Page images

she holds the bloody head of a giant, and in another an exterminating sword. Her long, dishevelled hair reaches to her feet; her tongue protrudes from her distorted mouth; and her lips, eyebrows, and breast, are stained with the blood of the victims of her fury, whom she is supposed to devour by thousands. Her ear ornaments are composed of human carcasses. The girdle about her waist consists of the bloody hands of giants slain by her in single combat, and her necklace is composed of their skulls. This monster divinity is one of the most popular objects of Hindu worship. She calls forth the shouts, the acclamations, and the free-will offerings of myriads of infatuated worshippers. Her temples are continually drenched with the blood of victims; even human victims are occasionally sacrificed to her. In 1828, the Rajah of the Goands sacrificed twenty men at one time, as the promised seward of her supposed assistance in a single enterprise.

The Hindus, like the inhabitants of more civilized countries, have secret societies. The most remarkable of these is the society of the Thugs, which boasts of great antiquity. In some respects, it is a religious society; for its members believe that they are under the immediate guidance and protection of Kali, and that she permits them to obtain their livelihood by murdering travellers on the highway and then taking their property. It wonld be quite inconsistent with their religious principles, to rob any person until he is first deprived of life by strangulation. They affirm that this system was instituted by Kali, and is consequently of divine origin; that, for many thousands of years, she assisted them in escaping detection, by devouring the dead bodies of their victims; but, on a certain occasion, a Thug, contrary to her command, looked back to see how she disposed of the corpses, and saw her feasting on them. This circumstance so offended her, that she declared she would no longer devour those whom they murdered. They believe, however, that she still continues to assist them, and that she directs their movements by certain omens. When, therefore, they are about to commence their excursions, in order to propitiate the favor of Kali, they sacrifice a sheep, by cutting off its head, upon which the priest pours water and repeats the following prayer: “Great Goddess ! Universal Mother! If this our meditated expedition is fitting in thy sight, vouchsafe us thine help and the signs of thy approbation.” While repeating this invocation, they watch the head of the victim; if they observe tremulous or convulsive motions in the mouth and nostrils, it is to them the sign th:t Kali approves their expedition. When about to

murder a traveller, if they hear or see any thing which, according to their superstitious notions, indicates evil, they allow him to pass on unmolested ; but if the omen is esteemed good, they regard it as a positive command to murder him. In 1826, the East India Company adopted measures to suppress this system of wholesale murder. Since that time, between two and three thousand Thugs have been arrested, tried, and convicted. Two hundred and six were convicted at a single session of the court. It appeared, in the course of the evidence, that these prisoners, at different times, had murdered four hundred and forty persons. In view of these facts, who is prepared to carry out the doctrine, that it matters not what a man believes, if he is only sincere ?

Engraving, No. 28 is a view of one of the most celebrated temples in India. It is devoted to the worship of Kali, and is situated at Kali Ghat, three miles from Calcutta. The small building on the left, and the other on the right, are temples of Shiva.

In Calcutta, the missionaries have established several schools, which are in a flourishing condition. The one under the superintendence of Rev. Dr. Duff is attended by more than a thousand young men, belonging to the most respectable families in the city. Kali Prasanna Mukarje, one of the young men educated at the mission schools, is a “Kulin Brahmin of the highest caste, and, on his mother's side, is a Holdar Brahmin. The Holdars are the original proprietors of Kali Ghat, and the hereditary officiating priests of the temple, to whom all the offerings at this shrine of idolatry belong. Kali Prasanna is heir to his mother's property, being her only son he is also heir to his uncle, who is a Zemindar, and one of the proprietors of the temple of Kali; and, by marriage, he is heir to his father-in-law's property. He is thus the only male representative of three ancient and highlyrespectable families, and, by inheritance, would have been the principal proprietor of Kali Ghat and the high priest of the temple." Besides what he was to inherit, he possessed property to the amount of about one hundred thousand dollars. He was fully aware that, should he become a Christian, he would, by the laws of his country, not only be deprived of his property, but would be despised by his countrymen, forsaken by his relatives, and regarded as an outcast. Yet he gave up all, was baptized, and became a member of one of the mission churches. At various missionary stations which I visited were several other Brahmins, who had forfeited their title to large estates by becoming Christians.

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

అతి తిరి088ne.

tee888886 అతి


No. 29. The Goddess Kali.

[ocr errors]

The figure on the left of engraving, No. 31 was found among some ruins in Behar. It is an image of Shiva, who, according to Hindu mythology, is the husband of Kali. He has eight arms and three eyes, one of which is in the centre of his forehead. The serpent with which he is decorated is rearing its head over his right shonlder. With one foot he is crushing an enemy in the act of drawing a sword; with two of his hands he is tossing a human victim on the points of a trident; in a third he holds a drum, in a fourth an axe, in a fifth a sword, in a sixth a portion of the Vedas, and in a seventh a club, on the end of which is a human head.

The figure on the right was copied from a sculpture on the wall of a temple at Gaya. It has four legs, sixteen arms, and seven heads. Its girdle and crown are ornamented with heads. In each hand it has an animal on a plate, as if dressed for food. It is dancing on four men's bodies, two prostrated and two ready to be crushed. Above, beneath, and on each side, were armed female furies dancing on human carcasses ; but these are not copied into the engraving. By the inhabitants of Gaya, this image is called Mahamaya, another name for Kali; but it is a male, and, perhaps, was originally intended to represent her husband, Shiva.

In the month of April, a festival in honor of Shiva is celebrated in almost every town and village. One of these festivals I witnessed in Calcutta. On the first day, at sunset, the worshippers assembled at different places, and danced, to the sound of drums and other rude and noisy music, before an image of Shiva. Then, one after another, they were suspended from a beam, with the head downward, over a fire. The next day, about five o'clock in the afternoon, each company reassembled and erected a stage about ten feet in height, from which they threw themselves upon large knives. The knives being placed in a sloping position, the greater part of the thousands that fall upon them escape un

but occasionally an individual is cruelly mangled. About forty persons threw themselves from one stage. None but the last appeared to receive much injury. He pretended to be killed, and was carried off with great shouting. During the whole of the night, Calcutta resounded with the sound of gongs, drums, trumpets, and the boisterous shouts of the worshippers. Early the next morning, forty or fifty thousand persons were assembled



« PreviousContinue »