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The fact that a third reprint of this complete edition of 
the Abbe Dubois' Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies 
has been called for within a period of a few years is sufficient 
proof of the high value which is still attached to the Abbe's 
observations and of the wide popularity which his work 
still enjoys. It was stated in my Preface to the first 
edition : — ' The impression may be felt in many minds 
that a book written so long ago can be of little practical 
use at present ; but the fact is that the Abbe's work, 
composed as it was in the midst of the people themselves, 
is of a unique character, for it combines, as no other work 
on the Hindus combines, a recital of the broad facts of 
Hindu religion and Hindu sociology with many masterly 
descriptions, at once comprehensive and minute, of the 
vie intime of the people among whom he lived for so many 
years. With any other people than the Hindus such 
a work would soon grow out of date ; but with them the 
same ancestral traditions and customs are followed nowadays 
that were followed hundreds of years ago, at least by the 
vast majority of the population.' 

Not only in India but also in the United Kingdom and 
the Colonies, as well as in several countries of Europe and 
in the United States of America, reviews and notices of 
the work have appeared, bearing invariable testimony to 
the conspicuous merits of the Abbe's work. I may add 
that it formed the subject of the annual address of a learned 
President of the Royal Historical Society, and of the Presi- 
dential Address at an annual meeting of the Hindu Social 


Conference by the late Mr. Justice Ranade, the famous 
Mahratta Brahmin leader of Bombay ; and it also furnished 
a text for some observations in an important speech delivered 
in Bombay by the late Viceroy and Governor- General of 
India, Lord Curzon. 

What may be regarded as still more satisfactory, perhaps, 
is that by the Indians themselves the work has been received 
with universal approval and eulogy. The general accuracy 
of the Abbe's observations has nowhere been impugned ; 
and every Indian critic of the work has paid a warm tribute 
to the Abbe's industry, zeal, and impartiality. Perhaps 
I may quote in conclusion here the opinion expressed by 
one of the leading Indian newspapers, The Hindu, which 
in the course of a long review of the book, remarked : 
' It is impossible to run through the immense variety of 
topics touched in this exceedingly interesting book ; but 
we entirely agree with Mr. Beauchamp in his opinion that 
the book is as valuable to-day as it ever was. It contains 
a valuable collection of information on a variety of subjects, 
including ceremonies and observances which might pass 
as trifles in the eye of many an ordinary person. The 
Abbe's description might be compared with the experience 
of the modern Hindu, who will find that while the influence 
of English education is effecting a quiet and profound 
change and driving the intellectual and physical faculties 
of the people into fresh grooves, the bulk of the people, 
whom that influence has not reached, have remained 
substantially unaltered since the time of the French 

H. K. B. 

Madras, October, 1905. 


By the Right Hon. F. Max Muller 

It is difficult to believe that the Abbe Dubois, the author 
of Mozurs, Institutions et Ceremonies des Pewples de VInde, 
died only in 1848. By his position as a scholar and as 
a student of Indian subjects, he really belongs to a period 
previous to the revival of Sanskrit studies in India, as 
inaugurated by Wilkins, Sir William Jones, and Cole- 
brooke. I had no idea, when in 1846 I was attending 
in Paris the lectures of Eugene Burnouf at the College de 
France, that the old Abbe was still living and in full activity 
as Directeur des Missions Etrangeres, and I doubt whether 
even Burnouf himself was aware of his existence in Paris. 
The Abbe belongs really to the eighteenth century, but as 
there is much to be learnt even from such men as Roberto 
de' Nobili, who went to India in 1606, from H. Roth, 
who was much consulted by Kircher in his China Illustrata 
(1667), and others, so again the eighteenth century was 
by no means devoid of eminent students of Sanskrit, of 
Indian religion, and Indian subjects in general. It is true 
that in our days their observations and researches possess 
chiefly a historical interest, but they are by no means to 
be neglected. They make us see how the acquaintance of 
European scholars with India began, and under what 
circumstances the first steps were taken by these pioneers, 
chiefly missionaries, towards acquiring a knowledge of the 
ancient language of India, Sanskrit, and through it, towards 
gaining an acquaintance with one of the most interesting 
peoples and one of the richest and most original literatures 
of the world. The reports sent from India by the Pere 
Cceurdoux (1767), and published by Barthelemy in the 
Memoirs of the French Academy, the letters of the Pere 


In the Library of the Madras Literary Society and 
Auxiliary of the Royal Asiatic Society may be seen, in 
a conspicuous position above one of the doorways, a 
striking portrait in oil-colours. This portrait at a distance 
one takes to be that of some Hindu, clothed in white, 
wearing a white turban, and holding in one hand the 
bamboo staff that tradition assigns to a Hindu pilgrim. 
A closer inspection, however, shows that in reality it is 
the portrait of a European, albeit the face is so tanned, 
and so furrowed with the lines of age and thought, that 
the first impression that one receives of it is not easily 
dispelled. It is a face that literally speaks to you from 
the canvas. The broad forehead, the well-shaped but 
somewhat prominent nose, the firm but kindly mouth, 
and above all the marvellously intelligent eyes, all bespeak 
a man of no common mould. Whoever the artist was 
(and I have not been able to discover his name or the 
circumstances which led to his executing the work), there 
can be no doubt that he has succeeded in depicting a 
countenance that is full of character ; while as a back- 
ground to his picture he has painted a low range of bare, 
rugged hills that seem to be in thorough keeping with his 
subject, and to suggest, as a kind of inspiration, the hard, 
self-denying, but solid life-work of him whose features he 
has handed down. 

This portrait is that of the Abbe J. A. Dubois, a Christian 
Missionary who laboured for some thirty-one years in India, 
.striving to fulfil the task which his sense of religious duty 
imposed upon him. Merely in this respect one can claim 


for him no special merit, for the annals of Christian Missions 
in India are full of the names of those who spent them- 
selves and were spent in the service of their Master. His 
special claim to recognition will be found elsewhere, namely, 
in the wonderful record which he compiled of the manners, 
customs, institutions, and ceremonies of the people among 
whom he lived and moved and had his being for so great 
a portion of his life. He seems to have recognized from 
the very first day of his arrival in India that Christian 
Mission work meant something more than the mere preach- 
ing and expounding of the Gospel ; that it included among 
its chief essentials to success a long and thorough study of 
the innermost life and character of the people amidst 
whom it was to be carried on. In his day, it must be 
remarked, there were no royal roads to such knowledge. 
There were no text-books to prepare the way by their 
critical analyses of the sacred Hindu writings. Such 
knowledge had to be gained at first hand, and by the more 
laborious (though, it must be confessed, more sure) method 
of personal inquiry in situ. ' I had no sooner arrived 
amongst the natives of India,' the Abbe himself tells us, 
' than I recognized the absolute necessity of gaining their 
confidence. Accordingly I made it my constant rule to 
live as they did. I adopted their style of clothing, and 
I studied their customs and methods of life in order to be 
exactly like them. I even went so far as to avoid any 
display of repugnance to the majority of their peculiar 
prejudices. By such circumspect conduct I was able to 
ensure a free and hearty welcome from people of all castes 
and conditions, and was often favoured of their own accord 
with the most curious and interesting particulars about 

Unfortunately such details concerning the Abbe's per- 
sonal history as we possess are extremely meagre. His 

a 3 


modesty is so extreme that he rarely appears in his own 
person throughout his work, and those particulars that 
I have been able to obtain have been culled from various 
other sources — chiefly from the Madras Government 
Secretariat, from the British Museum, and from the Missions 
ttrangeres. The absolute retirement of the Abbe from 
European society for a long series of years after his arrival 
in India, though it qualified him, as was said when his 
work first appeared, ' for penetrating into the dark and 
unexplored recesses of the Hindu character,' also veiled 
him in an equal degree from the curiosity of his readers. 
Major Mark Wilks, the accomplished historian of Mysore, 
who in those days was British Resident in that province, 
in introducing the Abbe's work to the notice of the Govern- 
ment of Fort St. George, remarked : ' Of the history and 
character of the author, I only know that he escaped from 
one of the fusillades of the French Revolution and has 
since lived amongst the Hindus as one of themselves : 
and of the respect which his irreproachable conduct in- 
spires, it may be sufficient to state that when travelling, on 
his approach to a village, the house of a Brahmin is uni- 
formly cleared for his reception, without interference, 
and generally without communication to the officers of 
Government, as a spontaneous mark of deference and 
respect.' Subsequently, however, Major Wilks became 
much more intimate with the Abbe, and the latter speaks 
of him years afterwards in terms of great affection as his 
patron and friend. With regard to the circumstance 
mentioned above as having induced him to leave France 
and come to India, the Abbe remarked afterwards : ' It 
is quite true that I fled from the horrors of the Revolution, 
and had I remained I should in all probability have fallen 
a victim, as did so many of my friends who held the same 
religious and political opinions as myself ; but the truth 


is I embarked for India some two years before the fusillades 
referred to took plaee.' 

Be this as it may, I have aseertained that the Abbe 
was ordained in the diocese of Viviers in 1792, at the 
age of twenty- seven, and left France in the same year. 
He entered on his Mission work under the guidance of the 
Missions Strange res. On reaching India he was attached 
to the Pondicherry Mission ; and for the first few years he 
seems to have laboured in what are now the Southern 
Districts of the Madras Presidency. He must have quickly 
made for himself a name, for on the fall of Seringapatam 
he was specially invited, on the recommendation, it is 
said, of Colonel Wellesley, afterwards Duke of Wellington, 
to visit the capital of Mysore in order to reconvert and 
reorganize the Christian community which had been forcibly 
perverted to Mahomedanism by Tippu Sultan. En passa?U, 
I may mention that, through the influence of the Abbe in 
Mysore, not a single priest of the Missions ^trangeres was 
persecuted by Tippu. For these apostates, we learn, he 
pleaded eloquently before Mgr. Champenois, the Bishop, 
and with such good effect that he once more gathered the 
lost sheep, of whom there were 1,800 in Seringapatam 
alone, into the Christian fold, and established on a per- 
manent basis the Roman Catholic Church in the province 
of Mysore. Of the practical farsightedness which guided 
him in his work, we may judge by two incidents that have 
been incidentally recorded of him. He met the problem 
of the poverty of the people committed to his care by 
founding agricultural colonies on the lines that have 
during these past few years been advocated by the Salvation 
Army and others, his principal colony being at Sathalli, 
near Hassan ; and he used his influence to such good 
effect in preventing epidemics of small-pox by promoting 
vaccination (then, be it remembered, a comparatively novel 


idea) that he was afterwards granted a special pension by 
the East Indian Company. ' The literary reputation which 
M. Dubois has acquired in this country,' wrote one of his 
colleagues, M. Mottet, in 1823, ' is the least of his merits. 
He has honoured and served the mission in every way, 
and perhaps more than any one of us. The Indians had 
the greatest attachment, confidence and respect for him.' 
M. Launay, in his recently published Histoire des Missions 
de Vlnde, remarks : ' Among other benefits which he con- 
ferred upon his flock, may be mentioned his zeal in estab- 
lishing agricultural colonies, and also introducing vaccina- 
tion to stay the ravages of small-pox ; in which, in spite 
of the extraordinary tenacity of native prejudice, he 
succeeded so fully that in 1803-4 a total of 25,432 natives 
were vaccinated and registered ; in memory of which the 
natives still remember him by the title of " Doddhaswa- 
miayavaru," or " Great Lord." M. Launay adds that in 
some parts, especially at Karumattampatty, he is spoken 
of to this day as ' the prince's son, the noblest of Euro- 

For the moment let us return to the great descriptive 
work which he compiled during his hours of leisure. That 
the Abbe was from the first a close observer of the people 
among whom he lived and a keen student of their religious 
and social institutions is perfectly apparent. But the idea 
of putting the results of his investigations into writing 
originated, as he tells us, ' in consequence of notices in the 
public papers calling for authentic documents regarding 
these people for the use of the historiographers of the 
Honourable Company engaged in writing the history of 
India.' The idea once formed, he set to work with charac- 
teristic thoroughness, though with too much modesty he 
remarks : ' I aim not at the rank of an author, which is 
suited neither to my talents nor to the secluded state in 


which my profession confines me amongst the natives of 
the country.' He remarks further, however : ' During my 
long sojourn in India I never let slip any opportunity of 
collecting materials and particulars of all sorts. My in- 
formation has been drawn partly from the books which 
are held in highest estimation amongst the people of India 
and partly from such scattered records as fell by chance 
into my hands and contained facts upon which I could 
thoroughly rely. But in regard to the majority of the 
materials which I now offer to the public I am chiefly 
dependent on my own researches, having lived in close 
and familiar intercourse with persons of every caste and 
condition of life. Probably many Europeans settled in 
India would have been more capable than myself of per- 
forming the same task ; but I may be permitted to doubt 
whether there has been any person more favourably 
situated for gleaning information or more zealous in his 
pursuit of knowledge.' 

At the same time he disclaims for his work any general 
applicability to the whole of India. His observations 
extend, broadly speaking, to the India that lies south of 
the Vindyan Range ; and even within those limits he is 
careful to remark that local differences are so many and 
so marked that ' there is no class or sect or community of 
Hindus that has not, in addition to the general rules 
of Hindu society, some domestic usages peculiar to itself.' 
So that, as he says, it is impossible to generalize with 
complete accuracy on any subject connected with them. 

But though the Abbe with characteristic modesty leaves 
to ' the many learned Europeans residing in the country ' 
the task of compiling from authentic documents ' a more 
methodical and comprehensive history of the Hindus,' his 
own work possesses special merits of its own and is far 
superior to any that could be compiled from books of 


reference and literary investigations, for, as Major Wilks 
said of it, ' it was meditated and composed in the midst of 
the people whom it describes, and in writing it the author 
followed the only path that has ever yet led to a true 
delineation of national character, namely, the path of 
original research and personal observation.' 

The French MS. of the work which the Abbe compiled 
under the circumstances and according to the design 
above described has a somewhat remarkable history. In 
its original form it was placed in the hands of Major Wilks 
in the year 1806, when the Abbe had been some fourteen 
years in the country. Major Wilks appears to have kept 
it by him and studied it for more than a year, and then 
to have forwarded it to the Government of Fort St. George 
with a letter of warm recommendation, in which he re- 
marked : ' So far as my previous information and sub- 
sequent inquiry have enabled me to judge, it contains the 
most correct, comprehensive, and minute account extant 
in any European language of the customs and manners 
of the Hindus.' This judgement was heartily endorsed 
by Sir James Mackintosh, to whom Major Wilks would 
appear to have sent it for his opinion, and also by Mr. W. 
Erskine, of Bombay, a man of distinguished talents and 
an acknowledged authority in everything connected with 
the mythology, literature, customs, and institutions of the 
people of India. Fortified in his own opinion of its high 
merits by the concurrence of these two eminent men, 
Major Wilks had no difficulty in persuading Lord William 
Bentinck, who was then at Madras, to purchase the MS. 
on behalf of the East India Company, the sum eventually 
agreed upon being 2,000 star pagodas (i.e. in the present 
currency some 8,000 rupees). In accordance with the 
Abbe's request this sum was invested in Government 
paper and the interest paid to him regularly afterwards 


— a modest sum, no doubt, judged by latter-day standards 
of literary remuneration ; but, then, the Abbe's wants 
were modest. According to Major Wilks all that he hoped 
for was ' a recompense sufficient to shield his future life 
from those miseries of extreme want which he had once 
already encountered.' 

In summing up his own opinion of the Abbe's work 
Lord William Bentinck remarked with characteristic can- 
dour and good sense : — 

' The result of my own observation during my residence 
in India is that the Europeans generally know little or 
nothing of the customs and manners of the Hindus. We 
are all acquainted with some prominent marks and facts, 
which all who run may read ; but their manner of think- 
ing, their domestic habits and ceremonies, in which cir- 
cumstances a knowledge of the people consists, is, I fear, 
in great part wanting to us. We understand very imper- 
fectly their language. They perhaps know more of ours ; 
but their knowledge is by no means sufficiently extensive 
to give a description of subjects not easily represented by 
the insulated words in daily use. We do not, we cannot, 
associate with the natives. We cannot see them in their 
houses and with their families. We are necessarily very 
much confined to our houses by the heat ; all our wants 
and business which would create a greater intercourse 
with the natives is done for us, and we are in fact strangers 
in the land. I have personally found the want of a work 
to which reference could be made for a just description 
of the native opinions and manners. I am of opinion that, 
in a political point of view, the information which the 
work of the Abbe Dubois has to impart might be of the 
greatest benefit in aiding the servants of the Government 
in conducting themselves more in unison with the customs 
and prejudices of the natives.' 

The purchase of the MS. was reported by the Madras 
Government to the Board of Directors in 1807 as ' an 
arrangement ... of great public importance ' ; and the 
MS. itself was transmitted to London at the same time for 


translation and publication. It was not until 1816, how- 
ever, that the English translation was actually published, 
with the sanction of the East India Company and under 
the personal supervision of Major Wilks. Meanwhile a 
copy of the MS. in the records of Fort St. George had 
in 1815 attracted the attention of Mr. A. D. Campbell, 
Superintendent of the Local Board of Examiners, who, 
in apparent ignorance of the fact that the original copy 
had been sent to England for publication, proposed to 
publish an annotated edition of it in Madras. Accordingly 
he commenced the task ; but almost immediately he 
reported to the Local Government as follows : — 

' I soon found enough to satisfy me that it would be 
unfair to proceed further in this pursuit without first 
affording the author an opportunity of revising his work, 
being convinced that the increased experience of the Abbe 
Dubois and his further acquaintance with the customs and 
habits of the Hindus would enable him to correct many 
parts of the MS., and to add new information on the very 
curious and interesting subjects on which it treats. I have 
now the honour of submitting to the Board the reply of 
the Abbe Dubois to a reference which I made to him on 
this subject, and it will thence be perceived that, notwith- 
standing the very favourable manner in which the accuracy 
of the facts stated in the MS. has been mentioned by 
Colonel Wilks, the author admits that the work requires 
" considerable alterations " and " many additions," and 
that " there are chapters which ought to be entirely made 
again." ' 

It is from this point that the history of the MS. becomes 
most interesting. It appears from a careful examination 
which I have made of the records in the Madras Govern- 
ment Secretariat (which records include several letters in 
the Abbe's own handwriting) that the MS. was sent back 
to the Abbe for his additions, excisions, and corrections, 
and that these were verv considerable. Indeed the MS. 


was completely altered, recast and enlarged, until it bore 
hardly more resemblance to the original work than a rough 
outline sketch does to a finished picture. 

And yet this rough sketch, so to speak, has up to this 
day been all that English readers have had presented to 
them of the Abbe's work. I do not for one moment desire 
to detract from the artistic and literary value of that sketch, 
admirable as it is, and as it has been acknowledged to be 
by the authorities quoted above. But what I do mean to 
say is that the sketch is only an extremely poor representa- 
tion of what the Abbe's great work really was. 

The true history was this. When the MS. was returned 
to him in 1815, the Abbe put into it all the additions and 
corrections suggested by many years of additional study 
and investigation ; and when he sent it back to the Govern- 
ment of Madras, it was, practically speaking, a different 
work altogether. On receipt of the revised MS. the Govern- 
ment of Madras decided that the only course open to them 
was to send it to the Court of Directors in England, as the 
original MS. had been. Unfortunately, however, before 
the revised MS. could reach England the original draft had 
been translated and published ; and it is this edition which 
has been sold ever since, and upon which the Abbe's repu- 
tation has rested. 

It is true that a so-called ' revised ' edition was published 
some thirty odd years ago, but it was merely a reprint (and 
unfortunately a very considerably curtailed reprint) of the 
original English edition. The only sign that I have been 
able to discover of the revised MS. in the Fort having been 
consulted, is the inclusion of a dedicatory page that had been 
added by the Abbe when he sent his finally corrected copy 
to the Madras Government before leaving India. As far 
as I can ascertain the chief effect of this new edition was 
a demand for a verbatim reprint of the original edition 


which had been so arbitrarily cut down ; and this was 
almost immediately supplied by the publishers. 

The Abbe, the Local Government, and Mr. Campbell, it 
may be remarked, were all in hopes that a second revised 
edition would be published containing the corrections and 
additions that had subsequently been made ; but for some 
reason or another this has never hitherto been done. 

The view which the Abbe took of the edition, as it ap- 
peared, is expressed in a letter in English (of which he had 
a good knowledge) addressed to the Madras Government, 
dated Seringapatam, February 20, 1818, with which letter 
he submitted still further revisions. The Abbe remarked 
therein : — 

1 Since I wrote my last additions and corrections, a gentle- 
man in the place having favoured me for my perusal with 
a copy of the English translation of the work, I was sorry 
to observe that, owing perhaps to some oversight on the 
part of the copyists of my original MS., or other accidents, 
many interesting, authentic, and quite unexceptionable 
paragraphs, and in some instances whole pages, had been 
passed over, which circumstance occasions chasms in the 
narrative and otherwise renders the descriptions very im- 
perfect, and in a few instances contradictory. These dif- 
ferences are pointed out and corrected in the accompanying 
sheets ; and the other inaccuracies to be found in the 
original MS. and the translation were fully corrected and 
the work considerably enlarged in the additions sent before 
to Government. I therefore request that the accompanying 
accounts may be sent without delay to the Hon'ble the 
Court of Directors to be added to the former ones, in order 
that if the work goes through a second edition it may be 
made as interesting and curious as it lies in my power to do.' 

Nor were these the last corrections made in the text of 
his work by the good Abbe, for three years later, and a short 
time before he left India for good and all, he sent a fair copy 
of his 'finally corrected' work to the Madras Government. 


which, like the two former MSS., was sent to England and 
is now in the India Office Library. One copy of this, I may 
mention, was taken by the Abbe to France, and was pub- 
lished in the original French. The number issued was 
however small, and copies of it are now almost unprocurable. 
And another copy of the MS. was left in the records of Fort 
St. George. This last-named copy I have carefully com- 
pared with the English translation which has hitherto been 
available to the public, and the comparison has shown me 
how vastly superior in every way (I might say every page) 
is the Abbe's later and unpublished work as contrasted 
with his first draft, composed sixteen years earlier, which 
despite its imperfections has enjoyed so much popularity 
amongst English students of Hinduism. 

It is certainly very strange that all the facts which I have 
detailed above have never before attracted attention, and 
that although copies of the Abbe's finally completed work 
are to be found in the records of the India Office and of the 
Government of Madras, it has never before been discovered 
that the published English edition is not in reality a com- 
plete or true representation of the Abbe's long labours in 
the field of original research. For all that, however, this 
edition has been largely drawn upon by English writers, 
chief amongst whom we may mention Mill, the historian of 
India, while Oriental students like Professor Wilson have 
acknowledged the assistance it afforded them, and in the 
British Museum there is a copy of it containing a manuscript 
note by Coleridge which shows that the poet had gone to 
it for inspiration. ' This is the honestest book of the kind,' 
Coleridge pronounced, 'as written by a Frenchman, that 
I have ever read.' 

Now, if this faulty English edition has been so widely 
consulted and so frequently extolled, an English edition 
of the Abbe's revised work ought to be infinitely more 


valuable. This was tho thought which presented itself to 
me when I discovered, almost accidentally, while looking 
through the French MS. in the Madras Government's 
records, that the good Abbe had never had justice done to 
him. Accordingly, with the permission and with the aid 
of the Madras Government, I have made a verbatim trans- 
lation of the work in its complete form which I here present 
to the public, together with such notes and observations as 
seem necessary to put the text into line with later develop- 
ments and research. 

As to the intrinsic value of the Abbe's work, I have no 
hesitation in saying that it is as valuable to-day as ever it 
was, even more valuable in some respects. It is true that 
a mass of learned literature on the religious and civil life of 
the Hindus has accumulated since the Abbe's days, and it 
is still accumulating ; and the impression may be felt in 
many minds that a book written so long ago can be of little 
practical use at present ; but the fact is that the Abbe's 
work, composed as it was in the midst of the people them- 
selves, is of a unique character, for it combines, as no other 
work on the Hindus combines, a recital of the broad facts 
of Hindu religion and Hindu sociology with many masterly 
descriptions, at once comprehensive and minute, of the vie 
intime of the people among whom he lived for so many years. 
With any other people than the Hindus such a work would 
soon grow out of date ; but with them the same ancestral 
traditions and customs are followed nowadays that were 
followed hundreds of years ago, at least by the vast majority 
of the population. I do not deny that some of the Abbe's 
statements require to be modified in the light of changes 
that have taken place amongst the educated classes since 
the introduction of Western learning, but such necessary 
modifications, which, as remarked above, I have introduced 
in the form of notes, are surprisingly few. Enumerated 


separately by themselves, no doubt these changes might 
furnish material for a substantial volume, for no person 
would now be so foolish as to repeat the assertion so long 
maintained unchallenged that the Hindu nation is completely 
apathetic, unchanging, and non-progressive in the modern 
sense. But in editing the Abbe's work I have confined 
myself to modifying such statements as seemed to require 
modification, and have avoided as far as possible any digres- 
sions that were not suggested by the text itself. 

Petty local differences in civil and religious affairs are 
a marked feature of Hinduism, just as almost innumerable 
subdivisions and sub-sections and sub-sub-sections are a 
marked feature of the caste system. Hence it is that much 
which is perfectly true of one locality is false of another ; 
and accordingly it is impossible to describe the many details 
of Hindu life and character without mental reservations 
as to possible exceptions. Nevertheless, there are certain 
broad, fundamental principles underlying these many 
differences and inequalities ; and it is upon these that the 
Abbe rears the fabric of his extraordinary work. More- 
over, the Abbe appears to me to avoid the many pitfalls of 
this uneven field of investigation with peculiar skill. It 
would be wrong to say that all his observations are generally 
applicable or perfectly just, but, taken as a whole, they 
are remarkably true and unprejudiced. 

I am here tempted to quote at some length the observa- 
tions concerning the Abbe and his researches made by a 
prominent Hindu, the Honourable Dewan Bahadur Srina- 
vasa Raghava Iyengar, CLE., at a meeting of the Madras 
Presidency College Literary Society in May, 1.896. This 
gentleman is well fitted to express an opinion on a subject 
of the kind, for not only has he been for some years past 
Inspector-General of Registration in Madras, a department 
of the public service which in its dealings is in closer touch 



< han any other with the material and social conditions of 
the people themselves, but he is himself the author of 
a most authoritative work on the moral and material pro- 
gress of Southern India under British rule. At the meeting 
referred to he observed : — 

' The Abbe was a most remarkable character, and a study 
of his life cannot fail to be of profit to us all. It has been 
said, and said truly, that one half of the nation does not 
know how the other half lives. The difficulties which a 
foreigner has of understanding the inner life and modes of 
thought of a people to which he does not belong may indeed 
be said to be immense. The Abbe surmounted these 
difficulties by devoting thirty years of his life to his 
subject. To effect his purpose he adopted the garb, the 
manners, and, as he says, even the prejudices of the 
people among whom his lot was cast ; won their respect 
and confidence; and was held by them in quite as much 
reverence as one of their yogis or gurus. The quotations 
from his work show his shrewd common sense, clear-sighted- 
ness, and perfect candour. Any account given by such a 
man of the manners and customs of the people amongst 
whom he lived must in any case be instructive, and I for 
one look forward with great interest to the forthcoming 
revised edition of the Abbe's work.' 

In many respects the Abbe displays a truly wonderful in- 
sight into things. For instance, in his finally corrected work 
there is a passage (evidently a late interpolation) in which 
he sums up in a few brief sentences his opinion of British 
dominion in India, and which is all the more remarkable as 
coming from a Frenchman. In that passage he remarks : — 

' The European Power which is now established in India 
is, properly speaking, supported neither by physical force 
nor by moral influence. It is a piece of huge, complicated 
machinery, moved by springs which have been arbitrarily 
adapted to it. Under the supremacy of the Brahmins the 
people of India hated their government, while they cherished 
and respected their rulers ; under the supremacy of Euro- 
peans they hate and despise their rulers from the bottom of 


their hearts, while they cherish and respect their govern- 
ment. And here I would remark that the rule of all the 
Hindu princes, and often that of the Mahomedans, was, 
properly speaking, Brahminical rule, since all posts of con- 
fidence were held by Brahmins. 

1 If it be possible to ameliorate the condition of the people 
of India I am convinced that this desirable result will be 
attained under the new regime, whatever may be said by 
detractors who are ready to find fault with everything. 
Whatever truth indeed there may be in the prejudiced 
charges, engendered by ignorance and interested motives, 
which are brought against the new order of things, and 
which are perhaps inseparable from every great administra- 
tion, I for one cannot believe that a nation so eminently 
distinguished for its beneficent and humane principles of 
government at home, and above all for its impartial justice 
to all classes alike — I for one cannot believe that this 
nation will ever be blind enough to compromise its own noble 
character by refusing participation in these benefits to a sub- 
ject people which is content to live peaceably under its sway. 

' At the same time I venture to predict that it will attempt 
in vain to effect any very considerable changes in the social 
condition of the people of India, whose character, principles, 
customs, and ineradicable conservatism will always present 
insurmountable obstacles. To make a people happy, it is 
essential that they themselves should desire to be made 
happy and should co-operate with those who are working 
for their happiness. Now, the people of India, it appears 
to me, neither possess this desire nor are anxious to co- 
operate to this end. Every reform which is obviously 
devised for their well-being they obstinately push aside if it 
is likely in the least degree to disturb their manner of living, 
their most absurd prejudice, or their most puerile custom. 

' Nevertheless the justice and prudence which the present 
rulers display in endeavouring to make these people less 
unhappy than they have been hitherto ; the anxiety they 
manifest in increasing their material comfort ; above all, 
the inviolable respect which they constantly show for the 
customs and religious beliefs of the country; and, lastly, 
the protection they afford to the weak as well as to the strong, 
to the Brahmin as to the Pariah, to the Christian, to the 


Mahoiuedan, and to tlie Pagan : all these have contributed 
more to the consolidation of their power than even their 
victories and conquests. . . . 

' It has been asserted that any great power based neither 
on a display of force nor on the affection and esteem of 
subject races is bound sooner or later to topple under its 
own weight. I am far from sharing this opinion altogether. 
The present Government is in a position in which it has 
little or nothing to fear from extraneous disturbance. True 
it is that like all empires it is subject to possible chances of 
internal dissension, military revolt, and general insurrection. 
But I firmly believe that nothing of this sort will happen to 
it so long as it maintains amongst its troops the perfect 
discipline and the sense of comfort which at present exist, 
and so long as it does all in its power to make its yoke scarcely 
perceptible by permitting its subjects every freedom in 
the exercise of their social and religious practices. 

' It is the poverty of the country which in my opinion 
gives most cause for apprehension — a poverty which is 
accompanied by the most extraordinary supineness on the 
part of the people themselves. The question is, will a 
Government which is rightly determined to be neither unjust 
nor oppressive be able always to find within the borders 
of this immense empire means sufficient to enable it to meet 
the heavy expenses of its administration ? But, after all, 
God alone can foretell the destiny of Governments ! ' 

Time has but proved incontestably the truth of these 
far-seeing criticisms. Even the Mutiny is therein antici- 
pated and its chief cause accurately foretold, while nobody 
will deny the justice, even at the present day, of the Abbe's 
observations on the attitude of the natives of India towards 
the British Government and on the difficulties with which 
that Government has to contend in administering its vast 
Eastern empire, according to Western notions of civilization 
andprogress, with the resources that it yields for that purpose. 

There is one other matter which I feel bound to refer 
to before concluding this brief notice of the Abbe's sojourn 
and work in India, and that is the impression he derived 


after three decades of Mission labour as to the possibility 
of converting India to Christianity. I have no wish to 
renew the bitter controversy which ensued on the publi- 
cation of his Letters on the State of Christianity in India 
soon after his return to France ; but no notice of the Abbe's 
career would be complete without some reference to it. 
The purport of those Letters, as I understand them, was to 
assert that, under existing circumstances, there is no human 
possibility of converting the Hindus as a nation to any sect of 
Christianity ; or in the Abbe's own words, ' Let the Christian 
religion be presented to these people under every possible 
light, . . . the time of conversion has passed away, and under 
existing circumstances there remains no human possibility 
of bringing it back.' It would require a reproduction of 
the whole text of these Letters to explain fully the grounds 
upon which the Abbe based a decision so humiliating to 
himself and to his fellow-Christian workers, but the chief 
cause undoubtedly was the invincible barrier of what we 
may call nowadays intellectual Hinduism, but which the 
Abbe called Brahminical prejudice. He refers regretfully 
to the collapse of the Church, with its hundreds of thousands 
of converts, many of them of high caste, established by the 
Jesuits Beschi and de Nobili in Madura ; but at the same 
time he made no concealment of the real causes of their 
failure. ' The Hindus soon found that those missionaries 
whom their colour, their talents, and other qualities had 
induced them to regard as such extraordinary beings, as 
men coming from another world, were in fact nothing else 
but disguised Feringhis (Europeans), and that their country, 
their religion, and original education were the same as those 
of the evil, the contemptible Feringhis who had of late in- 
vaded their country. This event proved the last blow to 
the interests of the Christian religion. No more conversions 
were made. Apostasy became almost general in several 


quarters, and Christianity became more and more an object 
of contempt and aversion in proportion as European manners 
became better known to the Hindus.' 

It is necessary to remark that the Abbe's Letters were 
vehemently answered by the Protestant missionaries, 
Hough and Townley ; but we need not enter into the 
details of the controversy. In another place the Abbe 
remarked : ' Should the intercourse between individuals of 
both nations, by becoming more intimate and more friendly, 
produce a change in the religion and usages of the country, 
it will not be to turn Christians that they will forsake their 
own religion, but rather (what in my opinion is a thousand 
times worse than idolatry) to become mere atheists, and 
if they renounce their present customs it will not be to 
embrace those of Europeans, but rather to become what 
are now called Pariahs.' 

In a word, the Abbe completely despaired of the higher 
castes ever becoming Christians, though he was ready to 
acknowledge that there was a harvest-field among the 
low castes and outcastes. Of his own attempts to convert 
the Hindus he remarks : ' For my part I cannot boast of 
my successes in this sacred career during the period that 
I have laboured to promote the interests of the Christian 
religion. The restraints and privations under which I have 
lived, by conforming myself to the usages of the country ; 
embracing, in many respects, the prejudices of the natives ; 
living like them, and becoming all but a Hindu myself ; in 
short, by being made all things to all men, that I might by 
all means save some — all these have proved of no avail to 
me to make proselytes. During the long period I have lived 
in India in the capacity of a missionary, I have made, with 
the assistance of a native missionary, in all between two 
and three hundred converts of both sexes. Of this number 
two-thirds were Pariahs or beggars ; and the rest were 


composed of Sudras, vagrants, and outcastes of several tribes, 
who, being without resource, turned Christians in order to 
form connexions, chiefly for the purpose of marriage, or 
with some other interested views.' 

These various quotations from the Abbe's Letters are 
likely to inspire indignation among Christian missionaries, 
but his general conclusions certainly find a remarkable 
echo in the following extract on Christianity in Mr. Baines's 
General Report on the Census of 1891 : — 

' Its greatest development is found where the Brah manic 
caste system is in force in its fullest vigour, in the south and 
west of the Peninsula, and amongst the Hill tribes of Bengal. 
In such localities it is naturally attractive to a class of the 
population whose position is hereditarily and permanently 
degraded by their own religion, as Islam has proved in 
Eastern Bengal, and amongst the lowest class of the inhabi- 
tants of the Panjab. We have seen that in the early days 
of Portuguese missionary enterprise, it was found necessary 
to continue the breach that Brahmanic custom had placed 
between certain grades of society and those above them ; 
but in later times, and in foreign missions of the Reformed 
Church, the tendency has been to absorb all caste distinc- 
tions into the general commission of the Christianity of that 
form. The new faith has thus affected the lower classes 
more directly than the upper, who have more to lose socially, 
and less to gain.' . . . 

It may be mentioned that in the agricultural settlement 
of reconverted Christians at Sathalli in Mysore, previously 
alluded to, the inhabitants retained theirHindu caste distinc- 
tions ; and the following observations in Mr. V. N. Narasim- 
miyengar's Mysore Census Report (1891) are noteworthy : — 

' Roman Catholicism is able to prevail among the Hindus 
more rapidly and easily, by reason of its policy of tolerating 
among its converts the customs of caste and social obser- 
vances, which constitute so material a part of the Indian 
social fabric. In the course of the investigations engen- 
dered by the census, several Roman Christian communities 


have been met with, which continue undisturbed in the 
rites and usages which had guided them in their pre-con- 
version existence. They still pay worship to the Kalasam 
at marriages and festivals, call in the Brahmin astrologer 
and purohita, use the Hindu religious marks, and conform 
to various other amenities, which have the advantage of 
minimizing friction in their daily intercourse with their 
Hindu fellow-caste brethren.' 

And yet the Christian native is nowadays but in the 
ratio of seven in a thousand of the whole population. The 
remark accordingly made by the Roman Catholic Bishop 
of Agra to Jacquemont is as applicable now as it was when 
it was uttered in 1828 : ' La caldalja e molto grande, ma la 
carne e molto poca.' 

The last years of the Abbe's life were spent at the head- 
quarters of the Missions Etrangeres at Paris. He left 
India, never to return, on January 15, 1823, his passage 
having been paid by the East India Company and a special 
pension settled upon him for life in recognition of the 
many services which he had rendered in India. On his re- 
turn to Paris he was at once made Director of the Missions 
Etrangeres, and from 1836 to 1839 he filled the post of 
Superior. During his leisure he found time to translate into 
French the whole of the Pancha-tantra, the famous book of 
Hindu fables, a"hd also a work which he entitled The Exploits 
of the Guru Paramarta. He lived for no less than a quarter 
of a century after returning to Europe, and died in 1848 at 
the patriarchal age of eighty- three. 

In conclusion I desire to acknowledge the kind assist- 
ance and advice which I have received from many Hindu 
friends and others while editing the Abbe's work r especially 
do I desire to acknowledge the help rendered to me by 
Mr. C. V. Munisawmy Iyer, a Brahmin gentleman, who 
associated himself with me in the revision of the proofs. 

H. K. B. 
MADRAS, /September, 1897. 


Portrait or Dubois Frontispiece 


Editor's Preface to Third Edition 





Prefatory Note by Max Muller 

Editor's Introduction . 

Author's Preface 


General View of Society in India, and General Remarks 
on the Caste System. 

Chapter I. Division and Subdivision of Castes. — Castes pecu- 
liar to certain Provinces. — Particular Usages of some Castes. 
— Division of Castes founded on Parentage. — Subordination of 
Castes. — Outward Signs of certain Castes. — Division of Caste- 
groups into Right-hand and Left-hand 14-27 

Chapter II. Advantages resulting from Caste Divisions. — 
Similar Divisions amongst many Ancient Nations . . . 27-37 

Chapter III. Expulsion from Caste. — Cases in which such De- 
gradation is inflicted. — By whom inflicted. — Restoration to Caste. 
—Methods of effecting it 38-44 

Chapter IV. Antiquity and Origin of Caste .... 44-48 

Chapter V. The Lower Classes of Sudras. — Pariahs. — Chuck- 
lers, or Cobblers, and others equally low. — Contempt in which they 
are held. — Pariahs strictly speaking Slaves. — Washermen, Barbers, 
and some others. — Disrepute into which Mechanical Skill has fallen. 
— Nomads and Vagabonds. — Gypsies. — Quacks. — Jugglers. — Wild 
Tribes, &c. 49-80 

Chapter VI. The Poverty of the Hindus .... 80-97 

Chapter VII. The Mythical Origin of the Brahmins. — Their 
Name and their Original Founders. — Conjectures on their True 
Origin. — Buddhists and Jains ...... 97-108 

Chapter VIII. Different Kinds of Brahmins. — Outward Signs 
by which they are distinguishable ..... 108-111 

Chapter IX. The different Hindu Sects. — Vishnavites and 
Sivaites. — The Exterior Marks and Customs peculiar to each. — 
The Pavadam. — The Mutual Hatreds and Differences between the 
Sects. — Reason for the Dislike which ordinary Brahmins feel for 
Vishnavite Brahmins and those belonging to other Sects. — Sub- 
divisions of the two Principal Sects ..... 111-123 

Chapter X. The Gurus, or Hindu Priests. — The Portrait of a 
true Guru,. — Their Temporal and Spiritual Power. — The Fear and 



Respect that they inspire. — Ecclesiastical Hierarchy composed of 
the Superior and Inferior Priests. — The Honours paid to them. — 
Priestesses 123-133 

Chapter XI. Purohitas, or Priests who officiate at Public and 
Private Ceremonies. — The Hindu Almanac as published by the 
Purohitas 134-138 

Chapter XII. MarUrama. — Their Efficacy. — The Gayatri. — 
The word ' Awn.' — Magic Mantrams 138-143 

Chapter XIII. Explanation of the Principal Ceremonies of 
the Brahmins and of other Castes. — The Sam-kalpa. — Puja. — 
Aratti. — Akshatas. — Pavitram. — Sesamum and Darbha Grass. — 
Puniaha-vacluma. — Panclia-gavia. — Purification of Places where 
Ceremonies take place. — Pandals, or Pavilions made of Leaves 143-155 

Chapter XIV. Ceremonies to be observed after a Woman's Con- 
finement. — Ceremonies performed over Infants . . . 155-159 


The Four States of Brahminical Life. 

Chapter I. The Bralimachari. — Ceremony of the Upanayana, 
or Investiture of the Triple Cord 160-170 

Chapter II. Conduct of the Brahrnachari. — Rules to be fol- 
lowed. — Rights acquired by investiture with the Cord. — The Six 
Privileges of Brahmins. — The Vedas 170-178 

Chapter III. External Defilements. The care that a Brahmin 
should take to avoid them. — His Conduct in this respect. — Means 
of Purification 178-186 

Chapter IV. Internal Defilements. — Abstinence from all 
Intoxicating Liquors, and from everything that has had Life. — 
Particular Horror of the Brahmins for the Flesh of the Cow. — Their 
Abhorrence of Europeans who eat it as Food . . . 186-194 

Chapter V. Defilements of the Soul, and the Means of Purifica- 
tion. — Places of Purification. — Sins for which there is no Forgive- 
ness. — Conjectures on the Origin of Brahmin Customs connected 
with Defilement and Purification. — Defilement by Europeans, and 
an Incident which happened to the Author from this Cause . 194-204 

Chapter VI. Marriage amongst Brahmins and other Hindus. 
— Celibacy. — Those who may remain unmarried. — Polygamy 
tolerated only amongst the Upper Classes. — The two Sexes nearly 
equal in numbers. — Indissolubility of the Marriage Tie. — How 
Marriages are arranged. — Preparatory Ceremonies. — Solemn Cere- 
monies for the first and following Days. — Marriage amongst Sudras. 
— Marriage amongst Kshatriyas. — Duties after Marriage . 205-235 

Chapter VII. The Second, or Grahastha, Status of Brahmin. — 
Rules of Life which the Brahmin Grahastha should daily follow. — 



Introduction. — Forms to bo observed when relieving Nature and 
when Washing. — Manner of cleansing the Teeth. — Sandhya, Part I. 
— Rules relating to Ablutions. — The Correct Order of Daily Avoca- 
tions. — Rules to be followed when Eating and when going to Bed. 
— Sandhya, Part II. — Mantrams of which the Sandhya is com- 
posed. — Sandhya for Morning, Noon, and Evening. — Conclusion. — 
General Remarks . . 235-269 

Chapter VIII. Brahminical Fasts. — The Custom of. Rubbing 
the Head and Body with Oil. — The Over-indulgence of Brahmins. — 
— Their Scrupulous Observance of Custom. — Reflections on this 
Subject. — Their Samaradhanas, or Public Feasts. — Sudra Feasts 269-281 

Chapter IX. The Kinds of Food expressly forbidden to Brah- 
mins.— Occult Rites.— The Disgusting Rite called Sakti . 282-288 

Chapter X. The Various Occupations of Brahmins . 288-295 

Chapter XL Religious Tolerance amongst the Brahmins. — 
Their Indifference with regard to their own Religion. — Their Sub- 
lime Ideas of the Deity. — A Comparison between them and the 
Greek Philosophers. — The State of Christianity. — The Political 
Intolerance and Ignorant Presumption of Brahmins . . 295-306 

Chapter XII. The Morality of Brahmins. — Their Deceit and 
Dissimulation. — Their Want of Filial Devotion. — Their Inconti- 
nence. — Causes of their Depravity. — Unnatural Offences. — Out- 
ward Decency. — The Chastity of their Women. — Brahmin Methods 
of Revenge. — Brahmin Selfishness 306-315 

Chapter XILT. The Outward Appearance of Brahmins and 
other Hindus. — Their PhysicalDefects. — Remarks on the Kakrelaks 
or Albinoes, as described by Naturalists, who are not allowed Burial 
after Death. — Other Hindus to whom the same Honour is denied. 
— Exhumation of Corpses. — The Feeble Physique of the Hindus. — 
The same Feebleness and Deterioration to be observed throughout 
the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms. — Weakness of the Mental 
Faculties of Hindus. — The Language of the Brahmins. — Their 
Costume.— Their Houses 316-325 

Chapter XIV. Rules of Etiquette amongst Brahmins and 
other Hindus. — Modes of Greeting 326-331 

Chapter XV. The Ornaments worn by Hindus. — The Dif- 
ferent Marks with which they adorn their Bodies . . . 332-335 

Chapter XVI. Brahmin Wives. — The Education of Women. — 
Ceremonies which take place when they arrive at a Marriageable 
Age,and during Pregnancy. — The Low Estimation in which Women 
are held in Private Life. — The Respect that is paid to them in 
Public— Their Clothing and Ornaments .... 336-342 

Chapter XVII. Rules of Conduct for Married Women . 343-349 

Chapter XVIII. Mourning.— The Condition of Widowhood.— 
The General Contempt for Widows. — Remarriages forbidden. 350-355 


Chapter XIX. The Custom which at times obliges Widows to 
allow themselves to be burnt alive on the Funeral Pyre of their 
Deceased Husbands 355-3C7 

Chapter XX. Adoption. — Rules regarding the Partition of 
Property 368-376 

Chapter XXI. The Learning of the Brahmins.— Their Colleges. 
— Astronomy. — Astrology. — Magic 376-392 

Chapter XXII. The Poetry of the Hindus . . . 392-401 

Chapter XXIII. Brahmin Philosophy. — The Six Sects called 
ShanMata.— The Doctrine of the Buddhists . . . . 401-415 

Chapter XXIV. Chronology of the Brahmins. — The Epoch of 
the Flood 415-420 

Chapter XXV. The Epistolary Style of the Brahmins. — Hindu 
Handwriting 420-433 

Chapter XXVI. Hindu Fables 433-450 

Chapter XXVII. Hindu Tales 450-474 

Chapter XXVIII. Niti Slohas, or Moral Stanzas . . 474-482 

Chapter XXIX. The Funeral Ceremonies of Brahmins . 482-489 

Chapter XXX. The Various Ceremonies observed after Burial 
in Honour of the Dead 489-500 

Chapter XXXI. The Third Condition of Brahmins, viz. Yana- 
prastha, or Dweller in the Jungle. — The Respect paid to Yanapras- 
thas. — Conjectures as to their Origin. — Comparison between them 
and the Wise Men of Greece and other Philosophers. — The Rules of 
theVanaprasthas. — Their Renunciation of the World and Pleasures 
of the Senses.— Their Moral Virtues 5C0-509 

Chapter XXXLT. Sacrifices of the Vanaprastlia Brahmins. — 
Sacrifice of the Yagnam. — The Lesser Yagnam. — The Greater 
Yagnam. — The Giants, Enemies of the Vanaprasthas . . 509-517 

Chapter XXXIII. Penance as a Means of purifying the Soul. 
— The Penance of the Yanaprasthas. — Modern Gymnosophists, or 
Naked Penitents.— Purification by Fire .... 517-522 

Chapter XXXIV. The Fourth State of the Brahmins, that 
of the Sannyasi. — Preparation for this Holy State. — Ceremonies 
of Initiation. — Rules to be followed by the Sannyasi . . 522-527 

Chapter XXXV. A Sannyasi' 's Principal Duties. — Meditation. 
— Its Various Stages. — What it consists of, and how Hindu Devo- 
tees practise it. — General Remarks. — Comparisons between the 
Hindu Sannyasis and those who lead Similar Lives among 
Christians . 528-538 

Chapter XXXVI. The Funeral Ceremonies of Brahmin Sann- 
yasis ........... 538-541 

CONTENTS xxxiii 



Chapter I. Origin of the Trimurti and the Primitive Idolatry 
of the Hindus.— Comparison between the Greek and Indian Divi- 
nities. — Peculiar Idolatry of the Hindus. — Worship of the Elements 
represented by the Trimurti 542-555 

Chapter II. Metempsychosis. — Explanation of this Religious 
Doctrine. — Penalties for Different Sins. — The Hindus as Authors 
of the Doctrine of Metempsychosis. — Difference between them and 
the Greeks in this Respect. — Naraka, or Hell ; Punishments en- 
dured there. — Abodes of Bliss ...... 556-567 

Chapter III. Hindu Feasts. — The New- Year Feast. — The 
Feast of the Household Gods. — Commemoration of the Dead. — 
Feast of the Schools. — Feasts in Honour of Serpents. — Military 
Feasts. — The Feast of Lamps. — Sacrifices to Plants. — The Feast 
of the Lingayats. — The Pongvl Ceremonies. — General Remarks 567-577 

Chapter IV. Hindu Temples. — Ceremonies performed inthem. 
— Temples built on Mountains. — Pyramids. — The Architecture of 
Pagodas. — The Shape and Ornaments of the Idols. — Their Conse- 
cration. — Sacred Pillars. — Temple Priests and Servants. — Sacri- 
fices. — Dancing-girls. — Musicians. — Hindu Music. — Brahmin 
Tricks and Artifices for attracting Worshippers. — The Hindu Desire 
for Children. — The Revolting Practices to which they submit to 
obtain them. — Remarkable Ceremonies and Vows. — Prostitution 
in Certain Temples. — Religious Tortures. — The Rape of Women. — 
Famous Temples. — Tirupati. — Jagannath. — Public Processions. 
—General Remarks 577-612 

Chapter V. The Principal Gods of the Hindus. — Brahma. — 
Vi shnu. — Rama. — Krishna. — Siva. — The Lingam. — Vigneshwara. 
— Indra. — The Abodes of Bliss of these Different Gods. — Swarga. 
— Kailasa. — Vaikuniha. — Sattya-loJca ..... 612-636 

Chapter VI. The Worship of Animals. — The Worship of Mon- 
keys.— Of Bulls.— Of the Guruda Bird.— Of Snakes.— Of Fishes.— 
The Worship of BTiootams, or Evil Spirits. — Human Sacrifices 636-648 

Chapter VII. Inanimate Objects of Worship. — The Salagrama 
Stone.— The Tulasi.—Darbha Grass.— The Sacred Fig-Tree . 648-653 

Chapter VIII. The Administration of Civil and Criminal Jus- 
tice. — Customs connected with Usury. — Various Kinds of Punish- 
ment. — Trial by Ordeal. — The Prevalence of Perjury. — Remarks 
on the European Courts of Justice 654-667 

Chapter IX. The Military System of the Hindus.— Ancient 
and Modern Methods of Warfare. — The Material formerly com- 
posing their Armies. — The Military Game of Chess invented by the 
Hindus. — Poligars. — Different Weapons that have been in Use at 
Various Times in India 667-684 


APPENDIX I. The Jains. — Differences between them and the 
Brahmins 685-700 

Appendix II. The Eka-Dasi, or Eleventh Day of the Moon 701-706 

Appendix III. Siva-Ratri, or Siva's Night . . . 706-708 

Appendix IV. Rules of Conduct for Women during their 
Periodical Uncleanness ....... 708-710 

Appendix V. Remarks on the Origin of the Famous Temple 
ofJagannath 710-716 

Appendix VI. Trial by Ordeal.— Its Different Forms . 717-722 
Index .... ..... 723-741 


Though Europeans have possessed settlements in India 
for more than three centuries, it is only within recent 
times that authentic details have been obtained with 
respect to the people who dwell in this vast country and 
whose ancient civilization, methods of government, manners, 
creeds, and customs, are nevertheless so well worthy of 
notice. It is impossible to doubt for a moment that science 
and art nourished amongst these nations at an epoch when 
our most civilized countries of the West were still plunged 
in the dark abyss of ignorance. The various forms of their 
institutions, both political and social ; their knowledge of 
mathematics, especially of astronomy ; their systems of 
metaphysics and ethics : all of these had long ago made 
the people of India famous far beyond their own borders ; 
while the renown of Hindu philosophers had reached even 
Europe. The many ill-informed and often contradictory 
narratives about India which have been published in 
modern times have deservedly fallen into discredit. Yet, 
it must be admitted, some good work has been done by 
certain Literary Societies that have of recent years been 
established in India, the members of which, possessing 
access to original sources of information, have begun to 
survey with a more critical eye these records of divine and 
human knowledge, whose depositaries have hitherto guarded 
them with zealous care behind a veil of mystery. Without 
doubt the members of these Societies, distinguished as they 
mostly are by their erudition, will continue to devote 
special study to the languages of the country and to make 
abundant use of the sources of information open to them. 
Yet, it must be confessed, the information which we possess 
about the people of India is very meagre compared with 
that which it is most important for us to acquire. The 



ancient history of their country is, for one tiling, enshrouded 
in chimera and fable, and, unfortunately, such incoherence 
and such obscurity prevail in their written records, which 
are our only means of really getting at the truth, that it 
is not too much to presume that we shall never succeed in 
throwing proper light on all this mass of absurdities. The 
most popular and best known of these written records are 
the Bd may ana, the Bhagavata, and the Mahdbhdrata ' ; 
but the information which their authors give about the 
dates, events, and duration of the different dynasties ; 
about the heroes of India and their prowess in war ; about 
the various revolutions which occurred in the country and 
the circumstances which led to them ; about the beginnings 
of Hindu polity ; about the discoveries and progress in 
science and art ; in a word, about all the most interesting 
features of history, — all information of this kind is, as it 
were, buried amid a mass of fable and superstition. 

My readers will see in the following pages to what ex- 
tremes the people of India carry their belief in and love 
for the marvellous. Their first historians were in reality 
poets, who seem to have decided that they could not do 
better than compose their poems in the spirit of the people 
for whom they were writing. That is to say, they were 
guided solely by the desire to please their readers, and 
accordingly clothed Truth in such a grotesque garb as to 
render it a mere travesty from an historical point of view. 
The Indian Muse of History thus became a kind of magician 
whose wand performed wonders. The successors of these 
first poet-historians were actuated by the same motives, 
and even thought that it added to their own glory to 
improve on their predecessors and to surpass them in the 
absurdity of their fictions. 

While waiting for inquirers, more skilful than myself, to 
find a way through this labyrinth, which to me is absolutely 
inextricable, I offer to the public a large number of authentic 
records which I have carefully collected, and which, for 
the most part, contain particulars that are either un- 
known or only partially known, in the hope that they 
will be found not altogether devoid of interest. I believe, 

1 These arc the three great Hindu Epic poems. Vide Part II, 
Chapter XXII, and Part III, Chapter V. 


at any rate, that they will be aeknowledged to contain 
some useful materials for future savants who may under- 
take a complete and methodical treatise on the people of 
India, a task which is far beyond my powers and which 
moreover I could not possibly have laid upon myself, 
seeing that I was without literary aids of any kind during 
my long and absolute seclusion amongst the natives of the 

In this new edition the contents of my first MS. have 
been carefully revised and corrected. They have, more- 
over, been considerably augmented by many curious details 
which did not appear in the original document. At the 
same time, I have made no substantial changes in the 
order and classification of the contents. Five or six 
additional chapters, and a number of corrections and im- 
provements in the body of the work, constitute all the 
difference between this and the earlier draft. Since the 
English translation of the latter appeared, great political 
changes have taken place amongst the people whose 
manners and institutions I have sketched ; but, as these 
changes were not taken into account in my original plan, 
I have not considered myself bound, when referring to 
them, to go beyond the limits which I prescribed for myself 
in the first instance. In all that I say about the administra- 
tion of the Peninsula my readers will at once perceive that 
I have in mind the Governments preceding that which has 
now made itself master of the destinies of the Indian people, 
and which has freed them from the iron yoke of a long 
series of arbitrary rulers, under whose oppression they 
groaned during so many centuries. 

This colossal dominion, which a European Government 
has succeeded in establishing in India without any very 
great difficulty and without any very violent shocks, has 
filled the people of India with admiration, and has fully 
convinced the Powers of Asia of the great superiority of 
Europeans in every way, and more especially in the art 
of subjugating and governing nations. 

We too may well wonder at a conquest which appears 
indeed almost miraculous. It is difficult for us to imagine 
how a mere handful of men managed to coerce into sub- 
missive obedience a hundred millions of people, scattered 


over a country which extends for twenty-four degrees of 
latitude north and south and for nearly the same number 
of degrees east and west. And it is still more difficult to 
understand how these few men are able to maintain within 
the bounds of duty and subordination a population whose 
creeds, habits, customs, and manner of life are so absolutely 
different from their own. 

Yet one will have little or no difficulty in accounting for 
such a phenomenon if one examines on the one hand the 
spirit, character, and institutions of the people governed, 
and on the other the system adopted by those governing 
them. The people of India have always been accustomed 
to bow their heads beneath the yoke of a cruel and oppres- 
sive despotism, and moreover, strange to say, have always 
displayed mere indifference towards those who have forced 
them to it. Little cared they whether the princes under 
whom they groaned were of their own country or from 
foreign lands l . The frequent vicissitudes that befell those 
in power were hardly noticed by their subjects. Never did 
the fall of one of these despots cause the least regret ; 
never did the elevation of another cause the least joy. 
Hard experience had taught the Hindus to disregard not 
only the hope of better times but the fear of worse. The 
fable of the ass urged by its master to escape from approach- 
ing robbers is most appropriate to these people. They 
have always considered themselves lucky enough if their 
religious and domestic institutions were left untouched by 
those who by good fortune or force of arms had got hold of 
the reins of government. 

The European Power which is now established in India 
is, properly speaking, supported neither by physical force 
nor by moral influence. It is a piece of huge, complicated 
machinery, moved by springs which have been arbitrarily 
adapted to it. Under the supremacy of the Brahmins the 
people of India hated their government, while they cherished 
and respected their rulers ; under the supremacy of Euro- 
peans they hate and despise their rulers from the bottom 
of their hearts, while they cherish and respect their govern- 
ment. And here I would remark that the rule of all the 

1 This is illustrated in the familiar proverb, ' What matters it whether 
Rama reigns or the Rakshasa (Ravana) reigns ? '— Eu. 


Hindu princes, and often that of the Mahomedans, was, 
properly speaking, Brahminical rule, since all posts of 
confidence were held by Brahmins. 

If it be possible to ameliorate the condition of the people 
of India I am convinced that this desirable result will be 
attained under the new regime, whatever may be said by 
detractors who are ready to find fault with everything. 
Whatever truth indeed there may be in the prejudiced 
charges, engendered by ignorance and interested motives, 
which are brought against the new order of things, and 
which are perhaps inseparable from every great administra- 
tion, I for one cannot believe that a nation so eminently 
distinguished for its beneficent and humane principles of 
government at home, and above all for its impartial justice 
to all classes alike — I for one cannot believe that this 
nation will ever be blind enough to compromise its own 
noble character by refusing participation in these benefits 
to a subject people which is content to live peaceably under 
its sway. 

At the same time I venture to predict that it will attempt 
in vain to effect any very considerable changes in the 
social condition of the people of India, whose character, 
principles, customs, and ineradicable conservatism will 
always present insurmountable obstacles. To make a 
people happy, it is essential that they themselves should 
desire to be made happy and should co-operate with those 
who are working for their happiness. Now, the people of 
India, it appears to me, neither possess this desire nor are 
anxious to co-operate to this end. Every reform which is 
obviously devised for their well-being they obstinately push 
aside if it is likely in the least degree to disturb their manner 
of living, their most absurd prejudice, or their most puerile 

Nevertheless the justice and prudence which the present 
rulers display in endeavouring to make these people less 
unhappy than they have been hitherto ; the anxiety they 
manifest in increasing their material comfort ; above all, 
the inviolable respect which they constantly show for the 
customs and religious beliefs of the country ; and, lastly, 
the protection they afford to the weak as well as to the 
strong, to the Brahmin as to the Pariah, to the Christian, 


to the Mahomedan, and to the Pagan : all those have con- 
tributed more to the consolidation of their power than even 
their victories and conquests. 

There is another circumstance no less remarkable which 
may account for the stability and power of this Govern- 
ment, and that is the sagacity with which it has chosen 
persons to fill places of responsibility under it. For up- 
rightness of character, education, and ability it would be 
hard to find a body of public servants better capable of 
filling with zeal and distinction the offices, more or less 
important, that are entrusted to them. 

During the thirty years spent by me in the various 
provinces of India I have had the honour of knowing 
a very large number of these public servants, and it gives 
me much pleasure to testify here to the many excellent 
qualities which I have almost invariably found them to 
possess. Cast away, as it were, on the shores of this 
foreign land at a time when my own country was a prey 
to all the horrors of a disastrous revolution, I never failed 
to receive from them the warmest hospitality. Even 
when a desperate war might well have given rise to bitter 
prejudice against everything French, I never failed to find 
amongst the rulers of India many friends and benefactors. 
Would that the fear of offending their modesty did not 
forbid my mentioning here in testimony of my regard the 
names of many of them equally distinguished for their 
high merit and for their commanding position. But even 
at the risk of appearing indiscreet I cannot pass over one 
of them in silence. I cannot, in the fullness of my gratitude, 
abstain from mentioning publicly how much I owe to the 
Honourable Mr. Arthur Henry Cole, the British Resident 
in Mysore. This worthy official, whose public and domestic 
virtues, inexhaustible charity, and polished manners are 
recognized throughout the whole of the Peninsula, has 
found a fitting recognition of his fine character in the love 
and respect of the natives subject to his jurisdiction, who 
with one voice have hailed him as the father of their country. 
All that he has done for the natives of Mysore will be long 
remembered by them. As regards myself, nothing can 
equal the many acts of kindness which he has heaped upon 
me during my stay of twenty years in the province subject 


to his authority. If these words ever reach him I trust 
that he will recognize in them the genuine feelings of 
respect and gratitude which I shall ever cherish towards 

One might accuse me of blind prejudice if I went so far 
as to affirm that everybody vested with authority in this 
land was without exception worthy of high praise. The 
fact is, we do not live in an age of miracles. It is probable, 
it is even certain, that not all of those entrusted with the 
supervision of this huge political machinery are influenced 
by the purest motives. And yet the system of watchful 
control is such that any man who allows himself to be 
tempted from the path of duty by greed and avarice 
cannot hope to hide his corrupt doings from the eye of 
superior authority for any length of time. Every subject 
of the dominant power, however humble he may be, is 
allowed the right of free petition ; and this is sufficient 
guarantee that any well-founded grievances will be set 
right, any well-proven abuses put a stop to. 

It has been asserted that any great power based neither 
on a display of force nor on the affection and esteem of 
subject races is bound sooner or later to topple under its 
own weight. I am far from sharing this opinion altogether. 
The present Government occupies a position in which it 
has little or nothing to fear from extraneous disturbance. 
True it is that like all empires it is subject to possible 
chances of internal dissension, military revolt, and general 
insurrection. But I firmly believe that nothing of this 
sort will happen to it so long as it maintains amongst its 
troops the perfect discipline and the sense of comfort 
which at present exist, and so long as it does all in its 
power to make its yoke scarcely perceptible by permitting 
its subjects every freedom in the exercise of their social 
and religious practices l . 

It is the poverty of the country which in my opinion 
gives most cause for apprehension — a poverty which is 
accompanied by the most extraordinary supineness on 
the part of the people themselves. The question is, will 

1 Students of Indian History will bear witness to the wisdom of the 
Abbe's remarks, which subsequent history has so strikingly tended to 
confirm. — Ed. 


a Government which is rightly determined to be neither 
unjust nor oppressive be able always to find within the 
borders of this immense empire means sufficient to enable 
it to meet the heavy expenses of its administration ' ? 
But, after all, God alone can foretell the destiny of Govern- 
ments ! 

But I must return to the contents of my work. During 
my long sojourn in India I never let slip any opportunity 
of collecting materials and particulars of all sorts. My 
information has been drawn partly from the books which 
are held in highest estimation amongst the people of India 
and partly from such scattered records as fell by chance 
into my hands and contained facts upon which I could 
thoroughly rely. But in regard to the majority of the 
materials which I now offer to the public I am chiefly 
dependent on my own researches, having lived in close 
and familiar intercourse with persons of every caste and 
condition of life. Probably many Europeans settled in 
India would have been more capable than myself of per- 
forming the same task ; but I may be permitted to doubt 
whether there has been any person more favourably 
situated for gleaning information or more zealous in his 
pursuit of knowledge. I had no sooner arrived amongst 
the natives of India than I recognized the absolute necessity 
of gaining their confidence. Accordingly I made it my 
constant rule to live as they did. I adopted their style of 
clothing, and I studied their customs and methods of life 
in order to be exactly like them. I even went so far as 
to avoid any display of repugnance to the majority of their 
peculiar prejudices. By such circumspect conduct I was 
able to ensure a free and hearty welcome from people of 
all castes and conditions, and was often favoured of their 
own accord with the most curious and interesting par- 
ticulars about themselves. 

In publishing these records of my researches I have no 
wisli to aspire to literary fame. I have noted down just 
what I saw, just what I heard, just what I read. I have 
aimed only at simplicity and accuracy. If I have here 
and there ventured to give a few opinions and conjectures 

1 Within these few lines the Abbe, with extraordinary insight, has 
embodied the great problem of British administration in India. — Ed. 


of my own, I beg that my readers will not suppose that 
I have done so out of vanity and with the object of posing 
as a profound scholar, which I am not. However severely 
critics may attack my work, they cannot be more keenly 
aware of its imperfections than myself. I know well that 
my researches might have been presented in a form more 
agreeable, more animated, and more methodical. There 
are many matters mentioned by me which called for more 
profound discussion, clearer criticism, and wider treatment. 
A more correct and more brilliant style would have con- 
cealed the dryness of certain details. But I beg indulgent 
readers to consider the circumstances which have prevented 
me from satisfying such conditions. Separated as I was 
for more than thirty years from all intercourse with my 
fellow-countrymen, communicating only rarely and occa- 
sionally with Europeans, passing my whole life in villages 
in the midst of rude cultivators of the soil, deprived of 
all the advantages which great cities offer to those writers 
who are clever enough to profit by the labours of 
their predecessors, prevented from invoking the aid and 
counsel of intelligent men, having no books to refer to 
except my Bible and a few writings without merit and 
without interest which chance rather than choice put into 
my hands, compelled indeed to rely upon the imperfect 
recollection of what I had read and learned in my youth : 
with all these disadvantages it was only to be expected 
that my work would be defective. Nevertheless I am 
persuaded that the notes which I have taken so much 
trouble to collect will afford some useful material to others 
more favourably situated than myself ; and I have there- 
fore no hesitation in offering them to the public. 

There is one motive which above all others has in- 
fluenced my determination. It struck me that a faithful 
picture of the wickedness and incongruities of polytheism 
and idolatry would by its very ugliness help greatly to set 
off the beauties and perfections of Christianity. It was 
thus that the Lacedaemonians placed drunken slaves in 
the sight of their children in order to inspire the latter 
with a horror of intemperance. 

There is every reason to believe that the true God was 
well known to the people of India at the time when they 

B 3 


first banded themselves together us a nation. For who 
can doubt that our blessed religion was originally that of 
the whole world ? Who can doubt that it would have 
exercised universal sway from the days of Adam to the 
end of time if its original form as established by God 
Himself and its primitive traditions had been carefully 
respected 2 Unfortunately human passion gained the 
upper hand. Whole nations were corrupted, and men 
made for themselves a religion more suited to the depravity 
of their own hearts. Nevertheless, what has now become 
of the innumerable deities of Greece and Rome ? They 
have vanished like an empty, transitory dream. Let us 
pray that the Almighty may be pleased to allow the torch 
of Truth to illumine the countries watered by the Ganges ! 
Doubtless the time is still far distant when the stubborn 
Hindu will open his eyes to the light and tear himself 
away from his dark superstitions ; but let us not despair, 
a day will come when the standard of the Cross will be 
flying over the temples of India as it flies now over her 
strong places 1 . 

Certain statements to be found in my work will seem 
almost incredible to my readers. All that I can say is 
that I have set down nothing without assuring myself 
most carefully of its truthfulness. For the rest, my 
readers will feel much less doubt as to the accuracy of 
these statements when they have learned to recognize 
how eminently original the people of India are in their 
manners and customs. So original are they, indeed, that 
one may search in vain for types, or anything approaching 
to types, of them amongst other nations of the world, 
ancient or modern. 

With regard to caste usages I must warn my readers 
that my researches were confined to the provinces south 
of the Kistna River, where I passed most of the time that 

1 Yet even now the number of Christians in India is, comparatively 
speaking, small. They form about '75 per cent, of the whole popula- 
tion, and nearly 75 per cent, of the total are found in Madras, Tra van- 
core, Hyderabad, Mysore, and Cochin. And concerning the native 
Christians of these parts a distinguished and much-travelled member of 
the Civil Service recently remarked, ' Their Christianity, as I have seen 
it, too often breathes but little of the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.' 


I was in India. I cannot say whether these usages are the 

same to the north of that river and in Hindustan proper ; 
but if any differences there be it is probable that they 
exist only in form. There is no place in India which does 
not possess certain customs and practices of its own, and 
it would be impossible to give descriptions of them all. 
Fundamentally, however, caste constitutions are the same 
everywhere. Furthermore, however many the shades of 
difference between the various castes, however diversified 
the customs that control them, only slight differences 
exist between the various forms of religious belief. Indeed, 
the religion of the Hindus may be said to form a common 
centre for the numerous elements which constitute Hinduism 
in its widest sense. Moreover there is a certain general 
uniformity of rule and practice in everyday social matters, 
which compels one to look upon the different masses of 
the population as belonging in reality to one big family. 
Nevertheless, whatever I may say in the following pages 
must not be given a too general meaning, for it is hardly 
necessary to point out that in such a huge country there 
are many peculiarities of language and custom which are 
purely local in character. For instance, a careful observer 
would see less resemblance between a Tamil and a Canarese, 
between a Telugu and a Mahratta, than between a French- 
man and an Englishman, an Italian and a German. 

Even when they migrate or travel from one province 
to another, natives of India never throw off what I may 
call the characteristics of their natal soil. In the midst of 
their new surroundings they invariably preserve their own 
language and customs. 

On the Malabar coast one may count five different 
tribes, established from time immemorial, within a hundred 
leagues of territory north and south. They are the Xairs 
or Naiftiars, the Kurgas or Kudagas, the Tulus, the Kon- 
kanis, and the Kanaras. Although amalgamated in some 
degree, each of these tribes still preserves to the present 
day the language and mode of life peculiar to the place 
from which it originally sprang. The same thing may be 
remarked throughout the Peninsula, but especially in the 
Tamil country and in Mysore, where many families of 
Telusus are to be found whose ancestors were obliged for 


various reasons to quit their native soil and migrate thither. 
The remembrance of their original birthplace is engraved 
on the hearts of these Telugus, and they always carefully 
avoid following the peculiar usages of their adoptive 
country. Yet they are invariably treated with the most 
perfect tolerance. Indeed, every native of India is quite 
free to take up his abode wherever it may seem good to 
him. Nobody will quarrel with him for living his own life, 
speaking what language he pleases, or following whatever 
customs he is used to. All that is asked of him is that 
lie should conform generally to the accustomed rules of 
decorum recognized in the neighbourhood. 

The Brahmin caste has seemed to me to merit particular 
attention. It is the caste whose rules and practices are 
most scrupulously observed. All persons who have visited 
India or who have any notion of the character of the 
Brahmins, of the high esteem in which they hold them- 
selves, and of the distant hauteur with which they treat 
the common people, will be able to appreciate the diffi- 
culties which anybody must encounter who would become 
intimate, or even acquainted, with these proud personages. 
The hate and contempt which they cherish against all 
strangers, and especially against Europeans ; the jealous 
inquietude with which they hide from the profane the 
mysteries of their religious cult ; the records of their learn- 
ing ; the privacy of their homes : all these form barriers 
between themselves and their observers which it is almost 
impossible to pass \ 

Nevertheless, by much diplomacy and perseverance 
I have succeeded in surmounting most of the obstacles 
which have turned back so many others before me. I there- 
fore trust that the minute particulars which I have given 
in this work will be accepted as a record of all that it is 
useful to know about the religious ceremonies and ritual 
of the Hindus. 

I have divided this work into three parts. The first 
presents a general purview of society in India, and con- 
tains details concerning all classes of its inhabitants. In 

1 Since the Abbe wrote, vast stores of Brahminical lore have been 
brought to light by enterprising savants in Europe, especially by Professor 
Max Miiller. — Ed. 


Hie second part I have discussed the Brahmins more par- 
ticularly, both in themselves and in relation to other castes. 
The third part contains particulars of the religious tenets 
and deities of India. 

Among the papers which are published separately, as 
Appendices, there is one on the Jains which I hope will be 
read not without interest. These schismatics are to be 
found in great numbers in the western provinces of the 
Peninsula, and especially in Malabar, where they represent 
the majority of the population. They form a perfectly 
distinct class, and differ widely from the Brahmins in many 
essential points of doctrine and practice. 




Division and Subdivision of Castes. — Castes peculiar to Certain Pro- 
vinces. — Particular Usages of some Castes. — Division of Castes 
founded on Parentage. — Subordination of Castes. — Outward Signs 
of certain Castes. — Division of Caste-groups into Right-hand and 

The word caste is derived from the Portuguese, and is 
used in Europe to designate the different tribes or classes 
into which the people of India are divided l . The most 
ordinary classification, and at the same time the most 
ancient, divides them into four main castes. The first 
and most distinguished of all is that of Brahmana, or 
Brahmins ; the second in rank is that of Kshatriyas, or 
Rajahs ; the third the Vaisyas, or Landholders and Mer- 
chants ; and the fourth the Sudras, or Cultivators and 

The functions proper to each of these four main castes 
are : for Brahmins, priesthood and its various duties ; for 
Kshatriyas, military service in all its branches ; for Vaisyas, 
agriculture, trade, and cattle-breeding ; and for Sudras, 
general servitude. But I will describe more fully hereafter 
the several social distinctions which are attached to each 
of them. 

Each of the four main castes is subdivided into many 
others, the number of which it is difficult to determine 

1 The Sanskrit word is Varna = colour, thus showing that upon the 
difference of colour between the Aryan Brahmins and the aboriginal 
inhabitants the distinction of caste was originally founded. — Pope. 


because the subdivisions vary according to locality, and 
a sub-caste existing in one province is not necessarily found 
in another. 

Amongst the Brahmins of the south of the Peninsula, 
for example, there are to be found three or four principal 
divisions, and each of these again is subdivided into at 
least twenty others. The lines of demarcation between 
them are so well defined as to prevent any kind of union 
between one sub-caste and another, especially in the case 
of marriage. 

The Kshatriyas and Vaisyas are also split up into many 
divisions and subdivisions. In Southern India neither 
Kshatriyas nor Vaisyas are very numerous ; but there are 
considerable numbers of the former in Northern India. 
Howbeit, the Brahmins assert that the true Kshatriya 
caste no longer exists, and that those who pass for such 
are in reality a debased race. 

The Sudra caste is divided into most sub-castes. Nobody 
in any of the provinces where I have lived has ever been 
able to inform me as to the exact number and names of 
them. It is a common saying, however, that there are 
18 chief sub-castes, which are again split up into 108 lesser 

The Sudras are the most numerous of the four main 
castes. They form, in fact, the mass of the population, 
and added to the Pariahs, or Outcastes, they represent at 
least nine-tenths of the inhabitants. When we consider 
that the Sudras possess almost a monopoly of the various 
forms of artisan employment and manual labour, and that 
in India no person can exercise two professions at a time, 
it is not surprising that the numerous individuals who 
form this main caste are distributed over so many distinct 

However, there are several classes of Sudras that exist 
only in certain provinces. Of all the provinces that 
I lived in, the Dravidian, or Tamil, country is the one 
where the ramifications of caste appeared to me most 
numerous. There are not nearly so many ramifications of 
caste in Mysore or the Deccan. Nowhere in these latter 
provinces have I come across castes corresponding to 
those which are known in the Tamil country under the 


names of MoodeUy, Agambady, Nattaman, Totiyar, Udaiyan, 
VcUeyen, Upiliyen, Pollen, and several others 1 . 

It should be remarked, however, that those Sudra castes 
which are occupied exclusively in employments indispens- 
able to all civilized societies are to be found everywhere 
under names varying with the languages of different 
localities. Of such I may cite, amongst others, the gar- 
deners, the shepherds, the weavers, the Panchalas (the 
five castes of artisans, comprising the carpenters, gold- 
smiths, blacksmiths, founders, and in general all workers 
in metals), the manufacturers and venders of oil, the 
fishermen, the potters, the washermen, the barbers, and 
some others. All these form part of the great main caste 
of Sudras ; but the different castes of cultivators hold the 
first rank and disdainfully regard as their inferiors all 
those belonging to the professions just mentioned, refusing 
to eat with those who practise them. 

In some districts there are castes which are not to be 
met with elsewhere, and which may be distinguished by 
peculiarities of their own. I am not aware, for example, 
that the very remarkable caste of Nairs, whose women 
enjoy the privilege of possessing several husbands, is to be 
found anywhere but in Travancore 2 . Amongst these same 
people, again, is another distinct caste called Nambudiri, 
which observes one abominable and revolting custom. The 
girls of this caste are usually married before the age of 
puberty ; but if a girl who has arrived at an age when 
the signs of puberty are apparent happens to die before 
having had intercourse with a man, caste custom rigorously 
demands that the inanimate corpse of the deceased shall 
be subjected to a monstrous connexion. For this purpose 
the girl's parents are obliged to procure by a present of 
money some wretched fellow willing to consummate such 
a disgusting form of marriage : for were the marriage 

1 Moodelly, ' chief man ' or highly respectable trader. Agambady, he 
who performs menial offices in temples or palaces. Nattaman, a caste of 
cultivators. Totiyar, a caste of labourers. Udaiyan, a potter. Yaleyen, 
a fisherman. Upiliyen, salt manufacturer. Fallen, agriculturist. — Ed. 

2 It would be more correct to say West Coast. Moreover, although 
Xair women are commonly described as polyandrous, they are not really 
so, for though they enjoy the privilege of changing their husbands, they 
do not entertain more than one husband at a time. — Ed. 


not consummated the family would consider itself dis- 
honoured \ 

The caste of Kullars, or robbers, who exercise their 
calling as an hereditary right, is found only in the Marava 
country, which borders on the coast, or fishing, districts. 
The rulers of the country are of the same caste. They 
regard a robber's occupation as discreditable neither to 
themselves nor to their fellow castemen, for the simple 
reason that they consider robbery a duty and a right 
sanctioned by descent. They are not ashamed of their 
caste or occupation, and if one were to ask of a Kullar to 
what people he belonged he would coolly answer, ' I am 
a robber ! ' This caste is looked upon in the district of 
Madura, where it is widely diffused, as one of the most 
distinguished among the Sudras. 

There exists in the same part of the country another 
caste, known as the Totiyars, in which brothers, uncles, 
nephews, and other near relations are all entitled to possess 
their wives in common. 

In Eastern Mysore there is a caste called Morsa-Okkala- 
Makkalu, in which, when the mother of a family gives her 
eldest daughter in marriage, she is obliged to submit to 
the amputation of two joints of the middle finger and of 
the ring finger of the right hand. And if the bride's mother 
be dead, the bridegroom's mother, or in default of her the 

1 Whatever may have been the case in the days of the Abbe, these 
customs no longer exist. In regard to this, Mr. W. Logan, in his Manual 
of Malabar, writes thus : ' To make tardy retribution — if it deserves 
such a name — to women who die unmarried, the corpse, it is said, 
cannot be burnt till a tali string (the Hindu equivalent of the wedding- 
ring of Europe) is tied round the neck of the corpse, while lying on the 
funeral pile, by a competent relative. Nambudiris are exceedingly 
reticent in regard to their funeral ceremonies and observances, and the 
Abbe Dubois' account of what was related to him regarding other 
observances at this strange funeral-pile marriage requires confirmation.' 
Careful inquiries made of the leading members of the Nambudiri com- 
munity and of others in Malabar who have an intimate knowledge of 
Nambudiri customs have convinced me that the Abbe must have mis- 
understood his informant in regard to the practice which he records 
here. What is done in such a case is merely to perform the religious 
rites, usually associated with Hindu marriages, over the dead body of 
the woman before the corpse is cremated. By marriage here is meant 
merely the tying of the tali (the emblem of marriage) and not the act 
of consummation of marriage. — Ed. 


mother of the nearest relative, must submit to this eruel 
mutilation 1 . 

Many other castes exist in various districts which are 
distinguished by practices no less foolish than those above 

Generally speaking, there are few castes which are not 
distinguished by some special custom quite apart from the 
peculiar religious usages and ceremonies which the com- 
munity may prescribe to guarantee or sanction civil con- 
tracts. In the cut and colour of their clothes and in the 
style of wearing them, in the peculiar shape of their jewels 
and in the manner in which they are displayed on various 
parts of the person, the various castes have many rules, 
each possessing its own significance. Some observe rites 
of their own in their funeral and marriage ceremonies : 
others possess ornaments which they alone may use, or 
flags of certain colours, for various ceremonies, which no 
other caste may carry. Yet, absurd as some of these 
practices may appear, they arouse neither contempt nor 
dislike in members of other castes which do not admit 
them. The most perfect toleration is the rule in such 
matters. As long as a caste conforms on the whole to the 
recognized rules of decorum it is permitted to follow its 
own bent in its domestic affairs without interruption, and 
no other castes ever think of blaming or even criticizing 
it, although its practices may be in direct opposition to 
their own. 

There are, nevertheless, some customs which, although 
scrupulously observed in the countries where they exist, 
are so strongly opposed to the rules of decency and decorum 
generally laid down that they are spoken of with dis- 
approbation and sometimes with horror by the rest of the 
community. The following may be mentioned among 
practices of this nature. 

In the interior of Mysore, women are obliged to accom- 
pany the male inmates of the house whenever the latter 
retire for the calls of nature, and to cleanse them with 
water afterwards. This practice, which is naturally viewed 

1 This custom is no longer observed ; instead of the two ringers being 
amputated, they are now merely bound together and thus rendered unfit 
for use. — Ed. 


with disgust in other parts of the country, is here regarded 
as a sign of good breeding and is most carefully observed 1 . 

The use of intoxicating liquors, which is condemned by 
respectable people throughout almost the whole of India, 
is nevertheless permitted amongst the people who dwell in 
the jungles and hill tracts of the West Coast. There the 
leading castes of Sudras, not excepting even the women 
and children, openly drink arrack, the brandy of the 
country, and toddy, the fermented juice of the palm. 
Each inhabitant in those parts has his toddy-dealer, who 
regularly brings him a daily supply and takes in return an 
equivalent in grain at harvest time. 

The Brahmin inhabitants of these parts are forbidden 
a like indulgence under the penalty of exclusion from 
caste. But they supply the defect by opium, the use of 
which, although universally interdicted elsewhere, is never- 
theless considered much less objectionable than the use of 
intoxicating liquors. 

The people of these damp and unhealthy districts have 
no doubt learnt by experience that a moderate use of 
spirits or opium is necessary for the preservation of health, 
and that it protects them, partially at any rate, against 
the ill effects of the malarious miasma amidst which they 
are obliged to live. Nothing indeed but absolute necessity 
could have induced them to contravene in this way one 
of the most venerable precepts of Hindu civilization. 

The various classes of Sudras who dwell in the hills of 
the Carnatic observe amongst their domestic regulations 
a practice as peculiar as it is disgusting. Both men and 
women pass their lives in a state of uncleanness and never 
wash their clothes. When once they have put on cloths 
fresh from the looms of the weavers they do not leave 
them off until the material actually drops from rottenness. 
One can imagine the filthy condition of these cloths after 
they have been worn day and night for several months 
soaked with perspiration and soiled with dirt, especially 
in the case of the women, who continually use them for 
wiping their hands, and who never change their garments 
until wear and tear have rendered them absolutely useless. 

1 If this custom ever existed, the spread of education has effectually 
put a stop to it. — Ed. 


Yet this revolting habit is most religiously observed, 
and, if anybody were so rash as to wash but once in water 
the cloths with which he or she is covered, exclusion from 
caste would be the inevitable consequence. This custom, 
however, may be due to the scarcity of water, for in this 
part of the country there are only a few stagnant ponds, 
which would very soon be contaminated if all the in- 
habitants of a village were allowed to wash their garments 
in them. 

Many religious customs are followed only by certain 
sects, and are of purely local character. For instance, it 
is only in the districts of Western Mysore that I have 
observed Monday in each week kept nearly in the same 
way as Sunday is among Christians. On that day the 
villagers abstain from ordinary labour, and particularly 
from such as, like ploughing, requires the use of oxen and 
kine. Monday is consecrated to Basava (the Bull), and 
is set apart for the special worship of that deity. Hence 
it is a day of rest for their cattle rather than for themselves. 

This practice, however, is not in vogue except in the 
districts where the Lingayats, or followers of Siva 1 , pre- 
dominate. This sect pays more particular homage to the 
Bull than the rest of the Hindus ; and, in the districts 
where it predominates, not only keeps up the strict observ- 
ance of the day thus consecrated to the divinity, but forces 
other castes to follow its example. 

Independently of the divisions and subdivisions common 
to all castes, one may further observe in each caste close 
family alliances cemented by intermarriage. Hindus of 
good family avoid as far as possible intermarriage with 
families outside their own circle. They always aim at 
marrying their children into the families which are already 

1 Mr. L. Rice, in his Mysore and Coorg, remarks : ' Lingayats : The 
distinctive mark of this caste is the wearing on the person of a Jangama 
lingam, or portable linga. It is a small black stone about the size of 
an acorn, and is enshrined in a silver box of peculiar shape, which is 
worn suspended from the neck or tied round the arm. The followers of 
Basava (the founder of the sect, whose name literally means Bull, was 
in fact regarded as the incarnation of Nandi, the bull of Siva) are properly 
called Liugavantas, but Lingayats has become a well-known designation, 
though not used by themselves, the name Sivabhakta or Sivachar being 
one they generally assume.' — Ed. 


allied to them, and the nearer the relationship the more 
easily are marriages contracted. A widower is remarried 
to his deceased wife's sister, an uncle marries his niece, 
and a first cousin his first cousin. Persons so related 
possess an exclusive privilege of intermarrying, upon the 
ground of such relationship ; and, if they choose, they 
can prevent any other union and enforce their own pre- 
ferential right, however old, unsuited, infirm, and poor 
they may be 1 . 

In this connexion, however, several strange and ridiculous 
distinctions are made. An uncle may marry the daughter 
of his sister, but in no case may he marry the daughter of 
his brother. A brother's children may marry a sister's 
children, but the children of two brothers or of two sisters 
may not intermarry. Among descendants from the same 
stock the male line always has the right of contracting 
marriage with the female line ; but the children of the 
same line may never intermarry. 

The reason given for this custom is that children of the 
male line, as also those of the female line, continue from 
generation to generation to call themselves brothers and 
sisters for as long a time as it is publicly recognized that 
they spring from the same stock. A man would be marry- 
ing his sister, it would be said, if the children of either the 
male or the female line intermarried amongst themselves ; 
whereas the children of the male line do not call the children 
of the female line brothers and sisters, and vice versa, but 
call each other by special names expressive of the relation- 
ship. Thus a man can, and even must, marry the daughter 
of his sister, but never the daughter of his brother. A 
male first cousin marries a female first cousin, the daughter 
of his maternal aunt ; but in no case may he marry the 
daughter of his paternal uncle. 

This rule is universally and invariably observed by all 
castes, from the Brahmin to the Pariah. It is obligatory 
on the male line to unite itself with the female line. Agree- 
ably to this a custom has arisen which so far as I know 
is peculiar to the Brahmins. They are all supposed to 
know the gotram or stock from which they spring : that is 

1 This custom is gradually giving way now amongst the higher castes. 


to say, they know who was the ancient Muni or devotee 
from whom they descend, and they always take care, in 
order to avoid intermarriage with a female descendant of 
this remote priestly ancestor, to marry into a gotram other 
than their own. 

Hindus who cannot contract a suitable marriage amongst 
their own relations are nevertheless bound to marry in 
their own caste, and even in that subdivision of it to which 
they belong. In no case are they permitted to contract 
marriages with strangers. Furthermore, persons belonging 
to a caste in one part of the country cannot contract 
marriages with persons of the same caste in another part, 
even though they may be precisely the same castes under 
different names. Thus the Tamil Yedeyers and the Canarese 
Uppareru would never consent to take wives from the 
Telugu Gollavaru and the Tamil Pillay, although the first 
two are, except for their names, identical with the second 

The most distinguished of the four main castes into 
which the Hindus were originally separated by their first 
legislators is, as we have before remarked, that of the 
Brahmins. After them come the Kshatriyas, or Rajahs. 
Superiority of rank is at present warmly contested between 
the Vaisyas, or merchants, and the Sudras, or cultivators. 
The former appear to have almost entirely lost their 
superiority except in the Hindu books, where they are 
invariably placed before the Sudras. In ordinary life the 
latter hold themselves to be superior to the Vaisyas, and 
consider themselves privileged to mark their superiority in 
many respects by treating them with contumely. 

With regard to the Vaisya caste an almost incredible 
but nevertheless well-attested peculiarity is everywhere 
observable. There is not a pretty woman to be found in 
the caste. I have never had much to do with the women 
of the Vaisya caste ; I cannot therefore without injustice 
venture to add my testimony to that of others on this 
subject ; but I confess that the few Vaisya women I have 
seen from time to time were not such as to afford me 
an ocular refutation of the popular prejudice. However, 
Vaisya women are generally wealthy, and they manage 
to make up for their lack of beauty by their elegant attire. 


Even the Brahmins do not hold the highest social rank 
undisputed. The Panchalas, or five classes of artisans 
already mentioned, refuse, in some districts, to acknow- 
ledge Brahmin predominance, although these five classes 
themselves are considered to be of very low rank amongst 
the Sudras and are everywhere held in contempt. Brahmin 
predominance is also still more warmly contested by the 
Jains, of whom I have treated in one of the Appendices to 
this work. 

As to the particular subdivisions of each caste it is 
difficult to decide the order of hierarchy observed amongst 
them. Sub-castes which are despised in one district are 
often greatly esteemed in another, according as they con- 
duct themselves with greater propriety or follow more 
important callings. Thus the caste to which the ruler of 
a country belongs, however low it may be considered 
elsewhere, ranks amongst the highest in the ruler's own 
dominions, and every member of it derives some reflection 
of dignity from its chief. 

After all, public opinion is the surest guide of caste 
superiority amongst the Sudras, and a very slight acquain- 
tance with the customs of a province and with the private 
life of its inhabitants will suffice for fixing the position 
which each caste has acquired by common consent. 

In general it will be found that those castes are most 
honoured who are particular in keeping themselves pure 
by constant bathing and by abstaining from animal 
food, who are exact in the observance of marriage regula- 
tions, who keep their women shut up and punish them 
severely when they err, and who resolutely maintain the 
customs and privileges of their order. 

Of all the Hindus the Brahmins strive most to keep up 
appearances of outward and inward purity by frequent 
ablutions and severe abstinence not only from meat and 
everything that has contained the principle of life, but 
also from several natural products of the earth which 
prejudice and superstition teach them to be impure and 
defiling. It is chiefly to the scrupulous observance of 
such customs that the Brahmins owe the predominance of 
their illustrious order, and the reverence and respect with 
which they are everywhere treated. 


Amongst the different classes of Sudras, those who 
permit widow remarriage are considered the most abject, 
and. except the Pariahs, I know very few castes in which 
such marriages are allowed to take place openly and with 
the sanction of the caste l . 

The division into castes is the paramount distinction 
amongst the Hindus ; but there is still another division, 
that of sects. The two best known are those of Siva and 
Vishnu, which are again divided into a large number of 

There are several castes, too, which may be distinguished 
by certain marks painted on the forehead or other parts of 
the body. 

The first three of the four main castes, that is to say 
the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaisyas, are distinguished 
by a thin cord hung across from the left shoulder to the 
right hip. But this cord is also worn by the Jains and even 
by the Panchalas, or five castes of artisans, so one is apt to 
be deceived by it. 

From what has been said it will appear that the name 
of a caste forms after all its best indication. It was thus 
that the tribes of Israel were distinguished. The names of 
several of the Hindu castes have a known meaning ; but 
for the most part they date from such ancient times that it 
is impossible to find out their significance. 

There is yet another division more general than any 
I have referred to yet, namely, that into Right-hand and 
Left-hand factions. This appears to be but a modern 
invention, since it is not mentioned in any of the ancient 
books of the country ; and I have been assured that it is 
unknown in Northern India. Be that as it may, I do not 
believe that any idea of this baneful institution, as it exists 
at the present day, ever entered the heads of those wise 
lawgivers who considered they had found in caste distinc- 
tions the best guarantee for the observance of the laws 
which they prescribed for the people. 

This division into Right-hand and Left-hand factions, 
whoever invented it, has turned out to be the most direful 

1 Remarriage of virgin widows is one of the foremost planks in the 
platform of Social Reform, but it is opposed violently by the ortho- 
dox. — En. 


disturber of the public peace. It has proved a perpetual 
source of riots, and the cause of endless animosity amongst 
the natives. 

Most castes belong either to the Left-hand or Right-hand 
faction. The former comprises the Vaisyas or trading 
classes, the Panchalas or artisan classes, and some of the 
low Sudra castes. It also contains the lowest caste, namely, 
the Chucklers or leather- workers, who are looked upon as 
its chief support. 

To the Right-hand faction belong most of the higher 
castes of Sudras. The Pariahs are its chief support, as 
a proof of which they glory in the title Valangai-Mougattar, 
or friends of the Right-hand. In the disputes and con- 
flicts which so often take place between the two factions it 
is always the Pariahs who make the most disturbance and 
do the most damage. 

The Brahmins, Rajahs, and several classes of Sudras are 
content to remain neutral, and take no part in these 
quarrels. They are often chosen as arbiters in the differ- 
ences which the two factions have to settle between them- 

The opposition between the two factions arises from 
certain exclusive privileges to which both lay claim. But 
as these alleged privileges are nowhere clearly defined and 
recognized, they result in confusion and uncertainty, and 
are with difficulty capable of settlement. In these circum- 
stances one cannot hope to conciliate both parties ; all 
that one can do is to endeavour to compromise matters as 
far as possible. 

When one faction trespasses on the so-called rights of 
the other, tumults arise which spread gradually over large 
tracts of territory, afford opportunity for excesses of all 
kinds, and generally end in bloody conflicts. The Hindu, 
ordinarily so timid and gentle in all other circumstances of 
life, seems to change his nature completely on occasions 
like these. There is no danger that he will not brave in 
maintaining what he calls his rights, and rather than 
sacrifice a tittle of them he will expose himself without fear 
to the risk of losing his life. 

I have several times witnessed instances of these popular 
insurrections excited by the mutual pretensions of the two 


factions and pushed to such an extreme of fury that the 
presence of a military force has been insufficient to quell 
them, to allay the clamour, or to control the excesses in 
which the contending factions consider themselves entitled 
to indulge. 

Occasionally, when the magistrates fail to effect a re- 
conciliation by peaceful means, it is necessary to resort to 
force in order to suppress the disturbances. I have some- 
times seen these rioters stand up against several discharges 
of artillery without exhibiting any sign of submission. 
And when at last the armed force has succeeded in restoring 
order it is only for a time. At the very first opportunity 
the rioters are at work again, regardless of the punishment 
they have received, and quite ready to renew the conflict 
as obstinately as before. Such are the excesses to which 
the mild and peaceful Hindu abandons himself when his 
courage is aroused by religious and political fanaticism. 

The rights and privileges for which the Hindus are ready 
to fight such sanguinary battles appear highly ridiculous, 
especially to a European. Perhaps the sole cause of the 
contest is the right to wear slippers or to ride through 
the streets in a palanquin or on horseback during marriage 
festivals. Sometimes it is the privilege of being escorted 
on certain occasions by armed retainers, sometimes that 
of having a trumpet sounded in front of a procession, or 
of being accompanied by native musicians at public cere- 
monies. Perhaps it is simply the particular kind of musical 
instrument suitable to such occasions that is in dispute ; 
or perhaps it may be the right of carrying flags of certain 
colours or certain devices during these ceremonies. Such 
at any rate are a few of the privileges for which Hindus 
are ready to cut each other's throats. 

It not unfrequently happens that one faction makes an 
attack on the rights, real or pretended, of the other. There- 
upon the trouble begins, and soon becomes general if it 
is not appeased at the very outset by prudent and vigorous 
measures on the part of the magistracy. 

I could instance very many examples bearing on this 
fatal distinction between Right-hand and Left-hand ; but 
what I have already said is enough to show the spirit which 
animates the Hindus in this matter. I once witnessed 


a dispute of this nature between the Pariahs and Chuckhrs, 
or leather-workers. There seemed reason to fear such 
disastrous consequences throughout the whole district in 
question, that many of the more peaceful inhabitants began 
to desert their villages and to carry away their goods and 
chattels to a place of safety, just as is done when the country 
is threatened by the near approach of a Mahratta army. 
However, matters did not reach this extremity. The 
principal inhabitants of the district opportunely offered to 
arbitrate in the matter, and they succeeded by diplomacy 
and conciliation in smoothing away the difficulties and in 
appeasing the two factions, who were only awaiting the 
signal to attack each other. 

One would not easily guess the cause of this formidable 
commotion. It simply arose from the fact that a Chuckler 
had dared to appear at a public ceremony with red flowers 
stuck in his turban, a privilege which the Pariahs alleged 
to belong exclusively to the Right-hand faction 1 ! 


Advantages resulting from Caste Divisions. — Similar Divisions amongst 
many Ancient Nations. 

Many persons studyso imperfectly the spirit and character 
of the different nations that inhabit the earth, and the in- 
fluence of climate on their manners, customs, predilections, 
and usages, that they are astonished to find how widely 
such nations differ from each other. Trammelled by the 
prejudices of their own surroundings, such persons think 
nothing well regulated that is not included in the polity 
and government of their own country. They would like 
to see all nations of the earth placed on precisely the same 
footing as themselves. Everything which differs from their 
own customs they consider either uncivilized or ridiculous. 

1 These faction fights have gradually disappeared under the civilizing 
influences of education and good government ; and if they ever occur 
at all, are confined to the lowest castes and never spread beyond the 
limits of a village. The distinctions between the two factions, however, 
still exist. — Ed. 


Now, although man's nature is pretty much the same all 
the world over, it is subject to so many differentiations 
caused by soil, climate, food, religion, education, and other 
circumstances peculiar to different countries, that the 
system of civilization adopted by one people would plunge 
another into a state of barbarism and cause its complete 

I have heard some persons, sensible enough in other 
respects, but imbued with all the prejudices that they have 
brought with them from Europe, pronounce what appears 
to me an altogether erroneous judgement in the matter of 
caste divisions amongst the Hindus. In their opinion, 
caste is not only useless to the body politic, it is also ridi- 
culous, and even calculated to bring trouble and disorder 
on the people. For my part, having lived many years on 
friendly terms with the Hindus, I have been able to study 
their national life and character closely, and I have arrived 
at a quite opposite decision on this subject of caste. I 
believe caste division to be in many respects the chef- 
d'oeuvre, the happiest effort, of Hindu legislation. I am 
persuaded that it is simply and solely due to the distribu- 
tion of the people into castes that India did not lapse into 
a state of barbarism, and that she preserved and perfected 
the arts and sciences of civilization whilst most other 
nations of the earth remained in a state of barbarism. 
I do not consider caste to be free from many great draw- 
backs ; but I believe that the resulting advantages, in the 
case of a nation constituted like the Hindus, more than 
outweigh the resulting evils. 

To establish the justice of this contention we have only 
to glance at the condition of the various races of men who 
live in the same latitude as the Hindus, and to consider 
the past and present status of those among them whose 
natural disposition and character have not been influenced 
for good by the purifying doctrines of Revealed Religion. 
We can judge what the Hindus would have been like, had 
they not been held within the pale of social duty by caste 
regulations, if we glance at neighbouring nations west of 
the Peninsula and east of it beyond the Ganges as far as 
China. In China itself a temperate climate and a form 
of government peculiarly adapted to a people unlike any 


other in the world have produced the same effect as the 
distinction of caste among the Hindus. 

After much careful thought I can discover no other 
reason except caste which accounts for the Hindus not 
having fallen into the same state of barbarism as their 
neighbours and as almost all nations inhabiting the torrid 
zone. Caste assigns to each individual his own profession 
or calling ; and the handing down of this system from 
father to son, from generation to generation, makes it 
impossible for any person or his descendants to change 
the condition of life which the law assigns to him for any 
other. Such an institution was probably the only means 
that the most clear-sighted prudence could devise for main- 
taining a state of civilization amongst a people endowed 
with the peculiar characteristics of the Hindus. 

We can picture what would become of the Hindus if 
they were not kept within the bounds of duty by the rules 
and penalties of caste, by looking at the position of the 
Pariahs, or outcastes of India, who, checked by no moral 
restraint, abandon themselves to their natural propensities. 
Anybody who has studied the conduct and character of 
the people of this class — which, by the way. is the largest 
of any in India 2 — will agree with me that a State consist- 
ing entirely of such inhabitants could not long endure, 
and could not fail to lapse before long into a condition of 
barbarism. For my own part, being perfectly familiar with 
this class, and acquainted with its natural predilections 
and sentiments, I am persuaded that a nation of Pariahs 
left to themselves would speedily become worse than the 
hordes of cannibals who wander in the vast wastes of 
Africa, and would soon take to devouring each other. 

