Billeder på siden

it, puts the leaf in the jars containing the drinking water for the use of the family and the cooked food, and thus keeps them pure while the eclipse is going on. Confectioners, who are obliged to keep large quantities of cooked food ready, relieve themselves and their customers from the taboo by keeping some of the sacred Kusa or Dâb grass in their vessels when an eclipse is expected. A pregnant woman will do no work during an eclipse, as otherwise she believes that her child would be deformed, and the deformity is supposed to bear some relation to the work which is being done by her at the time. Thus, if she were to sew anything, the baby would have a hole in its flesh, generally near the ear; if she cut anything, the child would have a hare-lip. On the same principle the horns of pregnant cattle are smeared with red paint during an eclipse, because red is a colour abhorred by demons. While the eclipse is going on, drinking water, eating food, and all household business, as well as the worship of the gods, are all prohibited. No respectable Hindu will at such a time sleep on a bedstead or lie down to rest, and he will give alms in barley or copper coins to relieve the pain of the suffering luminaries. So among Muhammadans,' a bride-elect sends offerings of intercession (sadqa) to her intended husband, accompanied by a goat or kid, which must be tied to his bedstead during the continuance of the eclipse. These offerings are afterwards distributed in charity. Women expecting to be mothers are carefully kept awake, as they believe that the security of the coming infant depends on the mother being kept from sleep. They are not allowed to use a needle, scissors, knife, or any other instrument for fear of drawing blood, which at that time would be injurious to both mother and child. But among Hindus the most effectual means of scaring the demon and releasing the afflicted planet is to bathe in some sacred stream. At this time a Brähman should stand in the water beside the worshipper and recite the Gâyatri. At an eclipse of the moon it is advisable to bathe at Benares, and when the sun is eclipsed at Kurukshetra. Bernier *

* Mrs. Mir Hasan 'Ali, “Observations,” i. 297 sq. * “Travels,” 301.

gives a very curious account of the bathing which he witnessed at Delhi during the great eclipse of 1666. In the lower Himalayas the current ritual prescribes an elaborate ceremony, when numerous articles are placed in the sacred water jar; the image of the snake god, stamped in silver, is worshipped, and the usual gifts are made.'

In Ladâkh ram horns are fixed on the stems of fruit trees as a propitiatory offering at the time of an eclipse, and trees thus honoured are believed to bear an unfailing crop of the choicest fruit.

Another effectual means of scaring the demon is by music and noise, of which we shall find instances later on. “ The Irish and Welsh, during eclipses, run about beating kettles and pans, thinking their clamour and vexations available to the assistance of the higher orbs.” 3 So in India, women go about with brass pans and beat them to drive Râhu from his prey.

Of course, the time of an eclipse is most inauspicious for the commencement of any important business. Here again the learned Aubrey confirms the current Hindu belief. According to the rules of astrology," he says, “it is not good to undertake any business of importance in the new moon or at an eclipse.”


The worship of the other constellations is much less important than those of the greater luminaries which we have been discussing. The Hindu names nine constellations, known as Nava-graha, "the nine seizers,” specially in reference to Râhu, which grips the sun and moon in eclipses, and more generally in the astrological sense of influencing the destinies of men. These nine stars are the sun (Surya), the moon (Soma, Chandra), the ascending and descending nodes (Râhu, Ketu), and the five planets-Mercury (Budha), Venus (Sukra), Mars (Mangala, Angâraka), Jupiter (Vrihas

1 Atkinson,“ Himâlayan Gazetteer,” ii. 913 sq.
2 “ North Indian Notes and Queries," i. 38.
3 Brand,“ Observations,'' 665; Aubrey, “ Remaines,” 37, 85.

pati), and Saturn (Sani). This group of nine stars is worshipped at marriages and other important religious rites. Of the signs of the Zodiac (râsi-chakra) the rural Hindu knows little more than the names—Mesha (Aries), Vrisha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Karka (Cancer), Sinha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Tula (Libra), Vrischika (Scorpio), Dhanu (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricornus), Kumbha (Aquarius), and Mîna (Pisces). Practically the only direct influence they exercise over his life is that from the opening Râsi or sign in which he is born the first letter of the secret name which he bears is selected. Still less concern has he with the asterisms or Nakshatra, a word which has been variously interpreted to mean “coming or ascending,"

