1. Prathamam kāṇḍam

1. svargavargaḥ

(Über Himmel und Götter)

Anhang 1

Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya [যোগেন্দ্রনাথ ভট্টাচার্য্য] über Śaivas (1896)

Herausgegeben von Alois Payer 

Zitierweise | cite as: Amarasiṃha <6./8. Jhdt. n. Chr.>: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana (Amarakośa) / übersetzt von Alois Payer <1944 - >. -- 1. Prathamam kāṇḍam. -- 1. svargavargaḥ.  -- Anhang 1: Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya [যোগেন্দ্রনাথ ভট্টাচার্য্য] über Śaivas (1896). -- Fassung vom 2017-05-08. -- URL:  

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2017-05-08


Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library


Meinem Lehrer und Freund

Prof. Dr. Heinrich von Stietencron

ist die gesamte Amarakośa-Übersetzung

in Dankbarkeit gewidmet.

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Bhattacharya, Jogendra Nath [ভট্টাচার্য্য, যোগেন্দ্রনাথ]: Hindu castes and sects : an exposition of the origin of the Hindu caste system and the bearing of the sects towards each other and toward other religious systems. -- Calcutta : Thacker, Spink,  1896. -- 623 S. -- S. 367 - 406


  4. CHAP. IV. — THE DANDIS [daṇḍin].
  5. CHAP. V. — THE SANYASIS [saṁnyāsin].
  6. CHAP. VI. — THE PARAMA HANSA [paramahaṁsa].
  7. CHAP. VII. — THE BRAHMACHARIS [brahmacārin].
  8. CHAP. VIII. — THE HOUSEHOLDER SANYASIS [gṛhastha-saṁnyāsin].
  9. CHAP. IX. — THE AGHORIS [aghorin].
  11. CHAP. XI. — THE Sivite [śaiva] YOGIS.

PART II. THE Sivite [śaiva] [śaiva] AND SEMI-Sivite [śaiva] SECTS.


The three deities composing the Hindu Triad bear, as is well-known, the names of Brahma, Vishnu [viṣṇu] and Siva [śiva] [śiva]. According to the view usually taken of their functions, Brahma is the creator of the universe, Vishnu [viṣṇu] is its preserver, and Siva [śiva] is its destroyer. The creating god being functus officio, has very few worshippers. The preserving god is daily worshipped by every Brahman, he being represented among the penates by an ammonite pebble of the kind found at the source of the river Gandak [गंडक], and called Salgram [śālīgrāma]. Some Brahmans [brāhmaṇa] and Sanyasis [saṁnyāsin] carry about their person a Salgram, and there are some public temples in which the presiding deity has that form. In the majority of the Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava] shrines, however, the god is represented by an image of stone, wood or metal, having the cowherd boy’s form that he assumed when he incarnated as Krishna [kṛṣṇa]. The god Siva [śiva] is described in the Purāns [purāṇa] as a mendicant dressed in tiger skin, with matted locks, and snakes serving the purpose of ribbons and apron strings. He is represented also with watery half-shut eyes, and with the garb and demeanour of a person under the influence of wine and bhang [bhāṅg]. Images of Siva [śiva] having these characteristics are sometimes met with. But they seldom receive any worship, and the Sivites [śaiva] usually offer their adoration to only the images of the Linga [liṅga]. These are cylindrical pieces of stone, mounted in most cases on a perforated circular piece representing the Yoni [yonī].

The Sivite [śaiva] cult is the most common and ancient form of abomination-worship.*

* The nomenclature that I have used here is somewhat offensive. But in the English language there does not seem to be any other term that might express what I mean, without wounding the feelings of any class.

It has been established by the researches of antiquarians that the worship of Siva [śiva], in the form of Linga [liṅga], prevailed in India long before the commencement of the era of Christ. In all probability the worship of the phallic emblems of the grim god was one of the common institutions of the Aryan nations in their original home. The Greek god Bacchus [Βάκχος] and the Egyptian god Osiris [Ὄσιρις] were worshipped in the very same form. From the account which Megasthenes [Μεγασθένης, c. 350 – c. 290 BC] has given of the Hindu pantheon, it is evident that in speaking of the worship of Bacchus in India, he meant only Siva’s Linga [ [śivaliṅga].+

+ See Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian, p. 111. By J. W. McCrindle, M. A.

This much at least is certain that Siva-worship was in a very flourishing condition at the time of the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni [971 - 1030] [محمود غزنوی]. ++

++ The Sivite [śaiva] shrine of Somnath [સોમનાથ]destroyed by Mahmud was, and in its restored condition is, reckoned as one of the twelve chief Sivite [śaiva] shrines in India. The following are the other eleven: —

  1. Mallikarjuna [శ్రీ మల్లికార్జున స్వామి జ్యోతిర్లింగము] of Sri Saila [మండలం], in the District of Kurnool [కర్నూలు], in the Madras Presidency.
  2. Mahakala [महाकालेश्वर ज्योतिर्लिंग] in Ujjayin [उज्जैन].
  3. Omkara Nath [ओंकारेश्वर जोतिर्लिंग] on the banks of the Narmada [नर्मदा].
  4. Amareshwara near Ujjayin [उज्जैन].
  5. Vaidyanath [बैद्यनाथ ज्योतिर्लिंग] on the Chord Line, E. I. Railway.
  6. Rameshwara [ஸ்ரீ ராமநாத கோவில்], an island between Ceylon and the Southern end of the Indian Peninsula.
  7. Bhima Sankara [भीमाशंकर मंदिर] at Dakini or Dracharam near Raj Mahindri.
  8. Tryambaka [र्यंबकेश्वर शिव मंदिर] on the Gomati [गोमती].
  9. Goutamesha [गौतमेश].
  10. Kedarnatha केदारनाथ मंदिर on the Himalayan slopes, in the District of Gharval [गढ़वाल].
  11. Bishweshwar [विश्वेश्वर] in Benares [वाराणसी].

The worship of Siva [śiva] is still the most prevailing element in the religion of all classes of Hindus, excepting the Banias. Every high caste Brahman has an image of the Linga [liṅga] among his penates, and there is hardly a single Hindu village in the country that has not a Sivite [śaiva] shrine. In connection with these village idols of Siva [śiva], it may be mentioned here that, for some days in the year, they are touched and worshipped by such members of the low castes as dedicate themselves, for the time being, to their service. The season for their saturnalia is the second week of April. During that period the low caste men, who take the vow, are required to observe the discipline of the Sanyasis [samnyāsin] or ascetics; and to subject themselves to a variety of self-inflicted tortures. The hook-swinging, which was the most cruel feature of the programme, has been happily stopped by the British Government. But walking upon heaps of live charcoal and rolling upon “cushions” of thorns are still allowed to be practised. The Sivite [śaiva] low castes who enlist themselves as Sanyasis [সংন্যাসিন্] in the last week of the Bengali year subject themselves to various other tortures, as, for instance, piercing the tongue and the sides with heavy javelins. The higher castes are accustomed from infancy to enjoy such spectacles as a fun.



