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From the Caves and

Jungles of Hindostan

by

H P Blavatsky

 

 

 

 

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FROM THE CAVES AND JUNGLES OF HINDOSTAN

 

By Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

 

Translated From The Russian

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Translator's Preface

 

 

"You must remember," said Mme. Blavatsky, "that I never meant this for a

scientific work. My letters to the Russian Messenger, under the general

title: 'From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan,' were written in

leisure moments, more for amusement than with any serious design.

 

"Broadly speaking, the facts and incidents are true; but I have freely

availed myself of an author's privilege to group, colour, and dramatize

them, whenever this seemed necessary to the full artistic effect;

though, as I say, much of the book is exactly true, l would rather claim

kindly judgment for it, as a romance of travel, than incur the critical

risks that haunt an avowedly serious work."

 

To this caution of the author's, the translator must add another; these

letters, as Mme Blavatsky says, were written in leisure moments, during

1879 and 1880, for the pages of the Russki Vyestnik, then edited by M.

Katkoff. Mme. Blavatsky's manuscript was often incorrect; often obscure.

The Russian compositors, though they did their best to render faithfully

the Indian names and places, often produced, through their ignorance of

Oriental tongues, forms which are strange, and sometimes unrecognizable.

The proof-sheets were never corrected by the author, who was then in

India; and, in consequence, it has been impossible to restore all the

local and personal names to their proper form.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

A similar difficulty has arisen with reference to quotations and

cited authorities, all of which have gone through a double process of

refraction: first into Russian, then into English. The translator, also

a Russian, and far from perfectly acquainted with English, cannot

claim to possess the erudition necessary to verify and restore the many

quotations to verbal accuracy; all that is hoped is that, by a careful

rendering, the correct sense has been preserved.

 

The translator begs the indulgence of English readers for all

imperfections of style and language; in the words of the Sanskrit

proverb: "Who is to be blamed, if success be not reached after due

effort?"

 

The translator's best thanks are due to Mr. John C. Staples, for

valuable help in the early chapters.--London, July, 1892

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

 

     In Bombay

     On the Way to Karli

     In the Karli Caves

     Vanished Glories

     A City of the Dead

     Brahmanic Hospitalities

     A Witch's Den

     God's Warrior

     The Banns of Marriage

     The Caves of Bagh

     An Isle of Mystery

     Jubblepore

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

 

 

FROM THE CAVES AND JUNGLES OF HINDOSTAN

 

 

 

 

In Bombay

 

 

 

Late in the evening of the sixteenth of February, 1879, after a rough

voyage which lasted thirty-two days, joyful exclamations were heard

everywhere on deck. "Have you seen the lighthouse?" "There it is at

last, the Bombay lighthouse."

 

Cards, books, music, everything was forgotten. Everyone rushed on deck.

The moon had not risen as yet, and, in spite of the starry tropical sky,

it was quite dark. The stars were so bright that, at first, it seemed

hardly possible to distinguish, far away amongst them, a small fiery

point lit by earthly hands. The stars winked at us like so many huge

eyes in the black sky, on one side of which shone the Southern Cross.

At last we distinguished the lighthouse on the distant horizon. It was

nothing but a tiny fiery point diving in the phosphorescent waves. The

tired travellers greeted it warmly. The rejoicing was general.

 

What a glorious daybreak followed this dark night! The sea no longer

tossed our ship. Under the skilled guidance of the pilot, who had just

arrived, and whose bronze form was so sharply defined against the pale

sky, our steamer, breathing heavily with its broken machinery, slipped

over the quiet, transparent waters of the Indian Ocean straight to

the harbour. We were only four miles from Bombay, and, to us, who had

trembled with cold only a few weeks ago in the Bay of Biscay, which has

been so glorified by many poets and so heartily cursed by all sailors,

our surroundings simply seemed a magical dream.

 

After the tropical nights of the Red Sea and the scorching hot days

that had tortured us since Aden, we, people of the distant North, now

experienced something strange and unwonted, as if the very fresh soft

air had cast its spell over us. There was not a cloud in the sky,

thickly strewn with dying stars. Even the moonlight, which till then had

covered the sky with its silvery garb, was gradually vanishing; and the

brighter grew the rosiness of dawn over the small island that lay before

us in the East, the paler in the West grew the scattered rays of the

moon that sprinkled with bright flakes of light the dark wake our ship

left behind her, as if the glory of the West was bidding good-bye to us,

while the light of the East welcomed the newcomers from far-off lands.

Brighter and bluer grew the sky, swiftly absorbing the remaining pale

stars one after the other, and we felt something touching in the

sweet dignity with which the Queen of Night resigned her rights to the

powerful usurper. At last, descending lower and lower, she disappeared

completely.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

And suddenly, almost without interval between darkness and light, the

red-hot globe, emerging on the opposite side from under the cape, leant

his golden chin on the lower rocks of the island and seemed to stop for

a while, as if examining us. Then, with one powerful effort, the torch

of day rose high over the sea and gloriously proceeded on its path,

including in one mighty fiery embrace the blue waters of the bay, the

shore and the islands with their rocks and cocoanut forests. His golden

rays fell upon a crowd of Parsees, his rightful worshippers, who stood

on shore raising their arms towards the mighty "Eye of Ormuzd." The

sight was so impressive that everyone on deck became silent for a

moment, even a red-nosed old sailor, who was busy quite close to us over

the cable, stopped working, and, clearing his throat, nodded at the sun.

 

Moving slowly and cautiously along the charming but treacherous bay, we

had plenty of time to admire the picture around us. On the right was a

group of islands with Gharipuri or Elephanta, with its ancient temple,

at their head. Gharipuri translated means "the town of caves" according

to the Orientalists, and "the town of purification" according to the

native Sanskrit scholars. This temple, cut out by an unknown hand in

the very heart of a rock resembling porphyry, is a true apple of

discord amongst the archaeologists, of whom none can as yet fix, even

approximately, its antiquity. Elephanta raises high its rocky brow, all

overgrown with secular cactus, and right under it, at the foot of the

rock, are hollowed out the chief temple and the two lateral ones. Like

the serpent of our Russian fairy tales, it seems to be opening its

fierce black mouth to swallow the daring mortal who comes to take

possession of the secret mystery of Titan. Its two remaining teeth, dark

with time, are formed by two huge pillars t the entrance, sustaining the

palate of the monster.

 

How many generations of Hindus, how many races, have knelt in the

dust before the Trimurti, your threefold deity, O Elephanta? How many

centuries were spent by weak man in digging out in your stone bosom this

town of temples and carving your gigantic idols? Who can say? Many years

have elapsed since I saw you last, ancient, mysterious temple, and still

the same restless thoughts, the same recurrent questions vex me snow as

they did then, and still remain unanswered. In a few days we shall see

each other again. Once more I shall gaze upon your stern image, upon

your three huge granite faces, and shall feel as hopeless as ever of

piercing the mystery of your being. This secret fell into safe hands

three centuries before ours. It is not in vain that the old Portuguese

historian Don Diego de Cuta boasts that "the big square stone fastened

over the arch of the pagoda with a distinct inscription, having been

torn out and sent as a present to the King Dom Juan III, disappeared

mysteriously in the course of time....," and adds, further, "Close to

this big pagoda there stood another, and farther on even a third one,

the most wonderful of all in beauty, incredible size, and richness of

material. All those pagodas and caves have been built by the Kings of

Kanada, (?) the most important of whom was Bonazur, and these buildings

of Satan our (Portuguese) soldiers attacked with such vehemence that in

a few years one stone was not left upon another...." And, worst of

all, they left no inscriptions that might have given a clue to so much.

Thanks to the fanaticism of Portuguese soldiers, the chronology of the

Indian cave temples must remain for ever an enigma to the archaeological

world, beginning with the Brah-mans, who say Elephanta is 374,000 years

old, and ending with Fergusson, who tries to prove that it was carved

only in the twelfth century of our era. Whenever one turns one's eyes to

history, there is nothing to be found but hypotheses and darkness. And

yet Gharipuri is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, which was written,

according to Colebrooke and Wilson, a good while before the reign of

Cyrus. In another ancient legend it is said that the temple of Trimurti

was built on Elephanta by the sons of Pandu, who took part in the war

between the dynasties of the Sun and the Moon, and, belonging to the

latter, were expelled at the end of the war. The Rajputs, who are the

descendants of the first, still sing of this victory; but even in their

popular songs there is nothing positive. Centuries have passed and will

pass, and the ancient secret will die in the rocky bosom of the cave

still unrecorded.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

On the left side of the bay, exactly opposite Elephanta, and as if in

contrast with all its antiquity and greatness, spreads the Malabar Hill,

the residence of the modern Europeans and rich natives. Their brightly

painted bungalows are bathed in the greenery of banyan, Indian fig, and

various other trees, and the tall and straight trunks of cocoanut palms

cover with the fringe of their leaves the whole ridge of the hilly

headland. There, on the south-western end of the rock, you see the

almost transparent, lace-like Government House surrounded on three

sides by the ocean. This is the coolest and the most comfortable part of

Bombay, fanned by three different sea breezes.

 

The island of Bombay, designated by the natives "Mambai," received its

name from the goddess Mamba, in Mahrati Mahima, or Amba, Mama, and Amma,

according to the dialect, a word meaning, literally, the Great Mother.

Hardly one hundred years ago, on the site of the modern esplanade, there

stood a temple consecrated to Mamba-Devi. With great difficulty and

expense they carried it nearer to the shore, close to the fort, and

erected it in front of Baleshwara the "Lord of the Innocent"--one of

the names of the god Shiva. Bombay is part of a considerable group of

islands, the most remarkable of which are Salsetta, joined to Bombay by

a mole, Elephanta, so named by the Portuguese because of a huge rock cut

in the shape of an elephant thirty-five feet long, and Trombay, whose

lovely rock rises nine hundred feet above the surface of the sea. Bombay

looks, on the maps, like an enormous crayfish, and is at the head of

the rest of the islands. Spreading far out into the sea its two claws,

Bombay island stands like a sleepless guardian watching over his younger

brothers. Between it and the Continent there is a narrow arm of a river,

which gets gradually broader and then again narrower, deeply indenting

the sides of both shores, and so forming a haven that has no equal in

the world. It was not without reason that the Portuguese, expelled in

the course of time by the English, used to call it "Buona Bahia."

 

In a fit of tourist exaltation some travellers have compared it to the

Bay of Naples; but, as a matter of fact, the one is as much like the

other as a lazzaroni is like a Kuli. The whole resemblance between the

former consists in the fact that there is water in both. In Bombay, as

well as in its harbour, everything is original and does not in the least

remind one of Southern Europe. Look at those coasting vessels and native

boats; both are built in the likeness of the sea bird "sat," a kind

of kingfisher. When in motion these boats are the personi-fication of

grace, with their long prows and rounded poops. They look as if they

were gliding backwards, and one might mistake for wings the strangely

shaped, long lateen sails, their narrow angles fastened upwards to a

yard. Filling these two wings with the wind, and careening, so as almost

to touch the surface of the water, these boats will fly along with

astonishing swiftness. Unlike our European boats, they do not cut the

waves, but glide over them like a sea-gull.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

The surroundings of the bay transported us to some fairy land of the

Arabian Nights. The ridge of the Western Ghats, cut through here and

there by some separate hills almost as high as themselves, stretched all

along the Eastern shore. From the base to their fantastic, rocky tops,

they are all overgrown with impenetrable forests and jungles inhabited

by wild animals. Every rock has been enriched by the popular imagination

with an independent legend. All over the slope of the mountain are

scattered the pagodas, mosques, and temples of numberless sects. Here

and there the hot rays of the sun strike upon an old fortress, once

dreadful and inaccessible, now half ruined and covered with prickly

cactus. At every step some memorial of sanctity. Here a deep vihara,

a cave cell of a Buddhist bhikshu saint, there a rock protected by the

symbol of Shiva, further on a Jaina temple, or a holy tank, all covered

with sedge and filled with water, once blessed by a Brahman and able to

purify every sin, all indispensable attribute of all pagodas. All the

surroundings are covered with symbols of gods and goddesses. Each of the

three hundred and thirty millions of deities of the Hindu Pantheon has

its representative in something consecrated to it, a stone, a flower, a

tree, or a bird. On the West side of the Malabar Hill peeps through the

trees Valakeshvara, the temple of the "Lord of Sand." A long stream of

Hindus moves towards this celebrated temple; men and women, shining with

rings on their fingers and toes, with bracelets from their wrists up

to their elbows, clad in bright turbans and snow white muslins, with

foreheads freshly painted with red, yellow, and white, holy sectarian

signs.

 

The legend says that Rama spent here a night on his way from Ayodhya

(Oudh) to Lanka (Ceylon) to fetch his wife Sita who had been stolen by

the wicked King Ravana. Rama's brother Lakshman, whose duty it was

to send him daily a new lingam from Benares, was late in doing so one

evening. Losing patience, Rama erected for himself a lingam of sand.

When, at last, the symbol arrived from Benares, it was put in a temple,

and the lingam erected by Rama was left on the shore. There it stayed

during long centuries, but, at the arrival of the Portuguese, the "Lord

of Sand" felt so disgusted with the feringhi (foreigners) that he jumped

into the sea never to return. A little farther on there is a charming

tank, called Vanattirtha, or the "point of the arrow." Here Rama, the

much worshipped hero of the Hindus, felt thirsty and, not finding any

water, shot an arrow and immediately there was created a pond. Its

crystal waters were surrounded by a high wall, steps were built leading

down to it, and a circle of white marble dwellings was filled with dwija

(twice born) Brahmans.

 

India is the land of legends and of mysterious nooks and corners. There

is not a ruin, not a monument, not a thicket, that has no story attached

to it. Yet, however they may be entangled in the cobweb of popular

imagination, which becomes thicker with every generation, it is

difficult to point out a single one that is not founded on fact. With

patience and, still more, with the help of the learned Brahmans you

can always get at the truth, when once you have secured their trust and

friendship.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

The same road leads to the temple of the Parsee fire-worshippers. At its

altar burns an unquenchable fire, which daily consumes hundredweights of

sandal wood and aromatic herbs. Lit three hundred years ago, the sacred

fire has never been extinguished, notwithstanding many disorders,

sectarian discords, and even wars. The Parsees are very proud of this

temple of Zaratushta, as they call Zoroaster. Compared with it the

Hindu pagodas look like brightly painted Easter eggs. Generally they are

consecrated to Hanuman, the monkey-god and the faithful ally of Rama, or

to the elephant headed Ganesha, the god of the occult wisdom, or to one

of the Devis. You meet with these temples in every street. Before each

there is a row of pipals (Ficus religiosa) centuries old, which no

temple can dispense with, because these trees are the abode of the

elementals and the sinful souls.

 

All this is entangled, mixed, and scattered, appearing to one's eyes

like a picture in a dream. Thirty centuries have left their traces

here. The innate laziness and the strong conservative tendencies of

the Hindus, even before the European invasion, preserved all kinds of

monuments from the ruinous vengeance of the fanatics, whether those

memorials were Buddhist, or belonged to some other unpopular sect.

The Hindus are not naturally given to senseless vandalism, and a

phrenologist would vainly look for a bump of destructiveness on their

skulls. If you meet with antiquities that, having been spared by time,

are, nowadays, either destroyed or disfigured, it is not they who are

to blame, but either Mussulmans, or the Portuguese under the guidance of

the Jesuits.

 

At last we were anchored and, in a moment, were besieged, ourselves as

well as our luggage, by numbers of naked skeleton-like Hindus, Parsees,

Moguls, and various other tribes. All this crowd emerged, as if from the

bottom of the sea, and began to shout, to chatter, and to yell, as only

the tribes of Asia can. To get rid of this Babel confusion of tongues as

soon as possible, we took refuge in the first bunder boat and made for

the shore.

 

Once settled in the bungalow awaiting us, the first thing we were struck

with in Bombay was the millions of crows and vultures. The first are, so

to speak, the County Council of the town, whose duty it is to clean the

streets, and to kill one of them is not only forbidden by the police,

but would be very dangerous. By killing one you would rouse the

vengeance of every Hindu, who is always ready to offer his own life in

exchange for a crow's. The souls of the sinful forefathers transmigrate

into crows and to kill one is to interfere with the law of Karma and

to expose the poor ancestor to something still worse. Such is the firm

belief, not only of Hindus, but of Parsees, even the most enlightened

amongst them. The strange behaviour of the Indian crows explains, to

a certain extent, this superstition. The vultures are, in a way, the

grave-diggers of the Parsees and are under the personal protection

of the Farvardania, the angel of death, who soars over the Tower of

Silence, watching the occupations of the feathered workmen.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

The deafening caw of the crows strikes every new comer as uncanny, but,

after a while, is explained very simply. Every tree of the numerous

cocoa-nut forests round Bombay is provided with a hollow pumpkin. The

sap of the tree drops into it and, after fermenting, becomes a most

intoxicating beverage, known in Bombay under the name of toddy. The

naked toddy wallahs, generally half-caste Portuguese, modestly adorned

with a single coral necklace, fetch this beverage twice a day, climbing

the hundred and fifty feet high trunks like squirrels. The crows

mostly build their nests on the tops of the cocoa-nut palms and drink

incessantly out of the open pumpkins. The result of this is the chronic

intoxication of the birds. As soon as we went out in the garden of our

new habitation, flocks of crows came down heavily from every tree. The

noise they make whilst jumping about everywhere is indescribable. There

seemed to be something positively human in the positions of the slyly

bent heads of the drunken birds, and a fiendish light shone in their

eyes while they were examining us from foot to head.

 

 

 

We occupied three small bungalows, lost, like nests, in the garden,

their roofs literally smothered in roses blossoming on bushes twenty

feet high, and their windows covered only with muslin, instead of the

usual panes of glass. The bungalows were situated in the native part of

the town, so that we were transported, all at once, into the real India.

We were living in India, unlike English people, who are only surrounded

by India at a certain distance. We were enabled to study her character

and customs, her religion, superstitions and rites, to learn her

legends, in fact, to live among Hindus.

 

Everything in India, this land of the elephant and the poisonous cobra,

of the tiger and the unsuccessful English missionary, is original and

strange. Everything seems unusual, unexpected, and striking, even to one

who has travelled in Turkey, Egypt, Damascus, and Palestine. In these

tropical regions the conditions of nature are so various that all the

forms of the animal and vegetable kingdoms must radically differ from

what we are used to in Europe. Look, for instance, at those women on

their way to a well through a garden, which is private and at the same

time open to anyone, because somebody's cows are grazing in it. To whom

does it not happen to meet with women, to see cows, and admire a garden?

Doubtless these are among the commonest of all things. But a single

attentive glance will suffice to show you the difference that exists

between the same objects in Europe and in India. Nowhere more than

in India does a human being feel his weakness and insignificance. The

majesty of the tropical growth is such that our highest trees would look

dwarfed compared with banyans and especially with palms. A European cow,

mistaking, at first sight, her Indian sister for a calf, would deny the

existence of any kinship between them, as neither the mouse-coloured

wool, nor the straight goat-like horns, nor the humped back of the

latter would permit her to make such an error. As to the women, each of

them would make any artist feel enthusiastic about the gracefulness

of her movements and drapery, but still, no pink and white, stout Anna

Ivanovna would condescend to greet her. "Such a shame, God forgive me,

the woman is entirely naked!"

 

This opinion of the modern Russian woman is nothing but the echo of what

was said in 1470 by a distinguished Russian traveler, "the sinful slave

of God, Athanasius son of Nikita from Tver," as he styles himself. He

describes India as follows: "This is the land of India. Its people are

naked, never cover their heads, and wear their hair braided. Women have

babies every year. Men and women are black. Their prince wears a veil

round his head and wraps another veil round his legs. The noblemen wear

a veil on one shoulder, and the noblewomen on the shoulders and round

the loins, but everyone is barefooted. The women walk about with their

hair spread and their breasts naked. The children, boys and girls, never

cover their shame until they are seven years old...." This description

is quite correct, but Athanasius Nikita's son is right only concerning

the lowest and poorest classes. These really do "walk about" covered

only with a veil, which often is so poor that, in fact, it is nothing

but a rag. But still, even the poorest woman is clad in a piece of

muslin at least ten yards long. One end serves as a sort of short

petticoat, and the other covers the head and shoulders when out in the

street, though the faces are always uncovered. The hair is erected into

a kind of Greek chignon. The legs up to the knees, the arms, and the

waist are never covered. There is not a single respectable woman who

would consent to put on a pair of shoes. Shoes are the attribute and the

prerogative of disreputable women. When, some time ago, the wife of the

Madras governor thought of passing a law that should induce native

women to cover their breasts, the place was actually threatened with

a revolution. A kind of jacket is worn only by dancing girls. The

Government recognized that it would be unreasonable to irritate women,

who, very often, are more dangerous than their husbands and brothers,

and the custom, based on the law of Manu, and sanctified by three

thousand years' observance, remained unchanged.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

 

For more than two years before we left America we were in constant

correspondence with a certain learned Brahman, whose glory is great

at present (1879) all over India. We came to India to study, under his

guidance, the ancient country of Aryas, the Vedas, and their difficult

language. His name is Dayanand Saraswati Swami. Swami is the name of the

learned anchorites who are initiated into many mysteries unattainable by

common mortals. They are monks who never marry, but are quite different

from other mendicant brotherhoods, the so-called Sannyasi and Hossein.

This Pandit is considered the greatest Sanskritist of modern India

and is an absolute enigma to everyone. It is only five years since

he appeared on the arena of great reforms, but till then, he lived,

entirely secluded, in a jungle, like the ancient gymnosophists mentioned

by the Greek and Latin authors. At this time he was studying the chief

philosophical systems of the "Aryavartta" and the occult meaning of the

Vedas with the help of mystics and anchorites. All Hindus believe that

on the Bhadrinath Mountains (22,000 feet above the level of the sea)

there exist spacious caves, inhabited, now for many thousand years, by

these anchorites. Bhadrinath is situated in the north of Hindustan on

the river Bishegunj, and is celebrated for its temple of Vishnu right in

the heart of the town. Inside the temple there are hot mineral springs,

visited yearly by about fifty thousand pilgrims, who come to be purified

by them.

 

From the first day of his appearance Dayanand Saraswati produced

an immense impression and got the surname of the "Luther of India."

Wandering from one town to another, today in the South, tomorrow in the

North, and transporting himself from one end of the country to another

with incredible quickness, he has visited every part of India, from Cape

Comorin to the Himalayas, and from Calcutta to Bombay. He preaches the

One Deity and, "Vedas in hand," proves that in the ancient writings

there was not a word that could justify polytheism. Thundering against

idol worship, the great orator fights with all his might against caste,

infant marriages, and superstitions. Chastising all the evils grafted on

India by centuries of casuistry and false interpretation of the Vedas,

he blames for them the Brahmans, who, as he openly says before masses of

people, are alone guilty of the humiliation of their country, once great

and independent, now fallen and enslaved. And yet Great Britain has in

him not an enemy, but rather an ally. He says openly--"If you expel the

English, then, no later than tomorrow, you and I and everyone who rises

against idol worship will have our throats cut like mere sheep. The

Mussulmans are stronger than the idol worshippers; but these last

are stronger than we." The Pandit held many a warm dispute with the

Brah-mans, those treacherous enemies of the people, and has almost

 

always been victorious. In Benares secret assassins were hired to slay

him, but the attempt did not succeed. In a small town of Bengal, where

he treated fetishism with more than his usual severity, some fanatic

threw on his naked feet a huge cobra. There are two snakes deified by

the Brahman mythology: the one which surrounds the neck of Shiva on his

idols is called Vasuki; the other, Ananta, forms the couch of Vishnu. So

the worshipper of Shiva, feeling sure that his cobra, trained purposely

for the mysteries of a Shivaite pagoda, would at once make an end of

the offender's life, triumphantly exclaimed, "Let the god Vasuki himself

show which of us is right!"

 

Dayanand jerked off the cobra twirling round his leg, and with a single

vigorous movement, crushed the reptile's head. "Let him do so," he

quietly assented. "Your god has been too slow. It is I who have decided

the dispute, Now go," added he, addressing the crowd, "and tell everyone

how easily perish the false gods."

 

Thanks to his excellent knowledge of Sanskrit the Pandit does a great

service, not only to the masses, clearing their ignorance about the

monotheism of the Vedas, but to science too, showing who, exactly, are

the Brahmans, the only caste in India which, during centuries, had the

right to study Sanskrit literature and comment on the Vedas, and which

used this right solely for its own advantage.

 

Long before the time of such Orientalists as Burnouf, Colebrooke and Max

Muller, there have been in India many reformers who tried to prove the

pure monotheism of the Vedic doctrines. There have even been founders

of new religions who denied the revelations of these scriptures; for

instance, the Raja Ram Mohun Roy, and, after him, Babu Keshub Chunder

Sen, both Calcutta Bengalees. But neither of them had much success. They

did nothing but add new denominations to the numberless sects existing

in India. Ram Mohun Roy died in England, having done next to nothing,

and Keshub Chunder Sen, having founded the community of "Brahmo-Samaj,"

which professes a religion extracted from the depths of the Babu's own

imagination, became a mystic of the most pronounced type, and now

is only "a berry from the same field," as we say in Russia, as the

Spiritualists, by whom he is considered to be a medium and a Calcutta

Swedenborg. He spends his time in a dirty tank, singing praises to

Chaitanya, Koran, Buddha, and his own person, proclaiming himself their

prophet, and performs a mystical dance, dressed in woman's attire,

which, on his part, is an attention to a "woman goddess" whom the Babu

calls his "mother, father and eldest brother."

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

In short, all the attempts to re-establish the pure primitive monotheism

of Aryan India have been a failure. They always got wrecked upon the

double rock of Brahmanism and of prejudices centuries old. But lo! here

appears unexpectedly the pandit Dayanand. None, even of the most

beloved of his disciples, knows who he is and whence he comes. He openly

confesses before the crowds that the name under which he is known is not

his, but was given to him at the Yogi initiation.

 

The mystical school of Yogis was established by Patanjali, the founder

of one of the six philosophical systems of ancient India. It is supposed

that the Neo-platonists of the second and third Alexandrian Schools were

the followers of Indian Yogis, more especially was their theurgy brought

from India by Pythagoras, according to the tradition. There still exist

in India hundreds of Yogis who follow the system of Patanjali, and

assert that they are in communion with Brahma. Nevertheless, most of

them are do-nothings, mendicants by profession, and great frauds, thanks

to the insatiable longing of the natives for miracles. The real Yogis

avoid appearing in public, and spend their lives in secluded retirement

and studies, except when, as in Dayanand's case, they come forth in

time of need to aid their country. However, it is perfectly certain that

India never saw a more learned Sanskrit scholar, a deeper metaphysician,

a more wonderful orator, and a more fearless denunciator of every evil,

than Dayanand, since the time of Sankharacharya, the celebrated founder

of the Vedanta philosophy, the most metaphysical of Indian systems,

in fact, the crown of pantheistic teaching. Then, Dayanand's personal

appearance is striking. He is immensely tall, his complexion is pale,

rather European than Indian, his eyes are large and bright, and his

greyish hair is long. The Yogis and Dikshatas (initiated) never cut

either their hair or beard. His voice is clear and loud, well calculated

to give expression to every shade of deep feeling, ranging from a sweet

childish caressing whisper to thundering wrath against the evil doings

and falsehoods of the priests. All this taken together produces an

indescribable effect on the impressionable Hindu. Wherever Dayanand

appears crowds prostrate themselves in the dust over his footprints;

but, unlike Babu Keshub Chunder Sen, he does not teach a new

religion, does not invent new dogmas. He only asks them to renew their

half-forgotten Sanskrit studies, and, having compared the doctrines of

their forefathers with what they have become in the hands of Brahmans,

to return to the pure conceptions of Deity taught by the primitive

Rishis--Agni, Vayu, Aditya, and Anghira--the patriarchs who first gave

the Vedas to humanity. He does not even claim that the Vedas are a

heavenly revelation, but simply teaches that "every word in these

scriptures belongs to the highest inspiration possible to the earthly

man, an inspiration that is repeated in the history of humanity, and,

when necessary, may happen to any nation....."

 

During his five years of work Swami Dayanand made about two million

proselytes, chiefly amongst the higher castes. Judging by appearances,

they are all ready to sacrifice to him their lives and souls and even

their earthly possessions, which are often more precious to them than

their lives. But Dayanand is a real Yogi, he never touches money, and

despises pecuniary affairs. He contents himself with a few handfuls of

rice per day. One is inclined to think that this wonderful Hindu bears

a charmed life, so careless is he of rousing the worst human passions,

which are so dangerous in India. A marble statue could not be less moved

by the raging wrath of the crowd. We saw him once at work. He sent away

all his faithful followers and forbade them either to watch over him

or to defend him, and stood alone before the infuriated crowd, facing

calmly the monster ready to spring upon him and tear him to pieces.

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

 

Here a short explanation is necessary. A few years ago a society of

well-informed, energetic people was formed in New York. A certain

sharp-witted savant surnamed them "La Societe des Malcontents du

Spiritisme." The founders of this club were people who, believing in the

phenomena of spiritualism as much as in the possibility of every other

phenomenon in Nature, still denied the theory of the "spirits." They

considered that the modern psychology was a science still in the first

stages of its development, in total ignorance of the nature of the

psychic man, and denying, as do many other sciences, all that cannot be

explained according to its own particular theories.

 

From the first days of its existence some of the most learned Americans

joined the Society, which became known as the Theosophical Society. Its

members differed on many points, much as do the members of any other

Society, Geographical or Archeological, which fights for years over

the sources of the Nile, or the Hieroglyphs of Egypt. But everyone is

unanimously agreed that, as long as there is water in the Nile,

its sources must exist somewhere. So much about the phenomena of

spiritualism and mesmerism. These phenomena were still waiting their

Champollion--but the Rosetta stone was to be searched for neither in

Europe nor in America, but in the far-away countries where they still

believe in magic, where wonders are performed daily by the native

priesthood, and where the cold materialism of science has never yet

reached--in one word, in the East.

 

The Council of the Society knew that the Lama-Buddhists, for instance,

though not believing in God, and denying the personal immortality of the

soul, are yet celebrated for their "phenomena," and that mesmerism was

known and daily practised in China from time immemorial under the name

of "gina." In India they fear and hate the very name of the spirits whom

the Spiritualists venerate so deeply, yet many an ignorant fakir can

perform "miracles" calculated to turn upside-down all the notions of

a scientist and to be the despair of the most celebrated of European

prestidigitateurs. Many members of the Society have visited India--many

were born there and have themselves witnessed the "sorceries" of the

Brahmans. The founders of the Club, well aware of the depth of modern

ignorance in regard to the spiritual man, were most anxious that

Cuvier's method of comparative anatomy should acquire rights of

citizenship among metaphysicians, and, so, progress from regions

physical to regions psychological on its own inductive and deductive

foundation. "Otherwise," they thought, "psychology will be unable to

move forward a single step, and may even obstruct every other branch of

Natural History." Instances have not been wanting of physiology poaching

on the preserves of purely metaphysical and abstract knowledge, all

the time feigning to ignore the latter absolutely, and seeking to class

psychology with the positive sciences, having first bound it to a Bed

of Procrustes, where it refuses to yield its secret to its clumsy

tormentors.

 

In a short time the Theosophical Society counted its members, not

by hundreds, but by thousands. All the "malcontents" of American

Spiritualism--and there were at that time twelve million Spiritualists

in America--joined the Society. Collateral branches were formed in

London, Corfu, Australia, Spain, Cuba, California, etc. Everywhere

experiments were being performed, and the conviction that it is not

spirits alone who are the causes of the phenomena was becoming general.

 

In course of time branches of the Society were in India and in Ceylon.

The Buddhist and Brahmanical members became more numerous than the

Europeans. A league was formed, and to the name of the Society was

added the subtitle, "The Brotherhood of Humanity." After an active

correspondence between the Arya-Samaj, founded by Swami Dayanand, and

the Theosophical Society, an amalgamation was arranged between the

two bodies. Then the Chief Council of the New York branch decided upon

sending a special delegation to India, for the purpose of studying, on

the spot, the ancient language of the Vedas and the manuscripts and

the wonders of Yogism. On the 17th of December, 1878, the delegation,

composed of two secretaries and two members of the council of the

Theosophical Society, started from New York, to pause for a while in

London, and then to proceed to Bombay, where it landed in February,

1879.

