Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/43

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mahaseer, and green ginger, though characteristic of Indian travellers, may be considered by some readers out of place at an approach to one of the most sacred spots throughout Hindostan.

We were journeying to the gate of Huna, or Vishnu, the most popular of the Hindu triad: the town of Hurdwar, or Hurrudwar, a scene chosen from time immemorial for the concourse of pilgrims from every part of the Eastern world. To behold the Ganges at the moment in which, having forced a passage through the mountains, it glides in one broad stream along the plain, seems to the exhausted devotee, who has suffered every fatigue and privation consequent upon a long and painful journey, aided by very scanty means, as more than a recompense for all his toils. He gazes, enraptured, on the holy river, and, gathering up his failing strength to the task, presses onward, but too happy to yield up life with the first plunge of his body in the hallowed wave. A blessed immortality is, according to universal belief amongst the followers of Brahma, secured to the person who thus has ended his career on earth; and many, wearied of life, and anxious to enter scenes of purer enjoyment, will either commit suicide, or, if too feeble to perform the act themselves, prevail upon their friends to hasten the moment of dissolution, leaving their bodies to float down the Ganges, while their souls are absorbed in the divine essence.

It is at this place that persons journeying from a great distance are anxious to fill their jars with water, in order that they may carry a portion of the sacred element to their homes. Sometimes these water-pots are conveyed in a very picturesque manner, being slung upon bamboos resting upon the shoulders of long files of men, and gaily decorated with flowers and peacocks' feathers. Rich and pious Hindoos, who inhabit the Deccan and other remote provinces, spend large sums of money in procuring the holy-water of the Ganges, which is brought to them by a class of persons who obtain their livelihood by their long journeys. They are, however, content to take the water at the nearest point, and, if not basely maligned, are said to have little scruple about supplying any deficiencies, occasioned by breakage and leakage on the road, at the first river or well which they pass on their way. Some precautions are taken to prevent these frauds: in order to prove that the water has in reality been brought from the Ganges, the bearers obtain a certificate to that effect, together with a seal, with which the proper official at the place where it is filled, closes the vessel. The jars are enclosed in a frame-work of bamboo slung at either end of a pole of the same, which is carried across the shoulder, and is borne in this manner many hundred miles. The bearers of the Ganges water, though having literally nothing to tempt the plunderer, have been frequently murdered of late years by those frightful bands of assassins, the Thugs, who consider it to be an act of duty towards their goddess Bhowanee, who represents the destructive power, to sacrifice all the victims which she throws in their way, and therefore murder the most poverty-stricken wretches, in the hope of being rewarded by a richer booty.

An acquaintance with a tithe of the horrors, the shocking waste of human life, the fearful sum of human suffering, produced by the most barbarous as well the most inconsistent religion which the distempered imagination of man has ever framed, suffice to call forth melancholy feelings in the breast of the Christian spectator, as he gazes upon the