Hakluyt has explained Moabar on the margin by
Meliassour. The country here indicated is obviously the Carnatic, or
kingdom of Arcot of modern times, from the circumstance of containing
the shrine of St Thomas. The idols mentioned by Oderic, as filling the
church of St Thomas, were probably Nestorian images; not sanctioned by
the Roman ritual.—E.
Of a Strange Idol, and of certain Customs and Ceremonies.
In the kingdom of Moabar there is a wonderful idol in the shape of a man, all of pure and polished gold, as large as our image of St Christopher; and there hangs about its neck a string of most rich and precious stones, some of which are singly more valuable than the riches of an entire kingdom. The whole house, in which this idol is preserved, is all of beaten gold, even the roof, the pavement, and the lining of the walls, both within and without. The Indians go on pilgrimages to this idol, just as we do to the image of St Peter; some having halters round their necks, some with their hands bound behind their backs, and others with knives sticking in various parts of their legs and arms; and if the flesh of their wounded limbs should corrupt, owing to these wounds, they believe that their god is well pleased with them, and ever after esteem the diseased limbs as sacred. Near this great idol temple, there is an artificial lake of water in an open place, into which the pilgrims and devotees cast gold and silver, and precious stones, in honour of the idol, and as a fund for repairing the temple; and when any new ornament is to be made, or any repairs are required, the priests take what is wanted from the oblations that are thrown into this lake.
At each annual festival of this idol, the king and queen of the country, with all the pilgrims, and the whole multitude of the people assemble at the temple; and placing the idol on a rich and splendid chariot, they carry it from the temple with songs and all kinds of musical instruments, having a great company of young women, who walk in procession, two and two, singing before the idol. Many of the pilgrims throw themselves under the chariot wheels, that they may be crushed to death in honour of their god, and the bodies of these devotees are afterwards burned, and their ashes collected as of holy martyrs. In this manner, above 500 persons annually devote themselves to death. Sometimes a man devotes himself to die in honour of this abominable idol. On which occasion, accompanied by his relations and friends, and by a great company of musicians, he makes a solemn feast; after which, he hangs five sharp knives around his neck, and goes in solemn procession before the idol; where he takes four of the knives successively, with each of which he cuts off a piece of his own flesh, which he throws to the idol, saying, that for the worship of his god he thus cuts himself. Then taking the last of the knives, he declares aloud that he is going to put himself to death in honour of the god; on uttering which, he executes his vile purpose. His body is then burned with great solemnity, and he is ever after esteemed as a holy person.