Of the Origin of the Hindu Religion


[Extracted from Asiatic Researches, vol. 8, pp. 43-88, 1808.]

THE Hindu religion appears to me to have been originally a reform of existing systems, when the arts and sciences had arrived at a degree of perfection; that it was intended to correct the ferociousness and corruption of the times, and to reduce mankind to an artificial order on a firmer base of polity; that it was the united effort of a society of sages, who retained the priesthood to themselves, and rendered it hereditary in their families, by the division of the people into separate casts; that it was supported by the regal authority, which, while it controlled, it supported in return: that it was promulgated in all its perfection at once as a revelation of high antiquity, to stamp its decrees with greater authority; and that it was founded on pure Deism, of which the Gayatri, translated by Sir William Jones, is a striking proof; but to comply with the gross ideas of the multitude, who required a visible object of their devotion, they personified the three great attributes of the deity.

The first founders of the Hindu religion do not appear to have had the intention of bewildering their followers with metaphysical definitions; their description of the deity, was confined to those attributes which the wonders of the creation so loudly attest: his almighty, power to create; his prov- [p. 45] dence to preserve; and his power to annihilate or change what he has created.

In fact, no idea of the deity can be formed beyond this: it is simple, but it forces conviction upon the mind. This simplicity, however, was destroyed when they attempted to describe these attributes to the eye by hieroglyphics; perhaps letters had not then been invented, in which case they could have no other mode of instruction than by signs and emblematical figures.

In order to impress on the minds of men a sense of their total and absolute dependence on him, by whom they live, and from whom they have their being, they invented the hieroglyphical figures of

Brahma --------------------- Vishnu --------------------- Siva.
As emblematical of
Creation --------------------- Preservation --------------------- Destruction.
These are referred to
Matter --------------------- Space --------------------- Time.
And painted them
Red --------------------- Blue --------------------- White.
                                          To represent substance                   To represent the apparent colour of space       I n contrast to the black night of eternity

Brahma had originally five heads, alluding to the five elements; hence in one of the forms given to Siva, as the Creator, he is likewise represented with five heads. But the introduction of images soon led the mass of mankind to consider these personified attributes as real distinct personages; and as one error brings with it many others in its train, men separated into sects, each selecting one of the triad, the particular object of their devotion, in [p. 46] preference to, and exclusive of the others: the followers of Vishnu and Siva invented new symbols, each to ascribe to their respective divinity the attribute of creation. This contention for pre-eminence ended in the total suppression of the worship of Brahma, and the temporary submission of Vishnu to the superiority of Siva; but this did not last long; the sects raised crusades against each other; hordes of armed fanatics, under the titles of Sannyasis and Vairagis, enlisted themselves as champions of their respective faith; the former devoted their lives in support of the superiority of Siva, and the latter were no less zealous for the rights of Vishnu: alternate victory and defeat marked the progress of a religious war, which for ages continued to harass the earth, and inflame mankind against each other.

Plutarch has said of the Egyptians, that they had inserted nothing into their worship without a reason, nothing merely fabulous, nothing superstitious (as many suppose); but their institutions have either a reference to morals, or to something useful in life; and many of them bear a beautiful resemblance of some facts in history, or some appearance in nature; perhaps in the commencement to lead mankind into superstition was not intended nor foreseen; it is a weed that springs up naturally when religion is blended with mystery, and burdened with perplexing ceremonials. The mass of mankind lost sight of morality in the multiplicity of rites; and as it is easier to practise ceremonies than to subdue the passions, ceremonies gradually become substitutes for real religion, and usurp the place of morality and virtue. This seems to have been the case with the religions of Egypt and India.

[p. 47]

In the course of investigating the ceremonies of the Hindus, and in attempting to develope their meaning, it will be found necessary to compare them with the ceremonies and rites of Egypt: the resemblance is striking; they mutually serve to explain each other; and leave no doubt in my mind of their connexion, or rather identity.

The annihilation of the sect and worship of Brahma, as the Iswara or supreme lord, is allegorically described in the Cas'ichand of the Scanda Purn, where the three powers are mentioned as contending for precedency. Vishnu, at last, acknowledges the superiority of Siva; but Brahma, on account of his presumptuous obstinacy and pride, had one of his heads cut off by Siva, and his puja abolished. The intent of this fable is evidently to magnify the sect of Siva above those of Brahma and Vishnu; and if, instead of the Devatas themselves, (who are described as the actors in this allegorical drama) we substitute the contending sects, the fable will appear not destitute of foundation in historical fact.

Of the Vhans, or Vehicles of the Gods.

When the symbolical worship was introduced, the vehicles of the new deities were necessarily allegorical: the Vhans of the three supreme personified attributes were purity, truth, and justice; the first was typified by the Swan, which, clothed with unspotted whiteness, swims amidst the waters, as it were distinct from, and unsullied by them, as the truly pure mind remains untainted amidst the surrounding temptations of the world.

[p. 48]

Garuda and Aru'na are two brothers, the one remarkable for his strength and swiftness, the other (Aru'na) is described as imperfect, and, on account of his defects, destined to act as charioteer to the Sun. Aru'na is the dawn, the morning twilight, which precedes the Sun: Garu'da is perfect light, the dazzling full blaze of day, the type of truth, the celestial Vhan of Vishnu.

Justice, typified in the sacred bull, is the Vhan of Siva. The Bull, whose body is Parames'wara, and whose every joint is a virtue; whose three horns are the three Vedas; whose tail ends where Ad'herma, or injustice begins.

Of Osiris, Horus, Typhon, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva.

If we consider the Egyptian Osiris not as a name, but as a title of supremacy, which each sect, as their doctrines became in turn the established religion of the country, applied exclusively to the object of their worship; and if we consider it as the same with the Sanscrit Iswara (the Supreme Lord), it will greatly illustrate the identity of the religions of Egypt and Hindostan, by a close coincidence of historical fact. The three great attributes of the Deity had in course of time been erected into distinct Deities, and mankind had divided into sects, some attaching themselves to Brahma, some to Vishnu, and others to Siva. The contention of schismatics from the same stock, is always more inveterate than where the difference is total, the sect of Brahma claimed exclusive pre-eminence for the object of their choice, as being the creative power, the Iswara, or Supreme Lord. The two other sects joined [p. 47] against the followers of Brahma, and obtained so complete a victory as to abolish totally that worship; the sect of Siva, being the most powerful, rendered theirs the established religion, and claimed for Siva, in his turn, the exclusive title of Iswara. The sect of Vishnu, or Heri, at length emerged from its obscurity, and, in concert with the followers of the Sacti, or female power, destroyed and abolished the sect and worship of Siva; thus Vishnu, or Heri, became the Iswara, and his worship the established religion. This seems to have been the case in Egypt; for, if we substitute the name of Osiris for Brahma, Horus for Vishnu or Heri, Typhon for Siva, and Isis for the female principle, the history agrees in all its parts. A proof of the identity of Siva and Typhon is the title of Babon. Mr. Bryant says, that "Babon was thought to have been the same as Typhon, by some esteemed female, and the wife of that personage." One of the titles of Siva is Bhuban, or rather Bhuvan-Iswara, the Lord of the Universe; his consort, in this character, is styled Bhuvan-Iswari, which may have occasioned the uncertainty mentioned by Air. Bryant, with respect to the sex of that Deity, since Bhuvan (world), or the Universe, is a part of the title of either.

The Sun is one of the forms of Heri, or Vishnu, Osiris and Horus are both supposed to have been the Sun. The Indian expedition of Osiris coincides with the adventures of Rama, one of the incarnations of Vishnu. The four months sleep of Horus tallies with the four months sleep of Vishnu.

