Zitierweise / cite as:
Stevenson, Alice Margaret (Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson) <1875-1957>: The desire for a son. -- (Manusmṛti 2, Anhang A). -- Fassung vom 2008-10-10. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/manu/manu02a1.htm
Erstmals publiziert als:
Stevenson, Alice Margaret (Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson) <1875-1957>: The Rites of the twice-born / Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson. -- London [u.a.] : Oxford Univ. Press, 1920. -- XXIV, 474 S. -- (The religious quest of India ; 7). -- S. 112 - 134. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/ritesoftwiceborn00steviala. -- Zugriff am 2009-10-10. -- "Evidence reported by alyson-wieczorek for item ritesoftwiceborn00steviala on March 2, 2007: no visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1920."
Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-10-10
Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung HS 2008
©opyright: "Evidence reported by alyson-wieczorek for item ritesoftwiceborn00steviala on March 2, 2007: no visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1920."
Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library
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[S. 112] IF there are plenty of men folk in the household to which the young wife is going, and if her husband has both elder and younger brothers living, and all the sisters-in-law are the happy mothers of many children, the risks for the new wife are not so great.
But if there are no brothers-in-law and no children in the house, she is very much afraid of what a barren widowed sister-in law may do to injure her unborn child.
Afraid or not, however, as soon as she is sure of her happy prospects, her own mother (if it so happens that she is still in her old home) sends word to the mother-in-law, and the girl goes to her husband's home, carrying a coco-nut and arecanuts in the corner of her sārī.
On the way there, and after her arrival, she is on her guard against bewitched grain. For a jealous sister-in-law sometimes takes some grain to a religious mendicant, who mixes it with turmeric and says mantras over it ; then, when the young wife's attention is distracted, the sister-in-law will contrive to stand opposite her and throw the fatal corn over her and so ruin all her hopes.
For fear of attracting the evil eye, the bride now gives up oiling her hair and wearing gay-coloured sārīs. She is surrounded [S. 113] by kindness and thoughtfulness, but also by restrictions. She may not climb a hill, or go in a cart, or laugh or cry immoderately. She is fed on milk, rice, and wheat, and should avoid all highly spiced things. She is not allowed to see a dead body, or anything that might suggest death to her, such as a Muhammadan tābut or rope-dancers. She may not see anything unpleasant, such as a miser or a leper ; and another restriction forbids her going to a house where a baby has been born. All the young wife's wishes must be fulfilled, or the child will suffer : for instance, if she covets an ear-ring, and it is not given to her, the chances are that the child will be born without a lobe to its ear.
In the fifth month an expectant mother goes through a special rite of preservation (Rakṣābandhana, the Binding of the Protective Thread) to ward off the evil eye, illness, or jealous spells. As a rule this ceremony is only performed before the birth of a first child, but, if any harm befall it, this and the seven-month ceremony are sometimes repeated before the birth of a second child. The astrologer is summoned to choose some auspicious day, generally a Sunday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and all the near women-relatives of both bride and bridegroom are invited to the ceremony.
The expectant mother, wearing a red or green sārī with a gold border, which has been specially brought for the occasion, and which must not have one black spot on it, sits on a low stool in the centre of a red-besmeared square of ground. No men are allowed to be present, but all the ladies sit round her and sing songs, whilst the husband's sister smears turmeric and rice all over the young wife's forehead.
If she be a Nāgara, the guard (rakṣā) is tied on to her wrist by the same sister-in-law without more ado (it will probably be a silver or gold bangle with little bells). But, in the case of Sārasvata or Audīca Brāhmans, the expectant mother first goes to the nearest well or river and fills a small pot with water. On her return, a 'lucky' woman stands on the threshold of her house and takes it from her Lead ; this is [S. 114] repeated five times, and after that the wife never fetches water again till the child is born.
The guard, too, with these Brāhmans, is quite different. It consists of dust taken from the junction of four roads and mixed with the black oily substance that has accumulated on Hanuman's image. (The monkey god, as any one might guess from his being constantly depicted with his foot on the demon of pain, is the great overcomer of evil spirits.) The dust, together with a cowrie shell and an iron ring, are tied up in a piece of dark blue indigo cloth.
The husband's sister, if she be a virgin, or if she be married and her children and husband are all living, ties this little bundle to the right wrist of the expectant mother, and so guards her absolutely from all fear of the evil eye. Once this ceremony has been performed, the rules that she has to observe are far more stringent ; before, it was wise to observe them, now it is imperative ; for, as Hindu men say, there are two great Scriptures, Jośī and Ḍośī -- the astrologers and the old wives -- and both should be obeyed.
After the fifth month, a young wife should never sit on a threshold, or in the depression in the floor which is used as a mortar, neither must she ever wield a pestle. She must not sit in the winnowing fan, or use the fan to winnow corn.
She should not bathe in a flowing stream, climb on an anthill, dig in the ground with her nails, or write on the ground1 with stick or pencil.