I am no less convinced that if the Hindus were not kept 
within the limits of duty and obedience by the system of 
caste, and by the penal regulations attached to each phase 
of it, they would soon become just what the Pariahs are, 
and probably something still worse. The whole country 

1 This is true only of Southern India, where the Pariahs number 
5,000,000. They form one-seventh of the total population of the Madras 
Presidency. Of late years the degraded condition of these outcastes 
has attracted much attention, ami a great deal is now being done to 
elevate them morally and materially. — Ed. 


would necessarily fall into a stale of hopeless anarchy, 
and, before the present generation disappeared, this nation, 
so polished under present conditions, would have to be 
reckoned amongst the most uncivilized of the world. 
The legislators of India, whoever they may have been, 
were far too wise and too well acquainted with the natural 
character of the people for whom they prescribed laws to 
leave it to the discretion or fancy of each individual to 
cultivate what knowledge he pleased, or to exercise, as 
seemed best to him, any of the various professions, arts, 
or industries which are necessary for the preservation and 
well-being of a State. 

They set out from that cardinal principle common to all 
ancient legislators, that no person should be useless to the 
commonwealth. At the same time they recognized that 
they were dealing with a people who were indolent and 
careless by nature, and whose propensity to be apathetic 
was so aggravated by the climate in which they lived, that 
unless every individual had a profession or employment 
rigidly imposed upon him, the social fabric could not hold 
together and must quickly fall into the most deplorable 
state of anarchy. These ancient lawgivers, therefore, being 
well aware of the danger caused by religious and political 
innovations, and being anxious to establish durable and 
inviolable rules for the different castes comprising the 
Hindu nation, saw no surer way of attaining their object 
than by combining in an unmistakable manner those two 
great foundations of orderly government, religion and 
politics. Accordingly there is not one of their ancient 
usages, not one of their observances, which has not some 
religious principle or object attached to it. Everything, 
indeed, is governed by superstition and has religion for its 
motive. The style of greeting, the mode of dressing, the 
cut of clothes, the shape of ornaments and their manner of 
adjustment, the various details of the toilette, the archi- 
tecture of houses, the corners where the hearth is placed 
and where the cooking pots must stand, the manner of 
going to bed and of sleeping, the forms of civility and 
politeness that must be observed : all these are severely 

During the many years that I studied Hindu customs 


1 cannot say that I ever observed a single one, however 
unimportant and simple, and, I may add, however filthy 
and disgusting, which did not rest on some religious prin- 
ciple or other. Nothing is left to chance ; everything is 
laid down by rule, and the foundation of all their customs 
is purely and simply religion. It is for this reason that the 
Hindus hold all their customs and usages to be inviolable, 
for, being essentially religious, they consider them as sacred 
as religion itself. 

And, be it noted, this plan of dividing the people into 
castes is not confined to the lawgivers of India. The 
wisest and most famous of all lawgivers, Moses, availed 
himself of the same institution, as being the one which 
offered him the best means of governing the intractable 
and rebellious people of whom he had been appointed the 

The division of the people into castes existed also amongst 
the Egyptians. With them, as with the Hindus, the law 
assigned an occupation to each individual, which was 
handed down from father to son. It was forbidden to 
any man to have two professions, or to change his own. 
Each caste had a special quarter assigned to it, and people 
of a different caste were prohibited from settling there. 
Nevertheless there was this difference between the Egyptians 
and the Hindus : with the former all castes and all pro- 
fessions were held in esteem ; all employments, even of 
the meanest kind, were alike regarded as honourable ; 
and, although the priestly and military castes possessed 
peculiar privileges, nobody would have considered it 
anything but criminal to despise the classes whose work, 
whatever it happened to be, contributed to the general 
good 1 . With the Hindus, on the other hand, there are 
professions and callings to which prejudice attaches such 
degradation that those who follow them are universally 
despised by those castes which in the public estimation 
exercise higher functions. 

It must here be remarked, however, that the four great 
professions without which a civilized nation could not 
exist, namely, the army, agriculture, commerce, and weav- 

1 See what the illustrious Bossuet says on this point in his DivcuiM* 
sur VHistoire UniverseUe, Part III. — Dubois. 


ing, are held everywhere in the highest esteem. All castes, 
from the Brahmin to the Pariah, are permitted to follow 
the first three, and the fourth can be followed by all the 
principal classes of Sudras 1 . 

These same caste distinctions observable amongst Hindus 
exist likewise, with some differences, amongst the Arabs 
and Tartars. Probably, indeed, they were common to the 
majority of ancient nations. Cecrops, it will be remembered, 
separated the people of Athens into four tribes or classes, 
while their great lawgiver, Solon, upheld this distinction 
and strengthened it in several ways. Numa Pompilius, 
again, could devise no better way of putting an end to the 
racial hatred between Sabines and Romans than by separat- 
ing the body of the people into different castes and classes. 
The result of his policy was just what he had desired. Both 
Sabines and Romans, once amalgamated in this manner, 
forgot their national differences and thought only of those 
of their class or caste. 

Those who instituted the caste system could not but 
perceive that with nations in an embryonic stage the more 
class distinctions there are the more order and symmetry 
there must be, and the more easy it is to exercise control 
and preserve order. This, indeed, is the result which caste 
classification amongst the Hindus has achieved. The shame 
which would reflect on a whole caste if the faults of one of 
its individual members went unpunished guarantees that 
the caste will execute justice, defend its own honour, and 
keep all its members within the bounds of duty. For, be 
it noted, every caste has its own laws and regulations, or 
rather, we may say, its own customs, in accordance with 
which the severest justice is meted out, just as it was by 
the patriarchs of old. 

Thus in several castes adultery is punishable by death 2 . 
Girls or widows who succumb to temptation are made to 
suffer the same penalty as those who have seduced them. 
The largest temple of the town of Conjeeveram, in the 
Carnatic, an immense building, was constructed, so it is 

1 This statement is not quite correct, for in Southern India, at any 
rate, some classes of Pariahs are most expert weavers, and are honoured 
as such throughout the country. — Ed. 

2 This of course is no longer allowed by law. — Ed. 


said, by a rich Brahmin who had been convicted of having 
had illicit intercourse with a low-caste Pariah woman. 
He was, however, sentenced to this severe penalty, not so 
much on account of the immorality of his action, seeing 
that in the opinion of the Brahmins it was not immoral 
at all, but on account of the low-caste person who had 
been the partner of his incontinence. There are various 
kinds of delinquencies in connexion with which a caste 
may take proceedings, not only against the principal 
offenders, but against those who have taken any part 
whatever in them. Thus it is caste authority which, by 
means of its wise rules and prerogatives, preserves good 
order, suppresses vice, and saves Hindus from sinking into 
a state of barbarism. 

It may also be said that caste regulations counteract to 
a great extent the evil effects which would otherwise be 
produced on the national character by a religion that 
encourages the most unlicensed depravity of morals, as 
well in the decorations of its temples as in its dogmas 
and ritual. 

In India, where the princes and the aristocracy live in 
extreme indolence, attaching little importance to making 
their dependants happy and taking small pains to inculcate 
in them a sense of right and wrong, there are no other 
means of attaining these desirable ends and preserving 
good order than by authoritative rulings of the caste 
system. The worst of it is, these powers are not suffi- 
ciently wide, or rather they are too often relaxed. Many 
castes exercise them with severity in cases that are for the 
most part frivolous, but display an easy and culpable 
indulgence towards real and serious delinquencies. On the 
other hand, caste authority is often a check against abuses 
which the despotic rulers of the country are too apt to 
indulge in. Sometimes one may see, as the result of 
a caste order, the tradesmen and merchants of a whole 
district closing their shops, the labourers abandoning their 
fields, or the artisans leaving their workshops, all because 
of some petty insult or of some petty extortion suffered by 
some member of their caste ; and the aggrieved people will 
remain obstinately in this state of opposition until the injury 
has been atoned for and those responsible for it punished. 


Another advantage resulting from the caste system is 
the hereditary continuation of families and that purity of 
descent which is a peculiarity of the Hindus, and which 
consists in never mixing the blood of one family or caste 
with that of another. Marriages are confined to parties 
belonging to the same family, or at any rate the same 
caste. In India, at any rate, there can be no room for the 
reproach, so often deserved in European countries, that 
families have deteriorated by alliances with persons of low 
or unknown extraction. A Hindu of high caste can, 
without citing his title or producing his genealogical tree, 
trace his descent back for more than two thousand years 
without fear of contradiction. He can also, without any 
other passport than that of his high caste, and in spite of 
his poverty, present himself anywhere ; and he would be 
more courted for a marriage alliance than any richer man 
of less pure descent. Nevertheless, it is not to be denied 
that there are some districts where the people are not 
quite so particular about their marriages, though such 
laxity is blamed and held up to shame as an outrage on 
propriety, while those guilty of it take very good care to 
conceal it as much as possible from the public. 

Further, one would be justified in asserting that it is to 
caste distinctions that India owes the preservation of her 
arts and industries. For the same reason she would have 
reached a high standard of perfection in them had not the 
avarice of her rulers prevented it. It was chiefly to attain 
this object that the Egyptians were divided into castes, 
and that their laws assigned the particular place which 
each individual should occupy in the commonwealth. 
Their lawgivers no doubt considered that by this means 
all arts and industries would continue to improve from 
generation to generation, for men must needs do well 
that which they have always been in the habit of seeing 
done and which they have been constantly practising from 
their youth. 

This perfection in arts and manufactures would un- 
doubtedly have been attained by so industrious a people as 
the Hindus, if, as I have before remarked, the cupidity of 
their rulers had not acted as a check. As a matter of fact, 
no sooner has an artisan gained the reputation of excelling 


m his craft than he is at once carried off by order of the 
sovereign, taken to the palace, and there confined for the 
rest of his life, forced to toil without remission and with 
little or no reward. Under these circumstances, which are 
common to all parts of India under the government of 
native princes, it is hardly surprising that every art and 
industry is extinguished and all healthy competition 
deadened. This is the chief and almost the only reason 
why progress in the arts has been so slow among the 
Hindus, and why in this respect they are now far behind 
other nations who did not become civilized for many cen- 
turies after themselves. 

Their workmen certainly lack neither industry nor skill. 
In the European settlements, where they are paid according 
to their merit, many native artisans are to be met with 
whose work would do credit to the best artisans of the 
West. Moreover they feel no necessity to use the many 
European tools, whose nomenclature alone requires special 
study. One or two axes, as many saws and planes, all of 
them so rudely fashioned that a European workman would 
be able to do nothing with them — these are almost the 
only instruments that are to be seen in the hands of Hindu 
carpenters. The working materials of a journeyman gold- 
smith usually comprise a tiny anvil, a crucible, two or 
three small hammers, and as many files. With such 
simple tools the patient Hindu, thanks to his industry, 
can produce specimens of work which are often not to be 
distinguished from those imported at great expense from 
foreign countries. To what a standard of excellence would 
these men have attained if they had been from the earliest 
times subjected to good masters ! 

In order to form a just idea of what the Hindus would 
have done with their arts and manufactures if their natural 
industry had been properly encouraged, we have only to 
visit the workshop of one of their weavers or of one of 
their printers on cloth and carefully examine the instru- 
ments with which they produce those superb muslins, 
those superfine cloths, those beautiful coloured piece-goods, 
which are everywhere admired, and which in Europe occupy 
a high place among the principal articles of adornment. 
In manufacturing these magnificent stuffs the artisan uses 


his feet almost as much as his hands. Furthermore the 
weaving loom, and the whole apparatus for spinning the 
thread before it is woven, as well as the rest of the tools 
which he uses for the work, are so simple and so few that 
altogether they would hardly comprise a load for one man. 
Indeed it is by no means a rare sight to see one of these 
weavers changing his abode, and carrying on his back all 
that is necessary for setting to work the moment he arrives 
at his new home. 

Their printed calicoes, which are not less admired than 
their muslins, are manufactured in an equally simple 
manner. Three or four bamboos to stretch the cloth, 
as many brushes for applying the colours, with a few 
pieces of potsherd to contain them, and a hollow stone 
for pounding them : these are pretty well all their stock 
in trade. 

I will venture to express one other remark on the political 
advantages resulting from caste distinctions. In India 
parental authority is but little respected : and parents, 
overcome doubtless by that apathetic indifference which 
characterizes Hindus generally, are at little pains, as I shall 
show later on, to inspire those feelings of filial reverence 
which constitute family happiness by enchaining the affec- 
tions of the children to the authors of their existence. 
Outward affection appears to exist between brothers and 
sisters, but in reality it is neither very strong nor very 
sincere. It quickly vanishes after the death of their 
parents, and subsequently, we may say, they only come 
together to fight and to quarrel. Thus, as the ties of 
blood relationship formed so insecure a bond between 
different members of a community, and guaranteed no 
such mutual assistance and support as were needed, it 
became necessary to bring families together in large caste 
communities, the individual members of which had a 
common interest in protecting, supporting, and defending 
each other. It was thus that the links of the Hindu social 
chain were so strongly and ingeniously forged that nothing 
was able to break them. 

This was the object which the ancient lawgivers of India 
attained by establishing the caste system, and they thereby 
acquired a title to honour unexampled in the history of 


the world. Their work lias stood the test of thousands 

of years, and lias survived the lapse of time and the many 
revolutions to which this portion of the globe has been 
subjected. The Hindus have often passed beneath the 
yoke of foreign invaders, whose religions, laws, and customs 
have been very different from their own ; yet all efforts to 
impose foreign institutions on the people of India have 
been futile, and foreign occupation has never dealt more 
than a feeble blow against Indian custom. Above all, and 
before all, it was the caste system which protected them. 
Its authority was extensive enough to include sentences of 
death, as I have before remarked. The story is told, and 
the truth of it is incontestable, that a man of the Rajput 
caste was a few years ago compelled by the people of his 
own caste and by the principal inhabitants of his place of 
abode to execute, with his own hand, a sentence of death 
passed on his daughter. This unhappy girl had been dis- 
covered in the arms of a youth, who would have suffered 
the same penalty had he not evaded it by sudden flight. 

Nevertheless, although the penalty of death may be 
inflicted by some castes under certain circumstances, this 
form of punishment is seldom resorted to nowadays. When- 
ever it is thought to be indispensable, it is the father or 
the brother who is expected to execute it, in secrecy. 
Generally speaking, however, recourse is had by prefer- 
ence to the imposition of a fine and to various ignominious 
corporal punishments. As regards these latter, we may 
note as examples the punishments inflicted on women w T ho 
have forfeited their honour, such as shaving their heads, 
compelling them to ride through the public streets mounted 
on asses and with their faces turned towards the tail, 
forcing them to stand a long time with a basket of mud 
on their heads before the assembled caste people, throwing 
into their faces the ordure of cattle, breaking the cotton 
thread of those possessing the right to wear it, and ex- 
communicating the guilty from their caste \ 

1 The infliction of such punishments might nowadays be followed by 
prosecution in the Civil and Criminal Courts. — Ed. 



Expulsion from Caste. — Cases in which such Degradation is inflicted. — 

By whom inflicted. — Restoration to Caste. — Methods of effecting it. 

Of all kinds of punishment the hardest and most un- 
bearable for a Hindu is that which cuts him off and expels 
him from his caste. Those whose duty it is to inflict it 
are the gurus, of whom I shall have more to say in a sub- 
sequent chapter, and, in default of them, the caste headmen. 
These latter are usually to be found in every district, and 
it is to them that all doubtful or difficult questions affecting 
the caste system are referred. They call in, in order to 
help them to decide such questions, a few elders who are 
versed in the intricacies of the matters in dispute. 

This expulsion from caste, which follows either an in- 
fringement of caste usages or some public offence calculated 
if left unpunished to bring dishonour on the whole com- 
munity, is a kind of social excommunication, which deprives 
the unhappy person who suffers it of all intercourse with 
his fellow-creatures. It renders him, as it were, dead to 
the world, and leaves him nothing in common with the 
rest of society. In losing his caste he loses not only his 
relations and friends, but often his wife and his children, 
who would rather leave him to his fate than share his 
disgrace with him. Nobody dare eat with him or even 
give him a drop of water. If he has marriageable daughters 
nobody asks them in marriage, and in like manner his sons 
are refused wives. He has to take it for granted that 
wherever he goes he will be avoided, pointed at with scorn, 
and regarded as an outcaste. 

If after losing caste a Hindu could obtain admission into 
an inferior caste, his punishment would in some degree be 
tolerable ; but even this humiliating compensation is denied 
to him. A simple Sudra with any notions of honour and 
propriety would never associate or even speak with a 
Brahmin degraded in this manner. It is necessary, there- 
fore, for an outcaste to seek asylum in the lowest caste of 
Pariahs if he fail to obtain restoration to his own ; or else 
he is obliged to associate with persons of doubtful caste. 
There are always people of this kind, especially in the 


quarters inhabited by Europeans; and unhappy is the 

man who puts trust in them ! A caste Hindu is often 
a thief and a bad character, but a Hindu without caste is 
almost always a rogue. 

Expulsion from caste is generally put in force without 
much formality. Sometimes it is due merely to personal 
hatred or caprice. Thus, when persons refuse, without 
any apparent justification, to attend the funeral or marriage 
ceremonies of their relations or friends, or when they happen 
not to invite the latter on similar occasions, the individuals 
thus slighted never fail to take proceedings in order to 
obtain satisfaction for the insult offered to them, and the 
arbitrators called in to decide the case usually pass a decree 
of excommunication. When a case is thus settled by 
arbitration, however, a sentence of excommunication does 
not bring upon the guilty person the same disgrace and the 
same penalties which are the lot of those whose offence 
offers no room for compromise. 

Otherwise it matters little whether the offence be deli- 
berate, whether it be serious or trivial, in determining 
that a person shall pay this degrading penalty. A Pariah 
who concealed his origin, mixed with other Hindus, entered 
their houses and ate with them without being recognized, 
would render those who had thus been brought into con- 
tact with him liable to ignominious expulsion from their 
caste. At the same time a Pariah guilty of such a daring 
act would inevitably be murdered on the spot, if his enter- 
tainers recognized him. 

A Sudra, too, who indulged in illicit intercourse witli 
a Pariah woman would be rigorously expelled from caste 
if his offence became known. 

A number of Brahmins assembled together for some 
family ceremony once admitted to their feast, without 
being aware of it, a Sudra who had gained admittance on 
the false assertion that he belonged to their caste. On the 
circumstance being discovered, these Brahmins were one 
and all outcasted, and were unable to obtain reinstatement 
until they had gone through all kinds of formalities and 
been subjected to considerable expense. 

I once witnessed amongst the Gollavarus, or shepherds, 
an instance of even greater severity. A marriage had been 


arranged, and, in the presence of the family concerned, 
certain ceremonies which were equivalent to betrothal 
amongst ourselves had taken place. Before the actual 
celebration of the marriage, which was fixed for a con- 
siderable time afterwards, the bridegroom died. The 
parents of the girl, who was very young and pretty, there- 
upon married her to another man. This was in direct 
violation of the custom of the caste, which condemns to 
perpetual widowhood girls thus betrothed, even when, as 
in this case, the future bridegroom dies before marriage 
has been consummated. The consequence was that all 
the persons who had taken part in the second ceremony 
were expelled from caste, and nobody would contract 
marriage or have any intercourse whatever with them. 
A long time afterwards I met several of them, well advanced 
in age, who had been for this reason alone unable to obtain 
husbands or wives, as the case might be. 

Let me relate another instance. Eleven Brahmins 
travelling in company were obliged to cross a district 
devastated by war. They arrived hungry and tired in 
a village, which, contrary to their expectations, they found 
deserted. They had with them a small quantity of rice, 
but they could find no other pots to boil it in than some 
which had been left in the house of the village washerman. 
To touch these would constitute in the case of Brahmins 
an almost ineffaceable defilement. Nevertheless, suffering 
from hunger as they were, they swore mutual secrecy, and 
after washing and scouring the pots a hundred times they 
prepared their food in them. The rice was served and the 
repast consumed by all but one, who refused to partake 
of it, and who had no sooner returned home than he pro- 
ceeded to denounce the ten others to the chief Brahmins 
of the village. The news of such a scandal spread quickly, 
and gave rise to a great commotion amongst all classes of 
the inhabitants. An assembly was held. The delinquents 
were summoned and forced to appear. Warned before- 
hand, however, of the proceedings that were to be in- 
stituted against them, they took counsel together and 
agreed to answer unanimously, when called upon to explain, 
that it was the accuser himself who had committed the 
heinous sin and who had imputed it to them falsely and 


maliciously. The testimony of ten persons was calculated 

to carry more weight than that of one. The accused were 
consequently acquitted, while the accuser alone was igno- 
niiniously expelled from caste by the headmen, who, 
though they were perfectly sure of his innocence, were 
indignant at his treacherous disclosure. 

From what has been said, it will no longer be surprising 
to learn that Hindus are as much, nay, even more, attached 
to their caste than the gentry of Europe are to their rank. 
Prone to using the most disgustingly abusive language in 
their quarrels, they nevertheless easily forgive and forget 
such insulting epithets ; but if one should say of another 
that he is a man without caste, the insult would never be 
forgiven or forgotten. 

This strict and universal observance of caste and caste 
usages forms practically their whole social law. A very 
great number of people are to be found amongst them, to 
whom death would appear far more desirable than life, if, 
for example, the latter were sustained by eating cow's flesh 
or any food prepared by Pariahs and outcastes. 

It is this same caste feeling which gives rise to the con- 
tempt and aversion which they display towards all foreign 
nations, and especially towards Europeans, who, being as 
a rule but slightly acquainted with the customs and pre- 
judices of the country, are constantly violating them. 
Owing to such conduct the Hindus look upon them as 
barbarians totally ignorant of all principles of honour and 
good breeding. 

In several cases, at least, restoration to caste is an 
impossibility. But when the sentence of excommunication 
has been passed merely by relations, the culprit conciliates 
the principal members of his family and prostrates himself 
in a humble posture, and with signs of repentance, before 
his assembled castemen. He then listens without com- 
plaint to the rebukes which are showered upon him, receives 
the blows to which he is oftentimes condemned, and pays 
the fine which it is thought fit to impose upon him. Finally, 
after having solemnly promised to wipe out by good con- 
duct the taint resulting from his degrading punishment, 
he sheds tears of repentance, performs the sasktanga before 
the assembly, and then serves a feast to the persons present. 

C 3 


When all this is finished lie is looked upon as reinstated. 

The sashta?iga, by the way, is a sign or salute expressing 
humility, which is not only recognized amongst the Hindus 
and other Asiatic nations, but was in use amongst more 
ancient peoples. Instances of it are quoted in Scripture, 
where this extraordinary mark of respect is known as 
adoration, even when it is paid to simple mortals. {Vide 
Genesis xviii. 2 ; xix. 1 ; xxxiii. 3 ; xlii. 6 ; xliii. 26 ; 1. 
18, &c, &c.) In the same way the Egyptians, Chaldeans, 
and other nations mentioned in Holy Writ were acquainted 
with this method of reverent salutation and observed it 
under the same circumstances as the Hindus. As I shall 
often have occasion in this work to mention the sashtanga 
1 will give here a definition of it. The person who performs 
it lies prostrate, his face on the ground and his arms ex- 
tended beyond his head. It is called sashtanga from the 
prostration of the six members, because, when it is performed, 
the feet, the knees, the stomach, the chest, the forehead, 
and the arms must touch the earth. It is thus that pro- 
strations are made before persons of high degree, such as 
princes and priests. Children sometimes prostrate them- 
selves thus before their fathers. It is by no means rare 
to see Sudras of different classes performing sashtanga 
before Brahmins ; and it often happens that princes, before 
engaging an enemy, thus prostrate themselves before their 
armies drawn up in battle array \ 

When expulsion from caste is the result of some heinous 
offence, the guilty person who is readmitted into caste has 
to submit to one or other of the following ordeals : his 
tongue is slightly burnt with a piece of heated gold ; he is 
branded indelibly on different parts of his body with red- 
hot iron ; he is made to walk barefooted over red-hot 
embers ; or he is compelled to crawl several times under 
the belly of a cow. Finally, to complete his purification, 
he is made to drink the pancha-gavia. These words, of 
which a more detailed explanation will be given later on, 
signify literally the five things or substances derived from the 

1 Here and elsewhere the Abbe makes the mistake of interpreting 
saslUanga to mean ' the six angas,' or ' parts of the body.' Sashtanga 
(Saashtanga) really means with the eight jxirt* of the body, which are the 
two hands, the two feet, two knees, forehead, and breast. — Ed, 


body of a cow ; namely, milk, curds, ghee (clarified butter), 
dung and urine, which are mixed together. The last- 
named, urine, is looked upon as the most efficacious for 
purifying any kind of uncleanness. I have often seen 
superstitious Hindus following the cows to pasture, waiting 
for the moment when they could collect the precious liquid 
in vessels of brass, and carrying it away while still warm 
to their houses. I have also seen them waiting to catch it 
in the hollow of their hands, drinking some of it and rubbing 
their faces and heads with the rest. Rubbing it in this 
way is supposed to wash away all external uncleanness, 
and drinking it to cleanse all internal impurity. When 
this disgusting ceremony of the pa?icha-gavia is over, the 
person who has been reinstated is expected to give a great 
feast to the Brahmins who have collected from all parts to 
witness it. Presents of more or less value are also expected 
by them, and not until these are forthcoming does the 
guilty person obtain all his rights and privileges again. 

There are certain offences so heinous in the sight of 
Hindus, however, as to leave no hope of reinstatement to 
those who commit them. Such, for example, would be 
the crime of a Brahmin who had openly cohabited with 
a Pariah woman. Were the woman of any other caste, 
I believe that it would be possible for a guilty person, by 
getting rid of her and by repudiating any children he had 
had by her, to obtain pardon, after performing many 
purifying ceremonies and expending much money. But 
hopeless would be the case of the man who under any 
circumstances had eaten of cow's flesh. There would be 
no hope of pardon for him, even supposing he had com- 
mitted such an awful sacrilege under compulsion. 

It would be possible to cite several instances of strange 
and inflexible severity in the punishment of caste offences. 
When the last Mussulman Prince reigned in Mysore and 
sought to proselytize the whole Peninsula, he began by 
having several Brahmins forcibly circumcised, compelling 
them afterwards to eat cow's flesh as an unequivocal token 
of their renunciation of caste. Subsequently the people 
were freed from the yoke of this tyrant, and many of those 
who had been compelled to embrace the Mahomedan 
religion made every possible effort, and offered very large 


sums, 1<> be readmitted to Hinduism. .Assemblies were 
held in different parts of the country to thoroughly consider 
their cases. It was everywhere decided that it was quite 
possible to purify the uncleanness of circumcision and of 
intercourse with Mussulmans. But the crime of eating 
cow's flesh, even under compulsion, was unanimously 
declared to be irredeemable and not to be effaced either 
by presents, or by fire, or by the pancha-gavia. 

A similar decision was given in the case of Sudras who 
found themselves in the same position, and who, after 
trying all possible means, were not more successful. One 
and all, therefore, were obliged to remain Mahomedans. 

A Hindu, of whatever caste, who has once had the 
misfortune to be excommunicated, can never altogether 
get rid of the stain of his disgrace. If he ever gets into 
trouble his excommunication is always thrown in his 


Antiquity and Origin of Caste. 

Apparently there is no existing institution older than 
the caste system of the Hindus. Greek and Latin authors 
who have written about India concur in thinking that it 
has been in force from time immemorial ; and certainly the 
unswerving observance of its rules seems to me an almost 
incontestable proof of its antiquity \ Under a solemn and 

1 Dr. Muir, in Old Sanskrit Texts, vol. i. p. 159, reviewing the texts 
which he had cited on this subject, says : — ' First, we have the set of 
accounts in which the four castes are said to have sprung from pro- 
genitors who were separately created ; but in regard to the manner of 
their creation we find the greatest diversity of statement. The most 
common story is that the castes issued from the mouth, arms, thighs, 
and feet of Purusha, or Brahma. The oldest extant passage in which 
this idea occurs, and from which all the later myths of a similar tenor 
have no doubt been borrowed, is to be found in the Purusha Sukta ; but 
it is doubtful whether, in the form in which it is there represented, this 
representation is anything more than an allegory. In some of the texts 
from the Bhagavata Purana traces of the same allegorical character 
may be perceived ; but in Manu and the Puranas the mystical import 
of the Yedic text disappears, and the figurative narration is hardened 
into a literal statement of fact. In the chapters of the Vishnu, Vayu, 
and Miirkandeya Puranas, where castes arc described as coeval with 


unceasing obligation as the Hindus are to respect its usages, 
new and strange customs are things unheard of in their 
country. Any person who attempted to introduce such 
innovations would excite universal resentment and opposi- 
tion, and would be branded as a dangerous person. The 

creation, and as having been naturally distinguished by different guruu, 
or qualities, involving varieties of moral character, we are nevertheless 
allowed to infer that those qualities exerted no influence on the classes 
in which they were inherent, as the condition of the whole race during 
the Krita age is described as one of uniform perfection and happiness ; 
while the actual separation into castes did not take place, according to 
the Vayu Purana, until men had become deteriorated in the Treta age. 

' Second, in various passages from the Brahmanas epic poems, and 
Puranas, the creation of mankind is described without the least allusion 
to any separate production of the progenitors of the four castes. And 
whilst in the chapters where they relate the distinct formations of the 
tastes, the Puranas assign different natural dispositions to each class, 
they elsewhere represent all mankind as being at the creation uniformly 
distinguished by the quality of passion. In one text men are said to 
be the offspring of Vivasat ; in another his son Mami is said to be their 
progenitor, whilst in a third they are said to be descended from a female 
of the same name. The passage which declares Manu to have been the 
father of the human race explicitly affirms that men of all the four castes 
were descended from him. In another remarkable text the Mahabharata 
categorically asserts that originally there was no distinction of classes, 
the existing distribution having arisen out of differences of character 
and occupation. In these circumstances, we may fairly conclude that 
the separate origination of the four castes was far from being an article 
of belief universally received by Indian antiquity.' 

The following is the categorical assertion in the Mahabharata (Santi 
parvan) above referred to. It occurs in the course of a discussion on 
caste between Bhrigu and Bharadwaja. Bhrigu, replying to a question 
put by Bharadwaja, says: 'The colour [varna) of the Brahmins was 
white ; that of the Kshatriyas red ; that of the Vaisyas yellow, and that 
of the Sudras black.' Bharadwaja here rejoins, * If the caste {varna) of 
the four classes is distinguished by their colour {varna), then a confusion 
of all the castes is observable. . . .' Bhrigu replies, ' There is no differ- 
ence of castes : this world, having been at hist created by Brahma 
entirely Brahmanic, became (afterwards) separated into tastes in con- 
sequence of works. Those Brahmins (lit. twice-born men) who were 
fond of sensual pleasure, fiery, irascible, prone to violence, who had 
forsaken their duty and were red limbed, fell into the condition of 
Kshatriyas. Those Brahmins who derived their livelihood from kine, 
who were yellow, who subsisted by agriculture, and who neglected to 
practise their duties, entered into the state of Vaisyas. Those Brahmins 
who wen- addicted to mischief and falsehood, who were COVetoUS, who 
lived by all kinds of work, who were black and had fallen from purity, 
sank into the condition of Sudras.' — Ed. 


task, however, would be such a difficult one that I can 
hardly believe that any proposal of the kind would ever 
enter an intelligent person's head. Everything is always 
done in exactly the same way ; even the minutest details 
are invested with a solemn importance of their own, because 
a Hindu is convinced that it is only by paying rigorous 
attention to small details that more momentous concerns 
are safeguarded. Indeed, there is not another nation on 
earth which can pride itself on having so long preserved 
intact its social customs and regulations. 

The Hindu legislators of old had the good sense to give 
stability to these customs and regulations by associating 
with them many outward ceremonies, which, by fixing 
them in the minds of the people, ensured their more faithful 
observance. These ceremonies are invariably observed, and 
have never been allowed to degenerate into mere forms that 
can be neglected without grave consequences. Failure to 
perform a single one of them, however unimpoitant it 
might appear, would never go unpunished. 

One cannot fail to remark how very similar some of 
these ceremonies are to those which were performed long 
ago amongst other nations. Thus the Hindu precepts 
about cleanness and uncleanness, as also the means em- 
ployed for preserving the one and effacing the other, are 
similar in many respects to those of the ancient Hebrews. 
The rule about marrying in one's caste, and even in one's 
family, was specifically imposed upon the Jews in the laws 
which Moses gave them from God \ This rule, too, was 
in force a long time before that, for it appears to have been 
general amongst the Chaldeans. We find also in Holy 
Writ that Abraham espoused his niece, and that the holy 
patriarch sent into a far country for a maiden of his own 
family as a wife for his son Isaac. Again, Isaac and his 
wife Rebecca found it difficult to pardon their son Esau 
for marrying amongst strangers, that is, amongst the 
Canaanites ; and they sent their son Jacob away into 
a distant land to seek a wife from amongst their own 

In the same way to-day, Hindus residing in a foreign 

1 Numbers xxxvi. 5-12. 


country will journey hundreds of leagues to their native 
land in search of wives for their sons. 

Again, as to the caste system, Moses, as is well known, 
established it amongst the Hebrews in accordance with 
the commands of God. This holy lawgiver had, during 
his long sojourn in Egypt, observed the system as estab- 
lished in that country, and had doubtless recognized the 
good that resulted from it. Apparently, in executing the 
divine order with respect to it he simply adapted and per- 
fected the system which was in force in Egypt. 

The Indian caste system is of still older origin. The 
Hindu sacred writings record that the author of it was the 
God Brahma, to whom they attribute the creation of the 
world, and who is said to have established this system 
when he peopled the earth. The Brahmins were the pro- 
duct of his brain ; the Kshatriyas or Rajahs issued from 
his shoulders ; the Vaisyas from his belly ; and the Sudras 
from his feet. 

It is easy to understand the allegorical signification of 
this legend, in which one can distinctly trace the relative 
degrees of subordination of the different castes. The 
Brahmins, destined to fulfil the high functions of spiritual 
priesthood and to show the way of salvation to their fellow- 
men, issue from the head of the Creator ; the Kshatriyas, 
endowed with physical force and destined to undergo the 
fatigues of war, have their origin in the shoulders and arms 
of Brahma ; the Vaisyas, whose duty it is to provide the 
food, the clothing, and other bodily necessities of man, are 
born in the belly of the god ; and the Sudras, whose lot 
is servitude and rude labour in the fields, issue from his feet. 

Besides this traditional origin of the different castes, 
known to all Hindus, there is another to be found in their 
books, which traces the institution back to the time of the 
Flood. For, it should be noted, this terrible world-renovat - 
ing disaster is as well known to the Hindus as it was to 
Moses. On this important subject, however, I shall have 
more to say subsequently ; suffice it to remark that a 
celebrated personage, reverenced by the Hindus, and 
known to them as Mahanuvu, escaped the calamity in an 
ark, in which were also the seven famous Penitents of 
India. After the Flood, according to Hindu writers, this 


saviour of the human race divided mankind into different 
castes, as they exist at the present day *. 

The many subdivisions into which these four great 
original castes were broken up date undoubtedly from 
later times. They were due to the absolute necessity of 
assigning to each person in a special manner his particular 
place in the social organization. There are some Hindu 
authors who assert that the individuals composing the first 
ramifications of the large Sudra caste were the bastard 
offspring of the other higher castes, and owed their origin 
to illicit intercourse with the widows of the four great 
caste divisions. It is said that these bastard children, 
born of a Brahmin father and a Kshatriya mother, or of 
a Vaisya father and a Sudra mother, &c, were not recog- 
nized by any of the four primary castes, and so they were 
placed in other caste categories and were assigned special 
employments, more or less humble, according to their 

A few of these many subdivisions are said to be of quite 
recent origin. For instance, the five artisan classes are 
said to have originally formed only one class, as also the 
barbers and washermen, the Gollavarus and Kurubas, and 
a large number of others who in recent times have split up 
into new sub-castes. 


The Lower Classes of Sudras. — Pariahs. — Chucklers, or Cobblers, and 
others equally low. — Contempt in which they are held. — Pariahs 
strictly speaking Slaves. — Washermen, Barbers, and some others. — 
Disrepute into which Mechanical Skill has fallen. — Nomads and 
Vagabonds. — Gypsies. — Quacks. — Jugglers. — Wild Tribes, &c. 

We have already remarked that amongst the immense 
number of classes of which the Sudra caste is composed, it 
is impossible to give precedence to any one class in par- 
ticular ; the natives themselves not being agreed on that 
point, and the social scale varying in different parts of the 
country. There are certain classes, however, who, owing 
to the depth of degradation into which they have fallen, 

1 The appellation Mahanuim is well worthy of remark. It is a com- 
pound of two words — Maha great, and Nuvu, which undoubtedly is 
the same as Noah. — Dubois. 


are looked upon as almost another race of beings, altogether 
outside the pale of society ; and they are perfectly ready 
to acknowledge their own comparative inferiority. The 
best known and most numerous of these castes is the 
Parayer, as it is called in Tamil, the word from which the 
European name Pariah is derived l . The particulars which 
I am about to give of this class will form most striking 
contrasts with those I shall relate subsequently about the 
Brahmins, and will serve to demonstrate a point to which 
I shall often refer, namely, how incapable the Hindus are 
of showing any moderation in their caste customs and 

Their contempt and aversion for these social outcastes 
are as extreme, on the one hand, as are the respect and 
veneration which they pay, on the other, to those whom 
their superstitions have invested with god-like attributes. 
Throughout the whole of India the Pariahs are looked upon 
as slaves by other castes, and are treated with great harsh- 
ness. Hardly anywhere are they allowed to cultivate the 
soil for their own benefit, but are obliged to hire themselves 
out to the other castes, who in return for a minimum wage 
exact the hardest tasks from them. 

Furthermore, their masters may beat them at pleasure ; 
the poor wretches having no right either to complain or 
to obtain redress for that or any other ill-treatment their 
masters may impose on them. In fact, these Pariahs are 
the born slaves of India ; and had I to choose between 
the two sad fates of being a slave in one of our colonies 
or a Pariah here, I should unhesitatingly prefer the former. 

This class is the most numerous of all, and in conjunc- 
tion with that of the Chucklers, or cobblers, represents at 
least a quarter of the population. It is painful to think 
that its members, though so degraded, are yet the most 
useful of all. On them the whole agricultural work of the 
country devolves 2 , and they have also other tasks to per- 
forin which are still harder and more indispensable. 

1 Parayen means one that beats the drum [parai).— Ed. 

2 This is the case only in certain districts of Southern [ndia, such as 
Chingleput and Tanjore. An appreciable percentage »>! the Pariah-, 
has now migrated to the towns, where they serve as domestic servants 
in European and Eurasian households.— Ed. 


However, notwithstanding the miserable condition of 
these wretched Pariahs, they are never heard to murmur, 
or to complain of their low estate. Still less do they ever 
dream of trying to improve their lot, by combining together, 
and forcing the other classes to treat them with that 
common respect which one man owes to another. The 
idea that he was born to be in subjection to the other 
castes is so ingrained in his mind that it never occurs to 
the Pariah to think that his fate is anything but irrevocable. 
Nothing will ever persuade him that men are all made of 
the same clay, or that he has the right to insist on better 
treatment than that which is meted out to him 1 . 

They live in hopeless poverty, and the greater number 
lack sufficient means to procure even the coarsest clothing. 
They go about almost naked, or at best clothed in the 
most hideous rags. 

They live from hand to mouth the whole year round, 
and rarely know one day how they will procure food for 
the next. When they happen to have any money, they 
invariably spend it at once, and make a point of doing no 
work as long as they have anything left to live on. 

In a few districts they are allowed to cultivate the soil 
on their own account, but in such cases they are almost 
always the poorest of their class. Pariahs who hire them- 
selves out as labourers earn, at any rate, enough to live 
on ; and their food, though often of the coarsest description, 
is sufficient to satisfy the cravings of hunger. But those 
who are their own masters, and cultivate land for them- 
selves, are so indolent and careless that their harvests, 
even in the most favourable seasons, are only sufficient to 
feed them for half the year. 

The contempt and aversion with which the other castes 
— and particularly the Brahmins — regard these unfortunate 
people are carried to such an excess that in many places 
their presence, or even their footprints, are considered 
sufficient to defile the whole neighbourhood. They are 
forbidden to cross a street in which Brahmins are living. 

1 The Christian missionaries in India have done and are doing much 
to elevate the condition and character of this class. In Madras city 
there are now Pariah associations, and also a journal specially represent- 
ing; Pariah interests. — Ed. 


Should they be so ill-advised as to do so. the Latter would 
have the right, not to strike them themselves, because 
they could not do so without defilement, or even touch 
them with the end of a long stick, but to order them to be 
severely beaten by other people. A Pariah who had the 
audacity to enter a Brahmin's house might possibly be 
murdered on the spot. A revolting crime of this sort has 
been actually perpetrated in States under the rule of native 
princes without a voice being raised in expostulation \ 

Any one who has been touched, whether inadvertently 
or purposely, by a Pariah is defiled by that single act, 
and may hold no communication with any person what- 
soever until he has been purified by bathing, or by other 
ceremonies more or less important according to the status 
and customs of his caste. It would be contamination to 
eat with any members of this class ; to touch food pre- 
pared by them, or even to drink water which they have 
drawn ; to use an earthen vessel which they have held in 
their hands ; to set foot inside one of their houses, or to 
allow them to enter houses other than their own. Each 
of these acts would contaminate the person affected by it, 
and before being readmitted to his own caste such a person 
would have to go through many exacting and expensive 
formalities. Should it be proved that any one had had 
any connexion with a Pariah woman he would be treated 
with even greater severity. Nevertheless, the disgust which 
these Pariahs inspire is not so intense in some parts of the 
country as in others. The feeling is most strongly developed 
in the southern and western districts of the Peninsula ; in 
the north it is less apparent. In the northern part of 
Mysore the other classes of Sudras allow Pariahs to ap- 
proach them, and even permit them to enter that part of 
the house which is used for cattle. Indeed, in some places 
custom is so far relaxed that a Pariah may venture to put 
his head and one foot, but one foot only, inside the room 

1 Even to this day a Pariah is not allowed to pass a Brahmin Btreel 
in a village, though nobody can prevent, or prevents, his approaching 
or passing by a Brahmin's house in towns. The Pariahs, on their part, 
will under no circumstances allow a Brahmin to pass through their 
jxircherries (collections of Pariah huts), as they firmly believe that it 
will lead to their ruin. — Ed. 


occupied by the master of the house. It is said that still 
further north the difference between this and other Sudra 
castes gradually diminishes, until at last it disappears 

The origin of this degraded class can be traced to a very 
early period, as it is mentioned in the most ancient Puranas. 
The Pariahs were most probably composed, in the first 
instance, of all the disreputable individuals of different 
classes of society, who, on account of various offences, had 
forfeited their right to associate with respectable men. 
They formed a class apart, and having nothing to fear and 
less to lose, they gave themselves up, without restraint, to 
their natural tendencies towards vice and excess, in which 
they continue to live at the present day. 

In very early days, however, the separation between 
Pariahs and the other castes does not appear to have been 
so marked as at present. Though relegated to the lowest 
grade in the social scale, they were not then placed abso- 
lutely outside and beyond it, the line of demarcation 
between them and the Sudras being almost imperceptible. 
Indeed, they are even to this day considered to be the 
direct descendants of the better class of agricultural 
labourers. The Tamil Vellalers and the Okkala-makkalu- 
kanarey do not disdain to call them their children. But 
one thing is quite certain, that if these classes share a 
common origin with the Pariahs and acknowledge the 
same, their actions by no means corroborate their words, 
and their treatment of the Pariahs leaves much to be 

Europeans are obliged to have Pariahs for their servants, 
because no native of any other caste would condescend to 
do such menial work as is exacted by their masters. For 
instance, it would be very difficult to find amongst the 
Sudras any one who would demean himself by blacking or 
greasing boots and shoes, emptying and cleansing chamber 
utensils, brushing and arranging hair, &c. ; and certainly 
no one could be found who for any consideration whatever 
would consent to cook food for them, as this would necessi- 
tate touching beef, which is constantly to be seen on the 
tables of Europeans, who thereby show an open disregard 
of the feelings and prejudices of the people amongst whom 


they live. Foreigners are therefore obliged to have recourse 
to Pariahs to perform this important domestic service. If 
the kind of food which they do not scruple to eat lowers 
Europeans in the eyes of the superstitious native, much 
more are they lowered by the social status of the people 
by whom they are served. For it is a fact recognized by 
all Hindus that none but a Pariah would dare to eat food 
prepared by Pariahs. 

It is undeniable that this want of consideration on the 
part of Europeans — or rather the necessity to which they 
are reduced of employing Pariahs as servants — renders 
them most obnoxious to other classes of natives, and 
greatly diminishes the general respect for the white man. 
It being impossible to procure servants of a better caste, 
foreigners have of necessity to put up with members of 
this inferior class, who are dishonest, incapable of any 
attachment to their masters, and unworthy of confidence. 
Sudras who become servants of Europeans are almost in- 
variably vicious and unprincipled, as devoid of all feeling 
of honour as they are wanting in resource ; in fact, they 
are the scum of their class and of society at large. No 
respectable or self-respecting Sudra would ever consent to 
enter a service where he would be in danger of being mis- 
taken for a Pariah, or would have to consort with Pariahs. 
Amongst other reasons which contribute largely to the 
dislike that natives of a better class entertain for domestic 
service under Europeans, is the feeling that their masters 
keep them at such a great distance, and are generally 
haughty and even cruel in their demeanour towards them. 
But above all things they dread being kicked by a Euro- 
pean, not because this particular form of ill-treatment is 
physically more painful than any other, but because they 
have a horror of being defiled by contact with anything so 
unclean as a leather boot or shoe. Pariahs, accustomed 
from their childhood to slavery, put up patiently with 
affronts of this kind which other natives, who have more 
pride and self-respect, are unable to endure. 

Under other circumstances, it should be remarked, 
domestic service in India is by no means regarded as 
degrading. The servant has his meals with his master, 
the maid with her mistress, and both go through life on 


an almost equal footing. The conduct of Europeans being 
in this respect so totally different, natives who have any 
sense of decency or self-respect feel the greatest repugnance 
to taking service with them. One cannot wonder therefore 
that only the very dregs of the population will undertake 
the work. 

But to return to the Pariahs. One is bound to confess 
that the evil reputation which is borne by this class is in 
many respects well deserved, by reason of the low conduct 
and habits of its members. A great many of these un- 
fortunate people bind themselves for life, with their wives 
and children, to the ryots, or agricultural classes, who set 
them to the hardest labour and treat them with the greatest 
harshness. The village scavengers, who are obliged to 
clean out the public latrines, to sweep the streets, and 
to remove all rubbish, invariably belong to this class. 
These men, known in the south by the name of totis, are, 
however, generally somewhat more humanely treated than 
the other Pariahs, because, in addition to the dirty work 
above mentioned, they are employed in letting the water 
into the tanks and channels for irrigating the rice fields ; 
and on this account they are treated with some considera- 
tion by the rest of the villagers. Amongst the Pariahs 
who are not agricultural slaves there are some who groom 
and feed the horses of private individuals, or those used 
in the army ; some are in charge of elephants ; others tend 
cattle ; others are messengers and carriers ; while others, 
again, do ordinary manual work. Within recent times 
Pariahs have been allowed to enlist in the European and 
Native armies, and some of them have risen to high rank, 
for in point of courage and bravery they are in no way 
inferior to any other caste. Yet their bringing up puts them 
at a great disadvantage in acquiring other qualifications 
necessary for the making of a good soldier, for they are 
induced with difficulty to conform to military discipline, 
and are absolutely deficient in all sense of honour \ 

Pariahs, being thus convinced that they have nothing to 

1 The Abbe is too sweeping in many of his statements about Pariahs. 
For instance, in these days at any rate, the Pariah Sepoys in the Madras 
army are extremely well disciplined, especially the corps of Sappers. 


lose or gain in public estimation, abandon themselves 
without shame or restraint to vice of all kinds, and the 
greatest lawlessness prevails amongst them, for which they 
do not feel the least shame. One might almost say that, 
in the matter of vice, they outstrip all others in brutality, 
as the Brahmins do in malice. Their habits of uncleanli- 
ness are disgusting. Their huts, a mass of filth and alive 
with insects and vermin, are, if possible, even more loath- 
some than their persons. Their harsh and forbidding 
features clearly reveal their character, but even these are 
an insufficient indication of the coarseness of their minds 
and manners. They are much addicted to drunkenness, 
a vice peculiarly abhorrent to other Hindus. They in- 
toxicate themselves usually with the juice of the palm- 
tree, called toddy, which they drink after it has fermented, 
and it is then more spirituous. In spite of its horrible 
stench they imbibe it as if the nauseous liquid were nectar. 
Drunken quarrels are of frequent occurrence amongst 
them, and their wives are often sufferers, the unhappy 
creatures being nearly beaten to death, even when in 
a state of pregnancy. It is to this brutality and violence 
of their husbands that I attribute the frequent miscarriages 
to which Pariah wives are subject, and which are much 
more common amongst them than amongst women of any 
other caste. 

What chiefly disgusts other natives is the revolting 
nature of the food which the Pariahs eat. Attracted by 
the smell, they will collect in crowds round any carrion, 
and contend for the spoil with dogs, jackals, crows, and 
other carnivorous animals. They then divide the semi- 
putrid flesh, and carry it away to their huts, where they 
devour it, often without rice or anything else to disguise 
the flavour. That the animal should have died of disease 
is of no consequence to them, and they sometimes secretly 
poison cows or buffaloes that they may subsequently feast 
on the foul, putrefying remains. The carcases of animals 
that die in a village belong by right to the toti or scavenger, 
who sells the flesh at a very low price to the other Pariahs 
in the neighbourhood. When it is impossible to consume 
in one day the stock of meat thus obtained, they dry the 
remainder in the sun, and keep it in their huts until they 


run short of olhcr food. There arc few Pariah houses 
where one does not see festoons of these horrible fragments 

hanging up ; and though the Pariahs themselves do not 
seem to be affected by the smell, travellers passing near 
their villages quickly perceive it and can tell at once the 
caste of the people living there. This horrible food is, 
no doubt, the cause of the greater part of the contagious 
diseases which decimate them, and from which their neigh- 
bours are free. 

Is it to be wondered at, after what has just been stated, 
that other castes should hold this in abhorrence ? Can 
they be blamed for refusing to hold any communication 
with such savages, or for obliging them to keep themselves 
aloof and to live in separate hamlets ? It is true that with 
regard to these Pariahs the other Hindus are apt to carry 
their views to excess ; but as we have already pointed out, 
and shall often have to point out again, the natural in- 
stinct of the natives of India seems to run to extremes in 
all cases. 

The condition of the Pariahs, which is not really slavery 
as it is known amongst us, resembles to a certain extent 
that of the serfs of France and other countries of Northern 
Europe in olden times. This state of bondage is at its 
worst along the coast of Malabar, as are several other 
customs peculiar to the country *. The reason is that 
Malabar, owing to its position, has generally escaped the 
invasions and revolutions which have so often devastated 
the rest of India, and has thus managed to preserve un- 
altered many ancient institutions, which in other parts 
have fallen into disuse. 

Of these the two most remarkable are proprietary rights 
and slavery. These two systems are apparently insepar- 
able one from the other : and, indeed, one may well say, 
no land without lord. All the Pariahs born in the country 
are serfs for life, from father to son, and are part and parcel 
of the land on which they are born. The land-owner can 
sell them along with the soil, and can dispose of them when 
and how he pleases. This proprietary right and this 
system of serfdom have existed from the remotest times, 

1 Things in this respect have, of course, changed a great deal for the 
better since the Abbe wrote. — Ed. 


and exist still amongst the Nairs, the Coorgs, and the 
Tulus, the three aboriginal tribes of the Malabar coast. 
This is, I believe, the only province in India where pro- 
prietary right has been preserved intact until the present 
day. Everywhere else the soil belongs to the ruler, and 
the cultivator is merely his tenant. The lands which he 
tills are given to him or taken away from him according 
to the w r ill of the Government for the time being. On 
the Malabar coast, however, the lands belong to those 
who have inherited them from their forefathers, and these 
in their turn possess the right of handing them down to 
their descendants. Here the lands may be alienated, sold, 
given away, or disposed of according to the will of the 
owners. In a word, the jus utendi et abutendi, which is the 
basis of proprietary right, belongs entirely to them. Every 
landed proprietor in that country possesses a community 
of Pariahs to cultivate his fields, who are actually his 
slaves and form an integral part of his property. All 
children born of these Pariahs are serfs by birth, just as 
their parents were ; and their master has the right, if he 
choose, to sell or dispose of parents and children in any 
way that he pleases. If one of these Pariahs escapes and 
takes service under another master, his real master can 
recover him anywhere as his own property. If a proprietor 
happens to possess more slaves than he requires for cultivat- 
ing his land, he sells some to other landlords who are less 
fortunate than himself. It is by no means uncommon to 
see a debtor, who is unable to pay his debts in hard cash, 
satisfy his creditors by handing over to them a number of 
his Pariah slaves. The price of these is not exorbitant. 
A male still young enough to work will fetch three rupees 
and a hundred seers of rice, which is about the value of 
a bullock. 

But the landed proprietors do not usually sell their 
slaves except in cases of great emergency ; and even then 
they can only sell them within the borders of their own 
country. In no case have they a right to export them 
for sale to foreigners. 

Each land- owner in the province of Malabar lives in 
a house that is isolated in the middle of his estate. Here 
he dwells, surrounded by his community of Pariah serfs, 


who are always remarkably submissive to him. Some 
land-owners possess over a hundred of them. They treat 
them usually in the most humane manner. They give 
them only such work as their age or strength permits ; 
feed them on the same rice that they themselves eat ; give 
them in marriage when they come of age ; and every year 
provide them with clothing, four or five yards of cloth for 
the women and a coarse woollen blanket for the men. 

In Malabar it is only the Pariahs who are thus con- 
demned to perpetual slavery ; but then there are no free 
men amongst them. All are born slaves from generation 
to generation. They have not even a right to buy their 
own freedom ; and if they wish to secure their indepen- 
dence they can only do so by escaping secretly from the 
country. All the same, I have not heard that they often 
resort to this extremity. They are accustomed from father 
to son to this state of servitude ; they are kindly treated 
by their masters ; they eat the same food as they do ; 
they are never forced to do tasks beyond their strength ; 
and thus they have no notion of what freedom or inde- 
pendence means, and are happily resigned to their lot. 
They look upon their master as their father, and consider 
themselves to belong to his family. As a matter of fact, 
their physical condition, which is the only thing that appeals 
to their senses, is much better than that of their brethren 
who are free. At any rate, the Pariah slave of Malabar is 
certain of a living, the supreme requirement of nature, 
whereas the free Pariah of other provinces lives for half 
his time in actual want of the meanest subsistence, and is 
often exposed to death from starvation l . 

It is indeed a piteous sight, the abject and half-starved 
condition in which this wretched caste, the most numerous 
of all, drags out its existence. It is true that amongst 

1 The slaves spoken of here are not Pariahs but Cherumars, who claim 
to be somewhat superior in rank to the Pariahs. From 1792 the East 
India Company steadily endeavoured to emancipate the Cherumars. In 
1843 an Emancipation Act was passed, but it was explained to the 
Cherumars that it was their interest, as well as their duty, to remain 
with their masters if treated kindly. ' Sections 370, 371, &c. of the 
Indian Penal Code,' writes Mr. Logan in his Malabar Manual, 'which 
came into force on Jan. 1, 1862, dealt the real final blow at slavery in 
India.' — Ed. 


Pariahs it is an invariable rule, almost a point of honour, 
to spend everything they earn and to take no thought for 
the morrow. The majority of them, men and women, 
are never clothed in anything but old rags. But in order 
to obtain a true idea of their abject misery one must live 
amongst them, as I have been obliged to do. About half 
of my various congregations consisted of Pariah Christians. 
Wherever I went I was constantly called in to administer 
the last consolations of religion to people of this class. 
On reaching the hut to which my duty led me, I was often 
obliged to creep in on my hands and knees, so low was 
the entrance door to the wretched hovel. When once 
inside, I could only partially avoid the sickening smell by 
holding to my nose a handkerchief soaked in the strongest 
vinegar. I would find there a mere skeleton, perhaps 
lying on the bare ground, though more often crouching on 
a rotten piece of matting, with a stone or a block of wood 
as a pillow. The miserable creature would have for cloth- 
ing a rag tied round the loins, and for covering a coarse 
and tattered blanket that left half the body naked. I 
would seat myself on the ground by his side, and the first 
words I heard would be : ' Father, I am dying of cold and 
hunger.' I would spend a quarter of an hour or so by 
him, and at last leave this sad spectacle with my heart 
torn asunder by the sadness and hopelessness of it all, 
and my body covered in every part with insects and vermin. 
Yet, after all, this was the least inconvenience that I suffered, 
for I could rid myself of them by changing my clothes and 
taking a hot bath. The only thing that really afflicted me 
was having to stand face to face with such a spectacle of 
utter misery and all its attendant horrors, and possessing 
no means of affording any save the most inadequate 

Oh ! if those who are blessed with this world's goods, 
and who are so inclined to create imaginary troubles for 
themselves because they have no real ones ; if the dis- 
contented and ambitious who are always ready to grumble 
and complain of their fate, because perchance they have 
only the mere necessaries and are unable to procure the 
luxuries and pleasures of life ; if they would only pause 
for a moment and contemplate this harrowing picture of 


want and misery, liovv much more gratefully would they 
appreciate the lot that Providence has assigned to them ! 

As for myself, for the first ten or twelve years that 
1 was in India, I lived in such abject poverty that I had 
hardly sufficient means to procure the bare necessaries of 
life ; but even then I was as happy and contented as I am 
now that I am better off. Besides the consolations which 
my religion gave me under these trying circumstances, my 
reason found me others in the reflection that nineteen- 
twentieths of the people among whom I was living were 
bearing far greater trials of all kinds than any that I was 
called on to endure. 

Besides the Pariahs, who are to be found all over the 
Peninsula, there are in certain provinces other clashes 
composed of individuals who equal and even surpass them 
in depravity of mind and customs, and in the contempt 
in which they are held. Such, for instance, is the caste 
of Palters, who are only found in Madura and in the neigh- 
bourhood of Cape Comorin. The Pallers consider them- 
selves superior to the Pariahs, inasmuch as they do not 
eat the flesh of the cow ; but the Pariahs look on them 
as altogether their inferiors, because they are the scum of 
the Left-hand faction, whilst they themselves are the 
mainstay of the Right-hand. 

These two classes of degraded beings can never agree, 
and wherever they are found in fairly equal numbers, the 
disputes and quarrels amongst them are interminable. 
They lead the same sort of life, enjoy an equal share of 
public opprobrium, and both are obliged to live far apart 
from all other classes of the inhabitants. 

Amongst the forests on the Malabar coast there lives 
a tribe which, incredible as it may seem, surpasses the two 
of which I have just spoken in degradation and squalid 
misery. They are called Puliahs, and are looked upon as 
below the level of the beasts which share this wild country 
with them. They are not even allowed to build them- 
selves huts to protect themselves from the inclemencies of 
the weather. A sort of lean-to, supported by four bamboo 
poles and open at the sides, serves as a shelter for some of 
them, and keeps off the rain, though it does not screen 
them from the wind. Most of them, however, make for 


themselves what may be called nests in the brandies of 
the thickest-foliaged trees, where they perch like birds of 
prey for the greater part of the twenty-four hours. They 
are not even allowed to walk peaceably along the high- 
roads. If they see any one coming towards them, they 
are bound to utter a certain cry and to go a long way 
round to avoid passing him. A hundred paces is the 
very nearest they may approach any one of a different 
caste. If a Nair, who always carries arms, meets one of 
these unhappy people on the road, he is entitled to stab 
him on the spot 1 . The Puliahs live an absolutely savage 
life, and have no communication whatever with the rest 
of the world. 

The Chucklers, or cobblers, are also considered inferior 
to the Pariahs all over the Peninsula, and, as a matter of 
fact, they show that they are of a lower grade by their 
more debased ideas, their greater ignorance and brutality. 
They are also much more addicted to drunkenness and 
debauchery. Their orgies take place principally in the 
evening, and their villages resound, far into the night, 
with the yells and quarrels which result from their intoxica- 
tion. Nothing will persuade them to work as long as they 
have anything to drink ; they only return to their labour 
when they have absolutely no further means of satisfying 
their ruling passion. Thus they spend their time in alter- 
nate bouts of work and drunkenness. The women of this 
wretched class do not allow their husbands to outshine 
them in any vice, and are quite as much addicted to drunken- 
ness as the men. Their modesty and general behaviour 
may therefore be easily imagined. The very Pariahs refuse 
to have anything to do with the Chucklers, and do not 
admit them to any of their feasts. 

There is one class amongst the Pariahs which rules all 
the rest of the caste. These are the Valluvas 2 , who are 
called the Brahmins of the Pariahs in mockery. They keep 
themselves quite distinct from the others, and only inter- 
marry in their own class. They consider themselves as 

1 No native is nowadays allowed to carry arms without a licence. 
But even now the Puliahs are forbidden to approach a person of higher 
caste. They always stand at a distance of 20 to 30 yards. — Ed. 

2 These are sometimes physicians and astrologers. — Ed. 


the gurus, or spiritual advisers, of the rest. It is they 
who preside at all the marriages and other religious cere- 
monies of the Pariahs. They predict all the absurdities 
mentioned in the Hindu almanac, such as lucky and un- 
lucky days, favourable or unfavourable moments for 
beginning a fresh undertaking, and other prophecies of 
a like nature. But they are forbidden to meddle with 
anything pertaining to astronomy, such as the foretelling 
of eclipses, changes of the moon, &c, this prerogative 
belonging exclusively to the Brahmins. 

There are other classes too, which, though a trifle higher 
in the Hindu social scale, are for all that not treated with 
much more respect. Firstly, amongst the Sudras there are 
those who follow servile occupations, or at least occupa- 
tions dependent on the public ; secondly, those who per- 
form low and disgusting offices, which expose them to 
frequent defilements ; and, thirdly, there are the nomadic 
tribes, who are always wandering about the country, 
having no fixed abode. 

Amongst the first I place the barbers and the washer- 
men. There are men belonging to these two employments 
in every village, and no one exercising the same profession 
can come from another village to work in theirs without 
their express permission. Their employments are trans- 
mitted from father to son, and those who pursue them 
form two distinct castes. 

The barber's business is to trim the beard, shave the 
head, pare the nails on hands and feet, and clean the ears 
of all the inhabitants of his village. In several of the 
southern provinces the inhabitants have all the hair on 
different parts of their bodies shaved off, with the excep- 
tion of the eye-brows ; and this custom is always observed 
by Brahmins on marriage days and other solemn occasions '. 
The barbers are also the surgeons of the country. What- 
ever be the nature of the operation that they are called on 
to perform, their razor is their only instrument, if it is a 
question of amputation ; or a sort of stiletto, which they 

1 This custom of shaving the hair from all parts of the body, for 
ceremonies where absolute purity is required, is not peculiar to the 
Brahmins ; it was also common amongst the Jews, for the same reason, 
and was part of their ceremonial law (Numbers viii. 6, 7). — Dubois. 


use for paring nails, if they have to open an abscess, or 
the like. They are also the only accredited fiddlers ; and 
they share with the Pariahs the exclusive right of playing 
wind instruments, as will be seen presently. 

As to the washermen, their business is much the same 
here as everywhere else, except for the extreme filthiness 
of the rags that are entrusted to them to be cleaned. 

Those engaged in these two occupations are in such 
a dependent position that they dare not refuse to work 
for any one who chooses to employ them. They are paid 
in kind at harvest time by each inhabitant of their village. 
No doubt the contempt in which they are held by men of 
other castes, who look upon them as menials, is due partly 
to this state of subjection, and also to the uncleanness of 
the things which they are compelled to handle. 

The potters also are a very low class, being absolutely 

The five castes of artisans, of which I have already 
spoken, and also, as a rule, all those employed in mechanical 
or ornamental arts, are very much looked down upon and 

The Moochis, or tanners, though better educated and 
more refined than any of the preceding classes, are not 
much higher in the social scale. The other Sudras never 
allow them to join in their feasts ; indeed, they would 
hardly condescend to give them a drop of water to drink. 
This feeling of repulsion is caused by the defilement which 
ensues from their constantly handling the skins of dead 

As a rule, the mechanical and the liberal arts, such as 
music, painting, and sculpture, are placed on very much 
the same level, and those who follow these professions, 
which are left entirely to the lower castes of the Sudras, 
are looked upon with equal disfavour 1 . 

As far as I know, only the Moochis take up painting as 
a profession. Instrumental music, and particularly that 
of wind instruments, is left exclusively, as I have already 

1 Those who follow these liberal arts are treated with more respect in 
these clays. At all events, they are not looked upon with disfavour. 
There are now many Brahmins in Southern India who are professional 
musicians, though they play on certain instruments only. — Ki>. 


mentioned, to the barbers and Pariahs 1 . The little pro- 
gress that is made in these arts is no doubt due to the 
small amount of encouragement which they receive. As 
for painting, one never sees anything but daubs. The 
Hindus are quite satisfied if their artists can draw designs 
of striking figures painted in the most vivid colours. Our 
best engravings, if they are uncoloured, or our finest 
miniatures or landscapes, are quite valueless in their eyes. 

Though the Hindus much enjoy listening to music, and 
introduce it freely into all their public and private cere- 
monies, both religious and social, yet it must be admitted 
that this charming art is here still in its infancy. I should 
say Hindus are no further advanced in it now than they 
were two or three thousand years ago. They do not expect 
their musicians to produce harmonious tunes when they 
play at their feasts and ceremonies, for their dull ears 
would certainly not appreciate them. What they like is 
plenty of noise and plenty of shrill piercing sounds. Their 
musicians are certainly able to comply with their wishes 
in this respect. Such discordant noises are infinitely more 
pleasing to them than our melodious airs, which possess 
no charm whatever for them. Of all our various instru- 
ments, they care only for drums and trumpets. Their 
vocal music, too, is not a whit more pleasing to European 
ears than their instrumental. Their songs are chiefly 
remarkable for uninspiring monotony ; and though they 
have a scale like ours, composed of seven notes, they have 
not tried to produce from it those harmonies and combina- 
tions which fall so deliciously on our ears. 

Why is it, it may well be asked, that it should be con- 
sidered shameful to play on wind instruments in India ? 
I suppose it is on account of the defilement which the players 
contract by putting such instruments to their mouths after 
they have once been touched by saliva, which, as I shall 
show presently, is the one excretion from the human body 
for which Hindus display invincible horror. There is by 
no means the same feeling with regard to stringed instru- 
ments. In fact, you may often hear Brahmins singing and 
accompanying themselves on a sort of lute which is known 

1 Classes superior to the barbers and Pariahs also play wind instru- 
ments at the present time. — Ed. 


by the name of vina. This instrument has a rather agree- 
able tone, and would be still more pleasing if the sounds 
extracted from it were more varied. It has always been 
a favourite amongst the better classes ; and its invention 
must date from an extremely remote period, for it is often 
mentioned in Hindu books, where the gods themselves are 
represented as playing on the vina to soothe themselves 
with its sweet melodies. It is generally taught by Brah- 
mins ; and as their lessons are very expensive, and they 
persuade their pupils that a great many are necessary in 
order to attain proficiency, it is obvious that none but the 
rich can afford themselves this pleasure. 

The vina of the Hindus is probably the same as the 
cithara l , or harp, of the Jews, in playing which King 
David excelled, and with which he produced those melo- 
dies which soothed and calmed his unfortunate master Saul, 
after God had given Saul up as a prey to his evil passions. 

Besides the vina, the Brahmins have another stringed 
instrument called Icinnahra, which is something like a 
guitar, and the tone of which is not unpleasant. 

The Hindus do not use gut for the strings of their in- 
struments, as Europeans do. They would not dare to 
touch anything so impure, for if they did they would con- 
sider themselves defiled by the contact. To avoid such 
a serious impurity they use metal strings. 

I will now turn to the nomadic castes, which swell the 
number of wretched and degraded beings amongst the 
nation I am describing. Without any fixed abode, wander- 
ing about from one country to another, the individuals of 
which these vagabond tribes are composed pay little or 
no attention to the various customs which are obligatory 
on every respectable Hindu ; and this is why they are so 
cordially detested. 

One of the largest of these castes is that which is known 
in the south by the name of Kuravers or Kurumarus. 
This is subdivided into two branches, one of which carries 
on a trade in salt. Gangs of men bring this article from 
the coast and distribute it in the interior of the country, 
using asses, of which they possess considerable numbers, 

1 The Mahomedans of Northern India have a stringed instrument 
known as cithar. — Ed. 



as their means of transport. As soon as they have sold 
or bartered this commodity, they reload the asses with 
different kinds of grain, for which there is a ready sale on 
the coast, and start off again at once. Thus their whole 
lives are spent in hurrying from one country to another 
without settling down in any place. 

The occupation of the second branch of these Kuravers 
is to make baskets and mats of osier and bamboo, and other 
similar utensils which are used in Hindu households. They 
are obliged to be perpetually moving from one place to 
another to find work, and are without any fixed abode. 

The Kuravers are also the fortune-tellers of the country. 
They speak a language peculiar to themselves, which is 
unintelligible to any other Hindu. Their manners and 
customs have much in common with those of the wandering 
tribes that are known in England as Gypsies, and in France 
as Egyptians, or Bohemians. Their women tell the fortunes 
of those who consult them and are willing to pay them. 
The person who wishes to learn his fate seats himself in 
front of the soothsayer and holds out his hand, while she 
beats a little drum, invokes all her gods or evil spirits, 
and gabbles aloud a succession of fantastic words. These 
preliminaries over, she studies with the most scrupulous 
attention the lines on the hand of the simple-minded 
person who is consulting her, and finally predicts the good 
or evil fortune that is in store for him. Many attempts 
have been made to trace the origin of these wandering 
tribes, who are to be found telling fortunes all over the 
world. The general opinion appears to be that they origin- 
ally came from Egypt, but this view might possibly be 
changed if these Kuravers of India were to be closely 
examined, and their language, manners, and customs com- 
pared with those of the Gypsies and Bohemians. 

The Kuraver women also tattoo the designs of flowers 
and animals which decorate the arms of most young Hindu 
women. The tattooing is done by first delicately tracing 
the desired objects on the skin, then pricking the outline 
gently with a needle, and immediately after rubbing in 
the juice of certain plants, whereby the design becomes 

The Kurumarus are much addicted to stealing, and from 


this tribe come the professional thieves and pickpockets 
known by the name of Kalla-bantrus. These people make 
a study of the art of stealing, and all the dodges of their 
infamous profession are instilled into them from their 
youth. To this end their parents teach them to lie obsti- 
nately, and train them to suffer tortures rather than divulge 
what it is to their interest to hide. Far from being ashamed 
of their profession, the Kalla-bantrus glory in it, and when 
they have nothing to fear they take the greatest pleasure 
in boasting of the clever thefts they have committed in 
various places. Those who, caught in the act, have been 
badly hurt, or who have been deprived by the magistrates 
of nose, ears, or right hand, show their scars and mutila- 
tions with pride, as proofs of their courage and intrepidity ; 
and these men are usually the chosen heads of their caste. 

They always commit their depredations at night. Noise- 
lessly entering a village, they place sentinels along the 
different roads, while they select the houses that can be 
entered with the least risk. These they creep into, and in 
a few minutes strip them of all the metal vessels and other 
valuables they can find, including the gold and silver 
ornaments which the sleeping women and children wear 
round their necks. They never break open the doors of 
the houses, for that would make too much noise and so 
lead to their detection. Their plan is to pierce the mud 
wall of the house with a sharp iron instrument specially 
made for the purpose, with which they can in a few moments 
easily make a hole large enough for a man to creep through. 
They are so clever that they generally manage to carry out 
their depredations without being either seen or heard by 
any one. But if they happen to be surprised, the Kalla- 
bantrus make a desperate resistance and do their best to 
escape. If one of their number is killed in the scrimmage, 
they will run any risk to obtain possession of the corpse. 
They then cut off the head and carry it away with them 
to avoid discovery. 

In the provinces which are governed by native princes, 
these villains are, to a certain extent, protected by the 
authorities, who countenance their depredations in return 
for a stipulated sum, or on condition that they pay the 
value of half the booty that they steal to the revenue 


collector of the locality. But as such an understanding 
could not possibly be anything more than tacit in any 
civilized country, this infamous arrangement is kept secret. 
The culprits, therefore, can expect no compensation to be 
publicly awarded them by the magistrates for the wounds 
and mutilations which they may suffer in the course of 
their nocturnal raids ; but these same magistrates will do 
their best to screen or palliate their offences, the profits 
of which they share, and will always protect their clients 
from well-deserved punishment when they appear before 
them in court. 

The last Mussulman prince who governed Mysore had 
a regular regiment of Kalla-bantrus in his service, whom he 
employed, not to fight amongst his troops, but to despoil 
the enemy's camp during the night, to steal the horses, 
carry off any valuables they could find amongst the officers' 
baggage, spike the enemy's guns, and act as spies. They 
were paid according to their skill and success. In times of 
peace they were sent into neighbouring States to pilfer for 
the benefit of their master, and also to report on the pro- 
ceedings of the rulers. The minor native princes called 
Poligars always employ a number of these ruffians for the 
same purposes. 

In the provinces where these Kalla-bantrus are coun- 
tenanced by the Government, the unfortunate inhabitants 
have no other means of protecting themselves from their 
depredations than by making an agreement with the head 
of the gang to pay him an annual tax of a quarter of a 
rupee and a fowl per house, in consideration of which he 
becomes responsible for all the thefts committed by his 
people in villages which are thus, so to say, insured 1 . 

Besides the Kalla-bantrus of the Kurumaru caste, the 
province of Mysore is infested by another caste of thieves, 
called Kanojis, who are no less dreaded than the others. 

But of all the nomadic castes which wander about the 
country, the best known and most detested is the Lambadis, 
or Sukalers, or Brinjaris. No one knows the origin of this 
caste. The members of it have different manners and 

1 This, of course, is no longer allowed. The thieving classes have, 
under a more rigid system of police, been compelled to take to more 
lawful pursuits. — En. 


customs, and also a different religion and language from 
all the other castes of Hindus. Certain points of resem- 
blance, however, which are to be found between them and 
the Mahrattas, lead one to believe that they must have 
sprung from these people in the first instance, and have 
inherited from them their propensities for rapine and theft, 
and their utter disregard for the rights of property when 
they think they are stronger than their victims and are 
safe from retributory justice. However, the severe sen- 
tences that the magistrates have latterly passed on them 
in several districts have exercised a salutary influence. 
They no longer dare to rob and steal openly. But the 
lonely traveller who meets them in some lonely spot had 
better beware, especially if they have reason to think that 
he would be worth plundering. 

In time of war they attach themselves to the army where 
discipline is least strict. They come swarming in from all 
parts, hoping, in the general disorder and confusion, to be 
able to thieve with impunity. They make themselves very 
useful by keeping the market well supplied with the pro- 
visions that they have stolen on the march. They hire 
themselves and their large herds of cattle to whichever 
contending party will pay them best, acting as carriers of 
the supplies and baggage of the army. They were thus 
employed, to the number of several thousands, by the 
English in their last war with the Sultan of Mysore. The 
English, however, had occasion to regret having taken 
these untrustworthy and ill-disciplined people into their 
service, when they saw them ravaging the country through 
which they passed and causing more annoyance than the 
whole of the enemy's army. The frequent and severe 
punishments that were inflicted on their chiefs had no 
restraining effect whatever on the rest of the horde. They 
had been attracted solely by the hope of plunder, and 
thought little of the regular wages and other inducements 
which had been promised them. 

In times of peace these professional brigands occupy 
themselves in trading in grain and salt, which they convey 
from one part of the country to the other on their bullocks ; 
but at the least whisper of war, or the slightest sign of 
coming trouble, they are at once on the look-out, ready to 


take advantage in the first moment of confusion of any 
opportunity for pillaging. In fact, the unfortunate in- 
habitants of the country fear an invasion of a hostile army 
far less than they do a sudden irruption of these terrible 

Of all the castes of the Hindus this particular one is 
acknowledged to be the most brutal. The natural pro- 
clivities of its members for evil are clearly indicated by 
their ill-favoured, wild appearance and their coarse, hard- 
featured countenances, these characteristics being as 
noticeable in the women as in the men. In all parts of 
India they are under the special supervision of the police, 
because there is only too much reason for mistrusting them. 

Their women are, for the most part, very ugly and 
revoltingly dirty. Amongst other glaring vices they are 
supposed to be much addicted to incontinency ; and they 
are reputed to sometimes band themselves together in 
search of men whom they compel by force to satisfy their 
lewd desires. 

The Lambadis are accused of the still more atrocious 
crime of offering up human sacrifices. When they wish to 
perform this horrible act, it is said, they secretly carry off 
the first person they meet. Having conducted the victim 
to some lonely spot, they dig a hole in which they bury 
him up to the neck. While he is still alive they make 
a sort of lamp of dough made of flour, which they place 
on his head. This they fill with oil, and light four wicks 
in it. Having done this, the men and women join hands, 
and, forming a circle, dance round their victim, singing 
and making a great noise, till he expires. 

Amongst other curious customs of this odious caste is 
one that obliges them to drink no water which is not 
drawn from springs or wells. The water from rivers or 
tanks being thus forbidden, they are obliged in a case of 
absolute necessity to dig a little hole by the side of a tank 
or river and take the water that filters through, which by 
this means is supposed to become spring water. 

Another nomadic caste is that of the Wuddars, whose 
trade is to dig wells, tanks, and canals, and to repair dykes. 
They, too, have to travel about in search of work. This 
caste is also much despised. The manners of the individuals 


composing it are as low as their origin, and their minds as 
uncultivated as their manners. Their extreme uncouthness 
may, perhaps, account for the low estimation in which they 
are held. 

In Mysore, and in the north-west of the Carnatic, another 
caste of nomads is to be met with, known as Pakanattis. 
They speak Telugu, and originally formed part of the caste 
of Gollavarus, or shepherds, and were agriculturists. They 
took to their present kind of life about a hundred and fifty 
years ago, and like it so much that it would be impossible 
to persuade them to change it for any regular occupation. 
The cause of their secession from the rest of their caste 
was that one of their headmen was grievously insulted by 
the governor of the province in which they lived. As they 
never received any redress at all commensurate with the 
affront, they determined to avenge themselves by deserting 
their homes in a body, and thus bringing all the agricul- 
tural work of the country to a standstill. From that time 
to this they have never attempted to return to their former 
mode of life, but are always wandering from place to place 
without settling anywhere. Some of their headmen, with 
whom I have conversed, have told me that they number 
about two thousand families, half of whom wander through 
the Telugu country and the rest through Mysore. The 
headmen meet from time to time to settle the differences 
which frequently arise amongst the members. However, 
the Pakanattis are the quietest and best behaved of all the 
wandering tribes. They are kept in excellent order ; and 
though they always go about in bands, theft and pillage 
are unknown amongst them, and if any of them are found 
guilty of either, they are severely punished by the rest. 
They are all most miserably poor ; the better off possess 
a few buffaloes and cows, the milk of which they sell, but 
the greater number of them are professional herbalists. 
They collect plants, roots, and other things in the different 
countries that they wander through, such as are used for 
medicine or dyes, or for salves, &c, for horses and cattle. 
These they sell in the bazaars, and the little money that 
they thus earn helps them considerably. They supplement 
their livelihood by hunting, fishing, begging, and charlatanry. 

All these tribes live entirely isolated from the rest of 


the world, with whom they hold no communication, except 
in order to obtain the bare necessaries of life. They lead 
for the most part a pastoral life, and their headmen occa- 
sionally possess considerable herds of eattle, consisting of 
bullocks, buffaloes, and asses. They travel in bands of ten, 
twenty, thirty, or more families. They shelter themselves 
under bamboo or osier mats, which they carry everywhere 
with them. Each family has its own mat tent, seven or 
eight feet long, four or five feet broad, and three or four 
feet high, in which father, mother, children, poultry, and 
sometimes even pigs, are housed, or rather huddled together, 
this being their only protection against bad weather. They 
always choose woods or lonely places as sites for their 
camps, so that no one can see what goes on amongst them. 
Besides their mat tents and the other necessaries for camp- 
ing, they always take care to be provided with small stores 
of grain, as well as with the household utensils necessary 
for preparing and cooking their food. Those who possess 
beasts of burden make them carry the greater part of their 
goods and chattels, but the unfortunate wTetches who have 
no other means of transport are compelled to carry alj 
their worldly possessions, that is to say, the necessaries 
for housing and feeding themselves. I have seen the 
husband carrying on his head and shoulders the tent, the 
provisions, and some earthen vessels, whilst the wife, her 
body half uncovered, carried an infant on her back, hanging 
behind her in the upper part of her cotton garment ; on 
her head was the mortar for husking the rice ; while follow- 
ing her came a child bending under the weight of the rest 
of the household chattels. 

I have often seen this sad spectacle, and always with 
deep feelings of pity. Such is the kind of life which many 
Hindus are accustomed to, and which they bear without 
murmuring or complaining, and without even appearing 
to envy those whose lives are spent in pleasanter places. 

Each one of these nomadic tribes has its own habits, 
laws, and customs ; and each forms a small and perfectly 
independent republic of its own, governed by such rules 
and regulations as seem best to them. Nothing is known 
by the outside world of what happens amongst them. 
The chiefs of each caste are elected or dismissed by a 


majority of votes. They are commissioned, during the 
time that their authority lasts, to enforce the caste rules, 
to settle disputes, and to punish all misdemeanour and 
crime. But however heinous offences may be, they never 
involve the penalty of death or mutilation. The guilty 
person has only either to pay a fine, or suffer a severe 
flogging or some other corporal punishment. Travelling 
ceaselessly from one country to another, these vagrant 
families pay no tax to any Government : the majority 
possess nothing, and they have consequently no need of 
the protection of a prince to guard them against spoliation. 
Further, they have no claims to take before the courts, 
since they administer justice themselves ; and being with- 
out any ambition, they ask neither pardon nor favour from 
any prince. All these nomadic tribes stink in the nostrils 
of other Hindus, owing to the kind of life which they lead, 
to the small esteem in which they hold the religious practices 
observed by other castes, and, lastly, to the vulgar vices 
to which they are enslaved. But the heaviest indictment 
against them is their excessive intemperance in eating and 
drinking. With the exception of cow's flesh, they eat in- 
discriminately of every kind of food, even the most revolt- 
ing, such as the flesh of foxes, cats, rats, snakes, crows, &c. 
Both men and women drink to excess toddy and arrack, 
i.e. the spirit of the country, and they will consume every 
kind of liquor and enervating drug which they can procure. 

The majority of these vagabonds live in a state of ex- 
treme poverty. When no other resource remains to them 
they beg, or else send their women to earn their livelihood 
by prostitution. 

Among the degraded beings who form the dregs of 
society in India must be classed the jugglers, the charlatans, 
mountebanks, conjurers, acrobats, rope-dancers, &c. There 
are two or three castes which practise these professions, 
travelling from country to country to find patrons or dupes. 
It is not surprising, with a people so credulous and endued 
with such a love of the marvellous as the Hindus, that such 
impostors should abound. They are regarded as magicians 
and sorcerers, as men versed in witchcraft and all the occult 
sciences, and are viewed with fear and distrust ; while the 
hatred in which they arc held is much greater than is 


Ebcci >rded in Europe to people of the same description. 
Some of these charlatans cany on a trade with a credulous 
public in quack medicines and universal panaceas. They 
may often be heard in the street haranguing the multitude 
and extolling their wares. They even surpass our own 
quacks in effrontery and barefaced imposture. Others are 
conjurers or acrobats ; and both one and the other perform 
really astonishing feats of legerdemain and agility. Euro- 
pean jugglers would certainly have to lower their colours 
before them. 

The best known of these castes is that of the Bombers or 
Dombarus. To the earnings which the men make by their 
industry the women also add the sums that they gain by 
the most shameless immorality ; their favours, if such a 
word be applicable, are accorded to any one who likes to 
pay for them. However, in spite of all this, the Dombers 
lead a wretched life ; and their extreme poverty is caused 
by their boundless intemperance. They always spend in 
eating and drinking much more than they actually possess ; 
and when all their means are exhausted they have recourse 
to begging. 

Other troops of vagabonds of the same class adopt the 
profession of travelling actors. I once met a large party 
who were representing the ten Avatars (or incarnations) of 
Vishnu, on which subject they had composed as many 
sacred plays. The greater number of them, however, play 
obscene and ridiculous farces in the streets, with boards 
and trestles for their stage ; or else they exhibit marionettes, 
which they place in disgusting postures, making them give 
utterance to the most pitiable and filthy nonsense. These 
shows are exactly suited to the taste and comprehension 
of the stupid crowd which forms the audience. Hindu 
players have learned from experience that they can never 
rivet the attention of the public except at the expense of 
decency, modesty, or good sense l . 

Some Hindu jugglers turn their attention to snake- 
charming, especially with cobras, the most poisonous of 
all. These they teach to dance, or to move in rhythm to 

1 At the present time there are many Indian theatrical eompanies 
formed somewhat after the fashion of European eompanies. Their per- 
formances, too, have improved a great deal since the Abbe's time. — Ed. 


music ; and they perform what appear to be the most 
alarming tricks with these deadly reptiles. In spite of all 
their care and skill it sometimes happens that they are 
bitten ; and this would infallibly cost them their lives, did 
they not take the precaution to excite the snake every 
morning, forcing it to bite several times through a thick 
piece of stuff so that it may rid itself of the venom that 
re-forms daily in its fangs. They also pose as possessors of 
the secret of enchanting snakes, pretending that they can 
attract them with the sound of their flutes. This craft 
was practised elsewhere in the very earliest times, as may 
be gathered from a passage in Holy Scripture, where the 
obstinacy of a hardened sinner is likened to that of a deaf 
adder that shuts its ears to the voice of the charmer. Be 
that as it may, I can vouch for it that the pretended power 
of Hindu snake-charmers is a mere imposture. They keep 
a few trained tame snakes, which are accustomed to come 
to them at the sound of a flute, and when they have settled 
the amount of their reward with the persons who think, 
or have been persuaded, that there are snakes in the 
vicinity of their houses, they place one of these tame 
reptiles in some corner, taking care not to be observed. 
One of the conditions on which they always insist is that 
any snake which they charm out of a hole shall not be killed, 
but shall be handed over to them. This point settled, the 
charmer seats himself on the ground and begins to play 
on his flute, turning first to one side, then to the other. 
The snake, on hearing these familiar sounds, comes out of 
its hiding-place, and crawls towards its master, gliding 
quietly into the basket in which it is usually shut up. 
The charmer then takes his reward and goes off in search 
of other dupes \ 

I will now give some particulars about the wild tribes 
which inhabit the jungles and mountains in the south of 
India. They are divided into several castes, each of which 
is composed of various communities. They are fairly 

1 Even to this clay there is a class of village servants called Kudimis, 
whose business it is to collect medicinal herbs and other plants that 
might be required by the people. These Krtdijnix arc also professional 
snake-catchers, and are supposed to possess infallible antidotes against 
snake- poison . — Ed. 


numerous in many places in the Malabar hills, or Western 
Ghauts, where they are known by the generic name of 
Kadu-Kurumbars. These savages live in the forests, but 
have no fixed abode. After staying a year or two in one 
place they move on to another. Having selected the spot 
for their temporary sojourn, they surround it with a kind 
of hedge, and each family chooses a little patch of ground, 
which is dug up with a sharp piece of wood hardened in 
the fire. There they sow small seeds, and a great many 
pumpkins, cucumbers, and other vegetables ; and on these 
they live for two or three months in the year. They have 
little or no intercourse with the more civilized inhabitants 
of the neighbourhood. The latter indeed prefer to keep 
them at a distance from their houses, as they stand in con- 
siderable dread of them, looking upon them as sorcerers 
or mischievous people, whom it is unlucky even to meet. 
If they suspect a Kadu-Kurumbar of having brought about 
illness or any other mishap by his spells, they punish him 
severely, sometimes even putting him to death. 

During the rains these savages take shelter in miserable 
huts. Some find refuge in caves, or holes in the rocks, or 
in the hollow trunks of old trees. In fine weather they 
camp out in the open. At night each clan assembles at 
a given spot, and enormous fires are lit to keep off the cold 
and to scare away wild beasts. Men, women, and children 
all sleep huddled together anyhow. The poor wretches 
wear no clothes, a woman's only covering being a few 
leaves sewn together and tied round the waist. Knowing 
only of the simple necessities of existence, they find enough 
to satisfy their wants in the forest. Roots and other 
natural products of the earth, snakes and animals that they 
can snare or catch, honey that they find on the rugged 
rocks or in the tops of trees, which they climb with the 
agility of monkeys; all these furnish them with the means of 
satisfying the cravings of hunger. Less intelligent even than 
the natives of Africa, these savages of India do not possess 
bows and arrows, which they do not know how to use. 

It is to them that the dwellers in the plains apply when 
they require wood with which to build their houses. The 
jungle tribes supply them with all materials of this kind, 
in exchange for a few valueless objects, such as copper 


or brass bangles, small quantities of grain, or a little tobacco 
to smoke l . 

Both men and women occupy themselves in making reed 
or bamboo mats, baskets, hampers, and other household 
articles, which they exchange with the inhabitants of more 
civilized parts for salt, pepper, grain, &c. 

According to the people of the plains, these savages 
can, by means of witchcraft and enchantments, charm all 
the tigers, elephants, and venomous snakes which share the 
forests with them, so that they need never fear their attacks. 

Their children are accustomed from their earliest infancy 
to the hard life to which nature appears to have condemned 
them. The very day after their confinement the women 
are obliged to scour the woods with their husbands in order 
to find the day's food. Before starting they suckle the 
new-born child, and make a hole in the ground, in which 
they put a layer of teak leaves. The leaves are so rough 
that if they rub the skin ever so gently they draw blood. 
In this hard bed the poor little creature is laid, and there 
it remains till its mother returns in the evening. On the 
fifth or sixth day after birth they begin to accustom their 
infants to eat solid food ; and in order to harden them at 
once to endure inclement weather, they wash them every 
morning in cold dew, which they collect from the trees and 
plants. Until the infants can walk, they are left by them- 
selves from morning till night, quite naked, exposed to 
sun, wind, rain, and air, and buried in the holes which 
serve them for cradles. 

The whole religion of these savages seems to consist in 
the worship of bhootams, or evil spirits, which worship they 
perform in a way peculiar to themselves. They pay no 
regard whatever to the rest of the Hindu deities. 

Besides the Kadu-Kurumbars there is another tribe of 
savages living in the forests and mountains of the Carnatic, 
and known by the name of Irulers, or in some places 
Soligurus. Their habits are identical with those of the 
Kadu-Kurumbars. They lead the same kind of life, have 
the same religion, customs, and prejudices ; in fact, one 
may say that the difference between the two tribes exists 
only in name. 

1 These transactions are now regulated by the forest laws. — En. 


In several parts of Malabar a tribe is to be found called 
the Malai-Kondigaru, which, though as wild as those men- 
tioned above, has perhaps a little more in common with 
civilized humanity. They live in the forests, and their 
principal occupation is to extract the juice of the palm- 
tree, part of which they drink, the rest they sell. The 
women climb the trees to obtain it, and they do so in 
a surprisingly agile manner. These people always go about 
naked. The women only wear a little rag, which flutters 
about in the wind and most imperfectly covers that portion 
of their bodies which it is supposed to hide. During one 
of the expeditions which the last Sultan of Mysore made 
into the mountains, he met a horde of these savages, and 
was much shocked at their state of nudity ; for, however 
depraved Mahomedans may be in their private life, nothing 
can equal the decency and modesty of their conduct in 
public. They are horrified at word or look that even 
verges on indecency or immodesty, especially on the part 
of their women. The Sultan therefore caused the head- 
men of the Malai-Kondigarus to be brought before him, 
and asked them why they and their women did not cover 
their bodies more decently. They excused themselves on 
the plea of poverty, and that it was the custom of their 
caste. Tippu replied that he must require them to wear 
clothing like the other inhabitants of the country, and that 
if they had not the means wherewith to buy it, he would 
every year provide them gratuitously with the cotton cloths 
necessary for the purpose. The savages, however, though 
urged by the Sultan, made humble remonstrances, and 
begged hard to be allowed to dispense with the encum- 
brance of clothing. They finally told him that if they 
were forced to wear clothing, contrary to the rules of their 
caste, they would all leave the country rather than put up 
with so great an inconvenience ; they preferred to go and 
live in some other distant forest, where they would be 
allowed to follow their customs unmolested. The Sultan 
was accordingly obliged to give way. 

In and around Coorg is another tribe of savages known 
by the name of Yeruvaru. It is akin to the Pariah caste, 
and is composed of several communities scattered about 
in the jungles. These people, however, work for their 


living, and make themselves useful to the rest of the popula- 
tion. They leave their homes to get food from the more 
civilized inhabitants of the neighbourhood, who, in return 
for a small quantity of rice given as wages, make them 
work hard at agricultural pursuits. The indolence of these 
savages is such, however, that as long as there is a handful 
of rice in their huts they absolutely refuse to work, and 
will only return to it when their supply of grain is entirely 
exhausted. Nevertheless, the other inhabitants are obliged 
to keep on good terms with them, because they perform 
all the hardest manual labour, and because if one of them 
was affronted or thought himself ill-treated, all the rest of 
the clan would take his part, and leave their usual abode 
and hide in the forest. The civilized inhabitants, to whom 
they are thus indispensable, would not be able to persuade 
them to resume their work until they had made friendly 
overtures and agreed to pay damages. These wild yet 
simple-minded people find it so difficult to procure the bare 
necessaries of life that they never even think of small 
luxuries which most other Hindus are so fond of, such as 
betel, tobacco, oil to anoint their heads, &c. They do not 
even appear to envy those who enjoy them, and are satisfied 
if they can get a little salt and pepper to flavour the taste- 
less vegetables and roots which form the principal part of 
their food. 

All these wild tribes are gentle and peaceable by nature. 
They do not understand the use of weapons of any sort, 
and the sight of a stranger is sometimes sufficient to put 
to flight a whole community. No doubt the climate in 
which they live is in a great measure responsible for their 
timid, lazy, and indolent character. They are very unlike 
the savages who people the vast forests of America or 
Africa, inasmuch as they do not know what war means, 
and appear to be quite incapable of returning evil for 
evil. For, of course, no sane person believes the accusa- 
tion brought against them that they can injure their 
neighbours by means of spells and enchantments. Hidden 
in thick forests, or in dens and caves in the rocks, they fear 
nothing in the world so much as the approach of a civilized 
being, and far from envying the happiness which the latter 
boasts of having found in the society of his fellow- men, 


they shun any intercourse with him, fearing lest he should 
try to rob them of their liberty and independence, and lest 
they should be condemned to submit to a civilization which 
to them is only another term for bondage. 

At the same time, these wild tribes of Hindus retain 
a few of the prejudices of their fellow-countrymen. For 
instance, they are divided into castes, they never eat beef, 
they have similar ideas about defilement and purifica- 
tion, and they keep the principal regulations relating to 


The Poverty of the Hindus. 

India has always been considered a most wealthy and 
opulent country, more favoured by nature than any other 
in the world, a land literally flowing with milk and honey, 
where the soil yields all that is necessary for the existence 
of its happy people almost without cultivation. The great 
wealth accumulated by a few of its native princes, the large 
fortunes so rapidly acquired by many Europeans, its 
valuable diamond mines, the quality and quantity of its 
pearls, the abundance of its spices and scented woods, 
the fertility of its soil, and the, at one time, unrivalled 
superiority of its various manufactures : all these have 
caused admiration and wonder from time immemorial. 
One would naturally suppose that a nation which could 
supply so many luxuries would surpass all others in wealth. 

This estimation of the wealth of India has been com- 
monly accepted in Europe up to the present day ; and 
those who, after visiting the country and obtaining exact 
and authentic information about the real condition of its 
inhabitants, have dared to affirm that India is the poorest 
and most wretched of all the civilized countries of the 
world, have simply not been believed. Many people in 
Europe, after reading what various authors have to say 
about India's manufactures and about the factories which 
turn out the delicate muslins, fine cloths, and beautiful 
coloured cottons, &c, which are so much admired all the 
world over, have supposed that the establishments pro- 
ducing such magnificent stuffs must have supplied models 


for those which are to be found at Manchester, Birmingham, 
Lyons, and other cities in Europe. Well, the truth is 
(and most people are still unaware of the fact) all these 
beautiful fabrics are manufactured in wretched thatched 
huts built of mud, twenty to thirty feet long by seven or 
eight feet broad. In such a work-room the weaver stretches 
his frame, squats on the ground, and quietly plies his 
shuttle, surrounded by his family, his cow, and his fowls. 
The instruments he makes use of are extremely primitive, 
and his whole stock in trade could easily be carried about 
by one man. Such is, in very truth, an exact picture of 
an Indian factory. As to the manufacturer himself, his 
poverty corresponds to the simplicity of his work-shop. 
There are in India two or three large classes whose only 
profession is that of weaving. The individuals comprising 
these classes are, for the most part, very poor, and are 
even destitute of the necessary means for working on their 
own account. Those who deal in the products of their 
industry have to go to them, money in hand, and after 
bargaining with them as to the price, quality, and quantity 
of the goods required, are obliged to pay them in advance. 
The weavers then go and buy the cotton and other neces- 
saries with which to begin work. Their employers have to 
supervise their work and keep a sharp look-out lest they 
decamp with the money, especially if the advances happen 
to be in any way considerable. 

As regards the condition of the Hindus generally, I think 
that the following account may make things plain. It is 
based on a long acquaintance with the inhabitants of a large 
tract of country. Still, the casual observer may find fault 
with it if he judges it by what he has noticed in large towns, 
more especially on the coast. There, at least, most of the 
natives possess houses of more or less value which they 
can dispose of if necessary, an advantage not shared by the 
rural classes. Besides, the towns are the rendezvous of 
the rich and industrious, and of those who intend to become 
so by fair means or foul, so it is not surprising to find 
a higher standard of comfort prevailing there. It is from 
experience of the masses of the population that I have been 
able to present this sketch of the different degrees of poverty 
or wealth amongst the people. *~^ 



I should class the inhabitants of the Indian Peninsula in 
the following manner. The first and lowest class may be 
said to be composed of all those whose property is below 
the value of £5 sterling. This class appears to me to com- 
prise nine- twentieths, or perhaps even a half, of the entire 
population. It includes most of the Pariah class and nearly 
all the Chucklers (leather- workers) ; and these together 
form at least a quarter of the population. To them must 
be added a considerable portion of the Sudras, all the 
poorest members of the other castes, and the multitude of 
vagrants, beggars, and impostors who are to be met with 

Most of the natives of this class hire themselves out as 
agricultural labourers, and are required to do the hardest 
manual labour for the smallest possible wage. In the 
places where they are paid in coin, they receive only just 
enough to buy the coarsest of food. Their wage varies 
from twelve to twenty rupees a year, according to locality. 
They are better paid along the coast. With this amount 
they are obliged to feed and clothe themselves. In some 
places they are paid half in coin and half in grain, or else 
they get their keep, and over and above that receive from 
four to eight rupees a year \ 

Some of the younger members of this class hire them- 
selves out without wages, on condition that, after working 
faithfully for seven or eight years, their master will provide 
them with a wife of their own caste and defray all nuptial 
expenses. Married servants who are fed by their masters 
carry home their daily rations. This food is supposed to 
be sufficient for the wants of one person, or, to quote the 
native saying, ' to be enough to fill the belly ' ; but they 
have to share it with their wives and children, who also 
have to work and thus add to the provision. When they 
are in actual want, as often happens, they go and seek for 
food in the woods, or on the banks of the rivers and tanks, 
where they find leaves, shrubs, roots, and herbs. These 
they boil, as often as not without even salt or any kind 
of condiment ; and this primitive food forms, for the 

1 The scale is higher everywhere nowadays, but so also is the cost of 
food-stuffs. Nowhere in India does the common labourer earn much 
more than a ' livi^wage.' — Ed. 


greater part of the year, the most substantial part of their 
meals. Clumps of bamboo abound in the woods, and its 
shoots form, for two or three months of the year, a great 
resource to the poor people who live near the places where 
it grows. 

As soon as the children belonging to the class living in 
a state of servitude have reached the age of eight or nine, 
they join the same master who employs their father, the 
boys looking after the cattle and the girls sweeping out 
the byres, collecting the dung, grinding the grain, &c. 

The well-to-do cultivators always employ men of this 
class ; and, in order to keep them in perpetual bondage, 
they lend them money either on the occasion of a marriage 
or for other purposes. The poor wretches find themselves, 
on account of their small wages, quite unable to pay back 
the capital thus advanced, and in many cases even the 
interest, which soon exceeds the original loan, and are 
therefore reduced to the necessity of working, with their 
wives and children, until the end of their days. From the 
time this happens their masters look upon them as actual 
slaves, and refuse to grant them manumission until they 
have repaid both the principal and interest of the sum 
which they or their fathers borrowed perhaps twenty or 
thirty years before. 

Those natives belonging to this class who are in a state 
of independence live by various industries. The greater 
number are carriers and coolies, or casual agricultural 
labourers in receipt of a small daily wage. The last-named 
are generally paid in grain, but when they receive money 
their wage varies from a penny to twopence a day, accord- 
ing to the district. However, they only work in proportion 
to their wage, and, whatever the task, a good European 
workman would, in most cases, do as much as four natives. 
But as the independent labourer is often out of work, and 
as the smallness of his wage or his improvidence does not 
allow of his putting by anything, his lot is no better, perhaps 
even worse, than that of his brother in slavery, and he is 
often in absolute want. Most of them have nothing of 
their own, or at the best only a wretched hut twelve or 
fifteen feet long by five or six broad, and from four to five 
feet high, which is full of insects and vermin and exhales 


an awful stench. Into this hovel they, witli their wives 
and children, crowd higgledy-piggledy. Their belongings 
consist of a few earthen vessels, one or two sickles, and the 
rags in which they stand. Those who are a little less 
poverty-stricken have a brass lotah for drinking purposes, 
and another out of which they eat, a hoe, two or three 
sickles, a few silver bracelets, worth three or four rupees, 
belonging to the women, and two or three cows \ These 
people are agriculturists and farm Government lands, on 
which they pay a tax varying from two to twenty-five 

Such, in truth, is the state of misery in which half the 
population of India passes its life 2 . 

