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reside, and of which they deem themselves the defenders, and, consequently, never desire to quit it except in cases of great extremity. This order of Shikhs have a place, or boonga, on the banks of the sacred reservoir of Amritu Suru, where they generally resort: they are individually possessed of property, though they affect poverty and subsist upon charity; which, however, since their numbers have increased they generally extort, by accusing the principal chiefs of crimes, imposing fines upon them, and, in the event of their refusing to pay, preventing them from performing their ablutions, and going through any of their religious ceremonies at Amrita Suru.”
“ When the chiefs and principal leaders are seated (in the Council), the Adee-Grunthu and Dushuma Padshahee Grunth u’ are placed before them. They all bend their head before these scriptures, and exclaim ‘Wah'! gooroojeda khalsa! wah! gooroo jéékéé phfiteé !’ A great quantity of cakes made of wheat, butter, and sugar, are then placed before the volumes of their sacred writings, and covered with acloth. These holy cakes, which are in commemoration of the injunction of N anock, to eat and to give others to eat, next receive the salutation of the assembly, who then rise, and the ukalees pray aloud, while the musicians play. The ukalees, when the prayers are finished, desire the council to be seated. They sit down, and the cakes being uncovered, are eaten of by all classes of Shikhs; those distinctions of original tribes, which are on other occasions kept up, being on this occasion laid aside in token of their general and complete union in one cause. The ukalees then exclaim, ‘ Sudars (chiefs), this is the Guru Muta!’ on which prayers are again said aloud. The chiefs after this set down, and say to each other, ‘ the sacred Grunthu is betwixt us; let us swear by our scripture to forget all internal disputes and to be united.’ This moment of religious fervour and ardent patriotism is taken to reconcile all animosities. They then proceed to consider the danger with which they are threatened, to settle the best plans for averting it, and to choose the generals who are to lead their army against the common enemy.”
* Sacred books of the Shikhs. The first written by their founder Nanock; the other (as its name imports) by their tenth leader, Govindu Singh.
There does not appear to be any restriction against individuals of other sects becoming Shikhs. A person so disposed communicates his intentions to a grunt’hee, or priest, with whom he enters upon some preparatory studies. Certain initiatory ceremonies of meat offerings, drinking five times with a short ejaculation from a cup filled with sherbet, worshipping the sacred books, and invocations for the blessings of N anock and Govindu then take place, which are closed by a discourse from the priest on the religion which the disciple has just embraced, and his being instructed in a prayer of considerable length relating to it. Women of other sects may equally with men become Shikhs ; but their sherbet must be stirred with ‘the back of a knife instead of the edge of it, as is done with that for the men. A person who would become a Khalsa, or military Shikh, must permit his hair and beard to grow for some weeks previous to initiation.
The sacred books, or shastres of the Shikhs are reverenced and read daily at stated periods, both by the religious leaders and individuals. These books are carefully preserved in their temples, and worshipped with various ceremonies. They are kept wrapt up in rich cloths, which, previous to the books being used, are removed with great respect; the of‘ficiating Grunt’hees and worshippers bowing with the utmost reverence as the coverings are taken off.
These sacred books are written in a peculiar character, called Guru JlIhufree, or language of the Gurus. They do not exclude the doctrines of the principal Hindu deities, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Yama, Indra, Durga, &c. ; but they teach that N arayana is the only true and supreme god. To him alone, they say, should adoration be paid; as absorption in him is the highest reward of man. External ceremonies and devotions may raise men to the inferior heavens, and produce future births; .but by internal holiness alone can man unite himself with N arayana.
The Shikhs, like the Hindus, have various orders of religious mendicants : they are also divided into castes; but, nevertheless, eat together. The flesh of animals, with a few exceptions, is not prohibited from being eaten, or spirits (in which they sometimes indulge to excess) from being drank. They burn their dead, and, although contrary to the law of N anock, women
are permitted to perform suttee with the bodies of their deceased husbands, which, however, does not frequently occur.
Their principal festivals are in commemoration of the birth and death of Nanock ; and their great annual festival, called Dipu Mata, held at Amrita
Suru, when two or three hundred thousand persons are said to assemble to
bathe in the sacred pool. This place, in ancient times, was a reservoir of
water dedicated to Rama; but was repaired and rendered sacred for the worship of the Shikhs by one of their leaders, Ramdasu. It was made by the Afghans, under Ahmed Shah, a scene of melancholy retribution for the former cruelties of the Shikhs. Pyramids of their heads were erected, and the walls of the Mahomedan mosques, which had been polluted by them, were purified by their blood. The city was razed to the ground, and the sacred waters of the pool choked up with its ruins. The triumph of the Afghans was, however, of short duration. No sooner had Ahmed Shah retired, than the Shikhs descended from their mountain coverts, defeated the remaining Afghans, and exercised a sanguinary vengeance on their late conquerors. They compelled them, in chains, to wash with the blood of (what they most abhorred) hogs the mosques which they had, as they imagined, purified with that of the Shikhs; and to excavate again the sacred reservoir of Amrita Suru, which they had the year before filled up. N evertheless, says Mr. Foster, although the Afghan atrocities rankled in the minds of the Shikhs, these people did not destroy a single prisoner in cold blood.
