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on at this hour in hundreds of Hindu shrines throughout the Peninsula.
In 1892 M. Sylvain Lévi * suggested that the cult of Krishna formed the chief element in Hindu drama; and since that time the overthrow by Krishna of his uncle Kansa, mentioned in Mahabhashya (a work not earlier than B.c. 160), has been cited as the earliest evidence for Hindu dramatic performances. Yet there is a whole treatise devoted to the drama, the date of which is certainly not later than that of the Mahabhashya, while possibly it is even earlier, since scholars agree in placing it in the second century B.C. Mr Haraprased † has given an account of this work, known as Bharata-natya-sastra (Bharata's Treatise on Drama), and the origin of the drama there set forth. In the second age of Vaivasvata Manu, men became miserable, so Indra and other gods prayed to Brahma for something to benefit all. He summoned together the Four Vedas and by their aid, a Fifth Veda (Drama) came into existence. A renowned sage, by name Bharata, asked Brahma to let him and his sons perform the new Veda. Brahma replied: The ceremony of raising the flagstaff of Indra is at hand; show your skill in the ceremony.' The sage and his sons accordingly performed a drama representing the incidents of the great battle in which Indra defeated the Asuras or Demons. Strange as it may seem, Krishna is not even mentioned in this first dramatic performance, and is not even among the gods who are enumerated at considerable length as being associated with the building of the first theatre.
As the Jarjara or Flagstaff of Indra had been used by that god with signal effect upon the Asuras in the great battle, it became henceforth the emblem of the stage. It might be of any kind of wood, but was usually of bamboo covered with cloths of different colours. This pole, by its connexion both with a god and with drama, recalls that called by the Chinese Gohei (Imperial Presence), and by the Japanese Mitegura (Lordly Clothseat), which represents the tree planted over the dead with the offerings of cloth and other
* Le Théâtre Indien,' pp. 237 899.
Journ. Beng. As. Soc.,' vol. v (1909-10), pp. 351 sqq.
objects hung on its branches. One of these stands before the shrine of each Japanese god; it is supposed to attract the spirit and is regarded as the seat of the god and even as the god himself.* In the great epic of the Mahabharata (Adp. 63), we learn that King Vasu was told to set up a bamboo pole adorned with garments and with it to perform the worship of Indra, while the same poem states that this worship is for the material welfare of the people; and this is still the belief. Poles of this kind are still often erected at Hindu festivals. Mr J. J. Meyer † says that the worship is performed on the 11th day of the bright fortnight of the month (i.e. when there is a moon) to ensure good crops and general prosperity; and he cites from an ancient Jain source a vivid account of such a ceremony :
Then amid loud and auspicious cries of joy the standard of Indra was raised, flagged with white banners, adorned with a great multitude of rattles and little bells, covered with suspended beautiful wreaths and garlands, decorated with a string of jewels, decked with a pendant mass of various fruits. Then the Nautch girls danced; poetic compositions by good poets were sung; the multitude of men danced ; juggler's tricks that bewildered the eyes were seen, and betel and other things were given to the juggler; a great deal of camphor, saffron, and water was thrown. Great gifts were given, drums and other instruments were sounded.'
It will be noted that this is very like the modern Holi festival, of which an excellent description is given by J. C. Oman. But what is more important for our purpose is the connexion of the pole with dramatic performances, as is proved by the Bharata-natya-sastra, and is closely paralleled in Burma and Japan.
That the vast majority of Hindu deities were once human beings there can be no doubt. A passage in the Rig-Veda (x, 129) is probably the earliest evidence for this, while it is fully confirmed by a passage in the Satapatha Brahmana, which recounts the method by
* Ridgeway, 'The Dramas and Dramatic Dances,' pp. 211, 297–8, 393. + Hindu Tales,' p. 143 (London, Luzac & Co., 1909).
Brahmans, Theists, and Muslims of India'; see also the same writer's Indian Life,' pp. 73 sqq.
§ 'Sacred Books of the East,' vol. XLIII, p. 336. Cf. Manu (“Sacred Books of the East,' vol. xxv, p. 112, sect. 201): ‘From the sages sprang
which the gods' obtained immortality, thus plainly showing that originally they had been mere mortals.
It has been shown in my Dramas and Dramatic Dances' that the ceremonials practised at the sowing season in order to ensure good crops are regularly directed to ancestral spirits, and that those after the ingathering of the crops consist of offerings of firstfruits to the spirits in gratitude for the harvest and to propitiate them for the coming year. Thus in China all the four great seasonal sacrifices were and are offered to the ancestors, those of spring and harvest being the most important. So, too, in ancient Greece the great spring festival at Athens, the Anthesteria, was mainly concerned with offerings to the dead in connexion with the sowing, while the Eleusinia, held in September, was simply a great Harvest Thanksgiving, when the firstfruits of corn, or victims purchased with the first-fruits, were offered to Demeter, Persephone, Triptolemus, Eubulus and Athena, and other dead.
