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II. Remarks made during a Journey to and from Chittögong.
Feb. 16, 1818. This afternoon left Serampore, and in the even, ing arrived at Calcutta, where I went on board Captain 's new ship, which cost a lack and twenty thousand roopees. As its deck was entirely clear of every incumbrance, the view from the head to the stern in the inside presented the appearance of a long street, rather than that of a skiff floating on the watery element. To what a state of perfection has our naval architecture attained, and what an interesting spectacle does the port of Calcutta present, especially when we consider the many nations here assembled, the amazing difference between their modes of speech, and the still greater difference in the construction of their ships, exhibiting in fine contrast the ships of the ancient Greeks, with those of modern times ! How wonderful is the progress of mind; and yet, while it advances in one art or science, how frequently it retrogrades in another ! The eloquence of Greece, in boldness of design, symmetry, and elegance of construction, will bear a comparison with the most perfect efforts of genius in modern times.
By the flood tide we passed on to our place of rendezvous near Kalēe-Ghat.
17th. This morning before breakfast went up to the temple of the great goddess, and found several bramhŭns in the covered area before the temple, reciting different Súngskritủ books, one the Chứndee, and another the Shree-Bhagůvětů. As the doors of the temple were not yet opened, I began a conversation with an old man who professed to be here as a devotee of the goddess, I pressed him to examine the ground of his expectations from the goddess, reminding him that he would not purchase the slightest article of food or clothing without a thorough inspection ; and that if all his hopes of future salvation should end in disappointment, that disappointment would be most grievous. He declara
ed that he had no fears, that there existed the most convincing proofs of the power of the goddess. I told him that I had just seen, close to the temple, a poor woman lamenting the loss of her mother in the loudest cries, so as to fill the whole street with her complaints, and that therefore it was plain, that, notwithstanding the thousands of offerings presented to this goddess for health and prosperity, she did not save even those who lived close to her fêmple. A by-stander said, that all these things were regulato ed by fate. “If then," I replied, “ a person cannot die before his time, nor live beyond it, all these devotions are fruitless." The old man remarked, that at any rate the blessing of Kalēè would be effi cacious in a future state. I shook my head, and then change ed the discourse, turning to a young man, who seemed eager to enter the lists; but when I saw he could not lay hold of the argument, I put an end to the conversation, by telling him that he afforded but a discouraging proof of the power of the godo dess, who was famed for imparting wisdom to the simple. The bramhŭn who continued reading the Chứndēe smiled at his brother thus silenced, and in the midst of this, we were entreated to at. tend and pay our respects to the goddess, as the doors were now opened. After a little delay, that I might discover no eagerness in going to look at this mighty enchantress, we went up to the front of the temple, before the doors of which were placed a large heap of flowers to adorn the image. This black stone appears to be about three feet long and one foot wide; the upper part, or the head, so painted as to represent the human countenance, with large oyster eyes, and a golden tongue hanging out down even to the chin, to represent the feeling of surprise : no hands, or arms, or legs. We were pressed to ascend the steps, and take a nearer view of the gode dess, or present our offering, but, recollecting what would be required, we turned about just as the bramhŭn was requesting us to pull off our shoes. Still, under the hope that we would make a present, the bramhin began to hint that the taking off the shoes would be dispensed with, but he gave up further entreaty when I assured him, that I would sooner submit to have both my hande
chopped off; yea rather part with life itself, than perform an act so treasonable against the true God.
We next went behind the temple further to examine the build. ing, which was undergoing a repair, when I asked a Hindoo in the groupe which accompanied us, how long the temple had been erected. Instead of giving a direct answer, he said, the temple had been already ten years undergoing the present repairs: I expressed my surprize, reminding him that if the goddess really possessed the extraordinary powers ascribed to her, the temple might surely have been repaired in one night; and at any rate it was a great proof of their want of devotion. The company smi ed, and nodded an unwilling assent. We now went to an open area beyond the covered one and in front of the image, where the ani. mals are slain, and where two posts excavated at the top are erect. ed, the one longer than the other to receive the necks of the ani. mals. I here asked the surrounding groupe how they could pretend that they did not take away life, while the ground around these parts was daily soaked with blood. The old plea was set up, that Kalēe was the representative of time (from kală, time] who devoured all his children, and that the shastrů commanded them to sacrifice animals, as well as to abstain from taking away animal life ; and that both commands were therefore to be obeyed.
