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become consecrated, and are supposed to have some new and valuable qualities thereby imparted to them. Hence the more ignorant natives often come craving for a small portion of the sacred food, to be carried home, to cure diseases.
But it is to the almost incredible profusion of the offerings presented at such festivals that we would desire to call your special attention. In general it may be said that the bulk of the people, rich and poor, expend by far the larger moiety of their earnings or income on offerings to idols, and the countless rites and exhibitions connected with idol worship. At the celebration of one festival, a wealthy native has been known to offer after this manner - eighty thousand pounds' weight of sweetmeats ; eighty thousand pounds' weight of sugar; a thousand suits of cloth garments; a thousand suits of silk; a thousand offerings of rice, plantains, and other fruits. On another occasion, a wealthy native has been known to have expended upwards of thirty thousand pounds sterling on the offerings, the observances, and the exhibition, of a single festival; and upwards of ten thousand pounds annually, ever afterwards to the termination of his life. Indeed, such is the blindfold zeal of these benighted people, that instances are not unfrequent of natives of rank and wealth reducing themselves and families to poverty by their lavish expenditure in the service of the gods, and in upholding the pomp and dignity of their worship. In the city of Calcutta alone, at the lowest and most moderate estimate, it has been calculated that half a million, at least, is annually expended on the celebration of the Durga Pujah festival. How vast, how inconceivably vast, then, must be the aggregate expended by rich and poor on all the daily, weekly, monthly, and annual rites, ceremonies, and festivals, held in honor of a countless pantheon of divinities !
Ah! it is when gazing at these heaps of offering, so lavishly poured into the treasury of the false gods of heathenism, that one is constrained to reflect, in bitterness of spirit, on the miserable contrast presented by the scanty, stinted, and shrivelled offerings of the professed worshippers of the true God in a Christian land! Would that, in this respect, the disciples of Christ could be induced to learn a lesson from the blinded votaries of Hinduism! Take the case of a renowned city, the third, in point of wealth and commercial importance, in the British empire; a city on whose escutcheon and banner is inscribed the noble motto, that it is to "flourish by the righteousness of the
Word.” What has been, on the part of its citizens, the manifestation of a liberality that must needs astound all Christendom, and, if it were possible, cause the very universe to resound with the never-dying echoes of its fame? Why, this great city, whose merchants are princes and the honorable of the earth, - this mighty city, that sits as a queen among the principalities of the nations, — this celebrated city did, on a late occasion, in very truth, contribute the sum of twenty thousand pounds to promote, within itself, the cause of that Redeemer to whose vicarious sacrifice and mediatorial government it owes existence, and riches, and salvation, — all the possessions and comforts of time, - all the prospects and crowns of immortality! Well, be it so! We at once cheerfully concede that, compared with the doings of others in this professedly Christian land, this is one of the best and noblest specimens of modern benevolence. But turn now to, benighted Hindustan. Look to one of its chief commercial emporia. There, or a single festival, in honor of a monstrous image of wood or clay, you find upwards of five hundred thousand pounds expended — not once, but annually! After this, talk, if ye will, of your liberalities. Boast of them. Eulogize them to the skies. Parade them, as munificent, in public journals. Extol them beyond measure at your great anniversaries. Would that, when next disposed to trumpet forth the praise of your own doings, ye would go and proclaim your magnificent contributions to the cause of your God and Savior in the presence of the deluded heathen, who replenish with free-will offerings the halls of their idol Durga. Ah ! methinks that, instead of deigning to reply, they might point, in scornful silence, to the multiplied tokens and pledges of their own prodigal bounty, and leave you to draw an inference which might well cover you with confusion and dismay! For what could the inference be, were the silence and symbolic movement rightly interpreted and imbodied in words? What could it be but this ? — "If the amount of free-will offerings be a measure of sincerity in our religious profession, surely our sincerity must be a hundred fold deeper than yours. If extent of sacrifice of worldly substance, to which we all so naturally cling, be a measure of our love to the object of worship, surely our love to our god, which you reckon a poor dumb idol, must be a hundred fold more intense than yours towards Him whom you profess to regard as the only true God and Savior. If visible fruits be the test of reality
of faith, surely our faith in the truth of our religion must be a hundred fold stronger than your faith in the truth of yours. Indeed, you seem to have scarcely any faith at all. And the little you do has the appearance of being designed to save you from the charge of open infidelity, rather than to indicate a heartfelt interest in promoting the cause and honor of your God.” If a rebuke so cutting, from a quarter so unexpected, do not lead to amendment and increase in your Christian liberalities, rest assured that these poor blinded idolaters, whom you affect to view with pity and compassion, will one day rise up in judgment and condemn you.
