Hindu Holidays and Ceremonials, with Dissertations on Origin, Folklore and Symbols. By Rai Bahadur B.A. Gupte, F.Z.S. Second Edition revised, Calcutta. Thacker, Spink & Co., 1919.
This book is a creditable attempt to provide a complete account of Hindu festivals, a work which is much wanted. The author is an anthropologist of repute who assisted Sir H. Risley in his work, and he has been aided by his wife who has a thorough knowledge of the beliefs and usages of Hindu women, the chief depositaries of the folk tradition. It contains a considerable amount of new and valuable material. The folk-lore now collected is rather disappointing, much of it being confined to tales which describe, in rather a jejune way, the merit acquired by those who have duly performed certain rites, and the misfortunes suffered by those who have neglected them. As is usual with this class of work the folk-lore collected is more acceptable than some of the interpretations suggested by the author. He bases his interpretations largely on astronomical evidence. Thus he explains the cult of Siva and his consort Pārvatī, Nandi, the bull of Siva, the lion attendant of Pārvatī, and even the portly god of luck, Ganesa, by certain signs of the Zodiac. Ganesa, for instance, we are told is derived from “the big body of the Crab or Cancer which stands in heaven just near Siva who, as the male part of the Gemini or Mithun, intervenes between the female part of that sign (Pārvatī) and the zodiacal sign of Cancer or the Crab, or big belly.” This view will probably not be generally accepted by mythologists. But, irrespective of these attempts at the explanation of the origin of festivals and their rites, the book possesses value as the work of a competent observer. In his further researches he will be well advised to leave the question of interpretation to more learned scholars, and to confine himself to the record of actual facts which his knowledge and opportunities for enquiry will enable him to do with success.