1 This last action is forbidden as being one of the signs of a fool. The unmistakable 'notes' of a fool are : To eat whilst walking ; to laugh whilst talking ; to brood or grieve over what is past ; to boast of kindnesses one has shown to others ; to walk up unsummoned to two persons talking privately together; to tear grass into small pieces ; to smack one's knees ; to write on the ground.
Nor must the expectant mother sleep any longer than her usual custom by day or night, or take any exercise at all, or visit unholy places, like burning-grounds ; or quarrel, or stretch when yawning. She should not loosen or oil her hair, and, [S. 115] after the seventh month, she will refrain from washing it, for´fear of enraging that dread snake, Śeṣanāga.
She must not sleep facing the south, or with her face downwards ; she must not speak inauspicious words, or eat at twilight, or sit under a tree in the half dark. Every day she should worship Pārvatī and give something in charity. We have seen that she ought not to cross a river, but now from the fifth month she must not go and see one, till the child is a month and a half old.
The husband, too, has to comply with certain restrictions : he must not shave completely till the child is born ; he must not cross the ocean, or go to a foreign country ; he has to give the wife whatever she asks ; and he may not take part in a funeral or a procession.
As the days go on, there is another rite which, though the Nāgara, for instance, do not observe it, is believed by some other Brāhmans to be very efficacious.
On some auspicious day about the seventh month, the expectant mother, together with her mother-in-law and several other elderly ladies, goes outside the town to worship a Śamī tree,1 for Aparājitā (the Invincible), the śakti of the god Agni, lives in that tree.
1 Mimosa Suma. [= Acacia polyacantha Willd.]
Abb.: Śamī-tree = Acacia polyacantha Willd.
[Bildquelle: http://huntbot.andrew.cmu.edu/USDA/18/6725.1818.jpg. -- Zugriff am 2008-10-10. -- U.S.D.A. public domain]
The young wife wears silk clothes, and her forehead is besmeared with red powder and rice. She worships the tree by marking it with the auspicious red mark, and then arranges seven heaps of powdered white millet, and seven of oil seeds mixed with crushed molasses, and places a lighted lamp of clarified butter in front of it.
When all this has been arranged, she circumambulates the tree four times, pouring water round it as she walks, and finally bows to the tree and offers it a coco-nut, which she breaks in front of it. When she goes away, the little lamp is left behind and allowed to burn itself out, as it would be unlucky to extinguish it. [S. 116]
The writer has been assured that, besides guarding the unborn child, this rite also keeps it warm.
One of the old Vedic rites Sīmanta or Hair-parting which sanctifies the mother and protects the child, is still performed, though others, as we have seen, have fallen into disuse.
An astrologer is called in to choose an auspicious day, but his choice is limited, for the ceremony may only take place on a Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday, and never on the fourth, fourteenth, or last day of the month. It should be in the seventh or eighth month, a day in the eighth month being most usually chosen.
On the previous day, the parents of the expectant mother are invited, and five or ten 'fortunate' women who have never lost a child are also summoned to the house to sing songs, but they are not allowed to clap their hands. The foreheads of these women are besmeared with turmeric, and the young wife's parents give them oil for their hair, a thread to tie it, a mica cāndalo (auspicious mark) for their foreheads, and five or ten areca-nuts each.
Abb.: Turmeric = Kurkumapulver (Curcuma longa L.)
[Bildquelle: Sanjay Acharya, Wikipedia, GNU FDLicense]
Abb.: Areca nut (Areca catechu L.)
[Bildquelle: Henryk Kotowski, Wikipedia, GNU FDLicense]
The next morning the wife of the Sun (Rannā Devī, or, as she is popularly called, Rāndala Mātā, or Randalā Mātā) is invoked. She is represented by two brass vessels, on each of which a coco-nut is placed, whilst a thread is tied round the neck of the vessel. Some say that as a rule only one coco-nut and one vessel represent Rāndala Mātā, but as uneven numbers stand for daughters and even for sons, everything now is done in twos, fours, or sixes, not in odd numbers.1
1 Others say that Rāndala Mātā must always be represented by two or four vessels.
In villages the representation is made more complete by the priest drawing two faces on paper and putting them on the coco-nuts and placing ornaments round the necks of the vessels.
On this day seven 'lucky' women are summoned for each Rannā Devī, so fourteen in all are invited. They must be free from any bodily defect, and either virgins, or else mothers who [S. 117] have husband and child living, but they themselves must not be expectant mothers.
It is interesting to notice that they are invited in a special way, being summoned by the expectant mother herself, who goes to their houses and marks their foreheads with turmeric, if she finds them in ; if not, she makes the same mark on the lintel of the door. Such an invitation is tantamount to a royal command, for the invited guest may not refuse.
The fourteen women, whether married or not, are looked on as an incarnation of the great mother-power, Jagadambā, so the expectant mother worships them. First she washes the big toe of each of their right feet with water, and then with milk ; next she makes the auspicious red mark on it. This done, she touches their toes and then her own eyes (so conveying their holiness to her eyes), or else she puts to her lips one drop of the mixture in which she has washed their toes.1
1 This is the usual method of showing special honour to religious teachers, family priest, kings, or to parents after a long absence from home. As all rivers meet in the sea, so the sanctity of all places of pilgrimage dwells in the right toe of a Brāhman, whether man or woman.