I place in the second class all those whose property 
ranges from £5 to £25 sterling. This class, I should say, 
includes about six-twentieths of the entire population and 
is composed chiefly of Sudras. Those included in it are 
mostly agriculturists on their own account. Their poverty 
does not allow of their hiring others to work under them. 
They cultivate Government land, and pay a yearly tax of 
from one to twenty pagodas, according to the value of the 
land. They sometimes require as many as three ploughs. 
Their entire property consists of a few cattle, a few small 
gold and silver trinkets, one or two copper vessels for 

1 Many Hindus own a few oxen and cattle, which are supposed to be 
the most valuable part of their property ; in fact their degree of comfort 
is judged, more or less, by the number of these valuable animals which 
they possess. As soon as a Hindu has acquired a sufficient sum of 
money, he spends it as a rule on a pair of draught oxen and a cow. But 
the intrinsic value of these animals is small. The country oxen are, as 
a rule, stunted, weak, and incapable of enduring much fatigue. Four 
or five rupees is their outside value. — Dubois. 

2 In this connexion the reader will do well to refer to an excellent 
Blue Book entitled, Progress of the Madras Presidency during the Forty 
Years from 1853 to 1892, by the late Dewan Bahadur S. Srinivasa 
Raghavaiengar, C.I.E., a distinguished Government official, who clearly 
proves therein that a very great advance has been made by the country 
during the last four decades. Emigration also offers large fields of 
profitable employment to the Indian coolie nowadays — Ceylon, the 
Straits Settlements, Africa, the West Indies, Mauritius, &c, all com- 
peting for his services. The difficulty is to induce him to leave his 
miserable home. Those who do emigrate sometimes return with com- 
paratively large savings, and become either petty shopkeepers or petty 
cultivators. — Ed. 


drinking and a few more for eating purposes, and some 
iron farm implements. They live in thatched mud huts, 
rather more commodious and a little less filthy than those 
previously described. Weavers, barbers, washermen, and 
other workmen who cater for the wants of the public may 
also, for the most part, be included under this head. 

The cultivators of this second class, although better off 
than those of the first, find it hard to make both ends 
meet even in the best seasons. They are obliged to sell at 
least half their crop beforehand at low prices, to enable 
them to pay their taxes, and the miserly usurers who profit 
by their poverty leave them hardly sufficient for the wants 
of their family during six or eight months of the year ; 
in fact, many of them have only food enough to last four 
months. Some never even gather the harvest from the field 
they have sown, for as soon as the corn has formed in the 
ear they are day by day driven by hunger to cut off some of 
the green ears, with which they make a sort of soup. Con- 
sequently, by harvest time there is nothing but stubble left 
to gather, and to save themselves the trouble of cutting it 
they merely turn three or four cows into the field to graze. 
If by dint of self-denial they allow their crops to grow up 
intact, it is not they who benefit by them, for as soon as 
the grain has been threshed the money-lenders step in 
and take their due, and afterwards come those who lent 
them grain when they had nothing to eat, and demand 
payment of the original quantity plus twenty- five per cent, 
interest ; that is to say, a man borrowing twenty measures 
of corn has to repay twenty-five. 

The grain takes about four months to ripen, and this 
period is called the time of "prosperity, or sukha kala. It is 
about the only season in the year when the poor have 
enough of even the coarsest kinds of food, consisting of 
various sorts of small pulse, much the same as that which 
is used in Europe to fatten pigs and fowls, and in India 
to feed horses. Hence the well-known proverb, ' Do not 
approach a Pariah during the sukha kala season, nor go 
within range of an ox during the Divuligai V This is 

1 This feast will be specially mentioned later on. Its celebration takes 
place in November, when the country is clothed in verdure. — Dubois. 
It is also called Dccpavali and Divali. — Ed. 


because both become unmanageable then, from an un- 
wonted state of prosperity. 

In most provinces those who cultivate rice do not eat it, 
hut sell it to pay their taxes. During the four months the 
<suk/ia kala lasts, they live on the pulse and millet which 
they cultivate in their fields. During the rest of the year 
their only daily sustenance, in almost all cases, consists of 
a plateful of millet, seasoned with a little pounded salt 
and chillies. When after paying their taxes and debts 
they come to the end of their store of grain, supposing there 
has been any remnant, they are reduced to living from hand 
to mouth. Some of them borrow grain, which they pro- 
mise to repay with interest after the next harvest ; others 
explore the woods and the banks of rivers and tanks in 
search of leaves, bamboo shoots, wild fruits, roots, and 
other substances which help them to exist, or rather, pre- 
vent them from dying of hunger. 

Thus for about three months of the year almost three- 
quarters of the inhabitants of the Peninsula are on the 
verge of starvation. In the south these three months are 
July, August, and September ; and the saying is that those 
who have grain to eat then are as happy as princes. The 
scarcity begins to be less felt by October, for then several 
of the smaller species of grain are ready for harvesting, 
and the rains have brought out in the fields quantities of 
edible herbs, which suffice to allay the pangs of hunger. 

Nor are men alone exposed to want during a great part 
of the year ; domestic animals have to bear the same 
privations. Most families own cattle, and each hamlet 
possesses considerable herds which can only graze within 
the narrow limits assigned to them. The small amount of 
straw which the crops produce does not last long, and the 
animals are then reduced to nibbling at the few plants 
scattered here and there in the barren fields. During the 
three or four months when the sun is especially hot, all 
vegetable life is scorched up, and the wretched animals 
can scarcely find enough fodder for their daily sustenance. 
They may then be seen searching for clayey soil, impreg- 
nated with salt, which they proceed to lick with avidity, 
and that, together with the water they drink, comprises 
almost all their food. This is why, throughout the hot 


weather, they are mere skeletons and ean hardly stand. 
I have often, at this time of the year, been in villages where 
there were more than a hundred cows, and yet sometimes 
I eould not procure so much as half a measure of milk for 
my breakfast l . 

Thirdly, I may reckon together those Hindus whose 
property varies in value from £25 to £50 sterling. They 
comprise about one-tenth of the population, and are prin- 
cipally agricultural. They farm lands large enough to 
require two, three, or even four ploughs, and their rental 
is from ten to thirty pagodas. This class lives in fairly 
comfortable circumstances, and most of the people are able 
to lay in sufficient grain for the whole year after meeting 
their taxes. Many of them have even more than they 
require for their own consumption, and are able to sell or 
lend the surplus to those in their village who have run 
short of food. We have seen on what outrageous terms 
these loans are effected. The well-to-do amongst them 
employ as servants one or more of those who come under 
the first class. They have larger, more comfortable, and 
slightly cleaner thatched dwellings than the others, and 
they and their wives have at least a change of raiment, 
which is more than rare in the two preceding classes. But 
even their possessions are far from betokening wealth ; 
they consist of a few gold and silver trinkets, some copper 
vessels, and a great many earthenware pots piled up in 
a corner of the house ; and besides these they own ploughs 
and other farming implements, some cotton-spinning wheels, 
and various primitive tools of small value. Cattle are their 
chief source of wealth. As to their comfort, it is at best 
a relative term, for the contraction of debts is a custom 
common to all the Hindus we have hitherto spoken of. 
Most of them are debtors as well as creditors, but their 
assets seldom exceed their liabilities, and they are in no 
greater hurry to pay their creditors than their debtors are 
to pay them. 

Besides tilling the land, many Hindus of this class keep 

1 The fact is, the slaughter of cattle being forbidden by the Hindu 
religion, large herds of old and useless animals are maintained, which 
deprive the healthy and useful animals of their proper share of food. — 


goats and sheep, and their young, added to the one or two 
calves they are able to sell from time to time, bring in 
a small income. Two or three milch-kine and one or two 
buffaloes supply them with a certain quantity of butter 
for four or five months in the year, of which they make 
good use. The sale of pigs, fowls, eggs, &c, also contributes 
to their support, and even enables them to save for future 
needs, or to meet matrimonial expenses. Nevertheless, 
after a bad harvest numbers of these cultivators are reduced 
to the same state of want as those below them, and are 
obliged to have recourse to the same shifts. 

In these times of distress the Hindus have only their 
wonderful constitutions to fall back upon. Accustomed 
from their earliest infancy to privations of every kind, 
they are able to keep body and soul together on the smallest 
pittance of food. A pound a day of millet flour, boiled in 
water and reduced to a thin gruel, is enough to prevent 
a family of five or six persons from dying of hunger. With 
no food besides this gruel and water the majority of the 
natives manage to keep hale and hearty for months together. 
Furthermore, they possess the no less valuable faculty of 
sleeping at will. An idle Hindu invariably goes to sleep, 
and so does the man who has nothing to eat. If the 
homely proverb ' he who sleeps dines ' can be taken liter- 
ally, the Hindus certainly find consolation in it in times of 

The fourth class comprises those whose property varies 
in value from £50 to £100 sterling, and I should say it 
forms three-fortieths of the population. These people live 
in comfort, being chiefly Brahmins or well-to-do Sudras. 
They all keep servants belonging to the lowest class to aid 
them in cultivation. Besides this, some of them are rich 
enough to embark on commercial speculations in connexion 
with grain or other commodities, while others lend small 
sums of money at high interest. This class provides the 
villages with their Sudra headmen, and these men are at 
the same time the largest holders of Government lands. 
They also exercise in their villages the functions of collectors 
of revenue, petty magistrates, and public arbitrators. As 
they are usually held responsible by Government for the 
due payment of all taxes levied on their villages, they are 


obliged to conciliate the villagers, to prevent their secretly 
migrating elsewhere, which would mean the non-cultiva- 
tion of the land, and consequent inability on their part to 
furnish the revenue due to the State. These men have 
quite a patriarchal authority in their villages, but those 
who attempt to abuse their power are soon confronted 
with deserted homesteads, waste lands, and ruin staring 
them in the face. 

A striking example of this happened when a new and 
detested system was established by the creation of Mutta- 
dars, or hereditary farmers of revenue, which caused the 
ruin of most of the districts where it was enforced. No 
sooner were these Muttadars raised to what they considered 
an exalted position than they began to give themselves 
great airs and tried to carry things with a high hand. Men 
who had formerly been in a low position, or in obscurity, 
now indulged in horses, palanquins, trumpeters, and 
peons ; in fact they gave themselves up, without any 
justification, to such pomp and splendour as the native 
delights in. As the crops produced by the lands whose 
revenue they had farmed could not possibly defray the 
cost of this expensive mode of life, they had recourse to 
a system of blackmailing to increase their incomes. The 
consequence of this arbitrary and unprecedented behaviour 
was the flight of their victims, who left the lands unculti- 
vated. The final result was the ruin of the Muttadars. 

The Sudra headmen of the villages are usually sensible, 
polite, and well-educated men. Most of them know how 
to read and write. Although they have the failings, 
common to all natives, of cunning and deceit, they are far 
from being proud, intolerant, and haughty like the Brah- 
mins. By nature they are gentle, shy, and insinuating, 
and they behave with marked respect and submission 
towards their superiors. Towards their equals they are 
polite and complaisant, and towards their inferiors affable 
and condescending. In fact, they know well how to adapt 
themselves to their surroundings. 

The class occupying the fourth rung on the ladder which 
I have used to describe the various degrees of civilization 
in India is the one which, to my mind, is the most respect- 
able and the most interesting. It is this class, chiefly. 


which influences public opinion amongst the Sudras, and 
maintains order throughout all ranks of society. One can 
tell at a glance that the natives of this class are all well- 
to-do and independent. As a rule, they are a more polite, 
better-educated, and better-mannered race, and they look 
happier and more contented than the members of the other 
three classes. Most of the latter have thin, drawn faces, 
a heavy carriage, coarse minds, low manners, and a melan- 
choly and stupid appearance, all of which bespeak plainly 
enough the privations and sufferings of their lot. Just 
the reverse is noticeable amongst the natives of the fourth 

In the fifth class I should include all those whose property 
varies in value from £100 to £200 sterling. It comprises 
about one-thirtieth of the whole population, and is com- 
posed chiefly of Brahmins or Vaisyas, and of the wealthiest 
among the Sudras. Agriculture, trading in grain or other 
commodities, money-lending on such usurious terms as 
twenty-five, thirty, and even fifty per cent. : such are the 
different forms of livelihood they thrive upon. Their 
cleanly appearance betokens comfort, and most of them 
live in tiled houses. They are also careful to conform to 
the rules of polite society. They perform daily ablutions, 
and their houses are kept ceremoniously clean by smearing 
the floors regularly with cow's dung. To appear more 
worthy in the eyes of the public the Sudras of this class 
usually abstain from all animal food, and, in imitation of 
the Brahmins, live entirely on milk and vegetables. 

The natives belonging to this and the following classes 
constitute what may be called the gentlefolk of Hindu 
society, and some of the faults which characterize the 
Brahmins, such as pride and intolerance, are noticeable 
in them. Those amongst them who are agriculturists do 
not till their own lands, unless very urgent works are 
necessary ; they employ servants from the lowest class to 
do it for them. 

The sixth class may be said to comprise individuals 
whose tangible property varies in value from £200 to £500 
sterling, and it represents, I should say, about one-fiftieth 
of the population. Brahmins form quite half of this class, 
and the remainder is made up of the best representatives 


of the other castes. Their wealth consists partly of 
ma-niams, or hereditary lands exempt from taxation, 
partly of gardens planted with arecas, cocoanut and other 
fruit trees, and partly also of trinkets, money, and cattle. 
Besides this, they speculate in the same way as the natives 
of the preceding class. Some of them occupy the position 
of assistant collectors of public revenue, magistrates' clerks, 
and other posts in the public service. They are proud of 
the comfort they enjoy, and their arrogance is unrivalled. 

Properties valued at more than £500 sterling are rarely 
to be met with in the villages. Natives who possess more 
than this live in agraharams, or Brahmin villages, in towns, 
or in district boroughs, where they have more opportunity 
for. commercial speculations, and for furthering their am- 
bitious schemes to procure posts under Government. 

The seventh class may be said to be composed of those 
whose property varies in value from £500 to £1,000 sterling. 
I should say only one-hundredth part of the population 
belongs to this class, and at least half of them are Brahmins. 
The rest are the wealthiest among the Vaisyas and Sudras. 

The eighth class includes those whose properties range 
in value from £1,000 to £2,000 sterling, and it comprises 
one two-hundredths of the population. It is almost entirely 
composed of Brahmins, with a small percentage of Vaisyas 
and Sudras, who live in towns and capitals where they 
devote themselves almost entirely to commerce or are 
employed under Government. Properties valued at five 
to ten thousand pagodas are extremely rare, even in the 
towns, and are confined to the richest merchants and to 
those who have held for a long time the highest offices 
under Government. Still, there are some which exceed 
even ten thousand pagodas, but these are so few that they 
can easily be counted in each province. 

Speaking generally, the following proportion may be 
established between properties in India and properties in 
Great Britain : — 

India. Great Britain. 

Those of £500 to £1,000 correspond to £5,000 to £10,000 
„ £1,000 to £2,000 „ £10,000 to £20,000 

„ £2,000 to £5,000 „ £20,000 to £50,000 

„ £5,000 to £10,000 „ £50,000 to £100,000 

„ £10,000 and above „ £100,000 and above. 


But a difference, more essential even than that between 
the characters of the two nations, is observable in con- 
nexion with properties. In Europe tlrey are preserved 
intact, and are, with but few exceptions^ transmitted from 
father to son generation after generatioh. In India, on 
the other hand, there is nothing permanent about them, 
especially among the Sudras. The latter make their money 
either by their industry, talents, or cunning, and' once it is 
made they do not know how to spend it wisely. ^Realizing 
that, do what they may, they will necessarily be looked 
down upon as parvenus, they soon acquire all the charac- 
teristic vices of the nouveaux riches. Iri ^me-th£y^become 
as proud and arrogant as any Brahmin, and their >;sole 
object seems to be to win a name for lordly extravagance. 
Money becomes no object to them, so long as it procures 
the gratification of their vanity. Immense- fortunes seldom 
survive the second generation, owing i-to.- the manner; in 
which the sons foolishly squander the ''wealth laboriously 
gained by their fathers. It is not uncoinr^on to rind sons 
who have inherited millions from their -father end their 
days in beggary. 

A native's house is besieged as soon -as he is known to 
be a wealthy man, and this not only by/his own relatives, 
but also by the indigent of his caste, ajid by ar#tf)rde of 
parasites of every description, including poverty-stricken 
Brahmins, religious mendicants, ballad-mongers, and low 
flatterers, who feed his vanity by writing odes to his honour 
and glory, and by lavishing on him praise of the most 
fulsome nature. All these dependants stick to the wealthy 
native like leeches, fighting with each other as to who 
shall carry off the largest share of the prize, and never 
releasing their hold on their victim until they have stripped 
him of everything. 

As to the general condition of the natives now, as com- 
pared with what it was thirty years ago, the question arises, 
has it improved or has it deteriorated ? I have occasionally 
heard this important question discussed amongst thoughtful 
and well-informed Europeans, but they could rarely agree 
with one another on the subject. Some maintained that 
the masses are enjoying greater prosperity than ever they 
did before ; others that they have never been in a more 


wretched state ; while a few hold that things are prac- 
tically where they were before the change of government 
took place. But it is evidently absurd to suppose that 
a well-meaning, just, and equitable Government, which 
has succeeded one that was arbitrary, oppressive, and 
tyrannical, has produced no amelioration in the condition 
of the people, whatever peculiarities of character and dis- 
position the latter may possess, and however great an 
obstacle their institutions may be to the philanthropic 
endeavours of the new regime to make their lives more 
bearable, if not actually happier. This common-sense view 
of the case is borne out by my own observations. To me 
it seems undeniable that the condition of the people has 
improved in many important directions at least, and I have 
found that the most sensible natives themselves admit it. 
I do not mean to imply that the lowest classes in the land 
are better off, for in some provinces close observation will 
reveal an increase of misery : but where that is the case, 
I attribute it to causes beyond the power of any Govern- 
ment to prevent or put an end to ; and further, I think 
that, given the same causes, the misery would have been 
more acute under the old regime. 

Of these causes the chief one is the rapid increase of 
the population. Judging by my own personal knowledge 
of the poorer Christian populations in Mysore and in the 
districts of Baramahl and Coimbatore, I should say that 
they have increased by twenty-five per cent, in the last 
twenty-five years. During this period Southern India has 
been free from the wars and other decimating calamities 
which had been dealing havoc almost uninterruptedly for 
centuries before. 

Some modern political economists have held that a pro- 
gressive increase in the population is one of the most 
unequivocal signs of a country's prosperity and wealth. 
In Europe this argument may be logical enough, but I do 
not think that it can be applied to India ; in fact, I am 
persuaded that as the population increases, so in proportion 
do want and misery. For this theory of the economists to 
hold good in all respects the resources and industries of the 
inhabitants ought to develop equally rapidly ; but in a 
country where the inhabitants are notoriously apathetic 


and indolent, where customs and institutions are so many 
insurmountable barriers against a better order of tilings, 
and where it is more or" less a sacred duty to let things 
remain as they are, I have every reason to feel convinced 
that a considerable increase in the population should be 
looked upon as a calamity rather than as a blessing. 

It is in the nature of things that, in times of peace and 
tranquillity, when the protection of a just Government is 
afforded both to person and property, an increase in the 
population of India should take place at an alarming rate, 
since it is an indisputable fact that no women in the world 
are more fruitful than the women of India, and nowhere 
else is the propagationof the human race so much encouraged. 
In fact, a Hindu only marries to have children, and the 
more he has the richer and the happier he feels. All over 
India it is enough for a woman to know how to cook, pound 
rice, and give birth to children. These three things are 
expected of her, especially the last, but nothing more. It 
would even appear displeasing if she aspired to anything 
else. No Hindu would ever dream of complaining that 
his family was too large, however poor he might be, or 
however numerous his children. A barren woman is made 
to feel that there can be no worse fate, and barrenness 
in a wife is the most terrible curse that can possibly fall 
on a family. 

Another serious cause of the poverty of modern India 
is the decrease in the demand for hand labour, resulting 
from the introduction of machinery and the spread of 
manufactures with improved methods in Europe. Indeed, 
Europe no longer depends on India for anything, having 
learnt to beat the Hindus on their own ground, even in 
their most characteristic industries and manufactures, for 
which from time immemorial we were dependent on them. 
In fact, the roles have been reversed, and this revolution 
threatens to ruin India completely. 

Just before returning to Europe I travelled through some 
of the manufacturing districts, and nothing could equal the 
state of desolation prevailing in them. All the work-rooms 
were closed, and hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants, 
composing the weaver caste, were dying of hunger ; for 
through the prejudices of the country they could not adopt 


another profession without dishonouring themselves. I 
found countless widows and other women out of work, 
and consequently destitute, who used formerly to maintain 
their families by cotton-spinning. Wherever I went the 
same melancholy picture confronted me. 

This collapse in the cotton industry has indirectly 
affected trade in all its branches by stopping the circula- 
tion of money, and the cultivators can no longer reckon 
on the manufacturers who, in the days of their prosperity, 
were wont to buy up their surplus grain, and even to lend 
them money when they were in arrears with their taxes. 
This has led the cultivators to the hard necessity of relin- 
quishing their grain to, and thus becoming the prey of, 
remorseless usurers. 

Such is the deplorable condition into which the poor 
Hindus have sunk ; and it grows worse daily, thanks to 
the much- vaunted improvements in machinery which some 
nations glory in. Ah ! if only the inventors of these in- 
dustrial developments could hear the curses which this 
multitude of poor Hindus never tire of heaping upon them ! 
If only, like me, they had seen the frightful misery which 
has overtaken whole provinces, owing entirely to them and 
their inventive genius, they would no doubt, unless they 
were entirely wanting in human pity, bitterly repent having 
carried their pernicious innovations so far, and having 
thereby enriched a handful of men at the expense of millions 
of poor people, to whom the very name of their com- 
petitors has become odious as the sole cause of their utter 
destitution ! 

And let no one venture to assert that the unfortunate 
Hindus can, if they choose, find a recompense in the fertility 
of their soil. The sight of vast plains lying fallow and 
waste may induce the superficial observer to accuse the 
natives of indolence or the Government of mismanagement, 
but he is not aware that the greater part, if not the whole, 
of these vast plains are sterile, bare, and incapable of 
cultivation through want of water during most of the year. 
In Southern India, at the present time, there are few lands 
in the neighbourhood of wells, tanks, and rivers which 
are not under cultivation, even on the summits of the 
highest hills ; and if by any chance a few fields still lie 


unreclaimed, it is due to the hopeless sterility of the soil, 
which, even in the best seasons, would never repay the 
labourer for his trouble, or else because, to yield any profit 
at all, they would require more capital and more courage 
than most of the people possess. 

It is, to my mind, a vain hope to suppose that we can 
really very much improve the condition of the Hindus, or 
raise their circumstances of life to the level prevailing in 
Europe. The efforts of a Government which is humane 
and generous, as well as just, may succeed up to a certain 
point in lessening some of their hardships ; but as long as 
it is in the nature of the Hindus to cling to their civil and 
religious institutions, to their old customs and habits, they 
must remain what they have always been, for these are so 
many insurmountable obstacles in the path of progress 
and to the attainment of a new order of things better 
calculated to bring them happiness. They will continue 
to grovel in poverty as long as their physical and intellectual 
faculties continue in the same groove. 

Therefore, to make a new race of the Hindus, one would 
have to begin by undermining the very foundations of 
their civilization, religion, and polity, and by turning 
them into atheists and barbarians. Having accomplished 
this terrible upheaval, we might then perhaps offer our- 
selves to them as lawgivers and religious teachers. But 
even then our task would be only half accomplished. After 
dragging them out of the depths of barbarism, anarchy, 
and atheism into which we had plunged them, and after 
giving them new laws, a new polity, and a new religion, 
we should still have to give them new natures and different 
inclinations. Otherwise we should run the risk of seeing 
them soon relapse into their former state, which would be 
worse, if anything, than before. 

Let our theoretical philanthropists, with their mistaken 
and superficial notions concerning the genius and character 
of the Hindus and the varied and multitudinous social 
links that bind them together, exclaim as much as they 
please in their unreflecting enthusiasm, that nothing has 
been done for the physical and spiritual improvement of 
the race. My reply is, ' Why do you expound your shallow 
theories in Europe ? Come and study the question on the 


spot. Make personal inquiry into the manners and customs 
of the people ; realize for yourselves whether all possible 
means have been tried with a view to gaining this desirable 
end. And then, but not till then, make up your minds on 
the question.' 

Since our European ways, manners, and customs, so 
utterly different from theirs, do not allow of our winning 
their confidence, at least let us continue to earn their 
respect and admiration by humane examples of compas- 
sion, generosity, and well-doing. Let us leave them their 
cherished laws and prejudices, since no human effort will 
persuade them to give them up, even in their own interests, 
and let us not risk making the gentlest and most sub- 
missive people in the world furious and indomitable by 
thwarting them. Let us take care lest we bring about, by 
some hasty or imprudent course of action, catastrophes 
which would reduce the country to a state of anarchy, 
desolation, and ultimate ruin, for, in my humble opinion, 
the day when the Government attempts to interfere with 
any of the more important religious and civil usages of 
the Hindus will be the last of its existence as a political 


The Mythical Origin of the Brahmins. — Their Name and their Original 
Founders. — Conjectures on their True Origin. — Buddhists and 

The real origin of the Brahmins is wrapped in mystery, 
and one can only hazard conjectures on the subject, or put 
belief in myths. The story most generally accepted says 
that they were born from Brahma's head, which accounts 
for their name. One would suppose that as all castes 
were born from this same father they would be privileged to 
bear the same name ; but as the Brahmins were the first- 
born, and issued from the noblest part of the common 
parent, they claimed special privileges from which all 
others were rigorously excluded. They have another 
theory to bear out the accepted belief that no one else 
is entitled to the illustrious name of Brahmin. They say 
that no one knows anything about Brahma's attributes 


and virtues beyond what they themselves choose to teach 
mankind, and that this knowledge in itself gives them the 
right to bear his name. Anyhow, their name is undoubtedly 
derived from Brahma's. The old writers call them ' Brah- 
manahas,' or ' Brahmahas,' which some of the Latin 
authors turned into ' Brachmanes.' The great difference 
between their caste and all others is that a Brahmin only 
becomes a Brahmin after the ceremony of the triple cord, 
which will be described hereafter. Until this essential 
ceremony has been performed he ranks only as a Sudra. 
By mere birth he is no different from the rest of his race ; 
and it is for this reason that he is called Dvija (Bis genitus, 
or Twice-born). His first birth only gives him his man- 
hood, whereas the second raises him to the exalted rank 
of Brahmin, and this by means of the ceremony of the 
triple cord. Indeed, two out of the seven famous Peni- 
tents, who are supposed to have been the original founders 
of the various sects of Brahmins of the present day, did 
not originally belong to this caste at all ; but by reason of 
the length and austerity of their term of penance, they 
were rewarded by having their state of penitent Kshatriyas 
changed to that of penitent Brahmins by the investiture 
of the triple cord. These seven Penitents, or Rishis, or 
Munis, of Hindu history (I shall often refer to them in the 
pages of the present work) are the most celebrated per- 
sonages recognized by the people of India. Their names 
are Kasyapa, Atri, Bharadwaja, Gautama, Viswamitra, 
Jamadagni, and Vasishta. The last-named and Viswa- 
mitra are those who were considered worthy of being 
admitted into the high caste of Brahmins. These far- 
famed Rishis must be of great antiquity, for they existed 
even before the Vedas, which allude to them in several 
places. They were the favoured of the gods, and more 
especially of Vishnu, who at the time of the Deluge made 
them embark on a vessel which he piloted, and thereby 
saved them from destruction. Even the gods were called 
to account for having offended these holy men, who did 
not hesitate to curse the deities who committed infamies. 
The seven Penitents, after setting a virtuous example 
on earth, were finally translated to heaven, where they 
occupy a place amongst the most brilliant constellations. 


They are to be recognized in the seven stars that form the 
Great Bear, which, according to Hindu tradition, are 
neither more nor less than the seven famous Rishis them- 
selves. They are, according to Hindu legend, the ancestors 
of the Brahmins in reality and not by metamorphosis, and 
it is believed that without ceasing to shine in the firmament 
they can, and occasionally do, revisit the earth to find out 
what is occurring there. 

Are there any families in Europe which can, notwith- 
standing the mythical origins which heraldic science pro- 
fesses to discover, pride themselves on the possession of 
such ancestors '? And seeing that in our own aristocracy 
a man with a noble lineage is not above assuming an air 
of extreme hauteur and exclusiveness, we ought not to be 
surprised at a Brahmin's vanity or at the contempt with 
which he treats any one belonging to an inferior caste. 
This idea of handing down to posterity the names of their 
great men by immortalizing them, and assigning to them 
a place among the constellations, appears to have been an 
almost universal practice amongst ancient races. 

Astronomy has played an important part in the history 
of almost all idolatrous nations ; and of all false creeds it 
certainly is the least unreasonable, and has survived the 
longest. The religious and political lawgivers of these 
races were clever enough to perceive that the worship of 
the stars had taken a great hold upon mankind, and that 
the simplest and most effectual way of perpetuating the 
memory of their heroes would be to transform them into 
outward objects that were always before the eyes of the 
people. It was thus that the Greeks and Romans con- 
secrated the memory of their divinities and demi-gods ; 
and no doubt the Hindu lawgivers were prompted to 
immortalize their seven Rishis by means of the brightest 
stars in the sky because they realized that a Hindu imagina- 
tion is only appealed to through the visible, and therefore 
that was the best way to perpetuate the veneration due to 
these illustrious beings. But whatever may have been the 
claims of Brahmins to a celestial origin, it is a well-authen- 
ticated fact that neither their caste nor any other existed 
in the countries to the north-east of Bengal four or five 
centuries ago. About that time the inhabitants of those 


parts, thinking that it might be to their advantage to adopt 
the customs of their neighbours, began to clamour for 
Brahmins. Accordingly, some were made to order out of 
the youths of the country, who, after conforming to the 
customs and rites of the Brahmins, were incorporated into 
their caste by the investiture of the triple cord. The 
descendants of these ready-made Brahmins have ever since 
been considered on an equality with the rest. The southern 
Brahmins do not care to be reminded of the fact ; yet they 
are obliged to admit it, as well as that two of the Rishis 
were originally Kshatriyas. An objection which people 
often put to them is that if nothing but the investiture of 
the triple cord can make Brahmins of them, then their 
wives, who do not go through the ceremony, really belong 
to the Sudras ; and this means that all Brahmins are obliged 
to marry out of their caste and by so doing violate their 
most sacred principles. The reply they invariably make 
to this, as to other embarrassing questions, is that they 
are but following time-honoured customs and institu- 

One is certainly justified in expressing doubt on the 
subject of the Brahmins' origin, but I, for one, should be 
sorry to oppose my conjectures to their absurd fables. 
Far be it from me to start any theories. My only desire 
is to collect materials which may help those who are trying 
to lift the veil which shrouds from view the cradle of the 
universe. It is practically admitted that India was in- 
habited very soon after the Deluge, which made a desert 
of the whole world. The fact that it was so close to the 
plains of Sennaar, where Noah's descendants remained 
stationary so long, as well as its good climate and the 
fertility of the country, soon led to its settlement. I will 
say nothing of the conquests of Hercules, Bacchus, and 
Osiris, as most learned men look upon them as fabulous 
beings, and those who admit an element of truth in the 
tales carefully denude them of all the extravagant details 
which tradition assigns to them *. The history of Sesostris, 
although equally full of impossibilities, has something more 
truthful and authenticated about it. The few ancient 
monuments which have been preserved make him out to 
1 See Plutarch's Isis and Osiris, chap. xxxv. 


have been the bravest, not to say the only, warrior that 
peaceful Egypt had to boast of for a period of more than 
sixteen centuries, and they also lead one to believe that 
he was the greatest of all conquerors, with an empire 
extending from the Danube to the Ganges. But his Indian 
conquests were as temporary and unstable as those of his 
illustrious rival Alexander the Great much later on in the 
world's history. 

As to the settlements that the Arabs are supposed to 
have made in India, according to some authors, I think 
only superficial students will be found ready to believe in 
them. The fact that they are nomads, who have always 
lived a wandering life within reach of India, gives some 
appearance of reality to the theory. Some indeed believe 
that the caste system was borrowed from them, since it 
still exists in Arabia ; but, as a matter of fact, it is a custom 
common to all the ancient races of the earth. 

I do not trace the origin of the Brahmins either to 
Egypt or to Arabia, and I believe them to be the descen- 
dants not of Shem, as many argue, but of Japheth. Accord- 
ing to my theory they reached India from the north, and 
I should place the first abode of their ancestors in the 
neighbourhood of the Caucasus. 

Two famous mountains situated in Northern India, 
known as Great Meru (Maha-Meru) and Mount Mandara 
(Mandara Parvata), are frequently mentioned in their old 
books and in their prayers, liturgies, and civil and religious 
ceremonies. These mountains, which I believe to be one 
and the same under slightly different names, are so far 
away that their precise whereabouts is unknown to the 
Brahmins of to-day \ And this is not surprising in a 
country where geographical science is confined to know- 
ledge of the places situated between Benares and Cape 
Comorin. The Hindus themselves claim to be descended 
from the inhabitants of these distant northern regions, 
and they believe that it was there that the seven illus- 
trious ancestors of the Brahmins were born, whose descen- 

1 There can be no doubt that these mountains, and others mentioned 
as lying around them, belong to the great ranges of Central Asia, from 
which flow the great rivers that water Siberia, China, Tartary, and 
Hindustan. — Ed. 


dants have spread little by little throughout the length and 
breadth of the land. This opinion of the Hindus as to tli<- 
origin of the Brahmins is confirmed by the Brahmins 
themselves, by the manner in which they treat one another. 
The northern Brahmin considers himself nobler and of 
higher rank than his southern brother, inasmuch as, having 
originated closer to the cradle of the race, there is less room 
for doubt concerning the fact of his direct descent from 
the Rishis. Surely these seven Hindu Penitents, or philo- 
sophers, must be the seven sons of Japheth, who, with their 
father at their head, led one-third of the human race 
towards the West, when men began to disperse after the 
Flood. They did not all reach Europe. Some of them on 
their way there turned northwards, under the guidance of 
Magog, second son of Japheth, and penetrated into Tartary 
as far as the Caucasian Range, in which vast tract of 
country they made several settlements. 

I hazard no conjectures here which are not borne out 
by the Scriptures or by the commentaries of its wise in- 
terpreters, with whose aid I might easily pretend to much 
erudition ; it would only be necessary to copy out verbatim 
what Bochart and the savant Dom Calmet have written 
on this subject. 

Any one believing in the connexion between names and 
facts will be struck with the similarity existing between 
Magog's name and Gautama's, commonly called Gotama. 
Ma, or maha, signifies great, so that Gotama must mean 
the Great Gog or Magog 1 . 

Furthermore, pagan history adds weight to these con- 
jectures of mine on the origin and antiquity of the Brah- 
mins. Learned men allude to more than one Prometheus. 
According to the Greeks the most celebrated of them all 
is a son of Japheth. He created man out of the soil, and 
instilled life into him with the fire stolen from heaven. 
This bold enterprise irritated Jupiter, who punished him 
by chaining him to one of the Caucasian Mountains, where 
a vulture devoured his liver as fast as it renewed itself. 
Hercules killed the vulture, and thereby put the son of 
Iapetus, or Japheth, out of his torture. 

1 Much of this seems extremely fanciful. Max Miiller and other 
modern authorities should be consulted. — Ed. 


Why should not Brahma and Prometheus be one and 
the same person ? The Hindu divinity is known also 
under the names of Brema and Prume in some of their 
tongues. All these names bear resemblance to Prome- 
theos, or the god Prome of the Greeks. Brahma, like 
Prometheus, is looked upon as the creator of man, who is 
supposed to have issued from the various parts of Brahma's 
body. Brahma was also their great lawgiver, being the 
author of the Vedas, which he wrote with his own hand. 
He had more than once to appeal to Vishnu for help, just 
as Prometheus relied on Hercules to deliver him from his 

This pretension on the part of the Hindu Prometheus 
to be regarded as the maker of man, and therefore a god, 
has been handed down in some part to his eldest sons, 
the Brahmins, who humbly call themselves the Gods 
Brahma, or the Gods of the Earth. At certain times the 
people prostrate themselves before them in adoration, and 
offer up sacrifices to them. 

Again, several authors, both sacred and profane, have 
tried to prove that the Prometheus who wished to pass as 
the creator of man was no other than Magog himself. It 
is hardly likely that so near the time of the Deluge the real 
Creator should have been so completely forgotten that 
a son of Noah was able to pass himself off as a god ; but 
it is quite possible that his descendants deified him, when 
the spirit of idolatry began to reign on earth. It was 
Magog who settled in Tartary with all those who elected 
to follow him, having decided to separate from Japheth's 
other children. From thence he or his descendants spread 
over India and other countries, which had rightly fallen 
to Shem's lot. This verified Noah's prophecy that Japheth's 
dominion would be far-reaching, and that his posterity 
would dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen. ix. 27). But admit- 
ting that Tartary or the neighbourhood of the Caucasus 
was the birthplace of the Brahmins, it is not easy to decide 
the precise date of their arrival in India. It appears 
certain, however, that they were already established there 
in a flourishing condition more than nine centuries before 
the Christian era, as that was about the time of Lycurgus's 
visit to them ; and it is not likely that one of the wisest 


of the ancient philosophers would have undertaken such 
a long and tedious journey unless the reputation of the 
learned men he was going all that way to consult was an 
old and established fact. 

The ancient Hindu works teach us that the Brahmins of 
those times differed essentially in matters of principle 
and conduct from their brethren of to-day. The original 
Brahmin is described as a penitent and a philosopher, 
living apart from the world and its temptations and entirely 
engrossed in the pursuit of knowledge, leading a life of 
introspection and practising a life of purity. At that 
period of their history the Brahmins were not such an 
intolerant and exclusive race that penitents belonging to 
other castes could not be initiated by the Diksha cere- 
mony *, or the investiture of the triple cord. There are 
many examples of this in their literature. The simple and 
blameless lives led by the primitive Brahmins, their con- 
tempt for wealth and honours, their disinterestedness, and, 
above all, their extreme sobriety, attracted the attention 
of the princes and the people. The greatest kings were 
not above rendering homage to them and treating them 
with more respect than they would have dared to demand 
for themselves from their own subjects. These philo- 
sophers, living secluded from the world with their wives 
and children, multiplied exceedingly. 

Although the modern Brahmin has degenerated con- 
siderably, he still acts up to a great many of the customs 
and institutions of his ancestors. Like them, he prefers 
to live in retired places, far from the noisy haunts of man ; 
and that is the reason why he settles in isolated villages, 
from which all natives belonging to other castes are ex- 
cluded. There are numbers of these villages in the different 
provinces of the Indian Peninsula, and they are known by 
the names of agraras or agraharas 2 . Still more do the 
Brahmins resemble their ancestors in the way in which 
they fast frequently and wash themselves daily, and in all 
that concerns their sacrifices ; but, perhaps, most of all in 

1 Diksha means consecration ; (undergoing) a religious observance for 
a particular purpose ; solemn preparation. — Ed. 

2 Agrara is merely a corruption of the word agrahara, which literally 
means ' land-grant to Brahmins.' — Ed. 


their scrupulous abstinence, not only from meat and all 
forms of living food, but even from anything with which 
superstition or prejudice may have connected any idea of 

The religious system of the Brahmins and the absurd 
theogony which they have propagated in India seem to be 
the points on which they have gone most astray from the 
teachings of their predecessors. I cannot believe that the 
original lawgivers of the Hindus intended to introduce 
a creed so abominable and palpably absurd as that which 
at present exists amongst them. Their mythology origin- 
ally consisted of allegories made intelligible by means of 
visible and material objects, so that religious knowledge 
should not die out of the minds of men who appeared to 
be little influenced by anything that failed to make a direct 
impression on their senses. But a coarse, ignorant, in- 
dolent, and superstitious race soon forgot the spirit of its 
creed, and ended by believing solely in the forms and 
emblems which had been employed ; so that, before long, 
they quite lost sight of the spiritual beings of which these 
emblems were only symbolical. But I shall have occasion 
to refer to this question again, and so shall merely state 
here that the long tissue of fables on which the present 
religion of the Hindus is founded is not, to my mind, very 
ancient ; at least, the greater part of it is not. Although 
some authors think differently, nothing will persuade me 
that their mythology is much older than that of the 

The primitive creed of the ancient Brahmins seems to 
have been utterly corrupted by their successors. The first 
form of idolatry into which all nations fall, after forgetting 
their traditions concerning the unity of God and the 
absolute and exclusive worship He expects from all His 
creatures, is the adoration of the stars and conspicuous 
elements, such as earth, fire, and water. Apparently the 
first Brahmins practised the purer cult, but afterwards 
their descendants reached the lowest stage of idolatry by 
adoring images and statues, which were intended only as 
the emblems of the objects of their worship. It was when 
this came to pass that India and the greater part of Asia 
probably split up into the two beliefs which still exist, 

E 3 


one embracing the fables of the Trimurti and the other 
the religion of Buddha. 

The creeds of these two sects probably sprang from the 
common source of Brahminism, and are only corruptions 
of it. Some modern authors believe that originally Bud- 
dhism reigned supreme throughout India, on either side 
of the Ganges, and, perhaps, even throughout the whole 
of Asia from Siberia to Cape Comorin and the Malacca 
Straits, and from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Kamt- 
chatka. In any case, Buddhism appears to have been as 
ancient as the cult of the Trimurti. In both Tibets, in 
Tartary, and in China, we know that Buddhism still pre- 
dominates. According to the historian La Loubere, it 
was introduced into China from Siam in bygone ages, and 
not, as is generally supposed, from Cape Comorin. In 
Burma, Siam, Laos, Cambodia, Cochin China, Japan, 
Corea, and in most of the kingdoms beyond the Ganges, 
Buddhism is the recognized religion. The Singalese in- 
habitants of Ceylon are also Buddhists, and the cult was 
introduced to them by missionaries and colonists, who 
a long time ago came over from Burma to settle there. 
In fact, this religion, with the immortal Grand Lama ! of 
Tibet as its sovereign pontiff, is still beyond dispute of all 
existing creeds the one that embraces the greatest number 
of adherents. 

If the last census published by order of the Chinese 
Government is correct, their vast empire numbers about 
300,000,000 inhabitants, and if one estimates the popula- 
tions of the remaining Asiatic dominions where Buddhism 
prevails at 150,000,000 only, which is a very moderate 
calculation, then about one-half of the human race has 
Buddhism for its religion. 

Besides these two predominant creeds, there exists 
a third about which, until recently, little was known. 
I refer to the religion of the Jains. This sect stands quite 
aloof, hating equally both Brahminists and Buddhists, as 

1 Like a second Phoenix the Grand Lama never dies. When he is 
about to divest himself of his earthly coil, the Bonzes choose a child of 
three or four into whose body they cause his soul to migrate, and this 
child is declared his successor. All faithful Buddhists believe implicitly 
in this miraculous rebirth. — Dubois. 


well as their doctrines. They maintain that both the 
Trimurti and Buddhism are abominable modern inven- 
tions, and mere travesties of the true and primitive 
religion of India, which has remained pure and unimpaired 
amongst them only. They also hold that they alone are 
the real descendants of the old Brahmin Penitents, whose 
doctrines, customs, and usages they protect from universal 
degradation and from the monstrous innovations of Brah- 
mins and Buddhists alike. 

Brahminism underwent a hard struggle before it succeeded 
in establishing its dominion in India, owing to the opposi- 
tion offered to it by the Jains ; but after a long and bloody 
war the latter were crushed and had to submit to whatever 
conditions the Brahmins chose to dictate. The jealousy 
and animosity which these religious wars stirred up still 
prevail as strongly as ever, even after a lapse of two or 
three thousand years. Time, which generally softens the 
strongest hatreds and brings together the greatest enemies, 
has, in this case, failed to obliterate the traces of the 
ancient wrongs of which each sect mutually accuses the 
other. The daily prayer of a certain sect of Brahmins 
contains a curse levelled at the heads of the Jains, who 
retaliate by exclaiming, when they rise to pray, 'Brahma 
kshayam ! ' ' May the Brahmin perish.' If either sect 
comes into power, it takes the opportunity of humiliating 
its adversaries and of punishing them without mercy when- 
ever occasion offers. 

But whatever may be the respective claims of Buddhists, 
Brahmins, and Jains with regard to the antiquity of their 
religions and the differences of doctrine that divide them, 
it appears highly probable that they all sprang originally 
from the same source. All three believe in the funda- 
mental doctrine of metempsychosis. The images they 
worship bear a great likeness to one another, and most of 
these seem to be merely allegorical emblems invented to 
help them to remember their original divinities. All their 
religious establishments are alike composed of priests, 
monks, and hermits. All their sacrifices, and the cere- 
monies which accompany them, are nearly identical. And, 
lastly, there is the resemblance of the languages used by 
the priests in their religious services ; that is to say, the 


Sanskrit of the Brahmins and Jains on this side of the 
Ganges, and the Pali, which is evidently derived from the 
Sanskrit, of the Buddhists beyond the Ganges. All these 
help to prove incontestably the affinity existing between 
the three religions. 

As very little is known about the Jain cult by Europeans, 
although it is to be found in all parts of the Peninsula, 
I shall give in an appendix a short account of their doc- 
trines and of the principal controversial points between 
them and their sworn enemies, the Brahmins. I should 
like to be able to do the same with regard to the Buddhists, 
but I have not been able to procure authentic documents 
about their cult. Residents of Ceylon, where Buddhism 
predominates, ought to be able to supply the blank thus 
left in my work. 


Different Kinds of Brahmins. — Outward Signs by which they are 

Brahmins are subdivided into seven sects, each of 
which has for its patron one of the celebrated Penitents 
already mentioned. Besides this, they are split up into 
four classes, each class recognizing one of the four Vedas 
as its own. Thus there are Brahmins of the Yajur-Veda, 
of the Sama-Veda, of the Rig-Veda, and of the Atharva- 
Veda. Some are of opinion that this fourth class is extinct ; 
but, as a matter of fact, it still exists, although there are 
but few representatives left, who are even more exoteric 
than the other castes, because they allow bloody sacrifices 
to be offered up, and do not even draw the line at human 
beings. Added to this, they teach a belief in witchcraft, 
and any one who is supposed to possess the art earns the 
odious reputation of being a sorcerer. When the yagnam 
sacrifice takes place, it is customary for Brahmins of all 
four Vedas to be present. The prayers which are offered 
up at the sandhya 1 are quoted from the four Vedas, each 

1 Later on I shall explain in what the yagnam and sandhya consist. — 
Dubois. [ Yagnam literally means worship (in prayer or praise) ; sacri- 
ficial rite, or sacrifice (to, of, by)]. — Ed. 


Brahmin repeating those of his own particular Veda, 
which accounts for the slight differences. Under ordinary 
circumstances the Brahmins do not appear to be very 
strict about these minor distinctions, or to prefer one 
Veda to another. Nor is this altogether surprising, con- 
sidering that the author of the famous Indian poem Bhaga- 
vata declares that originally the four Vedas were one and 
the same. According to him it was the Penitent Vyasa 
who divided them into four books, and at the same time 
added introductions and commentaries to render them 
more intelligible. Indeed, owing to inherent faults, or to 
the mistakes made by ignorant and inattentive copyists, 
the Vedas are so obscure that even men of learning find it 
hard to fathom them. I shall have more to say about the 
Vedas presently. To Vyasa is also attributed the author- 
ship of the eighteen Puranas 1 . These are eighteen poems, 
all equally futile, containing most minute accounts of 
Hindu mythology with its gods and heroes. The fables 
contained in them are responsible for the gross forms of 
idolatry practised by the Hindus. 

Brahmins are also distinguishable by their sect, by their 
names, by the marks which they trace on their foreheads 
and other parts of the body, and also by the high priest 
to whose jurisdiction they are subject. The four principal 
sects of Brahmins south of the Kistna are : the Vishnavites, 
the Smarthas, the Tatuvadis, and the Utrassas. The dis- 
tinctive mark of the Vishnavite Brahmins is the namam 2 . 
Their simhasana, that is, the place where their high priest 
resides and their chief school, is at Hobbala in the Northern 
Carnatic. The Smartha Brahmins trace three horizontal 
lines on the forehead with sandalwood paste. Their sim- 
hasana is at Singeri in North-west Mysore. Besides these 
horizontal lines on the brow, the Tatuvadi Brahmins have 
ineffaceable marks branded on certain parts of their bodies 
with a red-hot iron. Their simhasana is at Sravenur. 

1 The names are Brahma-purana, Padma purana, Vishnu-purana, 
Siva-purana, Bhagavata, Bavirhotara-purana, Naraddia, Markandeya- 
purana, Brahniakeyvreta- purana, Linga- purana, Yaraha- purana, Skanda- 
purana, Vamana-purana, Vayu-purana, Kurma-purana, Matsia-purana, 
Garuda-purana, Brahmanda-purana. — Dubois. 

- See following chapter. 


The Utrassa Brahmins draw a perpendicular line from the 
top of the forehead to the base of the nose. 

There are also Brahmins known as Cholias, who are more 
or less looked down upon by the rest. They appear to be 
conscious of their own inferiority, for they hold themselves 
aloof from other Brahmins. All menial work connected 
with the temples is performed by them, such as washing 
and decorating the idols, preparing lighted lamps, incense, 
flowers, fruits, rice, and other similar objects of which 
sacrifices are composed. In many temples even Sudras 
are allowed to exercise these functions, and men of this 
caste are always chosen for the office of sacrificer in pagodas 
where rams, pigs, cocks, and other living victims are offered 
up. No Brahmin would ever consent to take part in 
a sacrifice where blood has to be shed. It is perhaps on 
account of the work they condescend to do that the Cholia 
Brahmins have fallen into such contempt. According to 
the general view of the Brahmins, to do any work which 
can be left to the lowest amongst the Sudras is to put 
themselves on their level, and consequently to degrade 
themselves. In any case the work of a pujari is not thought 
much of, and by some it is considered absolutely degrading. 
However, some Brahmins have to accept this task on 
account of their poverty, but they only do so with extreme 
reluctance. It is a common proverb amongst them that 
for the sake of one's belly one must play many parts l . 

There are other Brahmins who are derisively called meat 
Brahmins and fish Brahmins. For instance, there are the 
Konkani Brahmins, who come from Konkana, who eat fish 
and eggs without the slightest compunction, but will not 
touch meat. And there are many Brahmins from the 
northern provinces who make no secret of the fact that 
they eat meat. People tell me, though I can hardly believe 
it, that such conduct does not lessen the esteem in which 
they are held in their own country by those of their own 
caste who abstain from such forbidden food. Anyhow, 
when these degenerate Brahmins visit Southern India, and 
their ways become known, all the other Brahmins keep 
them at a distance and refuse to have any dealings with 

1 In Sanskrit : Udara nimittam bahii krita vcsham, which literally 
means, ' For the belly's sake many rCics are played.' — Ed. 


them. I wonder whether the first Hindu lawgivers forbade 
the eating of meat and of all other substances containing 
the germ of life. Do the southern Brahmins observe a rule 
strictly laid down, and do the northern Brahmins therefore 
break a law common to the whole caste ? It is probable 
that the northern Brahmins, feeling the want of more 
substantial food, freed themselves from a custom which 
was not found irksome by their southern brethren in a 
hotter climate. 


The different Hindu Sects. — Vishnavites and Sivaites. — The Exterior 
Marks and Customs peculiar to each. — The Pavadam. — The Mutual 
Hatreds and Differences between the Sects. — Reason for the Dislike 
which ordinary Brahmins feel for Vishnavite Brahmins and those 
belonging to other Sects. — Subdivisions of the two Principal Sects. 

The Brahmins recognize six sects, which they designate 
by the generic name of Shat Mata (the Six Sects, or Six 
Schools) ; and each of these sects has a numerous follow- 
ing. They are composed entirely of Brahmins, and each 
has its own particular doctrine of metempsychosis. How- 
ever, they do not carry these purely scholastic differences 
to the point of reciprocal hatred or persecution, and the 
subjects under dispute are pretty much the same as those 
which provoke polemical discussions amongst scholars and 
dialecticians in other countries. I shall refer again to this 
matter elsewhere, and will now speak about the two great 
sects of the Sudras. It will be seen that they are far from 
being as calm and tolerant over points of doctrine as the 
Brahmins. As a general rule, Hindus profess to pay equal 
honour to the two great divinities of the country, Vishnu 
and Siva, without showing preference for either, though 
there are a great many sectarians who devote themselves 
exclusively to the worship of one or the other. 

The one sect is usually called Vishnu-bhaktas, which 
means votaries of Vishnu ; the other is called Siva-bhaktas, 
or votaries of Siva. The latter sect is also called Linga- 
daris, and the former Namadaris. These names are derived 
from the distinguishing marks which the sectarians wear \ 

1 It is impossible to conceive anything more obscene than the meaning 


The followers of Vishnu wear the emblem called namam, 
which they paint on their foreheads. It consists of three 
lines, one perpendicular and two oblique, meeting at the base, 
and thus forming a sign which resembles a trident. The 
centre line is red, the two outer lines are white and are 
painted on with a sort of clay called namam ; hence the 
name given to this emblem. The distinctive sign of the 
Sivaites is, generally speaking, the lingam. They sometimes 
wear it fastened to the hair or round the arm, enclosed 
in a little silver tube ; but more often they hang it round 
the neck, and the silver box containing it rests on the 

Instead of the namam, some devotees of Vishnu paint 
a single red perpendicular line in the middle of their fore- 
heads in a distinctive manner ; and instead of the lingam 
many of the votaries of Siva rub their foreheads and various 
parts of their bodies with the ashes of cow- dung by way 
of showing their devotion. 

The special devotees of Vishnu are to be found in great 
numbers in the southern provinces of India, where they 
are known by various names, such as Andi, Dasari,Raman- 
jogi, Bairagi, and many others 1 . 

Besides the namam, which is an unmistakable sign of 
this sect, most of the devotees may also be distinguished 
by the extraordinary costume that they affect. The clothes 
which they wear are dyed a deep yellow, shading into red ; 
many cover their shoulders with a coloured patchwork 
blanket, which they partly use as a cloak ; their turbans, 
too, are composed of a motley of many hues. Some wear 
a cheetah's skin on their shoulders instead of the blanket. 
Most of them have long necklaces of black seeds, the size 
of nuts. Besides this ridiculous costume, which vies with 
a jester's motley, the devotees of Vishnu always carry 
a bronze gong and a conch shell called a sangu when they 
are travelling or begging. Both of these are used to make 

of these two marks of Hindu worship, namely, the lingam and the 
namam ; obscene, that is, from the European point of view. From 
the Hindu point of view they symbolize spiritual and religious truths 
connected with the divine origin and generation of mankind. — Ed. 

1 The Abbe is wrong in saying that an Andi is a devotee of Vishnu ; 
he is always a devotee of Siva. Among Bairagis, too, there are devotees 
both of Vishnu and of Siva. — Ed. 


a noise and to announce their approach \ With one hand 
they strike the gong with a little drumstick, producing 
a bell-like sound ; with the other they hold the sangu to 
their mouth, and blow through it shrill and piercing sounds, 
which are very monotonous. These two objects are always 
to be seen in the hands of those followers of Vishnu who 
are beggars by profession, and who in some way resemble 
the mendicant friars of old. On their breasts they wear 
a sort of brass plate, on which is engraved a likeness of the 
monkey Hanumanta, or else one of the Avatars, or incarna- 
tions, of Vishnu. Some of them wear a number of little 
bells either hanging from their shoulders or on their legs, 
the tinkling of which warns people of their approach. To 
all the above paraphernalia some add an iron rod, at each 
end of which hangs a little brazier of the same metal con- 
taining the fire for burning the incense of which their 
sacrifices are composed. 

To ask for alms is looked upon as a right, and even an 
inherent duty, in this sect. Indeed, as a rule in India 
any one who assumes the cloak of religion can practise 
begging as a profession. 

It is principally when they are making pilgrimages to 
some sacred spot that these religious beggars make use of 
their privileges. Sometimes you meet as many as a 
thousand in one party. They scatter themselves through 
the various villages within reach of their route, and each 
inhabitant takes in a certain number of them, so that all 
travelling expenses are saved. This is the only occasion 
on which they travel in such large numbers, though they 
never wander about quite alone. Their manner when 
demanding alms is most insolent and audacious, and often 
threatening. If their demands are not instantly complied 
with, they will noisily repeat their request, striking their 
gongs and producing the most deafening sounds from their 
sangus all the time. If such methods are not successful, 
they have been known to force their way into a house, 
break all the household utensils, and damage everything 
they can find. These religious mendicants generally pursue 
their begging to an accompaniment of singing and dancing. 
Their songs are a species of hymns in honour of their 
1 Also devotees of Siva do this. — Ed. 


deities ; and they very often sing indecent ballads. The 
more freely the latter are interlarded with obscenities, 
the better are they calculated to attract offerings from 
the public. 

The intemperance to which these religious beggars, and 
indeed all the devotees of Vishnu, are addicted, causes the 
better class of Hindus to regard them with great disfavour. 
In fact, such mendicants seem rather to pride themselves 
on their want of moderation in eating and drinking, from 
a feeling of opposition to the Lingayats, and in order to 
make the difference between themselves and their adver- 
saries more apparent. The sobriety of the latter equals, if 
it does not surpass, that of the Brahmins. Vishnavites eat 
all kinds of meat ostentatiously, and drink arrack, toddy, 
or any other intoxicating liquors or drugs that they can 
procure, without scruple or shame. Excesses of all kinds 
are laid to their charge, and it is amongst them that that 
most abominable rite called sakti-puja l is practised, of 
which I shall speak at greater length further on. 

The chief objects of veneration amongst the votaries of 
Vishnu are the monkey, the bird of prey called garuda, and 
the cobra. Should any one be so imprudent as to kill, or 
even injure, any one of these creatures in their presence, 
he might find the consequences very unpleasant, and he 
would only be able to expiate this supposed crime by offer- 
ing the sacrifice called pavadam, which is only performed 
on very grave occasions, such as those just mentioned, or 
when it is a question of obtaining reparation for an injury 
done to some member of the sect, but felt to reflect on all 
the others. This expiatory sacrifice is a very serious 
affair ; for it consists in immolating a human victim, and 
then resuscitating him ! 

When it is reported that any person has committed such 
an offence as renders the pavadam necessary, all the Vishnu- 
bhaktas flock in crowds to the culprit's house, round which 
as many as 2,000 and more have been known to assemble, 
each of them provided with his gong and his sangu. They 

1 Sakti-puja is the worship of Sakti, which is the active power or 
female energy of a deity (especially of Siva). This puja is observed 
largely among the Sivaites, and to some extent among the Vishnavites. 


begin by arresting the person who is the cause of the assem- 
blage ; and then they erect at a short distance from the 
house a small tent, which is quickly surrounded by many 
rows of Vishnavites. The chiefs select some member of 
the sect who is willing to be sacrificed, and he is exhibited 
to the crowd who have come to witness the spectacle. 
They make a slight incision in his arm from which blood 
flows, and the victim then appears to grow weaker and 
weaker, until he falls fainting to the ground, where he 
remains motionless. The victim, who of course is only 
feigning death, is then carried to the tent which has been 
erected for the purpose, and around which the Vishnu- 
bhaktas group themselves, taking great care that no one 
shall approach who does not belong to their sect. Others 
watch the house of him who has been the cause of the 
ceremony. All this time the whole multitude are shouting 
and screaming at the top of their voices, which, added to 
the banging of the gongs and the harsh and lugubrious 
notes of the sangus, produces a din and confusion of sounds 
as indescribable as they are unbearable. This fearful 
hubbub continues until the offending party has paid the 
fine imposed on him, which is generally far beyond his 
means. However, the inhabitants of the village and neigh- 
bourhood, exasperated beyond all measure, usually try and 
make some agreement with the leader of the fanatics, 
and, paying them part of the stipulated sum, entreat them 
to bring the ceremony of the pavadam to a speedy termina- 
tion, and to return to their homes. When their demands 
have been satisfied the headmen retire to the tent, and 
restore the dead man to life. To bring about this miracle 
an incision is made in the thigh of somebody amongst them. 
The blood which flows from it is collected in a vessel, and 
then sprinkled over the body of the victim. By virtue of 
this simple ceremony the pretended dead man comes back 
to life, in the best possible health. He is then again shown 
to the spectators, who appear thoroughly convinced of the 
reality of this marvellous resurrection \ 

In order to consummate the expiation of the crime or 

1 The pavadam is probably called after Pavadammai, a minor deity 
of ferocious temper. The ceremony is not observed nowadays in any 
part of the country. — Ed. 


offence which lias given rise to the ceremony, they give 
a great feast with the money derived from the fine, and 
every one departs as soon as it is over. 

I once saw the pavadam celebrated with much solemnity 
in a village near my house. The offence which provoked 
it arose from an inhabitant of the village having uninten- 
tionally felled a tree called kaka-mara \ which bears yellow 
Mowers, and to which the followers of Vishnu offer sacrifices 
and worship. 

The sect of Siva is just as numerous as that of Vishnu. 
It predominates altogether in several provinces. In the 
western parts of the Peninsula, along the whole length of 
the long chain of mountains which separates what are 
known in Europe as Malabar and Coromandel, the followers 
of Siva form at least half of the population for a distance 
extending for more than 100 miles from north to south. 

Like the Brahmins they abstain from all animal food 
and from everything that has had even a germ of life, 
such as eggs, &c, some vegetable products being included 
under this head. Instead of burning their dead, as do 
most Hindus, they bury them. They do not recognize 
the laws relating to defilement which are generally accepted 
by other castes, such, for instance, as those occasioned by 
a woman's periodical ailments, and by the death and funeral 
of relations. They have also other rules and regulations 
which differ from those generally in force. Their indiffer- 
ence to all such prescriptive customs relating to defilement 
and cleanliness has given rise to a Hindu proverb which 
says : ' There is no river for a Lingayat ' ; meaning that 
the members of this sect do not recognize, at all events 
on many occasions, the virtues and merits of ablutions. 

The point in the creed of the Sivaites which appears to 
me to be most remarkable is their entire rejection of that- 
fundamental principle of the Hindu religion, marujanma , 
or metempsychosis. In consequence of their peculiar views 
on this point they have no titis, or anniversary festivals, 
to commemorate the dead and to afford them the benefit 
of the prayers, sacrifices, and intercessions of the living, 
of which festivals I shall speak more fully later on. A 
Lingayat is no sooner buried than he is forgotten. 
1 Cassia fistula. — Ed. 


Amongst the Sivaites there also exists a sect known by 
the name of Vira-seiva, which refuses to recognize any 
caste distinctions, maintaining that the lingam makes all 
men equal. If even a Pariah joins the sect he is con- 
sidered in no way inferior to a Brahmin. Wherever the 
lingam is found, there, they say, is the throne of the deity, 
without distinction of class or rank. The Pariah's humble 
hut containing this sacred emblem is far above the most 
magnificent palace where it is not. 

The direct opposition of their religious tenets and rules 
of life to those of all other Hindus, and especially to those 
of Brahmins, renders the Lingayats peculiarly obnoxious 
in the eyes of the latter, who cannot endure the sight of 
the Jangamas and other headmen of the sect. Amongst 
the Lingayats, as amongst the Namadaris, are an immense 
number of religious beggars, called Pandarams, Voderus, 
Jangamas, &c. Many of these penitent Sivaites have no 
other means of subsistence except begging. They ply their 
trade systematically and in gangs. Some, however, live in 
retreat in the mutts (monasteries) or temples, which usually 
possess lands, the rents of which, added to the offerings 
of the faithful, are sufficient to maintain them. 

The gurus, or priests of Siva, who are known in the 
western provinces by the name of Jangamas, are for the 
most part celibates. They have a custom which is peculiar 
to themselves, and curious enough to be worth remarking. 
When a guru travels about his district he lodges with some 
member of the sect, and the members contend amongst 
themselves for the honour of receiving him. When he has 
selected the house he wishes to stay in, the master and all 
the other male inmates are obliged, out of respect for him, 
to leave it, and go and stay elsewhere. The holy man 
remains there day and night with only the women of the 
house, whom he keeps to wait on him and cook for him, 
without creating any scandal or exciting the jealousy of 
the husbands. All the same, some scandal- mongers have 
remarked that the Jangamas always take care to choose 
a house where the women are young. 

The costume worn by the ascetics of Siva is very much 
the same as that of the Vishnavites. Both are equally 
peculiar in their attire. They always wear clothes of 


kavi colour, that is to say, dark yellow verging on red. 
This colour is obligatory, not only on the devotees of both 
Vishnu and Siva, but also on every one who is under a vow 
of penance. It is the colour affected by all gurus and Hindu 
priests of all denominations, by fakirs, also by all the priests 
and religious followers of Buddha who live on the other 
side of the Ganges. 

Besides the lingam, there are several other outward 
signs by which the devotees of Siva may be recognized, 
such as the long necklaces of seeds called rudrakshas, which 
resemble a nutmeg in size, colour, and nearly in shape ; 
also the cow-dung ashes with which they besmear their 
forehead, arms, and various other portions of the body. 
The two chief objects of their devotion are the lingam and 
the bull. 

Though children usually follow the religion of their 
fathers, they do not become Vishnavites or Lingayats 
merely by right of birth. They are only admitted to the 
sect that their parents belong to when they have reached 
a certain age, and after being initiated by the guru. This 
ceremony of initiation is called diksha \ It consists in 
repeating certain appropriate mantrams, or prayers, over 
the neophyte, and whispering some secret instructions in 
his ear. But these are all spoken in a language which is 
seldom understood even by the person who presides at the 

By the diksha the new member acquires a perpetual 
right to all the privileges of the sect into which he has 
been admitted. Persons of all castes can become Vish- 
navites, and after their admission can wear the namam or 
distinctive mark on their foreheads. Neither Pariahs nor 
even Chucklers are excluded ; and it has been noticed that 
the lower castes are particularly numerous in this sect. 

I do not think there would be any greater difficulty in 
becoming a member of the Siva sect, but as on initiation 
the members undertake to entirely give up eating meat 
and drinking any intoxicating liquor, the lower castes, 
who do both unhesitatingly, find the conditions too hard. 
Consequently, only high-class Sudras and scarcely any 

1 This word means ' initiation.' Native Christians often call Baptism 
gniana diksha, which means ' spiritual initiation.' — Dubois. 


Pariahs belong to this sect. It is no uncommon thing for 
people to change from one sect to the other, according as 
it suits their interest, or even out of spite or caprice. Either 
sect will take a convert from the other without asking any 
questions or making any difficulty. Sometimes one comes 
across missionaries scouring the country with written pro- 
fessions of faith in their hands, and using various means 
for gaining proselytes to their respective sects. In some 
parts a remarkable peculiarity is to be observed in refer- 
ence to these two sects. Sometimes the husband is a 
Vishnavite and bears the namam on his forehead, while 
the wife is a follower of Siva and wears the lingam. The 
former eats meat, but the latter may not touch it. This 
divergence of religious opinion, however, in no way destroys 
the peace of the household. Each observes the practices 
of his or her own particular creed, and worships his or her 
god in the way that seems best, without any interference 
from the other. At the same time, each sect tries its best 
to magnify its own particular deity and to belittle that of 
its rivals. The devotees of Vishnu declare that the pre- 
servation of the universe is entirely due to him, and that 
to him Siva owes both his birth and existence, since Vishnu 
saved him several times under such circumstances that 
without his aid Siva must infallibly have perished. There- 
fore Vishnu is immeasurably above Siva in every respect, 
and to him alone should homage be offered. 

The devotees of Siva, on their side, maintain obstinately 
that Vishnu is of no account, and has never committed 
any but the basest actions, which only disgrace him and 
make him hateful in the eyes of men. As proofs of their 
assertions they point to several facts in the life of this 
deity, which their adversaries cannot deny, and which 
certainly do not redound to his credit. Siva, according to 
them, is sovereign lord of all, and therefore the proper 
object of all worship. 

According to the Vishnavites it is the height of all 
abomination to wear the lingam. According to their 
antagonists, whoever is decorated with the namam will be 
tormented in hell by a sort of fork similar in form to this 
emblem. These mutual recriminations often end in violent 
altercations and riots. The numerous bands of religious 


mendicants of both sects are specially apt to provoke 
strife. One may sometimes see these fanatics collected 
together in crowds to support their opinion of the super- 
excellence of their respective doctrines. They will over- 
whelm each other with torrents of abuse and obscene 
insults, and pour forth blasphemies and imprecations, on 
one side against Siva, on the other against Vishnu ; and 
finally they will come to blows. Fortunately blood is 
seldom shed on these battle-fields. They content them- 
selves with dealing each other buffets with their fists, 
knocking off each other's turbans, and much tearing of 
garments. Having thus given vent to their feelings, the 
combatants separate by mutual consent. 

That these religious dissensions do not set the whole 
country ablaze, or occasion those crimes of all kinds which 
were for centuries the result of religious fanaticism in 
Europe and elsewhere, is due no doubt to the naturally 
mild and timid character of the Hindus, and especially to 
the fact that the greater number compound with their 
consciences and pay equal honour to Vishnu and Siva. 
Being thus free from any bias towards either party, the 
latter serve as arbitrators in these religious combats, and 
often check incipient quarrels. 

There is no doubt, however, that these controversies 
were wont to excite general ferment in several provinces 
at no very remote date. The agitation, excited in the first 
instance by fanatical devotees, was further fomented by 
the Rajahs and other princes, who became Vishnavites or 
Sivaites according as it suited their political interests. 

Those who are acquainted with the character and dis- 
position of the Bairagis and Goshais of the north, and of 
the Dasari, Andis, Jangamas, and Pandarams in the south, 
are fully persuaded that it would still be quite easy for 
two ambitious and hostile princes to arm these fanatics 
and persuade them to come to blows if they raised the 
standard of Basava (the bull) on one side, and of Hanu- 
mania (the monkey) on the other. 

In these religious squabbles, which still take place occa- 
sionally, the Vishnavites appear to be the more fanatical 
and fervent, and they are almost always the aggressors. 
The reason is, that this sect draws most of its members 


from the very dregs of society, and so takes a delight in 
creating troubles or disturbances. The followers of Siva, 
on the other hand, who belong to the upper classes of the 
Sudras, are much more peaceable and tolerant. 

The majority of the Hindus, and particularly the Brah- 
mins, take no part whatever in these religious squabbles. 
The latter act on the principle of paying equal honour to 
the two chief deities of the country, and though, as 
a rule, they appear to have a preference for Vishnu, they 
never let a day pass without offering in their own houses 
a sacrifice to the lingam, which is Siva's emblem. 

It is very difficult to determine the origin of these two 
sects. Some authors have thought that they are quite 
a modern institution. Yet they are alluded to in several 
of the most ancient Puranas. One of the Avatars, or in- 
carnations, of Vishnu, called Narasimha, that is to say, 
half -man half -lion, is the form under which this deity dis- 
guised himself when he came to deliver the earth from the 
giant Hiranniakashiapa, who was ravaging it. We learn 
in the Bhagavata that this cruel monster had a good son 
called Prahlada, who belonged to the Vishnavite sect, and 
who made the greatest efforts to induce his father to 
embrace his special form of religion, but without success. 
However, the ill-feeling between the two sects seems not 
to have been so marked at the beginning. 

Brahmins in general look upon the Vishnavite Brahmins 
(see Chapter VIII), who profess a special devotion for 
Vishnu if they do not worship him exclusively, as detest- 
able schismatics. The preference that the latter show for 
a sect composed almost entirely of Sudras and the lowest 
of the people, and their practice of appearing in public 
with their foreheads decorated with the namam, just like 
common Pariahs or Chucklers, are all offences which degrade 
them in the eyes of their noble confreres. 

No doubt the same contempt would be felt for Brahmins 
who wore the lingam, but I have never seen one thus 
decorated, and I doubt whether one could be found any- 
where in the south, from the banks of the Kistna to Cape 
Comorin. I have been told, however, that there are some 
districts in the north where persons of this caste are to be 
found who devote themselves exclusively to the worship 


of Siva, and who always wear the emblem of this 

The sect of Vishnavite Brahmins appears to have origin- 
ated in Dravida or Aravam (the Tamil country). From 
there they spread over the provinces up to the Kistna, 
where they have retained, to the present day, their own 
peculiar customs and language, as well as their own cult. 
The Brahmins who inhabit the country north of this river 
have never permitted these stubborn schismatics to settle 
amongst them. 

The feeling of aversion which orthodox Brahmins enter- 
tain for the Vishnavite Brahmins is shared by Hindus of 
all castes. A stigma of reproach appears to cling to them. 
It cannot be the case, however, that the disfavour with 
which they are regarded is entirely due to their exclusive 
worship of Vishnu. I think it must be largely imputed to 
their excessive pride and arrogance, their extreme severity, 
and their supercilious manners ; for though all Brahmins 
share these characteristics, it is generally acknowledged 
that the Vishnavites display them in an intensified form. 

Be the reason what it may, there is no denying that the 
Vishnavites form a class by themselves in society. The 
antipathy which these two orders of Brahmins feel for 
each other is noticeable on all occasions. The members 
of one sect never invite members of the other to eat with 
them, or to participate in their civil or religious feasts ; 
and when one of them is raised to a position of authority, 
it is on persons of his own sect that his patronage is be- 

The two sects of Vishnavites and Sivaites are each sub- 
divided into several others, which are known under the 
general term of M alias or Mattancharas. Amongst the 
Vishnavites, for instance, there are the Vaishnavas, the 
Tatuvadis, the Bamojus, the Satanis, &c, sub-sects w T hich 
again are divided into a great many others. For instance, 
amongst the Vaishnavas there are the Vaishnava-triamalas, 
the Kandalas, the Nallaris, &c. 

The Jogis, the Jangamas, the Voderus, the Viraktas, the 
Bolu-Jangamas, the Vira-seivas, &c, belong to the Sivaites. 

Each of these sub-sects has its own peculiar tenets, 
mysteries, mantrams, sacrifices ; in fact, some points of 


variation in rites as in doctrines. The heads of these 
sub-sects dislike and avoid each other. They often quarrel 
over the various points of doctrine which cause such 
divisions. But these are forgotten, or, at any rate, allowed 
to remain in abeyance, should it be necessary to make 
common cause in defending the interests of the sect as 
a whole, during the disputes which occasionally arise 
between the Vishnavites and Sivaites. 


The Gurus, or Hindu Priests. — The Portrait of a true Guru. — Their 
Temporal and Spiritual Power. — The Fear and Respect that they 
inspire. — Ecclesiastical Hierarchy composed of the Superior and 
Inferior Priests. — The Honours paid to them. — Priestesses. 

I shall begin this chapter by giving an accurate descrip- 
tion of a true guru belonging to the sect of Siva. This 
picture is taken from the Vedanta Sara \ to which it serves 
as an introduction. At the same time I must warn my 
readers that it would be difficult to find any points of 
resemblance between this picture and the gurus of the present 
day, who are very far from attaining to this pitch of per- 
fection. The sketch will, however, prove that even the 
very highest moral virtues were not unknown to the Hindus, 
though now they regard them only as subjects for specu- 
lative discussion. 

4 A true guru is a man who is in the habit of practising 
all the virtues ; who with the sword of wisdom has lopped 
off all the branches and torn out all the roots of sin, and 
who has dispersed, with the light of reason, the thick 
shadows in which sin is shrouded ; who, though seated on 
a mountain of sins, yet confronts their attacks with a heart 
as hard as a diamond ; who behaves with dignity and 
independence ; who has the feelings of a father for all his 
disciples ; who makes no difference in his conduct between 
his friends and his enemies, but shows equal kindness to 
both ; who looks on gold and precious stones with the 
same indifference as on pieces of iron or potsherd, and 
values the one as highly as the other ; whose chief care is 

1 A translation of this, by Jacobs, is included in Triibner's Oriental 
Series. — Ed. 


to enlighten the ignorance in which the rest of mankind 
is plunged. He is a man who performs all the acts of 
worship of which Siva is the object, omitting none ; who 
knows no other god than Siva, and reads no other history 
than his ; who shines like the sun in the midst of the dark 
clouds of ignorance which surround him ; who meditates 
unceasingly on the merits of the lingam, and proclaims 
everywhere the praises of Siva ; who rejects, even in thought, 
every sinful action, and puts in practice all the virtues that 
he preaches ; who, knowing all the paths which lead to 
sin, knows also the means of avoiding them ; who observes 
with scrupulous exactitude all the rules of propriety which 
do honour to Siva. He should be deeply learned, and 
know the Vedanta perfectly. He is a man who has made 
pilgrimages to all the sacred places, and has seen with his 
own eyes Benares, Kedaram, Conjeeveram, Ramesvaram, 
Srirangam, Sringeri, Gokarnam, Kalahasti, and other spots 
which are consecrated to Siva. He must have performed 
his ablutions in all the sacred rivers, such as the Ganges, 
the Jumna, the Sarasvati, the Indus, the Godavari, the 
Kistna, the Nerbudda, the Cauvery, &c, and have drunk 
of each of these sanctifying waters. He must have bathed 
in all the sacred springs and tanks, such as the Surya- 
pushkarani, the Chandra-pushkarani, the Indra-push- 
karani, and others, wherever they may be situated. He 
must have visited all the sacred deserts and woods, 
such as Neimisha-aranya, Badari-aranya, Dandaka-aranya , 
Goch-aranya, &c, and have left his footprints in them. 
He must be acquainted with all the observances for pen- 
ance or asramas, such as are enjoined by the most famous 
devotees, and which are known by the names of Nara- 
yana-asrama, Vamana-asrama, Gautama-asrama, Vasishta- 
asrama. He must be one who has practised these religious 
exercises, and who has derived benefit from them. He 
must be perfectly acquainted with the four Vedas, the 
Tarka-sastram (or logic), the Bhoota-sastram (exorcism), 
the Mimamsa-sastram (exegetics, &c), &c. He must be 
well versed in the knowledge of the Vcdanga (six auxiliaries 
of the Vedas), of the Jyotisha-sastram (astrology), of Vaidya- 
sastram (medicine), of Dharma-sastram (ethics), of Kaviana- 
takam (poetry), &c, and he must know by heart the eighteen 


Puranas and the sixty-four Kalais l . This is the character 
of a true guru ; these are the qualities which he ought to 
possess, that he may be in a position to show others the 
path of virtue, and help them out of the slough of vice.' 

This is what the Hindu gurus ought to be, but are not. 
What follows is a description of them as they really are. 

The word guru, properly speaking, means ' master ' or 
' guide,' and this is why parents are sometimes called the 
maha-gurus or grand masters of their families, and kings 
are called the gurus of their kingdoms, and masters the 
gurus of their servants. 

The word is also used to designate persons of distinguished 
rank who are raised to a high position and invested with 
a character for sanctity, which confers both spiritual and 
temporal power upon them. The latter, which is exercised 
over the whole caste, consists in regulating its affairs, in 
keeping a strict watch to see that all its customs, both 
those for use in private as well as in public, are accurately 
observed, in punishing those who disregard them and 
expelling from caste those who have deserved this indig- 
nity, in reinstating the penitent, and several other no less 
important prerogatives. Besides this temporal authority, 
which no one disputes, they also exercise very extensive 
spiritual power. The sashtanga or prostration of the six 
members 2 when made before them and followed by their 
asirvadam, or blessing, will obtain the remission of all 
sins. The very sight even of gurus will produce the same 
effect. Any prasadam or gift from them, though usually 
some perfectly valueless object, such as a pinch of the 
ashes of cow-dung with which they besmear their fore- 
heads, the fruits or flowers that have been offered to idols, 
the remains of their food, the water with which they have 
rinsed out their mouths or washed their face or feet, and 
which is highly prized and very often drunk by those who 
receive it ; in short, any gift whatever from their sacred 
hands has the merit of cleansing both soul and body from 
all impurities. 

1 These include all kinds of worldly wisdom. — Dubois. 

2 It has already been pointed out in a note to a former chapter that 
sashtanga does not mean the prostration of six members but of eight 
members. — Ed. 


On the other hand, while the beneficial effects of their 
blessings or their trivial presents excite so large an amount 
of respect and admiration from the dull-witted public, 
their maledictions, which are no less powerful, are as 
greatly feared. The Hindus are convinced that their 
curses never fail to produce effect, whether justly or un- 
justly incurred. Their books are full of fables which seem 
to have been invented expressly to exemplify and strengthen 
this idea. The attendants of the guru, who are interested 
in making the part which their master plays appear credible, 
are always recounting ridiculous stories on this subject, of 
which they declare they have been eye-witnesses ; and in 
order that the imposture may be the less easily discovered, 
they always place the scene in some distant country. 
Sometimes they relate that the person against whom the 
curse was fulminated died suddenly whilst the guru was 
still speaking ; that another was seized with palsy in all 
his limbs, and that the affliction will remain until the 
anathema has been removed ; or that the guru's male- 
diction caused some woman to be prematurely confined ; 
or that a labourer saw all his cattle die suddenly at the 
moment when the malediction was hurled at his head ; 
or that one man was turned to stone and another became 
a pig ; in fact, they will relate a thousand similar absurdi- 
ties quite seriously 1 . 

If the foolish credulity of the Hindu will carry him to 
these lengths, can any one be surprised if his feelings of 
respect and fear for his guru are equally extravagant ? 
He will take the greatest care to do nothing that might 
displease him. Hindus have been reduced to such terrible 
straits as to sell their wives or their children in order to 
procure the money to pay the imposts or procure the 
presents that their gurus remorselessly claimed from them, 

1 The ideas of the Hindus on the subject of the blessings and curses 
of their gurus are analogous, at any rate in point of extravagance, to 
those which, according to Holy Scripture, were current in the time of 
the ancient Patriarchs. Noah's curse on his son Ham and his blessing 
on the other two, Shem and Japheth, bore fruit (Genesis ix). The 
value that Esau and Jacob set on their father Isaac's blessing is well 
known (Genesis xxvii) ; also the bitter regret of Esau when he found 
that he had been supplanted by Jacob. — Dubois. 


rather than run the risk of exposing themselves to their 
much-dreaded maledictions \ 

Each caste and each sect has its own particular gurus : 
but the latter are not all invested with equal authority ; 
a sort of hierarchy exists amongst them. Besides the vast 
numbers of subordinate priests who are to be met with 
everywhere, each sect has a limited number of high priests 
who exercise authority over the inferior gurus, deputing 
to them their powers of spiritual jurisdiction. These high 
priests have also the right of degrading their inferiors 
from their position and of putting others in their places. 
The residences of Hindu high priests are generally known 
by the name of simhasana 2 . These simhasanas are to be 
found in various provinces of India. Each caste and each 
sect acknowledges one that specially belongs to it. For 
instance, the Brahmins who belong to the Smartha sect 
have a different guru from the Tatuvadi sect, and these 
again recognize a different one from the Vishnavite Brah- 

The different branches of the sects of Vishnu and Siva 
have also their own particular gurus and high priests. 
The Sri-Vaishnavas, for instance, acknowledge four sim- 
hasanas and seventy-two pitahs or supplementary establish- 
ments, where the inferior gurus reside, besides a multitude 
of subordinate ministers who are also called gurus. 

The high priests, as well as the inferior priests belonging 
to the sect of Siva, are drawn entirely from the Sudra 
caste 3 ; but the greater number of the head gurus belong- 
ing to the Vishnavites are Vishnavite Brahmins, and they 
appoint the inferior clergy of that sect. The most famous 

1 Times are changed since the days of the Abbe, and the gurus in 
most cases are the mere hangers-on of rich disciples. They may be able 
to exercise some influence over the illiterate and poor, but with the 
majority of the educated and well-to-do their influence is not very 
great. — Ed. 

2 This word may be translated ' throne.' It is derived from the two 
words simha, which means lion, and asana, which means a seat, because 
a high priest's throne ought to be covered with a lion's skin. Custom, 
however, has changed this for that of a tiger. — Dubois. 

Sim?uisana is more correctly derived from the figure of a lion on the 
back of the seat. — Ed. 

3 This is not true. — Ed. 


simhasana of the Vishnavites is in the sacred town of 
Tirupati in the Carnatic. There a kind of arch-pontiff (the 
Mahant) resides, whose jurisdiction extends over almost 
the whole of the Peninsula. 

Brahmins are also, as a rule, the gurus of the various 
sects of Hindus who are more tolerant than those just 
mentioned, that is to say, those who worship both Vishnu 
and Siva. 

The high priest or the guru belonging to one sect has no 
authority over any other. Neither his prasadam l , nor his 
curse, nor his blessing would carry any weight with them ; 
and it is very rarely that you hear of priests overstepping 
the limits of their own jurisdiction. 

People of very high rank, such as kings or princes, have 
a guru exclusively attached to their households who accom- 
panies them everywhere. They prostrate themselves daily 
at the guru's feet and receive from him the prasadam or 
gift, and the asirvadam, or blessing. When they travel 
the guru is always in close attendance ; but if they are 
going to take part in a war or any other dangerous ex- 
pedition, the holy man takes care to remain prudently 
behind. He usually contents himself under these circum- 
stances with bestowing his blessing and giving some small 
present or amulet, which he has consecrated, and which, 
if carefully preserved, possesses the infallible virtue of 
averting all misfortunes to which they might be exposed 
when far from their spiritual guide. 

Princes, from motives of ostentation, affect to keep their 
gurus in great splendour, with the result that the latter's 
extravagant pomp often exceeds their own. Besides giving 
them many very valuable presents, they also endow them 
with land yielding large revenues. Hindu high priests 
never appear in public except in magnificent state. They 
like best to show off all their splendour when they are 
making a tour in their districts. They either ride on 
a richly caparisoned elephant or in a superb palanquin. 
Many have an escort of cavalry, and are surrounded by 
guards both mounted and on foot, armed with pikes and 
other weapons. Bands of musicians playing all sorts of 

1 Prasada means literally serenity, cheerfulness, kindness, favour, 
&c., and it has come to mean ' food or anything offered to an idol.' — Ed. 


instruments precede them, and numberless flags of all 
colours, on which are painted pictures of their gods, flutter 
in the midst of the cavalcade. The procession is headed 
by heralds, some of whom sing verses in the high priest's 
honour, while the rest go on ahead and warn the passers-by 
to clear the way and to pay the homage and respect that 
are his due *. All along the route incense and other per- 
fumes are burnt in the high priest's honour ; new cloths 
are perpetually spread for him to pass over ; triumphal 
arches called toranams, made of branches of trees, are 
erected at short intervals ; bevies of professional prosti- 
tutes and dancing-girls form part of the procession, and 
relieve each other at intervals, so that the obscene songs 
and lascivious dances may continue uninterruptedly 2 . This 
magnificent spectacle attracts great crowds of people, 
who prostrate themselves before the guru, and, after 
having offered him their respectful homage, join the rest 
of the crowd and make the air ring with their joyful 

The gurus of inferior rank make a show in proportion to 
their means. Those who belong to the sect of Vishnu 
known by the name of Vaishnavas generally travel on 
some sorry steed. Some are even reduced to walking on 
foot. The Pcmdarams and Jangamas, priests of Siva, go 
on horseback or in a palanquin, but their favourite mode 
of progression is riding on an ox. 

Gurus, as a rule, rank first in society. They often 

1 The custom amongst persons of high rank, such as gurus, kings, 
princes, and governors of provinces, of being preceded on their march 
by heralds, singing their praises, is very general in India. These heralds 
give a long account of their master's noble origin, of his exalted rank, of 
his boundless power, his virtues, and his many excellent qualities ; and 
they admonish the public to pay the respect and homage which are due 
to so great a personage. This custom, though of Hindu origin, has been 
adopted by the Mahomedans. It appears, as may be seen from the 
writings of both sacred and secular authors, that the practice of being 
preceded by heralds dates from very ancient times — see Genesis xli. 43 ; 
Esther vi. 8 ; and there are several other passages in the Bible where 
such heralds are spoken of. — Dubois. 

2 This picture is greatly exaggerated. Nowhere do ' professional 
prostitutes and dancing-girls ' form part of processions in honour of 
gurus. On the contrary, prostitutes are not allowed to approach these 
holy men. — Ed. 



receive tokens of respect, or rather of adoration, that are 
not offered to the gods themselves. And this is not sur- 
prising when one remembers that every Hindu is fully 
persuaded that, under certain circumstances, the gurus 
have authority even over the celestial powers. 

From time to time gurus make tours of inspection in 
those districts where their followers are most numerous. 
They sometimes go as much as a hundred miles from their 
habitual residence. The chief, if not the only, object of 
the expedition is to collect money. Besides the fines which 
they impose upon those who have committed some crime, 
or been guilty of breaking some rule of their caste or sect, 
they are merciless in extorting tribute money from their 
followers, which often greatly exceeds their means. They 
call this method of obtaining money dakshina 1 and pada- 
kanikai 2 , and no one, however poor he may be, is exempt 
from paying it. There is no insult or indignity that gurus 
will not inflict upon any one who either cannot or will not 
submit to this tax. Deaf to all entreaties, they cause the 
defaulter to appear before them in an ignominious and 
humiliating attitude, publicly overwhelm him with insults 
and reproaches, and order that mud or cow- dung shall be 
thrown in his face. If these means do not succeed, they 
force him to give up one of his children, who is obliged 
to work without wages until the tribute money is paid. 
Indeed, they have been known to take away a man's wife 
as compensation. Finally, as a last and infallible resource, 
they threaten him with their malediction ; and such is the 
Hindu's credulity, and so great his dread of the evils 
which he foresees will fall upon him if the curse be spoken, 
that, if it is not absolutely impossible, he submits and pays 
the required sum 3 . 

The gurus also increase their revenue by means of taxes, 
called guru-dakshina, which are levied on the occasion of 

1 Dakshina literally means the sacrificial fee. It has now come to 
mean gift. The gift to the priest is enforced more or less among the 
Madhvas ; but among the Sivaites and Vishnavites the priests are more 
lenient. — Ed. 

- This word means literally ' offering at the feet.' See Chapter III. — 

3 Nowadays gurus exercise less extensive powers over their disciples. 


a birth, at the ceremony of the diksha (initiation), at 
a marriage, or at a death. 

If these pastoral visits were of very frequent occurrence 
it is evident that the resources of the poor flock would soon 
be exhausted. Fortunately, those of the chief gurus, which 
are the most expensive, take place but seldom. Some make 
a tour of their districts once in five years, others once in 
ten only, and others, again, only once in a lifetime. 

Some gurus are married, but most are celibates. The 
latter, however, do not appear to adhere very strictly to 
their vow of chastity. Their conduct on this head is the 
more open to misconstruction in that they can have one 
or two women in their houses as cooks. According to the 
customs and ideas of the country, for a man to keep a 
female servant and to have her as his mistress are one and 
the same thing. No Hindu can be persuaded of the possi- 
bility of free, and at the same time innocent, intercourse 
between a man and a woman. 

But in spite of this, the common herd, who fancy that 
gurus are not made of the same clay as other mortals and 
are consequently impeccable, are in no wise shocked at 
these illicit connexions. Sensible people take no notice, 
but shut their eyes and say that allowances must be made 
for human weakness. 

The Brahmins pretend that they are the gurus for all 
castes, and that they alone have a right to the rank and 
honours appertaining to that profession ; but, as I have 
already mentioned, a number of common Sudras also con- 
trive to raise themselves to that dignified position. The 
Brahmins, of course, look upon them as intruders, but this 
does not in the least prevent their enjoying all the honours 
and advantages which belong to their rank in the caste 
and sect by which they are acknowledged. 

Except when they are making their tours of inspection, 
most gurus live in seclusion, shut up in isolated hermitages 
called mutts. They are rarely seen in public. Some of 
them live in the vicinity of the large pagodas. But the 
high priests, whose large households and daily hospitalities 
entail considerable expenditure, generally live in the large 
agraharas or towns inhabited principally by Brahmins, 
and for this reason called punyasthalas, or abodes of virtue. 


There they give audience to the numerous members of 
their flocks who come to perform worship, to receive their 
asirvadam (benediction) and their prasadam (gift), to offer 
presents, to bring complaints about the infraction of rules 
and customs, &c. Hindus, on presenting themselves before 
their guru, first perform the sashtatiga, and then touch the 
ground with each side of the forehead. The holy man 
replies to this mark of respect by gravely pronouncing the 
word 'Asirvadam ! ' On hearing this, his worshippers rise 
and receive the prasadam from him, which he gives, whisper- 
ing the following words, if they belong to the Siva sect, in 
their ear : ' It is I who am thy guru, and whom thou art 
bound to worship.' 

The followers of Siva, having thus done homage to their 
Jangamas and Pandarams, proceed to perform a very dis- 
gusting ceremony. They solemnly pour water over the 
feet of their guru and wash them, reciting mantrams the 
while ; then carefully collecting the water so used in a 
copper vessel, they pour part of it over their head and 
face, and drink the rest. 

The Vishnavites go through a similar ceremony with 
their gurus ; and this is by no means the most revolting 
of the marks of respect which these idiotic fanatics delight 
in paying. A piece of food that a guru has already masti- 
cated, or the water with which he has rinsed out his mouth, 
at once becomes sacred in their eyes, and is swallowed with 

About ten miles from the fort of Chinnerayapatam a 
hermitage is to be found, known by the name of Kudlu- 
gondur, where a Vishnavite guru has taken up his abode. 
This solitary mutt, though but a poor place to look at, is 
visited by a great number of devotees, who go there to 
offer their homage to the penitent, to receive his asirvadam 
and prasadam, and through them the remission of their 
sins. I have been informed by some of these pilgrims 
themselves, that the more enthusiastic amongst them watch 
for the moment when the old guru is about to expectorate, 
when they stretch out their hands, struggling as to who 
shall have the happiness and good luck to catch the super- 
fluous fluid which the holy man ejects ; the rest of the 
scene is indescribable. 


Gurus sometimes authorize agents to collect the tributes 
and offerings of the faithful, and also give them power to 
impose fines on evil-doers. 

After having discharged the duties to their followers 
which their position imposes, and performed their daily 
ablutions and sacrifices, both morning and evening, the 
gurus employ the rest of their time — or they ought to do 
so if they adhered to their rules — in the study and con- 
templation of their sacred books. In the case of married 
gurus the office descends from father to son. Successors 
to the unmarried gurus are nominated by their superiors, 
who generally choose one of their own creatures. A high 
priest is usually assisted by a coadjutor during his lifetime, 
who succeeds his chief as a matter of course. 

To the sects both of Siva and Vishnu priestesses are 
attached, that is to say, women specially set apart, under 
the name of wives of the gods, for the service of one or other 
of these deities. They are quite a distinct class from the 
dancing-girls of the temples, but are equally depraved. 
They are generally the unfortunate victims of the immorality 
of the Jangamas or Vaishnavas. These priests, by way of 
keeping up a character for good behaviour, and conciliating 
the families upon whom they have brought dishonour, put 
the whole blame on Vishnu or Siva ; and the poor gods, as 
is only fair, are forced to make amends. So the girls are 
given to the gods as wives, by the aid of a few ceremonies ; 
and we know that these worthy gurus enjoy the privilege 
of representing in everything the gods whose ministers 
they are. The women who are thus consecrated to Vishnu 
are called garuda-basavis (wives of garuda), and have the 
image of this bird tattooed on their breasts * as the dis- 
tinctive mark of their rank. 

The priestesses of Siva, are called linga-basavis , or women 
of the lingam, and bear this sign tattooed on their thighs. 

Though these women are known to be the mistresses of 
the priests and other dignitaries, still, for all that, they 
are treated with a certain amount of consideration and 
respect amongst their own sect. 

1 This bird, which is consecrated to Vishnu, and of which I shall 
presently speak at greater length, is known by European ornithologists 
as the Malabar eagle. — Dubois. 



Purohitas, or Priests who officiate at Public and Private Ceremonies. — 
The Hindu Almanac as published by the Purohitas. 

To settle which are lucky or unlucky days on which to 
begin or put off an undertaking or expedition ; to avert, 
by mantrams and suitable prayers, the curses, spells, or 
other evil influences of the planets and elements ; to purify 
persons who have become unclean ; to give names to 
newly-born children and draw their horoscopes ; to bless 
new houses, wells, and tanks ; to purify dwellings and 
temples which have become polluted, and also to con- 
secrate the latter ; to animate idols and install in them 
their particular deities by the power of their mantrams : 
these are but a few of the duties which come within the 
province of the Brahmin purohitas, whose services are in- 
dispensable on such occasions. The most important of 
their duties, however, is the celebration of weddings and 
funerals. The ceremonies on these occasions are so num- 
erous and complicated that an ordinary Brahmin would 
never be able to get through them all ; they can only be 
learned by special study. Besides, there are mantrams 
and formulas connected with them which are known only 
to the purohitas, and which are described in books of ritual 
which they take great care to hide from the eyes of all 
persons outside their own sect. The father makes his son 
learn these formulas by heart, and thus they descend from 
generation to generation in the same family. The puro- 
hitas are not actuated by any pious motives in taking this 
jealous care of their knowledge and surrounding all their 
doings with so much mystery ; their fear is that rivals may 
step in who would share the profits which these religious 
exercises yield. 

The consequence is that there are very few Brahmin 
purohitas, and sometimes they have to be fetched from 
a great distance when their ministrations are needed \ 

1 A purohita is now to be found in almost every village where Brahmins 
live. He enjoys a maniam or free grant of land. In course of time the 
original family is divided into many families of cousins, who hold office 


If they have reason to expect a generous reward, they will 
start off at once, or at any rate they will send a son who is 
well versed in their ritual. Sometimes ordinary Brahmins 
pass themselves off as purohitas, especially amongst the 
Sudras, who are not very particular on this point. These 
interlopers are unacquainted with the formulas and correct 
mantrams, and so they mumble a few words of Sanskrit 
or some ridiculous and unintelligible sentences, believing 
that this is quite good enough for stupid Sudras. But if 
the real purohitas, who from self-interest are always on the 
alert, discover that their prerogatives have been invaded 
and their powers usurped, a violent quarrel ensues between 
them and their sacrilegious rivals. 

One of the most valued privileges of the purohitas is the 
right of publishing the Hindu Almanac. The majority of 
them, being too ignorant to compile it, buy copies every 
year from those of their brethren who are sufficiently well 
versed in astronomy to be able to calculate the eclipses 
and variations of the moon. It must be admitted that 
these learned Hindus, unacquainted as they are with the 
analytical operations which in Europe facilitate the com- 
putation of the movements of the stars, and having only 
the most ancient tables wherewith to assist their calcula- 
tions, require an enormous amount of patience and con- 
centrated attention to produce results which are in any 
degree trustworthy. 

This almanac is an absolute necessity to every purohita, 
since it tells him not only which are the lucky and unlucky 
constellations, and fortunate or inauspicious days, but also 
which are the propitious hours in each day ; for it is only 
at these particular moments that the ceremonies can begin 
at which he is called on to preside. The Brahmins also 
draw inspiration from this book in predicting happy and 
unhappy events in life. Numbers of people come to con- 

and enjoy the maniam in turn. The purohita is a Brahmin whose busi- 
ness it is to fix auspicious days for marriages, journeys, and undertakings 
generally. He presides at the marriage and funeral ceremonies of 
Sudras, but not at the marriage ceremonies of Brahmins. The Brahmin 
who presides at the latter is called upadhiaya. A purohita is sometimes 
called a panchangi, or one who has charge of the panchangam or almanac, 
not a very dignified office. — Ed. 


suit them on points like these ; and it is not the common 
people only on whom this superstition has such a strong 
hold, for princes and persons of the highest rank believe 
in it even more firmly, if that be possible. There is no one 
in high position who has not one or more official purohitas 
living in his palace ; and these men act, so to speak, like 
rulers of the universe. They go every morning and with 
ludicrous gravity announce to the prince, to his state 
elephant, and to his idols, each in their turn, all that is 
written in the almanac relating to that particular day. 
Should the prince wish to hunt, walk, or receive visits from 
strangers, and the perspicacity of the purohita discovers in 
his infallible book that this is an unpropitious moment, the 
chase, the walk, or the visit is postponed. In large temples 
a purohita is specially retained to read to the idols every 
morning the predictions for that day contained in the 
almanac \ 

The Hindu calendar is known by the name of the pan- 
changam, which means the five members, because it con- 
tains five leading subjects : to wit, the age of the moon 
in the month ; the constellation near which the moon is 
situated on each particular day ; the day of the week ; 
the eclipses ; and the positions of the planets. Lucky and 
unlucky days are also indicated ; those, for instance, on 
which a person may travel towards one of the four cardinal 
points ; for any one who could safely travel to-day towards 
the north would probably be overtaken by misfortune if 
he attempted to journey to the south. There are number- 
less other predictions of a similar nature in the almanac, 
which it would be tedious to give in detail. 

1 The panchangam Brahmin is one who, by studying the almanac, is 
able to state propitious or unpropitious times. He gets his livelihood 
by going certain rounds, day by day, from house to house, declaring 
the condition of things, as per the almanac, and receiving in return 
a dole consisting, usually, of grain. He is not held in much respect by 
his own caste people, but he is much looked up to by other castes. He 
is consulted by his constituents, from time to time, when they wish to 
know the propitious period for any undertaking, as starting on a journey, 
making an important purchase, putting on new clothes or new jewels, 
or when about to take up a new appointment, or when any other im- 
portant event is contemplated. He is a Smartha by sect ; that is, he 
is really a worshipper of Siva and wears the marks of that god, but at 
the same time he respects and worships Vishnu. — Padfield. 


On the first day of the Hindu year, called Ugadi \ which 
falls on the first day of the March moon, the purohita 
summons all the principal inhabitants of the neighbourhood 
to his residence, and there solemnly announces, amidst 
much music, singing, and dancing, who will be king of the 
gods and who king of the stars for the year, who will be 
their prime ministers, and who will command the army ; 
who will be the god of the harvest, and what crops will be 
most plentiful. He foretells, too, whether the season will 
be wet or dry, and whether locusts or other insects will, 
or will not, attack and devour the young plants ; whether 
the insects and vermin, which disturb the repose of the 
poor Hindu, will be more or less troublesome, more 
or less numerous ; whether it is to be a healthy or 
unhealthy year ; whether there will be more deaths 
than births ; whether there will be peace or war ; from 
what quarter the country will be invaded ; who will be 
victorious, &c. 

