« PreviousContinue »
assembled, for some purpose, all the gods of heaven and earth. His wife Satí was also there, and likewise her father, Raja Daksh. It appears that Mahadeva neglected to pay proper respect to his father-in-law in the presence of the deities; and, consequently, on departing, the Raja relieved his feelings by showering upon him the following abuse :_“You have neither caste nor habitation, and yet have taken to yourself a wife. You are naked, and wear long hair, and lie down on a tiger's skin. You never had father or mother. Your body is covered with ashes; and, at the end of the world, you will destroy everybody. I have committed a great mistake, in giving you my daughter to wife.” After this mental relief, the Raja went home, and prepared a great religious festival, to which he invited all the gods and Rajas, with the exception of Mahadeva and his wife. These latter did not know what was occurring; but Nárad Muni came to them and told them all about it. On hearing of the circumstance, Satí requested permission to go to her father's house, and see, for herself, what was the real state of the case. But Mahadeva urged that she had not been invited to the feast, and, therefore, declined to permit her to go. At last he yielded to her importunity, and she went. On arriving, only her mother paid her the slightest deference; all the rest of the family treating her with marked indifference. When the feast was served, she received her portion; but her husband's share, which ought, in his absence, to have been given to her, was withheld. At this neglect, Satí became exceedingly angry, and beat her head upon the ground, in passionate frenzy.
Moreover, the heavens themselves sent down a shower of blood, in token of their sympathy with her. Several of the gods of the party, disapproving of Raja Daksh's proceeding, rose and left. On their departure, Satí, becoming still more excited, sought out the hole in which the sacrifice was being consumed, and, throwing herself into it, was burnt to ashes. When Nárad Muni brought news of this sad catastrophe to Mahadeva, his wrath rose to fierceness; and, creating an army of demons, he placed it under the command of Bírbhadra, a demon of giant strength, and sent it against the Raja, with orders to kill him, and to frustrate his sacrificial ceremony. On the way, Bírbhadra plucked up forests and mountains, and carried them along in his hands. Having reached the Raja's palace, the demons flew upon the people, slaughtered to right and left, and devoured the viands provided for the sacred feast. The invincible Bírbhadra sought out the Raja, and, finding him, seized him with his hands, and, after crying out "Why did you blaspheme the god Mahadeva ?” cut off his head.
This bloody work being finished, Brahma, the first of the three deities placed at the head of the Hindu pantheon, proceeded, in great consternation, to Mahadeva, with whom he reasoned and expostulated respecting the awful calamity that had just occurred, and prevailed on him to accompany him to the scene of the recent carnage. On reaching the place, Mahadeva's heart was smitten with compassion for the slain; and he
gave orders that all the gods, Rishis, and Rajas should be again gathered together, as well the living as the
dead. The heads, arms, legs, and other members that had been lopped off the killed and wounded during the conflict, were also collected, and were severally joined afresh to the bodies to which they belonged. Thus Mahadeva healed all the wounded, and restored to life all the slain. But, in the search for the amputated members, Raja Daksh's head could nowhere be found. The god, however, commanded that a goat should be brought to him, the head of which, being cut off, was stuck upon the trunk of the Raja's body, which became forthwith reanimated with its former life. After this, the sacrifice' which had been so violently interrupted was completed. Mahadeva then left, with all his demons, for his residence on the Kailas mountain. The rest of the deities also departed, with the exception of Brahma, who remained behind, in order to talk with Raja Daksh, to whom he represented, in its true colours, the heinous sin he had committed in reviling Mahadeva, and in utterly defeating the sacred festival, the sacrifice at which could not possibly be performed without the presence of that deity. He concluded by recommending the Raja to visit Benares, and there to dedicate an idol to Mahadeva, and thus try to propitiate him. In accordance with this advice, the Raja forsook his throne and his dominions, and proceeded to Benares, where he dedicated an idol to Mahadeva, and applied himself to the performance of ascetic and other religious rites. There he remained for many years. In the meantime, Satí, the wife of Mahadeva, who had perished in the sacrificial fire, was born again among mortals, under the name of Párvatí,
her father this time being Raja Mount Himálaya; and, on arriving at womanhood, she was again married to her former husband, Mahádeva. The happy couple travelled to Benares, for the purpose of spending their honeymoon; and, while there, what was their surprise to see old goat-headed Raja Daksh, who was still absorbed in his religious exercises ! He, too, was doubtless equally astonished to see Mahadeva, whom, of course, he recognized, although his mental eyes were closed in regard to Párvatí, whom he did not perceive to be his own daughter Satí. The Raja pleaded with Mahádeva for the forgiveness of his sin. The god heard his petition, and granted it; and the old man, filled with joy, dedicated a shrine to Mahádeva, called Daksheswar, which is said to be that situated in the interior of the temple of Bșiddhkál. This tale is as entertaining as many of the legends connected with the Black Forest; the only difference, though an essential one, being, that they are designed for amusement and fun, whereas this, strangely enough, is intended for the promotion of religion.
Leaving this temple, and proceeding along the street by its southern wall, we come to a shrine standing at its south-western angle, and forming part of the Bșiddhkál edifice. Its name is Alpmpiteśwar, from the god to whom it is dedicated, who, it is reported, is endowed with the miraculous power of prolonging the lives of persons apparently in act to die. The fame of this shrine is considerable; and it is the resort of a large number of worshippers, who seek for themselves and their friends an escape from sickness and death. In the
streets leading to the Bșiddhkál temple, a melá or fair is held every Sunday; and, once a year, in the month of Sáwan, one on a large scale is held, which lasts for several days. These melás are partly of a religious, and partly of a secular, character; but their primary intention is the worship of some celebrated deity.
In a street leading to Břiddhkál, a small temple obstructs the thoroughfare, called Ratneswar, from ratna, a jewel. The shrine is referred to in Hindu writings. A curious circumstance is connected with its modern history. Upwards of thirty years ago, an English magistrate of Benares, while making improvements in the city, determined that this temple should be levelled with the ground. The natives say, that, one night, the god Mahadeva appeared to the sáhib, or gentleman, in a dream, and, representing to him the great sin he was intending to commit, ordered him to forbear from the execution of such an evil design; and that, on awaking, the sáhib, in obedience to the divine admonition, laid aside his levelling project. It is reported, also, and commonly believed, that, while digging at the foundations of the temple, on this occasion, a jewel was discovered beneath it; but the natives themselves express considerable doubt about its genuineness.