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END OF THE GHÂTS

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of steps leading up to a group of little shrines sheltered by some splendid pippal trees. The end of the ghâts on the northern side of Benares is reached at Barna Sangam, where the river Barna joins the Ganges. This is one of the five sacred places of pilgrimage, and a bath in the meeting waters is held to be of special virtue in cleansing from all sin. The high ridge on which four temples are placed commands a fine view of the Ganges valley.

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CHAPTER IX

THE TEMPLES AND SACRED WELLS

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Hindus recognize three classes of deities, or three different aspects of divine worship. First, the patron deity of the village community, called gramya deva. The images or symbols of these are placed under a sacred tree outside the villages. Next is the household god, or the god which is regarded by each family as its special protector. Thirdly, the ishta devathe personal god, or the god whom the guru, the spiritual adviser of each individual, appoints as his or her patron deity, after consultation of the person's horoscope.

. Outside the Brahmin caste, the expenses attendant on the proper conduct of Hindu ritual make it impossible for any but those who have means to keep up the worship of their patron deity within the house, for only. Brahmins, or those who claim the right of exercising priestly functions, can perform the appropriate ceremonies. The full performance of household worship is most complicated and expensive. The images or symbols used in daily worship are often made of clay, and these are made by the worshippers themselves and always thrown away directly the píja is finished. But when an idol of stone or of metal is purchased for the house or temple the first ceremonial

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is a kind of consecration, called prân prahtishta, “life
giving", performed by a Brahmin, who is supposed
thereby to cause the divine essence to come and reside
in the idol. Thereafter it is regarded as a being en-
dowed with life and feeling, and in the worship in the
temple, or in the household, daily, monthly, or yearly,
as the case may be, it is washed and dressed, gar-
landed, offered food, drink, betel-leaf and areca-nut,
and money, in sixteen prescribed
ceremonies accompanied by the
chanting of mantras.

This is part of the regular
worship, but there is practically
no limit to the attentions which
the devout Hindu will pay to
his idol. In the hot weather it
will be fanned to prevent Aies
and mosquitoes from annoying
it, and bathed to keep it cool.
In the cold weather it will be
dressed in warm clothes. If THE SALAGRAM STONE
the idol represents a masculine
deity, it will be married with great pomp and cere-
mony to its reputed consort of the other sex. A
marriage ceremony is a very popular form of religious
devotion; failing a god and goddess, a sacred bird
or animal, or even inanimate objects, such as the
tulasi plant and the salagram stone, will serve as the
make-believe bride and bridegroom. In response to
these attentions the patron deity is expected to bestow
corresponding worldly favours on the worshipper,
otherwise the latter will sometimes visit his anger on
his deity's image with all kinds of abuse and indignity.

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