KINDS OF WORSHIP
In this connection, mention may be
made of the elemental or atmospheric deities, demons, the elements themselves,
natural phenomena, ancestors, animals and weapons.In the Vedas, reference is
made to elemental gods like Indra, the god of rain, Vayu, the god of wind, and
Varuna, the god of water.
In the category of injury of an enemy,
salutation was to be offered to Surya, the sun god, and Saraswati, the god of
learning. Oblations were also to be made to Agni, the god of fire and to Soma
the moon-god. Certain demons are worshipped even today in certain parts of India.
The demons include Bali, Sambara, Nikumbha, Naraka, etc. the demo nesses include
Chandali, Kunbhi, Tumba, Katuka, etc. Natural phenomenon is also worshipped.
In the case of floods or during droughts worship was made to the Ganges, mountains
and the oceans. When pestilence raged, to allay such epidemics besides worshipping
the god Indra, certain rituals like milking of the cows on cremation grounds,
burning the trunk of a corpse and spending the nights in devotion to the gods
One of the most important Hindu rituals
is the Shraddhanjali, which is connected with ancestors' worship. On the anniversary
day of an ancestor such an act is performed. Perhaps the most colorful of all
types is the worship of weapons. The Rajputs followed this worship mainly. On
special days double-edged swords are removed from the house of arms and the
entire court pays its respects.
There have been certain quaint burials in our country.
This practice prevailed from the 13th to the 17th century. Such quaint
ideas were of ancient origin and they can be traced to Scythian times.
In a specially prepared tomb, the body of the dead King was placed on
a mattress, with spears fixed on the ground on either side of the corpse
to support a roof. In the other parts of the square pit, various members
of the king's household like his butler, cook, steward, groom and chamberlain
were buried. All of them were strangled to death and laid near their master.
In addition to the king's horses, his golden cups and some of his valued
treasures are buried. Then a mound of sand was raised around it. There
are reports of this practice having taken place in Karnataka. Loyal servants
of the kings died when their masters expired either by committing suicide
or by entering fire or were buried forcefully. Such an act was called
There was yet another gruesome type of burial in South
India, especially in Karnataka and Andhra. Certain section of people called
the Lingayats who hung Lingas on their neck observed a strange ritual.
They buried the wife along with the dead husband. These people dug a hole
deep enough to come unto the woman's neck and placed her into it, making
her to stand. Then they shovel sand around her and trampled with their
feet until she was well covered. Thereafter they place a huge stone over
her. A similar custom prevailed in Assam during the 17th century. When
the Raja of the country dies, they dug a large tomb and placed his wives
and concubines as also his horses and equipage, carpets, gold and silver
vessels, grain, etc and food materials that would last for several days.
Later the tomb was covered.
The cutting of the feminine breast has been a peculiar
practice in different parts of the world including India. In India it
prevailed among the Cholas in Tamilnadu and also in Gujarat. It not only
existed among the Hindus but also with the Buddhists. In the Divyavadana,
a Mahayana text of probably the 6th or 7th century A.D, mention is made
of this practice. Buddha, in a previous birth was a woman named Rupavathi.
She came upon a starving woman who was about to devour her newborn child.
Thereupon she cut off her breasts and gave them to her for food. Later
her breasts were restored.
In Gujarat there is the story of a woman who was traveling
to a neighboring village was attacked by some tribal men. Then she snatched
a sword from one of them and cut off both her breasts. She then perished
and she is worshipped as a Goddess still there. In the entire history
of this peculiar custom the best example can be taken from the Chola period
in Tamilnadu. Kanaki, on hearing that her husband,Kovalan was wrongfully
sentenced for stealing an anklet of the queen, cried on the streets of
the city of Madurai, then plucked her left breast and hurled it onto the
streets. As this legend of Kanaki in the Tamil classic, Silapathikatram
ascribed to the 6th or 7th century A.D, it may be presumed that this custom
was known and practiced in the Tamil Ian country during that period.
