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costume. The first kind of melá may be divided into two classes, namely, that which is of a moral tendency, and is frequented by persons of respectability, and that which is notoriously immoral, and visited by only the loose and licentious. The melá of the second order, although professedly purely religious, must, on account of the opportunities for vice which it occasionally furnishes, be regarded as immoral, so far as its necessary connexion with vice is concerned. For instance, at the Panch-Gangá Melá, in the month of Kártik, men and women bathe promiscuously in the Ganges. The Mohammedans also have their melás, but to a limited extent as compared with the Hindu population.
I shall now give a list of the Hindu and Mohammedan melás held in Benares, with a few circumstances of interest connected with cach of them. The great Mohurram Festival of the Mohammedans, not being peculiar to Benares or even to India, I shall omit altogether.
1. The Navarátri Melá, held at Durgá Kund during the first nine days of the month of Chait. Hindus, both male and female, visit the temple of Durgá from about 3 o'clock in the morning. On the 7th and 8th days, the crowd of votaries increases to upwards of ten thousand. At this festival thousands of sheep and goats are offered in sacrifice. The worshippers visit not only this shrine, but also the temples of Annpúrná, Sankatá, and Bageswari.
2. The Gau-gaur Melá, held at Rajmandira Ghát, on the 3rd day of Chait. This festival is celebrated by Márwadis and Deswális (people from the territory of Jeypore). In the evening, persons of both sexes assemble at the ghát; and some put off into the stream, in boats, in order to witness the procession of a Hindu idol.
3. The Rám-naumí Melá, held at the Rám Ghát, on the 9th day of Chait. In the early morning, Hindus of the higher and middle classes, male and female, -bathe together at the ghát, and worship Rám in the Leighbouring temple. Respectable women, on these occasions, are apt to be molested by evil-disposed persons who loiter about the spot.
4. The Narsinh Chaudas Melá, held in the Bará Gaṇeś Mahalla, on the 14th day of Baisakh. This melá is in honour of Narsinh, the fourth ircarnation of Vishņu. The people fast during the day, and, in the evening, assemble in this Mahalla or Ward, to witness the dramatic performance of the destruction or tearing to pieces of Hiraṇyakaśipu by Narsinh.
5. The Gází-miyán Melá, held at the Gází Miyar Dargáb, Bakariya Kund, on the 1st Sunday in Jeth. This is a Mohammedan festival, celebrated in honour of the nephew of the celebrated Sultan Mahmúd of Ghizni. This monarch sent his brother-in-law, Sálár Sáhú, on a mission into India. On the journey, his wife, Satar-i. Mualla, gave birth to a son, in the city of Ajmere, A.D. 1002. This child was called Sálár Masáúd; and, being unfortunately killed in battle with the Hindus, in his ninteenth year, was buried in Baraitch, in Oudh, where the battle had been fought. As he was considered a martyr to the Mohammedan faith, after his death, he was spoken of as Sultán-us-Shuhadá, chief of 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 Mahábhárata, 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 Ekádasi. 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 & 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 Jagann 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 Sankudhárá Melá, held at the Sankudhárá Tank, which is also called the Dwáraká-tirth or place of pilgrimage. According to the Kasi-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 Amin, 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 Briddhkál Melá, held in the Briddhkál Ma