Page:Origin and spread of the Tamils.djvu/57

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46 ORIGIN AND SPREAD OF THE TAMILS been in existence in the Phoenecian colony of Sicca on the North African coast, at Heliopolis in Syria, and in Armenia, Lydia and Corinth. It persisted in Asia Minor to the second century A.D. Another peculiarly South Indian practice connected with the temple worship was the marriage of female votaries to god prevalent in Mesopotamia. But this practice has unfortunately led to sacred prostitution in Mesopotamia. It is said that female votarics of Marduk and Sun god Shamash married thesc gods but had human children. We may call attention to another practice, of offer. ing the hair.24 Lucian mentions a temple at Byblus in Phoenicia where a woman shaved her head and offered her hair to the deity enshrined. Very strangely the temple was dedicated to the Fish from the waist downwards. Attached to it was a sacred pond of fish. This reminds one of the Matsyāvatār legend in India." Add to this the Mesopotamian legend of flood where mīna (fish) is mentioned. If we bring back to memory the legend of Oannes to which I have already referred, all these show the profound Indian influence in the religious systems of the ancient world. The fish cult was once popular in India and the emigrants from India took this cult with them to foreign lands. Turning back to our subject there is an account of hair-offering by Argive girls to Athene before marriage. Offering one's hair to a deity in fulfilment of a vow is characteristically a South Indian practice even now observed in big shrines like Tirupati, Swamimalai,