« ForrigeFortsæt »
THE WORSHIP OF THE SAINTED DEAD.
*Αιψσα δ' ίκοντο κατ’ άσφοδελόν λειμώνα
Odyssey, xxiv. 12, 14.
ANCESTOR-WORSHIP: ITS ORIGIN. THE worship of ancestors is one of the main branches of the religion of the Indian races. “ Its principles are not difficult to understand, for they plainly keep up the arrangements of the living world. The dead ancestor, now passed into a deity, simply goes on protecting his own family, and receiving suit and service from them as of old; the dead chief still watches over his own tribe, still holds his authority by helping friends and harming enemies; still rewards the right and sharply punishes the wrong." It is in fact the earliest attempt of the savage to realize the problems of human existence, as the theology of the Vedas or Olympus is the explanation which the youth of the world offers of physical phenomena. The latter is primitive physics, the former primitive biology, and it marks a stage in the growth of anthropomorphism when the worship of unseen spirits in general passes to that of unseen spirits in particular.
AMONG THE ARYANS AND DRAVIDIANS. It is admitted on all sides that this form of worship was general among the Aryan nations;. but it is a mistake to
Tylor, “ Primitive Culture,” ii. 113.
Hearn, “Aryan Household," 18; Spencer, “ Principles of Sociology," i. 270 sq. í Whitney, “Oriental and Linguistic Studies," ist Ser. 59; Mommsen, “ History of Rome," i. 73.
suppose, as is too often done, that the worship was peculiar to them. That such was not the case can be proved by numerous examples drawn from the practices of aboriginal tribes in India, who have lived hitherto in such complete isolation, that the worship can hardly be due to imitation of the customs of their more civilized neighbours. Thus, on the tenth day after a death in the family, the Ghasiyas of Mirzapur, about the most degraded of the Drávidian tribes, feed the brotherhood, and at the door of the cook-house spread flour or ashes a cubit square on the ground. They light a lamp there and cover both the square and the light with a basket. Then the son of the dead man goes a little distance in the direction in which the corpse had been carried out, and calls out his name loudly two or three times. He invites him to come and sit on the shrine which his descendants have prepared for him, and to consume the offerings which they are ready to present. It is said that if the deceased died in any ordinary way and not by the attack of a Bhūt, he often calls from the burying ground and says, “I am coming!” After calling his father's spirit two or three times, the son returns to the house and examines the flour or ashes, and if the deceased did not die by the attack of a Bhàt, the mark of his spirit is found on the flour or ashes in the shape of the footprint of a rat or a weasel. When this is observed, the son takes a white fowl and sacrifices it with a knife near the cook-house, calling to the spirit of his father—“Come and accept the offering which is ready for you!” Some of them strangle the fowl with their hands, and before killing it sprinkle a little grain before it, saying—“If you are really the spirit of my father, you will accept the grain l’” Then he goes on to his father's spirit—“Accept the offering, sit in the corner and bless your offspring !” If the fowl eats the grain, there is great rejoicing, as it implies that the spirit has quietly taken up its residence in the house. If the fowl does not eat, it is supposed that some sorcerer or enemy has detained the spirit with the ultimate object of releasing it some time or other on its own family, with whom it is presumably dis
pleased because they have taken no care to propitiate it. If the soul does not answer from the burial ground, or if there is no mark on the square of ashes, it is assumed that he has fallen into the hands of some Bhūt or Pret, who has shut him up in the hollow stalk of a bamboo, or buried him in the earth; in any case there is a risk that he may return, and the rite is still performed as a precautionary measure. Among the Kharwärs the holiest part of the house is the south room, where it is supposed that the Devatā pitri or Sainted dead reside. They worship the spirits of the dead in the month of Sãwan (August) near the house-fire. The house-master offers up one or two black fowls and some cakes and makes a burnt offering with butter and molasses. Then he calls out—“Whatever ghosts of the holy dead or evil spirits may be in my family, accept this offering and keep the field and house free from trouble !” Many of the Kharwärs are now coming more completely under Brāhmanical influence, and these worship the Pitri at weddings in the courtyard. The house-master offers some balls of rice boiled in milk, and a