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The figure A is the mound of earth or clay which is the symbol of the godling's Birchhe Deo.
The figure B is the plinth of brick (daubed with clay) on which the godling's symbol A is placed.
The figure C is a small semi-circular mound of clay which is situated at the bottom of the brick plinth. It serves as a sort of stepping-stone to the plinth.
This godling is worshipped (1) on any Sunday in the month of Baisakh (April-May), (2) on the Pūrṇamāsi Day (or fullmoon day) in the month of Sravana (July-August) and (3) also on a Sunday in the month of Aghan (November-December).
The priest, who performs the worship of this godling, is a Brāhmaṇa by caste and is appointed by the proprietors of the villages comprised in the town of Motihari, namely, the Bettiah Raj and the Motihari Indigo Factory.
The modus operandi of this godling's pūja on a Sunday in the month of Baisakh is as follows:
On the Sunday in question, both males and females perform the vrat, that is to say, abstain from eating salt and observe the other observances prescribed for the performance of the Sunday vrat. On the Monday following, the celebrants of the worship perform the pūjā of the godling by offering to his godlingship offerings of flowers, incense, rice, naived (aaa), dachchhina(f) or presents of money and clay figurines of elephants which are manufactured for the occasion by the village-potter and which are subsequently taken away by the worshippers themselves to their respective houses. Sometimes, long poles of bamboos surmounted by little bannerettes are also offered to this godling by way of offering. Thereafter the mound of clay, which represents this godling, is besmeared with vermilion.
The celebrants worship this godling for the attainment of their hearts' desires. Litigants, who have got cases in the law-courts, also come to the shrine of this godling and pray to him for granting them success in their cases and vow that, if
they would be successful in their litigation, they would offer puji to him. So if they win their cases, they come and make presents of offerings to him.
On the Pūrṇamāsi Day (i.e., the full-moon day) in the month of Sawan (July-August), the majority of the people, both Hindu and even Muhammadans, and the Bettiah Raj and the Motihari Indigo Factory, both of which are māliks or proprietors of the villages comprised in the town of Motihari, through their pātwāries and gumastās, offer pūjā to the godling Birchhe Deo.
The tradition about the origin of the godling Birchhe Deo is as follows :
In 1043 F. S., a Bhumihar named Birchhe Nath (fa) or Birchhe Rai (fate), who is stated to have been a rais of Motihari and lived in a house which was situated a little to the north of the present shrine of this godling, died in the course of a fight. His ghost appeared in a dream to his wife and said to her: You should perform sati with all your children'.
Accordingly, she performed sati with her husband's corpse. But it is not known whether or not her children also immolated themselves on their deceased father's funeral pyre. Thereafter the spirits or ghosts of the deceased couple appeared in a vision to a person who afterwards became the priest of this godling and directed him to make or erect the mound of clay (marked A in the above rough sketch) and worship them. The priest accordingly erected the mound of clay which represents Birchhe Rai (or Nath) and his wife. The brick superstructure, which now enshrines the mound of clay, is stated to have been built about 50 years ago.
The worshippers do not sing any song or songs in honour of this godling at the time of the pūjā. At the time of performing the worship of this godling, the worshippers only cry out : जय au face arat au fare वावा or Victory to the Holy Father Birchhe, Victory to the Holy Father Birchhe ". There is no folk-rhyme or folk-ballad recited about this godling.
All the foregoing information has been communicated to me by the Mahant Gharib Das (of the Vaishnava Sect) who lives in a math close to the shirne of Birchhe Deo.
From the foregoing account of the godling Birchhe Deo we find
(1) That this godlingship has been provided with a brickbuilt shrine.
(2) That there is a Brāhmaṇa priest who carries on his worship or puja.
(3) That he has not yet been represented by an anthropomorphic image, but is symbolised by a mound of clay.
All these facts lead me to the conclusion that the godling Birchhe Deo was in course of promotion from being a simple animistic and supernatural being or divinity to the brevet-rank of a first-grade deity-a "High God"—of the Hindu Pantheon, but that his godlingship's promotion has, I might almost say, been stopped in the middle of his career of advancement, because the last prerogative of a first-grade deity, namely, the provision of an anthropomorphic image, has not yet been granted to him. It is an instance of what I may designate as "the Arrested Promotion of Animistic Godlings. "
The most noteworthy features of the worship of the godling Birchhe Deo are the following:
(a) The offering of clay figurines of elephants.
