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Among a superstitious people, it is not wonderful that the grand objects of nature should be personified and excite a feeling of devout veneration. Great rivers, from their mysterious sources, their broad expanse, and their unceasing motion, tend to inspire ideas peculiarly solemn. They are accordingly very favourite objects of Hindoo worship. There is scarcely in heaven or earth a name more sacred than Ganges. Its waters are said to descend from above, and to purify from every stain the man who undergoes in them a thorough ablution. To die on its banks, moistened by its stream, is deemed a sure passport to paradise. Journeys extending to thousands of miles are undertaken for the purpose of beholding and bathing in its sacred current. Many rash devotees even yield themselves to a voluntary death amid its waves, fancying that they thus secure complete felicity in the future world; others devote their offspring to a similar destiny. In the courts of Bengal a portion of the waters of the Ganges is produced upon which witnesses are required to make oath,—this form of attestation being esteemed of all others the most binding, though some scruple to employ an object so holy for this secular purpose. The Nerbudda, the Godavery, the Kistna, the Cavery, and almost every stream that rolls through this vast region, have likewise a sacred character, though none in so eminent a degree as the Ganges. The Hindoo is also much addicted to a worship which indicates the lowest degradation of the human mind,—that of the brute creation. His most exalted deities, the creators and preservers of the world, scarcely command a reverence equal to that bestowed on the cow. This useful animal is saluted with every expression of profound affection and veneration. She is called the mother of the gods and of three worlds. The highest deities are humbly entreated to appear under the form of milch kine, as that in which they will be most grateful and serviceable to their votaries. Even their dung is thought to confer a holy character upon every object on which it is smeared. Two great Indian princes, the Rajah of Travancore and the Peishwa Ragoba, being each enclosed in the body of a golden cow and then drawn out, were regarded as having experienced a new birth; the statue was immediately cut in pieces and distributed among the Bramins. In their treaties with the British, the native princes on some occasions urged most earnestly that the soldiers should not be permitted to kill a cow within the precincts of their territory. The monkey also ranks high among the objects of Hindoo worship. The exploits of Hanuman, with his innumerable host of four-footed brethren, are among the most conspicuous incidents in the Ramayana. Princes and great men often indulge in the strange freak of celebrating with pomp and profusion the marriage of monkeys. The animal, like a great chief, is seated in a palanquin, and followed by a train of singing and dancing girls, amid the display of fireworks. Garoora, the king of birds, is another object of veneration, though not equally distinguished. The ideas of man respecting an invisible world and a future state of retribution form a most important element in his religious belief. On this subject the sentiments of devout Hindoos are often profound, overcoming in some instances the love of life, and impelling them to strange modes of suicide. But their creed derives its peculiar character from the tenet, so generally diffused throughout the East, respecting the transmigration of souls. According to this belief, the spirit of man after death is not conveyed into a different

TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS. 223

Mate of existence, but goes to animate some other mortal body, or even one belonging to the brute creation. The receptacle into which it then enters is decided by the course of action followed during the present life. The virtuous man may rise from an humble caste to the rank of a prince, or even of a Bramin, while the depraved not only sink into degradation as human beings, but even have their souls enclosed in the bodies of animals. With this view the Hindoo oracles endeavour to establish a certain conformity between the offences committed and the condition under which they are expiated. The thief is converted into some animal addicted to steal the articles which were the wonted objects of his own depredation. The pilferer of grain is metamorphosed into a rat; while he who stole roots or fruit becomes an ape. The person thus lowered in the scale of being must pass through a long succession of degraded births ere he can reassume the human form and endowments. This belief is so familiar to the Hindoo that his conversation is filled with allusions to it. If he see any one suffering under evils that seem unmerited, he at once pronounces them the penalty of sin committed in a previous stage and form of existence. Even on seeing a cow or dog receive a severe beating, he infers that the soul which animates them must, under its human shape, have committed some offence worthy of such castigation. Wives who consider themselves injuriously treated by their husbands, or servants by their masters, indulge the earnest hope that in some future state of being they shall exchange conditions, and obtain the opportunity of a signal retaliation. This doctrine, which might seem to confine human souls to this earthly sphere, does not however exclude the belief that in many instances they are conveyed to a heaven or a hell. These places of reward and punishment are minutely described, and set forth with that studied adaptation to merits and offences which makes a striking part of the Hindoo system. There are celestial mansions, variously graduated, to be reached only by Bramins or persons of high attainments, or for performing works of extraordinary sanctity. These bear much resemblance to the paradise of Mohammed, being scenes of voluptuous enjoyment perfumed by *we«t flowers, fanned by the softest breezes, glit

tering with gold and gems, enlivened by the song, the dance, and the society of beautiful damsels. Some ardent devotees aspire to a still loftier destiny: they hope to be absorbed into the essence of Bram, or the Supreme Mind, where they shall repose for ever on an unruffled sea of bliss. Hell is in like manner composed of many compartments, corresponding to the various iniquities on account of which erring mortals may be doomed to enter its dismal precincts. The unmerciful are to be tormented by snakes; the drunkard is to be thrown into pans of liquid fire; the despiser of a Bramin is to stick fast in the mud with his head downwards; the inhospitable to have his eyes torn out by vultures ; the seducer to be embraced by an image of red-hot iron. Some of these abodes are covered with darkness, others filled with boiling oil or burning copper; one is crowded with animals and reptiles, another planted thick with thorns. The ground is here composed of deep mire, there it bristles with needles. Thus it is manifest the Hindoo system, though in a somewhat fanciful manner, affords a certain sanction to all the various branches of moral duty. Still, the bestowing of gifts upon Bramins, the observance of certain ceremonies, the performance of a long and difficult penance, are believed to constitute the higher degrees of merit; atoning even of themselves for the most enormous sins, and ensuring an endless enjoyment of felicity. The temples erected for the celebration of Hindoo worship appear to have been in ancient times of the most costly and magnificent description. Their early structures bear also a peculiar form, so dissimilar to those of modern date that they would seem to be the monuments of some mighty people who no longer exist. The most remarkable are those found in different parts of the Deccan, not consisting of masonry, but excavated in the sides of mountains, which, in many instances, have been entirely cut out mto columns, temples, and images. The most celebrated, perhaps from having first attracted observation, is Elephanta, termed by Mr. Maurice "the wonder of Asia." It is situated about half-way up the declivity of a hill, in a small wooded island near Bombay. Three entrances are afforded between four rows of massive columns, and the principal one is 220 feet long by 150 broad. The most conspicuous

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