The temples of the Shikhs are flat buildings of various dimensions. The hall or place of worship is covered with a carpet, and furnished with several desks, on which are placed their sacred books. are allowed to enter, the parties (if Europeans) being first required to take off their shoes. Mr. Wilkins, in his account of the college of Shikhs at Patna, describes the hall as being hung with looking-glasses and pictures. “ A little room on the left hand end,” he adds, “is the chancel, and is furnished with an altar covered with cloth of gold, upon which was laid a round black shield over a long broad sword, and on either side a chowry of
Into this room all persons .
The altar was raised a Before it stood a low kind About it were several silver flower-pots and rose-water bottles; and on the left hand
peacocks’ feathers, mounted in a ilver handle.
stood three small urns, which appeared to be copper, furnished with notches to receive the donations of the charitable. There stood near the altar, on a low desk, a great book of a folio size, from which some portions are daily read in their divine service. It was covered over with a blue mantle, on which were printed, in silver letters, some select passages of their laws.
“ When the service was about to begin, the congregation arranged themselves upon the carpet on each side of the hall, so as to leave a space before the altar from end to end. The great book (desk and all) was brought, with some little ceremony, from the altar, and placed at the opposite extremity of the hall.
the desk, with his face towards the altar; and on one side of him sat a man
An old man with a reverend silver beard kneeled down before with a small drum, and two or three with cymbals. The book was now opened, and the old man began to chaunt to the tune of the drum and cymbals ; and, at the end of every verse, most of the congregation joined chorus in a response, with countenances exhibiting great marks of joy. Their tones were by no means harsh; the time was quick; and I learnt that the subject was a hymn in praise of the unity, the omnipresence, and the omnipotence of the deity. I never saw a countenance so expressive of infelt joy, whilst he turned
I was singularly delighted with the gestures of the old man :
about from one to the other, as it were bespeaking their assents to those truths which his very soul seemed to be engaged in chaunting forth. When the hymn was concluded, prayers against temptation, for grace, for the general good of mankind, for particular blessings to the Shikhs, and for the The old man then blessed them, and invited A cauldron, just taken from the fire, containing a
safety of travellers, followed. them to a friendly feast. sort of sweetmeat, consisting of flour, sugar, and ghee (or clarified butter), was then brought in. This was put into silver dishes, and each person, plates. They were then served with sugar-plums, and the ceremonies concluded. The religious part of the ceremonies were repeated daily four times.”
without distinction, was served with it on leaves sewed together to resemble
I cannot close my account of these extraordinary people better than by an extract from the sixth volume of the Asiatic Researches, from the pen of the then Captain Hardwicke, as it not only correctly characterizes the sect in question, but the Gosseins, the Sanyasis, Takurs, and other religious persons, who assemble, in almost incredible numbers, at the mela or great fair at Hurdwar. This fair is held annually, and is the resort of parties of every sect, and from every part of India, as well as the countries contiguous to it. The contentions described in the following extract are of common occurrence among this mixed mass. The conflicts between the Vishnaivas and Saivas, respecting the superiority of their deities, are seldom terminated without bloodshed.
“ This mela, or fair, is an annual assemblage of Hindus, to bathe, for a certain number of days, in the waters of the Ganges, at this consecrated spot. The present is one of those periods, and the multitudes collected here, on this occasion, may, I think, with moderation, be computed at two and a half millions of souls. Although the performance of a religious duty is their primary object, yet many avail themselves of the occasion to transact business, and carry on an extensive annual commerce. In this concourse of nations, it is a matter of no small amusement to a curious observer to trace the dress, features, manners, &c., which characterize the people of the different countries of Cabul, Cashmere, Lahore, Bootan, Sirinagur,
‘and the plains of Hindustan. From some of these very distant countries
whole families, men, women, and children, undertake the journey; some travelling on foot, some on horseback, and many, particularly women and children, in long heavy carts, railed, and covered with sloping matted roofs, to defend them against the sun and wet weather; and during the continuance of the fair, these serve also as habitations.
“ At our tents parties succeeded parties throughout the day; where they would take their stand for hours together, silently surveying every thing they saw. Sometimes more inquisitive visitors approached even to the