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No. 25. A BOOK AND AN IRON STYLE USED IN WRITING
In the middle and southern parts of Hindustan, boots are written on paim seaf. A volume of ordixary size is about eighteen inches in length, ito in width, and four in thickness. The one represented by the engraving is only sit inches in length. It is in the Orea language, and is open at the first page, exhibiting a fac-simile of the writing
former world by a deluge, this divinity, whose name is Vishnu, composed himself to sleep on a thousand-headed serpent, which floated
upon the surface of the waters; during a nap of some millions of years, a water-lily grew from his body; from this flower issued Brahma, the Creator. Having formed the world anew and created many of the gods, he proceeded to create man, when the four classes or castes into which the Hindus are divided issued from different parts of his body : the Brahmins from his head, the kshutryus from his arms, the Voishnus from his breast, while the Shudras had their ignoble origin in his feet; agreeably to which legend, the Brahmins are supposed to be entitled to a very high rank, while the Shudras are hardly regarded as human beings. These four classes have, from various causes, been divided into more than two hundred distinct castes. If one of high caste violate the rules of his community, he cannot receive an honorable dismission, and enter a lower caste, but is forever excluded from all respectable society; repentance and reformation have no tendency to restore him. One of low caste, though ever so learned, wise, or virtuous, can make no approximation to a higher caste. The distance between the Shudra, the lowest caste, and the Brahmin, is immeasurably great ; the Brahmin cannot even instruct the Shudra, but with the greatest precaution, lest he should be defiled. But, low as the Shudra is, he has an honorable standing in society when compared with the Parriahs, a race who are not regarded as having any caste. They, when walking in the street, must keep on the side opposite the sun, lest their filthy shadows should fall upon the consecrated Brahmin. It is not uncommon to see the lower castes prostrating themselves as worshippers at the feet of the Brahmin, and greedily drinking the water which he has condescended to sanctify by the immersion of his great toe.
The pernicious influence of caste is strikingly illustrated by incident related to me by Rev. Mr. Day, a missionary at Madras. As he was riding through a native village, he saw a woman .ying by the side of the street, apparently in the agonies of death; she had lain there about twenty-four hours, and, during all this time, the villagers had been constantly passing and repassing, without manifesting the least interest or sympathy. When Mr. Day asked them why they thus neglected this woman, and suffered her to lie there and die, they replied, “Why should we take care of her? She does not belong to our caste.” A little rice-water, it appears, had been offered her, but she would not drink it, simply because the person offering it belonged to a lower caste. Had she tasted the rice
water, or eaten any food cooked by these villagers, or even drank pure water from their vessels, she would have lcst caste. And what then? Her own children would have fled from her as from one infected with the plague; her husband would not have permitted her to enter his house ; even the parental roof would not have afforded her an asylum for a single moment; had any friends or relatives dared to associate with her, they too would have lost caste and been involved in the same disgrace. Thus she would necessarily become an outcast and a vagabond.
In most of the large houses in India, there is an apartment which serves as a family chapel. Engraving, No. 27 represents such an apartment in a very elegantly-finished house in the city of Benares. In the farther part of the chapel is the altar or shrine on which the idols are placed. Each member of the family is expected to offer up his devotions to these idols every morning and evening.
According to their own standard, the Hindus are preëminently a religious people. The number of their gods, as stated in their Shasters, is three hundred and thirty millions. These fabled gods are not represented as acting in concert; they fight and quarrel with each other, and with their wives and children, murder the innocent for the sake of plunder, and commit crimes, the bare recital of which to a Christian audience would excite the utmost horror and disgust.
It is generally admitted, that neither nations nor individuals aim at greater purity of morals than their religion requires. We may expect to find any community below, rather than above this standard. This is true in regard to the Hindus. Their gods and goddesses being extremely vicious, the manner in which they are worshipped must correspond with their character; it cannot be expected that the moral character of the people should be other than it is, a compound of every thing that is debasing. Gross and polluted as their divinities are, they are yet too refined and elevated, in their estimation, to be worshipped without imagery. Images are made in forms as various, unnatural, and horrid, as the imagination can conceive. When one of them is consecrated by the Brahmin, the divinity for whom it is designed is supposed to take up his abode in it, and is propitious or unpropitious according to the manner in which it is worshipped.
The goddess Kali, (See Number 29) is represented as a woman of a dark blue color, with four arms, in the act of trampling under her feet her prostrate and supplicating husband. In hand