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Folk-Lore/Volume 30/Review/Folk-Lore from India

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Folk-Lore from India.

Folk-lore of Wells, being a Study of Water-worship in East and West, by R. P. Masani. Bombay: D. B. Taraporevala Sons & Co., Bombay. 1918.

Mr. Masani tells us that while, as Municipal Secretary of Bombay, he was engaged in a campaign to cleanse the wells of the city from the anopheles mosquitos, the cause of an outbreak of malaria, it was part of his duty to consider the pleas raised by well-owners against the orders issued by the sanitary authorities to close them. This led him to investigate the folk-lore of wells and water cults which are described in this work. The protests raised by well-owners, disclosing the widespread use of water for religious purposes, and the belief that wells are haunted by various spirits which on the wells being closed showed their dissatisfaction by bringing various calamities on the owners, are interesting and instructive. Besides this the author has collected, partly from his own observations, partly from printed authorities, a good deal of information on water cults in India. It is remarkable that though both Hindus and Parsis believe in water spirits, these spirits are generally those of Musalmān saints, Pirs or Sayyids, a striking example of the influence of a race of conquerors on local beliefs.

It would have been well if the author had confined himself to the materials collected in India. His account of water cults throughout the world is based on the writings of Sir E. B. Tylor, Sir L. Gomme, and other works familiar to students, and his comments add little to our knowledge.

Another fault in this book, unfortunately too common in the case of Indian writers, is his absence of precise references. The references which he gives are not complete and will be of little use to students, and no index is provided. But, with these limitations the book possesses some value, and if the author, in a revised edition, would pursue his enquiries in India and provide a larger collection of local facts, he would do good service in the investigation of an interesting branch of folklore.