« PreviousContinue »
is indisputable. The presence of such a host of mischievous and destructive animals, scampering over the . tops of houses, and wherever their fancy leads them, sitting on walls, and on a hundred places from which they may watch their opportunity for thieving and perpetrating divers other kinds of evil on the property of their human fellow-creatures, is nothing less than a calamity to the natives. Yet, as they think otherwise, and regard the monkey-race as of greater sanctity than themselves,-investing them, indeed, with the attributes of divinity,—there is no help for them. To kill one rascally monkey might produce a disturbance; and to kill many would certainly excite the whole city to rebellion. The civil authorities, therefore, are wise in not interfering in the matter, but suffer the natives, in this instance, to reap the fruits of their superstitions and delusions. The monkeys are fed with various kinds of grain, distributed by the worshippers, who regard the patronizing of these chattering, pilfering, incorrigible deities as a highly religious and meritorious act.
Before describing the temple, I will briefly narrate the mythic history of the goddess Durga, as given in the Kási-khanda. The story runs, that there was, once, a famous demon named Durg, son of another demon named Ruru, who devoted himself to the performance of ascetic rites, and so severely and successfully applied himself to their exercise, that he acquired a prodigious stock of merit, and, together with it, unbounded power. By degrees, he became superior to all the deities, who fled from his presence, and hid themselves; while Durg, entering their dominions and usurp
ing their authority, began to transact the affairs of the world. Indra himself, the king of the gods, was ob. liged to surrender his sceptre to him; and, in like manner, Agni (the god of Fire), Pavana (the god of the Winds), and Jala (the god of Water) submitted to his irresistible authority. The demon put a stop to religion among men; and injustice, tyranny, and oppression spread over the earth. He treated the gods most ignominiously, and ordered them to feed his cows. These divine personages, in their distress, went, in a body, to Mahadeva, to whom they represented their miserable condition. Taking pity on them, Mahádeva commanded Gaurí, his wife, to go and kill the demon, and deliver the gods from their calamities. Thereupon Gauri summoned the bloody goddess Mahákáli, and instructed her to slay the demon. In obedience to her instructions, Mahákálí set out to attack Durg; but Durg, hearing of her approach, called together his relatives and servants, and said to them: “Seize this woman, and take care she does not escape !" They then seized Mahákáli, and were carrying her off to the house of the demon; but, on the way, in her anger, she darted fire from her mouth, and burnt them all to ashes. On witnessing this mishap, Durg gathered together a larger number of his adherents, and sent them to recapture the goddess. But these fared no better than their predecessors, and were destroyed in a similar manner. The demon was now exceedingly annoyed, and assembled an immense army, numbering several millions of persons, and sent it against the goddess. Daunted by such a host, Mabákálí fled, and ascended to heaven in the form of a balloon, followed by the army, which soared up to the skies in pursuit of her. After a time the army descended to the earth again, and encamped on Bindhyachal; but Mahákálí kept on her way, until she came to Gaurí, to whom she narrated the circumstances of her journey, adding that a vast army was on its way to capture her. On receiving this intelligence, Gauri became incarnate in a body, possessing a thousand arms, of such gigantic dimensions, that it reached from earth to heaven. When Durg beheld her, he was smitten with her beauty, and declared to his people, that whoever amongst them should capture her should sit on the throne of Indra.
Excited by the prospect of obtaining such a high distinction, several regiments of the army made a rush upon Gauri, vith so great an uproar, that the four elephants which supported the earth on their backs became terrified, and fled, in dismay, to Bindhyáchal. Gauri was delighted at seeing them, and, in her own defence, immediately created an army of gods and instruments of warfare. A large number of the enemy were slain through the power and activity of the goddess; and Durg himself, smarting under the loss he had sustained, now took part in the conflict. Holding in his hands a trident, a sword, a bow, and arrows, he came on with irresistible impetuosity, and, approaching Gaurí, inflicted upon her a heavy blow. The goddess fainted, but, presently recovering herself, arose and ordered the gods to engage with the fue. The battle between the gods and the demons now became general, during which Durg and Gauri fought together, and, fighting, ascended to heaven and descended to the earth again. On reaching the earth, the demon seized a stone, and threw it at the goddess, who, on its coming near, breathed a curse upon it, and reduced it to powder. He then laid hold of an entire mountain, and, raising it up, hurled it at Gauri; but she crumbled it, also, to powder, and, with her weapon, struck the demon, who, uttering a loud cry, fell to the ground. The merciless goddess then cut off the head of Durg; and, all the enemies being slain, the battlo was most satisfactorily ended. The gods now approached Gaurí, and began to extol her for her valour and exploits, and showered flowers from heaven on the earth below. The celestial danseuses, musicians, and minstrels,- Apsarases, Gandharvas, and Kinnaras,—were summoned, and, together with the gods, Munis, and Rishis, joined in rendering praise to Gaurí. Gratified with the honour paid to her, the goddess gave utterance to these words: “Whoever shall repeat what has been written in my praise shall be delivered from pain and fear; and I will make myself present, when invoked with eulogies that name me. I will, also, change my appellation to Durgá, by which, in future, I wish to be addressed, because I have slain the demon Durg." Having said this, she vanished; and order was everywhere re-established.
Such is the history of this Hindu deity, which, for wildness and marvel, is not surpassed by the legendary stories connected with the Middle Ages. Let us look at the temple where the goddess holds her court. This is situated in the midst of a quadrangle surrounded
by high walls. The main entrance is on the western side, opposite the high road. In front of the doorway, and contiguous to the road, is a building, called the Naubat-kháná, in which a large kettle-drum is beaten three times a day, in honour of the goddess. The upper part of this building is open on its four sides, the effect of which is, that the sound proceeding from the drum is obstructed as little as possible. On either side of the Naubat-kháná, but more retired from the road, and nearer the wall of the quadrangle, are two small temples, and, in the space between them, two stone pillars. The first of these is about ten feet in height, with a basement of a foot more, and is surmounted by a large figure of a lion. The other is about two feet in height, and is used as an altar for sacrifices. Near it is a wooden post, to which the victim is bound. On its being slaughtered, the head is laid on the altar, and offered to Durga.
Passing through the narrow doorway into the interior of the enclosure, the first objects that meet the eye are two sculptured lions, one on either side of the pathway, with their faces directed towards the chief entrance to the temple, leading through the porch straight to the goddess. They are in a couching posture, and are intended for the use of Durga, whenever she wishes to ride out for an airing. Immediately on the left of the lions are two small shrines, one of which is dedicated to Gaņeś, whose figure, in bass-relief, juts out from the inner wall ; and the other is dedicated to Mahadeva, the emblem of which deity, in white marble, stands on the floor of the shrine, while a diminutive