Those who ridicule the purohita and his predictions are 
the very first to have recourse to him if the country is 
threatened with any great calamity, such as war, famine, 
drought, &c. Thus powerful is the sway which supersti- 
tion exercises over the whole land. It is not only the 
idolatrous Hindus who give credence to these absurdities ; 
Mahomedans, Native Christians, half-castes, and sometimes 
even Europeans, are not ashamed to consult the astrologer 
or purohita. 

The high-class purohitas only expound to Brahmins the 
oracles contained in the almanac, but many less fortunate 
Brahmins procure copies for themselves, and reap a rich 
harvest from the credulity of the lower classes. The 
panchangam serves as an excuse, but it is only another 
way of demanding alms. This method of earning a liveli- 
hood, however, causes them to be despised by persons of 
their own caste, and they only resort to it when other 
resources have failed. They always quote their favourite 
axiom : ' In order to fill one's belly one must play many 

The purohitas appear to date back to very ancient times. 

1 Ugadi is the Telugu New Year's Day. Nowadays there is no music 
or dancing on the occasion of the purohita reading the almanac. — Ed. 

F 3 


Most Hindu writers mention them, and, if they are to 
be believed, the highest honours were paid to these 
Brahmins in times gone by. They and the gurus share 
the duty of preserving intact the ancient customs, and it 
is they who are loudest in condemning those who violate 

To them also is due the credit of having preserved from 
destruction all the books of history or of science that have 
survived the revolutions by which the country has been 
so often convulsed. 

All the purohitas are married, and I believe this to be 
obligatory, in order that they may minister in Brahmins' 
houses. A widower would not be admitted, as his very 
presence would be considered sufficient to bring mis- 
fortune \ 


Mantrams. — Their Efficacy. — The Gayatri. — The word 'Aum.' — Magic 


These famous mantrams, which the Hindus think so 
much of, are nothing more than prayers or consecrated 
formulas, but they are considered so powerful that they 
can, as the Hindus say, enchain the power of the gods them- 
selves. Mantrams are used for invocation, for evocation, 
or as spells. They may be either preservative or destruc- 
tive, beneficent or maleficent, salutary or harmful. In 
fact, there is no effect that they are not capable of pro- 
ducing. Through them an evil spirit can be made to take 
possession of any one, or can be exorcised. They can 
inspire with love or hate, they can cause an illness or cure 
it, induce death or preserve life, or cause destruction to 
a whole army. There are mantrams which are infallible 
for all these and many other things besides. Fortunately 
one mantram can counteract the effect of another, the 
stronger neutralizing the weaker. 

The purohitas are more familiar with these mantrams 
than any other class of Hindus ; but all Brahmins are 
supposed to be acquainted at any rate with the principal 
1 This is only partially applicable nowadays. — Ed. 


ones, if this Sanskrit verse, which one often hears repeated, 
is to be believed : — 

Devadhtnam jagat sarvam, 

Mantradhinam ta dtvata 
Tan mantram brahmanadhinam 

Brahmana mama devata. 

Which means, ' The universe is under the power of the 
gods ; the gods are under the power of mantrams ; the 
mantrams are under the power of the Brahmins ; there- 
fore the Brahmins are our gods.' The argument is plainly 
set out, as you may see, and these modest personages have 
no scruples about arrogating to themselves the sublime title 
of Brahma gods, or gods of the earth. 

As an instance of the efficacy of mantrams, I will cite 
the following example, which is taken from the well-known 
Hindu poem Brahmottara-Kanda, composed in honour of 
Siva : — 

' Dasarha, king of Madura, having married Kalavati, 
daughter of the king of Benares, was warned by the prin- 
cess on their wedding-day that he must not take advantage 
of his rights as her husband, because the mantram of the 
five letters, which she had learned, had so purged and puri- 
fied her that any man who ventured upon any familiarities 
with her would do so at the risk of his life, unless he had 
been previously cleansed from all defilements through the 
same medium. Being his wife she could not teach him 
this mantram, because by doing so she would become his 
guru, and consequently his superior. The next day the 
husband and wife both went in quest of the great Rishi, 
or penitent, Garga, who, on learning the object of their 
visit, bade them fast for one day and bathe the following 
day in the Ganges. Thus prepared the pair returned to 
the penitent, who made the husband sit down on the ground 
facing the east, and having seated himself by his side, but 
facing the west, he whispered these two words in his ear, 
"Namah Sivaya 1 ! " Scarcely had the king Dasarha heard 
these marvellous words when a flight of crows was seen 
issuing from different parts of his body, which flew away 
and disappeared ; these crows being nothing more or less 

1 This means, ' All hail to Siva ! ' and is the mantram of the five 
letters. — Dubois. 


than the sins which the prince had previously com- 

' Tli is story,' continues the author, ' is really true. I had 
it from my guru Veda-Vyasa, who learned it himself from 
the Para-Brahma. The king and his wife, thus purified, 
lived happily together for a great many years, and only 
quitted this world to join Para-Brahma, the Supreme 
Being, in the abode of bliss.' 

When one points out to the Brahmins that these much- 
vaunted mantrams do not produce startling effects in the 
present day, they reply that this must be attributed to the 
Kali-yuga, that is to say, to the Fourth Age of the world, 
in which we are now living, a veritable age of iron, when 
everything has degenerated ; a period of calamities and 
disasters, when virtue has ceased to rule the earth. They 
maintain, nevertheless, that it is still not at all uncommon 
for mantrams to work miracles, and this they confirm by 
citing stories which are quite as authentic and credible as 
the one I have just related. 

The most famous and the most efficacious mantram for 
taking away sins, whose power is so great that the very 
gods tremble at it, is that which is called the gayatri. It 
is so ancient that the Vedas themselves were born from it. 
Only a Brahmin has the right to recite it, and he must 
prepare himself beforehand by other prayers and by the 
most profound meditation. He must always repeat it in 
a low voice, and take the greatest care that he is not over- 
heard by a Sudra, or even by his own wife, particularly at 
the time when she is in a state of uncleanness. The follow- 
ing are the words of this famous mantram 1 : — 

Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya 
Dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat. 

1 Long after I had finished my first work, I found in No. 27 of the 
Asiatic Journal of 1818 two different English translations of the gayatri, 
the exactitude of which I in no way vouch for, nor can I give any pre- 
ference to either translation. This, at any rate, is the sense of them : — 

1. ' Let us worship the light of God, greater than you, Sun, who 
can so well guide our understanding. The wise man always considers 
this (the Sun) the supreme manifestation of the divinity.' 

2. ' Let us worship the supreme light of the Sun, the God of all things, 
who can so well guide our understanding, like an eye suspended in the 
vault of heaven.' — Dubois. 


It is a prayer in honour of the Sun, one of whose names 
is Savitru. It is a great mystery. Each word, and indeed 
each syllable, is full of allusions which only a very few 
Brahmins understand. I have never met any one who 
was able to give me an intelligible translation or explana- 
tion of them. A Brahmin would be guilty of an unpardon- 
able crime and the most terrible sacrilege if he imparted 
it to an unbeliever. There are several other mantrams 
which are called gayatri, but the one mentioned above is 
that which is most generally used. 

After the gayatri, the most powerful mantram is the 
mysterious monosyllable om or aum. Though it is to the 
interest of the Brahmins to keep the real meaning of this 
sacred word a profound secret, and though the greater 
number of them do not understand it themselves, there 
does not appear to be much doubt that it is the symbolic 
name of the Supreme Being, one and indivisible, like the 
word aum \ This mystic word, which is always pronounced 
with extreme reverence, suggests an obvious analogy to 
that ineffable and mysterious Hebrew word Jehovah. 

Though the Brahmins are supposed to be the sole guar- 
dians of the mantrams, many others venture to recite 
them. In some professions they are absolutely indispens- 
able. Doctors, for instance, even when not Brahmins, 
would be considered very ignorant, and, no matter how 
clever they might be in their profession, would inspire no 
confidence, if they were unable to recite the special man- 
tram that suited each complaint ; for a cure is attributed 
quite as much to mantrams as to medical treatment. One 
of the principal reasons why so little confidence is placed 
in European doctors by the Hindus is that, when adminis- 
tering their remedies, they recite neither mantrams nor 
prayers 2 . 

1 The Hindu conception of the word aum is thus explained by one 
authority : — ' As long as there has been a Hindu Faith the power of 
sound has been recognized in the Sacred Word. In that word lie all 
potencies, for the sacred word expresses the one and latent Being, every 
power of generation, of preservation, and of destruction. . . . Therefore 
was it never to be sounded save when the mind was pure, when the 
mind was tranquil, when the life was noble.' — Ed. 

2 Failure to feel the pulse is also regarded by the Hindus as a sure 
proof of medical ignorance. — Ed. 


Mid wives must also be acquainted with a good many ; 
and they are sometimes called mantradaris, or women who 
repeat mantrams ; for there is no moment, according to 
Hindu superstitions, when mantrams are more needed than 
at the birth of a child. Both the new-born infant and its 
mother are peculiarly susceptible to the influence of the 
evil eye, the inauspicious combination of unlucky planets 
or unlucky days, and a thousand other unpropitious ele- 
ments. A good midwife, well primed with efficacious man- 
trams, foresees all these dangers and averts them by reciting 
the proper words at the proper moment. 

But the cleverest mantram reciters, and at the same time 
the most feared, are the charlatans who profess to be 
thoroughly initiated in the occult sciences, such as sor- 
cerers, necromancers, soothsayers, &c. They have in their 
possession, if they are to be believed, mantrams which are 
capable of working all the wonders which I enumerated at 
the beginning of this chapter. They recite them for the 
purpose of discovering stolen property, thieves, hidden 
treasure, foretelling future events, &c. In a country where 
superstition, ignorance, and the most extravagant credulity 
reign supreme, it is no wonder that impostors abound and 
are able to make a large number of dupes. 

The hatred which is felt for these mischievous sorcerers 
is only equalled by the fear that they inspire ; and that is 
saying a great deal. Woe to any one who is accused of 
having injured another by his spells ! The punishment that 
is usually inflicted consists in pulling out two front teeth 
from the upper jaw. When bereft of these two teeth, it 
is thought the sorcerer will no longer be able to pronounce 
his diabolical mantrams distinctly. If he mispronounces 
the words his familiar spirit will be angry, and the mis- 
fortune that he is trying to bring down upon some one else 
will, it is thought, fall on his own head. 

One day a poor man who lived near me, and who had 
just undergone this painful punishment, came and threw 
himself at my feet, protesting his innocence and begging 
for protection and for advice as to how he could obtain 
justice. The unfortunate fellow certainly did not look like 
a sorcerer, but as I had neither the power nor the means of 
interfering in the affair, I could only offer him my sym- 


pathy and assure him how indignant I felt at the iniquitous 
treatment to which he had been subjected. 

There are certain majitra7?i.s which have a very special 
signification. They are called bija-aksharas, or radical 
letters ; such, for instance, as hram. hrim, hrom, hroum, 
hraha, &c. To those who have the key to the true pro- 
nunciation of them and know how to use and apply them, 
nothing is impossible ; there is no limit to the miracles they 
can perform. The following is an example : — 

Siva had initiated a little bastard boy into all the mys- 
teries of these radical letters. The boy was the son of 
a Brahmin widow, and on account of the stain on his birth 
had experienced the mortification of being excluded from 
a wedding feast, to which many persons of his caste had 
been invited. He revenged himself by simply pronouncing 
two or three of these radical letters through a crack in the 
door of the room where the guests were assembled. Im- 
mediately, by virtue of these marvellous words, all the 
dishes that had been prepared for the feast were turned 
into frogs. This wonderful occurrence naturally caused 
great consternation amongst the guests. Every one was 
convinced it was due to the little bastard, and fearing 
worse might happen they all rushed with one accord to 
invite him to come in. After they had apologized humbly 
for what had happened he entered the room and merely pro- 
nounced the same words backwards, when the frogs suddenly 
disappeared, and they saw with great pleasure the cakes 
and other refreshments which had been on the table before. 

I will leave it to some one else to find, if he can. any- 
thing amongst the numberless obscurations of the human 
mind that can equal the extravagance of this story, which 
a Hindu would nevertheless believe implicitly. 


Explanation of the Principal Ceremonies of the Brahmins and of other 
Castes. — The Sam-l;alpa. — Puja. — Aratti. — Akshatas. — Pavitram. — 
Sesamum and Darbha Grass. — Puniaha vachana. — Pancha-gavia. — 
Purification of Places where Ceremonies take place. — Pandals, or 
Pavilions made of Leaves. 

Before entering into more particular details with regard 
to the ceremonies of the Brahmins, it is necessary, in order 


to make the rest of this book intelligible, to begin by giving 
an explanation of certain terms pertaining to these cere- 
monies, and also a short summary of the chief objects 
aimed at. This sketch will suffice to indicate the peculiar 
tastes and inclinations of the Brahmins, and will no doubt 
cause my readers to inquire how these men were able to 
impose so many extravagant absurdities on a people whose 
civilization dates from such very ancient times, and yet to 
retain their full confidence. 

The Sam-kalpa. 

The chief preparatory ceremony amongst the Brahmins 
is the sam-kalpa, which means literally ' intensive contem- 
plation V 

This method of mental preparation must in no instance 
be omitted before any religious ceremony of the Brahmins. 
When the sam-kalpa has been performed with due medita- 
tion, everything that they undertake will succeed ; but its 
omission is alone sufficient to transform all the ceremonies 
that follow into so many acts of sacrilege which will not 
pass unpunished. The Brahmin must meditate prelimi- 
narily on the following points. He must think — 

1. Of Vishnu, meditating upon him as the ruler and 
preserver of this vast universe, as the author and giver of 
all good things, and as he who brings all undertakings to 
a successful issue. With these thoughts in his mind he 
repeats thrice the name of Vishnu, and worships him. 

2. He must think of Brahma. He must remember that 
there are nine Brahmas, who created the eight million four 
hundred thousand kinds of living creatures, of which the 
most important is man ; that it is the first of these Brahmas 
who is ruling at the present time ; that he will live for 
a hundred years of the gods - ; that his life is divided into 
four parts, of which the first and half the second are already 
gone. He must then worship him. 

3. He must think of the Avatara, or incarnation, of 
Vishnu in the form of a white pig, which was the shape in 

1 Sam-kalpa literally means resolve of the mind, will, purpose, definite 
intention, determination, desire. It is no ceremony in itself, but is 
a prelude to every ceremony. — Ed. 

- Each day, according to the reckoning of the gods, is as long as 
several milliards of years. — Dubois. 


which that deity slew the giant Hirannyaksha. After 
having thoroughly realized the idea that this Avatara is 
the most celebrated of all in the Kali-yuga, he worships 
the pig god. 

4. He must think of Manu. He reminds himself that 
there are fourteen Manus, of which the names are Svaro- 
chisha, Tamasa, Svayambhuva, Raivata, &c. &c, and that 
they reign over the fourteen worlds during the hundred 
gods' years that Brahma's life will last. As Vaivaswata 
Manu is now in power in the Kali-yuga, in which the 
Hindus are living at this present time, he offers him worship. 

5. He must think of the Kali-yuga. He must recollect 
that we are at present in the early part of this yuga. 

6. He must think of Jambu-Dwipa. This is the con- 
tinent in which India is situated. He pictures it to him- 
self as surrounded by a sea of salt water, having in the centre 
a mountain of gold sixteen thousand yojanas 1 high, called 
Mahameru, on the thousand summits of which the gods 
have fixed their abode. He must remember that at the 
foot of this mountain on the east side grows the Jambu- 
vruksha, a tree which is a thousand yojanas high and as 
many in circumference ; that the juice of the fruits of this 
tree, which fall of their own accord when ripe, forms a 
large river which flows towards the west, where it mingles 
its waters with those of the sea ; that the water of this 
river possesses the power of converting everything it 
touches into gold, for which reason it has been called the 
Bangaru-nadi or Golden River. The Brahmin must not 
omit to think of this sacred tree, nor yet of the continent 
of Jambu-Dwipa, where it is situated. 

7. He must think of the great king Bharata, who at 
one time governed Jambu-Dwipa and whose reign forms 
one of the Hindu eras. 

8. He must think of the side of the Mahameru which 
faces him, that is to say, of the west side of this sacred 
mountain, if he lives to the west of it, of the east, if he 
lives to the east of it, &c. 

1 The ordinary yojana is about nine miles, but the sacred yojana 
which is here mentioned, is very much longer. — Dubois. 

Yojana literally means the distance driven at a yoking or stretch ; 
equal to four krodas, or about nine English miles. — Ed. 


9. He must think of the corner of the world called Agni- 
diku, or the Corner of Fire, over which the god Agni-Iswara 
presides, and which is that part of the world in which India 
is situated. 

10. He must think of the Dravida country, where the 
Tamil (Arava) language is spoken. 

11. He must think of the moon's pathway, and the 
change of one moon to another. 

12. He must think of the year of the cycle in which he 
is living. The Hindu cycle is composed of sixty years, 
each of which has its own particular name. And he must 
say aloud the name of the particular year of the cycle in 
which he is living. 

13. He must think of the ay ana in which he is. There 
are two ayanas in the year, each of which lasts six 
months — one called the dakshina-ayana or southern ay ana, 
which includes the time during which the sun is south 
of the equinoctial line, and the other called uttara- 
ayana or northern ayana, which comprises the rest 
of the year, during which the sun is north of this line. 
He must pronounce the name of the ayana which is then 
going on. 

14. He must think of the rutu, or season of the year. 
There are six rutus in the year, each of which lasts two 
months. He must pronounce the name of the rutu in 
which he is performing the sam-kalpa. 

15. He must think of the moon. Each moon is divided 
into two equal parts, one of which is called Sukla-paksha 
and the other Krishna-paksha. Each of these divisions 
lasts fourteen days, and each day has its own special name. 
He must call to mind the division and day of the moon, 
and pronounce their names. 

16. He must think of the day of the week and pronounce 
the name. 

17. He must think of the star of the day. There are 
twenty-seven in each lunar month, each of which has a name. 
He must pronounce the name of the one which is in the 
ascendant on that day. 

18. He must think of the yoga 1 of the day. There are 
twenty-seven of these, corresponding to the twenty-seven 

1 Yoga means conjunction of stars. — Ed. 


stars, each with its own name. He must pronounce the 
name of the yoga, as also that of the star. 

19. He must think of the karana, of which there are 
eleven in each lunar month, each with its own name. The 
same formality must be gone through as with the star and 
the yoga. 

All these divers objects to which the Brahmin must turn 
his thoughts when performing the sam-kalpa are so many 
personifications of Vishnu, or rather are Vishnu himself 
under different names. Besides this ordinary sam-kalpa, 
there is another more elaborate one, which is reserved for 
grand occasions, and which will be described further on. 

This pious introduction to all their ceremonies averts, 
by virtue of its merits, every obstacle which the evil spirits 
and giants would put in the way. The name of Vishnu 
alone, it is true, is sufficient to put them to flight, but 
nothing can resist the power of the sam-kalpa. 

Puja ; or Sacrifice 1 . 

Of all the Hindu rites, puja is the one that occurs most 
frequently in all their ceremonies, both public and private, 
in their temples and elsewhere. Every Brahmin is abso- 
lutely obliged to offer it at least once a day to his household 
gods. There are three kinds of pujas — the great, the 
intermediate, and the small. 

The great sacrifice is composed of the following parts : — 

1. Avahana. The evocation of the deity. 

2. Asana. A seat is presented to him to sit on. 

3. Swagata. He is asked if he has arrived quite safely, 
and if he met with no accident on the way. 

4. Padya. Water is offered to him for washing his 

5. Arghya. Water is presented to him in which flowers, 
saffron, and sandalwood powder have been placed. 

6. Achamania. Water is offered that he may wash his 
mouth and face in the prescribed fashion. 

7. Madhu-parka. He is offered in a metal vessel a 
beverage composed of honey, sugar, and milk. 

8. Snana-jala. Water for his bath. 

1 Puja means honour, respect, homage, worship. — Ed. 


9. Bhooshan-abharanasya. He is presented with cloths, 
jewels, and ornaments. 

10. Gandha. Sandalwood powder. 

11. Akshatas. Grains of rice coloured with saffron. 

12. Push pa Flowers. 

13. Dhupa. Incense. 

14. Dipa. A lighted lamp. 

15. Neiveddya. This last offering is composed of cooked 
rice, fruit, liquefied butter, sugar and other eatables, and 

Before offering these gifts, care should be taken to 
sprinkle a little water over them with the tips of the fingers. 
The worshippers then prostrate themselves before the 

For the intermediate puja the last nine articles are 
offered ; for the lesser, only the last six. 

When sacrifices of blood are necessary to appease ill- 
disposed gods or evil spirits, the blood and the flesh of the 
animals that have been sacrificed are offered to them. 

Arti or Aratti. 

This ceremony is performed only by married women and 
courtesans. Widows would not be allowed, under any 
circumstances, to participate in it l . 

A lamp made of kneaded rice-flour is placed on a metal 
dish or plate. It is then filled with oil or liquefied butter 
and lighted. The women each take hold of the plate in 
turn and raise it to the level of the person's head for whom 
the ceremony is being performed, describing a specified 
number of circles with it. Instead of using a lighted lamp 
they sometimes content themselves with filling a vessel 
with water coloured with saffron, vermilion, and other in- 
gredients. The object of this ceremony is to counteract 
the influence of the evil eye and any ill-effects which, 
according to Hindu belief, may arise from the jealous and 
spiteful looks of ill-intentioned persons. 

The aratti is one of the commonest of their religious 

1 ^Yidows are not allowed to take part in any of the domestic cere- 
monies of the Hindus. Their presence alone would be thought to bring 
misfortune, and if they dared to appear they would be rudely treated 
and sent away. — Dubois. 


practices, and is observed in public and private \ It is 
performed daily, and often several times a day, over persons 
of high rank, such as rajahs, governors of provinces, generals, 
and other distinguished members of society. Whenever 
people in these positions have been obliged to show them- 
selves in public, or to speak to strangers, they invariably 
call for the courtesans or dancing-girls from the temples to 
perform this ceremony over them, and so avert any un- 
pleasant consequences that might arise from the baleful 
glances to which they have been exposed. Kings and 
princes often have dancing-girls in their employ who do 
nothing else but perform this ceremony 2 . 

The aratti is also performed for idols. After the dancing- 
girls have finished all their other duties in the temple, they 
never fail to perform this ceremony twice daily over the 
images of the gods to whom their services are dedicated. 
It is performed with even more solemnity when these idols 
have been carried in procession through the streets, so as 
to turn aside malignant influences, to which the gods are 
as susceptible as any ordinary mortal. 

Aratti is also performed for the same purpose over 
elephants, horses, and other domestic animals. 

This superstition about the evil eye is common enough 
in many European countries. I have seen simple French 
peasants hastily draw their children away from some 
stranger or ill-looking person, for fear his glance might 
cast some spell over the little ones. The same notion was 
prevalent at the time of the ancient Romans, as Virgil, 
amongst others, bears witness in the following verse : — 
' Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos.' 

The Romans too had their god Fascinus, and amulets of 
the same name were given to children to wear to preserve 
them from spells of this nature. The statue of the god, 
placed on the triumphal car, preserved returning con- 
querors from the malignity of the envious. Hindus call 
this spell drishti- dosha, or the influence of the eye. And 
they invented the aratti to avert and counteract it. Their 

1 The word aratti itself means trouble, misfortune, pain. — Ed. 
a Aratti is performed also when people take children from one village 
to another, on visits to relations and friends. — Ed. 


credulity on this subject is boundless. According to them 
it is not only animate objects that come under the influence 
of the driskti-dosha ; vegetable substances are equally 
susceptible to it. It is to avert this spell that they stick 
up a pole in all their gardens and fields that are under 
cultivation. On the top of this pole they fix a large earthen 
vessel, well whitened on the outside with lime. This is to 
attract the attention of malicious persons who may be 
passing, as it will be the first thing to catch their eye and 
will thus prevent their spells from producing any disastrous 
effects on the crops, which otherwise would certainly be 
affected by the evil influence. 

This is the name given to husked rice coloured with 
a mixture of saffron and vermilion. There are two kinds 
of akshatas, one specially consecrated by mantrams, the 
other simple coloured rice. The first is used when per- 
forming puja and in other great ceremonies ; the other 
kind is only a toilet requisite, or is used as an offering of 
politeness. It is considered good manners to offer some 
in a metal cup to any one to whom a ceremonious invitation 
is sent. The latter in return takes a few grains and applies 
them to the forehead. 

The Pavitram \ 

The object of the pavitram is to scare away giants, evil 
spirits, or devils, whose mission it is to bring disasters 
upon men and mar the ceremonies of the Brahmins. The 
very sight of the pavitram makes them tremble and take 
to flight. 

This powerful amulet consists of three, five, or seven 
stalks of darbha grass plaited together in the form of a ring. 
Before beginning any ceremony the presiding purohita takes 
the pavitram, and, after dipping it in sanctified water, 
places it on the ring finger of his right hand. The seeds 
and oil of sesamum are very nearly as efficacious as the 

1 The pavitram is made of stalks of darbha grass. It is worn simply 
as a mark of sanctification. Three stalks are generally used for funeral 
ceremonies ; two for marriage ceremonies and other auspicious occa- 
sions. — Ed. 


pavitram ; but the grass they call darbha is the most 
efficacious, for it possesses the virtue of purifying every- 
thing that it touches. The Brahmins can do nothing 
without it. It is the basis of all those pious and meri- 
torious acts which are known by the generic term of mok- 
sharthas, or deeds which lead to everlasting felicity, and 
which consist of the asva-medha (sacrifice of the horse), 
the vaja-peya, the raja-suya, the sattra-yaga, and other 
kinds of yagnas which are particularly pleasing to Vishnu \ 
No important action in life can take place without it. 
That is to say, it is necessary in the kamyarthas, which 
include the garbha-dana, the jata-karma, the nama-karma, 
the anna-prasana, the chaula, the upanayana, the simanta, 
and marriage 2 . It is in frequent use in the various religious 
exercises of the Brahmins pertaining to their four states, 
namely, Brahmachari, Grahastha, Vana-prastha, and Sann- 
yasi (vide p. 160 et seq.). In fact this sacred grass, the 
purity of which is considered unequalled, appears in every 
religious or civil ceremony. 


The literal translation of this word is ' the evocation of 
virtue,' and it is the name given to the ceremony by which 
the sacred water is consecrated. They proceed thus : — 
Having purified a place in the housa in the ordinary manner, 
they sprinkle it with water. Then the officiating Brahmin 
purohita seats himself with his face to the east, and they 
place before him a banana leaf with a measure of rice on it. 
At one side is a copper vessel full of water, the outside of 
which has been whitened with lime ; the mouth of the 
vessel is covered with mango leaves, and it is placed on 
the rice. Near the copper vessel they put a little heap of 
saffron, which represents the god Vigneshwara, to whom 

1 Vaja-peya = trial of strength ; a kind of soma sacrifice. Sattra- 
yaga = another great soma sacrifice. Raja-suya = royal inaugural sacri- 
fice. — Ed. 

2 Kamyarthas = deeds which lead to worldly happiness. Garbha- 
dana = pregnancy. Jata-karma — horoscope writing. Nama-lcarma = 
naming ceremony. Anna prasana = weaning or food-giving ceremony. 
Chaula = head-shaving ceremony. Upanayana = initiation of a pupil. 
Simanta = ceremony of parting the hair, in the case of women six or 
eight months in pregnancy. — Ed. 


they perform puja, and for neiveddya they offer jaggery 
(raw sugar) and betel. They then throw a little sandal- 
wood powder and akshatas into the copper vessel, while 
reciting appropriate mantrams, with the intention of turn- 
ing the water which it contains into the sacred water of 
the Ganges. Finally they offer a sacrifice to the vessel, 
and for neiveddya they offer bananas and betel. The water 
thus sanctified purifies places and persons that have become 


I have already explained 1 of what disgusting materials 
the mixture known by this name is composed. This is 
the way in which it is consecrated. The house is purified 
in the usual way. They then bring five little new earthen 
vessels, into one of which they put milk, into another curds, 
into a third liquefied butter, into a fourth cow-dung, and 
into the fifth the urine of a cow. These five little vessels 
are then placed in a row on the ground on some darbha 
grass, and they perform puja in the following manner : — 
First, they make a profound obeisance before the deity 
pancha-gavia, and they meditate for some time on his 
merits and good qualities. Some flowers are placed on 
the five vessels, and for asana they make the god an imagi- 
nary present of a golden seat or throne. They then offer 
to each vessel, as arghya, a little water, which is poured 
round them. For padya, a little more water is poured 
out for them to wash their feet, and achamania is offered 
immediately afterwards in the same way. The snana-jala 
is water in which a little garika grass has been steeped, 
which is presented to the god pancha-gavia, to enable him 
to perform his ablutions. The tops of the vessels are then 
covered with akshatas, while they are presented, in imagina- 
tion of course, with jewels, rich garments, and sandal- 
wood. In conclusion they offer them flowers, incense, a 
lighted lamp, bananas, and betel as neiveddya, and finally 
make another profound obeisance. 

These preliminaries ended, the officiating priest addresses 
the following prayer to the god pancha-gavia, or, what is 
the same thing, to the substances contained in the five 
1 Chapter III. 


vessels : ' god pancha-gavia, vouchsafe to pardon the 
sins of all the creatures in the world who offer sacrifice to 
you and drink you, pancha-gavia. You have come pro- 
ceeding from the body of the cow ; therefore I offer you 
my prayers and sacrifices, in order that I may obtain the 
remission of my sins and the purification of my body, 
which are accorded to those who drink you. Vouchsafe 
also to absolve us, who have offered you puja, from all the 
sins that we have committed either inadvertently or 
deliberately. Forgive us and save us ! ' 

After this prayer they make another profound obeisance 
and put the contents of the five vessels into one. Then 
taking this vessel into his hands, the purohita performs the 
hari-smarana \ drinks a little of this precious liquid, pours 
a little into the hollow of the hands of all persons present, 
who also drink it, and keeps the rest for use during the 
ceremony. Betel is then presented to the Brahmins who 
are present, after which they disperse. 

Nothing can equal the supposed purifying virtues of 
this mixture. Brahmins and other Hindus frequently 
drink it to remove both external and internal defile- 

There is also another lustral preparation called pancha- 
amrita, which is composed of milk, curds, liquefied butter, 
honey, and sugar mixed together. This is not filthy and 
disgusting like the one previously mentioned, but then it is 
much less efficacious. It however possesses a certain 
degree of merit under some circumstances. 

The Purification of Places. 
Before the performance of any ceremony the place where 
it is to take place must be previously purified. This is 
usually the duty of the women, and the principal ingredients 
required are cow-dung and darbha grass. They dilute the 
cow-dung with water and make a sort of plaster with it, 
which they spread over the floor with their hands, making 
zigzags and other patterns with lime or chalk as they go 
on. They then draw wide lines of alternate red and white 
over this and sprinkle the whole with darbha grass, after 
which the place is perfectly pure. This is the way in which 
1 Hari-smarana means meditating on Hari, or Vishnu. — Ed. 


Hindus purify their bouses day by day from the defile- 
ments caused by promiscuous goers and comers. It is 
the rule amongst the upper classes to have their houses 
rubbed over once a day with cow- dung, but in any class 
it would be considered an unpardonable and gross breach 
of good manners to omit this ceremony when they expected 
friends to call or were going to receive company. 

This custom appears odd at first sight, but it brings this 
inestimable benefit in its train, that it cleanses the houses 
where it is in use from all the insects and vermin which 
would otherwise infest them. 


All the more important Hindu ceremonies, such as 
upanayana, marriages, &c, take place under canopies 
made of leaves and branches of trees which are erected 
with much pomp and care in the courtyard or in front of 
the principal entrance door of the house. The pandal is 
usually supported by twelve wooden posts l or pillars, and 
covered with foliage and branches of trees. The top or 
ceiling is ornamented with paintings or costly stuffs, while 
the whole is hung with garlands of flowers, foliage, and 
many other decorations. The pillars are painted in alter- 
nate bands of red and white. The pandals of rich people 
are often exquisitely decorated. A propitious day, hour, 
and star are always chosen on which to erect these canopies. 
Then the relations and friends all assemble to set up the 
centre pillar, which is called the muhurta-kal, and to which 
they offer puja to the accompaniment of music. Under 
this canopy all the ceremonies connected with the fete take 
place, and the guests remain underneath it till the end of 
the performance. The houses of Hindus are not as a rule 
sufficiently spacious, or in any way well adapted for receiv- 
ing large numbers of guests, so necessity has suggested this 
picturesque alternative. 

Besides these pandals, which are only used on grand 
occasions, upper-class people generally have a permanent 

1 Amongst the Sudras it is only those who belong to the Right-hand 
faction who are allowed to have twelve pillars or posts to their pandals. 
If a Left-hand Sudra, who is only entitled to eleven, should take upon 
himself to put twelve, a frightful fracas would ensue. — Dubois. 


one before their principal entrance door to protect from the 
sun persons who may come to visit them, and who could 
not with propriety and due regard to custom be invited to 
come inside. 


Ceremonies to be observed after a Woman's Confinement. — Ceremonies 
performed over Infants. 


When a Brahmani begins to feel the pangs of child-birth 
her husband should be near her, so that he may carefully 
note the date of the month, the day, the star of the day, 
the yoga, the Jcarana, the hour, and the moment when the 
child is born. And to prevent any of these details being 
forgotten, he puts them down in writing. 

The house where a woman is confined, as well as all 
those who live in it, are unclean for ten days. Before this 
time is up they must have no intercourse with any one. 
On the eleventh day all the linen and clothes that have 
been used during this period are given to the washerman, 
and the house is purified in the manner I have already 
described. Then they call in a Brahmin purohita. The 
woman who has just been confined, holding the child in 
her arms, and with her husband by her side, seats herself 
on a sort of earthen platform, which is set up in the centre 
of the house and covered with a cloth. The purohita then 
approaches them, performs the sam-kalpa, offers puja to 
the god Vigneshwara, and goes through the ceremony of 
the puniaha-vachana, or consecration of the sacred water. 
He pours a small quantity of this water into the hands of 
the father and mother of the child, who drink a portion 
and pour the rest over their heads. He also sprinkles this 
water over the house and all who are living in it, and throws 
what remains down the well. The purohita is then pre- 
sented with some betel and a small gift, after which he 
departs. This ceremony, which is called jata-karma, re- 
moves all uncleanness, but the woman who has been 
confined does not become perfectly pure before the end 


of a month. Until that time has elapsed she must live 
apart and have no communication with any one l . 

Nam A- KARMA. 

On the twelfth day after the birth of the child they give 
it a name. This is the nama-karma ceremony. The house 
having been duly purified, the father of the child invites 
his relatives and friends to be present at the ceremonies 
and at the feast which follows them. The guests go all 
together to perform their ablutions. On their return they 
first of all offer the sacrifice to fire called homam, in honour 
of the nine planets. Then the father of the child, holding 
it in his arms, seats himself on the little raised platform of 
earth and performs the sam-kalpa. By his side is a copper 
dish full of rice. With the first finger of his right hand, 
in which he holds a gold ring, he writes on this rice the day 
of the moon, the name of the day, that of the constellation 
under which the child was born, and finally the name that 
he wishes to give him. He then calls the child three times 
by this name in a loud voice. 

This ceremony ended, he gives a present to the presiding 
-purohita, distributes betel to all the Brahmins present, and 
then all take their places at the feast which has been pre- 
pared. As soon as it is finished the master of the house 
again offers betel to his guests, and also presents, if he is 
rich enough. 

The mother of the child does not appear at this cere- 
mony for the reason mentioned at the end of the preceding 


As soon as the child is six months old he is weaned. 
Then the anna-prasana takes place. The name of this 
ceremony expresses the idea of feeding the child on solid 

1 This custom closely resembles that which Jewish women were 
obliged to follow under similar circumstances (Leviticus xi), but the 
Hindus pay no attention, as did the Israelites, to the difference in the 
sex of the child. As regards the time during which the uncleanness of 
the mother lasts, it is just the same with the Hindus whether a boy or 
a girl is born. — Dubois. 

This is wrong. When a mother gives birth to a girl, pollution lasts 
for forty days ; in the case of a boy, only thirty days. — Ed. 


food for the first time. For this occasion they choose 
a month, a week, a day, and a star which all combine to 
give favourable auguries. A pandal is erected, which is 
ornamented all round with toranams \ or wreaths of mango 
leaves, some of which are also hung over the entrance 
door of the house, the inside of which has been carefully 
purified by the women. The father of the child sallies 
forth, provided with a cup full of akshatas, to invite his 
relations and friends to the feast. All the guests, having 
purified themselves by bathing, assemble under the pandal. 
The mother, holding the child in her arms, and accom- 
panied by her husband, seats herself beside him on the 
little platform of earth which has been set up in the centre. 
The purohita advances towards them, performs the sam- 
Icalpa, offers, firstly, homam in honour of the nine planets, 
then a sacrifice to fire, to which he presents clarified butter 
and betel for neiveddya. When he has finished, the women 
sing verses expressing their good wishes for the future 
happiness of the child, and perform aratti 2 over him. 

The father offers puja to his household gods, and a 
portion of the dishes prepared for the general feast is set 
apart as neiveddya for them. 

Then the married women form a procession and sing, 
while they bring in a new dish of silver-plated copper, 
which is given by the maternal uncle of the child, and one 
of those cords made of cotton thread which all Hindus 
wear round their loins, and to which the little piece of calico 
is fastened which covers their private parts. They touch 
the child with these two articles, and then pour some 
paramanna, a mixture composed of rice, sugar, and other 
ingredients, into the vessel. Recommencing their song, 
they proceed in the same solemn order towards the house- 
hold gods and place before them the dish, which is then 
known as the dish god. They make a profound obeisance 
all together to this new deity ; then addressing it and the 
rest of the deities, they implore them to make the child 
grow, to give him strength, health, long life, and plenty of 

1 These torananu are always used at times of rejoicing. They are an 
outward sign of rejoicing, and an announcement that a feast is going on, 
inviting people to come. — Dubois. 

- -See last chapter. 


this world's goods. Then taking up again the dish god, 
they carry it back, still singing, to the child. They first 
of all fasten the little cord round its loins. Two of the 
women then make it open its mouth, while a third pours 
some of the mixture contained in the dish down its throat. 
Instruments of music are playing and the women are 
singing during the whole of this ceremony. It is termi- 
nated by the aratti, after which all the Brahmins present 
are offered akshatas consecrated by mantrams. Each one 
takes a pinch of the coloured rice, part of which he puts 
on the child's head and the rest on his own. 

Then they sit down to a feast, and the ceremony is ended 
by a distribution of betel and a few presents given by the 
master of the house to his guests. 

The Chaula. 

Three years after the birth of the child 1 the tonsure, or 
chaula, is made for the first time. The Brahmins who are 
invited assemble under the pandal after having performed 
their ablutions. The child is brought in by his father and 
mother, who seat him between them on the little earthen 
platform. The married women then proceed to perform 
his toilette. They begin by anointing him from head to 
foot with oil, after which they wash him with warm water. 
They then colour his forehead and sundry other parts of 
his body with powdered sandalwood and akshatas, deck 
him with ornaments, and finally put a long necklace of 
coral beads round his neck and two bracelets to match on 
his wrists. 

The purohita then draws near the child thus adorned 
and performs the sam-kalpa, and also offers homam to the 
nine planets. He next traces on the floor in front of the 
child a square patch with red earth, which they cover with 
rice that has the husk on. The idol Vigneshwara is placed 
on one side, and to it they perform puja, offering brin- 
jals 2 , raw sugar, and betel for neiveddya. 

The child is made to sit near the square patch, and the 

1 Only the male child. — Ed. 

2 Beriiigcla in Portuguese, a purple vegetable shaped something like 
a fig. — Dubois. 

This is wrong. Brinjala are never offered to an idol. — Ed. 


barber, after offering worship to his razor \ proceeds to 
shave the child's head, leaving one lock at the top, which 
is never cut. While the barber is performing his part of 
the ceremony, the women sing, musical instruments are 
played, and all the Brahmins present remain standing in 
perfect silence. As soon as the barber has finished, they 
throw him the money due to him. This he picks up, and 
before retiring he also carries off the rice that has been 
scattered over the square patch. 

The child is immediately put into a bath to purify him 
from the defiling touch of the barber. Then his toilette is 
begun anew. The women perform the ceremony of aratti, 
and the purohita for the second time performs the komam 
to the nine planets. The entertainment generally ends 
with a feast and the distribution of presents to the Brah- 
mins. The musicians are then paid, and receive besides 
their money a measure of rice each. 

The ears of children of both sexes are pierced at about 
the same age. This is an occasion for another feast, very 
closely resembling the preceding ones. The goldsmith per- 
forms the operation with a very fine gold wire, and the 
size of the hole is gradually increased from time to time. 
The hole is generally made larger in the ears of girls, so 
that they may wear larger ornaments. In some provinces 
both men and women have the holes as large as a Spanish 

However odd these customs may appear to us, at any 
rate they have the advantage of bringing the Brahmins 
often together and obliging them to fulfil their mutual 
obligations. And they certainly help to form a class of 
men who in tone and manners are infinitely superior to 
other Hindus. 

1 This act of worship, which the barber always performs before 
shaving any one, consists in putting the razor to his forehead. — Dubois. 
The same practice is observed by all artisans. — Ed. 



The Brahmachari. — Ceremony of the Upanayana, or Investiture of the 
Triple Cord. 

In this Second Part I will bring to notice the most re- 
markable peculiarities of the Brahmin caste, the one of all 
others which clings most tenaciously to long established 
customs. Europeans have possessed up to the present 
time but very imperfect information on this subject, and 
what little information has been obtained has been taken 
as it were by stealth from the Brahmins, whose constant 
endeavour it is to veil their customs in mystery. I think 
that the details I am about to give will in consequence be 
found of considerable interest. These customs, however, 
do not belong exclusively to the Brahmin caste ; some of 
them are common to other castes as well. 

The life of a Brahmin has to be considered under four 
important aspects. The first is that of the young Brahmin 
who has been invested with the triple cord, and who is 
from that time called Brahmachari. The second is that 
of the Brahmin who has married, and who is thenceforward, 
but especially after he has become a father, called Gra- 
hastha. The third is that of the Brahmin who, renouncing 
the world, retires into the jungles with his wife, and who 
is then known as Vana-prastha (or dweller in the jungle). 
The fourth, and last, is the state of Sannyasi, or that of 
the Brahmin who decides to live entirely in solitude, apart 
even from his wife, a mode of life considered even more 
edifying than Vana-prastha. 

It is well known that all Brahmins wear a thin cord \ 
hung from the left shoulder and falling on to the right 
hip. It is composed of three strands of cotton, each strand 

1 This cord is called yagnopavitam in Sanskrit, jandemu in Telugu 
punul in Tamil, jcnivara in Canarese. — Dubois. 


formed by nine threads. The cotton with which it is 
made must be gathered from the plant by the hand of a 
pure Brahmin, and carded and spun by persons of the same 
caste, so as to avoid the possibility of its being defiled by 
passing through unclean hands. After a Brahmin is 
married his cord must have nine and not three strands \ 

Brahmins, and all the other castes which have the right 
to wear this cord, prize it more highly and are certainly 
more proud of it than are many Europeans who by noble 
birth or great deeds possess the right to wear the cordon 
of the knightly orders. 

Children from the age of five to nine are invested with 
this cord. March, April, May, and June are considered the 
most favourable months for the investiture. As the cere- 
mony entails a considerable outlay, the poorer Brahmins 
go from house to house begging and collecting funds with 
which to defray the necessary expenses ; and natives of 
all castes believe that in making such contributions they 
are performing a pious act. 

This ceremony is called the upanayana, which means 
' introduction to knowledge,' for by it a Brahmin acquires 
the right to study. Several of the rites performed on this 
occasion are also performed at the marriage ceremony, so 
I will only describe here those which are peculiar to the 
cord ceremony, and I will describe later on those common 
to both. The following details are extracts from the ritual 
of the purohitas, which bears the title of Nittya Karma. 

To begin with, the father of the candidate must provide 
himself with many pieces of cotton cloth and plenty of 
small gold and silver coins, to be given as presents to the 
guests. He must also have a large supply of rice, flour, 
fresh and dried vegetables, fruit, oil of sesamum, clarified 

1 The number three, adopted, and so to say consecrated, in this and 
in many other instances, is evidently used in an allegorical sense. I am 
rather inclined to believe that it refers to the three principal divinities 
of India — Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. — Dubois. 

The Abbe is incorrect as to the number of strands. After marriage 
a Brahmin must wear six, and may wear nine. The triple cord is thus 
explained by one authority : ' It symbolizes the body, speech, and 
mind. It symbolizes the control of each ; and therefore when the 
knots are tied in it, it means that the man who wears the thread has 
gained control over body, speech, and mind.' — Ed. 


butter, and milk in various forms, &c, for the feast ; 
sandalwood, vermilion, saffron ; and, above all things, 
plenty of betel-leaf and areca-nut. Further, there must 
be in abundance earthen vessels of all kinds, shapes, and 
sizes, seeing that on each of the four days that the feast 
lasts new ones will be required ; those which have been 
once used on this occasion, as on that of a marriage, being 
always broken into little pieces. When everything is 
ready, the father goes to consult the purohita, or family 
priest, to ascertain what day will be most propitious. 
The purohita having fixed a day, a pandal, or pavilion, is 
erected. The preliminary ceremonies and purifications are 
gone through, and the invitations issued in the customary 
manner. Meanwhile, the women decorate the walls of 
the house, both inside and out, with alternate broad bands 
of red and white paint. When the guests have arrived 
and are all assembled under the pandal, the purohita makes 
his appearance, bringing with him a cord and an antelope's 
skin \ 

Having performed the sam-kalpa, he offers puja, or 
adoration, to Vigneshwara, who is represented by a small 
conical heap of fresh cow-dung, placed in the centre of the 
pandal. He also makes to him offerings of garika 2 , sandal- 
wood, akshatas, or coloured rice, incense, and a lighted 

This god Vigneshwara, or Pillayar, or Ganesa 3 , &c, of 
whom we shall frequently have occasion to speak, is the 
god of obstacles, as his name (Vigna-iswara) denotes. He 
is of a morose and irascible disposition, and always ready 
to annoy and thwart those who fail to pay him sufficient 
respect. It is for this reason that so much deference is 
shown to him, and that on grand feast-days his good offices 
are the first to be invoked, his worshippers fearing lest he 
should take it into his head to disturb the feast and bring 
it to an untimely end. 

1 The antelope's skin is used as a mat on which the priest sits. The 
skins of both the antelope and the tiger are considered extremely pure : 
consequently one may sit on them without fear of defilement. — Dubois. 

2 Garika in Canarese, amgu in Tamil, durva in Sanskrit — a kind of 
millet-grass, Panicum dactylon. — Ed. 

s Ganesa literally means god of the inferior deities. — Ed. 


The sacrifice to Vigneshwara ended, the master of the 
house presents betel-nut to the Brahmins, and then they 
all proceed to make their ablutions. On their return, the 
neophyte is made to sit on a raised platform of earth in 
the centre of the pandal. The married women chant 
sacred songs, while they proceed to adorn him as for the 
ceremony of the chaula, though on this occasion the gar- 
ments are even richer and more costly ; and finally they 
delicately pencil his eyelids with antimony l . 

His toilette finished, the father and mother of the can- 
didate seat themselves by his side on the dais, and the 
women perform the ceremony of the aratti. Puja is offered 
to the household gods, and for neiveddya, or votive offering, 
portions of all the dishes prepared for the feast are set 
aside. The guests then seat themselves on the ground, in 
rows, the women placing themselves so as not to be seen 
by the men. The women belonging to the household bring 
in the rice and the various dishes which have been prepared 
for the feast, helping everything with their fingers, the use 
of spoons being unknown amongst them. Each guest 
receives his portion on a banana leaf, or on other leaves 
sewn together, which are never used more than once. 
When the meal is over, betel and areca-nut are distributed, 
and the guests then separate. 

The following day is called the muhurta, or great day ; 
it is that on which the actual investiture takes place. 
The guests are invited to reassemble as on the preceding 

The would-be recipient is seated on the dais, between 
his father and mother, all three having their faces turned 
towards the east. His loins are girt with a ' pure ' cotton 
cloth, that is to say, either a new one, or at least one that 
has been newly washed 2 . The married women perform 
his toilette, singing all the while. 

1 This is a kind of ointment formerly used by other nations. It is 
still a common practice amongst the people of India to ornament the 
faces of their children with it. Courtesans and beauties, too, often use 
it. It certainly enhances the brilliancy of the eyes, and is a pleasing 
addition to a handsome face. — Dubois. 

2 It is not only on this occasion that a ' pure ' cloth is obligatory. 
Each time that a Brahmin bathes he washes his clothing, to purify it. — 


The purohita then approaches, holding in his hands an 
earthen chafing-dish full of hot embers. He performs the 
sam-kalpa, and then formally consecrates the pan of hot 
coals, which by virtue of his mantram becomes a god. To 
this he offers the sacrifice called homam, throwing on the 
fire some pieces of the aswatta, or sacred fig-tree, some 
cooked rice, and some melted butter. After this nine 
specially selected Brahmins offer the same sacrifice of the 
homam in honour of the nine planets. Then each having 
chosen a married woman, they all go off together, still 
singing, to convey the sacred fire to some place apart, 
where it must be carefully attended to and kept burning 
until the last day of the festival. It would be considered 
a very bad omen if, from inattention or any other cause, 
this fire were to be extinguished sooner. 

The inauguration of the ishta devata (or tutelary deity) 
immediately follows. The married women provide them- 
selves with a large copper vessel, which must be new and 
whitewashed outside. They take it, preceded by instru- 
ments of music, to be filled from a well or river. On return- 
ing to the house they place some mango leaves over the 
mouth of the vessel, and on the top of the leaves a cocoanut, 
coloured yellow with powdered saffron. The vessel is then 
wrapped in a woman's cloth which has been dyed the 
same colour, and is placed on the ground, on the top of 
a small heap of rice. Round its neck are then hung two 
palm leaves, rolled up and coloured red, and also a necklace 
of small black seeds, and a few other female ornaments. 
The purohita then invokes the tutelary deity and invites 
him to settle on the vessel, which becomes from that 
moment a female divinity, to whom the women promptly 
make an offering of flowers, incense, akshatas, a lighted 
lamp, and some betel-leaf. The mother of the young man 
then places the vessel, i.e. the new goddess, on her head, 
and accompanied by the other women, all singing in chorus, 
and preceded by the musicians, makes a solemn progress 
round the village, under a kind of canopy. On returning 
to the house she replaces the vessel, and, with the assist- 
ance of some of the other women, drapes round the two 
central pillars of the pandal two perfectly new cloths of 
the kind worn by women. The same procession then starts 


again to fetch some mould from ant-heaps raised by kar* 
raiyan \ With this they fill five small pots. These again 
are sown with nine kinds of seed, which are well sprinkled 
with milk and water, to make them sprout quickly. The 
purohita approaches the five pots, and by virtue of his 
mantrams, or incantations, turns them also into divinities. 
The women then perform the customary acts of puja before 
them, and after prostrating themselves place them close to 
the tutelary deity. Then comes the invocation of gods, 
planets, and ancestors. I shall give full particulars of this 
ceremony when describing a marriage. 

During the invocation to the gods a piece of saffron- 
coloured thread is attached to the right wrist of the neo- 
phyte. A barber then cuts the nails of his fingers and toes 
and shaves his head, to the sound of instrumental music 
and the songs of the women. 

The young Brahmin next proceeds to bathe, in order to 
purify himself after having been defiled by the barber's 
touch. After his ablutions the women again dress him in 
pure new cloths. 

He is then purified by the purohita's incantations from 
all the sins committed through youthful ignorance since 
the day of his birth. The purohita also makes him a girdle 
of plaited darbha, or sacred grass (Poa cynosuroides), and 
winds it three times round his body, reciting mayxtrams all 
the time. At this juncture some small coins are distributed 
to all the Brahmins present. A muduga 2 stick, three 
cubits long, is then produced, and also ten pieces of rag 
such as are used by men in the East to cover their private 
parts 3 . These are dyed yellow in saffron water, and are 
hung in a row on the muduga stick, which the candidate 
puts over his shoulders. The purohita then recites the 
' neck mantram ' and invests the youth with the triple 
cord, which constitutes him a Brahmin. During this 
solemn performance the women sing, the musicians play, 
bells are rung, and to add to the uproar all present make 

1 These are the white ants so common in India, and so destructive. — 

2 Butca frondosa. In Sanskrit palasa. — Ed. 

8 Many natives only wear this diminutive covering. It is as small 
as is compatible with any regard to modesty. — Dubois. 


as much noise as they can by striking gongs or anything 
else they can lay their hands on. 

After his investiture the newly initiated member takes 
part in what is known as the young men's feast \ which is 
prepared for him and for other young Brahmins who have 
recently been invested with the cord. 

At the termination of the repast the young man again 
seats himself on the raised platform of earth, facing the 
east. His father seats himself by his side, but with his 
face turned towards the west. A cloth is then thrown 
over them, hiding them from the eyes of the assembly. 
Again the women begin to sing, and the musicians to play. 
Meanwhile the father is whispering in his son's ear the 
secrets and mantrams which in his new position as a duly 
initiated Brahmin it is fitting for him to know. It is 
said that the following remarkable words form part of the 
discourse : — 

' Remember, my son, that there is only one God, 
who is the Creator, Lord, and Source of all things ; whom 
every Brahmin should worship in secret. But know also 
that this is a great mystery that must never be revealed 
to the vulgar and ignorant people. Should you ever reveal 
it, surely great misfortune will fall upon you.' 

These instructions, however, being given in Sanskrit, are 
not likely to be understood by the youth in whose ears 
they are uttered. 

The Brahmins present then place akshatas, consecrated 
by mantrams, on the head of their new colleague, and the 
women perform the ceremony of aratti. Betel is afterwards 
served out to the guests, who, after bathing, return for the 
feast, which should on this day be on a particularly splendid 
and liberal scale. 

The same evening, just when the lamps are being lighted, 
parents and friends again assemble under the pa?idal, and 
the newly initiated member seats himself on the earthen 
dais once more. The married women then go and fetcli 
the pan containing the sacred fire, which is solemnly placed 
beside him, much singing going on the while. The purohiia 
performs the sam-kalpa and recites mantrams over this fire, 

1 In .Sanskrit kumara bhojunam. Only Brahmacharis partake of this 
feast, each being presented also with a new cloth. — Ed. 


while singers and musicians start afresh with renewed 
vigour. The young Brahmin, standing over the coals, 
offers for the first time in his life the sacrifice called homam, 
which, by his investiture with the cord, he has now acquired 
the right to do. After this sacrifice, and another, which 
the youth performs specially to the fire, the women make 
a procession and carry back the pan of coals to its place, 
returning to perform aratti to the young Brahmin. The 
day terminates with a further distribution of betel to the 
Brahmins, after which they all separate. 

On the third day there is the same assembly again, and 
for the most part a repetition of the ceremonies of the 
preceding day, particularly that of the homam ; while the 
day's proceedings are terminated as before by a feast. 

The ceremonial of the fourth and last day has a few 
additional peculiarities. After a repetition of the usual 
preliminaries, the women of the party form a procession 
and, singing all the time, go and fetch the sacred fire, 
which they set down close to the newly initiated member, 
who, standing up, places a few stalks of darbha grass round 
the pan of hot embers. He then performs homam by 
throwing on to the brazier some twigs of the sacred fig- 
tree, some cooked rice, some liquefied butter, and some 
coarse sugar. 

Thence they go to the tutelary deity, and having offered 
puja to him, they invite him to depart as he came. At the 
same time a little of the sacramental water from the deified 
vessel is poured into the hand of each person present, who 
forthwith drinks it, the remainder being thrown away. 
The deity is also despoiled of his yellow cloth and of the 
saffron thread with which he was decorated. After a few 
prayers have been addressed to these different objects, the 
divine essence is supposed to escape from them. 

The saffron-coloured thread which was fastened round 
the wrist of the new member is now taken off and put to 
soak in some milk. 

One large new earthen vessel and five smaller ones, all 
with lids, are then brought, smeared on the outside with 
lime. The five smaller vessels are rilled with water to 
begin with, and are then all emptied into the larger one. 
The lid of the larger vessel is put on, and it is then placed 


against the central pillar of the pandal, to which is sus- 
pended a wreath of flowers falling exactly over the mouth 
of the vessel. An offering is made to it of sandalwood, 
coloured rice, and flowers, and for neiveddya, or votive 
offering, cakes and cooked rice. All those present are then 
sprinkled with the ceremonial water contained in the vessel. 
Then they go on to the five little vessels before mentioned, 
which are filled with earth. Puja is offered to them, and 
they are then placed in a row, receiving severally the name 
of one of the following five divinities : Brahma, Vishnu, 
Varuna, Rudra, and Devendra. They are then carried 
separately, and placed at the foot of five of the pillars 
supporting the pandal. They are invoked in the names 
which have just been given them, puja is offered to them, 
and the divinities are finally invited to return whence they 
came. Puja is offered to the five little pots, and the 
celestial beings they have been representing are also invited 
to retire. Then comes the turn of all the gods in general, 
the planets, and the ancestors whose presence was invoked 
at the beginning of the feast. Litanies are recited in their 
honour, and they too are politely invited to depart. Then 
the praises of the mantapam deity, that is to say, of the 
pandal itself, are sung ; and he also is dismissed. Then 
the women, singing all the time, perform the aratti to the 
new member ; and every one being seated for the feast, 
the new Brahmin takes his place amongst the elders of 
the caste. After the meal is over he is presented to each 
of the principal guests in succession, and does sashtanga, 
or prostration, to them ; they, on their part, congratulate 
him on his promotion, and wish him every good fortune. 
In conclusion, the master of the house distributes money 
amongst his guests, also pieces of cloth, the value of which 
is in proportion to the wealth of the giver. A cow is 
occasionally added to the other gifts. 

Brahmins everywhere are unsurpassed in the art of 
flattery ; and on these occasions they laud to the very 
skies those who have been prodigal in their gifts. Their 
liberality is exalted in all directions, and the most exagger- 
ated eulogies are lavished on them. The recipients of all 
this ridiculous flattery are generally sufficiently idiotic to 
be gratified by it, and consider that it amply repa3 T s them 


for the enormous outlay which their childish vanity has 
caused them to incur. 

Before separating, all the guests, both men and women, 
accompany the new Brahmin, who is seated in an open 
palanquin, richly ornamented, on a solemn procession 
through the streets. On their return, the women, in songs, 
tell him of all the prayers that they have offered for his 
future happiness, and they wind up the feast by the cere- 
mony of aratti. As for the new Brahmin, he must be 
careful to perform the homam, evening and morning, for 
the next thirty days. 

Such are the formalities which accompany the most 
important and solemn event in a Brahmin's life. As we 
have remarked already, it is not by birth alone that a 
Brahmin is superior to other men. It is this regenerating 
ceremony which gives him a new existence and makes him 
worthy to be elevated in his capacity as a dvija, or twice- 
born (bis genitus), to the sublime status of his ancestors. 

All this long ceremonial, besides many other foolish 
trifles which I have not thought worth mentioning, is 
strictly obligatory. Were a single detail omitted, the 
whole community would raise a chorus of protest. It 
would be labour lost to endeavour to discover the origin 
of these ceremonies. Some few traces of it might be dis- 
covered in the old pagan times ; but assuredly no other 
nation in the world has preserved so completely the minutest 
details of its ancient superstitions. 

Some other Hindus share with the Brahmins the honour 
of wearing the triple cord. They are the Jains, the Ksha- 
triyas or Rajahs, the Vaisyas, and even the Panchalas. 
Rajahs receive the cord from the hands of a Brahmin 
purohita ; but the only ceremony necessary on this occasion 
is the sacrifice called homam. The new member then gives 
a great feast to the Brahmins to celebrate the event, but 
he is not allow r ed to be present himself ; and further, he 
also distributes gifts amongst them. Before they depart 
he is admitted to their presence, and performs the sash- 
tanga, perhaps in token of gratitude for the honour they 
have done him, or else merely to abase himself before 
these ' gods of the earth.' 

If the Hindu books are to be believed, the Brahmins 

G 3 


used formerly to exercise such supreme power over the 
kings and rulers of the country that they were looked 
upon by the latter as beings of a different order, and superior 
to other mortals ; princes accounting it an honour to receive 
some mark of distinction from them. And the Brahmins, 
on their part, either to enhance their own dignity, or per- 
haps from gratitude for the favours they received from the 
Rajahs, granted them the special privilege of wearing, like 
themselves, the triple cord. 

As for the Vaisyas, they do not receive it till the day of 
their marriage, when the officiating Brahmin presents it 
to them. The Panchalas are also decorated under similar 
circumstances, but it is conferred on them by the guru, or 
priest, of their own caste. 

After a Brahmin has been invested, he is expected to 
keep the anniversary every year at the time of the full 
moon in the month of Sravcma, or August. This anniver- 
sary is always celebrated by a feast, for which there are 
many prescribed ceremonies ; but I will spare the reader 
any further wearisome details. Suffice it to say that the 
Brahmin has to change his cord, the small rag in front of 
his private parts, and the cloth with which his loins are 
girt, all of which is done with much solemnity. The per- 
formance of this periodical duty obtains for him the remis- 
sion of all the sins committed during the year, and it is 
therefore called the Feast of the Annual Atonement. 

The Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas also keep this annual 
feast like the Brahmins. 


Conduct of the Brahmachari. — Rules to be followed. — Rights acquired 
by investiture with the Cord. — The Six Privileges of Brahmins. — 
The Vedas. 

The state of Brahmachari continues from the ceremony 
of the wpanayana until marriage. This period of his life 
is looked upon as a time of study, of trial, of subordination, 
and of initiation into the rules and regulations of caste. 
To learn to read and write ; to commit the Vedas and 
mantrams to memory ; to study in those branches of 


knowledge for which he shows any aptitude, that is, if 
his parents are sufficiently wealthy to be able to give him 
masters : above all things, to learn arithmetic in its ele- 
mentary forms, and to study the various idioms of the 
language : these are the occupations that fill up his days. 
The Brahmins have their separate schools, to which children 
of other castes, particularly Sudras. are never admitted. 
The nature of their studies, the discipline and mode of 
teaching, the very principles of education, are all totally 
different in the one and in the other. The Brahmachari 
must never chew betel : he must never put flowers in his 
turban or in his hair, or ornament his forehead with the 
paste of sandalwood l ; and he must never look in a looking- 
glass. Every day. morning and evening, he must perform 
the homam. or sacrifice of fire. He must take the greatest 
pains to conform to the rules and customs of his caste ; 
he must show the most absolute and prompt obedience to 
his parents and his teachers ; he must be modest, deferen- 
tial and respectful to his superiors, and affable to his 
equals. His family and his masters take particular care 
to instruct him in the art of lying and dissimulation, cunning 
and deceit \ qualities which are fully developed in all 
Brahmins, and form the principal traits in their character. 
There are. besides, hundreds of minute details most essen- 
tial in a Brahmin's education, comprising rules of good 
manners and decorous conduct, the art of speaking and 
conversing in well-chosen language, the appropriate de- 
meanour to assume on different occasions, how to hold 
oneself and how to use one's eyes, the different degrees of 
hauteur or humility which should be shown under various 
circumstances and at different times and places according 
to the people who are present. 

Nevertheless, in spite of the stress which is laid upon 
these petty precepts governing the conduct of young 
Brahmins, there are few who conform to them in all essen- 
tials. Even of the rules of conduct many are merely 

1 This is incorrect. The use of this paste on the forehead is obligatory, 
though the smearing of it on the body is forbidden until after marriage. 

- There is no truth in such an assertion. These evil qualities are never 
deliberately inculcated. — Ed. 


matters of form. Nothing is more common than to see 
their foreheads ornamented with sandalwood paste and their 
mouths full of betel \ 

If, from want of means or other causes, a young Brahmin 
is still unmarried at the age of eighteen or twenty, he ceases 
to be a Brahmachari, but at the same time he does not 
become a Grahastha. For all that, be his age and con- 
dition what they may, from the time that he receives the 
cord, he obtains the right to the six privileges which are 
inherent in this status. These privileges are : (1) to read 
the Vedas, (2) to have them read to him, (3) to perform 
the sacrifice of the yagnam, (4) to cause the yagnam to 
be performed, (5) to give, and also (6) to receive, pre- 
sents and alms. Three of these privileges, (2), (4), and (5), 
are also shared by the Kshatriyas or Rajahs. As to the 
despised Sudras, they possess only one of them, namely, 
that which allows them to give alms or presents to those 
Brahmins who will condescend to accept them from their 
impure hands. 

To the Brahmins alone belongs the light of reading the 
Vedas, and they are so jealous of this, or rather it is so much 
to their interest to prevent other castes obtaining any 
insight into their contents, that the Brahmins have in- 
culcated the absurd theory, which is implicitly believed, 
that should anybody of any other caste be so highly im- 
prudent as even to read the title-page, his head would 
immediately split in two. The very few Brahmins who are 
able to read these sacred books in the original only do so 
in secret and in a whisper. Expulsion from caste, without 
the smallest hope of re-entering it, would be the lightest 
punishment for a Brahmin who exposed these books to 
the eyes of the profane. 

These four marvellous books are held to be the work of 
Brahma himself, who wrote them with his own hand on 
pages of gold. Brahma, it is said, explained their meaning 
to four famous Munis, or penitents, to whom the books 
were entrusted, and to whom was confided the task of 
explaining them to the Brahmins. Sumantu, the first of 
these celebrated personages, was given the Yajur-Veda ; 

1 The chewing of betel by Brahmacharis is, nevertheless, an uncommon 
occurrence. — Ed. 


Pailada, the Big-Veda ; Jaimini, the Sama-Veda ; and 

Angirasa, the Atharva-Veda \ 

But let it not be imagined for one moment that these 
books contain matter of much interest. Their antiquity 
alone, real or pretended, is their sole recommendation. A 
lengthy exposition of Hindu polytheism as it existed origin- 
ally, the most contemptible and ridiculous stories concern- 
ing the fanciful penances to which their hermits subjected 
themselves, the metamorphosis of Vishnu, the disgusting 
lingam, &c. ; such are, according to the evidence which 
I have acquired, more or less an epitome of the contents 
of these books, of which the Brahmins make such a great 
mystery 2 . 

The fourth of these books, the Atharva-Veda, is the 
most baneful work of all in the hands of a people already 
given over to the grossest superstition. It is a sort of 
conjuring book, professing to teach the magic art of 
injuring by means of spells and enchantments. Bloody 
sacrifices are also ordained in it. 

It is from these books that the Brahmins have unearthed 
the greater number of those mantrams which bring them 
in so much money, and cause them to be held in such 
high esteem. This, in fact, is what renders the Vedas so 
precious to the Brahmins. 

Such Brahmins as devote themselves to the higher 
branches of knowledge learn the Vedas by heart ; and 
though the greater number do not understand the real 
meaning of what they have learnt, still they are looked 
upon in some sort as doctors of theology, and are given 
the name of Veidikas. It is true, nevertheless, that those 
who devote themselves to the study of these books cannot 
hope to extract any instruction from them, for they are 

1 Mahidhara, on the Yajasaneyi Sanhita (Weber's ed. p. 1), says in 
regard to the division of the Vedas : ' Veda-vyasa, having regard to 
men of dull understanding, in kindness to them, divided into four parts 
the Veda which had been originally handed down by tradition from 
Brahma, and taught the four Vedas, called Rig, Yajush, Saman, and 
Atharvan, in order, to Paila, Vaisampayana, Jaimini, and Sumantu ; 
and they again to their disciples. In this way, by tradition, the Veda 
of a thousand Sakhas was produced.' — Ed. 

2 The Vedas and other sacred Hindu writings are now, of course, 
available to any student. The Abbe's sweeping assertion would not 
now be endorsed. — Ed. 


written in ancient Sanskrit, which has become almost 
wholly unintelligible ; and such numberless mistakes have 
been introduced by copyists, either through carelessness 
or ignorance, that the most learned find themselves quite 
unable to interpret the original text. Out of twenty 
thousand Brahmins I do not believe that one could be 
found who even partially understood the real Vedas. 

The original text must not, as is often done, be con- 
founded with the more modern introductions and com- 
mentaries written by the penitent Vyasa. These were 
interpolated with the view of rendering the text more 
intelligible. They are known under the general name of 
Upanishads, and are three in number — the U pa-Veda, the 
Karma- Veda, and the Sakha- Veda. It is not much more 
than these commentaries that the most learned of modern 
Brahmins are capable of explaining. Their meaning is 
unintelligible except to those who have a considerable 
acquaintance with Sanskrit, the language in which they are 
written. Many learn to read and recite them mechanically, 
without understanding a word of them. 

In the agraharas, or Brahmin villages, and other places 
where Brahmins congregate in large numbers, you may 
perhaps come across some who are Sanskrit scholars, but 
even they would be unable to produce a good interpretation 
of the Vedas. Some Brahmins give gratuitous instruction 
in those parts of the Vedas which, thanks to the com- 
mentaries, have been made intelligible, while other Brah- 
mins, too poor to forgo remuneration, hold classes in which 
the same instruction is given to paying pupils. 

Rich Brahmins make a point of encouraging the study of 
the Vedas by offering prizes and other rewards, this being 
in the eyes of their fellows a work of the greatest merit. 

The Brahmins have done the Rajahs the honour of 
allowing them also to encourage the study of the Vedas 
by founding schools for that purpose and paying the pro- 
fessors. And I am convinced that nowadays they would 
not refuse a similar honour even to a common Sudra. 
But be that as it may, there is not much eagerness displayed 
amongst the Brahmins for this tedious kind of study. 
Poverty prevents some from taking it up, while indifference 
and idleness prevent others. 


In the yagnam, a name which comprises the third and 
fourth Brahminical privileges, the sacrifice called homam 
is apparently included, for the homam of the Rajahs is 
totally different. Every Brahmin must perform the 
homam at least once a day. It is a sacrifice offered to 
fire under various circumstances 1 . 

This sacrifice is made by lighting a brazier, which is 
then consecrated by mantrams. Into this are thrown 
small pieces of wood, gathered from one of the seven 
sacred trees, and afterwards a little melted butter and 
cooked rice ; these offerings being accompanied by suitable 
mantrams. The homam is almost invariably followed by 
another sacrifice, which is specially offered to fire, but only 
the ordinary puja is performed. I think by the word 
yagnam may be understood all sacrifices which are accom- 
panied by mantrams. 

The fifth privilege of the Brahmins, namely, the giving 
of alms and presents, is much less to their taste than the 
sixth, in which the operation is reversed. It must, how- 
ever, be admitted that rich Brahmins display a lavish 
hospitality, besides being charitable in other ways. But 
this is only to members of their own caste ; the rest of the 
human race is, if not detested, at least absolutely of no 
account so far as they are concerned. 

Amongst the gifts which Brahmins are willing to receive 
there are some which are more specially acceptable. They 
are called the pancha-danas, or the five gifts ; and they 
are gold, land, clothes, grain, and cows. The last-men- 
tioned gift causes them particular pleasure, seeing that 
milk in various forms is their principal food. Brahmins 
also possess large landed properties originally given them 
by generous princes and on which they pay no taxes. 
These descend from father to son, and always retain their 
immunity from taxation. As a rule Brahmins do not culti- 
vate their lands themselves, but lease them out to the 
Sudras, taking half the crops as rent. 

The Brahmins generally live on their lands, which are 

1 The sacrifice made to fire, or by means of fire, is a form of idolatry 
by no means peculiar to the Hindus. It is well known to what great 
lengths Persians, Chaldeans, and other ancient races carried super- 
stition with respect to it. — Dubois. 


called agrakaras. Numbers of these estates are to be 
found in the various provinces of the Peninsula. 

Then again, in their character as high priests, the Brah- 
mins gather in the greater part of the revenue of the lands 
belonging to the different temples, and furthermore receive 
all the offerings brought by devotees to the various idols. 

A Brahmin sees nothing humiliating in asking for or 
receiving alms. According to his ideas it is a right, of 
which he may make free use. His attitude when begging 
is also very unlike that of the poor wretch amongst our- 
selves, who fawns and grovels for the smallest trifle. The 
Brahmin asks for alms as for something that is his due, 
and not as if imploring a favour or benefit. At the same 
time he displays none of the importunity or impertinence 
to which people are subjected by the Mahomedan fakirs, 
or by the Sudra beggars who belong to the sects of Siva 
or Vishnu. The begging Brahmin boldly enters a house 
and states what he wants. Should he receive anything, he 
takes it without saying a word, goes away without any 
acknowledgement and without showing the smallest sign 
of gratitude. Should he meet with a refusal, however, he 
retires without any complaint or grumbling \ 

But woe betide any one who ventures to make the 
Brahmins promises which he subsequently fails to perform ! 
That would be a fearful sin, which could not fail to draw 
down the divine wrath upon the guilty person. A Hindu 
author gives the following example as a proof. ' Hata ! 
Hata ! 2 ' cried a monkey one day, seeing a fox devouring 
a rotten carcase. ' In a former state of existence you must 

1 Manu says : ' Let every man, according to his ability, give wealth 
to Brahmins, detached from the world and learned in Scripture ; such 
a giver shall attain heaven after this life ' (xi. 6). Very early in the 
statutes, a universal law is proclaimed, the spirit of which pervades the 
whole code. This law calmly lays down that whatever exists in the 
universe is all, in effect, though not in form, the wealth of the Brahmins ; 
since the Brahmin is entitled to it all by his primogeniture and eminence 
of birth. ' The Brahmin eats but his own food ; wears but his own 
apparel ; and bestows but his own alms ; through the benevolence of 
the Brahmin indeed other mortals enjoy life ' (i. 100-101). This is 
a pretty broad principle to enunciate, so it is easy to see how there is 
nothing derogatory in a Brahmin receiving alms, since he takes but what 
is his own, besides leaving a blessing to the giver. — Padfield. 

2 A kind of exclamation. — Dubois. 


i i 

have committed some atrocious crimes to be condemned 
in your present life to eat such disgusting food.' ' Alas ! ' 
replied the fox with a groan, ' it is only what I deserve. 
Once upon a time I was a man, and I then promised a 
Brahmin a present, and failed to keep my word ; that is 
why I was born again in my present condition, which you 
find so revolting.' 

Brahmins declare that he who fails to keep faith with 
them, or who injures them in any way, will be condemned 
after death to be born again as a devil. Such a person 
could live neither on the earth nor yet in the air, but would 
be reduced to dwelling in a thick forest, for ever hidden 
amongst the foliage of a leafy tree. Day and night he 
would groan and bewail his unhappy fate. His only food 
would be the filthy juice of the palm tree, mixed with the 
saliva of dogs ; and he would have to use a human skull 
as a cup. 

Brahmins, as a rule, are exempt from all taxes on houses 
and other personal property. In many districts they pay 
no customs duty l . They are, again, not liable to be 
impressed into compulsory service, or called upon for those 
requisitions which fall so heavily on the other inhabitants, 
who are obliged to labour at public works, such as the 
making and mending of the high-roads, the repairing of 
temples, tanks, canals, &c, and who also have to carry 
provisions for the troops when on the march, or for magis- 
trates and other public servants, more often than not 
without any payment for their labour, or even sufficient 
food, and with no compensation for the losses which these 
requisitions cause them. Such general servants of the 
public as carpenters, blacksmiths, barbers, and washer- 
men are often obliged, at least in many districts, to work 
gratuitously for the Brahmins 2 . 

In countries governed by native princes Brahmins are 
rarely condemned to any serious corporal punishment ; 
and however heinous their crimes may be, they are never 
liable to the penalty of death. The murder of a Brahmin, 

1 This, of course, is no longer the ease under British rule. — Ed. 

2 This, however, is not due to any actual pressure, but to the fact that 
these public servants enjoy grants of land (maniams), and they work 
gratuitously for the whole village. — Ed. 


no matter for what reason, would be eonsidered absolutely 
unpardonable, for it is the greatest of all known crimes 
and would not fail to bring some terrible calamity to the 
whole country in which it had been committed. 

However, in those countries which are under European 
or Mahomedan rule, where the sacred character of the 
Brahmin is held in much less reverence, they are liable like 
any other native to punishments proportioned to their mis- 
demeanours. Sometimes the Mahomedans beat them to 
death, unless they pay considerable sums to buy them- 
selves off, a process which suits their persecutors, who are 
much better pleased to have their money than their blood. 
But sometimes either from avarice, or because they are 
afraid that if they once let their oppressors fleece them in 
this manner they will never be rid of such persecutions 
until they are despoiled of all that they possess, they prefer 
to suffer all kinds of torture, even death itself, rather than 
part with their money. When Brahmins find themselves 
in this sorry plight there are no lies, no false statements, 
oaths, and protestations that they will not employ in the 
hope of extricating themselves. Such conduct can excite 
no surprise when one remembers that they do not hesitate 
to teach publicly that lies and perjury, if used to gain 
personal advantage, are virtuous and meritorious. This 
convenient doctrine has spread marvellously, for there is 
not a native of India who would scruple to make use of 
both, to serve his own ends l . 


External Defilements. — The care that a Brahmin should take to avoid 
them. — His Conduct in this respect. — Means of Purification. 

All that pertains to external and internal defilement, 
bodily and spiritual, is the very beginning and foundation 
of a Hindu's education, both religious and civil. They 
have invented numberless minute and ridiculous precautions 
to prevent the possibility of coming in contact with any- 
thing which, according to their views, would defile their 

1 No respectable persons (Brahmins included) are known to preach 
such doctrines nowadays. And the Abbe's assertions are altogether too 
sweeping. — Ed. 


persons, their clothes, their furniture, their temples, &c., &c. 
It is principally this ineradicable prejudice which has raised 
such an insurmountable barrier between them and the rest 
of mankind. Obliged by their religious tenets to hold 
themselves aloof from every one who does not share their 
beliefs, they can never, under any circumstances, be on 
such friendly or confidential terms with any stranger as 
would arise from feelings of mutual esteem and respect. 
It is undoubtedly from the Brahmins that the other Hindus 
have picked up this absurd prejudice, for it is in strongest 
force amongst them (the Brahmins). The predominating 
idea in their general conduct, and in their every action in 
life, is what they call cleanness ; and it is the enormous 
amount of care that they take to keep themselves ' clean,' 
to prevent any sort or kind of defilement, and to purify 
themselves from any uncleanness that they may have 
contracted, which gives them their ascendency over other 
castes. It is one of the special duties of the Brahmachari 
to be well versed, at an early age, in the customs and 
practices regulating this important branch of Hindu law. 

In all countries the sight of a human corpse produces 
a thrill of horror. Every one has a strong aversion, amount- 
ing almost to repugnance, to touching a dead body. But 
Hindus consider that the mere fact of assisting at a funeral 
is sufficient to defile them. When the ceremony is over, 
they immediately hasten to plunge themselves into water, 
and no one would dare to return home without having thus 
purified himself. Even the news of the death of a relative, 
though it may have happened a hundred miles away, 
produces the same effect, and every member of the family 
who receives the news must purify himself. Friends 
and simple acquaintances, however, are not contaminated 

The moment a Hindu has breathed his last the necessary 
preparations for his funeral begin, for as long as the body 
remains in the house, neither the inmates, nor even their 
neighbours, can eat or drink or attend to their usual occupa- 
tions. I have seen the service in a temple, where a large 
congregation had assembled, entirely suspended until the 
body of a man who had died not far off had been removed. 
Neither incense nor any other perfume would purify a house 


where a death had taken place. A Brahmin purohita must 
come to remove the impurity with which all the inmates 
are contaminated. To this end he offers sacrifices, recites 
mantrams suitable to the occasion, and at frequent intervals 
makes copious libations of holy water l . 

The monthly period, and the after-effects of child-birth, 
as I have remarked before, render women for the time 
being unclean 2 . 

The mother of the newly-born child lives entirely apart 
for a whole month or more, during which time she may 
touch neither the vessels nor the furniture of the house, 
nor any clothes, and still less any person whatsoever. The 
time of her seclusion being over, she is immersed in a bath, 
or else a great quantity of water is poured over her head 
and body. Women are similarly isolated during the time 
of their periodical uncleanness. In all decent houses there 
is a sort of small gynaeceum set apart for them ; but 
amongst the poor, in whose huts there is no such accom- 
modation, the women are turned into the street, under 
a sort of shed or outhouse, or else they are allowed a corner 
of the cowshed. 

When the time of uncleanness is passed, all the garments 
that the woman has worn are given to the washerman. 
Her clothes are not allowed inside the house ; in fact, no 
one would even dare to look on them 3 . 

When the washerman brings the clothes back, the Brah- 
mins never fail to put them into water again, inasmuch as 

1 According to the law of Moses, when an Israelite died in a house 
or in a tent, all the people living therein, and all the furniture it con- 
tained, were unclean for seven days (Numbers xix. 14, 15). Any one 
who touched the body, the bones, or the tomb of a dead man was also 
unclean for seven days. For purification, the ashes of a red heifer, 
which had been offered up as a sacrifice by the high priest on the Day 
of Atonement, were cast into a vessel full of pure water (Numbers xix. 
3-6). And an undefined person, free from all impurity, dipped a bunch 
of hyssop into this water, and besprinkled the furniture, the room, and 
the people who were defiled. On the seventh day these latter bathed 
themselves in water, and washed their clothes, after which they were 
considered perfectly cleansed. — Dubois. 

2 Jewish women were considered unclean under similar circumstances : 
and the law of Moses gives clear directions as to the manner in which 
they were to purify themselves. — Dubois. 

8 The Jews shared the same views on this subject. Isaiah lxiv. G. 
Esther xiv. 10. — Dubois. 


the washerman, by the touch of his hand, has defiled them 
anew. The same thing happens with new cloths which 
come straight from the unclean hands of a Sudra weaver. 

Wives of Lingayats, however, content themselves with 
rubbing their foreheads with the ashes of cow-dung to 
purify themselves on similar occasions ; and by this simple 
act, which they call bhasma snana, or the bath of ashes, 
they consider that they are completely purified. In this 
way a precautionary measure most beneficial to health in 
this hot country becomes perverted by superstition. On 
the one hand it is minutely observed by those who do not 
in the least appreciate its real utility, while it is neglected 
by others who think it only a pious practice, to be replaced 
with equal advantage by another. 

Earthen vessels, by reason of the material of which they 
are composed, can never be purified when once they become 
unclean, and in this they differ from metal ones. Washing 
will purify the latter, but should the former become defiled, 
they must be destroyed 1 . 

As long as earthen vessels are new, and in the hands of 
the potter, any one, even a Pariah, may handle them with 
impunity ; but from the moment that they have contained 
water, they can only be used by the person who filled them, 
or by members of the same caste. Brahmins carry their 
scruples on this point so far as never to allow strangers to 
enter their kitchens, the doors of which are always kept 
carefully shut, lest some profane and unclean person should 
cast an eye on the earthenware inside, which, rendered 
unclean by that one look, would be only fit to be immediately 
broken to pieces 2 . It is to avoid the risk of a similar 
disaster that their women never draw water in earthenware 
vessels, but always use those made of brass and copper. 

It is just the same with their clothes as with their vessels. 
Some can be defiled, others cannot. Silk, for instance, 
remains always pure, also cloth made of the fibres of 

1 Beds, furniture, clothes, and vessels became, under the Jewish law, 
unclean by contact with anything that was impure, and often were the 
means of contaminating other objects (Leviticus xi. 32). — Dubois. 

2 Brahmins and rich Sudras arc gradually abandoning the use of 
earthenware vessels for cooking, and are using vessels of brass and bell- 
metal. These are even sometimes cleaned by Sudras nowadays. — Ed. 


certain plants. For this reason the ancient Brahmin 
hermits always wore clothes made of either one or the other 
material. Brahmins at the present day, too, prefer to 
wear silk, particularly at meals. When a Brahmin doctor 
wishes to feel the pulse of a sick Sudra, he first wraps up 
the patient's wrist in a small piece of silk so that he may 
not be defiled by touching the man's skin l . The cotton 
clothes which are worn by most natives are peculiarly 
susceptible of defilement. It is quite sufficient to render 
them unclean if a person of an inferior caste, or, above all, 
a European or a Pariah, touch them. In the eyes of a 
Hindu, a Pariah and a European are on the same level. 
It is impossible to help laughing at the ridiculous care 
and perpetual pains which an orthodox Brahmin will take 
to preserve his person and his clothes from contact with 
anything unclean. But, whatever they may do, it is 
impossible for them to escape contamination in a popu- 
lous town. Hence the more scrupulous are obliged to 
quit the towns and take up their abode in the villages. 
Others, however, from motives of self-interest, compound 
with their conscience, and disregard the rules. Exposed 
as they must be to continual contact with people of all 
sorts, in the busy haunts where their business takes them, 
they content themselves with changing their garments on 
their return home. These are immediately dipped into 
water, and the uncleanness is removed. 

Leather and skins of all kinds, except those of the tiger 
and the antelope, are considered particularly unclean. Caste 
Hindus must never touch with their hands the slippers or 
sandals that are worn on the feet. A person riding must 
always carefully cover with cloth any part of the harness 
or saddlery that is made of leather. So it is that caste 
Hindus do not understand how any one can possibly wear 
anything made, as they say, of the remains of dead animals, 
such as boots, gloves, or leather breeches, without a feeling 
of horror and repugnance. The ordinary costume of a 
European greatly contributes to increase the low opinion 
that Hindus have formed of the delicacy of our tastes. 
A scrupulous Brahmin must look very carefully where he 

1 And so, too, when a Sudra doctor feels the pulse of a Brahmin 
patient. — Ed. 


puts his feet when walking. He would be defiled and 
obliged to bathe if by accident his feet should touch a bone, 
a piece of broken glass or earthenware, a rag, a leaf from 
which any one had eaten, a bit of skin or leather, hair, or 
any other unclean thing. The place where he sits must 
also be chosen with great care. Some penitents always 
carry with them the ' pure ' skin of a tiger or antelope on 
which to sit ; others use a common mat, while the rich 
have carpets ; but any one may sit on the ground without 
fear of defilement, if the place has been recently rubbed 
over with cow- dung. 

The way in which they take their food is also a matter 
of some moment. However many guests there may be, it 
would be considered very rude to speak to any one. They 
eat in silence, and conversation only begins at the end of 
the meal, after they have washed their hands and mouths K 
Nothing must be touched with the left hand, for reasons 
to be given later on, unless it be the copper vessel which 
contains water. Hindus drink only once, that is when 
they have finished eating, and they do so by pouring the 
liquid into their mouths from a distance. To drink as we 
do, by putting the glass or cup to the lips, would in their 
eyes be the height of indecency. While eating great care 
must be taken that not a fragment falls into the leaf serving 
as a neighbour's plate. One single grain of rice, one crumb 
even, would effectually prevent the latter from continuing 
his meal ; or at any rate he would have to take a fresh 
leaf and another portion of food. 

No doubt the same cause which makes Hindus of the 
higher castes so extremely particular about their manner 
of eating and drinking, accounts for their strong aversion 
to wind instruments of music. This cause is their insur- 
mountable horror of saliva. They would look on a man 
who spat upon the floor as quite destitute of good manners. 
Spittoons are to be found in every house ; but should none 
be provided and any one require to spit he would have to 
go outside 2 . However, from a sanitary point of view 

1 This is not now the case ; conversation does go on during meals. 
Occasionally, however, an individual makes a resolve always to abstain 
from talking while at meals. — Ed. 

2 Spittoons are not often found in Brahmin houses. — Ed. 


there is nothing astonishing in this excessive scrupulosity. 
No properly brought-up European would dream of expec- 
torating on the floor of a room. But with a Hindu it is 
less from a due regard to cleanliness than from his ever- 
recurring fear of bodily defilement. 

The remains of food are never put aside and kept after 
a meal, nor are they given to the servants. As has been 
already stated, to be a servant is no degradation. A servant 
generally eats with his master, and what he left could not 
be offered to the poor, unless they were Pariahs, who take 
anything. Food remnants, in fact, are thrown to the crows 
and the dogs. Rice that is to be given away to the poor 
of the same caste, or any other persons with whom it is 
allowable to eat, is boiled separately. Rice given to other 
castes is always uncooked ; and it is thus that a Brahmin 
receives it from persons of an inferior caste, who make him 
a present. 

High- caste Hindus, and particularly Brahmins, rarely 
use plates and dishes at their meals. Sometimes, but only 
when quite alone in their own houses, they may use a 
service of copper or other metal ; but they are forbidden 
to use earthenware or china. Usually the rice and other 
dishes are served on a banana leaf, or on the leaves of 
some tree neatly sewn together in the form of a plate. To 
offer a Brahmin food on a metal plate which some one had 
already used, would be considered a deadly insult. Natur- 
ally the use of spoons and forks is also forbidden. Fingers 
are used instead, and Hindus cannot at all understand how 
we can use these implements a second time, after having 
once put them to our mouths, and allowed them to be 
touched with saliva. If Hindus should happen to eat dry 
food or fruits between meals, they break off pieces and 
throw them into their mouths, fearing if they put them 
into their mouths with their fingers the latter might be 
tainted with saliva \ A European once wrote a letter to 
some friend of his, recommending a Brahmin acquaintance 
of mine to his notice. When he had finished his letter he 
sealed it with a wafer, which he moistened by placing it 
on the tip of his tongue. The Brahmin, who saw him do 

1 This practice, like others, becomes mechanical. Hindus never give 
a thought to them. — Ed. 


it, would not take or touch the letter, and left in anger, 
considering he had been grievously insulted. He preferred 
to lose any advantage he might have gained from this 
letter of recommendation, rather than be the bearer of 
a missive that had been thus defiled. 

There are several kinds of animals, especially dogs \ to 
touch which would defile a Brahmin. It is very interesting 
to watch their movements, and the care they will take to 
avoid the familiar caresses of these faithful companions of 
man. If, in spite of their efforts, the dog really does touch 
them, they are obliged to hurry off immediately and plunge, 
with all their clothes on, into water, and thus remove 
from both their person and their garments the stain which 
they had involuntarily acquired by the touch of one of 
these unclean animals. 

There is an infinity of other kinds of exterior defilement 
to which Brahmins are exposed, but I think what has 
been already said is sufficient to make known their views 
on the subject. 

It is obvious that so many external defilements neces- 
sitate endless ablutions. There are certain rivers and tanks 
which are held to possess peculiarly cleansing properties, 
and those Brahmins who live near them are perpetually 
bathing in their waters, while those who from living at 
a greater distance are deprived of this advantage, have to 
content themselves with whatever water or tank is nearest 
to their dwelling-place. In many places they do not allow 
Sudras to approach the place where they bathe, either for 
the purpose of drawing water or to make their own ablu- 
tions. But they are obliged to be less exclusive in places 
where they are not supreme. 

A Brahmin rarely passes a day without bathing at least 
once 2 , while those who wish to call public attention to 

1 Amongst the many animals looked upon as unclean by Jews, the 
dog was particularly numbered. But it was only by eating the flesh, 
or touching the dead carcase of one, that they were defiled. The touch 
of a living dog did not matter. Furthermore, every commentator of 
the Holy Scriptures has agreed that these defilements were only figura- 
tive of other and far more important uncleannesses, namety, the sins 
and offences which we commit against God and our neighbour. — 

2 One bath every day is compulsory, and is invariably taken. — Ed. 


their minute observance of religious customs must bathe 
three times a day. 

It is a common practice amongst natives to anoint them- 
selves occasionally from head to foot with either oil of 
sesamum or sometimes castor oil. They remove the dirt 
which results from it by rubbing it off with certain herbs. 
They then have hot water poured over their bodies, and 
finally bathe in cold water. At their grand ceremonials 
Brahmins are in the habit of offering some such oily mixture 
to all their guests, who rub themselves over from head to 
foot with it, and then plunge into a bath. Dead bodies are 
similarly anointed before being conveyed to the funeral 
pile or burying ground ; and this office is always performed 
by the nearest relatives. 


Internal Defilements. — Abstinence from all Intoxieating Licmors, and 
from everything that has had Life. — Particular Horror of the 
Brahmins for the Flesh of the Cow. — Their abhorrence of Europeans 
who eat it as Food. 

Besides those external defilements which only affect the 
outer skin, there are others which Brahmins and other 
Hindus say insinuate themselves into the body, and which 
can only be got rid of by proper methods ordained by rule 
and custom. There is no doubt that it was for the sake 
of health and cleanliness, in the first instance, that Hindu 
lawgivers inculcated these principles of defilement and 
purification. The heat of the Indian climate, the profuse 
perspiration which is the natural result, and the diseases 
which are endemic in consequence of it, all help to im- 
poverish the blood of the inhabitants ; and from these 
causes doubtless originated those obligatory precautions 
which have since been strengthened by custom and supersti- 
tion, and which are considered to be best calculated to 
counteract these deadly influences. If the salutary rules 
at first prescribed have in the course of ages become per- 
verted into the present childish and puerile ceremonial, 
which common sense rejects, the fault must be attributed 
partly to popular superstition which exaggerates and dis- 
torts everything, partly to popular ignorance, and partly 


to the cunning and avarice of the hypocritical charlatans 
who mislead the people. 

Water may be said to be a Brahmin's jxole bov o rag e. In 
order that it may be pure-and may not defile the person 
who drinks it, it is indispensable that it should be drawn 
and carried by a member of his own caste ; to drink water 
drawn by strange hands would be a great sin, the remis- 
sion of which could only be obtained at the cost of elaborate 
and expensive ceremonies. In some places Brahmins and 
Sudras fetch their water from the same place, but if by 
chance the water-pot of the latter should touch that of 
the former, the Brahmin immediately breaks his, if it is 
made of earthenware, or, if of brass or copper, gives it 
a thorough scouring with sand and water. In those parts 
of the country which are under the rule of native princes, 
Brahmins forbid any one of another caste to approach 
their wells ; but where Mahomedans are in power, and 
more particularly in the large towns under European rule, 
it is not unusual to see Brahmins, Sudras, and even Pariahs, 
all drawing water from the same source. But all the same, 
I once witnessed on the coast a violent disturbance caused 
by the inconceivable effrontery of a Pariah woman who 
had dared to draw water from the common well. 

Curdled milk diluted with water is a very favourite drink 
with Hindus. It is usually Sudras who prepare and sell 
this refreshing beverage. Although, generally speaking, 
there is more water than milk in the mixture, Brahmins 
have no scruples in partaking of it, and if any one re- 
proaches them with thus using water drawn and handled 
by Sudras, they reply that the curdled milk, which has 
come from the body of a cow, cleanses it from all impuri- 

On the other hand, they have an invincible repugnance 
to the liquor which is obtained by tapping cocoanut and 
other palms and several other trees of the country. This 
juice is sweet and refreshing if drunk before it has begun 
to ferment, but if taken in excess it is intoxicating. A 
spirit called arrack is distilled from it, and for this also there 
is the same repugnance. As a rule, a respectable Hindu 
will not touch spirits or any intoxicating drink, considering 
that they cause one of the greatest internal defilements 


that it is possible to contract. In consequence of this 
praiseworthy opinion drunkenness is looked upon as a 
degrading and infamous vice, and any one would be promptly 
and ignominiously expelled from his caste were he found 
guilty of giving way to it. It is only Pariahs and men of 
the lowest classes who dare publicly to consume intoxicat- 
ing drinks. Nevertheless, one does see occasionally in 
European settlements and in the large towns high-caste 
natives, and even Brahmins, breaking the law of temper- 
ance ; but it is only in strict privacy, and after every 
precaution has been taken to conceal the unpardonable 

The air one breathes may also be the means of internal 
defilement ; for instance, it would mean defilement if the 
olfactory nerves of a Brahmin became sensible of the smoke 
arising from a funeral pyre where a body was being burned, 
or from the fire on a Pariah's hearth where food was being 

In certain parts of the country, if Pariahs perceive that 
a Brahmin is coming their way, they make a long detour, 
in fear lest the effluvia which is given off by their unclean 
persons should defile the exterior and interior of this noble 
personage. When Sudras speak to a Brahmin etiquette 
obliges them to keep at a respectful distance, or at least 
that they should put the right hand before their mouths, 
so that the taint of their poisonous breath may not reach 
him. It were very desirable, for the peace and honour of 
Sudra husbands, that this excessive delicacy extended also 
to their wives ; but Brahmins are far from feeling the same 
superb disdain towards them. As for the wives of Pariahs, 
the feeling of antipathy for everything connected with 
this class is so strong, and the defilement which results 
from even an innocent and accidental touch is so difficult 
to remove, that one very rarely hears of a Brahmin who 
has been so blinded by passion as to have had any inter- 
course with a woman of this class. 

It is with regard to their food that Brahmins take the 
most excessive precautions. They are never allowed to 
touch meat, and this excludes not only anything that has 
had life, fish included, but also anything that has contained 
a germ of life, such as eggs of all sorts. Vegetables, which 


form their principal food, are also subject to numerous 
exceptions. Thus they reject any vegetable whose root 
or stem grows in the shape of a head, such as onions, garlic, 
mushrooms, &c. Is it because they have discovered some 
hurtful properties in these plants ? I think not. The 
greater number of such vegetables are, on the contrary, 
considered by other people to possess, in that very hot 
climate, antiseptic and health-giving qualities. 

I have often tried to find out the reason why these 
vegetables are avoided, but I have never been able to ex- 
tract any other answer from those I have questioned than 
that it was the custom and rule to avoid them \ 

To adhere strictly to all these rules of abstinence is what 
is called eating properly. Whoever eats of forbidden things 
cannot, according to Brahminical doctrine, keep his body 
really pure. However, I am quite satisfied by experience 
that there are some who occasionally relax the severity of 
these rules ; but the extreme care which is taken to conceal 
the fact proves what a strong hold the rules have over the 
greater number. 

These strict rules of abstinence are observed by all the 
respectable people of this large Hindu nation ; they are 
most scrupulously obeyed in the family circle, without any 
one daring to think of violating them, even under the most 
pressing necessity. They appear to have existed from the 
time when the natives of India were formed into one 
nation ; that is to say, at no very distant date from the 
Flood, and it seems to me they show a strong indication 
of the great antiquity of this people. 

And this law of abstinence, far from losing force and 
falling into abeyance, has gained many additional adherents 
from among the better class of Sudras. Its minute observ- 
ance is the surest way of gaining respect even amongst 
those who do not feel called upon to impose similar priva- 

1 Whatever the motive may be, there are no doubt some superstitions 
attached to it. Every one knows the extreme veneration in which the 
Egyptians held onions and other vegetables of the same family. They 
even swore by the leeks and onions in their gardens. Juvenal (Satires, 
xv) laughs at them about it : 

' Porrum et cepe nefas violare, et frangere morsu, 
O sanctas gentes quibus haec nascuntur in hortis 
Numina ! ' — Dubois. 


tions upon themselves. Only Sudras of the very lowest 
class eat meat openly ; and many of these do not venture 
to cook it in their own houses, but in a secluded corner of 
their cowsheds. To ask a Hindu if he eats meat, even 
when it is a well-known fact that he does so, is to insult 
him deeply ; while to offer meat at a meal to a guest with 
whom one is not intimate, would be the height of rudeness. 
Hindus who eat meat do so only in the privacy of their 
own families or in company with near relatives or intimate 
friends. Even the common Sudras do not offer meat at 
their festive gatherings such as wedding feasts. Were they 
to do so their guests would consider themselves insulted, 
and would leave immediately. 

The Lingayats, or votaries of Siva, are strict abstainers 
from anything that has possessed the principle of life. 
But the careful manner in which they thereby try to main- 
tain perfect internal purity does not profit them much, 
as they are credited at the same time with neglecting some 
of the precautions necessary to preserve their external 
purity. They are blamed, for instance, for allowing their 
women to come and go about the house during the time of 
their periodical uncleanness, and for not insisting on purify- 
ing ablutions afterwards ; the same also during and after 
confinements. In fact, they neglect a great many cleanly 
customs which, putting superstition aside, are most bene- 
ficial to health in hot climates. 

People who abstain entirely from animal food acquire 
such an acute sense of smell that they can perceive in 
a moment from a person's breath, or from the exudation 
of the skin, whether that person has eaten meat or not ; 
and that even after a lapse of twenty-four hours. 

In some parts there is a peculiar custom which allows 
men to eat meat, but strictly forbids it to women. 

To eat the flesh of the cow is an ineffaceable defilement. 
The bare idea of tasting it would be abhorrent to any 
devout Hindu. This invincible repugnance, based as it is 
now solely on the superstition which places the cow among 
the principal Hindu deities, had most probably at first 
a much more sensible but not less forcible motive, namely 
self-interest. The Hindu lawgivers recognized, of course, 
that these animals, so useful to man in all places and under 


all circumstances, were particularly valuable in a country 
where there is no other beast available for tilling or for 
transporting agricultural and commercial products. Besides 
which, the milk was an indispensable addition to the food 
of the multitude of poor natives who would otherwise have 
no other food than insipid vegetables. 

Perhaps we may also add another motive besides that of 
preserving the species of these valuable animals, and that 
is the indigestible nature of beef. Indeed, in a climate 
where the organs of the stomach are so much weakened by 
excessive perspiration, the habitual use of heavy food 
would have soon destroyed the health of the people. I 
have known many Europeans who entirely left off eating 
meat for this reason, because they found that they could 
not eat it without suffering afterwards from indigestion ] . 

At the same time the Hindu lawgivers knew the character 
of their compatriots too well to imagine that simple pro- 
hibitions and punishments would suffice to save the lives 
of these precious animals. So, calling religion to their aid, 
they deified them. To kill a cow — according to the prin- 
ciples of Hindu law — is not only a crime, but an awful 
sacrilege, a deicide, which can only be expiated by the death 
of the offender ; while to eat of the flesh of a cow is a 

1 Montesquieu says : ' There are many local laws peculiar to different 
religious beliefs. The tenet of metempsychosis is peculiarly suited to 
the Indian climate. The excessive heat burns up all the pasture, and 
there is little left with which to feed the cattle. There is always a danger 
of there being too few beasts to till the ground. Cattle multiply but 
slowly in that country, and are subject to many diseases. Hence it is 
that a religious law which protects them is very necessary from an 
economical point of view. But while the pastures are all burnt up, 
rice and vegetables grow very well by the help of irrigation. Thus 
a religious law which only allows of this kind of food is useful to the 
people of the country. Furthermore, while meat is usually tasteless in 
hot climates, milk and butter, which are obtained from these animals, 
form the chief items of food. The law forbidding cows to be killed 
and eaten as food is therefore not without reason in India ' (Esprit des 
Lois, book xxiv. ch. 24). — Dubois. 

