Imatges de pÓgina

the day there is practically none at all, and this may be said of the men as well as of the women. They are all intensely superstitious, and those of them who may be Vaishnavas (worshippers of Vishnu) and who wear upon the forebead the mark of that deity, do, when they put on the marks in the early morning, both men and women, make obeisance to the rising sun, but that seems to be the sum total of the ordinary daily worship. It is a universal custom at night, when the family lamp is lit, for the women to make obeisance to the flame, but there does not appear to be anything else in the shape of evening worship. In any time of trouble or sickness, especially during the prevalence of any epidemic like cholera or small-pox, or at marriages and other festal seasons, and on the occasion of any family event, worship of various kinds is performed, chiefly by the women. The Sudras and those of the like class, will go to the village temple with offerings of fruit and flowers and coloured powder for the temple deity, which, after being presented, are distributed to the neighbours who may be present. The non-caste women, who may not go to the village temple at such seasons adorn a bit of the inner wall of the house with cowdung or saffron, upon which are drawn white or red horizontal lines, and to this obeisance is made and simple offerings of cooked food and fruit or flowers are presented. Besides this there is the sacred tree, and the simple village idol, often a mere group of shapeless stones, and to these worship will be made at certain times, by the village women, Sometimes also they will go to festivals or on a pilgrimage to some shrine that may be within their reach ; but of ordinary worship, in the usual acceptation of the word, there is very little, if any at all, amongst these lower castes and non-castes. They are strong believers in transmigration, and they think that their future birth will be affected by their good or evil deeds, but, practically, they may be said to have very little religion at all, as distinct from intense superstition and belief in demonolatry of the most degrading kind.

It will have been gathered, from what has been said, how low a position is assigned to women in Hindu theology, and one can only wonder that long ere this she has not broken the shackles that would bind her very soul, and asserted her equality in the eyes of God. There is, however, hope that a change for the better in this respect is really being effected. India is gradually waking up from her long lethargy, and the women of India also are being affected. It may be true that, of the vast mass, comparatively few women, as yet, are reached by the rays of light that are beginning to penetrate even into the inner recesses of Indian homes; but enough has been done, and sufficient evidence is manifest to prove that the new life has begun. Almost imperceptible though it may be to those who are accustomed to look only upon the surface, signs are manifest enough to those who are in a position to judge, of the setting in of the tide which is to bring brightness into the life, and hope for after death to the gentle suffering women of India. This movement may appear but feeble at present, but it is going on, and it cannot now be stayed; the hand of God is here, and His handiwork is irresistible as the inflowing tide. The whole future of India's greatness is bound up in the emancipation of ber women ; and this, we believe, can only be done effectually by the spread of that Divine faith which alope, of all the creeds of the earth, gives woman ber true status as the equal with and true complement of man, and which thus makes declaration on this matter :

The woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. . . Neither is the man without the woman; neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. (1 Cor. si. 7-9, 11, 12.)



TTTT. (Yajnopavitam).

In the eighth year from the conception of a Brābman, in the eleventh from that of a Kshatriya, and in the twelfth from that of a Vaisya, let the father invest the child with the mark of his class. (Manu II. 36.)

One of the many peculiarities that strike a stranger in India is that many Hindus, and those evidently of the upper classes, have a cord or skein of thread over the left shoulder, and hanging down under the right arm, worn as a sash would be. Probably few, except the Hindus themselves, could tell why this cord is worn; why certain have it whilst others have it not; or even how, or of what it is made. This article of dress or adornment forms, however, a very important factor in the Hindu cult. It may not be uninteresting, therefore, and perhaps it may be instructive, to give a few particulars connected with this mark or badge of religions and social rank.

The Yajnopavītam, as it is called, or the sacred thread of the Hindu, is the outward and visible mark of the wearer being a Dvija, or twice born; and it is a much prized, and very sacred badge that commands respect, and even adoration.

