The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions


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By: Martin Geoffroy. Pages: 23— By: Danielle Kirby. Pages: 37— By: Benjamin E. Pages: 59— By: Carly Machado. Pages: 85— By: John W. Pages: — By: Joseph Laycock. By: Debbie McCormick. By: Markus Altena Davidsen. By: John Walliss. By: Stef Aupers. By: Douglas E. By: Massimo Introvigne. By: Carole M.

By: Heinz Scheifinger. By: Kamaludeen Mohamed Nasir. By: Lauren Bernauer. The chief feast to the sun-god is Salo Kallo the former word means 'cow-pen'; the latter, a liquor , somewhat like a soma -feast.

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It is celebrated at harvest time with dancing, and drinking, "and every kind of licentious enjoyment. The invocation at the harvest is quite Brahmanic: "O gods, remember that our increase of rice is your increase of worship; if we get little Rice we worship little. Female infanticide springs from a feeling that intermarriage in the same tribe is incest this is the meaning of the incest-law above; it might be rendered 'to marry in the tribe'.

These Dravidians live in Bengal, and have two annual festivals, a harvest feast and one celebrating the marriage of heaven and earth. These savages, like the Burmese Mishmis, have no idea of a future life in heaven; but in the case of people killed in a certain way they believe in a sort of metempsychosis; thus, for instance, a man eaten by a tiger becomes a tiger.

In the case of unfortunates they believe that they will live as unhappy ghosts; in the case of other men they assume only annihilation as their fate. They are called the finest specimens of the native savage. The guardian of the tribe is its deceased ancestor, and his ghost is consulted as an oracle. Their race-god is the 'Great Mountain,' but the sun represents the highest spirit; though they worship spirits of every sort, and regard beasts as divine; the men revering the tiger, and the women, elephants.

The particularly nasty festival called the bandana , which is celebrated annually by this tribe, is exactly like the 'left-hand' cult of the Caktas, only that in this case it is a preliminary to marriage. All unmarried men and women indulge together in an indescribable orgie, at the end of which each man selects the woman he prefers.

Besides these they revere Manes, and countless local and sylvan deities. Like Druids, they sacrifice only in a grove, but without images. In most of the tribes the only form of worship is sacrifice, but oaths are taken on rice, beasts, ants, water, earth, etc. Some have a sort of belief in the divinity of the chief, and among the Lurka Koles this dignity is of so much importance that at a chief's death the divine dignity goes to his eldest son, while the youngest son gets the property. In regard to funeral rites, the Koles first burn and then bury the remains, placing a stone over the grave.

The Garos, a tribe between Assam and Bengal, are in many respects noteworthy. A man's sister marries into the family from which comes his wife, and that sister's daughter may marry his son, and, as male heirs do not inherit, the son-in-law succeeds his father-in-law in right of his wife, and gets his wife's mother that is, his father's sister as an additional wife.

She and her party select the groom, go to his house, and carry him off, though he modestly pretends to run away. The sacrifice for the wedding is that of a cock and hen, offered to the sun. The god they worship most is a monster very much like Civa , but he has no local habitation. In most of the rites the holy stone[23] plays an important part, and in many of the tribes dances are a religious exercise. But is it likely that a race would have come from the Northeast and another from the Northwest, and both have the same name?

But against this speaks the type, which is not Aryan but Kolarian. We believe traces of it may still be found in the classics. And, again, the snake-worship that grows so rapidly into the Hindu cult can scarcely have been uninfluenced by the fact that there are no less than thirty snake-tribes. Even totemism as a survival may be suspected in the 'fish' and 'dog' people of the Rig Veda, as has recently been suggested by Oldenberg. In the Northeast of India many tribes worship only mountains, rivers, and Manes, again a trait both Vedic and Hinduistic, but not necessarily borrowed.

But often there is a parallel so surprising as to make it certain that there has been influence. The Niadis of the South , for example, worship only the female principle. Many other tribes worship cakti almost exclusively. The Todas worship stone images, buffaloes, and even cow-bells, but they have a celibate priesthood!

