die in sight of the sacred stream of the Ganges, or any other of the holy rivers in India, as it is imagined that the dying person will thus obtain salvation. If, however, the party be a man, and his wife intend to burn herself, the aid of these hallowed waters is not necessary, as his salvation is rendered certain by the performance of suttee by his wife. If a husband should be at a distance, a woman may take any article of his dress in her possession, and binding it round her, may burn herself on a separate pile. In justice, however, to the Hindus, it must be acknowledged, that sometimes the better feelings of human nature prevail over the baser. passions and the abominations of superstition, and every solicitation is adopted by the relatives and members of the family, with various success, to prevent the widow’s immolation taking place. An instance of which the following pathetic relation from Holwell’s Historical Events will shew, as will a subsequent one a practice of a contrary description.
“ At five of the clock in the morning died Raam Chund Pundit, of the Maharatta tribe, aged twenty-eight years. His widow (for he had left one wife, aged between seventeen and eighteen) as soon as he expired, disdaining to waste the time allowed for reflection,‘ immediately declared
* Twenty-four hours after the decease of the husband are allowed by the Brahmans for the widows to determine. If, says Holwell, the first wife should not, in that time, express her inten
tions to burn, the right to do so devolves upon the second, and, if both are disinclined, upon the third, 6m. &c.