NOTE C. p. 341.
daily ceremomies of the brahmens.
As he rises from sleep, a Brahmen must rub his teeth with a proper withe, or a twig of the racimeferous fig tree, repeating prayers. Should this sacred duty be omitted, so great a sin is incurred, that the benefit is lost of all religious rites performed by him. The next circumstance of importance is, the deposit of the withe after it has done its office. It must be carefully thrown away in a place free from impurities; that is, where none of those religious stains, which are so multiplied among the Hindus, and must infect so many places, have been imprinted. When the business of the teeth and of the twig is accomplished, ablution next engages the attention of the Brahmen. The duty of the bath, particularly in the months of Magha, Pholgima, and Cartica, is no less efficacious than a rigid penance for the expiation of sin. Standing in a river, or in other water, the worshipper, sipping water, which is a requisite preliminary to all rites, and sprinkling it before him, recites inaudibly the gayatri, or holiest text of the Veda, with the names of the seven worlds. He next throws water eight times on his head, or towards the sky, and at last upon the ground, to destroy the demons who wage war with the gods, reciting prayers, of which the first may be received as a specimen: “O waters, since ye afford us delight, grant us present happiness, and the rapturous sight of the supreme God.” When these ceremonies and prayers are performed, he plunges three times into the water, and each time repeats the expiatory text which recites the creation, and having then washed his mantle, the morning ablution is finished. If he is an householder, it is his duty to bathe again at noon, and if he belongs to an order of devotion, both at noon and in the evening, with ceremonies, differing somewhat in the words and forms, but the same in spirit and substance.
An important part of the worship of the Brahmen then succeeds. Coming out of the water, and putting on his mantle, he sits down to worship the rising sun. This great duty is performed by first tying the lock of hair on the crown of his head, while he holds much cusa grass in his left hand, and three blades of it in his right, or wears a ring of it on the third finger of that hand, reciting at the same time the gayatri. He then sips water three times, repeats the mysterious names of the seven worlds, recites again the gayatri, rubs his hands as if washing them, touches with his wet hand his feet, head, breast, eyes, ears, nose and navel, and again three times sips water. If, however, he should sneeze, or spit, he must obey the text which says, “after sneezing, spitting, blowing his nose, sleeping, putting on apparel or dropping tears, a man should not immediately sip water, but first touch his right ear.” The sipping, however, being at last performed, he passes his hand filled with water, briskly round his neck, while he prays: “May the waters preserve me!” He then shuts his eyes and meditates in silence. Till we got better information, very wonderful ideas were formed of the sublimity of the Brahmen's meditations. On this, one of the most sacred and solemn of all occasions, while he meditates in silence, with his eyes shut, and every mark of intense thought, we are informed, that he is only “figuring to himself, that Brahma, with five faces and a red complexion, resides in his navel; Vishnu, with four arms and a black complexion, in his heart; and Siva, with five faces and a white co lexion, in his forehead.” Nor is this the whole of his meditation. He ponders next on the holiest of texts; and this sublime duty is performed in the following manner. Closing the left nostril with the two longest fingers of the right hand, he draws his breath through the right nostril, and then closing it with his thumb, and suspending his breath, he repeats to himself the gayatri, the mysterious names of the worlds, and the sacred text of Brahme; after which, raising his fingers from the left nostril, he emits the breath which he had suppressed, and thus ends one part of his meditation. The same process is repeated three times and the whole is then concluded. This meditation, says Yajnyawalcya, “implies, Om, (aum,) earth, sky, heaven, middle region, place of births, mansion of the blessed, abode of truth. We meditate on the adorable light of the resplendent generator which governs our intellects, which is water, lustre, savour, immortal faculty of thought, Brahme, earth, sky, and heaven.” He then stands on one foot, resting the other against his ancle or heel, and looking towards the east, while his hands are held open before him in a hollow form, and in that posture he recites prayers to the sun, of which the following is one of the most remarkable: “Thou art self-existent, thou art the most excellent ray; thou givest effulgence, grant it unto me.” When all these ceremonies are performed, the oblation or offering is the next part of the service. It consists of tila, flowers, barley, water, and red sanders wood; it is put into a vessel of copper in the shape of a boat, and placed on the head of the votary, who presents it with fresh prayers, and holy texts. In the last place comes the invocation of the gayatri. It is first addressed in these words: “Thou art light; thou art seed; thou art immortal life; thou art effulgent; beloved by the gods, defamed by none, thou art the holiest sacrifice.” It is then recited measure by measure; next the two first measures are recited as one hemistich; and the third measure as the other; lastly, the three measures are repeated without interruption. It is addressed again in the following words; “Divine text, who dost grant our best wishes, whose name is trisyllable, whose import is the power of the Supreme Being; come, thou mother of the Vedas, who didst spring from Brahme, be constant here.” It is then, along with the triliteral monosyllable, and the names of the three lower worlds, pronounced inaudibly a hundred, or a thousand times, or as often as practicable, while the repetitions are counted upon a rosary of wild grains, or of gems set in gold. Additional prayers are recited, and the morning worship of the sun is thus terminated.
