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for so many years.” With similar ceremonies, each sacrificial victim, whether goat, sheep, or buffalo, is dedicated and slain, amid the din and hubbub of human voices. The heads and part of the blood are then carried in succession to the hall within, and ranged before the image, each head being there surmounted with a lighted lamp.
Over them the officiating Brahman repeats certain prayers, utters appropriate incantations, and formally presents them as an acceptable feast to the goddess. Other meat-offerings and drink-offerings are also presented, with a repetition of the proper formulas. And, last of all, on a small, square altar, made of clean, dry sand, burnt-offerings of flowers, or grass, or leaves, or rice, or clarified butter, are deposited — with prayers, that all remaining sins may be destroyed by the sacrificial fire. This naturally leads us to answer a question that is often asked, namely, What becomes of the flesh meat of so many animals ? Part of it is offered on the altar as a burnt-sacrifice. But the larger part of it always, and not unfrequently the whole, is devoured as food. The Brahmans of course have their choice; and the remainder is distributed in large quantities among the inferior castes. As it has been consecrated by being offered to the goddess, it is lawful for all who choose to partake of it.
It is impossible to note all the variations in the different modes in which the Durga Pujah is celebrated by the different castes and sects. Some individuals expend the largest proportion in peace-offerings, and meat and drink-offerings; others in bloody sacrifices and burnt-offerings : some in the dances, and the tinsel garnishings, and fire-work exhibitions ; and others in entertaining and giving presents to Brahmans. The disciples of the numerous sect of Vishnu, though they celebrate the festival with great pomp, present no bloody offerings to Durga; instead of slaughtering animals, pumpkins, or some other substitute, are split in two and presented to the goddess.
The multitudinous rites and ceremonies of the first day and night of the festival being now nearly concluded, numbers of old and young, rich and poor, male and female, rrsh into the open area that is streaming with the blood of animals slain in sacrifice. They seize a portion of the gory dust and mud, and with the sacred compost literally bedaub their bodies, dancing and prancing all the while with almost savage ferocity. With their bodies thus bespattered, and their minds excited into frenzy, multitudes now pour into the streets — some with
blazing torches, others with musical instruments; and ai twisting their frames into the most wanton attitudes, and vociferating the most indecent songs, rush to and fro, reeling, shouting, and raving, more wildly than the troops of "iron-speared " and "ivy-leaved " Amazons, that were wont, in times of old, to cause the woods and the mountains of Greece to resound with the frantic orgies of Bacchus.
For two days and two nights more, there is a renewal of the same round of worship, and rites, and ceremonies, and dances, and sacrifices, and Bacchanalian fury.
As the morning of the first day was devoted to the consecration of the images, so the morning of the fourth is occupied with the grand ceremony of unconsecrating them. He, who had the divine power of bringing down the goddess to inhabit each tabernacle of wood or clay, has also the power of dispossessing it of her animating presence. Accordingly, the officiating Brahman, surrounded by the members of the family, engages, amid various rites, and sprinklings, and incantations, to send the divinity back to her native heaven; concluding with a farewell address, in which he tells the goddess that he expects her to accept of all his services, and to return again to renew her favors on the following year. All now unite in muttering a sorrowful adieu to the divinity, and many seem affected even to the shedding of tears.
Soon afterwards a crowd assembles, exhibiting habiliments bespotted with divers hues and colors. The image is carried forth to the street. It is planted on a portable stage, or platform, and then raised on men's shoulders. As the temporary local abode of the departed goddess, it is still treated with profound honor and respect. As the procession advances along the street, accompanied with music and songs, amid clouds of heated dust, you see human beings - yes, full-grown beings, wearing all the outward prerogatives of the human form — marching on either side, and waving their chouries, or long, hairy brushes, to wipe away the dust, and ward off the mosquitoes or flies, that might otherwise desecrate or annoy the senseless image. But whither does the procession tend ? To the banks of the Ganges -- most sacred of streams. For what purpose ? Follow it, and you will see. As you approach the river, you every where behold numbers of similar processions, from town and country, before and behind, on the right and on the left. You cast your eyes along the banks. As far as vision can reach,
A Palankeen Bearer of the Rowaney caste dancing about the streets in celebration of the
Durga Festival. See page 217.