It may be well, perhaps, first to enquire as to who are privileged to assume this distinction; and here we find the matter very clearly defined by the ancient Hindu law-giver. In the quotation at the head of this chapter, it is clear that the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaisyas must be thus invested; and in another place it is distinctly stated that none but the three twice-born classes are entitled to the distinction :

The three twice-born classes are the sacerdotal, the military, and the commercial; but the fourth, or servile, is once-born, that is, has no second birth from the gāyatri, and wears nu thread. Nor is there a fifth pure class. (X. 4.)

This is the law as clearly laid down; but, as a matter of fact, others besides these three privileged classes assume the distinction. It is not safe, therefore, to conclude that every wearer of the sacred thread must, necessarily, be a Brahmin or one of the otber two highest castes. The Goldsmiths, for instance, and the Weavers, besides certain classes of fishermen, and others wear it. Here then is a point that needs some explanation. The Goldsmith caste, many of whom are carpenters, and workers in brass and copper, are themselves a class of Brahmins; at least they assume the distinction. As a matter of fact they have their own prescribed share in the Vedas and their own ritual. They have an upanayanam or second-birth ceremony, and are considered dvijas, or twice born; hence this privilege in the matter of the thread, as well as in many others that are peculiar to Brahming. The Goldsmith caste are said to be the descendants of Brahmin women and Kshatriya men; and this fact, together with the rights above mentioned, appears to be acknowledged by the Brahmins themselves; yet, strange to say, perhaps as a result of their mixed origin, they do not appear to command much respect as a caste; or to command that esteem which, judging from their privileges, one would expect. Until recent years, for instance, they were not allowed to celebrate their marriages with public processions; or to use a palanquin; or ride a horse. It is said that about thirty years ago there was much disturbance in Masulipatam when, through the freedom resulting from the British raj, this caste first began to have marriage processions, and, in other ways, to assert themselves. Now it is an acknowledged thing; it has become māmūl (custom), and no one interferes. They are not, as a rule, even now, allowed to enter temples; and when they are permitted to do so, it is only to that part in which Sudras are allowed, A case recently came before the law courts in Masulipatam, arising out of the attempt of a Goldsmith to enter a Siva Temple for worship. I believe it was eventually decided that a member of this caste could not enter a temple, except by permission of the Brahmin priest in charge. I do not pretend to give any opinion on the moot point of the social and religious status of the Goldsmith caste; it is a most vexed question, and one that gives rise to much controversy; the point is merely alluded to here to show that not all wearers of the thread or cord are considered of equal rank.

It may not be uninteresting to make a slight digression here, and say a little as to this denial of the liberty of the subject to dress or go as he pleases. There are very binding rules and regulations on these points; the outcome of caste customs, that, whatever may be the real rights of the matter, from a legal point of view, are very real and strict in actual life. Theoretically, for example, any one British subject has the right to use the public road in the way and manner of others, whatever may be his degree; but, practically, this is not so. A low caste man, in going through a respectable public street, that is a street inhabited by high-caste people, must take off his shoes and turban and shut up his umbrella, if he be well-todo enough to possess these articles, and, if he should be riding, he must descend from bis horse and humbly walk through on foot. Even if a Sudra should be riding and happen to pass a superior person, as a Pandit, or high official, or any other like personage, he must descend and walk past on foot until he is well past the dignitary, when he may remount and go on his way. A case quite recently came before the law court in this neighbourhood where a native pastor of one of the Christian bodies was severely beaten because he dared to ride through a, so called, respectable public thoroughfare where, as a man of low caste origin, he should have acknowledged his servile status, and humbly descended, and gone through on foot. Such is the power of custom ; especially when the custom is so agreeable to the inner consciousness of the powers that be-those who have the ability, as well as the desire, to see it carried into effect.

To return, however, to the subject more immediately in hand, the others as the weavers and fishermen appear unlawfully to assume the privilege of wearing

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