In Indian literature, whether it is Brahminical, Buddhist,
Jain or Muslim, mention has always been made of the circle as Chakra or Mandala
or Ivim. The circle has a mystic significance and hence its popularity from
antiquity. It has been employed in social life, witchcraft, sports and many
other aspects of life. In the Ramayana, Maricha, a demon tried to impersonate
Rama. Sita insisted on Lakshmana going to its help. But before leaving Sita,
Lakshmana anticipating trouble, drew a circle around her with the help of his
arrow and asked her not to leave it, as it would bring her great danger. That
circle is called "The Line of Lakshmana" or "Lakshman Rekha".
The most famous concept of the circle among the Buddhists is
the Dhamma Chakkar the "Wheel of Law that the enlightened one or Buddha set
in motion by preaching the Law. In the Jatakas it was mentioned as being employed
in fixing the eyes to induce a trance and was credited with magical powers.
It has been held by some that the Buddhist Stupa was a representation of the
Chakra or wheel and that it was probably an adaptation of the earlier Brahminical
The circle was familiar to Indian Legists who called it the
Mandala. The King, Ministers, Kingdom, Fortress, treasury and army were the
five constituent parts of the circle according to them. The theory of the circle
came to be employed in warfare by early Hindus and later by Muslims. It was
declared that the political forms of array of an army were like those of a staff,
a snake, a circle (Mandala) and in detached order.
The circle manifests itself as an element of witchcraft rituals
and worship. Prior to the calling of a demon, it was necessary to draw a circle
and perform the requisite rites so that it might appear personally. The circle
was also connected with the worship of Lord Shiva. He is supposed to hold a
Chakra in one of his hands. The circle was also employed to inveigle the unwary
to death through human sacrifice.
The protective influence of the circle is preserved in the
Indian folklores from ancient times. In the Panchatantra (4th-5th century),
mention is made of a king Badrasena whose daughter was endowed with all the
32 excellent marks of perfect beauty and she was calledRatnavali. A certain
demon visited her evening with an idea of taking her away, but she could not
be neared as she drew the protective circle around her. The ring or circle was
also utilized in civil and military life. In the 16th century, the Mughal King
Babar, circumambulated the bed of his dying son, Humayun, and prayed that the
illness may come to him. It so happened that Humayun recovered and Babar died.
The circle seems to have continued to the 19th century as well.
In 1885, in the Punjab, a severe attack of cattle disease, which claimed many
lives, took place. When none of the vets engaged by the Government could do
something, the villagers asked for the services of a holy man. He drew a circle
around the surviving herd of cattle. Then residing on horseback, he sprinkled
some holy water and recited some mantras. That measure seems to have cures the
The circle appears to have survived till date, although not
in its original form or intentions. In certain parts of South India, it is still
used among the weaker classes.
Tongue cutting was a custom known
and practiced among the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Muslims in India. The real
motive for this practice is not clearly known, but here is no doubt that it
was used as a form of punishment. Insult to the King, betrayal of the King's
council, making an evil attempt against the King or disregarding the sanctity
of the kitchen of the king or the Brahmanas, insulting one's father, mother,
son, daughter, teacher or an ascetic invited this kind of a punishment.
In the 17th century, at Nagarkot
there was a famous temple for the Goddess Durga. The idol was small and short
and was made of stone. Notable among the offerings to the Goddess were pieces
of Human tongues. It was reported that on the next day, the tongues of those
who had cut them became whole again! Such sacrifices to the gods were common
in the early centuries. This custom of tongue- sacrifice also prevailed in Karnataka.
According to tradition, a Kannada poet, Gopal Nyaka, frustrated in his love
for a woman, he is alleged to have sacrificed his tongue to the goddess Saraswati,
the deity of learning. Under the Mughals, this practice was primarily used as
a punishment. There are records pointing that Emperor Huamyun and Aurangazeb
used this system.
In India, emancipation
from mortal life has been sought through various means and one of them is immersion
in certain holy places. Such a death has been considered meritorious in the
Epics and the Puranas. For example, in the Vanaparva of the Mahabharata, death
at Prayag in Allahabad, implying the death in the sacred waters of the Yamuna-
Ganga, was believed to be fruitful. According to the Padma Purana, one who dies
in the Ganges, consciously or unconsciously, willfully or without any intentions
obtains heaven after death. Various places have been chosen for this act. There
were changes in the citing of the places from Prayag to different confluences
or rivers from the north down to the south.