As might be expected, India yields a good example of similar practices. The great Holi festival at the spring equinox is connected with the wheat harvest in Western India, and is celebrated by the masses with all sorts of orgies. Tradition ascribes its origin to a giantess slain by Krishna, who when dying asked to have a festival called by her name. As this tradition implies, it is undoubtedly bound up with death ceremonies, since some of its chief features, such as the lighting of the bonfire before the house and the sound produced by beating the mouth with the back of the hand, form part of the cremation ceremony all over India.t Most sig. nificant is it that at this festival among the Marathas proper the vir, i.e. the warriors who died on the battlefield, are danced' by their descendants, who go round the fire with drawn swords until they get into a frenzy or believe themselves to be inspired by the spirits of the heroes. No one lights a bonfire until the Rajah lights that at the palace. Then the festivities begin. The prescriptive right of lighting the chief bonfire of the
the manes, from the manes the gods and the Danavas, but from the gods the whole world, both the movable and the immovable in due order.'
* Ridgeway, 'Quarterly Review,' April 1919.
town, of heating the bath-water on that fire, and of dancing the vir or heroes round it, is still respected by all Hindus. In the Rajput and Maratha native States the palace Holi is guarded by sentinels for four days, and people who do not possess this right cannot enter.
In the Dravidian * areas of Madras the bonfire is not prepared except in Tanjore, which is a Maratha State. The songs sung contain the lamentations of Rati the goddess of Love for the death of her husband Kamadev. This still in the Dravidian region represents the sorrow of the females at the loss of their fair-complexioned immigrant husbands. In some parts of the Madras Presidency a sham fight takes place between men and women.'t
The digging of the hole before each house, the making of the fire, and the representation of the departed heroes, point distinctly to ancestor worship. Amongst the Hos of North-Eastern India their chief festival, the Harvest-home, held in January when the granaries are full of grain and the people, to use their own expression, · are full of devilry,' is the great festival of the year. The ceremonies open with a sacrifice to the village god, almost certainly some deified man, with three fowls, two of which must be black; along with them are flowers of the palas tree; bread made from rice-flour and sesamum seeds are offered by the village priest, who prays that, in the year about to begin, they and their children may be preserved from all sickness and misfortune and that they may have seasonable rain and good crops, while in some places prayers are also offered for the souls of the dead. I
In all these festivals the spirits of the dead are believed to play a foremost part, while on the other hand there is no proof from India for a vegetation abstraction pure and simple, though there is abundant evidence, as in Burma and elsewhere, for a belief in the occupation of certain trees by disembodied human spirits. No better example of this can be cited than the belief that the spirits of the two thousand Sepoys killed by the Highlanders at the capture of Lucknow have taken up
* It must be remembered that the Dravidians do not burn their dead. † Gupte, op. cit., p. 89. # Dalton, 'Ethnology of Bengal,' p. 196.
their abode in the dense plantation of eucalyptus trees planted close by after the Mutiny. The native gardeners are afraid to thin or prune the trees because he who cuts one of them is thought to be liable to misfortune.*
It was shown in . Dramas and Dramatic Dances' that in Burma, China, Japan, and elsewhere, actors were and are regarded as the mediums or embodiments for the time being of the souls of those represented ; and accordingly it was argued that the same held good for India, inasmuch as the actors in the sacred dramas on Rama and Krishna are regularly Brahmans. This view is not only corroborated by the belief amongst the Marathas that those who dance' the vir become the embodiments of the departed warriors whom they represent, but is completely confirmed by passages in the Laws of Manu † which treat of the powers of a Brahman, especially in relation to the offerings to gods and to the dead. For on such occasions a Brahman not only personates the god or the spirit of the dead man, to whom the sacrifice is made, but is regarded as a sort of embodiment or medium.
A survival of this belief is found amongst the Buddhists of Ceylon. On the third or seventh day after a funeral a Buddhist monk (unnanse) is invited to the house of the deceased. He arrives in the evening, reads bana, i.e. The word' (passages from the sacred books), throughout the night, and in the morning is presented with a roll of white cloth and is asked to partake of food, chiefly of coarse curries, of those different kinds of which the deceased has been particularly fond. This ceremony is called Mataka Danaya (Gift for the dead), and the previous feast (after the funeral) Mataka Bhatta (Feast in honour of the dead), the two combined taking the place of an ancient rite observed in pagan preBuddhist times, and then also called Mataka Bhatta, in which offerings were made to the Petas, i.e. to the departed ghosts of ancestors and near relations. Such offerings are of course forbidden to Buddhists. It is probable that such survivals not confined to
* I am indebted for this information to my friend Mr R. H. Macleod I.C.S., Lecturer in Indian Law, Cambridge.
+ III, Sects. 188, 189, 204-241 (“Sacred Books '), vol. XXV, pp. 110 sqq. 1 Buddhist Suttas; 'Sacred Books,' vol. XI; Introd. xliii.