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2. Without thee the building of a dwelling,
With its roof, cannot prosper.
As a well is a very necessary adjunct to a house, and a very important one too, from a Hindu point of view, it is not to be wondered at that when the well is dug there should be a religious ceremony, both at the commencement and also at the completion of the undertaking. Before the digging is commenced, prayers are repeated to the earth, which is considered to be a goddess (bhūdevi), and also to Varuna, the god of all kinds of water. At the completion of the
and before the water can be used, a dedicatory ceremony is performed much in the following manner. The mouth of the well is adorned with saffron and the coloured powder kunkuma; a patch of ground near the well is prepared and purified by smearing it with cow-dung and adorning it with lines made of rice powder. Upon this patch of earth is placed a lump of saffron which is supposed to represent Ganesha, under the name of Vinayaka, or the remover of obstacles. Worship is then performed to this by the master of the house, instructed by the attendant family priest in the usual manner. A small lamp fed with ghee is lighted, and incense is put upon some live coals of fire ; and while the lamp is burning and the incense rising up, flowers and sandal paste and coloured rice are dropped over the supposed god, whose various names are repeated by the worshipper. Tāmbūlam (betel) is placed near the god, together with one or two coins (dakshina) which become the fee of the priest; and the worship is concluded by the waving of burning camphor, and making obeisance with closed hands (nāmaskāram). Tambūlam, it may be explained, is betel-leaf and areca nut made up into a small parcel, ready to put into the mouth. À little slaked lime is added before use. The masticating of this compound seems to be much enjoyed, but the red colour it imparts to the mouth and lips is far from pleasant from an European point of view. This little luxury, however, is partaken of at the termination of every meal, and no important transaction, or any religious rite can be complete without it. The god Varuna is then worshipped in much the same manner, by dropping some of the above said things into the well itself; the tāmbūlam, however, with the coins, is placed in the hands of the priest, and the whole is concluded with the usual obeisance. During the dropping of the things into the well, the priest repeats the following prayer—the householder following him according to his ability :
O Varuna, thou ruler of the waters,
Enough has been said to give a fairly clear idea of the various ceremonies performed at the building of a Hindu dwelling house. In the next chapter we shall describe the principal architectural features, and general arrangements of the house, as well as the ceremonies necessary before a newly built dwelling can be occupied.
THE HINDU HOME.- (Continued.)
Try building a house; try making a marriage.
In this chapter we shall attempt to give some general idea of the architecture, and general arrangements of a Hindu dwelling; but it must be understood that we are speaking, particularly, of an ordinary Hindu house, as it is in the Circars. The style of the building may, and does, differ very much in the widely distant parts of this vast country, and amongst different races and religions, still there are some main principles pervading all Hindu domestic architecture, in parts however remote they may be ; hence some general idea may be gathered from this description of à Hindu home. The chief feature in the building is that it must be in the form of a square, with an opening to the sky in the centre. The roof slopes outward and inward, and the inner sides all converge around a rectangular open space, larger or smaller, as the case may be. In large well built houses this central open space will form a regular court-yard, whilst in smaller buildings, it will be so small that the vacant space, where the roof converges, is only a few inches square, and the floor underneath it a mere depression in the earth large enough to catch the rainfall from the roof. In very large houses there may be two of these courts, but in all of them the principle is the same. The origin of this is not very clear, and different reasons are given for it. Some say
it is in order that the sun's rays may shine into the house. As it was put by a Brahmin friend, just as it is necessary that there should be some gold, if even a speck, worn on the body, so it is necessary for some few rays, at least, of the sun to fall into the dwelling. On the other hand, others say it is because it is necessary for the rain to fall into the house, in order to secure its happiness. However this may be, there is no doubt that this arrangement is a source of much discomfort if not of positive evil. The heavy monsoon rain pouring in from the roof into the very centre of the living place must make everything very damp and uncomfortable. It is true there is a kind of drain made for the water to pass through, under the walls, to the outside, but it is certainly against all one's notions of hygiene and cannot but be a source of some of the many forms of fever and other diseases to which natives are so liable. Here again we see the effects of custom hardened into a religious law. Probably the origin of it was for protection from foes and wild animals, when things must have been in a very unsettled state. We know that the modern seclusion of the females arose from some such cause, particularly under early Muhammadan rule. Be all this as it may, this is a most generally accepted tenet, and all dwellings erected in accordance with the Shāstram must have this characteristic form.
In passing through the streets of an Indian town or village, one notices at once that there are few windows, if any at all, looking out upon the street, and those that may be are often placed high up in the wall, out of all reach of passers by. Often there is nothing presented to the public road but a blank wall with a more or less imposing doorway. This door is generally of a massive character, and is perhaps studded with bosses of iron; whilst, together with the door post, it is often ornamented with elaborate carving. It strikes one as peculiar that this front door should always be of so massive a character, seeing that the back and side walls, or doors, are relatively so much slighter and weaker. An Indian thief would never think of attempting to break through the front door of a dwelling. His efforts are directed to digging through the house or compound wall, especially if it is made of mud, or to breaking in through the back-yard door, which lacks the strength of the front one. One can only suppose that the spending of time and money on this imposing front entrance is simply in accord with the tendency of human nature ever to put the best on the outside ! The front wall next the street is sometimes not the real wall of the house at all. Often, perhaps for reasons already alluded to in speaking of the site, or perhaps for the sake of space, and security, or privacy, the front wall, with its elaborate doorway, is but the side of the yard or enclosure inside which the house itself is built. In this event, the ceremony alluded to, in the previous chapter, relative to putting up the chief door frame of a new house, is performed, not in connection with this entrance, but in connection with that of the dwelling proper.
On visiting a house, one may at once, on entering the front door, step into the open space or court before spoken of, or there may be a passage from the door with rooms on either side, leading into it. In good houses the open space is always paved with brick, or there is a polished plaster floor; in other cases it is plain mother earth. Around it is a kind of verandah upon which open out the rooms of the dwelling. The four points of the compass are strictly considered in arranging the rooms. The kitchen should always be on the south side, and it runs the whole width of the building. This is the most sacred part of the whole house, and persons of a lower caste than the household are never allowed to enter it. This rule is observed, even in the case of the poorest and meanest dwelling, ifit should be that of a high caste man. The kitchen is partly cooking place, partly chapel, and partly dining-room. I have seen the inside of many native houses, but I have never been allowed to cast even a glance into this sacred room. It is but right that I should say that I never made any attempt thus to outrage the sacred feelings of my friends. If a house has an upper storey, it is probably over the front portion, and it is never built over the kitchen. But except in the Presidency cities, and other large towns, houses have, as a rule, no upper storey at all. In an ordinary house, no part of the roof must be higher than that of