After making the auspicious mark on her own forehead, she seats the women on low stools, and food is brought and offered, first to the two goddesses, and then to them. The food is specially dainty, but, whatever else is or is not provided, a sort of rice pudding and bread are always prepared: Each of the fourteen women offers their hostess a spoonful of this special pudding and some bread, which she eats, regarding it as consecrated food (prasāda).
The astrologer has not only fixed the day for this ceremony, he has also declared the exact moment when the young wife must bathe, and in whose house she must take that bath. So now she goes to whatever house he dictates (it is a comfort that the house indicated by the horoscope is generally that of a near relative or friend !) and bathes at the exact moment the stars have commanded. She also washes her hair with milk, molasses, and turmeric, then with arīṭhā-nut [Sapindus trifoliatus, Waschnuss], and after the [S. 118] bath she puts on the special new clothes given by her own mother, consisting generally of a red sārī, green camisole, and green petticoat, often trimmed with lace. (The mother sometimes sends a turban for the husband at the same time.)
A whole company of women, who have attended her to the bath, now escort her back to her mother-in-law's house in a great procession. The expectant mother wears on her head a crown made of dried plantain leaves (or, in the case of some Brāhmans, of grass). Over it she wears a piece of red or white cloth about five yards long, while another piece of cloth of the same colour, but much longer and cheaper, is spread for her to walk on, so that she may never tread on the ground. (As a matter of convenience, they try and arrange that the two houses shall only be about twenty steps apart.)
Over her head children hold a canopy of green cloth tied to bamboos, which keeps off the evil eye, and prevents anything like evil charmed grains dropping on her head.
The young wife walks very slowly, and at each step she takes, a little brother or sister-in-law puts down an areca-nut or a coco-nut, and a coin varying from a pice [1⁄64 Rupee] to a rupee, which a sister-in-law picks up and keeps when the young mother has passed by. (It is the expense of this, which falls on the wife's parents, that sometimes nowadays prevents the ceremony being performed at all. With certain other Brāhmans the ceremony is obligatory, but the expenses are curtailed.)
Great care is taken at this time to guard the young mother from the evil eye and from black magic. Her own mother walks close beside her holding a sour lime ; in the corner of the young wife's sārī a coco-nut is placed, and on her finger she wears an iron ring. But the special danger that besets her is that a barren woman may stealthily cut off a piece of her dress, and so cause a miscarriage, and to prevent this, her closest friends make a ring round her as she walks and allow no one to break through their ranks and touch her.
When the little wife reaches her mother-in-law's house, she is welcomed by a 'lucky' woman, who waves a brass vessel of [S. 119] water with a coco-nut on top of it round her head, whilst a priest the only man allowed to be present recites mantras.
The water is then thrown on the ground, and a little of the mud it makes is smeared on the expectant mother's head, near her ear, to save her from the evil eye. After this she goes into the house and sits where the two goddesses have been installed.
The lamp in front of them will have been lit on the previous night, and the greatest care has been taken ever since that it shall not go out. The prayer recited when it is lit runs : 'O lamp, you are a form of the Śakti Devī, you are a witness to the due performance of this ceremony, you are a remover of obstacles, so burn steadily till this ceremony is completed.'
The lamp should not face south, and the earthen vessel which holds it should not rest on the ground, but on a stool or a stand. (A lamp is only once put on the floor, namely at the time of a death.)
It is in the presence of the goddesses, and with this lamp as witness, that the expectant mother now sits for the actual hair-parting which has given its name to this ceremony.
Her sister or her sister-in-law selects a porcupine [Hystrix sp. Kerr.] quill having three white stripes on it and therewith combs the young wife's hair, and then parts it with a spindle, on which threads of cotton have been carefully left. The hair is then oiled, which, as we have seen, has not been done for a long time.
Abb.: Stachelschweinborsten (nicht unbedingt von indischen Stachelschweinen)
[Bildquelle: Wikipedia, Public domain]
All this time the fourteen 'lucky' women have been sitting near at hand, and now the young mother's parents arrive bringing presents (ornaments, clothes, Sic.). They come singing in a procession, having timed their arrival for this exact moment.
We have already seen the importance attributed to the corner of a woman's shawl (the kholo of her sārī). It seems to represent her powers symbolically and is considered specially sacred, doubtless from the shape it assumes when [S. 120] filled. If a woman makes a request, lifting that corner of her shawl to her face, it is a dangerous thing to refuse it, and it is by so lifting it that she worships either god or man.
When a Brāhman is blessing a man, he throws grains of rice on to his turban, wishing him long life, success, and strength ; but it is into the corner of a woman's sārī that he throws the blessing for her, wishing her eight sons and no widowhood. It is no unimportant point to receive the blessing of a Brāhman correctly, seeing that he has magical powers at the end of each of his five fingers!
