Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/362

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the hanumans have their sacred groves, and keep together in troops of fifty or sixty adults, and, in spite of hard times, these associations multiply like the monastic orders of mediƦval Europe; but they must all be provided for, though the natives should have to eke out their crops with the wild-rice of the Jumna swamp-jungles.

The strangest part of the superstition is that this charity results by no means from a feeling of benevolence toward animals in general, but from the exclusive veneration of a special subdivision of the monkey tribe. An orthodox Hindoo must not willingly take the life of the humblest fellow-creature, but he would not move a finger to save a starving dog, and has no hesitation in stimulating a beast of burden with a dagger-like goad and other contrivances that would invoke the avenging powers of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Nor would he shrink from extreme measures in defending his fields from the ravages of low-caste monkeys. Dr. Allen Mackenzie once saw a swarm of excited natives running toward an orchard where the shaking of the branches betrayed the presence of arboreal marauders. Some of them carried slings, others clubs and cane-spears. But soon they came back crestfallen. "What's the matter?" inquired the doctor; "did they get away from you?"

"Kapa-Muni," was the laconic reply, "sacred monkeys." Holy baboons that must not be interrupted in their little pastimes. They had expected to find a troop of common makaques, wanderoos, or other profane four-handers, and returned on tiptoe, like Marry at's sergeant who went to arrest an obstreperous drunkard, and recognized his commanding officer. Unarmed Europeans can not afford to brave these prejudices. Captain Elphinstone's gardener nearly lost his life for shooting a thievish hanuman; a mob of raging bigots chased him from street to street till he gave them the slip in a Mohammedan suburb, where a sympathizing Unitarian helped him to escape through the back-alleys. The interference of his countrymen would hardly have saved him, for the crowd increased from minute to minute, and even women joined in the chase, and threatened to cure his impiety with a turnip-masher.

This impiety, say the Brahmans, is merely the effect of ignorance. Foreigners are apt to mistake a hanuman for a common yahoo, a filthy, impudent bush-whacker, while the facts are as follows: The hanuman is a lineal descendant of the great hero-ape who helped the Light-gods in suppressing the power of Ravan, the prince of darkness. The war raged for years with varying success, and the sun-spirits were once almost nonplused, when their long-tailed ally bethought himself of a stratagem that completely discomfited their adversaries: He set the whole Island of Ceylon afire and escaped just in time to attend a grand council of the sun-gods, who then rewarded his services by an hereditary sinecure. In the midst of a solemn war-dance he discovered that his own tail was ablaze, and had to save himself by a hurried trip to the