(6) The vow made by litigants, who have got cases in the law-courts, to the effect that, in the event of their
winning their cases, they would offer pūjā to his godlingship.
I shall, now, take up for discussion the point (a) mentioned supra.
It would appear that the goddess Kālī, in her threefold form, exercises great influence over all diseases except small-pox. That is to say, she can cause and stop the outbreak of diseases and can grant persons suffering from maladies, especially mental and nervous ones, recovery from the same. Sick people, therefore take vows to present to her offerings of living elephants in case of their recovery from their illnesses. But when they are
cured of their maladies, they, instead of offering her the promised gift of the living elephants, present her with clay figurines or images of those beasts by way of substitutes. It is, for this reason, that, along with other offerings, clay figurines of elephants are so often offered at the shrine of goddess Kāli.1
Then again, a person who has fallen into a trouble or distress takes a vow to offer an elephant or a horse to the village-deity in the event of his being relieved therefrom. When his trouble or distress passes over, he, instead of offering a living elephant or horse to his godlingship, presents him with a clay figurine thereof and places it at his shrine. It is, for this reason, that the offerings of little clay images of elephants, horses and curious bowls with short legs, known as Kalsa, are so often to be found in the deohars or the shrines of the collective village deities in the Gangetic valley of Upper India.
I am, therefore, of opinion that, whenever a votary of the godling Birchhe Deo suffers from a malady or falls into a distress or trouble, he vows that, in the event of his recovery therefrom, or of his being relieved thereof, he would offer a living elephant to his godlingship for riding upon. But, when he recovers from his illness, or when his difficulty or distress is tided over, he offers to Birchhe Deo the clay figurine of an elephant as a substitute for the living animal-a "trumpery donation" 88 Dr. W. Crooke very rightly calls it.
Then, I shall pass on to the consideration of the point (6) mentioned above, namely the vow of the litigants to offer pūjā to Birchhe Deo in the event of their being successful in their litigation. I shall show, later on, that similar vows are also made by litigants to the other godlings of the district of Champaran.
This custom of the litigants' praying to the godlings for success in their litigations, and of their taking vows to present offerings to their godlingships in the event of their winning
1 Crooke's An Introduction to the Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern India (Allahabad Edition of 1894), page 81.
'Op. cit., page 59.
their law-suits and cases, is also current in the district of Midnapur in South-Western Bengal.
In a village named Giriśagangäsägara in the Contai Subdivision of the district of Midnapur, there stands a banyan tree (Ficus bengalensis) which is believed to be inhabited by, and which is now taken to be the living symbol, or representative of, the tree-godling—the deified saint Nekurasani Pīr(agstafaut).
It is stated that the litigants of the locality, when going to the courts to prosecute their law-suits or cases, place a lump of clay at the foot of this tree, pray to the tree-godling Nekurasani Pir for granting them success in their litigation, and also vow that, if the prayed-for boon would be granted to them, they would place more lumps of clay at the foot of this tree, tie red rags on its branches and present votive offerings of clay figurines of horses to his godlingship. It is further reported that, if these litigants win their suits or cases, they, when returning home from the courts, place lumps of clay at the bottom of this tree, and tie bits of red rags on to its branches in fulfilment of the vows made by them.1
In the Bengal District Gazetteer of Champaran (Calcutta, 1907), pages 40-41, L. S. S. O'Malley, Esq., 1.c.s., has given the following account of the godling Birchhe Deo :
"As a matter of every-day practice, the low-caste villager (of Champaran) endeavours to propitiate the evil spirits and godlings which his ancestors have worshipped from time immemorial. Most of these are regarded as malignant spirits, who produce illness in the family and sickness among the cattle, if not appeased. They affect the ordinary life of the peasant more directly and vitally than the regular Hindu gods; and, consequently, the great mass of the illiterate Hindus, as well as some of the most ignorant Muhammadans, are careful to make periodical offerings to them. They form no part of the orthodox Hindu Pantheon, but are given a kind of brevet rank; and for practical purposes, they are gods most sacred and,
1 Vide the Man in India (published from Ranchi) for December 1922, pages 242-243.