" The birthdays of the gods, and the coronation days of the Manus (legislators and saints), must be punctually observed, with worship and fastings. By this purity of mind and happiness will accrue, and sin will, to a large extent, be destroyed." (Dharma pannam.)
"He who observes not approved customs and he who regards not prescribed duties is to be avoided with great care." (Manu, iii. 165, 166.)
IT does not need a very lengthened stay in India to enable a resident there to find out how devoted its people are to the keeping up the numerous and varied festivals, prescribed by custom or religion. It sometimes requires much patience to quietly submit to the inconveniences caused by demands for leave of absence to celebrate this or that feast. And yet these festivals are not without their bright side. They are periods of rest and enjoyment in the lives of many who have not much brightness in their existence ; and in this respect, at least, they serve one of the purposes for which the Sabbath was appointed. It is pleasant to think of the dull plodding round of toil being broken, now and then, in the life of the Hindus by a little rest and enjoyment ; although it might be desired that the events coramemorated were often other than they are, both in origin and in the manner of commemoration.
According to the native almanacs, there are about one hundred and twenty-five festivals of greater or less importance, marked for observance during a year. Some of these have to do with all classes of Hindus, as Samvatsaradi (New Year's day), and some with certain classes only, as Sivaratri (the birthnight of Siva). Some of them are only observed by men, as Krishnajayanti (the birthday of Krishna) ; whilst others are observed only by women, as Varalakshmivratam, the festival of Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu. According to the Puranas, about four hundred festivals are to be observed throughout the year, but most of these have fallen into disuse.
In the Hindu almanacs the festivals are fixed as to date ; but as the Hindu and the European almanacs are drawn up on different systems, the festivals do not occur upon fixed dates according to our reckoning. Indeed, the Hindu almanacs themselves differ in their systems, the Telugu year being lunar, whilst the Tamil is solar.
It would be a hopeless task to attempt a description of all the Hindu festivals ; so I will try to give some idea of the origin of a few of the chief ones, and of the mode in which they are observed. The festivals described axe those observed in the Circars, a district in the northern part of the Madras Presidency. I take them in the order in which they occur during the year, and not in the order of their relative importance.
(1) SANKRANTI, or the commencement of the sun's northern course in the heavens, occurs in the month Pushya (December—January), or about the middle of January. It is observed by all classes, and lasts for three days. This feast is called Pongal in the south, and is the commencement of the Tamil year. It is a special period of universal rejoicing, being a kind of harvest festival. All work is stopped, and even the passenger boats on the canals do not' ply, particularly on the first two days ; the cattle are specially made much of, given a rest, and supplied with extra food. There is also a good deal of cock-fighting, a pastime to which many of the middle and lower classes are particularly addicted. Alms are also freely distributed, and presents are given to dependants. It is also one of the three great festivals when it is the custom to put on new clothes : the other two being the Dasara and Samvatsaradi. During this season it is customary for a wife, together with her husband, to visit her own people, who are then feasted and presented with new clothes and jewels.
Of the three days during which the festival lasts the first is called bhógi (rejoicing) and 'is the eve to the festival proper. On this day oil baths are universally taken. This does not mean that a bath is taken in a tub of oil, but that the body is rubbed with oil. The houses are cleaned and decorated, and a particular dish is eaten made of new rice and dhal, cooked together in milk. The name Pongal for this feast is said to have arisen from this custom. If the pot boils well, it is thought to be a good omen ; therefore when friends meet they ask each other, " Has it boiled (pongal) ?" hence the name Pongal. On this day and on the next those classes who usually consume animal food scrupulously abstain from it. The second day is the chief one, when there is special worship and the gods are carried in procession, with much beating of drums, blaring of trumpets, and other barbarous accompaniments of such processions. The third day is devoted to very much the same kind of things as the second.
