“They can’t eat silver,” suggested Morris.
“The money is for the Brahmin who has charge here. You see they have gone to give it to him,” replied Sir Modava, as he opened a large paper package he had bought at a store, and proceeded to distribute its contents, consisting of nuts and parched corn, to the members of the monkey community.
For half an hour they fed the animals, which were very tame, and made friends with them. The live boys were more pleased with this occupation than in looking at temples and mosques. They all visited the sanctuary of the temple, which was said to date back a thousand years. The party greatly enjoyed the ride back to Secrole, which is the English town of Benares. After dinner Sir Modava told them about the Feast of Ganesa.
“He is one of the most popular deities of India,” said the Hindu gentleman. “He is the embodiment of wisdom, prudence, and commerce; his presence wards off all perils. You will find him over the door of places of business; and contracts open with an invocation to Ganesa, sometimes given by a picture of the god. He was the son of Siva and Parvati. His picture is that of a short, fat man, with four arms and an elephant’s head.
“Though he was Siva’s son, the father was jealous of him, and struck off his head. Siva was sorry for what he had done, and wanted to bring Ganesa back to life; but his head was gone.”
“Couldn’t he put a head on him?” asked Scott very seriously; and the other boys laughed.
“That was just what he did,” replied Sir Modava, wondering what the boys and some of the others were laughing at. “Siva selected a young elephant, cut off his head, and affixed it to his son’s shoulders; and that is how he happens to have such a head. This head sometimes takes the place of the whole figure on contracts. His festival is celebrated the last of April, with the greatest magnificence. Effigies of the god are made of terra-cotta, painted and gilded, and borne by processions through the streets. Priests and musicians surround the idol; and young girls, widowed before they are wives, dancing and waving their scarfs in solemn cadence, lead the way.
“When the processions reach the river, they embark in fairy-like boats propelled by sails or oars, forming a grand aquatic spectacle. At sunset the idols are thrown into the river, and the festival terminates with a grand frolic on shore, with fireworks, in which many Europeans take part; and the river is thronged with boats decorated with many-colored lanterns.”
The party spent two days more at Benares, and visited temples, mosques, and many places of interest. They were visited by British civil and military officers, who were extremely kind to them, and offered them every facility for seeing the city. After dinner on the last day, Captain Ringgold asked Lord Tremlyn to tell them something about Patna; and he evidently did so with a purpose.