 

It may easily be conceived that, under these circumstances, the members

of the delegation were better able to study the country and to make

fruitful researches than might, otherwise, have been the case. Today

they are looked upon as brothers and aided by the most influential

natives of India. They count among the members of their society

pandits of Benares and Calcutta, and Buddhist priests of the Ceylon

Viharas--amongst others the learned Sumangala, mentioned by Minayeff

in the description of his visit to Adam's Peak--and Lamas of Thibet,

Burmah, Travancore and elsewhere. The members of the delegation are

admitted to sanctuaries where, as yet, no European has set his foot.

Consequently they may hope to render many services to Humanity and

Science, in spite of the illwill which the representatives of positive

science bear to them.

 

As soon as the delegation landed, a telegram was despatched to Dayanand,

as everyone was anxious to make his personal acquaintance. In reply, he

said that he was obliged to go immediately to Hardwar, where hundreds of

thousands of pilgrims were expected to assemble, but he insisted on

our remaining behind, since cholera was certain to break out among the

devotees. He appointed a certain spot, at the foot of the Himalayas, in

the jab, where we were to meet in a month's time.

 

Alas! all this was written some time ago. Since then Swami Dayanand's

countenance has changed completely toward us. He is, now, an enemy of

the Theosophical Society and its two founders--Colonel Olcott and the

author of these letters. It appeared that, on entering into an offensive

and defensive alliance with the Society, Dayanand nourished the

hope that all its members, Christians, Brahmans and Buddhists, would

acknowledge His supremacy, and become members of the Arya Samaj.

 

Needless to say, this was impossible. The Theosophical Society rests on

the principle of complete non-interference with the religious beliefs

of its members. Toleration is its basis and its aims are purely

philosophical. This did not suit Dayanand. He wanted all the members,

either to become his disciples, or to be expelled from the Society. It

was quite clear that neither the President, nor the Council could assent

to such a claim. Englishmen and Americans, whether they were Christians

or Freethinkers, Buddhists, and especially Brahmans, revolted against

Dayanand, and unanimously demanded that the league should be broken.

 

However, all this happened later. At the time of which I speak we were

friends and allies of the Swami, and we learned with deep interest that

the Hardwar "mela," which he was to visit, takes place every twelve

years, and is a kind of religious fair, which attracts representatives

from all the numerous sects of India.

 

Learned dissertations are read by the disputants in defence of their

peculiar doctrines, and the debates are held in public. This year

the Hardwar gathering was exceptionally numerous. The Sannyasis--the

mendicant monks of India--alone numbered 35,000 and the cholera,

foreseen by the Swami, actually broke out.

 

 

 

As we were not yet to start for the appointed meeting, we had plenty of

spare time before us; so we proceeded to examine Bombay.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

The Tower of Silence, on the heights of the Malabar Hill, is the last

abode of all the sons of Zoroaster. It is, in fact, a Parsee cemetery.

Here their dead, rich and poor, men, women and children, are all laid in

a row, and in a few minutes nothing remains of them but bare skeletons.

A dismal impression is made upon a foreigner by these towers, where

absolute silence has reigned for centuries. This kind of building is

very common in every place were Parsees live and die. In Bombay, of six

towers, the largest was built 250 years ago, and the least but a short

time since. With few exceptions, they are round or square in shape, from

twenty to forty feet high, without roof, window, or door, but with a

single iron gate opening towards the East, and so small that it is

quite covered by a few bushes. The first corpse brought to a new

tower--"dakhma"--must be the body of the innocent child of a mobed

or priest. No one, not even the chief watcher, is allowed to approach

within a distance of thirty paces of these towers. Of all living human

beings "nassesalars"--corpse-carriers--alone enter and leave the "Tower

of Silence." The life these men lead is simply wretched. No European

executioner's position is worse. They live quite apart from the rest

of the world, in whose eyes they are the most abject of beings. Being

forbidden to enter the markets, they must get their food as they can.

They are born, marry, and die, perfect strangers to all except their own

class, passing through the streets only to fetch the dead and carry them

to the tower. Even to be near one of them is a degradation. Entering

the tower with a corpse, covered, whatever may have been its rank or

position, with old white rags, they undress it and place it, in

silence, on one of the three rows presently to be described. Then, still

preserving the same silence, they come out, shut the gate, and burn the

rags.

 

Amongst the fire-worshippers, Death is divested of all his majesty and

is a mere object of disgust. As soon as the last hour of a sick person

seems to approach, everyone leaves the chamber of death, as much to

avoid impeding the departure of the soul from the body, as to shun the

risk of polluting the living by contact with the dead. The mobed alone

stays with the dying man for a while, and having whispered into his ear

the Zend-Avesta precepts, "ashem-vohu" and "Yato-Ahuvarie," leaves the

room while the patient is still alive. Then a dog is brought and made

to look straight into his face. This ceremony is called "sas-did,"

the "dog's-stare." A dog is the only living creature that the

"Drux-nassu"--the evil one--fears, and that is able to prevent him from

taking possession of the body. It must be strictly observed that no

one's shadow lies between the dying man and the dog, otherwise the whole

strength of the dog's gaze will be lost, and the demon will profit by

the occasion. The body remains on the spot where life left it, until the

nassesalars appear, their arms hidden to the shoulders under old bags,

to take it away. Having deposited it in an iron coffin--the same for

everyone--they carry it to the dakhma. If any one, who has once been

carried thither, should happen to regain consciousness, the nassesalars

are bound to kill him; for such a person, who has been polluted by one

touch of the dead bodies in the dakhma, has thereby lost all right

to return to the living, by doing so he would contaminate the whole

community. As some such cases have occurred, the Parsees are trying to

get a new law passed, that would allow the miserable ex-corpses to live

again amongst their friends, and that would compel the nassesalars to

leave the only gate of the dakhma unlocked, so that they might find a

way of retreat open to them. It is very curious, but it is said that the

vultures, which devour without hesitation the corpses, will never touch

those who are only apparently dead, but fly away uttering loud shrieks.

After a last prayer at the gate of the dakhma, pronounced from afar by

the mobed, and re-peated in chorus by the nassesalars, the dog ceremony

is repeated. In Bombay there is a dog, trained for this purpose, at the

entrance to the tower. Finally, the body is taken inside and placed on

one or other of the rows, according to its sex and age.

 

We have twice been present at the ceremonies of dying, and once of

burial, if I may be permitted to use such an incongruous term. In this

respect the Parsees are much more tolerant than the Hindus, who are

offended by the mere presence at their religious rites of an European.

N. Bayranji, a chief official of the tower, invited us to his house to

be present at the burial of some rich woman. So we witnessed all that

was going on at a distance of about forty paces, sitting quietly on

our obliging host's verandah. While the dog was staring into the dead

woman's face, we were gazing, as intently, but with much more disgust,

at the huge flock of vultures above the dakhma, that kept entering the

tower, and flying out again with pieces of human flesh in their beaks.

These birds, that build their nests in thousands round the Tower of

Silence, have been purposely imported from Persia. Indian vultures

proved to be too weak, and not sufficiently bloodthirsty, to perform

the process of stripping the bones with the despatch prescribed by

Zoroaster. We were told that the entire operation of denuding the bones

occupies no more than a few minutes. As soon as the ceremony was over,

we were led into another building, where a model of the dakhma was to be

seen. We could now very easily imagine what was to take place presently

inside the tower. In the centre there is a deep waterless well, covered

with a grating like the opening into a drain. Around it are three broad

circles, gradually sloping downwards. In each of them are coffin-like

receptacles for the bodies. There are three hundred and sixty-five such

places. The first and smallest row is destined for children, the second

for women, and the third for men. This threefold circle is symbolical of

three cardinal Zoroastrian virtues--pure thoughts, kind words, and good

actions. Thanks to the vultures, the bones are laid bare in less than

an hour, and, in two or three weeks, the tropical sun scorches them into

such a state of fragility, that the slightest breath of wind is enough

to reduce them to powder and to carry them down into the pit. No smell

is left behind, no source of plagues and epidemics. I do not know that

this way may not be preferable to cremation, which leaves in the air

about the Ghat a faint but disagreeable odour. The Ghat is a place

by the sea, or river shore, where Hindus burn their dead. Instead of

feeding the old Slavonic deity "Mother Wet Earth" with carrion, Parsees

give to Armasti pure dust. Armasti means, literally, "fostering cow,"

and Zoroaster teaches that the cultivation of land is the noblest of all

occupations in the eyes of God. Accordingly, the worship of Earth is

so sacred among the Parsees, that they take all possible precautions

against polluting the "fostering cow" that gives them "a hundred golden

grains for every single grain." In the season of the Monsoon, when,

during four months, the rain pours incessantly down and washes into the

well everything that is left by the vultures, the water absorbed by the

earth is filtered, for the bottom of the well, the walls of which are

built of granite, is, to this end, covered with sand and charcoal.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

The sight of the Pinjarapala is less lugubrious and much more amusing.

The Pinjarapala is the Bombay Hospital for decrepit animals, but a

similar institution exists in every town where Jainas dwell. Being one

of the most ancient, this is also one of the most interesting, of the

sects of India. It is much older than Buddhism, which took its rise

about 543 to 477 B.C. Jainas boast that Buddhism is nothing more than a

mere heresy of Jainism, Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, having been a

disciple and follower of one of the Jaina Gurus. The customs, rites,

and philosophical conceptions of Jainas place them midway between the

Brahmanists and the Buddhists. In view of their social arrangements,

they more closely resemble the former, but in their religion they

incline towards the latter. Their caste divisions, their total

abstinence from flesh, and their non-worship of the relics of the

saints, are as strictly observed as the similar tenets of the Brahmans,

but, like Buddhists, they deny the Hindu gods and the authority of

the Vedas, and adore their own twenty-four Tirthankaras, or Jinas, who

belong to the Host of the Blissful. Their priests, like the Buddhists',

never marry, they live in isolated viharas and choose their successors

 

from amongst the members of any social class. According to them, Prakrit

is the only sacred language, and is used in their sacred literature,

as well as in Ceylon. Jainas and Buddhists have the same traditional

chronology. They do not eat after sunset, and carefully dust any place

before sitting down upon it, that they may not crush even the tiniest of

insects. Both systems, or rather both schools of philosophy, teach the

theory of eternal indestructible atoms, following the ancient atomistic

school of Kanada. They assert that the universe never had a beginning

and never will have an end. "The world and everything in it is but an

illusion, a Maya," say the Vedantists, the Buddhists, and the Jainas;

but, whereas the followers of Sankaracharya preach Parabrahm (a deity

devoid of will, understanding, and action, because "It is absolute

understanding, mind and will"), and Ishwara emanating from It, the

Jainas and the Buddhists believe in no Creator of the Universe,

but teach only the existence of Swabhawati, a plastic, infinite,

self-created principle in Nature. Still they firmly believe, as do

all Indian sects, in the transmigration of souls. Their fear, lest, by

killing an animal or an insect, they may, perchance, destroy the life of

an ancestor, develops their love and care for every living creature to

an almost incredible extent. Not only is there a hospital for invalid

animals in every town and village, but their priests always wear a

muslin muzzle, (I trust they will pardon the disrespectful expression!)

in order to avoid destroying even the smallest animalcule, by

inadvertence in the act of breathing. The same fear impels them to drink

only filtered water. There are a few millions of Jainas in Gujerat,

Bombay, Konkan, and some other places.

 

The Bombay Pinjarapala occupies a whole quarter of the town, and is

separated into yards, meadows and gardens, with ponds, cages for beasts

of prey, and enclosures for tame animals. This institution would have

served very well for a model of Noah's Ark. In the first yard, however,

we saw no animals, but, instead, a few hundred human skeletons--old men,

women and children. They were the remaining natives of the, so-called,

famine districts, who had crowded into Bombay to beg their bread. Thus,

while, a few yards off, the official "Vets." were busily bandaging the

broken legs of jackals, pouring ointments on the backs of mangy dogs,

and fitting crutches to lame storks, human beings were dying, at their

very elbows, of starvation. Happily for the famine-stricken, there were

at that time fewer hungry animals than usual, and so they were fed on

what remained from the meals of the brute pensioners. No doubt many of

these wretched sufferers would have consented to transmigrate instantly

into the bodies of any of the animals who were ending so snugly their

earthly careers.

 

But even the Pinjarajala roses are not without thorns. The graminivorous

"subjects," of course, could mot wish for anything better; but I doubt

very much whether the beasts of prey, such as tigers, hyenas, and

wolves, are content with the rules and the forcibly prescribed diet.

Jainas themselves turn with disgust even from eggs and fish, and, in

consequence, all the animals of which they have the care must turn

vegetarians. We were present when an old tiger, wounded by an English

bullet, was fed. Having sniffed at a kind of rice soup which was offered

to him, he lashed his tail, snarled, showing his yellow teeth, and with

a weak roar turned away from the food. What a look he cast askance upon

his keeper, who was meekly trying to persuade him to taste his nice

dinner! Only the strong bars of the cage saved the Jaina from a vigorous

protest on the part of this veteran of the forest. A hyena, with a

bleeding head and an ear half torn off, began by sitting in the trough

filled with this Spartan sauce, and then, without any further ceremony,

upset it, as if to show its utter contempt for the mess. The wolves

and the dogs raised such disconsolate howls that they attracted the

attention of two inseparable friends, an old elephant with a wooden

leg and a sore-eyed ox, the veritable Castor and Pollux of this

institution. In accordance with his noble nature, the first thought of

the elephant concerned his friend. He wound his trunk round the neck

of the ox, in token of protection, and both moaned dismally. Parrots,

storks, pigeons, flamingoes--the whole feathered tribe--revelled

in their breakfast. Monkeys were the first to answer the keeper's

invitation and greatly enjoyed themselves. Further on we were shown a

holy man, who was feeding insects with his own blood. He lay with his

eyes shut, and the scorching rays of the sun striking full upon his

naked body. He was literally covered with flies, mosquitoes, ants and

bugs.

 

"All these are our brothers," mildly observed the keeper, pointing to

the hundreds of animals and insects. "How can you Europeans kill and

even devour them?"

 

"What would you do," I asked, "if this snake were about to bite you? Is

it possible you would not kill it, if you had time?"

 

"Not for all the world. I should cautiously catch it, and then I should

carry it to some deserted place outside the town, and there set it

free."

 

"Nevertheless; suppose it bit you?"

 

"Then I should recite a mantram, and, if that produced no good result,

I should be fair to consider it as the finger of Fate, and quietly leave

this body for another."

 

These were the words of a man who was educated to a certain extent, and

very well read. When we pointed out that no gift of Nature is aimless,

and that the human teeth are all devouring, he answered by quoting whole

chapters of Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection and Origin of Species.

"It is not true," argued he, "that the first men were born with

canine teeth. It was only in course of time, with the degradation of

humanity,--only when the appetite for flesh food began to develop--that

the jaws changed their first shape under the influence of new

necessities."

 

I could not help asking myself, "Ou la science va-t'elle se fourrer?"

 

 

 

The same evening, in Elphinstone's Theatre, there was given a special

performance in honour of "the American Mission," as we are styled here.

Native actors represented in Gujerati the ancient fairy drama Sita-Rama,

that has been adapted from the Ramayana, the celebrated epic by Vilmiki.

This drama is composed of fourteen acts and no end of tableaux, in

addition to transformation scenes. All the female parts, as usual, were

acted by young boys, and the actors, accord-ing to the historical and

national customs, were bare-footed and half-naked. Still, the richness

of the costumes, the stage adornments and transformations, were truly

wonderful. For instance, even on the stages of large metropolitan

theatres, it would have been difficult to give a better representation

of the army of Rama's allies, who are nothing more than troops of

monkeys under the leadership of Hanuman--the soldier, statesman,

dramatist, poet, god, who is so celebrated in history (that of India

s.v.p.). The oldest and best of all Sanskrit dramas, Hanuman-Natak, is

ascribed to this talented forefather of ours.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

Alas! gone is the glorious time when, proud of our white skin (which

after all may be nothing more than the result of a fading, under the

influences of our northern sky), we looked down upon Hindus and

other "niggers" with a feeling of contempt well suited to our own

magnificence. No doubt Sir William Jones's soft heart ached, when

translating from the Sanskrit such humiliating sentences as the

following: "Hanuman is said to be the forefather of the Europeans."

Rama, being a hero and a demi-god, was well entitled to unite all

the bachelors of his useful monkey army to the daughters of the Lanka

(Ceylon) giants, the Rakshasas, and to present these Dravidian beauties

with the dowry of all Western lands. After the most pompous marriage

ceremonies, the monkey soldiers made a bridge, with the help of their

own tails, and safely landed with their spouses in Europe, where they

lived very happily and had a numerous progeny. This progeny are we,

Europeans. Dravidian words found in some European languages, in Basque

for instance, greatly rejoice the hearts of the Brahmans, who would

gladly promote the philologists to the rank of demi-gods for this

important discovery, which confirms so gloriously their ancient legend.

But it was Darwin who crowned the edifice of proof with the authority of

Western education and Western scientific literature. The Indians became

still more convinced that we are the veritable descendants of Hanuman,

and that, if one only took the trouble to examine carefully, our tails

might easily be discovered. Our narrow breeches and long skirts only add

to the evidence, however uncomplimentary the idea may be to us.

 

Still, if you consider seriously, what are we to say when Science, in

the person of Darwin, concedes this hypothesis to the wisdom of ancient

Aryas. We must perforce submit. And, really, it is better to have for a

forefather Hanu-man, the poet, the hero, the god, than any other monkey,

even though it be a tailless one. Sita-Rama belongs to the category

of mythological dramas, something like the tragedies of Aeschylus.

Listening to this production of the remotest antiquity, the spectators

are carried back to the times when the gods, descending upon earth, took

an active part in the everyday life of mortals. Nothing reminds one of

a modern drama, though the exterior arrangement is the same. "From the

sublime to the ridiculous there is but a step," and vice versa. The

goat, chosen for a sacrifice to Bacchus, presented the world tragedy

(greek script here). The death bleatings and buttings of the quadrupedal

offering of antiquity have been polished by the hands of time and of

civilization, and, as a result of this process, we get the dying

whisper of Rachel in the part of Adrienne Lecouvreur, and the fearfully

realistic "kicking" of the modern Croisette in the poisoning scene of

The Sphinx. But, whereas the descendants of Themistocles gladly receive,

whether captive or free, all the changes and improvements considered

as such by modern taste, thinking them to be a corrected and enlarged

edition of the genius of Aeschylus; Hindus, happily for archaeologists

and lovers of antiquity, have never moved a step since the times of our

much honoured forefather Hanuman.

 

We awaited the performance of Sita-Rama with the liveliest curiosity.

Except ourselves and the building of the theatre, everything was

strictly indigenous and nothing reminded us of the West. There was not

the trace of an orchestra. Music was only to be heard from the stage,

or from behind it. At last the curtain rose. The silence, which had been

very remarkable before the performance, considering the huge crowd

of spectators of both sexes, now became absolute. Rama is one of the

incarnations of Vishnu and, as most of the audience were worshippers of

Vishnu, for them the spectacle was not a mere theatrical performance,

but a religious mystery, representing the life and achievements of their

favourite and most venerated gods.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

The prologue was laid in the epoch before creation began (it may safely

be said that no dramatist would dare to choose an earlier one)--or,

rather, before the last manifestation of the universe. All the

philosophical sects of India, except Mussulmans, agree that the universe

has always existed. But the Hindus divide the periodical appearances and

vanishings into days and nights of Brahma. The nights, or withdrawals of

the objective universe, are called Pralayas, and the days, or epochs

of new awakening into life and light, are called Manvantaras, Yugas, or

"centuries of the gods." These periods are also called, respectively,

the inbreathings and outbreathings of Brahma. When Pralaya comes to an

end Brahma awakens, and, with this awakening, the universe that rested

in deity, in other words, that was reabsorbed in its subjective essence,

emanates from the divine principle and becomes visible. The gods, who

died at the same time as the universe, begin slowly to return to life.

The "Invisible" alone, the "Infinite," the "Lifeless," the One who is

the unconditioned original "Life" itself, soars, surrounded by shoreless

chaos. Its holy presence is not visible. It shows itself only in the

periodical pulsation of chaos, represented by a dark mass of waters

filling the stage. These waters are not, as yet, separated from the

dry land, because Brahma, the creative spirit of Narayana, has not yet

separated from the "Ever Unchanging." Then comes a heavy shock of

the whole mass and the waters begin to acquire transparency. Rays,

proceeding from a golden egg at the bottom, spread through the chaotic

waters. Receiving life from the spirit of Narayana, the egg bursts and

the awakened Brahma rises to the surface of the water in the shape of a

huge lotus. Light clouds appear, at first transparent and web-like. They

gradually become condensed, and transform themselves into Prajapatis,

the ten personified creative powers of Brahma, the god of everything

living, and sing a hymn of praise to the creator. Something naively

poetical, to our unaccustomed ears, breathed in this uniform melody

unaccompanied by any orchestra.

 

The hour of general revival has struck. Pralaya comes to an end.

Everything rejoices, returning to life. The sky is separated from the

waters and on it appear the Asuras and Gandharvas, the heavenly singers

and musicians. Then Indra, Yama, Varuna, and Kuvera, the spirits

presiding over the four cardinal points, or the four elements, water,

fire, earth, and air, pour forth atoms, whence springs the serpent

"Ananta." The monster swims to the surface of the waves and, bending its

swanlike neck, forms a couch on which Vishnu reclines with the Goddess

of Beauty, his wife Lakshmi, at his feet. "Swatha! Swatha! Swatha!"

cries the choir of heavenly musicians, hailing the deity. In the Russian

church service this is pronounced Swiat! Swiat! Swiat! and means holy!

holy! holy!

 

In one of his future avatars Vishnu will incarnate in Rama, the son of

a great king, and Lakshmi will become Sita. The motive of the whole poem

of Ramayana is sung in a few words by the celestial musicians. Kama, the

God of Love, shelters the divine couple and, that very moment, a flame

is lit in their hearts and the whole world is created.

 

Later there are performed the fourteen acts of the drama, which is well

known to everybody, and in which several hundred personages take part.

At the end of the prologue the whole assembly of gods come forward,

one after another, and acquaint the audience with the contents and the

epilogue of their performance, asking the public not to be too exacting.

It is as though all these familiar deities, made of painted granite and

marble, left the temples and came down to remind mortals of events long

past and forgotten.

 

The hall was full of natives. We four alone were representatives of

Europe. Like a huge flower bed, the women displayed the bright colors of

their garments. Here and there, among handsome, bronze-like heads, were

the pretty, dull white faces of Parsee women, whose beauty reminded me

of the Georgians. The front rows were occupied by women only. In India

it is quite easy to learn a person's religion, sect, and caste, and even

whether a woman is married or single, from the marks painted in bright

colors on everyone's forehead.

 

Since the time when Alexander the Great destroyed the sacred books of

the Gebars, they have constantly been oppressed by the idol worshippers.

King Ardeshir-Babechan restored fire worship in the years 229-243 A.C.

Since then they have again been persecuted during the reign of one of

the Shakpurs, either II., IX., or XI., of the Sassanids, but which of

them is not known. It is, however, reported that one of them was a great

protector of the Zartushta doctrines. After the fall of Yesdejird,

the fire-worshippers emigrated to the island of Ormasd, and, some time

later, having found a book of Zoroastrian prophecies, in obedience to

one of them they set out for Hindustan. After many wanderings,

they appeared, about 1,000 or 1,200 years ago, in the territory of

Maharana-Jayadeva, a vassal of the Rajput King Champanir, who allowed

them to colonize his land, but only on condition that they laid down

their weapons, that they abandoned the Persian language for Hindi, and

that their women put off their national dress and clothed themselves

after the manner of Hindu women. He, however, allowed them to wear

shoes, since this is strictly prescribed by Zoroaster. Since then very

few changes have been made. It follows that the Parsee women could only

be distinguished from their Hindu sisters by very slight differences.

The almost white faces of the former were separated by a strip of smooth

black hair from a sort of white cap, and the whole was covered with a

bright veil. The latter wore no covering on their rich, shining hair,

twisted into a kind of Greek chignon. Their foreheads were brightly

painted, and their nostrils adorned with golden rings. Both are fond of

bright, but uniform, colors, both cover their arms up to the elbow with

bangles, and both wear saris.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

Behind the women a whole sea of most wonderful turbans was waving in the

pit. There were long-haired Rajputs with regular Grecian features and

long beards parted in the middle, their heads covered with "pagris"

consisting of, at least, twenty yards of finest white muslin, and

their persons adorned with earrings and necklaces; there were Mahrata

Brahmans, who shave their heads, leaving only one long central lock, and

wear turbans of blinding red, decorated in front with a sort of golden

horn of plenty; Bangas, wearing three-cornered helmets with a kind of

cockscomb on the top; Kachhis, with Roman helmets; Bhillis, from the

borders of Rajastan, whose chins are wrapped three times in the ends

of their pyramidal turbans, so that the innocent tourist never fails to

think that they constantly suffer from toothache; Bengalis and Calcutta

Babus, bare-headed all the year round, their hair cut after an Athenian

fashion, and their bodies clothed in the proud folds of a white

toga-virilis, in no way different from those once worn by Roman

senators; Parsees, in their black, oilcloth mitres; Sikhs, the followers

of Nanaka, strictly monotheist and mystic, whose turbans are very like

the Bhillis', but who wear long hair down to their waists; and hundreds

of other tribes.

 

Proposing to count how many different headgears are to be seen in Bombay

alone, we had to abandon the task as impracticable after a fortnight.

Every caste, every trade, guild, and sect, every one of the thousand

sub-divisions of the social hierarchy, has its own bright turban, often

sparkling with gold lace and precious stones, which is laid aside only

in case of mourning. But, as if to compensate for this luxury, even the

mem-bers of the municipality, rich merchants, and Rai-Bahadurs, who have

been created baronets by the Government, never wear any stockings, and

leave their legs bare up to the knees. As for their dress, it chiefly

consists of a kind of shapeless white shirt.

 

In Baroda some Gaikwars (a title of all the Baroda princes) still keep

in their stables elephants and the less common giraffes, though the

former are strictly forbidden in the streets of Bombay. We had an

opportunity of seeing ministers, and even Rajas, mounted on these noble

animals, their mouths full of pansupari (betel leaves), their heads

drooping under the weight of the precious stones on their turbans, and

each of their fingers and toes adorned with rich golden rings. While

the evening I am describing lasted, however, we saw no elephants, no

giraffes, though we enjoyed the company of Rajas and ministers. We had

in our box the hand-some ambassador and late tutor of the Mahararana

of Oodeypore. Our companion was a Raja and a pandit. His name was a

Mohunlal-Vishnulal-Pandia. He wore a small pink turban sparkling with

diamonds, a pair of pink barege trousers, and a white gauze coat.

His raven black hair half covered his amber-colored neck, which was

surrounded by a necklace that might have driven any Parisian belle

frantic with envy. The poor Raiput was awfully sleepy, but he stuck

heroically to his duties, and, thoughtfully pulling his beard, led us

all through the endless labyrinth of metaphysical entanglements of the

Ramayana. During the entr'actes we were offered coffee, sherbets, and

cigarettes, which we smoked even during the performance, sitting in

front of the stage in the first row. We were covered, like idols, with

garlands of flowers, and the manager, a stout Hindu clad in transparent

muslins, sprinkled us several times with rose-water.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

The performance began at eight p.m. and, at half-past two, had only

reached the ninth act. In spite of each of us having a punkah-wallah

at our backs, the heat was unbearable. We had reached the limits of

our endurance, and tried to excuse ourselves. This led to general

disturbance, on the stage as well as in the auditorium. The airy

chariot, on which the wicked king Ravana was carrying Sita away, paused

in the air. The king of the Nagas (serpents) ceased breathing flames,

the monkey soldiers hung motionless on the trees, and Rama himself, clad

in light blue and crowned with a diminutive pagoda, came to the front of

the stage and pronounced in pure English speech, in which he thanked

us for the honour of our presence. Then new bouquets, pansu-paris, and

rose-water, and, finally, we reached home about four a.m. Next morning

we learned that the performance had ended at half-past six.

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

 

 

On The Way To Karli

 

 

 

It is an early morning near the end of March. A light breeze caresses

with its velvety hand the sleepy faces of the pilgrims; and the

intoxicating perfume of tuberoses mingles with the pungent odors of the

bazaar. Crowds of barefooted Brahman women, stately and well-formed,

direct their steps, like the biblical Rachel, to the well, with brass

water pots bright as gold upon their heads. On our way lie numerous

sacred tanks, filled with stagnant water, in which Hindus of both sexes

perform their prescribed morning ablutions. Under the hedge of a garden

somebody's tame mongoose is devouring the head of a cobra. The headless

body of the snake convulsively, but harmlessly, beats against the thin

flanks of the little animal, which regards these vain efforts with an

evident delight. Side by side with this group of animals is a human

figure; a naked mali (gardener), offering betel and salt to a monstrous

stone idol of Shiva, with the view of pacifying the wrath of the

"Destroyer," excited by the death of the cobra, which is one of his

favourite servants. A few steps before reaching the railway station, we

meet a modest Catholic procession, consisting of a few newly converted

pariahs and some of the native Portuguese. Under a baldachin is a

litter, on which swings to and fro a dusky Madonna dressed after the

fashion of the native goddesses, with a ring in her nose. In her arms

she carries the holy Babe, clad in yellow pyjamas and a red Brah-manical

turban. "Hari, hari, devaki!" ("Glory to the holy Virgin!") exclaim the

converts, unconscious of any difference between the Devaki, mother of

Krishna, and the Catholic Madonna. All they know is that, excluded from

the temples by the Brahmans on account of their not belonging to any

of the Hindu castes, they are admitted sometimes into the Christian

pagodas, thanks to the "padris," a name adopted from the Portuguese

padre, and applied indiscriminately to the missionaries of every

European sect.

 

At last, our gharis--native two-wheeled vehicles drawn by a pair of

strong bullocks--arrived at the station. English employes open wide

their eyes at the sight of white-faced people travelling about the town

in gilded Hindu chariots. But we are true Americans, and we have come

hither to study, not Europe, but India and her products on the spot.

 

If the tourist casts a glance on the shore opposite to the port of

Bombay, he will see a dark blue mass rising like a wall between himself

and the horizon. This is Parbul, a flat-topped mountain 2,250 feet high.

Its right slope leans on two sharp rocks covered with woods. The highest

of them, Mataran, is the object of our trip. From Bombay to Narel, a

station situated at the foot of this mountain, we are to travel four

hours by railway, though, as the crow flies, the distance is not more

than twelve miles. The railroad wanders round the foot of the most

charming little hills, skirts hundreds of pretty lakes, and pierces with

more than twenty tunnels the very heart of the rocky ghats.

 

We were accompanied by three Hindu friends. Two of them once belonged to

a high caste, but were excommunicated from their pagoda for association

and friendship with us, unworthy foreigners. At the station our party

was joined by two more natives, with whom we had been in correspondence

for many a year. All were members of our Society, reformers of the Young

India school, enemies of Brahmans, castes, aid prejudices, and were to

be our fellow-travelers and visit with us the annual fair at the temple

festivities of Karli, stopping on the way at Mataran and Khanduli.

One was a Brahman from Poona, the second a moodeliar (landowner)

from Madras, the third a Singalese from Kegalla, the fourth a Bengali

Zemindar, and the fifth a gigantic Rajput, whom we had known for a long

time by the name of Gulab-Lal-Sing, and had called simply Gulab-Sing. I

shall dwell upon his personality more than on any of the others, because

the most wonderful and diverse stories were in circulation about this

strange man. It was asserted that he belonged to the sect of Raj-Yogis,

and was an initiate of the mysteries of magic, alchemy, and various

other occult sciences of India. He was rich and independent, and rumour

did not dare to suspect him of deception, the more so because, though

quite full of these sciences, he never uttered a word about them in

public, and carefully concealed his knowledge from all except a few

friends.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

He was an independent Takur from Rajistan, a province the name of which

means the land of kings. Takurs are, almost without exception, descended

from the Surya (sun), and are accordingly called Suryavansa. They are

prouder than any other nation in the world. They have a proverb, "The

dirt of the earth cannot stick to the rays of the sun." They do not

despise any sect, except the Brahmans, and honor only the bards who sing

their military achievements. Of the latter Colonel Tod writes somewhat

as follows,* "The magnificence and luxury of the Rajput courts in the

early periods of history were truly wonderful, even when due allowance

is made for the poetical license of the bards. From the earliest times

Northern India was a wealthy country, and it was precisely here that

was situated the richest satrapy of Darius. At all events, this country

abounded in those most striking events which furnish history with her

richest materials. In Rajistan every small kingdom had its Thermopylae,

and every little town has produced its Leonidas. But the veil of the

centuries hides from posterity events that the pen of the historian

might have bequeathed to the everlasting admiration of the nations.

