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By Satindra Narayan Roy, M. A., B.L.
WITHIN the last fifteen years there has sprung up a new Hindu god whose worship has rapidly spread throughout the districts of Puri, Cuttack, Balasore and even Midnapore. This new deity is called Trinath, that is, the incarnation of Vishnu, Siva, and Brahma. The ceremonies that accompany his worship are very simple. One pice worth of pan (betel-leaves), one pice worth of gānjā (Cannabis Indica), one pice worth of oil, are all that is required in the worship of this god. The betel-leaves are placed on a little raised platform after being dressed with betel-nut, catechu and slaked lime. Three ordinary clay lamps, dried in the sun, are then placed on the platform and the wicks lighted with one pice worth of oil. Three chilims or smoking-bowls are then filled with one pice worth of Cannabis Indica and set fire on. It is distinctly enjoined that no other costly ceremonies are necessary. The worship of Trinath does not take place in a secluded corner of the house. The householders, their friends and relatives, should all assemble before the raised platform where the worship is to take place. It is not necessary that a Brahman should be called in, although the practice is to take the help of the family-priest. When everything is ready on the platform, an Oriyā manuscript written with a style on palm-leaves is read aloud with a sing-song intonation. It describes the origin of this peculiar worship. We have said above that this worship is only fifteen years old. It originated in the village of Sripur, on the bank of a small river called Sonbhadra, a tributary of the Mahanadi. During this short period of fifteen years Trinath worship, as we have seen, has spread far and wide. It is spreading still. Whenever
there is a serious illness in a family, or other small calamity from which no family can be exempt, Trinath is worshipped in the manner prescribed above, both in Oriya and in Bengali families, in the first quarter of the night. After the worship is over, betel-leaves are freely distributed among those present. Those of the audience, who are addicted to smoking it, take a whiff or two of the sacred Cannabis Indica.
The origin of this worship is attributed by the people to the ingenuity of some astute family-priest, who has benefited the priestly class as a whole by placing this worship within the reach of all. By making the presence of the family-priest optional he has raised himself above all adverse criticism. The manuscript that is read aloud at the worship of Trinath is a lengthy one. It takes full three hours to read it quickly. We shall give a short summary of this manuscript which is entitled 'Trinath Charita Akhan', or the story of Trinath. Once upon a time, there lived at Sripur a very poor Brahman called Madhusudan. He was a beggar by profession. He was one of those itinerant Brahmans whom Hindu society has enabled to beg from door to door without much loss of self-respect. His wife gave birth to a son, but there was no milk in her breast. The Brahman could not engage a wet-nurse for want of money. So he sold his brass and bellmetal utensils for rupees five only. But no cow could be had for such an insignificant sum of money. One day Madhusudan was sitting in the house of a big money-lender of the village, who had a herd of three hundred milch cows. This money-lender had a cow, Bula by name, who was very wild and used to do much damage in the fields of his neighbours. While sitting with the Brahman, the money-lender learnt of the damage done by this cow the night previous. He was very angry, and, in a fit of rage, cried out that he would dispose of the cow for five rupees only. The Brahman saw a ready solution of the difficulties he was in, and forthwith offered his five' rupees. The merchant was now in a fix. He was caught by his own words. After a good deal of hesitation the merchant consented to the bargain and the Brahman joyfully started home with
the cow. One day the cow strayed away and did not return to the Brahman at dusk. The Brāhman went in search of the cow, but he could nowhere find her. At noon the Brahman rested under the shade of a Bat tree (Ficus Indica) quite knocked up. There be found Trinath sitting on a branch of the tree. Trinath asked the Brahman to bring from the nearest bazar one pice worth of betel-leaves, one pice worth of oil and one pice worth of Cannabis Indica. Trinath also asked the Brahman to search for three pice under a certain bulrush bush, and there the Brahman got three pice. The Brahman had no oil can with him, and he asked Trinath how he should bring the oil. Trinath asked him to bring oil in his napkin. The Brahman went to the nearest bazar; there he purchased betel-leaves, areca nuts and Cannabis Indica ; but nobody would give him oil in his napkin. People took him to be a madcap. An old Teli oil-dealer wanted to make capital out of this seemingly crazy Brahman. He agreed to give oil on his napkin. The Brahman stretched out the napkin on the ground and the Teli brought a few drops of oil on the wrong side of his pail from his goatskin and threw them on the napkin. The Brahman had not gone far, when the Teli found his goatskin empty. Horror-struck at this, he went after the Brahman and cajoled him back to his shop. He now gave the Brahman a pail full of oil and the Brahman carried it in his napkin, as though it were a pot or a pan. This miracle converted the Teli into a staunch worshipper of Trinath. The Brahman returned to the Bat tree and was asked by Trinath to dedicate to him the articles he had brought. The Brahman then returned home and found his cow on his way. He worshipped Trinath every day, and, by his grace, grew very rich. The people of the locality learnt the secret of the Brahman's success in life. They, too, began to worship Trinath, and by his grace grew rich likewise. The money-lenders found their business gone and they in a body appealed to the Raja of that place. The Raja prohibited the worship of Trinath under pain of a fine of one hundred and fifty rupees, imprisonment for six months, and finally death on a pointed iron stake (suli). The Raja's eldest son died
immediately after he had passed this grossly impious order. The Raja brought out the dead body for cremation on the bank of the Sonebhadra. There Trinath appeared before the Raja in the guise of an old Brahmin and asked him to utter the name of Trinath seven times in the ear of his dead son. On this the prince revived as if roused from sleep. The Raja and all the people of his realm became devout worshippers of Trinath from that day. A boat was lying on the rippling Sonebhadra laden with treasure and cargo. The merchant who owned the boat witnessed the miracle of the resurrection of the Raja's son. He vowed to give five melas (worship) to Trinath if after a prosperous voyage he would safely return home. After a year the merchant returned home with a good deal of money and valuables. He was so very home-sick that on landing from his boat he forthwith rushed homewards, quite unmindful of the vow he had taken. When half his treasure was removed, the boat foundered as if struck by an invisible blow. The merchant bewailed the loss of his boat, but his tears brought back his vow to his mind. That very night the merchant worshipped Trinath in the manner described above. The next morning the merchant found his boat floating on the river fresh and yare with the remaining half of his treasure upon it. A deaf man and a dumb man constantly took the sacred name of Trinath and were radically cured. Now Trinath-worship became widely practised. Nearly every evening the villagers used to assemble on the spot where Trinath-worship was going on. The house-holders used to worship Trinath by turns. One day a pious Vaishnaba had gone to the place of Trinathworship, when his Guru or spiritual preceptor came to his house. The Guru learnt from the mother of his disciple that he had gone to the place of Trinath-worship, and the Guru personally went to his disciple in a huff. There was a hot recrimination between the Guru and his disciple and the Guru indignantly spurned at the altar of Trinath. The Vaishnaba was sorely pained at the insolence of his Guru, but he could not help following him home from the place of Trinath-worship. A thunder-storm came on suddenly. The Guru and his disciple wandered up and down.
At length they managed to reach the house of the Guru. At the very threshold of the house they found the mother of the Guru bitterly bewailing the sudden death of his son and wife. The Guru was now sufficiently humbled. He worshipped Trināth then and there, with a sincerity born of deep despair. After he had finished the worship of Trinath, his son and his wife revived to his great joy. Thenceforth Trinath-worship became quite popular.