From the literature of the Sankarite sects, it appears that even before the time of the great champion of Brahmanism, there were several Sivite [śaiva] sects embracing within their folds a very large portion of the Hindu population of the country. Sankara [ശങ്കരാചാര്യർ, 8. Jhdt] did not found any Sivite [śaiva] sects properly so-called. His primary object was to root out Buddhism* from the country, and, in order to attain that end, he countenanced every form of Hinduism, including the worship of Siva [śiva], Sakti, Vishnu [viṣṇu], Sun [sūrya] and Ganesh [gaṇeśa].

* See Brihat Dharma Purān [bṛhaddharmapurāṇa]

He himself had great faith in the Vedantic [vedānta] doctrine of one God, manifesting himself by the creation of the universe, without the help of prakriti [prakṛti] or material basis. But he did not discard the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, and it seems very probable that either he himself or his disciples gave great encouragement to Siva [śiva] worship in order to render Buddha worship obsolete. Nowhere is Sankara represented as a destroyer of Buddhistic temples and images. In all probability he and his disciples took those shrines under their protection, and found it much safer to represent the idols worshipped therein as images of the Hindu god Siva [śiva], than to throw them away into the streets, or to destroy them. Even now there are many shrines bearing the designation of Dharma Raj [dharmarāja], where the Hindus daily offer worship, in the belief that their presiding deity is Siva [śiva], and without entertaining the least suspicion that the idols receiving their homage as such were in fact Buddhistic images.

The fact that Sankara directly encouraged the worship of the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon is proved by other evidences also. In the monastery of Sringeri [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ], * which is the chief of the four maths set up by him, the presiding deity is Sarswati, the goddess of learning.

* Sringeri [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ] is at the source of the Tonga Bhadra [ತುಂಗಭದ್ರ] within the territories of the Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] Raj. The head of the Sringeri math has great power throughout, the Deccan. He can by his fiat, excommunicate any non-Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava] Hindu of the Deccan [dakṣiṇa]. The Sankarite monastery at Puri ચ્ is called Goverdhan math [ଗୋବର୍ଦ୍ଧନ ପୀଠ], and that at Dwarika [દ્વારકા] is called Sharada math [શારદામઠ]. The superiors of these or of the Joshi math [ज्योतिर्मठ] have not much influence.

In the Joshi math [ज्योतिर्मठ] on the Himalayan slopes the principal shrine is the Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava] temple of Badari Nath [बद्रीनाथ].

But the most conclusive evidence, as to Sankara having countenanced the worship of the personal gods of the Hindu pantheon, is afforded by the Sankara Digvijaya [śaṁkaradigvijaya], or the History of Sankara’s controversial victories, by his disciple Ananda Giri. In that work, the authority of which is reckoned by the sect as unquestionable, it is distinctly stated that by Sankara’s order his apostles Lakmanacharya [lakṣamāṇācārya] and Hasta Malaka [Hastāmalakācārya] converted the east and the west to Vaishnavism [vaiṣṇava] [vaiṣṇava], and that another of his disciples named Paramata Kalanala visited various places in India, and everywhere initiated the people in the Sivite [śaiva] faith.

Whatever Sankara’s own faith may have been, his followers are practically Sivites [śaiva]. The Smarta [smārta] Brahmans of the Deccan  [dakṣiṇa], who acknowledge him as their principal teacher, are all professed Sivites [śaiva]. The grim god is regarded by them all as the chief object of worship, and they paint on their foreheads the Sivite [śaiva] Tripundra [tripuṇḍra]. consisting of three horizontal lines of Bibhuti [vibhūti] or sacred ashes. The mendicants of the several orders founded by Sankara theoretically claim to be the worshippers of an invisible god. But the Sivite [śaiva] Tripundras which they paint on their foreheads, and the Sivite [śaiva] hymns which they recite, point to the conclusion that they are in reality worshippers of Siva [śiva]. Sankara did not admit any nuns into his monasteries.

The monks of the orders founded by him are called Dasnamis from using one or other of the following surnames: —

  1. Sarswati [Saraswatī] - The name of the goddess of learning.
  2. Bharati [Bhāratī] - Another name of the goddess of learning.
  3. Puri [Purī] - Lit. Town.
  4. Tirtha [Tīrtha] - Lit. Place of pilgrimage.
  5. Asram [āśrama] Lit. Refuge.
  6. Bana [Vana] - Lit. Forest.
  7. Giri - Lit. Hill.
  8. Aranya [Araṇya] - Lit. Forest.
  9. Parvata - Lit. Mountain.
  10. Sagara [Sāgara] - Lit. Sea.

These surnames are derived from the names or academic titles of the ten disciples of Sankara’s immediate pupils. The first three, namely, Sarswati [ಸರಸ್ತೀ], Bharati [ಭಾರತೀ] and Puri [ಪುರೀ] are supposed to be attached to the Sringeri [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ] monastery. The Tirthas [તીર્થ] and the Asrams [આશ્રમ] look up to the Sharoda Math [શારદામઠ] of Dwarika [દ્વારકા] as their chief monastery; the Bans [ଵନ] and Aranyas [ଅରଣ୍ଯ] profess to be connected with the Goverdhan Math [ଗୋବର୍ଦ୍ଧନ ପୀଠ] of Puri [ପୁରୀ]; and the Joshi Math [ज्योतिर्मठ] on the Himalaya is the chief centre of monks bearing the surnames Giri [गिरि], Parvata [पर्वत] and Sagara [सागर]. Monks bearing the titles of Aranya, Sagara and Parvata are not usually to be found now-a-days.

These different surnames do not imply any difference of religion or religious practice. The classification of the Sankarite monks which is based on a difference of observances, is as follows: —

  1. Dandi [daṇḍin].    
  2. Sanyasi [saṁnyāsin].
  3. Parama Hansa [paramahaṁsa].    
  4. Brahmachari [brahmacārin].
  5. Grihastha Gossains [gṛhastha gosvāmin].

The actual differences between the first four of the above orders are very trivial. They are only slightly modified forms of the Asramas [āśrama], or modes of passing life, which the ancient Hindu legislators recommended, but under conditions that checked every possible tendency towards vagrancy. In our holy codes it is laid down that every member of the three superior castes should pass through the following conditions: —

From the ordinances on the subject contained in our ancient codes, it might seem at first sight that our Rishis [ṛṣi] encouraged vagrancy pro tanto. But reading their texts between the lines, it would appear that what they really intended was to encourage men to marry and live as peaceful householders, instead of observing celibacy and running the risk of drifting into a disreputable course of life. Asceticism has naturally a great attraction for such adventurous men as have a craving for being venerated by the mob for their holy character. But it is impossible to fight against nature, and these men generally fail most miserably in maintaining their original vows. It was not, however, consistent with the policy of our holy law-givers to declare that there was no merit whatever in the life of an ascetic. They knew too well how to maintain the dignity of the holy orders, to expose even the impostors to infamy. So instead of discrediting asceticism, they actually recommended it, though at a period of life when it can have no attraction even to the most adventurous spirits. Manu says: —

1. When the father of a family perceives his muscles become flaccid and his hair grey, and sees the child of his child, let him then seek refuge in a forest

2. Abandoning all food eaten in towns and all his household utensils let him repair to the lonely wood.

16. Let him not eat the produce of ploughed land though abandoned by any man, nor fruits and roots produced in a town, even though hunger oppresses him.