Sir M. Monier- Williams in his book on Hinduism says in a foot-note : 
' Happily for the Hindus, the cow which supplies them with their only 
animal food — milk and butter — and the ox which helps to till their 
ground, were declared sacred at an early period. Had it not been so, 
this useful animal might have been exterminated in times of famine. 
What is now a superstition had its origin, like some other superstitions, 
in a wise forethought.' — Ed. 


defilement which cannot be purified. Pariahs, however, 
are tacitly allowed to feast on the flesh of those animals 
which die of old age or disease. In their case this is not 
looked upon exactly as a crime ; but, as we have already 
seen, this privilege, of which these miserable outcastes 
avail themselves without scruple, contributes a good deal 
towards keeping up that sort of curse which overshadows 

The flesh of the buffalo, camel, horse, elephant, &c, in 
fact everything that comes under the head of large meat, 
inspires all Hindus, Pariahs excepted, with almost as great 
an abhorrence as the flesh of the cow or ox. There is the 
same idea of defilement connected with it. 

I have already pointed out that Europeans do not seem 
disposed to adopt the same rules of abstinence as are 
followed by the people among whom they live, and that, 
without paying any attention to the disgust which they 
cause, they continue to eat beef openly. It is certain that 
this conduct estranges them from all the better classes of 
Hindus, who, consequently, in this respect place them far 
below the Pariahs. It is true that the first conquerors of 
India, in defiance of the most sacred and long-established 
customs of the country, killed oxen and cows without 
exciting a general insurrection against such an insult as 
the slaughter of animals worshipped by Hindus as their 
gods ; and it is also true that for several succeeding cen- 
turies the handful of foreigners established among them 
have been allowed to kill these sacred animals with impunity 
to satisfy their own appetites ; but they have only to 
thank the mild, temperate, and indolent character of the 
nation which has spared them 1 . 

Amongst ancient nations there are few who would with 
so much patience have allowed their religious beliefs to 

1 This horror of cow-killing is as strong among Hindus throughout 
India to-day as it ever was. The remarkable revival of Hinduism 
during the last few years has been characterized by the formation of 
innumerable secret religious societies for the protection of the cow, and 
the riots among Hindus and Mahomedans in recent years are more or 
less directly traceable, it is asserted, to the propaganda of these societies. 
It may be mentioned that in Kashmir, until quite recently, cow-killing 
was punishable with death, and imprisonment for life is now the penalty. 


be openly set at naught. The Israelites, when in captivity 
in Egypt, begged for permission from Pharaoh to make 
a pilgrimage into the desert, there to sacrifice to God 
without fear of interruption, because they would have been 
liable to be all massacred or stoned had they dared to 
perform such sacrifices in the sight of the idolatrous Egyp- 
tians, who worshipped as gods some of the very animals 
that they required for their sacrifices \ 

Cambyses made himself more execrable in the eyes of 
the Egyptians by killing the ox Apis, than by all the 
cruelties and acts of tyranny of which he was guilty in 
dealing with this peaceable people 2 . 

The Egyptians considered that to kill, even by accident, 
one of their sacred animals was the most heinous of crimes. 
Whoever was guilty of such an act was invariably put to 
death. A Roman soldier was torn in pieces by the popu- 
lace, in spite of the terror that the name of Rome inspired, 
for having by mischance killed a cat. Diodorus, who 
records this incident, also mentions that during a famine 
the Egyptians preferred to devour each other rather than 
touch the animals they held sacred. 

The Hindus would also carry their scruples to the same 
point. In whatever straits they might be they would 
prefer to die rather than save their lives by killing cattle. 
From this we may conclude that, though they daily witness 
the slaughter of these sacred animals by Europeans, without 
uttering any loud complaint, they are far from being in- 
sensible to the insult. But restrained by the fear which 
these foreigners have always inspired in them, they con- 
tent themselves with complaining in secret and storing up 
in their hearts all the indignation that they feel. Pious 
Lingayats have often come to me, imagining that my title 
of European priest gave me great influence over my fellow- 
countrymen, to implore me, in earnest terms, and often 
with tears in their eyes, to do everything in my power to 

1 Exodus viii. 26. 

3 ' Did Cambyses do well,' asks Voltaire, ■ when after conquering 
Egypt he killed the ox Apis with his own hand ? Why not ? He 
showed the idiots that their gods could be brought to the pit without 
nature rising in her wrath to avenge the sacrilege ! ' This is Voltaire's 
smart criticism, but I think few wise statesmen or sensible persons would 
share his opinion. — Dubois. 



put a stop to this sacrilege. In States which are still ruled 
by heathen princes on no pretext whatever is it permitted 
to kill a cow. In fact, this act of sacrilege, so hateful to 
Hindus, is only permitted in provinces where Europeans 
or Mahomedans hold sway. 

To purify the body from any interior defilement that 
may have been contracted there is no more efficacious way 
than by the performance of the pancha-gavia. 

As to other ordinary defilements, from which one can 
never quite escape, they may be removed in several ways, 
which I shall speak of in the next chapter. If these cere- 
monies can purify the soul from sin, so much the more 
will they be capable of purifying the body from all un- 
cleanness, both external and internal. 


Defilements of the Soul, and the Means of Purification. — Places of 
Purification. — Sins for which there is no Forgiveness. — Conjectures 
on the Origin of Brahmin Customs connected with Defilement and 
Purification. — Defilement by Europeans, and an Incident which 
happened to the Author from this Cause. 

The doctrine is laid down in Hindu books, is endorsed 
by the philosophers of the country, and is admitted also 
sometimes by Brahmins, that the only real defilement of 
the soul proceeds from sin, which is caused by perversity 
of the will. One Hindu poet, Vemana, expresses himself 
thus on this subject : — ' It is water which causes mud, and 
it is water which removes it. It is your will that makes 
you commit sin, and it is by your will alone that you can 
be purified 1 .' This doctrine, though imperfectly carried 
out in practice, certainly proves that Hindus acknowledge 
that it is only by an effort of the will and by a renunciation 
of sin that pardon and purification of the soul can be 

But this enlightenment, which reason will never allow to 
be entirely extinguished even in the midst of the deep 
shadows of gross idolatry, has become, if not extinguished, 
at any rate entirely obscured by the religious formulariza- 

1 This is not to be found among the verses of Vemana, but any Telugu 
verse of which the author is unknown is ascribed to him. — Pope. 


tion to which the Brahmins have become slaws. The 
Brahmins have allowed themselves to believe that without 
either the wish or the intention of renouncing evil it is 
possible for the soul to be purified by various means, which, 
through the extreme facility with which they can be em- 
ployed, can only tend to lessen the real abhorrence of sin 
and give a false sense of security to the sinner. The ■pancha- 
gavia, for example, is sufficient to obtain the remission of 
any sin whatever, even when the sin has been committed 
deliberately ; and that is really why the use of such a dis- 
gusting liquid (the urine of the cow) is so strongly upheld. 
Looking as they do upon sin as a material or bodily defile- 
ment, it is not surprising that they consider mere ablutions 
of the body sufficient to wipe it out. Ablutions performed 
in certain sacred rivers, such as the Ganges, the Indus, the 
Godavari, the Cauvery, and others, purify both soul and 
body from any defilements they may ever have contracted. 
It is even possible for a person living at a distance to obtain 
the advantages conferred by their cleansing waters without 
leaving his house ; he has only to transport himself thither 
in intention, and to think of the place while bathing. 

There are several celebrated streams and tanks in India 
credited with the same purifying virtue ; but some of them 
only possess this virtue at intervals more or less frequent. 
Thus the waters of the famous tank of Combaconum, in 
Tan j ore, are only endowed with cleansing properties once 
in twelve years ; while those of the spring which rises in 
the hill Tirutanimalai, in the Carnatic, are efficacious every 
three years. There are few provinces in India which do 
not possess sacred tanks. When the year and the day 
arrive for people to bathe in these sanctifying waters, 
a pilgrimage is made to the spot by enormous crowds of 
devotees, who have been warned beforehand by messengers 
sent in all directions by the Brahmins, who are interested 
in keeping up this holy fervour. On the appointed day 
they all stand round the tank, awaiting the propitious 
moment to plunge into it. Directly the purohita gives the 
signal, all present, men and women, rush into the water, 
shouting and screaming, and making an indescribable 
uproar. They soon find themselves heaped one on top 
of the other, so that they can hardly move. It almost 


always happens that in the midst of this frightful con- 
fusion several are drowned or suffocated, and many come 
out with broken or dislocated limbs \ Happy are those 
accounted who lose their lives on such an occasion ! Their 
fate is more to be envied than lamented ; for these victims 
of religious ardour go straight to the realms of bliss. 

The time of an eclipse is also considered a particularly 
opportune moment for purifying oneself from sin. Bathing 
at that time, wherever it may be possible, but especially 
in the sea, possesses the merit of cleansing the soul from 
all defilements. To bathe during the solstices or equinoxes, 
at the time of a new or of a full moon, or on the eleventh 
day of the moon, is also considered efficacious. The mouth 
of a river, the point where it joins another, or where in its 
windings its course runs from east to west, are also peculiarly 

To read the Puranas and other sacred writings, to make 
pilgrimages to certain temples and holy places called jmnya- 
sthala, to climb to the top of certain very high mountains, 
and even simply to gaze at them : all these procure the 
forgiveness of sins. There is one of these holy mountains 
in the Carnatic, in the district of Coimbatore. It is called 
Nilagiri-malai, and is believed to be the highest in the 
province 2 . For this reason alone the Hindus have made 
it a punyasthala, or place of virtue, their custom being to 
deify everything extraordinary in nature. As it is very 
difficult to reach the top of this mountain, a view of the 
summit alone (and it is visible a long way off) is considered 
sufficient to remove the burden of sin from the conscience 
of any person who looks at it ; provided that he looks at 
it with that intention. 

In connecting religious sentiment with everything which 
has any distinctive peculiarity or grandeur, they have not 
forgotten to include the magnificent waterfalls which sur- 
prise and charm the eye. Thus the Cauvery Falls, and 

1 This is the Maha-mahham festival. A benevolent Government 
now takes the precaution of reducing the depth of the water to a few 
inches, to prevent such disasters. At the celebration of the festival in 
1897, 500,000 people were present. — Ed. 

a The Nilgiris, or Blue Mountains — now a sanatorium, the summer 
headquarters of the Madras Government. — Ed. 


several others, are supposed to be pre-eminently suitable 
for ablutions. In a word, one everywhere comes across 
places consecrated by superstition, where the greatest 
sinners can, with the most perfect ease, extinguish in 
a limpid and accommodating stream the burning fires of 
remorse by which they may be troubled. 

To recite mantrams ; to exercise the happy privilege of 
looking at the great ones of the earth, especially gurus ; 
to think of Vishnu and the other principal deities : these 
are all most efficacious in purifying the soul. A Brahmin 
who happened to go three times round a temple of Siva 
merely in pursuit of a dog that he was beating to death, 
obtained the remission of all his sins, and also the special 
favour of being transported immediately to Kailasa \ 

Admittance into Vaikuntha 2 was once granted to a great 
sinner simply for having pronounced, even in blasphemy, 
the name of Narayana and the name of Vishnu. All this 
is vouched for in the sacred Hindu books. 

There are, however, some sins so heinous, according to 
Hindu ideas, that they cannot be expiated by any of the 
means before mentioned. These unpardonable sins are five 
in number : — 

1. Brahmahattya, the murder of a Brahmin. 

2. Sisuhattya, the destruction of an unborn child, i.e. 
wilfully causing an abortion. 

3. Surapana, to drink toddy, the juice of the palm-tree. 

4. Swarna-Sneya, to steal gold. 

5. Guru-talpa-gamana, to have sexual intercourse with 
the wife of one's guru or of one's spiritual or temporal 

Some add a sixth, which consists in holding communica- 
tion with any one guilty of any of these five sins, commonly 
called pancha-patakas, the five crimes. These fearful crimes 
cannot be wiped out in the lifetime of the offenders by any 
of the usual means employed for the purification of the 
soul. Those who are guilty of them expiate them after 
death, by one or more transmigrations of the soul into 
some vile animal, or by the torments of Naraka, i.e. hell. 

Besides the sins committed during his present existence, 
from which a Brahmin must be constantly purifying him- 
1 The paradise of .Siva. - The paradise of Vishnu. 


.self, lie must also think of expiating those committed in 
a former state. To become a Brahmin by reincarnation is 
the happiest destiny possible for a human being. It is 
a reward which is only granted for the accumulated merits 
of many successive generations. Yet the fact of the re- 
incarnation is in itself a proof that there still remains in 
that person some fault to be expiated : otherwise the soul 
would have been transported to the Sattyaloka, or paradise 
of Brahma, and thereby would have been spared the trouble 
of animating another mortal body here below. Actual good 
deeds, such as giving alms to Brahmins, constructing wells 
or tanks, building temples, or contributing to the cost of 
religious services, and various other works of charity, are 
held to add considerably to the efficacy of the various 
methods of purification which we have just spoken of, 
when performed in conjunction with them. 

I will say nothing here of the many hindrances to the 
perfect purification of the soul caused by a man's wife or 
children, by his worldly possessions, by his caste, and by 
his passions. They will be referred to elsewhere. 

Defilements and purifications form together one of the 
most important articles in Brahmin doctrine and the Hindu 
creed. The practices and opinions with regard to these 
subjects are so extraordinary and so unique that it would 
be most interesting to thoroughly investigate the motives 
which originally gave rise to them ; but, either from 
prudence or from ignorance on their part, I have never 
been able to gather from Hindus any authentic information 
about them. Everything that I have been able to ascertain 
has been founded more or less on conjecture. But I have 
often had occasion to remark, that, after allowing for 
exaggeration, many Hindu rites bear a strong resemblance 
to those practised by other nations in bygone ages. Thus 
Jacob at Bethel, when preparing to offer up a sacrifice, 
commanded his household to purify themselves, and to 
change their garments \ When the Israelites were warned 
that God would appear to them in the desert of Sinai, 
God commanded them by Moses to wash their clothes, 
and not to touch their wives for three days beforehand '\ 
Many passages in the Hindu sacred writings recall the rules 
1 Genesis xxxv. 2. ~ Exodus xix. 10, 14- 


which the law of Moses laid down for the children of Israel 
concerning the various kinds of defilements, real and 
technical l . 

It is, in fact, impossible to deny that there are many 
striking points of resemblance between Jewish and Hindu 
customs. Should one then conclude that the latter copied 
them from the former 1 I think not. If they are alike 
in some essentials, they display great dissimilarity in their 
outward forms. Besides, there is nothing that I know of 
in the history either of the Egyptians or of the Jews to 
show that these people existed as a nation prior to the 
Hindus. The peculiarity of the dogmas and rites of the 
Hindu religion, the strong antipathy which the Hindus feel 
for anything that savours of imitation, the unshaken firm- 
ness with which they cling to ideas which originated at 
a date now lost in the darkness of antiquity, the intolerance, 
the pride, the presumption of the Brahmins, and above all 
their detestation and contempt for foreigners and foreign 
customs : all these make me confident that the Hindus 
never borrowed anything from other nations. Everything 
connected with the Hindus is stamped with the impress of 
originality and independence. Never could this vain and 
self-sufficient people, who are so filled with the idea of their 
own moral ascendency, have condescended to model their 
habits and customs on those of foreigners, whom they have 
always kept at the greatest possible distance. How, then, 
came the Hindus to originate these singular notions of 
defilement and purification ? I feel that I possess neither 
the necessary learning nor the necessary talent to cope 
satisfactorily with this difficult question. I must therefore 
beg my readers' indulgence in briefly laying before them 
the conjectural opinions which I have formed on the 

Even before the Flood men were imbued with these 
notions of defilement and purification. Amongst animals 
there were the clean and the unclean. God recognized this 
distinction when He dictated to Noah the number of each 
species that was to go into the ark \ 

It is probable that the tradition of this classification of 
things clean and unclean was handed down by the deseen- 
1 Leviticus xv. 11-15. a Genesis vii. 2. 


dants of the men who escaped the Flood. When they began 
to eat animal food, and noticed that the flesh of some beasts 
was not as wholesome or palatable as that of others, their 
opinions with regard to this tradition were strengthened ; 
and, beginning by giving up what they found was dele- 
terious to their health, they finally persuaded themselves 
that they could not even touch the unclean thing without 
being defiled. 

These ideas about defilement were common to several 
other ancient nations. They, like the Hindus, had recourse 
to water and fire as means of purification. They also had 
their sacred rivers. At the time when the Hindus began 
to regard the waters of the Ganges, the Indus, and Godavari 
as peculiarly sacred, and to attribute to them those cleansing 
properties which could purify both soul and body, the in- 
habitants of Colchis and other peoples living near the 
Phasis credited the waters of that river with the same 
virtues, while those of the Nile were considered equally 
efficacious amongst the Egyptians. 

Cleanliness is a most important factor in preserving 
public health. The luxury of clothes in those primitive 
times was reduced to just what was necessary to cover the 
body, or to protect it from atmospheric changes ; and 
garments were rarely changed. The habits of the people 
therefore naturally tended to counteract the unhealthy 
consequences which would ensue from their prolonged use, 
by the frequent washing of these garments in pure water. 

Everything in nature had deteriorated after the Flood. 
There were many more diseases, and in searching for the 
causes of them people thought that the unwholesome 
nature of certain kinds of food might be partly answer- 
able for it. Therefore the use of such food was forbidden. 
They also realized that some of these diseases were con- 
tagious ; therefore the persons who were attacked by them 
were isolated. The science of medicine was at that time 
in its infancy, but it was soon seen that the greater number 
of these maladies were caused by the unhealthy condition 
or poverty of the blood, owing to excessive perspiration ; 
and the salutary effects of a bath being fully recognized, 
a bath was finally considered as a sovereign remedy for all 


Men were at length obliged to disperse in different 
directions, and gradually peopled the various countries 
of the globe. India, being close to the plains of Sennaar 
and enjoying a good climate and a fertile soil, was doubtless 
one of the first countries thus inhabited. The very high 
temperature made those in authority feel that here, even 
more than in the country they had left, the rules of abstin- 
ence from certain meats, and attention to personal clean- 
liness, must be strictly enforced under pain of severe 

In all probability, therefore, these Hindu notions about 
defilement and purification originated at some date anterior 
to the Flood, and after being handed down from genera- 
tion to generation, undergoing various alterations and 
modifications either from superstition, the whim of some 
important person, or from motives of expediency to suit 
purely local conditions, they at length crystallized them- 
selves into their present form, and still continue to have the 
strongest hold on the people. 

Though the Hindus are fairly tolerant so far as the actual 
dogmas of their religion are concerned, they do not allow 
the smallest divergence of opinion on the subject referred 
to in the present chapter. If Europeans living in India, 
simply for the good of their health, would or could con- 
descend so far as to make their mode of life conform to that 
of the higher classes of natives, at any rate in all essential 
matters, how much more cordial and friendly the relations 
between the two peoples would be ! When I was travelling 
in districts where Europeans were as yet but little known 
I generally met with an agreeable welcome. Indeed, some- 
times I was received with the most generous hospitality. 
Brahmins themselves have not disdained to offer me shelter 
in their own houses on seeing my long beard and my native 
costume l . I must own, however, that my attendants took 
care that people should be favourably disposed towards me 
by publishing abroad that though I was a European priest, 

1 The influence thus acquired by the Abbe is testified to by Colonel 
Wilks, thus : ' Of the respect which his irreproachable conduct inspires, 
it may be sufficient to state that when travelling, on his approach to 
a village the house of a Brahmin is uniformly cleared for his reception 
without interference, and generally without communication to the officers 
of government. a> a spontaneous mark of deference and respect.* — El>. 

H 3 


a Feringhi guru, I was also the priest of all those castes of 
natives who had embraced the religion of Sarveswara \ 
that I adhered strictly to all the Brahmin rules, made 
frequent ablutions, just as they did, abstained from meat 
and all intoxicating drinks, &c, &c. 

These last assertions were pure falsehoods, which, on my 
honour, I had never sanctioned ; but all the same they 
were made and repeated unknown to me, whenever my 
followers thought it to their interest or mine. Neverthe- 
less, in spite of the greatest attention and circumspection 
on my part to avoid giving offence to my hosts, I occasion- 
ally found myself involved in a difficulty without its being 
in the least my fault. Here is a curious case in point. 
Travelling in South Mysore, I arrived one evening at 
a village where I was obliged to pass the night. As there 
was no public lodging in the place, my people asked the 
village headman to provide some shelter. The headman 
was a Brahmin, and at first made some difficulties ; but to 
gain his help my people told the usual falsehoods about 
myself. The Brahmin, before making any promise, came 
to the place where I was waiting, and after gazing at me 
from head to foot silently and attentively, asked me simply 
if I was accompanied by any Pariahs or dogs (for these 
both occupied the same level in his opinion). I told him 
that I allowed neither Pariahs nor dogs near me, and that 
all my followers were men of good caste. After a few 
moments' reflection, during which he fixed his eyes with 
evident predilection on my beard and my native costume, 
he said to me : ' You are a European, but out of respect 
for your dignity as guru, and in consideration of what your 
people tell me with regard to your strict conformity to the 
customs of the country, I will give you lodging in my own 
house. Take off your shoes and follow me.' I entered 
his house with my followers, and installed myself in a tidy 
part of the house which he assigned to me. Shortly after- 
wards my host, hearing me cough, ran to me in great 
haste, and with a very serious air expressed the hope 

1 A word which Native Christians employ to express God. It means 
literally, ' the Ruler of all things ' (the Lord of all). Protestant mis- 
sionaries have objected to the use of the word, because it is one of the 
titles of the god Siva. — Dubois. 


that I would not defile the house by spitting in it. I did 
my best to calm his fears, assuring him that he had no 
reason to fear my transgressing any of the strict rules of 
Hindu custom. Despite my assurances, however, I noticed 
that he charged one of his sons to keep watch over me. 
Another spy was charged with observing the conduct of 
my servants. At sundown one of these latter left the 
village to answer a call of nature. Hardly had he returned 
when the person watching my servants, having seen him 
in the distance, ran to tell his master that his house had 
been polluted, that he had admitted into it people of low 
habits, for had he not seen with his own eyes one of my 
servants return from answering a call of nature without 
having washed himself and enter the house in this horrible 
state of defilement 1 On this my host rose in great wrath, 
and with gestures and looks of anger repeated to me what 
he had been told, ending by exclaiming : ' Is any sin equal 
to this ! Behold the kind of gratitude which I ought to 
have foreseen in offering you hospitality. I had a pre- 
sentiment that my good- nature would bring me trouble. 
To do such a thing without washing afterwards ! What 
a crime ! What a scandal ! What an infamy ! What 
shame for my house ! . . . You must punish severely the 
low person who has so horribly defiled my house. You 
shall pay me all the cost of purification ! And depart, 
quit my house at once ! ' 

I let him vent his choler without interrupting him, and 
when he had ceased I answered him calmly that, if his 
complaints were well founded, reparation should be made 
him. But first of all he must prove that the offence had 
really been committed. My servant denied it strenuously, 
and indignantly demanded on his own part that his accuser 
should be punished. He had, he asserted, simply stooped 
down to answer a call of nature different from that alleged. 
His accuser nevertheless stuck to his assertion with horrible 
oaths. The Brahmin, believing him rather than my ser- 
vant, insisted on my leaving the house. Thereupon, in 
a firm tone, I declared that I would neither punish my 
servant nor pay compensation for an injury which had not 
been proved. As to the order which he had given that 
I should leave his house, it was, I told him, an unreason- 


able violation of the laws of hospitality. 1 was ready to 
obey it, seeing that he was master of his own house, but he 
was also headman of the village, and he was therefore 
bound to find me another lodging for the night. 

The Brahmin went out repeating his complaints for the 
hundredth time. Shortly afterwards he returned with a 
number of the villagers, who were even louder than him- 
self in their protestations. They demanded that my servant 
should be delivered up to them for severe punishment, and 
that I should pay compensation, repeatedly exclaiming : 
' What shame ! What wickedness ! Wliat abomination ! ' 

My servant, fearing the consequences that might ensue, 
racked his brains for some way of proving his innocence. 
At last he found one which would have been conclusive 
before less prejudiced judges. ' If I am guilty of what 
you say,' he exclaimed, ' let two of you come away with 
me and examine my person.' The Brahmin, anxious to 
prove him guilty, refused on unreasonable grounds to sanc- 
tion such an unanswerable argument. Finally, after a long 
and useless discussion, we decided to adjourn the dispute 
until the morning. I left the Brahmin's house, and went 
and lodged, together with my people, in a cowshed outside 
the village, in which I was allowed as a great favour to 
pass the night. My people, even more alarmed than 
myself, left the cowshed to see what was happening in 
the village, and came and reported to me that a great 
disturbance was taking place : that everybody was talking 
about the incident ; that everywhere punishment and com- 
pensation were demanded, and that if we stayed there until 
the morning my servant would run the risk of being severely 
beaten. To save myself such a vexation I was quite ready 
to sacrifice a few rupees, though I would never have con- 
sented to have my poor servant exposed to maltreatment 
for such an offence, whether guilty or not. Consequently 
I thought the most prudent thing to do was to flee. At 
one o'clock at night, when the cowherd was sleeping peace- 
fully in a corner of the shed, we left quietly. I mounted 
my horse and we decamped in all haste. Before sunrise 
we had passed the borders of the district where this un- 
fortunate occurrence took place, and were therefore out 
of danger. 



Marriage amongst Brahmins and other Hindus.— Celibacy. — Those who 
may remain unmarried.— Polygamy tolerated only amongst the 
Upper Classes.— The two Sexes nearly equal in numbers.— Indis- 
solubility of the Marriage Tie.— How Marriages are arranged.— 
Preparatory Ceremonies. — Solemn Ceremonies for the first and 
following Days. — Marriage amongst Sudras. — Marriage amongst 
Kshatriyas.— Duties after Marriage. 

To a Hindu marriage is the most important and most 
engrossing event of his life ; it is a subject of endless 
conversation and of the most prolonged preparations. An 
unmarried man is looked upon as having no social status 
and as being an almost useless member of society. He is 
not consulted on any important subject, and no work of 
any consequence may be given to him. A Hindu who 
becomes a widower finds himself in almost the same position 
as a bachelor, and speedily remarries. 

Though marriage is considered the natural state for the 
generality of men, those who from pious motives remain 
unmarried are looked up to and treated with the utmost 
respect. But it is only those persons who have renounced 
the world, and have chosen to lead a life of contemplation, 
who can take vows of celibacy. In any other case marriage 
is the rule, and every one is under the obligation of dis- 
charging the great debt to his ancestors, namely, that of 
begetting a son \ No doubt it will be asked whether the 
Hindu devotees who take vows of celibacy do really remain 
as chaste as they are supposed to be. I should say without 
hesitation, No. Many have concubines under various pre- 
texts, and many give themselves up in secret to vices 
which would disgust the most shameless libertine. Amongst 
this latter class are the greater number of the gurus and 
sannyasis, who wander about the country and live on the 
credulity of the public. Others shut themselves up in 
seclusion and lead idle and easy-going lives, their sole 
occupation being to receive the abundant offerings flowing 
in from the ignorant and foolish who believe in the false 

1 The Sanskrit word for son, putra, means literally, ' one who saves 
from put or hell ' — the hell into which parents without sons fall. — Ed. 


reputation for holiness which such people have acquired. 
But persons of sense are not taken in by their hypocrisy, 
and it is fairly notorious that these knaves, in the seclusion 
of their retreats, give themselves up to the grossest im- 

It must not be supposed, however, that I am accusing 
all unmarried Hindus without exception of leading dissolute 
lives. On the contrary, I have been credibly informed by 
those whose word may be relied on, and who know what 
they are talking about, that some few may be found who 
deny themselves all intercourse with women ; but, on the 
other hand, one is led to believe that they allow themselves 
other infamous pleasures of such an abominable character 
that delicacy forbids one to accept the accusation except 
under strong proof ; so I prefer to think that there are a 
few unmarried Hindus who are able to resist all sensual 

And why, after all, should one refuse to believe that 
some of these sannyasis or penitents are able to exercise 
such self-control, however difficult it may be to subdue 
one's passions in a country where the warm climate and 
the corrupt state of morality continually serve to arouse 
them ' ? Do not these men, either from ostentation or 
from fanaticism, subject their bodies to the most cruel 
ordeals ? And the harsh, self-inflicted tapasas, or penances, 
do they not prove, as far as one can see, their wish and 
intention to subdue their sinful lusts ? All the same, in 
spite of their hypocritical affectations of piety, the greater 
number of these sannyasis are looked upon as utter im- 
postors, and that by the most enlightened of their fellow- 

But this privilege which men possess of remaining single, 
and giving themselves up to a life of contemplation, is not 
shared by women, They at all events cannot, under any 
circumstances, take vows of celibacy. Subjected on all 

1 Montesquieu says that our natural human tendency is to prefer in 
the cause of religion anything that presupposes effort. So in the matter 
of morality, we incline theoretically to anything that bears the impress 
of asceticism. Celibacy, for instance, has taken the greatest hold on 
those to whom it seems most unsuited, and on whom it might have the 
most disastrous results (Esprit des Lois, xxv. 4). — Abbe Dubois. 


sides to the moral ascendency of man, the very idea that 
they could possibly place themselves in a state of indepen- 
dence and out of men's power is not allowed to cross their 
minds. The opinion is firmly established throughout the 
whole of India, that women were only created for the 
propagation of the species, and to satisfy men's desires. 
All women therefore are obliged to marry, and marriages 
are carefully arranged before they arrive at a marriage- 
able age. If by that time they have not found a husband, 
they very rarely keep their innocence much longer. Ex- 
perience has taught that young Hindu women do not 
possess sufficient firmness, and sufficient regard for their 
own honour, to resist the ardent solicitations of a seducer. 
Therefore measures cannot be taken too early to place them 
intact in their husbands' hands. Those who are unable 
to enter into any lawful union form a connexion as con- 
cubines with any man who cares to receive them as such. 

Polygamy is tolerated amongst persons of high rank, 
such as rajahs, princes, statesmen, and others. Kings are 
allowed five legitimate wives, but never more. None the 
less this plurality of wives amongst the great is looked 
upon as an infraction of law and custom, in fact, as an 
abuse. But in every country in the world those in power 
have always been able to twist the law in their own favour, 
however definitely it may be laid down. The principal 
Hindu gods had only one wife. Brahma had only Saras- 
vati ; Vishnu, Lakshmi ; and Siva, Parvati. It is quite 
true that under their different forms these venerable per- 
sonages committed frequent breaches of their marriage 
vow ; but this only serves to prove that from the earliest 
times marriage was looked upon by the Hindus as a legal 
union between two persons of opposite sexes. 

If in the present day any person of inferior rank cohabits 
with several women, one only of them bears the name and 
title of wife; the others are merely concubines. In several 
castes the children of the latter are illegitimate, and if the 
father dies without having previously settled some of his 
property upon them, they have no share when it comes to 
be divided. I only know of one case in which a man can 
legally marry a second wife, his first being still alive ; 
and that is when, after he has lived for a long time witli 


his wife, she is certified to be barren, or if she has only 
borne female children ; for in the latter case the debt to 
one's ancestors — that is to say, the birth of a son — is con- 
sidered to have been imperfectly paid. But even in this 
case, before a man contracts a second marriage it is neces- 
sary that he should obtain the consent of the first ; and 
she is always regarded as the chief wife and retains all her 

It may be remembered that for the same reason Abraham 
took Hagar to be his wife during the lifetime and with the 
consent of Sarah, his lawful wife. One may also remember 
what dissensions arose in the family of the holy patriarch 
as the result of this marriage with two women. It is 
exactly the same in Hindu families where there are two 
legal wives. Consequently the majority of Hindu husbands 
prefer, under such circumstances, to give up the hope of 
having a son, rather than be subjected to the numberless 
troubles which are the invariable result of the remedy 
permitted by law. 

Some modern writers have hazarded the theory that in 
hot countries the number of women greatly exceeds that of 
men. It is Bruce, I think, who first advanced this opinion 
in his account of his travels in Arabia and Abyssinia. 
Even before my own experience had led me to a totally 
different conclusion on this point, it had always appeared to 
me that his deductions were wrong, or at any rate doubtful. 
If my memory does not deceive me, this author tried to 
prove the numerical excess of the female sex from the fact 
that in the families of some Arab princes, amongst a large 
number of children hardly one-sixth were males ; and from 
this particular instance he drew a general conclusion. It 
is evident that the calculation is fundamentally wrong. 
To obtain a sound basis on which to found such a conclu- 
sion, a census must be taken of a large number of families 
of all classes, and upon that alone can such a rule of pro- 
portion be drawn. The proportion of births in the harems 
of a few Eastern princes, with many wives, cannot furnish 
any standard from which to determine what takes place 
amongst the people themselves, where conjugal union is 
restricted to what it ought to be according to the laws of 
healthy morality and true civilization. 


Some sceptics, however, turning this pretended discovery 
of Bruce to account, have drawn from it what they consider 
an incontrovertible argument to prove that religion is 
merely a question of geography, and that Christianity 
cannot be suitable for all countries and all nations ; for 
marriage being the natural state of all human beings, 
a religion that forbids polygamy would in hot countries 
reduce more than half of one sex to a state of enforced 
celibacy. But supposing the hypothesis on which this 
objection to the universality of Christianity is based to 
be as true as I believe it to be false, it seems to me that 
it would prove the existence of little or nothing contrary 
to Divine Providence, who in giving us the inestimable 
benefit of divine revelation, as manifested by the teaching 
of an Incarnate God, appears to have designed that this 
precious gift of Christianity should be shared by all the 
inhabitants of the terrestrial globe. It seems to me that, 
for this objection to have any weight, it is necessary to 
prove that amongst the whole of the human race, taken 
collectively, there is a much larger number of the female 
than of the male sex ; for it is upon the whole human race, 
taken collectively, that the Creator looks as on one large 
family. In each individual member of this family He sees 
only the being created in His own image, without dis- 
tinction of country, colour, language, or bodily form ; and 
His intention was that all men should form one common 
brotherhood, united by all the ties of a common nature 
and common origin. 

At the same time I have reason to believe, from my 
own personal observation, that the view is utterly wrong 
which holds that in hot climates the number of women far 
exceeds that of the men. For many years I exercised my 
religious calling in many parts of the Indian Peninsula, and 
I paid particular attention to the point in question. From 
exact registers which I kept of all baptisms, it may be seen 
that I yearly administered this sacrament to two or three 
hundred children of all castes ; and I have been able to 
prove that during any single year the preponderance in 
births of one sex over the other never exceeded fifteen to 
twenty-five, and that it was sometimes one and sometimes 
the other sex which predominated within these narrow 


limits. These registers, which extended over a period of 
more than twenty-five years, are no longer within my 
reach ; but I am convinced that out of perhaps G,000 
children baptized by me, one sex did not outnumber the 
other by more than 200. Another convincing proof that 
the proportion of the two sexes is about equal in India, is 
furnished by the Brahmins, who can only have one legiti- 
mate wife, and for whom marriage is obligatory. One 
hardly ever meets with a woman who is not, or has not 
been, married. Blind, dumb, deaf, or lame, all find hus- 
bands amongst poor Brahmins, whose low fortunes do not 
allow them to aspire to an alliance with any more attractive 

It may, it is true, be retorted that amongst Brahmins 
a widow cannot remarry, whereas a widower may at once 
take to himself another wife. The consequence is, it may 
be urged, that the women of this caste must be more 
numerous than the men. But I reply that the age at which 
the two sexes marry compensates for this difference. Girls 
are married when seven or even five years old, whilst boys 
wait till they are sixteen, twenty, or even older. I am 
therefore decidedly of opinion that in hot as well as in 
temperate climates the births of the two sexes are nearly 
equal ; and that polygamy is opposed to all laws, both 
natural and divine 1 . 

This unnatural custom of polygamy, which finds a place 
amongst some nations, may be attributed to sinful lust, 
to abuse of the power of the strong over the weak, and to 
the dominion of the one sex over the other. It is evidently 
altogether contrary to the intention of the Creator, who, 
when He created the father of mankind, gave him only 

1 According to the Census Report of 1891, to every 1,000 males there 
are returned only 958 females ; and the tables show that there are in 
the country fewer females than males to the number of, speaking roundly, 
6} millions. The deficiency is greatest in the Punjab, N.W. Provinces, 
and Rajputana. In Bengal, Madras, and Upper Burma, however, 
females are in excess to the extent of something under three-quarters 
of a million. The conclusion arrived at with regard to the deficiency of 
females is that it is to a large extent due to deliberate concealment and 
deliberate omission from the Census returns. But the Report remarks : 
' The subject of sex is a very intricate one, and the more one studies it 
the less inclined is a cautious statist to adopt any single explanation.' 
The Report examines the whole question at considerable length. — Ed. 


one woman to wife, and indeed ordained that man and his 
one companion should form but one flesh \ 

A celebrated statesman of the last century (Burke), 
speaking on this subject from a political point of view, said 
that the Christian religion, by bringing marriage back to 
its primitive and only legitimate state, had contributed 
more by that alone to the general peace, happiness, stability, 
and civilization of the human race, than it would have been 
possible for it to do in any other department of divine 

The indissolubility of the marriage tie is also an essential 
principle which it seems to me is not less firmly established 
amongst the Hindus than that which limits this important 
act to the legal union of one man with one woman. A 
Hindu can only put away his legitimate wife for one cause, 
and that is adultery. If this rule is violated, it is only 
among the most degraded of the lower castes. A marriage 
can also be annulled if it has been contracted in violation 
of the prohibitory degrees which are laid down by custom, 
and which of themselves are sufficient to nullify the union. 

I have never yet heard of a divorce being permitted on 
account of incompatibility of temper, nor have I ever 
heard of a man being allowed to put away his wife, how- 
ever vicious she might be, simply in order to marry another 
woman. Hindus, as I shall presently show, put too serious 
a value on this solemn contract to allow it to be thus 
degraded to a state which would be nothing more or less 
than concubinage. A Hindu, and especially a Brahmin, 
would hardly be inclined to repudiate his wife even for 
adultery, unless her guilt were very notorious. As a general 
rule, when the wife of a Brahmin gives occasion, by in- 
judicious behaviour, for remarks of a kind damaging to 
her character, her friends and relatives do their utmost 
to excuse her conduct and to hush up all scandal about 
her, so as to avoid the necessity of such an extreme measure 
as a divorce, the disgrace of which would reflect on the 
whole caste. 

I will now give a detailed account of the principal cere- 
monies which take place both before and at the time of 
a wedding. 

1 Genesis ii. 24. 


A young Brahmin should, ordinarily speaking, be married 
when he is about sixteen years of age, but the ceremony is 
often postponed till he is older than this. The wife chosen 
for him is generally five, seven, or at the utmost nine 
years old \ 

This custom of marrying girls in their early childhood, 
and as soon as possible, though common to all castes, is 
most strictly observed by the Brahmins. When once a 
girl has passed the marriageable age, it is very difficult 
for her to find a husband. In this caste there is often an 
enormous difference in age between the husband and the 
wife. It is no uncommon thing to see an old man of sixty 
or more, having lost his first wife, marry for the second 
time a little child five or six years old, and even prefer 
her to girls of mature age. What is the result of this ? 
The husband generally dies long before his wife, and often 
even before she has attained the age which would allow 
him to exercise his rights as a husband. So the poor girl 
becomes a widow before she has even become a wife, and 
as by the custom of her caste she may not marry again, 
she is oftentimes tempted to lead a dissolute life, thereby 
reflecting discredit on the whole caste. Everybody recog- 
nizes these abuses, but the idea of remedying them, by 
allowing a young widow to break through the stern rule 
of custom and marry again, would never even enter the 
head of a Hindu, more especially of a Brahmin 2 . It is 
true that the strange preference which Brahmins have for 
children of very tender years would make such a permis- 
sion almost nominal in the case of their widows 3 . 

1 The Jews also married their children at an early age. A youth 
who was not married before he was eighteen was considered by them 
to be sinning against the command of the Creator, which says : ' In- 
crease and multiply.' He was free to marry as soon as he had attained 
the age of thirteen. Their daughters were betrothed in childhood, and 
were married as soon as they had arrived at a suitable age, which was 
usually fixed by them at twelve. — Dubois. 

- Hindu social reformers are now agitating for virgin-widow re- 
marriages, and in a few instances such marriages have been brought 
about. — Ed. 

3 Amongst the Jews it was permissible for widows to marry again ; but 
those who voluntarily, out of respect and affection for their dead husbands, 
refrained from marrying again, were looked up to with very great respect. 
— Dubois. 


The expenses of a wedding are so considerable that in 
all castes one often sees young men, who are without the 
necessary means, using the same expedient to procure a 
wife that Jacob employed with Laban. Just like the holy 
patriarch a Hindu without means will enter the service of 
one of his relations, or of some other person of the same 
caste who has daughters to marry, and will engage himself 
to serve for a certain number of years without wage, on 
condition that, at the end of that time, he is to receive 
one of the daughters in marriage. When the time agreed 
upon has expired the father fulfils his promise, undertakes 
the whole expense of the marriage, and then allows the 
young couple to go away and live where they please. At 
their departure he gives them a cow, a pair of oxen, two 
copper vessels (one for drinking, the other for their food), 
and enough rice to feed them for the first year of their 
married life. It is very remarkable that in India the term 
which a man has to serve for his wife is the same as that 
for which Jacob bound himself to Laban, namely seven 
years (Genesis xxix. 20) 1 . 

The inclinations of the persons about to be married are 
never consulted. In fact, it would be ridiculous to do so 
amongst the Brahmins, seeing the age at which they marry 
their daughters. But even the Sudras, who often do not 
marry their, daughters until they have attained full age, 
would never dream of consulting the tastes and feelings of 
their children under these circumstances. The choice is 
left entirely to the parents. That which chiefly con- 
cerns the young man's family is the purity of the caste 
of his future wife. Beauty and personal attractions of 
any kind count for nothing in their eyes. The girl's 
parents look more particularly to the fortune of their 
future son-in-law, and to the character of his mother, who 
after the marriage becomes the absolute mistress of the 
young wife 2 . 

The same months are chosen for a wedding as are selected 
for the ceremony of the uyanayana, that is to say, the 

1 No such custom exists now. — Ed. 

2 A Sanskrit verse, commonly quoted, says : ' The girl courts beauty ; 
the mother, riches ; the father, knowledge ; relatives, good lineage ; 
other people, sumptuous marriage-feasts.' — Ed. 


months of March, April, May, and June, and especially the 
two last l . 

However, it is possible in a case of urgency for a marriage 
to take place in November or February. But in both 
these months there are so many precautions to be observed, 
so many calculations to be made according to the signs of 
the Zodiac, the phase of the moon, and other ridiculous 
follies, that it is far from easy to find a day on which all 
the auspices are propitious. 

There are four different ways of arranging the prelimi- 
naries of a marriage. The first, the most honoured and 
respected of all, is for the father of the bride not only to 
refuse to receive the sum of money to which he is entitled 
from the young man's parents, but to undertake to bear 
all the expenses of the ceremony, to purchase all the jewels 
and other ornaments which it is customary to give a girl 
on this occasion, and also to make handsome presents to 
the son-in-law and his parents. But this can only be done 
by the rich and people of high position. 

The second way is for the parents of both the contract- 
ing parties to agree to share all the expenses. The third 
method is that usually adopted by people of all castes who 
are not rich. The parents of the girl insist not only on the 
youth's parents bearing all the expenses of the wedding 
and of the jewels, but they also exact payment of a sum 
of money in return for their daughter, the amount of which 
is laid down by caste custom. This method is the commonest 
of all ; for to marry and to buy a wife are synonymous 
expressions in India. Most parents make a regular traffic 
of their daughters. The wife is never given up to her 
husband until he has paid the whole of the sum agreed 
upon 2 . This custom is an endless source of quarrels and 

1 It is probable that the original reason why the Hindus selected these 
four months as the most auspicious for marriages, is that during these 
months all agricultural work is either finished or suspended on account 
of the great heat,and also because thecrops, which have just been gathered 
in, help to defray the expenses of the wedding. — Dubois. 

2 It was the custom also among the Jews for the husband to give the 
wife her dower. Genesis xxxiv. 8, 9, &c, xxxi. 15 ; 1 Samuel xviii. 2o ; 
liusea iii. 2. — Dubois. 

This is not true in the majority of instances, though there may be 
extreme cases of the kind. The following words were uttered recently 


disputes. If a poor man, after the marriage has taken 
place, cannot pay the stipulated amount, his father-in-law 
sues him for it, and takes his daughter away hoping that 
the desire to have her back again will induce the man to 
find the money. Sometimes this succeeds, but it pretty 
often happens that the son-in-law, being always unable to 
pay the debt, leaves his wife for years as a pledge with his 
father-in-law, and at last the latter, convinced that by this 
means he will get nothing, and fearing lest his daughter 
should succumb to the temptations to which her youth 
exposes her, withdraws his demands. A compromise is 
effected and the husband at length regains his wife l . 

The fourth method, to which none but the very poorest 
have recourse, is very mortifying to the girl's parents, for 
they go themselves and hand her over to the tender mercies 
of the young man's parents, leaving it to them to do what 
they will with her, to marry her when and how they like, 
to spend as little or as much as they choose on the wedding, 
and begging them at the same time to pay them something 
for their daughter. 

As soon as the parents have discovered a suitable girl, 
and have ascertained if the family are likely to assent, 
they choose a day when all the auguries are favourable, 
and go to formally ask for her. They provide themselves 
with a new cloth, such as is worn by women, a cocoanut, 

by one of the speakers at an annual conference of the Kistna District 
Association : ' Gentlemen ! The monstrous custom of selling girls needs 
no words of mine to make you try to root it out from our society. I will 
give you one particular case which will show you the advisability of 
taking proper steps to remove the evil. A certain gentleman, in a certain 
village, married his daughter, ten years old, to an old man of eighty-one, 
and received Rs. 2,000 for the bargain. In due course the girl matured, 
and the nuptial ceremony was performed. The girl was sent to her 
hated husband, much against her will. She escaped from the room in 
the dead of night and threw herself into a well. When the old man 
awoke in the morning he missed his young wife, and, on search being 
made, her dead body was found floating in a well. There are several 
instances of this sort. In some cases, if the ill-assorted pair be seen 
together, the bride will appear as a daughter, or even a grand-daughter. 
The young brides become widows even in a week after their marriages. 
These evils are too apparent to me, and I think you will enthusiastically 
carry this resolution.' — Ed. 

1 I do not believe that any Hindu father of respectability would take 
such a step. — Ed. 


five bananas, some vermilion, and some powdered sandal- 
wood. While on the way, they pay great attention to any 
omens that they may notice. If they consider them to be 
unfavourable they retrace their steps, and postpone the 
business till another day. Thus, for instance, if a snake 
cross their path, or a cat, or a jackal, or if they should 
happen to see anything that is regarded as an evil omen ', 
they decide that the best thing to do is to return to their 

If nothing of this sort has disturbed them on the way, 
they present themselves at the house of the girl's parents 
and make known the object of their visit. The latter, 
before giving any answer, look steadfastly towards the 
south, and wait till one of those little lizards which one 
sees running about the walls of a house has uttered a certain 
sharp cry, such as these reptiles often make. Then when 
the Lizard of the South has spoken, the parents of the girl 
give their consent to the marriage, and accept the present 
which has been brought by the other parties. 

In the evening of the same day, about dusk, they call 
together a few relatives and friends, and summon a purohita 
in order to consult him about the marriage. Whilst the 
men, seated on mats or carpets, are talking together, the 
women purify a part of the house ; that is to say, they 
rub the floor well with cow-dung mixed with water, and 
then draw lines of red and white upon it. As soon as they 
have finished, they bring in the god Vigneshwara, to whom 
they do puja, and for neiveddya they offer peas, sugar, 
a cocoanut, and a sweet beverage called paramanna. All 
present w r orship this god, and pray him to remove any 
obstacles which might interfere with the projected marriage. 
If during this ceremony the Lizard of the South again utters 
his cry they think it a favourable omen. 

After this ceremony, the purohita fixes on a lucky day 
on w r hich to begin to celebrate the marriage. The parents 

1 All Hindus are full of these superstitions. No matter how important 
the business may be that they are about to undertake, they will never 
hesitate for a moment to put it off, if they catch sight of one of these 
objects or one of these animals. I have several times seen labourers 
take their oxen back to their sheds, and remain idle all day, simply 
because when leaving the village in the morning, a snake had crossed 
their path. — Dubois. 


of the girl then definitely give their permission, and in 
token of their promise they offer betel to all those who are 
present. These preliminaries ended, they begin to think 
of making preparations for the wedding. Gold and silver 
ornaments are ordered for the couple, and form the subject 
of endless discussion. The wedding garments are also got 
ready, a large number of cloths, such as are worn by both 
men and women, are bought to be given away as presents 
to relations and friends, a large store is laid in of rice, 
wheat flour, liquefied butter, oil of sesamum, peas of all 
kinds, dried and fresh vegetables \ fruits, groceries, pickles, 
and in fact every sort of edible that a Brahmin is permitted 
to use. They also provide saffron, or turmeric, vermilion, 
antimony, sandalwood powder, incense, quantities of flowers, 
akshatas, or coloured rice, betel, areca-nut, &c, &c. ; also 
a great quantity of small silver and copper coins. Further, 
they buy new baskets, and above all, plenty of new earthen 
vessels of all shapes and kinds ; for these vessels may 
never be used a second time, and are immediately broken 
after being once used, no matter to what purpose they 
have been put. 

When everything is ready, they begin to put up a pandal 
or canopy. The god Vigneshwara is carried into it, and 
to him they do puja, entreating him to ward off any hind- 
rance or misfortune which might happen during the celebra- 
tion of the marriage. 

The purohita who presides at the ceremony must be one 
of the first to take up his place under the pandal ; he 
must be provided with some darbha grass, small pieces of 
wood from the seven sacred trees, and a few other indis- 
pensable objects for the sacrifices he is about to offer up. 

In the first place, due honour is paid to the household 
gods. To this end all the Brahmins present, both men 
and women, anoint their heads with oil of sesamum, and 
then bathe. The women, after preparing the various 
dishes for the feast, take a portion from each, which they 

1 Amongst the many kinds of vegetables which Brahmins cat, there 
are three which are considered particularly choice ; these are a species 
of small round pea, the katri kai (the bdingela of the Portuguese, a sort 
of brinjal or egg-plant), and pumpkins. Among fruits they also have 
a preference for three — bananas, mangoes, and jack-fruit. — DUBOIS. 


place on a metal dish, and proceed, singing songs and accom- 
panied by all the guests, to offer it as neiveddya to these 
gods, having first, of course, done puja to them. They 
even go so far as to place to the right of them pickles, to 
give a relish to their rice, while on their left they place 
a cup full of the sweet drink called paramanna, with which 
to quench their thirst. The master of the house then 
performs the sam-kalpa and offers sandalwood, akshatas, 
flowers, and lustral water to his guests, who ought, when 
receiving all this, to think of the household gods, in whose 
honour the feast immediately following is spread, great 
pains having been taken to make it bountiful and magnifi- 
cent. Betel is distributed at the termination of the repast, 
after which the guests disperse. 

The second day, nine Brahmins specially chosen for the 
purpose perform the sacrifice of homam and another to 
fire, in honour of the nine planets, as at the ceremony of 
the upanayana. Two women take the consecrated fire 
and carry it, singing the while, to the centre of the pandal, 
placing it on the raised dais of earth. Each of the women 
then receives a present of a new cloth, and a little bodice 
called ravikai. All present then walk round the brazier of 
hot coal reciting mantrams, scattering darbha grass and 
bowing to the ground. Presents are given to the nine 
Brahmins who have sacrificed to the planets, and, as usual, 
the meeting ends with a feast. 

The third day the father of the bridegroom, having made 
his ablutions, takes some akshatas in a cup, and goes out 
early to call together relatives and friends. As soon as all 
are assembled under the pandal, a pure cloth or carpet is 
spread on the raised earthen dais, and the future husband 
and wife are seated thereon facing the east. The married 
women then approach them and rub their heads with oil, 
singing the while, and then proceed with the important 
ceremony known as nalangu, which consists in smearing 
the naked parts of their bodies with powdered saffron, and 
immediately after pouring a great quantity of warm water 
over their heads \ The women never cease singing the 

1 Xalangu is not a religious ceremony. The powdered saffron is mixed 
with quicklime, and made into a paste which is red in colour. It is 
rubbed only on the feet. — Ed. 


whole time, and are accompanied by musical instruments. 
After the nalangu is over the women array the young couple 
in new clothes, as has already been described in the chapter 
on the upanayana. The evening of the same day, at the 
moment when the lamps are being lighted, the guests 
return to assist at the following ceremony : — The married 
women, singing all the time, take a wooden cylinder which 
they cover with lime and then paint with red longitudinal 
stripes. On this they tie small twigs of the mango-tree. 
They next sprinkle a great quantity of powdered saffron 
over the cylinder, which they immediately afterwards dip 
into a new earthen vessel. This they carry with much 
solemnity, singing the while, to the centre of the pandal, 
where they offer it a sacrifice of incense, and offer 
some betel for neiveddya. Every person present makes 
a profound obeisance to the vessel. No other saffron 
but what is thus consecrated is used during the whole 

All these proceedings are merely preparatory to the 
marriage ceremony itself, which lasts for five days. 

The first day is called muhurta, that is to say, the great 
day, or the happy and auspicious day. It is on this day 
that the most important and solemn ceremonies take place. 
The head of the family goes out early to invite his guests, 
while the women busy themselves with purifying the house 
and the pandal, which they decorate all round with wreaths 
of mango leaves. The guests having arrived stand in a row, 
and first adorn their foreheads with akshatas and sandal- 
wood. They next anoint their heads with the oil of sesa- 
mum which is provided for them, and then they go and 
perform their ablutions. On their return the purohita per- 
forms the sam-kalpa and invokes all their gods, beginning 
with Brahmaj "Vishnu, Rudra, Devendra, and then the 
twelve Adityas, the eight Vasus, the nine Brahmas, the 
eleven Rudras, the Gandharvas, the Siddhas, the Saddhyas, 
the Naradas, the seven great Penitents, the nine planets ; 
in fact, every deity whose name occurs" to his memory. 
With low obeisance he invites them all to come to the 
marriage-feast, makes many flattering speeches to them, 
and begs them to remain under the pandal, and to preside 
over the ceremony during the five days that it lasts. 


Then conies the invocation of ancestors. The couple 
about to be married are seated on the earthen dais in the 
centre of the pandal, having on each side of them their 
fathers and mothers, all with their faces turned towards 
the east. The father of the bride rises, places the pavitram 
amulet on the ring-finger of his right hand, performs 
the sam-kalpa, and puts a certain quantity of rice in a 
metal dish, and on this rice a cocoanut dyed yellow, three 
areca-nuts in their shells, and five others without their 
shells 1 . 

Then, taking one of the nuts in one hand and the metal 
dish in the other, he repeats three times in a loud voice 
the names of his father, his grandfather, and his great- 
grandfather. Each time he pronounces their names he 
raps the copper dish three times with the areca-nut, and 
at last, again invoking them by name, he says : ' O my 
ancestors, you who dwell in the pitraloka (or paradise of 
ancestors), deign to come to this pandal, bringing with you 
all the other ancestors who preceded you. Be present, 
I beseech you, during the five days of this marriage-feast, 
preside at the festivity, and grant to it a happy termina- 
tion ! ' He then gives the rice, the cocoanut, and the 
areca-nut which were on the dish to the purohita. 

This done, the married women bring some fire on a new 
earthen chafing-dish, and, singing, place it in the centre 
of the pandal. The purohita then consecrates it by scatter- 
ing all round it some darbha grass. To the north of it he 
places some small pieces of the sacred fig-tree, by the side 
of which are placed three small earthen vessels and one of 
copper. The first contains milk, the second liquefied 
butter, the third curds, and the fourth a certain quantity 
of cooked and uncooked rice mixed together. To the 
south of the brazier are spread nine portions of rice on 
a large banana leaf. These are tastefully arranged in 
squares, each portion being destined for one of the nine 
planets. Puja is done to each of these nine planets in- 
dividually, and offerings of bananas and betel are made to 

1 These various objects are an offering which he makes to his ancestors 
when inviting them to the wedding. It is always considered polite to 
offer a present to any distinguished guest whom you invite to any 
ceremony. — Dubois. 


them as neiveddya, after which they receive the same 
invitation as the gods and the ancestors. 

The purohita places on the east side of the brazier another 
banana leaf, on which he spreads darbha grass and akshatas. 
This is an offering to Brahma, to whom is presented a 
neiveddya of raw sugar and betel. Then follows the invoca- 
tion of the ashta-dik-palakas, or the eight divine guardians 
of the eight corners of the world ; and puja is offered them 
on the same banana leaf. Then comes the inauguration 
of the ishta-devata or tutelary deity, and the deification of 
the five little pots in the manner that has already been 
described for the upanayana. 

These ceremonies ended, the father of the girl performs 
the homam in honour of Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra, of 
the eight gods who guard the eight compass-points of the 
world, of the eight Vasus, and of Indra, taking care to 
mention all these gods by name, and also to repeat man- 
trams suitable to the occasion. He again does homam to 
the nine planets, makes a sacrifice to fire, and offers the 
latter some liquefied butter as neiveddya. 

A new earthen chafing-dish is then brought, to which 
they fasten a piece of saffron thread, and on it is placed 
the consecrated fire. Women carry this fire away to a 
place apart, singing, of course, the while. Great care is 
taken not to let the fire go out till the end of the festivity. 
It would be considered a terribly bad omen if, through 
negligence or any other cause, it should be extinguished. 

Now comes the muhurta, that is to say, the most essential 
ceremony of the marriage. To begin with, a sacrifice is 
offered to Vigneshwara. The bride and bridegroom are 
seated on the earthen dais, their faces towards the east, 
and the married women proceed, singing the while, with 
the young people's toilette, which is of the most elegant 
and sumptuous description. When attired the bridegroom 
rises, performs the sam-kalpa, prays to the gods to pardon 
all the sins he has committed since he received the triple 
cord ; and, to be the more sure of this pardon, he recites 
a mantram, and gives fifteen fanams to a Brahmin as alms. 
He then dresses himself up as a pilgrim, and makes all 
preparations as if he were really going to take a long 
journey, announcing that he is going to start on a holy 


pilgrimage to Kasi, that is Benares. He leaves the house 
accompanied by the married women singing in chorus, and 
by his parents and friends, and preceded by instruments of 
music. After passing the outskirts of the village he turns 
his steps to the east. 

But here his future father-in-law meets him, and asks 
him where he is going, and on learning the object of his 
journey, begs him to give it up. He tells him that he has 
a young virgin daughter, and that if he wishes it he will 
give her to him in wedlock. The pilgrim accepts the pro- 
posal with joy, and returns with his escort to the place 
whence he set out. On his return the women perform the 
ceremony of the aratti. 

The bride and bridegroom having again taken their 
places on the dais, and the sam-kalpa having been per- 
formed, they then begin the important ceremony called 
kankana \ For this purpose they obtain two pieces of 
saffron or turmeric, round which they tie a double thread. 
They place on a metal dish two handfuls of rice, and on 
this rice a cocoanut painted yellow, and on the cocoanut 
the two pieces of saffron. Prayers are offered to all the 
gods collectively, who are implored to come and place 
themselves on this kankana, and to remain there till the 
five days of the marriage ceremony have been accomplished. 
The bridegroom then takes one of the pieces of saffron and 
ties it on his wife's left wrist, who in her turn ties the 
other piece on his right wrist. The rice and cocoanut on 
which the kankana has been lying are then given to the 

Then follows the procession of the tutelary deity. The 
mother of the bride, accompanied by the other women 
and the Brahmins who are present, go and fetch the copper 
vase which represents the ishta-devata. The women begin 
to sing and the musicians to play, and forming a procession 
they march to the end of the street, where, after choosing 
a clean spot, they pour out some of the water contained in 
the vase. They do puja to the deity while it rests on the 
ground, and then it is taken back with the same pomp to 
the place whence it came. Then follows the most important 

1 The ceremony is actually called kankana-dharana, that is, the tying 
or wearing of the kankana. — Ed. 


ceremony of all. which is called kania-dana, or ihe gift of 
the virgin. This is what takes place. The bridegroom 
being seated facing the east, his father-in-law performs 
the sam-kalpa, places himself in front of him, and looks at 
him fixedly for some time without speaking. He is sup- 
posed to imagine that he sees in his son-in-law the great 
Vishnu ; and with this in his mind, he offers him a sacrifice 
of arghya, padya, achamania, akshatas, sandalwood, and 
flowers. A new copper vessel is then brought. In this the 
young man places his feet, which his father-in-law washes 
first with water, then with milk, and then again for the 
third time with water, while reciting suitable mantrams. 

He performs the great sam-kalpa, which consists in 
adding to the ordinary sam-kalpa (vide Part I, Chapter XIII) 
the names and attributes of the Bharata Varsha, the Sali- 
vahana, the seven islands, the seven seas, the seven pur as or 
cities, the seven Penitents, the seven mountains, the sacred 
places (punyasthalas), and the holy cities {puny a puras). 

He next thinks of his father, his grandfather, and great- 
grandfather. Pronouncing their names aloud, he prays 
that these and the twenty-one other ancestors who have 
preceded them, may attain moksha (or paradise). Then, 
holding betel in one hand and taking his daughter's hand 
in the other, he says a prayer to Vishnu, begging him to 
look with a gracious eye on this gift that he is making of 
his virgin daughter. He then places her hand in that of 
her future husband, pours a little water over it, and gives 
him some betel, the usual token of a gift. 

The gift of the virgin is followed by three other gifts, 
namely, the go-dana, bhu-dana, and salagrama-dana, which 
mean the gift of cows, the gift of land, and the gift of 
salagramas, or small stones, to which they attach a super- 
stitious value, and which will be spoken of later on. 

Then follows the ceremony called mangalewhta l . The 
bride and bridegroom are seated facing each other, and 
a sheet of silk is suspended in front of them. This is held 
by twelve Brahmins, and hides them from the other guests, 
who successively invoke in a loud voice Vishnu and his 

1 This means ' the eight marriage blessings.' The ceremony concludes 
with the throwing of coloured rice over the couple by way of blessing 
them. — Ed. 


wife Lakshmi, Brahma and Sarasvati, Siva and Parvati, 
the Sun and his wife Chhaya, the_Moo_n and his wife Rohini, 
lndra and Sathi, Vasishta and Arundhati, Rama and Sita, 
Krishna and Rukmani, and several other pairs of gods 
and goddesses. 

As soon as the mangalashta is finished they fasten on the 
tali, that is, the little gold ornament which all married 
women wear round their necks ; the tali is strung on a little 
cord which is dyed yellow with saffron water, and com- 
posed of 108 very fine threads closely twisted together. 
Other little ornaments of gold are also added, round which 
are fastened flowers and fine black seeds. Two handfuls 
of rice are placed in a metal pot, on the rice is laid a cocoa- 
nut dyed yellow, and on the top of the cocoanut the tali, 
to which they offer a s acrifice of sweet perfume s- The 
tali is then taken round to all the guests, both men and 
women, who touch it and bless it l . 

Four large metal lamps, each with four wicks, are brought 
in and placed on a stand, which must also be of the same 
metal. Above are set other lamps fashioned out of a 
paste composed of ground rice, and these are filled with 
oil. They are lighted, and four women take them in their 
hands. At the same time all round the pandal a great 
number of other lamps are lighted. Then ensues a tremen- 
dous din. The women sing, the musicians play, bells are 
rung, cymbals are clashed, and anything and everything 
within reach from which sound can be extracted is seized 
on, each one striving to outdo the other in creating noise 2 . 

In the midst of this hubbub the husband advances 
towards his young wife, who is seated facing the east, and 
while reciting mantrams he fastens the tali round her neck, 
securing it with three knots. 

The husband and wife, sitting side by side, then offer 
each other betel. Two married women approach them, 
give them their blessing, and place akshatas, which have 
been consecrated by mantrams, on their heads, and finally 
perform the ceremony of aratti. 

1 Old ladies whose husbands are alive are specially requested to touch 
and bless the tali, to ensure the couple a long married life. — Ed. 

2 This noise is intended to drown any sounds of weeping, sneezing, 
quarrelling, &c, which are considered bad omens. — Ed. 


\Fire is then brought on a new earthen brazier, and the 
purohita consecrates it with mantrams, surrounds it with 
darbha grass, and does homam to it. The fire is surrounded 
by lighted lamps, and near it is placed a small stone called 
the sandalwood stone, no doubt because it has been smeared 
with sandalwood oil. Then the husband, holding his wife's 
hand, walks three times round the sacred fire, and each 
time he makes the circuit he takes his wife's right foot in 
his right hand, and makes her touch the sandalwood stone 
with it, touching the stone with his own foot at the same 
time. Whilst performing this action the thoughts of both 
husband and wife should be directed to the great mountain 
of the North called Sapta-kula parvata or the mountain of 
the seven castes, the original home of their ancestors, the 
mountain being represented by this sandalwood stone. 

These are the various ceremonies which compose the 
muhurta. As soon as they are finished, two bamboos are 
planted in the centre of the pandal side by side, and at 
the foot of each of them is placed a bamboo basket. The 
bride and bridegroom then stand up, each in a basket, and 
two other baskets full of rice are brought. They take 
handfuls of this rice and shower it over each other in turn. 
This they continue to do many times, until they are tired, 
or are told to stop \ 

In some castes the guests perform this ceremony, which 
is called sesha, for the newly married pair. Princes and 
very rich people have been known to use for the sesha, 
instead of rice, pearls and precious stones mixed together. 
After the sesha the couple return to their usual seat. 
Akshatas consecrated by mantrams are then distributed to 
the guests. The husband throws over his right shoulder 
a piece of new and clean cloth, one end of which he unfo'ds 
before the assembled Brahmins, from whom he receives 
a blessing, while they also recite a mantram and place a 
portion of the akshatas they have just received on the cloth. 
He takes these in his hand and puts one portion on his 

1 In some countries the Jews of the present day observe a custom of 
throwing handfuls of wheat over a newly married couple, but especially 
over the wife, saying : ' Increase and multiply.' Sometimes pieces of 
money which are intended for the poor are mingled with the wheat. — 


own head, and the rest on his wife's head, after which the 
women again perform aratti to the newly married couple. 

It is easy to see the allegorical meaning of most of the 
ceremonies which have just been described, and which are 
the most solemn and important of the whole proceedings. 
The kania-dana, for instance, typifies the handing over of 
the girl by the father to the son-in-law and the renuncia- 
tion of parental authority over her. The son-in-law for his 
part fastens the tali round his wife's neck to show that he 
accepts the gift, and that from henceforth she is his pro- 
perty. ("The sacrifice of the homam and the thrice-repeated 
circuit of the newly married couple round the fire are 
a mutual ratification of the contract they have just made 
with one another, for there is no more solemn engagement 
than that entered into in the presence of fire, which Hindus 
look upon as the purest of their gods, and which for this 
reason they always prefer to any other when they wish to 
make an oath specially binding The ceremony of the 
mangalashta is to call down divine blessings on the newly 
married couple. That of the sesha is the outward expres- 
sion of the wish that they may enjoy an abundance of this 
world's goods, or that their union may be fruitful, or per- 
haps both. 

When all these ceremonies are ended sandalwood powder, 
akshatas, and betel are given to all the Brahmins present, 
both men and women. All must then go and perform their 
ablutions and return for the feast, which on this day must 
be specially magnificent. 

Before sitting down to eat, they never fail to carry with 
due solemnity to the household gods their share of the food 
which has been prepared. 

All the guests being seated in a row upon the ground, 
the men quite apart from the women, so that the latter are 
out of sight, a large banana leaf is placed before each person, 
and a helping of boiled rice is placed on it, and on one side 
two other leaves, folded in the form of cups, one contain- 
ing melted butter and the other a strongly spiced sauce. 
The second course consists of dried peas, green vegetables, 
and roots of various kinds. The third course consists of 
fritters, puddings boiled in water, others fried in butter, 
others sweetened and spiced, curdled milk, and salt pickles. 


Bananas, jack, and other fruits make up the fourth course. 
Then follows the kalavanta, which consists of four different 
dishes all highly flavoured, and composed of various in- 
gredients mixed with rice. To finish the repast a beverage 
is handed round composed of lime-juice, sugar, cardamom, 
and aniseed mixed with water. The whole meal takes 
place in absolute silence. 

When all the guests have feasted they turn their atten- 
tion to the meal for the newly married couple, not. for- 
getting the necessary ceremonies connected with it. {First 
of all the sacred fire is brought and placed before the dais 
on which they are sitting. The husband rises and does 
homam to the fire, whilst the purohita repeats mantrams. 
Then the women form a procession, and singing take the 
fire back to its original place?] The young married couple, 
holding each other by the h^nd, go to the place where the 
tutelary deity is reposing, and make a deep obeisance to it. 
The husband then does puja to it, and offers as neiveddya 
some cakes and boiled rice. They make a similar obei- 
sance to the five little earthen vases placed near the deity, 
in which are sown ten kinds of seeds, and sprinkle them 
with water. 

It is only after having gone through all these prelimi- 
naries that the young married couple are allowed to partake 
of the meal which has been specially prepared for them. 
They sit down facing one another in the centre of the 
pandal on two little stools, the bridegroom facing east. 
Before them is spread a large banana leaf, and at each of 
its four corners are placed four lamps made of ground rice 
filled with oil, which are lighted, as well as many others all 
round the pandal. Then the married women bring in on 
two metal dishes the different viands which have been 
prepared for the young couple, much singing and music 
going on the while. After they have been helped, melted 
butter is poured three times on to their fingers, and after 
swallowing this they begin to eat their food together from 
the same leaf \ To eat in this manner is a sign of the 

1 This custom is not observed nowadays in Hindu marriages, but the 
bridegroom and bride exchange comestibles from each other's leaves. 
When they live together afterwards the wife may, and does, eat off her 
husband's leaf, after he has finished eating. — Ed. 


most complete union, and is the most unmistakable proof 
of friendship that two persons closely united could possibly 
give each other. Later on the wife will be allowed to eat 
what her husband leaves, but never again will she be 
permitted to eat in company with him. This is a favour 
which is only granted her on her wedding-day. 

Their meal finished, the newly married couple go outside, 
preceded by music, and accompanied by the women sing- 
ing, by all the guests, and by the purohita. The purohita 
points out to them a small star called Arundhati, the wife 
of the Penitent Vasishta, which is to be found near the 
pole-star. The couple nrnke a deep reverence to the star 
and return to the house in the same procession \ There 
the women perform the ceremony of aratti. This ter- 
minates the ceremonies of the first day, called muhurta, or 
the great day. 

I will spare my readers the details of the ceremonies 
which occupy the four following days, and which, as a rule, 
are merely a repetition of those just described. What little 
variety there is, is much in the same style. These cere- 
monies are interspersed with the most innocent games and 
amusements, which would appear to us utterly ridiculous, 
and only suitable for little children, but which afford them 
the greatest pleasure and infinite amusement. 

Amongst the second day's ceremonies one of the most 
extraordinary is when they place a sort of ornament, called 
bassinam, on the forehead of both the husband and wife. 
This bassinam is covered with gold-leaf or gold paper, and 
flowers are entwined round it. The object of the bassinam 
is to avert the effects of the drishti-dosha or evil eye, the 
spell which is cast by the looks of jealous or ill-disposed 
people. Placed thus on the most conspicuous part of the 
body it is supposed to attract the eyes of the malevolent, 
and thus prevent them exercising their malign influence 
on the persons of the newly married couple. 

Amongst the ceremonies which take place on the third 
day there is a peculiar one. The husband, as usual, per- 
forms the sacrifice of the komam and another to fire, and 

1 Arundhati was the chaste and devoted wife of Vasishta Rishi ; and 
when the couple look at this star they make a vow that they too will 
live like Vasishta and Arundhati. — En. 


after him his wife comes up and performs the same sacrifice, 
only with this difference, that instead of using boiled rice, 
she uses parched rice. This is, I believe, the only occasion 
on which a woman can take an active part in any of these 
sacrifices, which the Brahmins hold to be most sacred and 
most solemn. 

The only remarkable ceremony which takes place on the 
fourth day is the nalangu, in which the newly married 
couple rub each other's legs three times with powdered 
saffron. I do not in the least understand the meaning of 
this ceremony. I fancy its only object is to kill time. 
Europeans under similar circumstances would spend it in 
drinking, often to excess ; or in gambling, dancing, singing 
songs in honour of love and wine, sometimes even in 
carrying on intrigues with the object of loosening the 
sacred marriage tie, which it is the object of marriage 
ceremonies to make secure. The Hindus spend their 
wedding-days more wisely in religious observances, of 
which the greater number are well calculated to leave 
a lasting impression on the minds of those attending them. 
The innocent and artless games with which they amuse 
themselves afford them none the less pleasure because they 
are so. In the domestic festivities of the Brahmins, decency, 
modesty, purity, and reserve are always conspicuous. This 
is the more remarkable as they obey a religion whose 
dogmas are for the most part saturated with immorality. 

The fifth day is chiefly occupied in dismissing, with all 
the customary formalities, the gods, the planets, the great 
penitents, the ancestors, and all the other divinities who 
have been invited to the feast. They dismiss even the 
kankanam, that is to say, the two pieces of saffron attached 
to the wrists of the newly made husband and wife. Finally, 
the god of the mantapam, that is to say of the pandal, is 
himself dismissed. Then follows the distribution of presents, 
which vary in value according to the means of the host. 
The purohita who has taken the most prominent part, and 
after him the women who have been singing the whole 
time from beginning to end, carry off the lion's share of 
these bounties. I must just mention that the songs which 
arc sung at these ceremonies contain nothing obscene or 
even erotic ; they are either a sort of explanation of the 


aim and object of each ceremony or else a long rigmarole 
in praise of the bride and bridegroom, in which they also 
give expression to the most heartfelt wishes for their future 

The festivity ends with a solemn procession through the 
streets, which generally takes place at night by torchlight 
in the midst of squibs and fireworks of all kinds. The 
newly married pair are seated face to face in an open palan- 
quin highly decorated. Both of them are loaded, rather 
than adorned, with flowers, jewels, and other ornaments, 
for the most part borrowed for the occasion. The pro- 
cession advances slowly. Relatives and friends before 
whose houses it passes, come out to meet it. The women 
perform the ceremony of aratti to the couple, and the 
men give presents of silver, fruits, sugar, betel, &c. These 
gifts are really only a loan, for those who receive them 
are expected to return them on similar occasions to the 
givers. I have sometimes seen wedding processions that 
were really beautiful, though perhaps not quite according 
to our taste. 

Such are a Brahmin's wedding ceremonies, all of which, 
and many more minute observances which I have not 
thought it worth while to mention, are scrupulously per- 
formed with more or less magnificence by rich as well as 
by poor. 

Sudras' marriage ceremonies are equally solemn, though 
much less elaborate. In every caste marriage is looked 
upon as the most important affair in a man's life. It is 
also the most expensive one, and brings many a Hindu 
to ruin. Some spend on it all that they possess, and 
a great deal more besides ; while others, in order to fulfil 
what is expected of them, contract debts which they are 
never able to repay l . 

I shall say nothing of the feasts which are given by their 
relatives and friends to the newly married couple, of the 
presents they receive, or of the ceremonies in their honour. 
I will only add that for a whole month the feasting and 
rejoicings go on. 

When all the festivities have at length come to an end, 

1 One of the planks of the Social Reform platform is the reduction 
of marriage expenses. — Ed. 


the bride returns home with her parents, who keep her shut 
up till such time as she shall be able to fulfil all the duties 
of a wife. This also is another occasion for festivities. 
There is the same gathering of friends and relatives, and 
almost the same ceremonies, with a few exceptions, that 
took place at the first wedding. The father and mother 
of the bridegroom, on being informed that their daughter- 
in-law has arrived at an age when the marriage can be 
consummated, go and fetch her, and conduct her home 
in triumph. And in order that she may become accus- 
tomed by degrees to married life, her own parents come at 
the end of a month and take her back to her own home, 
and for the first few years, or until she has children, she 
lives alternately in her parents' and in her husband's house. 
These mutual arrangements are at first a proof of the 
happy understanding existing between the two families. 
But unfortunately this harmony rarely lasts long, for very 
soon, finding herself ill-treated and even beaten by her 
husband, and tormented in a thousand ways by an exact- 
ing mother-in-law who treats her like a slave and vents upon 
her all her whims and ill-temper, the poor young wife is 
forced to a surreptitious flight, seeking shelter and pro- 
tection under her father's roof. Then, relying on promises 
of better treatment in future, she consents to resume her 
fetters ; but fresh outrages soon force her to escape again. 
In the end, resigning herself to the inevitable, or for the 
sake of her children, she gives up the struggle, and meekly 
bows to marital authority. A real union with sincere and 
mutual affection, or even peace, is very rare in Hindu 
households. The moral gulf which exists in this country 
between the sexes is so great that in the eyes of a native 
the woman is simply a passive object who must be abjectly 
submissive to her husband's will and fancy. She is never 
looked upon as a companion who can share her husband's 
thoughts and be the first object of his care and affection. 
The Hindu wife finds in her husband only a proud and 
overbearing master who regards her as a fortunate woman 
to be allowed the honour of sharing his bed and board. 
If there are some few women who are happy and beloved 
by those to whom they have been blindly chained by their 
family, this good fortune must be attributed to the naturally 


kind disposition of their husbands, and not in any way to 
the training the latter have received 1 . 

A Brahmin purohita does not usually preside at a Sudra 
marriage unless the contracting parties are very rich and 
of high position, and thus able to recompense him hand- 
somely. Generally the ceremony is performed by one of 
the mendicant Brahmins who go about selling Hindu 
almanacs from door to door. 

In each caste custom differs as to the manner in which 
a bride is demanded, the sum of money paid for her, the 
quantity and the value of her jewels, the colour and price 
of the wedding garments, the arrangements as to who shall 
defray the expenses of the ceremony, the number of feasts 
provided for the guests, and the presents made to relatives 
and friends. 

Amongst the Sudras the erection of the pandal is one of 
the most important and solemn of the ceremonies. It is 
set up in the street, opposite the entrance-door of the house, 
seven, five, or three days before the wedding festivities 
begin. As soon as it is put up a procession is formed, 
accompanied by music, to fetch the ara-sani, that is to say, 
a green branch of the sacred fig-tree with leaves on it. 
This is planted in the centre of the pandal ; puja is offered 
to it and also votive offerings. All present walk round it 
in single file, making deep obeisance to it. It represents 
Vishnu, to whom the sacred fig-tree is specially dedicated, 
and it remains in the middle of the pandal during the whole 
of the ceremonies as the tutelary god of the festivity. 
Processions round it take place at intervals, always accom- 
panied by the same marks of respect. Another peculiarity 
at a Sudra wedding is that a lamp is kept alight in a pro- 
minent part of the pandal during the three days' festivities, 
the wick of which is composed of 108 threads. Among 
the Sudras also the number of earthen cooking-pots is 
restricted to ten. 

The Brahmin who presides at the marriage begins by 
breaking one or more cocoanuts before the ara-sani, and 
according as the nut breaks in this or that direction, favour- 
able or unfavourable auguries of the future of the 

1 The spread of education, though it has not extended far amongst 
Hindu women, is gradually changing many of these domestic evils. — Ed. 


married pair are determined. Almost all the other cere- 
monies are identical with those of the Brahmins. 

At the marriage of Kshatriyas or Rajahs, the ceremonial 
differs very little from that of the Brahmins. A purohita 
invariably presides and takes the leading part. All the 
Brahmins who live in the place and in the neighbourhood 
are invited, but as they cannot eat with people of this 
caste, they receive each day portions of rice, melted butter, 
curdled milk, peas, vegetables, and fruits, which they cook 
for themselves and feast upon apart. 

At the termination of the ceremonies they receive more 
or less valuable presents of cloths and other things accord- 
ing to their rank and in proportion to the means of the 
family who give the feast. 

At the marriages of Kshatriyas, too, all the different 
kinds of weapons used in warfare are brought in with 
much solemnity, accompanied by the songs of the women 
and by instruments of music. These weapons remain 
hung up in the most conspicuous part of the pandal until 
the festivities are ended. The guests offer them sacrifices, 
and worship them from time to time, and similar proces- 
sions are made round them to those of the Sudras round 
the sacred fig-branch. 

The work from which I have extracted these details 
gives particulars of a remarkable expedient for procuring 
a wife sometimes adopted by the noble caste of Kshatriyas. 
When a young man of this caste wishes to marry, instead 
of going through the usual prescribed forms and humiliating 
proceedings with the parents of the girl that he has in view, 
he exercises the right of carrying off the noble lady on 
whom he has set his affections. To ensure success in his 
enterprise he collects a numerous following, unexpectedly 
declares hostilities against the king whose son-in-law he 
hopes to be, and tries to wrest his daughter from him either 
by force or strategy. As soon as she is in his power he 
conducts her to his home in triumph, and celebrates the 
marriage with all due solemnity. This method of procur- 
ing a wife, says the author, is the most approved of all in 
the case of a Kshatriya ; and, in fact, Hindu books often 
mention similar instances of rape, but always amongst the 
Rajah caste. 



The ritual of the Brahmin purohitas, after describing in 
detail the ceremonies to be observed at a Kshatriya mar- 
riage, always terminates with a short sermon on the principal 
duties imposed on this noble caste. 

k The real caste of Kshatriyas has ceased to exist,' says 
this same author, ' and the so-called Kshatriyas of the 
present time are a bastard race \ Whoever pretends to 
be a true Kshatriya ought to know that he can only be 
a soldier, and nothing else, and that his one object in life 
is to make war. During a war he should be careful not to 
injure a labourer, an artisan, any one who flees before him, 
who asks his assistance or who places himself under his 
protection, any one who during the battle or after it lays 
down his arms and with supplicating hands asks for quarter. 
In a word, he should conduct himself in these circum- 
stances according to the rules laid down in the Dharma- 
sastra. The true Kshatriya when engaged in fighting an 
enemy should give up all desire to live. Far be it from 
him to think of retreating or taking to flight ! On the 
contrary, let him advance bravely, resolved to conquer or 
to die ! The happiest death for a Kshatriya, the one he 
should wish for most, is to die sword in hand, fighting. 
It procures for him the inestimable happiness of being 
admitted to Swarga 2 . Boundless ambition is the highest 
virtue a Kshatriya can possess. However vast his posses- 
sions may be already, he should never say that he has 
enough. All his thoughts should tend to enlarging and 
extending his territories and to making war on neighbour- 
ing princes with a view to appropriating their possessions 
by main force. He should show faith and piety towards 
the gods ; he should respect Brahmins, placing the utmost 

1 This caste was almost entirely annihilated by Vishnu, who visited 
the earth in the person of Parasurama. The Kshatriyas, it is related, 
had increased to such an extent that they filled the whole earth, which 
they ruled with such unbearable tyranny, that Vishnu, with a view to 
deliver the world from their unjust oppression, began, as Parasurama, 
a long and bloody war against them, in which all the men of the caste 
were exterminated. Only the women were spared, and they became 
the concubines of Brahmins. The Kshatriyas of the present day arc 
descendants of the bastards who resulted from these illegitimate unions. 
— Dubois. 

a Paradise of Indra. 


confidence in them, and loading them with gifts. Truth 
and justice are the foundations on which all his actions 
should be based. His leisure moments should be given 
up to reading the Dhanur-veda 1 3 and other sacred works 
which he has the right to study, and he should regulate 
his conduct by the customs of his caste. Humane and 
generous, he must never refuse to do good to any one, 
whoever he may be, and it should be said of no one that 
he left a Kshatriya's presence unsatisfied. The best and 
most honourable way in which he can spend his wealth 
is to give abundant alms to Brahmins, to build temples 
with gopurams, to erect rest-houses and other buildings 
for public use on the high-roads, to repair those that are 
falling into decay, to sink wells and make reservoirs and 
tanks, and to establish chutrams (almshouses for Brahmins) 
in many places. He should do his best to rule his country 
with equity, and should keep a careful watch lest he act 
unjustly. He must give to all his subjects their due, and 
never exact from them more than what rightfully belongs 
to him. In short, his duty is to model his conduct in every- 
thing on the rules laid down in the Dhanna-sastra.' 


The second, or Grahadha, Status of Brahmin. — Rules of Life which the 
Brahmin Grahastha should daily follow. — Introduction. — Forms to 
be observed when relieving Nature and when Washing. — Manner 
of cleansing the Teeth. — Sandhya, Part I. — Rules relating to Ablu- 
tions. — The Correct Order of Daily Avocations. — Rules to be 
followed when Eating and when going to Bed. — Sandhya, Part II. 
— Mantrams of which the Sandhya is composed. — Sandhya for 
Morning, Noon, and Evening. — Conclusion. — General Remarks. 

The greater part of the matter contained in this chapter 
will not perhaps appear very interesting to some readers. 
However, the subject, considered from a philosophical 
point of view, seemed to me to be curious, and I think 
that many will forgive the prolix details that I am about 
to give for the sake of learning more exactly what the 
customs of the Brahmins really are. I have gleaned these 
details from the great book of Brahmin ritual called Nittia- 
karma. I shall classify them in parts and sections, as is 
1 This Veda treats of the science of archery. — Ed. 


usually done in works of this kind, and shall follow the 
divisions as they exist in the original. The name of 
Grahastha Brahmin is, strictly speaking, only given to those 
who are married, and who already have children. A young 
Brahmin after his marriage ceases virtually to be a Brah- 
machari, but as long as his wife by reason of her youth 
remains with her parents, he is not considered a real 
Grahastha. He only earns the right to this title after he 
has paid the debt to his ancestors, that is, by being the father 
of a son. Brahmins who have fulfilled this latter condition 
form the real bulk of the caste ; it is they who uphold its 
rights and settle any differences that may arise. It is they 
who are expected to see that the customs are observed and 
to further them b}^ precept and example. 


The Grahastha should rise every day about an hour and 
a half before the sun appears above the horizon. On 
rising his first thoughts should be for Vishnu. He then 
calls upon the following gods to cause the sun to rise, 
saying : ' Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Sun, Moon, Mars, 
Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu, Ketu, cause the 
dawn to appear ! ' 

He pronounces the name of his guru, or spiritual teacher, 
and addresses the following prayer to him : ' I offer worship 
to you ; to you who resemble the god whom I love most ; 
it is by your wise advice that I am able to escape the dangers 
and perils of this world.' 

He must then imagine himself to be the Supreme Being, 
and say : ' I am God ! there is none other but me. I am 
Brahma ; I enjoy perfect happiness, and am unchange- 
able.' He thinks deeply on this point with great com- 
placency for some time, fully persuading himself that he 
is really Brahma. After this he addresses Vishnu thus : 
1 god, who art a pure spirit, the giver of life to all things, 
the ruler of the universe, and the husband of Lakshmi, by 
your command I rise, and am about to occupy myself 
with the affairs of this world.' 

He must then think of what work he has before him 
during the day, of the good deeds that he proposes to do, 
and of the best means of carrying out his intentions. He 


reminds himself that his daily tasks to be meritorious must 
be done zealously and piously, and not indifferently and 
perfunctorily. Whilst thus thinking he takes courage, and 
makes a resolution to do his best. After that he performs 
the hari-smarana, which consists in reciting aloud the 
litanies to Vishnu, and in repeating his thousand names \ 
These preliminaries ended, he must attend to the calls 
of nature, and the following are the rules which he must 
follow in this important matter : — 

Section I. — Rules to be observed by Brahmins when 
answering the calls of nature. 

I. Taking in his hand a big chembu (brass vessel) he will 
proceed to the place set apart for this purpose, which should 
be at least a bowshot from his domicile 2 . 

II. Arrived at the place he will begin by taking off his 
slippers, which he deposits some distance away, and will 
then choose a clean spot on level ground. 

III. The places to be avoided for such a purpose are : 
the enclosure of a temple ; the edge of a river, pond, or 
well ; a public thoroughfare or a place frequented by the 
public ; a light -coloured soil ; a ploughed field ; and any 
spot close to a banian or any other sacred tree. 

IV. A Brahmin must not at the time wear a new or 
newly washed cloth. 

1 The hari-smarana consists in saying : ' Hail Govinda ! Hail 
Kesava ! Hail Narayana ! Hail Hari ! ' &c, &c. It must not be 
supposed, however, that all the names and epithets by which this god 
is designated have any very flattering meanings attached to them. 
For instance, Govinda means cowherd ; Kesava, ' he who has hair on 
his head ' ; Narayana, ' he who lives on the waters,' &c. Several other 
names of Vishnu are even more ridiculous than these. — Dubois. 

2 I have decided only after much hesitation to give these somewhat 
disgusting details. To a judicious and enlightened student, however, 
a knowledge of the common, everyday habits of a nation is not without 
its use ; and overcoming my natural repugnance on this account, I have 
ventured to believe that my readers will pardon me for not excising so 
important a section of the Brahmin's vade mecum. I may remark at 
the same time that all these minute details pertaining to cleanliness 
and health belong to an elaborate system of hygiene which extends to 
other practices of the people of India, and which is certainly very bene- 
ficial in a hot country like theirs. The Hebrew lawgiver also did not 
forbear to insert rules similar to these in the Hebrew books of law (Deut. 
xxiii. 12, 13). — Dubois. 


V. He will take care to hang his triple cord over his left 
ear and to cover his head with his loin-cloth. 

VI. He will stoop down as low as possible. It would be 
a great offence to relieve oneself standing upright or only 
half stooping : it would be a still greater offence to do so 
sitting on the branch of a tree or upon a wall. 

VII. While in this posture he should take particular care 
to avoid the great offence of looking at the sun or the moon, 
the stars, fire, a Brahmin, a temple, an image, or one of 
the sacred trees. 

VIII. He will keep perfect silence. 

IX. He must chew nothing, have nothing in his mouth, 
and hold nothing on his head. 

X. He must do what he has to do as quickly as possible, 
and rise immediately. 

XI. After rising he will commit a great offence if he looks 
behind his heels. 

XII. If he neglects none of these precautions his act 
will be a virtuous one, and not without merit ; but if he 
neglects any of them the offence will not go without 

XIII. He will wash his feet and hands on the very spot 
with the water contained in the chembu which he brought. 
Then, taking the vessel in his right hand, and holding his 
private parts in his left hand, he will go to the stream to 
purify himself from the great defilement which he has 

XIV. Arrived at the edge of the river or pond where lie 
purposes to wash himself, he will first choose a suitable 
spot, and will then provide himself with some earth to be 
used along with the water in cleansing himself. 

XV. He must be careful to provide himself with the 
proper kind of earth, and must remember that there are 
several kinds which cannot be used without committing 
an offence under these circumstances. Such are the earth 
of white-ant nests ; salt-earth ; potters' earth ; road-dust ; 
bleaching earth ; earth taken from under trees, from temple 
enclosures, from cemeteries, from cattle pastures ; earth 
that is almost white like ashes ; earth thrown up from rat- 
holes and such like. 

XVI. Provided with the proper kind of earth, he will 


approach the water but will not go into it. He will take 
some in his chembu. He will then go a little distance away 
and wash his feet and hands again. If he has not a brass 
vessel he will dig a little hole in the ground with his hands 
near the river-side and will fill it with water, which he will 
use in the same way, taking great care that this water shall 
not leak back into the river. 

XVII. Taking a handful of earth in his left hand l , he 
will pour water on it and rub it well on the dirty part of 
his body. He will repeat the operation, using only half 
the amount of earth, and so on three times more, the 
amount of earth being lessened each time. 

XVIII. After cleansing himself thus he will wash each 
of his hands five times with earth and water, beginning 
with the left hand. 

XIX. He will wash his private parts once with water 
and potters' earth mixed. 

XX. The same performance for his two feet, repeated 
five times for each foot, beginning, under the penalty of 
eternal damnation, with the right foot. 

XXI. Having thus scoured the different parts of his 
body with earth and water he will wash them a second 
time with water only. 

XXII. After that he will wash his face and rinse his 

1 It is only the left hand that may be used on these occasions. It 
would be thought unpardonably filthy to use the right hand. It is 
always the left hand that is used when anything dirty has to be done, 
such as blowing the nose, cleaning the ears, the eyes, &c. The right 
hand is generally used when any part of the body above the navel is 
touched, and the left hand below that. All Hindus are so habituated 
to this that one rarely sees them using the wrong hand. The custom 
of carefully washing the dirty part after answering a call of nature is 
strictly observed in every caste. The European habit of using paper 
is looked upon by all Hindus, without exception, as an utter abomina- 
tion, and they never speak of it except with horror. There are some 
who even refuse to believe such a habit exists, and think it must be 
a libel invented out of hatred for Europeans. I am quite sure that 
when the natives talk amongst themselves of what they call our dirty, 
beastly habits, they never fail to put this at the head of them all, and to 
make it a subject of bitter sarcasm and mockery. The sight of a foreigner 
spitting or blowing his nose into a handkerchief and then putting it 
into his pocket is enough to make them feel sick. According to their 
notions it is the politest thing in the world to go outside and blow one's 
nose with one's fingers and then to wipe them on a wall. — Dubois. 


mouth out eight times \ When he is doing this last act 
lie must take very great care to spit out the water on his 
left side, for if by carelessness or otherwise he unfortunately 
spits it out on the other side, he will assuredly go to hell. 
XXIII. He will think three times on Vishnu and will 
swallow a little water three times in doing so 2 . 

Section II. — Rules to be observed when cleaning the teeth 3 . 

I. To clean his teeth a Hindu must use a small twig cut 
from either an uduga, a rengu, or a neradu tree, or from 
one of a dozen others of which the names are given by the 

II. If such a twig is unobtainable, he may use a bit of 
wood cut from any thorny or milky shrub. 

III. Before cutting the twig he must repeat the following 
prayer to the gods of the woods : ' gods of the woods ! 
I cut one of your small twigs to cleanse my teeth. Grant 
me, for this action, long life, strength, honours, wit, many 
cattle and much wealth, prudence, judgement, memory, 
and power.' 

IV. This prayer ended, he cuts a twig a few inches in 
length, and softens one end into the form of a painter's 

V. Squatting on his heels and facing either east or north, 

1 It is necessary to rinse the mouth out after every action which is 
calculated to cause any defilement. The rule is to rinse the mouth out 
four times after making water, eight times after answering an ordinary 
call of nature, twelve times after taking food, and sixteen times after 
sexual intercourse. It is easy to recognize in this rule one of those 
wise ordinances of hygiene so appropriate to the climate and rendered 
obligatory by usage. — Dubois. 

2 This is called achamania. — Ed. 

3 The practice of rinsing out the mouth and scrubbing the teeth well 
with a small piece of green wood freshly cut from the branch of a tree 
is very general, not only amongst Brahmins, but also amongst all other 
castes. Europeans, as a rule, are considered to neglect this practice 
so indispensable to cleanliness and comfort, and in consequence are still 
further despised on that account ; while those Europeans who do clean 
their teeth are held to do so in such an objectionable manner as rather 
to add to the disgust which Hindus feel for those who are neglectful 
of this custom, because they use for this purpose a brush made with the 
bristles of a dead animal, and therefore impure, and also because they 
use the same brush many times, though it has after the first time been 
defiled by saliva. — Dubois. 


he scrubs all his teeth well with this brush, after which he 
rinses his mouth with fresh water. 

VI. He must not indulge in this cleanly habit every day. 
He must abstain on the sixth, the eighth, the ninth, the 
eleventh, the fourteenth, and the last day of the moon, on 
the days of new and full moon, on the Tuesday in every 
week, on the day of the constellation under which he was 
born, on the day of the week and on the day of the month 
which correspond with those of his birth, at an eclipse, at 
the conjunction of the planets, at the equinoxes, the 
solstices, and other unlucky epochs, and also on the anni- 
versary of the death of his father or mother. 

VII. Any one who cleans his teeth with his bit of stick 
on any of the above-mentioned days will have hell as his 
portion ! 

VIII. He may, however, except on the day of the new 
moon and on the ekadasi (eleventh day of the moon), 
substitute grass or the leaves of a tree for this piece of 

IX. On the day of the new moon and on the ekadasi he 
may only clean his teeth with the leaves of the mango, the 
juvi, or the nere. 

After having cleaned his teeth the Brahmin must direct 
his steps to some water to go through the important act 
of the sandhya l . 

Section III. — The First Part of the Sandhya. Rules to 
be observed by a Brahmin while washing. 

I. He performs the sam-kalpa, then calling to mind the 
gods of the waters, he worships them. He then thinks of 
the Ganges, and addresses the following prayer to the sacred 
river : ' O Ganges ! who were born in Brahma's pitcher, 
whence you descended in streams on to Siva's hair, from 
Siva's hair to Vishnu's feet, and thence flowed on to the 
earth to wash out the sins of all men, to purify them and 

1 The word sandhya answers to our word ' twilight ' ; it indicates the 
moment in the day when the sun reaches its apogee. Thus the sandhya 
must be performed three times a day, morning, noon, and evening. — 

Sandhya literally means ' meeting,' between day and night, that is. 


promote their happiness ! You are the stay and support 
of all living creatures here below ! I think of you, and it 
is in my mind to bathe in your sacred waters. Deign to 
blot out my sins and deliver me from all evil.' 

II. This prayer ended, he must think of the seven sacred 
rivers (the Ganges, the Jumna, the Indus, the Godavari, 
the Saras vati, the Nerbudda, and the Cauvery). Then 
plunging into the water, he fixes his thoughts intently 
on the Ganges, and imagines that he is really bathing in 
that river. 

III. His ablutions finished, he turns towards the sun, 
takes water in his hands three times, and makes a libation 
to the sun by letting the water run off the tips of his fingers. 

IV. He then leaves the water, girds up his loins with 
a pure cloth, and puts another on his shoulders. He sits 
down with his face to the east, fills his brass vessel with 
water, which he places in front of him, rubs his forehead 
with the ashes of cow-dung or sandalwood, and traces on 
it the red mark called tiloki according to the custom of his 
caste. He ends by hanging either a wreath of flowers 
round his neck, or else a string of seeds called rudrakshas. 

V. He thinks of Vishnu, and in honour of him drinks 
three times a little of the water contained in the vessel. 
He also makes three libations to the sun by pouring water 
on the ground. 

VI. Similar libations are made in honour of the gods 
Vishnu, Siva, Brahma, Indra, Agni, Yama, Neiruta, Varuna, 
Vayu, Kubera, Isana, the air, the earth, and all the gods 
in general, mentioning those by name which occur to his 

VII. Then he rises, pronouncing aloud the name of the 
sun, and worshipping him. He then meditates some time 
on Vishnu, and repeats the prescribed form of prayer in 
his honour \ 

VIII. He again repeats the names of the gods, turning 
round the while, and ends by making them a profound 

IX. Thinking once again of the sun, he addresses the 
following prayer to him : — 

4 sun-god ! You are Brahma at your rising, Rudra at 
1 Details of this will be found in the second part of the sandhya. 


noon, and Vishnu when setting. You are the jewel of the 
air, the king of the day, the witness of everything that 
takes place on earth ; you are the eye of the world, the 
measurer of time ; you order the day and night, the weeks, 
the months, the years, the cycles, the kalpas, the yugas, 
the seasons, the ayanas, the times of ablution and of prayer. 
You are lord of the nine planets ; you absolve the sins of 
those who pray to you and offer you sacrifices. Darkness 
flies at your approach. In the space of sixty ghatikas 
(twenty-four minutes) you ride mounted in your chariot 
over the great mountain of the North, which is ninety 
million five hundred and ten thousand yojanas in extent. 
I worship you with all my strength ; deign in your mercy 
to put away all my sins.' 

X. Hereupon he turns round and round, twelve, twenty- 
four, or forty-eight times according as he is able, in honour 
of the sun. 

XI. He then goes to a sacred fig-tree, and with his face 
towards the east makes it a profound inclination, repeating 
the following prayer the while : ' aswatta tree ! You are 
a god ! You are the king of trees ! Your roots represent 
Brahma, your trunk Siva, your branches Vishnu. Thus 
are you the emblem of the Trimurti. All those who honour 
you in this world by performing to you the ceremony of 
the upanayana or of marriage \ by walking round about 
you, by adoring you and singing your praises, or by other 
similar acts, will obtain remission of their sins in this world 
and a home of bliss in the next. Penetrated with the con- 
sciousness of these truths I praise and adore you with all 
my strength. Deign to give me a proof of your goodness 
by vouchsafing the pardon of my sins in this world, and 
a place with the blessed after death.' 

XII. He then walks round the tree seven, fourteen, 
twenty-one, twenty-eight, thirty-five, or more times, accord- 
ing as he has strength, always increasing the number by 

XIII. He then reads some devotional book for a certain 
time, and having finished he rises, clothes himself with 
pure cloths, plucks a few flowers to offer to his household 

1 It will be seen in the following pages that this tree is given in marriage 
with all due solemnity. — Dubois. 


gods, fills his copper vase with water, and returns to his 

Section IV. — A Brahmin's daily avocations. 

I. On returning to his house the Brahmin Grahastha 
makes the sacrifice of homam, and may then attend to his 
ordinary affairs. 

II. Towards noon, after having ordered his meal, he 
returns to the river to perform the sandhya for the second 
time, just as he did in the morning, the prayers only being 

III. He returns home, taking the greatest care to remain 
undefiled, and avoiding with scrupulous anxiety the touch 
of anything on the road that might defile him. For in- 
stance, he would have to return promptly to the river if 
by any accident he set foot on a piece of broken glass or 
pottery, a bit of rag, hair, or a piece of skin, &c, or if he 
was touched by a person of inferior caste. It is necessary 
for him to preserve the most absolute purity to be able to 
perform the sacrifice which he is about to make. 