We do not hesitate to express our own belief that the cakti -worship is native and drawn from similar cults, and that the celibate priesthood, on the other hand, is taken from civilization. Such a fate appears to have happened in modern times to several deities, now half Brahmanized. What is he in reality? A native wild god, without a temple, worshipped in the open air under the shade of a tree, and in an enclosure of stones. Just such a deity, in other words, as we have shown is worshipped in just such a way by the wild tribes.

A monolith[26] in the middle of twelve stones represents this primitive Druidic deity. The stones are painted red in flame-shape for a certain distance from the ground, with the upper portion painted white. Apparently there is here a sun-god of the aborigines. He is worshipped in sickness, as is Civa, and propitiated with the sacrifice of a cock, without the intervention of any priest.

The cock to Aesculapius " huic gallinae immolabantur " may have had the same function originally, for the cock is always the sun-bird. When he has an image and in the North he sometimes has temples it is that of an armless and legless man; but again he is occasionally represented as a giant 'perfect in all his parts. In such a god, one has a clue to the gradual intrusion of Civa himself into Brahmanic worship. At first a mountain lightning fiend, then identified with Rudra, a recognized deity, then made anthropomorphic. There are, especially in the South, a host of minor Hindu deities, half-acknowledged, all more or less of a fiendish nature in the eyes of the orthodox or even of the Civaite.

Seen through such eyes they are no longer recognizable, but doubtless in many instances they represent a crude form of nature-worship or demonology, which has been taken from the cult of the wild tribes, and is now more or less thoroughly engrafted upon that of their civilized neighbors. But in essentials not only is the snake and dragon worship of the wild tribes one with that of Hinduism, but, as has been seen, the tatter has a root in the cult of Brahmanism also, and this in that of the Rig Veda itself. The poisonous snake is feared, but his beautiful wave-like motion and the water-habitat of many of the species cause him to be associated as a divinity with Varuna, the water-god.

Thus in early Hinduism one finds snake-sacrifices of two sorts. These are worshipped by sectaries and by many wild tribes alike. For not only is soma a divine plant, and not only does Yama sit in heaven under his 'fair tree' above, p. We shall seek, therefore, for the origin of tree-worship not in the character of the tree, but in that of the primitive mind which deifies mountains, waters, and trees, irrespective of their nature.

It is true, however, that the greater veneration due to some trees and plants has a special reason. Again, the mysterious rustle of the bo tree, pipal may be the reason for its especial veneration; as its seeming immortality is certainly the cause of the reverence given to the banian. It is not necessary, however, that any mystery should hang about a tree. The palm is tall, Civa's acoka is beautiful, and no trees are more revered. But trees are holy per se. Every 'village-tree' above, p. And this is just what is found among the wild tribes, who revere their hut-trees and village-trees as divine, without demanding a special show of divinity.

The birth-tree as in Grecian mythology is also known, both to Hindu sect and to wild tribe. But here also there is no basis of Aryan ideas, but of common human experience. The ancestor-tree totem has been noticed above in the case of the Gonds, who claim descent from trees. The marriage-tree is universal in the South the tree is the male or female ancestor , and even the Brahmanic wedding, among its secondary after-rites, is not without the tree, which is adorned as part of the ceremony.

Two points of view remain to be taken before the wild tribes are dismissed. The first is that Hindu law is primitive. Maine and Leist both cite laws as if any Hindu law were an oracle of primitive Aryan belief. This method is ripe in wrong conclusions.

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Most of the matter is legal, but enough grazes religion to make the point important. Even with the sketch we have given it becomes evident that Hindu law cannot be unreservedly taken as an exponent of early Brahmanic law, still less of Aryan law. For instance, Maine regards matriarchy as a late Brahmanic intrusion on patriarchy, an inner growth. But it is from the Southern wild tribes that matriarchy has crept into Hinduism, and thence into Brahmanism.

In many cases geographical limitations of this sort preclude the idea that the custom or law of a law-book is Aryan. It is claimed by the late Lacouperie, by Hewitt, and by other well-known writers that a primitive race overran India, China, and the rest of the world, leaving behind it traces of advanced religious ideas and other marks of a higher civilization. Such a cult may have existed, but in so far as this theory rests, as in a marked degree it does rest, on etymology, the results are worthless. All this is as fruitful of unwisdom as was the guess-work of European savants two centuries ago.

