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I.- Some Account Q)‘ a Sect of Hindu Schismatics in Western India, calling themselves Riimsanehf, or Friends qf God. By Capt. G. E. Wnsrmncorr, Asst. to the Gov. Gen’s Agent, N. E’. Frontier.
OF THE MAHANT on RELIGIOUS Svrmuons or THE Onmm.
Rjucnannn, the founder of the Rimsanehis, was a Rzimévat Byrdgi, born A. D. 1719*, at Sorahchasen, a village in the principality of J ypur. The precise .period, nor the causes, which led him to abjure the religion of his fathers, do not appear : but he steadily denounced idol-worship, and suflered on this account great persecution from the Brahmans. On quitting the place of his nativity in 1750, he wandered over the country, and eventually repaired to Bhilwéra, in the Udipur territory, where after a residence of two years, Bhim Singh, prince of that state, and father of the present Rana, was urged by the priests to harass him to a degree which compelled him to abandon the town.
The then chief of Shéhpura, who also bore the name of Bhim Singh, compassionating his misfortunes, offered the wanderer an asylum at his court, and prepared a suitable escort to attend him : the sage, while he availed himself of the courtesy, humbly excused himself from accepting the elephants and equipage sent for his conveyance, and arrived at Shahpura on foot, in the year 1767 ; but he does not seem to have settled there permanently until two years later, from which time, it may be proper to date the institution of the sect. Ramcharan expired in the month of April, 1798, in the seventy-ninth
year of his age, and his corpse was reduced to ashes in the great temple at Shzihpura.
* A. Samvat 1776.
Sadha Ram, Governor of Bhilwfira, a Bania of the Deopura tribe, was one of R:imcharan’s bitterest enemies : he on one occasion dispatched a Singi* to Shahpura to put the schismatic to death; but the latter, who probably got information of his purpose, bent his head low as the man entered, and told him to perform the service on which he was deputed, but to remember that as the Almighty alone bestowed life, man could not destroy it, without the Divine permission. The hired assassin trembled at what he took for preternatural foresight in his intended victim, fell at his feet, and asked forgiveness.
Rfimcharan composed 36,250 Sabd or hymns, each containing from five to eleven verses : thirty-two letters go to each aslok, which give the above total. He was succeeded in the spiritual directorship by Ramjan, one of his twelve Chela. or disciples. This person was born at the village of Sirsin, embraced the new doctrine in 1768, and died at Shfihpura in 1809, after a reign of 12 years, 2 months and 6 days. He composed 18,000 Sabd.
The third hierarch, Dulha Ram, became a Rfimsanehi, A. D. 1776, and died in 1824 : he wrote ten thousand Sabd, and about four thousand sakf, or epic poems, in praise of men eminent for virtue not only of his own faith, but among Hindus, Muhammedans, and others.
Chatra Dis was converted at the early age of twelve years, ascended the throner in 1824, and died in 1831. He is said to have written 1000 Sabd, but would not permit their being committed to paper.
Nfirziyan Das, the fourth in descent from Rfimcharan, now fills the chair of spiritual director.
On the demise of a Mahant, an assembly of the priests and laity is convened at Shéhpura to elect a successor, who is chosen with reference alone to his wisdom and virtues. He is installed on the thirteenth day after the oflice falls vacant, on which occasion the Byriigis entertain the entire Hindi’: population of the town with a banquet of sweetmeats at the temple within the city-walls, known by the name of Rammerii.
The only difference between the garb of the Mahant and that of the priests consists in the quality of the cloth, which is made of cotton of rather a finer texture than theirs: their diet is the same, and consists of dry cakes of coarse wheat flour without any kind of seasoning. The superior resides at Shahpura, the chief place of their religion, but occasionally leaves it for a period of one or two months, wandering over the country to mortify his body and accustom it to endure fa.tigue. Religion.
‘* Singi. A particular cast of Hindus, so called in Réjwara from their conducting a number of their own, and of the Mahesri and Suruogi tribes of Banias, to noted places of pilgrimage, free of all expence. The word is evidently a cor. ruption from Sangi a companion.
1- Gaddi is the term invariably applied to the cushion of the superior and Maharlzj (mighty prince), the only title by which he is addressed and spoken of by the Ramsanehis. They _ approach him with profound obeisance, reverently touch his foot, and lay their foreheads to the marble on which he is seated.
