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cient idea of the wild, though sometimes sublime, ravings in which the framers of the Hindoo pantheon indulge. Vishnu made his first appearance on earth as a fish, so small as to be conveniently placed in a vase of water. This wonderful animal, however, successively expanded his dimensions, till not the vase only, but a cistern, a pool, a lake, became insufficient to contain him. Being at length thrown into the ocean, he appeared, blazing like gold, a million of leagues in extent. The narrative concludes with an account of the fish rising and destroying a giant. Vishnu assumed secondly the figure of a boar, who grew always larger and larger, till with his tusks he raised up the earth from the bottom of the waters into which it had sunk. The third presentation of this deity was to act a conspicuous part in that extraordinary process called the Churning of the Ocean. There is no theme on which Hindoo poetry and mythology have thrown out such a crowd of wildly luxuriant images. The scene opens on Mount Meru, "a most exalted mass of glory, reflecting the sunny rays from the splendid surface of its gilded horns. Many celestial medicinal plants adorn its sides, and it stands piercing the heaven with its aspiring summit,—a mighty hill, inaccessible even by the human mind. It is adorned with trees and pleasant streams, and resoundeth with the delightful songs of various birds." On its pinnacle the angels and deities began to meditate on the means of procuring the Amreeta juice, the grand draught which confers immortality. It was then arranged between Vishnu, here called Narayan, and Brama, that the ocean should be churned like a pot of milk by the united strength of Soors and Asoors, the good and evil powers, till it should throw up the precious liquid. Thereupon Ananta, king of the serpents, raised up Mount Mandar, and placed it upon the back of Koornaraj, king of the tortoises. Another mighty serpent, named Vasoakee, was then fastened to the mountain to be employed as a rope; whereupon angels and demons united in grasping the serpent by the head and tail, and whirling it with such violence, that "the roaring of the ocean, while violently agitated, was like the bellowing of a mighty cloud. Thousands of the various productions of the waters were torn to pieces by the mountain, and
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confounded with the briny flood; and every specific being of the deep, and all the inhabitants of the great abyss which is below the earth, were annihilated. The forest trees were dashed against each other, and precipitated from its utmost height with all the birds thereon." Such at length was the effect of this tremendous agitation, that the whole of the mighty deep was converted into one mass of butter. The performers, being by this time completely exhausted, were endowed with fresh strength by Narayan; and after the movement had been for some time continued under his direction, "there arose from out the troubled deep, first the moon, with a pleasing countenance, shining with ten thousand beams of gentle light; then Soora Devee, the goddess of wine, and the white horse called Oochisrava." Other similar apparitions followed, till at length the Dew Dhanwantaree, in human shape, came forth, holding in his hand a white vessel filled with the immortal juice Amreeta. The successful termination of this grand experiment was not immediately attended with the happy effects that had been anticipated. A combat on the most immense scale arose between the Soors and Asoors. The imagery employed to describe it is certainly not without grandeur, though tinctured with bombast and exaggeration. "Millions of sighs and groans arise on every side, and the sun is overcast with blood, as they clash their arms, and wound each other with their dreadful instruments of destruction. Now the dauntless Asoors strive with repeated strength to crush the Soors with rocks and mountains, which, whirled in vast numbers into the heavens, appeared like scattered clouds, and fell with all the trees thereon in millions of fear-exciting torrents, striking violently against each other with a mighty noise; and in their fall the earth, with all its fields and forests, is driven from its foundation. They thunder furiously at each other as they roll along the field, and spend their strength in mutual conflict." Victory at length declared in favour of the benevolent powers, and Narayan was intrusted with the Amreeta, to be preserved for the use of the immortals. Vishnu, in his fourth appearance as half-man, half-lion, subdued a band of giants who had conquered the earth, and e«en dethroned Indra, the king of heaven. His fifth de
scent was to vanquish Bali, an earthly king, who, by the mysterious sacrifice of a hundred horses, had acquired supernatural powers, and threatened the conquest of the celestial regions. But the manner in which the deity is made to effect this grand object is silly in the extreme. He appeared as a Bramin of very diminutive stature, and sought merely the gift of so much ground as he could pass over in three steps. Having received this small boon, he suddenly resumed his natural dimensions, placed one foot on heaven, and another on earth; a third then projected from his belly, for which Bali, being unable to furnish a place, was obliged to atone for this failure by descending to the world beneath. The sixth, seventh, and eighth avatars were in the characters of Parasu Rama, Rama, and Bala Rama, to deliver the world from successive monsters and giants. His exploits as the second of these personages furnish the subject of the celebrated sacred epic called the Ramayana. But the transmutation upon which the Hindoo writers most fondly dwell is that into their favourite Krishna, who has already been alluded to as a powerful sovereign and formidable warrior. Tradition represents him as having