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Other and various expiations were required by the fancy or fraud of the priest, and practised by the superstitious faith of the people. Cow-dung and cusa grass were sometimes employed with purifying efficacy, but the slighest failure in the form prescribed, was sufficient to vitiate the whole ceremony. Lustration by water was, often, of equal virtue; but every stream did not equally supply the cheap and satisfying purgation. Certain rivers, and especially the Ganges, possessed, in a higher degree, the purifying quality ; and the votary, happy if he could reach, from whatever distance, one of the consecrated streams, was certain that the leprosy of his sins would be healed by the waters of his Jordan.
The mode of application was as easy as it was effectual. Sometimes the believer took copious draughts of the water, or sprinkled a portion of it upon his bands; and, sometimes, he applied it to the purpose of partial or general ablution. The cure which his piety adopted, was sanctified by his fancy. The complete or partial purification of the body was to accomplish the purification of the mind; and the defilement of both was cleansed at the same moment, and by the same easy and effectual remedy.
It was at the hour of death especially that the credulous piety of the faithful was to apply to the remedial efficacy of his holy rivers. The expiring victim, assisted to reach the water, was to remain seated on the shore till he should be carried away by the re
again uttering the praises of the appeased divinity. Ayeen Akberry, vol. ii. 113. See also, for the offerings tendered to Callao, according to the Vedas, Asiat. Regist. v. i. 2015. Heetopades, pp. 11, 212, 292, 372,
flux of the tide. But he was to be peculiarly blessed, if, at the moment he was about to perish, he should hold in his hand the tail of a cow. contact at once with the water, and with that sacred animal, and smeared with her purifying dung, he became more holy in the estimation of his gods, and more certain of an easier transmigration, and a less distant heaven. His sins were thus removed, his death was happy, and the conviction of his absolution dried up the tears of his friends and of bis family.
Sometimes force was employed where the will was wanting; and the old, however reluctant, were compelled by their relatives to anticipate the approach of death, and resign themselves to the waters. The process was simple. They were hurried to the scene of death. Their mouths were stuffed with clay. Their cries were stifled; and the holy violence which submerged them in the stream, whether that of their household or of the priest, secured them the pardon and the favour of heaven.
Other observances, not less absurd or barbarous, were recommended by the religion of the Hindu for the redemption or expiation of sin.
The Faquir gashed himself with wounds; lay for years on beds of spikes; suspended his body on the iron hooks of a revolving wheel ; and deserted the duties of social life to acquire the ascetic sanctity and perfection which were to please his gods. The pilgrim, animated by the same zeal, traversed extensive regions, and exposed himself to innumerable calamities, that he might observe the sanctifying ceremonies of Juggernaut, and perish beneath the wheels of the cliariot of the idol. And even the mother, with similar impressions of celestial placability, was to expose her helpless children, not merely without tears but with exultation ; and to anticipate the mercy of the gods for herself and for them, when they perished by famine, or were destroyed and devoured by birds of prey *.
On the subject of these expiations, the learning and civilization of Benares were equally inadequate to correct the doctrine of the priests, and the superstitious faith of the people. Other topics were elucidated with wisdom and erudition, or discussed with genius and with taste, by the Hindu philosopher, while a tenet of infinitely deeper interest was darkened and perverted by the vilest fanaticism for the most pernicious purposes. We see the effects. The tree is known by its fruits. Man was exercised in absurd and barbarous observances. Heaven was insulted by the mockery of unreal and worthless expiations.
In many instances the forms of those purifying rites are as numerous and insignificant, as they are thought to be necessary and essential. If a man is to perform a meritorious ablution at twilight, he must begin by throwing water on his head, on the earth, and towards the sky, and again towards the sky, on the earth, and on his head; and he must further sip the water without swallowing it, and, while he retains it in his mouth, exercise himself in abstract and silent reveries. The rules of ablution,
* The exposure of children, as I have already observed, has recently ceased, not in consequence of the improvement of the religion, but of an order issued by the humanity of Marquis Wellesley.
† Mr. Hastings, in his preface to the Geeta, says, that “ be was once a witness of a man employed in these holy abstractions. His right hand was covered with a loose sleeve, within which he passed
at other periods of the day, are no less minute. The votary is to commence the observance by "tying s the lock of hair on the crown of his head, taking “ much Cusa grass in his left hand, and three blades “ of the same grass in his right, and placing a ring " of grass on the third finger of the same hand." These and similar ceremonies of preparation are indispensable. Without them the ablution would be deprived of its efficacy; and the sinner is to be saved less by the purifying operation of the water, than by the accurate observances of the forms to precede or accompany the ablution *.
But nothing seems to be admitted to possess a higher degree of atoning efficacy, than penance. By penance the votary is best tried, best purified, and most effectually absolved. Hence multitudes have been found, in all ages, to subject themselves to voluntary and self-inflicted torture; and the Stoics of Greece, however emphatically they may have talked of their triumphant fortitude, were not to be compared with the calm and patient martyr of the East t, who obliterates his sins, and brings down upon himself the favour of heaven, by enduring, with an undisturbed and unsubdued spirit, the four forms of prescribed probation.
the beads of his rosary, one after another, through his fingers, repeating, with the touch of each, one of the names of God, while his mind laboured to collect, and dwell on, the qualities which appertained to it. He showed the violence of his exertions to attain this purpose, by the convulsive movements of all his features, his eyes being at the same time closed, doubtless to assist his abstraction.”
* Observations on the Religion of the Hindus, by H. T. Colebrook, Esq. Asiat. Regist. vol. v. 34.
+ Sacontala, p. 87. Voyage de Tavernier, tom. iv. p. 118. Hamilton, Voyage to the Cast Indies, vol. i. p. 274. Renaudot, Anciennes Relat. pp. 32, 81. Sonnarat, Voyage, vol. i. p. 176.
I. He is, sometimes, to commence his abstractions and sufferings as early as his eighth year, when he is invested with the Zennar*, accompanied with a short piece of the skin of the antelope. From that moment, his ablutions and penances become daily more numerous and rigid. He is clothed in a coarse and neglected garb. His forehead is marked with ashes, or stained with vermillion. He averts himself from all the duties and engagements of society. He sleeps on a bed of straw, or under the shade of the first tree which offers him shelter ; and he often scorches his worn and emaciated form in purifying fires.
II. Having, in this manner, sustained the ordeal, from five to twelve years, of ceaseless. mortification and suffering, he enters upon his second and more painful probation. He now performs daily a double number of sprinklings, ablutions, and sacrifices. His garment consists of a slight sheet, which imperfectly covers his shoulders, his loins, and his thighs. His thoughts are abstracted from every thing social and human. He supports life by gleaning in the fields and forests, and by the food which incidental charity deposits in his way; and he rigorously devotes his nights to vigils and penances which frequently induce the feebleness and misery of premature old age.
III. His third probation follows, if he have strength to endure it. Retiring to the depths of the woods, he builds himself a cot, and bids farewel to all
The Zennar is a cord of three threads, in honour of the three principal deities,