The sacred Bull, the vehicle of Siva, was the emblem of justice, and peculiarly sacred to him amongst the Indians; and the living animal itself [p. 50] was venerated at Memphis and Thebes, under the names of Apis and Minevis. The Phallos of Osiris was an object of worship, and it is known to be the hieroglyphic of Siva: and lastly, Osiris, like Brahma, is described as a great lawgiver.

If the conjecture I have set out with in this article, be considered with attention, it will account for the mixed character of the Grecian Bacchus.

The word Sur in Sanscrit signifies both wine and true wealth; hence in the first C'hand of the Ramayan of Valmic it is expressly said, that the Devatas, having received the Sur, acquired the title of Suras, and the Daityas that of Asura from not having received it. The Veda is represented as that wine and true wealth; and the Devatas as enjoying it in a superior degree, being termed Suras: the prince, or supreme leader of the Suras, became in me Grecian Deity (by a confined translation of the word), the god of wine and drunkards.

Bacchus, or Osiris, was represented by an equilateral triangle; Siva has the same hieroglyphic: the worship of Bacchus was the same as that which is paid to Siva; it had the same obscenities, the same bloody rites, and the same emblem of the generative power.

In Bacchus may be traced the characteristics of each of the personages in the Indian triad; and this may be accounted for by supposing the Greeks to have been deceived by the title Osiris; they, considering it as the name of an individual, mingled the characters and adventures of all the three in one personage. Bacchus may possibly be derived from a title of Vrihaspati, Vagisa, the lord of speech, which might be applied to Brahma as the [p. 51] husband of Saraswati, the goddess of speech. The Greeks called him Chomios, as Sir William Jones says, without knowing why; and he was styled by the Romans Bruma: his feasts were celebrated for several days at the winter solstice; from him they were called Brumalia, and the winter solstice itself Bruma.

The crescent of Siva may have suggested the horns of Bacchus; and his army of Satyrs, and victories in India, shew the resemblance of this part of his character to Vishnu as Ra'ma, who, with his army of monkies, overran the peninsula of India.

It was a common practice with the Greeks to disguise their own ignorance of the purport of a foreign word, by supplying a word of a similar sound, but different meaning, in their own language, and inventing a story to agree with it: thus Meru, or the north pole, the supposed abode of the Devatas, being considered as the birth-place of the God, gave rise to the fable of Bacchus's second birth from the thigh of Jupiter, because Meros, a Greek word approaching Meru in sound, signifies the thigh in that language. Siva is described as taking the form of a Sinh, in the battle of Durga and Mahisha'sura; he seizes the monster with his claws and teeth, and overthrows him, while Durga, with her spear, finishes the conquest by his death. Thus Bacchus, under the same form, is described as destroying the giant Rhcus.

Rhcum retorsisti Leonis
Ufiguibus horribilique Mala

The Hindu sacrifices to Durga and Cali resemble those of Bacchus. When the stroke is given, which severs the head of the victim from its body, the cymbals strike up, the Sancha or Buccinum is blown, [p. 51] and the whole assembly, shouting, besmear their faces with the blood; they roll themselves in it, and, dancing like demoniacs, accompany their dances with obscene songs and gestures. The Abb Pluche mentions the same particulars of the assistants in the sacrifices of Bacchus. The winnowing fan, the

Mystica vannus iaccci,

is always used in the rites of Cal, Cali, and Durga; but the Hindus at present affix no other idea of mystery to it, than its being an appendage to husbandry; they use it as a tray, on which they place, before the image of the Deity, the Sesanium or Til, the Mundir, with its lamp, and all the other articles used in the ceremony. A tray could serve the purpose; but on all solemnities the rituals prescribe exclusively the use of this van or fan, which they call Surp.

Of Vishnu, as the Creative Power.

The Vaishnavas, in order to appropriate the creative principle to Vishnu, make Brahma, whom they acknowledge as the immediate agent of creation, to derive his origin from a Lotos, which sprang out of the navel of Vishnu whilst sleeping upon the vast abyss of primeval waters; thus Vishnu becomes superior to Brahma, as being the cause, first, of his existence, and secondly, of all created things through his agency. The Argha is a vessel of copper used by the Brahmens in their puja; its shape is intended to represent the universal Mother, but in the centre of it is an oval rising embossed, and by this the Vaishnavas assert, is meant the navel of Vishnu, from which all things originally sprang; and by the mystic union of these two principles of production, it is intended to describe them as identically one. The Saivas, however, insist, that this Omphalic rising is meant as the emblem of the [p. 53] Ling; hence Siva's title of Arghanath, and in the Agama, Arghais'a, both meaning the Lord of the sacred Vessel Argha.

Vishnu is represented, in the tenth Avatar, as the destroying power, thus ascribing to him the attribute of Siva.

Vishnu is represented by the Vaishnavas with four arms, and in each hand he bears a symbol. These symbols seem intended to unite the three great attributes in him, and to express his universal supremacy. The Lotos typifies his creative power, (in allusion to the Lotos which sprang from his navel). The Sancha typifies his attributes of preservation, and the mace that of destruction; while the Chacra expresses his universal supremacy, as Chachra-Vart, or Lord of the Chacra, when applied to a monarch, indicates universal empire; applied to a Pundit, the possessor of the whole circle of Science.

Of Siva, as the Creative Power, and Bhavani.
Of Cal and Cali.

When the personified attributes of the Deity ceased to be considered as mere hieroglyphics; when mankind began to view them in the light of distinct persons, and attaching themselves to the worship of one or of the other exclusively, arranged themselves into sects, the worshippers of Siva introduced the doctrines of the eternity of matter, in order to reconcile the apparent contradiction of assigning the attribute of creation to the principle of destruction, they asserted, that the dissolution and destruction of bodies was not real, with respect to matter, which was indestructible itself, although its modifications were in a constant succession of mutation; that the power which continually operates these changes, must necessarily unite in itself [p. 54] the attributes of creation and apparent destruction: that this power, and matter, are two distinct and coexistent principles in nature; the one agent, the other patient; the one male, the other female; and that creation was the effect of the mystic union of these principles.

The hieroglyphic of this union was worshipped under a variety of names, Bhava and Bhavani, Mahadeva and Mahamaya, &c. Thus the attribute of creation was usurped from Brahma, by the followers of Siva, to adorn and characterize their favourite Deity.

This seems to have been a popular worship, for a great length of time. Two sects, however, sprang up out of it: the one personified the whole universe, and the dispensations of providence in the regulation thereof, into a Goddess; this sect retained the female symbol only, and denominated themselves Sacta, as worshippers of the Sacti, or female power, exclusively, which they called Pracriti; and which we, from the Latin, term nature.

The other sect insisted, that there was but one, eternal, first cause; that every thing existing, derived its existence from the sole energy of that first cause (Niranjen).

In order, therefore, to express their ideas of the absolute independence of this supreme power upon any extra co-operation, they took for their symbol the male emblem, unconnected with that of the female; a third sect likewise arose, which intended to reconcile the idea of the unity of godhead with that of the existence of matter and spirit; they, therefore, contended, that the union of those two principles was so mysteriously intimate as to form but one being, which they represented by a figure [p. 55] half male and half female, and denominated Haragauri, and Ardhanari Iswara. It is probable that the idea of obscenity was not originally attached to these symbols: and it is likely, that the inventors themselves might not have foreseen the disorders which this worship would occasion amongst mankind. Profligacy eagerly embraces what flatters its propensities, and ignorance follows blindly wherever example excites: it is, therefore, no wonder that a general corruption of manners should ensue, increasing in proportion as the distance of time involved the original meaning of the symbol in darkness and oblivion. Obscene mirth became the principal feature of the popular superstition, and was, even in after times, extended to, and intermingled with, gloomy rites and bloody sacrifices. An heterogeneous mixture, which appears totally irreconcileable, unless by tracing the steps which led to it. It will appear that the ingrafting of a new symbol, upon the old superstition, occasioned this strange medley. The sect of Vishnu was not wholly free from the propensity of the times to obscene rites; it had been united in interest with that of Siva, in their league against the sect of Brahma, as was expressed by an image, called Har-Heri, half Siva and half Vishnu. This union seems to have continued till the time when an emblem of an abstract idea, having been erected into an object of worship, introduced a revolution in religion, which had a violent and extended effect upon the manners and opinions of mankind.