The expectant mother makes a big depression in this all-important corner of her shawl and stands opposite one of the 'lucky' women who has never lost a child. Into her sārī is put one and a quarter measures of rice (the unit of the measure may vary, but it must always be one and a quarter of some unit) and seven areca-nuts, all of which are given by the wife's own mother. This is all transferred five times over from the corner of the young wife's shawl to that of the 'lucky' woman, the most meticulous care being exercised that not one grain of rice fall to the ground, for that would foretell certain disaster to the child.
Very often at this point a sister-in-law binds a gold 'guard' set in a silver bangle, or even one studded with diamonds, to the young wife's wrist.
The wife then sits on a low wooden stool, and her husband's younger brother comes forward, having smeared his hand with red turmeric, and slaps her once on the right cheek. The Hindus say that, as a stumble prevents a fall, and the prick of a needle wards off a hanging, so this slight inconvenience will prevent a greater one ; but there is a shrewd saying that the brother-in-law who slaps too hardly is a fool, for his sister-in-law, being the wife of his elder brother, will not lack opportunity to get her own back. For the present, however, her parents give him a rupee or four annas [1 anna = 1/16 Rupee] for his pains!
Either before or after the slapping, a little baby boy of perhaps six months, but at any rate under a year old, is put [S. 121] into the lap of the expectant mother, and she talks to it and caresses it and plays with it, hoping all the time (poor little soul !) with desperate earnestness that her baby, too, may prove to be a boy.
A feast is given that night, and, whoever else sleeps, the young wife and her mother watch, to see that the lamp lit in front of the goddesses does not go out.
A most exciting interlude now takes place, especially amongst village Brāhmans. When the lamp was lit, a tiny heap of grain was put beside the goddesses, and to-night this will be examined to see what omens it bears. A woman comes in, a medium (Guj. bhuī) or devotee, through whom the goddess who was installed in the brass vessels is supposed to speak.
That goddess, Rannā Devī, the wife of the Sun, once grew weary of her husband's burning caresses and left him to seek peace and quiet. Enraged at her desertion, he turned her into a mare, and then, as his anger cooled, he repented and, himself taking the form of a horse, he went to seek her in the forest. Overjoyed at finding her, he danced round her, and it is this dance which is now imitated.
The woman devotee dances like a horse, and proves that she is a true bhuī and no fraud by passing a pretty severe test. She puts an earthen vessel on the top of a brass one, and in the upper one she arranges four lighted wicks ; the whole erection is then placed on her head, and she has to dance so skilfully on one leg that nothing falls down, and the lights are not extinguished. No wonder the bhuīs claim that this horse-dance can never be performed save by the genuinely1 inspired. Before she attempts the horse-dance, the power (śakti) of the goddess enters the devotee on this wise. She lights a stick of incense from the lamp of ghī (clarified butter) and inhales the incense. As she inhales it, she begins to shudder and to shake, and this quivering is accepted as a sign that the goddess has entered her. (In the same way, when non-Brāhmans are [S. 122] about to offer a goat at Daserā, the shaking and quivering of the goat is a clear sign that it is acceptable.)
1 If any one were to sham inspiration and attempt the horse-dance, the belief is that he would be attacked by leprosy.
The devotee, being now inhabited by the goddess, examines the grain to divine from it if all is well. Three times she takes up a few grains and, spreading them before the goddess, counts them ; if three times following they are an even number, or if three times they come to an uneven number, all will go well ; what is dreaded is that once or twice they should be even and once uneven. It is a breathless minute whilst they are counted, and then, if the goddess is pleased, the bhuī holds up one finger in silence, if displeased she holds up two and rubs them together.
Of course the anxious relatives cannot sit down under the goddess's displeasure. Something has to be done, and sometimes the devotee, sometimes a Brāhman, decides what steps must be taken. It may be that a yard of black or green cloth has to be put on a metal plate, waved round the head of the expectant mother, and then given to a Brāhman. Sometimes, even if the goddess is pleased, it may prove advisable to feed five Brāhmans!
The next morning the ceremony ends. The goddesses are dismissed in the usual way by throwing rice grains on them, and the priest takes the coco-nuts. The bhuī is fed, and the 'lap' of her sārī is filled with green or black pulse. Sweet food is offered to the family gods, and either the mother or the mother-in-law plaits the hair of the girl.
After this ceremony has been performed, the expectant mother is free to go to her own mother's house on any auspicious day. The astrologer will be careful, however, to choose one when Venus will either be on her right or left as she walks home, for she may not go when it faces her directly.
As we saw in the first chapter, if all goes happily she remains in her mother's house till after the birth of her child ; but, seeing that the poor young wife's attention has been so continuously directed to the chances of all not going happily, [S. 123] but of herself or her unborn child being injured through evil spirits, the malice of the living, or the jealousy of the dead, it is not to be wondered at if a terrified immature mother is only too often disappointed.