(2) MAHA. SIVARATRI, or the great night of Siva, is an important festival. Every month has a Sivaratri on the eve of the new moon, when the worshippers of Siva fast all day and perform special rites to their god, but the annual festival is called the great (maha night of Siva ; and it is held on the eve of the new moon in Magha (January—February) and commemorates the birth of Siva. The festival lasts one day and is observed by all classes, except those who strictly adhere to the worship of Vishnu. The whole day is kept as a strict fast until midnight, and the lingam is specially worshipped. Pilgrimages are also made to certain rivers and to temples of Siva that may be particularly sacred. On arriving at the place of pilgrimage, the devout will bathe in the adjacent river or tank and then proceed to the temple and perform what is called pradakshinam. This consists of solemnly walking round the temple a greater or less number of times, according to the devoutness of the worshippers. The hands are then placed together in the attitude of prayer (namaskaram), the right shoulder being towards the temple. During this circumambulation the worshippers confess their sins and. ask for pardon by repeating various verses (slokams). These verses or prayers are quotations from the Puranas, and. so Sudras as well as Brahmins are allowed to repeat them. Many repeat them like parrots without knowing the meaning of the words at all, whilst some cannot even do this. In this latter case, a small fee will procure the assistance of an attendant priest, who will walk round with the worshippers and repeat the verses, the poor illiterate people joining in here and there according to their ability. The following are specimens of the verses thus repeated :—
"Whatever sins (I may have committed) In my former births ;
Those very sins are destroyed
By each circumambulation."
" I am a sinner, a man of sinful deeds,
I am of a corrupt mind, a man born in sin.
Save me of thy mercy 0 God!
Thou that art merciful to those that flee to thee for refuge."
" I have no other refuge,
Thou alone art my refuge ;
Therefore of thy mercy
O Siva! save me, save me."
The worshippers then go into the temple and present offerings of fruit, flowers and camphor, and an offering of money. The officiating priest takes the offering and then waves it before the lingam, burning incense and also repeating, at the same time, various verses. One part of the offering is then returned to the worshipper, and one part is retained by the priest. In the case of a cocoanut, it is broken into halves by the priest, and. a portion is returned whilst a portion is retained. The water in the cocoanut is collected in a vessel and poured over the lingam. The worshippers then stoop to receive the priestly blessing, which is given in the following manner. The priest takes a bell-shaped vessel, usually made of brass or copper (rudrapadam—the foot of Siva), and placing it on the head of each worshipper, repeats, as the representative of the worshipper, the following prayer :—
"0 Siva! bless my head with thy feet,
Which are like unto the lotus,
Adorned with jewels from the crowns of Brahma, and other gods and demi-gods.
Those who have thus been blessed, then turn to the stone bull (Nandi—the vehicle of Siva) which is in each Siva temple, and repeat several times into its ear the word Hara ! Hara ! (0 destroyer ! ) This is one of the names of Siva, and here means destroyer of sin. After this the worshippers are at liberty to go away. The same ceremony is, in some cases, repeated in the evening. In the meantime, the people join in the various festivities of the fair, and those who, from age or ill-health, may be unable to keep a longer fast now eat. After the people have all finished their worship, the attendant priests and pandits proceed to bathe the lingam with milk and water, and cocoanut water, and sometimes with oil, repeating the while various verses from the Vedas. After the bath is taken, the idol is clothed, and adorned with the sacred thread and the sacred marks. The image is then worshipped by the repetition of the thousand names of Siva. A certain leaf and a flower are dropped over the image at each name. Usually the leaves are those of the bael tree or of the sacred basil, and jasmine or marigold flowers are employed. Then incense is burned, while mantrams are repeated, and camphor is lit and waved before the image. Food is then placed before it, such as curry and rice, fruit, milk and curds. This food is afterwards removed in order to be consumed by the priests. The food is followed by betel which is the usual Indian custom after meals. This is followed by more waving of burning camphor, and the performance of various other acts of worship, such as the placing of flowers and the repetition of mantrams.
This concludes the worship proper. The pandits and other Brahmins who may be present—women also being admitted,—then stand and in a loud voice repeat praises to Siva. The rudrapadam blessing is now given and the assembly disperses. Some of the flowers and leaves are usually given to the men and women worshippers, with which they adorn themselves. It is very late by this time and the devout may then go and break their fast.
I have described this ceremony somewhat at length, because it represents the usual mode of worship on such special occasions. Every day some worship is gone through on a small scale ; and every month, at the Sivaratri, more than ordinary worship is performed. The full ritual is, however, only employed at the annual festival.
