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distance off, on the south of the Kistna river. It appears that a certain man, who was building a new house, had fallen ill, and he sent in baste for this doctor;
not a doctor for his body, be it observed, but a doctor for the house! Something must have gone wrong in the calculations, or in the dimensions, or something or other of the new building, and hence this blow from the offended deity. Money was sent to defray the expenses of this celebrated Shāstri, but he would not go until he was assured that his advice would be followed, even if it involved pulling down portions of the building already erected. How he fared in this expedition I have never heard; but it appears that sometime ago this same old gentleman was sent for to attend another case, the result of which brought him great fame. A certain house owner had recently entered a new house which he had built, but within a month he fell very ill. It was thought that something must be wrong with the building, and this house-doctor was sent for. Having considered the case, the doctor decided, by virtue of his science, that there was a snake in a certain beam of the building. The reptile had entered the hollow part of the beam, which had been plugged up by the carpenter, and was there languishing, and hence the calamity. A snake charmer was summoned, the beam was sawn through, and a reptile which turned out to be a cobra, was drawn out by the snake charmer and placed in an earthen vessel. It was there fed with milk for some ten days, until it had revived, and recovered its strength, when it was taken away to a suitable place and set free. The patient recovered his strength in proportion as the cobra's strength revived, and within a few days he was quite well. The wisdom and skill displayed by our friend in this case was much praised, and he was suitably rewarded. These simple stories are here narrated for what they are worth. The people fully believe in them, and they will serve to show the superstitious notions that are still entertained in connection with Hindu dwellings.
The first question that arises in connection with the building of a house is as to the site, and many directions are given as to the colour, and taste, and smell of the soil, together with the various means of testing its being a lucky or unlucky spot or neighbourhood; but much of this is, I fancy, considered obsolete now.
Builders are still, however, very particular as to the position of the house with reference to a temple, and also as to the presence of human bones in the soil. If, on digging for the foundations of a new dwelling, any bit of human bone should be turned up, the greatest care is taken to discover and remove any particle that can be found; even if the site is not altogether abandoned. Perhaps it is not difficult to imagine how this idea may have originated from sanitary considerations. "If, again, the owner should fall ill wbilst the building is going on, and die before it is finished, the whole thing is completely abandoned, and no one would think of taking over the work with a view to completing it. A house must not be built in front of a Siva temple, as the eye of that god has an evil influence; nor must it be built behind one to Vishnu, but it may be built on either side of any one of them. A most curious fact is the apparently small thing that will cause a Hindu to desert his home, either for a longer or shorter period, and sometimes for good and all. Particulars will be given later on as to the causes for which a house may be considered unclean or unlucky, but I will here relate a peculiar case that came under
my own observation, sometime ago, as it has to do with the question of the site upon which a house may be built.
Several years ago I had occasion to pass through a certain village which, I noticed, was completely deserted, and many of the houses dismantled. It was a Sudra village of well-to-do farmers. It was getting late in the forenoon, and as I had not yet breakfasted, this appeared to be a good opportunity to make a halt. The village munsiff (the village executive officer), who came up, gave me permission to pass the heat of the day in the sheltered courtyard of one of the houses that was still left standing. My frugal meal was soon despatched, and then I began to explore and to seek for information. I was informed
that, for certain religious reasons, the wbole village had been abandoned, and the farmers settled on a site, which was pointed out to me, about half a mile distant from their old homes.