We know that the Dasyus had some religion and some civilization. Of what sort was their barbaric cult, whether Finnish also 'Akkadian' [36] or aboriginal with themselves, really makes but little difference, so far as the interpretation of Aryanism is concerned; for what the Aryans got from the wild tribes of that day is insignificant if established as existent at all.

A few legends, the Deluge and the Cosmic Tree, are claimed as Akkadian, but it is remarkable that one may grant all that the Akkadian scholars claim, and still deny that Aryan belief has been essentially affected by it. They have wealth, build forts, and are recognized as living in towns or forts. We learn little about them in Brahmanic literature, except that they bury their dead and with them their trinkets.

Their graves and dolmen gray-stones are still found. The fact that some Kolarian tribes closely related by language are separated to East and West by hundreds of miles, and have lost all remembrance of their former union, favors this view of a Dravidian wedge splitting and passing through the Kolarian mass.


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But all here is guess-work. The Dravidians may have been pushed on by Kolarians that entered later, while the latter may have been split by the Aryan invasion; and this seems to us more probable because the other theory does not explain why the Kolarians did not go South instead of taking to the hills of the East and West. Sin is carried away by the sacrifice, but this seems to be merely an extension of the simpler idea; the god condones a fault after an expression of repentance and good-will.

What lies further back is not revealed in the early texts, though it is easy to make them fruitful in "theories of sacrifice. Yet the Gonds used to build roads and irrigate very well. Others have become the 'Mohammedan Gonds. The Gonds whipped the British in ; but since then they have become 'pacified. The Gonds are 'sons of the forest Trees,' and of the northern bull. It is often, so far as we have observed, only a stereotyped form to express bashfulness.

Thus the account given in JRAS. Some of the Khonds worship only earth as a peacock. This is the peacock revered at the Pongol. Graves as boundaries are known among the Anglo-Saxons. Possibly Hermes as boundary-god may be connected with the Hermes that conducts souls; or is it simply as thief-god that he guards from theft? The Khond practice would indicate that the corpse as something sacred made the boundary, not that the boundary was made by running a line to a barrow, as is the case in the Anglo-Saxon connection between barrow and bound.

The 'House-god' is, of course, older than this or than Hinduism. But Hinduism prefers a female house-goddess see above, p. Windisch, Vassus und Vassallus , in the Bericht. Justly may one compare the Brahmanic division of the Manes into several classes, according to their destination as conditioned by their manner of living and exit from life. It is the same idea ramifying a little differently; not a case of borrowing, but the growth of two similar seeds.

On the other hand, the un-Aryan doctrine of transmigration may be due to the belief of native wild tribes. It appears first in the Catapatha, but is hinted at in the 'plant-souls' of the RV. Compare JRAS. They are sometimes erroneously grouped with the Koles, ethnographically as well as geographically. Risley, Tribes and Castes of Bengal , p. Possibly another Hindu mark of sectarianism may be traced to the wild tribes, the use of vermilion markings. This is the most important element in the Bengal wedding rite Risley.


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  4. They believe in one god over each village god , who created seven brothers to rule earth. They believe in transmigration, a future state, and oracles. But it is questionable whether they have not been exposed to Buddhistic influence, as 'Budo Gosain' is the name of the supreme sun- god. The last mentioned tribe of Bhils Bheels is almost devoid of native religion, but is particularly noted for truth, honesty, and fidelity.

    It is an ancient race, but its origin is not certain. Schoolcraft, i.

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    The tree-spirit is an advance on this Brahmanic and Hinduistic. These savages, however, live together only so long as they choose. When the family separates, the father takes the elder children, and the mother takes the younger ones. They are polygamous. At present their religion is a mixture of Hindu and native superstition. Thus, like the Gonds, they worship stone images of gods placed in a circle, but they recognize among these gods several of the Hindu divinities.

    The 'ten ancestors' demanded of the Brahman priest were originally on the mother's side as well as on the father's. The matriarchal theory is, however, southern. Compare the oblations to the ancestresses in Vishnu's law-book, Friendship among girls is cemented by a religious ceremony. In this tribe exogamy is 'more respectable,' but not necessary. The girls are generally bought, and have fixed prices, but we have seen the customary price twenty-five pigs cited only for Assam among the Meeris. If one man cannot pay so much, several unite, for polyandry prevails all through the northern tribes JRAS.