passed his youthful days in a pastoral retirement, and the extravagant fancy of the Hindoo poets caught hold of this legend. They exhibit him at this period as the lover of sixteen thousand milkmaids; to gain whose favour he converted himself into an equal number of sighing swains, while each fond maiden fancied herself the sole object of Krishna's tenderness. Under this character, much more than by those warlike attributes which enabled him to vanquish the giant Kungsu, this deity has acquired numerous and devoted worshippers, and become the chief theme of lyric and amorous poetry among the Hindoos. In the ninth avatar, Vishnu assumed the form of Boodh, the author of a rival creed, distinct from that of Brama, but which, notwithstanding, by this incarnation was admitted into a certain alliance with it. More will be said hereafter on this subject. The tenth avatar, when Vishnu will descend mounted on a white horse, and armed with a scimitar, to root out evil from the earth, is as yet only the object of fond expectation. Siva, the third member of the Hindoo triad, is represented
KRISHNA BOODH SIVA DOORGA. 219
as passing through an equal variety of adventures, most of them in the highest degree strange and unnatural; but he does not appear under so many characters, nor are his exploits on the whole so striking. Although the destroyer be his proper appellation, it seems more applicable to Doorga, his female partner, whose aspect and deeds do indeed combine whatever is most awful and terrific. He is represented as being of a silver colour, exhibiting various shapes, having sometimes five faces, sometimes only one with three eyes. Elsewhere he is seen naked riding on a bull, with serpents hanging from his ears like jewels. Worship is rendered to him by numerous votaries, who exalt him as the supreme deity, greater and more ancient than either Brama or Vishnu. He is peculiarly revered in the mountain-territory; and, under the appellation of Mahadeo, is described as throned in the most inaccessible precipices of the Him- malehs. But the chief disgrace of his religion consists in the lingam, a symbol resembling the phallus of the ancients, which is not only displayed in the temples, but worn round the necks of all his votaries. Yet it is remarkable that these sectaries make a boast of leading more pure and even austere lives than the generality of Hindoo devotees. Doorga is the chief among the female deities, and indeed the most potent and warlike member of the Hindoo pantheon. The Greeks had Minerva, an armed and martial goddess, whose prowess equalled that of their greatest male divinities; but she was a weak and pacific maiden when compared with the spouse of the Indian destroyer. The wars waged by the latter, and the giants who fell beneath the might of her arm, form prominent themes in the wild records of Hindoo mythology. Her original name was Parvati; but hearing that a giant named Doorga had enslaved the gods, she resolved to destroy him. He is said to have led into the field a hundred millions of chariots and one hundred and twenty millions of elephants. In order to meet this overwhelming force, Parvati caused nine millions of warriors, and a corresponding supply of weapons, to issue out of her own substance. The contest, however, was ultimately decided by her personal struggle with the
fiant, whose destruction she then succeeded in effecting. n honour of this achievement, the gods conferred upon their deliverer the name of the huge enemy whom she had overcome. Doorga has equalled Vishnu in the variety of shapes into which she has multiplied herself, and of names by which she has been distinguished. The most remarkable being with whom she has shared her identity is Cali, or Kalee, who under her own name is a principal object of Hindoo adoration. Every humble characteristic of her original is in Kalee heightened and carried to the extreme. She is black, with four arms, wearing two dead bodies as earrings, a necklace of sculls, and the hands of several slaughtered giants round her waist as a girdle. Her eyebrows and breast appear streaming with the blood of monsters whom she has slain and devoured. Yet India has no divinity more popular, nor one on whose shrine more lavish gifts are bestowed. Not content, as the male deities generally are, with the simple offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables, and milk, she must see her altars flow with the blood of goats and other animals. The ancient books contain directions for the performance even of human sacrifices to this cruel goddess. The bands of robbers by whom Bengal is infested hold Kalee in peculiar honour, looking specially to her for protection and aid, and invoking, by dark incantations, her blessing on their unhallowed exploits. It would be of little interest to enter into details respecting the minor divinities, whose number is very great. Indra, though presiding over the elements, and invested with the lofty title of King of Heaven, is not destined to reign for ever; he has even, by the efforts of men and giants, been already repeatedly driven from his station. Kartikeya, the god of war, riding on a peacock, with six heads and twelve hands, in which numerous weapons are brandished, presents a striking specimen of the fantastic forms in which Hindoo superstition invests its deities. Gancsa, a fat personage with the head of an elephant, is so revered that nothing must be begun without an invocation to him, whether it be an act of religious worship, opening a book, setting out on a journey, or even sitting down to write a letter. Surya is the deified sun; Pavana is the god of the winds; Agnee, of fire; Varuna, of the waters. Yama, the Indian Pluto, pronounces sentence on the dead; but his judgment-seat is not beneath the earth, but in its southern extremity, at a place called Yamalaya. A large share of homage is attracted to him by the mingled influence of fear and hope.