IV. On his return to his house he proceeds with the 
daily sacrifice due to his household gods. Everything 
being ready for this important ceremony, he turns towards 
the east or towards the north, and remains some time in 
deep meditation. Taking a position below the divinity, 
he places the flowers he brought as an offering to the right 
of the god to whom he is going to do jmja. Before him is 
placed a vessel full of water, also incense, a lamp, sandal- 
wood, cooked rice, and other things of which the sacrifice 
is to be composed. 

V. He first drives away the giants and evil spirits by 
snapping his fingers ten times, and turning round and 
round. By these means he prevents their approach. 

VI. He then sets to work to provide himself with a new 
body, beginning with these words : ' I myself am the 
divinity to whom I am about to offer sacrifice.' By virtue 
of these words he unites the individual soul which reposes 
in his navel with the supreme soul which reposes in his 
breast. In the same way he unites successively the different 
elements of which he is made, the earth to the water, the 
water to the fire, the fire to the wind, the wind to the air. 


VII. He presses the right nostril with his thumb and 
repeats the monosyllable jon sixteen times, and breathing 
heavily through the left nostril he thereby dries up the 
body which forms his mortal tenement. 

VIII. With his thumb and first finger he closes both 
nostrils, repeats the word ron six times, holds his breath, 
thinks of fire ; and by this means burns his body. 

IX. He repeats the word lorn thirty-two times, blowing 
hard all the time through his right nostril. He thus blows 
away the body which has just been burned. He must 
think of a new set of senses, and the thought will of itself 
suffice to procure them for him. 

X. Then thinking of water, he causes the amrita to fall 
from the moon by pronouncing the sacred word aum. He 
diffuses this amrita over the whole of his body, which then 
becomes resuscitated. 

XI. Finally, while saying the word jom he thinks of the 
elements of which he is composed, and arranges them in 
order, in the place of those he has just got rid of. 

XII. He again repeats : ' I am myself the divinity to 
whom I am about to do sacrifice.' He then brings back 
to his navel the individual soul which had been incorporated 
in the supreme soul, after which, putting his right hand on 
his head, he says : ' Glory to the Penitent Narada ! ' and 
he imagines that this Penitent is then resting on his head. 
Placing his hands on the vessel of water beside him he 
evokes upon it the mantra gayatri. Finally, he lays his 
hand on his chest, and Vishnu is at once there. He 
finishes by saying the letters of the alphabet over the 
new and perfectly pure body which he has just made for 

After this preparatory ceremony, called santi-yoga, he 
does puja to his household gods. He may also do it, over 
the little stone salagrama, to all kinds of gods. This is 
indeed the most perfect form of worship. But he may 
also do it over a vessel full of water. 

XIII. He then sits down to his meal. If his means 
allow of it he should not fail to invite daily as many poor 
Brahmins as possible to this repast. 

XIV. He eats in silence, but he does not begin until he 
has carefully put on one side for his departed ancestors 


a small portion of the rice and other dishes prepared for 

The following are the principal rules which he is enjoined 
to observe while taking his meal ; but for the most part 
they are neglected : — 

After his food has been served the Brahmin pours a little 
water round the food, then traces a square patch with 
a thin stream of water, puts a little rice in the middle, 
and says : ' Glory to Narayana ! ' sprinkling over it a few 
drops of water. He also places a little rice on each of 
the corners of the square, saying successively : ' Glory to 
Vishnu ! Glory to the god of evil spirits (Siva) ! Glory 
to the god of the earth (Brahma) ! Glory to the earth ! ' 
repeating each time, ' I offer him this rice.' On the rice 
that he is going to eat he places either some leaves of the 
tulasi ', or a few of the flowers that he offered in the 
preceding sacrifice. He then traces a circular patch with 
a thin stream of water, and puts some rice in the centre. 
This is an offering to the evil spirits. 

Pouring a little water into the hollow of his hand, he 
drinks it as a foundation for the meal he is about to make. 
He takes a little rice soaked in melted butter and puts it 
into his mouth, saying : ' Glory to the wind which dwells 
in the chest ! ' At the second mouthful, ' Glory to the 
wind which dwells in the face ! ' At the third, ' Glory to 
the wind which dwells in the throat ! ' At the fourth, 
' Glory to the wind which dwells in the whole body ! ' 
At the fifth, • Glory to those noisy ebullitions which escape 
above and below ! ' 

Sannyasis, penitents, and widows may not eat anything 
in the evening. Should they do so they w r ould be guilty 
of a crime equal to that of killing a Brahmin. The most 
minute attention must be paid to food ; but the chief point, 
and the most laudable without doubt, is to see that the 
cooking is done with perfect cleanliness. This duty gener- 
ally devolves on the women, though most Brahmins pride 
themselves on being good cooks. The room set apart for 
cooking operations is, as far as possible, the most retired 
room in the house, so that strangers, and particularly 
Sudras, may not be able to look in, as that would defile 
! The basil plant, Ocimum sanctum, — Ei>. 


the earthen vessels. The spot must be well purified to 
begin with by rubbing the floor over with cow-dung mixed 
with water. The clothing of the persons who do the work 
must have been freshly washed. 

The Brahmin being seated on the ground, his wife places 
a banana leaf in front of him, or the leaves of other trees 
sewn together to serve as plates. She pours a few drops 
of water on them, and then helps the rice, putting the other 
dishes on each side. To flavour the rice they pour upon 
it melted butter, for which Brahmins have a particular 
fondness, or they flavour it with a kind of sauce so highly 
spiced that no European palate could stand its pungency. 
Everything is helped as well as eaten with the fingers 
only. Should however the dishes be very hot the wife 
may use a wooden spoon so as not to burn herself. 

When a Brahmin or any other Hindu eats, those whom 
he has invited are allowed to be present. As a rule it is 
considered the height of rudeness to look at any one who 
is eating, and Hindus who are obliged when travelling to 
take their meals in rest-houses, or under trees, are very 
careful to hang up screens round the place where they eat 
so as not to be seen. 

As soon as the husband has finished his meal the wife 
takes hers on the same plate, upon which, as a proof of his 
affection for her, the husband will leave a few scraps. 
She, for her part, will show no repugnance at eating the 
fragments that he has left. The following story, which 
I read in some Indian book, illustrates this : — 

' An old Brahmin was so badly attacked by leprosy 
that one day a joint of one of his fingers dropped off while 
he was eating, and fell on his leaf-plate. When his wife's 
turn came to take her food, she contented herself with 
simply putting this piece of finger on one side, and ate up 
the remains that her husband had left without showing the 
smallest repugnance. The Brahmin, who was watching 
her, was so delighted with such a proof of her devotion 
that, after overwhelming her with praise, he asked her 
what she would like as a reward. ' Alas ! ' she said in 
a melancholy tone, ' what reward can I hope for % I am 
young and childless, and perhaps soon 1 may find myself 
one of the hated and despised class of widows ! ' ' No,' 


answered the Brahmin, ' you shall not go unrewarded. 
I will arrange for your happiness.' Accordingly the 
Brahmin, being a holy man and much beloved by the 
gods, in spite of his leprosy, was granted the favour of re- 
incarnation and was allowed to live with his wife as long 
as she and he desired. In the enjoyment of abundant 
riches, and of all the gifts that nature can bestow, they 
saw three generations pass away, being reborn each time 
they reached the ordinary term of human life. Moreover 
as a climax to their happiness they had numerous children 
with each new life. At last, tired of this life, they both 
died, and were transported to the Sattya-loka or paradise 
of Brahma.' But to return to our subject. 

XV. His meal over, the Brahmin washes his hands and 
rinses his mouth. He must also gargle his throat twelve 

XVI. He takes some leaves of the tulasi which he had 
offered before his meal to his household gods, and bringing 
to his mind the thought of either the penitent Agastya or 
the giant Kumbhakarna he swallows these leaves, by 
doing which he ensures a good digestion for the meal just 
eaten and wards off any illness l . 

XVII. He gives betel and areca-nut to the poor Brah- 
mins invited to dinner and dismisses them. He then 
spends some time reading devotional books. 

XVIII. His reading finished, he puts some betel into his 
mouth, and is then free to look after his ordinary business 
or to go and see his friends, taking care all the time not to 
covet either the goods or the wives of others. 

XIX. Towards sunset he returns for the third time to 
the river and performs the evening sandhya, repeating the 
ceremonies of the morning and midday. 

XX. On his return home he performs the homam for the 
second time, and reads some Puranas. He again goes 
through the hari-smarana, which, as we have already 
described, consists in reciting the litanies to Vishnu and 
pronouncing his thousand names aloud. 

XXI. He then visits the temple nearest to his house, 

1 Agastya is the dwarf Rishi, who is said to have swallowed the ocean 
in three gulps. Kumbhakarna is a giant famous for his voracious 
appetite. — Ed. 


but he must never present himself there empty-handed. 
He must take as an offering either oil for the lamp, cocoa- 
nuts, bananas, camphor, or incense, &c, of which the sacri- 
fices are composed. If he is very poor he must at least bring 
some betel leaves. 

XXII. If the temple is dedicated to Vigneshwara 
(Pillayar) he walks round it once, after which, turning 
towards the god, he takes the lobe of his left ear in his 
right hand and the lobe of his right ear in his left hand, 
and in this jiosition squats down on his heels three times ; 
lie then strikes himself gently on both his temples. If the 
shrine is dedicated to Siva he walks round it twice, and 
three times if it is consecrated to Vishnu. 

XXIII. Having performed his religious duties he returns 
home, takes his evening meal, observing the usual cere- 
monies, and goes to bed soon afterwards. A Brahmin 
must purify the place where he is going to sleep by rubbing 
it over with cow-dung, and he must manage so that the 
place cannot be overlooked by any one. 

A Brahmin must never sleep on a mountain, in a grave- 
yard, in a temple, in any place where they do puja, in any 
place dedicated to evil spirits, under the shadow of a tree, 
on ground that has been tilled, in a cowshed, in the house 
of his guru, in any spot that is higher than that where the 
image of some god happens to be, any place where there 
happens to be ashes, holes made by rats, or where snakes 
generally live. He must also take care not to spend the 
night in houses where the servants are insolent, for fear of 
some accident. 

A Brahmin puts a vessel full of water and a weapon near 
where he lays his head. He rubs his feet, washes his 
mouth twice, and then lies down. 

A Brahmin must never go to bed with his feet wet, nor 
sleep under the beam which supports the roof of the house \ 
He must avoid sleeping with his face turned to the west 
or north. If it is impossible to arrange it otherwise it 
would be better to be turned towards the north than 
towards the west. When lying down he offers worship to 
the earth, to Vishnu, to Nandikeswara, one of the chief 

1 This is said to be a necessary precaution, as on these beams snakes 
are often to be found. — Eo. 


spirits who guard Siva, and to the bird garuda (Brahminy 
kite), to whom he makes the following prayers : — 

' Illustrious son of Kasyapa and Vinata ! king of birds, 
with beauteous wings and sharp-pointed beak ; you who 
are the enemy of snakes, preserve me from their poison ! ' 

He who repeats this prayer when he goes to bed, when 
he rises, and after his ablutions, will never be bitten by 
a snake. Here is another and most efficacious prayer 
which they are supposed to make a rule of saying before 
going to bed. It bears the name of kalasa, and is addressed 
to those evil spirits, Siva's guardians. While repeating it 
the right hand must be placed over the various parts of the 
body as they are mentioned : — 

' May my head be preserved from all accidents by 
Bhairava, my forehead by Bishana, my ears by Bhuta 
Karma, my face by Preta-Vahana, my thighs by Bhuta 
Karta, my shoulders by the Ditis who are endowed with 
supernatural strength, my hands by Kapalini who wears 
round his neck a chaplet of human skulls, my chest by 
Santa, my belly, lips, and two sides by Ketrika, the back 
of my body by Kadrupala, my navel by Kshetraja, my 
sexual organs by Vatu, my ankles by Siddha Vatu, and the 
rest of my body from my head to my feet by Surakara, 
my body to my waist by Vidatta, and from below my 
waist by Yama ! May the fire which receives the worship 
of all the gods preserve me from all evil in whatever place 
I may happen to be ! May the wives of the demons watch 
over my children, my cattle, my horses, my elephants ! 
May Vishnu watch over my country, and may the God 
who takes care of all things also take care of me, par- 
ticularly when I find myself in some place which is not 
under the protection of my divinity ! ' 

Whoever recites this prayer every evening when going to 
bed will come to no harm. It suffices to wear it on the arm, 
to write it, and to read it, to become rich and live happily. 

XXIV. Finally, the Brahmin must again think of Vishnu, 
and this should be his last thought before sleeping. 

Section V. — Second Part of the Sandhya. Mantrams or 
Prayers, according to the Yagur Veda ritual. 

If for any reason the Brahmin Grahastha is unable to 


perform the ablutions that form part of the first part of 
the sandhya, he must at any rate try to accomplish the 
second part by attentively and devoutly repeating the 
prayers that belong to it. He first stands with his face 
to the east or towards the sun. He begins by knotting 
the little lock of hair which grows on the top of his head, 
then he takes a little darbha grass in his left hand, and in 
his right hand a larger quantity which he cuts to the length 
of his palm. 

The Morning Sandhya. 

He begins his religious exercises with the following 
prayer : — 

Apavitraha pavitrova sarva vastam, 
Gatopiva yassmaret pundareekaksham, 
Sabahiabhiantara suchihy. 

This means : ' Whether a man be pure or impure, or in 
whatsoever station in life he may find himself, if he thinks 
of him who has eyes like the lotus l he shall be pure within 
and without.' 

He then prays to the water in the following words : — 
' Water of the sea, of the rivers, of tanks, of wells, and 
of any other place whatsoever, hear favourably my prayers 
and vows ! As the traveller, fatigued with the heat, finds 
rest and comfort under a tree's shade, so may I find in 
you solace and assistance in all my ills, and pardon for all 
my sins ! 

' Water ! you are the eye of sacrifice and battle ! 
You have an agreeable flavour ; you have the bowels of 
a mother for us, and all her feelings towards us ! I call 
upon you with the same confidence with which a child at 
the approach of danger flies to the arms of a loving mother. 
Cleanse me from my sins, and all other men of their sins. 
Water ! at the time of the Flood Brahma the omniscient, 
whose name is spelt with one letter, existed alone, and 
existed under your form. This Brahma brooding over you 
and mingling with you 2 did penance, and by the merits 
of his penance created night. The waters which covered 

1 That is, Vishnu. 

2 These words recall the words of the second verse of the first chapter 
of Genesis. — Dubois. 


the earth were drawn into one place and formed the sea. 
Out of the sea were created the day, the years, the sun, 
the moon, and Brahma with his four countenances. Brahma 
created anew the firmament, the earth, the air, the smaller 
worlds, and everything that was in existence before the 

This prayer ended, the Brahmin sprinkles a few drops 
of water on his head from three stalks of the sacred darbha 

Whoever in the morning shall address these prayers to 
water, and shall be duly impressed with their import, will 
surely receive remission of his sins. 

Then clasping his hands, the Brahmin says : — 

' Vishnu ! your eyes are like a flower ! I offer you my 
worship. Pardon my sins ; I perform the sandhya to keep 
my good name and dignity as a Brahmin.' He then recalls 
to mind the names of the greater and lesser worlds and 
the divinities who inhabit them, particularly the fire, the 
wind, and the sun, also Brihaspati, Indra, and the gods 
of the earth. 

After that he puts his right hand on his head, and recalls 
to his memory the names of Brahma, of the wind, and of 
the sun. He then shuts his eyes, and at the same time 
closing his right nostril with his thumb, he invokes the god 
Brahma in these words : — 

1 Come, Brahma, come to my navel, and stay, stay there 
a long time.' 

He then fancies to himself that this powerful god is seated 
on his navel ; that the deity is red in colour, having four 
faces and two arms, a cord round his waist, holding a 
pitcher in his hand, riding on a goose, and accompanied by 
a multitude of divinities. He then thinks of him as having 
had no beginning, as possessing the key to all knowledge 
and being able to grant all the desires of mankind, and 
especially as the head guru of Brahmins, endowed with the 
fullest power to purify and sanctify them ; finally as the 
Creator of all things, and as an eternal being. After which 
he says : — 

' Glory to the earth ! Glory to the greater worlds 1 ! ' 

1 There are seven greater worlds, the names of which are Bhu, Bhuvar, 
Svar, Mahar, Janar, Tapah, Sattya. The first is the earth, the last the 


(These lie mentions by name, and thinks of them as all 
lighted by the sun.) ' May my heart and my will be drawn 
to the path of virtue ; may my desires be fulfilled in this 
life and in the next. To you, Brahma, who have created 
water, light, amritam, &c, to you I offer adoration.' 

This prayer finished, he breathes heavily through his 
left nostril, and thereby puts to flight all the sins contained 
in his body. Then, closing the left nostril with either the 
thumb or the middle finger of the right hand, he thinks of 
Vishnu, whom he addresses in these terms : — 

' Come, Vishnu, come to my chest, and stay there, stay 
there, stay there a long time.' 

He then fancies Vishnu seated on his chest. This god is 
brown in colour, he has four arms, he carries a shell in one 
hand, the weapon called sankha in another, in the third 
a cholera, and in the fourth a lotus. He rides on the bird 
of prey garuda, The Brahmin thinks of him as omnipresent 
in the fourteen worlds and upholding everything by his 
power. Then he says : — 

1 Glory to the lesser worlds l ! ' (These he mentions by 
their names.) ' I think of them, of water, and of amritam.' 

By virtue of this prayer all his sins are blotted out. 

He then thinks of Siva, whom he invokes as follows : — 

' Come, Siva, come to my forehead ! Stay, stay, stay 
there a long time.' 

He imagines Siva seated on his forehead. This god is 
white ; he carries the trisula or trident in one hand, and 
a small drum in the other ; on his forehead is a new moon. 
He has five faces, and each face has three eyes ; he rides 
on an ox. He is represented further as the god self-creating 
and self-sufficient, as the universal destroyer. Then the 
Brahmin says : — 

' Glory to all the lesser worlds ! ' (These he mentions by 

Then he adds, speaking to Siva : ' Destroyer of everyi 
thing in the fourteen worlds, destroy my sins also.' 

paradise of Brahma. They always add the word loka, which means 
a place (locus). — Ed. 

1 There are seven lesser worlds, the names of which are Atala, Vitala, 
Sutala, Rasatala, Talatala, Mahatala, Patala. The last is the infernal 
regions, the lowest of all. — Ed. 


Whoever repeats this prayer, and makes the foregoing 
meditation, will assuredly obtain pardon of all his sins 
and be saved. However, as men are liable to fall into 
innumerable sins, they can hardly do too much to ensure 
their being forgiven, and the stain of their wickedness 
removed. The Brahmin therefore addresses the following 
prayer to the sun : — 

' sun ! who art prayer itself and the god of prayer : 
forgive me all the sins that I have committed while praying, 
all those that I have committed during the night by thought, 
word, and deed ; forgive me all those that I have committed 
against my neighbour by slander or false witness, by violat- 
ing or seducing another man's wife, by eating forbidden 
food, by receiving presents from a man of low caste, in 
a word, all sins of any kind into which I may have fallen 
by night or by day.' 

Whoever addresses this prayer to the sun, and is filled 
with the conviction of what he is saying and performs the 
achamania at the same time, will be absolved from all 
his sins and will go after his death to the abode of the 

To perform the achamania he must hold some water in 
the hollow of his right hand, and put it three times to his 
mouth. He must touch the under part of his nose with 
the back of his thumb ; then joining his thumb and first 
finger together he must touch both his eyes, then joining 
all the other fingers together to his thumb he must touch 
his ears, his navel, his chest, his head, and both shoulders. 
And before putting the water to his mouth he must always 
be careful to purify it by repeating over it the following 
prayer : ' Water ! you are of a good taste,' &c, as men- 
tioned before. Passing his hand three times above his 
head he lets fall a few drops of water on it, and then thrice 
pours a little on the ground. He draws a long breath, 
and thus ejects all the sins in his body. He must then 
recite the prayer which begins with the words : ' O water ! 
at the time of the Flood,' &c, as cited above. 

Water should be looked upon as the Supreme Being, 
and as such adoration is offered to it. Nothing is more 
efficacious than water to cleanse men from their sins. 
Therefore one cannot perform one's daily ablutions too 


often ; or at least touch water and think of it, and so obtain 
a remission of sin. After having thus worshipped, the 
Brahmin draws a little water into his nostrils, and then 
shoots it out again. With this water the sinful man also 
falls to the ground and is crushed under the left heel. 
Then turning to the east, the Brahmin stands on tiptoe. 
Raising slightly his hands, the palms turned towards 
heaven, he makes the following prayer to the sun : — 

' Sun ! fire is born of you, and from you the gods 
derive their splendour ; you are the eye of the world and 
the light of it ! ' 

Nothing is more efficacious than this prayer, accompanied 
by adorations, for turning aside anything that may bring 
sorrow, or sin, or pain, and for protection against un- 
toward accident. He must add, still addressing the sun : — 

' Glory to Brahma, Supreme Being ! Glory to the 
Brahmins ! Glory to the Penitents ! Glory to the gods ! 
Glory to the Vedas ! Glory to Vishnu ! Glory to the 
winds ! ' 

While reciting this prayer he offers the tarpana, that is, 
a libation of water, to such of these gods as he names and 
to all the gods in general. He puts under his feet a stalk 
of darbha grass, and standing upright, on one foot if possible, 
he recites the famous gayatri mantram, which is as follows 1 : — 

' Come, goddess, come and make me happy. You who 
are the voice of Brahma, whose name is formed of three 
letters ; who are the mother of the Vedas, who are also 
the mother of Brahma ; I offer you my adoration.' He 
who thus invokes the goddess gayatri three times a day 
will thereby be purified from all his sins. 

He then pronounces the monosyllable aum, and cracks 
his fingers ten times while turning round. This is to scare 
away giants and evil spirits. He must then think again 
of the goddess gayatri. In the morning he must picture 
her to himself as a young girl of extraordinary beauty, 
resembling Brahma in appearance, riding on a goose, holding 

1 The gayatri mantram, as we have already observed, is the most 
sacred, the most sublime, the most meritorious, and the most efficacious 
of all the mantrams of the Brahmins. They have deified this prayer, 
until they have come to look upon it not only as a mantram, but as an 
actual goddess itself. — Dubois. 


in her hand a stalk of darbha grass, dwelling in the sun's 
face and in the ritual of the Yajur Veda. Having thus 
pictured her in his mind, he prostrates himself before her. 

He then addresses Vishnu in these words : ' Vishnu ! 
your eyes are like a flower,' &c, as before. 

To recite the gayatri without having previously offered 
homage to Vishnu would be labour lost. Such a lapse 
would indeed be a source of sin. They count on their 
fingers the number of times that they recite the gayatri. 
The hands should be held aloft and covered over with 
a cloth, so that no one can see how many repetitions have 
been made. They say it in a low voice so that no one 
can hear them. The following is the text of this sublime 
prayer : — 

Aum ! Glory to Patala ! Glory to the Earth ! Glory 
to Swarga ! I think of the splendid light of the Sun. 
May he deign to turn my heart and my soul towards the 
path of virtue, and to the blessings of this world and of 
the next l ! ' 

Every Brahmin ought to recite this mantram from a 
thousand to ten thousand times daily. He may, if self- 
indulgent, repeat it only a hundred or even only twenty 
limes, but in no case less than eight times. 

It is by virtue of this prayer that Brahmins become like 
Brahma, and after their death share his happiness. It is 
so extremely efficacious that its fervent repetition will 
blot out the most heinous sins, such for instance as having 

1 This form does not seem to agree altogether with the original text 
given in the chapter on mantrams. I think the explanation is that there 
are several forms of gayatri, which vary according to the Vedas from 
which they are taken. — Dubois. 

One would think from the Abbe's description of the gayatri that it 
was a meaningless mantram, but the Hindus assert that in it is summed 
up their highest philosophy. The following is the text of the gayatri, 
with its translation : — 

Aum, bhur, bhiivah, suvah ! 
Aum, tat savitur varenyam 
Bhargo devasya dhimahi 
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat, 
Aum, earth, sky, heaven ! 
Aum, that excellent vivifier 
The light divine, let us meditate upon, 
Which (light) enlightens our understanding. — Ep. 


killed a Brahmin or a pregnant woman, drunk intoxicat- 
ing liquors, or betrayed one's most intimate friend, &c. 
The Brahmin then dismisses the goddess in these terms : — 

' I have prayed to you, illustrious goddess, to obtain 
remission of my sins. Forgive me them, and grant that 
after my death I may enjoy the delights of Vaikuntha. 
You have Brahma's face ; you are Brahma himself. It 
is you who have created, who preserve, and who destroy 
everything. Grant that I may be happy in this world, 
that joy, wealth, and prosperity may always be my portion, 
and that after my death my lot may be still happier and 
more lasting ! Return, goddess, after having granted 
me this favour, return to your usual dwelling-place ! ' 

He offers her tarpana, or the libation of water, as also 
to the sun and to the planet Venus, saying : — 

' Glory to the sun and to the planet Venus ! May the 
water that I now offer you find favour in your sight ! ' 

He finally addresses this prayer to fire : — 

' fire ! listen to what I am about to say ! Burn my 
enemies, and those who speak evil of the Vedas ! The 
number of my sins is like a sea of fire, without bottom 
and without shore, ready to consume me. I implore your 
mercy, and may it be to me a means of salvation ! ' 

He then evokes Rudra (Siva), whose countenance is like 
that of time and of fire, and says to him : — 

' You are the Veda, you are the truth ! You are the 
Supreme Being ! Your face is marvellous ! You are the 
face of the world ! I offer you adoration.' Then he 
says : — 

' Glory to Brahma ! Glory to water ! Glory to the god 
Varuna ! Glory to Vishnu ! ' 

He offers the tarpana to each of these gods, and then to 
the sun, to whom he says :— 

' Illustrious son of Kasyapa, you resemble a lovely 
flower ! You are the enemy of darkness ; through you 
all our sins are forgiven. I offer you my worship as to the 
greatest of gods ; deign to receive it graciously.' Finally, 
he turns round three times in honour of the sun, and makes 
him a profound bow. 


The Noonday Sandhya l . 

The Brahmin, having performed his ablutions and tied 
up the little lock of hair on the top of his head, traces one 
of the usual marks on his forehead, and turning towards 
the east, says : — 

1 Vishnu ! the gods delight to look on the beauties of 
your dwelling-place ; the sight charms them, they are never 
tired of beholding it, they open wide their eyes, the better 
to be able to contemplate it ! ' 

Then, addressing the sun, he says : ' God of light ! God 
of the day ! You are the god of the planets and of all 
that has life ; you are the god who purifies men and blots 
out all their transgressions, accept the worship that I offer 
to you ! ' 

He then says : — 

' Glory to the lesser worlds ! Glory to Swarga ! Glory 
to the earth ! Glory to Maha-loka ! Glory to Tapo-loka ! 
Glory to Yama-loka ! Glory to Sattya-loka ! It is by the 
almighty power of the sun, the Supreme Being, that water, 
light, amrita, Brahma with the four faces, and everything 
that exists, have been created.' 

Putting his left thumb on his right hand, he says : — 

' May everything in me, be it good or bad, commendable 
or blameworthy, be purified bv the sun, the Supreme 
Being ! ' 

By virtue of this prayer his sins are dried up. Then, 
closing up both his nostrils, he carries his thoughts back 
to Krishna, the son of Nanda. This thought causes sin 
to tremble. He must picture sin to himself under the form 
of a black man with a horrible face. Then, putting his 
thumb to his left nostril, he recalls Siva, and says : — 

1 Siva, who are the chief of evil spirits, save me from 
punishment and put my sins to flight with your trident ! ' 

Breathing strongly through his left nostril, he performs 
the achamania, and says : — 

' The water purifies the earth ; may the earth which 

has been purified by the water take away all the sins 

which I may have committed — by eating after another 

person, by partaking of forbidden food, by receiving gifts 

1 This is really called Madhya-Vandana. — Ed. 


from a man of low caste or from a sinful person. I pray 
that the water may purify me from all sin, whatsoever it 
may be.' He performs the achamania twice more, for 
nothing washes away sin more surely than water. Every 
Brahmin should therefore perform achamania ; for by this 
act alone not only will all his sins be remitted, even to the 
murder of a Brahmin or of a pregnant woman, but further 
it also makes him sinless for all time to come. He then 
takes three stalks of darbha grass, and sprinkles some drops 
of water on his head with it ; but he must first purify the 
water by reciting over it the gayatri and the following 
mantrams : — ' water ! who are spread on the bosom of 
the earth, grant that I may perform the sandhya, so that, 
being purified by it, I may perform puja ! ' '0 water ! 
you have a good taste,' &c, and so on as before. He 
sprinkles some water with the three stalks of darbha grass, 
first on the earth and then on his head. He who in addition 
to the above recites the following prayer, may be assured 
that all his desires will be gratified, that he will live in the 
midst of plenty and be happy : — ' water ! you are in 
everything that has life, in all quarters of the world, even 
on the tops of the highest mountains. You are of super- 
lative excellence, you are the light, you are the amrita ! ' 
He then rises, and filling both his hands with water, pours 
it on the ground, saying : — 

' Glory to Patala ! Glory to the Earth ! Glory to 
Swarga ! ' Then, turning to the sun, and raising his hands 
on high, he says : — 

' Sun ! you are the will of the gods, you are the 
opposite of water ! You are the eye of the gods Mitra, 
Varuna, and of Fire ; you shine in Swarga, on the earth, 
and everywhere ! ' He then repeats the prayer which 
begins with these words : — 

k Glory to Brahma, the Supreme Being ! ' &c, and so 
on as before. 

He places one or two stalks of darbha grass under his 
feet, and evokes the gayatri in these words : — 

* Come, goddess, come and shower your favours upon 
me ! You are the word of Brahma, the mother of the 
Vedas : it is from you that Brahma was born. I offer 
you puja ! You are the mother of Brahmins. It is you 


who bear the engine of the world, and carry the weight 
thereof. It is through your protection that men live 
peacefully in the world, for by your care all evil, fear, 
and danger are kept far from them. It is through you 
that men become virtuous, and it is from you that puja 
derives its efficacy. You are eternal ! Hasten, great 
goddess, and answer my prayer ! ' 

It is by virtue of this prayer that the gods have attained 
to Swarga ; that snakes penetrate into the bowels of the 
earth, and float in the midst of the waters ; that fire 
possesses the power of burning ; that Brahmins, grown 
like to the gods, merit daily to receive worship and sacri- 
fice from other men in acknowledgement of their sur- 
passing knowledge and virtue. He repeats the invocation 
to the sun, and purifies himself in pronouncing the sacred 
word aura. Then he performs the vyahriti in the following 
manner : — 

' Glory to Patala ! ' (he puts his hands to his head). 

' Glory to the Earth ! ' (he puts his hands on the tuft of 
hair on the top of his head). 

' Glory to Swarga ! ' (he touches himself all over his 

Then he exclaims, * Aum-bhatu ! ' at the same time 
cracking his fingers ten times whilst turning round, and he 
stamps the ground with his left heel to scare away giants 
and evil spirits. 

He evokes the gayatri afresh, whom now at noon he 
represents to himself under the image of Vishnu, in the 
prime of life, clothed in a golden robe, and dwelling in the 
sun's face. He then recites the gayatri mantram the proper 
number of times, exactly as before described, and then he 
dismisses the deity, saying : — 

' You are born of Siva's face ; you dwell in the bosom 
of Vishnu ; you are known of Brahma ; go, goddess, 
whither you will ! You are Brahma, the Supreme Being ; 
you receive the worship of Vishnu ; you are the life of 
Brahmins ; their fate is in your hands ; it is in your power 
to give them happiness in this world and in the next ; 
give me many children, and may I always have abundance 
of wealth. Illustrious mother ! I have offered you puja ; 
now depart whither it seemeth good ! ' 


Nevertheless he says yet another prayer to her : — 

1 Divine wife of Narayana ! preserve me from any pain 
in my head, face, tongue, nose, nostrils, ears, shoulders, 
thighs, feet, and in any part of my body ; preserve me 
from pain day and night ! ' 

He thus sings the gayatrVs praises : — 

1 You are quick-witted ; you are enlightenment itself ; 
you are not subject to human passions ; you are eternal ; 
you are almighty ; you are purity itself ; you are the 
refuge and salvation of mankind ; you are omniscient ; 
you are the mother of all the Vedas, of which you are the 
emblem ; you are also the emblem of prayer. It is to 
you that all sacrifices must be offered ; all earthly bless- 
ings are at your disposal ; in an instant you can destroy 
everything. Happiness and misery, joy and sorrow, hope 
and fear are in your hands ; everything is dependent on 
you. All men pray to you, and at the same time your 
fascinations cast a spell over them. You fulfil all their 
desires, and overwhelm them with benefits ; to you they 
owe success in all their undertakings ; you put away their 
sins ; you make them happy ; you are present in all three 
worlds ; you have three bodies and three faces, and the 
numeral three is of your very essence ! ' 

He who thus sings the gayatri's praises will receive his 
reward ; all his sins will be forgiven. 

Casting his eyes on liquefied butter, he says : ' O butter ! 
you are the light ; by your power everything shines ; you 
are the friend of the gods ; you form part of the sacrifices 
that are offered to them, you are the essence of these 
sacrifices ! ' 

Then, addressing the gayatri anew, he says : ' You can 
be divided into two, three, and four parts ; nothing can 
equal your brilliancy ; I offer you puja ! ' He adds : — 

' goddess, who dwell on the mountains of the North, 
you are known to Brahma ! Go now whither you will, 
you are the sacrificer of the sacrifice. It is you who offer 
it, it is you who receive it. It is you who regulate the 
offerings, it is you who make them, it is you who receive 
them ; you have yielded the north-east to Siva, and you 
have taken up your abode in the north-west. If we 
enjoy light, it is you to whom we owe it, to you who have 


granted it to us that we may by its aid fulfil our religious 
duties ! ' 

He addresses the fire in these words : — 

' fire ! come here ; I have need of you for puja ; offer 
it yourself, since you are the emblem of it ! ' 

He says to the water : — 

1 water ! remain on the earth, for the use of us who 
require you : remain that we may drink you, and come 
down abundantly to fertilize our land ! ' 

Whoever repeats all these prayers at the midday sandhya 
will have all his wishes gratified and obtain pardon for all 
his sins. 

He again addresses the gayatri as follows : — ' I worship 
you, goddess, under the image of Brahma. You are the 
mother of the world ; Brahmins offer you pitja, and in 
return enjoy your favours. You have the outward appear- 
ance of a stone ; but you are indeed the creator, preserver, 
and destroyer of everything ! ' 

He offers arghya to the sun. To this end he puts water 
and red flowers, some darbha grass, some sandalwood 
powder, and some mustard seed into a plated copper 
vessel. While mixing all these together, he says : — 

1 sun ! you are the most brilliant of all the stars ! 
Vishnu borrows his splendour from you ! You are pure 
and you purify men ; I offer you worship ! Glory to the 
sun ! I offer him this arghya ! ' 

Such, then, is the noonday sandhya. It is a religious 
exercise which must never be omitted, but if for any reason 
one fails to perform it, one must do penance before per- 
forming the evening sandhya. This penance consists in 
repeating the gayatri ten times, and offering arghya to the 

A Brahmin who does not perform the sandhya regularly 
is not permitted to fulfil any other act of religious wor- 
ship. It would be quite fruitless for him to offer puja, 
or sraddha (the sacrifice for the dead), or to fast or to 

The inestimable advantages which the gayatri mantram 
procures are proportionate to the number of times it is 
repeated. Thus for a thousand repetitions you would 
obtain success in all your undertakings ; for ten thousand, 


the forgiveness of sins and abundance of this world's 
goods ; for twenty thousand, the spirit of wisdom and the 
gift of knowledge ; for a hundred thousand, the supreme 
grace of becoming a Vishnu after death. 

It is considered most meritorious to solemnly undertake 
to recite the gayatri for a certain fixed time daily, the 
credit gained thereby being graduated according to the 
length of time devoted to the exercise. It depends, that 
is to say, on the choice that one makes of the three follow- 
ing periods : (1) from sunrise to sunset ; (2) from sunrise 
to noon ; and (3) at intervals of about three hours. 

Any Brahmin who makes such a vow calls together 
a certain number of his fellow-Brahmins, and says in their 
presence : — 

' To-day being such and such a day of such and such 
a month, I, so-and-so Brahmin, of such and such country 
and family, being desirous of averting all danger from myself, 
of growing in virtue, and of obtaining the delights of Swarga 
after my death, hereby call all present to witness that 
I vow to recite the gayatri every day from such an hour 
till such an hour.' 

The Evening Sandhya. 

Brahmins begin this sandhya about sunset, but it must 
not be performed on the day of the sankranti, that is to 
say, on the day that the sun moves from one sign of the 
Zodiac to another, nor on the days of the new and full 
moon, nor on the twelfth day of the moon, nor yet on the 
day on which one has offered the sacrifice for the dead 
called sraddha. To perform the evening sandhya under 
these circumstances would be committing a crime equal 
to the murder of a Brahmin. If a Brahmin has just lost 
his father, his mother, or one of his children ; if his gums 
bleed, or if through a wound or accident any part of his 
body above the navel lias been bleeding, or in a word if 
he finds that he is impure, he would commit an unpardon- 
able sin by performing the evening sandhya. Indeed, in 
the last case he would lose all his possessions and his 
children. Except under these special circumstances, he 
must never neglect this religious duty, and he must care- 
fully observe the following rules : — 


Ho makes the usual ablutions. Then, turning to the 
north, he reealls the memory of Vishnu. He then 
thinks of Brahma and addresses the following prayer to 
him : — 

' Brahma, you have four faces, you are my creator ! 
Forgive me all the sins that I have committed. I am now 
beginning the evening sandhya. Deign to be present, and 
repose on my chest, and deliver me from my sins.' 

He then recites the mantram which begins with these 
words : — ' Glory to the lesser worlds ! ' and so on as before. 
Closing up both nostrils, he thinks of Vishnu, and imagines 
that he is resting on his navel, and says : ' Vishnu ! 
you are of great stature and black in colour. You have 
four arms, you are the preserver of all that exists ; destroy 
my sins.' He offers worship to the seven greater worlds, 
as in the morning sandhya, and again addressing Vishnu, 
he says : ' You have created light, amrita, and all that is 
used for the food of mankind. Preserve me, and preserve 
all that lives in the world ! ' Closing the right nostril with 
his finger, he breathes strongly through the left, and by 
this means burns all the sins that are in his body. Then 
he ejects them by breathing forcibly through the right 
nostril. He then directs his thoughts to Siva, the destroyer 
of sin and of all things, and imagines that he is resting on 
his forehead. He says to him : ' Siva ! you are white 
and tall. You have the mark of a half- moon on your 
forehead ; you have three eyes ; you destroy all things ; 
you are the god of gods ; I implore your protection, and 
offer you worship ! ' He once more offers puja to the 
different worlds, and destroys his sins by virtue of the 
following prayer : — ' Oh, may my sins be destroyed by the 
almighty power of the sun and the fire ! ' He adds : ' O 
fire ! you are prayer and the god of prayer. Forgive me 
all the mistakes I have made in the different mantrams that 
I have recited ; and forgive me, besides, all the sins that 
I have this day committed in thought, word, and deed. 
May this water, which I drink from my uplifted hand, 
destroy everything bad and sinful that may be in me.' 
He performs the achamania as at the morning sandhya. 
He also inhales some purified water into his nostrils, as 
he did before, and recites the mantram which begins with 


the words : ' O water ! at the time of the Flood,' &c, 
and so on, as before mentioned. 

Then lie ejects by a forcible expiration the water in his 
nostrils, which carries away the sinful man, whom he 
crushes at once upon a stone. He represents this man of 
sin to himself as a powerful being, of extraordinary strength, 
with a red belly, white hair and beard, and a hideous and 
distorted face \ 

He evokes the gayatri, and turning to the west, he 
says : — 

' god of the day, on whom depends the happiness of 
mankind, I offer the evening sandhya : deign to honour me 
with your presence ! O goddess gayatri, who are the 
emblem of the Vedas and the word of Brahma, whose 
name is composed of three letters ! I offer you jmja ; 
hasten hither that I may be happy ! ' 

Whilst making this prayer his hands are spread open and 
raised towards heaven. He then rubs his hands together 
and puts them to his breast, believing in imagination that 
the gayatri is reposing there. He cracks his finger-joints 
ten times, and turns round at the same moment ; and by 
that he closes all places of egress, so that the goddess 
cannot depart. He pictures her to himself as an old woman, 
having Siva's face, riding on an ox, dwelling in the disk 
of the sun, and united to all the Vedas. Then he says : — 

' Divine wife of Siva ! you are the mother of all that is. 
I offer you puja at the approach of night, take me under 
your protection and save me ! Come, gayatri, come and 
favourably hear my prayers ! ' 

Whoever recites these words will obtain all that he asks 

1 Here is another portrait of a man of sin, culled from the Sama- 
Veda : ' The murder of a Brahmin forms the head of the man of sin ; 
drinking intoxicating liquors, the eyes ; theft, particularly of gold, the 
face ; the murder of a guru, the ears ; the murder of a woman, the 
nose ; the murder of a cow, the shoulders ; the rape of another man's 
wife, the chest ; the wilful production of abortion, the neck ; oppression 
of the innocent and just, the belly ; ill treatment of any one who has 
sought protection, the stomach ; to slander your guru, violate a virgin, 
betray a secret confided to you, or to be false to any one who has relied 
on you, these arc the private parts and the thighs ; and the hairs of 
these are the smaller sins. This man of sin is of gigantic stature, and 
has a horrihle face ; he is black, and has wild bright eyes ; he delight p 
in torturing mankind.' — Dubois. 

K '6 


for. Then, facing the north, with his arms hanging down, 
he recites the gayatri mantram, in the same manner and the 
same number of times as before. It is impossible to repeat 
this prayer too often in the evening, evening prayers being 
so much more efficacious than others. A Brahmin who 
daily recites this prayer uninterruptedly from sunset to 
midnight will by this pious exercise most assuredly place 
himself beyond the possibility of want or misery, and will 
ensure for himself a quiet and peaceful death, without 
sickness or pain, when his long and prosperous career 
shall draw to a close. 

To dismiss the goddess gayatri he uses the same formulas 
as those of the noonday sandhya, and, after the tarpaiia, 
or libation of water, to the sun and the planet Venus, he 
addresses Siva in these words : — ' Rudra ! protect me 
from all accident and danger as well by night as by day. 
You are the lord of the world ; take me under your pro- 
tection that nothing may hurt me or do me harm.' The 
prayer to fire follows ; then he offers tarpana to the follow- 
ing gods, saying : ' Glory to Brahma ! Glory to water ! 
Glory to Varuna ! Glory to Vishnu ! Glory to Rudra ! ' 
While offering arghya to the sun, he says : ' God of light, 
god of the day ! I offer you worship ! Receive the arghya 
that I now present to j^ou, and deliver me from the cares 
and dangers of the world ! ' 


1 I will conclude,' the author goes on to say, ' by ex- 
plaining what the sandhya is, and on what occasions it 
should be offered. 

' Brahma, the author and father of the Vedas, wishing 
to extract the essence of them, composed the sandhya, 
which is in respect to the other Vedas what butter is to 
milk, or what gold is compared with the other metals. In 
short, as honey is the quintessence of flowers, so the sandhya 
is the quintessence of the Vedas. 

' And as the sandhya is all that is most sublime in the 
Vedas, so is the gayatri all that is most sublime in the 
sandhya. This celebrated prayer obtains for mankind the 
remission of their sins, plenty, joy, wealth, health, and 
also ensures their happiness hereafter. 


' They must beware of teaching this prayer to the de- 
graded Sudras. Whoever dared to do so would assuredly 
go to the infernal regions — he, his father, and his children ; 
and if a Sudra happened to overhear a Brahmin repeating 
it he would inevitably go to the same place and remain 
there for all eternity. 

■ I have said it, and I repeat it,' says the author, ' let 
them beware of making it known to the Sudras, under 
pain of eternal damnation. 

1 No meditation, penance, sacrifice, knowledge, prayer, 
can compare in efficacy to the gayatri mantram. Its 
merits are superexcellent, but it must also be kept a pro- 
found secret. It was Brahma himself who composed it 
expressly for Brahmins. 

' This is the idea which must be formed of the goddess 
gayatri. Though she appears under the form of a prayer, 
it must be recognized that she is the Supreme Being, and 
she must be worshipped as such. Brahma, who composed 
this mantram, taught it to Indra, who taught it to Yama ; 
he in turn instructed Siva, who taught it to the Brahmins.' 

Such are the prayers and ceremonials used by Brahmins 
when performing the three sandhyas, and such are the 
extravagant absurdities to which they are bound to con- 

The intense and mysterious solemnity with which they 
perform all this ceremonial is intended to persuade others 
that its end and object must be of the highest and most 
vital importance ; the inner meaning being quite beyond 
the reach of the vulgar and ignorant. Every care is taken 
to strengthen this opinion ; and they use the greatest 
precautions to exclude the searching eyes of educated 

Though assured of the blind credulity of the ignorant 
masses over whom they hold sway, they are well aware 
that, if ever the spell should be broken, their charlatanism 
and cupidity would stand revealed, and they would then 
become the laughing-stock of the public. 

If the sandhya really represents the cream of the Vedas, 
I do not think that any European will regret the want of 
a wider acquaintance with these famous books. As an 
excuse for the fantastic folly of many of their religious 


performances Brahmins assert that some, if not all, are 
only allegories, of which the inner meaning is more rational. 
This may very likely be true ; but I am fully persuaded 
that the tradition of this inner meaning has been lost. 
There are beyond question very few Brahmins who would 
be able to give even the most imperfect idea of what their 
rites were originally intended to convey. It is an un- 
doubted fact that the greater number of them have nothing 
in their minds beyond the material and literal fulfilment 
of the ridiculous ceremonies which they are in the habit 
of performing. Take, for instance, their celebrated mys- 
terious gayatri, of which each word, they aver, contains 
a hidden meaning — a meaning, however, which is inter- 
preted in as many different ways as there are castes and 
sects l . 

The first four sections of this chapter are taken from the 
Nitya Karma, or Brahminical ritual. I was acquainted 
with the second part of the sandhya when I first compiled 
this work ; I had read a full description of its details in 
a little manuscript of M. Pons, formerly a Jesuit missionary 
in the Carnatic, who died about eighty years ago. He had 
travelled all over Southern India, and was a good Sanskrit 
scholar, having written a grammar of that language. But 
the particulars which this learned man gave appeared to 
me so extraordinary and so incredible, that I doubted their 
authenticity and did not venture to use them. I after- 
wards procured a book in Canara entitled Purohita-Asrama- 
Karma, or ' The Religious Observances of a Brahmin 
Purohita,' in which I found the same details in almost 
exactly the same words. I consulted some Brahmins on 
the subject, and they assured me that they were sub- 
stantially correct, but that there were some mantrams and 
ceremonies mentioned which were not in use in the Southern 
Provinces, though they were used in the north. Indeed 
I was assured the ceremonial and mantrams vary slightly 
in different parts, according to the Veda and the sect of 
those that follow them. But, according to my informants, 

1 A Hindu would contend that the fact of the hidden meaning of the 
mantrants having been lost does not make the mantrams absurd, but only 
those who perform the ceremonies without understanding their mean- 
ing.— Ed. 


most Brahmins neglect and are even altogether ignorant 
of the greater part of them. 

The Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas must also perform the 
sandhya ; but it is not as obligatory for them, especially for 
Vaisyas, as it is for Brahmins. Furthermore, the mantrams 
and ceremonials of the latter are quite different, and not 
nearly so numerous. 

The Jains also perform the sandhya. As for the Sudras, 
they can only make simple ablutions, without any prayers 
or ceremonies ; but any one who wishes to be distinguished 
from the vulgar herd, and to be considered a more exalted 
person, rarely fails to perform the ablutions at least once 
a day. To see them one would never think that those 
who perform the sandhya are actuated in any way by a 
spirit of devotion. The Brahmin gets through all these 
ceremonies and repeats all these prayers as quickly as 
possible ; he is like a schoolboy gabbling over a lesson he 
has learnt by heart ; and this, like everything else, is all 
performed perfunctorily and as a duty to be discharged 
with all possible celerity. 


Brahminical Fasts. — The Custom of Rubbing the Head and Body with 
Oil. — The Over-indulgence of Brahmins. — Their Scrupulous Observ- 
ance of Custom. — Reflections on this Subject. — Their Samara- 
dhanas, or Public Feasts. — Sudra Feasts. 

Brahmins are obliged to keep frequent and often pro- 
longed fasts l . They are expected to accustom themselves 
to them as indispensable adjuncts of their religion from 
the day they assume the triple cord. Even old age, in- 
firmity, or sickness, unless it be very serious, is not held 
to exempt them from these fasts. 

1 One is perpetually struck by the numerous points of resemblance 
between the manners and customs of modern Brahmins and those of 
the Pharisees, with which we have become acquainted through the 
Holy Scriptures. Their lives are full of the same affectations, they 
share the same dread of defilement, there are the same continual ablu- 
tions and bathings, the same scrupulous attention to the outward 
observance of the law, the same frequent fasts, &c. ; but all this is 
tainted by overweening pride, ostentation, and hypocrisy. What 
St. Matthew says of this sect (xxiii. 27) might certainly be applied without 
injustice to the Brahmins of India. — Dubois. 


On ordinary days the Brahmin Grahasiha may take two 
meals ; one after midday, and one before going to bed. 
But this rule has many exceptions. There are many days 
on which he is allowed to take only one meal, about three 
o'clock in the afternoon ; and there are others when he 
may neither eat nor drink. 

The days of the new and full moon are fast-days, as also 
the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth days of each lunar month, 
which are called the ekadasi vrata ; on the tenth and 
twelfth days one meal may be taken, on the eleventh day, 
called ekadasi, no meal at all is allowed. To fast on these 
three days has a special merit \ As the fast which is kept 
on the eleventh day of each lunar month is observed with 
particular solemnity, I will give a few details of it in an 
appendix 2 . 

The thirteenth day of the moon is an unlucky day. 
Brahmins must eat nothing on that day till sunset s . In 
the evening, before taking their food, they offer puja to 
Siva, to propitiate him, and then begin to eat. 

The feast called Sivaratri (or ' Siva's Night ') falls on 
the fourteenth day of the moon in the month of Maga 
(February), the origin and particulars of which will be 
seen in an appendix 4 . On that day no one must eat or 
drink, or even sleep, for the whole twenty-four hours. 
Every three hours during the day and night puja is offered 
to Siva, and not until the following day, after having per- 
formed the sandhya, are they at liberty to eat B . 

On the ninth day of the lunar month Cheitra (April), 
being the anniversary of the incarnation of the great god 
Vishnu in the person of Rama, Brahmins may take only 
one meal in the day, and that without rice ; they may 
only eat peas, cakes, bananas, and cocoanuts 6 . 

1 The eleventh day is the only strict fast-day, and it is observed only 
by old and religiously disposed Brahmins and widows. The Madhva 
Brahmins observe the fast more scrupulously than others nowadavs. 

- Appendix II. 

3 This fast is not generally observed nowadays. — Ed. 

4 Appendix III. 

5 This festival is only observed by followers of Siva, and never by 
Vishnavites. — Ed. 

6 This festival, though strictly speaking a Vishnavite festival, is also 
observed by ordinary Sivaites. — Ed. 


On the eighth day of the month of Sravana (August), 
the day of Vishnu's incarnation in the person of Krishna, 
they are forbidden to take any food at all, and must give 
themselves up to works of piety. They make clay images 
of Krishna and his wife Rukmani, Satya Bhama, Bala- 
Badra, Rohini, Vasu-Deva, Nanda, Devaki. At midnight 
they offer puja to all these deities together, and for nei- 
veddya they offer cocoanuts, bananas, coarse sugar, common 
peas, peaflour, milk, and cakes. The next day, after the 
sandhya, they can take their usual meals. 

They must also fast on the anniversaries of the ten 
Avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu ; on the days called 
irmnuvadi, yugadi, sankranti ; on the days of eclipses ; at 
the equinoxes, solstices, and the conjunction of planets, 
and other unlucky days ; on the anniversary of the death 
of father or mother ; on Sundays and several other days 
during the year. 

On fast-days a man is not allowed to have intercourse 
with his wife ; the women are forbidden to rub their bodies 
with powdered saffron and the men to anoint their heads 
with oil. Wednesday and Saturday are the only days in 
the week on which this cosmetic process may be indulged 
in with advantage. To anoint yourself on other days 
might produce serious consequences. For instance, if you 
anoint yourself on Sunday, you run the risk of catching all 
sorts of complaints ; if on Monday, that of losing your 
personal attractions ; if on Tuesday, you will shorten your 
life ; and if on Friday, you will probably become over- 
whelmed with debts. Nevertheless, when the case is one 
of urgent necessity, they may anoint themselves on one 
of these days after taking certain precautions \ 

Whenever any one wishes to perform this operation, it 
is necessary first to think of Asvatthama, of Bhali Chakra- 
varti, of Veda-Vyasa, of Hanumanta, of Vibhishana, of 
Krupacharia, and of Parasu-Rama. Dipping the tips of 
his fingers in the oil, the anointer must let seven drops fall 
on the ground, as a libation in honour of these seven per- 
sonages. After that he may anoint his head in the usual 
manner 2 . 

1 These customs are not very strictly observed nowadays. — Ed. 

2 The custom of oiling the body was very common among the Jews. 


This libation is considered rather important. The seven 
personages whose names have been mentioned are supposed 
to require oil to anoint their heads ; it is only fair, therefore, 
to give them a few drops. They, on their side, from feel- 
ings of gratitude, grant long life and riches to whoever 
shows them this mark of respect. 

But to return to the fasts. The Brahmins do not appear 
to feel the least inconvenience from enforced abstinence 
from food. Neither is it a great hardship to them, for 
from their early youth they are accustomed to eat nothing 
till after midday. Besides, on these days of mortification 
they take care to make up for the lateness of their meal 
by the large quantity they eat when once they begin. 
Habit has enabled Brahmins to overload their stomachs 
with most indigestible food, without feeling any discomfort 
or inconvenience. One often sees a Brahmin, after making 
a hearty meal of rice and liquefied butter, eat the whole of 
a huge jack-fruit \ which would be enough to give ten 
Europeans violent indigestion. 

These frequent fasts appear to form part of a dietary 
system which has been misinterpreted in a religious sense ; 
or more probably they are due to a desire on the part of 
the Brahmins to attract public attention and respect by 
an ostentatious display of moderation. Be that as it may, 
gluttony may certainly be included among the numerous 
vices of the Brahmins. There is no limit to their appetite 
when they get the opportunity of indulging it, and such 
opportunities frequently occur, seeing that their number- 
less ceremonies always end with a feast ; and on these 
occasions they make a point of gorging themselves to the 
utmost extent. There is no doubt that, in spite of their 

They considered it a healthy and cleanly habit. They anointed the 
hair and beard (Psalm cxxxiii. 2). At festivals or on days of public 
rejoicing they anointed either their whole bodies or else only the head 
or feet with unguents (St. Matthew vi. 17 ; St. Luke vii. 38 ; St. John 
xii. 3). They also anointed the dead (St. Mark xiv. 8, xvi. 1 ; St. Luke 
xxiii. 56). Their kings and high priests were anointed at their con- 
secration. The vessels of the Tabernacle were also consecrated with 
holy oil (Exodus xxx. 26-28).— Dubois. 

These semi-divine personages are called Chiranjivis in Sanskrit, 
literally ' the long-lived.' — Ed. 

1 The tree which produces this is the tijaca-marum of Malabar. It is 
the largest fruit known, and is extremely indigestible. — Dubois. 


being accustomed to it, this habit of eating to excess would 
in the end be productive of disastrous consequences in 
a climate where moderation in all things must be the rule 
of life, if fasts enforced by custom did not give their stomachs 
a little rest from time to time. 

If Brahmins can with a certain amount of justice reproach 
Europeans for intemperance in drinking, with no less justice 
can Europeans retort that Brahmins show great want of 
moderation in eating. Besides, drunkenness is not an 
habitual vice among respectable Europeans, and those who 
frequently give way to it are looked upon with contempt 
by their own countrymen ; whereas Brahmins, who are 
the cream of Hindu society, and ' the gods of the earth.' 
are perfect slaves to their stomachs. Indeed the most 
revolting gluttony does not horrify them, and they even 
justify it under the cloak of religion. It is by no means 
uncommon for them to gorge themselves to such repletion 
that they are unable to rise from the place where they 
have been eating. 

Far from being ashamed of this, they pretend that it is 
infinitely pleasing to the god Jivattma, that is to say, to 
the "principle of life, which they have deified. The more 
liquefied butter and other food they can cram into their 
stomachs, the better the god Jivattma will be pleased. 
When they sit down to a feast it is curious to watch the 
preparations that are made so that nothing may hinder 
the full play of the appetite, and Jivattma be thoroughly 
satisfied. To prevent themselves from being inconvenienced 
in any way during this important operation of eating, they 
begin by taking off their turbans and clothes, sitting down 
to the feast almost naked. While eating they occasionally 
stroke their heads, their throats, their chests, and their 
stomachs, and rub these portions of their bodies in order- 
as it were, to help the food to descend more quickly into 
the abdominal regions. They never get up from a meal 
until it is absolutely impossible to swallow another morsel ; 
and then, to alleviate the enormous amount of work their 
stomachs are put to, they swallow a piece of asafoetida, 
the aperient and sudorific qualities of which no doubt pre- 
vent the ill effects which would otherwise infallibly result 
from such excesses. 


To /ill one's .stomach well is a very favourite expression 
amongst Hindus, and one you very often hear. Whenever 
they feast in another's house the host never fails to ask 
his guests if their stomachs are well filled. The first 
question that a Brahmin's wife and children ask on his 
return from a feast is, ' Have you filled your stomach 
well ? ' and it affords him the greatest pleasure to be able 
to answer, while he gently rubs that part of his person, 
' My stomach is well filled.' 

Hindus belonging to other castes which have the right 
to wear the triple cord also keep most of the Brahminical 
fasts, and so do even some Sudras who have not that 
privilege, but who wish to gain the respect and considera- 
tion of the public. When these days of mortification 
come round all manual labour is stopped, all outdoor 
work is suspended, the shops are closed, and workmen, 
artisans, and labourers give themselves and their cattle 
a rest. Fasts which recur so often naturally cause a con- 
siderable waste of time, but in a country where industry 
meets with so little encouragement this drawback is not 
much felt ; and the indolent Hindu has generally more 
time on his hands than he requires to look after his busi- 
ness, which is never of a very pressing nature. It is 
indeed quite probable that their natural indolence and 
dislike for work of all kinds partly contributed to the in- 
stitution of so many days of rest ! 

All these practices which the Hindu thinks himself called 
upon to observe are so overladen with fanciful and even 
ridiculous details that it is difficult to understand how any 
civilized people could have preserved them intact up to 
the present day. The Hindus, however, are so obstinately 
devoted to custom and precedent that no sensible person 
amongst them would think for a moment of trying to 
bring about a change. It is true that several of their 
modern philosophers, such as Vemana, Tiruvalluvar, 
Pattanattu-pillai, Agastya and others, have ridiculed such 
customs ; yet they nevertheless recommend people to 
follow them, and themselves conform minutely to every 
observance \ 

1 Amongst the few Hindu works which are written in a free philo- 
sophical vein, and in which the Hindu religion and its customs are openly 


Our Western religion, education, and manners are bo 

diametrically opposed at all points to the religious and 
civil usages of the Hindus that they are naturally looked 
upon with a most unfavourable eye by the latter. In 
their opinion Europeans may almost be placed below the 
level of beasts, and even the more sensible among them 
cannot understand how people, possessed in other ways of 
so many superior qualities, can conform in their everyday 
life to manners and customs which differ so radically from 
their own, and which, as a natural consequence, they con- 
sider most coarse and degraded. 

The Brahmin rule of life is in appearance intolerably 
severe, but it has become for them a mere matter of habit 
encouraged by vanity and self-interest. Their punctilious- 
ness in the fulfilment of their religious duties day by day, 
their self-denials and their fasts, form part of the business of 
their lives and are looked upon in the light of pastimes. 
They know, too, full well, that the eyes of the multitude 
are always on them, and the smallest relaxation of their 
discipline or the least negligence in any particular would 
put an end to the almost boundless veneration and respect 

criticized, not one that I know of has been written by a Brahmin. All 
the works of this kind that I have seen have emanated from authors 
who were not of this caste. Tiruvalluvar was a Pariah, Pattanattu- 
pillai and Agastya were both of the Vellala caste, and their poems are 
written in Tamil ; Sarovignaimurti was a Lingayat, and his works are 
in Canarese. One of the most famous is Vemana, whose poems, origin- 
ally written in Telugu, have since been translated into several other 
languages. We are told that this philosopher, who was of the Reddy 
caste, and was born in the district of Cuddapah, died towards the end 
of the seventeenth century. His writings, from which I have seen 
several extracts, appear to me to be most interesting, and are distinguished 
by much discernment and independence. It is to be noticed that the 
authors of all these satirical and revolutionary works belong to recent 
times. If in earlier days any enlightened writers published similar 
works, the Brahmins have taken care that not a trace of them shall 
remain. Nowadays they rage against the authors we have mentioned, 
and speak of their works with contempt. They cannot, of course, 
succeed in destroying them, but they do everything in their power to 
prevent the reading of them. — Dubois. 

The last sentences of the Abbe's note are misleading, for these authors 
are held in great respect, and are much read by educated Brahmins. 
These latter must be distinguished from the purely priestly class of 
Brahmins, whose interest it may be to dissuade people from studying 
these works. — Ed. 


with which the common people regard them. I have 
however met with Brahmins who were sufficiently reason- 
able to admit that many of their customs were opposed to 
all common sense, and that they only practised them out 
of consideration for their co-religionists. I know also that 
most of them evade the rules and absolve themselves 
without hesitation from the performance of very many 
of their trifling ceremonies when they are quite certain 
that these lapses will remain a profound secret. Thus, for 
example, there are very few who perform their ablutions 
more than once a day, or who strictly observe the pre- 
scribed fasts. To keep up appearances, to dazzle the eyes 
of the public, to avoid scandal, such are the limits of their 
pious zeal. Although in public they affect the utmost 
strictness, they are very much less particular in private 
life ; and a well-known saying confirms this assertion : ' A 
real Brahmin in the agrahara ., half a Brahmin when seen 
afar off, and a Sudra when entirely out of sight V 

It must be acknowledged, however, that they are very 
tenacious of these long-established customs. Any one who 
is believed to openly neglect them incurs severe censure 
and contempt, and also lays himself open to serious insults 
and annoyances. The gurus of the Brahmins keep a very 
watchful eye over the others. Those found guilty of a 
breach of discipline are not always let off with severe 
reprimands publicly delivered. The saintly gurus rarely 
omit the imposition of a heavy fine, the amount of which 
is fixed by themselves. 

The purohitas also are obliged, for the sake of example 
and to keep up appearances, to follow the Brahminical 
usages with the utmost strictness, even to the minutest 
details ; but it is greatly to their interest to keep up all 
these practices, seeing that they form a never-failing source 
of profit. 

The scrupulous exactitude of the Brahmins is particularly 
noticeable at the samaradhanas, or public feasts, to which 
they are often invited by persons of high degree, such as 

1 The name of villages entirely peopled by Brahmins. 

2 This is even more true nowadays than it was in the time of the 
Abbe, at any rate among the Brahmins educated on Western lines. 
— Ed 


Rajahs, governors of provinces, and other high officials, or 
wealthy individuals who pride themselves on the enormous 
expense which their prodigality entails on these occasions. 
The dedication of a new temple, the inauguration of an 
idol, the celebration of a feast-day or of a marriage, the 
birth of an heir, &c, expiatory ceremonies for the sins of 
the departed to procure their admittance into the abode 
of bliss, votive ceremonies to ensure victory in time of 
war, to avert the evil effects of an unlucky constellation, 
or to obtain rain in time of drought, &c, &c. ; one and all 
of these are opportunities for samaradhanas K It is need- 
less to add that the Brahmins who make their living out 
of these and similar practices insist very warmly on their 
being kept up, and place them in the foremost rank of 
meritorious actions. When a samaradhana is announced 
as about to take place, all, men and women, from seven or 
eight miles round, flock to it, sometimes to the number 
of over two thousand 2 . Each and all bring with them 
an appetite well calculated to do full justice to the hospi- 
tality of their entertainer. These gatherings are composed 
entirely of Brahmins, and as every one keeps his eye on 
his neighbour there is much rivalry as to who will show 
the greatest familiarity with the customs of their caste 
and the greatest zeal in carrying them out. An ancient 
Roman philosopher once said that he could not imagine 
how two augurs could meet without laughing in each other's 
faces. What would he have thought of the grave and 
serious mien which Hindu soothsayers and impostors pre- 
serve under similar circumstances ? 

Seated on the ground in long rows, the women entirely 
separated from the men, they sing in turn while waiting 
for their food, either Sanskrit hymns in honour of their 
deities or love -songs. All those who are listening cry out 
as a mark of approval, l Hara ! Hara ! Govinda ' / ' though 
the greater number have probably understood nothing of 
what has been sung. 

1 The Jews had also their solemn feasts. Frequent mention is made 
of them in the Bible. — Dubois. 

- There is a sarcastic Tamil proverb to the effect that ' a Brahmin 
will walk even a hundred miles for rice and dholl." — Ed. 

s A style of acclamation. They arc the names of Siva and Vishnu. — 


The giver of the entertainment is not permitted to eat 
with his guests unless he is himself a Brahmin. If lie is 
of another caste he appears after the feast is finished, and 
prostrates himself humbly before these gods of the earth 
who have done him the honour to devour the food he has 
provided, and who in return give him their asirvada or 
blessing. If their host crowns the feast by a distribution 
of presents of cloth or money, their fulsome compliments 
will know no bounds, and they will exalt him even above 
their own deities. At this the host feels excessively 
flattered, thoroughly convinced that such an honour 
cannot be too dearly bought. I have already remarked 
that all Hindus are particularly susceptible to flattery. 
There is an entire caste called Battus, who are in a way 
flatterers by profession. Their only occupation in life is 
to grovel before people of position or importance, and to 
recite or sing before them verses composed in their honour, 
which are full to overflowing of the most extravagant 
eulogies. The most astonishing thing is that, instead of 
wounding the modesty and susceptibilities of those to whom 
they are addressed, these songs are received with compla- 
cency and looked upon as sincere tributes to undoubted 
merit, the author being handsomely rewarded for them. 

Those who belong to the sects of Siva and Vishnu also 
have their samaradhanas, or public feasts, which are given 
by the wealthy among them ] . As all the guests who 
crowd to these entertainments are Sudras, and for the 
most part low, uneducated people, the festivities are 
generally very noisy and disorderly, and frequently end 
in a quarrel. The various classes of common Sudras also 
get up feasts amongst themselves, but these have no re- 
semblance to the samaradhanas of the Brahmins, the only 
motive of the feasters being to enjoy a festivity which 
usually ends in a debauch. At a Brahmin feast the greatest 
order and propriety prevail, but Sudra feasts differ in no 
wise from the orgies which take place in Europe in the 
low pot-houses frequented by the scum of the population. 
The Sudras generally postpone the discussion of their many 
and frequent differences until some occasion of this sort 

1 This is untrue of Vishnavitc Brahmins, for no two Vishnavite Brah- 
mins will cat together unless they be very closely related. — Ed. 


conies round. Every one, indeed, arrives with a firm 
determination to have a good fight and to make plenty of 
noise over it. The moment when the meal is ready and 
the giver of the feast has invited his guests to come in 
and partake of it, is generally the time that they consider 
most suitable for the discussion of their pretended griev- 
ances. They stop the whole assemblage by uttering the 
customary oath in the name of the prince or governor of 
the province, and declare that no one shall begin to eat 
until their grievances have been listened to, their wrongs 
redressed, and the culprits punished. And then the dispute 
begins. Some take one side and some another, but all par- 
ticipate in it, and the quarrel becomes general. They all 
scream at the top of their voices, without listening to a 
word any one else is saying ; they hurl the most disgusting 
accusations at one another, mixed with horrible impreca- 
tions and insults, without pausing to give either party 
a chance of replying. Then their blood rises, and the 
quarrel waxes warmer and warmer. They proceed to 
threatening gestures and rush towards each other, their 
faces contorted with rage and fury. Any one who did not 
know the Hindu character would swear they were all going 
to fly at each other's throats. Their host, however, who 
generally maintains a strict neutrality on these occasions, 
continues to superintend his domestic arrangements with 
the utmost composure, or else retires to some peaceful 
corner and quietly smokes his pipe, a tranquil spectator 
of the scene around him, knowing full well that the belli- 
gerents must ultimately tire themselves out by the vehem- 
ence of their cries and gesticulations, and that they will 
calm down from sheer exhaustion. He then selects three 
or four to act as arbitrators, and, placing himself with 
them between the two parties, succeeds, after no little 
difficulty, in restoring peace. They then investigate the 
cause of the quarrel, and try to arrange the affair so as to 
satisfy both sides. If this is impossible, the final decision 
is put off till some future time, when the whole scene is 
re-enacted from the beginning. Promptly forgetting the 
epithets which they have been mutually heaping on each 
other, the guests at length seat themselves and begin tli^ 
feast, which has had plenty of time to get cold. As a rule 


it would be waste of labour to try to arrange a difference 
of opinion between Sudras without first allowing them to 
quarrel and abuse each other, and even come to blows '. 
After these preliminaries, which they generally repeat 
several times, you may attempt the task of reconciliation 
with some hope of success. 

The Pariahs also sometimes have feasts amongst them- 
selves, but these are invariably disgusting orgies. Follow- 
ing the customs of their caste, they make a point of in- 
toxicating themselves with the juice of the palm-tree, of 
which there is always a vast quantity drunk. The guests, 
who know that these orgies always end in a free fight, go 
ready armed with stout sticks, and the feast rarely concludes 
without bloodshed. Similar quarrels almost always form 
part of the wedding ceremonies of a Sudra. During the 
time that I lived in India, I celebrated over 2,000 marriages 
amongst Christian Sudras of all castes ; and I only remember 
one such occasion on which there was not a violent alterca- 
tion, which ended more often than not in a furious, if not 
sanguinary, battle. The principal cause of dissension is 
the marriage settlement. It is seldom that the bride's 
parents do not try to cheat those of the bridegroom over 
the quantity or value of the jewels, or over the colour and 
price of the wedding garments. At other times, perhaps, it 
is the friends and relations who feel themselves aggrieved. 
They complain bitterly that the respect and consideration 
which were their due have not been shown them, either 
in not consulting them before the marriage was arranged, 
or by a lack of due form and ceremony in their invitation. 

There are many small details which must be attended to 
when a feast is given amongst the various Sudra classes. 
The quality of the food, the method of preparing and serving 
it, and a thousand other minutiae, are all points which 
have long since been settled by immemorial custom, the 
non-observance of which would entail very serious con- 

1 The truth is, a marriage or funeral ceremony is the only occasion 
when all the members of one family or members of one caste meet, and 
it therefore offers the best, if not the only, opportunity for an aggrieved 
member to lay his complaint before his castc-beadmen. It is too much 
to say that they come ' determined to have a good light," with or without 
reason. — En. 


sequences. Even involuntary mistakes of the most trivial 
kind are not overlooked or forgiven. The following story 
is an instance. I was once in a village where a man of 
the Oopara or gardener caste was giving a feast to his 
friends and to the headman of his caste. All the guests 
had seated themselves and begun their meal, when one of 
them, whilst eating, found a small stone in his rice, which 
hurt his teeth. He promptly spat out everything he had 
in his mouth on to his plate, found the tin} 7 stone, and 
placing it in the hollow of his hand rose from his place, 
and thus addressed all the other guests. ' Sirs ! ' he said, 
pointing to the giver of the feast, ' here is a man who 
invites us to his house, and then gives us stones instead of 
rice ! ' And he then showed this little pebble to every 
person present. ' Shame ! shame ! ' cried all the guests ; 
' our host must be punished.' Thereupon they all got up, 
leaving their meal unfinished, to deliberate as to the punish- 
ment that should be inflicted for so grave an offence. The 
poor fellow was mulcted in a heavy fine, and was also con- 
demned to provide another feast on twice as sumptuous 
a scale for the heads of the caste. 

It is considered good style amongst the Sudras never to 
ajjpear pleased or satisfied with any entertainment that 
may be offered them. The host may spend large sums 
for the gratification of his guests, and may take every 
possible care that the food is nicely prepared and well 
served ; but the greatest compliment that he can expect 
or hope for is that his feast is just fit for dogs. Hence the 
common saying, that if a Sudra invited to a feast can find 
fault with nothing else, he will be sure to complain that 
there was not enough salt. 

The master of the house must not be annoyed at these 
incivilities ; he must listen to the fault-finding patiently, 
and make what excuses he can for the inferiority of his 
repast. His only consolation is the thought of the revenge 
he will take when he, in his turn, is invited to a feast by 
his fastidious and too candid friends. 

Intoxicating drinks are forbidden at these feasts, and it 
would be considered an insult of the deepest dye to even 
suggest them. When the meal is over, betel is handed 
round, and the guests retire at once. 



The Kinds of Food expressly forbidden to Brahmins. — Occult Rites. — 
The Disgusting Rite called Sakti. 

There are as regards food three things which a Brahmin 
must avoid with the most scrupulous care : he must not 
eat anything that has had life or has even contained the 
principle of life ; he must not drink intoxicating liquors ; 
he must not touch food that has been prepared by persons 
of another caste. It is no greater privation to a Brahmin 
to abstain from eating meat, accustomed as he is from his 
earliest youth to go without it, and even to look upon it 
as abominable food, than it is for us to refrain from eating 
the flesh of certain domestic animals, for which, either 
from natural prejudice or from its unpleasant taste, we 
feel a strong repugnance. Thus, when a Hindu abstains 
from all animal food, he is only conforming to a feeling of 
unconquerable repulsion, the result partly of imagination 
and partly of long-established custom. I once met a 
Brahmin who, on seeing some eggs being broken and beaten 
up for an omelette, immediately complained of feeling un- 
well, and in the course of a few moments was violently 

The aversion which Brahmins feel for sura-pana, or the 
use of intoxicating beverages — an aversion to which I have 
several times had occasion to call attention — springs at any 
rate from most commendable principles. In places where 
Brahmins congregate in great numbers infractions of this 
rule of abstinence are extremely rare, and such a thing as 
a drunken Brahmin is unknown. They are not, however, 
quite so strict on this point when they live in some isolated 
spot, away from the watchful eyes of their gurus. A 
Brahmin's house, situated at some distance from a village 
in Tanjore, once caught fire, and the inhabitants of the 
village hastened to the spot to try and snatch what they 
could from the flames. Amongst the things saved were 
a large earthen vessel of salt pork and another containing 
arrack, or native rum. The proprietor felt the loss of his 
house much less than he did this overwhelming disclosure. 


He became the laughing-stock of the neighbourhood, and 
felt the jeers and mockery of which he was the object so 
keenly that he was obliged to leave the country and hide 
his shame elsewhere. One may well conjecture, without 
doing them any injustice, that there are many other 
Brahmins whose delinquencies have not been brought to 
light by accidents of this kind. These lapses from strict 
adherence to the law are especially frequent in towns, 
where illicit pleasures are easily obtainable. More than 
once it has come to my knowledge that certain Brahmins 
were in the habit of meeting in small numbers in the houses 
of Sudras in whom they thought they could place con- 
fidence, there to partake in the strictest privacy of feasts 
from which neither intoxicating liquors nor meat were 
excluded. Furthermore, the Brahmins became so demora- 
lized by these debauches that they allowed their hosts to 
eat with them, thus shamelessly committing a threefold 
breach of those laws of their caste which they are most 
especially enjoined to keep. 

These little orgies sometimes entail very unpleasant con- 
sequences. The Sudras' wives are, of course, obliged to 
be in the secret, and as La Fontaine says : — 

Rien ne pese tant qu'un secret ; 

Le porter loin est difficile aux dames. 

Hindu women are by no means exceptions to this rule. 
A Brahmin woman whom I knew, allowed herself to be 
persuaded by a Sudra woman, a friend of hers, to eat 
part of a stew which the latter had cooked, and she even 
went so far as to say she thought it excellent. A short 
time afterwards the two friends quarrelled, and at the end 
of a violent altercation the Sudra woman, to punish her 
adversary and silence her at the same time, publicly pro- 
claimed the sin which the other in a moment of greediness 
had committed. Covered with shame and confusion at 
this unexpected revelation, which she found it impossible 
to refute, the poor Brahmin woman fled from the place in 
despair, vowing, too late, that she would never allow herself 
to be caught again. 

The use of intoxicating liquors is more common than 
the eating of forbidden food, as it is so much less liable 


to detection. At the same time, it must be admitted, it 
is an unheard-of thing to see an intoxicated Brahmin in 
the public streets. The reproach of intemperance can only 
be levelled at a very small number of men of low reputa- 
tion, who have lost all sense of shame. One could not, 
with any degree of justice, say that the reproach was 
generally applicable to Brahmins, who are in this matter 
beyond even the shafts of slander itself ] . 

The duty of punishing offences of this kind devolves 
upon the gurus. When in the course of their peregrina- 
tions they hear that any one has misconducted himself in 
such a manner, they order the culprit to appear before 
them ; and if after due investigation his delinquency is 
proved, he has to listen to a severe reprimand and occasion- 
ally undergo corporal punishment. Frequently also he 
has to pay a heavy fine ; and if the offence is a very grave 
one, he is put out of caste. Nevertheless, for fear lest too 
many persons might be inculpated, or on account of the 
high position of a particular delinquent, or to avoid creat- 
ing a scandal, or for other similar reasons, the gurus find 
it advisable to shut their eyes to many peccadilloes. The 
gurus, too, are not always impeccable in the matter of 
bribes, and will often find reasons for allowing a culprit 
to escape who has managed to ingratiate himself with 

I was once at Dharmapuri, a small town in the Carnatic, 
just at the time when a Brahmin guru was visiting that 
district. A person of the Brahmin caste was accused 
before him of breaking the rules with regard to food, and 
even of publicly deriding them. The accusation was a 
very serious one, and well substantiated ; so the culprit 
was cited to appear, and the evidence against him was 
heard. The guru, convinced of the guilt of the accused, 
had made up his mind to break his triple cord and turn 
him out of caste ; but the accused, on hearing of this 
terrible determination, showed not the smallest emotion. 
Without displaying the least discomfiture he advanced 
boldly into the midst of the assembly, and prostrating 

1 This applies equally well in the present day. Yet nobody can 
doubt that the number of Brahmins who infringe caste-customs in 
food and drink is increasing year by year. — Ed. 


himself before the guru, made the following speech : — 
1 So you have decided, you and your assessors, to break 
my cord ! Well, that will not be a heavy loss, as for two 
farthings I can get another. But what is your motive for 
treating me with so much severity, and for dishonouring 
me thus publicly I Is it because I have eaten animal 
food ? But then a guru's justice should be meted out 
impartially, and punishments should be awarded without 
respect of persons. Why am I the only one to be accused, 
the only one to be punished, when there are so many others 
who are quite as much to blame as myself, or even more 
so ? If I turn my eyes on one side, I see two or three 
among my accusers who not long since partook with me 
of an excellent leg of mutton. If I look on the other side, 
I see several who have not disdained to accept the invita- 
tion of a common Sudra friend, who treated us to an 
admirable chicken stew ; while there are others not less 
to blame on this score who have not dared to put in an 
appearance in this assembly. Have I your permission to 
mention their names ? I am quite ready to produce wit- 
nesses, and to substantiate my accusation.' 

Struck dumb by this speech, which was delivered with 
the utmost confidence and imperturbable assurance, the 
guru began to consider what the consequences of this affair 
would be, and how it would end if he persisted in carrying 
it to its proper termination ; so he put a stop to all future 
complications by crying out, with great presence of mind : 
' Who has brought this babbler here ? Do you not see 
that he is mad ? Turn him out of the assembly at once, 
and let me hear no more of him.' 

If these slight and rare infractions of the law, which are, 
after all, only weaknesses inseparable from human nature, 
were the only sins, they would be undeniably small indeed ; 
but occasionally one may also come across vice and wicked- 
ness in their most hideous forms. It once came to my 
knowledge that men calling themselves conjurers or magi- 
cians used to attend nocturnal gatherings, which were 
held in a deserted spot that I knew of, there to give them- 
selves up to indescribable orgies of debauch and intemper- 

The leader of these orgies was a Vishnavite Brahmin, 


and several Sudras were initiated into the mysterious 
iniquities which were carried on there. They drank and 
ate to excess everything that is forbidden to a Hindu, not 
excepting even the flesh of the cow, and the abominations 
practised on these occasions are too disgusting to be 
described. They always finished up with sacrifices and 
displays of magic, the supposed effects of which spread 
fear and consternation amongst the peaceable inhabitants 
of the whole neighbourhood, for the superstitious terrors 
of the Hindu are easily awakened. People were on the 
point of appealing to the magistrates for protection against 
these diabolical assemblies, when the debauchees who com- 
posed them, seeing they were about to be discovered, left 
the province and never dared to appear there again. 

Amongst the abominable rites practised in India is one 
which is only too well known ; it is called sakti-puja ; 
sakti meaning strength or power l . Sometimes it is the 
wife of Siva to whom this sacrifice is offered ; sometimes 
they pretend that it is in honour of some invisible power. 
The ceremony takes place at night with more or less secrecy. 
The least disgusting of these orgies are those where they 
confine themselves to eating and drinking everything that 
the custom of the country forbids, and where men and 
women, huddled together in indiscriminate confusion, 
openly and shamelessly violate the commonest laws of 
decency and modesty. 

The Namadharis, or followers of Vishnu, are the most 
frequent perpetrators of these disgusting sacrifices. People 
of all castes, from the Brahmin to the Pariah, are invited 
to attend. When the company are assembled, all kinds of 
meat, including beef, are placed before the idol of Vishnu. 
Ample provision is also made of arrack, toddy and opium, 
and any other intoxicating drug they can lay their hands 
on. The whole is then offered to Vishnu. Afterwards the 
pujari, or sacrificer, who is generally a Brahmin, first of 
all tastes the various kinds of meats and liquors himself, 

1 It is more correctly described as ' the power or energy of the god as 
represented in some of the many female forms.' It has been estimated 
that of the Hindus in Bengal, about three-fourths are devoted to the 
worship of sakti, though the forms of worship vary greatly. In Bengal 
the Vnmacharis observe the most disgusting rites of all. — Ed. 


then gives the others permission to devour the rest. Men 
and women thereupon begin to eat greedily, the same 
piece of meat passing from mouth to mouth, each person 
taking a bite, until it is finished. Then they start afresh 
on another joint, which they gnaw in the same manner, 
tearing the meat out of each other's mouths. When all 
the meat has been consumed, intoxicating liquors are 
passed round, every one drinking without repugnance out 
of the same cup. Opium and other drugs disappear in 
a similar fashion. They persuade themselves that under 
these circumstances they do not contract impurity by 
eating and drinking in so revolting a manner. When 
they are all completely intoxicated, men and women no 
longer keep apart, but pass the rest of the night together, 
giving themselves up without restraint to the grossest 
immorality without any risk of disagreeable consequences. 
A husband who sees his wife in another man's arms cannot 
recall her, nor has he the right to complain ; for at those 
times every woman becomes common property. Perfect 
equality exists among all castes, and the Brahmin is not 
of higher caste than the Pariah. The celebration of these 
mysterious rites may differ sometimes in outward forms, 
but in spirit they are always equally abominable. Under 
certain circumstances the principal objects which form the 
sacrifice to sakti are a large vessel full of native rum and 
a full-grown girl. The latter, stark naked, remains stand- 
ing in a most indecent attitude. The goddess Sakti is 
evoked, and is supposed to respond to the invitation to 
come and take up her abode in the vessel full of rum, and 
also in the girl's body. 

A sacrifice of flowers, incense, sandalwood, coloured rice, 
and a lighted lamp is then offered to these two objects ; 
and for neiveddya a portion of all the viands that have been 
prepared. This done. Brahmins, Sudras, Pariahs, both men 
and women, intoxicate themselves with the rum which was 
offered to sakti, all drinking from the same cup in turn \ 
To exchange pieces of the food that they are in the act of 
eating, and to put into one's own mouth what has just 
been taken from another's, are under these conditions 

1 I have mentioned before that to a Hindu who has been decently 
brought up this mode of drinking is absolutely abhorrent. — Dubois. 


regarded as acts of virtue by the fanatics. As usual, the 
meeting winds up with the most revolting orgy. 

Without the salutary restraint of a healthy tone of 
morality, how can these people be expected to fight success- 
fully against the vehemence of their passions % And then, 
when they give way to unbridled licence, they think to 
stifle remorse by investing these horrible practices with a 
religious element, as if sacrilege could disguise their moral 
turpitude. Strange to say, it is the Brahmins, and very 
often the women of this caste, who are frequently the most 
ardent promoters of these Bacchanalian orgies. However, 
debauches of this kind entail such heavy expenses as 
fortunately to prevent their frequent recurrence. 

Of course it is well known that most ancient nations 
had their own peculiar mysterious rites, and that very few 
among them failed to worship profligacy in some shape or 
other. Greece might well feel ashamed of the depravity 
which pervaded the cultus of a large number of her deities. 
Many remains still exist, proving irrefutably that the grossest 
excesses defiled the temples of Venus, Ceres, Bacchus, &c, 
while the Persian Mitra and the Egyptian Osiris were the 
objects of equally impure worship. 

Holy Scripture tells us something of the abominations 
practised by the Canaanites in honour of Baal, Baal-peor, 
and Moloch, which brought down upon them such terrible 
punishments. Thus we see that, all the world over, idolatry 
assumed much the same forms, for ignorance and fanaticism 
can have but one termination. 

At the same time, the Hindus, accustomed as they are 
to carry everything to extremes, appear to have surpassed 
all the other nations of the world, both ancient and modern, 
in the unconscionable depravity with which so many of 
their religious rites are impregnated. 


The Various Occupations of Brahmins. 

If Brahmins kept strictly to the letter of the rules of 
their caste, they would live in isolated places, far from the 
haunts of men, where their whole lives would be spent in 


religious exercises. They would perform their ablutions 
regularly three times a day ; they would offer the sacrifice 
called sraddha to their ancestors, a ceremony which they 
alone have the right to perform ; they would look after 
their households, paying particular attention to the educa- 
tion of their children ; and they would devote all their 
leisure moments to reading the Vedas and other sacred 
writings, to acquiring knowledge, and to meditation. But 
the poverty of many of their number, and the avarice and 
ambition which are the ruling passions of each and all, 
preclude the possibility of such a philosophical mode of 

Naturally cunning, wily, double-tongued, and servile, 
they turn these most undesirable qualities to account by 
insinuating themselves everywhere ; their main object, 
upon which they expend the greatest ingenuity, being to 
gain access to the courts of princes or other people of high 
rank. This end achieved, they quickly gain, by their 
hypocritical conduct, the affection and confidence of those 
who have received them ; and very soon the best and 
most lucrative posts are the reward of their pressing atten- 
tions. Thus it happens that the prime ministers of Asiatic 
princes are almost always Brahmins. Shut up in their 
palaces, and plunged in voluptuous idleness, the nominal 
rulers rarely give a thought to anything beyond the means 
of increasing their enjoyments, creating fresh amusements, 
and giving new zest to their passions by ever-varying 
means. The welfare of their people and the government 
of their country are very secondary considerations, if not 
matters of indifference. Women, baths, perfumes, obscene 
•dances, filthy songs, each in turn excite their senses. Only 
flatterers of the lowest type and despicable procurers are 
allowed to come near them, and these are always ready to 
applaud the dissolute vagaries of their master. 

That the Brahmins, thus raised to positions of importance 
at the courts of these slothful and useless princes, do not 
forget their relatives and friends, can well be imagined. 
Indeed they usually divide the most lucrative of the sub- 
ordinate posts among them. Thus surrounded by creatures 
upon whom they can rely and who can also rely upon them, 
a tacit collusion is established, by means of which each one 


can in his own department, enrich himself with remarkable 
rapidity, by carrying on unchecked a system of injustice 
fraud, dishonesty, and oppression-qualities m which most 
individuals of this caste have been thoroughly well trained. 
Better educated, more cunning, more keen-witted with 
greater talents for intrigue than other Hindus, Brahmins 
become necessary even to the Mussulman princes them- 
selves, who cannot govern without their assistance. ±ne 
Mahomedan rulers generally make a Brahmin their secretary 
of state, through whose hands all the state correspondence 
must pass. Brahmins also frequently fill the positions of 
secretaries and writers to the governors of provinces ; and 
districts. Generally speaking, the Mahomedans of India 
are so ignorant of the first principles of public administra- 
tion and so utterly unacquainted with the simplest rules 
of arithmetic, that they are obliged to have recourse to 
the Brahmins for everything that requires enlightenment 
and knowledge. In return, the latter know how to copy 
only too faithfully the harsh and tyrannical methods ot 
the" Mahomedans. When it is a question of plundering the 
people or extorting money from them, they employ a thou- 
sand vexatious means, sometimes even going so far as to 
resort to torture. But they rarely obtain the same hold 
over the Mahomedan princes that they do over those ot 
their own religion. With the former they remain at then- 
posts until by endless peculation and extortion, either 
authorized or tacitly allowed, they contrive to amass large 
fortunes. But the moment their wealth becomes a no- 
torious fact, that moment their disgrace is certain. Ihey 
in their turn are imprisoned, tortured, and forced to dis- 
gorge the riches that they have so unjustly acquired. 
However, some of them, foreseeing the fate that must befall 
the servants of such masters, keep a sharp look-out and 
place the fruit of their plunder in security, either by keep- 
ing a part of it in some secret hiding-place or by sending 
it away to some country beyond the tyrant s reach. 

The" Brahmins have also been clever enough to work 
their way into favour with the great European Power 
that now governs India. They occupy the highest and 
most lucrative posts in the different administrative boards 
and Government offices, as well as in the judicial courts ot 


the various districts. In fact there is no branch of public 
administration in which they have not made themselves 
indispensable. Thus it is nearly always Brahmins who 
hold the posts of sub-collectors of revenue, writers, copyists, 
translators, treasurers, book-keepers, &c. It is especially 
difficult to do without their assistance in all matters con- 
nected with accounts, as they have a remarkable talent for 
arithmetic. I have seen some men in the course of a few 
minutes work out, to the last fraction, long and com- 
plicated calculations, which would have taken the best 
accountants in Europe hours to get through l . 

Furthermore, their perfect knowledge of native opinion 
and of the ways in which it may be guided, to say nothing 
of the influence which they exercise over public feeling by 
the prerogatives of their birth, are quite sufficient reasons 
to account for the readiness with which their services are 
accepted. In fact, the veneration and respect with which 
their fellow-countrymen regard them shed, in the opinion 
of the vulgar, a kind of reflected glory and dignity on the 
different Government offices in which they occupy sub- 
ordinate positions. But woe to the European head of the 
office, who does not keep the strictest watch over the 
conduct of these said subordinates, or places implicit con- 
fidence in them ! He will soon find himself the victim of 
his own negligence, with his position seriously compromised. 
I have known many Europeans holding most distinguished 
and lucrative appointments end by losing their reputation, 
their honour, their position, and their fortune, all because 
they left too much in the hands of the Brahmins under 
them, for whose misdeeds the Government held them 
responsible. In vain did these high officials exhaust all 
their resources against the authors of their ruin ; imprison- 
ment and punishment were equally ineffectual. Most of 
these peccant subordinates would rather die in irons than 
restore one farthing of their ill-gotten gains. 

One can well imagine that when Brahmins are launched 
in the turmoil of public affairs they soon, lose sight of the 
religious observances of their caste. Occupied with the 

1 The proportion of Brahmins in Government employ is still large ; 
for it is the Brahmins who, more than any others, have availed them- 
selves of the benefits of English education. — Ed. 


government of a kingdom or a province, they have neither 
the time nor even the wish to give themselves up to the 
exercise of their interminable religious rites. As, however, 
they are in positions of authority and can dispense or with- 
hold favours at their pleasure, no one dares to call attention 
to their negligence. It is sufficient if they conform in the 
more important matters. Their dignity releases them, 
without entailing disagreeable consequences, from the 
necessity of attending to minor details. Firmly convinced 
as they are of the truth of their favourite dictum that to 
fill one's belly one must play many parts, Brahmins are 
clever at turning their hands to many ways of earning 
a livelihood. Some take up medicine, and it is said with 
considerable success. Others become soldiers. In the 
Mahratta armies there are many Brahmins ; but I cannot 
believe that a military force composed of men of this caste 
could ever be very formidable. Bravery and courage are 
foreign to their nature, and their education would not 
tend to foster these soldier-like qualities. Nevertheless, 
there have been several Brahmin generals whose military 
careers have not been without glory. Many Brahmins 
who are in trade, especially in the province of Gujerat, are 
considered excellent men of business. Those, however, 
who choose this walk in life are rather looked down upon 
by the rest of their caste, not so much on account of their 
profession as merchants or shopkeepers, but because of 
the very small amount of attention which they pay to their 
caste customs and observances. Trade in itself is not con- 
sidered at all degrading to a Brahmin, and men of this 
caste who are engaged in it are to be met with everywhere ; 
only there are many things which Brahmins are not allowed 
to sell, and which consequently they cannot include in their 
operations, such, for instance, as red cloths, the seeds and oil 
of sesamum, husked rice, liquids of every kind, salt, perfumes, 
fruits, vegetables, poisons, honey, butter, milk, sugar, &c. 
One almost invariably finds that subordinate collectors 
of revenue, custom-house officers, writers, book-keepers, 
village schoolmasters, and astronomers are Brahmins. 
They are very useful as messengers, because they are never 
detained anywhere ; and it is for this reason that many 
of the large merchants, living in provinces governed by 


native princes, employ them as coolies or porters, and pay 
them very highly, because custom-house officers have orders 
to let everything that they carry pass through free. This 
calling, though arduous, is by no means the least lucrative. 
Those who follow it travel almost free of expense, for along 
every main road there are numerous hostelries called 
chuttrams, where Brahmins alone have the right to lodge, 
and where they are fed gratuitously. The revenues which 
these establishments derive from their landed property, 
and the abundant alms which they receive, amply com- 
pensate the persons who manage them, and who are Brah- 
mins also, for the expenses entailed by the hospitality 
which they extend to their brethren. 

The great facility with which they can everywhere intro- 
duce themselves under all sorts of disguises, without exciting 
the smallest suspicion, and the adroitness with which they 
can play all sorts of parts and extricate themselves from 
the most difficult positions, render them peculiarly well 
fitted to act as spies in time of war, always supposing that 
you can be sure that they are not serving both parties, 
a circumstance which often happens without any one being 
the wiser. Poverty or self-interest sometimes reduces them 
to occupy positions which are very derogatory to their 
illustrious birth. Thus sometimes they are seen acting as 
dancing-masters to courtesans attached to the service of 
the temples. Others become cooks ; but when they are 
reduced to this latter calling, and serve masters of inferior 
caste, these latter undertake never to touch the vessels 
which their cook uses in preparing the food. The cook 
will serve the food when it is ready, but will not remove 
what is left after the meal is over. What the Brahmin 
cook prepares and touches is pure for his master, but 
what the master touches is impure and would defile the 
cook. Some even demean themselves so far as to be 
washermen and water-carriers for persons of their own 
caste, and even undertake to perform the very meanest 
requirements of domestic service. 

Superstition, which exercises such an important influence 
throughout the whole of India, also affords great resources 
to those in search of a means of livelihood. An illness, 
a fall, a law-suit, a fresh undertaking, a newly built house. 


a bad omen, an unpleasant dream, and a thousand other 
similar things, are all occasions on which their credulous 
neighbours come running to them for advice, and for which 
they make them pay as dearly as possible. The Hindu 
Almanac, about the composition of which I have already 
spoken, has always an answer or a remedy for everything. 
Brahmins are never at a loss for an answer, no matter 
on what point they may be consulted. Clever char- 
latans that they are, they make their various calculations 
with the utmost gravity ; and to give greater weight to 
their words they bewilder their clients with stories invented 
on the spur of the moment, which they tell with portentous 
emphasis. For, I repeat again, as arch-impostors they are 
absolutely unrivalled. Every Hindu is an adept at dis- 
guising the truth ; but on this point the Brahmin far 
excels every other caste. Indeed, this vice has become so 
deeply engrained, that, far from being ashamed of it, they 
regard it on the contrary as a subject for exultation and 
vanity. I once had a long conversation with two of those 
Brahmins who gain their living at the expense of the 
credulous public, and they ended by agreeing with me 
as to the superiority of the Christian religion over the 
absurdities of their own theogony. ' All that you say is 
reasonable and true,' they repeated several times. ' But 
then,' I replied, ' if all that I say is reasonable and true, 
it follows that all that you say to the people must be false 
and ridiculous.' ' That also is true,' they admitted ; ' but 
these lies comprise our livelihood. If we were to expound 
to the people only such truths as you have just been telling 
us, how should we obtain the wherewithal to fill our stomachs?'' 
Then again, flattery, in the art of which Brahmins are 
also past-masters, is also a great source of profit to them. 
However proud and haughty they may be, they never find 
any difficulty in grovelling, in the most humiliating manner, 
at the feet of any one from whom they think they can 
gain some advantage. They attach themselves like leeches 
to the great merchants or other rich individuals, and are 
never tired of playing the role of admirers and flatterers. 
They know full well that to appeal to a native's vanity is 
to attack him at his weakest point ; and naturally they 
turn this knowledge to the best possible account. The 


grossest flattery, verging on the absurd, is what is most 
pleasing to the ears of their modest patrons, and is the 
surest way of loosening the latter's purse-strings. But the 
most inexhaustible mine of wealth to Brahmins is their 
religion. As chief priests they exercise the highest func- 
tions, and consequently derive almost all the profit. In 
certain famous temples, such as Tirupati, Rameswaram, 
Jaganath (Puri) and others, thousands of Brahmins live 
on the revenues with which these temples are endowed. 

Those who cannot find means of existence in their native 
country go and seek their fortunes elsewhere, often journey- 
ing as much as two hundred miles from their families. 
Expatriation is a very small matter to them, and they 
never hesitate to accept it if there is anything to be gained 
by it. 


Religious Tolerance amongst the Brahmins. — Their Indifference with 
regard to their own Religion. — Their Sublime Ideas of the Deity. — 
A Comparison between them and the Greek Philosophers.— The 
State of Christianity. — The Political Intolerance and Ignorant 
Presumption of Brahmins. 

I have already said that the general feeling amongst 
Brahmins is that all the Hindu deities ought to receive an 
equal share of attention and worship, since they are not 
really antagonistic one to another. The quarrels and wars 
which erstwhile took place between these deities were 
never of long duration, and have in no wise prevented 
their living since then in perfect amity together. I have 
also remarked that in consequence of this the greater 
number of the Brahmins strongly disapprove of the numerous 
sectaries who devote themselves to the worship of one par- 
ticular deity and pay little or no attention to the others, 
on the ground that they are inferior and subordinate to 
the special deity which they prefer. But are these self- 
same Brahmins really so devoted to the religion of their 
country and to the worship of these deities ? Well, though 
this assertion may appear paradoxical, I should say that, 
of all Hindus, they care the least and have the smallest 
amount of faith in them. It is by no means uncommon 


to hear them speaking of their gods in terms of the most 
utter contempt. When they are displeased with their idols 
they do not scruple to upbraid them fiercely to their faces, 
at the same time heaping the grossest insults upon them, 
with every outward gesture and sign of anger and resent- 
ment. In fact, there is absolutely no limit to the blas- 
phemies, curses, and abuse which they hurl at them under 
these circumstances \ 

There is a well-known Hindu proverb which says, ' A 
temple mouse fears not the gods.' This exactly applies to 
the Brahmins, who enter their temples without showing the 
slightest sign of serious thought or respect for the divinities 
who are enshrined in them. Indeed, they often seem to 
choose these particular places to quarrel and to fight in. 
Even while performing their numerous religious fooleries, 
their behaviour shows no indication of fervour or real 
devotion. As a matter of fact, their religious devotion 
increases or diminishes in proportion to the amount of 
profit they expect to make out of it, and it also depends 
on the amount of publicity surrounding them. Those 
deities who do not contribute towards the welfare of their 
votaries here below only receive very careless and per- 
functory worship. 

The histories of their gods are so ridiculous and so ex- 

1 Any one who is familiar with the vernaculars of India knows that 
they contain an immense number of terms of abuse, which are so ex- 
traordinary, and so abominably obscene, that it would be impossible 
to find their counterpart in any Billingsgate of Europe. However, 
disgusting expressions are so greatly to the taste of the Hindus, that, 
not content with their own well-endowed vocabulary, they carefully 
learn and appropriate all the bad language that they hear in their 
quarrels with the foreigners who live amongst them. When Hindus 
are angry with their gods, which is usually the case when they do not 
receive a favourable answer to their prayers, one may see them entering 
the temples with many outward expressions of rage and mortification, 
and exhausting their vocabulary in curses and reproaches hurled against 
their unhappy gods, whom they openly accuse of impotence and fraud. 
In their ordinary conversation they often use most irreverent expres- 
sions regarding their gods, one of the least obnoxious being, ' If I do not 
keep my word may the same punishment fall upon me as I should 
deserve if I had seduced the wife of my god.' If a person of high position 
has a grievance against the gods, he sometimes revenges himself by 
having the doors of their temples stopped up with thorns and brambles, 
so that no one can enter to worship or to offer sacrifices. — Dubois. 


travagant that it is not surprising that the Brahmins are 
at heart conscious of the absurdity of worshipping such 
beings. There is, therefore, very little danger incurred in 
ridiculing the gods in the presence of Brahmins. Very 
often they agree with the scoffer, and even enlarge upon 
what he has said. Many Brahmins can repeat by heart 
songs and verses that treat with very scanty respect the 
divinities which they worship so ostentatiously in public, 
while their audience listen without any sign of disapproval. 
Brahmins have no fear of such conduct calling forth either 
reproof or punishment. The Sudras, who are more simple 
and credulous than the Brahmins, would not be so indulgent 
under similar circumstances, and it would be particularly 
imprudent to ridicule any particular god of theirs in the 
presence of those who are specially devoted to him. 