Somnath might have appeared as a rival of Delphi, the treasures of Hind

might outweigh the riches of the King of Lydia, while compared with the

army of the brothers Pandu, that of Xerxes would seem an inconsiderable

handful of men, worthy only to rank in the second place."

 

 

* In nearly every instance the passages quoted from various authorities

have been retranslated from the Russian. As the time and labor needful

for verification would he too great, the sense only of these passages is

given here. They do not pretend to be textual.--Translator

 

 

England did not disarm the Rajputs, as she did the rest of the Indian

nations, so Gulab-Sing came accompanied by vassals and shield-bearers.

 

Possessing an inexhaustible knowledge of legends, and being evidently

well acquainted with the antiquities of his country, Gulab-Sing proved

to be the most interesting of our companions.

 

"There, against the blue sky," said Gulab-Lal-Sing, "you behold the

majestic Bhao Mallin. That deserted spot was once the abode of a holy

hermit; now it is visited yearly by crowds of pilgrims. According to

popular belief the most wonderful things happen there--miracles. At the

top of the mountain, two thousand feet above the level of the sea, is

the platform of a fortress. Behind it rises another rock two hundred and

seventy feet in height, and at the very summit of this peak are to be

found the ruins of a still more ancient fortress, which for seventy-five

years served as a shelter for this hermit. Whence he obtained his food

will for ever remain a mystery. Some think he ate the roots of wild

plants, but upon this barren rock there is no vegetation. The only mode

of ascent of this perpendicular mountain consists of a rope, and holes,

just big enough to receive the toes of a man, cut out of the living

rock. One would think such a pathway accessible only to acrobats and

monkeys. Surely fanaticism must provide wings for the Hindus, for no

accident has ever happened to any of them. Unfortunately, about forty

years ago, a party of Englishmen conceived the unhappy thought of

exploring the ruins, but a strong gust of wind arose and carried them

over the precipice. After this, General Dickinson gave orders for the

destruction of all means of communication with the upper fortress, and

the lower one, once the cause of so many losses and so much bloodshed,

is now entirely deserted, and serves only as a shelter for eagles and

tigers."

 

Listening to these tales of olden times, I could not help comparing the

past with the present. What a difference!

 

"Kali-Yug!" cry old Hindus with grim despair. "Who can strive against

the Age of Darkness?"

 

This fatalism, the certainty that nothing good can be expected now, the

conviction that even the powerful god Shiva himself can neither appear

nor help them are all deeply rooted in the minds of the old generation.

As for the younger men, they receive their education in high schools and

universities, learn by heart Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, Darwin

and the German philosophers, and entirely lose all respect, not only for

their own religion, but for every other in the world.

 

The young "educated" Hindus are materialists almost without exception,

and often achieve the last limits of Atheism. They seldom hope to attain

to anything better than a situation as "chief mate of the junior clerk,"

as we say in Russia, and either become sycophants, disgusting flatterers

of their present lords, or, which is still worse, or at any rate

sillier, begin to edit a newspaper full of cheap liberalism, which

gradually develops into a revolutionary organ.

 

But all this is only en passant. Compared with the mysterious and

grandiose past of India, the ancient Aryavarta, her present is a

natural Indian ink background, the black shadow of a bright picture, the

inevitable evil in the cycle of every nation. India has become decrepit

and has fallen down, like a huge memorial of antiquity, prostrate and

broken to pieces. But the most insignificant of these fragments will for

ever remain a treasure for the archeologist and the artist, and, in

the course of time, may even afford a clue to the philosopher and the

psychologist. "Ancient Hindus built like giants and finished their work

like goldsmiths," says Archbishop Heber, describing his travel in India.

In his description of the Taj-Mahal of Agra, that veritable eighth

wonder of the world, he calls it "a poem in marble." He might have added

that it is difficult to find in India a ruin, in the least state of

preservation, that cannot speak, more eloquently than whole volumes, of

the past of India, her religious aspirations, her beliefs and hopes.

 

There is not a country of antiquity, not even excluding the Egypt of

the Pharaohs, where the development of the subjective ideal into

its demonstration by an objective symbol has been expressed more

graphically, more skillfully, and artistically, than in India. The whole

pantheism of the Vedanta is contained in the symbol of the bisexual

deity Ardhanari. It is surrounded by the double triangle, known in India

under the name of the sign of Vishnu. By his side lie a lion, a bull,

and an eagle. In his hands there rests a full moon, which is reflected

in the waters at his feet. The Vedanta has taught for thousands of years

what some of the German philosophers began to preach at the end of last

century and the beginning of this one, namely, that everything objective

in the world, as well as the world itself, is no more than an illusion,

a Maya, a phantom created by our imagination, and as unreal as the

reflection of the moon upon the surface of the waters. The phenomenal

world, as well as the subjectivity of our conception concerning our

Egos, are nothing but, as it were, a mirage. The true sage will never

submit to the temptations of illusion. He is well aware that man will

attain to self-knowledge, and become a real Ego, only after the entire

union of the personal fragment with the All, thus becoming an immutable,

infinite, universal Brahma. Accordingly, he considers the whole cycle of

birth, life, old age, and death as the sole product of imagination.

 

Generally speaking, Indian philosophy, split up as it is into numerous

metaphysical teachings, possesses, when united to Indian ontological

doctrines, such a well developed logic, such a wonderfully refined

psychology, that it might well take the first rank when contrasted with

the schools, ancient and modern, idealist or positivist, and eclipse

them all in turn. That positivism expounded by Lewis, that makes each

particular hair on the heads of Oxford theologians stand on end,

is ridiculous child's play compared with the atomistic school of

Vaisheshika, with its world divided, like a chessboard, into six

categories of everlasting atoms, nine substances, twenty-four qualities,

and five motions. And, however difficult, and even impossible may

seem the exact representation of all these abstract ideas, idealistic,

pantheistic, and, sometimes, purely material, in the condensed shape of

allegorical symbols, India, nevertheless, has known how to express all

these teachings more or less successfully. She has immortalized them in

her ugly, four-headed idols, in the geometrical, complicated forms of

her temples, and even in the entangled lines and spots on the foreheads

of her sectaries.

 

We were discussing this and other topics with our Hindu

fellow-travellers when a Catholic padre, a teacher in the Jesuit College

of St. Xavier in Bombay, entered our carriage at one of the stations.

Soon he could contain himself no longer, and joined in our conversation.

Smiling and rubbing his hands, he said that he was curious to know

on the strength of what sophistry our companions could find anything

resembling a philosophical explanation "in the fundamental idea of the

four faces of this ugly Shiva, crowned with snakes," pointing with his

finger to the idol at the entrance to a pagoda.

 

"It is very simple," answered the Bengali Babu. "You see that its four

faces are turned towards the four cardinal points, South, North, West,

and East--but all these faces are on one body and belong to one god."

 

"Would you mind explaining first the philosophical idea of the four

faces and eight hands of your Shiva," interrupted the padre.

 

"With great pleasure. Thinking that our great Rudra (the Vedic name

for this god) is omnipresent, we represent him with his face turned

simultaneously in all directions. Eight hands indicate his omnipotence,

and his single body serves to remind us that he is One, though he is

everywhere, and nobody can avoid his all-seeing eye, or his chastising

hand."

 

The padre was going to say something when the train stopped; we had

arrived at Narel.

 

It is hardly twenty-five years since, for the first time, a white man

ascended Mataran, a huge mass of various kinds of trap rock, for the

most part crystalline in form. Though quite near to Bombay, and only

a few miles from Khandala, the summer residence of the Europeans, the

threatening heights of this giant were long considered inaccessible. On

the north, its smooth, almost vertical face rises 2,450 feet over the

valley of the river Pen, and, further on, numberless separate rocks

and hillocks, covered with thick vegetation, and divided by valleys and

precipices, rise up to the clouds. In 1854, the railway pierced one of

the sides of Mataran, and now has reached the foot of the last mountain,

stopping at Narel, where, not long ago, there was nothing but a

precipice. From Narel to the upper plateau is but eight miles, which you

may travel on a pony, or in an open or closed palanquin, as you choose.

 

Considering that we arrived at Narel about six in the evening, this

course was not very tempting. Civilization has done much with inanimate

nature, but, in spite of all its despotism, it has not yet been able to

conquer tigers and snakes. Tigers, no doubt, are banished to the

more remote jungles, but all hinds of snakes, especially cobras and

coralillos, which last by preference inhabit trees, still abound in

the forests of Mataran as in days of old, and wage a regular guerilla

warfare against the invaders. Woe betide the belated pedestrian, or even

horseman, if he happens to pass under a tree which forms the ambuscade

of a coralillo snake! Cobras and other reptiles seldom attack men, and

will generally try to avoid them, unless accidentally trodden upon,

but these guerilleros of the forest, the tree serpents, lie in wait for

their victims. As soon as the head of a man comes under the branch which

shelters the coralillo, this enemy of man, coiling its tail round

the branch, dives down into space with all the length of is body, and

strikes with its fangs at the man's forehead. This curious fact was long

considered to be a mere fable, but it has now been verified, and belongs

to the natural history of India. In these cases the natives see in the

snake the envoy of Death, the fulfiller of the will of the bloodthirsty

Kali, the spouse of Shiva.

 

But evening, after the scorchingly hot day, was so tempting, and held

out to us from the distance such promise of delicious coolness, that we

decided upon risking our fate. In the heart of this wondrous nature one

longs to shake off earthly chains, and unite oneself with the boundless

life, so that death itself has its attractions in India.

 

Besides, the full moon was about to rise at eight p.m. Three hours'

ascent of the mountain, on such a moonlit, tropical night as would tax

the descriptive powers of the greatest artists, was worth any sacrifice.

Apropos, among the few artists who can fix upon canvas the subtle charm

of a moonlit night in India public opinion begins to name our own V.V.

Vereshtchagin.

 

Having dined hurriedly in the dak bungalow we asked for our sedan

chairs, and, drawing our roof-like topees over our eyes, we started.

Eight coolies, clad, as usual, in vine-leaves, took possession of each

chair and hurried up the mountain, uttering the shrieks and yells no

true Hindu can dispense with. Each chair was accompanied besides by a

relay of eight more porters. So we were sixty-four, without counting

the Hindus and their servants--an army sufficient to frighten any stray

leopard or jungle tiger, in fact any animal, except our fearless cousins

on the side of our great-grandfather Hanuman. As soon as we turned into

a thicket at the foot of the Mountain, several dozens of these kinsmen

joined our procession. Thanks to the achievements of Rama's ally,

 

monkeys are sacred in India. The Government, emulating the earlier

wisdom of the East India Company, forbids everyone to molest them, not

only when met with in the forests, which in all justice belong to them,

but even when they invade the city gardens. Leaping from one branch

to another, chattering like magpies, and making the most formidable

grimaces, they followed us all the way, like so many midnight spooks.

Sometimes they hung on the trees in full moonlight, like forest nymphs

of Russian mythology; sometimes they preceded us, awaiting our arrival

at the turns of the road as if showing us the way. They never left us.

One monkey babe alighted on my knees. In a moment the authoress of his

being, jumping without any ceremony over the coolies' shoulders, came to

his rescue, picked him up, and, after making the most ungodly grimace at

me, ran away with him.

 

"Bandras (monkeys) bring luck with their presence," remarked one of

the Hindus, as if to console me for the loss of my crumpled topee.

"Besides," he added, "seeing them here we may be sure that there is not

a single tiger for ten miles round."

 

Higher and higher we ascended by the steep winding path, and the forest

grew perceptibly thicker, darker, and more impenetrable. Some of the

thickets were as dark as graves. Passing under hundred-year-old banyans

it was impossible to distinguish one's own finger at the distance of two

inches. It seemed to me that in certain places it would not be possible

to advance without feeling our way, but our coolies never made a false

step, but hastened onwards. Not one of us uttered a word. It was as if

we had agreed to be silent at these moments. We felt as though wrapped

in the heavy veil of dark-ness, and no sound was heard but the short,

irregular breathing of the porters, and the cadence of their quick,

nervous footsteps upon the stony soil of the path. One felt sick at

heart and ashamed of belonging to that human race, one part of which

makes of the other mere beasts of burden. These poor wretches are paid

for their work four annas a day all the year round. Four annas for going

eight miles upwards and eight miles downwards not less than twice a

day; altogether thirty-two miles up and down a mountain 1,500 feet high,

carrying a burden of two hundredweight! However, India is a country

where everything is adjusted to never changing customs, and four annas a

day is the pay for unskilled labor of any kind.

 

Gradually open spaces and glades became more frequent and the light grew

as intense as by day. Millions of grasshoppers were shrilling in

the forest, filling the air with a metallic throbbing, and flocks of

frightened parrots rushed from tree to tree. Sometimes the thundering,

prolonged roars of tigers rose from the bottom of the precipices thickly

covered with all kinds of vegetation. Shikaris assure us that, on a

quiet night, the roaring of these beasts can be heard for many miles

around. The panorama, lit up, as if by Bengal fires, changed at every

turn. Rivers, fields, forests, and rocks, spread out at our feet over

an enormous distance, moved and trembled, iridescent, in the silvery

moonlight, like the tides of a mirage. The fantastic character of the

pictures made us hold our breath. Our heads grew giddy if, by chance, we

glanced down into the depths by the flickering moonlight. We felt that

the precipice, 2,000 feet deep, was fascinating us. One of our American

fellow travelers, who had begun the voyage on horseback, had to

dismount, afraid of being unable to resist the temptation to dive head

foremost into the abyss.

 

Several times we met with lonely pedestrians, men and young women,

coming down Mataran on their way home after a day's work. It often

happens that some of them never reach home. The police unconcernedly

report that the missing man has been carried off by a tiger, or killed

by a snake. All is said, and he is soon entirely forgotten. One person,

more or less, out of the two hundred and forty millions who inhabit

India does not matter much! But there exists a very strange superstition

in the Deccan about this mysterious, and only partially explored,

mountain. The natives assert that, in spite of the considerable number

of victims, there has never been found a single skeleton. The corpse,

whether intact or mangled by tigers, is immediately carried away by the

monkeys, who, in the latter case, gather the scattered bones, and bury

them skillfully in deep holes, that no traces ever remain. Englishmen

laugh at this superstition, but the police do not deny the fact of the

entire disappearance of the bodies. When the sides of the mountain were

excavated, in the course of the construction of the railway, separate

bones, with the marks of tigers' teeth upon them, broken bracelets, and

other adornments, were found at an incredible depth from the surface.

The fact of these things being broken showed clearly that they were not

buried by men, because, neither the religion of the Hindus, nor their

greed, would allow them to break and bury silver and gold. Is it

possible, then, that, as amongst men one hand washes the other, so in

the animal kingdom one species conceals the crimes of another?

 

Having spent the night in a Portuguese inn, woven like an eagle's nest

out of bamboos, and clinging to the almost vertical side of a rock, we

rose at daybreak, and, having visited all the points de vue famed for

their beauty, made our preparations to return to Narel. By daylight

the panorama was still more splendid than by night; volumes would not

suffice to describe it. Had it not been that on three sides the horizon

was shut out by rugged ridges of mountain, the whole of the Deccan

plateau would have appeared before our eyes. Bombay was so distinct that

it seemed quite near to us, and the channel that separates the town from

Salsetta shone like a tiny silvery streak. It winds like a snake on its

way to the port, surrounding Kanari and other islets, which look the

very image of green peas scattered on the white cloth of its bright

waters, and, finally, joins the blinding line of the Indian Ocean in the

extreme distance. On the outer side is the northern Konkan, terminated

by the Tal-Ghats, the needle-like summits of the Jano-Maoli rocks, and,

lastly, the battlemented ridge of Funell, whose bold silhouette stands

out in strong relief against the distant blue of the dim sky, like a

giant's castle in some fairy tale. Further on looms Parbul, whose flat

summit, in the days of old, was the seat of the gods, whence, according

to the legends, Vishnu spoke to mortals. And there below, where the

defile widens into a valley, all covered with huge separate rocks, each

of which is crowded with historical and mythological legends, you may

perceive the dim blue ridge of mountains, still loftier and still more

strangely shaped. That is Khandala, which is overhung by a huge stone

block, known by the name of the Duke's Nose. On the opposite side, under

the very summit of the mountain, is situated Karli, which, according

to the unanimous opinion or archeologists, is the most ancient and best

preserved of Indian cave temples.

 

One who has traversed the passes of the Caucasus again and again; one

who, from the top of the Cross Mountain, has beheld beneath her feet

thunderstorms and lightnings; who has visited the Alps and the Rigi;

who is well acquainted with the Andes and Cordilleras, and knows

every corner of the Catskills in America, may be allowed, I hope, the

expression of a humble opinion. The Caucasian Mountains, I do not deny,

are more majestic than Ghats of India, and their splendour cannot be

dimmed by comparison with these; but their beauty is of a type, if I may

use this expression. At their sight one experiences true delight, but

at the same time a sensation of awe. One feels like a pigmy before

these Titans of nature. But in India, the Himalayas excepted, mountains

produce quite a different impression. The highest summits of the Deccan,

as well as of the triangular ridge that fringes Northern Hindostan, and

of the Eastern Ghats, do not exceed 3,000 feet. Only in the Ghats of the

Malabar coast, from Cape Comorin to the river Surat, are there heights

of 7,000 feet above the surface of the sea. So that no comparison can

be dawn between these and the hoary headed patriarch Elbruz, or Kasbek,

which exceeds 18,000 feet. The chief and original charm of Indian

mountains wonderfully consists in their capricious shapes. Sometimes

these mountains, or, rather, separate volcanic peaks standing in a row,

form chains; but it is more common to find them scattered, to the great

perplexity of geologists, without visible cause, in places where the

formation seems quite unsuitable. Spacious valleys, surrounded by high

walls of rock, over the very ridge of which passes the railway, are

common. Look below, and it will seem to you that you are gazing upon

the studio of some whimsical Titanic sculptor, filled with half finished

groups, statues, and monuments. Here is a dream-land bird, seated upon

the head of a monster six hundred feet high, spreading its wings

and widely gaping its dragon's mouth; by its side the bust of a man,

surmounted by a helmet, battlemented like the walls of a feudal castle;

there, again, new monsters devouring each other, statues with broken

limbs, disorderly heaps of huge balls, lonely fortresses with loopholes,

ruined towers and bridges. All this scattered and intermixed with

shapes changing incessantly like the dreams of delirium. And the chief

attraction is that nothing here is the result of art, everything is the

pure sport of Nature, which, however, has occasionally been turned to

account by ancient builders. The art of man in India is to be sought

in the interior of the earth, not on its surface. Ancient Hindus seldom

built their temples otherwise than in the bosom of the earth, as

though they were ashamed of their efforts, or did not dare to rival the

sculpture of nature. Having chosen, for instance, a pyramidal rock, or

a cupola shaped hillock like Elephanta, Or Karli, they scraped away

inside, according to the Puranas, for centuries, planning on so grand a

style that no modern architecture has been able to conceive anything

to equal it. Fables (?) about the Cyclops seem truer in India than in

Egypt.

 

The marvellous railroad from Narel to Khandala reminds one of a similar

line from Genoa up the Apenines. One may be said to travel in the air,

not on land. The railway traverses a region 1,400 feet above Konkan,

and, in some places, while one rail is laid on the sharp edge of the

rock, the other is supported on vaults and arches. The Mali Khindi

viaduct is 163 feet high. For two hours we hastened on between sky and

earth, with abysses on both sides thickly covered with mango trees and

bananas. Truly English engineers are wonderful builders.

 

The pass of Bhor-Ghat is safely accomplished and we are in Khandala.

Our bungalow here is built on the very edge of a ravine, which nature

herself has carefully concealed under a cover of the most luxuriant

vegetation. Everything is in blossom, and, in this unfathomed recess,

a botanist might find sufficient material to occupy him for a lifetime.

Palms have disappeared; for the most part they grow only near the

sea. Here they are replaced by bananas, mango trees, pipals (ficus

religiosa), fig trees, and thousands of other trees and shrubs, unknown

to such outsiders as ourselves. The Indian flora is too often slandered

and misrepresented as being full of beautiful, but scentless, flowers.

At some seasons this may be true enough, but, as long as jasmines,

the various balsams, white tuberoses, and golden champa (champaka or

frangipani) are in blossom, this statement is far from being true. The

aroma of champa alone is so powerful as to make one almost giddy. For

size, it is the king of flowering trees, and hundreds of them were in

full bloom, just at this time of year, on Mataran and Khandala.

 

We sat on the verandah, talking and enjoying the surrounding views,

until well-nigh midnight. Everything slept around us.

 

Khandala is nothing but a big village, situated on the flat top of one

of the mountains of the Sahiadra range, about 2,200 feet above the sea

level. It is surrounded by isolated peaks, as strange in shape as any we

have seen.

 

One of them, straight before us, on the opposite side of the abyss,

looked exactly like a long, one-storied building, with a flat roof and

a battlemented parapet. The Hindus assert that, somewhere about this

hillock, there exists a secret entrance, leading into vast interior

halls, in fact to a whole subterranean palace, and that there still

exist people who possess the secret of this abode. A holy hermit, Yogi,

and Magus, who had inhabited these caves for "many centuries," imparted

this secret to Sivaji, the celebrated leader of the Mahratta armies.

Like Tanhauser, in Wagner's opera, the unconquerable Sivaji spent seven

years of his youth in this mysterious abode, and therein acquired his

extraordinary strength and valour.

 

Sivaji is a kind of Indian Ilia Moorometz, though his epoch is much

nearer to our times. He was the hero and the king of the Mahrattas in

the seventeenth century, and the founder of their short-lived empire. It

is to him that India owes the weakening, if not the entire destruction,

of the Mussulman yoke. No taller than an ordinary woman, and with the

hand of a child, he was, nevertheless, possessed of wonderful strength,

which, of course, his compatriots ascribed to sorcery. His sword is

still preserved in a museum, and one cannot help wondering at its size

and weight, and at the hilt, through which only a ten-year-old child

could put his hand. The basis of this hero's fame is the fact that

he, the son of a poor officer in the service of a Mogul emperor, like

another David, slew the Mussulman Goliath, the formidable Afzul Khan.

It was not, however, with a sling that he killed him, he used in this

combat the formidable Mahratti weapon, vaghnakh, consisting of five long

steel nails, as sharp as needles, and very strong. This weapon is worn

on the fingers, and wrestlers use it to tear each other's flesh like

wild animals. The Deccan is full of legends about Sivaji, and even

the English historians mention him with respect. Just as in the fable

respecting Charles V, one of the local Indian traditions asserts that

Sivaji is not dead, but lives secreted in one of the Sahiadra caves.

When the fateful hour strikes (and according to the calculations of the

astrologers the time is not far off) he will reappear, and will bring

freedom to his beloved country.

 

The learned and artful Brahmans, those Jesuits of India, profit by

the profound superstition of the masses to extort wealth from them,

sometimes to the last cow, the only food giver of a large family.

 

In the following passage I give a curious example of this. At the end

of July, 1879, this mysterious document appeared in Bombay. I translate

literally, from the Mahratti, the original having been translated into

all the dialects of India, of which there are 273.

 

"Shri!" (an untranslatable greeting). "Let it be known unto every one

that this epistle, traced in the original in golden letters, came down

from Indra-loka (the heaven of Indra), in the presence of holy Brahmans,

on the altar of the Vishveshvara temple, which is in the sacred town of

Benares.

 

"Listen and remember, O tribes of Hindustan, Rajis-tan, Punjab, etc.,

etc. On Saturday, the second day of the first half of the month Magha,

1809, of Shalivahan's era" (1887 A.D.), "the eleventh month of the

Hindus, during the Ashwini Nakshatra" (the first of the twenty-seven

constellations on the moon's path), "when the sun enters the sign

Capricorn, and the time of the day will be near the constellation

Pisces, that is to say, exactly one hour and thirty-six minutes after

sunrise, the hour of the end of the Kali-Yug will strike, and the

much desired Satya-Yug will commence" (that is to say, the end of the

Maha-Yug, the great cycle that embraces the four minor Yugas). "This

time Satya-Yug will last 1,100 years. During all this time a man's

lifetime will be 128 years. The days will become longer and will consist

of twenty hours and forty-eight minutes, and the nights of thirteen

hours and twelve minutes, that is to say, instead of twenty-four hours

we shall have exactly thirty-four hours and one minute. The first day

of Satya-Yug will be very important for us, because it is then that will

appear to us our new King with white face and golden hair, who will come

from the far North. He will become the autonomous Lord of India. The

Maya of human unbelief, with all the heresies over which it presides,

will be thrown down to Patala" (sig-nifying at once hell and the

antipodes), "and the Maya of the righteous and pious will abide with

them, and will help them to enjoy life in Mretinloka" (our earth).

 

"Let it also be known to everyone that, for the dissemination of this

divine document, every separate copy of it will be rewarded by the

forgiveness of as many sins as are generally forgiven when a pious man

sacrifices to a Brahman one hundred cows. As for the disbelievers and

the indifferent, they will be sent to Naraka" (hell). "Copied out and

given, by the slave of Vishnu, Malau Shriram, on Saturday, the 7th

day of the first half of Shravan" (the fifth month of the Hindu year),

"1801, of Shalivalian's era" (that is, 26th July, 1879).

 

The further career of this ignorant and cunning epistle is not known

to me. Probably the police put a stop to its distribution; this only

concerns the wise administrators. But it splendidly illustrates, from

one side, the credulity of the populace, drowned in superstition, and

from the other the unscrupulousness of the Brahmans.

 

Concerning the word Patala, which literally means the opposite side,

a recent discovery of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, whom I have already

mentioned in the preceding letters, is interesting, especially if this

discovery can be accepted by philologists, as the facts seem to promise.

Dayanand tries to show that the ancient Aryans knew, and even visited,

America, which in ancient MSS. is called Patala, and out of which

popular fancy constructed, in the course of time, something like the

Greek Hades. He supports his theory by many quotations from the oldest

MSS., especially from the legends about Krishna and his favourite

disciple Arjuna. In the history of the latter it is mentioned that

Arjuna, one of the five Pandavas, descendants of the moon dynasty,

visited Patala on his travels, and there married the widowed daughter of

King Nagual, called Illupl. Comparing the names of father and daughter

we reach the following considerations, which speak strongly in favour of

Dayanand's supposition.

 

(1) Nagual is the name by which the sorcerers of Mexico, Indians and

aborigines of America, are still designated. Like the Assyrian and

Chaldean Nargals, chiefs of the Magi, the Mexican Nagual unites in his

person the functions of priest and of sorcerer, being served in the

latter capacity by a demon in the shape of some animal, generally a

snake or a crocodile. These Naguals are thought to be the descendants

of Nagua, the king of the snakes. Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg devotes a

considerable amount of space to them in his book about Mexico, and says

that the Naguals are servants of the evil one, who, in his turn, renders

them but a temporary service. In Sanskrit, likewise, snake is Naga,

and the "King of the Nagas" plays an important part in the history of

Buddha; and in the Puranas there exists a tradition that it was Arjuna

who introduced snake worship into Patala. The coincidence, and the

identity of the names are so striking that our scientists really ought

to pay some attention to them.

 

(2) The Name of Arjuna's wife Illupl is purely old Mexican, and if we

reject the hypothesis of Swami Daya-nand it will be perfectly impossible

to explain the actual existence of this name in Sanskrit manuscripts

long before the Christian era. Of all ancient dialects and languages

it is only in those of the American aborigines that you constantly meet

with such combinations of consonants as pl, tl, etc. They are abundant

especially in the language of the Toltecs, or Nahuatl, whereas, neither

in Sanskrit nor in ancient Greek are they ever found at the end of

a word. Even the words Atlas and Atlantis seem to be foreign to the

etymology of the European languages. Wherever Plato may have found them,

it was not he who invented them. In the Toltec language we find the

root atl, which means water and war, and directly after America was

discovered Columbus found a town called Atlan, at the entrance of the

Bay of Uraga. It is now a poor fishing village called Aclo. Only

in America does one find such names as Itzcoatl, Zempoaltecatl, and

Popocatepetl. To attempt to explain such coincidences by the theory of

blind chance would be too much, consequently, as long as science does

not seek to deny Dayanand's hypothesis, which, as yet, it is unable to

do, we think it reasonable to adopt it, be it only in order to follow

out the axiom "one hypothesis is equal to another." Amongst other things

Dayanand points out that the route that led Arjuna to America five

thousand years ago was by Siberia and Behring's Straits.

 

It was long past midnight, but we still sat listening to this legend and

others of a similar kind. At length the innkeeper sent a servant to

warn us of the dangers that threatened us if we lingered too long on the

verandah on a moonlit night. The programme of these dangers was divided

into three sections--snakes, beasts of prey, and dacoits. Besides the

cobra and the "rock-snake," the surrounding mountains are full of a kind

of very small mountain snake, called furzen, the most dangerous of

all. Their poison kills with the swiftness of lightning. The moonlight

attracts them, and whole parties of these uninvited guests crawl up to

the verandahs of houses, in order to warm themselves. Here they are more

snug than on the wet ground. The verdant and perfumed abyss below

our verandah happened, too, to be the favorite resort of tigers and

leopards, who come thither to quench their thirst at the broad brook

which runs along the bottom, and then wander until daybreak under the

windows of the bungalow. Lastly, there were the mad dacoits, whose dens

are scattered in mountains inaccessible to the police, who often shoot

Europeans simply to afford themselves the pleasure of sending ad patres

one of the hateful bellatis (foreigners). Three days before our arrival

the wife of a Brahman disappeared, carried off by a tiger, and two

favorite dogs of the commandant were killed by snakes. We declined to

wait for further explanations, but hurried to our rooms. At daybreak we

were to start for Karli, six miles from this place.

 

 

 

 

In The Karli Caves

 

 

 

At five o'clock in the morning we had already arrived at the limit, not

only of driveable, but, even, of rideable roads. Our bullock-cart could

go no further. The last half mile was nothing but a rough sea of stones.

We had either to give up our enterprise, or to climb on all-fours up an

almost perpendicular slope two hundred feet high. We were utterly at

our wits' end, and meekly gazed at the historical mass before us, not

knowing what to do next. Almost at the summit of the mountain, under

the overhanging rocks, were a dozen black openings. Hundreds of pilgrims

were crawling upwards, looking, in their holiday dresses, like so many

green, pink, and blue ants. Here, however, our faithful Hindu friends

came to our rescue. One of them, putting the palm of his hand to his

mouth, produced a strident sound something between a shriek and a

whistle. This signal was answered from above by an echo, and the next

moment several half naked Brahmans, hereditary watchmen of the temple,

began to descend the rocks as swiftly and skillfully as wild cats.

Five minutes later they were with us, fastening round our bodies strong

leathern straps, and rather dragging than leading us upwards. Half an

hour later, exhausted but perfectly safe, we stood before the porch

of the chief temple, which until then had been hidden from us by giant

trees and cactuses.

 

This majestic entrance, resting on four massive pillars which form a

quadrangle, is fifty-two feet wide and is covered with ancient moss and

carvings. Before it stands the "lion column," so-called from the four

lions carved as large as nature, and seated back to back, at its base.

Over the principal entrance, its sides covered with colossal male

and female figures, is a huge arch, in front of which three gigantic

elephants are sculptured in relief, with heads and trunks that project

from the wall. The shape of the temple is oval. It is 128 feet long and

forty-six feet wide. The central space is separated on each side

from the aisles by forty-two pillars, which sustain the cupola-shaped

ceiling. Further on is an altar, which divides the first dome from

a second one which rises over a small chamber, formerly used by the

ancient Aryan priests for an inner, secret altar. Two side passages

leading towards it come to a sudden end, which suggests that, once upon

a time, either doors or wall were there which exist no longer. Each of

the forty-two pillars has a pedestal, an octagonal shaft, and a

capital, described by Fergusson as "of the most exquisite workmanship,

representing two kneeling elephants surmounted by a god and a goddess."

Fergusson further says that this temple, or chaitya, is older and better

preserved than any other in India, and may be assigned to a period about

200 years B.C., because Prinsep, who has read the inscription on the

Silastamba pillar, asserts that the lion pillar was the gift of Ajmitra

Ukasa, son of Saha Ravisobhoti, and another inscription shows that

the temple was visited by Dathama Hara, otherwise Dathahamini, King of

Ceylon, in the twentieth year of his reign, that is to say, 163 years

before our era. For some reason or other, Dr. Stevenson points to

seventy years B.C. as the date, asserting that Karlen, or Karli, was

built by the Emperor Devobhuti, under the supervision of Dhanu-Kakata.