(3) HOLI is a festival that is held in honour of the god Manmadha or Kama (the Hindu Cupid). It is observed in the month of Phalguna (February—March), and lasts for about fifteen days, of which the last three are the most important. This may be called the festival of the god of lust ; and the parading of dancing girls, and the singing of lewd songs form some of the items in it. The mere mention of these facts gives an indication of the whole tone of the festival. Indeed the very word kama is used. to describe lust and lechery of every kind. The time is observed as a kind of carnival. The crowds play practical jokes and throw coloured powder over each other. There is no temple worship connected with this festival, as there are no temples to this god. Siva is supposed to have slain this deity by a glance of his third eye (the one in the centre of the forehead), and in commemoration of this, the festival ends with a midnight bonfire, in which an image of the god Kama is burned. The ashes of the fire are rubbed on the body. Altogether it is a disgraceful time and staid sober-minded people do not join in it at all.. It is not observed very much in the Telugu country, though in other parts it is said to be very popular.
(4) SRIRAMAJAYANTI OR SRI RAMANAVAMI (the ninth day of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu) is a feast observed in honour of the birth of Rama, which is said to have taken place on the 9th day of the' first half of the month Chaitra (March—April). It lasts for one day. This festival is observed by all classes, except the wearers of the lingam, who are strict Saivites. On this day the Ramayana (the sacred epic poem of the Hindus recording the adventures of Rama) is read in private houses and in the temples. In the bazaars also, and in other public places, pandits read and explain this favourite poem to surrounding crowds. Even in small villages some one will be found and asked to read aloud the sacred text, as much merit is supposed to be derived even from the hearing of it. It is said that whoever studies this book is thereby liberated from all his sins and is exalted to the highest heaven.
There is an image of Rama in almost every village. The number in the towns varies according to their size, for there is no god in India so universally worshipped as this one. The image is adorned and taken in procession through the streets on this day, to the accompaniment of music and the singing of hymns of praise. One great feature of the festival is a pilgrimage, by those who are able to make it, to some celebrated temple of Rama. Of such temples there appear to be very few. There is a famous one at Bhadrachalam on the Upper Godavari river to which great numbers come, some from very long distances, to be present during the festival. Those who can afford to do so ride in the bullock cart of the country, whilst the majority trudge along on foot, carrying their bundle of rice or other food on their heads. Every now and then a group of these pilgrims, as they journey on, will set up a shout of Govinda I Góvinda! (a name of Vishnu), which has a strange effect, especially when heard for the first time. The details of the temple worship on this occasion are very much like those already described under Maha Sivaratri. At Bhadrachalam, large quantities of food are distributed to the poorer pilgrims, both from the temple stores and also by wealthy pilgrims, who thus acquire much merit (punyam). Sometimes an epidemic will break out at these annual gatherings, when numbers die, and the disease is carried far and wide by the returning pilgrims. Much merit is gained from the pilgrimage and from seeing 'the face of the god, and so sanitary considerations are made to give way to superstition.
(5) NAGASA,VITI is a festival in honour of the Nagas. It occurs on the 4th day of the first part of the month Kartika (October—November). The Nagas are a race of serpents supposed to be half human, the head and body to the waist being human and the rest serpent. They are said to inhabit the regions under the earth (nagalokum). This race of demi-gods is supposed to be malevolent and, therefore, much of the worship is for the purpose of deprecating their wrath. The Nagasaviti festival is observed by all classes and lasts for one day. The real object sought for by the masses is to be preserved from being bitten by snakes but there is also some idea that these monsters are able to cure certain diseases, chiefly those of the skin.
The principal object of worship on this day is the cobra, which is considered to be the chief of the snakes, The worship is mainly done by the women who, accompanied by a family priest, go to the nearest white ant heap, a favourite abode of the cobra, taking with them milk and. flowers, and a dish prepared with ground rice, jaggery, and camphor. The worshippers, having previously bathed, let their hair hang down and then perform a service at the ant-hill, by repeating the name of the god, pouring milk down the hole and scattering flowers over the hillock. If a priest is present, he repeats the form called sankalpam, which consists chiefly of mentioning the names of the place, day, month, year, and the names of the worshippers. The dish on which the food has been placed is then offered by the waving of the hand from it towards the supposed abode of the snake, certain words being repeated the while. The worship is concluded by placing burning incense by the side of the hole. The women, who may be accompanied by their children, then return home, where the food, together with water sweetened with jaggery (a coarse sugar), is partaken of as a festive meal. This serpent worship is universal throughout India. There is a certain amount of danger necessarily incurred in thus trifling with such deadly creatures. I remember, when in the town of Ellore in the Kistna District, hearing of a poor woman who met her death through engaging in this method of worship. She was pouring milk down a snake hole when a cobra darted out and bit her so that she died.