The Ramayana tells how Ramachandra perished with his followers
in the Saryu. The Jain work, Kuvalayamala Katha, mentions how great sins like
murdering one's own father or mother even disappears from those who take bath
at the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna. It was more of a superstition
than a religious rite, as the Jains did not attach any significance with rivers.
Any Brahmin, who is generally exempted from death penalty, was given the punishment
of being drowned if he insults the King or his Queen.
The ancient belief that emancipation could be achieved through
immersion in sacred waters of any holy river was persistent mainly in the 7th
century and prevailed for many subsequent centuries. Even Kings followed this
practice and probably the earliest ruler who slew himself at the confluence
of the Ganga and the Yamuna was the famous Ganga king, Sivamara 1 who lived
for 110 years. In the 9th century, a Rashtrakuta monarch called Dhruva also
shared the same fate. The great chandela king, Dhangadeva, also adopted this
custom. The Khajuraho inscriptions tell us that this famous king held sway over
the entire earth and he lived for more than 100 years. He entered the Ganges
muttering prayers and drowned himself.
Not only kings but also even ministers and common people sometimes
shared this mode of death. Some 11th century writers point out that men of distinctions
excepting Vaishyas and Sudras did not follow this custom. These people when
they were tired of life or suffered by some serious afflictions, or some bodily
defects or old age or infirmity seems to have immersed themselves in holy waters.
The Brahmins and Shatriyas who were prohibited from committing suicide were
allowed to drown themselves at holy rivers on an eclipse provide they employ
someone to do this for them.
There were in India, different types
of oaths and their methods varied. The oaths sworn in by the kings were different
from those taken by the nobles, ministers or the common people. In early days,
the Brahmins played an important role in the process of oath taking but their
influence waned with time.
In early days when kings made pacts or treatise or declarations
with each other taking the Oath, "We have joined in peace". In case of
any apprehensions, they made agreements by swearing before a fire, a stretch
of water, a plough, a brick, shoulder of an elephant, hips of a horse,
front of a chariot, a weapon, seeds, scents, fruits, wrought gold and
so on. They declared that such objects, being vulnerable would destroy
and desert any one who violated the oath thus made.
In the early
days witnesses were to be taken before Brahmins, vessels of water and
a fire. A Brahmin was asked to say, "I tell the truth". A Kshatriya or
Vaishya was instructed thus:" if you speak falsehood you will not attain
the fruits of your charitable deeds and go about as a beggar. A shudra
was meant to say, " If I utter falsehood, whatever merits I Have shall
go to the king and whatever sins the king has done shall fall on me".
the turban was employed for swearing purposes. History has it, that a
father on hearing that his son was made to die without any wrongdoing,
threw the turban from h is head and swore not to replace it until he had
taken revenge for the wrong inflicted on his son.
The betel nut
is used for oath taking purposes. Betel nut is used for ratifying a marriage
and is used commonly even now among certain backward classes in Tamilnadu.
Among the Paraiyans here, an exchange of betel is considered as a binding
oath. A betel-leaf chew when flung on the ground was considered a kind
Among the Mairs,
a tribe in Rajputana on oath was taken by means of a pit and a pebble.
The oath was " Swear to me secrecy and obedience in good and evil and
that you will disclose al that you hear and failing that, you desire that
all the good deeds of your forefathers may like this pebble (dropping
it into the pit) fall into the washer man's well.