They had pulled down their houses and utilized what they could of the old materials for rebuilding. The reason given for this was as follows. It appears that for some time there had been a great deal of sickness in the village, and many deaths, and it was decided by the Brahmins that a curse rested upon the place. On looking round for the probable cause of this, it was discovered from certain signs, or pretended to have been discovered, that there must have formerly been a temple near the village tank which was close at hand; and as there was no vestige of the temple left, it was concluded that it must have been destroyed ! For this or some other reason, the anger of the particular god had been aroused, and he had cursed the village, hence the number of deaths. One can imagine the consternation this decision would cause amongst these poor superstitious people. They, however, do not seem to have questioned the decision, but simply decided that it was the will of the gods that they should remove. Accordingly, for a pecuniary consideration, the Brahmins pointed out a new site, and the simple folks began at once to remove their dwellings. At the time of my visit most of the houses had been completely dismantled, and notbing was left of them but the substantial mud walls which presented the appearance of a sad, but by no means picturesque, ruin. A few of the old inhabitants, among whom were the barber and the potter, still lingered on, probably because they had not the wherewithal to meet the expense of removing. The site upon which the old village was built was in every respect superior, from sanitary and other points of view, to the low and ill drained place to which the removal had been made, but no logic of facts can overcome the superstitious fears of these poor deluded people. Probably the real cause of the unhealthiness of the place might have been found in some of the back-yards or other surroundings. Dame Nature had been outraged by a How many
systematic neglect of the attention due to her fair daughter Hygeia, and punishment had resulted. Such simple matters as these, however, are beneath the ken of the Hindu wise-man, and everything must be decided in accordance with rules formulated by a dense superstition. As I sat there, during the heat of the day, in the shade of the old door way, I could not but reflect upon the scene before me. generations of industrious Hindu farmers bad been reared in that place! Here were still the peepul tree (Ficus religiosa) and the neem (Azadirachta Indica) under whose shadow so many had sat in days gone by for council or for gossip, now left standing amidst the miserable ruins of once loved homes. Whilst I was there, au old widow woman came up from the new village, to the house thus temporarily occupied by me, and she seemed by no means pleased at my presence. I courteously explained that I had received permission, and then it turned out that the house did not belong to my friend the munsiff at all; and hence perhaps his readiness to let me rest there! However I was not disturbed, and presently the old lady began to sweep up the deserted rooms; one could not see why; there seemed no need for it; as nobody came there, and the house was only waiting to be pulled down; but perhaps her old affection for the place brought her there, and made her treat it as a sacred shrine that she could not bear to see neglected. Of course I took the opportunity kindly to point out to my village friend, the munsiff, the folly of all this expense and trouble, this breaking up of comfortable homes, all for a superstitious idea. With true native politeness he appeared to agree with what I said, but he finished off with the old Hindu excuse, " What could we do? The Brahmins said it must be done, and we were obliged to go!” We sometimes hear people talk as though superstition were dead in India ; but, alas ! it is not so ; it is not even moribund. Except within a narrow circle, happily widening by slow degrees, still yet comparatively a very narrow one, composed of those influenced by Western ideas, superstition has just as strong a hold upon the masses
And it cannot be expected to be otherwise. If it took many many centuries to do away with old heathen superstitions in the West, some of which are not yet completely eradicated, it must not be supposed that one or two generations, or very many of them, indeed, will effect much change in the East, where the growth is so dense and so deeply rooted.
Next after the site, the position of the neighbouring dwellings must be taken into consideration, as if, for instance, the water from a house flows towards a neighbour's there will arise evil and quarrels; also in order to secure the general welfare, the water from one's own house should be made to flow in a certain direction (east, or north, or north-east). How all these conditions can be complied with, supposing a house is to be built in a crowded neighbourhood, one must leave an unsettled problem. The timber used must also be well considered, for certain kinds are sure to bring misfortune if one should be rash enough to use any one of them. A list of unsuitable timbers is given in the books on these matters. The well also must not be dug on the south side of the house, or evil will be sure to follow, and if bones are found in excavating for it, the fact will be taken as a sign of the death of the owner.
The next question is as to the time of the year at which building operations should be commenced. On this point most careful directions are given, and it may be interesting to give them here in detail. In the list, given below, the first column gives the native name of the month, and the next the corresponding English time; while the third gives the consequences that are liable to ensue to the householder from commencing to build bis dwelling at the particular time named :