(6) KRISHNAJAYANTI, or the birthday of Krishna, is commemorated in Southern India on the 8th day of the dark half of the month Sravana (August—September). Krishna is said to have been born during the 8th night. It is observed by all classes except the Lingaits, and the festival lasts for two days. This is one of the most popular of the annual festivals, and is a time of fun and rejoicing. The usual temple festival worship is performed, but generally not on a very large scale, and there are no pilgrimages to shrines., As is the case with the " Ramayanam " at Srithmajayanti, so at this festival, the " Bhagavatam " is read. This is a celebrated Hindu poem describing the life of Krishna. During the birthnight much worship is performed to this god in the temples and also in private houses. The " Bhagavatam " is read and hymns are sung in praise of the god, to the accompaniment of music and cymbals and drums, and some sections of the Hindus fast from the evening of the seventh to the morning of the ninth. The real fun is on the ninth. On this day there are the usual processions of the images accompanied by dancing girls and the singing of hymns to the praise of Krishna, and repetitions of mantrams by attendant pandits. Much amusement is afforded by things got up in memory of Krishna's stealing the curds and butter. Two upright poles are fixed in the earth in public places, usually across the street, and a cross pole is attached to the top which is adorned with leaves, flowers and banners. A pulley is attached to the centre of this cross bar, through which a string is rove, suspending an earthen pot containing milk and a few coins. The pot is covered over with a cocoanut. A person holds the other end of the string and pulls the pot up and down. Youths, usually of the golla or milkmen caste—Krishna was reared in a golla house—leap and try to touch the pot, which is dexterously jerked out of reach by the person holding the string. Whoever succeeds in touching the pot gets its contents as a prize. All this affords much fun, and the competitors are drenched with coloured water (vasantam), which is squirted or thrown over them by the revellers as they leap about. Greasy poles are also set up, or posts smeared with tar : the contents of a pot fixed at the top being the prize of the successful climber. Altogether it is a day of fun and rejoicing, of a very innocent nature as compared with the abominations of the Holi festival.
(7) VINAYAKACHATURTHI is the great festival of the birth day 'of Vinayaka or Ganesa. This deity is said to have been the son of Siva and Durga, or Kali. He is supposed to ward off obstacles and difficulties and is, therefore, worshipped at the commencement of all important undertakings in order to avert the interference of evil demons. The worship of Ganesa is very popular and so this festival is observed by all classes except the strict Vaishnavas. His image is that of a man's body with an elephant's head, and a very protuberant stomach to denote his gluttony. The feast is held on the fourth day of the light half of the month Bhadrapada (August—September) and is observed for one day. There is no particular worship in the temples, nor are there any processions. All the worship is done in private houses. In that portion of the house where worship is wont to be performed, a small clay platform is erected and adorned with a powder made of ground rice mixed with colouring matter, and upon this a clay image of Ganesa is placed. These images are made by the potters in immense numbers at this season, as each house, however poor, must have one. They are simply made of clay formed in a mould, and cost about one pie (half a farthing) each. When the image is placed on the platform, several lights are placed before it, and a mantram of consecration is said upon which the spirit of the god is said to enter into it. Worship is performed to this image by repeating certain prayers and after that by dropping upon it, one by one, twenty-one different kinds of certain leaves and the same number of certain flowers. During this operation the thousand names of the god are repeated. Food is also placed before the image, especially hard balls made of ground rice with pounded Bengal gram and some cocoanut. Of the prayers that are said the following is a specimen :-
" Meditate upon the white-robed omnipresent one,
In colour like unto the moon, and having four arms,
The Elephant-faced one (Ganesh),
For the removal of all obstacles."