The religious duties which fill up the remaining portion of the day are chiefly comprised in what are denominated the five sacraments. In a passage of the Institutes of Menu these are thus described; “Teaching and studying the scripture is the sacrament of the Veda: Offering cakes and water, the sacrament of the manes; An oblation to fire, the sacrament of the deities; Giving rice or other food to living creatures, the sacrament of spirits; Receiving guests with honour, the sacrament of men.” I shall endeavour by a very short illustration to convey an idea of each.
Preparatory to the study of the Veda must ablution be performed. Of this some ceremonies not yet described may be here introduced. “Let a Brahman at all times perform the ablution,” says the law of Menu, “with the pure part of his hand, denominated from the Veda, or with the part sacred to the Lord of creatures, or with that dedicated to the gods; but never with the part named from the Pitris: The pure part under the root of the thumb is called Brahma; that at the root of the little finger, Caya; that at the tips of the fingers, Daiva; and the part between the thumb and index, Pitrya. Let him first sip water thrice; then twice wipe his mouth, and lastly touch with water the six hollow parts of his head, [or his eyes, ears, and nostrils,] his breast and his head. He who knows the law, and seeks purity, will ever perform the ablution with the pure part of his hand, and with water neither hot nor frothy, standing in a lonely place, and turning to the east or the north. A Brahmen is purified by water that reaches his bosom; a Cshatriya, by water descending to his throat; a Vaisya, by water barely taken into his mouth; a Sudra, by water touched with the extremity of his lips.” Having concluded this part of the ceremony, and walked in a circle beginning from the south, he proceeds to the pronunciation of the syllable Aum. “A Brahmen, beginning and ending a lecture on the Veda, must always pronounce to himself the syllable Aum; for unless the syllable Aum precedes, his learning will slip away from him; and unless it follow, nothing will be long retained. If he have sitten on culms of cusa grass, with their points toward the east, and be purified by rubbing that holy grass on both his hands, and be further prepared by three suppressions of breath, each equal in time to five short vowels, he may then fitly pronounce Aum. Brahma milked out, as it were, from the three vedas, the letter A, the letter U, and the letter M, which form by their coalition the trillteral monosyllable, together with three mysterious words, earth, sky, heaven.” Turning his face towards the east, with his right hand toward the south, and his left hand towards the north, he then sits down, having the cusa grass before him, holding two blades of it on the tips of his left fingers, and placing on them his right hand with the palm turned upwards, and in this sacred position he meditates the gayatri. He then recites the due prayers and texts, and is thus prepared to begin the daily perusal of the Veda.
The sacrament of the manes, which occupies the second place in the above text of Menu, is described at great length in that sacred volume. “Let the Brahmen smear with cow-dung a purified and sequestered piece of ground; and let him with great care select a place with a declivity toward the south. Having duly made an ablution with water, let him place with reverence the invited Brahmens, who have also performed their ablutions, one by one, on allotted seats purified with cusa grass, honouring them with fragrant garlands and sweet odours, and bringing for them water, with cusa grass and tila; then let him pour the oblation of clarified butter on the holy fire, and afterwards proceed to satisfy the manes of his ancestors. Having walked in order from east to south, and thrown into the fire all the ingredients of his oblation, let him sprinkle water on the ground with his right hand. From the remainder of the clarified butter having formed three balls of rice, let him offer them, with fixed attention, in the same manner as the water, his face being turned to the south: Then having offered those balls, after due ceremonies, and with an attentive mind, to the manes of his father, his paternal grandfather, and great grandfather, let him wipe the same hand with the roots of cusa, which he had before used, for the sake of his paternal ancestors in the fourth, fifth, and sixth degrees, who are the partakers of the rice and clarified butter thus wiped off. Having made an ablution, returning toward the north, and thrice suppressing his breath slowly, let him salute the gods of the six seasons, and the Pitris. Whatever water remains in his ewer, let him carry back deliberately near the cakes of rice; and with fixed attention let him smell those cakes, in order as they were offered, and give part of them to the Brahmens. Having poured water, with cusa grass and tila, into the hands of the Brahmens, let him give them the upper part of the cakes, saying Swadha to the manes. Next, having himself brought with both hands a vessel full of rice, let him, still meditating on the Pitris, place it before the Brahmens without precipitation. Broths, potherbs, and other eatables accompanying the rice, together with milk and curds, clarified butter and honey, let him first place on the ground after he has made an ablution: let him add spiced puddings, and milky messes of various sorts, roots of herbs and ripe fruits, savoury meats and sweet-smelling drinks: then being duly purified, and with perfect presence of mind, let him take up all the dishes one by one, and present them in order to the Brahmens, proclaiming their qualities. Himself being delighted, let him give delight to the Brahmens, and invite them to eat of the provisions by little and little; attracting them often with the dressed rice and other eatables. Let all the dressed food be very hot. Let not a chandala, a town boar, a cock, a dog, a woman in her courses, or an eunuch, see the Brahmens eating.” These, with a variety of prayers, and several other observances, are the obsequies to the manes of ancestors.
