Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official eBook

William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,051 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.
that his Majesty was no further in fault than in mistaking the humble handmaid for her noble mistress; but, be that as it may, her Majesty no sooner heard of the good understanding between them, than she rushed forward, and with one foot sent the Son rolling back to the east whence he came, and with the other kicked little Johila sprawling after him; for, said the high priest, who told us the story, ’You see what a towering passion she was likely to have been in under such indignities from the furious manner in which she cuts her way through the marble rocks beneath us, and casts huge masses right and left as she goes along, as if they were really so many coco-nuts’.  ‘And was she’, asked I, ’to have flown eastward with him, or was he to have flown westward with her?’ ‘She was to have accompanied him eastward’, said the high priest, ’but her Majesty, after this indignity, declared that she would not go a single pace in the same direction with such wretches, and would flow west, though all the other rivers in India might flow east; and west she flows accordingly, a virgin queen.’  I asked some of the Hindoos about us why they called her ‘Mother Nerbudda’, if she was really never married.  ‘Her Majesty’, said they with great respect, ’would really never consent to be married after the indignity she suffered from her affianced bridegroom the Son; and we call her Mother because she blesses us all, and we are anxious to accost her by the name which we consider to be at once the most respectful and endearing.’

Any Englishman can easily conceive a poet in his highest ’calenture of the brain’ addressing the ocean as ‘a steed that knows his rider’, and patting the crested billow as his flowing mane; but he must come to India to understand how every individual of a whole community of many millions can address a fine river as a living being, a sovereign princess, who hears and understands all they say, and exercises a kind of local superintendence over their affairs, without a single temple in which her image is worshipped, or a single priest to profit by the delusion.  As in the case of the Ganges, it is the river itself to whom they address themselves, and not to any deity residing in it, or presiding over it:  the stream itself is the deity which fills their imaginations, and receives their homage.

Among the Romans and ancient Persians rivers were propitiated by sacrifices.  When Vitellius crossed the Euphrates with the Roman legions to put Tiridates on the throne of Armenia, they propitiated the river according to the rites of their country by the suovetaurilia, the sacrifice of the hog, the ram, and the bull.  Tiridates did the same by the sacrifice of a horse.  Tacitus does not mention the river god, but the river itself, as propitiated (see [Annals,] book vi, chap. 37).[3] Plato makes Socrates condemn Homer for making Achilles behave disrespectfully towards the river Xanthus, though acknowledged to be a divinity, in offering to fight him,[4] and towards the river Sperchius, another acknowledged god, in presenting to the dead body of Patroclus the locks of his hair which he had promised to that river.[5]

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Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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