Изображения страниц
PDF

the male and female forms, personified; as Siva, the sun (which he is equally with Surya) or fire, the genial heat which pervades, generates, and vivifies all; and Bhavani, who as the goddess of nature is also the earth, the universal mother. These two active principles of life having been thus personified, may have been subsequently converted by the grossness of idolatry (which, in its progress, invariably seeks rather to gratify the sensual appetites than to instruct the minds of its votaries) from imaginary forms to realities; from the personified symbols of nature, to typical representations of the procreative powers of these symbols themselves.

In the sculptures which I shall presently describe, and I have noticed the same in others, it will be seen that a sun surmounts one of the Lingas; which must evince a clear indication of the more decorous and respectable allusion : to account for the other in popular practice, we need only recall to our recollection that the Hindu religion is one thing in that practice, and another as understood by the learned Brahmans.

Perforated rocks are considered as emblems of the Y om’, through which pilgrims and other persons pass for the purpose of being regenerated. The utmost faith is placed in this sin-expelling transit.

Fig. 1, plate 33, is afour-headed Linga of white marble on a stand of the same, surrounded by Parvati, Durga, Ganesha, and the Bull Nandi, in adoration. The size of I the stand or table is about two feet square, and the whole is richly painted and gilt. On the crown of the Linga is a refulgent sun.

Fig. 2, is a Punch Muckti or five-headed Linga, of basalt, in which the fifth head rises above the other four, surmounted by the hooded snake. Each of the heads has also a snake wreathed around it, as well as round the Argha. The Bull N andi is kneeling in adoration before the spout of the Y om'.

Fig. 3, is a plain Linga similar to those commonly used.

The places of Linga worship are numerous: the principal Lingas are called the Jyolisha Lingas, the worship of which is considered the most sacred, in consequence of Siva having appeared on the spots where they are set up.

The Yard is the symbol of female energy, worshipped by the sect of the Sactis; and, in conjunction with the L'inga, by the Saivas. It is the especial emblem of Parvati. In representations of the Linga, it forms the rim or edge of the Argha, which encircles it. (See fig. l, 2, 3, plate 33.)

SALAGRAMA STONES.

These stones are sacred to Vishnu, and are valued according to the perforations and spiral curves in each, as they are thereby supposed to contain Vishnu and Lakshmi in their different characters. Of those which I have seen, some are as large as a pigeon’s egg, others about the size of a musketball, and much resembling an old one of iron of the latter, here and there indented. They are supposed by some to be the oetiles or eagle stones of the ancients. The principal sorts are the Lakshmi Narayam' (which, according to Mr. Colebrooke, must be perforated in one place only, and have four spiral curves in the perforation, with marks resembling a cow's foot, and a wreath of flowers, which is supposed to contain Lakshmi as Narayani), the Vamuna, the Dumodura, the Narsingha, &c. &c., some denote the gracious, and others the vindictive incarnations of Vishnu. The former are much valued. Mr. Ward states, that the Lakshmi Narayani is sometimes sold for as much as two thousand rupees.

These stones are said to be found in the Gandak river, in the Nepaul territories, and are conjectured to be perforated by worms; but are, in all probability, so formed by accidental circumstances like any other descriptions of stones so worn. The Hindus, however, believe that Vishnu himself, in the form of a reptile, perforated them.‘

" Since writing the foregoing, I have observed in an account of the meeting of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta in October 1830, a notice of a letter from the enterprising Dr. Gerard of Soobathoo, who had discovered in a lofty position (15,000 feet) of the Himalaya range, an exten. sive fossil tract of shell formation; of which he describes four classes, and of the fourth thus writes: “ Bclemnites and Orthoceratites mineralized by the same material as the Ammonites (iron clay and pyrites). Their abundance in the beds of mountain torrents, especially the Gandak, had been long known, as they form an indispensable article in the sacra of the Hindu Tho/wordwaree, under the name of Salagrama." This agrees with Sonnerat, who calls them a petrified shell.

The Salagrama is worshipped daily by the Brahmans, and is used in the several Hindu ceremonies of Srad’ha, &c. One should be always placed near the bed of a dying person, and the marks on it shewn to him. This is believed to secure his soul an introduction to the heaven of Vishnu.

The Binlang stones, which are found in the Nerbuddah river, are also

worshipped as emblems of Siva.

INFANTICIDE.