It was then that a gloomy superstition arose, which spread its baneful influence with rapidity amongst mankind; which degraded the Deity into an implacable tyrant; which filled its votaries with imaginary terrors; which prescribed dreadful rites; and exacted penances, mortifications, and expiatory sacrifices. In short, it was the worship of Cal [p. 56] and Cali, introduced by the sect of Siva, which caused a total separation of the sect of Vishnu, and introduced those religious wars which, in distant ages, seem to have distracted mankind; and of which traces are, even at this day, to be found.

With a view to unite the three great attributes of creation, preservation, and destruction in one symbol, the Saivas personified the abstract idea of time (Cal), which may, figuratively, be said to create, preserve, and destroy. They therefore distinguished artificial time and eternity with peculiar emblems, in which the attribute of destruction, the characteristic of Siva, evidently predominates. The personified Sacti, or energy of each of these allegorical personages, was decorated with corresponding emblems. The contemplation of the distinctions of day and night; of the light and dark divisions of the month; of the six months night and six months day of the Gods (occasioned by the apparent obliquity of the Sun's path); and lastly, the contrast of the visible creation with eternal night, suggested the idea of painting Cal white and Cali black.

To Siva they have given three eyes; probably to denote his view of the three divisions of time, the past, the present, and the future. A crescent on his forehead pourtrays the measure of time by the phases of the Moon. A serpent forms a necklace to denote the measure of time by years. A second necklace, formed of human skulls, marks the lapse and revolution of ages, and the extinction and succession of the generations of mankind, he holds a trident in one hand, to shew that the three great attributes are in him assembled and united. In the other hand is a kind of rattle, called damaru, shaped like an hour glass: I am inclined to think, it was really, at first, intended as such; since it agrees with the character of the Deity; and a sand [p. 57] gheri is mentioned, in the Sastra, as one of the modes of measuring time, and of ascertaining the length of a gheri. In the hieroglyphic of the Maha Pralaya, (or grand consummation of all things, when time itself shall he no more,) he is represented as trodden under foot by Maha Cali, or Eternity.

He is there deprived of his crescent, trident, and necklaces, to shew that his dominion and powers are no more. He is blowing the tremendous horn, which announces the annihilation of all created things. Maha Cali, black and dreadful, is encompassed by symbols of destruction: two of her hands seem employed in the work of death: of the other two, one appears pointing downwards, alluding to the universal havoc which surrounds her: while the other, pointing upwards, seems to promise the regeneration of nature, by a new creation. When the Sun begins his southern declination, the night of the Gods begins: that is, when their supposed abode, Meru, (the north pole) begins to be involved in a night of six months: and, as this period may be considered as a type of Maha Pralaya, the worship of Maha Cali is celebrated at the commencement thereof.

Maha Cali is represented without a crescent, (the artificial measure of time,) because it is unnecessary to her character as the hieroglyphic of eternity. But the belief of the Hindus in successive destructions and renovations of the Universe, accounts for her wearing a Mund Mla, or necklace of skulls, as emblematical of those revolutions.

Maha Cal, as represented in the caverns of [p. 58] Elephanta, had eight arms. In one hand he holds a human figure; in another a sword, or sacrificial axe; in a third he holds a basin of blood; and with a fourth he rings over it the sacrificial bell: two other arms are broken off; but with the two remaining he is drawing behind him a veil, which extinguishes the sun, and involves the whole Universe in one undistinguished ruin. One of the titles of this tremendous Deity is Bhairava, the horrific, but his principal designation is Cal Agni Rudha.

If the contemplation of the grand consummation of all created things struck the mind of the initiated Brahmen with awe; the uninformed mass of people would not be less affected with the dreadful appearance and implacable character of this Deity. To appease and reconcile so tremendous a Being would naturally become an object of the greatest necessity and anxiety; the personified metaphor of all-devouring time, presented to their eyes a divinity delighting in blood and slaughter; the zeal of worshippers encreased in proportion to their terrors. The unenlightened mind dwells with disturbed and anxious attention upon horrors of its own creation; and superstition takes its form and colour from the objects which excite it: hence arose those bloody rites, those consecrated cruelties, and those astonishing penances, which not only obtained in India, but pervaded almost every part of the ancient world. Thus a new superstition was grafted upon the old, as much adapted, by its vain terrors, to degrade the human mind, as the former had been to corrupt it.

If it was intended to instruct mankind in the hieroglyphic language of former ages, and to shew them how absolutely necessary it was, to make a sacrifice of their vices and depraved appetites, before they could render themselves acceptable to the Deity, could any way be more natural than to typify [p. 59] those vices by animals whose propensities are analogous to them; and by the allegorical slaughter of them before the altar of the Deity, to denote the sacrifice required. To the uninformed multitude such an hieroglyphic would seem to prescribe the actual sacrifice of the animal. The emblematical apparatus of Cal and Cali would confirm them in the error; and when once the idea was admitted, that the blood of animals was acceptable to the Deity, fanaticism would soon demand human victims. Humiliation and presents appease earthly princes; but the divinity of fanaticism w^as supposed to require more costly offerings, and the severest mortifications which inventive zeal could suggest; a false pride, and vain ambition of displaying superior sanctity, excited an emulation amongst the deluded zealots, which steeled the heart against pain, and supported the sufferers under all their self-inflicted torments. This artificial insensibility acquired the reputation of inspired fortitude; and the admiration of ignorant multitudes repaid the fanatic for his voluntary tortures.

Such were the disorders which arose out of the worship of emblematical Deities.

The doctrines of the Saivas seem to have extended themselves over the greatest portion of mankind; they spread amongst remote nations, who were ignorant of the origin and meaning of the rites they adopted; and this ignorance may be considered as the cause of the mixture and confusion of images and ideas which characterised the mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

In fact, foreign nations could only copy the outward signs and ceremonies: they could not be admitted beyond the threshold of the temple: the adytum was impenetrable to them. Cal and Cali [p. 60] assumed various names: Cal became Cronos, Moloch, Saturn, Dis, Pluto, and Typhon; Cali became Hecate, Proserpine, and Diana, who was worshipped with bloody sacrifices at Tauris. It was to the barbarians that the Greeks were referred, by their own writers, to learn and understand the names and origin of their Deities.

Siva, in his character of the Creative Power, became the Zeus-Triophthalmos, Jupiter, and Osiris; his consort, Bhavani, became Juno, Venus, Cybele, Rhea, the Syrian Goddess, the armed Pallas, Isis, Ceres, and Anna Perenna. This multiplication of Deities arose from the ignorance of foreign nations as to the source of the superstition which they adopted, and the original meaning of the symbols; they supplied their want of information by fables congenial to their own national character and manners: hence arose those contradictions, which made their mythology a labyrinth of confusion.

When the Saivas intended to ascribe particularly, to the object of their worship, the benefits arising from any operation of nature, they decorated the image with suitable emblems, and assigned to the Deity a corresponding title.

For instance, Sancara, (which signifies the benefactor,) is a title of one of those forms of Siva or Cal. To him the gratitude of the Saivas attributed the blessings which are derived from the waters of the Ganges, which rolls its fertilizing stream through various countries, bestowing life and happiness on millions of created beings.