But how can this be maintained in view of the above-mentioned perfectly

authentic inscriptions? Even Fergusson, the celebrated defender of the

Egyptian antiquities and hostile critic of those of India, insists that

Karli belongs to the erections of the third century B.C., adding that

"the disposition of the various parts of its architecture is identical

with the architecture of the choirs of the Gothic period, and the

polygonal apsides of cathedrals."

 

Above the chief entrance is found a gallery, which reminds one of the

choirs, where, in Catholic churches, the organ is placed. Besides the

chief entrance there are two lateral entrances, leading to the aisles

of the temple, and over the gallery there is a single spacious window in

the shape of a horseshoe, so that the light falls on the daghopa (altar)

entirely from above, leaving the aisles, sheltered by the pillars,

in obscurity, which increases as you approach the further end of the

building. To the eyes of a spectator standing at the entrance, the whole

daghopa shines with light, and behind it is nothing but impenetrable

darkness, where no profane footsteps were permitted to tread. A figure

on the dag-hopa, from the summit of which "Raja priests" used to

pronounce verdicts to the people, is called Dharma-Raja, from Dharma,

the Hindu Minos. Above the temple are two stories of caves, in each of

which are wide open galleries formed by huge carved pillars, and from

these galleries an opening leads to roomy cells and corridors, sometimes

very long, but quite useless, as they invariably come to an abrupt

termination at solid walls, without the trace of an issue of any kind.

The guardians of the temple have either lost the secret of further

caves, or conceal them jealously from Europeans.

 

Besides the Viharas already described, there are many others, scattered

over the slope of the mountain. These temple-monasteries are all smaller

than the first, but, according to the opinion of some archeologists,

they are much older. To what century or epoch they belong is not known

except to a few Brahmans, who keep silence. Generally speaking, the

position of a European archaeologist in India is very sad. The masses,

drowned in superstition, are utterly unable to be of any use to him, and

the learned Brahmans, initiated into the mysteries of secret libraries

in pagodas, do all they can to prevent archeological research. However,

after all that has happened, it would be unjust to blame the conduct of

the Brahmans in these matters. The bitter experience of many centuries

has taught them that their only weapons are distrust and circumspection,

without these their national history and the most sacred of their

treasures would be irrevocably lost. Political coups d'etat which have

shaken their country to its foundation, Mussulman invasions that proved

so fatal to its welfare, the all-destructive fanaticism of Mussulman

vandals and of Catholic padres, who are ready for anything in order to

secure manuscripts and destroy them--all these form a good excuse

for the action of the Brahmans. However in spite of these manifold

destructive tendencies, there exist in many places in India vast

libraries capable of pouring a bright and new light, not only on the

history of India itself, but also on the darkest problems of universal

history. Some of these libraries, filled with the most precious

manuscripts, are in the possession of native princes and of pagodas

attached to their territories, but the greater part is in the hands

of the Jainas (the oldest of Hindu sects) and of the Rajputana Takurs,

whose ancient hereditary castles are scattered all over Rajistan, like

so many eagles' nests on high rocks. The existence of the celebrated

collections in Jassulmer and Patana is not unknown to the Government,

but they remain wholly beyond its reach. The manuscripts are written in

an ancient and now completely forgotten language, intelligible only to

the high priests and their initiated librarians. One thick folio is

so sacred and inviolable that it rests on a heavy golden chain in the

centre of the temple of Chintamani in Jassulmer, and taken down only

to be dusted and rebound at the advent of each new pontiff. This is

the work of Somaditya Suru Acharya, a great priest of the pre-Mussulman

time, well-known in history. His mantle is still preserved in the

temple, and forms the robe of initiation of every new high priest.

Colonel James Tod, who spent so many years in India and gained the love

of the people as well as of the Brahmans--a most uncommon trait in the

biography of any Anglo-Indian--has written the only true history of

India, but even he was never allowed to touch this folio. Natives

commonly believe that he was offered initiation into the mysteries

at the price of the adoption of their religion. Being a devoted

archaeologist he almost resolved to do so, but, having to return to

England on account of his health, he left this world before he could

return to his adopted country, and thus the enigma of this new book of

the sibyl remains unsolved.

 

The Takurs of Rajputana, who are said to possess some of the underground

libraries, occupy in India position similar to the position of European

feudal barons of the Middle Ages. Nominally they are dependent on some

of the native princes or on the British Government; but de facto they

are perfectly independent. Their castles are built on high rocks, and

besides the natural difficulty of entering them, their possessors are

made doubly unreachable by the fact that long secret passages exist in

every such castle, known only to the present owner and confided to his

heir only at his death. We have visited two such underground halls, one

of them big enough to contain a whole village. No torture would ever

induce the owners to disclose the secret of their entrances, but the

Yogis and the initiated Adepts come and go freely, entirely trusted by

the Takurs.

 

A similar story is told concerning the libraries and subterranean

passages of Karli. As for the archaeologists, they are unable even to

determine whether this temple was built by Buddhists or Brahmans.

The huge daghopa that hides the holy of holies from the eyes of the

worshippers is sheltered by a mushroom-shaped roof, and resembles a low

minaret with a cupola. Roofs of this description are called "umbrellas,"

and usually shelter the statues of Buddha and of the Chinese sages.

But, on the other hand, the worshippers of Shiva, who possess the temple

nowadays, assert that this low building is nothing but a lingam of

Shiva. Besides, the carvings of gods and goddesses cut out of the rock

forbid one to think that the temple is the production of the Buddhists.

Fergusson writes, "What is this monument of antiquity? Does it belong

to the Hindus, or to the Buddhists? Has it been built upon plans drawn

since the death of Sakya Sing, or does it belong to a more ancient

religion?"

 

That is the question. If Fergusson, being bound by facts existing in

inscriptions to acknowledge the antiquity of Karli, will still persist

in asserting that Elephanta is of much later date, he will scarcely be

able to solve this dilemma, because the two styles are exactly the same,

and the carvings of the latter are still more magnificent. To ascribe

the temples of Elephanta and Kanari to the Buddhists, and to say that

their respective periods correspond to the fourth and fifth centuries

in the first case, and the tenth in the second, is to introduce into

history a very strange and unfounded anachronism. After the first

century A.D. there was not left a single influential Buddhist in India.

Conquered and persecuted by the Brahmans, they emigrated by thousands to

Ceylon and the trans-Himalayan districts. After the death of King Asoka,

Buddhism speedily broke down, and in a short time was entirely displaced

by the theocratic Brahmanism.

 

Fergusson's hypothesis that the followers of Sakya Sing, driven out by

intolerance from the continent, probably sought shelter on the islands

that surround Bombay, would hardly sustain critical analysis. Elephanta

and Salsetta are quite near to Bombay, two and five miles distant

respectively, and they are full of ancient Hindu temples. Is it

credible, then, that the Brahmans, at the culminating point of their

power, just before the Mussulman invasions, fanatical as they were, and

mortal enemies of the Buddhists, would allow these hated heretics to

build temples within their possessions in general and on Gharipuri

in particular, this latter being an island consecrated to their Hindu

pagodas? It is not necessary to be either a specialist, an architect,

or an eminent archeologist, in order to be convinced at the first glance

that such temples as Elephanta are the work of Cyclopses, requiring

centuries and not years for their construction. Whereas in Karli

everything is built and carved after a perfect plan, in Elephanta it

seems as if thousands of different hands had wrought at different times,

each following its own ideas and fashioning after its own device. All

three caves are dug out of a hard porphyry rock. The first temple is

practically a square, 130 feet 6 inches long and 130 feet wide. It

contains twenty-six thick pillars and sixteen pilasters.

 

Between some of them there is a distance of 12 or 16 feet, between

others 15 feet 5 inches, 13 feet 3 1/2 inches, and so on. The same lack

of uniformity is found in the pedestals of the columns, the finish and

style of which is constantly varying.

 

Why, then, should we not pay some attention to the explanations of the

Brahmans? They say that this temple was begun by the sons of Pandu,

after "the great war," Mahabharata, and that after their death every

true believer was bidden to continue the work according to his own

notions. Thus the temple was gradually built during three centuries.

Every one who wished to redeem his sins would bring his chisel and set

to work. Many were the members of royal families, and even kings, who

personally took part in these labors.

 

On the right hand side of the temple there is a corner stone, a lingam

of Shiva in his character of Fructifying Force, which is sheltered by a

small square chapel with four doors. Round this chapel are many colossal

human figures. According to the Brahmans, these are statues representing

the royal sculptors themselves, they being doorkeepers of the holy of

holies, Hindus of the highest caste. Each of the larger figures leans

upon a dwarf representative of the lower castes, which have been

promoted by the popular fancy to the rank of demons (Pisachas).

Moreover, the temple is full of unskillful work. The Brahmans hold that

such a holy place could not be deserted if men of the preceding and

present generations had not become unworthy of visiting it. As to Kanari

or Kanhari, and some other cave temples, there is not the slightest

doubt that they were all erected by Buddhists. In some of them were

found inscriptions in a perfect state of preservation, and their style

does not remind one in the least of the symbolical buildings of the

Brahmans. Archbishop Heber thinks the Kanari caves were built in the

first or second centuries B.C. But Elephanta is much older and must be

classed among prehistoric monuments, that is to say, its date must

be assigned to the epoch that immediately followed the "great

war," Mahabharata. Unfortunately the date of this war is a point of

disagreement between European scientists; the celebrated and learned

Dr. Martin Haug thinks it is almost antediluvian, while the no less

celebrated and learned Professor Max Muller places it as near the first

century of our era as possible.

 

 

 

The fair was at its culmination when, having finished visiting the

cells, climbing over all the stories, and examining the celebrated "hall

of wrestlers," we descended, not by way of the stairs, of which there is

no trace to be found, but after the fashion of pails bringing water out

of a deep well, that is to say, by the aid of ropes. A crowd of about

three thousand persons had assembled from the surrounding villages and

towns. Women were there adorned from the waist down in brilliant-hued

saris, with rings in their noses, their ears, their lips, and on all

parts of their limbs that could hold a ring. Their raven-black hair

which was smoothly combed back, shone with cocoanut oil, and was adorned

with crimson flowers, which are sacred to Shiva and to Bhavani, the

 

feminine aspect of this god.

 

Before the temple there were rows of small shops and of tents, where

could be bought all the requisites for the usual sacrifices--aromatic

herbs, incense, sandal wood, rice, gulab, and the red powder with which

the pilgrim sprinkles first the idol and then his own face. Fakirs,

bairagis, hosseins, the whole body of the mendicant brotherhood, was

present among the crowd. Wreathed in chaplets, with long uncombed hair

twisted at the top of the head into a regular chignon, and with bearded

faces, they presented a very funny likeness to naked apes. Some of them

were covered with wounds and bruises due to mortification of the flesh.

We also saw some bunis, snake-charmers, with dozens of various snakes

round their waists, necks, arms, and legs--models well worthy of the

brush of a painter who intended to depict the image of a male Fury. One

jadugar was especially remarkable. His head was crowned with a turban

of cobras. Expanding their hoods and raising their leaf-like dark green

heads, these cobras hissed furiously and so loudly that the sound was

audible a hundred paces off. Their "stings" quivered like lightning,

and their small eyes glittered with anger at the approach of every

passer-by. The expression, "the sting of a snake," is universal, but

it does not describe accurately the process of inflicting a wound. The

"sting" of a snake is perfectly harmless. To introduce the poison into

the blood of a man, or of an animal, the snake must pierce the flesh

with its fangs, not prick with its sting. The needle-like eye teeth of

a cobra communicate with the poison gland, and if this gland is cut out

the cobra will not live more than two days. Accordingly, the supposition

of some sceptics, that the bunis cut out this gland, is quite unfounded.

The term "hissing" is also inaccurate when applied to cobras. They do

not hiss. The noise they make is exactly like the death-rattle of a

dying man. The whole body of a cobra is shaken by this loud and heavy

growl.

 

Here we happened to be the witnesses of a fact which I relate exactly

as it occurred, without indulging in explanations or hypotheses of any

kind. I leave to naturalists the solution of the enigma.

 

Expecting to be well paid, the cobra-turbaned buni sent us word by a

messenger boy that he would like very much to exhibit his powers of

snake-charming. Of course we were perfectly willing, but on condition

that between us and his pupils there should be what Mr. Disraeli would

call a "scientific frontier."* We selected a spot about fifteen paces

from the magic circle. I will not describe minutely the tricks and

wonders that we saw, but will proceed at once to the main fact. With the

aid of a vaguda, a kind of musical pipe of bamboo, the buni caused all

the snakes to fall into a sort of cataleptic sleep. The melody that he

played, monotonous, low, and original to the last degree, nearly sent us

to sleep ourselves. At all events we all grew extremely sleepy without

any apparent cause. We were aroused from this half lethargy by our

friend Gulab-Sing, who gathered a handful of a grass, perfectly unknown

to us, and advised us to rub our temples and eyelids with it. Then the

buni produced from a dirty bag a kind of round stone, something like a

fish's eye, or an onyx with a white spot in the centre, not bigger than

a ten-kopek bit. He declared that anyone who bought that stone would be

able to charm any cobra (it would produce no effect on snakes of other

kinds) paralyzing the creature and then causing it to fall asleep.

Moreover, by his account, this stone is the only remedy for the bite

of a cobra. You have only to place this talisman on the wound, where it

will stick so firmly that it cannot be torn off until all the poison is

absorbed into it, when it will fall off of itself, and all danger will

be past.

 

 

* Written in 1879.

 

 

Being aware that the Government gladly offers any premium for the

invention of a remedy for the bite of the cobra, we did not show any

unreasonable interest on the appearance of this stone. In the meanwhile,

the buni began to irritate his cobras. Choosing a cobra eight feet long,

he literally enraged it. Twisting its tail round a tree, the cobra arose

and hissed. The buni quietly let it bite his finger, on which we all saw

drops of blood. A unanimous cry of horror arose in the crowd. But master

buni stuck the stone on his finger and proceeded with his performance.

 

"The poison gland of the snake has been cut out," remarked our New York

colonel. "This is a mere farce."

 

As if in answer to this remark, the buni seized the neck of the cobra,

and, after a short struggle, fixed a match into its mouth, so that it

remained open. Then he brought the snake over and showed it to each of

us separately, so that we all saw the death-giving gland in its mouth.

But our colonel would not give up his first impression so easily. "The

gland is in its place right enough," said he, "but how are we to know

that it really does contain poison?"

 

Then a live hen was brought forward and, tying its legs together, the

buni placed it beside the snake. But the latter would pay no attention

at first to this new victim, but went on hissing at the buni, who teased

and irritated it until at last it actually struck at the wretched bird.

 

The hen made a weak attempt to cackle, then shuddered once or twice and

became still. The death was instantaneous. Facts will remain facts, the

most exacting critic and disbeliever notwithstanding. This thought gives

me courage to write what happened further. Little by little the cobra

grew so infuriated that it became evident the jadugar himself did not

dare to approach it. As if glued to the trunk of the tree by its tail,

the snake never ceased diving into space with its upper part and trying

to bite everything. A few steps from us was somebody's dog. It seemed to

attract the whole of the buni's attention for some time. Sitting on his

haunches, as far as possible from his raging pupil, he stared at the dog

with motionless glassy eyes, and then began a scarcely audible song.

The dog grew restless. Putting his tail between his legs, he tried to

escape, but remained, as if fastened to the ground. After a few seconds

he crawled nearer and nearer to the buni, whining, but unable to tear

his gaze from the charmer. I understood his object, and felt awfully

sorry for the dog. But, to my horror, I suddenly felt that my tongue

would not move, I was perfectly unable either to get up or even to raise

my finger. Happily this fiendish scene was not prolonged. As soon as

the dog was near enough, the cobra bit him. The poor animal fell on his

back, made a few convulsive movements with his legs, and shortly died.

We could no longer doubt that there was poison in the gland. In the

meanwhile the stone had dropped from the buni's finger and he approached

to show us the healed member. We all saw the trace of the prick, a red

spot not bigger than the head of an ordinary pin.

 

Next he made his snakes rise on their tails, and, holding the stone

between his first finger and thumb, he proceeded to demonstrate its

influence on the cobras. The nearer his hand approached to the head of

the snake, the more the reptile's body recoiled. Looking steadfastly at

the stone they shivered, and, one by one, dropped as if paralyzed. The

buni then made straight for our sceptical colonel, and made him an offer

to try the experiment himself. We all protested vigorously, but he would

not listen to us, and chose a cobra of a very considerable size. Armed

with the stone, the colonel bravely approached the snake. For a moment

I positively felt petrified with fright. Inflating its hood, the cobra

made an attempt to fly at him, then suddenly stopped short, and, after

a pause, began following with all its body the circular movements of the

colonel's hand. When he put the stone quite close to the reptile's head,

the snake staggered as if intoxicated, its hissing grew weak, its hood

dropped helplessly on both sides of its neck, and its eyes closed.

Drooping lower and lower, the snake fell at last on the ground like a

stick, and slept.

 

Only then did we breathe freely. Taking the sorcerer aside we expressed

our desire to buy the stone, to which he easily assented, and, to our

great astonishment, asked for it only two rupees. This talisman became

my own property and I still keep it. The buni asserts, and our Hindu

friends confirm the story, that it is not a stone but an excrescence. It

is found in the mouth of one cobra in a hundred, between the bone of the

upper jaw and the skin of the palate. This "stone" is not fastened to

the skull, but hangs, wrapped in skin, from the palate, and so is very

easily cut off; but after this operation the cobra is said to die. If

we are to believe Bishu Nath, for that was our sorcerer's name, this

excrescence confers upon the cobra who possesses it the rank of king

over the rest of his kind.

 

"Such a cobra," said the buni, "is like a Brahman, a Dwija Brahman

amongst Shudras, they all obey him. There exists, moreover, a poisonous

 

toad that also, sometimes, possesses this stone, but its effect is much

weaker. To destroy the effect of a cobra's poison you must apply the

toad's stone not later than two minutes after the infliction of the

wound; but the stone of a cobra is effectual to the last. Its healing

power is certain as long as the heart of the wounded man has not ceased

to beat."

 

Bidding us good-bye, the buni advised us to keep the stone in a dry

place and never to leave it near a dead body, also, to hide it during

the sun and moon eclipses, "otherwise," said he, "it will lose all its

power." In case we were bitten by a mad dog, he said, we were to put the

stone into a glass of water and leave it there during the night, next

morning the sufferer was to drink the water and then forget all danger.

 

"He is a regular devil and not a man!" exclaimed our colonel, as soon

as the buni had disappeared on his way to a Shiva temple, where, by the

way, we were not admitted.

 

"As simple a mortal as you or I," remarked the Rajput with a smile,

"and, what is more, he is very ignorant. The truth is, he has been

brought up in a Shivaite pagoda, like all the real snake-charmers. Shiva

is the patron god of snakes, and the Brahmans teach the bunis to produce

all kinds of mesmeric tricks by empirical methods, never explaining to

them the theoretical principles, but assuring them that Shiva is behind

every phenomenon. So that the bunis sincerely ascribe to their god the

honor of their 'miracles."'

 

"The Government of India offers a reward for an antidote to the poison

of the cobra. Why then do the bunis not claim it, rather than let

thousands of people die helpless?"

 

"The Brahmans would never suffer that. If the Government took the

trouble to examine carefully the statistics of deaths caused by snakes,

it would be found that no Hindu of the Shivaite sect has ever died from

the bite of a cobra. They let people of other sects die, but save the

members of their own flock."

 

"But did we not see how easily he parted with his secret,

notwithstanding we were foreigners. Why should not the English buy it as

readily?"

 

"Because this secret is quite useless in the hands of Europeans. The

Hindus do not try to conceal it, because they are perfectly certain that

without their aid nobody can make any use of it. The stone will retain

its wonderful power only when it is taken from a live cobra. In order to

catch the snake without killing it, it must be cast into a lethargy, or,

if you prefer the term, charmed. Who is there among the foreigners who

is able to do this? Even amongst the Hindus, you will not find a single

individual in all India who possesses this ancient secret, unless he be

a disciple of the Shivaite Brahmans. Only Brahmans of this sect possess

a monopoly of the secret, and not all even of them, only those, in

short, who belong to the pseudo-Patanjali school, who are usually called

Bhuta ascetics. Now there exist, scattered over the whole of India, only

about half-a-dozen of their pagoda schools, and the inmates would rather

part with their very lives than with their secret."

 

"We have paid only two rupees for a secret which proved as strong in the

colonel's hands as in the hands of the buni. Is it then so difficult to

procure a store of these stones?" Our friend laughed.

 

"In a few days," said he, "the talisman will lose all its healing powers

in your inexperienced hands. This is the reason why he let it go at such

a low price, which he is, probably, at this moment sacrificing before

the altar of his deity. I guarantee you a week's activity for your

purchase, but after that time it will only be fit to be thrown out of

the window."

 

We soon learned how true were these words. On the following day we came

across a little girl, bitten by a green scorpion. She seemed to be in

the last convulsions. No sooner had we applied the stone than the child

seemed relieved, and, in an hour, she was gaily playing about, whereas,

even in the case of the sting of a common black scorpion, the patient

suffers for two weeks. But when, about ten days later, we tried the

experiment of the stone upon a poor coolie, just bitten by a cobra, it

would not even stick to the wound, and the poor wretch shortly expired.

I do not take upon myself to offer, either a defence, or an explanation

of the virtues of the "stone." I simply state the facts and leave the

future career of the story to its own fate. The sceptics may deal with

it as they will. Yet I can easily find people in India who will bear

witness to my accuracy.

 

In this connection I was told a funny story. When Dr. (now Sir J.)

Fayrer, who lately published his Thanatophidia, a book on the venomous

snakes of India, a work well known throughout Europe, he categorically

stated in it his disbelief in the wondrous snake-charmers of India.

However, about a fortnight or so after the book appeared amongst the

Anglo-Indians, a cobra bit his own cook. A buni, who happened to pass

by, readily offered to save the man's life. It stands to reason that

the celebrated naturalist could not accept such an offer. Nevertheless,

Major Kelly and other officers urged him to permit the experiment.

Declaring that in spite of all, in less than an hour his cook would be

no more, he gave his consent. But it happened that in less than an hour

the cook was quietly preparing dinner in the kitchen, and, it is added,

Dr. Fayrer seriously thought of throwing his book into the fire.

 

The day grew dreadfully hot. We felt the heat of the rocks in spite of

our thick-soled shoes. Besides, the general curiosity aroused by our

presence, and the unceremonious persecutions of the crowd, were becoming

tiring. We resolved to "go home," that is to say, to return to the cool

cave, six hundred paces from the temple, where we were to spend the

evening and to sleep. We would wait no longer for our Hindu companions,

who had gone to see the fair, and so we started by ourselves.----

 

 

On approaching the entrance of the temple we were struck by the

appearance of a young man, who stood apart from the crowd and was of

an ideal beauty. He was a member of the Sadhu sect, a "candidate for

Saintship," to use the expression of one of our party.

 

The Sadhus differ greatly from every other sect. They never appear

unclothed, do not cover themselves with damp ashes, wear no painted

signs on their faces, or foreheads, and do not worship idols. Belonging

to the Adwaiti section of the Vedantic school, they believe only in

Parabrahm (the great spirit). The young man looked quite decent in his

light yellow costume, a kind of nightgown without sleeves. He had long

hair, and his head was uncovered. His elbow rested on the back of a cow,

which was itself well calculated to attract attention, for, in addition

to her four perfectly shaped legs, she had a fifth growing out of her

hump. This wonderful freak of nature used its fifth leg as if it were

a hand and arm, hunting and killing tiresome flies, and scratching

its head with the hoof. At first we thought it was a trick to attract

attention, and even felt offended with the animal, as well as with its

handsome owner, but, coming nearer, we saw that it was no trick, but an

actual sport of mischievous Nature. From the young man we learned that

the cow had been presented to him by the Maharaja Holkar, and that her

milk had been his only food during the last two years.

 

Sadhus are aspirants to the Raj Yoga, and, as I have said above, usually

belong to the school of the Vedanta. That is to say, they are disciples

of initiates who have entirely resigned the life of the world, and lead

a life of monastic chastity. Between the Sadhus and the Shivaite

bunis there exists a mortal enmity, which manifests itself by a silent

contempt on the side of the Sadhus, and on that of the bunis by constant

attempts to sweep their rivals off the face of the earth. This antipathy

is as marked as that between light and darkness, and reminds one of the

dualism of the Ahura-Mazda and Ahriman of the Zoroastrians. Masses

of people look up to the first as to Magi, sons of the sun and of the

Divine Principle, while the latter are dreaded as dangerous sorcerers.

Having heard most wonderful accounts of the former, we were burning

with anxiety to see some of the "miracles" ascribed to them by some even

among the Englishmen. We eagerly invited the Sadhu to visit our vihara

during the evening. But the handsome ascetic sternly refused, for the

reason that we were staying within the temple of the idol-worshippers,

the very air of which would prove antagonistic to him. We offered him

money, but he would not touch it, and so we parted.

 

A path, or rather a ledge cut along the perpendicular face of a rocky

mass 200 feet high, led from the chief temple to our vihara. A man needs

good eyes, sure feet, and a very strong head to avoid sliding down the

precipice at the first false step. Any help would be quite out of the

question, for, the ledge being only two feet wide, no one could walk

side by side with another. We had to walk one by one, appealing for aid

only to the whole of our personal courage. But the courage of many of us

was gone on an unlimited furlough. The position of our American colonel

was the worst, for he was very stout and short-sighted, which defects,

taken together, caused him frequent vertigos. To keep up our spirits

we indulged in a choral performance of the duet from Norma, "Moriam'

insieme," holding each other's hands the while, to ensure our being

spared by death or dying all four in company. But the colonel did not

fail to frighten us nearly out of our lives. We were already half way up

to the cave when he made a false step, staggered, lost hold of my hand,

and rolled over the edge. We three, having to clutch the bushes and

stones, were quite unable to help him. A unanimous cry of horror escaped

us, but died away as we perceived that he had succeeded in clinging to

the trunk of a small tree, which grew on the slope a few steps below

us. Fortunately, we knew that the colonel was good at athletics, and

remarkably cool in danger. Still the moment was a critical one. The

slender stem of the tree might give way at any moment. Our cries of

distress were answered by the sudden appearance of the mysterious Sadhu

with his cow.

 

They were quietly walking along about twenty feet below us, on such

invisible projections of the rock that a child's foot could barely have

found room to rest there, and they both traveled as calmly, and even

carelessly, as if a comfortable causeway were beneath their feet,

instead of a vertical rock. The Sadhu called out to the colonel to hold

on, and to us to keep quiet. He patted the neck of his monstrous cow,

and untied the rope by which he was leading her. Then, with both hands

he turned her head in our direction, and clucking with his tongue, he

cried "Chal!" (go). With a few wild goat-like bounds the animal reached

our path, and stood before us motion-less. A for the Sadhu himself, his

movements were as swift and as goat-like. In a moment he had reached the

tree, tied the rope round the colonel's body, and put him on his legs

again; then, rising higher, with one effort of his strong hand he

hoisted him up to the path. Our colonel was with us once more, rather

pale, and with the loss of his pince-nez, but not of his presence of

mind.

 

An adventure that had threatened to become a tragedy ended in a farce.

 

"What is to be done now?" was our unanimous inquiry. "We cannot let you

go alone any further."

 

"In a few moments it will be dark and we shall be lost," said Mr. Y----,

the colonel's secretary.

 

 

And, indeed, the sun was dipping below the horizon, and every moment was

precious. In the meanwhile, the Sadhu had fastened the rope round the

cow's neck again and stood before us on the pathway, evidently not

understanding a word of our conversation. His tall, slim figure seemed

as if suspended in the air above the precipice. His long, black hair,

floating in the breeze, alone showed that in him we beheld a living

being and not a magnificent statue of bronze. Forgetting our recent

danger and our present awkward situation, Miss X----, who was a born

artist, exclaimed: "Look at the majesty of that pure profile; observe

the pose of that man. How beautiful are his outlines seen against the

golden and blue sky. One would say, a Greek Adonis, not a Hindu!" But

the "Adonis" in question put a sudden stop to her ecstasy. He glanced at

Miss X---- with half-pitying, half-kindly, laughing eyes, and said with

his ringing voice in Hindi--

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

"Bara-Sahib cannot go any further without the help of someone else's

eyes. Sahib's eyes are his enemies. Let the Sahib ride on my cow. She

cannot stumble."

 

"I! Ride on a cow, and a five-legged one at that? Never!" exclaimed the

poor colonel, with such a helpless air, nevertheless, that we burst out

laughing.

 

"It will be better for Sahib to sit on a cow than to lie on a chitta"

(the pyre on which dead bodies are burned), remarked the Sadhu with

modest seriousness. "Why call forth the hour which has not yet struck?"

 

The colonel saw that argument was perfectly useless, and we succeeded in

persuading him to follow the Sadhu's advice, who carefully hoisted him

on the cow's back, then, recommending him to hold on by the fifth leg,

he led the way. We all followed to the best of our ability.

 

In a few minutes more we were on the verandah of our vihara, where we

found our Hindu friends, who had arrived by another path. We eagerly

related all our adventures, and then looked for the Sadhu, but, in the

meanwhile, he had disappeared together with his cow.

 

"Do not look for him, he is gone by a road known only to himself,"

remarked Gulab-Sing carelessly. "He knows you are sincere in your

gratitude, but he would not take your money. He is a Sadhu, not a buni,"

added he proudly.

 

We remembered that it was reported this proud friend of ours also

belonged to the Sadhu sect. "Who can tell," whispered the colonel in my

ear, "whether these reports are mere gossip, or the truth?"

 

Sadhu-Nanaka must not be confounded with Guru-Nanaka, a leader of the

Sikhs. The former are Adwaitas, the latter monotheists. The Adwaitas

believe only in an impersonal deity named Parabrahm.

 

In the chief hall of the vihara was a life-sized statue of Bhavani, the

feminine aspect of Shiva. From the bosom of this devaki streams forth

the pure cold water of a mountain spring, which falls into a reservoir

at her feet. Around it lay heaps of sacrificial flowers, rice, betel

leaves and incense. This hall was, in consequence, so damp that we

preferred to spend the night on the verandah in the open air, hanging,

as it were, between sky and earth, and lit from below by numerous fires

kept burning all the night by Gulab-Sing's servants, to scare away wild

beasts, and, from above, by the light of the full moon. A supper was

arranged after the Eastern fashion, on carpets spread upon the floor,

and with thick banana leaves for plates and dishes. The noiselessly

gliding steps of the servants, more silent than ghosts, their white

muslins and red turbans, the limitless depths of space, lost in waves of

moonlight, before us, and behind, the dark vaults of ancient caves,

dug out by unknown races, in unknown times, in honor of an unknown,

prehistoric religion--all these, our surroundings, transported us into a

strange world, and into distant epochs far different from our own.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

We had before us representatives of five different peoples, five

different types of costume, each quite unlike the others. All five are

known to us in ethnography under the generic name of Hindus. Similarly

eagles, condors, hawks, vultures, and owls are known to ornithology as

"birds of prey," but the analogous differences are as great. Each of

these five companions, a Rajput, a Bengali, a Madrasi, a Sinhalese and

a Mahratti, is a descendant of a race, the origin of which European

scientists have discussed for over half a century without coming to any

agreement.

 

Rajputs are called Hindus and are said to belong to the Aryan race; but

they call themselves Suryavansa, that is to say, descendants of Surya or

the sun.

 

The Brahmans derive their origin from Indu, the moon, and are called

Induvansa; Indu, Soma, or Chandra, meaning moon in Sanskrit. If the

first Aryans, appearing in the prologue of universal history, are

Brahmans, that is to say, the people who, according to Max Muller,

having crossed the Himalayas conquered the country of the five rivers,

then the Rajputs are no Aryans; and if they are Aryans they are not

Brahmans, as all their genealogies and sacred books (Puranas) show that

they are much older than the Brahmans; and, in this case, moreover, the

Aryan tribes had an actual existence in other countries of our globe

than the much renowned district of the Oxus, the cradle of the Germanic

race, the ancestors of Aryans and Hindus, in the fancy of the scientist

we have named and his German school.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The "moon" line begins with Pururavas (see the genealogical tree

prepared by Colonel Tod from the MS. Puranas in the Oodeypore archives),

that is to say, two thousand two hundred years before Christ, and much

later than Ikshvaku, the patriarch of the Suryavansa. The fourth son of

Pururavas, Rech, stands at the head of the line of the moon-race, and

only in the fifteenth generation after him appears Harita, who founded

the Kanshikagotra, the Brahman tribe.

