Kali is a very popular goddess, and yet her images are the pictures of terror. She wears a head-dress of snakes, and a necklace consisting of a chain of skulls. In her hand she holds a murderous-looking knife. Kali is the wife of Siva, the destroyer. In September a festival is held in her honor, called the Doorga-pooja. In all of Kali's temples her idols are gayly adorned with flowers, and prayers are offered to her during days of dancing and singing.
As Kali, or Time, Paravati is a terrible and awesome goddess, charged with the execution of her husband Siva's dread decrees. She holds the rope with which unrepentant sinners are strangled; she is adorned with serpents; she revels in blood. Though human sacrifices are no longer made to her, there can be no doubt of the existence of the practice in former times. Siva is made to say, "The flesh of the antelope and the rhinoceros give my beloved delight for five hundred years." By a human sacrifice, attended by certain ceremonies, Kali is happy one thousand years; by a sacrifice of three men at one time she is made joyous for one hundred thousand years.
There used to be a sect of murderous stranglers, known as Thugs, who were especially devoted to the worship of Kali, and who performed their murderous work as a religious service to that goddess. The story of this people opens up a chapter of the greatest cruelty, going far beyond all the ordinary records of crime. Yet it was all done from a religious motive, as well as for love of plunder.
The legend that accounts for their origin is as follows: A long while ago a giant demon infested this world destroying mankind. The goddess Kali, to save mankind from utter destruction, attacked this demon and cut him down; but from the drops of blood that fell to the ground immediately there sprang up other demons—a host of them. Then Kali created two men, to whom she gave handkerchiefs, and whom she taught to strangle the demons without shedding blood. This was done, lest if their blood be shed more demons should spring up. Kali intended in this way to destroy the whole brood. When these men had strangled all the demons, she bade them strangle men in the same way, to repay her for her service to mankind. From these two men the Thugs came.
The Thugs were born such; at each one's hearthstone his children were trained to the work of becoming murderers. The handkerchief with which the victim was strangled, and the pick-axe with which his grave was dug, were obtained from the priest, and were regarded as very sacred. Their method of procedure was like this: They waited about the inns or loitered along the roads waiting for travelers to overtake them. The Thug and his intended victim would journey together, and, little by little, he would worm out of him all his plans and intended movements. Thus the Thug could decide on the most suitable place and time. When they came to this, he would throw his strip of cloth about the unsuspecting stranger's neck and draw it tighter and tighter until he was suffocated. If the Thugs traveled together with a party of merchants, each selected his victim, and all were strangled together. After death a hole, about three feet deep, was dug, and the corpse was buried face downwards. The greatest care was taken to shed no blood, and the whole was generally done under cover of the darkness of night.
The whole sect was so banded to gether, having their scouts and spies, and systems of signaling one another, when they performed their work, that they were rarely detected. Every year several thousands of persons lost their lives at the hands of the Thugs. In the year 1826 the British government first discovered their existence. During the period of some nine years over fifteen hundred of the Thugs were arrested and executed. The sect was destroyed.
How astonishing that such a sect should not merely exist, but that they should perform their dastardly deeds as a religious service. The cannibalism of the barbarous South Sea Islanders is regarded with the greatest abhorrence; but their ignorance and degraded condi tion lessens our condemnation of their abominable deeds. For the Thugs, an intelligent people, living in a semi-civilized land, with opportunities of getting knowledge far in advance of the Islanders of the Pacific, there is almost no reason for hesitating to condemn most strongly their awful practices.
Kali's feasts were generally held at night. Great crowds of religious fanatics gathered around her 1mst fearful images. These were generally placed in a grove for this occasion. In twoof her fourhands the idol held skulls; formerly these were human skulls, now they are made of wood.
Kali is one of the most celebrated goddesses of all the Hindu worship, and is the especial favorite divinity of the people of Calcutta. Her images are very different, but she has always one character ascribed to her; she is cruel and revengeful. We meet her temples everywhere—by the roadside, in palm groves, under the wide-spreading banyan tree. This goddess of destruction being more feared than all others, is worshiped more than all. She is represented sometimes as standing on a lion or a prostrate man, always with four hands. These hold knives or skulls, or, perhaps, human heads, as already noticed Often she wears a necklace of skulls. The Hindus bring to her idols the first fruits of the garden, vineyard or orchard. Some of Kali's temples, like that at Calcutta, are beautifully sculptured, and her idols decorated with precious stones.
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