This worship takes place at mid-day and is repeated in the evening after sunset, up to which time the lights must be kept burning before the image. However poor the people may be they will have, at least, one small light burning. If in a house there are only one or two people and they are very poor, they will join with others for this worship.
It is at this feast that the artisans worship their tools and the students their books, which is done by placing them before the image, and, when the worship is finished, sprinkling them with rice which has been coloured red and with sandalwood paste. The ceremony is concluded by circumambulating the platform and image, at the same time repeating prayers. Some of the flowers and leaves which have been used in the worship are taken by the worshippers to adorn their own persons. On the third day, the little image is taken and thrown . into running water—a river or stream—or into a well or tank ; that is, any where where it cannot be trodden upon or otherwise defiled. The same is done with the flowers and leaves that have been used in the worship.
Those who are rowdy amongst the people have much fun during the darkness of the night, throwing stones on houses, or putting down thorny seeds in front of them, which when trodden upon by the bare foot pierce it and cause pain. The idea is that the blame and curses evoked by this will be turned into blessings upon the perpetrators of the mischief.
It is customary, sometime during the evening before dark, for groups of people to assemble in a neighbour's house to hear a story called " Samantakam." It is re- lated how the sun, being pleased with a certain king named Satrajitt, gave to him a mythological jewel called samantakam, which he had taken from his own necklace. It is supposed that those who do not hear this story before seeing the moon, will run the risk of having some false charge or other made against them, or in some way be subject to slander or calumny. The origin of the custom seems to be a story which is briefly as follows :—Ganesa being very much distended after a heavy meal, was on his way to the temple to worship his father Siva, when the moon cast a look upon him so malevolent that his body burst. Upon this Ganesa, being irritated, cursed the moon, saying that whoever looked upon it would be subject to slander, and calumny and like evils. The moon thereupon craved pardon for having disturbed the equanimity of the son of Siva ; but the curse was only removed on condition that, before looking upon the mbon, everybody should hear the story of " Sam.antakam." After this little episode Ganesa proceeded on his way to the temple, where his father by a stroke of his hand healed his suffering.
(8) DASARA, OR DURGAPUJA, is observed during the first half of the month Ashvayuja (September—October) and lasts for ten days. The tenth day is called Vijayadasami (the victorious tenth day). This festival is observed by all Saktass, or worshippers of the female principle and is held in especial honour of Durga, the wife of Siva. Her image, or what represents her image, is worshipped for nine days and on the tenth it is cast into water. In the Telugu country no image is used, but the goddess is represented by a new brass drinking vessel or an earthen pot, containing nine kinds of grain, turmeric roots and coins. The mouth of the vessel is covered with a cocoanut and a folded piece of cloth. The whole is then adorned with leaves of the mango tree.
During this feast alms are freely distributed, musicians go about playing on their instruments and demanding gifts. Native school masters take their pupils, all dressed in their best, to the houses of those who are likely to give them anything and ask for presents. Their request is liberally responded to. The pupils who go with them carry bows and arrows, the arrows having a cup-like termination into which sweet smelling powder is placed. This the pupils shoot out upon those whom they visit. They also recite various things they have learnt. Such recitations always begin with a verse in praise of Ganes& The pupils get presents of fruit and sweets, whilst the masters get money or cloths. In this way indigenous learning is encouraged.
