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genii, are equally admitted and adored by the credulity of the Hindu. The various passions of 'man, the different allotments of life, and the diversified scenes of material nature, have their presiding divinities. Beauty, jollity, and sport, the bud that bursts forth in spring, the rose of summer, and the harvest of autumn, the hopes and fears of the youthful lover, the felicities of domestic union, the pleasures of social intercourse, are all placed under the influence of
powers scarcely less lovely in form, than kind and gentle in attribute and will. The jocund Suradevi, who sprang from the agitation of the sea, watches over the ripening grape, and the must of the vine vat. The nine Gopia, the Muses of the East, breathe their inspirations into the heart of the poet, and instruct their disciples in the science of sweet sounds. Rembha, who is attended by celestial Asparas, the gay and blooming daughters of Paradise, delights to be called the goddess of beauty, of tenderness, and of joy. The youthful and immortal Camdeo, whose bow of sugar-cane is strung with bees, and whose arrows are tipped with blossoms communicating the blessings of love and the ardours of desire, comes from the orient bowers of Agra, while enamoured gales shed around him from their wings, celestial fragrance. And the heavenly Sereswaty, the divinity of song, calls forth from her bower the seven melodious notes, while the young passions collect around her, and sigh, and tremble, and hope, and fear, as they listen to the inspiring harmonies of her lyre and of her voice*.
Sir William Jones on the Gods of Greece, Italy and India, See also his beautiful translation of the Indian hymns to Camdeo and Sereswaty.
But, while deities of this beautiful and interesting character crave the altar and the oblation, the deities of evil are not less numerous, which demand the worship of the Hindu. Among these are gods of the most earthly and carnal temper, gods of cruelty and wrath, gods who require the sacrifice of the tongue of their votary torn from its roots*, who indulge at once the passion of obscenity, and the thirst of blood, and who delight in the shrieks of the expiring votary, crushed beneath the wheels of their festal car. Calavatri, the goddess of darkness, presides over the axe of destruction. The black and hideous Calica becomes propitious in proportion to the blood shed upon her altars. The “horrid-toothed” Cali rejoices in the terrors of the human sacrifice : and Devi knows no feast comparable to the last agonies and shrieks of expiring mant. These powers constitute but a few of the demoniacal beings which afford such a frightful contrast to the more gentle and amiable divinities of the Hindu religion. We see, at the same moment, celestial levity or joy dancing and sporting before us, and divine cruelty and wrath stretching out their arms to afflict and destroy; and we contemplate with astonishment, a whole people adopting and adoring the most contradictory gods, and tendering their devotions with equal zeal, to the young divinities of pleasure and of love, and to the deified furies of vengeance and of ferocity.
* In the rites of the stern and sanguinary Matta, the worshipper was induced to tear out his tongue, and offer it to the goddess, by the delusive hope that a new tongue would germinate in three days from the root of the old, to attest the approbation of the propitiated power. Ayeen Akberry, vol. ii. p. 113.
+ Ayeen Akberry, vol. iii.p. 241. Roger, Porte Ouverte, p. 251. Heetopades, pp. 185, 322. Voyage de Sonnerat, vol. i. p. 207.
The tales, consecrated by a religion which embraces such an extravagant Polytheism, are numerous and wild; but human invention seems to have reached its utmost limits of extravagance in the fables which relate the adventures and follies of the incarnate deities of the Bramin. In one of these Avatars, the god becomes a gigantic boar to draw up the earth from the ocean in which it had been submerged. He appears, in another, as a mighty tortoise to sustain the globe, which was convulsed by the malignant potency of demons. In a third, he veils his glory in the form of a devouring lion, and, rushing from a pillar of marble, rescues a religious son from an impious father, ‘and destroys the father to vindicate the majesty of offended justice. The fabulists with whom these singular fictions originated, proceed with equal wantonness of fancy, to detail various other descents of the divine nature. But their imagination has indulged more than its usual licence, in the prophetic description of that final Avatar which shall complete the long series of celestial incarnations. In this descent, the Divinity shall appear marked by every thing that is unappeasable in wrath, and unmitigable in vengeance. He shall be seated on a steed of stupendous magnitude and irresistible impetuosity. His form shall be that of a portentous and terrific giant. From his eyes shall flash consuming fires on the souls of men; and with a scimeter flaming like a comet, he shall indignantly mow down all the incorrigible and impenitent offenders of the earth
Some of these Avatars are of a more gentle and playful character. In one of them, the eternal Krishnu
• Sir William Jones on the Deities of Greece, &c.
assumes the form of a shepherd lad. He, at first, abode in the rustic family of Ananda, and was occupied in the care of herds and flocks. His companions were the young gopas and gopis of the surrounding country *; and, attracted particularly by the blooming and smiling countenances of the last, he selected from among them a train of favourite associates, with whom he sported away his hours in the gay revelries of dance and song. He was himself of perfect beauty, and was adored, not only by the damsels who shared his pleasures, but by the most distinguished and lovely of the princesses of Indiaf. Not always, however, did he devote himself to the tendernesses and levities of love. His pastoral joys were frequently renounced for heroic achievments. In the very boyhood of his days he slew a multitude of serpents, monsters, and giants. The tyrant Cansa fell beneath the strength of his manhood; and, having finally punished, after a long and desolating war, the crimes of the Curus and their chiefs, and communicated all moral and political precepts to the favoured Arjun f, he returned with the praises and blessings of
• The gopas are literally cow-herds, and the gopis milkmaids. Sir William Jones. Dissertat.
+ The women of India adore him to this day, as a being peculiarly favourable to the gentler and softer passions ; and they describe themselves in their hymns, as bearing continually in their bosoms the image of the amiable god, “ who, for sportive recreation, with a train of young dairy maids, dances gracefully, now slow and now quick, on the sands just left by the daughters of the sun.” Sir W. Jones. Dissert.
Arjun is the principal hero of the Mahabaret; and the episode of the Bagvhat-Geeta contains a long detail of the war with the Curus, and of the holy and edifying conversation of Krishnu with Arjun.
mankind, to enjoy again the immortal felicities of his celestial mansion*.
It was not sufficient to invest these deities, in their descent, with high and irresistible powers. The poet, or the priest, has decorated their forms with all the embellishments which an eastern fancy could bestow. They are crowned with starry coronets. A circle of rays plays round their heads. Their ears, their necks, and their bosoms, flame with the lustre of inestimable gems. Bracelets of costly jewels decorate their arms; and a loose mantle of golden tissue descends, in flowing drapery from their shoulders, and is gracefully folded across their breast. To these decorations are superadded others, when the form of Krishnu is to be adorned. He is perfect in loveli
The bloom of eternal youth rests upon his countenance. His eyes beam with immortal radiance. The fragrancy of celestial flowers breathes eternally around him; and he is distinguished by a garland of roses, of jessamin, and of myrtle, which encircles the divine symmetry of his waist, and gracefully descends in blooming and odoriferous wreathes to his feet.
Yet the beings who were embellished with such rich and ostentatious prodigality, were often to be subjected to the most degrading humiliations. Subdued by the power of infernal arts, they heard and obeyed the voice of magic and enchantment; and, among several others whom the necromancer
• In one of the Sanscrit romances, the descending deity somewbat resembles the shepherd Krishnu. He was cradled and educated among herdsmen. At seven years of age he bore a mountain on the tip of his little finger. He was said to be unsullied by sin; yet his manners were libertine and debauched, and his wives and mistresses constituted a numerous and splendid harem.