29. For the purpose of uniting his soul with the divine spirit, let him study the various Upanishads [upaniṣad].

33. Having thus performed religious acts in a forest during the third portion of life, let him become a Sanyasi for the fourth portion of it, abandoning all sensual affections.

37. If a Brahman have not read the Veda, if he have not begotten a son, and if he have not performed sacrifices, yet shall aim at final beatitude, he shall sink to a place of degradation. —Manu VI, vs. 2, 3, 16, 29, 33.

These ordinances clearly show that the real object of the law-giver was not to encourage the practice of asceticism, but to check it to the utmost extent possible. The sage distinctly gives preference to the life of a householder. He says: —

77. As all creatures subsist by receiving support from air, thus all orders of men exist by receiving support from house-keepers.

78. And since men of the three other orders are each day nourished by them, a house keeper is for this reason of the most eminent order—Manu III, 77, 78.

The Grihastha Gossains [gṛhastha gosvāmin] represent, it seems, the second stage of life spoken of and recommended in the ancient Hindu codes. They marry and live as householders. They act as Gurus to the lay members of their sect, administering the sacrament of the mantra to their disciples. They never serve as purohits [purohita] or priests. In fact, in the religions ceremonies celebrated in their own houses, the functions of the purohit are performed by Brahmans who are not of their order. Unlike the mendicants, the Grihasthas wear the sacred thread, and dress like householders. Generally speaking, their pujas [pūjā] and prayers are the same as those of other Sivite [śaiva] Brahmans, and their only peculiarity lies in the fact that they do not perform the Sandhya prayer. They keep among their penates a Sivite [śaiva] Linga [liṅga] and a Salgram [śālīgrāma], and worship these emblems of Siva [śiva] and Vishnu [viṣṇu] in the same manner as most of the high caste Brahmans do. They do not worship Krishna [kṛṣṇa], Radhika [rādhikā] or Kali [kālī] in their own houses, but show due honour to the idols representing them in the public shrines. The only female divinity that receives their special adoration is Sarswati [sarasvatī], the goddess of learning. They wear garlands of Rudraksha [rudrākṣa], and like the mendicants, utter every now and then the formula, Sivoham [śivo 'ham], signifying "I am Siva [śiva].” They are, or ought to be, like the mendicants, strict vegetarians and teetotalers. They marry within their own order, but cannot take a wife from a family hearing the same surname. They do not throw their dead into a river, as the mendicants do, but burn or bury their deceased relatives as they think fit. If buried, the corpse is placed in the sitting posture of religious contemplation. A Grihastha may, before marriage, become a mendicant, but not afterwards. The Grihasthas show great reverence to the mendicants. A Grihastha Gossain may eat twice in twenty-four hours.

Among the Sankarite monks, there are a few who devote themselves more or less to the cultivation of learning; but the rest have no justification whatever for the kind of life that they lead.

CHAP. IV. — THE DANDIS [daṇḍin].

The Sankarite ascetics called Dandis  [daṇḍin]are so designated on account of their bearing a Danda [daṇḍa] or wand, like the ancient Vedic students. None but a fatherless, motherless, wifeless and childless Brahman can be initiated as a Dandi. The process of initiation to the sect is an elaborate one, of which the burning of the neophyte’s sacred thread, and the eating of the ashes thereof by him, are the most important parts. By these and certain other ceremonies indicative of a new birth, he is supposed to pass into the condition of a god, and he himself constantly expresses his belief in such transformation by repeating the Soham formula. After his baptism, he takes a new name with one of the following surnames: —

  1. Tirtha [tīrtha].    
  2. Asrama [āśrama].
  3. Bharati [bhāratī].   
  4. Sarswati [sarasvatī].

The usual dress of a Dandi consists of five pieces of cotton cloth dyed red with ochre. Of these one small piece serves as a cover for the loins, and another of the same size as a girdle to keep the other in position. The other three pieces are of larger size, being each about two yards in length, and a yard in breadth. One of these is tied round the waist, and serves to cover the thighs and the legs; another is tied round the breast and hangs down like a barrister’s gown; the third piece is wrapped round the head to serve the purpose of a turban.

The Dandis are not required by their religion to worship any god. But, in actual practice, they carry about them either an image of Vishnu [viṣṇu] in the form of a Salgram [śālīgrāma], or a phallic emblem of Siva [śiva]. The Dandis are found in large numbers in Benares, where they are fed with great honour by the pilgrims. But it is said that a great many of the so-called Dandis [दण्डी] of Benares [वाराणसी] are pure shams, being in fact the poorest of beggars whom the local lodging house-keepers and guides palm off as Dandis to partake of the hospitality and the largesses of the pilgrims. What is eaten by them becomes theirs irrevocably as a matter of course; but the new clothes, water-pots, and other things which are given to them by their hosts fall to the share of the party acting as broker in securing them invitations.

The Dandis affect that they do not accept pecuniary gratuities. But they have usually with them such companions as would readily accept, on their behalf, any coins that might be offered to them by any one. With a view to strengthen their claim to the hospitality of the laity, the Dandis pretend also that they do not touch fire on any account, not even for cooking their food. But when they fail to procure dressed food by begging, their spiritual companions dress their food for them. Like most of the several classes of mendicants, the Dandis are allowed to have only one meal in twenty-four hours.

CHAP. V. — THE SANYASIS [saṁnyāsin].

A Brahman alone can become a Dandi [daṇḍin] properly so-called. But the order called Sanyasi [saṁnyāsin] is open not only to the three superior castes, but to some extent to even Sudras [śūdra]. Some persons take up the garb of the Sanyasi without being initiated to the order. A person who has a wife or an infant son or aged parents cannot be admitted to be a mendicant of any class. When a man duly qualified desires to be a Sanyasi, the proper course for him is to apply to a Guru or superior of the sect, and to go through a ceremony in the course of which he has to put off his sacred thread, if he have any, and to shave off the tuft of hair which every orthodox Hindu keeps at the central part of his head. The Guru whispers into the ears of the neophyte the words Namah Sivaya [namaḥ śivāya] or Om Namah Sivaya [oṁ namaḥ śivāya], and a Sanskrit couplet, the purport of which is as follows: —

O thou wise man! Please contemplate yourself and myself as identical with the Divine essence, and roam about without pride or affection according to your inclination.

The formula which the neophyte has to recite, at the time of saluting the Guru, is still more curious. Its purport is as follows: —

Salutation to you and salutation to me. Salutation again to both you and my own self. Thou art thou, and I am identical with the great-soul pervading the Universe. Therefore I salute thee.

At the conclusion of these ceremonies, the neophyte receives a new name with one of the following surnames: —

  1. Giri.
  2. Puri [purī].
  3. Bharati [bhāratī].
  4. Ban [vana].
  5. Aranya [araṇya].
  6. Parvata.
  7. Sagara [sāgara].