There is another factor which must be taken into account 
in estimating the scanty veneration which they pay their 
gods, to whom nevertheless self-interest, education, custom, 
and respect for public opinion oblige them to display out- 
ward respect ; and that is the clear and precise knowledge 
which most of them must have gleaned from their books 
of a ' God who is the Author and Creator of all things ; 
eternal, immaterial, omnipresent, independent, in all things 
blessed, exempt from pain and care ; the spirit of truth, 
the source of all justice ; governor, dispensator, and regu- 
lator of all things ; perfect in wisdom and knowledge ; 
without shape or countenance, without limit, without 
nature, without name, without caste, without parentage ; 
of an absolute purity which excludes all passion, all bias, 
all compromise.' 

All these qualifications and many others which are not 
less characteristic are translated literally from their books, 
and are used by Brahmins to explain the Supreme Being, 
to whom they sometimes give the name of Parabrahma, 
Paramatma, &c. Is it credible that, knowing this, they 
can seriously bestow the title of gods on the almost count- 
less number of animate and inanimate things which form 
the chief objects of the vulgar cult I It follows, therefore, 
that they ought to confine their worship to this supreme 
and unique Being, of whom they still retain such a sublime 
perception. There appears to be no doubt whatever thai 

l 3 


their Brahmin ancestors worshipped only this one Supreme 
Being ; but with the lapse of time they fell victims to 
idolatry and superstition, and, shutting their eyes to the 
light that they possessed, stifled the voice of conscience. 
Was it not for the same reason that God pronounced that 
condemnation of which the Apostle St. Paul speaks in the 
Epistle to the Romans against certain philosophers of his 
time, who knowingly rejected the truth l Is not this the 
reason why the Brahmins of to-day are given over, like 
those philosophers of old, to all the sins of a perverse will 
and to the many kinds of vice and corruption with which 
they are imbued, and from which other castes are more or 
less exempt, seeing that they possess stronger faith ? 

It is true that Brahmins are not the only philosophers 
who have been induced by purely worldly considerations 
to hide the greatest and most important of truths from 
their fellow- men. They are only following in the steps 
of the philosophers of ancient Greece. Even Socrates, the 
greatest of them all, whose ideas on the subject of the Deity 
were almost as perfect as those which have been given us 
by revelation, never dared to avow them openly : and, 
although he thoroughly recognized all the absurdities of 
paganism, he maintained the principle that every one should 
follow the religion of his country. 

Plato, his disciple, who was so distressed that Greece 
and all the other countries of the world should be given 
over to a false and dissolute religion, and who also, like 
Socrates, believed in the true God, said that these were 
truths which should not be disclosed to the common 

The whole world, as Bossuet says, was plunged at that 
time in the same error ; and truth, though known to a few, 
remained captive and dared not appear in the light of day. 
Those who knew and believed in the true God thought it 
sufficient to worship Him in secret, and held that there 
was no harm in paying outward respect to idols with the 
rest of the world. Revelation had not yet purified their 
ideas on this subject. The truth was known only in one 
very small corner of the world. The worshippers of the 
true God were only to be seen in small numbers in the 
temple of Jerusalem. 


But there is one essential difference between these ancient 
philosophers and the modern Hindus : the former were few 
in number, and lacked the necessary means and influence 
which would have enabled them to make an impression on 
the multitude and successfully combat the errors into 
which it had fallen ; whereas the Brahmins, owing to their 
numbers and to the high estimation in which they are held 
by the public, could easily, if they wished, and if their 
interests and their vices were not opposed thereto, over- 
throw the entire edifice of idolatry throughout the whole 
of India, and substitute the knowledge and worship of 
the true God, of whom they already possess so perfect 
an idea. 

Brahmins do not confine themselves to professing devotion 
to all the Hindu deities. Though the rules of their caste 
forbid their indulging in any outward signs of worship to 
the gods of other nations, one of the principles taught in 
their books and recognized by them is that, among the 
many different religions to be found throughout the world, 
and which they call Anantaveda, there is not one that should 
be despised and condemned. They might even entertain 
some feeling of respect for Mahomedanism, encumbered 
though it is with so much outward form and ceremony, 
and with the many superstitions with which the Indian 
Mahomedans have invested it, had not the harsh and 
oppressive rule of the latter, as well as their open con- 
tempt for the civil and religious institutions of the rest of 
the inhabitants, made their persons and their religion equally 
odious to the Hindus. 

The Christian religion commands the approbation of 
Brahmins in several respects. They admire its pure and 
holy morality ; but, at the same time, they hold that 
some of its precepts are beyond man's power of fulfilment, 
and that its sublimely high standard of morality is only 
suitable for persons leading a contemplative life, who have 
retired from the world and are consequently sheltered from 
its temptations. On the other hand, as Christianity con- 
demns most of their customs and superstitions, it has on 
that account become most hateful to them. The Hindu 
who embraces it is not considered to belong to the same 
nation as themselves, because his new religion forces him 


Id reject those customs and practices which they regard as 
the link binding them all indissolubly together. 

However, it must be confessed that if, in these latter 
days, idolatrous Hindus have shown a greater aversion to 
the Christian religion as they became better acquainted 
with Europeans, the result must be attributed solely to 
the bad conduct of the latter. How could the Hindus 
think well of this holy religion, when they see those who 
have been brought up in it, and who come from a country 
where it is the only one that is publicly professed, openly 
violating its precepts and often making its doctrines the 
subject of sarcasm and silly jests I It is curious to note 
that the Brahmin does not believe in his religion, and yet 
he outwardly observes it ; while the Christian believes in 
his, and yet lie does not outwardly observe it. What a sad 
and shameful contrast ! 

Before the character and behaviour of Europeans became 
well known to these people, it seemed possible that Chris- 
tianity might take root amongst them. Little by little it 
was overcoming the numberless obstacles which the pre- 
judices of the country continually placed in its way. Several 
missionaries, animated by a truly apostolic zeal, had pene- 
trated into the interior of the country, and there, by con- 
forming scrupulously to all the usages and customs of the 
Brahmins — in their clothing, food, conversation, and general 
conduct in life — had managed to win the attention of the 
people, and by dint of perseverance had succeeded in 
gaining a hearing. Their high character, talents, and 
virtues, and above all their perfect disinterestedness, 
obtained for them the countenance and support of even 
the native princes, who, agreeably surprised at the novelty 
of their teaching, took these extraordinary men under 
their protection, and gave them liberty to preach their 
religion and make what proselytes they could. 

It is a well-known fact that Robert a Nobilibus, a nephew 
of the famous Cardinal Bellarmin, and founder of the 
Mission at Madura, where he died at the beginning of the 
last century, converted nearly 100,000 idolaters in that 
very kingdom. His contemporary, the Jesuit Brito, bap- 
tized 30,000 heathens in the country of the Maravas, 
where lie finally gained the crown of martyrdom. The 


missionaries scattered about the other provinces of the 
Peninsula also laboured hard, and with the greatest success, 
to extend Christianity amongst the Hindus. The French 
Mission at Pondicherry numbered 60,000 native Christians 
in the province of Arcot, and was daily making further 
progress when the conquest of the country by Europeans 
took place — a disastrous event as far as the advance of 
Christianity was concerned. Having witnessed the immoral 
and disorderly conduct of the Europeans who then overran 
the whole country, the Hindus would hear no more of 
a religion which appeared to have so little influence over the 
behaviour of those professing it, and who had been brought 
up in its tenets ; and their prejudice against Christianity 
has gone on increasing steadily day by day, as the people 
became more familiar with Europeans, until it finally 
received its death-blow. For it is certainly a fact that 
for the last sixty years very few converts have been made 
in India. Those still remaining (and their number is daily 
diminished by apostasy) are mostly the descendants of 
the original converts made by the Jesuit missionaries. 
About eighty years ago there must have been at least 
1,200,000 native Christians in the Peninsula, while now, at 
the very utmost, they amount to but one-half of that number. 

This holy religion, which, when it was first introduced 
into India about 300 years ago, had only such obstacles 
as indifference or deep-rooted superstition to contend with, 
is now looked upon with unconquerable aversion. A re- 
spectable Hindu who was asked to embrace the Christian 
religion, would look upon the suggestion either as a joke, 
or else as an insult of the deepest dye. To such an extreme 
is this hatred now carried in some parts, that were a Hindu 
of good repute to be on intimate terms with Christians, he 
would not dare own it in public. 

A Hindu who embraces Christianity nowadays must 
make up his mind to lose everything that makes life 
pleasant. He is henceforth an outcast from society. He 
must renounce his patrimony, his right to inherit, his 
father, mother, wife, children, and friends l . He is aban- 
doned and shunned by every one. 

1 The law now recognizes a convert's right to his share of the family 
property. — Ei>. 


Europeans should indeed blush and take shame to them- 
selves when they see to what depths of degradation and 
abasement the religion of their fathers has sunk in this 
country through the misconduct and bad example of their 
fellows K 

But to return to the matter in hand : many people 
have attributed to narrowmindedness and intolerance the 
excessive care which Brahmins take to exclude strangers 
from their temples and religious ceremonies. For my part, 
I think that their only motive is to secure themselves from 
the approach of men who, from the way in which they live, 
and from the clothes which they wear, are in their eyes in 
a perpetual state of defilement. In the course of my travels, 
chance has sometimes brought me to the door, or into the 
enclosure, of one of their large temples, just when a crowd 
had assembled to witness some solemn ceremony or pro- 
cession, and giving way to curiosity, I have stopped to look 
on at my leisure. On such occasions the Brahmins them- 
selves have sometimes invited me to enter their temple, 
being satisfied as to my manner of living and conduct ; an 
honour which, out of respect to my calling, I always felt 
bound to decline. 

When I had to build or restore a church, it was very 
often from Brahmins that I obtained the site and the 
necessary materials ; and when I did occasionally meet 
with opposition in the public discharge of my religious 
duties, it was never due to Brahmins, but to fanatical 
sectaries, to religious mendicants, and to other vagabonds 
who are always wandering about the country. 

But if Brahmins cannot with any justice be accused of 
intolerance in the matter of religion, the same can certainly 
not be said in regard to their civil usages and customs. 
On these points they are utterly unreasonable. We have 
already seen many proofs of this in the preceding chapters, 
and what I am now about to add will form a fitting sequel. 
It is part of their principles to avoid and despise strangers. 

1 In his Letters on the State of Christianity in India the Abbe goes 
into the whole of this question at great length ; but he ascribes to Brah- 
minical influence, rather than to Anglo-Indian immorality, the chief 
cause of ' the impossibility of making real converts to Christianity 
among the natives of India.' — En. 


The signs of affection, friendship, and even respect which 
they sometimes show them are only hypocritical, their 
motive being entirely that of self-interest. If a European 
were to come and tell me that he had found amongst the 
Hindus a really disinterested friend, I should without 
hesitation predict, while pitying his simplicity and excess 
of confidence, that sooner or later his pretended friend 
would deceive and betray him. 

Being fully persuaded of the superlative merits of their 
own manners and customs, the Hindus think those of other 
people barbarous and detestable, and quite incompatible 
with real civilization. This ridiculous pride and these 
absurd prejudices have always been so deeply ingrained 
in them, that not one of the great dynastic changes that 
have taken place in India in modern times has been able 
to effect the smallest change in their mode of thinking 
and acting. Though they have had to submit to various 
conquerors who have proved themselves to be their superiors 
in courage and bravery, yet, in spite of this, they have 
always considered themselves infinitely their superiors in 
the matter of civilization. 

The Mahomedans, who can tolerate no laws, no customs, 
and no religion but their own, used every advantage which 
conquest gave them in a vain attempt to force their religion 
on the people who had succumbed to them almost without 
resistance. But these same Hindus, who did not dare to 
complain when they saw their wives, their children, and 
everything they held most dear carried off by these fierce 
conquerors, their country devastated by fire and sword, 
their temples destroyed, their idols demolished ; these same 
Hindus, I say, only displayed some sparks of energy when 
it became a question of changing their customs for those 
of their oppressors. Ten centuries of Mahomedan rule, 
during which time the conquerors have tried alternately 
cajolery and violence in order to establish their own faith 
and their own customs amongst the conquered, have not 
sufficed to shake the steadfast constancy of the native 
inhabitants. Bribes of dignities and honours, and the fear 
of annoyance and loss of position, have had but a slight 
effect on them, and that confined to a few Brahmins. 
Indeed, the dominant race has had to yield, and has even 


been forced to adopt some of the religious and civil practices 
of the conquered people. 

It is true that the tyrannical way in which the Maho- 
medans have always governed this mild and gentle people 
was not calculated to conciliate them ; but perhaps the 
time is not far distant when the Hindus may see themselves 
delivered from the iron yoke which has weighed so long 
upon them. As a rule they care little for the troubles 
and ills of this life, but it would be difficult for them to 
forget all the miseries that their inhuman masters have 
heaped upon them. 

The Brahmins in particular cherish an undying hatred 
against the Mahometans. The reason of this is that the 
latter think so lightly of the pretensions of these so-called 
gods of the earth ; and, above all, the Mahomedans do not 
scruple to display hearty contempt for their ceremonies 
and customs generally. Besides, the haughty Mussulmans 
can vie with them in pride and insolence. Yet there is 
this difference : the arrogance of a Mussulman is based 
only on the political authority with which he is invested, 
or on the eminence of the rank that he occupies ; whereas 
the Brahmin's superiority is inherent in himself, and it 
remains intact, no matter what his condition in life may 
be. Rich or poor, unfortunate or prosperous, he always 
goes on the principle engrained in him that he is the most 
noble, the most excellent, and the most perfect of all created 
beings, that all the rest of mankind are infinitely beneath 
him, and that there is nothing in the world so sublime or 
so admirable as his customs and practices. 

With regard to any special exhibitions of wisdom, par- 
ticularly in the province of learning, it would be impossible 
to persuade Brahmins that there are men outside their 
caste who are capable of disputing the first place with 
them. As for the industrial or aesthetic arts, they look 
upon them as beneath their attention. Probably the gross 
ignorance of the greater number of the Mahomedan natives 
of India, who are not even capable of drawing up their 
own almanac, may have helped to contribute to the good 
opinion that Brahmins have of themselves ; but, on the 
other hand, if the Mahomedans had any honesty of feeling 
at all, would they not drop some of this 'ridiculous boasting, 


considering the immense and incontestable superiority that 
the many Europeans who live in this country have over 
them ? The Brahmins, on the other hand, far from accept- 
ing this superiority, scornfully repudiate anything that they 
hear in regard to the ingenious contrivances and useful 
discoveries which have made such giant strides in Europe 
of late years. Nothing that has not been discovered by 
Brahmins, and nothing that is not to be found in their 
books, would be considered worthy of one moment's atten- 
tion on their part. You may often meet with men of the 
Brahmin caste who, from some interested motive or other, 
have learnt European languages and understand them 
thoroughly, but you never find in their hands a book 
written in one of these languages, and no one could ever 
persuade them that such a book contained anything useful 
which they did not already know, or which was not to be 
found in one of their books. No doubt frank and friendly 
relations between them and educated Europeans may in 
time overcome this absurd and inexplicable perverseness ; 
but nothing leads one to hope that they will ever seek to 
establish such relations \ 

How, indeed, could a Brahmin or any other Hindu have 
any real feelings of friendship or esteem for Europeans so 
long as the latter continue to eat the flesh of the sacred 
cow, which a Hindu considers a much more heinous offence 
than eating human flesh, so long as he sees them with 
Pariahs as domestic servants, and so long as he knows that 
they have immoral relations with women of that despised 
caste I He, it must be remembered, considers himself 
defiled and obliged to purify himself by bathing if so much 
as the shadow of one of these Pariahs is thrown across 
him. How, indeed, could he feel well disposed towards 
Europeans when he sees them give way without shame or 
remorse to drunkenness, which to him is the most dis- 
gusting of vices, and which, were he to be but once publicly 
convicted of it, would bring upon him the most serious 
consequences ? How can he respect Europeans when he 
sees their wives on terms of the most intimate familiarity 
with their husbands, being equally intemperate, and eating, 

1 The spread of English education during the last sixty years has 
certainly brought about an improvement in this direction. — Ed. 


drinking, laughing, and joking with other men, and, above 
all, dancing with them : he, in whose presence a wife dare 
not even sit, and to whom it is inconceivable that any 
woman, unless she be a concubine or a prostitute, could 
even think of indulging in such pastimes ? How, again, 
could he mix with Europeans when he sees their clothing, 
which in shape alone seems to him to savour of indecency 
by showing too much of the human form, and of which so 
many articles, such as shoes, boots, gloves, are made from 
the skins of animals ; he, who cannot understand how 
any decent man could handle, wear, or even touch these 
remains of dead animals without shuddering with dis- 
gust ? 


The Morality of Brahmins. — Their Deceit and Dissimulation. — Their 
Want of Filial Devotion. — Their Incontinence. — Causes of their 
Depravity. — Unnatural Offences. — Outward Decency. — The Chastity 
of their Women. — Brahmin Methods of Revenge. — Brahmin Selfish- 

But are the Brahmins, who are so easily shocked at the 
sins and vices of others — are they themselves exempt from 
all human weaknesses ? Are their morals irreproachable ? 
Oh, far from it ! My pen would refuse to describe all their 
wrong-doings ; but, so far as is possible, I will try to give 
a clear and impartial sketch of them. 

I think that we may take as their greatest vices the 
untrustworthiness, deceit, and double-dealing which I have 
so often had occasion to mention, and which are common 
to all Hindus. It is quite impossible to fathom their 
minds and discover what they really mean ; more impos- 
sible, indeed, than with any other race. He would indeed 
be a fool who relied on their promises, protestations, or 
oaths, if it were to their interest to break them. All the 
same, I do not think that these vices are innate in them. 
It must be remembered that they have always been until 
quite recently under the yoke of masters who had recourse 
to all sorts of artifices to oppress and despoil them. The 
timid Hindu could think of no better expedient with which 
to defend himself than to meet ruse with ruse, dissimulation 


with dissimulation, and fraud witli fraud. The prolonged 
use of weapons for which excuse may be found in their 
natural desire to resist the oppression of their rulers, ended 
by becoming a habit which it is now impossible for them 
to get rid of. An almost unconquerable propensity to 
theft is also to be noticed amongst the Hindus. They 
never let slip an opportunity of stealing, unless they think 
they are likely to be found out. With them honesty is 
always secondary to their own personal interest. The 
natural sentiments of filial respect and devotion, the 
foundation of all other virtues and the first link in the 
social chain, exercise very little influence over a Brahmin's 
children. The outward show of love and respect that they 
occasionally make is purely formal, and means nothing. 

Young children will obey their father, because they fear 
punishment if they do not ; but they will overwhelm their 
mother with abuse, and will insult her grossly, even going 
so far at times as to strike her. When they grow older 
they fail to respect even their father, and it often happens 
that he is obliged to give way to his sons, who have made 
themselves masters of the house. Strange to say, nowhere 
are parents fonder of their children than they are in India ; 
but this fondness usually degenerates into weakness. If 
the children are good, they are extravagantly praised ; if 
they are naughty, their parents show the utmost ingenuity 
in rinding excuses for them. The mild punishments that 
their naughtiness or disobedience brings down upon them 
invariably err on the side of leniency. The parents do not 
dare to whip them or scold them sharply, or even inflict 
any punishment that they would be likely to feel. The 
father and mother content themselves with making feeble 
remonstrances about their bad behaviour, and if these 
produce no effect, they leave them to grow up in their 
evil ways. The few sensible parents who show more firm- 
ness and severity with their children are met with a show 
of temper. Sons do not hesitate to resist the parental 
authority, and threaten to escape it by running away and 
living elsewhere. This threat rarely fails to produce the 
desired effect ; the parents' severity melts away and they 
become passive witnesses of the disorderly conduct of 
their sons, who, encouraged by this first victory, end by 


becoming absolute masters of the house. One must, however, 
do them the justice to say that, after having thus gained 
the mastery over their parents, they take great care of 
them, as a general rule, and see that they want for nothing 
in their old age. But I fancy that in acting thus they are 
moved less by filial affection than by considerations of 
what the world will say. In the case of such spoilt children, 
subjected as they are from their earliest youth to influences 
which prematurely develop the latent germs of passion 
and vice, the knowledge of evil always comes before the 
first dawnings of reason. At the time of their lives when, 
according to the laws of nature, the passions should remain 
unawakened, it is not at all unusual to find children of 
both sexes familiar with words and actions which are 
revolting to modesty. The instincts which are excited at 
an early age by the nudity in which they remain till they 
are seven or eight years old, the licentious conversation 
that they are always hearing around them, the lewd songs 
and obscene verses that their parents delight in teaching 
them as soon as they begin to talk, the disgusting expres- 
sions which they learn and use to the delight of those who 
hear them, and who applaud such expressions as witti- 
cisms ; these are the foundations on which the young 
children's education is laid, and such are the earliest impres- 
sions which they receive. 

Of course it is unnecessary to say that, as they get older, 
incontinence and all its attendant vices increase at the 
same time. It really seems as if most of the religious 
and civil institutions of India were only invented for the 
purpose of awakening and exciting passions towards which 
they have already such a strong natural tendency. The 
shameless stories about their deities, the frequent recur- 
rence of special feast-days which are celebrated everywhere, 
the allegorical meaning of so many of their everyday 
customs and usages, the public and private buildings 
which are to be met with everywhere bearing on their 
walls some disgusting obscenity, the many religious services 
in which the principal part is played by prostitutes, who 
often make even the temples themselves the scenes of their 
abominable debauchery ; all these things seem to be calcu- 
lated to excite the lewd imagination of the inhabitants of 


this tropical country and give them a strong impetus 
towards libertinism. 

In order to prevent the consequences of this precocious 
sensuality, parents must hasten to marry their children 
as early as possible. Yet marriage under these circum- 
stances does not always prove a very powerful restraint. 
Nothing is more common than for a married man to keep 
one or more concubines away from his home, in a separate 
establishment, according as his pecuniary circumstances 
permit. This state of affairs is particularly common in 
large towns, where it is so much easier to keep it a secret 
from the legitimate wife, and thus avoid the domestic 
quarrels and dissensions which are the natural consequences. 
Nevertheless, even in the country, the jealousy of a wife 
is rarely a hindrance to a husband's profligacy. She may 
try in vain to bring him back by remonstrances and threats ; 
in vain she may leave her home and take refuge with her 
parents. Her faithless husband recalls her and maybe 
swears to behave better in future. But she is soon deceived 
again ! She soon finds herself deserted once more ; and 
finally she must perforce resign herself to seeing, hearing, 
and suffering eveiything without making any further com- 

And after all, is it surprising that libertinism and all its 
consequences prevail in a country where the passions have 
so many incentives and such ample opportunities of satis- 
faction ! Look at the crowd of widows in the prime of 
life who are forbidden to remarry, and who are only too 
ready to yield to the temptations by which they are assailed. 
Modesty and virtue place no restrictions on them ; their 
only fear is that their misconduct may be found out. Con- 
sequently, abortion is their invariable resource to prevent 
such a contingency, and they practise it without the 
slightest scruple or remorse. There is not a woman amongst 
them who does not know how to bring it about. This 
odious crime, so revolting to all natural feeling, is of no 
importance in the eyes of the Hindus. According to their 
view, to destroy a being that has never seen the light is 
a lesser evil than that a woman should be dishonoured. 
The crimes of these unnatural mothers do not always, 
however, go unpunished ; many of them fall victims to 


the violent remedies which they employ to get rid of their 
shame. But should these remedies fail in having the 
desired effect, and the women be no longer able to conceal 
their condition, they give out that they are going to make 
a pilgrimage to Benares, which is a very favourite form 
of devotion amongst Brahmins of both sexes. Then 
having chosen a discreet companion in whom they can 
confide, they start on their journey ; but the supposed 
pilgrimage comes to an end in a neighbouring village, at 
the house of some relative or friend, who helps them to 
live in seclusion until such time as the child shall be born. 
They then hand over the result of their misconduct to 
any one who will take charge of it, and return to the bosom 
of their family. 

Besides these sources of depravity which are common 
to all castes, there are a great many others peculiar to the 
Brahmins. Many of them possess abominable books in 
which the most filthy and disgusting forms of debauchery 
are systematically described and taught. These books 
also treat of such matters as the art of giving variety to 
sensual pleasures, the decoction of beverages calculated to 
excite the passions, or renew them when exhausted. They 
also contain recipes for philtres, which are supposed to 
have the property of inspiring unholy love. The courte- 
sans of the country often have recourse to these potions 
in the hope of retaining the affections of those whom they 
have enslaved, mixing them secretly in the food of their 
victims. I am told that the ingredients of which these 
potions are composed would inspire the greatest libertine 
with disgust and horror for his mistress if it ever came to 
his knowledge. 

To have any connexion with a courtesan, or with an 
unmarried person, is not considered a form of wickedness 
in the eyes of the Brahmins. These men, who look upon 
the violation of any trivial custom as a heinous sin, see no 
harm in the most outrageous and licentious excesses. It 
was principally for their use that the dancers and prosti- 
tutes who are attached to the service of the temples were 
originally entertained, and they may often be heard to 
intone the following scandalous line : — 

Vesya darisanam punyam fxxpa nam nam ! 


which means, ' To have intercourse with a prostitute is 
a virtue which takes away sin V 

Adultery on the part of a woman, though it is con- 
sidered shameful and is condemned in Brahminical law, 
is punished with much less severity in their caste than in 
many others. So long as it is kept a secret it is regarded 
as a matter of very small importance. It is the publicity 
of it which is the sin. If it becomes known the husbands 
are the first to contradict any gossip that may be current 
in order to avoid any scandal or disagreeable consequences. 

However, the shame and dishonour which are the in- 
evitable consequences of sins of this nature, and which 
are also reflected on the families of the culprits, serve as 
a check to a great many and keep them in the path of 
virtue. Those who succumb to an irresistible temptation 
are generally clever enough to invent expedients to hide 
their weakness from spiteful eyes. But woe to those who 
have been so imprudent or so careless as to fail to hide 
their misdeeds. There is no insult that charitable persons 
of their own sex will not heap upon them, and if the least 
quarrel arises amongst them this would be the first thing 
brought up against them. Their confusion under these 
circumstances proves a warning to others to be more 
circumspect, or, at any rate, to save appearances at all costs. 

But the depravity of the Hindus does not end here. 
There are depths of wickedness a thousand times more 
horrible to which the greater number of them are not 
ashamed to descend. 

In Europe, where the Christian religion has inspired 
a salutary horror for certain unnatural offences, one would 
find it difficult to believe the stories which show to what 
lengths these disgusting vices are carried by the greater 
number of heathens and Mahomedans, to whom they have 
become a sort of second nature. We all know how greatly 
the Arabs and their neighbouring tribes are addicted to 
them. Kaempfer says that in Japan there are public 
establishments for this purpose which are tolerated by 
Government; and very much the same thing is done in China. 

1 The real translation is, ' Looking upon a prostitute,* &c. This line, 
it may be mentioned, is not a quotation from any book of Hindu religion, 
but is often quoted falsely as such. — Ed. 


The facility with which the Hindu can gratify his passions 
in a natural manner in a country where courtesans abound 
renders these disgusting practices less common ; but it by 
no means prevents them altogether. In the larger towns 
in India there are generally houses to be found given over 
to this odious form of vice. One sometimes meets in the 
streets the degraded beings who adopt this infamous pro- 
fession. They dress like women, let their hair grow in 
the same way, pluck out the hair on their faces, and copy 
the walk, gestures, manner of speaking, tone of voice, 
demeanour, and affectations of prostitutes. Other secret 
crimes are also carried on in India, and especially among 
the Mahomedans ; but decency will not allow me to speak 
of them. They are the same as those which are mentioned 
in the Bible (Leviticus xviii and xx), and which brought 
down such terrible punishments on the inhabitants of 
Canaan who had been guilty of them. 

Being hardly able to believe in the possibility of such 
abominable wickedness, I asked a Brahmin one day whether 
there was any truth in what I had heard. Far from deny- 
ing the stories, he smilingly confirmed them ; nor did he 
appear to be even shocked at such iniquity. Indeed he 
seemed to be quite amused at the confusion and embarrass- 
ment that I felt in asking him such questions. At last 
I said to him : ' How is it possible for one to believe that 
such depraved tastes exist, degrading men as they do to 
a far lower level than the beasts of the field, in a country 
where the union of the two sexes is so easy ? ' ' On that 
point there is no accounting for tastes,' he replied, bursting 
out into a laugh. Disgusted with this reply, and filled with 
contempt for the man who was not ashamed to speak thus, 
I turned on my heel and left him without another word. 

From the earliest ages these unnatural offences have 
been common in the East amongst heathen nations. In 
the laws that God gave the Israelites, He warns them to 
be on their guard against these detestable vices, which 
were known to be very prevalent amongst the inhabitants 
of the countries they were going to take possession of, 
and which were one of the chief reasons for their total 

If the Christian religion had done nothing more than 


render these iniquities revolting and execrable, that alone 
would be sufficient to ensure our love and respect for it. 

It may seem incredible, after what I have just said, 
when I add that there is no country in the world where 
greater attention is paid to what may be described as 
outward propriety. What we call love-making is utterly 
unknown amongst the Hindus. The playful sallies, the 
silly jokes, the perpetual compliments, and the eager and 
unlimited display of attention in which our youths are so 
profuse would be looked upon as insults by any Hindu 
lady, even the least chaste, that is, if they were offered 
to her in public. Even if a husband indulged in any 
familiarities with his own wife it would be considered 
ridiculous and in bad taste. To inquire after a man's 
wife, too, is an unpardonable breach of good manners ; 
and when one is visiting a friend one must be careful 
never to speak to the ladies of the house \ 

Thus it is that here below mankind seems incapable of 
preserving the happy medium. For our part we exceed 
in one direction by giving way to undue familiarity with 
persons of the opposite sex ; while the Hindus for their 
part err on the side of reserve. The extreme suscepti- 
bility of the latter in this respect is due to the opinion 
they hold that no mark of affection between man and 
woman can be either innocent or disinterested. If a Euro- 
pean lady is seen taking a gentleman's arm, even though 
he may profess the profoundest respect for her, nothing 
would persuade a Hindu that she was not his mistress. 

These strict principles of etiquette are instilled into the 
mind of a Hindu woman from her early youth, and, owing 
to the severity with which lapses from them are treated 
in some castes, indiscretions are far less frequent than one 
would imagine to be the case, considering how early the 
licentious habits of Hindu men are formed. Whatever may 
be said to the contrary, Hindu women are naturally chaste. 
To cite a few examples of unseemly conduct, a few lapses 
attributable to human frailty, is no proof of their want of 
chastity as a body ; just as it is no proof to cite the shame- 
less conduct of those poor wretches, prostitutes by birth 

1 In the case of relatives and intimate friends no such objection is 
taken. — Ed. 


and profession, who follow the armies and live in con- 
cubinage with Europeans. I would even go so far as to 
say that Hindu women are more virtuous than the women 
of many other more civilized countries. Their tempera- 
ment is outwardly calm and equable, and though a pas- 
sionate fire may smoulder underneath, without the igniting 
spark it will remain quiescent. Is this dormant coldness 
of disposition to be attributed to the secluded way in which 
they are brought up, or to the reserved demeanour that is 
taught them from their infancy, or to the unbridgeable gulf 
that is fixed between them and their male relatives, with 
whom the least familiarity is not permissible ; or, what is 
not very likely, can it be put down to climatic influence ? 
I cannot say. But whoever studies their character and 
conduct from this particular standpoint as impartially and 
disinterestedly as I have done, will, I feel sure, be con- 
strained to render the same tribute to their chastity. 

Having thus spoken of the special power which sexual 
passion exercises in India, a power which unfortunately 
is only too strongly felt in other quarters of the globe, 
I will now say a few words on two other passions which 
are equally violent, and to which the Hindu is particularly 
susceptible, namely, the resentment of injury and the 
desire for revenge. The Brahmins are particularly ran- 
corous. The bitter feeling caused by an injury or affront 
never leaves them. Feuds are perpetuated in families and 
become hereditary, and a perfect reconciliation is never 
effected. Self-interest sometimes brings two enemies 
together, but they only dissemble for the time being, 
and never conquer their feeling of hatred. It is not un- 
usual to see a son or a grandson revenging wrongs done 
fifty years before to father or grandfather. Furthermore 
such vengeance takes a peculiar form. Duels seem to 
them foolish, and they rarely have recourse to assassina- 
tion or violence. Timid and weak-minded as they are, 
they do not like to commit themselves to bold or mur- 
derous devices. Their favourite weapons are spells and 
enchantments. They think that by reciting maledictory 
mantrams, or calling to their aid the diabolical arts of 
some wicked magician, they will surely cause their enemy 
to be attacked by some incurable malady. To get up 


a quarrel and then overwhelm each other with the grossest 
insults is a common mode of revenge, and one in which 
Brahmins excel. But their most perfidious weapon, and 
one which they are especially clever at using, is slander. 
Sooner or later, by crooked ways or underhand intrigues, 
they contrive to deal their enemies some fatal blow by this 

Murder and suicide occur occasionally amongst the 
Hindus, though such crimes are regarded by them with 
greater horror than by any other people. Poison is gener- 
ally the means employed when a murder is committed. 
It is usually women who are guilty of suicide. Driven to 
despair by the ill-treatment of a brutal husband, or by the 
annoyances of a spiteful mother-in-law, or by any of those 
domestic worries which are so common in a Hindu house- 
hold, they lay criminal hands on themselves and destroy 
the life which has become unbearable. 

Intense selfishness is also a common characteristic of 
a Brahmin. Brought up in the idea that nothing is too 
good for him, and that he owes nothing in return to any 
one, he models the whole of his life on this principle. He 
would unhesitatingly sacrifice the public good, or his 
country itself, if it served his own interests ; and he would 
stoop to treason, ingratitude, or any deed, however black, 
if it promoted his own welfare. He makes it a point of 
duty not only to hold himself aloof from all other human 
beings, but also to despise and hate from the bottom of 
his heart every one who happens not to be born of the 
same caste as himself. And further, he thinks himself 
absolved from any feelings of gratitude, pity, or considera- 
tion towards them. If he occasionally shows any kindli- 
ness, it is only to some one of his own caste. As for the 
rest of mankind, he has been taught from his earliest youth 
to look upon them all as infinitely beneath him. According 
to the principles in which he has been brought up, he ought 
even to treat them with contempt, hatred, and harshness, 
as beings created solely to serve him and minister to his 
wants without there being any necessity for him to make 
the smallest return. Such are the Brahmins ' ! 

J It must be admitted that the Abbe paints the Brahmins in darker 
colours than, as a bodv, thev deserve. — En. 



The Outward Appearance of Brahmins and other Hindus. — Their 
Physical Defects. — Remarks on the Kakrdaks or Albinoes, as 
described by Naturalists, who are not allowed Burial after Death. 
— Other Hindus to whom the same Honour is denied. — Exhuma- 
tion of Corpses. — The Feeble Physique of the Hindus. — The same 
Feebleness and Deterioration to be observed throughout the Animal 
and Vegetable Kingdoms. — Weakness of the Mental Faculties of 
Hindus. — The Language of the Brahmins. — Their Costume. — Their 

Having given a sketch of the moral character of the 
Brahmins, I will now say a few words about their physical 
appearance. Many of the characteristics of this kind that 
I am to mention do not, however, specially pertain to 
them, but are common to Hindus of other castes. Faces 
and figures vary, as they do in every other caste ; but 
there are certain physical deformities common enough in 
Europe which are much more rarely seen in India. Thus, 
for instance, one seldom meets persons who are hump- 
backed or lame, unless they have become so by accident. 
If a child is born with any bodily defect, it is attributed 
to the evil influence of two unlucky constellations which 
must have been in conjunction at the time of birth, or to 
some eclipse of the sun or moon that took place at that 
moment. On the other hand, blindness is very common. 
No doubt the chief cause of this is to be found in the habit 
that poor people have of going about in nature's garb, 
with their heads exposed to the burning rays of the sun ; 
and it is doubtless in the hope of preventing, as far as 
possible, the terrible scourge of ophthalmia that they so 
frequently anoint their heads with castor oil or oil of 

The Hindus, like every other race, have certain physical 
characteristics which are peculiar to themselves. Except 
for their colour, however, they seem to me to be more like 
Europeans, especially in their physiognomy, than any other 
Asiatic race. Generally speaking, they have glossy black hair, 
narrow foreheads, and dark, or occasionally grey \ eyes. 

1 They do not at all admire the blue eyes of Europeans. They con- 
sider them a deformity, and call them ' cats' eyes.' — Dubois. 


Their stomachs are flat, and they rarely carry much flesh. 
Their legs are usually slightly bowed the wrong way and 
a little crooked, the result no doubt of their habit of squat- 
ting on the ground with their legs crossed under them like 
our tailors. Neither have they any calves, which are con- 
sidered anything but a beauty. Men who work in the 
fields or who are always exposed to the sun are quite as 
black in colour as the inhabitants of Kaffraria or Guinea ; 
but the complexion of those who, like the Brahmins, spend 
their days under cover, or lead a sedentary life, is many 
degrees lighter. A very dark Brahmin and a fair Pariah 
are looked upon as monstrosities. Hence no doubt the 
proverb ' Beware of a black Brahmin or a fair Pariah ! ' 
A Brahmin is generally the colour of brass, or perhaps of 
weak coffee. This is considered the most correct shade ; 
and the women who are the colour of light gingerbread are 
most admired. I have seen Brahmins, and particularly 
Brahmin women, who were not as dark as the inhabitants 
of Southern Europe. Furthermore the palms of the hands 
and the soles of the feet of Hindus of both sexes are almost 
as white as our own \ 

On the mountains and in the dense jungles of the Malabar 
coast there are some savage tribes who are much lighter 
in colour. In Coorg there is a tribe known as the Malai- 
Kondiaru who in outward appearance closely resemble 
Spaniards and Portuguese. The cause of this phenomenon 
is no doubt due partly to the climatic influences of the 
country they live in, and partly to their habit of always 
living in dense forests where the rays of the sun cannot 

You may sometimes meet a few, but very few, indi- 
viduals whose skin is even fairer than that of a European, 
and with hair of the same colour. Of course this extreme 
fairness is unnatural, and makes them very repulsive to 
look at. In fact, these unfortunate beings are objects of 
horror to every one, and even their parents desert them. 
They are looked upon as lepers 2 . 

1 They share this characteristic with the Negroes. — Dubois. 

- Learned physiologists have thought that these men really are lepers, 
and that this whiteness is produced by some malady which dries up the 
skin. They also think that black people would be much more suDJect 


They are called Kakrelaks ' as a term of reproach. This 
peculiarity does not prevent some of them from living to 
a great age. They cannot bear the light, neither can they 
look fixedly at anything so long as the sun is up. During 
the day they close their eyelids, leaving only a slit to look 
through ; but as soon as night comes on they open wide 
their large pink eyes, and are able to go about quite easily, 
seeing as well as other people. 

The question has been raised as to whether these degene- 
rate individuals can produce children like themselves, and 
afflicted with nyctalopia. Such a child has never come 
under my observation ; but I once baptized the child of 
a female Kakrelak, who owed its birth to a rash European 
soldier, though this circumstance does not afford any proof 
on the subject 2 . 

These unfortunate wretches are denied decent burial 
after death, and are cast into ditches. This custom arises 
from a native superstition which does not allow any person 
who has died while suffering from a cutaneous disease to 
be buried. The Hindus believe that were this done a 

to this affliction if it were not for their habit of anointing themselves 
frequently with oil or some other fatty substance. At the same time 
it should be observed that these human anomalies are to be met with 
all over the world. Thus you find the Bedas in Ceylon, wild creatures 
with white skins and red hair. There are Kakrelaks in all the American 
Islands ; then again there are the Dondos or albinoes of Southern Africa 
(Aethiopes albieantes). Lastly, these colourless people are particularly 
numerous in the Isthmus of Darien. — Dubois. 

1 The kakrelaks are horrible insects, disgustingly dirty, which give 
forth a loathsome odour. They are of the same species as our bugs, 
but much larger. These unpleasant and destructive insects shun the 
day and its light. They remain hidden in holes or crannies in walls, 
and come out at night to devour all the food they can find and to disturb 
sleepers. — Dubois. 

3 This fact disposes at any rate of the opinion which some have held 
that these people cannot bear children. It remains to be seen whether 
there would be any issue, supposing both parents were albinoes. The 
white Negroes of Africa are believed never to be able to produce children ; 
but the Kakrelaks in Asia are supposed to be prolific, and their progeny 
are said to be of the same colour as the rest of the nation. Anyhow, no 
one has been able to discover for certain if albinoes have been born 
from other than Negroes or dark-coloured parents ; and we may con- 
clude that these ill-favoured children are not a special variety of the 
human species, any more than are the Cretins in the Canton of Valais. — 


drought or some other public calamity would befall the 
whole country. 

Burial is also refused, at least in several provinces, to 
persons who die of wounds or eruptive diseases, such as 
small-pox or measles, &C. 1 Also to those whose bodies 
have white marks on them ; to pregnant women who die 
before child-birth 2 ; and above all to the many who fall 
victims to tigers. The tragic fate of these last is in a manner 
consecrated by those heaps of stones which the traveller 
sometimes comes across in his journeys, and which, on the 
very spot where they died, cover the remains of those who 
have perished so deplorably 3 . 

In consequence of this absurd superstition, when the 
country has been a long time without rain, the inhabitants 
think the drought is to be attributed to the fact that some 
one must have surreptitiously infringed this unwritten 
law. Accordingly the magistrates give immediate orders 
that all bodies that have been buried in the course of the 
year shall be exhumed, and become food for the birds of 
prey. I myself once had great difficulty in preventing 
a Christian cemetery being violated and the remains of 
the dead disturbed in this manner. Fortunately, at the 
critical moment, rain came down in torrents, and so the 
profanation of the dead was avoided. Otherwise I should 
have been forced to yield to the clamour of a senseless 

But to return to the subject in hand, which has been 
rather lost sight of during this long digression. 

All Hindus, and particularly Brahmins, have weak con- 
stitutions, and in this respect they are greatly inferior to 

1 Brahmins who die of small- pox are burnt in the usual way, at any 
rate in South India. The Sudras invariably bury such corpses. — Ed. 

2 It is usual amongst Brahmins to take the foetus from the body of 
a dead pregnant woman, and the latter is burned separately. — Ed. 

3 The bodies even of criminals and suicides were not deprived of 
burial by the Jews ; yet there are examples in Holy Scripture which 
bear some resemblance to this Hindu custom. Thus Achan, after he 
had been stoned, was buried under a heap of stones (Joshua vii. 25, 26), 
and Absalom's case is mentioned in 2 Samuel xviii. 17. The king of Ai 
was treated in the same way (Joshua viii. 29). Finally, Jeremiah pro- 
phesies that the wicked Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, should have ' the 
burial of an ass ' (Jeremiah xxii. 19). — Dubois. 


Europeans. They have not the strength, vigour, or activity 
of the latter. One European workman would, under any 
circumstances, do at least as much as two natives. This 
constitutional weakness, which is partly inherent, is greatly 
increased by the hardships and privations that they are 
condemned to bear all their lives. 

The climate, which is the chief cause of the degeneration 
of the human race in these countries, exercises a no less 
fatal influence in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. 
Green stuff, roots, and fruits are for the most part insipid 
and tasteless, and do not possess half the nutritive value of 
those grown in Europe. A very few may be cited as ex- 
ceptions to this rule. The vegetable products of India 
included in our list of groceries are pungent enough to 
destroy the membrane of one's throat. Again, the in- 
digenous flowers, with two or three exceptions, have no 
scent. Lastly, the trees and shrubs to be found in the 
forests or in uncultivated places are generally covered 
with thorns and prickles. The elephant and tiger are 
strong and vigorous enough, but all the other animals, 
whether wild or domesticated, share in the universal 
debilitation. What we call butcher's meat has very little 
succulence in it, and there is nothing in the flavour of the 
game that would tempt the least fastidious European 
palate. Vainly would one search for a good hare or part- 
ridge. One is inclined to think that nature here has re- 
duced the nutritive value of all animals and vegetables in 
proportion to the weakness of the human beings whose food 
they are to be. 

But as a cruel compensation, nature is prodigal with 
creatures that are hurtful, and with many things that are 
useless, to man. The forests and jungles are inhabited by 
elephants, tigers, and other wild animals which are deadly 
foes to man and his flocks and herds. The country is 
overrun with snakes and other deadly reptiles, while birds 
of prey may be seen everywhere in large numbers. Every 
kind of irritating, destructive, and abominable insect 
swarms and multiplies in a manner that is equally sur- 
prising and annoying. Even poisonous plants are by no 
means uncommon, and their hurtful properties show no 
signs of deterioration. 


It is true that the four elements seem to conspire together 
for the purpose of weakening everything that matures or 
vegetates in this portion of the globe. The soil itself is 
generally light, sandy, and wanting in substance ; it re- 
quires a great deal of skilled labour to make it fertile. 
The air is almost everywhere unhealthy, damp, and enervat- 
ing ; the water in the wells and tanks is usually brackish 
and unpleasant to the taste : indeed, the excessive heat 
of the sun dries up everything, animal and vegetable. 
The mental faculties of the Hindus appear to be as feeble 
as their physique. I should say that no other nation in 
the world could boast of as many idiots and imbeciles. 
There are, of course, very many sensible, capable persons 
amongst the Hindus, who possess marked abilities and 
talents, and who by education have developed the gifts 
with which nature has endowed them ; but during the 
three hundred years or so that Europeans have been 
established in the country no Hindu, so far as I know, 
has ever been found to possess really transcendent genius. 

Their want of courage almost amounts to absolute 
cowardice. Neither have they that strength of character 
which resists temptation and leaves men unshaken by 
threats or seductive promises, content to pursue the course 
that reason dictates. Flatter them adroitly and take them 
on their weak side, and there is nothing you cannot get out 
of them. 

The prudent forethought which prompts men to take 
heed to their future as well as to their present wants seems 
almost an unknown quality among the majority of Hindus. 
They take no thought for the morrow, and all they care 
about is to gratify their vanity and their extravagant 
whims for the moment. They are so taken up with the 
pleasures and enjoyments of the present that they never 
think of looking beyond to the possible misery and priva- 
tions that may await them in the future. 

This want of forethought is in a great measure responsible 
for those reverses of fortune which so frequently happen to 
them, and by which they pass from the greatest wealth 
and luxury to the bitterest poverty. It is true they bear 
these sudden transitions from comfort to misery with the 
most marvellous resignation ; but then this resignation is not 



the outcome of principle or of dignified patience — it is due 
rather to their apathetic temperament, which makes them 
incapable of feeling any strong emotion. They enjoy their 
good fortune mechanically and without thought, and they 
take their losses with the same calm imperturbability \ 

I prefer to think that the ingratitude with which they 
are so often and so justly accused may be attributed to 
this phlegmatic disposition, and not to wilful wrong- 
headedness. Nowhere is a kindness so soon forgotten as 
among Hindus. Gratitude — which is a feeling that springs 
up spontaneously in all true hearts, which is a duty that 
bare justice prescribes, and which is a natural result of 
benefactions received — is a virtue to which the Hindu shuts 
his heart entirely. 

But let us leave this picture, which does not represent 
a very pleasing side to their character, and let us return 
to the consideration of their physical peculiarities. It is 
easy to recognize a Brahmin by a sort of swagger and 
freedom in his gait and behaviour. Unconsciously, and 
apparently unaffectedly, he shows by his tone and manner 
the superiority that his birth, rank, and education have 
given him. Brahmins have also a peculiar way of talking 
and expressing themselves. They never make use of the 
common or vulgar expressions of other castes. Their 
language is generally concise, refined, and elegant ; and 
they enrich their vocabulary with many Sanskrit words. 
They have also peculiar modes of expression which the 
Sudras never use ; and their conversation is always inter- 
spersed with pedantic proverbs and allegories. Their 
idioms are so numerous and varied, that though you may 
think you know their language well, it often happens that 
you cannot understand them when they are talking fami- 
liarly amongst themselves. In speaking and writing they 
make use of endless polite and flattering terms, often very 
aptly ; but they carry the practice ad nauseam. Their 
compliments are always exaggerated and high-flown. They 
think nothing of placing those whom they wish to flatter 
above the level of their deities ; indeed, that is a very 
usual beginning to a congratulatory speech. 

1 This imperturbability might more correctly be attributed to the 
prevailing belief in the doctrine of fatalism. — Ed. 


If the language of the Brahmins is rich in gracious and 
flattering expressions, it is even more so in terms of abuse 
and coarse, indecent invective. Though they pride them- 
selves on their courtesy and knowledge of the world, when 
they lose their tempers they are no better than our lowest 
rag-pickers ; and an incredible quantity of disgusting and 
obscene language pours from their mouths on such occa- 

Their clothing is of the most simple description. It is 
as nearly as possible just what it was in the earliest ages. 
Two pieces of cotton cloth without hem or stitch, one 
10 or 12 feet long, the other 14 or 16, and 3 or 4 feet wide, 
are their only garments. With the first piece they cover 
their shoulders, with the second they gird their loins. Of 
the latter, one end is passed between their thighs and is 
tucked behind into the portion which goes round their 
bodies, while the other end forms a drapery in front, and 
hangs with a certain careless grace to their feet. Their 
loin-cloths are generally ornamented with a border of silk 
of a different colour from the rest of the cloth itself. This 
costume is very suitable for persons who, like them, are 
most particular about keeping themselves always in a state 
of purity and cleanliness, for, as one may imagine, it does 
not cost much to wash their cloths often. Many have also 
a kind of large sheet, with which they cover themselves 
up at night, or when the mornings are cold. Since Euro- 
pean piece-goods have been procurable all over the country, 
those who have been able to afford them have bought 
cloths of brilliant scarlet, which are a source of great pride 
and pleasure to them. It appears that formerly the Hindus 
went about with bare heads, and their bodies naked to the 
waist ; and even at the present day the natives on the 
Malabar coast go about in this fashion. So also do a great 
many others who live in the dense forests where the same 
customs have prevailed from time immemorial, and where 
no revolutionary changes have penetrated. Nowadays 
most Hindus wear a turban, an article of dress which they 
have copied from the Mahomedans. It is made of fine 
thin muslin, often as much as 60 or 70 feet long, but at 
most only 2 feet in width. They twist it artistically round 
their heads, but the manner of arranging it varies in different 


provinces and with different castes. Men who are in service 
with either Europeans or Mahomedans wear a long coat of 
fine muslin or calico, very full in the skirt, and made in 
a peculiar way. This also is a foreign fashion recently 
copied from the Mahomedans. Brahmins and Mahomedans 
may be distinguished from each other by the fact that the 
former fasten their coats on the left side, and the latter 
on the right. Both generally wear over this garment a 
belt, made of some fine material, and wound several times 
round the waist. 

All Brahmins, rich or poor, dress alike ; but the rich 
usually wear finer and more expensive materials. 

Most Hindus wear more or less expensive ornaments 
either in the middle or the upper part of the ears. These 
ornaments vary in size and pattern according to locality 
and caste. But I shall have occasion to speak of this 
kind of adornment later on. 

The simplicity of their houses equals that of their costume. 
These are generally thatched with straw and have mud 
walls, particularly in the country. The houses in the towns 
are better built ; but they are all arranged on the same 
plan, and are all equally simple. The interior resembles 
a little cloister, with a gallery round it, while in the centre 
there is a court of varying size. From this you enter the 
tiny, dark, windowless rooms, into which light and air 
can only penetrate by means of a door about 4 feet high 
by 3 feet wide. These little dens are absolutely uninhabit- 
able during the hot weather. The kitchen is always placed 
in the furthest and darkest corner of the house, so as to 
be entirely beyond the reach of strangers' eyes. I have 
already explained the motive of this arrangement. The 
hearth is invariably placed on the south-west side, which 
they call ' the fire-god's quarter,' because the Hindus 
believe that there this deity resides. 

As the men are not allowed to pay visits to the women 
of the family, who are always occupied with their domestic 
affairs and remain shut up in a part of the house to which 
outsiders, as a rule, are not admitted, large open seats or 
raised platforms are constructed both inside and outside 
the principal entrance door, on which the men sit cross- 
legged, while they talk about business, discuss religion, 


politics, or science, receive visits, and in fact kill time as 
best they can. 

Besides the private houses, one or more public buildings 
are generally to be found in all villages of any size. These 
consist usually of a shed or long room, open down the 
whole length of one side. They are what Europeans call 
choultries, and they correspond to the caravanserais of 
other Eastern nations. These rest-houses, which are usually 
large and convenient, not only serve as a shelter for travellers, 
but are also used as council chambers, where the headmen 
assemble to consider the public affairs of the village, settle 
law-suits, put an end to quarrels, and pacify disputants. 
They are also used for the celebration of religious rites in 
places where there are no temples. 

All the villages are built very irregularly, without any 
plan or symmetry. The houses are crowded closely to- 
gether ; the streets are very narrow, and excessively dirty, 
with the exception of the street in the larger villages where 
the market is held, which is kept cleaner, and in which 
a certain amount of order is maintained. A few steps 
from the entrance door of each house is a large ditch into 
which all the manure from the stable and the refuse from 
the house are thrown. During the rains these sewage pits 
become full of water and form cesspools, which give off 
the most disgusting effluvia. But this unpleasant arrange- 
ment, which is the same in all the villages, does not appear 
to affect the inhabitants in any way. 

All the houses being covered with thatch and crowded 
together, when a fire breaks out — a by no means rare 
occurrence — a whole village is often burned down in less 
than half an hour. 

Though in the larger towns the houses are tiled and 
not thatched, there is no more symmetry in their arrange- 
ment than in the villages, and the streets are so narrow 
that two persons can scarcely walk abreast. In the middle 
of each street there usually runs a sewer, which receives 
all the rubbish and filth from the houses. This forms 
a permanent open drain, and gives off a pestilential smell, 
which none but a Hindu could endure for a moment. 



Rules of Etiquette amongst Brahmins and other Hindus. — Modes of 


It is unnecessary, and it would be tedious, to give a 
detailed list of the numberless rules governing Hindu 
etiquette. If I cite a few it will give a general idea of the 

Hindus have several ways of greeting each other. In 
some provinces they put the right hand on the heart ; in 
others they simply stretch it out to the acquaintance they 
are meeting, for they never greet a person whom they do 
not know, unless he be of very high rank. When two 
Hindu acquaintances meet, they generally say a few 
meaningless words to each other, such as, ' You — So-and- 
so — you here ? That's all right ! ' ' And I — So-and-so — 
here I am.' Then each goes on his way. 

They have also borrowed the salaam from the Maho- 
medans ; but this they never use except to strangers. 
The salaam consists in touching the forehead with the right 
hand, and bowing at the same time, with more or less 
emphasis, according to the rank of the person they are 
greeting. In the case of a person of very high rank they 
sometimes touch the ground with both hands and then 
raise them to their foreheads, or else they come close to 
him and touch his feet three times. 

Hindus who do not belong to the Brahmin caste greet 
Brahmins by performing namaskara, which consists in 
joining both hands, touching the forehead, and then 
putting them above the head. This mode of salutation, 
which is only offered to a superior, is accompanied by these 
two words, ' Saranam, ayya ! ' which means ' Respectful 
greeting, my lord ' ; upon which the Brahmin extends his 
right hand, partially open, as if he expects to receive 
something from the person who is paying him this mark 
of respect, and gravely answers with this one word, ' Asir- 
vadam ! ' which answers to the Latin ' Bene] axit tibi Deus ! ' 
or to our ' God bless you ! ' It is a mysterious compound 
expression, made up of three words which convey good 


wishes. Only Brahmins and gurus have the right to give 
the asirvadam or to pronounce the sacred word over those 
who treat them with respect or give them presents. Some 
persons, when saluting a Brahmin, content themselves with 
raising their clasped hands as far as their chest. 

Another very respectful manner of greeting is to extend 
both hands towards the feet of him whom you wish to 
honour, or to seize his knees while you throw yourself at 
his feet. This is a very common mode of greeting between 
a son and a father, or between a younger and an elder 
brother, on meeting after a long separation. The same 
humble attitude is also adopted when asking for pardon or 
for a favour ; and only when the object is attained does 
the postulant relax his hold on the feet of the person whom 
he is addressing. 

But of all the modes of salutation the most solemn and 
the most reverential is the sashtanga, or prostration of the 
six members, of which mention has already been made 
elsewhere l . When a Hindu is about to make a ceremonious 
visit to members of his family who live at a distance, he 
makes a halt when he gets near the place and sends some 
one to warn his relatives that he is coming. The relatives 
then start at once to fetch him, and conduct him to their 
home, often with much ceremony, and accompanied by 
music. It is not customary either to shake hands or to 
kiss each other on these occasions. A man who publicly 
kisses a woman, even if she be his wife, commits the grossest 
breach of social decorum. A brother would not think of 
taking such a liberty with a sister, or a son with his mother. 
Only on a visit of condolence do they make a pretence 
of doing so to the person to whom the visit is paid ; and 
this form of salute, in which the lips do not really touch 
the face, is only permissible between persons of the same 

Women bow respectfully to men without speaking or 
looking at them. Children salute their parents in the same 
manner and stand upright before them, with their arms 

1 See Chapter III. 

It has already been pointed out in a note to p. 42 that the Abbe is 
wrong in translating sashtanga as ' six members ' instead of ' eight 
members.' — Ed. 


crossed on their chests. Whenever relatives or very great 
friends meet after a long separation, they clasp each other 
in their arms and take hold of each other's chin, shedding 
tears of joy. 

Hindus who visit or meet each other after a long absence 
have, like ourselves, a set of commonplace phrases which 
they make use of for want of anything better. But in 
most cases the ideas they express are diametrically opposed 
to ours. Thus, for instance, if we Europeans were speak- 
ing to a friend or acquaintance, we should think he would 
be pleased if we congratulated him on his appearance of 
good health, his increased stoutness, or his good complexion, 
&c. If we think him altered for the worse, we take care not 
to let him see that we notice it, for fear it might pain him. 

A Hindu, on the contrary, when he meets a friend, no 
matter how strong and well he may be looking, never fails 
to offer him the following greeting : ' How sadly you have 
altered since I last saw you ! How thin and worn you 
look ! I fear you must be very ill,' and other equally 
consoling remarks. It would offend a Hindu deeply if 
you were to say he was looking well on first meeting him. 
Any one who was so ill advised as to make so indiscreet 
a remark would certainly be suspected of feeling jealous, 
envious, and regretful at the signs of health which were 
the theme of his unfortunate compliments. 

In the same way, you must never congratulate a Hindu 
on his good luck ; you must not say that he has pretty 
children, a lovely house, beautiful gardens, fine flocks and 
herds, or that everything that he undertakes turns out 
well, or that he is happy or lucky, &c. ; he would be sure 
to think that envy prompted compliments of this kind. 
Long ago, before I knew anything about Hindu etiquette, 
I was walking one day at the edge of a large tank or lake, 
where some men were fishing with nets. I stood still to 
watch them, and seeing that they landed a quantity of 
fish each time the nets were let down, I thought I might 
congratulate them on their good luck. But my civility 
had a most unlooked-for result, for these worthy people 
gathered up their nets and their fish without a word, and 
looking at me very indignantly, promptly went off, grum- 
bling to each other under their breath : ' What have we done 


to this Feringhi guru that he comes here and is so jealous 
of us * ' 

Just as we French and English do, but contrary to the 
Spanish and Portuguese custom, the Hindus, in quitting 
an apartment with a visitor, always allow him to walk 
first. The object is to avoid turning one's back upon 
a guest, and he, in turn, in order not to appear wanting 
in politeness, walks sideways until both have passed the 
threshold. When leaving the presence of a prince or any 
great personage, it is customary, for the same reason, to 
walk backwards until one is out of his presence ; and this 
is also why a servant, when accompanying his master on 
foot or on horseback, never walks in front of him. 

It is considered good manners in India to blow your nose 
with your fingers ; and there is nothing impolite in audibly 
getting rid of flatulency. Persons of all ranks, indeed, 
seem to rather encourage this habit, as according to them 
it is a sure sign of a good digestion. It is certainly an 
original, if somewhat disgusting spectacle to a European, 
to see a large number of Brahmins coming away from 
a feast indulging in a sort of competition as to who shall 
give vent to the loudest eructations, calling out at the 
same time, with emphatic gravity, ' Narayana ! ' as if to 
thank Vishnu for his favours. 

After sneezing a Hindu never fails to exclaim, ' Rama ! 
Rama 1 ' and no doubt there is some superstition attached 
to this pious ejaculation l . Again, when a Brahmin yawns, 
he snaps his fingers to the right and left to scare away evil 
spirits and giants. 

To tread on any one's foot, even by accident, demands 
an immediate apology. This is done by stretching out 
both hands towards the feet of the offended person. A 
box on the ear is not considered a graver affront than a 

1 One knows that amongst the old heathen nations a sneeze was 
supposed to contain a great mystery. Old writers mention many facts 
which prove what superstitious deductions credulous persons drew from 
it. The custom of uttering a prayer or good wish on behalf of a person 
who has sneezed has existed from time immemorial. The Greeks said 
to such a person tfOi ; the Romans, ' Salve.* Though with us the 
fashion of saying, ' May your wishes be granted ! ' or ' God bless you ! ' 
has rather gone out, politeness demands that at least you should make 
a bow. — Dubois. 

M 3 


blow given with the fist, or a kick with the bare foot ; but 
a blow on the head, should it knock off the turban, is a very 
gross insult. By far the greatest indignity of all, however, 
is to be struck with one of the shoes or sandals that Hindus 
wear. Whoever submitted to such an insult without in- 
sisting on receiving satisfaction, would be excluded from 
his caste. The mere threat of such an insult is often 
sufficient to provoke a criminal prosecution. 

It is a mark of respect when women turn their backs on 
men whom they hold in high esteem. At any rate, they 
must turn away their faces or cover them with their saris. 
Again, when they leave the house, propriety requires them 
to proceed on their way without paying any attention to 
the passers-by ; and if they see a man they are expected 
to bow their heads and look in the opposite direction. 
There are a good many, however, who are not always 
quite so modest. 

Any one who sees a person of high rank coming towards 
him, must go off the road, if he is on foot, so as to leave 
the way perfectly free, and if he is on horseback or in 
a palanquin he must get down and remain standing until 
the great person has passed and is some distance off. When 
speaking to a superior, politeness demands that an inferior 
should put his right hand before his mouth to prevent any 
particle of his breath or saliva reaching and defiling him. 
If an inferior meets a superior out of doors he must take 
off his shoes before greeting him. A Hindu, moreover, 
must never enter his own house, much less a stranger's, 
with leather shoes on his feet. 

In several of the Southern Provinces the Sudras are in 
the habit of taking off the cloth which covers the upper 
part of their bodies, winding it round their waists, and 
standing with arms crossed on their chest while speaking 
to a superior. The women of certain castes do the same 
in the presence of their husbands, or of any man to whom 
they wish to show respect. Their rules of propriety oblige 
them to appear before men stripped to the waist ; and to 
omit to do so would show a great want of good breeding. 

When Brahmins are talking to a man of another caste, 
or to a European from whom they have nothing to hope 
or to fear, they stand with their hands behind their backs 


— a position which signifies contempt for their interlocutor, 
and which they are always very pleased to assume, to show 
the sense of their own superiority. When they pay a visit, 
no matter what may be the rank or dignity of their host, 
they never wait till they are asked to take a seat, but do 
so the instant they enter the room. People of all castes, 
when visiting a superior, must wait until they are dismissed 
before they can take leave. 

There are several ceremonious visits which must be paid, 
such as visits of condolence, visits at pongul, and several 
others of which I shall speak later on. The feast of pongul 
and the following days are mostly celebrated by presents 
which near relatives make to each other, and which consist 
of new earthen vessels on which certain designs are traced 
in lime, also ground rice, fruit, sugar, saffron, &c. Such 
gifts are conveyed with much solemnity and accompanied 
by instruments of music. These little attentions are in- 
dispensable in the case of certain individuals. For instance, 
a mother must not neglect giving presents to her married 
daughter ; otherwise the mother-in-law would resent the 
omission to her dying day. 

With them letters of condolence on occasions of mourning 
can never take the place of a visit, as they so often do with 
us. Some member of the family must go in person to wail 
and lament, and perform the other ridiculous ceremonies 
that are customary on such occasions, even though a journey 
of fifty miles or more has to be made. 

When a Hindu visits a person of importance for the first 
time he must not omit to take presents with him, which 
he will offer as a mark of respect, and to show that he comes 
with friendly intentions. It is generally considered a lack 
of good manners to appear with empty hands before any 
one of superior position, or from whom a favour is expected. 
Those whose means do not permit of their offering presents 
of great value may bring such things as sugar, bananas, 
cocoanuts, betel, &c. 

In conclusion, it must be admitted that the laws of 
etiquette and social politeness are much more clearly laid 
down, and much better observed by all classes of Hindus, 
even by the lowest, than they are by people of correspond- 
ing social position in Europe. 


The Ornaments worn by Hindus. — The Different Marks with which they 
adorn their Bodies. 

Every Hindu, even including those who have made 
a profession of penitence and have renounced the world, 
wears earrings. The sannyasis or penitents, who are sup- 
posed to have given up the three things which most natur- 
ally tend to excite man's cupidity — that is to say, women, 
honours, and riches — wear copper earrings in token of 
humility. But generally such ornaments are made of 
gold, and are of different shapes, though most frequently 
oval. Occasionally these pendants are so large that one 
can easily pass one's hand through them. Some are made 
of copper wire, round which gold wire is so twisted as to 
cover the copper completely. Those who are fairly well 
off wear them with a large pearl or precious stone in the 

These ear ornaments, which are sometimes of enormous 
size, are another proof of the Hindu's strong attachment to 
his old customs. All writers, both sacred and profane, bear 
witness to the fact that similar ornaments have been worn 
from time immemorial. On grand occasions, such as 
marriage feasts, they put four or five pairs into their ears, 
and at the end or in the centre of each of these is added 
another small ornament set with some precious stone. In 
some parts of the country a gold ring is also attached to 
the cartilage which divides the nostrils. Poor people, 
Pariahs included, who cannot afford to buy such valuable 
ornaments, wear some small inexpensive trinket in their 
ears. But, no matter what their caste or circumstances, 
fashion decrees that no one shall be without this species 
of adornment. 

Rich Hindus wear round their necks gold chains or 
strings of pearls with large medallions set with diamonds 
which reach to their chests ; and you often see them 
wearing gold finger-rings set with precious stones of great 
value. They also frequently wear round their waists a 
girdle made of gold or silver thread woven with much 
taste and skill, and carry massive gold bracelets on their 


arms, which sometimes weigh as much as a pound each. 
Married men wear silver rings on their toes \ Many, 
again, tie above their elbows little hollow tubes of gold 
or silver containing magical mantrams, which they wear as 
charms to avert ill luck. 

They have many other baubles of the same kind 2 . Even 
the private parts of the children have their own particular 
decorations. Little girls wear a gold or silver shield or 
cod-piece on which is graven some indecent picture ; while 
a boy's ornament, also of gold or silver, is an exact copy 
of that member which it is meant to decorate. 

Then there is the custom of painting the forehead and 
other parts of the body with different figures and emblems 
in various colours, a custom unknown elsewhere, but which 
appears to have been common enough among ancient 
nations. The simplest of all and the most common is the 
one called pottu, which consists of a small circular mark 
about an inch in diameter, placed in the centre of the 
forehead. It is generally yellow, but sometimes red or 
black in colour, and the paint is mixed with a sweet-smelling 
paste made by rubbing sandalwood on a damp stone. 
Instead of the pottu, some paint two or three horizontal 
lines across their foreheads with the same mixture, and 
others a perpendicular line from the top of the forehead 
to the nose. Some Brahmins and some of the Hindus of 
Northern India apply this paste to their cheeks rather 
effectively. Others use it to decorate the neck, breast, 
belly, and arms with different designs, while others again 
smear their bodies all over with the mixture. 

1 Brahmin men never wear such rings. — Ed. 

2 The variety and number of ornaments is almost bewildering ; but 
they all have their proper names and shapes. Indian artisans do not 
need to rack their brains to invent novelties. There are no changing 
fashions, either in dress or in ornaments. A woman can wear what 
once belonged to her grandmother, or to one removed very many degrees 
further back, for the matter of that, either clothes or jewels ; and this 
without any incongruity, or exciting remark. There is a perpetual 
recurrence of old patterns, improved, it may be, but the design will be 
the same. Of course it is in jewels for females that the variety occurs 
most. — Padfield. 

It is a common belief among Hindus that there must always be at 
least a speck of gold on one's person, in order to ensure personal cere- 
monial purity. — Ed. 


Vishnavite Brahmins, as well as those of other castes 
who are particularly devoted to the worship of Vishnu, 
paint their foreheads with the emblem namam l , which 
gives their faces a most extraordinary, and sometimes 
even ferocious appearance. The most enthusiastic devo- 
tees of this sect paint the same design on their shoulders, 
arms, breast, and belly ; and the Bairagis, a sect who go 
about stark naked, often draw it on their hinder parts. 

The worshippers of Siva cover their foreheads and various 
parts of their bodies with the ashes of cow-dung, or with 
ashes taken from the places where the dead are burned 2 . 
Some of them smear themselves all over from head to foot ; 
others content themselves with smearing broad bars across 
the arms, chest, and belly. 

Many Hindus who do not belong to any sect in par- 
ticular smear their foreheads with ashes. Brahmins, with 
the exception of a very few who belong to some special 
sect, do not follow this custom, though sometimes, after 
they have performed their morning ablutions, they draw 
a little horizontal line with ashes across their foreheads. 

The Hindus also display on their bodies many other 
marks and devices of different colours and designs, which 
vary according to the different castes, sects, and provinces. 
It would be difficult to explain the origin and meaning of 
the greater number of these symbols ; those who wear 
them are often themselves ignorant of their meaning. 
Some, the pottu amongst the number, appear to have been 
invented solely for ornament, but there is no doubt that, 
as a rule, some superstitious meaning is attached to them. 
Thus the ashes of cow-dung are used in memory of the 
long penance of Siva and of several other holy personages, 
who always covered themselves with these ashes in token 
of humility. 

Anyway, the Hindu code of good breeding requires that 
the forehead shall be ornamented with a mark of some 
sort. To keep it quite bare is a sign of mourning. It is 
also a sign that the daily ablutions have not been per- 
formed, that a person is still in a state of impurity, or that 

1 See Chapter IX. 

2 Ashes taken from burning-grounds are not usually employed now- 
adays. — Ed. 


he is still fasting. If one meets an acquaintance after 
noon with his forehead still bare, one always asks if it is 
because he has not yet broken his fast. It would be rude 
to appear before decent people with no mark whatever on 
the forehead. 

Women attach much less importance than men to this 
kind of decoration. As a rule, they are satisfied with 
making the little round pothi mark on the forehead in red, 
yellow, or black, or else a simple horizontal or perpendicular 
line in red. But they have another kind of decoration of 
which they are very fond. It consists in painting the face, 
neck, arms, legs, and every part of the body that is visible 
with a deep yellow cosmetic of saffron. Brahmin women 
imagine that they thereby greatly enhance their beauty, 
since it makes their skin appear less dusky. Love of 
admiration no doubt has taught them that this paint gives 
them an additional charm in the eyes of Hindus, but it 
produces quite the contrary effect on Europeans, who think 
them hideous and revolting when thus besmeared. 

No doubt all these daubings appear very ridiculous in 
our eyes, and it is difficult to believe that it can render 
any one more attractive, at least according to our way of 
thinking. But amongst the many artificial means of 
adornment which caprice and fashion have forced upon us 
there are several which excite just as much ridicule amongst 
the Hindus. Thus, for instance, in the days when it was 
the custom to powder the hair, they could not understand 
how a young man with common sense could bring himself 
to appear as if he had the white head of an old man. As 
to wigs, Hindus are absolutely horrified at seeing a Euro- 
pean, holding some important position, with his head 
dressed out in hair which may have been taken from 
a leper, or a corpse, or at best from a Pariah or prostitute. 
To defile one's head with anything so unclean and abomin- 
able is regarded by the Hindu as most horrible ! It would be 
no great hardship to expose a bald head to free contact with 
the air in such a warm climate, but were they all doomed 
to severe colds, nothing would ever persuade the Hindus 
to adopt the fashion of wearing wigs. And so we laugh at 
them, and they at us. And this is the way of the world. 
Yae tibi ! vae nigrae ! dicebat cacabus ollae. 



Brahmin Wives. — The Education of Women. — Ceremonies which take 
place when they arrive at a Marriageable Age, and during Preg- 
nancy. — The Low Estimation in which Women are held in Private 
Life. — The Respect that is paid to them in Public. — Their Clothing 
and Ornaments. 

The social condition of the Brahmanis, or wives of 
Brahmins, differs very little from that of the women of 
other castes, and I shall have little to say about it. This 
interesting half of the human race, which exercises such 
enormous power in other parts of the world, and often 
decides the fate of empires, occupies in India a position 
hardly better than that of slaves. Their only vocation in 
life being to minister to man's physical pleasures and 
wants, they are considered incapable of developing any of 
those higher mental qualities which would make them 
more worthy of consideration and also more capable of 
playing a useful part in life. Their intellect is thought to 
be of such a very low order, that when a man has done 
anything particularly foolish or thoughtless his friends say 
he has no more sense than a woman. And the women 
themselves, when they are reproved for any serious fault 
and find it difficult to make a good excuse, always end by 
saying, ' After all, I am only a woman ! ' This is always 
their last word, and one to which there is no possible 
retort. One of the principal precepts taught in Hindu 
books, and one that is everywhere recognized as true, is 
that women should be kept in a state of dependence and 
subjection all their lives, and under no circumstances should 
they be allowed to become their own mistresses. A woman 
must obey her parents as long as she is unmarried, and her 
husband and mother-in-law afterwards. Even when she 
becomes a widow she is not free, for her own sons become 
her masters and have the right to order her about ! 

As a natural consequence of these views, female educa- 
tion is altogether neglected. A young girl's mind remains 
totally uncultivated, though many of them have good 
abilities. In fact, of what use would learning or accom- 
plishments be to women who are still in such a state of 


domestic degradation and servitude ? All that a Hindu 
woman need know is how to grind and boil rice and look 
after her household affairs, which are neither numerous 
nor difficult to manage. 

Courtesans, whose business in life is to dance in the 
temples and at public ceremonies, and prostitutes are the 
only women who are allowed to learn to read, sing, or 
dance. It would be thought a disgrace to a respectable 
woman to learn to read ; and even if she had learnt she 
would be ashamed to own it. As for dancing, it is left 
absolutely to courtesans ; and even they never dance with 
men. Respectable women sometimes amuse themselves 
by singing when they are alone, looking after their house- 
hold duties, and also on the occasions of weddings or other 
family festivities ; but they would never dare to sing in 
public or before strangers. 

Such feminine occupations as knitting or needlework 
are quite unknown to them ; and moreover any talents 
that they might develop in this direction would be wasted, 
as their clothing consists of one long piece of coloured 
calico, without any join or seam in it, though most of them 
know how to card and spin cotton, and very few houses 
are without one or more spinning-wheels \ 

I have already described what takes place when a young 
girl, who has been married in her early childhood, arrives 
at the age when she is fit to live with her husband (Chapter 
VI). These festivities are called the consummation of the 

The young woman herself cannot appear, because she 
is, for the first time in her life, in a state of uncleanness, 
and for several days she is obliged to remain in a separate 
part of the house. But after she has gone through the 
usual rites of purification she returns to the family, and 
numberless other ceremonies are performed over her, 
amongst others several which are supposed to counteract 
the effects of witchcraft or the evil eye. She is then con- 
ducted with much pomp to her husband's house. 

1 Many Hindu women and girls now do needlework of some kind, 
and it is taught in most of the girls' schools. The old-fashioned mothers- 
in-law complain that this new departure has proved detrimental to the 
performance of the more ordinary household duties. — Ed. 


The Sudras, and even the Pariahs, have grand festivities 
when their daughters, though still unmarried, arrive at 
a marriageable age. The event is announced to the public 
with all the outward show that accompanies the most 
solemn ceremonies. A pandal is erected ; toranams or 
strings of mango-leaves are hung in front of the entrance 
door of the house ; feasts are given ; much music re- 
sounds. In fact, it is a kind of advertisement or invitation 
to young men in want of a wife. 

When a Brahmin's wife becomes pregnant there are 
endless ceremonies to be performed, some indeed for each 
separate month. In any caste it would be considered a 
disgrace to the woman, and in a less degree to her parents, 
if her first child were born anywhere but under the paternal 
roof. Her mother accordingly comes and fetches her about 
the seventh month of her pregnancy, and she is not allowed 
to return to her own home till her health is entirely re- 
established. When she departs her mother is supposed to 
give her a new piece of cotton cloth and some more or less 
valuable ornaments according to her means and her caste. 
But in no case would the woman, to whatever caste she 
might belong, return from her parents' to her husband's 
house unless her mother-in-law or some equally near 
relation came to fetch her. Her husband has to conform 
to this custom when his wife chooses to leave him and 
takes refuge under the paternal roof, sometimes for a mere 
whim, or for some very trifling cause. But in any case, 
even when the fault is all on her side, the husband must 
go and fetch her back. 

These domestic quarrels and separationsoccur frequently, 
and are generally the fault of the mother-in-law, who looks 
upon her son's wife as a slave that has been bought and 
paid for. The elder woman, indeed, lives in constant 
dread of her daughter-in-law obtaining too much ascend- 
ency over the husband, and by this means contriving her 
own emancipation ; and accordingly seizes every oppor- 
tunity of breeding discord between them. This fear is, 
as a rule, perfectly uncalled for ; for the men themselves 
show very little inclination to be ruled by their wives, and 
condescend to very little of what we call conjugal tender- 
ness in their relations with them. 


The women, on the other hand, are so thoroughly accus- 
tomed to harsh and domineering treatment from their 
husbands that they would be quite annoyed if the hus- 
bands adopted a more familiar tone. I once knew a native 
lady who complained bitterly that her husband sometimes 
affected to be very devoted to her in public and allowed 
himself such little familiarities as are looked upon by us 
as marks of affection. ' Such behaviour,' said she, ' covers 
me with shame and confusion. I dare not show myself 
anywhere. Did any one ever see such bad manners 
amongst people of our caste ? Has he become a Feringhi 
(European), and does he take me for one of their vile 


i I 

As a rule a husband addresses his wife in terms which 
show how little he thinks of her. Servant, slave, &c, and 
other equally flattering appellations, fall quite naturally 
from his lips. 

A woman, on the other hand, never addresses her hus- 
band except in terms of the greatest humility. She speaks 
to him as my master, my lord, and even sometimes my god. 
In her awe of him she does not venture to call him by his 
name ; and should she forget herself in this way in a moment 
of anger, she would be thought a very low class of person, 
and would lay herself open to personal chastisement from 
her offended spouse. She must be just as particular in 
speaking of him to any one else : indeed, the Hindus are 
very careful never to put a woman under the necessity of 
mentioning her husband by name. If by chance a Euro- 
pean, who is unacquainted with this point of etiquette, 
obliges her to do so, he will see her blush and hide her 
face behind her sari and turn away without answering, 
smiling at the same time with contemptuous pity at such 

Politeness also forbids you to address a person of higher 
rank by his name. 

But if women enjoy very little consideration in private 
life, they are in some degree compensated by the respect 

1 It may be noted that at marriage feasts, &c., the males and females 
keep apart ; and furthermore the usual personal invitations to such 
feasts are invariably conveyed to men by men, and to women by women. 


which is paid to them in public. They do not, it is true, 
receive those insipid compliments which we have agreed 
to consider polite ; but then, on the other hand, they are 
safe from the risk of insult. A Hindu woman can go any- 
where alone, even in the most crowded places, and she need 
never fear the impertinent looks and jokes of idle loungers. 
This appears to me to be really remarkable in a country 
where the moral depravity of the inhabitants is carried 
to such lengths. A house inhabited solely by women is 
a sanctuary which the most shameless libertine would not 
dream of violating. To touch a respectable woman even 
with the end of your finger would be considered highly 
indecorous, and a man who meets a female acquaintance 
in the street does not venture to stop and speak to her. 

When travelling the men walk in front and the women 
follow some distance behind. You very rarely see the 
men address a word to their humble followers. If they 
come to a river which has to be forded the women tuck up 
their cloths above the hips, and in this naked state they 
approach near enough to their travelling companions to 
permit of the latter stretching out a helping hand behind 
them to help them to withstand the force of the current ; 
but never would you see any one under these circumstances 
commit an indiscretion like that which caused Orpheus to 
lose his Eurydice. 

I have often spent the night in one of the common rest- 
houses, where the men and women lodging there were lying 
all huddled together anyhow and almost side by side ; 
but I have never known or heard of any one disturbing 
the tranquillity of the night by indecent act or word. Should 
any person be so ill-advised as to attempt anything of the 
sort, the whole room would be up in arms against him in a 
moment, and prompt chastisement would follow the offence. 

A woman's costume consists of a simple piece of cotton 
cloth, made all in one piece, and woven expressly for the 
purpose. It is from 30 to 40 feet long, and rather more 
than 4 feet wide. All sorts and kinds are made, in every 
shade and at every price, and they always have a border 
of a contrasting colour. The women wind part of this 
cloth two or three times round their waists, and it forms 
a sort of narrow petticoat which falls to the feet in front ; 


it does not come so far down behind, as one of the ends of 
the cloth is tucked in at the waist after passing between 
the legs, which are thus left bare as far as, or even above, 
the calf. This arrangement is peculiar to Brahmin women ; 
those of other castes arrange their draperies with more 
decency and modesty. The other end of the cloth covers 
the shoulders, head, and chest. Thus the clothing for both 
sexes is made without seams or sewing — an undeniable 
convenience, considering how often they have to bathe 
themselves and wash their garments ; for Brahmin women 
have to observe the same rules of purification as the men, 
and are equally zealous in the performance of this duty. 
The custom of women veiling their faces has never been 
practised in India, though it has been in use among many 
other Asiatic nations from time immemorial. Here the 
women always go about with their faces uncovered, and in 
some parts of the country they also expose the upper half 
of their bodies *. 

Quiet and retired as is the life of a Hindu woman, it 
cannot be said to be one of complete and rigorous seclusion. 
Though all friendly intercourse with men is forbidden to 
them, still they may talk to those who come to the house 
as friends or acquaintances without fear of unpleasant 
consequences. Eunuchs — those deplorable victims of 
Oriental jealousy — are unknown in India, and the natives 
never dream of putting the virtue of their women under 
the care of these miserable beings. They are not to be 
found even in the palace of a prince, where women are 
always guarded and waited on by women. 

In several parts of India young girls and married women 
wear a sort of little bodice under their cloth, which covers 
the breast, shoulders, and arms as far as the elbows ; but 
this, I am told, is a modern innovation, and borrowed from 
the Mahomedans. 

I have reason to believe that the custom of leaving all 
the upper part of the body uncovered as far as the waist 
was formerly common to both sexes in the southern parts 
of India. It still prevails on the Malabar coast, and in 
the neighbouring provinces. 

1 This custom still prevails in Malabar and Travancore, but it is 
gradually dying out amongst the educated classes. — Ed. 


The custom of tattooing the arms of young girls with 
indelible designs of figures or flowers is very general. I 
have already described how this tattooing is done. When 
their skin is not very dark they generally ornament their 
faces in the same way, by putting three or four spots on 
the cheeks and chin. These marks produce very much 
the same effect as the black patches which were once the 
fashion with European ladies. I have already mentioned 
the habit which the beauties of India and Brahmin ladies 
observe of painting all the visible parts of their bodies 
with yellow saffron, and also of darkening their eyelids 
with antimony. 

In order to make their hair more glossy and silky they 
frequently oil it. They part it exactly in the middle, and 
then roll it up behind into a sort of chignon, which is 
fastened behind the left ear. To make this chignon larger 
they often insert some tow, or else some cotton wool 
specially prepared for the purpose. Hindu women gener- 
ally possess beautiful black hair, which is soft and straight. 
It is very rarely to be seen of any other colour. They are 
much given to wearing sweet-smelling flowers in their hair, 
and also ornaments of gold, none of any other metal being 
permissible, though they sometimes use a silver buckle to 
fasten the hair together at the back. 

Silver ornaments may be worn on the arms, but are more 
frequently used to decorate the feet and ankles -. Some 
of their anklets are actual fetters, weighing as much as 
two or three pounds. There are special rings made for 
each toe, often entirely covering them. 

Bracelets are sometimes made hollow, and are more than 
an inch in diameter. They are of different patterns, accord- 
ing to the country in which they are made and the caste of 
the person who wears them. They are worn either above 
the elbow or round the wrist, and are made of gold or 
silver, as the means of the wearer will allow. Quite poor 
women wear copper bracelets, and some have more than 
half their fore-arms covered with glass bangles. 

Neck ornaments consist of gold or silver chains, or strings 

1 It is remarkable that gold ornaments are never worn by Hindus on 
the feet, the reason being that it is a sacred metal, and would be thereby 
defiled. — Ed. 


of large gold beads, pearls, or coral. In fact, beads of all 
kinds and of greater or less value are much in demand. 
Some women wear necklaces more than an inch wide, set 
with rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones. But to 
enumerate all the different kinds of ornaments worn by 
Hindu ladies would take a very long time. To give a single 
instance, I could mention eighteen or twenty different kinds 
of ornaments that are used for the ears alone. 

Even the nose is considered a suitable object for decora- 
tion. The right nostril and the division between the two 
nostrils are sometimes weighted with an ornament that 
hangs down as far as the under lip. When the wearers 
are at meals, they are obliged to hold up this pendant with 
one hand, while feeding themselves with the other. At 
first this strange ornament, which varies with different 
castes, has a hideous effect in the eyes of Europeans, but 
after a time, when one becomes accustomed to it, it gradu- 
ally seems less unbecoming, and at last one ends by thinking 
it quite an ornament to the face. 

It is no uncommon sight to see a woman decked out in 
all her jewels drawing water, grinding rice, cooking food, 
and attending to all the menial domestic occupations, from 
which even the wives of Brahmins do not consider them- 
selves exempt. 

It is, of course, needless to remark that all this extrava- 
gant display is very often obtained only at the sacrifice 
of other more useful and necessary requirements in their 

When a girl marries, everything that she receives from 
her future father-in-law, or that she takes away with her 
from her old home, is most clearly and distinctly set down, 
item by item, in a kind of legal document. All these things 
are her own personal property, which she takes care to 
claim when she becomes a widow. 


Rules of Conduct for Married Women. 

« Nothing serves so well to illustrate the attitude and 
behaviour of Hindus towards their wives as the rules of 


conduct which are prescribed for the latter in the Padma- 
purana, one of their most valued books : rules which I will 
translate literally. They are reputed to be the work of 
the famous penitent Vasishta, who recommends their 
observance by every faithful wife. I cannot say that I 
altogether approve of them ; some of them appear to me 
absurd ; others there are which, from a social point of 
view, are harmful ; all of them evidently have for their 
object the reduction of this interesting ' better half ' of 
the human race to the lowest state of subjection. It is 
not to be wondered at, therefore, if we find many foolish 
examples of Hindu superstition, which is a necessary 
element in every institution of the country. Order and 
continuity are not so conspicuous as one might desire 
in the ideas of the great penitent Vasishta ; but I give 
a passage closely following the original, as a specimen of 
the style of writing that prevails among the Hindus : — 

1 Give ear to me attentively, great King of Dilipa ! I will 
expound to thee how a wife attached to her husband and 
devoted to her duties ought to behave. 

* There is no other god on earth for a woman than her 
husband. The most excellent of all the good works that 
she can do is to seek to please him by manifesting perfect 
obedience to him. Therein should lie her sole rule of 

' Be her husband deformed, aged, infirm, offensive in 
his manners ; let him also be choleric, debauched, immoral, 
a drunkard, a gambler ; let him frequent places of ill- 
repute, live in open sin with other women, have no affec- 
tion whatever for his home ; let him rave like a lunatic ; 
let him live without honour ; let him be blind, deaf, dumb, 
or crippled ; in a word, let his defects be what they may, 
let his wickedness be what it may, a wife should always 
look upon him as her god, should lavish on him all her 
attention and care, paying no heed whatsoever to his 
character and giving him no cause whatsoever for dis- 

* A woman is made to obey at every stage of her exist- 
ence. As daughter, it is to her father and mother she 
owes submission ; as wife, to her husband, to her father- 
in-law, and to her mother-in-law ; as widow, to her sons; 


At no period of her life can she consider herself her own 

' She must always be attentive and diligent in all her 
domestic duties ; she should be ever watchful over her 
temper, never covetous of the goods of others, never 
quarrelsome with her neighbours, never neglectful of work 
without her husband's permission, and always calm in her 
conduct and deportment. 

1 Should she see anything which she is desirous of pos- 
sessing, she must not seek to acquire it without the consent 
of her husband. If her husband receives the visit of 
a stranger, she shall retire with bent head and shall con- 
tinue her work without paying the least attention to him. 
She must concentrate her thoughts on her husband only, 
and must never look another man in the face. In acting 
thus, she will win the praise of everybody. 

1 Should any man make proposals to her, and endeavour 
to seduce her by offering her rich clothes or jewels of great 
value, by the gods ! let her take good care not to lend an 
ear to him, let her hasten to flee from him. 

■ If her husband laugh, she must laugh ; if he be sad, 
she must be sad ; if he weep, she must weep ; if he ask 
questions, she must answer. Thus will she give proofs of 
her good disposition. 

' She must take heed not to remark that another man is 
young, handsome, or well proportioned, and, above all, she 
must not speak to him. Such modest demeanour will 
secure for her the reputation of a faithful spouse. 

' It shall even be the same with her who, seeing before 
her the most beautiful gods, shall regard them disdainfully 
and as though they were not worthy of comparison with 
her husband. 

' A wife must eat only after her husband has had his fill. 
If the latter fast, she shall fast too ; if he touch not food, 
she also shall not touch it ; if he be in affliction, she shall 
be so too ; if he be cheerful, she shall share his joy. A 
good wife should be less devoted to her sons, or to her 
grandsons, or to her jewels than to her husband. She 
must, on the death of her husband, allow herself to be burnt 
alive on the same funeral pyre ; then everybody will praise 
her virtue. 


* She cannot lavish too much affection on her father-in- 
law, her mother-in-law, and her husband ; and should she 
perceive that they are squandering all the family substance 
in extravagance, she would be wrong to complain and still 
more wrong to oppose them. 

' She should always be ready to perform the various 
duties of her house, and to perform them diligently. 

1 Let her bathe every day, rubbing saffron on her body. 
Let her attire be clean, her eyelids tinged with antimony, 
and her forehead marked with red pigment. Let her hair 
be well combed and adorned. Thus shall she be like unto 
the goddess Lakshmi. 

' Before her husband let her words fall softly and sweetly 
from her mouth ; and let her devote herself to pleasing 
him every day more and more. 

1 She must be careful to sweep her house every day, to 
smooth the floor with a layer of cow-dung, and to decorate 
it with white tracery. She must keep the cooking vessels 
clean, and must be ready with the meals at the proper hours. 

' If her husband be gone out to fetch supplies of wood, 
leaves, or flowers to perform the sandhya, or for any other 
purpose, she shall watch for the moment of his return and 
shall go to meet him. She shall go before him into the 
house, shall hand him a stool to sit down upon, and shall 
serve up the food prepared to his taste. 

1 She shall inform him in time of what is wanted in the 
house, and shall manage with care what he brings home. 

' Prudent in her conversation, she must be careful, in 
conversing with gurus, sannyasis, strangers, servants, and 
other persons, to adopt a tone suitable to the position of 

' In exercising in her house the authority given to her 
by her husband, she must do so gently and intelligently. 

1 She must, as in duty bound, use for the expenses of 
her household all the money with which her husband 
entrusts her, not taking any of it surreptitiously for herself 
or for her parents, or even, without her husband's permis- 
sion, for works of charity. 

1 She must never meddle with the affairs of others, nor 
lend ear to stories of the good luck or misfortune which 
has befallen others. 


* Never let her yield to anger or malice. 

' Let her abstain from all food that is not to her hus- 
band's taste. Let her not oil her head when her husband 
does not oil his own. 

1 If her husband go away anywhere and ask her to 
accompany him, let her follow him ; if he tell her to remain 
at home, let her not leave the house during his absence. 
Until his return she shall not bathe, or anoint her head 
with oil, or clean her teeth, or pare her nails ; she shall 
eat but once a day, shall not lie down on a bed, or wear 
new clothes, or adorn her forehead with any of the ordinary 
marks 1 . 

1 A woman during her menstrual period shall retire for 
three days to a place apart. During this time, she shall 
not look at anybody, not even at her children, or at the 
light of the sun. On the fourth day she shall bathe, observ- 
ing the proper rites for such occasions which were estab- 
lished before the Kali-yuga 2 . 

- A woman, when she is pregnant, must conform to all 
the rites prescribed for such occasions. She must then 
avoid the company of women of doubtful virtue and of 
those who have lost all their children ; she must drive 
away from her mind all sad thoughts ; she must be careful 
not to gaze at terrifying objects, or to listen to sad stories, 
or to eat anything indigestible 3 . By observing these rules, 
she will have beautiful children ; by neglecting them she 
will risk a miscarriage. 

' A wife, during the absence of her husband, should 
strictly conform to his parting counsels. She should be 
heedless of her attire, and should not devote herself, under 
the plea of devotion to the gods, to any special acts of 

' If a husband keep two wives, the one should not amuse 
herself at the expense of the other, be it for good or for 
evil ; neither should the one talk about the beauty or the 

1 These restrictions are not observed nowadays. — Ed. 

a The hermit Vasishta here describes these practices. I will explain 
them in Appendix IV. — Dubois. 

Nowadays a woman in this condition is not forbidden communication 
with her children. — Ed. 

3 It may be added that a cocoanut is never broken in the presence of 
a pregnant woman. — Ed. 


ugliness of the children of the other. They must live on 
good terms, and must avoid addressing unpleasant and 
offensive remarks to each other. 

* In the presence of her husband, a wife must not look 
about her, but must keep her eyes fixed on him, in readi- 
ness to receive his orders. When he speaks, she must not 
interrupt him, nor speak to anybody else ; when he calls 
her, she must leave everything and run to him. 

1 If he sing, she must be in ecstasy ; if he dance, she 
must look at him with delight ; if he speak of learned 
things, she must listen to him with admiration. In his 
presence indeed she ought always to be cheerful, and never 
show signs of sadness or discontent. 

' Let her carefully avoid creating domestic squabbles on 
the subject of her parents, or on account of another woman 
whom her husband may wish to keep, or on account of 
any unpleasant remark which may have been addressed 
to her. To leave the house for reasons such as these 
would expose her to public ridicule, and would give cause 
for much evil speaking. 

, ' If her husband flies into a passion, threatens her, abuses 
her grossly, even beats her unjustly, she shall answer him 
meekly, shall lay hold of his hands, kiss them, and beg his 
pardon, instead of uttering loud cries and running away 
from the house. 

' She must not say to her husband : " Thou hast hurt 
me, thou hast beaten me unjustly ; I will no more speak 
to thee ; hereafter the relations between ourselves will be 
no other than those between a father and his daughter, or 
a brother and his sister. I shall no more have anything 
to do with thy affairs ; I will no longer have anything in 
common with thee." Such words ought never to fall from 
her lips. 

' If any of her relatives or friends invite her to their 
house on the occasion of some feast or ceremony, she shall 
not go there without the permission of her husband, and 
unless accompanied by some elderly woman. She shall 
remain there for as short a time as possible, and on her return 
she shall render a faithful account to her husband of all that 
she has seen or heard ; she shall then resume her domestic 


1 While her husband is absent, she shall sleep with one of 
her female relatives, and not alone. She shall make con- 
stant inquiries after the health of her husband. She shall 
send constant messages to him to return as soon as possible, 
and shall offer up prayers to the gods for him. 

' Let all her words and actions give public proof that she 
looks upon her husband as her god. Honoured by every- 
body, she shall thus enjoy the reputation of a faithful and 
virtuous spouse. 

' If, in the event of her husband dying, she resolves to 
die with him, glorious and happy will she be in the world 
to which her husband will lead her after his death. But 
whether she dies before or with her husband, or whether 
she survives him, a virtuous wife may rest assured that all 
sorts of blessings will await her in the other world. 

' A wife can enjoy no true happiness unless she attains 
it through her husband ; it is he who gives her children ; 
it is he who provides her with clothes and jewels ; it is he 
who supplies her with flowers, sandalwood, saffron, and all 
good things. 

' It is also through his wife that a husband enjoys the 
pleasures of this world ; that is a maxim taught in all our 
learned books. It is through his wife that he does good 
works, that he acquires riches and honour, and that he 
succeeds in his enterprises. A man without a wife is an 
imperfect being.' 

These rules of conduct may seem extremely severe, yet 
they are faithfully observed, especially among the Brah- 

Among certain sects of the Vishnavite Brahmins a 
peculiar custom exists. A daughter-in-law is never allowed 
to speak to her mother-in-law. When she wishes to com- 
municate anything to her, she does it by signs ; and when 
the mother-in-law gives orders to the daughter-in-law, the 
latter answers by an inclination of the head, thereby in- 
dicating that she has understood the orders given her. 
She, however, at times manages to make up for this en- 
forced silence by having recourse to spirited and expressive 
gestures : so much so, that her dumb repartees often cause 
her mother-in-law to boil with rage. 



Mourning. — The Condition of Widowhood. — The General Contempt for 
Widows. — Remarriages forbidden. 

The happiest death for a woman is that which overtakes 
her while she is still in a wedded state. Such a death is 
looked upon as the reward of goodness extending back for 
many generations 1 ; on the other hand, the greatest mis- 
fortune that can befall a wife is to survive her husband. 

Should the husband die first, as soon as he breathes his 
last the widow attires herself in her best clothes and bedecks 
herself with all her jewels 2 . Then, with all the signs of 
the deepest grief, she throws herself on his body, embracing 
it and uttering loud cries. She holds the corpse tightly 
clasped in her arms until her parents, generally silent 
spectators of this scene, are satisfied that this first demon- 
stration of grief is sufficient, when they restrain her from 
these sad embraces. She yields to their efforts with great 
reluctance, and with repeated pretences of escaping out of 
their hands and rushing once again to the lifeless remains 
of her husband. Then, finding her attempts useless, she 
rolls on the ground like one possessed, strikes her breast 
violently, tears out her hair, and manifests many other 
signs of the deepest despair. Now, are these noisy profes- 
sions of grief and affliction to be attributed to an excess of 
conjugal affection, to real sorrow ? The answer will appear 
rather perplexing, when we remark that it is the general 
custom to act in this manner, and that all these demon- 
strations are previously arranged as a part of the ceremonies 
of mourning. 

After the first outbursts of grief, she rises, and, assuming 
a more composed look, approaches her husband's body. 
Then in one continuous strain, which would be hardly 
possible under real affliction, she apostrophizes her husband 
in a long series of questions, of which I give a summary 
as follows : — 

1 Children are even consoled with the thought, when their mothers 
die in a wedded state. — Ed. 

3 This is the last occasion on which she is allowed to wear ornaments 
of any kind. — Ed. 


■ Why hast thou forsaken me ? What wrong have I done 
thee, that thou shouldst thus leave me in the prime of my 
life ? Had I not for thee all the fondness of a faithful 
wife ? Have I not always been virtuous and pure ? Have 
I not borne thee handsome children ? Who will bring 
them up ? Who will take care of them hereafter ? Was 
I not diligent in all the duties of the household ? Did I 
not sweep the house every day, and did I not make the 
floor smooth and clean ? Did I not ornament the floor 
with white tracery ? Did I not cook good food for thee ? 
Didst thou find grit in the rice that I prepared for thee ? 
Did I not serve up to thee food such as thou lovedst, well 
seasoned with garlic, mustard, pepper, cinnamon, and other 
spices ? Did I not forestall thee in all thy wants and 
wishes ? What didst thou lack whilst I was with thee ? 
Who will take care of me hereafter ? ' 

And so on. At the end of each sentence uttered in 
a plaintive chanting tone, she pauses to give free vent to 
her sobs and shrieks, which are also uttered in a kind of 
rhythm. The women that stand around join her in her 
lamentations, chanting in chorus with her. Afterwards, 
she addresses the gods, hurling against them torrents of 
blasphemies and imprecations. She accuses them openly 
of injustice in thus depriving her of her protector. This 
scene lasts till her eloquence becomes exhausted, or till 
her lungs are wearied out and she is no longer capable of 
giving utterance to her lamentations. She then retires 
to take rest for a while, and to prepare some new phrases 
against the time when the body is being prepared for the 
funeral pyre. 

The more vehement the expression of a woman's grief, 
the more eloquent and demonstrative her phrases, the more 
apparently genuine her contortions on such occasions, so 
much the more is she esteemed a woman of intelligence 
and education. The young women who are present pay 
the most minute attention to all that she says or does ; 
and if they observe anything particularly striking in her 
flights of rhetoric, in her attitudes, or in any of her efforts 
to excite the attention of the spectators, they carefully 
treasure it in their memory, to be made use of should 
a similar misfortune ever happen to themselves. If a wife 

352 professional women mourners 

who was really afflicted by the loss of her husband confined 
herself to shedding real tears and uttering real sobs, she 
would only be thoroughly despised and considered an idiot. 
The parents of a young widow once complained to me of 
her stupidity as follows : ' So foolish is she that, on the 
death of her husband, she did not utter a single word ; 
she did nothing but cry, without saying anything V 

In several parts of India, as formerly among tbe Greeks 
and Romans, professional women mourners may be hired. 
When called in to attend the obsequies, these women arrive 
with dishevelled hair and only half clothed, wearing their 
scanty garments in a disordered fashion. Collecting in 
a group round the deceased, they commence by setting 
up in unison the most doleful cries, at the same time 
beating their breasts in measured time. They weep, sob, 
and shriek in turns. Then addressing themselves to the 
deceased, each in succession eulogizes his virtues and good 
qualities. Anon they apostrophize him, vehemently re- 
monstrating with him for quitting life so soon. Finally, 
they point out to him, in the plainest possible terms, that 
he could not have committed a more foolish act. In dis- 
charging these duties, which are a curious mixture of 
tragedy and comedy, they take turn and turn about, and 
their affected sorrow lasts until the corpse is removed. 
As soon as the obsequies are over, they receive their wages, 
and their faces, which were so lugubrious a few moments 
before, once more assume their wonted calmness. 