They therefore adorned the image of Cal with emblems applicable to the mountain whence that stupendous river flows.

[p. 61]

As this beneficial stream makes its way from the tops of that mountain through the creepers and underwood, which seem to obstruct its passage to the plains, it is represented to flow from the head of the Deity, through his jata, or clotted hair: and as tigers, elephants, and serpents, infest the skirts of the mountains, he is surrounded with serpents, his lower clothing is the skin of the elephant, and he is seated on that of the tiger. He is likewise called Nil-Cantha (blue neck), from the appearance which the clouds assume when arrested in their course by the overtopping summit of the mountain.

He has likewise the title of Giri Iswara, or lord of mountains; and this union of the attributes of Siva with those of the mountain, is more distinctly pointed out in his marriage with Parvati, a derivative from parvat, a mountain.

As the image of Siva, in this character, was an object of local veneration, its worship was probably confined to the banks of the Ganges. Had it reached the nations of Europe, he would have been considered as a distinct and separate divinity, and ranked amongst the river Gods. This symbol is admitted by the Vaishnavas: but in order to ascribe this inestimable gift to Vishnu, and to assert his superiority over Siva, they insist that the river first flowed out of Vaicuntha (the heaven of Vishnu), from the feet of Vishnu; that when it had descended upon the mountain Cailas, it was received by Siva, and placed on his head amongst his plaited locks.

On Jagan-Nath, &c.

The temple of Jagan-Nath is a famous resort for pilgrims of all sects, for it is revered by all, it is a converging point where all the contending parties unite in harmony with each other. What is the [p. 62] secret spring of this concurrence of sentiment in sects, otherwise so irreconcilable to each other? What is intended by a representation, so extraordinary, of the Deity of the place: a figure that resembles nothing in the heavens above, or the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth.

These questions will naturally arise upon a view of the accompanying drawing, taken from a large picture brought from the temple, in possession of Raja Parasu Ram.

It is a representation of the Snan Jatra, when the images, stripped of their ornaments, are bathed. But it is this unadorned condition of the image that leads to the discovery of the mystery.

The Pranava, or mystical character which represents the name of the Deity, is thus expressed . By making a cypher thereof in this manner, filling them up, and giving a body to the central and connecting part of the cypher, you have

From this cypher, they have made three distinct Idols (see PLATE); probably, to prevent the original allusion from being too obvious to the multitude. Subhadra's place is, however, always between the other two, for she represents the connecting participle of the cypher; the propriety of her being so situated is therefore evident; and as the actual connection [p. 63] is dissolved, by the separation of the figures into distinct idols, we see the reason of her being represented without arms.

Crishna, as Parameswara, is Jagan-Nath, or Lord of the Universe; his half brother is Bal-Ram (a terrestrial appearance of Siva); and Subhadra is a form of Devi.

To me it appears a stroke of refined policy, in the first founders of the temple, to present, as an object of worship, the personification of the triliteral word which is held in reverence alike by all sectaries; and to give it a title which each sect might apply to the object of its particular adoration. The intention of the foundation was evidently to render the temple a place of pilgrimage open to all sects, and to draw an immense revenue from the mu4tifarious resort of devotees. The ornaments and apparel with which they cover the image, conceal the real figure from the multitude, and give it an air of mystery: the fascination of mystery is well understood by the Brahmens.

Jagan-Nath and Bal-Ram have both the same form, to shew their identity, and their faces have the respective colours of Vishnu and Siva. Considered in this point of view, this temple may be considered as the rallying point for the three great sects. It is upon this principle, that Jagan-Nath and Bal-Ram appear sometimes with the attributes of Ganesa, to shew that it is one and the same Deity who is worshipped under so many names and forms.

On Crishna.

When the Vaishnavas separated themselves from the Saivas, they introduced a new symbol of the Sun, under the name of Crishna, as a contrast to the horrid rites of Cali, which had so disgusted them. [p. 64] Crishna, being an incarnation of Vishnu, is depicted with the same characteristic complexion of dark azure, to identify the Deity in the symbol.

The Earth is represented as a Cow, the cow of plenty; and as the planets were considered by the Hindus to be so many habitable Earths, it was natural to describe them by the same hieroglyphic; and as the Sun directs their motions, furnishes them with light, and cherishes them with his genial heat, Crishna, the symbol of the Sun, was pourtrayed as an herdsman, sportive, amorous, and inconstant.

The twelve signs are represented as twelve beautiful Nymphs; the Sun's apparent passage, from one to the other, is described as the roving of the inconstant Crishna. This was probably the groundwork of Jayadeva's elegant poem, the Gita Govinda. It is evidently intended by the circular dance exhibited in the Rasijtr. On a moveable circle, twelve Crishnas are placed alternately with twelve Gopis, hand in hand, forming a circle; the God is thus multiplied to attach him to each respectively, to denote the Sun's passage through all the signs; and, by the rotary motion of the machine, the revolution of the year is pointed out.

Crishna obtains a victory on the banks of the Yamuna over the great serpent Cliya Nga, which had poisoned the air, and destroyed the herds in that region.

This allegory may be explained upon the same principle as the exposition given of the destruction of the serpent Python by the arrows of Apollo. It is the Sun which, by the powerful action of its beams, purifies the air, and disperses the noxious vapours of the atmosphere.

[p. 65]

Both in the Padma and Garuda we find the serpent Caliya, whom Crishna slew in his childhood, among the Deities "worshipped on this day; as the Pythian snake, according to Clemens, was adored with Apollo at Delphi.''

Perhaps this adventure of Crishna with the Caliya Naga, may be traced on our sphere, for we find there Serpentarius on the banks of the heavenly Yamuna, the milky way, contending as it were with an enormous serpent, which he grasps with both his hands.

The identity of the Apollo Nomios and Crishna is obvious: both are inventors of the flute; and Crishna is disappointed by Tulasi in the same manner as Apollo was deluded by Daphne, each nymph being changed to a tree; hence the Tulasi is sacred to Crishna, as the Laurus was to Apollo.

The story of Nareda visiting the numerous chambers of Crishna's seraglio, and finding Crishna every where, appears to allude to the universality of the Sun's appearance at the time of the Equinoxes, there being then no part of the Earth where he is not visible in the course of the twenty-four hours.

The Demons, sent to destroy Crishna, are perhaps no more than the monsters of the sky, which allegorically may be said to attempt in vain to obstruct his progress through the Heavens. Many of the playful adventures of Crishna's childhood are possibly mere poetical embellishments to complete the picture.

Perhaps the character of Crishna should be regarded in a two-fold light; in one as the symbol of [p. 66] the Sun, in the other as an allegorical representation of the rise and progress of the doctrines of the persecuted Vaislmavas, from the infancy of the sect till its full establishment. Cansa is represented as a Saiva; he appears to have persecuted the sect of Vishnu: but that oppressed sect seems to have multiplied under persecution, till the increase of their power enabled them to overthrow their oppressors; and, finally, to establish the doctrines of Vishnu upon the ruins of Siva.

Of Carticeya, the supposed Mars of India.

He is represented as a warrior with six-faces: he is armed with arrows and spears, and he is drawn riding upon a peacock. I suppose this figure to be an emblem of the sun, invented by the worshippers of the Ling, when they first separated into a distinct sect; or, in the hieroglyphical language of the Brahmens, when he was produced from the seed which Mahadeva shed upon the Earth, after he had been separated from Bhavani, with whom he had been in strict union a thousand years. My supposition, however, contradicts the present received opinions of the Hindus; for they do not consider Carticeya as the Sun. But, if we examine the figure, we shall find that it can only be applied to the Sun; and it will be found to agree in all its parts.

