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Martyrs; and Sultán Gází, chief of knights of religion. In the neighbourhood of Delhi, he is also known by the appellation of Pír Alim, Saint Alim. Pilgrimages are made to his tomb every year. In Benares, thousands of persons of the lower classes of native society, Hindus and Mohammedans of both sexes, resort to the Dargah of Gází Miyán, the latter word being added to the name of Gází, as an epithet of respect. There multitudes of singers, called dafális, are seated under hundreds of standards erected for the occasion, and sing the exploits of the martyr. Their songs produce a singular effect upon the female listeners; as some of them spread out their hair, and turn their heads in a violent manner, so as to appear to be under the influence of a supernatural power.
Whatever words are uttered while they are in this state, are received as an oracular message. This festival is one of the most immoral held in Benares. Indeed, the flagrant licentiousness practised at Bakaríyá Kund, close by, is a scandal to the city, and demands the interference of the magistrate. The festival terminates with the flying of kites. In the morning, the people assemble, for this purpose, in the vicinity of the Dargah; and, in the evening, at Mashiya Ghát, on the banks of the Barna.
6. The Gangá-Saptamí Melá, held on the banks of the Ganges, on the 7th day of Jeth. This day is regarded, by Hindus, as the birthday of the goddess of the Ganges, who is said to have sprung out of the thigh of Jahnu Rishi. Formerly, the idol representing the goddess was simply worshipped; but, of late years, a melá has been held, accompanied with
the nách or dancing. At night thousands of persons assemble to take part in the festivities.
7. The Dasahrá Melá, held on the banks of the Ganges, on the 10th day of Jeth, light fortnight; on which day the birth of the river Gangá or Ganges is believed to have occured. Hindus, both male and female, bathe in the river, and give alms to the Brahmans. A' curious custom prevails amongst the young girls of the middle classes, who, on this day, float their guriyás or dolls on the river, and, for the next four months, refrain, not only from amusing themselves with them, but also from the use of all playthings.
8. The Nirjalá Ekádasí Mela, held on the banks of the Ganges, on the 11th day of Jeth. Tradition affirms that Bhím, one of the five Pandav brothers, whose wonderful story is told in the Mahabharata, resolved to fast on this day, but, after mid-day, fainted from hunger and thirst; whereupon his friends threw him into the water, to bring him to his senses. Ever since this event the Hindus have observed the day by bathing in the Ganges in the evening. After ablution, their bodies are besmeared with chandan or powdered sandalwood. Hence, the day is called Chandan Ekádasí. Formerly, at this festival, residents of different wards of the city used to swim across the Ganges, and engage in sham fights; but the custom has been discontinued.
9. The Asnán Játrá Melá, held at Así Ghát, at the temple of Jagannath, on the 15th day of Jeth. The image of Jagannath is bathed on this day, and towards evening is exhibited to his votaries, on the terrace of the temple. This melá is less frequented than in former times.
10. The Rath-Játrá Melá, held in the garden of Pandit Beni Rám, on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days of Asárh. The idol of Jagannath is brought out of the temple at Así Ghát, and placed upon a rath or car,—a peculiar vehicle, with a large number of wheels,-for three successive days, in imitation of the grand festival that takes place at the temple of Jagannath, in Orissa. Throngs of people of all classes attend this melá; and on the third day as many as thirty thousand persons are supposed to be present.
11. The Batasparíkhshá Melá, held at Chaukhá Ghát, on the 15th day of Asárh. On this day Hindus worship their Gurus or spiritual teachers; hence it is called Guru-púrņimá. In earlier days astrologers were accustomed to meet at the ghát on the evening of this day, for the purpose of ascertaining the direction of the wind, and of prophesying, in accordance therewith, respecting the nature of the approaching harvest, rainy season, and so forth. This folly, however, has been abandoned, thanks to Christianity and education.
12. The Sankudhará Melá, held at the Sankudhárá Tank, which is also called the Dwaraká-tírth or place of pilgrimage. According to the Káśí-khanda, it is esteemed a sacred act to bathe in this tank on this day. Formerly, the native aristocacy used to assemble here, in the garden of Champat Rai Amín, in order to witness the nách or dancing; but this custom seems to have been discontinued. Indeed, the melá itself is now in a state of decline.
13. The Břiddhkál Melá, held in the Bșiddhkál Ma
halla or ward, near the temple of the same name, every Sunday in the month of Sáwan. In one of the numerous courts of the temple is a well in which is a mineral spring, an account of which, written by Mr. James Prinsep, is found in the Asiatic Researches. The reason assigned by the Hindus for the medicinal virtues of the well is curious. It is said that Dhanwantari, a great Hindu physician of antiquity, threw his medicine bag into the spring; hence the healing virtues which it is believed to have acquired. The water is used by the natives both for bathing and drinking, as a remedy for diseases of all kinds, but especially for those affecting the skin. Near the well is a reservoir, a few feet deep, of dirty and refuse water, called Amțit Kuņd or Well of Immortality. This is also held to be of great virtue in removing cutaneous diseases of a contagious character, and likewise leprosy. Sick persons, first of all, bathe in the filthy water of this reservoir, and afterwards wash their bodies with the water of the well.
14. The Durga Melá, held at Durga Kund or Tank, every Tuesday in Sáwan. Durga Kund and the temple being in the suburbs of the city, with many spacious gardens in their vicinity, the people avail themselves of this melá, which occurs at the commencement of the rainy season, to visit the gardens and enjoy themselves. Upwards of thirty thousand persons are present on the last Tuesday of the month.
15. The Fátima Melá, held at the Dargah of Fátima, every Thursday in Sáwan. The Mohammedans have instituted this festival in imitation of the Hindus.
Dancing girls, from the city, appear in their
dresses and brilliant jewels; and, consequently, the place is, for the most part, the resort of persons of voluptuous habits. Indeed, persons of respectable character will take care not to be found there.
16. The Nág-Panchamí Melá, held at Nág Kúán or Serpent’s Well, on the fifth day of Sáwan. This well is spoken of, in Hindu writings, as Kárkotak Nág Tírth or Place of Pilgrimage. Hindus of all ranks, and of both sexes, attend the melá, and bathe in the well, returning quickly to their homes; and only persons of loose character prolong their stay. As snakes increase in this season, and as Nág is regarded as the serpentgod, the people worship him as a security against snakebites. It is common to purchase idols representing this deity, and to carry them home for worship. In the evening of the day, cowherds, or people of the Ahír caste, assemble together in various places, for wrestling and other sports.
17. The Kajrí Melá, held at Sankudhárá, and also at Íswar-gangi, on the 3rd day of Bhádon. This festival is said to have originated with a Raja of Kantit, in the district of Mirzapore, who established it for the benefit of women, that they might have a melá especially
There is a song called Kajrí, which is commonly sung during the months of Sawan and Bhádon. At this melá women fast, and bathe in groups, in places of reputed sanctity. Gangs of Gunahrís, female singers of a very low and abandoned character, visit Sankudhára and Iswar-gangi, singing Kajri songs to the bathers. Men of the same vicious tastes also