Page images
PDF
EPUB

CEREMONIES FOR THE DEAD

197

spirit to obtain a form, or preta-body, which will carry it on its appointed pilgrimage. This is supposed to be effected by the pinda offerings, the food presented to the spirit (consisting of barley or rice-flour, mixed with sesamum flour, sugar, and honey), and by the recitation of appropriate mantras. The first day's ceremony furnishes the spirit with a head, the next a neck and shoulders. ll'hen the prêta-body is fully formed, on the tenth day, it feeds on the pinda and offerings of milk.

On the thirteenth day after death, the soul is equipped for its solemn journey. There are twelve stages in the pilgrimage, each stage taking a month to accomplish. Throughout the twelve months the relatives follow the departed spirit with the Shradha ceremonies, sixteen in number, performed at stated times to provide it with sustenance and to prepare it for the goal.

ll'hen that at last is reached, the prêta-body is . dissolved. The soul now becomes a Pitri, and assumes another body adapted for enjoying heavenly bliss, or for suffering the pains of hell. In this state it appears before the judge, Yama, the Lord of Pitris.

To those who have lived virtuous lives, Yama has a pleasant and glorious aspect when he receives the pilgrims into the bliss of Swarga. He has four arms, bearing a conch-shell, a discus, a mace, and a lotus. He rides, like Vishnu, on a mighty eagle, Garuda. A splendid crown adorns his brow, and jewelled ornaments glitter in his ears. His complexion is like the blue lotus, a gracious smile beams on his lips. He wears a sacred thread like gold on his breast, and a garland of forest flowers on his neck.

198

BEXARES, THE SACRED CITY

But to the sinners Yama appears in a gigantic and terrific shape, with black complexion and eyes vast as lakes. His nostrils breathe fire. His bristling hairs stand out long and thick like rushes. His deep voice sounds like the thunder of the Last Day. He is mounted on a ferocious buffalo, and holds a mighty club in his hand.

When the souls have enjoyed their bliss, or suffered their allotted punishment, they are again re-incarnated on earth to fulfil the remainder of their karma.

This belief in the efficacy of Shradhas is often the source of reckless expenditure bringing ruin upon Hindu families. For not only do the dead require assistance in their pilgrimage to Yama's kingdom, but for three generations afterwards they are supposed to need the attention of their descendants. Moreover, the mantras and ceremonies performed at certain holy places are believed to have the power of mitigating the penalties for sins committed in this life, an idea sedulously fostered by the Brahmin priests, though it is absolutely inconsistent with their own teaching of the law of karma.

With this digression we will return to the Panchkósi road. The sixth, and last stage of the pilgrimage is from Kapildhara to Barna Sangam, and thence along the ghâts to the starting - place, Manikarnika. On this day the pilgrims carry bags of barley, from which they scatter grain all along the route, as an oblation to Shiva. Arriving at Manikarnika, they bathe in the river and give presents to the Brahmins. Finally they proceed to the temple of Sâkhi-Vinayak, the witnessbearing Ganesha, to have the fact of the pilgrimage attested by the priest, in presence of the deity.

CHAPTER XI

REMAINS OF OLD BEXARES-A HINDU-MUHAMMADAN

RIOT--A WEAVERS' COLONY

A thorough examination by trained archæologists of the ruins and fragments of sculpture which are scattered about Benares and built into modern shrines and temples might throw much light on the ancient history of the city. Hitherto this work has been left chiefly to Europeans without sufficient critical knowledge of Hindu art, whose judgment has been biassed by a fixed idea that nearly everything old in Benares is of Buddhist origin. Sherring. while recognizing the probability of many of the antiquities of the city being of Brahminical or Jain origin, is too much inclined to attribute to Buddhists every ancient column with a plain bracket capital and every stone carved with the lotus flower.

Fergusson's review of Indian architectural styles, admirable though it is, stands in need of explanation and modification in the light of recent knowledge. In his time it was hardly realized that Buddhism was only an offshoot of Hinduism, which grew up in India, Aourished, and decayed side by side with dozens of other sects of even older origin, some of which, like the Jains, were most active builders. The artistic study of Indian sculpture, like that of

190

me

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Indian painting, has hardly yet been commenced, though there is much of extreme interest to the artist, as well as to the archæologist, in both. It is very unlikely that rapid progress will be made in this direction until Indians of education and means learn the profound truth of Emerson's well-known aphorism, “Art is Nature passed through the alembic of man"; and until they begin to realize that, unless they understand and appreciate the value of the presentment of Nature their own artist-alchemists have given them, nothing that they see through European spectacles has any artistic value or meaning for them.

In the meantime, while Indian art is fast decaying beyond all hope, it is left to a few Europeans to attempt the solution of problems which to competent Indians should be comparatively easy.

Scattered about Benares in odd corners, and placed under pippal and banian trces for worship, are numbers of miniature temples elaborately carved in single blocks of stone, and all of them with the characteristic Hindu sikra or curvilinear spire. Some of them are multiple shrines, that is, carved all over with numerous minute representations of temples, all of the same shape. The popular tradition about these is that Raja Mân Singh of Jaipur made a vow to present 100,000 temples to the city, and ordered them to be commenced and finished in one day. In order to accomplish this extraordinary architectural feat they were all carved in miniature.

The tale is obviously a Brahminical invention. These stones seem to be votive shrines of a very much earlier time than Man Singh, who lived at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Many of them

[blocks in formation]

are of the early Buddhist period, and numbers of them are now being dug up in the neighbourhood of Sarnath. They are not, however, Buddhist, but dedi. cated to various Hindu deities. The Deer-park at Sarnath was, as we know, a retreat, or kind of sacred grove, where religious devotees of all sects met.

[graphic][merged small]

The most interesting of the ruined buildings of ancient Benares now existing are those which have been appropriated by the Muhammadans. At the back of the mosque of Aurangzib, near the Golden

Temple, is a fragment of what must have been a very .imposing Brahminical or Jain temple. The south wall of the mosque is built into it. Tradition points to this as being part of the original temple of Vishweshwar destroyed by Aurangzib. From the style it would appear to belong to the time of Akbar, or about the

« PreviousContinue »