Brähman standing by mutters Some texts. They are now so advanced as to do the annual service for the repose of the sainted spirits at the Pitripaksha or fortnight of the dead in the month of Kuár (August). The other Drávidian tribes follow similar customs. Thus, the Korwas worship their dead relations in February with an offering of goats, which is done by the eldest son of the dead man in the family cook-house. Their ancestors are said not to appear in the flesh after death, but to show themselves in dreams if they are dissatisfied with the arrangements made for their comfort. On the day on which they are expected to appear the householder makes an offering of cakes to them in the family kitchen. The Patāris think that the dead occasionally attend when worship is being done to them. At other times they remain in the sky or wander about the mountains. Sometimes they call in the night to their descendants and say— “Worship us ! Give us food and drink I " If they are not N
propitiated they give trouble and cause sickness. The Kisâns and Bhuiyârs of Chota Nagpur adore their ancestors, " but they have no notion that the latter are now spirits, or that there are spirits and ghosts, or a future state, or anything.” The Bhuiyas revere their ancestors under the name of Bîr or Vîra, “hero," a term which is elsewhere applied to ghosts of a specially malignant character. The Khariyas put the ashes of their dead into an earthen pot and throw it into a river. They afterwards set up in the vicinity slabs of stone as a resting-place for them, and to these they make daily oblations. The only worship performed by the Korwas of Chota Nagpur is to their dead relatives, and the same is the case with other allied races, such as the Bhîls and Santâls."
Most of these Drâvidian tribes believe that like themselves. the spirits of the dead are mortal. What becomes of them after a couple of generations no one can say. But when this period has elapsed they are supposed to be finally disposed of some way or other, and being no longer objects of fear to the survivors, their worship is neglected, and attention is paid only to the more recent dead, whose powers of mischief still continue. The Gonds go further and propitiate for only one year the spirits of their departed friends, and this is done even if they have been persons of no note during their lifetime; but with worthies of the tribe the case is different, and if one of them, for example, has founded a village or been its headman or priest, then he is treated as a god for years, and a small shrine of earth is erected to his memory, at which sacrifices are annually offered. It is said that the Juângs, who until quite recently used to dress in garments of leaves, are the only one of these tribes who do not practise this form of
1 Dalton, “Descriptive Ethnology," 132, 133, 139, 160, 229; Campbell, "Notes," 2 sqq. ; Tylor, “Primitive Culture," ii. 117.
2 Hislop, “Papers," 16 sq.
worship.' But these races are particularly reticent about their beliefs and usages, and it is more than probable that further inquiry will show that they are not peculiar in this respect.
ANCESTORS RE-BORN IN CHILDREN.
Among many races, again, there is a common belief that the father or grandfather is re-born in one of his descendants. The modern reader is familiar with examples of such beliefs in Mr. Du Maurier's “ Peter Ibbetson," and Mr. Rider Haggard's “She.” Manu expresses this belief when he writes—“The husband after conception by his wife, becomes an embryo and is born again of her; for that is the wifehood of a wife, that he is born again by her.” The feeling that children are really the ancestors re-born is obviously based on the principle of hereditary resemblance. Hence the general feeling in favour of calling a child by the name of the grandfather or grandmother, which is about as far as the rustic goes in recognizing the ascending line. The Konkan Kunbis, and even Brâhmans, believe that the dead ancestors sometimes appear in children. Among Gujarât Musalmâns the nurse, if a child is peevish, says, “ Its kind has come upon its head." The same idea is found among the Khândhs. Among the Laplanders of Europe an ancestral spirit tells the mother that he has come into the child, and directs her to call it after his name.' Another variant of the same belief is that common among some of the Drâvidianı races that the ancestor is revived in a calf, which is in consequence well fed and treated with particular respect.
The ordinary worship of ancestors
among Brâhmanized Hindu races has been so often described in wellknown books as to need little further illustration. The
1 Dalton, loc. cit., 158.
Campbell, “Notes," 5; Tylor, loc. cit., ii. 116. 3 E.g. Monier-Williams, “ Brahmanism and Hinduism," 278 sqq.