The oblations to fire, which are a most important part of the duties of the Hindu, are dignified with the title of the sacrament of the gods. I shall here premise the ceremonies attending the consecration of the fire, and the sacramental implements, though to all religious rites these may be regarded as introductory. In order to prepare the ground for the reception of the holy fire, the priest chooses a level spot four cubits square, free from all ceremonial impurities, covered with a shed, and this he smears with cow-dung. Next, having bathed and sipped water, he sits down with his face towards the east, and placing a vessel of water with cusa grass on his left, dropping his right knee, and resting on the span of his left hand, he draws, after an established rule, five consecrated lines, and gathering up the dust from the edges of them, throws it away toward the north-east, saying, “What was herein bad is thrown away.” Having, also, sprinkled the lines with water, and the ground being now prepared, he takes a lighted ember out of the vessels wherein he preserves the fire, and throwing it away, cries, “I dismiss far away carnivorous fire: May it go to the realm of Yama, bearing sin hence.” Then, placing the fire before him, he exclaims, “Earth! sky! heaven!” and adds, “This other harmless fire only remains here; well knowing its office, may it convey my oblation to the gods.” He now bestows upon it a name, conformable to the purpose for which he prefers it, and concludes this part of the ceremony by silently burning a log of wood one span long, smeared with clarified butter. The placing of the superintending priest is the next part of the duty. On very solemn occasions this is a real Brahmen; but in general a substitute is made for him of a bundle of cusa grass. He by whom the sacrifice is performed takes up the vessel of water, and keeping his right side towards the fire, walks round it: then he pours water near it, in an eastern direction, and spreads on it cusa grass: then he crosses, without sitting down, his right knee over his left; then takes up a single blade of grass between the thumb and ring-finger of his left hand; next throws it away towards the south-west, saying, “What was herein bad is cast away:” then he touches the water, resting the sole of his right foot on his left ankle, sprinkles the grass with water, after which he places on it his Brahmen made of cusa, saying to it, “Sit on this seat until thy fee be paid thee;” he then returns round the fire the same way by which he went, and sitting down again with his face towards the east names the earth inaudibly. If no profane word should hitherto have been spoken, for which atonement is requisite, he must next spread leaves of cusa grass on three sides of the fire; he begins with the eastern side, and lays three rows of leaves in such a manner that the tip of the one shall cover the root of the other; after this he blesses the ten regions of space, and rising a little puts some wood on the fire with a ladleful of clarified butter, while he meditates in silence on Brahma, the lord of creatures: next he takes up two leaves of the grass, and with another cutting off the length of a span, and saying, “Pure leaves be sacred to Vishnu,” he throws them into a vessel of copper, or other metal; he then takes up other two leaves, and holding the tips of them between the thumb and ring finger of his right hand, the roots between the thumb and ring finger of his left, he takes up, having the one hand crossed over the other, clarified butter in the curviture of the leaves, and throws some of it three several times into the fire. He then sprinkles the leaves with water, and throws them away; next, having sprinkled the vessel containing the clarified butter, he puts it on the fire and takes it off again three several times, when, having recited the proper prayers with cusa grass in both his hands, the ceremony of hallowing the butter is finished. That of hallowing the wooden ladle is performed by describing three times with the tip of his fore finger and thumb the figure 7 on the inside of it, and the figure 9 on the outside, by sprinkling water, having first dropped on one knee, from the palms of his hands, on the whole southern side of the fire, from west to east; on the western side from south to north, on the northern side, and then all around the fire, reciting prayers and sacred texts. Having next recited an expiatory prayer with cusa grass in both his hands, and having thrown the grass away, he has then finished the consecration of the sacrificial implements. It is only after all this is accomplished that he is prepared to begin the oblation to fire, of which the following is one of that variety of forms which it receives according to the rite intended to succeed. First, the priest burns silently a log of wood, smeared with clarified butter: next, he makes three oblations, by pouring each time a ladleful of clarified butter on the fire, and pronouncing severally the following prayers; “Earth! be this oblation efficacious.”—“Sky! be this oblation efficacious.”—“Heaven! be this oblation efficacious.” On some occasions the oblation is made a fourth time, and he says, “Earth! sky! Heaven! be this oblation efficacious.’ An offering of rice, milk, curds, and butter, is next performed, and the oblations accompanied with the names of the three worlds are repeated. “In his domestic fire, for dressing the food of all the gods,” says the law of Menu, “let a Brahmen make an oblation each day to these following divinities; first to Agni, god of fire, and to the lunar god, severally; then, to both of them at once; next, to the assembled gods; and afterwards to Dhanwantari god of medicine; to Cuhu, goddess of the day, when the new moon is discernible; to Anumati, goddess of the day after the opposition; to Prajapati, or the lord of creatures; to Dyava and Prithivi, goddesses of sky and earth; and lastly, to the fire of the good sacrifice. Having thus, with fixed attention, offered clarified butter in all quarters, proceeding from the east in a southern direction, to Indra, Yamu, Varuna, and the god Soma, let him offer his gift to animated creatures.”