Purely from the eugenic point of view it will be of the deepest interest to note the difference that will take place in the physical and mental stamina of the Indian race, when an expectant mother's mind is filled with the thought of the Love of God encompassing and shielding her, instead of being taught that sinister influences continually surround her, ready to pounce on her out of the dark. Even as it is, an Indian mother can understand perhaps better than we do the underlying protection of the thought: 'He shall gather the lambs in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young '.
In the first chapter we have studied a normal case ; now we must see what remedies are adopted, after one disappointment has occurred, in order to prevent another.
If the miscarriage happens early, the young mother is only reckoned impure for four days ; if after five months, it is treated as a confinement, excepting that the mother is not given such nice food and is not allowed to touch clarified butter or wheat (which are classified as 'cold' things), but treacle and oil and green millet, which are considered 'warm', are given to her. The mother is considered ceremonially impure for about fifteen days, but if the child has never lived at all, sūtaka (or ceremonial defilement) would not attach to any other members of the household.
The disappointed young father and mother would feel sure that it is owing to their evil karma that the child has not been born, so they would perhaps study the book called Karma Vipāka, which prescribes appropriate remedies, or more probably still they would consult an astrologer and act as he advised. He will probably tell them to try one out of seven possible remedies.1 [S. 1249
1 There are, of course, many more than seven possible remedies, but these are the most usual.
Sometimes he tells them to pay a
to read the Harivaṃśa aloud to them, in the hope that
hearing the stories of Kṛṣṇa which it contains may free them
from the sin which has destroyed their unborn child.
If the astrologer found that the father
was adversely affected by a planet, such as Maṅgala [Mars], he
would order him to repeat a particular mantra (the Gopāla
Santāna Pāṭha, which contains a prayer to Kṛṣṇa for children) one
hundred thousand times.
But, if the astrologer suspects that the
trouble is owing to the anger of ancestors dissatisfied with
the śrāddha offered to them, or to the jealousy of some brother
who has met an untimely death by serpent bite or other
accident before he had any children, or who, though he may have
lived to a good age, never succeeded in having any children ;
then he will ordain that a young bull be married to a
heifer (Nīlotsarga). On the appointed day the two animals are
taken round the fire four times, the would-be father holds
their tails in his hand, whilst the presiding priest (the
ācārya) pours water on the tails one hundred and eight times,
repeating each time, as he does it, a different verse from the Matsya
Purāṇa. As no one is sure exactly which ancestor has been
offended, the name of every one of them is mentioned
separately, and the priest, on behalf of the young couple,
beseeches them to be reconciled 'through the tail of the cow '.
Then an elaborate offering to the dead is made. One large ball of rice (called the Dharma Piṇḍa) is placed on darbha-grass near the spot where the right forefoot of the male calf is resting, and around that the young husband arranges one hundred and seven balls, saying: 'I put these here, in order that my ancestors may ascend to heaven '.
So efficacious is this offering considered to be, that the whole one hundred and eight balls are called 'the Fort of Gayā', after the holy city in Bengal where the most effective of all śrāddha can be offered to male ancestors (just as the best of all śrāddha to female ancestors can be offered at [S. 125] Siddhpur).1 Once a man has performed a śrāddha at the city of Gayā, he need never offer another, and so it is hoped that this fort of Gayā will also settle the ancestral dissatisfaction once and for all.
1 It was at Siddhpur that Kapila preached to his mother with such effect that she became the river Sarasvatī.
The male calf is then marked, with red
turmeric, on the right thigh with the trident (triśūla) of Śiva, and
on the left with the wheel of Viṣṇu, and is turned loose. The
belief is that the ancestors who have been so troublesome will
remain quiet and good in the heavens for as many years as
there are particles of dust adhering to the bull's horn whenever
it digs in the earth. The heifer is named 'The-one-married-in-the-presence-of-the-Sun ', and it can never be sold, but is
given to the Brāhman performing the service. Not only can
he never sell it, but he may never sell its milk, which
must be drunk as it is by him and his family, for butter may
never be made from this cow's milk, unless it is going to be
used in sacrifice.
Another way of propitiating the dead is to
worship the spirit of a dead ancestor (Tatpuruṣa)
together with the gods Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, and Yama.
This rite, known as Nārāyaṇa Bali, is generally performed in the Hindu months corresponding with our October to November, April to May, or August to September.
Five copper water-pots are taken to represent the gods, and in each one is placed a different image, representing one of the five gods : the image of Brahmā must be of silver, Viṣṇu's of gold, Rudra's of copper, Yama's of iron, and the dead ancestor's of lead. These are worshipped in the fivefold way ; and in honour of each of the five, separate collections of five mantras are repeated.
Then the gods are given leave to go, and it is worth while noticing exactly how this is done; for while hitherto we have studied chiefly auspicious rites, we are now on the threshold of those dealing with dark powers.
As leave is given, each god is touched with the point of the [S. 126] darbha-grass, but the spirit of the dead ancestor is dismissed by touching his representation with the root of the grass. But, most marked of all, no rice is scattered over the gods, as is done on auspicious occasions, and though they are thus ceremoniously dismissed, they are not asked to come again.