The neophyte is then enjoined to go through a course of probation during which he has to visit some places of pilgrimage, according to the directions of his spiritual superior, and to conform also to the routine prescribed by him for his daily prayers.

When the period of apprenticeship is completed, then the following ceremonies have to be gone through: -

  1. Ceremonies for pleasing the gods, the saints, and the ancestors of the neophyte.
  2. His Sradha [śraddhā] or rites performable after his death.
  3. The taking up of the sacred thread for the purpose of again abandoning it.

The Sivite [śaiva] Sanyasis [saṁnyāsin] smear their bodies with ashes, and have generally a tiger skin wrapped round their waist or carried underneath their armpit when travelling, but used as a cushion or bed whenever seated. They do not, like the Dandis [daṇḍin], shave their heads or their beards, but allow their hirsute appendages to grow without limit, the hair of their heads being generally matted and formed into coils by the accumulation of dirt. Some of the Sivite [śaiva] Sanyasis paint an eye on their forehead in order to he like the god Siva [śiva] as much as possible. They carry either a conch shell or a pair of pincers in their hands. They are usually found in towns, by the sides of the busy thoroughfares, or within the enclosures of the principal Sivite [śaiva] shrines. Wherever seated they usually kindle a fire before them, and pass their time in the continual smoking of ganja [gāṁjā]. They carry about their person various articles indicative of their having visited the great Hindu shrines in the different parts of India. One of these is an arm ring of iron, brass or copper having the images of various Hindu gods carved on its sides, and indicating that the wearer has visited one or other of the great shrines of Pasupatinath [पशुपतिनाथ], Kedarnath [केदारनाथ] and Badarinath [बद्रीनाथ] on the Himalayan slopes. A smaller ring obtainable at the same places would be worn by the Sivite [śaiva] Sanyasi as a part of his Rudraksha [rudrākṣa] garland. Those who have visited the shrine of Kāli [kālī] at Hingalaj [hiṁgalāja / ہنگلاج ماتا] in Beluchistan [بلوچِستان] necklaces of little stone beads called Thumra, and adorn their hair by a metallic substance called Swarna Makshi [suvarṇa-makṣī]  (lit. golden fly). Similar beads are obtainable also at the hot springs of Manikarnika [मणिकर्णिका] on the Himalayan slopes, and are worn by Sanyasis who have visited that shrine. A pilgrimage to Rameshwara [இராமேஸ்வரம்] in the extreme south is indicated by a ring of conch shell worn on the wrist. There are various other odds and ends of the same kind which are used similarly by the class of mendicants that are being spoken of here.

As the Sivite [śaiva] Sanyasis have no objection to touch fire, they generally cook their own food. They would, without any hesitation eat cooked food offered to them by a Brahmana. In fact, some of them profess that they are prepared to eat any kind of food offered to them by anyone. Whatever the theoretical injunctions may be, the Sivite [śaiva] Sanyasis accept both coins and uncooked eatables. Generally speaking, they are quite illiterate. Some of them have a little knowledge of therapeutics, and there are among them a few who have perhaps the best medicines for some of the most obstinate diseases that man is heir to. Unfortunately they never divulge the secrets of their healing art for the benefit of the public.

The Dandis [daṇḍin] and Param Hansas [paramahaṁsa] are mostly Sankarites. But among the Sanyasis there are many Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava]s and Tantrics. Those who become Sanyasis in an irregular manner are called Abadhuta Sanyasis [avadhūta-samnyāsin].

CHAP. VI. — THE PARAMA HANSA [paramahaṁsa].

After a period of probation which properly ought to extend to twelve years, the Dandi [daṇḍin] and the Sanyasi [saṁnyāsin] become qualified to he a Parama Hansa [paramahaṁsa]. The word Hansa [haṁsa] ordinarily means a “goose.” But it is also one of the names of Vishnu [viṣṇu], and the expression “Parama Hansa” evidently means the “Supreme Vishnu.” Properly speaking, the Parama Hansa is neither a Sivite [śaiva] nor a Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava]. He is in fact a self-worshipper. The Sivite [śaiva] prayers, which form a part of the Dandi's ritual, are omitted by the Parama Hansa. The latter has only to repeat constantly the mystic syllable Om [ॐ]. Like the Dandis, the Parama Hansas are required also to assert, every now and then, their identity with the Divine Spirit.

The Parama Kansas are of two kinds. Those who enter the order after having been Dandis are called Dandi Parama Hansas [daṇḍī paramhaṁsa], while those who are promoted from the ranks of the Abadhuta Sanyasis are called Abadhuta Parama Hansas [avadhūta paramahaṁsa]. A few of the Parama Hansas go about naked. But the majority of them are to be found gracefully clad in the same manner as the Dandis. With reference to the class of ascetics under notice, Professor Wilson in his Hindu Sects makes the following observations: —

According to the introduction of the Dwadasa Mahabakya [dvādaśamahāvākya] by a Dandi [daṇḍin] author, Vaikantha Puri, the Sanyasi [saṁnyāsin] is of four kinds,

the difference between whom, however, is only the graduated intensity of their self-mortification and profound abstraction. The Parama Hansa [paramahaṁsa] is the most eminent of these gradations and is the ascetic who is solely occupied with the investigation of Brahma, or spirit, and who is equally indifferent to pleasure or pain, insensible of heat or cold, and incapable of satiety or want.

Agreeably to this definition, individuals are sometimes met with who pretend to have attained such a degree of perfection: in proof of it they go naked in all weathers, never speak, and never indicate any natural want: what is brought to them as alms or food, by any person, is received by his attendants, whom their supposed sanctity or confederation of interest attaches to them, and by these attendants they are fed and served on all occasions, as if they were as helpless as infants. It may be supposed that there is much knavery in their helplessness, but there are many Hindus whose simple enthusiasm induces them honestly to practise such self-denial, and there is little risk in the attempt, as the credulity of their countrymen, or rather countrywomen, will, in most places, take care that their wants are amply supplied.

Some of the Sanyasis [saṁnyāsin] and Parama Hansas [paramahaṁsa] pretend that they do not eat any kind of food. One of this class visited the late Babu Ram Ratan Roy [রামরতন রায] of Narail [নড়াইল], about the year 1854, with a large number of companions. Babu Roy kept him under close surveillance for more than a month, and was ultimately so satisfied as to his miraculous powers that he gave his followers a bonus of one thousand rupees. Some years later when the Babu was proceeding to Benares [वाराणसी], and his boats were anchored oft some place near Monghyr [मुंगेर], one of his attendants who went on shore found the quondam Parama Hansa [परमहंस], and some members of his party, engaged in ploughing some adjacent fields. When questioned, one of them not only admitted his identity, but made a clean breast of the whole secret. He confessed that the man had sustained himself on food vomited by his companions.*

* I believe there are still some men living who can vouch to the authenticity of the story narrated above. I heard it from several officers connected with the service of the Narail [নড়াইল] Babus, and also from one of the old Vakils of Jessore [যশোর] who was the chief legal adviser of Babu Ram Ratan.