The fourth sacrament, or that of spirits, in the Institutes of Menu, is thus described: “Let him, saying, I salute the marats or winds, throw dressed rice near the door: saying, I salute the water gods, let him throw it in water; and let him throw it on his pestle and mortar, saying, I salute the gods of large trees. Let him do the like in the north-east, or near his pillow, to Sri, the goddess of abundance; in the south-west, or at the foot of his bed, to the propitious goddess Bhadracali; in the centre of his mansion, to Brahma, and his household god; to all the gods assembled, let him throw up his oblation in open air; by day, to the spirits who walk in light; and by night, to those who walk in darkness; in the building on his housetop, or behind his back, let him cast his oblation for the welfare of all creatures; and what remains let him give to the Pitris with his face toward the south.”
Of those diurnal sacraments, which constitute so great a part of the duty of the Hindus, receiving guests with honour, which is denominated the sacrament of men, is the fifth. This is commonly, by English writers, interpreted “hospitality.” But we shall form a very erroneous notion of this sacramental service, if we confound it with the merely human and profane duty of receiving strangers beneficently from motives of humanity. This is a duty purely religious, confined to the twice-born and consecrated classes; and principally contrived for the benefit of the Brahmens; that for them, in all places, and on all occasions, every door may be open, and every table spread. “A Brahmen, coming as a guest, and not received with just honour, takes to himself all the reward of the kousekeeper's former virtue, even though he had been so temperate as to live on the gleanings of harvests, and so pious as to make oblations in five distinct fires.” A guest, in the Hindu sense, is not every man who may claim, or may stand in need of your hospitalities: A guest, according to the commentator, whom Mr. Colebrooke follows as his guide, is “a spiritual preceptor, a priest, an ascetick, a prince, a bridegroom, a friend.” “In the house of a Brahmen,” says the law of Menu, “a military man is not denominated a guest; nor a man of the commercial or servile cast;” so that a Brahmen, to whom are devoted the hospitalities of all the classes, is bound to return them to Brahmens alone. Among the religious ceremonies with which this sacrament is celebrated, a cow is tied on the northern side of the apartment, and a stool and other furniture placed for the guest, when the householder, rising up to bid him welcome, recites the prayer; “May she, who supplies obligations for religious worship, who constantly follows her calf, and who was the milch cow when Yama was the votary, abound with milk, and fulfil our wishes year after year.” The guest then sits down on the stool or cushion prepared for him, reciting the text of the Yajurveda, which says; “I step on this for the sake of food and other benefits, on this variously splendid footstool.” His host next presents to him a cushion made of twenty leaves of cusa grass, holding it up with both hands, and exclaiming, “the cushion! the cushion! the cushion!” which the guest accepts and places it on the ground under his feet, reciting prayers. This done, a vessel of water is presented to him, the host thrice exclaiming, “Water for ablutions!” Of this the guest declares his acceptance, and looking into the vessel cries, “Generous water! I view thee; return in the form of fertilizing rain from him from whom thou dost proceed.” He then takes some of it in the palms of both hands joined together, and throws it on his left foot, saying, “I wash my left foot, and fix prosperity in this realm;” in the same manner on the right foot, with a similar declaration; and lastly, on both feet, saying, “I wash first one and then the other; and lastly, both feet, that the realm may thrive, and intrepidity be gained.” With similar formalities is next presented and received, an arghya; that is, a vessel shaped like a boat, or a conch, filled with water, rice, and durva grass; when the guest pouring the water on his head, says, “Thou art the splendour of food; through thee may I become glorious.” The host, again presenting water, three times exclaims, “Take water to be sipped!” the guest, accepting it, says, “Thou art glorious, grant me glory!” These ceremonies being finished, the host fills a vessel with honey, curds, and clarified butter, and, covering it with another vessel, presents it to his guest, exclaiming three times, “Take the Madhuparca!” He, receiving, places it on the ground, and looking into it, says, “Thou art glorious, may I become so:” he tastes it three times, saying, “Thou art the sustenance of the glorious; thou art the nourishment of the splendid; thou art the food of the fortunate; grant me prosperity:” and then silently eats until he be satisfied. When this is done, he sips water; and touching his mouth and other parts of his body with his hand, he says, “May there be speech in my mouth; breath in my nostrils; sight in my eyeballs; hearing in my ears; strength in my arms; firmness in my thighs: may my limbs and members remain unhurt together with my soul.” Presents are then presented to him, suitable to the rank of the parties; and a barber who attends for the purpose, now exclaims, “The cow, the cow.” The guest then pronounces the following text: “Release the cow from the fetters of Varuna. May she subdue my foe. May she destroy the enemies both of my host and me. Dismiss the cow that she may eat grass and drink water.” At this intercession she is released, and thus the guest addresses her; “I have earnestly entreated this prudent person, saying, Kill not the innocent, harmless, cow, who is mother of Rudras, daughter of Vasus, sister of adityas, and the source of ambrosia.” Such is the mode in which the ceremonial duty of entertaining guests is celebrated, and such is an idea of the ceremonies which are included in the five daily sacraments of the Hindus.