1 Merissignifies an upper-roomed house in the language of Rajwira.
The Rémsanehis believe in the unity and omnipotence of God, whom they regard as the Author of creation, preservation, and destruction ; nor so far as I could learn, do they hold his nature and attributes to differ materially from the doctrine professed by ourselves. They call the Supreme Being, Ram; he is the source of all good, and the averter of evil, and as none can fathom his decrees, resignation to them is implicitly enjoined. Man is pronounced incapable of any exertion of himself: whatever comes to pass is accomplished through the Divine Agency; and as God alone is the bestower of rewards and punishments, the Ramsanehis are instructed to be constant in his worship, in the morning, at noon and night, and always to ask his blessing before going to meals. The soul is believed to be an emanation from the Divine spirit, which takes flight to heaven on the dissolution of the human frame; and they inculcate, if a person commit sin, who has enjoyed the advantages of education and is versed in the scriptures, no future act however exemplary can procure his remission from punishment, but in the case of an illiterate man, that he may by study, devotion and repentance obtain absolution of his crimes.
The formation and worship of idols is expressly prohibited. The Ramsanehis pass the Hindu gods unnoticed, and no sort of images or symbols of idolatry are admitted into their temples. When I pointedly asked N :'u'5.yan Dds his opinion of idol-worship, he replied in verse :—‘ As to lave the body in the ocean is equivalent to bathing in all the rivers of earth, since they flow into the great deep ; and to irrigate the roots of a tree is suflicient without further waste to nourish and bring forth its leaves, its flowers, and its fruits; so to worship the omnipotent God, does away the necessity of addressing all inferior deities.’
The Mahant said it was a mistake to suppose the doctrine of the sect was new——it had in fact existed in the world from a very remote period, though shorn of its purity by admixture with debasing superstitions and false tenets, engrafted upon it from time to time by the ignorant and designing. Men were born in every age who held sound principles of belief, but persecution compelled them to recant their opinions, or to take refuge in the wilds. It was reserved for Rémcharan to frame a code from the most approved writings of Hindu law-givers : to avoid giving a shock to the prejudices of the people he desired to convert, he wisely took the Shastras for his guide, culling that which was good, and rejecting all that he deemed mischievous-—and he called those who adopted his opinions Ramsauehi, friends or servants of God.
The Mahant readily engaged to furnish me with a complete collection of their sacred writings; but as there was but one copy in the temple, I succeeded in bringing away with me only a few selections, of which I subjoin 8. translation. The head of each page is inscribed with the holy name of Ram, used by the society as an initial title of respect, corresponding with the Alif (Allah) of the Musalmans, and Sri of the Hindus, and signifying, that an author solicits the blessing of God on commencing a work, and invokes success on the undertaking. _ The Mahant wrote the first Sabd in an elegant hand, the rest were transcribed by the priests in a corresponding style of beauty, and red ink-marks are introduced in the commencement and end of each couplet. The religious works of the Rtimsanéhis are written in the Deva Nagari character, and chiefly in the Hindi language, with an admixture of Réjwara provincialisms-but there are also a great many Sanskrit and some Panjabi verses, and Arabic and Persian words likewise find a place.
Of the Priests.
Priests are called either Byrégi or Szidh, and are divided into three classes, the two last of which, denominated Bedehi and Mohani, I shall notice presently. They are enjoined to study the holy writings, and to disclaim all merit in their works : to observe celibacy, chastity, humility, abstinence, and contentment : to put a restraint upon the tongue : to sleep little: to accustom the body to hardships and fatigue : and to exercise charity, liberality, and mercy. Anger, brawls, avarice, selfishness, usury, gaming, lying, theft, lust, hypocrisy, and all kinds of luxuries are strongly denounced.
Priests are commanded never to look at their face in a glass, nor to use snuff, perfumes, or ornaments, as such things savour of vanity. To go bare-footed, and on no account to ride on any kind of conveyance : never to destroy any thing animate, nor to live in solitude, nor to ask or receive money. Dancing, music, and other frivolous amusements are forbidden, and to taste of tobacco, opium, and all intoxicating drugs and spirits. ‘
They are not permitted to prepare medicines, but do not object to receive them in time of sickness at the hand of a stranger.