Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/363

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CURIOSITIES OF SUPERSTITION.

eastern Himalayas, where he extinguished the flames in a lake which to this day bears the name of Bhunder-pouch, or Monkey-tail-pond a fact which alone suffices to refute the sophisms of narrow-minded skeptics ("Asiatic Researches," vol. xiv, p. 44).

Crocodiles have a prescriptive right to our surplus of non-nitrogenous food, butter, goat-cheese, and the offal of the heretical meat shops. They are not divine, in a stricter sense, but "water-pure," free from the taint of hereditary sin, and their merits are often rewarded by a quasi-immortality, synchronistic with the duration of this planet. Their peccadilloes must be condoned; the slayer of a gavial, or sacred saurian, is an enemy of the public, for his deed is apt to result in a general calamity. In Agra a Buddhistic Chinaman once obtained the post of crocodile-warden, but was soon after arraigned for criminal neglect. A party of foreigners had visited the tank, and a couple of gavials followed them toward the gate, in quest of cold lunch, according to the theory of the prosecution, while the strangers suspected them of homicidal intents, and, finding the gate closed, retreated behind a tree and fired their pistols as fast as they could load. The negligent warden at last interfered, but too late; both crocodiles had been fatally wounded, and one of the victims happened to be a gavial, a most reverend, and, barring such accidents, immortal amphibian that had inhabited the tank since the time of Menu. The counsel for the defense not only denied the charge of neglect, but proved that the prehistoric reptile had been imported not more than five years before. The court dismissed the case, and the Chinaman volunteered to pay half the costs, but the Brahmans never forgave him. He lost his place and, like the Rev. Augustus Blauvelt, was accused of having betrayed his master.

The Koran contains some rather incomprehensible ordinances, unless Professor Sale should be right that Mohammed prescribed them as preparatory exercises of faith. The founders of several monastic orders seem also to have thought it necessary to strengthen the orthodoxy of their disciples by periodical renunciations of common sense, but the Brahmans have carried this principle to an even greater length. According to the Yagur-Veda, a spiritual-minded man should renounce the world after following its ways long enough to see the son of his son. To be quite safe, he had better go as soon as his hair begins to get gray. A conscientious Sannyassi, or "renouncer," should make his home in the forest, live upon fruits and edible leaves, and let his hair grow. His tunic should consist of bark, his lower garments of untanned antelope-skin. He must elevate his soul by the contemplation of Brahm and humble his body by taking occasional rambles on all-fours. This would be bad enough, but, in order to fulfill all righteousness, a Sannyassi must wear wet clothes in the cold, and pass the midsummer noons between two blazing fires, in order to correct the humors of his spirit. With a view of washing away his worldliness