 

The Rajputs hate the latter. They say the children of the sun and Rama

have nothing in common with the children of the moon and Krishna. As

for the Bengalis, according to their traditions and history, they are

aborigines. The Madrasis and the Sinhalese are Dravidians. They have, in

turn, been said to belong to the Semites, the Hamites, the Aryans, and,

lastly, they have been given up to the will of God, with the conclusion

drawn that the Sinhalese, at all events, must be Mongolians of Turanian

origin. The Mahrattis are aborigines of the West of India, as the

Bengalis are of, the East; but to what group of tribes belong these two

nationalities no ethnographer can define, save perhaps a German. The

traditions of the people themselves are generally denied, because they

are not in harmony with foregone conclusions. The meaning of ancient

manuscripts is disfigured, and, in fact, sacrificed to fiction, if only

the latter proceeds from the mouth of some favorite oracle.

 

The ignorant masses are often blamed and found to be guilty of

superstition for creating idols in the spiritual world. Is not,

then, the educated man, the man who craves after knowledge, who is

enlightened, still more inconsistent than these masses, when he deals

with his favorite authorities? Are not half a dozen laurel-crowned heads

allowed by him to do whatever they like with facts, to draw their own

conclusions, according to their own liking, and does he not stone

every one who would dare to rise against the decisions of these

quasi-infallible specialists, and brand him as an ignorant fool?

 

Let us remember the case in point of Louis Jacolliot, who spent twenty

years in India, who actually knew the language and the country to

perfection, and who, nevertheless, was rolled in the mud by Max Muller,

whose foot never touched Indian soil.

 

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The oldest peoples of Europe are mere babes com-pared with the tribes

of Asia, and especially of India. And oh! how poor and insignificant are

the genealogies of the oldest European families compared with those of

some Rajputs. In the opinion of Colonel Tod, who for over twenty years

studied these genealogies on the spot, they are the completest and most

trustworthy of the records of the peoples of antiquity. They date from

1,000 to 2,200 years B.C., and their authenticity may often be proved

by reference to Greek authors. After long and careful research and

comparison with the text of the Puranas, and various monumental

inscriptions, Colonel Tod came to the conclusion that in the Oodeypore

archives (now hidden from public inspection), not to mention other

sources, may be found a clue to the history of India in particular, and

to universal ancient history in general. Colonel Tod advises the earnest

seeker after this clue not to think, with some flippant archaeologists

who are insufficiently acquainted with India, that the stories of

Rama, the Mahabharata, Krishna, and the five brothers Pandu, are mere

allegories. He affirms that he who seriously considers these legends

will very soon become thoroughly convinced that all these so-called

"fables" are founded on historical facts, by the actual existence of

the descendants of the heroes, by tribes, ancient towns, and coins still

extant; that to acquire the right to pronounce a final opinion one must

read first the inscriptions on the Inda-Prestha pillars of Purag and

Mevar, on the rocks of Junagur, in Bijoli, on Aravuli and on all the

ancient Jaina temples scattered throughout India, where are to be found

numerous inscriptions in a language utterly unknown, in comparison with

which the hieroglyphs will seem a mere toy.

 

Yet, nevertheless, Professor Max Muller, who, as already mentioned, was

never in India, sits as a judge and corrects chronological tables as is

his wont, and Europe, taking his words for those of an oracle, endorses

his decisions. Et c'est ainsi que s'ecrit l'histoire.

 

Talking of the venerable German Sanskritist's chronology, I cannot

resist the desire to show, be it only to Russia, on what a fragile

basis are founded his scientific discussions, and how little he is to

be trusted when he pronounces upon the antiquity of this or that

manuscript. These pages are of a superficial and descriptive nature,

and, as such, make no pretense to profound learning, so that what

follows may seem incongruous. But it must be remembered that in Russia,

as elsewhere in Europe, people estimate the value of this philological

light by the points of exclamation lavished upon him by his admiring

followers, and that no one reads the Veda Bhashaya of Swami Dayanand.

It may even be that I shall not be far from the truth in saying that the

very existence of this work is ignored, which may perhaps be a fortunate

fact for the reputation of Professor Max Muller. I shall be as brief as

possible. When Professor Max Muller states, in his Sahitya-Grantha, that

the Aryan tribe in India acquired the notion of God step by step and

very slowly, he evidently wishes to prove that the Vedas are far from

being as old as is supposed by some of his colleagues. Having presented,

in due course, some more or less valuable evidence to prove the truth

of this new theory, he ends with a fact which, in his opinion, is

indisputable. He points to the word hiranya-garbha in the mantrams,

which he translates by the word "gold," and adds that, as the part

of the Vedas called chanda appeared 3,100 years ago, the part called

mantrams could not have been written earlier than 2,900 years ago.

Let me remind the reader that the Vedas are divided into two parts:

chandas--slokas, verses, etc.; and mantrams--prayers and rhythmical

hymns, which are, at the same time, incantations used in white magic.

Professor Max Muller divides the mantram ("Agnihi Poorwebhihi,"

etc.) philologically and chronologically, and, finding in it the word

hiranya-garbha, he denounces it as an anachronism. The ancients, he

says, had no knowledge of gold, and, therefore, if gold is mentioned in

this mantram it means that the mantram was composed at a comparatively

modern epoch, and so on.

 

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But here the illustrious Sanskritist is very much mistaken. Swami

Dayanand and other pandits, who sometimes are far from being Dayanand's

allies, maintain that Professor Max Muller has completely misunderstood

the meaning of the term hiranya. Originally it did not mean, and, when

united to the word garbha, even now does not mean, gold. So all the

Professor's brilliant demonstrations are labor in vain. The word hiranya

in this mantram must be translated "divine light"--mystically a symbol

of knowledge; analogically the alchemists used the term "sublimated

gold" for "light," and hoped to compose the objective metal out of its

rays. The two words, hiranya-garbha, taken together, mean, literally,

the "radiant bosom," and, when used in the Vedas, designate the first

principle, in whose bosom, like gold in the bosom of the earth, rests

the light of divine knowledge and truth, the essence of the soul

liberated from the sins of the world. In the mantrams, as in the

chandas, one must always look for a double meaning: (1) a metaphysical

one, purely abstract, and (2) one as purely physical; for everything

existing upon the earth is closely bound to the spiritual world, from

which it proceeds and by which it is reabsorbed. For instance Indra, the

god of thunder, Surya, the sun-god, Vayu, god of the wind, and Agni,

god of fire, all four depending on this first divine principle, expand,

according to the mantram from hiranya-garbha, the radiant bosom. In this

case the gods are the personifications of the forces of Nature. But the

initiated Adepts of India understand very clearly that the god Indra,

for instance, is nothing more than a mere sound, born of the shock of

electrical forces, or simply electricity itself. Surya is not the god of

the sun, but simply the centre of fire in our system, the essence whence

come fire, warmth, light, and so on; the very thing, namely, which

no European scientist, steering an even course between Tyndall and

Schropfer, has, as yet, defined. This concealed meaning has totally

escaped Professor Max Muller's attention, and this is why, clinging to

the dead letter, he never hesitates before cutting a Gordian knot. How

then can he be permitted to pronounce upon the antiquity of the Vedas,

when he is so far from the right understanding of the language of these

ancient writings.

 

The above is a resume of Dayanand's argument, and to him the

Sanskritists must apply for further particulars, which they will

certainly find in his Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhoomika.

 

 

 

In the cave, every one slept soundly round the fire except myself.

None of my companions seemed to mind in the least either the hum of

the thousand voices of the fair, or the prolonged, far-away roar of the

tigers rising from the valley, or even the loud prayers of the pilgrims

who passed to and fro all night long, never fearing to cross the steep

passage which, even by daylight, caused us such perplexity. They came

in parties of twos and threes, and sometimes there appeared a lonely

unescorted woman. They could not reach the large vihara, because we

occupied the verandah at its entrance, and so, after grumbling a little,

they entered a small lateral cave something like a chapel, containing

a statue of Devaki-Mata, above a tank full of water. Each pilgrim

prostrated himself for a time, then placed his offering at the feet of

the goddess and bathed in the "holy waters of purification," or, at

the least, sprinkled some water over his forehead, cheeks, and breast.

Lastly, retreating backwards, he knelt again at the door and disappeared

in the darkness with a final invocation: "Mata, maha mata!"--Mother, O

great mother!

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Two of Gulab-Sing's servants, with traditional spears and shields of

rhinoceros skin, who had been ordered to protect us from wild beasts,

sat on the steps of the verandah. I was unable to sleep, and so watched

with increasing curiosity everything that was going on. The Takur, too,

was sleepless. Every time I raised my eyes, heavy with fatigue, the

first object upon which they fell was the gigantic figure of our

mysterious friend.

 

Having seated himself after the Eastern fashion, with his feet drawn up

and his arms round his knees, the Rajput sat on a bench cut in the rock

at one end of the verandah, gazing out into the silvery atmosphere. He

was so near the abyss that the least incautious movement would expose

him to great danger. But the granite goddess, Bhavani herself, could not

be more immovable. The light of the moon before him was so strong

that the black shadow under the rock which sheltered him was doubly

impenetrable, shrouding his face in absolute darkness. From time to time

the flame of the sinking fires leaping up shed its hot reflection on the

dark bronze face, enabling me to distinguish its sphinx-like lineaments

and its shining eyes, as unmoving as the rest of the features.

 

"What am I to think? Is he simply sleeping, or is he in that strange

state, that temporary annihilation of bodily life?... Only this

morning he was telling us how the initiate Raj-yogis were able to plunge

into this state at will... Oh, if I could only go to sleep....."

 

Suddenly a loud prolonged hissing, quite close to my ear, made me

start, trembling with indistinct reminiscences of cobras. The sound was

strident and evidently came from under the hay upon which I rested.

Then it struck one! two! It was our American alarum-clock, which always

traveled with me. I could not help laughing at myself, and, at the same

time, feeling a little ashamed of my involuntary fright.

 

But neither the hissing, nor the loud striking of the clock, nor my

sudden movement, that made Miss X---- raise her sleepy head, awakened

Gulab-Sing, who still hung over the precipice. Another half hour passed.

The far-away roar of the festivity was still heard, but everything round

me was calm and still. Sleep fled further and further from my eyes. A

fresh, strong wind arose, before the dawn, rustling the leaves and then

shaking the tops of the trees that rose above the abyss. My attention

became absorbed by the group of three Rajputs before me--by the two

shield bearers and their master. I cannot tell why I was specially

attracted at this moment by the sight of the long hair of the servants,

which was waving in the wind, though the place they occupied was

comparatively sheltered. I turned my eyes upon their Sahib, and the

blood in my veins stood still. The veil of somebody's topi, which hung

beside him, tied to a pillar, was simply whirling in the wind, while the

hair of the Sahib himself lay as still as if it had been glued to his

shoulders, not a hair moved, nor a single fold of his light muslin

garment. No statue could be more motionless. What is this then? I said

to myself. Is it delirium? Is this a hallucination, or a wonderful

inexplicable reality? I shut my eyes, telling myself I must look no

longer. But a moment later I again looked up, startled by a crackling

sound from above the steps. The long, dark silhouette of some animal

appeared at the entrance, clearly outlined against the pale sky. I saw

it in profile. Its long tail was lashing to and fro. Both the servants

rose swiftly and noiselessly and turned their heads towards Gulab-Sing,

as if asking for orders. But where was Gulab-Sing? In the place which,

but a moment ago, he occupied, there was no one. There lay only the

topi, torn from the pillar by the wind. I sprang up: a tremendous roar

deafened me, filling the vihara, wakening the slumbering echoes, and

resounding, like the softened rumbling of thunder, over all the borders

of the precipice. Good heavens! A tiger!

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Before this thought had time to shape itself clearly in my mind, the

sleepers sprang up and the men all seized their guns and revolvers, and

then we heard the sound of crashing branches, and of something heavy

sliding down into the precipice. The alarm was general.

 

"What is the matter now?" said the calm voice of Gulab-Sing, and I again

saw him on the stone bench. "Why should you be so frightened?"

 

"A tiger! Was it not a tiger?" came in hasty, questioning tones from

Europeans and Hindus.

 

Miss X---- trembled like one stricken with fever. "Whether it was a

tiger, or something else, matters very little to us now. Whatever it

was, it is, by this time, at the bottom of the abyss," answered the

Rajput yawning.

 

"I wonder the Government does not destroy all these horrid animals,"

sobbed poor Miss X----, who evidently believed firmly in the omnipotence

of her Executive.

 

"But how did you get rid of the 'striped one'?" insisted the colonel.

"Has anyone fired a shot?"

 

"You Europeans think that shooting is, if not the only, at least the

best way to get rid of wild animals. We possess other means, which are

sometimes more efficacious than guns," explained Babu Narendro-Das Sen.

"Wait until you come to Bengal, there you will have many opportunities

to make acquaintance with the tigers."

 

It was now getting light, and Gulab-Sing proposed to us to descend and

examine the rest of the caves and the ruins of a fortress before the day

became too hot, so, at half-past three, we went by another and easier

way to the valley, and, happily, this time we had no adventures. The

Mahratti did not accompany us. He disappeared without informing us

whither he was going.

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

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We saw Logarh, a fortress which was captured by Sivaji from the Moguls

in 1670, and the ruins of the hall, where the widow of Nana Farnavese,

under the pretext of an English protectorate, became de facto the

captive of General Wellesley in 1804, with a yearly pension of 12,000

rupees. We then started for the village of Vargaon, once fortified and

still very rich. We were to spend the hottest hours of the day there,

from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon, and proceed

afterwards to the historical caves of Birsa and Badjah, about three

miles from Karli.

 

At about two P.M. when, in spite of the huge punkahs waving to and fro,

we were grumbling at the heat, appeared our friend the Mahratta Brahman,

whom we thought we had lost on the way. Accompanied by half-a-dozen

Daknis (inhabitants of the Dekhan plateau) he was slowly advancing,

seated almost on the ears of his horse, which snorted and seemed very

unwilling to move. When he reached the verandah and jumped down, we

saw the reason of his disappearance. Across the saddle was tied a huge

tiger, whose tail dragged in the dust. There were traces of dark blood

in his half opened mouth. He was taken from the horse and laid down by

the doorstep.

 

Was it our visitor of the night before? I looked at Gulab-Sing. He

lay on a rug in a corner, resting his head on his hand and reading. He

knitted his brows slightly, but did not say a word. The Brahman who

had just brought the tiger was very silent too, watching over certain

preparations, as if making ready for some solemnity. We soon learned

that, in the eyes of a superstitious people, what was about to happen

was a solemnity indeed.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

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A bit of hair cut from the skin of a tiger that has been killed, neither

by bullet, nor by knife, but by a "word," is considered the best of all

talismans against his tribe.

 

"This is a very rare opportunity," explained the Mahratti. "It is very

seldom that one meets with a man who possesses the word. Yogis and

Sadhus do not generally kill wild animals, thinking it sinful to destroy

any living creature, be it even a cobra or a tiger, so they simply keep

out of the way of noxious animals. There exists only one brotherhood in

India whose members possess all secrets, and from whom nothing in nature

is concealed. Here is the body of the tiger to testify that the animal

was not killed with a weapon of any kind, but simply by the word of

Gulab-Lal-Sing. I found it, very easily, in the bushes exactly under our

vihara, at the foot of the rock over which the tiger had rolled, already

dead. Tigers never make false steps. Gulab-Lal-Sing, you are a Raj-Yogi,

and I salute you!" added the proud Brahman, kneeling before the Takur.

 

"Do not use vain words, Krishna Rao!" interrupted Gulab-Sing. "Get up;

do not play the part of a Shudra."

 

"I obey you, Sahib, but, forgive me, I trust my own judgment. No

Raj-Yogi ever yet acknowledged his connection with the brotherhood,

since the time Mount Abu came into existence."

 

And he began distributing bits of hair taken from the dead animal. No

one spoke, I gazed curiously at the group of my fellow-travelers. The

colonel, President of our Society, sat with downcast eyes, very pale.

His secretary, Mr. Y----, lay on his back, smoking a cigar and looking

straight above him, with no expression in his eyes. He silently accepted

the hair and put it in his purse. The Hindus stood round the tiger,

and the Sinhalese traced mysterious signs on its forehead. Gulab-Sing

continued quietly reading his book.----

 

 

The Birza cave, about six miles from Vargaon, is constructed on the

same plan as Karli. The vault-like ceiling of the temple rests upon

twenty-six pillars, eighteen feet high, and the portico on four,

twenty-eight feet high; over the portico are carved groups of horses,

oxen, and elephants, of the most exquisite beauty. The "Hall of

Initiation" is a spacious, oval room, with pillars, and eleven very deep

cells cut in the rock. The Bajah caves are older and more beautiful.

Inscriptions may still be seen showing that all these temples were built

by Buddhists, or, rather, by Jainas. Modern Buddhists believe in one

Buddha only, Gautama, Prince of Kapilavastu (six centuries before

Christ) whereas the Jainas recognize a Buddha in each of their

twenty-four divine teachers (Tirthankaras) the last of whom was the Guru

(teacher) of Gautama. This disagreement is very embarrassing when people

try to conjecture the antiquity of this or that vihara or chaitya. The

origin of the Jaina sect is lost in the remotest, unfathomed antiquity,

so the name of Buddha, mentioned in the inscriptions, may be attributed

to the last of the Buddhas as easily as to the first, who lived (see

Tod's genealogy) a long time before 2,200 B.C.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

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One of the inscriptions in the Baira cave, for instance, in cuneiform

characters, says: "From an ascetic in Nassik to the one who is worthy,

to the holy Buddha, purified from sins, heavenly and great."

 

This tends to convince scientists that the cave was cut out by

Buddhists.

 

Another inscription, in the same cave, but over an-other cell, contains

the following: "An agreeable offering of a small gift to the moving

force [life], to the mind principle [soul], the well-beloved material

body, fruit of Manu, priceless treasure, to the highest and here

present, Heavenly."

 

Of course the conclusion is drawn that the building does not belong to

the Buddhists, but to the Brahmans, who believe in Manu.

 

Here are two more inscriptions from Bajah caves.

 

"An agreeable gift of the symbol and vehicle of the purified Saka-Saka."

 

"Gift of the vehicle of Radha [wife of Krishna, symbol of perfection] to

Sugata who is gone for ever."

 

Sugata, again, is one of the names of Buddha. A new contradiction!

 

It was somewhere here, in the neighborhood of Vargaon, that the

Mahrattis seized Captain Vaughan and his brother, who were hanged after

the battle of Khirki.

 

Next morning we drove to Chinchor, or, as it is called here, Chinchood.

This place is celebrated in the annals of the Dekkan. Here one meets

with a repetition in miniature of what takes place on a larger scale

at L'hassa in Tibet. As Buddha incarnates in every new Dalai-Lama, so,

here, Gunpati (Ganesha, the god of wisdom with the elephant's head) is

allowed by his father Shiva to incarnate in the eldest son of a certain

Brahman family. There is a splendid temple erected in his honor, where

the avatars (incarnations) of Gunpati have lived and received adoration

for over two hundred years.

 

This is how it happened.

 

About 250 years ago a poor Brahman couple were promised, in sleep, by

the god of wisdom that he would incarnate in their eldest son. The boy

was named Maroba (one of the god's titles) in honor of the deity. Maroba

grew up, married, and begot several sons, after which he was commanded

by the god to relinquish the world and finish his days in the desert.

There, during twenty-two years, according to the legend, Maroba wrought

miracles and his fame grew day by day. He lived in an impenetrable

jungle, in a corner of the thick forest that covered Chinchood in those

days. Gunpati appeared to him once more, and promised to incarnate in

his descendants for seven generations. After this there was no limit

to his miracles, so that the people began to worship him, and ended by

building a splendid temple for him.

 

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At last Maroba gave orders to the people to bury him alive, in a sitting

posture, with an open book in his hands, and never to open his grave

again under penalty of his wrath and maledictions. After the burial

of Maroba, Gunpati incarnated in his first-born, who began a conjuring

career in his turn. So that Maroba-Deo I, was replaced by Chintaman-Deo

I. This latter god had eight wives and eight sons. The tricks of the

eldest of these sons, Narayan-Deo I, became so celebrated that his fame

reached the ears of the Emperor Alamgir. In order to test the extent of

his "deification," Alamgir sent him a piece of a cow's tail wrapped in

rich stuffs and coverings. Now, to touch the tail of a dead cow is the

worst of all degradations for a Hindu. On receiving it Narayan sprinkled

the parcel with water, and, when the stuffs were unfolded, there was

found enclosed in them a nosegay of white syringa, instead of the

ungodly tail. This transformation rejoiced the Emperor so much that he

presented the god with eight villages, to cover his private expenses.

Narayan's social position and property were inherited by Chintaman-Deo

II., whose heir was Dharmadhar, and, lastly, Narayan II came into

power. He drew down the malediction of Gunpati by violating the grave

of Maroba. That is why his son, the last of the gods, is to die without

issue.

 

When we saw him he was an aged man, about ninety years old. He was

seated on a kind of platform. His head shook and his eyes idiotically

stared without seeing us, the result of his constant use of opium. On

his neck, ears, and toes, shone precious stones, and all around were

spread offerings. We had to take off our shoes before we were allowed to

approach this half-ruined relic.----

 

 

On the evening of the same day we returned to Bombay. Two days later we

were to start on our long journey to the North-West Provinces, and our

route promised to be very attractive. We were to see Nassik, one of the

few towns mentioned by Greek historians, its caves, and the tower of

Rama; to visit Allahabad, the ancient Prayaga, the metropolis of the

moon dynasty, built at the confluence of the Ganges and Jumna; Benares,

the town of five thousand temples and as many monkeys; Cawnpur,

notorious for the bloody revenge of Nana Sahib; the remains of the city

of the sun, destroyed, according to the computations of Colebrooke, six

thousand years ago; Agra and Delhi; and then, having explored Rajistan

with its thousand Takur castles, fortresses, ruins, and legends, we were

to go to Lahore, the metropolis of the Punjab, and, lastly, to stay for

a while in Amritsar. There, in the Golden Temple, built in the centre

of the "Lake of Immortality," was to be held the first meeting of the

members of our Society, Brahmans, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc.--in a word,

the representatives of the one thousand and one sects of India, who all

sympathized, more or less, with the idea of the Brotherhood of Humanity

of our Theosophical Society.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

 

 

Vanished Glories

 

 

Benares, Prayaga (now Allahabad), Nassik, Hurdwar, Bhadrinath,

Matura--these were the sacred places of prehistoric India which we were

to visit one after the other; but to visit them, not after the usual

manner of tourists, a vol d'oiseau, with a cheap guide-book in our hands

and a cicerone to weary our brains, and wear out our legs. We were well

aware that all these ancient places are thronged with traditions and

overgrown with the weeds of popular fancy, like ruins of ancient castles

covered with ivy; that the original shape of the building is destroyed

by the cold embrace of these parasitic plants, and that it is as

difficult for the archaeologist to form an idea of the architecture

of the once perfect edifice, judging only by the heaps of disfigured

rubbish that cover the country, as for us to select from out the thick

mass of legends good wheat from weeds. No guides and no cicerone could

be of any use whatever to us. The only thing they could do would be to

point out to us places where once there stood a fortress, a castle, a

temple, a sacred grove, or a celebrated town, and then to repeat legends

which came into existence only lately, under the Mussulman rule. As to

the undisguised truth, the original history of every interesting spot,

we should have had to search for these by ourselves, assisted only by

our own conjectures.

 

Modern India does not present a pale shadow of what it was in the

pre-Christian era, nor even of the Hindostan of the days of Akbar,

Shah-Jehan and Aurungzeb. The neighborhood of every town that has been

shattered by many a war, and of every ruined hamlet, is covered with

round reddish pebbles, as if with so many petrified tears of blood. But,

in order to approach the iron gate of some ancient fortress, it is not

over natural pebbles that it is necessary to walk, but over the broken

fragments of some older granite remains, under which, very often, rest

the ruins of a third town, still more ancient than the last. Modern

names have been given to them by Mussulmans, who generally built their

towns upon the remains of those they had just taken by assault. The

names of the latter are sometimes mentioned in the legends, but the

names of their predecessors had completely disappeared from the popular

memory even before the Mussulman invasion. Will a time ever come

for these secrets of the centuries to be revealed? Knowing all this

beforehand, we resolved not to lose patience, even though we had to

devote whole years to explorations of the same places, in order to

obtain better historical information, and facts less disfigured than

those obtained by our predecessors, who had to be contented with a

choice collection of naive lies, poured forth from the mouth of some

frightened semi-savage, or some Brahman, unwilling to speak and desirous

of disguising the truth. As for ourselves, we were differently situated.

We were helped by a whole society of educated Hindus, who were as deeply

interested in the same questions as ourselves. Besides, we had a promise

of the revelation of some secrets, and the accurate translation of some

ancient chronicles, that had been preserved as if by a miracle.

 

The history of India has long since faded from the memories of her sons,

and is still a mystery to her conquerors. Doubtless it still exists,

though, perchance, only partly, in manuscripts that are jealously

concealed from every European eye. This has been shown by some

pregnant words, spoken by Brahmans on their rare occasions of friendly

expansiveness. Thus, Colonel Tod, whom I have already quoted several

times, is said to have been told by a Mahant, the chief of an ancient

pagoda-monastery: "Sahib, you lose your time in vain researches. The

Bellati India [India of foreigners] is before you, but you will

never see the Gupta India [secret India]. We are the guardians of her

mysteries, and would rather cut out each other's tongues than speak."

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Yet, nevertheless, Tod succeeded in learning a good deal. It must be

borne in mind that no Englishman has ever been loved so well by the

natives as this old and courageous friend of the Maharana of Oodeypur,

who, in his turn, was so friendly towards the natives that the humblest

of them never saw a trace of contempt in his demeanour. He wrote before

ethnology had reached its present stage of development, but his book

is still an authority on everything concerning Rajistan. Though the

author's opinion of his work was not very high, though he stated that

"it is nothing but a conscientious collection of materials for a future

historian," still in this book is to be found many a thing undreamed of

by any British civil servant.

 

"Let our friends smile incredulously. Let our enemies laugh at our

pretensions to penetrate the world-mysteries of Aryavarta," as a certain

critic recently expressed himself. However pessimistic may be our

critics' views, yet, even in the event of our conclusions not proving

more trustworthy than those of Fergusson, Wilson, Wheeler, and the rest

of the archeologists and Sanskritists who have written about India,

still, I hope, they will not be less susceptible of proof. We are daily

reminded that, like unreasonable children, we have undertaken a task

before which archaeologists and historians, aided by all the influence

and wealth of the Government, have shrunk dismayed; that we have taken

upon ourselves a work which has proved to be beyond the capacities of

the Royal Asiatic Society.

 

Let it be so.

 

Let everyone try to remember, as we ourselves remember, that not very

long ago a poor Hungarian, who not only had no means of any kind but was

almost a beggar, traveled on foot to Tibet through unknown and dangerous

countries, led only by the love of learning and the eager wish to

pour light on the historical origin of his nation. The result was that

inexhaustible mines of literary treasures were discovered. Philology,

which till then had wandered in the Egyptian darkness of etymological

labyrinths, and was about to ask the sanction of the scientific world

to one of the wildest of theories, suddenly stumbled on the clue of

Ariadne. Philology discovered, at last, that the Sanskrit language is,

if not the forefather, at least--to use the language of Max Muller--"the

elder brother" of all classical languages. Thanks to the extraordinary

zeal of Alexander Csoma de Koros, Tibet yielded a language the

literature of which was totally unknown. He partly translated it and

partly analyzed and explained it. His translations have shown the

scientific world that (1) the originals of the Zend-Avesta, the sacred

scriptures of the sun-worshippers, of Tripitaka, that of the Buddhists,

and of Aytareya-Brahmanam, that of the Brahmans, were written in one and

the same Sanskrit language; (2) that all these three languages--Zend,

Nepalese, and the modern Brahman Sanskrit--are more or less dialects of

the first; (3) that old Sanskrit is the origin of all the less ancient

Indo-European languages, as well as of the modern European

tongues and dialects; (4) that the three chief religions of

heathendom--Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Brahmanism--are mere heresies

of the monotheistic teachings of the Vedas, which does not prevent them

from being real ancient religions and not modern falsifications.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The moral of all this is evident. A poor traveler, without either money

or protection, succeeded in gaining admittance to the Lamaseries of

Tibet and to the sacred literature of the isolated tribe which inhabits

it, probably because he treated the Mongolians and the Tibetans as

his brothers and not as an inferior race--a feat which has never been

accomplished by generations of scientists. One cannot help feeling

ashamed of humanity and science when one thinks that he whose labors

first gave to science such precious results, he who was the first sower

of such an abundant harvest, remained, almost until the day of his

death, a poor and obscure worker. On his way from Tibet he walked to

Calcutta without a penny in his pocket. At last Csoma de Koros became

known, and his name began to be pronounced with honor and praise whilst

he was dying in one of the poorest parts of Calcutta. Being already very

ill, he wanted to get back to Tibet, and started on foot again through

Sikkhim. He succumbed to his illness on the road and was buried in

Darhjeeling.

 

It is needless to say we are fully aware that what we have undertaken is

simply impossible within the limits of ordinary newspaper articles.

All we hope to accomplish is to lay the foundation stone of an edifice,

whose further progress must be entrusted to future generations. In order

to combat successfully the theories worked out by two generations of

Orientalists, half a century of diligent labor would be required. And,

in order to replace these theories with new ones, we must get new facts,

facts founded not on the chronology and false evidence of scheming

Brahmans, whose interest is to feed the ignorance of European

Sanskritists (as, unfortunately, was the experience of Lieutenant

Wilford and Louis Jacolliot), but on indubitable proofs that are to

be found in inscriptions as yet undeciphered. The clue to these

inscriptions Europeans do not possess, because, as I have already

stated, it is guarded in MSS. which are as old as the inscriptions and

which are almost out of reach. Even in case our hopes are realized and

we obtain this clue, a new difficulty will arise before us. We shall

have to begin a systematic refutation, page by page, of many a volume

of hypotheses published by the Royal Asiatic Society. A work like

this might be accomplished by dozens of tireless, never-resting

Sanskritists--a class which, even in India, is almost as rare as white

elephants.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Thanks to private contributions and the zeal of some educated Hindu

patriots, two free classes of Sanskrit and Pali had already been

opened--one in Bombay by the Theosophical Society, the other in Benares

under the presidency of the learned Rama-Misra-Shastri. In the present

year, 1882, the Theosophical Society has, altogether, fourteen schools

in Ceylon and India.

 

Our heads full of thoughts and plans of this kind, we, that is to say,

one American, three Europeans, and three natives, occupied a whole

carriage of the Great Indian Peninsular Railroad on our way to Nassik,

one of the oldest towns in India, as I have already mentioned, and

the most sacred of all in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Western

Presidency. Nassik borrowed its name from the Sanskrit word "Nasika,"

which means nose. An epic legend assures us that on this very spot

Lakshman, the eldest brother of the deified King Rama, cut off the nose

of the giantess Sarpnaka, sister of Ravana, who stole Sita, the "Helen

of Troy" of the Hindus.

 

The train stops six miles from the town, so that we had to finish our

journey in six two-wheeled, gilded chariots, called ekkas, and drawn by

bullocks. It was one o'clock A.M., but, in spite of the darkness of the

hour, the horns of the animals were gilded and adorned with flowers,

and brass bangles tinkled on their legs. Our waylay through ravines

overgrown with jungle, where, as our drivers hastened to inform

us, tigers and other four-footed misanthropes of the forest played

hide-and-seek. However, we had no opportunity of making the acquaintance

of the tigers, but enjoyed instead a concert of a whole community of

jackals. They followed us step by step, piercing our ears with shrieks,

wild laughter and barking. These animals are annoying, but so cowardly

that, though numerous enough to devour, not only all of us, but our

gold-horned bullocks too, none of them dared to come nearer than the

distance of a few steps. Every time the long whip, our weapon against

snakes, alighted on the back of one of them, the whole horde disappeared

with unimaginable noise. Nevertheless, the drivers did not dispense with

a single one of their superstitious precautions against tigers. They

chanted mantrams in unison, spread betel over the road as a token of

their respect to the Rajas of the forest, and, after every couplet,

made the bullocks kneel and bow their heads in honor of the great gods.