The Hindus divide the year into six Ritus, or seasons, in each of which the Sun appears with a different aspect. There are six stars in the lunar constellation, Critica; and, as he derives his name from that Nacshatra, those stars are represented as his nurses, one for each month. Probably the symbol was invented either when the Sun was itself in that lunar constellation, or in the month Cartica [p. 67] when the Moon was full in Critica. His arrows and missile weapons represent his rays; the Apollo of the Greeks had also his bow and quiver of arrows. The worship of Carticeya takes place on the last day of Cartica, as preparatory to military expeditions, which ought to commence, according to Menu, in the month Agrahciyana, the Sun being more propitious at that period for such undertakings.

The setting Sun seems followed by the host of Heaven; but how can this be expressed in a single hieroglyphical figure? It was done by giving him a peacock for his Vahan, or vehicle, in which the tail of this beautiful bird, studded with eyes, and expanded behind the God, pourtrays the raiment spangled with stars. The Egyptians sometimes represented the Sun in the character of a warrior, and he is said to have been addressed as such in the mysteries. But Carticeya is not now considered by the Hindus as the Sun: to account for this, I suppose, that whenever any new sect arose amongst the Hindus in former ages, the leaders invented new symbols, exclusively peculiar to themselves, with a view to render their separation from the parent stock more complete, and to mark their worship with distinguishing characters. Tins practice would give rise to various and different representations of the same object; and, in course of time, as the heat of religious animosities cooled, these various symbols would come to be considered as separate Divinities, and be all blended in one mass of superstition. Thus the Sun, under the name of Carticeya, becomes the god of war; and, under the name of Crishna, the shepherd god of Mathur and Vrindvana. The Sun is now separately worshipped under the names of Srya and Aditya.

[p. 68]

Of Indra, the Emblem of the Visible Heavens.

I am led to believe, that many of the fables, inserted in the Purnas, were invented, either after the real meaning of an hieroglyphic had been lost, to conceal that ignorance, or purposely to mislead the mass of people, and prevent too curious and close an inquiry.

Indra is described, like Argus, covered with eyes; to account for this, the fable relates, that Indra, having seen the beautiful wife of a certain Rishi, was anxious to be more intimate with her; but the watchful husband prevented the intercourse, by arriving unseasonably for the god; the enraged saint uttered an imprecation, and wished that the god might be covered all over with representations of what had been the object of his desires; the curse took immediate effect. The god, full of shame, repented, and, by his entreaties, at last prevailed on the holy man to mitigate the curse, by changing the marks of his shame to as many eyes.

I consider this fable as an instance of the foregoing observation: for Indra is a personification of the atmosphere and visible Heavens; and, of course, the eyes with which he is covered describe the stars. The rainbow is the bow of Indra. The water-spout is the trunk of his elephant; thunder, lightning, and rain, and every phenomenon of the atmosphere, belong to his department; and, like the Jupiter of the Greeks and Romans, he has his Heaven, a mansion of sensual delights and enjoyment.

[p. 69]

Of Jupiter and Europa, and Jupiter and Leda.

The Hindus have eight representations of female figures, which, except in sex, exactly resemble the Deity, of which each is a Sacti, or power, with the same attributes and vehicle: Maheswari is the Sacti of Mahesa, or Siva; Brahmi, or Brahmani, of Brahma; Narayani, of Narayena; Aindri, of Indra; Caumari, of Carticeya; Varahi, of Vishnu, in the Varaha Avatar; Narasinha, of Vishnu, in the Narasinha Avatar; and Aparajita, a form of Bhavani, the female principle: this last may he the Aphrodite of the Greeks. It is probable that the representation of Maheswari, or a female Siva, riding oh a white bull, may have given rise to the story of Europa's rape: and the representation of Brahmi, or the female Brahma, with the swan, may, in like manner, have occasioned the fable of Jupiter and Leda. These explanations were, perhaps, invented by the Greeks to account for symbols, of the meaning of which they were ignorant.

Anna Perenna.

The Romans themselves were ignorant of the history of this goddess, and the origin of her rites, although she was an object of their veneration and worship. From whence did this ignorance proceed? Was it that the memory of the institution was lost in its remote antiquity? Or was it an adoption of a foreign ritual, without adverting to its origin?

According to some authors, she was the daughter of Belus, and sister of Dido, who fled to Battus, king of the isle of Malta, after the death of her sister, when Hierbas, king of the Getuli, attempted to take Carthage. Not finding herself safe with Battus, on account of the threats of Hierbas, she fled to Laurentum in Italy, where neas was settled: he met her on the banks of the Numichis, and received her into his palace, [p. 70] treating her with the respect due to her quality. Lavinia considered her as a rival, and sought her destruction; but Anna being admonished of this in a dream, fled to the river Numichis, whereof she was made a Nymph, as she told those who sought for her, and ordered them to call her in future Anna Perenna, because she should for ever remain under those waters.

---------------placidi sum Nympha Numici:
Amne perenne latens Anna Perenna vocor.

                    Ovid, Fast. Lib. 3d, Vers. 653.

The Albans instituted rejoicings on the banks of the river, with dancing and feasting; and the Romans, in imitation of them, did the same on the banks of the Tiber. The dances and sports were very indecent and lascivious. Ovid has described these festivals, which were celebrated on the 15th March: they sacrificed to her for long life; amiare et perennare.

It is probable that this legend was a popular tradition, merely local, peculiar to the Romans and Albans; but it was not the sole conjecture, for, according to Ovid, some supposed her to be the Moon, some Themis, and others Io; some imagined she was the daughter of Atlas, and some took her for Amalthea, who nursed Jupiter in his infancy; while others conceived her to be an old woman of Bovilla, who was supposed to have fed the people of Rome, in very ancient times, when oppressed by famine, in a miraculous manner, and to have then fled and disappeared in the holy Aventine Mount, and in gratitude for this relief this festival had been instituted by the Romans.

Amidst so many conjectures, perhaps we may at this distance of time discover the mystery at Be- [p. 71] nares, in Anna Purna Devi, the Hindu Goddess of Abundance, whose name is derived from Anna (food), and Punr (abundant); let us regularly weigh each conjecture mentioned by Ovid, rejecting only the local story of the deified sister of Dido, and we shall find none that is inapplicable to the Hindu goddess. 1st. The Diana of the Romans was represented with a crescent on her forehead; it was her characteristic mark. The Hindu goddess, as being the consort of Siva or Cal, is decorated in like manner; this may account for her being considered as the Moon. 2dly. The attributes of Themis, whether she is considered as Ceres, which was the supposition of Clemens of Alexandria, in his description of her obscene mysteries; or as the goddess of justice, piety, and virtue, as described by Diodorus Siculus, are equally applicable to Anna Purna Devi; the conformity of her name and office to the attributes of Ceres is strikingly apparent. But, if Themis is justice, piety, and virtue personified, the character will equally suit the consort of the god of justice, Vrisha Iswara, and the lord of the sacred bull, Dherma Raja. 3dly. That she was Io, the daughter of Ixachus, under the form of a cow, is a supposition which will not be found inapplicable to Anna Purna Devi, when it is known that the Earth, symbolized as a cow of plenty, is one of the forms of the Hindu goddess. 4thly. That she was the daughter of Atlas, Maia, who was beloved by Jupiter, is a conjecture for which a foundation may be traced in the Hindu goddess. Might not the name of Maya or Maha Maya (the beloved consort of Siva) have given rise to this conjecture; the Hindu term being applied to signify the mother, the great mother. 5thly. The image of Anna Purna is represented sitting on a throne, giving food, with a golden ladle, [p. 72] to an infant Siva, who stretches out his little hand to receive it. Is not the resemblance particularly striking between this representation and the character of Amalthea, who nursed Jupiter when an infant? Lastly, the tradition of her being the old woman of Bovilla, which Ovid himself seems inclined to adopt, is equally applicable to Anna Purna Devi, who, according to the Puranas, under the form of an old woman, miraculously fed Vyasamuni, and his ten thousand Pupils, when reduced to the extremities of distress and famine by the anger of Siva, because Vyasa had presumed to prefer Vishnu to him.