Mortals are treated on the same plan, for when a man pays an ordinary call, his host gives him permission to depart, by saying: 'Do come again' ; if, however, he is paying a visit of condolence, he receives his congé in the bare word 'Go'.
Another remedy (Tripiṇḍī) is often
resorted to, specially by women, not only when no child is born in
the family, but also if there is constant sickness and ill
luck in the household. Frequent worry, or this special
disappointment, convinces them that some dead ancestor is angry, and
must be pacified by the worship of the three gods : Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva. To represent these three, three
called to the house and fed, and given clothing costing
about fifty rupees for themselves and their wives.
Sometimes, instead of inviting three Brāhmans to the house, clothing is just sent in a bamboo basket to one Brāhman. If the women feel sure it is a female ancestor that is hindering the birth of a child, or tormenting them all by her malice, then the basket is filled with female attire and all things dear to the heart of a woman : bangles, mirrors, combs, &c. In the same way, if they suspect a male ancestor, they send a scarf, turban, loin-cloth, and anything that he specially liked in his lifetime.
If, however, the annoyance be very severe,
or the disappointment very great, the last ceremony (Tripiiṇḍī) will
be performed in a more elaborate and impressive
Thirteen Brāhmans are invited, not to the house, for the ceremony is to propitiate the dead, and inside the home is the last place where they are wanted ; but to some river bank, if possible to a temple, if not, to a pīpal tree growing there. The rite consists of a sacrifice (Homa) offered to the fire, and three balls of rice representing Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva are [S. 127] placed near it. Thirteen black earthenware pots filled with some black seed, for instance black oil-seed, or black pulse, and also containing the more acceptable gifts of a silver coin and a piece of cloth, are given to the thirteen Brāhmans. Each of the thirteen pots has a thread tied round it and a red mark made on it and is looked on as a god presiding over the alms-giving.
It is easy to say these thirteen pots are to be given to thirteen Brāhmans, but the whole affair is so black and, occurring as it does on the blackest day of the month (the day of Amāvāsyā or new moon), is so sinister, that it is sometimes extremely difficult to find Brāhmans to accept it. All Nāgara,to begin with, are debarred from receiving any gifts, and the most respected Brāhmans of the other classes often decline to accept any alms connected with śrāddha, so inauspicious are all such offerings to the dead. (In some parts of India there are two distinct classes of Brāhmans : those who direct marriage and other auspicious rites, and those who preside over and receive offerings to the dead.)
Learned Brāhmans consider many of these remedies superstitious, some of them being, as we have seen, based on the idea of presenting balls of rice. The necessity for that offering arose in the following way : The Sun always needs the protection of Brāhmans against the demons that attack it. (We shall see this idea expanded in the chapter on a Brāhman's Daily Worship.) One day the Sun called on the Brāhmans to protect him in the usual way by reciting mantras, but unfortunately they made a mistake in their recitation. This lapse enabled the demons to rush in upon the Sun, who only escaped their onslaught by promising them that henceforth they should catch the souls of the dead. It is to persuade the demons to loosen their grip on these dead and let them go quietly and comfortably to Mokṣa that the balls are offered.
But, though the preceding remedies may
have been tainted with superstition or black magic, there is a
seventh way, the [S. 128] reading of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which is
absolutely unimpeachable, and yet efficacious, as the following story
Once upon a time a Brāhman called Gokarṇa (who was miraculously born of a cow) was much worried by the ghost of a bad dead foster-brother. To lay the ghost, he performed the Gayā śrāddha, but got no relief from the unwelcome ghostly attentions ; so at last he caused the seventh Purāṇa to be read aloud to him, and on the seventh day a bamboo in the courtyard suddenly broke, and so showed that the bad brother's ghost had ascended by means of it to Mokṣa. Ever since then, when making preparations for the reading, harassed relatives are careful to place a bamboo in their courtyards, as a sort of Jacob's ladder, whereby undesired ghosts may climb to heaven.
The reading is a great affair and is carried out on this wise. On the first day, Gaṇapati, Viṣṇu, and his wife Lakṣmī are worshipped. Then in the evening relatives and friends and caste-fellows all come in to hear a Brāhman read the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which contains the gist of all the other Purāṇas ; this reading will be continued for seven nights, and if only the Brāhman can manage to get the whole Purāṇa read through in that time, the malicious ghost will be laid without a doubt.
One Brāhman reads aloud, and five others sit round, and at the end of each mantra tell a bead on their rosaries and ejaculate : 'Salutation to Vāsudeva '.
On the seventh day the reader is presented with clothes and also with a copy of the Bhāgavata, on which there should be placed a lion fashioned of gold, though, to tell the truth, this lion is seldom given now. But, even if he lack the golden lion, the reader makes a good thing out of it, for every one of the relatives and friends who come in to listen gives him something. For instance, a Nāgara gentleman had this ceremony performed not long ago in Rājkot and summoned all his four hundred caste-fellows, who each paid from a rupee to eight annas to the reader.