Like the Dandis [दण्डिन्], the Parama Hansas [परमहंस] are found in large numbers in and near Benares  [वाराणसी]. They live in convents, and some of them are very learned men. The head of a Parama Hansa convent is called Swamiji [स्वामीजी]. By courtesy, even the juniors are sometimes called Swamiji.

Dandis, Sanyasis and Parama Hansas accost each other by the formula Namo Narayana [namo narāyaṇa]. Householders address them in the same manner. But they respond by only uttering the name of Narayana. For inviting them to dinner the proper formula is the question: “Will Narayan accept alms here?” The Parama Hansas do not burn their dead, but will dispose of a corpse by either burying it, or throwing it in a river.

CHAP. VII. — THE BRAHMACHARIS [brahmacārin].

Closely allied to the several orders noticed in the last three chapters is that of the Sivite [śaiva] Brahmacharis [brahmacārin]. Properly speaking, a Brahmachari is a Vedic student who, after his initiation with the sacred thread, has to observe certain rules as to diet and dress, and to live by begging, until he has mastered the Vedas. In actual practice Brahmanical policy has very nearly suppressed the study of the Vedas, and neither the few Vedic students to be found at present, nor the Brahman boys who devote their scholastic years to the study of the far more difficult sciences of grammar, philosophy, logic and theology, are now required to observe the rules as to diet and dress prescribed for the Brahmachari or the reader of our holy scriptures. The long observance of Brahmacharya [brahmacārya] discipline is actually prohibited by the later codes of the Hindus as unsuited to the present age, and at the present time the form is gone through, after the thread ceremony, for a period varying from only three to eleven days. In Calcutta [কলকাতা], some of the Brahmana boys are initiated with the thread in the local shrine of Kali [কালী], and those who go through the ceremony in that way are made to throw away their staff and Brahmachari’s garb on the very day of their initiation. Such being the case, Brahmacharis, properly so-called, are very rare in these days. But the fertile genius of Sankara [ശങ്കരാചാര്യർ, 8. Jhdt] created four new orders of Brahmacharis, one to he attached to each of his four principal monasteries. These Brahmacharis are theoretically personal assistants and companions to the Dandis [daṇḍin] and the Parama Hansas [paramahaṁsa]. As the latter are not allowed to touch fire or coin, the Brahmacharis serve as their cooks and as receivers of alms for them. In actual practice, the line of demarcation between the two classes is not very broad, and many of the Brahmacharis live by begging independently.

The usual surnames of the Sivite [śaiva] Brahmacharis are

  1. Anand [ānanda],
  2. Chaitanya [caitanya],
  3. Prakash [prakāśa] and
  4. Swarupa [svarūpa].

They dress like the Dandis and Parama Hansas in red robes.

The Tantric Brahmacharis are a different order altogether, and will be spoken of in their proper place.

CHAP. VIII. — THE HOUSEHOLDER SANYASIS [gṛhastha-saṁnyāsin].

The word Sanyasi [saṁnyāsin] denotes a person who has cut off his connection with the world and his family, and the expression “Householder Sanyasi” is a contradiction in terms. But in Benares [वाराणसी] and in other places also there are persons called Dandis [daṇḍin] and Sanyasis who marry, or live with female associates, like other men of the world. The fact is that in the days of youthful enthusiasm some men are led to take the vow of mendicancy which they soon find themselves quite unable to maintain. When such a person attains a character for sanctity, or otherwise becomes able to afford the cost, he tries to get a female, for constant association, either as a professed wife, or as a pious sister. The progeny of such unions multiply fast, and the ultimate tendency of each monkish order is to become a separate caste and endogamous group; such castes have generally a very low position. The householder Sanyasis are not to be confounded with the Grihastha Gossains [gṛhastha gosvāmin] spoken of on page 378. The latter are a very respectable class.

CHAP. IX. — THE AGHORIS [aghorin].

The Aghoris [aghorin] are a very small community. They are said to worship a deity called Aghori Mata [अघोरी माता]. But, properly speaking, they have no religion, unless the name he taken to include even that misguided fanaticism which degrades them to a lower level than that of the filthiest of beasts. They profess to carry the pantheistic philosophy of the Vedanta [vedānta] to its logical consequence, and to look upon even faecal matter in the same light as the fragrant paste prepared by the trituration of sandal-wood.

The Aghoris used in former times to offer human sacrifices and to eat human flesh. The number of Aghoris in the country was perhaps never very large. At any rate, at the present time, an Aghori is very seldom met with. The race, however, is not yet quite extinct. 

“The head-quarters of the Aghori Panthis appear to have been always at Mount Abu [माउंट आबू] and Girnar [ગિરનાર]. They have such an evil reputation at Girnar that, the authorities do not like Europeans to go there without an escort. The country people have a great horror of the Aghori Panthis or the Aghoris who are believed to kidnap and murder children and weak and defenceless persons. At Benares [वाराणसी] those objectionable people live at both the burning ghats [घाट], and are supposed to number between one hundred and two hundred. The greater number of them are rapacious, shameless mendicants who, by the terror of their attributes, horrible appearance and threats of eating human flesh and filth, if their demands are not complied with, still continue to prey on the credulity of the ignorant or timid. They are believed to hold converse with all the evil spirits frequenting the burning ghats; and a funeral party must be poorly off or very strong-minded which refuses them something.” 

“The various meanings of the term Aghori are held to be, one who is solitary, separate, distinct from other men. All castes can become Aghori Panthis. Notwithstanding the astounding wickedness of their teachings, they claim for them that they are the doctrines of equality and humanity. Indifference to all that is should be the all-in-all of existence. No one really has a father or mother; ‘it is all mere accident.’ If a well comes in one’s way, he should walk into it. Celibacy is strictly enjoined, but the Census returns of 1881 for the Central Provinces and the N. -W. Provinces show that in this respect discipline must be very lax. ” Statesman, March 7, 1893.

The Aghoris are a very ancient sect. There is a clear reference to it in the Sanskrit drama called Malati Madhava [mālatī-madhava], the hero of which rescues his mistress from being offered as a sacrifice by one named Aghori Ghanta. The French writer M. d’Anville alludes to the Aghori as "une espece de monstre.” The author of that extraordinary Persian work, the Dabistan [دبستان مذاهب], or School of Manners, writing probably about the middle of the 16th century, gives a brief but clear description of the Aghoris who practised acts of atilia” or “Aghori, ” says that the sect originated with Gorakshanath [gorakṣanātha], and that he saw one of them “singing the customary song” and seated upon a corpse, which he ate when it became putrid. M. Thevenot, whose travels were republished in London in 1687, alludes apparently to a community of these cannibals, established at a place called Debea, in the Broach [ભરૂચ] district, and Kazi Sahabadin, C.I.E., formerly Dewan of Baroda [વડોદરા], ascertained that there is a tradition still extant among the people that a colony of cannibals did exist in the village of Walwad, on the Mahi [माहि] river, a century or two ago. In the early part of this century there were several Aghori Panthis in Baroda [વડોદરા], and the remains of a temple dedicated to the Aghoreshwari Mata [અઘોરેશ્વરી માતા], their tutelary goddess. At the present day there is an Aghori Sthan between Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ] and Kadu. In his Travels in Western India Colonel Todd came across some Aghoris, “the jackal” of their species, and his account of the superstitious dread with which the Kalika [કાલિકા] shrine on Girnar [ગિરનાર] and the Aghori Panthis were regarded, exactly coincides with the statements made to the late Mr. Leith by Gossains of the present day.