It may not, therefore, be an unfounded conjecture, that the consort of Siva is the point in which all those opinions meet, and that they were founded on confined and confused traditions of the goddess of abundance.

Description of Anna Purna Devi, from the Annada Cripa.

She is of a ruddy complexion, her robe of various dies, a crescent on her forehead; she gives subsistence; she is bent by the weight of her full breasts; Bhava, or Siva (as a child), is playing before her, with a crescent on his forehead; she looks at him with pleasure, and seated (on a throne) relieves his hunger; all good is united in her; her names are Annada, Anna Purna Devi, Bhavani, and Bhagavati.


Sunt qulbus hsec luna est, quia niensibus impleat annum:     657
    Pars Themin, Inachiam pais putat esse boveni.
Invenies, qui te Nymphen Atlautida dioant;
    Teque Jovi prinios, Anna, dedisse cibos.     660
Hic quoque, quam referani, nostras pencnit adaures
    Fama: nec a ver dissidet ilia fide.

[p. 73]

Plebs vetus, et nullis etiamnum tuta tribunis,
    Fugit; and in sacri vertice montis abit.
Jam quoque, quem secum tulerant, defecerat illos    665
    Victus, et humanis usibus apta Ceres.
Orta suburbanis quaedam fuit Anna Bovillis
    Pauper, sed niunda; sedulitatis, anus.
Illa, levi mitra canos ledimita capillos,
    Fingebat tremula rustica liba manu.    670
Atque ita per populum fumantia mane solebat
    Dividere. Haec populo copia grata fuit.
Pace domi facta signum posuere Perennae,
    Quod sibi defectis ilia tulisset opem.     674
                                            Ovid, Fast. Lib. 3d.

Of the Four Months Sleep of Horus and Vishnu.

The Abb Pluche (to whose ingenious work I am so much indebted), mentions two hieroglyphics, one taken from the Isiac table, and the other described upon a Mummy. They both relate to the sleep of Horus. The one represents a couch, in the form of a lion, with Horus swaddled up and sleeping on it. Beneath the couch are four jars: an Anubis is standing by the side of the couch; and an Isis at the head of it, in the act of awakening Horus (see PLATE).

When Anubis, or the Dog Star, rose heliacally, the Egyptians considered it as a warning to them of the approach of the inundation, during which the operations of husbandry were suspended; this suspension was deemed a period of rest: to express that inaction, Horus was described as swaddled up, unable to use his arms, and sleeping upon this lion-formed couch. Anubis is putting him to rest, because the rising of the Dog Star proclaimed that cessation of labour. The four jars denote the four months. When, by the operations of nature, the water has subsided, and the river has been reduced [p. 74] within its banks, labour is resumed, and Horus is awakened by Isis, or personified nature.

In the other hieroglyphic, we have the same couch with Horus swaddled up, but in the act of turning himself: there are only three jars under this couch, to denote, that this action of turning himself to sleep, on his other side, takes place at the commencement of the third month. This interpretation I have given, because what follows, respecting the sleep of Vishnu, seems to justify it. Let us therefore turn to the Hindu representatuon of the four months sleep of Vishnu or Heri.

On the eleventh day of the enlightened half of the lunar month, Asarh, Vishnu begins his repose on the serpent, Sesha. On the same day of the bright half of the lunar month, Bhadra, he turns on his side; and on this day the Hindus celebrate the Jal Yatra, or the retiring of the waters. On the eleventh day of the bright half of the lunar month, Cartica, he is awakened, and rises from his sleep of four months.

The allusion will be made perfectly clear, when it is known that water is considered as one of the forms of Vishnu.

The water, rising till it covers the winding mazes of the river's course, is personified by Vishnu sleeping upon the serpent Sesha, whose hundred heads are the numerous channels which discharge the waters into the sea. As long as it continues to rise, he sleeps on one side. When the inundation, having risen to its height, begins to subside, he turns on the other side. When the waters have run off, and the winding banks of the river are completely cleared of the swoln waters of the inundation, he [p. 75] is said to have arisen from his sleep, being invoked, and awakened with this Mantra, or incantation.

"The clouds are dispersed, the full moon will appear in perfect brightness, and I come in hope of acquiring purity, to offer the fresh flowers of the season; awake from thy long slumber, awake Lord of all Worlds."

Let us compare the Hindu legend with the Egyptian hieroglyphic, and I think no doubt can remain of the identity of Horus and Vishnu, or Heri; and if this position be admitted, we shall find ourselves in possession of the Key to the Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman mythology.

Of the Durga Puja.

The Abb Pluche mentions an Egyptian hieroglyphic from the Isiac table. Horus, armed with an arrow, is slaying a river horse, or Hippopotamus, which is surrounded with the leaves of the Lotos, and other aquatic plants. He says, ''By this monster, which dwells in the Nile, and comes out of it to lay waste and devour whatever it meets with, we can understand nothing but the inundation." Horus is the same with Heri or Vishnu. If the Saivas admitted in this country a similar victory over the inundation, they would substitute Siva, or his consort, for the Vaishnava symbol Horus.

The sphinx, an emblem of the Sun's passage through Leo and Virgo, would suggest the idea of decorating Cali, like the armed Pallas, as Virgo, attended by her Sinh, or Lion, who is Siva himself in that form; and they ascribe to her a victory over the monster Mahush Asura, a giant, with the head of a buffalo: this animal delights in water; and, when he comes out of it, is as destruc- [p. 76] tion by laying waste and devouring the harvest, as the Hippopotamus; the latter animal not being a native of Hindostan, it was natural to supply its place with one which had similar characteristics, if the Hindu religion was brought from Egypt into India, the importers of it would see the same phenomenon of the annual rising of the river: but they would observe, that in this country it was accompanied with heavy rains, thunder, lightning, and storms of wind, an apparent war of the elements. Hence the buffalo-headed symbol of the inundation was erected into a giant, at the head of a vast army, warring against the Gods: the novelty of these phenomena, to the first comers, would suggest to them this poetical personification. The title borne by Cali, in this character, is Durga, or rather Durgati Nasini, the remover of difficulties; as she is a form of Cali, she has the same bloody rites (see PLATE).

The Abb mentions the Canopus, as a jar or pitcher of water, intended to make the people acquainted with the exact progress and increase of the inundation: he adds, that they used to mark these jars with the figure Т, or a small cross to express the increase and swelling of the river. Canob is the Egyptian word, which is rendered Canopos by the Greeks; the information, which this seems intended to convey, was so particularly necessary to the Egyptians, that it is no wonder it should, in course of time, cease to be considered as a mere sign, and acquire a place amongst the Deities themselves. The word Canob, by the analogy of the Sanscrit language, becomes Cumbh, which signifies a jar or vase: it gives name, in the Hindu Zodiac, to the sign Aquarius. This Cumbh, Ghata, or jar, is the principal object in the celebration of the Hindu worship. It is considered as almost the [p. 77] Deity itself. It cannot be dispensed with; while the image of Durga may be omitted entirely. The Vaishnavas use the sacred jar, which they mark with several crosses in this manner . The Saivas mark the jar with a double triangle, thus : one triangle signifies Siva, uniting in himself the three great attributes: the other triangle is his consort, with the same character and attributes. The worshippers of the Sacti, or female principle, mark the jar with this figure . These marks are called jantra; they are, in fact, hieroglyphic characters; and there is a vast variety of them. The above are only mentioned here, because of their use in this puja, and as they distinguish three principal sects of the Hindus.