As the daily ceremonies, however, in their full detail, are sufficient to engross the whole time of the votary; for those on whom the functions of society devolve, some alleviation of the burthen, or rather, in the Hindu notion, some restriction of the privilege, was necessarily devised: and while the sanctity of entire accomplishment is reserved for the holy men who maintain perpetual fires, those who are engaged in the affairs of life are obliged to content themselves with a rite, called Vaiswadeva, in which all the daily sacraments, excepting that of the Veda, are comprised. It consists of oblations to the manes, to the gods, and spirits, and of donations to guests, all out of the food prepared for the daily meal; and is thus performed. Sitting down in a place free from impurities, and setting a vessel containing fire on his right hand, the worshipper hallows the ground by throwing away a lighted piece of cusa grass, while he recites the appropriate text, and then places his fire on the consecrated spot, repeating the prayer which is used, when the household and sacrificial fires are lighted by the attrition of wood. He next lays cusa grass on the eastern side of the fire, with its tips pointed towards the north, exclaiming, “I praise divine fire, primevally consecrated, the efficient performer of a solemn ceremony, the chief agent of a sacrifice, the most liberal giver of gems.” He spreads it on the southern side, with its points towards the east, reciting the commencement of the Yajurveda. 1. “I gather thee for the sake of rain. 2. I pluck thee” (at this he is supposed to break off the branch of a tree) “for the sake of strength. 3. Ye are” (he touches calves with the branch he had pulled off) “like unto air. 4. May the liberal generator of worlds make you” (here he touches, or is supposed to touch, milch-cows with the same branch) “happily reach this most excellent sacrifice.” In like manner he lays grass on the two other sides of the fire, on the western side with the tips to the north, crying, “Fire! approach to taste my offering; thou who art praised for the gift of oblations; sit down on this grass, thou, who art the complete performer of the solemn sacrifice;” and on the northern side with the tips pointed to the east, saying, “May divine waters be auspicious to us, &c. When all these ceremonies are completed, he stirs the fire, and sprinkles water upon it, after which, having his hands smeared with clarified butter, he offers food three several times, repeating, “Earth! sky! heaven!” Five similar oblations are next performed: one to the regent of fire; one to the god of medicine; one to the assembled deities; one to the lord of created beings; and one to the creator of the universe. Six more oblations are then offered with six prayers, every oblation having its separate prayer. 1. “Fire! thou dost expiate a sin against the gods; may this oblation be efficacious. 2. Thou dost expiate a sin against man. 3. Thou dost expiate a sin against the manes. 4. Thou dost expiate a sin against my own soul. 5. Thou dost expiate repeated sins. 6. Thou dost expiate every sin I have committed, whether wilfully or unintentionally: may this oblation be efficacious.” He next worships the fire, making an oblation with the following prayer; “Fire! seven are thy fuels; seven thy tongues; seven thy holy sages; seven thy beloved abodes; seven ways do seven sacrificers worship thee: thy sources are seven: be content with this clarified butter: may this oblation be efficacious.” As the sacred lamp was lighted for the repulsion of evil spirits, before the oblations to the gods and the manes were presented, it is now extinguished, while recitation is made of the following text; “In solemn acts of religion, whatever fails through the negligence of those who perform the ceremony, may be perfected solely through meditation on Vishnu.” The oblations to spirits are next offered: the performer depositing portions of food in the several places prescribed for it, having previously swept each place with his hand and sprinkled it with water. Near the spot where the vessel of water stands, he makes three offerings, saying, “Salutation to rain! to water! to the earth!” He makes them at both doors of his house to Dhatri, and Vidhatri, or Brahma, the protector and creator. He presents them toward the eight points of the compass, adding salutation to them, and to the regents of them. To Brahm, to the sky, and to the sun, he makes oblations with salutation in the middle of the house. He then offers similar oblations to all the gods; to all beings; to twilight; and to the lord of all beings. After the sacrament of spirits thus performed, the worshipper, shifting the sacramental cord, and looking toward the south, drops upon one knee, and presents an oblation to the manes of ancestors, saying, “Salutation to progenitors: may this ancestral food be acceptable.” Having performed a lustration, he should then present food to his guests. “When he has thus,” says Mr. Colebrooke, “allotted out of the food prepared for his own repast, one portion to the gods, a second to progenitors, a third to all beings, and a fourth to his guests, he and his family may then, and not before, consume the remaining portion of the food.” This ceremony must be regularly performed in the forenoon, by those to whom the full celebration of the five sacraments is impracticable; and by some persons it is repeated again in the evening.