The initiation ceremony of the Aghori Panthis is said to be very terrible and only practised in lonely spots; but the professors of the sect in Benares [वाराणसी], Allahabad [इलाहाबाद] and other places, now-a-days seem to have to content themselves with making the neophyte go through a ceremonial that is made as filthy and loathsome as possible. In Benares many old men state that they have seen Aghori Panthis eating dead men’s flesh, and affirm that the custom yet prevails, especially among drunken men, who will seize upon corpses floating in the water and bite off the flesh. One Aghori Panthi boldly admitted to Mr. Leith in that city that this is a fact, and offered to swallow man’s flesh himself. On the 29th December 1884, one Krishna Das Babaji was fined Rs. 15 by Mr. Ishan Chandra Sen, Deputy Magistrate of Berhampore [বহরমপুর], Moorshedabad [মুর্শিদাবাদ] district, for committing a public nuisance, namely, devouring part of a woman’s corpse before a number of people at Khagra cremation ghat. Some Aghori Panthis say that their religion prompts them to the act, and, moreover, that if at initiation they refused to eat dead men’s flesh, they would be dismissed by the Guru as unfit for their calling. One excuse sometimes offered by an Aghori Panthi is that by the taste of such flesh, he can acquire the knowledge of jadu [জাদু] or magic. The fact is that as Brahmanism inculcated cleanliness and the eating of wholesome food, the Aghoris, who formed one of the sects setting up “opposition shops” as it were, insisted on the utmost degree of filth, and hoped to get alms by horrifying the people, and not by gaining their respect. Some of the Aghoris have associated with them female Aghorinis [aghoriṇī], and these people are extremely shameless. The doctrine enunciated by Burke in one of his famous speeches that the quality of modesty was the attribute which, more than reason, distinguished men from beasts, is certainly not applicable to some of the Indian sects. They are the pest of society, and it is much to be regretted that of late they have been receiving very considerable encouragement from some educated men of the country. The pure morals and the noble discipline, imposed on the society by the Brahmanic Shastras [śāstra], are things of which the Hindus may be justly proud. But the beastly Aghori, the Bacchanalian Tantric and the dissolute Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava] are a disgrace to the Hindu name. With all his cleanliness, vegetarianism and teetotalism, the Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava] is perhaps the most dangerous in the whole list. He has done great good service in civilizing the lower classes to some extent, and in suppressing the horrors of the Tantric worship. But the moral laxity which the Vaishnava encourages by the stories of the illicit loves between his gods and goddesses, and by the strong tendency to imitate them which his teachings generate, outweighs the good done by him. Every man of common sense naturally feels a horror at the Tantric and the Aghori. But the Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava] insinuates himself in a manner which is irresistible.


A very large part of the population of Southern India are Lingaits [ಲಿಂಗಾಯತ / liṁgāyata] or Vira Saivas [vīraśaiva]. These alone are perhaps entitled to he regarded as a strictly Sivite [śaiva] sect. The Sankarite sects spoken of in the preceding chapters are more or less Sivites [śaiva] also. But they pay due homage to the other ancient gods of the Hindu pantheon, and they cannot be said to be exclusively Siva [śiva] worshippers.

The common accounts relating to the origin of the Lingait sect trace it to a renegade Brahman who had been excommunicated by his caste men for some offence, and who thereupon revenged himself by starting the new cult. In all probability Linga [liṅga] worship had been the prevailing form of idolatry in the Deccan long before Sankara’s time. The champion of Brahmanism countenanced it in a manner, without actually encouraging it. But his followers became practically Sivites [śaiva], and this led to a very successful movement for the spread of the Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava] cult by Ramanuja [rāmānuja], who lived in the eleventh century of the Christian era. This innovation paved the way towards a reaction in favour of the Sivite [śaiva] religion. Basava [ಬಸವಣ್ಣ], the renegade Brahman, who was the leader of this counter-movement, was born in the village of Bhagwan, in the Belgaum [ಬೆಳಗಾವಿ] district of the Southern Maratta country, and lived in the twelfth century of the Christian era. The historical facts or myths about this remarkable man are recorded in a Sanskrit work called the Basava Purān [basavapurāṇa], and in several Kanarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] works. At a very early period of his life he repaired to Kalyan, the metropolis of the Chalukya [ಚಾಲುಕ್ಯ] Empire, and there married the daughter of the Dandanayaka [ದಣ್ಡನಾಯಕ] or the chief magistrate of police. He succeeded to the post himself after the death of his father-in-law, and made use of his official position to attract round him a crowd of followers. His chief disciple Machaya had been condemned by the king to suffer death for having killed a child. But Basava refused to carry out the order on the plea that it would be unavailing to offer any harm to a worshipper of Siva [śiva]. The king thereupon ordered some of his other officers to execute the sentence, and the legend as usual goes on to state that Machaya saved himself miraculously. Two other Sivite [śaiva] citizens were condemned by the king to have their eyes plucked out. This led to the departure of Basava from Kalyan, and the fixing of his residence at Sangameshwar [संगमेश्वर], on the Shastri [शास्त्री] river, in the modern district of Ratnagiri [रत्नागिरी]९. Basava’s exile, whether it was voluntary or enforced, was followed by an insurrection in the course of which the king was killed, and the city of Kalyan was finally destroyed.

The founder of the Lingait sect directed his attacks against both the Hindus and the Jains [jaina]. The Basava Purān contains several dialogues between Jangamas [jaṅgāma] and Jainas in which every effort is made to convince the latter of the superiority of the Saiva [śaiva] religion. Basava did not believe in any god besides Siva [śiva]; he denied the superiority of the Brahmans, and tried his best to abolish the distinction of caste. He had no faith whatever in penance, or in the feeding of Brahmans for the benefit of the souls of deceased persons. Pilgrimages and fasts were declared by him to be quite useless, and he rejected altogether the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. But with all these "atheistic views,” as they would be called by a Brahman, he insisted on one of the least attractive forms of Hindu idolatry, and in his zeal for the phallic emblem went so far as to enjoin that his followers should always carry about their person some lingas [liṅga]  by fastening them on the neck and the arms with what is called the Linga Sutram [liṅga-sūtra], as opposed to Yajna Sutram [yajña-sūtra] or sacred thread of the Brahman. The object of the founder was no doubt to create a new badge to place his low caste followers on a footing of equality or rivalry to the Brahmans. The Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava] sect founders have also given similarly new badges to their followers. But neither the Linga Sutram [liṅga-sūtra] of the Lingaits, nor the necklace of basil beads worn by the Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava], nor the Sheli of the Kanfat [kānphaṭa] Yogis have been able to command the veneration that the Yajna Sutram [yajña-sūtra]  of the Brahmans enjoys.