Widows, who in the learned tongue are called vidhava, 
a word akin to the Latin vidua, are held in much less 
respect than other women ; and when they happen to have 
no children, they are generally looked upon with the 
utmost scorn. The very fact of meeting a widow is calcu- 
lated to bring ill-luck. They are called moonda, a reproach- 
ful term which means ' shorn-head,' because every widow 
is supposed to have her hair cut off. This rule, however, 
is not everywhere followed, especially among the Sudras 2 . 

1 The Hebrews also, on the death of friends and relatives, made a great 
parade of all the external signs of sorrow. They cried, rent their gar- 
ments, beat their breasts, tore out their hair or beards, or else had them 
cut, and even inflicted cuts on their bodies. See Leviticus xix. 28, 
xxi. 5 ; Jeremiah xvi. 6, &c. — Dubois. 

2 And also among the Tengalai Vaishnava Brahmins. — Ed. 


When women quarrel, this opprobrious term, moonda, is 
generally the first abusive word that passes. 

A widow has to be in mourning till her death. The 
signs of mourning are as follows : — She is expected to have 
her head shorn once a month ; she is not allowed to chew 
betel ; she is no longer permitted to wear jewels, with the 
exception of one very plain ornament round her neck ; she 
must wear coloured clothes no longer, only pure white 
ones ; she must not put saffron on her face or body, or 
mark her forehead \ Furthermore, she is forbidden to 
take part in any amusement or to attend family festivities, 
such as marriage feasts, the ceremony of upanayana, and 
others ; for her very presence would be considered an evil 

A very few days after the death of her husband, a widow's 
house is invaded by female friends and relatives, who 
begin by eating a meal prepared for them. After this 
they surround the widow and exhort her to bear her miser- 
able lot with fortitude. One after another they take her 
in their arms, shed tears with her, and end by pushing 
her violently to the ground. They next join together in 
lamenting her widowhood, and finally make her sit on a 
small stool. Then, one of her nearest female relatives, 
having previously muttered some religious formulae, cuts 
the thread of the tali, the gold ornament which every 
married woman in India wears round her neck. The 
barber is called in, and her head is clean shaved. This 
double ceremony sinks her instantly into the despised and 
hated class of widows. During the whole time that these 
curious and mournful rites are being performed, the un- 
fortunate victim is making the whole house resound with 
her cries of woe, cursing her sad lot a thousand times. 

The thread of the tali must be cut, not untied. This 
practice has given rise to a very common curse ; two 
women when quarrelling never forget to say to each other : 
' May you have your tali cut ! ' which means, ' May you 
become a widow ! ' 

The signs of sorrow manifested by a Hindu lady who 

1 She must, however, smear her forehead with sacred ashes if she is 
a widow of the Saiva sect, and mark her forehead with red powder if 
a Vaishnava. — Ed. 



loses her husband are of so exaggerated a description that 
one cannot help doubting their perfect sincerity; yet it is 
impossible that any Hindu widow could face the sad future 
awaiting her with tearless eyes. Doomed to perpetual 
widowhood, cast out of society, stamped with the seal of 
contumely, she has no consolation whatever, except maybe 
the recollection of hardships that she has had to endure 
during her married life. 

I do not refer here to those unfortunate girls of five or 
six years of age, who, married to Brahmins of over sixty, 
very often become widows before they attain the age of 
puberty. Fortunately their youth and inexperience pre- 
vent their brooding over the sad condition in which they 
have been placed by such inhuman and iniquitous pre- 
judices. But think of the numberless young widows in 
the prime of life and strength. How do they bear up 
against this cruel expulsion from the society of their fellow- 
creatures ? The answer is, Better than one would be in- 
clined to believe. The fact is, they must perforce be 
resigned to their fate ; and however despised a widow 
may be, there is this consolation, that one who remarries 
is a hundred times more so, for she is shunned absolutely 
by every honest and respectable person. Thus there are 
few widows who would not look upon proposals to remarry 
as a downright insult, though in this respect they are 
seldom put to the test. Even an old gouty Brahmin, as 
poor as Irus, would feel indignant at the very suggestion 
of marrying a widow, though she were rich and endowed 
with all the charms of youth and beauty. 

One result of this prejudice, which is firmly and irre- 
vocably established in India, is that the country abounds 
with widows, especially among the Brahmins. Among this 
caste shorn-heads are to be seen everywhere. Of course 
a certain corruption of morals is the inevitable result of 
such a state of things, but it is not pushed to such an 
extent as might be expected. The natural modesty of 
Hindu women, the way in which they are brought up, 
their ordinarily chaste and circumspect demeanour, the 
calmness of their passions : all these go a great way towards 
providing as it were strong barriers against the attacks of 
the licentious, who, whatever may be said to the contrary 


by ill-informed writers, do not succeed in winning over 
women of the better class so easily as in many other coun- 
tries where the lawful union of the two sexes is not beset 
with so many obstacles. 

Besides, even if we refuse to believe that young widows 
possess in themselves sufficient strength of will to resist 
seduction, there are many other obstacles beyond their 
own control, which also serve as so many bulwarks to their 
modesty. Chief among such obstacles must be reckoned 
the diligent watchfulness exercised over them by their 
parents ; the severity of the convenances which forbid any 
kind of familiar intercourse between men and women ; the 
very heavy punishments which follow even the most trivial 
lapses ; and, finally, the mere disgrace, which in India, 
above all countries of the world, entails the most tremendous 
penalties on the person detected in an indiscretion l . 


The Custom which at times obliges Widows to allow themselves to be 
burnt alive on the Funeral Pyre of their Deceased Husbands. 

Although the ancient and barbarous custom which 
imposes the duty on widows of sacrificing themselves 
voluntarily on the funeral pyre of their husbands has not 
been expressly abolished, it is much more rare nowadays 
than formerly, especially in the southern parts of the 
Peninsula. In the North of India and in the provinces 
bordering on the Ganges, however, women are only too 
frequently seen offering themselves as victims of this horrid 
superstition, and, either through motives of vanity or 
through a spirit of blind enthusiasm, giving themselves 
up to a death which is as cruel as it is foolish. 

The Mahomedan rulers never tolerated this horrible 
practice in the provinces subject to them ; but, notwith- 
standing their prohibition, wretched fanatics have more 

1 The social reformers of the present day are doing all that they can 
to encourage the remarriage of virgin widows, those unhappy girls who, 
married before they come of age, become widows before cohabitation 
with their husbands is possible. So far, however, the success which 
these reformers have met with is extremely small, and those who brave 
caste custom in this respect are invariably outcasted. — Ed. 


than once succeeded in bribing the subordinate repre- 
sentatives of authority to give permission to commit the 
deed in violation of the laws of humanity and common 

The great European Power which nowadays exercises its 
sway all over the country has tried, by all possible means 
of persuasion, to put an end altogether to this barbarous 
custom ; but its efforts have been only partially successful, 
and, generally speaking, it has been obliged to shut its 
eyes to this dreadful practice, since any attempt to remedy 
it by force would have exposed it to dangerous opposi- 

Nobody is a greater admirer than myself of the wise 
spirit that animates this enlightened and liberal Govern- 
ment in manifesting to its Hindu subjects such a full and 
perfect tolerance in the practice of their civil and religious 
usages ; and nobody is more fully alive than I am to the 
dangers and difficulties that an open defiance of these pre- 
judices, which are looked upon as sacred and inviolable, 
would give rise to. But does the abominable custom in 
question form part of Hindu institutions ? Are there any 
rules which prescribe its observance by certain castes ? All 
the information which I have been able to gather on the 
subject tends to make me believe that there are no such 
rules. The infamous practice, although encouraged by the 
impostors who regulate religious worship, is nowhere pre- 
scribed in an imperative manner in the Hindu books. It 
is left entirely to the free will and pleasure of the victims 
who thus sacrifice themselves. No blame and no discredit 
are attached nowadays to the wife whose own honest 
judgement suggests that she ought not to be in such a 
hurry to rejoin in the other world the husband who so often 
made her wretched in this. It would be quite possible, 
therefore, by the display of firmness, combined with pru- 
dence, to strike, without any considerable danger, at the 
very root of this shocking practice. Certainly it reflects 
discredit on the Government which tolerates it and mani- 
fests no great indignation ! with regard to it. 

1 During recent years, owing to the number of these abominable 
sacrifices being on the increase, especially in the Bengal Presidency 
and in the districts bordering on the Ganges, the Government has 


It was principally in the noble caste of Rajahs that the 
suttee originated. It was looked upon as a highly honour- 
able proof of wifely attachment and love, which enhanced 
the glory of the families of these wretched victims of blind 
zeal. Should a widow, by reason of a natural fondness 
for life or through lack of courage, endeavour to avoid 
the honour of being burnt alive on the funeral pyre of her 
deceased husband, she was considered to be offering a gross 
insult to his memory. 

I was once able to thoroughly convince myself of the 
influence which this false point of honour still exercises 
over the minds of fanatical Hindus, and at the same time 
to discern that this act of devotion to which these wretched 

thought fit to interfere to check this inconceivable mania by adopting 
at least persuasive measures. It has, therefore, directed the different 
magistrates scattered about the country to examine very minutely all 
the circumstances attending the custom of suttee (this is the name by 
which these barbarous sacrifices are known), and never to sanction it 
except after exhausting all the means to oppose it which prudence may 
suggest to them. No woman can, therefore, now devote herself to 
a death of this kind without the sanction of the magistracy. When 
such permission is sought, the magistrates cause the victim to appear 
before them and question her carefully to assure themselves that her 
resolution is entirely voluntary, and that no outside influence has been 
brought to bear upon her. They then try by every possible exhorta- 
tion and counsel to induce her to give up her horrible design. But 
should the widow remain firm in her resolution, they leave her mistress 
of her own fate. The Protestant missionaries, when they first arrived 
in the country, expressed a just horror of these abominable sacrifices, 
and strove to diminish their number ; but being ill acquainted with the 
character of the Hindus and with their devoted attachment to custom, 
they used brusque and violent measures which only resulted in augment- 
ing the evil. I have seen the lists of widows who had sacrificed them- 
selves on the funeral pyre of their husbands from 1810 (the period at 
which the missionaries commenced their labours) up to the year 1820 ; 
and I have remarked that the number of these victims progressively 
increased every year during that space of time. In 1817 there were 
706 suttees in the Bengal Presidency. It is true that this insane practice 
is much more in vogue on the banks of the Ganges than anywhere else. 
In the southern parts of the Peninsula of India suttees are seldom seen. 
I am convinced that in the Madras Presidency, which numbers at least 
thirty millions of inhabitants, not thirty widows allow themselves to be 
thus burnt during a year. — Dubois. 

Suttee is now, of course, absolutely abolished. Its prohibition by 
law was effected during the Governor-Generalship of Lord William 
Bentinck (1825-1835), at the instance of the great Rajah Ram Mohun 
Roy.— Ed. 


victims sacrificed themselves is not always the result of 
their own free will and resolution. The poligar or prince 
of Cangoondy in the Carnatic having died, neither entreaties 
nor threats were spared to induce his widow to allow her- 
self to be burnt alive with him. It was urged that this 
honourable custom had been observed for a long time past 
in the family, and that it would be a great pity, indeed, to 
allow it to fall into disuse. The funeral ceremonies were 
delayed from day to day in the hope that the widow would 
at last make up her mind to prefer a glorious death to 
a remnant of life spent in contempt and opprobrium. It 
was a fruitless attempt ! The obstinate princess turned 
a deaf ear to all the pressing entreaties of her relatives ; 
and ultimately the deceased was obliged to depart alone 
to the other world. 

It must, however, be confessed that some widows commit 
this folly readily enough, spurred on as they are by the 
thought of the wretchedness of widowhood, by vanity, by 
the hope of acquiring notoriety, perhaps also by a genuine 
feeling of enthusiasm. It should be remembered that they 
are awarded boundless honours, and are even deified after 
death. Vows are made and prayers addressed to them, 
and their intercession is sought in times of sickness and 
adversity. Such remnants of their bodies as have not been 
entirely consumed by the fire are most devoutly gathered 
together, and on the spot where they have sacrificed them- 
selves small monumental pyramids are erected to transmit 
to posterity the memory of these brave victims of conjugal 
affection — a tribute all the more conspicuous, because the 
erection of tombs is almost unknown among the Hindus \ 
In a word, women who have had the courage to deliver 
themselves so heroically to the flames are numbered among 
the divinities, and crowds of devotees may be seen coming 
in from all sides to offer them sacrifices and to invoke 
their protection. 

To these inducements of vain and empty glory — sufficient 
of themselves to make a deep impression on a feeble mind 
— must be added the entreaties of relatives, who, if they 

1 In some old Hindu houses, even to this day, may be seen, impressed 
with turmeric paste on the walls, the marks of the hands of women who 
underwent suttee. — Ed. 


perceive the slightest inclination on the part of the widow 
to offer up her life, spare no means in order to convince 
her and force her to a final determination. At times they 
go so far as to administer drugs, which so far deprive her 
of her senses that under their influence she yields to their 
wishes. This inhuman and abominable method of wheed- 
ling a consent out of the unhappy woman is in their opinion 
justified, because her tragic end would bring great honour 
and glory to the whole of their family. 

Some authors have maintained that this detestable 
practice originated primarily either from the jealousy of 
husbands, or rather, perhaps, from their fear that their 
discontented wives might seek to get rid of them by poison. 
As for myself, I have been unable, either in the writings of 
Hindu authors, or in my free and familiar intercourse with 
many persons well versed in the manners and customs of 
the country, to discover any justification for either of these 
two theories. And surely the lot of a wife, even when she 
is doomed to suffer wrong at the hands of a cruel and 
immoral husband, is far preferable to that of a widow, to 
whom all hope of a re-marriage under happier conditions 
is forbidden. It is hardly likely, indeed, that Hindu 
women would go to the length of committing a crime 
which must render their lot much worse than before ! At 
the same time I am by no means inclined to attribute 
these voluntary sacrifices to an excess of conjugal affection. 
We should, for instance, be greatly mistaken were we to 
allow ourselves to be deceived by the noisy lamentations 
which wives are accustomed to raise on the death of their 
husbands, and which are no more than rank hypocrisy. 
During the long period of my stay in India, I do not recall 
two Hindu marriages characterized by a union of hearts 
and displaying true and mutual attachment l . 

When a woman, after mature deliberation, has once 
declared that she desires to be burnt alive with her deceased 

1 It is impossible to regard the conclusion here drawn as anything but 
greatly exaggerated. The influence of women, ignorant and uneducated 
as they are, is in many Hindu households exceedingly strong, and it is 
an error to picture them as the mere slaves of the men, though the 
ascendency of the latter is still a marked feature of Hindu sociology. 


husband, her decision is considered irrevocable. She cannot 
afterwards retract ; and should she refuse to proceed of 
her own free will to the funeral pyre, she would be dragged 
to it by force. The Brahmins who regulate all the pro- 
ceedings of the tragedy, and also her relatives, come by 
turns to congratulate her on her heroic decision and on the 
immortal glory which she is about to acquire by such a 
death — a death which will exalt her to the dignity of the 
gods. All possible means which fanaticism and supersti- 
tion can suggest are brought to bear upon her in order to 
keep up her courage, to exalt her enthusiasm, and to excite 
her imagination. When, at last, the fatal hour draws nigh, 
the victim is adorned with rare elegance : she is clothed in 
her richest apparel, is bedecked with all her jewels, and is 
thus led to the funeral pyre. 

It is impossible for me to describe the finishing scenes of 
this dreadful ceremony without feelings of distress. But, 
in the meantime, I must solicit the indulgence of my readers 
for a short digression which is not wholly disconnected with 
my subject. When a husband has several lawful wives, as 
often happens in the caste of the Rajahs, the wives some- 
times dispute as to who shall have the honour of accom- 
panying their common husband to the funeral pyre, and 
the Brahmins who preside at the ceremony determine 
which shall have the preference. Here is an instance to 
the point extracted from the Mahabharata, one of their 
most esteemed books : — 

1 King Pandu had retired into the jungles with his two 
wives, there to devote himself to acts of penance. At the 
same time a curse was imposed upon him, which doomed 
him to instant death should he dare to have intercourse 
with either of them. The passion which he felt for the 
younger of his wives, who was extremely beautiful, over- 
came all fear of death ; and, in spite of the fact that for 
several days she continued to represent to him the dire 
results that must necessarily follow his incontinency, he 
yielded at last to the violence of his love ; and immediately 
the curse fell upon him. After his death, it was necessary 
to decide which of his two wives should follow him to the 
funeral pyre, and there arose a sharp altercation between 
them as to who should enjoy this honour. 


' The elder of the two spoke first, and addressing the 
assembly of Brahmins who had gathered together for the 
purpose, she urged that the fact of her being the first wife 
placed her above the second. She should, therefore, be 
given the preference. Besides, she urged, her companion 
had children who were still young, and who required 
their mother's personal care and attention for their bring- 
ing up \ 

1 The second wife admitted the seniority of the first ; 
but she maintained that she alone, having been the im- 
mediate cause of the sad death of their common husband 
in allowing him to defy the curse which doomed him to 
perish, was thereby entitled to the honour of being burnt 
with him. " As regards the bringing up of my children," 
she added, addressing the other wife, " are they not yours 
just as much as they are mine ? Do not they too call 
you mother ? And by your age and experience are you 
not better fitted than I to attend to their bringing up ? " ' 

In spite of the eloquence of the younger wife, it was, at 
last, unanimously agreed by the judges that the first wife 
should have the preference — a decision at which the latter 
lady was greatly delighted. 

Most Sudras, as well as Hindus of the Siva sect, bury 
their dead instead of burning them, and there are several 
instances of wives having been buried alive with their 
deceased husbands. But the ceremonies in either case are 
nearly the same. 

I will relate here two incidents which took place at no 
great distance from the place where I was living, and which 
will give a good idea of what these deplorable scenes of 
mad fanaticism are like : — 

In 1794, in a village of the Tanjore district called Pudu- 
pettah, there died a man of some importance belonging 
to the Komathj (Vaisya) caste. His wife, aged about thirty 
years, announced her intention of accompanying her 

1 The custom of suttee does not require widows who have young 
children to burn themselves with the body of their husbands ; they 
are even forbidden to do so. Does this exception proceed from a feeling 
of humanity ? By no manner of means ! It is actuated merely by 
the fear that a large number of orphans would become a burden to the 
community. — Dubois. 

N 3 


deceased husband to the funeral pyre. The news having 
rapidly spread abroad, a large concourse of people flocked 
together from all quarters to witness the spectacle. When 
everything was ready for the ceremony, and the widow 
had been richly clothed and adorned, the bearers stepped 
forward to remove the body of the deceased, which was 
placed in a sort of shrine, ornamented with costly stuffs, 
garlands of flowers, green foliage, &c, the corpse being 
seated in it with crossed legs, covered with jewels and 
clothed in the richest attire, and the mouth filled with 
betel. Immediately after the funeral car followed the 
widow, borne in a richly decorated palanquin. On the 
way to the burning-ground she was escorted by an immense 
crowd of eager sight-seers, lifting their hands towards her 
in token of admiration, and rending the air with cries of 
joy. She was looked upon as already translated to the 
paradise of Indra, and they seemed to envy her happy lot. 

While the funeral procession moved slowly along, the 
spectators, especially the women, tried to draw near to 
her to congratulate her on her good fortune, at the same 
time expecting that, in virtue of the gift of prescience 
which such a meritorious attachment must confer upon 
her, she would be pleased to predict the happy things 
that might befall them here below. With gracious and 
amiable mien she declared to one that she would long 
enjoy the favours of fortune ; to another, that she would 
be the mother of numerous children who would prosper 
in the world ; to a third, that she would live long and 
happily with a husband who would love and cherish her ; 
to a fourth, that her family was destined to attain much 
honour and dignity ; and so forth. She then distributed 
among them leaves of betel ; and the extraordinary eager- 
ness with which these were received clearly proved that 
great value was attached to them as relics. Beaming with 
joy, these women then withdrew, each in the full hope that 
the promised blessings of wealth and happiness would be 
showered on her and hers. 

During the whole procession, which was a very long one, 
the widow preserved a calm demeanour. Her looks were 
serene, even smiling ! ; but when she reached the fatal place 

1 Several travellers have said, and I am inclined to believe it, that 


where she was to yield up her life in so ghastly a manner, 
it was observed that her firmness suddenly gave way. 
Plunged, as it were, in gloomy thought, she seemed to pay 
no attention whatever to what was passing around her. 
Her looks became wildly fixed upon the pile. Her face 
grew deadly pale. Her very limbs were in a convulsive 
tremor. Her drawn features and haggard face betrayed 
the fright that had seized her, while a sudden weakening 
of her senses betokened that she was ready to faint away. 

The Brahmins who conducted the ceremony, and also her 
near relatives, ran quickly to her, endeavouring to keep up 
her courage and to revive her drooping spirits. All was of 
no effect. The unfortunate woman, bewildered and dis- 
tracted, turned a deaf ear to all their exhortations and 
preserved a deep silence. 

She was then made to leave the palanquin, and as she was 
scarcely able to walk, her people helped her to drag herself 
to a pond near the pyre. She plunged into the water with 
all her clothes and ornaments on, and was immediately 
afterwards led to the pyre, on which the body of her hus- 
band was already laid. The pyre was surrounded by 
Brahmins, each with a lighted torch in one hand and a bowl 
of ghee in the other. Her relatives and friends, several of 
whom were armed with muskets, swords, and other weapons, 
stood closely round in a double line, and seemed to await 
impatiently the end of this shocking tragedy. This armed 
force, they told me, was intended not only to intimidate 
the unhappy victim in case the terror of her approaching 
death might induce her to run away, but also to overawe 
any persons who might be moved by a natural feeling of 
compassion and sympathy, and so tempted to prevent the 
accomplishment of the homicidal sacrifice. 

At length, the purohita Brahmin gave the fatal signal. 
The poor widow was instantly divested of all her jewels, 
and dragged, more dead than alive, to the pyre. There she 

they force upon these wretched victims of superstition a kind of drink, 
which confuses the mind and prevents them from forming a correct 
notion of the dreadful torture to which they are being led. This bever- 
age, they say, consists of a decoction of saffron. It is known that dried 
saffron pistils (Crocus sativus), taken in large quantities, cause violent 
and convulsive laughter, sometimes terminating in death. — Dubois. 


was obliged, according to custom, to walk three times 
round the pile, two of her nearest relatives supporting 
her by the arms. She accomplished the first round with 
tottering steps ; during the second her strength wholly 
forsook her, and she fainted away in the arms of her con- 
ductors, who were obliged to complete the ceremony by 
dragging her through the third round. Then, at last, 
senseless and unconscious, she was cast upon the corpse 
of her husband. At that moment the air resounded with 
noisy acclamations. The Brahmins, emptying the contents 
of their vessels on the dry wood, applied their torches, 
and in the twinkling of an eye the whole pile was ablaze. 
Three times was the unfortunate woman called by her 
name. But, alas ! she made no answer. 

The last king of Tanjore, who died in 1801, left behind 
him four lawful wives. The Brahmins decided that two 
of these should be burnt with the body of their husband, 
and selected the couple that should have the preference. 
It would have been an everlasting shame to them and the 
grossest insult to the memory of the deceased had they 
hesitated to accept this singular honour. Being fully con- 
vinced, moreover, that no means would be spared to induce 
them to sacrifice themselves either willingly or unwillingly, 
they made a virtue of necessity and seemed perfectly ready 
to yield to the terrible lot which awaited them. 

The necessary preparations for the obsequies were com- 
pleted in a single day. 

Three or four leagues from the royal residence a square 
pit of no great depth, and about 12 to 15 feet square, was 
excavated. Within it was erected a pyramid of sandal- 
wood, resting on a kind of scaffolding of the same wood. 
The posts which supported it were so arranged that they 
could easily be removed, and would thereby cause the whole 
structure to collapse suddenly. At the four corners of the 
pit were placed huge brass jars filled with ghee, to be thrown 
on the wood in order to hasten combustion. 

The following was the order of the procession as it 
wended its way to the pyre. It was headed by a large 
force of armed soldiers. Then followed a crowd of musicians, 
chiefly trumpeters, who made the air ring with the dismal 
sound of their instruments. Next came the king's body 


borne in a splendid open palanquin, accompanied by his 
guru, his principal officers, and his nearest relatives, who 
were all on foot and wore no turbans in token of mourning. 
Among them was also a large number of Brahmins. Then 
came the two victims, each borne on a richly decorated 
palanquin. They were loaded, rather than decked, with 
jewels. Several ranks of soldiers surrounded them to pre- 
serve order and to keep back the great crowds that flocked 
in from every side. The two queens were accompanied by 
some of their favourite women, with whom they occasion- 
ally conversed. Then followed relatives of both sexes, to 
whom the victims had made valuable presents before leaving 
the palace. An innumerable multitude of Brahmins and 
persons of all castes followed in the rear. 

On reaching the spot where their untimely fate awaited 
them, the victims were required to perform the ablutions 
and other ceremonies proper on such occasions ; and they 
went through the whole of them without hesitation and 
without the least sign of fear. When, however, it came to 
walking round the pile, it was observed that their features 
underwent a sudden change. Their strength seemed well- 
nigh to forsake them in spite of their obvious efforts to 
suppress their natural feelings. During this interval the 
body of the king had been placed on the top of the pyramid 
of sandalwood. The two queens, still wearing their rich 
attire and ornaments, were next compelled to ascend the 
pile. Lying down beside the body of the deceased prince, 
one on the right and the other on the left, they joined 
hands across the corpse. The officiating Brahmins then 
recited in a loud tone several mantrams, sprinkled the pile 
with their tirtam or holy water, and emptied the jars of 
ghee over the wood, setting fire to it at the same moment. 
This was done on one side by the nearest relative of the 
king, on another by his guru, on others by leading Brah- 
mins. The flames quickly spread, and the props being 
removed, the whole structure collapsed, and in its fall must 
have crushed to death the two unfortunate victims. There- 
upon all the spectators shouted aloud for joy. The un- 
happy women's relatives standing around the pile then 
called to them several times by name, and it is said that, 
issuing from amidst the flames, the word Yen f (What ?) 


was heard distinctly pronounced. A ridiculous illusion, no 
doubt, of minds blinded by fanaticism ; for it could never 
be believed that the unfortunate victims were at that 
moment in a condition to hear and to speak. 

Two days after, when the fire was completely extin- 
guished, they removed from amidst the ashes the remnants 
of the bones that had not been entirely consumed, and put 
them into copper urns, which were carefully sealed with 
the signet of the new king. Some time afterwards, thirty 
Brahmins were selected to carry these relics to Kasi (Benares) 
and to throw them into the sacred waters of the Ganges. 
It was arranged that, on their return from that holy city, 
they should receive valuable presents, upon producing 
authenticated certificates to the effect that they had really 
accomplished the journey, and had faithfully executed 
the task entrusted to them. A portion of the bones was, 
however, reserved for the following purpose : — they were 
reduced to powder, mixed with some boiled rice, and eaten 
by twelve Brahmins. This revolting and unnatural act 
had for its object the expiation of the sins of the deceased 
— sins which, according to the popular opinion, were trans- 
mitted to the bodies of the persons who ate the ashes, and 
were tempted by money to overcome their repugnance for 
such disgusting food. At the same time, it is believed that 
the filthy lucre thus earned can never be attended with 
much advantage to the recipients. Amidst the ashes, too, 
were picked up small pieces of melted gold, the remains of 
the ornaments worn by the princesses. 

Presents were given to the Brahmins who presided. at 
the obsequies, and to those who had honoured the cere- 
monies with their presence. To the king's guru was given 
an elephant. The three palanquins which had served to 
carry the corpse of the king and the two victims to the pile 
were given away to the three leading Brahmins. The 
presents distributed among the other Brahmins consisted 
of cloths and of money amounting to nearly twenty- five 
thousand rupees. Several bags of small coin were also 
scattered among the crowds on the roadside as the funeral 
procession was on its way to the pyre. Finally, twelve 
houses were built and presented to the twelve Brahmins 
who had the courage to swallow the powdered bones of 


the deceased, and by that means to take upon themselves 
all their sins. 

A few days after the funeral the new king made a pil- 
grimage to a temple a few leagues distant from his capital. 
He there took a bath in a sacred tank, and was thus purified 
of all the uncleanness that he had contracted during the 
various ceremonies of mourning. On this occasion also 
presents were given to the Brahmins and to the poor of 
other castes. 

On the spot where the deceased king and his two unhappy 
companions had been consumed a circular mausoleum was 
erected, about 12 feet in diameter, surmounted by a dome. 
The reigning prince visits it from time to time, prostrates 
himself humbly before the tombs, and offers sacrifices to 
the manes of his predecessor and to those of his worthy 
and saintly spouses. 

Crowds of devotees also repair thither to offer up vows 
and sacrifices to the new divinities, and to implore their 
help and protection in the various troubles of life. 

In the year 1802 I heard accounts of a great number of 
so-called miracles performed through their intercession. 

It is only after long and serious reflection on the many 
eccentricities and inconsistencies of the human mind that 
one can look without astonishment upon the deplorable 
scenes of which a few of the main features have just been 
described. It is indeed unaccountable how these Brah- 
mins, who are so scrupulous and attach so much importance 
to the life of the most insignificant insect, and whose 
feelings are excited to pity and indignation at the very 
sight of a cow being slaughtered, can, with such savage 
cold-bloodedness and wicked satisfaction, look upon so 
many weak and innocent human beings, incited by hypo- 
critical and barbarous inducements, being led with affected 
resignation to a punishment so cruel and undeserved. I 
leave to others the task of explaining these inconceivable 
contradictions, if, that is to say, it is possible to assign any 
reasons for such superstitious fanaticism, whose charac- 
teristic feature is to suppress all natural and rational 



Adoption. — Rules regarding the Partition of Property. 

When a Brahmin finds that he has no male issue, whether 
by reason of the barrenness of his wife or through the 
untimely death of all the sons he has had by her, he is 
permitted, nay bound, by the rules of his caste to procure 
a son by means of adoption, in order that he may, at least 
fictitiously, fulfil the great debt to his ancestors, namely, the 
propagation of a direct line of posterity. Although marriage 
constitutes the perfect state of man, this perfection is 
nevertheless deficient when a man does not leave a son 
behind him to perform his obsequies ; and this defect alone, 
according to Hindu writers, is quite sufficient to deprive 
him of happiness in the next world. 

This notion prevails so strongly among the Hindus that 
I have known barren women not only consenting to their 
husbands taking other wives, but even earnestly advising 
them to do so, and helping them in their quest. There is 
not one of them, however, who is not fully alive to the 
annoyances and discomforts to which she is exposing her- 
self by thus introducing as her rival another woman, who 
must naturally, by her youthfulness and fecundity, soon 
become an object more beloved than herself by their common 

It has already been said that polygamy is tolerated 
among the ruling classes only; and when we find other 
women besides the lawful wife living in the families of 
private individuals of high caste, especially among the 
Brahmins, either they are living there, as already stated, 
with the consent of the lawful wife, or else they are merely 
hired concubines. However, a husband who has had no 
male issue by his wife, being fully alive to the unpleasant 
consequences arising from a second marriage, almost in- 
variably prefers to have recourse to the system of adoption. 

A Brahmin generally chooses from among his own relatives 
the child that he wishes to legally adopt as his son ; and if 
perchance he finds nobody in his own family worthy of 
the honour, he applies to some poor fellow of his own caste 


who is burdened with many children. So long as the 
adoptive father is rich, lie is sure not to meet with a re- 
fusal l . 

The adopted son renounces wholly and for ever all his 
claims to the property and succession of his natural father, 
and acquires the sole right to the heritage of his father by 
adoption. The latter is bound to bring him up, to feed 
him, and to treat him as his own son ; to have the cere- 
mony of upanayana, or the triple cord, performed for him, 
and to see him married. The adopted son, in his turn, is 
obliged to take care of his adoptive father in his old age 
and in sickness, just as if he were his natural father, and 
to preside at his obsequies. On the death of his adoptive 
father he enters into full possession of his inheritance — 
assets as well as liabilities. Should there be any property 
left, he enjoys it ; but if, on the other hand, there are 
debts, he is bound to pay them. He is, moreover, by his 
adoption admitted into the gothram or family stock of the 
adopter, and is considered to have left that in which he 
was born 2 . 

It is only natural that, in a country where everything is 
performed with so much solemnity, an event of such 
importance should be attended with great ceremonies. The 
following are a few of the most important : — 

The first thing to be done, as might be expected, is to 
select an auspicious day. They then adorn the portals of 
the house with toranams (garlands of leaves) and put up 
a temporary pandal. The festivities open with a sacrifice 
to Vigneshwara and the nine planets ; and the other pre- 
paratory ceremonies already described are likewise gone 
through. The adoptive father and mother take their seats 
on the small dais raised in the middle of the pandal. The 
mother of the child is presented with a new garment and 
with a hundred or a hundred and fifty pieces of silver as 
her nursing wages. Then, with her son in her arms, she 
approaches the adoptive father, who asks her in a loud 

1 The strict rule is that the natural mother of the adopted son must be 
a marriageable relative of the adoptive father. Nowadays, however, 
a Hindu is allowed to adopt anv bov provided he be of the same caste. 

2 Gothram literallv means ' cowshed.' — Ed. 


and distinct voice, in presence of the whole assembly, 
whether she delivers over her child to be brought up. To 
this she answers in the same tone that she does deliver the 
child to be brought up. This utterance bears a compre- 
hensive meaning. It is a formal intimation that she gives 
up her son not as a slave who is sold, but to be looked upon 
and treated as a child of the family into which he is about 
to enter l . 

They next bring in a dish filled with water into which 
some powdered saffron has been thrown. The purohita 
blesses this mixture by muttering mantrams and performing 
certain ceremonies. Then the mother of the child 2 hands 
the dish to the adoptive father, and at the same time, 
invoking fire to bear witness to the deed, she thrice repeats 
the following words : — ' / give up this child to you ; I have 
no more right over him.'' The adoptive father then takes 
the child, and seating him on his knees, addresses the 
relatives present as follows : — ' This child has been given 
to me, after fire has been invoked as a witness of the gift : 
and I, by this saffron water which I will now drink, promise 
to bring him up as my own son. From this moment he is 
entitled to the enjoyment of all his rights over my property, 
sharing, at the same time, the burden of my debts.' 

After these words, he and his wife pour out a small 
quantity of the saffron water in the hollow of their right 
hands and drink it up. They then pour a little into the 
hand of the adopted child and make him also drink it, 
adding : ' We have admitted this child into our gothram, 
and we incorporate him into it.' 

This is the last event in the ceremony of adoption. I 
have remarked that at the age of six months Hindu children 
are solemnly invested with the girdle or waist-string, to 

1 Generally a boy is adopted when he is fit for the wpanayana ceremony ; 
and both ceremonies are performed simultaneously. — Ed. 

2 It is the mother of the child who plays the most important part in 
this ceremony ; the father being present there only as a mere formality. 
The reason is that in India all the children are supposed to belong by 
right to the mother. Should a married man, or a man living in con- 
cubinage, happen to separate himself, for some cause or other, from his 
wife or concubine, the latter would be entitled to take away all their 
children, without the possibility of the slightest opposition on the part 
of the father. — Dubois. 


which, six or seven years later, is attached a small piece 
of cloth intended to cover the private parts. Should the 
adopted child be already wearing this string, they break it 
and supply him with a fresh one ; but should he have 
none, they at once begin to invest him with it with all 
the usual ceremonies. It is by this act that his incorpora- 
tion into the gothram or family clan of his new father is 

The festivities, as usual, wind up with a repast and the 
distribution of betel and presents to the guests. 

The use of saffron water on this occasion accounts for 
the fact that an adopted child generally receives the appel- 
lation of the ' saffron-water child ' of such a one \ a term 
which, it should be added, has nothing offensive about it. 

The ceremony of adoption is almost identical among the 
Sudras and the Brahmins, with this one difference, that 
among the Sudras the adoptive father and his wife pour 
the saffron water on to the feet of the adopted child with 
one hand, and catch and drink it with the other. 

An adoptive father may choose not only a child of tender 
years, but even an adult, should that suit his taste and 
purpose better. 

Persons whose means do not permit them to perform the 
ceremony of adoption with so much pomp and circum- 
stance, have a simpler and more expeditious mode of per- 
forming it. It is deemed sufficient if the mother of the 
child and the adopted father invoke fire to witness their 
mutual bargain. Dwellers on the banks of the Ganges need 
simply call to witness, in such a case, the waters of that 
sacred river. 

In whatever fashion the ceremony of adoption be per- 
formed, the adopted child no longer retains any right either 
to the property or the heritage of his natural father, nor 
can he be held answerable for the debts which the latter 
may leave at his death. 

The adoption of girls is rare, although instances of it are 
not wanting. 

1 The Hindus take a pleasure in giving each other nicknames, some 
of which are very insulting indeed. They generally choose such names 
with reference to some mental or bodily defect of the person concerned, 
or on account of some dishonourable act imputed to him. — Dubois. 


The work from which I have extracted these particulars 
relating to adoption also furnishes a solution of some of 
the difficulties that arise in certain cases with regard to 
the division of property. The little that it contains on 
the subject seems to me sufficiently interesting. 

We find there laid down the supposititious case of a man 
who, after adopting a son, has subsequently had, contrary 
to his expectation, six children by his legitimate wife, 
namely, four boys and two girls. The father and two of 
the boys die ; one of the girls and the adopted son are 
married ; there remain two boys and a girl who are un- 
married ; and provision must also be made for the sub- 
sistence of the widow. The question is, How, in such 
a case, ought the property devolved by succession to be 
divided ? 

The answer given is to the following effect : — First, the 
amount necessary for the funeral expenses of the deceased 
father ought to be set apart, and the money required for 
the marriage of the three unmarried children ought to be 
placed in the hands of a trustworthy executor. 

Secondly, the property that remains after these amounts 
have been set aside shall be divided into six shares. The 
adopted son shall take for himself a share and a half, and 
the remainder shall be equally divided among the brothers 
and the mother. Should the mother be dead, the property 
is divided only into five shares and a half, unless all the 
brothers, with common accord, relinquish on behalf of their 
unmarried sister, with the object of providing her with 
jewels, that part of the inheritance which would have fallen 
to the mother, who is perfectly at liberty, before her death, 
to dispose of this share in favour of her daughters, without 
the slightest objection being raised thereto by the sons. 
If she has not done so, the brothers alone, independently 
of the sisters, set apart a reasonable amount for a decent 
funeral, and divide equally among themselves whatever 
remains of her property. 

This decision of the Brahmins, while in accordance with 
the general custom of the country, which entitles sons to 
equal shares of the paternal property, and excludes the 
daughters by merely granting them a dowry, departs from 
it in so far as mothers have no share whatever in the pro- 


perty of their husbands, their sons being conjointly bound 
to provide for their maintenance during their lives. 

Should a man, by reason of the barrenness of his first 
wife, marry a second, and the latter have a son, all the 
father's property belongs exclusively to this son ; the first 
wife, after the death of the common husband, can claim 
nothing from the estate : but the son is bound to provide 
for her maintenance in a decent manner, and to meet all 
the expenses of her funeral. If the first wife does not 
choose to continue to live with the second, the relatives 
meet together and arrange for the allotment to her of 
a sufficient income according to her condition in life. 

A certain man, rinding that his first wife was barren, 
married a second, then a third ; but it so happened that 
these two, like the first, were barren also, and the man, 
therefore, died without issue. The deceased had an elder 
and a younger brother, besides several cousins, sons of his 
paternal uncles. None of these, however, had been living 
with him. They had long before divided their family 
property, and each was living separately. The question 
arises, Who ought to be regarded as the rightful heir of 
the deceased ? The answer given is, that the rightful heir 
is the younger brother, because, being the youngest of the 
family, to him, according to the custom of the country, 
belongs the right of presiding at the obsequies — a right 
which carries with it the heirship. He thereby becomes 
the head of the family and the master of the house. It is 
he, therefore, who is obliged to provide for the maintenance 
of the three widows left by his brother. Should any one 
of the three choose to return to her father's house, she 
would be at perfect liberty to do so, and even to take away 
with her all the jewels given to her by her deceased hus- 
band. Furthermore, the family council would determine 
upon the allowance which her brother-in-law, as the heir 
to her husband's property, would be bound to make to 
her to enable her to subsist. If she elected to remain in 
her deceased husband's house and to have an establishment 
of her own there, she could not be refused permission ; but 
in that case her brother-in-law would not be under the 
necessity of assigning her any considerable income ; and 
she would be obliged, at her own risk, to supplement such 


income with alms. It is well known, however, that such 
a mode of living has nothing disgraceful about it, since 
begging is one of the six privileges of the Brahmins. Finally, 
the brother-in-law is bound to bear all the expenses of the 
funerals of the three widows should they happen to die 
before him. 

If the deceased husband be the youngest of the brothers, 
the elder brother would then become the sole inheritor, 
and on him would devolve all the rights and obligations 
connected with the heritage. In the absence of brothers, 
the nearest relative on the father's side becomes sole 

In cases where doubts arise as to the transmission of 
the property, the relatives are called in to decide the 
matter according to the prevailing custom of the country, 
or as justice may dictate to them. But very often the 
partiality prevailing in these family councils turns the 
scale in favour of the one who is able to purchase the sup- 
port of the others. The collusions, intrigues, and acts of 
injustice practised on such occasions are without number, 
and tend to throw discredit on an institution which owes 
its origin to truly patriarchal principles. 

It may be observed from what has been already said 
that the right of inheritance and the duty of presiding at 
the obsequies are inseparable one from the other. When, 
therefore, a wealthy man dies without direct descendants, 
a crowd of remote relatives appear to dispute with each 
other the honour of conducting the funeral rites. The 
contest is occasionally so tumultuous and prolonged that 
the body of the deceased is in a state of complete putre- 
faction before a definite settlement of these many preten- 
sions is arrived at. On the other hand, on the death of 
a needy man burdened with debts, the survivors take every 
possible care to disprove near relationship. 

There is another rule regarding succession among the 
Hindus, which will, doubtless, appear to us highly incom- 
patible with the true principles of justice. 

A father dies, leaving several male children, who, from 
carelessness or some other cause, do not trouble themselves 
about the legal partition of the paternal inheritance. One 
of them, by his industry and diligence, acquires wealth, 


while the others, leading a debauched and idle life, become 
seriously involved in debt. These, after a life of dissipa- 
tion and wandering from place to place, learn at last that 
their brother, by his industry and good conduct, has 
amassed a brilliant fortune. They at once hasten to him 
and call upon him to share with them the property he has 
acquired by the sweat of his brow, and moreover render 
him jointly responsible for the debts resulting from their 
disorderly habits \ The creditors themselves, too, have 
the right to recover from him by law what is due to them 
from his brothers. More than this, should brothers, who 
neglect to divide their family property, die before such 
partition has been actually effected, the same community 
of property and of debts holds good among their children, 
and it descends from generation to generation so long as 
the property remains undivided. It is by no means rare 
to see cousins of the third and fourth degree engaged in 
lawsuits concerning rights of succession dating back from 
time immemorial. Neither is it an uncommon thing to 
see the richer members of a family coerced by the poorer 
ones to admit the latter to a share of their hard-earned 
fortune, while these burden them with their poverty and 
their debts. 

In a country where nearly everything is regulated by 
custom, and where the usages are as many and as various 
as the different provinces, these lawsuits in connexion with 
the partition of properties are an endless source of chicanery. 
There is one advantage, however, from a social point of 
view, arising from this singular system, namely, that it 
gives such relatives as are liable to be affected by the law 
of partition the right to watch over each other's conduct, 

1 In Madras a proposal was recently made by a Hindu member of the 
local Legislature to introduce a Bill to secure for every individual of 
an ' undivided ' Hindu family ' the gains of his learning.' The Bill 
was passed by the Legislative Council, but in deference to very strong 
feeling subsequently expressed by the Hindu community at large the 
Governor of Madras (Sir Arthur Havelock) vetoed the measure. At 
present, when a claim is made to ' the gains of learning ' of one of the 
members of an ' undivided ' family, those who prefer the claim invari- 
ably attempt to prove that the member to whose gains they lay claim 
was educated out of the undivided family property, and that therefore 
the undivided members have a right to share his gains. — Ed. 


and to restrain the debauchery and extravagance of those 
whose misconduct might involve them all in distress. 

The appointment of a single heir among the male children 
of a family is a thing unknown in India. The brothers 
divide the paternal property equally, to the exclusion of 
the sisters, who have no share whatever in it. The father 
does not even possess the privilege of treating one of his 
sons more generously than the rest \ The Hindus cannot 
conceive how a father could despoil several of his children 
in order to enrich one of them in particular ; and they are 
simply astounded when they are told that this custom 
prevails in many countries of Europe. But what makes 
us still more ridiculous in their eyes is that this favoured 
heir should very often be, not the son who distinguishes 
himself above the rest by his filial devotion, his virtues, 
and his talents, but one who by chance happens to be the 
first-born, and who may perhaps be the most foolish and 
vicious of the whole family. 


The Learning of the Brahmins. — Their Colleges. — Astronomy. — Astro- 
logy-— Magic. 

It is certain that from the earliest times learning was 
cultivated by the Hindus. The Brahmins have always 
been, as it were, its depositaries, and have always con- 
sidered it as belonging exclusively to themselves. They 
saw well enough what a moral ascendency knowledge 
would give them over the other castes, and they therefore 
made a mystery of it by taking all possible precautions to 
prevent other classes from obtaining access to it. 

The question arises, Have they themselves systematically 
cultivated learning ? Have they made any appreciable 
progress in its pursuit ? This we must answer in the 
negative, if at least we are to compare what has come 
down to us from their ancient authors with the present 
conditions of instruction and learning amongst them. I do 

1 There is nothing, however, to prevent a father from allotting the 
whole or any portion of his self-acquired, as opposed to his ancestral 
property, to any one of his sons, or disposing of it in any other way he 
pleases. — Ed. 


nut believe that the Brahmins of modern times are, in any 
degree, more learned than their ancestors of the times of 
Lycurgus and Pythagoras. During this long space of time 
many barbarous races have emerged from the darkness of 
ignorance, have attained the summit of civilization, and 
have extended their intellectual researches almost to the 
utmost limits of human intelligence ; yet all this time the 
Hindus have been perfectly stationary. We do not find 
amongst them any trace of mental or moral improvement, 
any sign of advance in the arts and sciences. Every 
impartial observer must, indeed, admit that they are now 
very far behind the peoples who inscribed their names long 
after them on the roll of civilized nations. 

The learning which won for them so much respect and 
reverence from their fellow-countrymen, and which ren- 
dered them so famous in the eyes of foreign nations, among 
whom ignorance and superstition then prevailed, was 
connected with astronomy, astrology, and magic. Several 
authors have given details of their astronomical system, 
and it is fully explained in the Asiatic Researches. More- 
over, Father Pons, a former Jesuit missionary in the 
Carnatic, had, long before this, discussed it in a highly 
interesting treatise published in the Memoires de V Academic 
des Sciences, and likewise we find it discussed in the Histoire 
Generate de Tons les Peuples by the Abbe Lambert. It is 
from these sources that the famous astronomer Bailly 
derived almost all that he has written on Hindu Astro- 

The accuracy of the investigations of the learned Jesuit 
missionary in this direction has been since confirmed ; but 
in the same work he speaks of the schools and of what he 
calls the ' academies ' of India. It seems to me that he is 
rather too favourably impressed with these latter institu- 
tions, and is far too profuse in his eulogies on the methods 
of teaching and the course of studies in vogue in the so- 
called academies. 

As a matter of fact, no comparison whatever can be 
drawn between schools in India and those in Europe. The 
system pursued in the former of causing everything to be 
learnt by rote is, in my opinion, essentially wrong, and 
tends to prolong indefinitely the course of study. More- 


over, there is no regular plan of instruction, and there is 
no public institution which is, properly speaking, devoted 
to the diffusion of knowledge. It is true that in certain 
large towns, or in the precincts of some of the more important 
temples, Brahmins who are really learned, or who pretend 
to be so, impart the knowledge which they possess — some 
gratuitously and others for payment ; still, for all this, 
instruction is carried on without any definite system or 
any attempt at discipline — elements absolutely necessary 
to give to these studies a character of permanence and 
uniformity. Let a youth learn who has a mind to do so, 
and as long as he chooses : this seems to be their guiding 
principle. There is nothing in these institutions which is 
calculated to stimulate the teachers or to encourage the 
pupils. There are no public examinations to undergo, no 
degrees to aspire to, no prizes to be won ; in fine, no 
special privilege or advantage of any importance is held 
out to students who distinguish themselves by their attain- 
ments. It is true that those who have a reputation for 
learning are esteemed by the public, but empty reputation 
without any substantial benefit is not a motive sufficiently 
powerful to stimulate a Brahmin. It would be well enough 
if learned Hindus were frequently encouraged by the 
liberality of their princes, but the latter are too deeply 
immersed in the enjoyment of material pleasures to be able 
to appreciate the real value of learning and to take the 
trouble to patronize it \ Accordingly one seldom comes 
across educated Brahmins who owe their knowledge to 
one of these public schools. They are, in fact, entirely 
beholden for it to the exertions of their parents and to 
private tuition. Thus it is that learning is almost always 
transmitted from family to family, from generation to 
generation, and becomes, so to say, hereditary. 

So much, then, for the course of study, the universities, 
and the litterateurs of India. 

The Hindu system of astronomy being, as I have said 

1 Education on European lines is now widely extended, of course, but 
the diffusion of Hindu knowledge and the study of Sanskrit, its principal 
medium, is still pretty much as the Abbe describes it. It is only just to 
observe, however, that it has been, and is, more largely patronized by 
Hindu princes than the Abbe implies. — Ed. 


before, sufficiently well known, I shall refrain from repeat- 
ing here what others have said on the subject. But I shall 
dwell at some length on the other two branches of their 
scientific knowledge, namely, astrology and magic. 


Astrology, together with the silly notions which originate 
from it, has at all times exercised a great influence over the 
nations of the world, civilized as well as uncivilized. In 
Europe the appearance of a comet or a total eclipse formerly 
spread the greatest terror in the minds of the multitude, 
who looked upon these celestial phenomena as the fore- 
runners of some public calamity ; and even at the present 
day these chimerical fears still exercise some influence over 
the imagination of the ignorant and superstitious. 

The influence of the stars, scrutinized with the eyes of 
reason, need not be looked upon altogether as an idle 
imagining ; and there is doubtless a happy medium to be 
observed between the widely divergent opinions of authors 
concerning the action, more or less direct, more or less 
limited, exercised by the stars over the vegetable and 
animal kingdoms of this earth of ours. Be this as it may, 
however, no other nation appears to have carried its astro- 
logical notions to such extremes of folly as the Hindus. 
With their wonted exaggeration in all things, it is only 
natural that they should entertain wild ideas about a 
science which opens so vast a sphere to the imagination. 
All the rubbish they have written on this subject would 
certainly be too tedious to read. I will, therefore, content 
myself with referring briefly to a few of the important 
principles on which their so-called science of astrology 

Each planet in turn is supposed to exercise its influence 
during the space of a year. The ruling planet is attended 
by another, which plays the part of a minister. The latter 
assumes in the following year the supreme functions of the 
former ; and so on year after year. 

Some of these planets are beneficent, others the reverse. 
The Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus are of the former 
order. Under their sway everything thrives : men live 
happily and are blessed with abundance ; the fertile fields 


yield rich harvests, and the fruitful trees bear abundantly. 
The Sun, Mars, and Saturn, on the other hand, have a 
tendency to cause evil to animate as well as to inanimate 
nature. Their reign is, therefore, almost always disas- 
trous. Men are oppressed with sickness ; they attain 
success in nothing ; they experience only troubles and 
disappointments : moreover, the rains hold off, the soil 
becomes unfruitful, famine and misery everywhere prevail. 
When, however, an unpropitious planet has for its attendant 
minister a planet of an opposite character, and vice versa, 
the good one counteracts and counterbalances, at least to 
a certain degree, the evil influence of the other. Thus one 
can expect to enjoy unalloyed happiness only during those 
years when two benign planets hold their sway at one 
and the same time. Similarly, one must dread continual 
misfortunes when both planets have an evil inclination 
to harass unfortunate mankind. 

There are four principal clouds which yield rain, and 
each in its turn discharges this duty for the space of one 
year. Their names are Samvarta, Avarta, Pushkala, Drona. 
The first and the last are favourably disposed towards 
mankind, and yield copious showers. Avarta and Push- 
kala, on the other hand, produce nothing but storms and 
hurricanes, and are sparing of the rain which refreshes 
and fertilizes the soil. 

The frequency of rain depends also to a great extent on 
the good or bad will of seven elephants. Each of these is 
known by its own name, and each in turn is charged with 
the annual duty of carrying water to the clouds. Four of 
them display great activity in the discharge of their duty, 
and supply the clouds with an ample provision of rain. 
But the other three acquit themselves very carelessly of 
their duty during their terms of service ; consequently the 
ground remains parched up, and scarcity prevails. 

Seven snakes, each also bearing a particular name, 
exercise in turn for the space of one year supreme authority 
over all species of snakes. 

The snake Ananta, the first one, is the most powerful of 
all, and supports the earth on its head. The year of its 
reign is considered unhappy, inasmuch as snakes are then 
extremely venomous, and their bite invariably proves fatal. 


The reign of the snake Karkataka is equally unhappy. 

The remaining five are by no means equally mischievous. 
It is seldom that persons are bitten by snakes while these 
are in power ; and should a person be bitten, the bite does 
not prove fatal. The snake Maha-Padma particularly is 
the friend of men ; it not only prevents other snakes from 
harming them, but also comes to their aid by sending the 
physician Dhanmantari to cure such as may have been 
accidentally bitten. 

By the combination of the twelve signs of the Zodiac 
with the planets and with the star which is in the ascendant 
on each day of the moon, Hindu astrologers believe them- 
selves capable of telling the secrets as well as the future 
events of life. 

The Sun remains thirty days in each of the signs of the 
Zodiac ; the Moon, two days and a quarter ; Mars and 
Mercury, a month and a half ; Jupiter, one year ; Venus, 
two years and a half ; Saturn, one year and a half. 

Each sign of the Zodiac has, besides, two stars and 
a quarter, which are assigned to it from among the twenty- 
seven constellations or stars of the lunar month. 

By comparing all these phenomena, and by joining, in 
regular order, certain words with the different signs of the 
Zodiac, they are enabled to know the past, the present, 
and the future, and to recover things that have been lost 
or stolen. The coincidence of these words is, for this 
purpose, combined with the sign of the Zodiac, the planet, 
the star, and the time of the day or night at which the 
astrologer is consulted. 

By the same means it is possible to find out, not only 
the place wherein a stolen article is secreted, but also the 
sex and the caste of the thief. They are also able to 
ascertain whether or not the stolen or lost article will be 
recovered, according as the sign, the planet, and the star 
which correspond to the time at which the consultation 
takes place are favourable or the reverse. 

They discover in the same way whether a person who has 
been long absent is dead or alive ; whether he is sick or in 
good health ; whether he is at liberty or in prison ; whether 
he will return or not. 

But one of the most important combinations calculated 


is that relating to birth. In fact, according to the Hindus, 
the future lot of men is supposed to depend on the sign of 
the Zodiac and the star under which they are born. This 
is what they call lagnam. It is supposed that each of the 
twelve signs prevails over daily occurrences during a fixed 
interval of time. Thus, for instance, the sign Aries (the 
Ram) prevails for two hours ; Taurus (the Bull) for two 
hours and a quarter ; Gemini (the Twins) for two hours 
and a half ; and so on. Again, the sign which corresponds 
to the moment of birth is termed Janma-lagnam ; and by 
combining it with the planet and the star of the day, they 
ascertain beyond a doubt whether the child is born to be 
happy or unhappy. 

Of the seven days of the week, three are held to be 
unlucky, namely, Sunday, Tuesday, and Saturday. On 
these days no important business ought to be undertaken, 
no journey begun. 

Of the twenty -seven stars of each lunar month, seven 
are reputed to be more or less unlucky ; and everything 
undertaken on the days on which these appear is attended 
with disastrous results. 

The rest of the science is based on similar considerations. 


Magic, that art which gives shrewd people such influence 
over fools, seems to have found a favourite abode in the 
Peninsula of India. Certainty, in this respect, India has 
no reason to be envious of the ancient Thessaly or of the 
city of Colchis, famous for the enchantments of Circe and 
Medea. True, I am not aware that Hindu sorcerers have 
retained the power of causing the moon, whether willing 
or not, to come down from the height of the firmament ; 
but short of this, there is nothing which Hindu magicians 
are incapable of doing. Thus there is not a single Hindu 
who does not, during the whole course of his life, dream 
about sorcery and witchcraft. Nothing in this country 
happens by chance or from natural causes. Obstacles of 
every kind, disappointments, unlucky incidents, diseases, 
premature deaths, barrenness of women, miscarriages, 
diseases among cattle ; in fine, all the scourges to which 
human beings are exposed are attributed to the occult and 


diabolical machinations of some wicked enchanter hired 
by an enemy. Should a Hindu, at the time he is visited 
by any calamity, happen to be at variance with any one 
of his neighbours, the latter is immediately suspected and 
accused of having had recourse to magic to harm him. 
The accused, of course, never puts up patiently with an 
imputation so invidious. Anger is engendered, and the 
flame of discord grows hotter and hotter, until some serious 
consequences result from this new development. 

If the immense progress in enlightenment made by the 
most civilized nations of Europe has not yet been able to 
completely eradicate these absurd prejudices, if the rural 
parts of Europe are still full of people who believe in 
sorcerers and in their magical charms, and if in the public 
places of our towns one still sees crowds of impostors in 
wretched garb professing to furnish those around them 
with the favours of fortune, is it to be wondered at that 
in a country like India, plunged as it is in the darkness of 
gross ignorance and superstition, the belief in magic is 
carried to the very last point ? Thus it is that at every 
step one meets with batches of these soothsayers and 
sorcerers distributing good luck to all comers, and for 
a consideration unfolding to the view of the rich and of 
the poor the secrets of their destinies. 

But these sorcerers of the lowest rank, whose whole 
stock-in-trade consists of a large fund of impudence, are 
not held in much dread. Others there are whose diabolical 
art knows no bounds, and who are initiated into the most 
profound secrets of magic. To inspire love or hatred ; to 
introduce a devil into the body of any one, or to expel it ; 
to cause the sudden death of an enemy, or to bring on him 
an incurable disease ; to produce contagious diseases among 
cattle, or to preserve them against such contagion ; to lay 
bare the closest secrets ; to restore stolen or lost articles, 
&c. : all these are mere bagatelles to such men. The very 
sight of a person who is reputed to be gifted with such 
enormous power inspires terror. 

These professors of magic are often consulted by persons 
who wish to avenge themselves on some enemy by means 
of witchcraft. Their help is also sought by sick folk who 
are persuaded that their disease has been caused by the 


casting of some magical spell upon them, and who wish fco 
recover their health by throwing a counter-spell upon those 
who caused the disease by such means. 

The Hindus have several books which treat ex professo 
of all these follies of the magic art. The principal and 
most ancient of them is the fourth Veda, called the Atharva- 
Veda \ The Brahmins would have it believed that this 
book has been lost ; but it is known that it still exists, 
and that they keep it in concealment with even greater 
care than they do the other three. In fact, the magicians 
being everywhere dreaded and hated, the Brahmins have 
good reason to conceal everything that may lead to the 
suspicion of their being initiated in the secret dealings of 
these impostors. It is, however, certain that magic occupies 
one of the first places in the list of sciences of which these 
great men profess to be the sole inheritors 2 . There can be 
no doubt that their ancestors cultivated the art from time 
immemorial ; and it is not likely that the successors would 
have neglected so good an example, and allowed the practice 
to fall into disuse. Many Brahmins, moreover, in spite of 
the restrictions imposed upon them, are known to have 
made a special study of this mysterious book. Besides, do 
not their religious sacrifices and their mantrams bear a 
great resemblance to magical formulae and conjurings ? 
Furthermore, do not the marvellous effects which they 

1 Atharva-Veda is a collection of formulae to avert the consequences 
of mistakes or mishaps in sacrifices. Atharvan, Brahmana's eldest son, 
identified with Angirasa, is the author of this Veda, which belongs to 
a later period than the other three Vedas. This Veda is a collection of 
original hymns mixed up with incantations. It has no direct relation 
to mere rituals or sacrifices. The recitation of this Veda is considered 
to confer longevity, to cure diseases, to obtain success in love or gaming, 
to effect the ruin of enemies, and to secure the reciter's own prosperity. 

2 It should be remarked that if the Hebrews and the various other 
peoples, whom Holy Writ represents as being addicted to these abomin- 
able superstitions, did not actually borrow them from the Hindus, they 
must both at least have copied the system from the same sources. We 
are aware of the extensive reputation enjoyed by magicians and sooth- 
sayers among the children of Israel, who were strictly warned by God, 
through Moses, against consulting such men (Leviticus xix. 31, xx. 6). 
Saul, who had vainly tried to exterminate or expel them, was weak 
enough to have recourse to the enchantments of the witch of Endor. — 


are supposed to produce, and the power ascribed to them 
of counteracting the will even of the gods themselves, 
place them on a par with the chimerical attributes which 
the vulgar mind ascribes to enchantments 2 

I happen to have come across a Hindu book treating of 
the subject in hand, which perhaps few Europeans have 
yet heard of. It is called the Agrushada Parikshai. The 
passages which I will here extract from it will never make 
anybody a sorcerer, but it strikes me that they may not 
be wholly uninteresting to those who like to meditate on 
the aberrations and follies of the human mind. 

The author begins by investigating the extent of a 
magician's power. Such power is enormous. A magician 
is the dispenser of both good and evil ; but is more fre- 
quently inclined by natural malevolence to do evil rather 
than good. Nothing is easier for him than to afflict any- 
body with sicknesses, such as fever, dropsy, epilepsy, 
stricture, palsy, madness ; and, in fine, diseases of all 
species. But all this is a mere trifle compared with what 
his art can otherwise do ! It is capable of completely 
destroying an army besieging a city, and also of causing 
the sudden death of the commander of a besieged fortress 
and of all its inhabitants, and so forth. 

The Mahomedans in India, being quite as superstitious 
as the natives of the country, are no less infatuated with 
the power of magic. It is a well-known fact that the last 
Mussulman prince who reigned in Mysore, the fanatical 
and superstitious Tippu Sultan, during his last war, in 
which he lost his kingdom and his life, engaged the services 
of the most celebrated magicians of his own country and 
of neighbouring provinces, in order that they might employ 
all the resources of their art in destroying by some effi- 
cacious operation the English army which was then advanc- 
ing to besiege his capital, and which he found himself utterly 
incapable of repelling by force of arms. In this difficult 
and critical position the magicians very humbly acknow- 
ledged their powerlessness ; and to save the reputation of 
their craft they were obliged to maintain that their magical 
operations, so potent when directed against every other 
enemy, were utterly ineffectual against Europeans \ 

1 It is generally believed by the Hindus that such sorcerers and 


But if magic teaches the means of doing evil, it also 
affords the means of counteracting its pernicious effects. 
There is no magician so skilful but that others can be found 
more skilful than he, to destroy the evil effects of his 
enchantments, and cause them to recoil with all their 
force upon himself or upon his clients. Apart from the 
direct influence exercised by themselves, the magicians 
also possess an ample collection of amulets and talismans, 
which are looked upon as efficacious against all sorcery 
and spells, and which are largely distributed, not without 
payment of course, amongst those who consult them. 
For instance, there are certain glass beads made magical 
by mantrams, different kinds of roots, and thin plates of 
copper engraved with unknown characters, strange words 
and uncouth figures. These amulets are always worn by 
Hindus, who, when protected by such talismans, believe 
themselves quite safe from all kinds of evil. 

Secret remedies for inspiring illicit passion, for rekindling 
the flame of extinct love, and for reviving impaired virility, 
also fall within the province of these professors of magic, 
and form by no means the least lucrative part of their 
trade. It is to such men that a wife always applies when 
she wishes to reclaim her faithless husband or to prevent 
him from becoming so. Debauched gallants and lewd 
women also seek the help of love philtres to seduce or 
captivate the object of their passion. 

I was not a little surprised to find in the book which 
I am now describing mention made of incubi. But these 
demons of India are much more mischievous than those of 
whom the Jesuit Delrio speaks in his Disquisitiones Magicae. 
By the violence and persistence of their embraces they so 
tire out the women whom they visit at night under the 
form of a dog, a tiger, or some other animal, that the un- 
fortunate creatures die of sheer lassitude and exhaustion. 

Our author speaks at great length of the means best 
suited to enchant weapons. The effects which weapons so 
treated have the virtue of producing are in no way inferior 
to those caused by the famous Durandal (Orlando's enchanted 
sword) and by the spear of Argail, which in ancient times 

magicians are powerless against Governments — an ingenuous admission 
of force majeure ! — Ed. 


routed so many miscreants. The Hindu gods and giants in 
their wars against eacli other used no other weapons but 
these. Is there anything, for instance, that can be com- 
pared with the Arrow of Brahma or the Arrow of the Serpent 
Capella '? The former is never shot without causing the 
destruction of a whole army ; and the latter, launched in 
the midst of enemies, has the effect of causing them to drop 
down in a state of lethargy — an effect which, as one may 
well suppose, made singularly short work of those who 
were subjected to it. 

There is not a secret of magic which this book does not 
teach us. It puts us in possession of the means of acquir- 
ing wealth and honour ; of rendering barren women fruit- 
ful ; of discovering, by merely rubbing the hands and eyes 
with some enchanted mixtures, treasures buried in the 
ground or hidden elsewhere ; of acquiring invulnerability 
and the most formidable powers in war by means of bones 
carried on the person. Strange to say, the only thing 
which it does not reveal is the means of rendering oneself 

It is not by entering into compact with the devil, as our 
magicians were erstwhile supposed to have done, that the 
magicians of India obtained the power of performing so 
many prodigies. These latter, indeed, are not the kind of 
people to run the risk of having their necks twisted in evil 
company of this sort. It is quite sufficient for a Hindu to 
become an expert in the black art if he receives a few 
private lessons from the guru, or master, of the adepts. 
It is this guru who guides him in the right way, who confers 
his powers upon him, and to whom he owes obedience. 
Should a god, a demon, or a spirit be so stubborn as to 
disregard the orders of the newly initiated disciple, the 
latter has simply to repeat his injunction in the name and 
from the feet of his guru. 

Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva themselves are subject to the 
commands of the magicians. There are, however, certain 
divinities who are invoked by preference. Among these the 
planets occupy the first place. The term graha, by which 
they are designated, signifies the act of seizing, that is, of 
laying hold of those whom they are enjoined by magical 
enchantments to torment. The next in order are the 


hhoothams. or the elements, each of which contains a de- 
structive principle. Then come the pretas or spirits of dead 
bodies, the pisachas or pisasus — a term by which the 
Native Christians designate the devil ; the female deities 
called sakti ; Kali, the goddess of destruction ; and Marana 
Devi, the goddess of death. 

In order to call all these spirits into action, the magician 
has recourse to various mysterious ceremonies, mantrams 
and sacrifices. The sacrifices are the same as those already 
described, with a few trifling differences. For instance, the 
magician must be stark naked while he offers up these 
sacrifices to Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu ; while, on the 
other hand, he must be decorously clad when such sacrifices 
are offered to Rama. 

The flowers offered to the god invoked must be red ; and, 
when the object is to produce the death of any person, the 
boiled rice offered up must be stained with blood, for which 
purpose a human victim, a young girl for choice, is some- 
times slain 1 . 

We have already spoken of the grand virtue of man- 
trams ; but it is especially in connexion with magic that 
they are most effective. Mantrams have such an influence 
over the gods, even of the very first rank, that they are 
quite unable to resist doing, either in the heavens, or in 
the air, or on earth, all that the magician requires of 

Among the said mantrams there are some, called the 
fundamentals, whose effects are decisive and irresistible. 
They are composed of various strange monosyllables, harsh 
of sound and difficult to pronounce ; such as h'hom, h'rhum, 
sh'hrum, sho'rhim, ramaya, namaha. This last word signi- 
fies ' respectful greeting.' 

The magician sometimes repeats these mantrams in a 
humble and supplicatory manner, loading with praises the 
god whom he invokes ; but he quickly resumes his im- 
perious tone, and exclaims as though in a vehement rage, 
' Grasp it ! Grasp it ! ' or * Begone ! Begone ! If thou art 
willing to do what I ask of thee, well and good ; if not, 
I command thee to do it in the name of such and such 
a god, in the name of the feet of my guru ! ' Whereupon 
1 Such a thing is unheard of nowadays. — Ed. 


the god cannot do otherwise than comply with the magician's 
demands without a murmur ! 

From the haughty and indecorous manner in which the 
Hindu magicians treat their good-natured deities, it may 
be judged that they are not the men to allow themselves to 
be frightened as easily as were the poor witches of Horace, 
Canidia and Sagana, who, it will be remembered, were put 
to terrified flight by a commonplace sound, resembling the 
bursting of an inflated bladder, made by the God of the 
Gardens, who had been troubled by the enchantments 
which they came to perform every night in the place 
entrusted to his keeping. 

It is impossible to enumerate the various drugs, in- 
gredients, and utensils that go to make up the stock-in- 
trade of an Indian magician. There are certain incanta- 
tions, in the performance of which it is necessary to use 
the bones of sixty -four different animals — neither more nor 
less — and amongst them may be mentioned those of a man 
born on a Sunday which happens to be new-moon day, of 
a woman born on a Friday, the feet-bones of a Pariah, 
of a cobbler, of a Mahomedan, and of a European. If all 
these bones are mixed together, enchanted by mantrams, 
consecrated by sacrifices, and then buried in the house, 
or at the threshold of an enemy on a night that the stars 
show to be propitious, they will infallibly cause the enemy's 

In the same way, should the magician, in the silence of 
the night, bury these bones at the four cardinal points of 
a hostile camp, and then, retiring to some distance, repeat 
seven times the mantram of defeat, the result will be that 
within seven days the whole encamped army will either 
disperse of itself or perish to the last man. 

Thirty- two weapons, consecrated by the sacrifice of a 
human victim, will spread such dismay among a besieging 
army that a hundred of their opponents will appear to it 
as a thousand. 

Sometimes a quantity of mud collected from sixty-four 
filthy places is kneaded together with hair, parings of 
nails, bits of leather, &c, and is then moulded into small 
figures, on the breasts of which the name of one's enemy 
is written. Certain words and mantrams are then repeated 


over these figures, which are also consecrated by sacrifices. 
No sooner is this done than the grahas or planets take 
possession of the person against whom such incantations 
are directed, and afflict him with a thousand ills. 

These figures are sometimes pierced through and through 
with an awl, or are mutilated in various ways with the 
intention of killing or mutilating in the same manner the 
person who is the object of vengeance \ 

Sixty-four roots of different kinds of noxious plants are 
known among the magicians, and, when duly prepared 
with mantrams and sacrifices, become powerful weapons for 
covertly dealing fatal blows to obnoxious persons. 

It must here be remarked that the profession of a magician 
is not altogether free from danger. If the Hindus them- 
selves are revengeful, their gods are also passably so. 
Again, the gods do not obey without some feeling of anger 
the orders given to them by a miserable mortal, and they 
sometimes punish in a very cruel and brutal manner the 

! At all times and in all places the same ridiculous and barbarous 
means have sufficed to excite the imagination of the vulgar, the ignorant, 
and the superstitious. They were, are, and will be the same throughout 
the world. Thus Medea, in Ovid : — 

Per tumulos errat, passis discincta capillis, 

Certaque de tepidis colligit ossa rogis ; 
Devovet absentes, simulacraque cerea fingit, 
Et miserum tenues in iecur urget acus. 
The two witches of Horace who have just been mentioned also had, 
among their other magical apparatus, two figures, one of wool and the 
other of wax : 


Lanea, quae poenis compesceret inferiorem : 
Cerea suppliciter stabat, servilibus, utque 
lam peritura, modis. 
The fanatical Leaguers of France in the sixteenth century carried their 
superstitious practices to such extremes that they caused wax figures 
to be made representing Henry III and the King of Navarre. They 
pierced the different parts of these figures with thorns for the space of 
forty days, and on the fortieth day they struck them about the region of 
the heart, believing that they would thereby cause the death of the 
princes whom the images represented. In the year 1751 a pretended 
sorcerer named Trois-rchelles, who was executed on the Place de Greve, 
declared during his examination that there existed in France three 
hundred thousand persons practising the same profession as himself. 
Possibly he exaggerated, but at all events, if historians eliminated from 
their records all the follies of men, they would certainly not have much 
left to relate. — Dubois. 


person who ventures to command them. Woe to him who 
commits the smallest error, or makes the slightest omission 
in the innumerable ceremonies that are obligatory under 
such circumstances ! He is immediately crushed with the 
full weight of the mischief which he was preparing for 

Then again, a magician is in constant danger from rivals 
who exercise the same trade, especially when his rivals 
are as skilful as himself, or maybe more so. For these 
may succeed in counteracting his charms, and in bringing 
upon his own head, or upon the heads of his clients, the 
whole weight of his evil machinations. Accordingly there 
exists, in appearance or in reality, an inveterate mutual 
hatred amongst this crowd of men who pretend to be the 
interpreters of destiny. Occasionally they are seen to bid 
defiance to each other, and to enter the lists in the presence 
of witnesses and arbitrators, whom they call upon to decide 
which of the two is the more skilful in his art. The test 
consists, for example, in having to lift from the ground 
a spell-bound object, such as a piece of straw, a wand, or 
a piece of mone}^. The two antagonists, placing themselves 
at either side of and at an equal distance from the afore- 
said object, pretend to approach it ; but the mantrams 
which they utter, or the enchanted ashes which they sprinkle 
upon each other, have the effect of arresting their course. 
An invisible and irresistible force seems to drive them back ; 
they try again and again to advance towards the object, 
but as often have to draw back. They redouble their 
efforts ; convulsive movements agitate them ; the sweat 
pours from them ; they spit blood. At last one of them 
succeeds in getting hold of the spell-bound object, and he 
is proclaimed the victor. 

Sometimes, again, one of the combatants is thrown 
violently upon the ground by the force of the mantrams of 
his antagonist. He then rolls about like one possessed, 
and finally remains for some time motionless, feigning un- 
consciousness. At last, however, he recovers the use of his 
senses, gets up apparently much fatigued and exhausted, 
and retires covered with shame and confusion. A sickness 
of several days' duration is supposed to be the immediate 
result of his strenuous yet futile efforts. 


It will, doubtless, be easily guessed that these pitiable 
fooleries are the outcome of a premeditated understanding 
between the shameless charlatans who practise them. But 
the multitude who pay for being treated to a spectacle of 
this kind, and who look upon the actors with fear and 
admiration, are fully persuaded that all their contortions 
are due to supernatural causes. It must, however, be 
admitted that these men go through their parts with really 
admirable skill and precision. On many an occasion they 
have been seen to perform sleight-of-hand tricks with such 
rare skill as to astonish persons of a much less credulous 
turn of mind than the Hindus *. 


The Poetry of the Hindus. 

From the very earliest times poetry has been very much 
in vogue with the Hindus, and it is still held in high regard 
by them. One is even inclined to believe that at first they 
had no other written language. Not one of their original 
ancient books is written in prose, or in the vulgar tongue — 
not even the books on medicine, which are said to be very 
numerous in the Sanskrit language. 

We may naturally infer that the practice of writing in 
a style and idiom beyond the comprehension of the vulgar 
was mainly due to the artful precaution of the Brahmins, 
who found in it a sure means of excluding all other castes 
from participating in a knowledge of which they wished to 
retain a monopoly. 

It is quite certain that all the Hindu books in prose are 
of modern origin. It is in verse that the eighteen Puranas, 
and other similar works, have been translated from the 
Sanskrit into Tamil, Telugu, and Canarese, and, I think, 
into all the other vernaculars of India. 

1 The magic art is still firmly believed in throughout India. How- 
ever, the rules whereby magical powers can be acquired are so rigorous 
and difficult, and the consequences of any violation or infringement of 
them supposed to be so dangerous to the man who attempts to practise 
them, that only a very few ever become adepts. In all parts of the 
country men are to be seen who are said to have become mad on account 
(if some violation of the prescribed ceremonies for the acquisition of the 
black art. — Ed. 


Tamil poetry seems to have been chiefly cultivated by 
the Sudras ; and even Pariahs have been the authors of 
various poems in that language. The Tamil poets, how- 
ever, while imitating the form and style of Sanskrit poetry, 
have added so many rules of their own that it is difficult 
to excel in the writing of it. 

Telugu and Canarese poetry is chiefly the work of Brah- 

Having acquired some knowledge of the most important 
rules of Hindu prosody, which, I think, are the same in all 
the vernaculars of the country, Sanskrit not excepted, I will 
try to describe them briefly here. The subject seems to 
me likely to interest philologists. I will, therefore, describe : 
(1) the different kinds of poetry ; (2) the long and short 
quantities ; (3) the different feet ; (4) the different metres ; 
(5) the method of rhyme ; (6) the composition of verses ; 
(7) the style of their poetry generally. 

The Different Kinds of Poetry. 

There are five kinds of poetry, namely, padam, padyam, 
dwipada, dandaka, yakshakaram. Some add to these 
another kind under the name of padia, but as this is, 
properly speaking, poetical prose, it is not generally con- 
sidered as belonging to the province of poetry. 

The padam includes not only the odes in honour of gods, 
princes, and other great personages, but also obscene and 
amorous ditties, sprightly dialogues between gods and 
goddesses, and other similar compositions, some of which 
are called sringaram (ornament), because they describe the 
beauty of women and their different methods of adornment. 

The erotic songs are also called sittinbam (pleasures of 
the will). Of this sort there is an infinite variety. They 
are sung, for the most part, by religious mendicants when 
they go from house to house asking for alms. The more 
coarse and indecent they are, the better they suit the 
tastes of the hearers, whose generosity is manifested in 
proportion to the enjoyment derived from them. 

The hymns in honour of the gods are called kirthanam 
(praise), a term which these compositions well deserve on 
account of the high-flown eulogies with which they are 

o :; 


The word padam corresponds likewise to our strophe, 
stanza, or couplet. 

Pad yam includes the great poems composed in honour of 
<^ods and heroes. They are divided into stanzas. There 
are at least thirty different forms of these stanzas, which 
may be introduced and interspersed in the course of the 
same poem. The padyams are also used in compositions 
dealing with moral and satirical subjects. The Telugu poet 
Vemana and the Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar excelled in these 
two kinds of composition, of which I shall speak again at 
the end of the present chapter. 

The species of poetry called dwipada (two feet) is not 
subject to very strict rules. It might be described as free 
improvisation, and is used in the recital of short stories 
and adventures. 

It is unnecessary to enter into details about the other 
kinds of poetry ; it is easy to conjecture what they are like 
from what has been already said. 

Long and Short Quantities. 

Hindu verses, like those in Greek and Latin, are formed 
of feet, composed of letters long or short in quantity. 
From these long and short feet are formed hemistichs, or 
lines which, combined in their turn, form stanzas. 

I have remarked that the feet are composed of letters, 
because in the Indian languages there are no such things 
as syllables. Every consonant carries its own vowel, which 
is incorporated with it. In several languages of India com- 
binations such as bra, pla, &c, which we call syllables, are 
also written as one single letter. 

The short letters are called laghu-aksharam, and the long 
ones guru-aksharam, in allusion, no doubt, to the slow and 
solemn gait of a Hindu guru. Even in ordinary writing 
they seldom fail to make a distinction between the long and 
short letters with their particular marks. This is scrupu- 
lously observed in pronunciation ; and in verse it is quite 

In Hindu, as well as in Greek and Latin poetry, a long 
letter is equivalent to two short, and two long to four short. 
Thus the word mcitd, composed of two long letters, is equiva- 
lent to the word iruvadu, composed of four short ones. 


But there are letters which, though short in prose writing 
and in ordinary conversation, become long in verse by their 
position ; thus the initial a in the word aksharam, though 
short generally, becomes long in versification, being placed 
before two consonants, Jc and sha. In the same manner 
the letter ka, though usually short, is long in such words as 
karman, Jcarnam, &c, on account of the two consonants 
which follow it. 

As I wished to know whether this rule admitted of that 
poetical licence of which we find some examples in the 
writings of the best Latin poets — that is, whether a final 
short letter could become long by position when the word 
which follows it begins with two consonants — I questioned 
a Brahmin whom I had asked to explain to me the structure 
of Hindu versification. He had already seemed somewhat 
surprised at the facility with which I understood his ex- 
planations, and I noticed that his professorial tone and 
arrogant self-conceit were gradually diminishing. But 
when I asked this question he stood dumbfounded, and 
for a while stared me in the face without uttering a word. 
At length he answered : ' I wonder how such a thought 
could have occurred to you, knowing as you do so little 
as yet even of the rudimentary elements of our poetry.' 
I told him that the different kinds of poetry which were 
studied in my own country bore many resemblances to 
the poetry of India, and that the knowledge I had pre- 
viously derived from the former had led me to ask this 
particular question. But his astonishment, instead of 
decreasing, grew still greater. He found it very difficult 
to understand how such sublime things could ever have 
entered the minds of foreigners, and how poets could be 
found elsewhere than in India. This absurd prejudice on 
his part easily impressed him with the idea that I was 
a person of wonderful mental penetration. One advantage 
which resulted from our conversation was that in future 
his conduct towards me became much more respectful. 

As in Latin, the last letter or vowel of a Hindu verse 
may be of any quantity at pleasure ; but in such cases the 
distinction must always be marked in accentuation. 

In an idolatrous country everything necessarily tends 
towards superstition. The poets of India, therefore, hold 


some letters to be of good and others of ill omen. The 
ambrosial letters (amritam) come under the head of the 
former, while the poisonous letters (visham) belong to the 
latter class. This distinction, however, is not observed in 
the poems in praise of the gods, who are supposed to be 
beyond such influences. But in verses which concern 
simple mortals the case is very different. Particular care 
must be taken never to begin any verse addressed to them 
with a visham or unlucky letter. In the Telugu and 
Canarese languages, the letters ke, ki, pe, pi, te, ti, &c., 
are of this number, because these letters when written 
have the point turned downwards. On the other hand, 
the letters ko, po, to, &c, are considered to be lucky letters 
(amritam), because they have the point turned upwards. 

The Feet in Verse. 

The feet are called ganams, and there are two kinds, the 

simple ganams and the upaganams. The first are eight in 

number, and are expressed by the word mahajasanarayala , 

made up of the first letters of the following : — (1) maganam, 

(2) haganam, (3) jaganam, (4) saganam, (5) naganam, (6) 
raganam, (7) yaganam, (8) laganam. 

The first consists of three longs ; the second, of a long 
and two shorts ; the third, of a long between two shorts ; 
the fourth, of two shorts and a long ; the fifth, of three 
shorts ; the sixth, of a short between two longs ; the seventh, 
of a short and two longs ; the eighth, of two longs and 
a short. 

There are eight upaganams expressed by the word 
gavahana-gamanala, made up likewise by the combination 
of the first letters of the following words : — (1) gaganam, 
composed of two longs ; (2) vaganam, of a short and a long ; 

(3) haganam, of a long and a short ; (4) nalam, of four 
shorts ; (5) galam, of two shorts ; (6) malagam, of three 
longs and a short ; (7) nagam, of three shorts and a long ; 
(8) latam, of two longs and two shorts. 

The Hindu poets discern a certain relation between the 
ganams and the upaganams, according to the effects which 
they are severally supposed to possess the faculty of pro- 
ducing. They are all under the protection of different 
planets ; and according to the good or evil dispositions of 


these latter, they bring good or ill luck. Those under the 
auspices of the moon, which in India is the symbol of 
comfort and coolness, are favourable ; but the case is just 
the reverse with those governed by the sun. It therefore 
follows that a piece of poetry must never begin with a 
malign ganam. The Hindu prosodies are very diffuse and 
wearisome on this subject. 

The Different Metres. 

The lines, properly speaking, of verses are formed of 
ganams and upaganams, and are called padams or chara- 
nams, words which signify literally feet. They may be 
compared to the hemistichs or lines of pentameter verse 
in Latin, or to the lines of ten and twelve syllables in 
French and English. The variety of padams depends on 
the number of ganams they contain ; some having three, 
five, seven, or more. 

In certain padams any of the ganams may be used, and 
these latter may be varied at pleasure, provided the re- 
quisite number of shorts and longs is preserved. This 
variety, however, must be managed with a certain amount 
of taste and be free from all affectation ; when it is done 
with discretion, it enhances the beauty and force of the 
verses, which otherwise would become too monotonous. 
It is just the same with Latin hexameters, which would be 
wanting in grace if the poet were to put either all dactyls 
or all spondees in the first four feet. 

The Hindu poets, however, cannot indulge in this inter- 
change of ganams in all their compositions. There are 
cases in which it is absolutely necessary for them to use 
only such as the rules prescribe. 

The various kinds of lines in Hindu verse have all special 
names. One is called the elephant, another the tiger, 
another the cobra ; and so forth. 

There are two kinds of rhymes in Hindu poetry. One 
occurs at the beginning of the line, and is called yeti or 
vadi. Thus, where one line begins with the word Uirti 
and the other with kirtana, hi is the yeti. The other kind 
of rhyme occurs in the second letter or syllable of the line, 


and is called prasam. Thus, in two lines, one beginning 
with gopagni and the other with dipantram, pa is the 

For the yeti rhyme the letters ka, kaha, ksha, ga, gsha, 
the simple tsha, and the aspirate tshaha, &c, may be 

For the prasam rhyme attention is, strictly speaking, 
paid only to the consonant, which ought to be absolutely 
the same ; the vowel does not matter so much. Thus da, 
de, di, do, du all rhyme together. These kinds of rhymes, 
however, are not considered fine. 

Generally speaking, the more words there are in a line 
having the yeti and the prasam alike, the more beautiful 
they appear to the Hindus. For our part we should look 
upon them as mere childish alliterations, recalling to our 
minds the line of Ennius so often in the mouths of school- 
boys : 

Tite fcute Tati tibi tanta, tyranne, tulisti ! 

There are also other kinds of poetry, which, like ours, 
have their rhyme at the end of the lines. In these cases 
they end as a rule with the same consonant and sometimes 
with the same word. 

Generally speaking, the difficulties of rhyme are simply 
hopeless, and often puzzle Hindu versifiers themselves. 


With the padams, or lines, arranged symmetrically with 
regard to quantity and rhyme, are formed the padyams, 
sometimes called slokams. They are, properly speaking, 
stanzas or couplets, sometimes regular, sometimes irregular. 

These padyams are of several kinds, and each has its 
special name. 

In the simple kanda-padyam certain feet only can be 
introduced, in the same way as in Latin hexameters, in 
which dactyls and spondees only are used. But a single 
ganam, or foot, may sometimes comprise a whole line, 
sucli as the following : Devaki-Deviki-Kamsudu. 

The limits of this work hardly permit me to enter into 
more minute details concerning the numerous rules to 
which the structure and arrangement of Hindu poetry 


are subject ; but it will appear from what has been already 
said that Hindu versification is by no means easy. There 
are nevertheless a great many people of all castes who 
dabble in rhymes, and amuse themselves by reading out 
publicly and ostentatiously the pieces they have composed. 
In India, as in Europe, poetasters abound, while good poets 
are very scarce. The Indian languages, however, being 
very rich in synonyms, afford a great advantage to the 
Hindu poet. 

There are five principal authors who have written on the 
subject of Hindu prosody ; and these have laid down fixed 
and unalterable laws for making verses. Their collected 
works are called Chandas. The Brahmin who taught me 
was guided in his instructions by a book whose author had 
so arranged that every rule was comprised in a verse which 
served at once the double purpose of an example of the 
rule as well as the rule itself. 

Of Taste and Style in Hindu Poetry. 

The predominating features of Hindu poetry are emphasis, 
affectation, and bombast. Every Hindu poet would seem 
to be a prototype of him who, in Horace, 

Proicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba, 

or of the Clitarchus compared by Longinus to a man who 
opens his mouth wide to blow through a tiny flute. The 
poetry of all nations has its peculiar turns of expression, 
its licences, its own vocabulary, &c, which render it 
difficult of understanding by foreigners ; but in Hindu 
poetry the frequent use of elliptical phrases, of allegories, 
of metaphors, and of expressions not in vogue in ordinary 
language, renders the meaning so obscure that it is impos- 
sible to understand it properly unless one makes a special 
study of the subject. Even a thorough knowledge of 
Hindu prose works is of no avail. 

Were Hindu literature better known to us, it is possible 
that we should find that we have borrowed from it the 
romantic style of our days, which some find so beautiful 
and others so silly. If the Hindu poet has occasion to 
describe any particular object, he seldom omits even the 


minutest details. He thinks it his duty to present it to 
the view in all its phases. 

S'il rencontre un palais, il m'en depeint la face ; 
II me promene aprfea de terrasse en terrasse : 
Ici s'offre un perron ; la rt-gne un corridor ; 
La ce balcon s'enferme en un balustre d'or, 
II compte des plafonds les ronds et les ovales. 

If a Hindu poet has a beautiful woman for his theme, he 
will certainly never be content with merely stating, in 
a more or less flowery style, that she is endowed with all 
the charms of body and mind. Like the painter who 
reproduces on the canvas one feature after another of his 
model, so does our Hindu poet pass in review a capite 
usque ad calcem the various charms of the beauty he is 
describing. The colour of her skin, the expression of her 
face and eyes, in fine, everything connected with her, even 
her most secret charms, appear to him objects worthy of 
his praise. The finishing strokes of his brush are generally 
reserved for the touching up of all the moral and intel- 
lectual qualities which his imagination can impart to the 
fair subject of his verses. It may be easily imagined that 
these descriptive details, overloaded as they are with a vast 
display of epithets, become exceedingly diffuse ; but we 
cannot deny to them at least the credit of exactitude. 

Hindu poetry at first sounds harsh and inharmonious to 
a European ear, by reason of the frequent aspirations with 
which many of the letters at the beginning, in the middle, 
and at the end of the words are pronounced ; but, on the 
other hand, this laboured pronunciation gives to the recital 
a stately and sonorous tone, which seldom fails to please 
one who has become used to it. At the same time it must 
be confessed that foreigners, and even natives who have 
not been well trained in it from infancy, find almost in- 
surmountable difficulties in mastering this method of pro- 

The short pieces that I have seen have appeared to me 
generally weak and uninspiring. I know not whether the 
Hindus have any real dramatic works. I only know of 
a few productions of this nature, and these are mixed up 
with songs and dialogues. The Dasa-avatara. or the ten 
incarnations of Vishnu, is among the number. But I am 


not in a position to give any particulars as to their merit, 
or even of their contents, seeing that I have never taken 
the trouble to read any of them. 

More fortunate than the French, who are never weary 
of repeating that no epic poem exists in their literature, 
the Hindus boast of a great number. The two most 
celebrated are the Ramayana and the Bhagavata. Both 
are of inordinate length. The former recounts the deeds 
and exploits of Vishnu under the incarnation of Rama ; 
while the latter relates the adventures of Vishnu meta- 
morphosed in the form of Krishna. Their authors have 
introduced into them the whole idolatrous system of the 
country — a system on which they are often at variance 
among themselves. It may be easily understood that the 
' unities ' prescribed by Aristotle have not been observed in 
these epics. The Bhagavata takes up its hero even before 
his birth, and does not quit him till after he is dead. 

The fertile imagination of the ancient Greeks conceived 
nothing that can be compared with the incredible powers 
and wonderful achievements of the Hindu heroes, whose 
exploits are celebrated in these books. Even the colossal 
Enceladus and the giant Briareus, with his fifty heads and 
his hundred hands, were but pigmies compared with the 
wonderful giants who, according to the Ramayana, some- 
times fought for Rama and sometimes against him. 


Brahmin Philosophy. — The Six Sects called Shan Mata. — The Doctrine 
of the Buddhists. 

I have previously shown (in Part II, Chapter XI) that 
the ancient Brahmins recognized one Supreme and Almighty 
Being, possessing all the attributes that reasonable man 
should ascribe to such a Being. It is impossible to believe 
that these sages, being thus impressed with the idea of so 
perfect a Godhead, could have countenanced the absurdities 
of polytheism and idolatry. It was their successors who 
adopted these absurdities, little by little, until they led the 
nation, whose oracles they were, into all the extravagant 
doctrines in which they are now involved. It must never- 


theless be acknowledged that the speculative theories in 
which these ancient philosophers indulged in the first 
instance, and of which I shall have occasion to speak later 
on, were calculated to corrupt this pure conception of the 
Deity and of the worship due to Him. Indeed, it was not 
long before divided opinions arose regarding the nature of 
God and the creation of the Universe. Two principal sects 
were gradually developed, each of which possesses up to 
the present day numerous adherents among the modern 
Brahmins l . The first is called the Dwaita (twofold) sect, 
whose adherents recognize the existence of two beings, 
namely, God and Matter, which He created and which is 
one with Him. The other sect, called Adwaita (not two- 
fold), comprises those who acknowledge but one Being, 
one Substance, one God. It has a more numerous following 
than the other, and includes in its ranks the majority of 
those Brahmins who profess to be exceptionally learned. 
Its adepts designate the leading principles of their doctrine 
by the technical words Abhavena Bhavam Nasti, meaning 
de nihilo nihil fit (from nothing nothing is made). They 
maintain that Creation is an impossibility, and at the same 
time they hold that pre-existing and eternal Matter is 
absolutely chimerical. From these premises they conclude 
that all that we call the universe, including all the various 
phenomena which we see to be comprised within it, has no 
real existence at all, but is merely the result of illusion, 
which is known among them as Maya. From the large 
number of stories which they have invented for the purpose 
of illustrating this doctrine I have selected the following : 

1 There are, as a matter of fact, three sects. The first is that of 
Adwaita, or non-dualism. ' The Universe exists, but merely as a form 
of the one eternal essence. All animate and inanimate things are but 
parts of the Deity, and have no real existence of their own.' Then 
comes the Dwaita doctrine, or dualism, which holds that ' God is supreme, 
yet essentially different from the human soul and from the material 
world, both of which have a real and eternally distinct existence.' A 
third and important section hold the doctrine of Yisishtadwaita, or 
doctrine of unity with attributes. This doctrine is like that of Adwaita, 
holding that the Deity and the Universe are one, but it goes further in 
holding that the Deity is not void of form or quality ; it regards Him 
as ' being endowed with all good qualities and a twofold form : the 
Supreme Spirit, Paramatma or Cause, and the gross one, the effect, the 
Universe or Matter.' — Ed. 


' A certain man, in a dream, imagined that he had been 
crowned king of a certain country with great pomp and 
circumstance. The next morning, on leaving his house, 
he met a traveller, who gave him a detailed account of 
festivities and ceremonies that had actually taken place 
on the occasion of the coronation of the king of the same 
country, and of which he was himself an eye-witness. 
The incidents related by the latter agreed in all particulars 
with what the former had dreamed. Illusion, Maya, was 
equally prevalent in both cases ; and there was no more 
reality in what the one man had seen than in what the 
other man had dreamed. In a word, things that we take 
for realities are nothing but illusions emanating from the 
Deity, who is the sole Being with an actual existence. 
Our senses deceive us in presenting to us objects which do 
not really exist. These objects indeed are nothing but 
appearances or modifications of the Deity ; that is to say, 
there is nothing real about them.' 

I do not know whether these would-be philosophers 
deduce from this pernicious doctrine all the consequences 
which naturally result from it, and look upon God as the 
immediate author of all the evil as well as all the good 
that takes place on the earth. Several of them, at any 
rate, are not ashamed to express this opinion. The Brah- 
mins with whom I have discussed the subject have candidly 
confessed to me that, in their opinion, neither good nor evil 
exists ; that, in fact, all crimes, even parricide, adultery, 
fraud, and perjury, are but acts incited by the divine 
power ; or rather, that these acts are imaginative and are 
simply the strange result of Maya, a delusion which deceives 
us and causes us to take the shadow for the reality \ 

The doctrine of Dwaita admits of two actual substances 
— God, and Matter created by God, with which He is 
inseparably united. God, according to this doctrine, is 
omnipresent. He pervades all Matter and incorporates 
Himself, so to speak, with it. He is present in every 
animate and inanimate thing. He does not, however, 
undergo the least change or the least modification by such 

1 The Abbe's opinion of the Adwaita doctrine is not supported by 
modern authorities, such as Professor Beussen and Professor Max Miiller, 
who have written of it in the highest terms of praise. — Ed. 


coexistence, whatever may be the badness and imper- 
fection of the things with which He is united. In support 
of this last contention, the adherents of the doctrine of 
Dwaita cite, for the purpose of comparison, fire and the 
rays of the sun. They say that fire can be incorporated 
in every substance, pure and impure, yet it never loses 
any of its own purity ; so also with the rays of the sun, 
which are never polluted even when penetrating heaps of 
filth and mud. 

According to these sectarians our souls emanate from 
God and form part of Him ; just as light emanates from 
the sun, which illuminates the whole world with an infinite 
number of rays ; just as numberless drops of water fall 
from the same cloud ; and just as various trinkets are 
formed from the same ingot of gold. Whatever may be 
the number of these rays, of these drops of water, and of 
these trinkets, it is always to the same sun, to the same 
cloud, and to the same ingot of gold that they respectively 

However, from the very moment that a soul is united 
with a body it finds itself imprisoned in the darkness of 
ignorance and sin, just like a frog caught in the gullet of 
a snake from which it has no chance of escaping. Although 
the soul, thus imprisoned, continues to be one with God, 
it is, nevertheless, to a certain extent disunited and separated 
from Him. However great and good the soul may be 
which animates a human form, it becomes from that moment 
subject to all the sins, to all the errors, and to all the weak- 
nesses which are the natural consequences of this union 
with a body. The vicissitudes that affect the soul while 
it is united with a body do not, however, affect that part 
of its nature which is divine. In this respect the soul may 
be compared to the moon, whose image is reflected in the 
water : if the water in which the image of the moon is 
reflected be disturbed, the image also becomes disturbed ; 
but it cannot be said that the moon itself is disturbed. 
The changes and chances of the soul united with different 
bodies do not seriously concern God, from whom it emanates ; 
and as to the soul itself, it is immutable, never undergoing 
the slightest change. Its union with the body lasts till 
such time as, by meditation and penance, it attains a degree 


of wisdom and perfection which permits it to reunite itself 
anew, and that inseparably and for ever, with God : that 
is to say, it ceases to migrate from one body to another. 

The soul is said to be endowed with one of the following 
three gunas, or inherent qualities, viz. sattva, rajas, or 
tamas — good?iess, passion, or ignorance. It frees itself at 
one time from one, at another time from another, of these 
inherent qualities, and it attains perfection only after it is 
entirely freed from all of them. 

The five senses of the body play the part of councillors 
and slaves to the soul. For instance, should the soul 
perceive a desirable object, it immediately conceives the 
desire of possessing it. The feet are ordered to approach 
it, and when the object is in view, the eyes are commanded 
to behold it, and the hands to seize it, which orders are 
immediately executed. The nostrils are then commanded 
to smell it, the mouth to open, and the tongue to taste it ; 
and these organs comply with its wishes. Thereupon the 
object passes into the body with which the soul is united, 
and the soul is then satisfied. Thus it is the soul that 
regulates the actions and the movements of the body. It 
may be compared, in this respect, with a magnet placed on 
a brass plate beneath which is an iron needle. If the 
magnet be moved round the plate, the needle follows in 
the same direction ; but if the magnet be removed, the 
needle at once drops down and remains motionless. The 
magnet is therefore typical of the soul, and the needle of 
the body. As long as these two are united, the body is 
susceptible of motion ; but no sooner does the soul quit 
the body to take up its abode elsewhere than the body 
becomes insensible, is dissolved, and returns to the five 
elements from which it was originally formed. The soul, 
on the other hand, like the magnet, loses nothing of its 
efficacy, and in whatever body it takes up its abode, always 
remains the same. 

The two great sects of philosophers above mentioned 
were subsequently divided into six others, known by the 
general name of Shan Mata (the six sects, or schools). 
Their names are (1) Saiva, (2) Sahta, (3) Charvaka, (4) 
Kapalika, (5) Vaishnava, (6) Bouddha. To strive to purify 
the soul, to acquire wisdom and perfection, to dissipate 


the darkness of sin and ignorance, to free oneself from the 
thraldom of passion and from the wretchedness of life with 
a view to union with and absorption in the Great Being, 
the Universal Soul, the Paramatma or Parabrahma : such 
are the objects aimed at by these various sects. Each is 
distinguished from the others by differences of opinion 
on the nature of perfect happiness and on the means of 
attaining it. 

The different forms of knowledge taught in these schools 
are known by the following names : (1) Nyaya 1 , (2) Ve- 
danta, (3) Mimamsa, (4) Sankhya, (5) Patanjala, (6) Vaise- 

The first of these schools, the Saiva, founded by Gau- 
tama 2 , who came from Tirat, near Patna, on the borders 
of the Ganges, is held to surpass the others in Tarka-sastra, 
i.e. Logic. It recognizes four sources of knowledge, viz. 
(1) Pratyaksha, or the testimony of the senses rightly 
exercised ; (2) Anumana, or natural and visible signs, as 
for instance smoke, which is proof of the presence of fire ; 
(3) Upamana, or Upama, or the application of a known 
definition to an unknown object still to be defined ; (4) 
Aptha-sabdam, or the authority of infallible texts, which 
authority they ascribe to the Vedas, so far as religion and 
the worship of the gods are concerned, and to the maxims 
of Gautama, their founder, so far as other matters are 

After the study of Logic, the professors of this school 
lead their disciples to the study of the visible world, and 
then to a knowledge of its Author, whose existence, although 
invisible, is demonstrable by the process of Anumana. 
They gather from the same source proofs of His under- 
standing, and from His understanding they deduce His 

But although God in His essence is spiritual, they say 
that He possesses th