« ZurückWeiter »
The grass is the key to the symbol, and while hinting that man is still close to nature, upholds the mystery of a consecration of the powers of the world, as visible emblems of the Lord of all things.
Thus, through all the mythologies and symbol images of the old world, the green things continually peep out, adding to the wild beauty of these aboriginal forms, which, begot in the infancy of the world, are full of that freshness of feeling, that love of allegory and symbol, which characterizes infancy in the individual man. these devotions there is a largeness of character which shames the contracted piety of our own day and generation, and much as we may dread the features of those ancient faiths, and shrink, horror-struck, from their details of barbarity and absurdity, we must at least confess that faith had there a home. The legend of Rawana the good Brahmin, exhibits, in a powerful light, the sincerity of that age of idols. It was the wont of Rawana, to offer daily one hundred flowers to the god Ixora; and once, to prove his zeal, the god secretly took from the sacrifice one of the flowers, and then complained that the gift was too small. Rawana counted the flowers, and finding only ninety-nine, offered one of his eyes to supply its place; when the god, convinced of his piety, restored the flower, and blessed him for his confiding faith.
Soma, the moon, is, in the Indian mythology, as in those of the northern nations of Europe, a male deity; he is "born of the sun," and is the king of herbs and flowers. "Rain is produced from the moon," says the Rigveda;* and a Hindoo commentator on this passage
* "Asiatic Researches," Vol. viii., p. 406.
says, "Rain enters the lunar orb, which consists of water." This connexion of the moon with the changes of the weather is recognized by Shakspere, who calls her the "Governess of the Floods,"* and is a meteorological tradition. The Hindoos represent Soma as the god of showers and green things; when he descends in his car, drawn by antelopes, bearing in his bosom a sleeping fawn, he typifies the irregular motion of the moon itself, and the dependence of vegetation upon it for the necessary fluctuations of the weather. Barbarous as were the old Hindoo rites, the laws of hospitality were sacred among them; and he who planted a tope or grove, or opened a well and surrounded it with trees for the shade and refreshment of the traveller, was held for ever after a descendant of the gods. Timul Naik, Raja of Tanjora, became a deity for having built a choultry or restingplace for pilgrims, near the pagoda of Mandura; and to the neglect of these acts of benevolence by the wealthy British residents of Hindostan, the difficulties of Christianity have been increased tenfold-the Christian being regarded as selfish and uncharitable.
Among the plants sacred to the religion of the Hindoos, the cusa or cusha grass holds an important place. It is the poa cynosuroides of Linnæus: its leaves are long, acutely jagged downwards, but smooth on the other parts, and so sharp and tapering as to furnish the Hindoos with a favourite metaphor, in which it represents acuteness of intellect. The fruit-stalk of this grass rises about two feet from the ground, and is terminated by a
* Midsummer Night's Dream.
panicle, or head composed of brilliant blood-red flowers.* To its beauty it doubtless owes its sacred character, for the Hindoos suppose every object to be animated by a spirit or divinity, and those which are most excellent or remarkable, to be inhabited by spirits of the highest order, or by gods. The blood-red colour of the flowers of the cusa is frequently assigned as the origin of its use in sacrifices; though Sir William Jones, the highest authority on such a subject, believes that its name of cusha is derived from Cush, the father of the Hindoo race; and hence it is regarded in the rites of Brahma as a memorial of the patriarch-father of the people.† The Cushites, or descendants of Cush, came into Egypt under the name of Aurilæ and Shepherds, as also Ethiopians; hence Egypt also inherited that name. The Cushites, styled Ethiopes, were the original inhabitants of India, and wherever any portion of the history of the Cushites appears, the name of India will be found likewise. The reverence in which this grass was held originated the Indian custom of biting a blade of grass in token of submission, and in asking for quarter in the field of battle
"Her spear, not e'en Mahisha dare despise:
The cusa was also used in the preparation of the noviciate for the pronunciation of the most holy word in the creed of India. "Brahma milked out, as it were, from
* "As. Res." iv. "Martyn Millar's Dict."
+ "Diodorus Siculus," i. 17. "Bryant's Analysis," iii. 212.
§ "Metam. of Sona," v. 878. “St. John's Indian Archipelago,” i.
the three Vedas, the letter A, the letter U, and the letter M; which form by coalition the tri-lateral monosyllable" Aum,* pronounced Om, which is "the symbol of God, the Lord of created beings." Each of the three compound letters of this word has its mysterious signification. The first denotes Brahma, the second Vishnu, and the third Siva. This syllable is never pronounced by the Hindoos, except inaudibly, or, as it were, inwardly, and never without many vigils and solemn preparations. "If he have sitten on cushions of cusa, with their points towards the east, and be purified by rubbing that holy grass in both his hands, and be further prepared by three suppressions of the breath, he may then fitly pronounce Ом." + This term appears to have originated the Egyptian Oм, the sun, and OMPHI, an oracle, or presage of futurity. Plutarch ‡ says oμpic was the name of an Egyptian deity. The true rendering, according to Bryant,& is Omphi or Amphi, from Ham, who was worshipped as the Sun or Osiris. The mountains where these oracles were delivered were called Har-al-Ompi, from which the Greeks obtained Olympus, or from its oracular prerogatives, opos Ovμπov. Among the Armenians the same was called ON, EON, or AON; hence it was that Ham, who was worshipped as the sun, got the title of Amon, and Ammon, and was styled Baal-Hamon. It is said of Solomon that he had a vineyard at BaalHamon, a name probably given to the place by his Egyptian wife, the daughter of Pharaoh.
"Menu.," chap.ii. 76.
"Isis and Osiris."
+ Ibid, ii. 75. § "Analysis," i. 235.
Another grass, called Durva,* is also held as sacred, and, in the mysteries of the temple, regarded as the symbol of fecundity. Its flowers, when in their perfect state, are amongst the most lovely objects in the vegetable world. Viewed through a microscope, they appear like clusters of minute rubies and emeralds in constant motion, and with innumerable changes of light and colour. It is the sweetest and most nutritious pasture for cattle, and so readily propagated by its creeping roots, that lands sown with pieces of them become completely swarded in a single season. Its extraordinary powers of increase render it an emblem of the reproductive powers of nature. In the worship of the divine Chrishna, or Heri, as he is termed by the poet Jayadeva,† the plant represents-in connexion with forms which to Europeans appear grossly licentious, but which, to the devout Hindoo, are holy allegories-the producing powers of the universe, the endless source of Nature and of Being.
Another plant, which the idolatrous worshippers of Brahma venerate, is the vata, or sacred fig, of which there are several varieties. These are all holy plants, the pippala, or ficus religiosa, being the most sacred of them all. This species has perhaps a higher claim than any other to be regarded as sacred, on account of its curious growth, and the manner in which it extends
• Agrostis linearis of Linnæus.
Ficus religiosa, Ficus Bengalensis, and Ficus Indica, are the principal.
§"As. Res.," iv. 27.