Needless to say, the ekka, as light as a nutshell, threatened each time

to fall with its passenger over the horns of the bullocks. We had to

endure this agreeable way of traveling for five hours under a very dark

sky. We reached the Inn of the Pilgrims in the morning at about six

o'clock.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The real cause of Nassik's sacredness, however, is not the mutilated

trunk of the giantess, but the situation of the town on the banks of

the Godavari, quite close to the sources of this river which, for some

reason or other, are called by the natives Ganga (Ganges). It is to

this magic name, probably, that the town owes its numerous magnificent

temples, and the selectness of the Brahmans who inhabit the banks of

the river. Twice a year pilgrims flock here to pray, and on these solemn

occasions the number of the visitors exceeds that of the inhabitants,

which is only 35,000. Very picturesque, but equally dirty, are the

houses of the rich Brahmans built on both sides of the way from the

centre of the town to the Godavari. A whole forest of narrow pyramidal

temples spreads on both sides of the river. All these new pagodas

are built on the ruins of those destroyed by the fanaticism of the

Mussulmans. A legend informs us that most of them rose from the ashes

of the tail of the monkey god Hanuman. Retreating from Lanka, where

the wicked Ravana, having anointed the brave hero's tail with some

combustible stuff set it on fire, Hanuman, with a single leap through

the air, reached Nassik, his fatherland. And here the noble adornment

of the monkey's back, burned almost entirely during the voyage, crumbled

into ashes, and from every sacred atom of these ashes, fallen to

the ground, there rose a temple.... And, indeed, when seen from

the mountain, these numberless pagodas, scattered in a most curious

disorderly way, look as if they had really been thrown down by handfuls

from the sky. Not only the river banks and the surrounding country, but

every little island, every rock peeping from the water is covered

with temples. And not one of them is destitute of a legend of its

own, different versions of which are told by every individual of the

Brahmanical community according to his own taste--of course in the hope

of a suitable reward.

 

Here, as everywhere else in India, Brahmans are divided into two

sects--worshippers of Shiva and worshippers of Vishnu--and between the

two there is rivalry and warfare centuries old. Though the neighborhood

of the Godavari shines with a twofold fame derived from its being the

birthplace of Hanuman and the theatre of the first great deeds of Rama,

the incarnation of Vishnu, it possesses as many temples dedicated to

Shiva as to Vishnu. The material of which the pagodas consecrated to

Shiva are constructed is black basalt. And it is, exactly, the color

of the material which is the apple of discord in this case. The black

material is claimed by the Vaishnavas as their own, it being of the

same color as the burned tail of Rama's ally. They try to prove that

the Shivaites have no right to it. From the first days of their rule

the English inherited endless lawsuits between the fighting sectarians,

cases decided in one law-court only to be transferred on appeal to

another, and always having their origin in this ill-omened tail and its

pretensions. This tail is a mysterious deus ex machina that directs all

the thoughts of the Nassik Brahmans pro and contra.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

On the subject of this tail were written more reams of paper and

petitions than in the quarrel about the goose between Ivan Ivanitch and

Ivan Nikiphoritch; and more ink and bile were spilt than there was mud

in Mirgorod, since the creation of the universe. The pig that so happily

decided the famous quarrel in Gogol would be a priceless blessing to

Nassik, and the struggle for the tail. But unhappily even the "pig" if

it hailed from "Russia" would be of no avail in India; for the English

would suspect it at once, and arrest it as a Russian spy!

 

Rama's bathing place is shown in Nassik. The ashes of pious Brahmans are

brought hither from distant parts to be thrown into the Godavari, and so

to mingle for ever with the sacred waters of Ganges. In an ancient MS.

there is a statement of one of Rama's generals, who, somehow or other,

is not mentioned in the Ramayana. This statement points to the river

Godavari as the frontier between the kingdoms of Rama, King of Ayodya

(Oude), and of Ravana, King of Lanka (Ceylon). Legends and the poem of

Ramayana state that this was the spot where Rama, while hunting, saw a

beautiful antelope, and, intending to make a present to his beloved Sita

of its skin, entered the regions of his unknown neighbor. No doubt Rama,

Ravana, and even Hanuman, promoted, for some unexplained reason, to

the rank of a monkey, are historical personages who once had a real

existence. About fifty years ago it was vaguely suspected that the

Brahmans possessed priceless MSS. It was reported that one of these

MSS. treats of the prehistoric epoch when the Aryans first invaded the

country, and began an endless war with the dark aborigines of southern

India. But the religious fanaticism of the Hindus never allowed the

English Government to verify these reports.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The most interesting sights of Nassik are its cave-temples, about five

miles from the town. The day before we started thither, I certainly

did not dream that a "tail" would have to play an important part in

our visit to Nassik, that, in this case, it would save me, if not from

death, at least from disagreeable and perhaps dangerous bruises. This is

how it happened.

 

As the difficult task of ascending a steep mountain lay before us,

we decided to hire elephants. The best couple in the town was brought

before us. Their owner assured us "that the Prince of Wales had ridden

upon them and was very contented." To go there and back and have them in

attendance the whole day--in fact the whole pleasure-trip--was to cost

us two rupees for each elephant. Our native friends, accustomed from

infancy to this way of riding, were not long in getting on the back of

their elephant. They covered him like flies, with no predilection for

this or that spot of his vast back. They held on by all kinds of strings

and ropes, more with their toes than their fingers, and, on the whole,

presented a picture of contentment and comfort. We Europeans had to use

the lady elephant, as being the tamer of the two. On her back there

were two little benches with sloping seats on both sides, and not the

slightest prop for our backs. The wretched, undergrown youngsters seen

in European circuses give no idea of the real size of this noble beast.

The mahout, or driver, placed himself between the huge animal's ears

whilst we gazed at the "perfected" seats ready for us with an uneasy

feeling of distrust The mahout ordered his elephant to kneel, and it

must be owned that in climbing on her back with the aid of a small

ladder, I felt what the French call chair de poule. Our she-elephant

answered to the poetical name of "Chanchuli Peri," the Active Fairy, and

really was the most obedient and the merriest of all the representatives

of her tribe that I have ever seen. Clinging to each other we at last

gave the signal for departure, and the mahout goaded the right ear of

the animal with an iron rod. First the elephant raised herself on her

fore-legs, which movement tilted us all back, then she heavily rose on

her hind ones, too, and we rolled forwards, threatening to upset the

mahout. But this was not the end of our misfortunes. At the very

first steps of Peri we slipped about in all directions, like quivering

fragments of blancmange.

 

The journey came to a sudden pause. We were picked up in a hasty way,

replaced on our respective seats, during which proceeding Peri's trunk

proved very active, and the journey continued. The very thought of the

five miles before us filled us with horror, but we would not give up

the excursion, and indignantly refused to be tied to our seats, as was

suggested by our Hindu companions, who could not suppress their merry

laughter.... However, I bitterly repented this display of vanity. This

unusual mode of locomotion was something incredibly fantastical, and,

at the same time, ridiculous. A horse carrying our luggage trotted

by Peri's side, and looked, from our vast elevation, no bigger than a

donkey. At every mighty step of Peri we had to be prepared for all sorts

of unexpected acrobatic feats, while jolted from one side to the

other by her swinging gait. This experience, under the scorching

sun, unavoidably induced a state of body and mind something between

sea-sickness and a delirious nightmare. As a crown to our pleasures,

when we began to ascend a tortuous little path over the stony slope of

a deep ravine, our Peri stumbled. This sudden shock caused me to lose my

balance altogether. I sat on the hinder part of the elephant's back,

in the place of honor, as it is esteemed, and, once thoroughly shaken,

rolled down like a log. No doubt, next moment I should have found myself

at the bottom of the ravine, with some more or less sad loss to my

bodily constitution, if it had not been for the wonderful dexterity and

instinct of the clever animal. Having felt that something was wrong she

twisted her tail round me, stopped instantaneously and began to kneel

down carefully. But my natural weight was too much for the thin tail

of this kind animal. Peri did not lose hold of me, but, having at last

knelt down, she moaned plaintively, though discreetly, thinking probably

that she had nearly lost her tail through being so generous. The mahout

hurried to my rescue and then examined the damaged tail of his animal.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

We now witnessed a scene that clearly showed us the coarse cunning,

greediness and cowardice of a low-class Hindu, of an outcast, as they

are denominated here.

 

The mahout very indifferently and composedly examined Peri's tail, and

even pulled it several times to make sure, and was already on the point

of hoisting himself quietly into his usual place, when I had the unhappy

thought of muttering something that expressed my regret and compassion.

My words worked a miraculous transformation in the mahout's behavior. He

threw himself on the ground, and rolled about like a demoniac, uttering

horrible wild groans. Sobbing and crying he kept on repeating that the

Mam-Sahib had torn off his darling Peri's tail, that Peri was damaged

for ever in everybody's estimation, that Peri's husband, the proud

Airavati, lineal descendant of Indra's own favourite elephant, having

witnessed her shame, would renounce his spouse, and that she had better

die.... Yells and bitter tears were his only answer to all remonstrances

of our companions. In vain we tried to persuade him that the "proud

Airavati" did not show the slightest disposition to be so cruel, in vain

we pointed out to him that all this time both elephants stood quietly

together, Airavati even at this critical moment rubbing his trunk

affectionately against Peri's neck, and Peri not looking in the least

discomfited by the accident to her tail. All this was of no avail! Our

friend Narayan lost his patience at last. He was a man of extraordinary

muscular strength and took recourse to a last original means. With one

hand he threw down a silver rupee, with the other he seized the mahout's

muslin garment and hurled him after the coin. Without giving a thought

to his bleeding nose, the mahout jumped at the rupee with the greediness

of a wild beast springing upon its prey. He prostrated himself in the

dust before us repeatedly, with endless "salaams," instantly changing

his deep sorrow into mad joy. He gave another pull at the unfortunate

tail and gladly declared that, thanks to the "prayers of the sahib," it

really was safe; to demonstrate which he hung on to it, till he was torn

away and put back on his seat.

 

"Is it possible that a single, miserable rupee can have been the cause

of all this?" we asked each other in utter bewilderment.

 

"Your astonishment is natural enough," answered the Hindus. "We need

not express how ashamed and how disgusted we all feel at this voluntary

display of humiliation and greed. But do not forget that this wretch,

who certainly has a wife and children, serves his employer for twelve

rupees a year, instead of which he often gets nothing but a beating.

Remember also the long centuries of tyrannical treatment from Brahmans,

from fanatical Mussulmans, who regard a Hindu as nothing better than an

unclean reptile, and, nowadays, from the average Englishman, and maybe

you will pity this wretched caricature of humanity."

 

But the "caricature" in question evidently felt perfectly happy and

not in the least conscious of a humiliation of any kind. Sitting on the

roomy forehead of his Peri, he was telling her of his unexpected wealth,

reminding her of her "divine" origin, and ordering her to salute the

"sahibs" with her trunk. Peri, whose spirits had been raised by the gift

of a whole stick of sugar-cane from me, lifted her trunk backwards and

playfully blew into our faces.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

On the threshold of the Nassik caves we bid good-bye to the modern

pigmy India, to the petty things of her everyday life, and to her

humiliations. We re-entered the unknown world of India, the great and

the mysterious.

 

The main caves of Nassik are excavated in a mountain bearing the name

of Pandu-Lena, which points again to the undying, persistent, primaeval

tradition that ascribes all such buildings to the five mythical (?)

brothers of prehistoric times. The unanimous opinion of archaeologists

 

esteems these caves more interesting and more important than all the

caves of Elephanta and Karli put together. And, nevertheless--is it not

strange?--with the exception of the learned Dr. Wilson, who, it may be,

was a little too fond of forming hasty opinions, no archaeologist has,

as yet, made so bold as to decide to what epoch they belong, by whom

they were erected, and which of the three chief religions of antiquity

was the one professed by their mysterious builders.

 

It is evident, however, that those who wrought here did not all belong

either to the same generation or to the same sect. The first thing which

strikes the attention is the roughness of the primitive work, its huge

dimensions, and the decline of the sculpture on the solid walls, whereas

the sculpture and carvings of the six colossi which prop the chief cave

on the second floor, are magnificently preserved and very elegant.

This circumstance would lead one to think that the work was begun

many centuries before it was finished. But when? One of the Sanskrit

inscriptions of a comparatively recent epoch (on the pedestal of one of

the colossi) clearly points to 453 B.C. as the year of the building. At

all events, Barth, Stevenson, Gibson, Reeves, and some other scientists,

who being Westerns can have none of the prejudices proper to the native

Pundits, have formed this conjecture on the basis of some astronomical

data. Besides, the conjunction of the planets stated in the inscription

leaves no doubt as to the dates, it must be either 453 B.C., or 1734

of our era, or 2640 B.C., which last is impossible, because Buddha and

Buddhist monasteries are mentioned in the inscription. I translate some

of the most important sentences:

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

"To the most Perfect and the Highest! May this be agreeable to Him! The

son of King Kshaparata, Lord of the Kshatriya tribe and protector of

people, the Ruler of Dinik, bright as the dawn, sacrifices a hundred

thousand cows that graze on the river Banasa, together with the river,

and also the gift of gold by the builder of this holy shelter of gods,

the place of the curbing of the Brahmans' passions. There is no more

desirable place than this place, neither in Prabhasa, where accumulate

hundreds of thousands of Brahmans repeating the sacred verse, nor in the

sacred city Gaya, nor on the steep mountain near Dashatura, nor on the

Serpents' Field in Govardhana, nor in the city Pratisraya where

stands the monastery of Buddhists, nor even in the edifice erected by

Depana-kara on the shores of the fresh water [?] sea. This place, giving

incomparable favors, is agreeable and useful in all respects to the

spotted deerskin of an ascetic. A safe boat given also by him who built

the gratuitous ferry daily transports to the well-guarded shore. By him

also who built the house for travelers and the public fountain, a gilded

lion was erected by the ever-assaulted gate of this Govardhana, also

another [lion] by the ferry-boat, and another by Ramatirtha. Various

kinds of food will always be found here by the scanty flock; for this

flock more than a hundred kinds of herbs and thousands of mountain

roots are stored by this generous giver. In the same Govardhana, in the

luminous mountain, this second cave was dug by the order of the same

beneficent person, during the very year when the Sun, Shukra and Rahu,

much respected by men, were in the full glory of their rise; it was in

this year that the gifts were offered. Lakshmi, Indra and Yama having

blessed them, returned with shouts of triumph to their chariot, kept on

the way free from obstacles [the sky], by the force of mantrams. When

they [the gods] all left, poured a heavy shower....." and so on.

 

Rahn and Kehetti are the fixed stars which form the head and the tail

of the constellation of the Dragon. Shukra is Venus. Lakshmi, Indra and

Yama stand here for the constellations of Virgo, Aquarius and Taurus,

which are subject and consecrated to these three among the twelve higher

deities.

 

The first caves are dugout in a conical hillock about two hundred and

eighty feet from its base. In the chief of them stand three statues of

Buddha; in the lateral ones a lingam and two Jaina idols. In the top

cave there is a statue of Dharma Raja, or Yudhshtira, the eldest of the

Pandus, who is worshipped in a temple erected in his honor, between Pent

and Nassik. Farther on is a whole labyrinth of cells, where Buddhist

hermits probably lived, a huge statue of Buddha in a reclining posture.

and another as big, but surrounded with pillars adorned with figures of

various animals. Styles, epochs and sects are here as much mixed up and

entangled as different trees in a thick forest.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

It is very remarkable that almost all the cave temples of India are to

be found inside conical rocks and mountains. It is as though the ancient

builders looked for such natural pyramids purposely. I noticed this

peculiarity in Karli, and it is to be met with only in India. Is it

a mere coincidence, or is it one of the rules of the religious

architecture of the remote past? And which are the imitators--the

builders of the Egyptian pyramids, or the unknown architects of the

under ground caves of India? In pyramids as well as in caves everything

seems to be calculated with geometrical exactitude. In neither case are

the entrances ever at the bottom, but always at a certain distance from

the ground. It is well known that nature does not imitate art, and, as

a rule, art tries to copy certain forms of nature. And if, even in this

similarity of the symbols of Egypt and India, nothing is to be found but

a coincidence, we shall have to own that coincidences are sometimes very

extraordinary. Egypt has borrowed many things from India. We must not

forget that nothing is known about the origin of the Pharaohs, and

that the few facts science has succeeded in discovering, far from

contradicting our theory, suggest India as the cradle of the Egyptian

race. In the days of remote antiquity Kalluka-Bhatta wrote: "During the

reign of Visvamitra, first king of the Soma-Vansha dynasty, after a five

days battle, Manu-Vena, the heir of ancient kings, was abandoned by the

Brahmans, and emigrated with his army, and, having traversed Arya and

Barria, at last reached the shores of Masra....."

 

Arya is Iran or Persia; Barria is an ancient name of Arabia; Masr or

Masra is a name of Cairo, disfigured by Mussulmans into Misro and Musr.

 

Kalluka-Bhatta is an ancient writer. Sanskritists still quarrel over his

epoch, wavering between 2,000 years B.C., and the reign of the Emperor

Akbar (the time of John the Terrible and Elizabeth of England). On the

grounds of this uncertainty, the evidence of Kalluka-Bhatta might be

objected to. In this case, there are the words of a modern historian,

who has studied Egypt all his life, not in Berlin or London, like some

other historians, but in Egypt, deciphering the inscriptions of the

oldest sarcophagi and papyri, that is to say, the words of Henry

Brugsch-Bey:

 

"... I repeat, my firm conviction is that the Egyptians came from Asia

long before the historical period, having traversed the Suez promontory,

that bridge of all the nations, and found a new fatherland on the banks

of the Nile."

 

An inscription on a Hammamat rock says that Sankara, the last Pharaoh of

the eleventh dynasty, sent a nobleman to Punt: "I was sent on a ship to

Punt, to bring back some aromatic gum, gathered by the princes of the

Red Land."

 

Commenting on this inscription, Brugsch-Bey explains that "under the

name of Punt the ancient inhabitants of Chemi meant a distant land

surrounded by a great ocean, full of mountains and valleys, and rich

in ebony and other expensive woods, in perfumes, precious stones and

metals, in wild beasts, giraffes, leopards and big monkeys." The name of

a monkey in Egypt was Kaff, or Kafi, in Hebrew Koff, in Sanskrit Kapi.

 

In the eyes of the ancient Egyptians, this Punt was a sacred land,

because Punt or Panuter was "the original land of the gods, who left

it under the leadership of A-Mon [Manu-Vena of Kalluka-Bhatta?] Hor and

Hator, and duly arrived in Chemi."

 

Hanuman has a decided family likeness to the Egyptian Cynocephalus, and

the emblem of Osiris and Shiva is the same. Qui vivra verra!

 

Our return journey was very agreeable. We had adapted ourselves to

Peri's movements and felt ourselves first-rate jockeys. But for a whole

week afterwards we could hardly walk.

 

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

A City Of The Dead

 

 

 

What would be your choice if you had to choose between being blind and

being deaf? Nine people out of ten answer this question by positively

preferring deafness to blindness. And one whose good fortune it has been

to contemplate, even for a moment, some fantastic fairy-like corner of

India, this country of lace-like marble palaces and enchanting gardens,

would willingly add to deafness, lameness of both legs, rather than lose

such sights.

 

We are told that Saadi, the great poet, bitterly complained of his

friends looking tired and indifferent while he praised the beauty and

charm of his lady-love. "If the happiness of contemplating her wonderful

beauty," remonstrated he, "was yours, as it is mine, you could not

fail to understand my verses, which, alas, describe in such meagre and

inadequate terms the rapturous feelings experienced by every one who

sees her even from a distance!"

 

I fully sympathize with the enamoured poet, but cannot condemn his

friends who never saw his lady-love, and that is why I tremble lest my

constant rhapsodies on India should bore my readers as much as Saadi

bored his friends. But what, I pray you, is the poor narrator to do,

when new, undreamed-of charms are daily discovered in the lady-love

in question? Her darkest aspects, abject and immoral as they are, and

sometimes of such a nature as to excite your horror--even these aspects

are full of some wild poetry, of originality, which cannot be met with

in any other country. It is not unusual for a European novice to shudder

with disgust at some features of local everyday life; but at the same

time these very sights attract and fascinate the attention like a

horrible nightmare. We had plenty of these experiences whilst our ecole

buissoniere lasted. We spent these days far from railways and from any

other vestige of civilization. Happily so, because European civilization

does not suit India any better than a fashionable bonnet would suit a

half naked Peruvian maiden, a true "daughter of Sun," of Cortes' time.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

All the day long we wandered across rivers and jungles, passing villages

and ruins of ancient fortresses, over local-board roads between Nassik

and Jubblepore, traveling with the aid of bullock cars, elephants,

horses, and very often being carried in palks. At nightfall we put up

our tents and slept anywhere. These days offered us an opportunity

of seeing that man decidedly can surmount trying and even dangerous

conditions of climate, though, perhaps, in a passive way, by mere force

of habit. In the afternoons, when we, white people, were very nearly

fainting with the roasting heat, in spite of thick cork topis and such

 

shelter as we could procure, and even our native companions had to use

more than the usual supplies of muslin round their heads--the Bengali

Babu traveled on horseback endless miles, under the vertical rays of the

hot sun, bareheaded, protected only by his thick crop of hair. The sun

has no influence whatever on Bengali skulls. They are covered only on

solemn occasions, in cases of weddings and great festivities. Their

turbans are useless adornments, like flowers in a European lady's hair.

 

Bengali Babus are born clerks; they invade all railroad stations, post

and telegraph offices and Government law courts. Wrapped in their

white muslin toga virilis, their legs bare up to the knees, their heads

unprotected, they proudly loaf on the platforms of railway stations, or

at the entrances of their offices, casting contemptuous glances on the

Mahrattis, who dearly love their numerous rings and lovely earrings in

the upper part of their right ears. Bengalis, unlike the rest of the

Hindus, do not paint sectarian signs on their foreheads. The only

trinket they do not completely despise is an expensive necklace; but

even this is not common. Contrary to all expectations, the Mahrattis,

with all their little effeminate ways, are the bravest tribe of India,

gallant and experienced soldiers, a fact which has been demonstrated

by centuries of fighting; but Bengal has never as yet produced a single

soldier out of its sixty-five million inhabitants. Not a single Bengali

is to be found in the native regiments of the British army. This is a

strange fact, which I refused to believe at first, but which has been

confirmed by many English officers and by Bengalis themselves. But with

all this, they are far from being cowardly. Their wealthy classes do

lead a somewhat effeminate life, but their zemindars and peasantry are

undoubtedly brave. Disarmed by their present Government, the Bengali

peasants go out to meet the tiger, which in their country is more

ferocious than elsewhere, armed only with a club, as composedly as they

used to go with rifles and swords.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

Many out-of-the-way paths and groves which most probably had never

before been trodden by a European foot, were visited by us during these

short days. Gulab-Lal-Sing was absent, but we were accompanied by a

trusted servant of his, and the welcome we met with almost everywhere

was certainly the result of the magic influence of his name. If the

wretched, naked peasants shrank from us and shut their doors at our

approach, the Brahmans were as obliging as could be desired.

 

The sights around Kandesh, on the way to Thalner and Mhau, are very

picturesque. But the effect is not entirely due to Nature's beauty. Art

has a good deal to do with it, especially in Mussulman cemeteries. Now

they are all more or less destroyed and deserted, owing to the increase

of the Hindu inhabitants around them, and to the Mussulman princes, once

the rightful lords of India, being expelled. Mussulmans of the present

day are badly off and have to put up with more humiliations than even

the Hindus. But still they have left many memorials behind them, and,

amongst others, their cemeteries. The Mussulman fidelity to the dead is

a very touching feature of their character. Their devotion to those

that are gone is always more demonstrative than their affection for

the living members of their families, and almost entirely concentrates

itself on their last abodes. In proportion as their notions of paradise

are coarse and material, the appearance of their cemeteries is poetical,

especially in India. One may pleasantly spend whole hours in these

shady, delightful gardens, amongst their white monuments crowned with

turbans, covered with roses and jessamine and sheltered with rows of

cypresses. We often stopped in such places to sleep and dine. A cemetery

near Thalner is especially attractive. Out of several mausoleums in a

good state of preservation the most magnificent is the monument of the

family of Kiladar, who was hanged on the city tower by the order of

General Hislop in 1818. Four other mausoleums attracted our attention

and we learned that one of them is celebrated throughout India. It is a

white marble octagon, covered from top to bottom with carving, the

like of which could not be found even in Pere La Chaise. A Persian

inscription on its base records that it cost one hundred thousand

rupees.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

By day, bathed in the hot rays of the sun, its tall minaret-like outline

looks like a block of ice against the blue sky. By night, with the aid

of the intense, phosphorescent moonlight proper to India, it is still

more dazzling and poetical. The summit looks as if it were covered with

freshly fallen snow-crystals. Raising its slender profile above the dark

background of bushes, it suggests some pure midnight apparition, soaring

over this silent abode of destruction and lamenting what will never

return. Side by side with these cemeteries rise the Hindu ghats,

generally by the river bank. There really is something grand in the

ritual of burning the dead. Witnessing this ceremony the spectator is

struck with the deep philosophy underlying the fundamental idea of this

custom. In the course of an hour nothing remains of the body but a

few handfuls of ashes. A professional Brahman, like a priest of death,

scatters these ashes to the winds over a river. The ashes of what once

lived and felt, loved and hated, rejoiced and wept, are thus given back

again to the four elements: to Earth, which fed it during such a long

time and out of which it grew and developed; to Fire, emblem of purity,

that has just devoured the body in order that the spirit may be rid

of everything impure, and may freely gravitate to the new sphere of

posthumous existence, where every sin is a stumbling block on the way to

"Moksha," or infinite bliss; to Air, which it inhaled and through which

it lived, and to Water, which purified it physically and spiritually,

and is now to receive its ashes into her pure bosom.

 

The adjective "pure" must be understood in the figurative sense of the

 

mantram. Generally speaking, the rivers of India, beginning with the

thrice sacred Ganges, are dreadfully dirty, especially near villages and

towns.

 

In these rivers about two hundred millions of people daily cleanse

themselves from the tropical perspiration and dirt. The corpses of

those who are not worth burning are thrown in the same rivers, and their

number is great, because it includes all Shudras, pariahs, and various

other outcasts, as well as Brahman children under three years of age.

 

Only rich and high-born people are buried pompously. It is for them that

the sandal-wood fires are lit after sunset; it is for them that mantrams

are chanted, and for them that the gods are invoked. But Shudras must

not listen on any account to the divine words dictated at the beginning

of the world by the four Rishis to Veda Vyasa, the great theologian of

Aryavarta. No fires for them, no prayers. As during his life a Shudra

never approaches a temple nearer than seven steps, so even after death

he cannot be put on the same level with the "twice-born."

 

Brightly burn the fires, extending like a fiery serpent along the river.

The dark outlines of strange, wildly-fantastical figures silently move

amongst the flames. Sometimes they raise their arms towards the sky, as

if in a prayer, sometimes they add fuel to the fires and poke them with

long iron pitchforks. The dying flames rise high, creeping and dancing,

sputtering with melted human fat and shooting towards the sky whole

showers of golden sparks, which are instantly lost in the clouds of

black smoke.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

This on the right side of the river. Let us now see what is going on

on the left. In the early hours of the morning, when the red fires, the

black clouds of miasmas, and the thin figures of the fakirs grow dim and

vanish little by little, when the smell of burned flesh is blown away by

the fresh wind which rises at the approach of the dawn, when, in a word,

the right side of the river with its ghotas plunges into stillness

and silence, to be reawakened when the evening comes, processions of a

different kind appear on the left bank. We see groups of Hindu men and

women in sad, silent trains. They approach the river quietly. They

do not cry, and have no rituals to perform. We see two men carrying

something long and thin, wrapped in an old red rug. Holding it by the

head and feet they swing it into the dirty, yellowish waves of the

river. The shock is so violent that the red rug flies open and we behold

the face of a young woman tinged with dark green, who quickly disappears

in the river. Further on another group; an old man and two young women.

One of them, a little girl of ten, small, thin, hardly fully developed,

sobs bitterly. She is the mother of a stillborn child, whose body is to

 

be thrown in the river. Her weak voice monotonously resounds over the

shore, and her trembling hands are not strong enough to lift the poor

little corpse that is more like a tiny brown kitten than a human being.

The old man tries to console her, and, taking the body in his own hands,

enters the water and throws it right in the middle. After him both the

women get into the river, and, having plunged seven times to purify

themselves from the touch of a dead body, they return home, their

clothes dripping with wet. In the meanwhile vultures, crows and other

birds of prey gather in thick clouds and considerably retard the

progress of the bodies down the river. Occasionally some half-stripped

skeleton is caught by the reeds, and stranded there helplessly for

weeks, until an outcast, whose sad duty it is to busy himself all his

life long with such unclean work, takes notice of it, and catching it

by the ribs with his long hook, restores it to its highway towards the

ocean.

 

But let us leave the river bank, which is unbearably hot in spite of

the early hour. Let us bid good-bye to the watery cemetery of the poor.

Disgusting and heart-rending are such sights in the eyes of a European!

And unconsciously we allow the light wings of reverie to transport us

to the far North, to the peaceful village cemeteries where there are no

marble monuments crowned with turbans, no sandal-wood fires, no dirty

rivers to serve the purpose of a last resting place, but where humble

wooden crosses stand in rows, sheltered by old birches. How peacefully

our dead repose under the rich green grass! None of them ever saw these

gigantic palms, sumptuous palaces and pagodas covered with gold. But

on their poor graves grow violets and lilies of the valley, and in the

spring evenings nightingales sing to them in the old birch-trees.

 

No nightingales ever sing for me, either in the neighboring groves, or

in my own heart. The latter least of all.----

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Let us stroll along this wall of reddish stone. It will lead us to a

fortress once celebrated and drenched with blood, now harmless and half

ruined, like many another Indian fortress. Flocks of green parrots,

startled by our approach, fly from under every cavity of the old wall,

their wings shining in the sun like so many flying emeralds. This

territory is accursed by Englishmen. This is Chandvad, where, during

the Sepoy mutiny, the Bhils streamed from their ambuscades like a mighty

mountain torrent, and cut many an English throat.

 

Tatva, an ancient Hindu book, treating of the geography of the times

of King Asoka (250-300 B.C.), teaches us that the Mahratti territory

spreads up to the wall of Chandvad or Chandor, and that the Kandesh

country begins on the other side of the river. But English people do

not believe in Tatva or in any other authority and want us to learn that

Kandesh begins right at the foot of Chandor hillocks.----

 

 

Twelve miles south-east from Chandvad there is a whole town of

subterranean temples, known under the name of Enkay-Tenkay. Here, again,

the entrance is a hundred feet from the base, and the hill is pyramidal.

I must not attempt to give a full description of these temples, as this

subject must be worked out in a way quite impossible in a newspaper

article. So I shall only note that here all the statues, idols, and

carvings are ascribed to Buddhist ascetics of the first centuries after

the death of Buddha. I wish I could content myself with this statement.

But, unfortunately, messieurs les archeologues meet here with an

unexpected difficulty, and a more serious one than all the difficulties

brought on them by the inconsistencies of all other temples put

together.

 

In these temples there are more idols designated Buddhas than anywhere

else. They cover the main entrance, sit in thick rows along the

balconies, occupy the inner walls of the cells, watch the entrances

of all the doors like monster giants, and two of them sit in the chief

tank, where spring water washes them century after century without any

harm to their granite bodies. Some of these Buddhas are decently clad,

with pyramidal pagodas as their head gear; others are naked; some sit,

others stand; some are real colossi, some tiny, some of middle size.

However, all this would not matter; we may go so far as to overlook the

fact of Gautama's or Siddhartha-Buddha's reform consisting precisely in

his earnest desire to tear up by the roots the Brahmanical idol-worship.

