Page images




2. The ten

the process of mortification is complete he should beg his bread as a Sanniāsi. But only those who enter the religious orders now become Sanniāsis, and the name is therefore confined to them. Dasnāmi means the ten names, and refers to the ten orders in which the Gosains or Sivite anchorites are commonly classified. Sādhu is a generic term for a religious mendicant. The name Gosain is now more commonly applied to the married members of the caste, who pursue ordinary avocations, while the mendicants are known as Sādņu or Sanniāsi.

The Gosains consider their founder to have been Shankar Achārya, the great apostle of the revival of the worship of orders. Siva in southern India, who lived between the eighth and tenth centuries. He had four disciples from whom the ten orders of Gosains are derived. These are commonly stated as follows:

I. Giri (peak or top of a hill).
2. Puri (a town).
3. Parbat (a mountain).
4. Sāgar (the ocean).
5. Ban or Van (the forest).
6. Tirtha (a shrine of pilgrimage).
7. Bhārthi (the goddess of speech).
8. Sāraswati (the goddess of learning).
9. Aranya (forest).

10. Ashrām (a hermitage).
The names may perhaps be held to refer to the different
places in which the members of each order would pursue
their austerities. The different orders have their head-
quarters at great shrines, The Sāraswati, Bhārthi and Puri
orders are supposed to be attached to the monastery at
Sringeri in Mysore; the Tīrtha and Ashrām to that at
Dwārka in Gujarāt; the Ban and Aranya to the Govardhan
monastery at Puri; and the Giri, Parbat and Sāgara to the
shrine of Badrināth in the Himalayas.

Dandi is sometimes shown as one of the ten orders, but it seems to be the special designation of certain ascetics who carry a staff and may belong to either the Tīrtha, Ashrām, Bhārthi or Sāraswati groups. Another name for Gosain

3. Initiation.

ascetics is Abdhūt, or one who has separated himself from the world. The term Abdhūt is sometimes specially applied to followers of the Marātha saint, Dattatreya, an incarnation of Siva.

The commonest orders in the Central Provinces are Giri, Puri and Bhārthi, and the members frequently use the name of the order as their surname. Members of the Aranya, Sāgara and Parbat orders are rarely met with at present.

A notice of the Gosains who have become an ordinary caste will be given later. Formerly only Brāhmans or members of the twice-born castes could become Gosains, but now a man of any caste, as Kurmi, Kunbi or Māli, from whom a Brāhman takes water, may be admitted. In some localities it is said that Gonds and Kols can now be made Gosains, and hence the social position of the Gosains has greatly fallen, and high-caste Hindus will not take water from them. It is supposed, however, that the Giri order is still recruited only from Brāhmans.

At initiation the body of a neophyte is cleaned with the five products of the sacred cow, milk, curds, ghi, dung and urine. He drinks water in which the great toe of his guru has been dipped and eats the leavings of the latter's food, thus severing himself from his own caste. His sacred thread is taken off and broken, and it is sometimes burned and he eats the ashes. All the hair of his head is shaved, including the scalp-lock, which every secular Hindu wears. A mantra or text is then whispered or blown into his ear.

The novice is dressed in a cloth coloured with geru or red ochre, such as the Gosains usually wear. It is probable that the red or pink colour is meant to symbolise blood and to signify that the Gosains allow the sacrifice of animals and the consumption of flesh, and on this account they are called Lāl Pādri or red priest, while Vishnuite mendicants, who dress in white, are called Sīta Pādri. He has a necklace or rosary of the seeds of the rudrākhsa tree, sacred to Siva, consisting of 32 or 64 beads. These are like nuts with a rough indented shell. On his forehead he marks with bhabhūt or ashes three horizontal lines to

1 Elaeocarpus.

4. Dress.


[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »