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CHURCH MISSIONARY GLEANER.
THE GANGES. THERE are other great rivers of British India besides the Ganges, and one of these, the Indus, is 1700 miles in length, while the Ganges is only 1491. But the Ganges, from its source to the mouth, lies within the limits of British India, which cannot be said either of the Indus or the Brahmaputra. It issues from a bed of snow in the Himalaya, and, after forcing its way through the mountains during a course of nearly 200 miles, gains, at Hurdwar, the low level, and pursues its course in a south-easterly direction through the great Gangetic plain. On its way it receives numerous tributaries, some of which in length and volume exceed the Rhine, and which are spread out like the intersecting veins of a leaf. As it approaches the coast it throws off branches, and links itself with the Brahmaputra. These two rivers spread themselves in numerous channels over an extensive area. This region, swampy and unhealthy, and densely covered with trees and jungle, is called the “Sonderbunds,” or woods. “In these the tiger prowls, the rhinoceros roams, while the waters swarm with huge crocodiles.”
Along the banks of this river numerous cities have found a site. It would be too much to enumerate them all. We shall therefore confine ourselves to such as are occupied by the Church Missionary Society. And first may be mentioned Calcutta, Bhagulpore, Benares, Chunar, Allahabad, Meerut; while on the Jumna we find Agra and Muttra. Let us undertake an imaginary voyage up the river. You must choose
It may be a pinnace; or, as this is expensive, you may prefer a Bujra. This, however, may be considered too cumbrous and slow. Perhaps you will think the Bhouliya better fitted for your purpose. You can get this of different sizes, according to the number of hands you mean to employ. There is, again, the Dengee, which is larger, longer, and a better-pulling and sailing boat than the ordinary Bhouliya. There are others of an inferior kind; the Putelee, or baggage-boat, used principally for the carriage of cotton and other up-country produce, and the Pulwar, a native travelling-boat of neater build.
All these Indian boats are fitted for the use of either oar or sail, so that, when the wind fails, the oar may be used; but being either round or flat at the bottom, and having no keel, they are very liable, if caught in a squall, to be overturned : hence there are on the river many
casualties. “As we gradually ascend the stream, we are interested in beholding many things peculiar to India. At comparatively short intervals, the ghauts, or landing-places, descend from the banks into the water. These wide flights of steps are finished on each side with a balustrade, and the back of each is usually crowned by a picturesque building, either a mosque or a pagoda, or a cluster of small Hindu mhuts, which are of beehive shape, and not a great deal larger, and which, when grouped together, produce a very good effect. January, 1868.
“We are attracted by the crowds of men and women bathing at these various ghauts. We notice particularly the women, half immersed in the water, with little bunches of flowers, which they have purchased from the priest in the temple before they descended to the river, and we listen to their affecting prayer—"O holy mother Gunga, accept our offerings, and wash away our sins !". The little nosegay is then set afloat, and the deceived worshipper finishes her ablution, with the persuasion that she is inwardly and outwardly purified.”
It is even so : the Ganges is an object of religious veneration in India. “Gunga was brought from heaven. The gods, conscious that they had also sins to be washed away, petitioned Brumha on the subject, who soothed them by promising them that Gunga should remain in heaven, and yet descend to earth also. And now, he who thinks on Gunga, although he may be 800 miles distant, is delivered from all sin, and fitted for heaven. At the hour of death, if a person think upon Gunga, he will obtain a place in the heaven of Shiva. If a person be going to bathe in Gunga, and die on the road, he shall obtain the same benefits as though he had actually bathed. There are 3,500,000 holy places belonging to Gunga; the person who looks or bathes in Gunga will obtain all the fruit which arises from visiting all these holy places,” &c. Such are some of the superstitious legends of the Hindı..
Hence all castes worship Gunga. The people particularly choosė the banks of this river for worship, because the merit of what they do, as they are taught to think, is so much greater. In every month there is bathing. At stated times crowds of people assemble from the different towns and villages near the river, bringing their offerings of fruit, rice, flowers, cloth, sweetmeats, &c., and hanging garlands of flowers across the river wherever it is possible. After the people have bathed, the officiating Brahmin ascends the banks of the river with them, performs poojah, in which he worships the living things that are in the waters, the fish, the tortoises, the frogs, the water-snakes, the leeches, the snails, the shell-fish, the porpoises, &c.
So sacred is the Ganges to the Hindus, that persons will perform long journeys of five or six months to bathe in it, and to carry back some of the water for religious purposes. The water is used in the English courts of justice to swear upon, and it is no unusual thing for Hindus to say, “Will you make this engagement on the banks of the Ganges?” The Hindus are exceedingly anxious to die on the banks of the Ganges, that their sins
in their last moments. “A person in his last agonies is frequently dragged from his bed, and carried, in the coldest or hottest weather, to the river-side, where, if a poor man, he lies without a covering day and night till he expires. The relatives place the sediment of the river on his forehead and breast, and afterwards, with their finger, write on it the name of some God.”
What shall we say of this people? They have upon them a sense of sin. It is not that their ideas of sin are the same as ours. Their standard is different from ours; and they think far more of breaking their caste laws than of offences against the moral law. Still they feel that they are unclean, and need washing; and so they come to the Ganges. Did they know what sin really is, how dread an evil, how