Though, of course, we cannot help remembering that his religion remained

pure from idol-worship of any kind during centuries, until the Lamas of

Tibet, the Chinese, the Burmese, and the Siamese taking it into their

lands disfigured it, and spoilt it with heresies. We cannot forget that,

persecuted by conquer-ing Brahmans, and expelled from India, it

found, at last, a shelter in Ceylon where it still flourishes like the

legendary aloe, which is said to blossom once in its lifetime and then

to die, as the root is killed by the exuberance of blossom, and the

seeds cannot produce anything but weeds. All this we may overlook, as I

said before. But the difficulty of the archaeologists still exists, if

not in the fact of idols being ascribed to early Buddhists, then in the

physiognomies, in the type of all these Enkay-Tenkay Buddhas. They all,

from the tiniest to the hugest, are Negroes, with flat noses, thick

lips, forty five degrees of the facial angle, and curly hair! There

is not the slightest likeness between these Negro faces and any of the

Siamese or Tibetan Buddhas, which all have purely Mongolian features

and perfectly straight hair. This unexpected African type, unheard of in

India, upsets the antiquarians entirely. This is why the archaeologists

avoid mentioning these caves. Enkay-Tenkay is a worse difficulty for

them than even Nassik; they find it as hard to conquer as the Persians

found Thermopylae.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

We passed by Maleganva and Chikalval, where we examined an exceedingly

curious ancient temple of the Jainas. No cement was used in the building

of its outer walls, they consist entirely of square stones, which are so

well wrought and so closely joined that the blade of the thinnest knife

cannot be pushed between two of them; the interior of the temple is

richly decorated.

 

On our way back we did not stop in Thalner, but went straight on to

Ghara. There we had to hire elephants again to visit the splendid ruins

of Mandu, once a strongly fortified town, about twenty miles due north

east of this place. This time we got there speedily and safely. I

mention this place because some time later I witnessed in its vicinity a

most curious sight, offered by the branch of the numerous Indian rites,

which is generally called "devil worship."

 

Mandu is situated on the ridge of the Vindhya Mountains, about two

thousand feet above the surface of the sea. According to Malcolm's

statement, this town was built in A.D. 313, and for a long time was the

capital of the Hindu Rajas of Dhara. The historian Ferishtah points to

Mandu as the residence of Dilivan-Khan-Ghuri, the first King of Malwa,

who flourished in 1387-1405. In 1526 the town was taken by Bahadur-Shah,

King of Gujerat, but in 1570 Akbar won this town back, and a marble slab

over the town gate still bears his name and the date of his visit.

 

On entering this vast city in its present state of solitude (the natives

call it the "dead town") we all experienced a peculiar feeling, not

unlike the sensation of a man who enters Pompeii for the first time.

Everything shows that Mandu was once one of the wealthiest towns of

India. The town wall is thirty-seven miles long. Streets ran whole

miles, on their sides stand ruined palaces, and marble pillars lie on

the ground. Black excavations of the subterranean halls, in the coolness

of which rich ladies spent the hottest hours of the day, peer from under

dilapidated granite walls. Further on are broken stairs, dry tanks,

waterless fountains, endless empty yards, marble platforms, and

disfigured arches of majestic porches. All this is overgrown with

creepers and shrubs, hiding the dens of wild beasts. Here and there a

well-preserved wall of some palace rises high above the general wreck,

its empty windows fringed with parasitic plants blinking and staring at

us like sightless eyes, protesting against troublesome intruders. And

still further, in the very centre of the ruins, the heart of the dead

town sends forth a whole crop of broken cypresses, an untrimmed grove

on the place where heaved once so many breasts and clamoured so many

passions.

 

In 1570 this town was called Shadiabad, the abode of happiness. The

Franciscan missionaries, Adolf Aquaviva, Antario de Moncerotti, and

others, who came here in that very year as an embassy from Goa to seek

various privileges from the Mogul Government, described it over and over

again. At this epoch it was one of the greatest cities of the world,

whose magnificent streets and luxurious ways used to astonish the most

pompous courts of India. It seems almost incredible that in such a short

period nothing should remain of this town but the heaps of rubbish,

amongst which we could hardly find room enough for our tent. At last we

decided to pitch it in the only building which remained in a tolerable

state of preservation, in Yami-Masjid, the cathedral-mosque, on a

granite platform about twenty-five steps higher than the square. The

stairs, constructed of pure marble like the greater part of the town

buildings, are broad and almost untouched by time, but the roof has

entirely disappeared, and so we were obliged to put up with the stars

for a canopy. All round this building runs a low gallery supported by

several rows of thick pillars. From a distance it reminds one, in spite

of its being somewhat clumsy and lacking in proportion, of the Acropolis

of Athens. From the stairs, where we rested for a while, there was a

view of the mausoleum of Gushanga-Guri, King of Malwa, in whose reign

the town was at the culmination of its brilliancy and glory. It is a

massive, majestic, white marble edifice, with a sheltered peristyle and

finely carved pillars. This peristyle once led straight to the palace,

but now it is surrounded with a deep ravine, full of broken stones and

overgrown with cacti. The interior of the mausoleum is covered with

golden lettering of inscriptions from the Koran, and the sarcophagus

of the sultan is placed in the middle. Close by it stands the palace

of Baz-Bahadur, all broken to pieces--nothing now but a heap of dust

covered with trees.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

We spent the whole day visiting these sad remains, and returned to

our sheltering place a little before sunset, exhausted with hunger

and thirst, but triumphantly carrying on our sticks three huge snakes,

killed on our way home. Tea and supper were waiting for us. To our great

astonishment we found visitors in the tent. The Patel of the neighboring

village--something between a tax-collector and a judge--and two

zemindars (land owners) rode over to present us their respects and to

invite us and our Hindu friends, some of whom they had known previously,

to accompany them to their houses. On hearing that we intended to spend

the night in the "dead town" they grew awfully indignant. They assured

us it was highly dangerous and utterly impossible. Two hours later

hyenas, tigers, and other beasts of prey were sure to come out from

under every bush and every ruined wall, without mentioning thousands

of jackals and wild cats. Our elephants would not stay, and if they did

stay no doubt they would be devoured. We ought to leave the ruins as

quickly as possible and go with them to the nearest village, which would

not take us more than half an hour. In the village everything had been

prepared for us, and our friend the Babu was already there, and getting

impatient at our delay.

 

Only on hearing this did we become aware that our bareheaded and

cautious friend was conspicuous by his absence. Probably he had left

some time ago, without consulting us, and made straight to the village

where he evidently had friends. Sending for us was a mere trick of his.

But the evening was so sweet, and we felt so comfortable, that the idea

of upsetting all our plans for the morning was not at all attractive.

Besides, it seemed quite ridiculous to think that the ruins, amongst

which we had wandered several hours without meeting anything more

dangerous than a snake, swarmed with wild animals. So we smiled and

returned thanks, but would not accept the invitation.

 

"But you positively must not dare to stay here," insisted the fat Patel.

"In case of accident, I shall be responsible for you to the Government.

Is it possible you do not dread a sleepless night spent in fighting

jackals, if not something worse? You do not believe that you are

surrounded with wild animals..... It is true they are invisible until

sunset, but nevertheless they are dangerous. If you do not believe us,

believe the instinct of your elephants, who are as brave as you, but a

little more reasonable. Just look at them!"

 

We looked. Truly, our grave, philosophic-looking elephants behaved very

strangely at this moment. Their lifted trunks looked like huge points of

interrogation. They snorted and stamped restively. In another minute one

of them tore the thick rope, with which he was tied to a broken pillar,

made a sudden volte-face with all his heavy body, and stood against the

wind, sniffing the air. Evidently he perceived some dangerous animal in

the neighborhood.

 

The colonel stared at him through his spectacles and whistled very

meaningly.

 

"Well, well," remarked he, "what shall we do if tigers really assault

us?"

 

"What shall we do indeed?" was my thought. "Takur Gulab-Lal-Sing is not

here to protect us."

 

Our Hindu companions sat on the carpet after their oriental fashion,

quietly chewing betel. On being asked their opinion, they said they

would not interfere with our decision, and were ready to do exactly as

we liked. But as for the European portion of our party, there was no use

concealing the fact that we were frightened, and we speedily prepared to

start. Five minutes later we mounted the elephants, and, in a quarter

of an hour, just when the sun disappeared behind the mountain and heavy

darkness instantaneously fell, we passed the gate of Akbar and descended

into the valley.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

We were hardly a quarter of a mile from our abandoned camping place when

the cypress grove resounded with shrieking howls of jackals, followed

by a well-known mighty roar. There was no longer any possibility

of doubting. The tigers were disappointed at our escape. Their

discontentment shook the very air, and cold perspiration stood on

our brows. Our elephant sprang forward, upsetting the order of our

procession and threatening to crush the horses and their riders before

us. We ourselves, however, were out of danger. We sat in a strong

howdah, locked as in a dungeon.

 

"It is useless to deny that we have had a narrow escape!" remarked the

colonel, looking out of the window at some twenty servants of the Patel,

who were busily lighting torches.

 

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

Brahmanic Hospitalities

 

 

 

In an hour's time we stopped at the gate of a large bungalow, and were

welcomed by the beaming face of our bareheaded Bengali. When we were

all safely gathered on the verandah, he explained to us that, knowing

beforehand that our "American pigheadedness" would not listen to any

warning, he had dodged up this little scheme of his own and was very

glad he had been successful.

 

"Now let us go and wash our hands, and then to supper. And," he added,

addressing me, "was it not your wish to be present at a real Hindu meal?

This is your opportunity. Our host is a Brahman, and you are the first

Europeans who ever entered the part of his house inhabited by the

family."----

 

Who amongst Europeans ever dreamed of a country where every step, and

the least action of everyday life, especially of the family life, is

controlled by religious rites and cannot be performed except according

to a certain programme? India is this country. In India all the

important incidents of a man's life, such as birth, reaching certain

periods of a child's life, marriage, fatherhood, old age and death,

as well as all the physical and physiological functions of everyday

routine, like morning ablutions, dressing, eating, et tout ce qui s'en

suit, from a man's first hour to his last sigh, everything must be

performed according to a certain Brahmanical ritual, on penalty of

expulsion from his caste. The Brahmans may be compared to the musicians

of an orchestra in which the different musical instruments are the

numerous sects of their country. They are all of a different shape and

of a different timbre; but still every one of them obeys the same leader

of the band. However widely the sects may differ in the interpretation

of their sacred books, however hostile they may be to each other,

striving to put forward their particular deity, every one of them,

obeying blindly the ancient custom, must follow like musicians the same

directing wand, the laws of Manu. This is the point where they all meet

and form a unanimous, single-minded community, a strongly united mass.

And woe to the one who breaks the symphony by a single discordant note!

The elders and the caste or sub-caste councils (of these there are any

number), whose members hold office for life, are stern rulers. There is

no appeal against their decisions, and this is why expulsion from

the caste is a calamity, entailing truly formidable consequences. The

excommunicated member is worse off than a leper, the solidarity of the

castes in this respect being something phenomenal. The only thing that

can bear any comparison with it is the solidarity of the disciples of

Loyola. If members of two different castes, united by the sincerest

feelings of respect and friendship, may not intermarry, may not dine

together, are forbidden to accept a glass of water from each other, or

to offer each other a hookah, it becomes clear how much more severe all

these restrictions must be in the case of an excommunicated person. The

poor wretch must literally die to everybody, to the members of his own

family as to strangers. His own household, his father, wife, children,

are all bound to turn their faces from him, under the penalty of

being excommunicated in their turn. There is no hope for his sons and

daughters of getting married, however innocent they may be of the sin of

their father.

 

From the moment of "excommunication" the Hindu must totally disappear.

His mother and wife must not feed him, must not let him drink from the

family well. No member of any existing caste dares to sell him his food

or cook for him. He must either starve or buy eatables from outcasts

and Europeans, and so incur the dangers of further pollution. When the

Brahmanical power was at its zenith, such acts as deceiving, robbing and

even killing this wretch were encouraged, as he was beyond the pale of

the laws. Now, at all events, he is free from the latter danger, but

still, even now, if he happens to die before he is forgiven and received

back into his caste, his body may not be burned, and no purifying

mantrams will be chanted for him; he will be thrown into the water, or

left to rot under the bushes like a dead cat.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

This is a passive force, and its passiveness only makes it more

formidable. Western education and English influence can do nothing

to change it. There exists only one course of action for the

excommunicated; he must show signs of repentance and submit to all kinds

of humiliations, often to the total loss of all his worldly possessions.

Personally, I know several young Brahmans, who, having brilliantly

passed the university examinations in England, have had to submit to the

most repulsive conditions of purification on their return home; these

purifications consisting chiefly in shaving off half their moustaches

and eyebrows, crawling in the dust round pagodas, clinging during

long hours to the tail of a sacred cow, and, finally, swallowing the

excrements of this cow. The latter ceremony is called "Pancha-Gavya,"

literally, the five products of the cow: milk, curds, butter, etc.

The voyage over Kalapani, the black water, that is to say the sea, is

considered the worst of all the sins. A man who commits it is considered

as polluting himself continually, from the first moment of his going on

board the bellati (foreign) ship.

 

Only a few days ago a friend of ours, who is an LL.D., had to

undergo this "purgation," and it nearly cost him his reason. When we

remonstrated with him, pointing out that in his case it was simply

foolish to submit, he being a materialist by conviction and not caring

a straw for Brahmanism, he replied that he was bound to do so for the

following reasons:

 

"I have two daughters," he explained, "one five, the other six years

old. If I do not find a husband for the eldest of them in the course of

the coming year, she will grow too old to get married, nobody will think

of espousing her. Suppose I suffer my caste to excommunicate me, both

my girls will be dishonored and miserable for the rest of their lives.

Then, again, I must take into consideration the superstitions of my old

mother. If such a misfortune befell me, it would simply kill her....."

 

But why should he not free himself from every bond to Brahmanism and

caste? Why not join, once for all, the ever-growing community of men

who are guilty of the same offence? Why not ask all his family to form a

colony and join the civilization of the Europeans?

 

All these are very natural questions, but unfortunately there is no

difficulty in finding reasons for answering them in the negative.

 

There were thirty-two reasons given why one of Napoleon's marshals

refused to besiege a certain fortress, but the first of these reasons

was the absence of gunpowder, and so it excluded the necessity of

discussing the remaining thirty-one. Similarly the first reason why a

Hindu cannot be Europeanized is quite sufficient, and does not call for

any additional ones. This reason is that by doing so a Hindu would

not improve his position. Were he such an adept of science as to rival

Tyndall, were he such a clever politician as to eclipse the genius of

Disraeli and Bismarck, as soon as he actually had given up his caste and

kinsmen, he would indubitably find himself in the position of Mahomet's

coffin; metaphorically speaking, he would hang half-way between the

earth and the sky.

 

It would be an utter injustice to suppose that this state of things

is the result of the policy of the English Government; that the said

Government is afraid of giving a chance to natives who may be suspected

of being hostile to the British rule. In reality, the Government has

little or nothing to do with it. This state of things must be attributed

entirely to the social ostracism, to the contempt felt by a "superior"

for an "inferior" race, a contempt deeply rooted in some members of

the Anglo-Indian society and displayed at the least provocation.

This question of racial "superiority" and "inferiority" plays a

more important part than is generally believed, even in England.

Nevertheless, the natives (Mussulmans included) do not deserve contempt,

and so the gulf between the rulers and the ruled widens with every year,

and long centuries would not suffice to fill it up.

 

I have to dwell upon all this to give my readers a clear idea on the

subject. And so it is no wonder the ill-fated Hindus prefer

temporary humiliations and the physical and moral sufferings of the

"purification," to the prospect of general contempt until death. These

were the questions we discussed with the Brahmans during the two hours

before dinner.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Dining with foreigners and people belonging to different castes is, no

doubt, a dangerous breach of Manu's sacred precepts. But this time, for

once, it was easily explained. First, the stout Patel, our host, was

the head of his caste, and so was beyond the dread of excommunication;

secondly, he had already taken all the prescribed and advisable

precautions against being polluted by our presence. He was a

free-thinker in his own way, and a friend of Gulab-Lal-Sing, and so

he rejoiced at the idea of showing us how much skillful sophistry and

strategical circumspection can be used by adroit Brahmans to avoid the

law in some circumstances, while adhering at the same time to its dead

letter. Besides, our good-natured, well-favored host evidently desired

to obtain a diploma from our Society, being well aware that the

collector of his district was enrolled amongst our members.

 

These, at any rate, were the explanations of our Babu when we expressed

our astonishment; so it was our concern to make the most of our

chance, and to thank Providence for this rare opportunity. And this we

accordingly did.

 

Hindus take their food only twice a day, at ten o'clock in the morning

and at nine in the evening. Both meals are accompanied by complicated

rites and ceremonies. Even very young children are not allowed to eat

at odd times, eating without the prescribed performance of certain

exorcisms being considered a sin. Thousands of educated Hindus have long

ceased to believe in all these superstitious customs, but, nevertheless,

they are daily practised.

 

Sham Rao Bahunathji, our host, belonged to the ancient caste of Patarah

Prabhus, and was very proud of his origin. Prabhu means lord, and this

caste descends from the Kshatriyas. The first of them was Ashvapati (700

B.C.), a lineal descendant of Rama and Prithu, who, as is stated in the

local chronology, governed India in the Dvapara and Treta Yugas, which

is a good while ago! The Patarah Prabhus are the only caste within which

Brahmans have to perform certain purely Vedic rites, known under the

name of the "Kshatriya rites." But this does not prevent their being

Patans, instead of Patars, Patan meaning the fallen one. This is

the fault of King Ashvapati. Once, when distributing gifts to holy

anchorites, he inadvertently forgot to give his due to the great Bhrigu.

The offended prophet and seer declared to him that his reign was

drawing near its end, and that all his posterity would perish. The king,

throwing himself on the ground, implored the prophet's pardon. But his

curse had worked its fulfilment already. All that he could do to

stop the mischief consisted in a solemn promise not to let the king's

descendants disappear completely from the earth. However, the Patars

soon lost their throne and their power. Since then they have had to

"live by their pens," in the employment of many successive governments,

to exchange their name of Patars for Patans, and to lead a humbler life

than many of their late subjects. Happily for our talkative Amphitryon,

his forefathers became Brahmans, that is to say "went through the golden

cow."

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The expression "to live by their pens" alludes, as we learned later on,

to the fact of the Patans occupying all the small Government posts in

the Bombay Presidency, and so being dangerous rivals of the Bengali

Babus since the time of British rule. In Bombay the Patan clerks reach

the considerable figure of five thousand. Their complexion is darker

than the complexion of Konkan Brahmans, but they are handsomer and

brighter. As to the mysterious expression, "went through the golden

cow," it illustrates a very curious custom. The Kshatriyas, and even

the much-despised Shudras, may become a sort of left-hand Brahmans. This

metamorphosis depends on the will of the real Brahmans, who may, if they

like, sell this right for several hundreds or thousands of cows. When

the gift is accomplished, a model cow, made of pure gold, is erected

and made sacred by the performance of some mystical ceremonies. The

candidate must now crawl through her hollow body three times, and thus

is transformed into a Brahman. The present Maharaja of Travankor, and

even the great Raja of Benares, who died recently, were both Shudras who

acquired their rights in this manner. We received all this information

and a notion of the legendary Patar chronicle from our obliging host.

 

Having announced that we must now get ready for dinner, he disappeared

in the company of all the gentlemen of our party. Being left to

ourselves, Miss X---- and I decided to have a good look at the house

whilst it was empty. The Babu, being a downright, modern Bengali, had

no respect for the religious preparations for dinner, and chose to

accompany us, proposing to explain to us all that we should otherwise

fail to understand.

 

The Prabhu brothers always live together, but every married couple have

separate rooms and servants of their own. The habitation of our host

was very spacious. There were small several bungalows, occupied by

his brothers, and a chief building containing rooms for visitors, the

general dining-room, a lying-in ward, a small chapel with any number

of idols, and so on. The ground floor, of course, was surrounded by a

verandah pierced with arches leading to a huge hall. All round this hall

were wooden pillars adorned with exquisite carving. For some reason or

other, it struck me that these pillars once belonged to some palace of

the "dead town." On close examination I only grew more convinced that

I was right. Their style bore no traces of Hindu taste; no gods, no

fabulous monster animals, only arabesques and elegant leaves and flowers

of nonexistent plants. The pillars stood very close to each other, but

the carvings prevented them from forming an uninterrupted wall, so that

 

the ventilation was a little too strong. All the time we spent at the

dinner table miniature hurricanes whistled from behind every pillar,

waking up all our old rheumatisms and toothaches, which had peacefully

slumbered since our arrival in India.

 

The front of the house was thickly covered with iron horseshoes--the

best precaution against evil spirits and evil eyes.

 

At the foot of a broad, carved staircase we came across a couch or a

cradle, hung from the ceiling by iron chains. I saw somebody lying on

it, whom, at first sight, I mistook for a sleeping Hindu, and was going

to retreat discreetly, but, recognizing my old friend Hanuman, I grew

bold and endeavored to examine him. Alas! the poor idol possessed only a

head and neck, the rest of his body was a heap of old rags.

 

On the left side of the verandah there were many more lateral rooms,

each with a special destination, some of which I have mentioned already.

The largest of these rooms was called "vattan," and was used exclusively

by the fair sex. Brahman women are not bound to spend their lives

under veils, like Mussulman women, but still they have very little

communication with men, and keep aloof. Women cook the men's food, but

do not dine with them. The elder ladies of the family are often held in

great respect, and husbands sometimes show a shy courteousness towards

their wives, but still a woman has no right to speak to her husband

before strangers, nor even before the nearest relations, such as her

sisters and her mother.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

As to the Hindu widows, they really are the most wretched creatures in

the whole world. As soon as a woman's husband dies she must have her

hair and her eyebrows shaven off. She must part with all her trinkets,

her earrings, her nose jewels, her bangles and toe-rings. After this is

done she is as good as dead. The lowest outcast would not marry her. A

man is polluted by her slightest touch, and must immediately proceed to

purify himself. The dirtiest work of the household is her duty, and she

must not eat with the married women and the children. The "sati," the

burning of the widows, is abolished, but Brahmans are clever managers,

and the widows often long for the sati.

 

At last, having examined the family chapel, full of idols, flowers, rich

vases with burning incense, lamps hanging from its ceiling, and aromatic

herbs covering its floor, we decided to get ready for dinner. We

carefully washed ourselves, but this was not enough, we were requested

to take off our shoes. This was a somewhat disagreeable surprise, but a

real Brahmanical supper was worth the trouble.

 

However, a truly amazing surprise was still in store for us.

 

On entering the dining-room we stopped short at the entrance--both our

European companions were dressed, or rather undressed, exactly like

Hindus! For the sake of decency they kept on a kind of sleeveless

knitted vest, but they were barefooted, wore the snow-white Hindu dhutis

(a piece of muslin wrapped round to the waist and forming a petticoat),

and looked like something between white Hindus and Constantinople

garcons de bains. Both were indescribably funny, I never saw anything

funnier. To the great discomfiture of the men, and the scandal of the

grave ladies of the house, I could not restrain myself, but burst out

laughing. Miss X----blushed violently and followed my example.

 

A quarter of an hour before the evening meal every Hindu, old or young,

has to perform a "puja" before the gods. He does not change his clothes,

as we do in Europe, but takes off the few things he wore during the day.

He bathes by the family well and loosens his hair, of which, if he is

a Mahratti or an inhabitant of the Dekkan, he has only one long lock at

the top of his shaven head. To cover the body and the head whilst eating

would be sinful. Wrapping his waist and legs in a white silk dhuti,

he goes once more to salute the idols and then sits down to his

meal.----

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

But here I shall allow myself to digress. "Silk possesses the property

of dismissing the evil spirits who inhabit the magnetic fluids of the

atmosphere," says the Mantram, book v., verse 23. And I cannot help

wondering whether this apparent superstition may not contain a deeper

meaning. It is difficult, I own, to part with our favorite theories

about all the customs of ancient heathendom being mere ignorant

superstitions. But have not some vague notions of these customs being

founded originally on a true knowledge of scientific principles found

their way amongst European scientific circles? At first sight the idea

seems untenable. But why may we not suppose that the ancients prescribed

this observance in the full knowledge that the effect of electricity

upon the organs of digestion is truly beneficial? People who have

studied the ancient philosophy of India with a firm resolve to penetrate

the hidden meaning of its aphorisms have for the most part grown

convinced that electricity and its effects were known to a considerable

extent to some philosophers, as, for instance, to Patanjali. Charaka and

Sushruta had pro-pounded the system of Hippocrates long before the time

of him who in Europe is supposed to be the "father of medicine." The

Bhadrinath temple of Vishnu possesses a stone bearing evident proof of

the fact that Surya-Sidhanta knew and calculated the expansive force of

steam many centuries ago. The ancient Hindus were the first to determine

the velocity of light and the laws of its reflection; and the table of

Pythagoras and his celebrated theorem of the square of hypotenuse are to

be found in the ancient books of Jyotisha. All this leads us to suppose

that ancient Aryans, when instituting the strange custom of wearing

silk during meals, had something serious in view, more serious, at all

events, than the "dismissing of demons."

 

 

 

Having entered the "refectory," we immediately noticed what were the

Hindu precautions against their being polluted by our presence. The

stone floor of the hall was divided into two equal parts. This division

consisted of a line traced in chalk, with Kabalistic signs at either

end. One part was destined for the host's party and the guests belonging

to the same caste, the other for ourselves. On our side of the hall

there was yet a third square to contain Hindus of a different caste. The

furniture of the two bigger squares was exactly similar. Along the two

opposite walls there were narrow carpets spread on the floor, covered

with cushions and low stools. Before every occupant there was an oblong

on the bare floor, traced also with chalk, and divided, like a chess

board, into small quadrangles which were destined for dishes and plates.

Both the latter articles were made of the thick strong leaves of the

butea frondosa: larger dishes of several leaves pinned together with

thorns, plates and saucers of one leaf with its borders turned up.

All the courses of the supper were already arranged on each square; we

counted forty-eight dishes, containing about a mouthful of forty-eight

different dainties. The materials of which they were composed were

 

mostly terra incognita to us, but some of them tasted very nice. All

this was vegetarian food. Of meat, fowl, eggs and fish there appeared no

traces. There were chutneys, fruit and vegetables preserved in vinegar

and honey, panchamrits, a mixture of pampello-berries, tamarinds, cocoa

milk, treacle and olive oil, and kushmer, made of radishes, honey and

flour; there were also burning hot pickles and spices. All this was

crowned with a mountain of exquisitely cooked rice and another mountain

of chapatis, which are something like brown pancakes. The dishes stood

in four rows, each row containing twelve dishes; and between the rows

burned three aromatic sticks of the size of a small church taper.

Our part of the hall was brightly lit with green and red candles. The

chandeliers which held these candles were of a very queer shape. They

each represented the trunk of a tree with a seven-headed cobra wound

round it. From each of the seven mouths rose a red or a green wax candle

of spiral form like a corkscrew. Draughts blowing from behind every

pillar fluttered the yellow flames, filling the roomy refectory with

fantastic moving shadows, and causing both our lightly-clad gentlemen

to sneeze very frequently. Leaving the dark silhouettes of the Hindus

in comparative obscurity, this unsteady light made the two white figures

still more conspicuous, as if making a masquerade of them and laughing

at them.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The relatives and friends of our host came in one after the other. They

were all naked down to the waist, all barefooted, all wore the triple

Brahmanical thread and white silk dhutis, and their hair hung loose.

Every sahib was followed by his own servant, who carried his cup, his

silver, or even gold, jug filled with water, and his towel. All of them,

having saluted the host, greeted us, the palms of their hands pressed

together and touching their foreheads, their breasts, and then the

floor. They all said to us: "Ram-Ram" and "Namaste" (salutation to

thee), and then made straight for their respective seats in perfect

silence. Their civilities reminded me that the custom of greeting each

other with the twice pronounced name of some ancestor was usual in the

remotest antiquity.

 

We all sat down, the Hindus calm and stately, as if preparing for some

mystic celebration, we ourselves feeling awkward and uneasy, fearing to

prove guilty of some unpardonable blunder. An invisible choir of women's

voices chanted a monotonous hymn, celebrating the glory of the gods.

These were half a dozen nautch-girls from a neighboring pagoda. To this

accompaniment we began satisfying our appetites. Thanks to the Babu's

instructions, we took great care to eat only with our right hands. This

was somewhat difficult, because we were hungry and hasty, but quite

necessary. Had we only so much as touched the rice with our left hands

whole hosts of Rakshasas (demons) would have been attracted to take part

in the festivity that very moment; which, of course, would send all the

Hindus out of the room. It is hardly necessary to say that there were no

traces of forks, knives or spoons. That I might run no risk of

breaking the rule I put my left hand in my pocket and held on to my

pocket-handkerchief all the time the dinner lasted.

 

The singing lasted only a few minutes. During the rest of the time a

dead silence reigned amongst us. It was Monday, a fast day, and so

the usual absence of noise at meal times had to be observed still more

strictly than on any other day. Usually a man who is compelled to break

the silence by some emergency or other hastens to plunge into water

the middle finger of his left hand, which till then had remained hidden

behind his back, and to moisten both his eyelids with it. But a really

pious man would not be content with this simple formula of purification;

having spoken, he must leave the dining-room, wash thoroughly, and then

abstain from food for the remainder of the day.

 

Thanks to this solemn silence, I was at liberty to notice everything

that was going on with great attention. Now and again, whenever I caught

sight of the colonel or Mr. Y----, I had all the difficulty in the world

to preserve my gravity. Fits of foolish laughter would take possession

of me when I observed them sitting erect with such comical solemnity and

working so awkwardly with their elbows and hands. The long beard of the

one was white with grains of rice, as if silvered with hoar-frost,

the chin of the other was yellow with liquid saffron. But unsatisfied

curiosity happily came to my rescue, and I went on watching the quaint

proceedings of the Hindus.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Each of them, having sat down with his legs twisted under him, poured

some water with his left hand out of the jug brought by the servant,

first into his cup, then into the palm of his right hand. Then he

slowly and carefully sprinkled the water round a dish with all kinds

of dainties, which stood by itself, and was destined, as we learned

afterwards, for the gods. During this procedure each Hindu repeated a

Vedic mantram. Filling his right hand with rice, he pronounced a new

series of couplets, then, having stored five pinches of rice on the

right side of his own plate, he once more washed his hands to avert the

evil eye, sprinkled more water, and pouring a few drops of it into his

right palm, slowly drank it. After this he swallowed six pinches of

rice, one after the other, murmuring prayers all the while, and wetted

both his eyes with the middle finger of his left hand. All this done,

he finally hid his left hand behind his back, and began eating with the

right hand. All this took only a few minutes, but was performed very

solemnly.

 

The Hindus ate with their bodies bent over the food, throwing it up and

catching it in their mouths so dexterously that not a grain of rice

was lost, not a drop of the various liquids spilt. Zealous to show

his consideration for his host, the colonel tried to imitate all these

movements. He contrived to bend over his food almost horizontally, but,

alas! he could not remain long in this position. The natural weight of

his powerful limbs overcame him, he lost his balance and nearly tumbled

head foremost, dropping his spectacles into a dish of sour milk and

garlic. After this unsuccessful experience the brave American gave up

all further attempts to become "Hinduized," and sat very quietly.

 

The supper was concluded with rice mixed with sugar, powdered peas,

olive oil, garlic and grains of pomegranate, as usual. This last

dainty is consumed hurriedly. Everyone nervously glances askance at his

neighbor, and is mortally afraid of being the last to finish, because

this is considered a very bad sign. To conclude, they all take some

water into their mouths, murmuring prayers the while, and this time they

must swallow it in one gulp. Woe to the one who chokes! 'Tis a clear

sign that a bhuta has taken possession of his throat. The unfortunate

man must run for his life and get purified before the altar.

 

The poor Hindus are very much troubled by these wicked bhutas, the

souls of the people who have died with ungratified desires and earthly

passions. Hindu spirits, if I am to believe the unanimous assertions

of one and all, are always swarming round the living, always ready to

satisfy their hunger with other people's mouths and gratify their impure

desires with the help of organs temporarily stolen from the living. They

are feared and cursed all over India. No means to get rid of them

are despised. The notions and conclusions of the Hindus on this

point categorically contradict the aspirations and hopes of Western

spiritualists.

 

"A good and pure spirit, they are confident, will not let his soul

revisit the earth, if this soul is equally pure. He is glad to die and

unite himself to Brahma, to live an eternal life in Svarga (heaven) and

enjoy the society of the beautiful Gandharvas or singing angels. He is

glad to slumber whole eternities, listening to their songs, whilst his

soul is purified by a new incarnation in a body, which is more perfect

than the one the soul abandoned previously."

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The Hindus believe that the spirit or Atma, a particle of the GREAT

ALL, which is Parabrahm, cannot be punished for sins in which it never

participated. It is Manas, the animal intelligence, and the animal

soul or Jiva, both half material illusions, that sin and suffer and

transmigrate from one body into the other till they purify themselves.

