Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/47

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37
an Autumn Festival of the Hindus.

rule, after a salute of artillery, the Peshwa, a Brāhman Mayor of the Palace, used to pluck a stalk of millet from a field, and the crowd, with firing of arrows and guns, rushed forward, each striving to secure a stalk of millet, the first-fruits of the season. They all shouted with joy, and spent the rest of the day in mirth and feasting. A buffalo decked with flowers and daubed with red paint was brought before the horse or elephant on which the Chief was mounted, its head was struck off by a single blow, and the blood was sprinkled over the horses. In smaller towns the buffalo was led round in procession, grain and liquor were sprinkled on the ground, and when the circuit was ended the head of the victim was cut off, sheep were sacrificed, and the flesh was eaten by all present except the Brāhmans.[1]

As we have seen, these rites in Bengal take the form of the Durga Pūja, the veneration of the Mother goddess. These complex ceremonies, a succession of puerile and often meaningless observances, invented by a degraded priesthood to satisfy a brutal people, have been described in detail by a native writer, and need not be discussed in detail.[2]

The rites begin with the construction of the images which are intended to form the abodes of the goddess and of the other deities when their annual sleep is over. During the period preceding the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its most southerly declension, known to the Hindus as "the southern journey" (dakshināyana), that

    Vāyu or Marut, wind gods, the north-west; Kuvera, a sort of Pluto, and god of wealth, the north; Isāna or Siva, god of destruction and reproduction, the north-east. Or, again, the eight quarters were guarded by eight mythical elephants, known as Diggaja. It may also be noted that pelting trees and plants is in some places a charm to increase their fertility (Sir J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, 3rd ed. 1911, part i. vol. i. p. 140).

  1. Sir J. Malcolm, Transactions Literary Society, Bombay, vol. iii. pp. 79-96, quoted in Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xviii. pt. i. (1885), p. 294, note 3.
  2. Pratapachandra Ghosha, Durga Puja, with Notes and Illustrations, Calcutta, 1871.