The Lingaits, like most other sects, have an order of mendicants among them. The Lingait monks called Vaders (lit. master or lord) have, in addition to the lingas [liṅga], some small bells attached to their arms, so that when they pass through the streets the people are apprised of their being in the neighbourhood, and enabled to bestow their alms to them without any solicitation on their part. The lay Lingaits carry their veneration for the Vaders to an extent which is very unusual, and would hardly be believed by the Hindus of Northern India. Guru-worship is naturally favoured by the priest-ridden Hindu everywhere. But it is only among the Lingaits that an image of a god would be humiliated for the glorification of the Guru. The drinking of such water as has been touched by the feet of a Guru, or used to wash his feet, is common enough. But the Lingaits go much further. Before their holy men called the Vaders, they not only humiliate themselves, but their very idols. The Vaders are feasted by the laymen on all important- occasions, and when there is a guest of that class in the house, the host places his own Linga [liṅga] on a metal tray, and the guest's feet being placed on the vessel are washed by the host, the water contained in the same being ultimately swallowed by the host and his family with great reverence.

The Jangamas [jaṅgāma] are the Gurus of the Lingaits. They are married men, but have charge of maths or monasteries. There are some learned men among them. The Aradhyas [ ఆరాధ్య] are Brahmans who minister to the Lingaits as Gurus.

With regard to the Lingait community of Mysore, Mr. Narasimmayengar makes the following remarks in his report on the last Census: —

As a community the Lingaits are intelligent, sober, industrious, thrifty and clannish. They have brought some departments of Kanara [ಕನ್ನಡ] literature to a high degree of culture, and as tradesmen their place is in the van of Hindu society. As a race some of their divisions are unmistakably Aryan in descent, their women being, as a rule, object lessons in female loveliness and grace. To them as a body also belongs the credit of maintaining the strictest sobriety and non-alcoholism. —Mysore Census Report for 1891, Vol. XXV, p. 238.

The bitterness of the Lingaits is still as great as ever towards the Brahmans. But curiously enough, they claimed at the last Census to he included among Brahmans. They made some desperate efforts to secure that honour. But in the end they had to be satisfied with being separately enumerated as Lingaits.

There are very few Lingaits among the regular population of Northern India. The Rawal [रावल] or high priest of the shrine of Kedarnath [केदारनाथ], on the Himalayan slopes in the district of Garwal [गढ़वाल], is a Jangama [जंगाम]. So are the priests of the temple of Kedarnath [केदारनाथ] in Benares. A Lingait may now and then be seen in Bengal [বঙ্গ] and Behar [बिहार] leading a neatly caparisoned bull, and begging for alms by making the animal perform many curious feats, and representing it as the favourite charger of Siva [śiva]. These Lingait beggars are taken by the people of Bengal to he Pandas of the shrine of Vaidyanath [वैद्यनाथ].

CHAP. XI. — THE Sivite [śaiva] YOGIS.

Literally the word Yogi [yogin] means an “ unionist." What kind of union the Yogis claim to bring about, it is difficult to say. According to one version, which is very far from being intelligible to ordinary men, a Yogi is so-called on account of his being able, by his prayers and exercises, to get his individual soul united with the supreme soul. In the Bhagavadgītā, which is the most popular work on theology in Sanskrit, the word yoga seems to be used throughout in the sense of “means.” At any rate, the expressions Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga cannot otherwise have any rational meaning. Whatever difficulty there may however be in the way of comprehending the exact nature of the intellectual or spiritual part of the practice called yoga, there can be no doubt that it is one of our most ancient forms of religious exercise. The great law-giver Yājnavalkya refers to it in his Code and says: —

Of all acts, such as sacrifices, ceremonial observances, repression of sensual desires, harmlessness. gifts, and the study of the Vedas, this is the source of highest religions, namely, viewing one’s self by means of the Yoga. —Yājnavalkya I, 8.

The most important physical exercises involved in Yoga are as described below: —

  1. The Yogi has to sit with his right leg on his left thigh, and his left leg on his right thigh, and in that uncomfortable position to point his eyes towards the tip of his nose.
  2. He must, while so seated, shut up one of his nostrils by the tips of two of his right-hand fingers, and while repeating certain formulae mentally, he should with his open nostril inhale as much air as possible.
  3. When the lungs are inflated to the utmost degree possible, the Yogi is required to shut up both the nostrils, the open one being closed by pressing the thumb of his right hand.
  4. In the condition mentioned above, the Yogi has to repeat the prescribed formula a certain number of times again.
  5. When the recitation mentioned above is completed, then the Yogi must remove his fingers from the nostril first closed, and go on repeating the mystic formula a certain number of times again.

The whole operation is very simple and at the same time very imposing. It does not require any extraordinary quality of either the head or the heart, and yet the man, who can go through it with a little pantomimic skill and seriousness, can, at a very little cost, acquire a character for superior sanctity. The rules relating to the exercise require that it should be gone through in a secluded place. But in practice many men may be found engaged in the exercise in the most open places on the banks of the holy rivers, and in the premises of the great shrines. Such persons, however, never attain a very high place in the estimation of their co-religionists. It is those who are believed to practise Yoga in privacy that are usually credited with the possession of miraculous powers. Some of them are supposed to have the power of floating in the air, and of being able, if so inclined, to become immortal or to die at such time and place as they deem fit, death being a matter of option with them.

“The Yogi is liberated in his living body from the clog of material incumbrance, and acquires an entire command over all worldly desires. He can make himself lighter than the lightest substances, heavier than the heaviest, can become as vast or as minute as he pleases, can traverse all space, can animate any dead body by transferring his spirit into it from his own frame, can render himself invisible, can attain all objects, becomes equally acquainted with the past, present and future; and is finally united with Siva [śiva]."  See Wilson’s Hindu Sects, p. 131.

To pretend that some particular Yogis have achieved immortality, and are living on the Himalayan slopes from a remote period of antiquity, is easy and convenient enough. It is very difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to explode such legends, and the charlatan who seeks to exact some money from credulous persons by pretending to have seen their great-great-great-grand-fathers in Thibet cannot be prevented from plying his trade. As to the other powers claimed by the Yogis, they do not enjoy any similar vantage ground for maintaining their credit. At any rate, even among the most revered Yogis, there is not, I fear, one single individual who has ever, by actual performance, proved his possession of the power of aerial navigation to a greater extent than is exhibited by the jugglers of the country. With regard to the Yogis and their art Professor Wilson makes the following remarks: —

They specially practise the various gesticulations and postures of which it consists, and labour assiduously to suppress their breath and fix their thoughts until the effect does somewhat realize expectation, and the brain, in a state of overwrought excitement, bodies forth a host of crude and wild conceptions, and gives to airy nothingness a local habitation and a name. —Wilson’s Hindu Sects, p. 132.