The old man whom I had addressed at first, now took up the discourse again, and pleaded for the truth of the Hindoo system on account of its being honoured with so many martyrs, in the pere sons of the widows perishing on the funeral pile. I urged that these were positive murders, and murders of the most horrible nam ture, since the person who lighted the pile, and thus perpetrated the murder, was the offspring of the widow's own bowels. To this it was replied, that these widows were under the influence of God, for that they could endure coals of fire in their hands without shrinking before they departed to the pile, and further it had been seen, that when widows had been hindered from thus sacrificing
themselves, they had died at home in a day or two. I declared my disbelief of these things, and added that it was as impossible to change the nature either of sin or of holiness, as of black and white, and that these would be found to be atrocious murders another day. I told them that I felt the greatest heaviness of mind on their account, at seeing them so much under the power of delusion : it appeared that, notwithstanding they professed to shrink from the destruction of animal life, they thought it meritorious to slay whole hecatombs of animals, yea and their own mothers too, and gloried in these things as acts of merit. I again urged the old man to examine the grounds of his religious confidence, on which he seemed so much to value himself. I told him faith was nothing unless it was built upon a right foundation ; that he might have the greatest confidence in the virtue of his wife, but his confidence would not save him from disgrace if she proved unfaithful. One of the company was rather sullen under these attacks on their religious hopes, and said, I might go my own way; but that they would not be persuaded from persevering in theirs. I told him I would leave one word with him before I took leave, whiah was, that if he died trusting in the idols, he would find himself miserably deceived, and even ruined for ever; and that my words would be remembered by him in a future state. He professed to treat this admonition with contempte
In leaving the temple yard, I was shewn another small temple containing the images of Krishnů and Radha. This led
to enter on the evil of images in worship, and to point out to one of the company, that the image of Kalee could not fail to impress on the mind of the beholder the idea, that God was a ferocious being, and these of Krishnů and Radha that he was an impure being. A young man, who entered into the controversy with much zeal, pleaded that the Pouranic story relative to Krishnů, and his favourite mistress, the wife of Ayūnă-Ghoshủ, was capable of a religious interpretation. I asked him if he could be persuaded to put a religious construction on the affair, if some one were
to seduce his own wife. All however, produced little beside a smile from these deluded creatures, whọ treat the subjects of life, death, and eternity, with perfect levity,
It is true, they wondered that I should have thought so much about their shastrởs : and they asked from whence I had come. But before these people can begin to doubt, they must begin to think, and that is not done without an effort, to which they are wholly averse, and the consequences of which are too serious for them to encounter.“ Can these dry bones live ? Ah! Lord God, thou knowest." Still he who is the Resurrection and the Life hath said, “ The hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." In passing the gate. way,
I saw another paltry temple containing an image or two con vered with garlands, and two or three decently dressed bramhŭns sitting before them. The priest asked me for an offering, upon which I asked if he received cowries and pise, and upon his smiling and nodding assent, I asked the spectators, whether, since this man's temple was surrounded with shops, he might not be consi. dered as a real shopkeeper? They laughed, and said I had hit the mark. We now returned to our boats.
During our journey this morning, I passed through scenes which filled me with a horror which time can never erase. seem that Providence, as a mark of its displeasure, had turned all those places into Golgothas where the Hindoos are most deluded and God most dishonoured. In the whole way from Kalēē. Ghat for two or three days, we did not sail a hundred yards without seeing a dead body, or the remains of one. In one place, I saw more I think than one hundred bedsteads on which the sick and dying had been carried to this cemetery, and three or four fu. neral piles were then preparing. A number of bodies in different places were half eaten by vultures, which birds were to be seen hovering on one or other side of the canal in almost every spot for miles. Other bodies were floating down the stream, others were seen sunk by weights in the water, and the sick in various places