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It may, perhaps, seem impossible, that a man should be able, by his own voluntary act, to keep his arms in this unnatural position. One would suppose that in sleep, at least, the limbs would resume their proper posture. In the first part of the process, it becomes necessary to fasten the arms to poles lashed to the body; but it requires no great length of time so to paralyze the muscles and sinews that they are no longer under the control of the mind.
The devotee represented by engraving No. 1 I also frequently saw at Benares. Under a wretched shed on the bank of the Ganges, he had been standing, day and night, for eight years. He had nothing to lean against but a piece of bamboo suspended by cords from the roof of his shed. His dress was a ragged woollen blanket saturated with filth. His face was smeared with the sacred ashes, his body greatly emaciated, while his feet and legs were so dropsical and swollen as to require bandages to prevent their bursting. Sometimes he slept as he stood, but generally he was awake and busily employed in his devotions. In his right hand he held a string of wooden beads contained in a red bag. Hour after hour he repeated the names of the gods, and at each repetition passed a bead between his thumb and finger. Occasionally he laid aside his beads, and with his finger wrote, on a board covered with ashes, the names of the idol gods upon whom he depended for happiness in a future life, as the reward of his self-inflicted miseries. In this manner he had spent the last eight years of his life. I asked him how long he intended to stand there. His reply was, “Until Gunga calls for me," - meaning until death, when his body would be thrown into the River Gunga or Ganges.
On one occasion, I saw a devotee performing a pilgrimage to the Ganges in a manner somewhat peculiar. He prostrated himself at full length upon the ground, and, stretching forward his hands, laid down a small stone; he then struck his head three times against the earth, arose, walked to the stone, and, picking it up, again prostrated himself, as before ; and thus continued to measure the road with his body. I was told by a missionary at Benares, that he had recently seen a devotee prostrating himself every six feet of the way towards the temple of Juggernaut, from which he was then four hundred miles distant, and that he was accompanied on his pilgrimage by a poor cripple, who, unable to walk, was crawling along on his hands and knees. Another devotee has been rolling upon the earth for the last nine years. He has undertaken to roll from Benares to Cape Comorin, a distance of one thousand five hundred miles, and more than half of the journey he has accomplished.
It is universally believed by the Hindus, that, if a man perform a pilgrimage, or swing upon hooks, or torture himself in any other manner, he will be rewarded for it, either in this life or in a future state of existence. No matter what the motive of the devotee may be; if he perform the service, he must receive the reward. As an illustration of this delusive theory, permit me to relate an anecdote from their sacred books.
Narayan is the name of a Hindu god. A certain man, notoriously wicked, having a son of that name, was laid upon a sickbed. In the hour of death, being parched with a fever, he called upon his son to give him water. The son being disobedient, the father called again in anger, and expired. The messengers
of Yumu, the god of the infernal regions, immediately seized him, and would have dragged him to the place of torment, but they were prevented by the servants of Narayan, who took him by force and carried him to heaven. The messengers of Yumu, in great rage, hastened to their master and told him what had transpired. Yumu ordered his recorder to examine his books. He did so, and found that the man in question was a great sinner. Yumu then repaired in person to Narayan and demanded an explanation. Narayan made this reply: “However sinful the man has been, in his last moments, and with his last breath, he repeated my name ; and you, Yumu, ought to know that, if any man, either by design or accident, either in anger or derision, repeats my name with his last breath, he must go to heaven.” The doctrine of this fable is literally and universally believed by the people. Hence, when a person is in the agonies of death, his friends exhort him to repeat the names of the gods; and, if he is so fortunate as to die with one of these names upon his lips, they consider it a sure passport to heaven. Many spend a large portion of their time in repeating the names of gods. Parrots are taught to do the same; and such a spokesman commands a great price, especially among business men, who imagine that, by owning such a parrot, their spiritual treasures are accumulating while they attend to their usual occupations.
The opposite engraving, No. 34, is a view in Benares, the holy city of the Hindus. It is situated upon the River Ganges, about eight hundred miles from its mouth, and, with a population of two hundred thousand, is estimated to contain one thousand temples. Benares is not only celebrated for the number of its temples, and the benefits they are supposed to confer, but for the learning and sanctity of its Brahmins, for its schools of science and the arts