In 1884 there was a Hindu revival. A Ramabhajana party, carrying a kalasam, the representation of Durga, went in procession from their village to two adjoining villages. They were then joined by another party from each of the latter, which called itself Rama Dandu or Rama's army. The triple party then went in turn to each of the three villages adjoining two of the original triplet. From each of these, a new triplet branched out and repeated the process ; so that the movement, believed to have started from somewhere in Mysore, spread in all directions. As Rama's army is said to have consisted of monkeys, it was considered the proper thing for its antitype to engage in all kinds of mischievous pranks ; and so its members broke branches off. the trees, pulled tiles and thatch off roofs, knocked the turbans off people they met in the way and insisted on their shouting ' Govindas I ' and disturbed Muhammadans at worship by singing uproariously before mosques. This produced ill-feeling and riots between the Hindus and Muhammadans. Unfortunately, before the animus could subside, the Muharram and Dasara festivals partly coincided for three years. During that time, the Hindus, in the places where the riots occurred, did not take any part in the Muharram, although the carnival portion of that commemoration of the martyrdom of Muhammad's grandson Husain used in former years to be largely observed by the Hindus. Having deprived themselves of this fun, the Hindus appear to have attempted to compensate themselves by getting up during the next Dasara a caricature of the Muharram. Had the details been purely Hindu adaptations, they would, probably have passed unnoticed. But they were considered by the Musalmans, rightly or wrongly, to be gross caricatures and intentionally offensive. The Muhammadans objected especially to the introduction into the Dasara of the tiger disguise. The reason for this appears to be that this disguise has, in Southern India, come to be looked upon as the most distinctive feature of the Muharram. The way in which this commemoration of a mournful event became converted into a carnival is alleged to be this. The Mogul Emperors and the Musalman kings of the Deccan sometimes chose Hindu consorts. One of these is believed, when in trouble, to have endeavoured to add to the efficacy of her invocation of Husain for his intercession, by vowing that if her prayer were answered she would exhibit some members of her family in a humiliating disguise during the Muharram. The object of her prayer being accomplished, she kept her vow. Her example was followed by other devout and anxious parents and others. The fame of the success of such vows induced Hindus also to make similar vows. To the original humiliating disguises, was afterwards added that of the tiger, an indication of readiness to fight for Islam like a tiger, a simile invariably employed to describe the fighting of the faithful followers of Husain on the occasion which is commemorated by the Muharram. This disguise, more than any other, caught the fancy of the Hindus, who did not trouble to become acquainted with its significance.
(9) DEEPAVALI, or the feast of lamps, is observed on the last two days of the dark fortnight of the month Ashvayuja (September—October) and is taken part in by all classes of Hindus. It is held in memory of Krishna's victory over Narakasura, the wicked giant (Rakshasa). Its . chief features are the lighting up of the houses with numerous little lamps and the letting off of fire-works. There are no special temple services or processions at this season. It is merely a time of popular rejoicing. The streets present a very gay appearance at night on account of the numerous lights that are placed in front of the houses. Mimic combats take place in the streets between parties who hurl lighted fire-works at each other, and these battles sometimes become very real, ending in a good deal of rioting. Altogether the streets, particularly on the second night of the festival, are not a very safe or pleasant place for quietly disposed people.
(10) KARTIKAPURNIMA, or the full moon of the month of Kartika (October—November), is a festival observed in commemoration of Siva's victory over the three giants (tripurasura). These giants are said to have inhabited three celestial cities made respectively of gold, silver and iron, which were adjacent to each other and were capable of being moved about in company at the will of the giants. These malevolent beings were a constant source of trouble to gods and men, who, at length, unable' to bear it any longer prayed to Siva for deliverance from the evil. This god slew the troublesome, tripurasura and utterly destroyed their cities. This festival is observed on the full moon of Kartika and is kept by all classes except strict Vaishnavas. It lasts only for one day and one night.
The day preceding the full moon is observed by the devout as a strict fast. In the early morning it is necessary to bathe in the sea if possible or, failing that, in a river or pond or some other water. After the moon has risen, special worship is performed in the temples of Siva. The image is then taken in procession through the streets with the usual musical and other accompaniments. In all these processions of the gods it is not the chief idol of the temple that is taken out, for the chief idol is never removed from its position for any purpose whatever, after it has once been placed and consecrated (pratishta). What is used upon such occasions is a representative or rather two representatives, which are kept for the purpose ; one to represent the god and the other his wife. When the gods are taken in procession, it is not to give the gods an airing, as is popularly supposed. The idea is that those who are unable to go to the temple and look upon the image there should have a chance of seeing its face in this way. The passing of the gods through the streets is also supposed to purify and bless the streets and houses. As the procession moves along, the devout may be seen placing their hands together and making obeisance to the god. Some bring offerings of various kinds which are placed in a receptacle under the car upon which the idol sits, and the priest blesses the giver.
A peculiar custom is followed when the procession returns to the temple. Two high poles are erected in front of the temple to which a thick wreath of straw is attached. It stretches across the road. It is then set on fire and the whole procession must pass under the burning wreath. This in some way refers to the triumph of Siva over the tripurasura.