This coincidence between the Hindu ceremonies and the Egyptian figures, is remarkably striking. They appear to me to explain each other: and we can scarce doubt of the identity, when we consider that this ceremony takes place at the autumnal equinox, at which time the season of storms and inundation is over, and they are supposed to have been subdued, during the Sun's passage through the signs Leo and Virgo.

On the Huli of the Hindus, and the Hilaria of the Romans.

The Romans celebrated the Hilaria at the vernal Equinox, in honour of the Mother of the Gods, It was a festival which was continued for several days, with great display of pomp and rejoicing: it began the eighth day before the Calends of April [p. 78] or the 25th of March; the statue of Cybele was carried about in procession, and the attending crowds assumed to themselves whatever rank, character, or dress, their fancy led them to prefer: it was a kind of masquerade, full of mirth and frolic. In fact, it was the Earth, under the name of Cybele, which was worshipped at the commencement of that genial season, when she receives from the Sun those vivifying rays, which are so adapted to the production of fruits and flowers. Let this ceremony he compared with the Hindu celebration of the Huli, at the same period of the year. The epithet of Purple is constantly given to the spring by the Roman poets, in allusion to the blossoms, which nature, as it were in sport, scatters over the Earth with such variety and profusion. The Hindus design the same idea in the purple powder (Abar), which they throw about at each other with so much sportive pleasantry: the objects of worship with the Hindus are the Earth and Fire; that genial warmth, which pervades all nature at that period of the year: the licentiousness of the songs and dances, at this season, was intended to express the effects of that warmth on all animated objects.

The Hindus have likewise their masquerading processions, in which Gods and Goddesses, Rajas and Ranis, are represented; and the ceremonies are concluded, by burning the past or deceased year, and welcoming; the renovation of nature.

Of the Vastu Puja of the Hindus, and the Vesta of the Romans.

On the last day of Paush, the Hindus make sweetmeats, with Til, or sesamum: it is therefore called Tiliasancrant. It is the day when landholders worship the Earth and Fire. The sect of Siva sacrifice a sheep to the Earth; and the Vaishnavas offer up [p. 79] their bloodless oblations to fire. The ceremony is called the Vastu Puja. Vastu is the habitable Earth. A great Raja was called Vastu Purush; the expression is used by a raiat to his zemindar, as a title of the highest respect. I think, that, in the name of the ceremony, and in the objects of worship, may be traced the Goddess Vesta of the Romans: the Goddess of Nature, under whose name they worshipped the Earth and Fire.

The Fable of Bir Bhadr, invented by the Saivas to exalt their Opinions and Sect.

This fable, I conceive, is descriptive of an attempt to abolish the worship of the male and female symbols; of the struggles of the contending sects; and (as it is the nature of fanaticism to increase and spread in proportion to the opposition raised against it) of the final establishment and extension of that worship. It seems a story invented by the Saivas, to shew the imbecility of their opponents, and to exalt their own doctrines.

Dacsha celebrated a. yajnya, to which he invited all the Devatas, except his son-in-law, Siva. His consort, the Goddess, being hurt at this exclusion, went into the assembly, and remonstrated, but in vain; she expired with vexation upon the spot. Siva, upon hearing this, throws his Jeta, or plaited hair, upon the ground, and from that produces Bin Bhadr, a furious being, armed with a trident, who immediately attacks, and disperses the whole assembly; puts a stop to the sacrifice; and cuts off the head of Dacsha. Siva took up the body of his deceased consort, and placing it upon his head, in a fit of madness, danced up and down the Earth, threatening all things with destruction. Vishnu, at the request of the other Devatas, with his Chacra, cut the body of Sati into fifty one pieces, which Siva [p. 80] in his frantic dancing, scattered in different parts of the Earth. Each place where a part fell became a place of worship, dedicated to the female Power: and the frenzy of Siva subsiding, he ordained, that the Linga should likewise be worshipped at each of those places; and Dacsha, on condition of embracing the doctrine of Siva, was restored to life, dedegraded with the head of a goat instead of his own. I should imagine that the furious Bir Bhadr, produced by Siva, was a vast body of fanatics, raised by the Brahmens of that sect, who might, at that time, have been both popular and powerful; probably this was a vast body of fanatic Samnyasis, interested in the dispute by personal motives, as well as instigated by their Brahmens.

The attempt to abolish the worship failed, and served to establish it firmer, and extend it farther than ever. The Gods themselves are represented as the actors, instead of their votaries; but it may allude to some commotion that really happened. Probably the heads of those sects, which had introduced this symbolic worship, were alarmed at the progress of it, and at the effects produced on the morals of the people: they wished to abolish it when it had taken root too deeply; and as they had introduced it, Siva is described as the son-in-law, and Sati as the daughter of Dacsha.

On the Veneration paid to Kine.

This superstition appears to me to have arisen from the humanity of the first legislators, to prevent the horrid practices which were prevalent in the ancient world, and which exist to this day in Abyssinia: I mean the savage custom of devouring the flesh of the living animal, torn from it while roaring with anguish, and expiring in protracted agony. To eradicate a practice so detestable, and dreadfully cruel, they might [p. 81] consider difficult, if not impossible in the then existing state of society, without interweaving the preservation of so useful an animal, with the indispensable duties of religion. They therefore rendered it sacred.

The Bull was made the emblem of Justice, the vehicle of Siva; and the Cow, a form of Bhavani, and the emblem of the Earth. A mere civil institute, might have been deemed inadequate to work the intended reform. But an indispensable duty, enforced by all the sacred obligations of religion, was thought more likely to produce the effect; as having more hold upon the human mind: especially when that religion was promulgated as the immediate revelation of the Deity.

Mankind naturally rush into contrary extremes under the impulse of religious zeal; and the animal, which had been the subject of voracious cruelty, became the object of religious veneration and worship. When these animals were thus exalted, the slaughter of them was considered as a sacrilege: it was a natural consequence. But superstition did not stop there; the dung came to be considered as pure; the Hindus use it diluted with water, and mixed with earth, to purify their shops and houses: the spot, on which they eat, is plastered with this composition; and the idols are purified by a mixture of the dung, urine, milk, curds, and butter of the animal; nay, a small quantity of the urine is daily sipped by some; every part of the animal is dedicated to some divinity with appropriate invocations; and what originated in policy, has ended in gross superstition. The horrid repasts of the antient world are frequently alluded to. It is said of Orpheus, Cdibus et victu fdo deterruit: notwithstanding which, the Grecians arc reproached by Julius Firmicus with perpetrating these horrid repasts, as part of the ceremony [p. 82] in the DionysiacsVivum lariiaiit detitihus tauftmt, crudes epulas ammis commemorationibus excifantesand againIllic in orgiis Bacchi, inter ehrias puellas et vino untos senes, cum Scelerum Pompa procederet, alter nigro amictu teter alter, ostenso angue terribils; alter, cruentus ore, dum viva Pecoris membra discerpit. Jul. Firmic. De errore profanum Religion.

This horrid custom was very antient; and I suppose, with Mr. Bruce, that the prohibitions in Deuteronomy were particularly levelled at this execrable practice; and this evidence, I think, strongly corroborates my supposition. The Egyptians seem to have extended this policy to sheep and goats: for the ram was worshipped at the vernal equinox and the goat was worshipped at Memphis.