The subject of offerings is not yet exhausted. At the annual festival of Durga, there are also bloody sacrifices presented. The number of these, though in general little thought of or little known, is very remarkable. When infidel scoffers have read in the Bible of the multitude of sacrifices constantly offered, more especially when they read of King Solomon, on one memorable occasion, sacrificing twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep, — they have not scrupled to denounce the narrative as wholly beyond the pale of historic credibility — as partaking so much of the fabulous and the marvellous as seriously to damage the authenticity of the entire record that contains it. Ignorant men! ignorant of the manners and customs of Oriental nations, and, ever true to the character of your race, presumptuous in proportion to your ignorance! Were ye transported to the shores of Hindustan now, ye would find, up to this day, multitudes of sacrifices constantly offered at temples and in private houses ; in single cases almost rivalling, and, collectively and nationally, vastly out-rivalling in number the thousands and tens of thousands once offered by the Hebrew monarch, at a time when the sovereign reckoned it no impiety to allocate the resources of a state to the rearing of altars and temples to Jehovah, Lord of hosts; nor, as the most exalted member of the visible church, felt it any dishonor for a season to drop the functions of royalty, and, assuming part of the office of high priest, solemnly engage in conducting the devotional exercises of a national worship. And if the overwhelming evidence addressed to your understandings had failed to convince you of the veracity of the inspired penmen, must not the testimony of sense, as to the vast numbers of Hindu sacrifices, extort from you a confession in favor of the antece
dent credibility of the Jewish record in the narration of numbers not more than parallel in magnitude ?
At a single temple in the neighborhood of Calcutta, the ordinary number of daily sacrifices averages between fifty and a hundred he-goats and rams, besides a proportion of buffaloes. On Saturdays and Mondays, which happen to be days particuiarly sacred to the divinity worshipped there, the number of sacrifices is doubled or trebled; while, on great festival occasions, the number is increased from hundreds to thousands. At the annual festival of Durga, there are hundreds of families, in the Calcutta district alone, that sacrifice severally scores of animals; many present their hecatombs; and some occasionally their thousands. It is within the present half century that the rajah of Nudiya, in the north of Bengal, offered a large number of sheep, and goats, and buffaloes, on the first day of the feast, and vowed to double the offering on each succeeding day, so that the number sacrificed in all amounted, in the aggregate, to upwards of sixty-five thousand! Mr. Ward states, that the rajah" loaded boats with the bodies, and sent them to the neighboring Brahmans, but they could not devour or dispose of them fast enough, and great numbers were thrown away.”
Returning to the scene in the house of a wealthy native on the first great day of the festival : — After the worship, and the offerings, and the dancings in honor of the goddess, have been concluded, the votaries proceed, after midnight, to the presentation of animals in sacrifice. It is in the central roofless court or area of the house that the process of slaughter is usually carried
There a strong upright post is fastened in the ground, excavated at the top somewhat like a double-pronged fork. In this excavation the neck of the victim is inserted, and made fast by a transverse pin above. Close at hand stands the hired executioner, usually a blacksmith, with his broad, heavy axe. And woe be to him if he fail in severing the head at one stroke! Such failure would betide ruin and disgrace to himself, and entail the most frightful disaster on his employer and family!
Each animal is duly consecrated by the officiating Brahman, who marks its horns and forehead with red lead, — sprinkles it, for the sake of purifying, with Ganges water, — adorns its neck with a necklace of leaves, and its brow with a garland of flowers, -- and reads various incantations in its ears, adding, “O Durga, I sacrifice this animal to thee, that I may dwell in thy heaven