It is at this festival that women especially of the Smartha sect especially worship the moon, with a view to the obtaining of such blessings as male offspring, long life and prosperity. This worship is performed in the following manner. After the temple worship, women, in various groups, take a small thin silver medal which is stamped with the shape of the moon, and place it upon. some large leaf like that of the plantain or lotus. This is laid upon the ground in the courtyard of the temple under the full rays of the moon. Upon the leaf is placed a little heap of rice upon which is put a betel leaf, and upon this again is placed a little sandalwood paste, and on the top of that the little silver medal. Each separate group will have one of these temporary altars. Worship is then performed in the usual way by placing before it little lights made of ghee and a wick in brass saucers, and by dropping upon it coloured rice, leaves and flowers, at the same time mentioning some of the names of the moon. An attendant priest—in the case of well-to-do people their own family priest—repeats a prayer in the name of the worshippers, and the worship is concluded by the women waving lighted camphor before the object of worship, saying at the same time some kind of prayer, as an expression of their particular need or required boon. The little heap of things on the leaf; the medal included, is given to the priest as a fee.
The women who engage in this worship do not include young unmarried women or widows or the aged. The prayer rxpeated by the priest, in the name of those for whom he is officiating, will serve to show the object with which the worship is done. It is as follows :
" O thou Omniscient husband of Rohini,
Who art worshipped in this image,
Grant me long life, health, prosperity,
And male progeny."
(11) SAMVATSARADI is the festival of the new year. The Telugu New Year's day is the first day of the month Chaitra (March—April) and is observed by all classes. It lasts for one day only. This is not, strictly speaking, a religious festival (vratam), and, therefore, there are no special temple services or processions. The chief features of the day are the reading of the new almanac, and, hearing the forecast of the events of the New Year. New clothes also are worn, when procurable, and the food partaken of during the day is, as far as possible, composed of new materials, i.e., new grain, pulses and such like, for this is a feast of ingathering. One dish, which must be partaken of by all who wish for good. luck during the year, is a conserve composed of sugar, tamarind and the flowers of the neem or margosa tree, which is then in full flower. The bitter taste of this is not much relished as a rule ; but it is necessary that at least a small portion of the dish should be eaten. This seems to be analogous to the English idea that it is necessary to eat mince pie at Christmas or at the New Year.
(12) MAHALAYA AMAVASYA, the new moon of the great destruction, is observed as a day for making offerings to the manes of the dead, who, through dying other than a natural death, may not have received the usual death rites. It occurs on the new moon of the month Bhadrapada (September—October) and is observed by all classes. It only lasts for one day. On this day the head of a family must perform prescribed ceremonies for the preceding three generations. Even if there is no knowledge of any ancestors having died other than a natural death in the full odour of sanctity, it is still necessary that the rites should be performed, lest there may have been some accident. The ceremonies are very similar to the usual annual ceremonies for the dead.
In addition to the occasions already mentioned, there are four seasons in the year that are considered very important, and when it is necessary, if possible, to bathe in the sea. These seasons are the day of the full moon of Magha (February), Vaisakam (April—May), Ashadha (June-July), and Kartika (October—November). Those within reach of the sea will then make an effort to go there in order to take this holy bath, At all new moons it is also beneficial to bathe in the sea, but at times other than these feast days and new moons it is highly improper even to touch sea water. All rivers flow into the sea, so at these seasons bathing in its waters is equal to bathing in all the sacred rivers in the world. By this all sins, even of the most heinous kind, are completely washed away. Failing the sea, a bath must be taken in a river or a tank or at a well, but, a bath in the sea is considered the most beneficial of all. Long before daylight crowds of people wend their way to the sea shore, some on foot and others in vehicles of various kinds. It is better to go on foot, as it is a kind of pilgrimage, and a pilgrimage is more meritorious when done on foot. Before actually setting out for the sea shore, the devout bathe at home, and also again upon their return. The bathing must also be done fasting.
