30 The Dasahra :
procession to worship the sacred khejra tree [prosopis spicigcra), and liberates a jay, the sacred bird of the god Rama. The festival ends with a review of the State troops, the decoration of the bazar, presentation of complimentary gifts to the Rana, who gives presents in return to his chiefs, and the naming of the horses which have been purchased since the last festival.^
The strange class of unorthodox Brahmans, the Palewal, worship, among other things, the bridle of a horse at the Dasahra, probably in memory of their former occupation as robbers carrying out their raids on horseback.^
We have another account of these celebrations from Bastar, a feudatory State, hidden away in the jungles of the Central Provinces, where, as Mr. Marten observes, " the Hindu rites are grafted in an ingenious manner on the indigenous ceremonies connected with the primitive autumn Saturnalia which celebrates, in the worship of the Mother goddess, the revival of the generative principles of the earth." ^
The festival begins with offerings to deceased ancestors. Certain men of the Mahar, a menial caste, supposed to be temporarily under the influence of the local Bhuts or evil spirits, attend, are decorated with garlands, and venerated. A swing is set up outside the temple of the goddess, round which a Mahar girl, supposed to be possessed by the deity, walks. She goes through a mock fight with a man of her caste, and is then caught up and seated on the swing, the seat of which is made of thorns. On this she is swung gently backwards and forwards.^ The Chief, through the
- J. Tod, Annals of Rajasthan, Calcutta reprint (1884), vol. i. p. 615 sq.
^ Major K. D. Erskine, Gazetteer, Western Rajpntatia States Residency and the Bikaner Agency, Allahabad (1909), p. 85.
® Censtts Report, Central Provinces (1911), vol. i. p. 83.
' Compare the swinging rites at the Holi, Folk-Lore, vol. xxv. p. 69. The swinging on thorns may be a form of vicarious penance. The Shush wap of British Columbia sleep on thorns to keep away the ghost of the deceased. Sir J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, 3rd ed. part ii. p. 142.