Hinduism - Two Modern Instances
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In Northern India, and especially in Bengal, you will often find Hindus worshipping a god whom they call Satya-narayana and believe to be an embodiment of Vishnu himself. The observance of this ritual is believed to bring wealth and all kinds of good fortune; a Sanskrit sacred legend in illustration of this, belief has been created, and you may buy badly litographed copies of it in most of the bazaars if you like, besides which you will find elegant accounts, of the god's career on earth written ley quite a number of distinguished Bengali poets, of the last three centuries. But curiously enough this " god," though quite real, was not a Hindu at all; he was a Bengali Moslem, a fakir, and the Muhammadans of Bengal, among whom lie is known as Satya Pir, have their own versions of his career, which seem to be much nearer the truth than those of the Hindus. In their stories he figures simply as a saint, who busied himself in performing miracles for the benefit of pious Moslems in distress ; and as one legend says that he was the son of a daughter of Husain Shah, the Emperor of Gaur, and another brings, him into contact with Man Singh, it is evident that tradition ascribed him to the sixteenth century, which is probably quite near enough to the truth.
Tho next instance belongs to the twentieth century. A few years ago there died in the village of Earl, in Thinnevelly District, a local gentleman of the Shanar caste named Arunachala Nadar. There was nothing remarkable about his career : ho had lived a highly respectable life, scrupulously fulfilled his religious duties, and served with credit as chairman of the municipal board in his native village. If he had done something prodigiously wicked, one might have expected him to become a local god at once, in accordance with Dravidian precedent ; but he being what he was, his post-mortem career is rather curious. For a legend gradually arose that his kindly spirit haunted a certain place, and little by little it has grown until now there is a regular worship of him in Eral, and pilgrims travel th๎ther to receive his blessings, stimu lated by a lively literary propaganda. He is worshipped under the name of " The Chairman God," in affectionate memory of his municipal career, and as Jagadisa, or " Lord of the Universe," a phase of the god Siva.