The cow among
the Hindus has always been venerated and it played an important part in
the ritual of oaths. In the 4th century BC cow dung was employed for swearing
purposes. Anyone who swore by cow dung and still did what ought not to
be done, was punished with the highest amercement. The sanctity of the
cow was invoked even so late as the 19th century. Among the Baniyas another
type of oath was followed. A Baniya, placing his hand on the venerable
cow, swore this," May I eat the flesh of this animal if what I say is
One of the
strangest types of oath was what may be termed the crocodile oath, which
is claimed to have prevailed in the 17th century. In Cochin in Kerala
state, a crocodile was living in a river, which the local Hindus called
the crocodile of Oaths. It anyone desired to swore for some reason, he
would proceed to the river bank and the swearer would place himself on
the crocodile's back and say," If I swear falsely you must throw me in
the middle of the river. If I swear the truth you must bring me back to
There was a
kind of oath by the Sword, which prevailed in Kerala, Rajputana and Gujarat
from the 16th century. The King took the oath of coronation to maintain
all the laws of his predecessors and o pay his debts which he had not
paid' "Holding a drawn sword in his left hand and his right hand placed
upon a chain lit up with many oil wicks with his fingers" and then he
swore" to maintain everything with the sword". Among the Raputs in Rajputana,
the most powerful oath was by their weapon with the words," By my sword
In some Hindu
courts like those in Kashmir, a sacred oath was taken by libation (Kosha).
This type of oath can be traced in the annals of our country from the
10th century. During the reign of king Sambuvardhana (935-36 AD), some
adherents went to him, but he would not trust them until they proved their
bona fides. So he ordered them to swear to him their loyalty by taking
in his presence the oath of fidelity by Libation (Kosha). He and his trusted
retainer, a Damara, placed the feet of the adherent son a sheep's skin,
which had been sprinkled with blood and they mutually took the oath by
means of libation, with a sword in hand. This is reminiscent of the present
day practice of course, though not by libation- of requiring ministers
to swear the oath of secrecy before assuming office.
In the 11th
century such a practice was resumed. When Didda, the infamous and lame
queen, had selected as her successor, Sangramaraj (1003-28 AD), she compelled
nobles like the wicked tunga and others to swear to one another fidelity
by the oath of libation. When she was assured that they would do no harm
to one another and thus undermine the government she died in peace.
by holy books
to have existed, as it is now in some places the practice of swearing
by a holy book. During 542- 1565 AD, Vijayanagara Rama Raya, the king
of Bijapur, used the oath taking practice in the presence of the holy
Quran. In order to reconcile his ministers and nobles so that they are
obedient to him, he placed a Quran in front of him when they came to pay
him respects. The ministers could not breach the ordinances of their religion.
on the human body
some other types of oaths sworn on human beings either living or deceased.
In regard to the living, we may cite the case of the wife of King Lakshmanasena
(1185-1206 AD). When this king was in the womb of his mother, Ramadevi,
the crown of the dead king was placed on her belly and all the great men
expressed their loyalty to the still unborn king.
An oath in
respect of the dead can be seen in the death of Ranjit Singh (1839) of
Punjab. When his four queens were seated on the pile on which Ranjit Singh's
corpse had been placed, his principal wife called to her side the heir
of Ranjit Singh, Kurrak Singh and the Prime Minister. She made the heir
take the dead Maharaja's hand in his own and swear to protect the country.
STRANGE MUSLIM PRACTICE
At Pune, one can visit the
site of the levitating stone in the courtyard of the Dargah of Hazrat
Peer Kamarali- a popular pilgrim place for people of all faiths.
The famous stone, said to weigh
around 90 Kg, can be made to rise on the index fingers of a group of nine
or eleven people who must chant "HAJEE KAMARALI DURVESH," the
saint's name, all the while holding the stone high. As soon as they stop
chanting, the stone falls down, according to the believers. The stone
slowly rises up and comes tumbling down when the people run out of breath.
It is said that those who lift up the stone should consider themselves
specially blessed by the saint.
Women are not allowed to try this
special feat, as they are not even allowed inside the Dargah. The Saint's Urs
is celebrated in early May, when large number of people visit the Dargah.
There is also another story about
the powers of the Saint. When a snake bites someone, he comes to the Dargah
and puts a drop of oil on the bit part from the lamp, which remains lit all
the time, and he gets cured immediately, according to the people of the neighbouring
The Dargah of Hazrat Peer Kamarali
is located on the Pune- Satara Road, about 12kms from Pune.