Bernier, François, Travels in the Mogul Empire A.D. 1656-1668

(Westminster, Eng. :  Constable,  1891.)



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  Page 302  

302                           THE GENTILES

were covered with a single cloth. Persons of rank or
wealth, such as Rajas (fientile sovereign princes, and
generally courtiers in the service and pay of the King),
Serrafs^ or money-changers, bankers, jewellers, and other
rich merchants, crossed from the opposite side of the river
with their families, and pitching their tents fixed kanates ^
or screens in the water, within which they and their wives
washed and performed the usual ceremonies without any
exposure. No sooner did these idolaters perceive that the
obscuration of the sun was begun than they all raised a
loud cry, and plunged the whole body under water several
times in quick succession; after which they stood in the
river, lifted their eyes and hands toward the sun, muttered
and prayed with seeming devotion, filling their hands from
time to time with water, which they threw in the direc¬
tion of the sun, bowing their heads very low, and moving
and turning their arms and hands, sometimes one way,
sometimes another. The deluded people continue to
plunge, mutter, pray, and perform their silly tricks until
the end of the eclipse. On retiring they threw pieces of
silver at a great distance into the Gemna, and gave alms to
the Brahmens, who failed not to be present at this absurd
ceremony. I remarked that every individual on coming
out of the water put on new clothes placed on the sand
for that purpose, and that several of the most devout left
their old garments as presents for the Brahmens.

In this manner did I observe from the roof of my house
the solemnisation of the grand eclipse-festival, a festival
which was kept with the same external observances in the
Indus, in the Ganges, and in the other rivers and Talabs
(or tanks of the Indies), but above all in that one at
Tanaiser,^ which contained on that occasion more than one

^ The Arabic word sarrdf now modernised into shroff.

2 The side walls of a tent.

^ The sacred tank at Thaneswar, in the Umballa District, situated
on the line of the old Mogul road to Lahore,—a very ancient place
of Hindoo pilgrimage, being considered the centre of the ' Holy Land '
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