102 GROWTH OF HINDUISM. Siva-worshippers faithfully represent the composite character of their god. The Smdrta Brahmans, the lineal successors of Sankara's disciples, still maintain their life of calm monastic piety in Southern India. The Dandis, or ascetics, divide their time between begging and meditation. Some of them adore, without rites, Siva as the third person of the Aryan trinity. Others practise an apparently non-Aryan ceremony of initiation, by drawing blood from the inner part of the novice's knee as an offering to the god in his more terrible form, Bhairava. The Dandis follow the non- Aryan custom of burying their dead, or commit the body to a sacred stream. The Yogis include every class of devotee, from the speechless mystic, who by long suppressions of the breath has lost the consciousness of exist- ence in an ecstatic union with Siva, to the impostor who pre- tends that he can sit upon air, and the juggler who travels with a performing goat. The Sivaite sects descend, through various gradations of self-mortification and abstraction, to the Aghoris, who eat carrion and gash their bodies with knives. The lowest sects follow non- Aryan rather than Aryan types, alike as regards their use of animal food and their bloody sacrifices. Vishnu-worship. — Vishnu had always been a very human god, from the time when he makes his appearance in the Veda as a solar myth, the ' Unconquerable Preserver,' striding across the universe in three steps. His later incarnations or avatars made him the familiar friend of man. Of these incarnations or ' descents ' on earth, which vary according to tradition from ten or twenty-two in number, Vishnu-worship, with the unerring in- stinct of a popular religion, chose the two most beautiful for adoration. In his two human forms as Rama and Krishna, the god Vishnu attracted to himself innumerable loving legends. R&ma, his seventh incarnation, is the hero of the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana. In his eighth incarnation, as Krishna, Vishnu appears as a high-souled prince in the other epic, the Maha- bharata. As Krishna, also, he afterwards grew into the central figure of Indian pastoral poetry ; was spiritualized into the supreme god of the Vishnuite Puranas ; and now flourishes as the most popular deity of the Hindus. Under his title of Jagannath, ' The Lord of the World,' Vishnu is especially wor-
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/106
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.