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

(Westminster, Eng. :  Constable,  1891.)



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OF HINDOUSTAN                         305

death: the surrounding throng give them a thousand
benedictions, and consider them highly favoured to die on
such a holy occasion after travelling so great a distance.
And while the chariot of hellish triumph pursues its solemn
march, persons are found (it is no fiction which I recount)
so blindly credulous and so full of wild notions as to throw
themselves upon the ground in the way of its ponderous
wheels, which pass over and crush to atoms the bodies of the
wretched fanatics without exciting the horror or surprise
of the spectators. No deed, according to their estimation,
is so heroic or meritorious as this self-devotion : the victims
believe that Jagannat will receive them as children, and
recall them to life in a state of happiness and dignity.

The Brahmens encourage and promote these gross errors
and superstitions to which they are indebted for their
wealth and consequence. As persons attached and con¬
secrated to important mysteries, they are held in general
veneration, and enriched by the alms of the people. So
wicked and detestable are their tricks and impostures that
I required the full and clear evidence of them—which I
obtained—ere I could believe that they had recourse to
similar expedients. These knaves select a beautiful maiden
to become (as they say, and as they induce these silly,
ignorant people to believe) the bride of Jagannat, who
accompanies the god to the temple with all the pomp and
ceremony which I have noticed, where she remains the
whole night, having been made to believe that Jagannat
will come and lie with her. She is commanded to inquire
of the god if the year will be fruitful, and what may be the
processions, the festivals, the prayers, and the alms which
he requires in return for his bounty. In the night one of
these impostors enters the temple through a small back
door, enjoys the unsuspecting damsel, makes her believe
whatever may be deemed necessary, and the following
morning when on her way to another temple, whither she
is carried in that Triumphal Chariot, by the side of Jagannat
her Spouse, she is desired by the Brahmens to state aloud
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