At the end of the reading a procession is formed : the reader [S. 129] and his wife (who has also been presented with clothes) are seated in a carriage and pair, and so taken in triumph to their own house. The young wife, whose desire to bear a living child has been the occasion of the ceremony, walks in the procession carrying the Bhāgavata Purāṇa tied up in a silken cloth ; and later on, if her wishes are fulfilled, she will make a big present to the reader.
The following day a number of Brāhmans, varying from twelve to a hundred, are fed, or, if the husband be very rich, the whole of the caste may be invited. The rite ends with the repetition of the thousand names of Viṣṇu. It should be noted that this 'Seven-Days'-Reading' is not only employed when a disappointed mother desires a child, but is also used sometimes within a year after a funeral, that the spirit of the departed may rise to Mokṣa easily. (Incidentally this also guards the family from the unwelcome attentions of the new ghost.) It is also done as a sort of insurance, when a family is enjoying an unusual run of good luck and prosperity.
We have seen the eagerness with which a childless wife tries to propitiate the unfriendly dead, whom she believes to be hindering the fulfilment of her heart's desire. One reason for that eagerness lies in the fact that, since a man's salvation depends on his having a son to carry out his obsequies, he is allowed to marry during the lifetime of his first wife, if after eight years of wedded life no son is born.
With the Nāgara barrenness is not attributed to the harassing of dead ancestors. Neither do they ever take a new wife during the lifetime of the first.
Again, if a wife has leprosy, consumption, or any incurable disease, or is mad, her husband may marry again. A wife can be put away and replaced amongst the Brāhmans for unfaithfulness,1 but she can never marry again, as they allow no divorce.
1 A Nāgara would never put his wife away, even for unfaithfulness.
But of all the reasons that may lead a man to take another wife, the most common is that first mentioned, the desire to [S. 130] possess a son. Sometimes the wife herself urges the husband to marry again, but more often it is her mother-in-law and father-in-law who persuade him. (Sometimes the mother-in-law out of sheer dislike and desire to spite her daughter-in-law persuades her son. even if he has a boy born to him, to many again.)
The rites of a second marriage closely resemble those of a first marriage, so (as even the most industrious student will be delighted to hear !) we need not work over them all again. Sometimes there is less glitter, pomp, and feasting, but if the marriage were at the desire of the husband's parents, they will see to it that even these are not lessened.
The result of a second marriage is often disastrous. Of course sometimes, if the husband distributes his favours equally and shares their rooms in turn,1 a modus vivendi is arrived at, which amounts, at best, to a state of armed neutrality ; but when the old wife is discarded and treated as a cast-off servant, or when, perhaps, the new wife falls into disfavour, and is thus flung defenceless on the tender mercies of her once defeated but now victorious rival, the atmosphere is more like hell than home; with the awful addition, that the two who hate each other most are condemned to lifelong imprisonment together, hearing all the tittle-tattle of the servants, who carry tales from one part of the house to the other, while the mother-in-law is always at hand to stir up strife and cast fresh fuel on its flames, in an atmosphere, too, shut up and cut off even from the healthy influence of outside opinion.
1 The wives always have their husband's portrait in their rooms, that his may be the first face they see in the morning, and they worship this if they cannot worship him.
These endless bickerings and strife and jealousy, leading at last to open quarrelling and sometimes secret poisoning and murder, are making the most enlightened men see that, for their own sake, if they want any rest and healing and joy from their home life, the higher course is also the happy one. [S. 131]
A Brāhman could lake three or four wives, but the custom of taking only one is growing steadily in favour amongst many of the Twice-born.
Though a Brāhman cannot divorce his wife, he can, as we said, put her aside for leprosy or insanity. Here again the scales are heavily weighted in favour of the man, for no woman can for a similar reason divorce her husband or take another.
Manu says : 'She who shows disrespect to (a husband) who is addicted to (some evil) passion, is a drunkard, or diseased, shall be deserted for three months (and be) deprived of her ornaments and furniture' (Manu IX. 78).1 On the other hand, it is extremely important that we Christians should make our own position quite clear about divorce, and explain that within the Christian Church divorce, except for the gravest reasons, is never permitted.
1 S.B.E. xxv. 341.
The standard that Queen Victoria set up of not receiving divorced persons at court wins the instant admiration of the Brāhmans.
ADOPTION.2 We have seen that if, despite all that religious rites and ceremonies can do, a man still has no son, he may within certain castes of the Twice-born marry again and again. Sometimes, urged by the supreme need of procuring an heir to save his soul, a man will even marry five times. But if, nevertheless, no boy is born to him, in some communities the man is permitted to adopt an heir. The boy may be the son of his daughter or of his granddaughter, or may be related through the man's father or mother, but never through his wife.
2 It would be wise to add Adoption to the useful little list given on p. 260 of Notes and Queries on Anthropology, London, 1912.