After this tedious though greatly abridged account, of the daily ceremonies of the Hindus, we come to those which are performed at certain great and chosen epochs. On these, however, I shall content myself with some very general notices.
The Brahmans wait not for the period of birth to commence the ceremonis which pertain to each individual. “With auspicious acts,” says the holy text, “prescribed by the Veda, must ceremonies on conception, and so forth, be duly performed, which purify the bodies of the three classes in this life, and qualify them for the next.” Oblations to fire are required during the mother's pregnancy, and holy rites are commanded on the birth of the child. “Before the section of the naval string, a ceremony is ordained on the birth of a male child: he must be made, while sacred texts are pronounced, to taste a little honey and clarified butter from a golden spoon.” The ceremony of giving a name is ordained to be performed on the tenth or twelfth day after the birth: “or on some fortunate day of the moon, at a lucky hour, and under the influence of a star with good qualities.” The ceremony of the tonsure, which is one of the distinguishing marks of the first three classes, is a rite of great solemnity, commanded to be performed in the first or third year after birth. But of all the ritual ordinances of the Hindus none are reckoned more essential or important than those relating to the investiture. “In the eighth year from the conception of a Brahmen,” says the law of Menu, “in the eleventh from that of a Cshatriya, and in the twelfth from that of a Vaisya, let the father invest the child with the mark of his class: Should a Brahmen, or his father for him, be desirous of his advancement in sacred knowledge, a Cshatriya of extending his power, or a Vaisya of engaging in mercantile business, the investiture may be made in the fifth, sixth, or eighth years respectively. The ceremony of investiture, hallowed by the gayatri, must not be delayed, in the case of a priest, beyond the sixteenth year; nor in that of a soldier, beyond the twenty-second; nor in that of a merchant, beyond the twenty-fourth. After that all youths of these three classes, who have not been invested at the proper time, become vratyas or outcasts, degraded from the gayatri, and contemned by the virtuous. With such impure men let no Brahmen, even in distress for subsistence, ever form a connexion in law, either by the study of the Veda, or by affinity.” The investiture, or institution, is usually denominated the second birth; and it is from this ceremony that the three highest classes are denominated the twice-born. It consists chiefly in bestowing upon the object of the rite, a mantle, a girdle, a sacrificial cord, and a staff, with numerous ceremonies, prayers, and holy texts. “Let students of the Veda,” says the law of Menu, “wear for their mantles, the hides of black antelopes, of common deer, or of goats, with lower vests of woven sana, of cshuma, and of wool, in the direct order of their classes. The girdle of a priest must be made of munja, in a triple cord, smooth, and soft; that of a warrior must be a bow-string of murva; that of a merchant, a triple thread of sana. The sacrificial thread of a Brahmen must be made of cotton, so as to be put on over his head in three strings; that of a Cshatriya, of sana thread only; that of a Vaisya, of woollen thread. A priest ought by law to carry a staff of Bilva or Palasa: a soldier, of Bata or C’hadira; a merchant, of Venu or Udumbara. The staff of a priest must be of such a length as to reach his hair; that of a soldier to reach his forehead; and that of a merchant to reach his nose. Let all the staves be straight, without fracture, of a handsome appearance, not likely to terrify men, with their bark perfect, unhurt by fire. His girdle, his leathern mantle, his staff, his sacrificial cord, and his ewer, he must throw into the water, when they are worn out or broken, and receive others hallowed by mystical texts. The ceremony of cesanta, or cutting off the hair, is ordained for a priest in the sixteenth year from conception; for a soldier, in the twenty-second; for a merchant, two years later. Such is the revealed law of institution for the twice-born, an institution in which their second birth clearly consists, and which causes their advancement in holiness.”