Several points, relative to the religious ceremonies of the Hindus, and their mythology, which the preceeding Essay has touched upon, seem to require elucidation, independently of the purpose, for which they have been there mentioned. The following remarks are therefore subjoined, with a view of adding some information on those subjects.

P. 68. The eight Sactis or energies of as many Deities, are also called Mtris or mothers. They are named Brahmi, &c. because they issued from the bodies of Brahma and the other gods respectively.

[p. 83]

In some places, they are thus enumerated: Brahmi, Maheswari, Aindri, Varahi, Vaishnavi, Caumari, Chamunda, and Charchica. However, some authorities reduce the number to seven; omitting Chamunda and Charchica; but inserting Cauveri.

Prayers are addressed to the Matris on various occasions; especially in the Cavachas, or defensive incantations. I shall cite two by way of example; and subjoin extracts from the Mrcandiya purna, descriptive of these goddesses.

"May Brahmani, conferring the benefit of all benedictions, protect me on the east; and Narayani, on the south-east, for the sake of realising every wish Maheswari too, on the south, rendering every thing auspicious; Chamunda, on the south-east, discomfiting all enemies; and, on the west, Caumari, armed with her lance and slayer of foes: on the north-west, Apajrajita, the beauteous giver of Victory; on the north, Varahi, granter of boons; and on the north-east, Narsinhi, the banisher of terror. May these mothers, being eight Deities and active powers, defend me."

Another incantation simply enumerates the same eight goddesses; and proceeds thus: "may these and all Mtris guard me with their respective weapons, on all quarters and on every point."

In the Devi mhtmya, the assembling of the Mtris to combat the demons is thus described. "The energy of each god, exactly like him with the same form, the same decoration, and the same vehicle, came to fight against the demons. The Sacti; of Brahma, girt with a white cord and bearing a hollow gourd, arrived on a car yoked with swans; her [p. 84] title is Brahmani. Maheswari came riding on a bull, and bearing trident, with a vast serpent for a ring, and a crescent for a gem. Caumari bearing a lance in her hand, and riding on a peacock, being Amblica in the form of Carticeya, came to make war on the children of Diti. The Sacti named Vaishnavi also arrived, sitting on an eagle, and bearing a conch, a discus, a club, a bow, and a sword, in her several hands. The energy of Hari, who assumed the unrivalled form of the holy boar, likewise came there, assuming the body of Varahi. Narasinhi too arrived there embodied in a form precisely similar to that of Nrisinha, with an erect mane, reaching to the host of stars. Aindri came, bearing the thunderbolt in her hand, and riding on the king of elephants, and in every respect like Indra, with a hundred eyes. Lastly, came the dreadful energy named Chandiga, who sprung from the body of Devi, horrible, howling like a hundred shakals: she, surnamed, Aparajita, the unconquered goddess, thus addressed Isana, whose head is encircled with his dusky braided locks."

The story, which is too long for insertion in this place, closes with these words: "Thus did the wrathful host of Matris slay the demons."

In the Utlara Calpa of the same Purna, the Matris are thus described, "Chamunda standing on a corpse, Vakahi sitting on a buffalo, Aindri mounted on an elephant, Vaishnavi borne by an eagle, Maheswari riding on a bull, Caumari conveyed by a peacock, Brahmi carried by a swan, and Aparajita revered by the universe, are all Matris endowed with every faculty."

It may be proper to notice, that Chamunda Charchica, and Chandica, are all forms of Parvati. According to one legend. Cha- [p. 85] munda sprung from the frown of Parvati, to slay the demons Chanda and Munda. According to another, the mild portion of Parvati issued from her side, leaving the wrathful portion, which constitutes Cali or the black goddess. Cauveri is the energy of Cuvera, the deformed god of Riches. Narasani, mentioned by Mr. Paterson, and also in the prayers or incantations above cited, is the same with Vaishnavi.

P. 69. Anna-purna devi, or the goddess who fills with food, is the beneficent form of Bhavani; and very similar to Lacshmi or the goddess of abundance, though not the same Deity. She is described, and her worship is inculcated, in some of the Tantras; but not in the Purnas, so far as I can learn, except in the Siva purna; and the legends, concerning her, are not numerous. She has a temple at Benares, situated near that of Visweswara. In addition to Mr. Paterson's quotations, it may be observed, that Silius Italicus (Punic. 8, v. 28, 184) makes the nymph, who was worshipped in Italy, to have been Anna, the sister of Dido: and Macrobius says (Sat. 1, c. 12), sacrifices, both public and private, were offered by the Romans to Anna perenna; ut annare, perouiarcque commodii Viceat.

Perhaps Anna-purna may bear affinity to An-Nona. Certainly this term, either in its literal sense, or as a personification (Spence's Polymetis, dial. 10), is nearer to the Sanscrit anna, food; than to its supposed root annus, a year.

P. 74. The Jala yatra, here mentioned, is not universally or generally celebrated; and accordingly it is not noticed in various treatises on the calendar [p. 85] of Hindu feasts and holidays. The Vishnu d'hermottara, cited in the Madana ralna, does indeed direct, that, on this day (11th Bhdra in the bright fortnight), a jar of water, with certain other specified articles, be given to a priest; and the Bhawishya requires, that Jana'bdana, or Vishnu, be worshipped with appropriate prayers: but the ceremony, to which Mr. Paterson alludes, must be a different one; and, if I am rightly informed, a festival, which bears the designation mentioned by him (Jalaytra), is celebrated at the temple of Jagannatha, and perhaps at some other places.

P. 77. At most festivals, no less than at that of Durga, a jar of water is placed, and consecrated by prayers, invoking the presence of the deity or deities who are on that occasion worshipped: adding also invocations to Ganga and the other holy rivers. When the celebration of the festival is completed, the holy water, contained in the jar, is employed by the priests to sprinkle or to bathe the person, who commands and defrays the celebration.

Various yantras, or mystical figures and marks, are appropriated to the several Deities, and to the different titles of each Deity. Such figures are usually delineated on the spot, where a consecrated jar is to be placed. These yantras, which are supposed by superstitious Hindus to possess occult powers, are taught m great detail by the Tantras or Agama Sastra: but seem to be unknown to the Vedas and Purnas.

P. 78. The Holica is said, in some Purna, to have been instituted by the king Ambarisha (the great grandson of Bhaciratha), according to instructions from Nareda, for the purpose of counteracting a female demon Dhundha, whose [p. 87] practice it was to destroy children. In its origin, this festival does not seem to have had any connexion with the vernal equinox, nor with the close of the year; but with the close of winter and the beginning of Vasania, or the Indian spring. However, it now corresponds with the end of the lunar year, and the approach of the equinox.

P. 79. The Tila sancranti, or day on which the sun passes from Dhanush into the sign Macara, is the festival of the winter solstice. It must have been so fixed, at the period when the Indian calendar for the solar year was reformed, and the origin of the ecliptick was referred to the first degree of Mesliu. It derives its name from the ordained use of lila or seed of Indian sesamum, six different ways, in food, ablutions, gifts, and offerings: or, according to a vulgar explanation, it is so called, because thenceforward the days increase at the rate of a tila or grain of sesamum in each day. A similar festival is regulated by the lunar month; and has several times shifted its day. It is kept on the twelfth of the bright half of Magha, according to the Vishnu d'hermottara; and on the eleventh, according to other authorities. Probably it once belonged to the first day of the lunar Magha.

The Vstu puja, as an annual ceremony, is peculiar to D'hc and districts contiguous to that province: but is not practised in the western parts of Bengal; and, so far as I am informed, is altogether unknown in other parts of India. The word Vastu signifies, not the habitable earth in general, but the site of a house or other edifices in particular.


1 Ahilya, wife of Gotama.
2 Raya Mucuta'oa the Ameracosha.