“night guardians,” or “undecaying.” As already stated, they are said to have been the twenty-seven daughters of the Rishi Daksha, and wives of Soma or the moon. The usual enumeration gives twenty-eight, and they are vaguely supposed to represent certain stars or constellations, but the identification of these is very uncertain. One list, with some of the corresponding stars, gives Sravishthâ or Dhanishtha (Delphinus), Sata-bhishaj (Aquarius), Parva Bhâdrapadâ, Uttara Bhâdrapadâ, Revati, Asvinî (Aries), Bharanî (Musca), Krittikâ (the Pleiades), Rohinî (Aldebaran), Mriga-siras (Orion), Ârdrâ, Punarvasû, Pushya, Asleshâ, Maghâ (Leo), Pûrvâ-Phalgunî, Uttara Phalgunî, Hasta (Corvus), Chitrâ (Spica Virginis), Svâtî (Arcturus), Visâkha (Libra), Anuradhâ, Jyeshthâ, Mûla, Půrva Ashâdhâ, Uttara Ashâbhâ, Abhijit (Lyra), and Sravana. These are used only in calculating the marriage horoscope, and the only one of them with which the fairly well-to-do rustic has much concern is with the unlucky Múla. Should by an evil chance his son be born in this asterism, he has to undergo a most elaborate rite of purification.

Others stars have their legends. The Riksha or constellation of the Great Bear represents the seven deified Rishis - Gautama, Bhâradwaja, Viswamitra, Jamadagni, Vashishtha, Kasyapa and Atri. Dhruva, the Pole Star, was the grandson of Manu Swayambhuva, and was driven from

his home by his step-mother. He, though a Kshatriya, joined the company of the Rishis and was finally raised to the skies as Grahadhâra, “the pivot of the plants." So Canopus is the Rishi Agastya who was perhaps one of the early Aryan missionaries to Southern India and won a place in heaven by his piety. Orion is Mrigasiras, the head of Brahma in the form of a stag which was struck off by Siva when the deity attempted violence to his own daughter Sandhyâ, the twilight. Krittikâ or the Pleiades represent the six nurses of Kârttikeya, the god of war.

Part of the purificatory rite for a woman after her delivery is to bring her out at night and let her look at the stars, while her husband stands over her with a bludgeon to guard her from the assaults of demons. One interesting survival of the old mythology is that in Upper India women are fond of teaching their children that the stars are kine and the moon their shepherd, an idea which has formed the basis of much of the speculations of a school of comparative mythology now almost completely discredited.

THE RAINBOW. There is much curious folk-lore about the rainbow. By most Hindus it is called the Dhanus or bow of Râma Chandra, and by Muhammadans the bow of Bâbâ Adam or father Adam. In the Panjâb it is often known as the swing of Bîbî Bâî, the wife of the Saint Sakhi Sarwar. The Persians call it the bow of Rustam or of Shaitân or Satan, or Shamsher-i-'Ali" the sword of 'Ali." In Sanskrit it is Rohitam, the invisible bow of Indra. In the hills it is called Panihârin or the female water-bearer.

THE MILKY WAY. So with the Milky Way, of which an early name is Nâgavithi or the path of the snake. The Persians call it Kahkashân, the dragging of a bundle of straw through the sky. The Hindu calls it Akash Gangâ or the heavenly Ganges, Bhagwân kî kachahrî or the Court of God,

Swarga-duári or the door of Paradise; while to the Panjābi it is known as Bera dà ghãs or the path of Noah's Ark. In Celtic legend it is the road along which Gwydion pursued his erring wife.

[ocr errors]

Next in order of reverence to the heavenly bodies comes the Earth goddess, Dharitri or Dharti Mātā or Dharti Māi, a name which means “the upholder” or “supporter.” She is distinguished from Bhāmi, “the soil,” which, as we shall see, has a god of its own, and from Prithivi, “the wide extended world,” which in the Vedas is personified as the mother of all things, an idea common to all folk-lore. The myth of Dyaus, the sky, and Prithivi, the earth, once joined and now separated, is the basis of a great chapter in mythology, such as the mutilation of Uranus by Cronus and other tales of a most distinctively savage type.' We meet the same idea in the case of Demeter, “the fruitful soil,” as contrasted with Gaea, the earlier, Titanic, formless earth; unless, indeed, we are to accept Mr. Frazer's identification of Demeter with the Corn Mother.”


The worship of Mother Earth assumes many varied forms. The pious Hindu does reverence to her as he rises from his bed in the morning; and even the indifferent follows his example when he begins to plough and sow. In the Panjāb,” “when a cow or buffalo is first bought, or when she first gives milk after calving, the first five streams of milk drawn from her are allowed to fall on the ground in honour of the goddess, and every time of milking the first stream is so treated. So, when medicine is taken, a little is sprinkled in

* The Celtic form of the myth is given by Rhys, “Lectures,” 140 sq.; the Indian legend in Muir, “Ancient Sanskrit Texts,” ii. 23.

* “Golden Bough,” i. 331 sq.; and see Lang, “Custom and Myth,” ii.

* Ibbetson, “Panjāb Ethnology,” I 14.

« ForrigeFortsæt »