    Their sacra totems? The epic disease-gods are not unique. The only god known to the Andaman Islanders Bay of Bengal was a disease-devil, and this is found as a subordinate deity in many of the wild tribes. The ensign here may be totemistic. In Hinduism the epic shows that the standards of battle were often surmounted with signa and effigies of various animals, as was the case, for example, in ancient Germany. We have collected the material on this point in a paper in JAOS. It appears that on top of the flag-staff images were placed.

    One of these is the Ape-standard; another, the Bull standard; another, the Hoar-standard. Arjuna's sign was the Ape with a lion's tail ; other heroes had peacocks, elephants, and fabulous monsters like the carabha. The Ape is of course the god Hanuman; the Boar, Vishnu; the Bull, Civa; so that they have a religious bearing for the most part, and are not totemistic.

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    Some are purely fanciful, a bow, a swan with bells, a lily; or, again, they are significant of the heroe's origin Drona's 'pot'. Trees and flowers are used as standards just like beasts. Especially is the palm a favorite emblem.

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    These signa are in addition to the battle-flags one of which is blue, carried with an ensign of five stars. On the plants compare Williams, Brahmanism and Hinduism , p. The Rig Veda, X. But the latter's impurity is only nominal, and is removed by bathing Manu, V. This is the custom of a land described by Apollonius Rhodius II. The custom is legalized only in this writer's laws.

    Hence it cannot be cited as Brahmanic or even as Aryan law. It was probably the custom of the Southern half-Hinduized environment. See also Sayce's Hibbert Lectures. If in Hinduism, and even in Brahmanism, there are certain traits which, with some verisimilitude, may be referred to the immediate environment of these religions, how stands it in respect of that wider circle of influence which is represented by the peoples of the West?

    With Egypt and Phoenicia, India had intercourse at an early date, but this appears to have been restricted to mercantile exchange; for India till very late was affected neither by the literature nor by the religion of Egyptians or Syrians. On the contrary, in our opinion the religion of Zoroaster budded from a branch taken from Indic soil. Even where Persian influence may, with propriety, be suspected, in the later Indic worship of the sun, India took no new religion from Persia; but it is very possible that her own antique and preserved heliolatry was aided, and acquired new strength from more modern contact with the sun-worshippers of the West.

    Of Iranian influence in early times, along the line of Hindu religious development, there is scarcely a trace, although in B.


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    Darius's general conquered the land about the Indus. It is not so easy to refute an improbable historical theory as it is to propound it, but, on the other hand, the onus probandi rests upon him that propounds it, and till now all arguments on this point have resulted only in increasing the number of unproved hypotheses, which the historian should mention and may then dismiss. The Northern dynasty that ruled in India in the sixth century seems to have had a hand in spreading Iranian sun-worship beyond the Indus, but we doubt whether the radical effect of this dominion and its belief it is described by Kosmas, an Egyptian traveller of the time is as great as has been claimed.

    But there is no ground for assuming philosophical influence on Brahmanism.

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    Christianity came late into the religious life of India, and as a doctrine made upon her no deep or lasting impression. Certain details of Christian story have been woven into the legends of Krishna, and some scholars believe that the monotheistic worshippers depicted in the pseudo-epic were Christians. But in respect of the latter point it is enough to say that this account of foreign belief had no new monotheizing effect upon the pantheism of India; the strange unbrahmanic god was simply accepted as Vishnu. Nor do we believe that the faith-doctrine of Hindu sectarianism and the trinitarianism of India were derived from Christian sources.

    But it must be admitted to be historically possible that the creed of the Christians, known to the Hindus of the sixth and seventh centuries, may have suggested to the latter the idea of the trinity as a means of adjusting the claims of Brahmanism, Krishnaism, and Civaism. When Alexander entered India there were still two bodies of Indic people west of the Indus. But the trend was eastward, as it had been for centuries, and the first inroad of the Mohammedan had little further effect than to seize a land forsaken by Aryans and given over to the hordes of the North.