The ceremonies of marriage, which next call for our attention, are extremely numerous. The bridegroom is first of all received by the father of the bride with all the ceremonies of hospitality which we have already described; and during this time the bride is bathed. When these rules are finished, the hand of the bride is placed in that of the bridegroom, both having been previously rubbed with some auspicious drug, and a matron binds them with cusa grass amid the sound of cheerful music. The father of the bride then bidding the attendant priests begin their acclamations, pours water from a vessel containing tila and cusa grass, upon the hands of the united pair, and uttering the words, “God the existent,” and pronouncing the names and designations of the bridegroom, the bride, and himself, says, “I give unto thee this damsel, adorned with jewels, and protected by the lord of creatures.” The bridegroom replies, “Well be it.” The bridegroom then having received from the father of the bride a piece of gold, and recited an appropriate text, the parties are affianced, and walk forth, while the bridegroom thus addresses the bride; “May the regents of space, may air, the sun, and fire, dispel that anxiety which thou feelest in thy mind, and turn thy heart to me. Be gentle in thy aspect, and loyal to thy husband; be fortunate in cattle, amiable in thy mind, and beautiful in thy person: be mother of valiant sons; be fond of delights; be cheerful; and bring prosperity to our bipeds and quadrupeds.” A libation of water is afterwards made; and the father of the bride, having meditated the gayatri, ties a knot with the skirts of the mantles of the bridegroom and bride, saying, “Ye must be inseparably united in matters of duty, wealth, and love.” The bridegroom next attires the bride with a variety of ceremonies, of which the following are the most remarkable. Going to the principal apartment of the house, he prepares a sacrificial fire, and hallows the implements; when one friend of his bearing a jar of water, walks round the fire, and stops on the south side of it; and another, performing the same ceremony, places himself on the right of the first. The bridegroom then casts four double handfuls of rice, mixed with leaves of Sami, into a flat basket; and placing near it a stone and mullar, which with formality he had previously touched, he causes the bride to be clothed with a new waistcloth and scarf, while he himself recites a variety of prayers. This being done, the bride goes to the western side of the fire, and recites a prayer, while she steps on a mat made of virana grass, and covered with silk. She then sits down on the edge of the mat, and the bridegroom makes six oblations of clarified butter, reciting a prayer with each. After this he names the three worlds separately and conjointly, presenting oblations; and makes four or five oblations to fire and to the moon. After these he rises up with the bride, and passing from her left to her right makes her join her hands in a hollow form. The rice, which was previously put in the basket, being then taken up, and the stone which was laid near being placed before the bride, she treads on it with the point of her right foot, while the bridegroom recites this prayer, “Ascend this stone; be firm like this stone; distress my foe, and be not subservient to my enemies.” He then pours on her hands a ladleful of clarified butter; another person gives her the rice; two ladlefuls of butter are poured over it; when she separates her hands, and lets fall the rice on the fire, while a holy text is recited. She treads again on the stone, again makes an oblation of rice, again a prayer is recited, again walking is performed round the fire, again four or five oblations are made with similar ceremonies and prayers, when the bridegroom pours two ladlefuls of butter on the edge of the basket, and then rice out of it into the fire, saying, “may this oblation to fire be efficacious.” After the ceremony of ascending the stone and throwing the rice into the fire, the bride is conducted to the bridegroom, and by him directed to step successively into seven circles, while seven texts are repeated. This is the most emphatical part of the ritual; for no sooner is the seventh step of the bride performed, than the nuptial bond is complete and irrevocable. The bridegroom then in appropriate texts addresses the bride and the spectators, dismissing them; after which his friend, who stood near the sacrificial fire, bearing a jar of water, advances to the spot where the seventh step was completed, and, while a prayer is recited, pours water on the head, first of the bridegroom and then of the bride. Upon this, the bridegroom, putting his left hand under the hands of his bride, which are joined in a hollow posture, takes her right hand in his, and recites six holy texts; after which he sits down with her near the fire, and makes oblations, while severally and conjointly he names the three worlds. On the evening of the same day, when the stars begin to appear, the bride sits down on a bull's hide of a red colour, placed with the neck towards the east, and the hair upwards; and the bridegroom, sitting down beside her, makes oblations, naming the three worlds as usual; then six other oblations, pouring each time the remainder of the clarified butter on her head, and reciting prayers. After rising up, and contemplating the polar star as an emblem of stability, matrons pour upon them water mixed with leaves, which had been placed upon an altar prepared for that purpose, and the bridegroom again makes oblations with the names of the worlds. He then eats food, prepared without factitious salt, reciting prayers during the meal: and when he has finished, the remainder is given to the bride. During the three subsequent days the married couple must remain in the house of the father of the bride, must abstain from factitious salt, must live chastely and austerely, sleeping on the ground. On the fourth day the bridegroom carries her to his house, reciting texts when he ascends the carriage, and when they come to cross roads. Leading her into his own house he chants a hymn, when matrons hail, and seat her on a bull's hide as before, and the bridegroom recites a prayer. They place next a young child in her lap, putting roots of lotus, or fruits, into his hand; when the bridegroom takes him up, and, preparing a sacrificial fire with all the usual ceremonies, makes eight different oblations, with as many prayers. The bride then salutes her father in law, and the other relations of her husband. The bridegroom prepares another sacrificial fire, and sits down with the bride on his right hand; when with the usual preliminary and concluding oblations to the three worlds, he makes twenty oblations, with as many prayers, throwing the remainder of each portion of the consecrated butter into a jar of water, which is afterwards poured on the head of the bride.