There must be a great deal of truth in these observations. though the case of Ranjit Sing’s famous Yogi must remain a mystery in the present state of the science of physiology. As to the case of the Madras Yogi+ who floated in the air with the help of a rod fixed to the earth, suffice it to say that similar feats are daily exhibited by the poor jugglers of the country who do not lay claim to any supernatural powers. Even Ranjit Sing's Yogi is said to have been more a mercenary caterer than a holy saint, and similar performances, though for shorter periods, are given now and then by the rustic magicians.

+ See Akshoy Kumar Datta’s Hindu Religious Sects, Vol II, p. 123; Wilson’s Hindu Sects, p. 133.

Upon the whole, it seems that the so-called Yoga, even in its most astonishing aspects, is only a form of gymnastics and magic, and that it has as little connection with religion as the feats of Vaneck, Maskelyn, Hossain Khan or Anderson. As for the Yoga of the ordinary charlatans, it may, like “ gravity, ” be defined as a “ mysterious carriage of the body for hiding the defects of the mind. ”

The exercise of Yoga is allowed not only to mendicants, but to householders and family men as well. According to some authorities, Yoga cannot be effective in this Kali Yuga or age of sin. The majority of the so-called Yogis are regarded as mere charlatans, and they neither claim to be, nor are looked upon as, men of superior sanctity.


The inferior Yogi mendicants are divided into various orders, among whom the following are the most important: —

  1. Kanfat [kānphaṭa] Yogis.
  2. Aghore Panthi [aghora-panthī] Yogis.
  3. Kanipa [kānipha] Yogis.

Kanfat [kānphaṭa] Yogis. —The sect was founded by one Guru Gorakshanath [gorakṣanātha], who is believed by his followers to have been an incarnation of the god Siva [śiva]. The Kanfats are Sivites [śaiva], and may be of any caste. They are so named because their ears are bored at the time of their initiation. They paint their body with ashes, and they have the usual transverse lines on the forehead which are the peculiarity of the Sivites [śaiva]. Like the Abadhutas [avadhūta], they allow their hair and nails to grow without pruning. Their dress also resembles that of the Abadhutas, excepting so far that many of them wear a patchwork skull cap instead of a turban. The distinguishing marks of the sect are their earrings, and the phallic emblems called nad which are tied to their neck by woollen threads.

The principal shrine of this sect is in the district of Gorakpore [गोरखपुर]. There are places sacred to the sect also in Peshawar [ېښور], Hardwar [हरिद्वार] and Gujrat [ગુજરાત]. The temple of Pasuputinath [पशुपतिनाथ] in Nepal and that of Eklinga [एकलिंग] in Mewar [मेवाड़] appertain to this sect. There are two small Kanfat shrines in Bengal, one at Mahanad in the district of Hooghly [হুগলী], and the other near the cantonment of Dum-Dum [দম দম] in the suburbs of Calcutta.

Large numbers of Kanfat Yogis are often met with in many parts of Northern India. They profess to have renounced the world. But many of them carry on trading business on a very extensive scale. The Kanfats sometimes enlisted in the army under the Hindu kings.

The Kanfats say that some of their saints are immortal, and are in existence in this world for thousands of years. The names of some of these immortal saints roaming on the Himalayan slopes are given in the Hatha Pradipika [haṭha-pradīpikā]. Madame Blavatsky’s []Елена Петровна Блаватская, 1831 - 1891] Kut Humi is not expressly mentioned in this list, nor does it include the name of King Bhartri Hari [bhartṛhari], whom every Kanfat pretends to have seen.

The usual surname of the male Kanfats is Nath [nātha], and of the females, who are admitted to the order, Nathini [nāthinī]. There is reason to suppose that the Yugi [যুগি] caste of Bengal and Assam are the progeny of the Kanfats.

Aghore Panthi [aghora-panthī] Yogis. —The Aghore Panthi Yogis are exactly like the Aghoris [aghorī], the only difference being that the former wear rings on their ears like the Kanfats [kānphaṭa]v.

Kanipa [kānipha] Yogis. — Some of the snake-charmers dress exactly like the Kanfats, and call themselves Kanipa Yogis. These are family men, and they earn the means of their livelihood chiefly by the exhibition of their skill in managing snakes.


The adult males among the inferior castes enlist themselves as Sivite [śaiva] ascetics in the middle of April every year, and during the week that they remain under the vow, they practise the most severe self-tortures and privations. See p. 369.

Besides the above who are householders there are some permanent ascetics who subject themselves to peculiar kinds of self-torture in order to be revered by the people. The practice of austerities, and not the worship of any particular deity, forms the most important part of their religious discipline. Upon the whole, however, they seem to be more addicted to the worship of Siva [śiva] than to that of any other god or goddess.

The most important classes of permanent ascetics professing the Sivite [śaiva] faith and practising the severe austerities are the following: —

  1. Urdha Bahu [ūrdhvabāhu]. Ascetics with uplifted hands.
  2. Tharasri. Ascetics who always remain in a standing posture.
  3. Urdhamukhi [ūrdhvamukhī]. Ascetics who with their feet attached to the bough of a tree, keep their heads hanging downwards.
  4. Panchadhuni [pañcadhunī]. Ascetics who keep themselves in all seasons constantly surrounded by five fires.
  5. Jalashayi [jalaśāyī]. Ascetics who keep themselves in all seasons immersed in water from sunset to sunrise.
  6. Jaladhara Tapashi [jaladhāra tapasvī]. Ascetics who keep themselves in all seasons under a jet of water from sunset to sunrise.
  7. Farari. Ascetics who live only on fruits.
  8. Dudhahari [dugdhāhārī]. Ascetics who live only on milk.
  9. Aluna [a-lona / a-lavaṇa]. Ascetics who never eat salt with their food.

The number of such ascetics is very small; and of the few that profess to practice the terrible austerities of their respective orders, a great many are suspected to be mere pretenders. But there are many misguided simpletons who are genuine ascetics, and who actually observe their vow even at times when they are not watched by outsiders. The tortures to which such fanatics must subject themselves are terrible indeed. The penance of Simon Stylites [389 - 459] [ܫܡܥܘܢ ܕܐܣܛܘܢܐ] was child’s play compared with, for instance, the sufferings of the Tharasri. It is bad enough to be perched on the top of a pillar for thirty years and exposed to Rain, wind, frost, heat, hail, damp and sleet and snow.

But to remain in a standing posture for years together without enjoying for a moment the delight of sleeping on a bed, or of even sitting down, is a kind of refinement in cruelty which, perhaps, has never been surpassed by the greatest of secular tyrants, ancient or modern. Bad as the record may be of the Indian Police and the Indian Jails, they allow even the greatest criminals the privilege of enjoying Tired Nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep.

A suspected person may now and then be subjected by a zealous thief-catching official to the same kind of operations as those to which the Panchadhuni [pañcadhunī], the Jalashayi [jalaśāyī], and the Jaladhara Tapashi [jaladhāra tapasvī] voluntarily subject themselves. But if a single instance of such cruelty, though practised for an hour or two, ever becomes known to the outside world, the complaint is heard in everybody’s mouth, and not only the Police but the British Government of India would be abused as a curse to the country. The far worse and quite gratuitous tyrannies of religion are, however, not only condoned, but actually admired.

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