    In the thirteenth century all Hindustan acknowledged the authority of the slave sultan of Delhi. By the end of the century the Mogul rule was broken; the Mahratta princes became imperial. It is now just in this period of Mohammedan power when arise the deistic reforming sects, which, as we have shown, were surrounded with deists and trinitarians. In the philosophy of the age that succeeds the epic there are but two phases of religion, pantheism for the wise, a more or less deistic polytheism for the vulgar[8] in isolated cases may be added the monotheism of certain scholastic philosophers ; and so Indic religion continued till the advent of Islamism.

    Nevertheless, though under Mohammedan influence,[9] the most thoughtful spirits of India received monotheism and gave up pantheism, yet was the religious attitude of these thinkers not averse from that taken by the Sankyan philosophers and by the earlier pantheists. From a philosophical point of view one must, indeed, separate the two. They were religiously at one in that they gave up the cult of many divinities, which represented respectively nature-worship and fiend-worship with beast-worship , for the worship of one god.

    Therefore it is that, while native advance stops with the Mohammedan conquest, one may yet claim an uninterrupted progress for the higher Indic religion, a continual elevation of the thoughts of the wise; although at the same time, beside and below this, there is the circle of lower beliefs that continually revolves upon itself. For in the zooelatry[10] and polytheism that adores monsters to-day it is difficult to see a form of religion higher in any respect than that more simple nature-polytheism which first obtained.

    We cannot venture to make any statements that will cast upon this question more light than has been thrown by the above account of the latter cults and of their points of contact with Hinduism. It may be taken for granted that with the entrance into the body politic of a class composed of vanquished[13] or vanquishing natives, some of the religion of the latter may have been received also.

    Such, there is every reason to believe, was the original worship of Civa as Carva, Bhava, and of Krishna; in other words, of the first features of modern sectarian Hinduism, though this has been so influenced by Aryan civilization that it has become an integral part of Hindu religion.

    We are inclined to answer that very little of blood or of religion is Aryan. Some priestly families keep perhaps a strain of Aryan blood. As one reviews the post-Vedic religions of civilized India he is impressed with the fact that, heterogeneous as they are, they yet in some regards are so alike as to present, when contrasted with other beliefs, a homogeneous whole. A certain uniqueness of religious style, so to speak, differentiates every expression of India's theosophy from that of her Western neighbors. What is common and world-wide in the forms of Indic faith we have shown in a previous chapter.

    But on this universal foundation India has erected many individual temples, temples built after designs which are not uniform, but are all self-sketched, and therefore peculiar to herself. In each of these mental houses of God there is revealed the same disposition, and that disposition is necessarily identical with that expressed in her profane artistry,[15] for the form of religion is as much a matter of national taste as is that which is embodied in literature, architecture, and painting. And this taste, as expressed in religion, isolates Brahmanic and Hinduistic India, placing her apart, both from the gloom of Egypt and the grace of Greece; even as in her earliest records she shows herself individual, as contrasted with her Aryan kinsfolk.

    Like Egypt, she feels her dead ever around her, and her cult is tinged with darkness; but she is fond of pleasure, and seeks it deliriously. Like Greece, she loves beauty, but she loves more to decorate it; and again, she rejoices in her gods, but she rejoices with fear; fear that overcomes reason, and pictures such horrors as are conjured up by the wild leaps of an uncurbed fancy. For an imagination that knows no let has run away with every form of her intellectual productivity, theosophy as well as art. This is perceptible even in her ritualistic, scientific, and philosophical systems; for though it is an element that at first seems incongruous with such systems, it is yet in reality the factor that has produced them.

    Complex, varied, minute, exact, as are the details which she loves to elaborate in all her work, they are the result of this same unfettered imagination, which follows out every fancy, pleased with them all, exaggerating every present interest, unconfined by especial regard for what is essential. But we do not bring the charge of extravagance for the sake of comparing India unfavorably with the Occident. Confining ourselves to the historical method of treatment which we have endeavored heretofore to maintain, we wish to point out the important bearings which this intellectual trait has had upon the lesser products of India's religious activity.

    Through the whole extent of religious literature one finds what are apparently rare and valuable bits of historical information.

    The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions
    The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions
    The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions
    The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions
    The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions The Religions of India: Handbooks on the History of Religions

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