The spirit merely overshadows their earthly transmigrations. When the

Ego has reached the final state of purity, it will be one with the Atma,

and gradually will merge and disappear in Parabrahm.

 

But this is not what awaits the wicked souls. The soul that does not

succeed in getting rid of earthly cares and desires before the death of

the body is weighed down by its sins, and, instead of reincarnating in

some new form, according to the laws of metempsychosis, it will remain

bodiless, doomed to wander on earth. It will become a bhuta, and by its

own sufferings will cause unutterable sufferings to its kinsmen. That is

why the Hindu fears above all things to remain bodiless after his death.

 

"It is better for one to enter the body of a tiger, of a dog, even of a

yellow-legged falcon, after death, than to become a bhuta!" an old Hindu

said to me on one occasion. "Every animal possesses a body of his own

and a right to make an honest use of it. Whereas the bhutas are doomed

dakoits, brigands and thieves, they are ever watching for an opportunity

to use what does not belong to them. This is a horrible state--a horror

indescribable. This is the true hell. What is this spiritualism they

talk so much of in the West? Is it possible the intelligent English and

Americans are so mad as this?"

 

And all our remonstrances notwithstanding, he refused to believe that

there are actually people who are fond of bhutas, who would do much to

attract them into their homes.

 

After supper the men went again to the family well to wash, and then

dressed themselves.

 

Usually at this hour of the night the Hindus put on clean malmalas,

a kind of tight shirt, white turbans, and wooden sandals with knobs

pressed between the toes. These curious shoes are left at the door

whilst their owners return to the hall and sit down along the walls

on carpets and cushions to chew betel, smoke hookahs and cheroots, to

listen to sacred reading, and to witness the dances of the nautches.

But this evening, probably in our honor, all the Hindus dressed

magnificently. Some of them wore darias of rich striped satin, no end of

gold bangles, necklaces mounted with diamonds and emeralds, gold watches

and chains, and transparent Brahmanical scarfs with gold embroidery.

The fat fingers and the right ear of our host were simply blazing with

diamonds.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The women, who waited on us during the meal, disappeared afterwards

for a considerable time. When they came back they also were luxuriously

overdressed and were introduced to us formally as the ladies of the

house. They were five: the wife of the host, a woman of twenty-six or

twenty-seven years of age, then two others looking somewhat younger, one

of whom carried a baby, and, to our great astonishment, was introduced

as the married daughter of the hostess; then the old mother of the host

and a little girl of seven, the wife of one of his brothers. So that our

hostess turned out to be a grandmother, and her sister-in-law, who was

to enter finally into matrimony in from two to three years, might have

become a mother before she was twelve. They were all barefooted, with

rings on each of their toes, and all, with the exception of the old

woman, wore garlands of natural flowers round their necks and in their

jet black hair. Their tight bodices, covered with embroidery, were so

short that between them and the sari there was a good quarter of a yard

of bare skin. The dark, bronze-coloured waists of these well-shaped

Women were boldly presented to any one's examination and reflected the

lights of the room. Their beautiful arms and their ankles were covered

with bracelets. At the least of their movements they all set up a

tinkling silvery sound, and the little sister-in-law, who might easily

be mistaken for an automaton doll, could hardly move under her load of

ornaments. The young grandmother, our hostess, had a ring in her left

nostril, which reached to the lower part of the chin. Her nose was

considerably disfigured by the weight of the gold, and we noticed how

unusually handsome she was only when she took it off to enable herself

to drink her tea with some comfort.

 

The dances of the nautch girls began. Two of them were very pretty.

Their dancing consisted chiefly in more or less expressive movements

of their eyes, their heads, and even their ears, in fact, of the whole

upper part of their bodies. As to their legs, they either did not move

at all or moved with such a swiftness as to appear in a cloud of mist.

 

After this eventful day I slept the sleep of the just.

 

 

 

After many nights spent in a tent, it is more than agreeable to sleep in

a regular bed, even if it is only a hanging one. The pleasure would, no

doubt, have been considerably increased had I but known I was resting on

the couch of a god. But this latter circumstance was revealed to me only

in the morning, when descending the staircase I suddenly discovered

the poor general en chef, Hanuman, deprived of his cradle and

unceremoniously stowed away under the stairs. Decidedly, the Hindus of

the nineteenth century are a degenerate and blaspheming race!

 

In the course of the morning we learned that this swinging throne of

his, and an ancient sofa, were the only pieces of furniture in the whole

house that could be transformed into beds.

 

Neither of our gentlemen had spent a comfortable night. They slept in an

empty tower that was once the altar of a decayed pagoda and was situated

behind the main building. In assigning to them this strange resting

place, the host was guided by the praiseworthy intention of protecting

them from the jackals, which freely penetrate into all the rooms of the

ground floor, as they are pierced by numberless arches and have no

door and no window frames. The jackals, however, did not trouble the

gentlemen much that night, except by giving their nightly concert. But

both Mr. Y---- and the colonel had to fight all the night long with a

vampire, which, besides being a flying fox of an unusual size, happened

to be a spirit, as we learned too late, to our great misfortune.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

This is how it happened. Noiselessly hovering about the tower, the

vampire from time to time alighted on the sleepers, making them shudder

under the disgusting touch of his cold sticky wings. His intention

clearly was to get a nice suck of European blood. They were wakened by

his manipulations at least ten times, and each time frightened him away.

But, as soon as they were dozing again, the wretched bat was sure to

return and perch on their shoulders, heads, or legs. At last Mr. Y----,

losing patience, had recourse to strong measures; he caught him and

broke his neck.

 

Feeling perfectly innocent, the gentlemen mentioned the tragic end of

the troublesome flying fox to their host, and instantly drew down on

their heads all the thunder-clouds of heaven.

 

The yard was crowded with people. All the inhabitants of the house stood

sorrowfully drooping their heads, at the entrance of the tower. Our

host's old mother tore her hair in despair, and shrieked lamentations in

all the languages of India. What was the matter with them all? We were

at our wits' end. But when we learned the cause of all this, there was

no limit to our confusion.

 

 

By certain mysterious signs, known only to the family Brahman, it had

been decided ten years ago that the soul of our host's elder brother had

incarnated in this blood-thirsty vampire-bat. This fact was stated as

being beyond any doubt. For nine years the late Patarah Prabhu existed

under this new shape, carrying out the laws of metempsychosis. He spent

the hours between sunrise and the sunset in an old pipal-tree before the

tower, hanging with his head downwards. But at night he visited the

old tower and gave fierce chase to the insects that sought rest in

this out-of-the-way corner. And so nine years were spent in this happy

existence, divided between sleep, food, and the gradual redemption of

old sins committed in the shape of a Patarah Prabhu. And now? Now his

listless body lay in the dust at the entrance of his favorite tower,

and his wings were half devoured by the rats. The poor old woman, his

mother, was mad with sorrow, and cast, through her tears, reproachful,

angry looks at Mr. Y----, who, in his new capacity of a heartless

murderer, looked disgustingly composed.

 

But the affair was growing serious. The comical side of it disappeared

before the sincerity and the intensity of her lamentations. Her

descendants, grouped around her, were too polite to reproach us openly,

but the expression of their faces was far from reassuring. The family

priest and astrologer stood by the old lady, Shastras in hand, ready to

begin the ceremony of purification. He solemnly covered the corpse with

 

a piece of new linen, and so hid from our eyes the sad remains on which

ants were literally swarming.

 

Mr. Y---- did his best to look unconcerned, but still, when the tactless

Miss X---- came to him, expressing her loud indignation at all these

superstitions of an inferior race, he at least seemed to remember that

our host knew English perfectly, and he did not encourage her farther

expressions of sympathy. He made no answer, but smiled contemptuously.

Our host approached the colonel with respectful salaams and invited us

to follow him.

 

"No doubt he is going to ask us to leave his house immediately!" was my

uncomfortable impression.

 

But my apprehension was not justified. At this epoch of my Indian

pilgrimage I was far, as yet, from having fathomed the metaphysical

depth of a Hindu heart.

 

Sham Rao began by delivering a very far-fetched, eloquent preface.

He reminded us that he, personally, was an enlightened man, a man who

possessed all the advantages of a Western education. He said that, owing

to this, he was not quite sure that the body of the vampire was actually

inhabited by his late brother. Darwin, of course, and some other great

naturalists of the West, seemed to believe in the transmigration of

souls, but, as far as he understood, they believed in it in an inverse

sense; that is to say, if a baby had been born to his mother exactly at

the moment of the vampire's death, this baby would indubitably have

had a great likeness to a vampire, owing to the decaying atoms of the

vampire being so close to her.

 

"Is not this an exact interpretation of the Darwinian school?" he asked.

 

We modestly answered that, having traveled almost incessantly during the

last year, we could not help being a bit behindhand in the questions

of modern science, and that we were not able to follow its latest

conclusions.

 

"But I have followed them!" rejoined the good-natured Sham Rao, with a

touch of pomposity. "And so I hope I may be allowed to say that I have

understood and duly appreciated their most recent developments. I have

just finished studying the magnificent Anthropogenesis of Haeckel,

and have carefully discussed in my own mind his logical, scientific

explanations of the origin of man from inferior animal forms through

transformation. And what is this transformation, pray, if not the

transmigration of the ancient and modern Hindus, and the metempsychosis

of the Greeks?"

 

We had nothing to say against the identity, and even ventured to observe

that, according to Haeckel, it does look like it.

 

"Exactly!" exclaimed he joyfully. "This shows that our conceptions are

neither silly nor superstitious, as is maintained by some opponents

of Manu. The great Manu, anticipated Darwin and Haeckel. Judge for

yourself; the latter derives the genesis of man from a group of

plastides, from the jelly-like moneron; this moneron, through the

ameoba, the ascidian, the brainless and heartless amphioxus, and so on,

transmigrates in the eighth remove into the lamprey, is transformed, at

last, into a vertebrate amniote, into a premammalian, into a marsupial

animal.... The vampire, in its turn, belongs to the species of

vertebrates. You, being well read people all of you, cannot contradict

this statement." He was right in his supposition; we did not contradict

it.

 

"In this case, do me the honor to follow my argument...."

 

We did follow his argument with the greatest attention, but were at a

loss to foresee whither it tended to lead us.

 

"Darwin," continued Sham Rao, "in his Origin of Species, re-established

almost word for word the palin-genetic teachings of our Manu. Of this I

am perfectly convinced, and, if you like, I can prove it to you book in

hand. Our ancient law-giver, amongst other sayings, speaks as follows:

'The great Parabrahm commanded man to appear in the universe, after

traversing all the grades of the animal kingdom, and springing primarily

from the worm of the deep sea mud.' The worm be-came a snake, the snake

a fish, the fish a mammal, and so on. Is not this very idea at the

bottom of Darwin's theory, when he maintains that the organic forms have

their origin in more simple species, and says that the structureless

protoplasm born in the mud of the Laurentian and Silurian periods--the

Manu's 'mud of the seas,' I dare say--gradually transformed itself into

the anthropoid ape, and then finally into the human being?"

 

We said it looked very like it.

 

"But, in spite of all my respect for Darwin and his eminent follower

Haeckel, I cannot agree with their final conclusions, especially with

the conclusions of the latter," continued Sham Rao. "This hasty and

bilious German is perfectly accurate in copying the embryology of Manu

and all the metamorphoses of our ancestors, but he forgets the evolution

of the human soul, which, as it is stated by Manu, goes hand in hand

with the evolution of matter. The son of Swayambhuva, the Self Becoming,

speaks as follows: 'Everything created in a new cycle, in addition to

the qualities of its preceding transmigrations, acquires new qualities,

and the nearer it approaches to man, the highest type of the earth, the

brighter becomes its divine spark; but, once it has become a Brahma, it

will enter the cycle of conscious transmigrations.' Do you realize what

that means? It means that from this moment, its transformations depend

no longer on the blind laws of gradual evolution, but on the least of a

man's actions, which brings either a reward or a punishment. Now you

see that it depends on the man's will whether, on the one hand, he will

start on the way to Moksha, the eternal bliss, passing from one Loka to

another till he reaches Brahmaloka, or, on the other, owing to his sins,

will be thrown back. You know that the average soul, once freed from

earthly reincarnations, has to ascend from one Loka to another, always

in the human shape, though this shape will grow and perfect itself with

every Loka. Some of our sects understood these Lokas to mean certain

stars. These spirits, freed from earthly matter, are what we mean by

Pitris and Devas, whom we worship. And did not your Kabalists of the

middle ages designate these Pitris under the expression Planetary

Spirits? But, in the case of a very sinful man, he will have to

begin once more with the animal forms which he had already traversed

unconsciously. Both Darwin and Haeckel lose sight of this, so to speak,

second volume of their incomplete theory, but still neither of them

advances any argument to prove it false. Is it not so?"

 

"Neither of them does anything of the sort, most assuredly."

 

"Why, in this case," exclaimed he, suddenly changing his colloquial tone

for an aggressive one, "why am I, I who have studied the most modern

ideas of Western science, I who believe in its representatives--why am I

suspected, pray, by Miss X---- of belonging to the tribe of the

ignorant and superstitious Hindus? Why does she think that our perfected

scientific theories are superstitions, and we ourselves a fallen

inferior race?"

 

Sham Rao stood before us with tears in his eyes. We were at a loss what

to answer him, being confused to the last degree by this outburst.

 

"Mind you, I do not proclaim our popular beliefs to be infallible

dogmas. I consider them as mere theories, and try to the best of my

ability to reconcile the ancient and the modern science. I formulate

hypotheses just like Darwin and Haeckel. Besides, if I understood

rightly, Miss X---- is a spiritualist, so she believes in bhutas. And,

believing that a bhuta is capable of penetrating the body of a medium,

how can she deny that a bhuta, and more so a less sinful soul, may enter

the body of a vampire-bat?"

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

I own, this logic was a little too condensed for us, and so, avoiding a

direct answer to a metaphysical question of such delicacy, we tried to

apologize and excuse Miss X----'s rudeness as well as we could.

 

"She did not mean to offend you," we said, "she only repeated a calumny,

familiar to every European. Besides, if she had taken the trouble to

think it over, she probably would not have said it...."

 

Little by little we succeeded in pacifying our host. He recovered his

usual cheerfulness, but could not resist the temptation of adding a

few words to his long argumentation. He had just begun to reveal to us

certain peculiarities of his late brother's character, which induced him

to be prepared, judging by the laws of atavism, to see their repetition

in the propensities of a vampire bat, when Mr. Y----suddenly dashed in

on our small group and spoiled all the results of our conciliatory words

by screaming at the top of his voice: "The old woman has gone demented!

She keeps on cursing us and says that the murder of this wretched bat

is only the forerunner of a whole series of misfortunes brought on her

house by you, Sham Rao," said he, hastily addressing the bewildered

follower of Haackel. "She says you have polluted your Brahmanical

holiness by inviting us. Colonel, you had better send for the elephants.

In another moment all this crowd will be on us..."

 

"For goodness' sake!" exclaimed poor Sham Rao, "have some consideration

for my feelings. She is an old woman, she has some superstitions, but

she is my mother. You are educated people, learned people... Advise me,

show me a way out of all these difficulties. What should you do in my

place?"

 

"What should I do, sir?" exclaimed Mr. Y----, completely put out of

temper by the utter ludicrousness of our awkward predicament. "What

should I do? Were I a man in your position and a believer in all you

are brought up to believe, I should take my revolver, and in the first

place, shoot all the vampire bats in the neighborhood, if only to rid

all your late relations from the abject bodies of these creatures,

and, in the second place, I should endeavor to smash the head of the

conceited fraud in the shape of a Brahman who invented all this stupid

story. That is what I should do, sir!"

 

But this advice did not content the miserable descendant of Rama. No

doubt he would have remained a long time undecided as to what course

of action to adopt, torn as he was between the sacred feelings of

hospitality, the innate fear of the Brahman-priest, and his own

superstitions, if our ingenious Babu had not come to our rescue.

Learning that we all felt more or less indignant at all this row, and

that we were preparing to leave the house as quickly as possible,

he persuaded us to stay, if only for an hour, saying that our hasty

departure would be a terrible outrage upon our host, whom, in any case,

we could not find fault with. As to the stupid old woman, the Babu

promised us to pacify her speedily enough: he had his own plans and

views. In the meantime, he said, we had better go and examine the ruins

of an old fortress close by.

 

We obeyed very reluctantly, feeling an acute interest in his "plans." We

proceeded slowly. Our gentlemen were visibly out of temper. Miss X----

tried to calm herself by talking more than usual, and Narayan, as

phlegmatic as usual, indolently and good-naturedly chaffed her about

her beloved "spirits." Glancing back we saw the Babu accompanied by the

family priest. Judging by their gestures they were engaged in some warm

discussion. The shaven head of the Brahman nodded right and left, his

yellow garment flapped in the wind, and his arms rose towards the sky,

as if in an appeal to the gods to come down and testify to the truth of

his words.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

"I'll bet you a thousand dollars, no plans of our Babu's will be of any

avail with this fanatic!" confidently remarked the colonel as he lit his

pipe.

 

But we had hardly walked a hundred steps after this remark when we saw

the Babu running after us and signaling us to stop.

 

"Everything ended first-rate!" screamed he, as soon as we could hear.

"You are to be thanked... You happen to be the true saviours and

benefactors of the deceased bhuta... You..."

 

Our Babu sank on the ground holding his narrow, panting breast with both

his hands, and laughed, laughed till we all burst into laughter too,

before learning any-thing at all.

 

"Think of it," began the Babu, and stopped short, prevented from going

on by his exuberant hilarity. "Just think of it! The whole transaction

is to cost me only ten rupees.... I offered five at first... but he

would not.... He said this was a sacred matter..... But ten he could not

resist! Ho, ho, ho...."

 

At last we learned the story. All the metempsychoses depend on the

imagination of the family Gurus, who receive for their kind offices

from one hundred to one hundred and fifty rupees a year. Every rite is

accompanied by a more or less considerable addition to the purse of the

insatiable family Brahman, but the happy events pay better than the

sad ones. Knowing all this, the Babu asked the Brahman point-blank to

perform a false samadhi, that is to say, to feign an inspiration and

to announce to the sorrowing mother that her late son's will had acted

consciously in all the circumstances; that he brought about his end

in the body of the flying fox, that he was tired of that grade of

transmigration, that he longed for death in order to attain a higher

position in the animal kingdom, that he is happy, and that he is deeply

indebted to the sahib who broke his neck and so freed him from his

abject embodiment.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Besides, the observant eye of our all-knowing Babu had not failed to

remark that a she-buffalo of the Guru's was expecting a calf, and that

the Guru was yearning to sell it to Sham Rao. This circumstance was

a trump card in the Babu's hand. Let the Guru announce, under the

influence of samadhi, that the freed spirit intends to inhabit the body

of the future baby-buffalo and the old lady will buy the new incarnation

of her first-born as sure as the sun is bright. This announcement will

be followed by rejoicings and by new rites. And who will profit by all

 

this if not the family priest?

 

At first the Guru had some misgivings, and swore by everything sacred

that the vampire bat was veritably inhabited by the brother of Sham

Rao. But the Babu knew better than to give in. The Guru ended by

understanding that his skillful opponent saw through his tricks, and

that he was well aware that the Shastras exclude the possibility of such

a transmigration. Growing alarmed, the Guru also grew meek, and asked

only ten rupees and a promise of silence for the performance of a

samadhi.

 

On our way back we were met at the gate by Sham Rao, who was simply

radiant. Whether he was afraid of our laughing at him, or was at loss to

find an explanation of this new metamorphosis in the positive sciences

in general, and Haeckel in particular, he did not attempt to explain why

the affair had taken such an unexpectedly good turn. He merely

mentioned awkwardly enough that his mother, owing to some new mysterious

conjectures of hers, had dismissed all sad apprehensions as to

the destiny of her elder son, and he then dropped the subject

completely.----

 

 

In order to wipe away the traces of the morning's perplexities from our

minds, Sham Rao invited us to sit on the verandah, by the wide entrance

of his idol room, whilst the family prayers were going on. Nothing

could suit us better. It was nine o'clock, the usual time of the morning

prayers. Sham Rao went to the well to get ready, and dress himself, as

he said, though the process was more like undressing. In a few moments

he came back wearing only a dhuti, as during dinner time, and with his

head uncovered. He went straight to his idol room. The moment he entered

we heard the loud stroke of a bell that hung under the ceiling, and that

continued tolling all the time the prayers lasted.

 

The Babu explained to us that a little boy was pulling the bell rope

from the roof.

 

Sham Rao stepped in with his right foot and very slowly. Then he

approached the altar and sat on a little stool with his legs crossed.

At the opposite side of the room, on the red velvet shelves of an altar

that resembled an etagere in the drawing-room of some fashionable lady,

stood many idols. They were made of gold, of silver, of brass and of

marble, according to their im-portance and merits. Maha-Deva or Shiva

was of gold. Gunpati or Ganesha of silver, Vishnu in the form of a round

black stone from the river Gandaki in Nepal. In this form Vishnu is

called Lakshmi-Narayan. There were also many other gods unknown to us,

who were worshipped in the shapes of big sea-shells, called Chakra.

Surya, the god of the sun, and the kula-devas, the domestic gods, were

placed in the second rank. The altar was sheltered by a cupola of carved

sandal-wood. During the night the gods and the offerings were covered

by a huge bell glass. On the walls there were many sacred images

representing the chief episodes in the biographies of the higher gods.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Sham Rao filled his left hand with ashes, murmuring prayers all the

while, covered it for a second with the right one, then put some matter

to the ashes, and mixing the two by rubbing his hands together, he

traced a line on his face with this mixture by moving the thumb of his

right hand from his nose upwards, then from the middle of the forehead

to the right temple, then back again to the left temple. Having done

with his face he proceeded to cover with wet ashes his throat, arms,

shoulders, his back, head and ears. In one corner of the room stood a

huge bronze font filled with water. Sham Rao made straight to it and

plunged into it three times, dhuti, head, and all, after which he came

out looking exactly like a well-favored dripping wet Triton. He twisted

the only lock of hair on the top of his shaved head and sprinkled it

with water. This operation concluded the first act.

 

The second act began with religious meditations and with mantrams,

which, by really pious people, must be repeated three times a day--at

sunrise, at noon and at sunset. Sham Rao loudly pronounced the names of

twenty-four gods, and each name was accompanied by a stroke of the bell.

Having finished he first shut his eyes and stuffed his ears with cotton,

then pressed his left nostril with two fingers of his left hand, and

having filled his lungs with air through the right nostril, pressed the

latter also. Then he tightly closed his lips, so that breathing became

impossible. In this position every pious Hindu must mentally repeat a

certain verse, which is called the Gayatri. These are sacred words which

no Hindu will dare to pronounce aloud. Even in repeating them mentally

he must take every precaution not to inhale anything impure.

 

I am bound by my word of honor never to repeat the whole of this prayer,

but I may quote a few unconnected sentences:

 

"Om... Earth... Heaven.... Let the adored light of.... [here follows a

name which must not be pronounced] shelter me. Let thy Sun, O thou only

One, shelter me, the unworthy... I shut my eyes, I shut my ears, I do

not breathe... in order to see, hear and breathe thee alone. Throw light

upon our thoughts [again the secret name]... "

 

It is curious to compare this Hindu prayer with the celebrated prayer

of Descartes' "Meditation III" in his L'Existence de Dieu. It runs as

follows, if I remember rightly:

 

"Now I shut my eyes, cover my ears, and dismiss all my five senses, I

will dwell on the thought of God alone, I will meditate on His quality

and look on the beauty of this wondrous radiancy."

 

After this prayer Sham Rao read many other prayers, holding with two

fingers his sacred Brahmanical thread. After a while began the ceremony

of "the washing of the gods." Taking them down from the altar, one after

the other, according to their rank, Sham Rao first plunged them in the

big font, in which he had just bathed himself, and then bathed them in

milk in a smaller bronze font by the altar. The milk was mixed up with

curds, butter, honey, and sugar, and so it cannot be said that this

cleansing served its purpose. No wonder we were glad to see that the

gods underwent a second bathing in the first font and then were dried

with a clean towel.

 

When the gods were arranged in their respective places, the Hindu traced

on them the sectarian signs with a ring from his left hand. He used

white sandal paint for the lingam and red for Gunpati and Surya. Then he

sprinkled them with aromatic oils and covered them with fresh flowers.

The long ceremony was finished by "the awakening of the gods." A small

bell was repeatedly rung under the noses of the idols, who, as the

Brahman probably supposed, all went to sleep during this tedious

ceremony.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Having noticed, or fancied, which often amounts to the same thing,

that they were wide awake, he began offering them his daily sacrifices,

lighting the incense and the lamps, and, to our great astonishment,

snapping his fingers from time to time, as if warning the idols to "look

out." Having filled the room with clouds of incense and fumes of burning

camphor, he scattered some more flowers over the altar and sat on the

 

small stool for a while, murmuring the last prayers. He repeatedly held

the palms of his hands over the flame of the tapers and rubbed his face

with them. Then he walked round the altar three times, and, having knelt

three times, retreated backwards to the door.

 

A little while before our host had finished his morning prayers the

ladies of the house came into the room. They brought each a small

stool and sat in a row murmuring prayers and telling the beads of their

rosaries.

 

The part played by the rosaries in India is as important as in all

Buddhist countries. Every god has his favorite flower and his favorite

material for a rosary. The fakirs are simply covered with rosaries. The

rosary is called mala and consists of one hundred and eight beads. Very

pious Hindus are not content to tell the beads when praying; they must

hide their hands during this ceremony in a bag called gomukha, which

means the cow's mouth.

 

We left the women to their prayers and followed our host to the cow

house. The cow symbolizes the "fostering earth," or Nature, and is

worshipped accordingly. Sham Rao sat down by the cow and washed her

feet, first with her own milk, then with water. He gave her some sugar

and rice, covered her forehead with powdered sandal, and adorned her

horns and four legs with chains of flowers. He burned some incense under

her nostrils and brandished a burning lamp over her head. Then he walked

three times round her and sat down to rest. Some Hindus walk round the

cow one hundred and eight times, rosary in hand. But our Sham Rao had

a slight tendency to freethinking, as we knew, and besides, he was too

much of an admirer of Haeckel. Having rested himself, he filled a cup

with water, put in it the cow's tail for a moment, and then drank it!

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

After this he performed the rite of worshipping the sun and the sacred

plant tulsi. Unable to bring the god Surya from his heavenly altar and

wash him in the sacred font, Sham Rao contented himself by filling

his own mouth with water, standing on one leg, and spirting this water

towards the sun. Needless to say it never reached the orb of day, but,

very unexpectedly, sprinkled us instead.----

 

 

It is still a mystery to us why the plant tulsi, Royal Basilicum, is

worshipped. However, towards the end of September we yearly witnessed

the strange ceremony of the wedding of this plant with the god Vishnu,

notwithstanding that tulsi bears the title of Krishna's bride, probably

because of the latter being an incarnation of Vishnu. On these occasions

pots of this plant are painted and adorned with tinsel. A magical circle

is traced in the garden and the plant is put in the middle of it. A

Brahman brings an idol of Vishnu and begins the marriage ceremony,

standing before the plant. A married couple hold a shawl between the

plant and the god, as if screening them from each other, the Brahman

utters prayers, and young women, and especially unmarried girls, who are

the most ardent worshippers of tulsi, throw rice and saffron over the

idol and the plant. When the ceremony is concluded, the Brahman is

presented with the shawl, the idol is put in the shade of his wife,

the Hindus clap their hands, rend everyone's ears with the noise of

tom-toms, let off fireworks, offer each other pieces of sugar-cane, and

rejoice in every conceivable way till the dawn of the next day.

 

 

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

 

A Witch's Den

 

 

 

Our kind host Sham Rao was very gay during the remaining hours of

our visit. He did his best to entertain us, and would not hear of our

leaving the neighborhood without having seen its greatest celebrity,

its most interesting sight. A jadu wala--sorceress--well known in

the district, was just at this time under the influence of seven

sister-goddesses, who took possession of her by turns, and spoke their

oracles through her lips. Sham Rao said we must not fail to see her, be

it only in the interests of science.

 

The evening closes in, and we once more get ready for an excursion. It

is only five miles to the cavern of the Pythia of Hindostan; the road

runs through a jungle, but it is level and smooth. Besides, the jungle

and its ferocious inhabitants have ceased to frighten us. The timid

elephants we had in the "dead city" are sent home, and we are to mount

new behemoths belonging to a neighboring Raja. The pair, that stand

before the verandah like two dark hillocks, are steady and trust worthy.

Many a time these two have hunted the royal tiger, and no wild shrieking

or thunderous roaring can frighten them. And so, let us start!

 

The ruddy flames of the torches dazzle our eyes and increase the forest

gloom. Our surroundings seem so dark, so mysterious. There is something

indescribably fascinating, almost solemn, in these night-journeys in

the out-of-the-way corners of India. Everything is silent and deserted

around you, everything is dozing on the earth and overhead. Only the

heavy, regular tread of the elephants breaks the stillness of the night,

like the sound of falling hammers in the underground smithy of Vulcan.

From time to time uncanny voices and murmurs are heard in the black

forest.

 

"The wind sings its strange song amongst the ruins," says one of us,

"what a wonderful acoustic phenomenon!" "Bhuta, bhuta!" whisper the

awestruck torch-bearers. They brandish their torches and swiftly spin on

one leg, and snap their fingers to chase away the aggressive spirits.

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

The plaintive murmur is lost in the distance. The forest is once more

filled with the cadences of its invisible nocturnal life--the metallic

whirr of the crickets, the feeble, monotonous croak of the tree-frog,

the rustle of the leaves. From time to time all this suddenly stops

short and then begins again, gradually increasing and increasing.

 

Heavens! What teeming life, what stores of vital energy are hidden

under the smallest leaf, the most imperceptible blades of grass, in this

tropical forest! Myriads of stars shine in the dark blue of the sky, and

myriads of fireflies twinkle at us from every bush, moving sparks, like

a pale reflection of the far-away stars.

 

We left the thick forest behind us, and reached a deep glen, on three

sides bordered with the thick forest, where even by day the shadows are

as dark as by night. We were about two thousand feet above the foot of

the Vindhya ridge, judging by the ruined wall of Mandu, straight above

our heads. Suddenly a very chilly wind rose that nearly blew our torches

out. Caught in the labyrinth of bushes and rocks, the wind angrily shook

the branches of the blossoming syringas, then, shaking itself free, it

turned back along the glen and flew down the valley, howling, whistling

and shrieking, as if all the fiends of the forest together were joining

in a funeral song.

 

"Here we are," said Sham Rao, dismounting. "Here is the village; the

elephants cannot go any further."

 

"The village? Surely you are mistaken. I don't see anything but trees."

 

"It is too dark to see the village. Besides, the huts are so small,

and so hidden by the bushes, that even by daytime you could hardly find

them. And there is no light in the houses, for fear of the spirits."

 

"And where is your witch? Do you mean we are to watch her performance in

complete darkness?"

 

Sham Rao cast a furtive, timid look round him; and his voice, when he

answered our questions, was somewhat tremulous.

 

"I implore you not to call her a witch! She may hear you.... It is

not far off, it is not more than half a mile. Do not allow this short

distance to shake your decision. No elephant, and even no horse, could

make its way there. We must walk.... But we shall find plenty of light

there.... "

 

This was unexpected, and far from agreeable. To walk in this gloomy

Indian night; to scramble through thickets of cactuses; to venture in a

dark forest, full of wild animals--this was too much for Miss X----.

She declared that she would go no further. She would wait for us in the

howdah, on the elephant's back, and perhaps would go to sleep.

 

Narayan was against this parti de plaisir from the very beginning, and

now, without explaining his reasons, he said she was the only sensible

one among us.

 

"You won't lose anything," he remarked, "by staying where you are. And I

only wish everyone would follow your example."

 

"What ground have you for saying so, I wonder?" remonstrated Sham Rao,

and a slight note of disappointment rang in his voice, when he saw that

the excursion, proposed and organized by himself, threatened to come to

nothing. "What harm could be done by it? I won't insist any more that

the 'incarnation of gods' is a rare sight, and that the Europeans hardly

ever have an opportunity of witnessing it; but, besides, the Kangalim

in question is no ordinary woman. She leads a holy life; she is a

prophetess, and her blessing could not prove harmful to any one. I

insisted on this excursion out of pure patriotism."

 

-------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL