Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/65

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an Autumn Festival of the Hindus. 55

paigning season.^'^ Probably the same object was attained by the Hebrews, when they anointed their shields with oil as a mode of consecration.^^

The cult of fertility, the desire to expel evil spirits, the vague quest for good luck, all, in different ways, account for the worship of trees at the Dasahra. The sacred trees are the sami {prosopis spicigerd) and the dpta {banhijiia race- mosd) which the Raja and his attendants visit, break off a few leaves or branches, and distribute them to their friends, saying that they are gold. In Bombay they do this with the invocation : " O great supreme forest king ! The greet- ing of friends and relations is sweet as sweet food. May our enemies be worsted ! " ^^ There is nothing particularly grand or beautiful about these trees, and the reasons why they were selected as bringers of luck are obscure. General Sleeman observes that the saiiii tree is held sacred because when Rama set out with his army to recover his wife he is said to have worshipped a tree of this kind which stood near his capital, Ayodhya, — another attempt, like the Ramllla celebrations, to associate the Dasahra tree-cult with the worship of one of the great Hindu gods. " It is a wretched little thing," he adds, " between a shrub and a tree ; but I have seen a procession of more than seventy thousand per- sons attend their prince in the worship of it on the festival -of the Dasahra." ^° It may, however, be noted that the Eharvads of Gujarat use the same tree to make their marriage-post, and believe it to be the home of the Mamo, or ghost of a maternal uncle, who is greatly feared.^^ The practice of demon-scaring may, therefore, be at the root of the cult. The same tree in the Panjab is called the jandi,

  • ' W. W. Fowler, Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic {\%<j()), p. 58 ;

W. Smith, Dictionary of Antiquities,^ vol. ii. p. 535 sq. ^^ Encyclopaedia Biblica, vol. iii. (1902), p. 3469. ^^ Bombay City and Island Gazetteer (1909), vol. i. p. 172 sq. ^'^ Op. cit. vol. i. p. 213, note i. ^'^ Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part i. (1901), p. 269 sq.