If the ceremonies prescribed for marriage are thus multiplied, trivial, and tiresome, those allotted to funerals are in point of number still more exorbitant and oppressive. After a specimen, however, of the Hindu ceremonies, there is something exceedingly monotonous in the detail of the rest; and hardly any thing is more ungrateful than to be obliged to go through them. The reader is, therefore, spared the task of studying the funeral rites of the Hindus, of which, notwithstanding, he may form a sufficient conception, as, in point of character, they exactly resemble those which have already been described.
Of the monthly ceremonies, one may suffice to afford an idea of the whole. “From month to month,” says the law of Menu, “on the dark day of the moon, let a twice-born man, having finished the daily sacrament of the Pitris, and his fire being still blazing, perform the solemn sraddha.” Of the sraddha's, which are numerous but very similar, the following is exhibited as a specimen. The person who is to perform the ceremony having purified the place by smearing it with cow-dung, raises on it an alter of sand of certain dimensions and form, washes his hands and feet, sips water, and puts a ring of cusa grass on the ring finger of each hand. He then sits down on a cushion of cusa grass, and lights a lamp, reciting a prayer. He next places the utensils and materials in order, sprinkles water on himself and all around, meditates on Vishnu, surnamed the Lotos-eyed, meditates the gayatri, and after some ceremonies proceeds to invite and to welcome the assembled gods and the manes. Two little cushions, of three blades of cusa grass, he places on one side of the altar for the Viswadevas, and six in front of it for the Pitris, and strewing on them cusa grass, he asks, “Shall I invoke the assembled gods?” Do so; is the answer: upon which he exclaims, “Assembled gods! hear my invocation: come and sit down on this holy grass.” After scattering barley and meditating a prayer to the gods, he invites the manes of ancestors with similar invocations; and welcomes the gods and manes with oblations of water, &c. in vessels made of leaves. He puts cusa grass into the vessels, and sprinkles them with water, while he recites the prayer, beginning, “May divine waters be auspicious to us;” he next throws barley into the vessels intended for the gods, and tila into those intended for the manes, with a prayer appropriate to each. The vessels are then taken up in succession, a prayer being repeated for each; the cusa grass placed on the vessels is put into the hand of a Brahmen; that which was under them is held in the hand of the person by whom the sraddha is performed; and he pours through it, on the hand of the Brahmen, the water which the vessels contained, then piles up the empty vessels in three sets, and overturns them, saying, while he reverses the first, “Thou art a mansion for ancestors.” Taking up food smeared with clarified butter, he next makes two oblations to fire, with two corresponding prayers. The residue of the oblation, the performer having consecrated it by prayers and other ceremonies, having sweetened it with honey and sugar, and having meditated the gayatri with the names of worlds, is distributed among the Brahmens; and when they have eaten till they have acknowledged that they are satisfied, he gives them water to rinse their mouths. He then offers the cakes, consisting of balls or lumps of food, mixed with clarified butter, observing the requisite ceremonies. In the next place he makes six libations of water from the palms of his hands, with the salutation to the seasons, then places with due ceremonies and texts, a thread on each funeral cake, to serve as apparel for the manes. After this he takes up the middle cake and smells it, or his wife, if they are desirous of male offspring, eats it, while they recite a correspondent prayer. He takes up the rest of the cakes, and smelling them one after another, throws them into a vessel; which done, they are given to a mendicant priest, or a cow, or else cast into the water. He then dismisses the manes, reciting a holy text, and having walked round the spot, and recited a prayer, departs. “Formal obsequies,” says Mr. Colebrooke, “are performed no less than ninety-six times in every year.”
END OF VOL. I.