When all has been arranged, and the boy's parents have finally given their consent, the astrologer is asked to name an auspicious day on which the rite of adoption may be performed. As soon as that day dawns, the adopter rises and goes through his morning worship. This done, he worships [S. 132] Gaṇeśa in the five- or sixteenfold way, and then offers a Vṛddhi Śrñddha to guard himself against sūtaka or any other impurity. Then the adopting father and his wife perform the rite Saṅkalpa together, though the man does all the talking. Holding water in their hands, they say: 'I, so and so,' (mentioning the man's name only) 'will perform the adoption ceremony, in order to pay the debt I owe to my ancestors, and to save myself from the hell called Pud'.1
1 Or Put.
A special altar has already been erected in the compound, and in this the adopter now offers to the fire clarified butter, sesamum seeds, and sacrificial wood. Then the priest recites appropriate mantras, and every one who can goes in procession to the house of the boy who is to be adopted, all the relatives and friends playing on musical instruments.
Arrived there, the priest (guru) of the adopting father asks the natural father of the boy to give him his son, so that he (the adopter) may be free of all his debts.
The natural father welcomes the adopter in the most cordial way, by making the auspicious dot on his forehead, offering him a seat, garlanding him, and presenting him with areca-nut. When the adopter is comfortably installed, the natural father summons his son and. holding water in his own hand, says :
'I, so and so, on such and such a day, relinquish for ever my rights as a parent and transfer them for ever to you, so and so' (mentioning the adopter's name) 'in order that you through him may discharge your debts to your ancestors.'
Thus saying, he pours water from his hand into that of the adopting father. Next, taking the boy by his right wrist, he leads him over to the adopting father, who seats him on his own knee. Then, to show that the whole ceremony is complete, the new father solemnly, silently, and steadily smells his new son's head.2
2 As the writer has found no reference in books on India to this custom of ceremonially smelling the head, she may perhaps here be allowed to put together the cases in which she has found it to be performed. If the father be present at the name-giving ceremony, he often smells the head of his child. If the son grows up and becomes famous in any way, or victorious in war, the father smells his son's head on his return home from council or from war. When an ordinary man returns home for the first time after marriage, his father often does it. The Hindus explain the custom by saying that they intend thereby to remove every evil influence.
At every occasion on which a father smells his son's head, his mother, who cannot do that, takes his worries and ill luck on to her own head by waving her hands towards him and then cracking her knuckles against her own forehead (Guj. Ovāraṇāṃ levāṃ).
The head smelt, the new father solemnly goes through a rite which reminds you of St. Francis's renunciation in the market square of Assisi of his father's authority and of the clothes his father had provided, for he removes1 all the clothes the boy has been wearing, replacing them with new ones, and gives him new jewels, which he himself has brought.
1 In actual practice this is sometimes symbolized by slipping new clothes over the old ones.
The ceremony ended, the adopting father takes the boy to his new home in a procession, all the women singing.
As the boy enters the house, pretty rites of welcome such as are offered to a bride when she first enters her father-in-law's house2 are gone through for him, including the waving of a jug full of water and the throwing of balls of earth in all directions.
2 See pp. 102 ff.
Then he is taken inside the house and seated on his new mother's lap, who takes all his troubles and removes all his ill luck by three times stretching out her hands towards him, and three times cracking her knuckles against her own forehead.
After this the day is given up to rejoicing, alms are given to Brāhmans, a feast is made to the caste or to relatives, and sweets are distributed amongst children. The whole ceremony is completed in a day, but the feasting is rather costly ; so, to lessen expenses, the adoption of a boy is often combined with his investiture with the sacred thread.
The child thus adopted takes the name and family name [S. 134] of his adopting father. If the natural father be dead, the mother gives her son away. The son, if there be no other, will perform śrāddha for both fathers.
The privilege of adopting children is a right of which ruling chiefs are very proud, since only those belonging to the first two classes can do so as of right, chiefs of lesser rank having to ask the permission of Government before adopting.
Some of the best-known Kṣatriya chiefs at the present day were adopted with the rites we have described.1
1 A chiefs adopted son most kindly worked over these notes with the writer.
It throws a most vivid light on a Hindu's belief about the future when we remember that it is not only the ruling chief who is anxious to adopt in order that the succession to his state may pass on unbroken, but the ordinary Twice-born, who desires by so doing to save his soul from hell, the hopeless hell of the sonless and therefore śrāddha-less.
It is illuminating, too, to learn that nowadays in practice no Indian, be he chief, Brāhman, or man of low caste, ever adopts a daughter ceremonially, with the purpose of getting his śrāddha performed ; for, no matter with what formality he might take her, she could never perform his funeral rites, or inherit his possessions. But so great is the merit acquired by giving away a daughter in marriage, that a daughterless man does sometimes adopt a girl in order to bestow her on a bridegroom. If he does so, the ceremony is very like the one we have described ; he may, however, content himself with paying the expenses of some poor girl's marriage, without formally adopting her, for the merit in both cases is the same.