The bathing is done as follows. The bather walks into the water accompanied by a Brahmin, who repeats the sankalpam (the name of the place, time, etc.) Then the bather dips under the water three times. After this he makes three oblations to the sun by throwing up water towards it and saying hail to the sun (suryaya namaha), after which he again dips under three times. He then comes ashore and makes a little heap of sand which he proceeds to worship as though it were his particular deity. The worship is done in the usual way by dropping over the object flowers and coloured powder. After this worship is over, the worshipper takes- up the little heap of sand and casts it into the sea. He then gives a fee to the Brahmin who blesses him and it is all over. Those who are in a position to do so bring their own family priest to perform this ceremony for them ; but there are plenty of Brahmins at hand ready to take advantage of the piety of the faithful. All the bathers do not go through the full performance ; some merely bathe and make an oblation to the sun, without much further attempt at worship. Beggars in every stage of dirt and disease may be seen and heard, for the road is lined with them. Here may be seen a leper, lying on the sand with a cloth spread in front of him to receive alms ; and there a miserable cripple, holding up his withered stump of an arm or leg to appeal to the compassion of the passers by. My lord, my lord, charity is prosperity (Maharaja, Maharaja, dharmame jayam, dharmame jayam)—these and similar cries are shouted out, and the passers by throw a handful of rice, or a few cowrie shells, or a coin on the cloth as they pass by. There are stalls of the sweetmeat sellers and the toy vendors and the various surroundings of an Indian fair. The whole presents a scene at once lively and gay.
Besides these general festivals, there are local festivals, observed at a particular locality, or at places where a temple or shrine has been put up in honour of some particular god or demigod.
I give a description of a local festival which I have seen. Near to Masulipatam there is a temple dedicated to the wife of Siva under her title of Mahishasura Mardhani, or the destroyer of the demon buffalo. This buffalo monster (rakshasa) did much evil, and so tradition says, was at length destroyed by Gauri or Durga. The temple is in her honour. The chief festival of this temple is held once a year in the month Chaitra (March—April) and it lasts altogether for sixteen days. On the evening of the last day, which is the day after the full moon, there is a great procession called Ambariutsavam, or the elephant procession. This procession passes through the town, and for about a mile beyond, to a place where a zammi tree formerly grew. This tree is an emblem of victory. The great temple car is also dragged out. In former days the car is said to have been taken all along the route with the procession ; but since the Kistna canal has been dug it presents an impassable barrier to so cumbrous a machine. There is an iron girder bridge over the canal, not strong enough to be safe for the car to cross so it is only brought up a short distance to the canal, and is then taken back to the temple. The principal feature 'in the procession is a large elephant bearing in a howdah the procession gods of the temple, and having upon its neck the Dharmakarta, or temple patron, a local Rajah of some position. It is said that a former Rajah of this house endowed the temple with lands which bring in Rs. 12,000 (800) per annum. How far this amount represents the real revenue I cannot say. The procession is supposed to represent a hunt (paru veta or running prey) and is probably in some way connected with the legend upon which the festival is founded. It was late at night when I heard the din of the approaching multitude, as I went to a place near -which the procession would end. The huge elephant, most gaily caprisoned, came solemnly along bearing its imposing burden. The Rajah, upon this occasion, was represented by his son. There were horses and bullock carts, the latter for the musicians, who with their barbarous instruments made a great noise. A troup of dancing girls marched along with their attendants, and. an immense crowd of people crushed along on either side of the procession. The torches and lights lit up the whole throng, and, together with the bright moon, made it as light as day. When a halt was made, near I suppose to the imaginary zammi tree, I made my way to the centre of the throng. A circle was formed in the midst of which, squatted down on the ground, were several Brahmin priests who performed the ceremony. A naked sword was held up by one, the hilt resting on the ground and pointing upwards. This sword was kept in the temple as the one, or as representing the one, with which Durga slew the demon and to it worship was performed. A. priest sprinkled it with water, pinches of kunkama 1 powder and other things. The celebrant meanwhile repeated verses or mantrams in a rapid voice ; but the noise made his voice almost inaudible. No one seemed to pay much attention to what he said. The dancing girls then began their usual monotonous singing and contortions. I could not but reflect, with much sadness, that such religion and worship are supposed to be an acceptable service to God. Truly they worship they know not what. " They have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save." (Isaiah xlv. 20.)
( Originally Published 1908 )
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