To the earlier, as well as to the more recently known nations of the world, this crime has been familiar. The Greeks exposed their children on the highways to perish of hunger, or to be devoured by beasts of prey, and had their barbarous practice sanctioned by some of their most celebrated lawgivers. Among the Romans the custom of infanticide also prevailed; as it did, on the first discovery of America, with the savage tribes of that continent. When Captain Wallis visited Otaheite and the neighbouring islands in the South Sea, the practice was unhesitatingly avowed by the lascivious Eareeoie societies in these islands. Among the Canaanites, the Phenicians, and the Carthagenians, the sacrifice of children was prescribed as a propitiation to their sanguinary deities Moloch and Kronos. In China, and also in Japan, infant murder is at -the present time prevalent ; as it is, in a much greater degree, among the Rajpoot tribes of Hindustan.

The causes of practices so opposed to the most powerful feelings of our nature, and in utter discordance with that tender instinct which prompts even the most timid of sentient animals of the brute creation to protect their young, at the hazard, and frequently at the sacrifice of their own existence, have been, among the people whom I have enumerated, various ;—a sterile country, a superabundant population, superstition, avarice, lasciviousness, and lastly, as with the Raj poot tribes of India, feudal pride, and an unshaken and resolute preference of death to what, in their estimation, would be

dishonour. It has been observed in other pages of this work, that the Hindus are divided into four great tribes : the Brahmans, the Khetries, the Vaisyas, and

the Sudras ; or priests, warriors, merchants, and husbandmen. These are again variously subdivided; and the Rajpoot tribe forms one of the numerous subdivisions of that of the Khetries; and has still farther a great variety of subdivisions in itself. From the Khetrie tribe the sovereigns of India have been taken; the Rajpoots, consequently, call themselves children of the royal race. I

Those tribes inhabit various parts of India. Some of them, the Rajkumers and Rajavansas, a portion of the territories of Oude and the adjoining provinces; and others, the Jharejahs, the countries of Kutch and Guzerat, on the western side of the hither peninsula. Among these tribes the practice of female infanticide has, they allege, existed for 4,900 years; and the late General Walker has, in an account published by Major Moor in an interesting work on this subject, estimated the number of deaths of female children annually, in Kutch and Guzerat only, at no less than thirty

thousand. It must not be supposed that this inhuman practice has been unnoticed

by the Indian government, or that the most strenuous exertions have not been made to abolish it. To the perpetual honour of the excellent man just mentioned, and the benevolent Mr. Duncan, when governor of Bombay, sanctioned by higher authorities, every argument which humanity could suggest, and every measure which sense and prudence could dictate, were attempted, with, for a time, the best promise and prospect of success. But it is, it may be feared, too true, that these promises were soon forgotten; that the prospects, at least for the present, have vanished; and that female infanticide now prevails, almost as much as ever, in the countries where the humanity of those gentlemen was so strenuously exerted for its suppression.

Many well-intentioned people, prompted by that warmth of feeling and active benevolence which so eminently characterize our countrymen, would fain press upon the executive authorities the exercise of coercive measures to abolish an evil that appeals to every human heart for commiseration and redress: but, ere these individuals reproach the Indian government with supineness, let them weigh well the character of the people by whom

[ocr errors]

their indignation has been excited. Brave, even to an enthusiastic spirit of chivalry; inured to arms from the moment they can use them ; and entertaining the loftiest sense of independence, blended with the most elevated ideas of feudal rank and power, derived, as they assert, from the royal race of the ancient sovereigns of Hindustan, it may be easily imagined how dangerous would prove all attempts to subvert, by coercive means, usages based upon hereditary principles thus deeply rooted, and considered by these courageous and high-minded people, to be equally sanctioned by their religion and their honour.

The origin of female infanticide among the Rajpoots may, it is supposed by some, be traced to their apprehensions of not being able to provide suitable portions for their female offspring, to intermarry them with families of equal rank with themselves. So soon, therefore, among some of these tribes, as a female child is born, it is (with some especial exceptions) immediately put to death, either by strangulation, by the means of opium infused in milk, or by the infant being immersed in a vessel containing that liquid.

General Walker accounts for this inhuman practice in a different manner : “ It is said (says this gentleman) that some of the early Mussulman Indians of the J harejah country, experiencing the determination with which they defended their liberties, united policy to their arms, and sought to consolidate their interests in the country by demanding the daughters of the Rajahs in marriage. The high-spirited Rajahs would not brook the disgrace, and pretended they did not preserve their daughters; but fearful of the consequences, and that force would be resorted to in order to obtain what was refused to entreaty, they, in this extremity, listened to the advice of their rqjgurs (or priests), and deluded by the fictitious responsibility which they accepted, the practice of infanticide originated, and has since been confirmed.”

It may, at least, be fairly conjectured, that some of these tribes adopted the barbarous practice in question, in consequence of the progress of the Mahomedan conquests, and the Mahomedan doctrines in Hindustan. Although conquered, they appear to have alike despised the enmity and the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »