"Hinduism of today is not the Vedic religion; nor is it the
Pauranic religion; nor is it the philosophical pantheism of the highly educated Brahman. It is a vast mixture, in which the Vedic worship of the great forces of nature, the Pauranic avatars, the philosophical doctrine of karma, and-be it noted-the pre-Aryan reverence of trees, stones, animals and tribal totems are inextricably intermingled [Sedgwick L. J., Census of India, 1921; Vol. VIII, p. 63.]."
The religious life of a Hindu is still mainly governed by the tradition of the caste-group to which one belongs, and it could generally be said that Hindu life at present is centered in caste observances [ For a general description of how caste governs religion see pp. 228-30 Maharashtra District Gazetteers-Ratnagiri District.]. The Brahman is enjoined to perform daily in addition to the Sandhya prayers, the Pancamahayajnas or five daily acts of devotion, viz., (1) bhutayajna an oblation to all created beings, (2) manusyayajna hospitable reception to guests, (3) pitryajna oblations of water to the manes, (4) brahmayajna the recital of the Vedas, and (5) devayajna oblations to the gods through fire. But except the very orthodox who are few in number none perform any except the Sandhya, which is also dispensed with by a large number of the educated and office-going persons and school and college-going students. The same is the case with Prabhus who are entitled to perform the daily rites prescribed for the twice-born. The Vanis who stand next in social scale have no daily form of worship prescribed for them. So also with Marathas, Kunbis and the artisan castes. These are expected to worship the house gods after the morning bath before eating or to visit temples which they now attend to with laxity. The worship of the god should be performed by the head or other elder of the family; but it is generally entrusted to the drone of the family, if there be one, or often delegated to boys, and even to women as a last resort. Among the well-to-do, a Brahman priest is engaged to perform the daily worship of the house gods. The unclean castes have generally no house gods and perform no daily worship of any kind.
Besides the daily worship, Hindus have periodical worships performed on religious holidays, special days being appointed for different deities. Thus. Ganapati is worshipped on the fourth day of the bright half of Bhadrapada, Krsna on the eighth of the dark half or Sravan, and so on. These are birthday anniversaries of gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. Special congregational worships of thanks-giving such as Gondhala, Satyanarayana Puja may also be held as occasion arises. On such occasions the services of priests are engaged by Brahmans and higher castes who closely follow Brahmanic rituals [For details of worship ritual see: Gazetteer of Bombay State. Vol. XX, Poona District (1954), p. 121.].
The Brahmans and other high caste Hindus have generally in their house a room set apart for the worship of gods, which is known as devghar, the god-room. Their family gods generally consist of Pancayatana or the group of five, a stone linga pyramid for-Mahadev, a stone Saligrama representing Visnu,, the sankha (conch) and cakra (discus), metallic stone representing Durga, a crystal for the sun, and a read stone for Canes. Besides the pancayatana some families have the images of their family deities such as Khandoba, Vithoba, etc., and padukas (foot-prints) of Datta, the Preceptor in the devhara. Maratha Kunbis and castes of similar standing have generally in their houses, besides some of the gods of the Pancayatana, taks or embossed images of Khandoba Bhavani. Biroba. Tukai, Satvai, etc., and also tdks of deceased ancestors, among the house gods. Castes below the Kunbis and the impure castes have generally no house gods.
The deities of the Hindus in the district can be divided into the following five classes, viz., (1) the Gramadevatas or Village deities; (2) the Sthanadevatas or Local deities; (3) the Kuladevatas or Family deities; (4) the Istadevatas or Chosen deities: and (5) the Vastudevatas, or Grhadevatas, that is the class of deity which presides over the house and is established at the time of the house-warming or vastu ceremony. The principal gramadevatas are: Hanuman or Maruti, Kalika, Amba, Waghoba, Cedoba, Mhasoba, Bahiroba or Bhairav, Ganes, Vira, Mhalsa, Bhavani, Vaghesvari, and Siva. The worship of many of these local deities is connected with such low castes as Gurav, Maratha, Kunbi, Koli, Mahar and Mang. The pujaris of the guardian goddesses of the villages Petsai, Dasganv and Nizampur are a Mahar, a Kumbhar (potter) and a Maratha respectively. At many places the god Siva is required to be worshipped first by a pujari of the Gurav caste. The goddess Mangai has always a Mahar as her pujari. In most villages the chief village god is Maruti or Hanuman, whose temple is situated at the entrance of the village.
The local deities are generally found in special localities or sacred places called ksetras or punya-sthanas. Some local deities in the district are widely famous: Sri Ballal Vinayak Devasthan at Murud. Sri Ganpati Sansthan at Madh near Khalapur, Sri Ballalesvar, Devasthan at Pali. Sri Kanakesvar Devasthan at Kanakesvar, Sri Ballalesvar and Ramji Sansthan at Panvel are such famous temples. The local deities chiefly worshipped at
Ceul, are Hinglaj, Jakhmata, Bhagavati, Campavati, Mahikavati and Golamba-devi. At the sowing and reaping times, people of the lower castes offer fowls and goats, to these deities, and Brahmans offer coconuts. Another celebrated Sthana-deva is Bahiri-Somajai at Khopoli. It is believed that a person suffering from snake-bite is cured without any medicine if he simply resides for one night in the temple of this goddess. The local deity of the village Wavoshi near Pen is said to possess the power of averting evil, and is accordingly held in great respect by the people of many villages in the district. Every third year a great fair is held, and it was once a practice to sacrifice a buffalo to the goddess at the time. Whenever a village is founded, it is customary to establish a village deity as the guardian of the village. Certain ceremonies are performed for consecrating the place to the deity, and sometimes the deity is called after the village. If the newly founded village is to be inhabited by high class Hindus, the deities
Maruti and Durga are selected as gram-devatas, but if it is to be inhabited by lower class people, then such deities as Mhasoba, Cedoba, Jakhai, etc., are chosen. Ceda is represented by a long piece of wood or stone besmeared with red-powder, and is placed on the outskirts of the village. No Brahman is necessary to establish a Ceda. The Mahars in the district select the ghost-deity Jhaloba as the guardian deity of a new settlement. In many cases the deity is named by a bhagat or exorcist, who becomes possessed At Ceul, the deity called Bapdev is very popular among the lower classes. It is represented by a big stone fixed on a mortar and besmeared with red-powder.
Every village farm in the district is supposed to be under the
guardianship of the minor godlings, the majority of which are
called Bhuta-Devatas or ghostly godlings. In some cases the field
guardians are Brahmanic godlings like Maruti and Siva to whom
coconuts and flowers are offered at the sowing and reaping seasons,
and to the rest fowls, coconuts and sometimes goats are offered.
At some places in the district for the protection of cattle and for
good crops prayers are offered to the god Bahiri and the ghosts
Khavis and Samandha. At Cauk, the villagers perform a special puja of god Krsna in order that the village may be protected. At
Sasavane, a fair called pale jatra is held in the month of Bhadrapad
in order that the villagers may have a good harvest, and their
cattle may be protected against tigers and diseases. The rite
called sinva bandhane or binding the boundary which is supposed
to protect the village crops is performed by villagers who collect
money, make sacrificial offerings to spirits residing in the cemeteries and at the boundary of the village.
["Animism, it is to be presumed, is intended to cover a stage in the evolution
of religion which precedes the more definite concenption of Hindu Polytheism. The
worship of ancestors, tiger-gods, big trees, irregular shaped stones, and a belief in
witch-craft, would appear to be the marks of identification by which 'Animism', is
to be recognised." R. E. Enthoven, Census of India. 1901 Vol. IX, Part I, Bombay,
It was once the practice to class the tribal people such as the
Katkaris, the Mahadev Kolis, the Thakurs, etc., who mainly reside in the hilly parts of the district as animists and not Hindus whose influence, according to the early census enumerators, did not
sufficiently reach those quarters. But the idea has been now revised and they are considered Hindus and are classified along with them, though as a separate section as the backward communities deserving protection under legislative and administrative provisions. The animistic ways of life among these communities have been now greatly modified because of the spread of education in these areas under Governmental initiative through the Social Welfare Department. Many from amongst these peoples have taken to civilized ways of life and they live as good Hindus. However, some animistic practices still persist among them which could equally be said about many lower caste Hindus in the district. As the proverb says, "The spirits of the Konkans are very fierce (Konkani dev mothe kadak ahet)." These devs of whom Ceda, Cita, Hirva, and Vaghya are the chief are not only the ordinary objects of worship by the earlier tribes and of the Kunbis, but in spite of Brahman priests, they are feared and worshipped by almost all Hindus.
Of the tribal communities in the district the Mahadev-Kolis who are perhaps the most advanced have at present a. complex of religious beliefs and practices fundamentally the same as amongst the Kunbis. God Sankar represented at Bhimasankar and goddess Kamalaja are their tutelary deities par excellence. The worship of Rama and Krsna has begun to make its appearance. Besides
Maruti which is their principal deity the Mahadev Koli pantheon consists of several male godlings which include: (1) Gahvdeva, the village tutelary deity represented by a stone besmeared with red lead; (2) Vaghoba or Vaghdeva, the tiger god, a sort of a tiger carved on a piece of wood or rarely on stone standing behind the
Maruti temple or thereabout; (3) Hirva represented by a bunch of peacock feathers in which is inserted a silver tak (embossed figure); (4) Ceda which is almost as ubiquitous as Vaghdeva represented by a wooden post standing in front of the
Maruti temple; (5) Vira, a roundish stone representing the deceased principal male member of the family is to be met with on boundary of almost every field; (6) Bhairoba, who should not be confounded with Bhairav of the Hindu pantheon, is represented by a stone with some red lead on it, more often than not, on hill points and is considered a protector of the cattle and people from unwary falls; (7) Vetal, appearing here and there, but only in the form of a stone; (8) Mhasa, a spirit-scaring godling appearing in the form of a crude representation of a he-buffalo carved on a piece of stone; and (9) Cavata, his image being a piece of wood in which two small figures embossed on a thin gold plaque are fixed. Of the female pantheon Kamalaja, Varsubai and Bhavani are pre-eminent. Mariai which is par excellence the goddess of Mahars is also worshipped by Mahadev Kolis. It is represented by a piece of wood three inches in length shaped like the face of a horse piked on a wooden post. Kanastri, a five-pronged image of bronze representing the ear of the corn nagli and Bhagavati represented only by roundish stones bedaubed with red-lead are spirit-godlings of the community [ Ghurye, G. S. The Mahadeo Kolis, pp. 39-46.].
The Thakur generally takes the view of life as current in Hindu
philosophy and in, his dancing song prayers are offered to Sankar,
Parvati and other deities. However, at least in one house in every
Thakur village are found several godlings which are mainly animistic. Among these deities such as Bhavani, Kanhoba and
Khanderav are worshipped by the advanced Hindu classes. The pantheon also includes Vaghya, which represent the tiger, and Hirva, representing the peacock, from the animal world. Munja and Vetal come from the spirit world, and Vir represents the ancestors [ Chapekar L. N. Thakurs of the Sahyadris p. 87.].
The Katkaris who are still perhaps the most backward of the
tribals in the district have no sacred books, neither have they any spiritual guides. Their chief object of worship is the tiger-god, who is supposed to look with peculiar favour upon them and so they hardly ever go to shoot a tiger. In a Dhor Katkari's house there may sometimes be seen devil gods whom they call ceda. This is a soul of a dead relation which has become a bhut (spirit) capable of entering the bodies of men. It is this close connection with, and power over spirits that makes the Katkari so dreaded by the Kunbi.
["The essence of Shamanism is the recognition of the Shaman, medicine man wizard, or magician as the authorised agent by whom unseen powers can be moved to cure diseases, to reveal the future, to influence the weather, to avenge a man on his enemy, and generally to intervene for good or evil in the affairs of the visible world." Census of India. 1901, Vol. I; Part I; p. 350.].
Samans or medicine-men are known in the district by various names such as bhagat, buva, gosavi, guru, devarsi, mantrik, sadhu and vastad.
Bhagats are the samans of Maharastra and are found everywhere. Generally they work as mediators between a deity and various persons who wish to win its favour through them. The power of entering into a trance or a state of inspiration in which the deity is said to possess its bhagat and speak through him is his essential qualification. While in trance the bhagat answers questions and solves problems put to him. He is usually consulted at the time of sickness or some calamity where the cause is unknown. He is supposed to possess the power of devination and is also employed when one wants to do harm to one's enemy or to make the enemy's malign spell recoil on him. As bhagats are often hereditary ministrants of non-Brahmanic deities they are not Brahmins and belong to various castes or tribes. However, irrespective of their caste, they work for anybody who approaches them.
A type of woman samans who arc supposed to be possessed by the presiding deity over small-pox are found in many a village in the district. As such they are specially consulted when a smallpox epidemic is rampant.
Another type of samans are known as buvas or gurus. They hail from the Ghat side and pay annual visits to their celas (disciples) from place to place. They work as religious guides or spiritual teachers to persons from communities such as Agris, Kojis and Mahars whose spiritual life they considerably influence. The Mahars call them gosavis or sadhus. Any Mahar who is well versed in religion and is pious, and maintains himself by begging, may become a guru. All Mahars. whether men or women, are expected in their childhood to take upadesa (advice) of a guru who is looked on as a god, and accept his discipleship at a ceremony known as kanphunkane (ear-blowing). The parents bring their children to the guru, who taking the child on his lap, breathes into its both ears and utters some mystic word into the right ear. At the time, either the priest covers himself and the child with a blanket or cloth, or a curtain is held between him and the rest of the people who sing loudly in praise of the gods. Whenever the guru visits his celas they receive him hospitably and offer him daksina (fees) the amount of which is never known to a third party.
Devarsis or divine seers, mantriks or charmers, and vastads or teachers often work as exorcists. The devarsi is a person who becomes inspired by some familiar spirit or guardian. He does not learn his art of exorcism but wins the favour of his guardian spirit or deity by devotion and the spirit or deity enters the devarsi's body whenever he asks him. The mantrik or charmer generally learns the art of exorcism from a guru or teacher. Both devarsis and mantriks are Hindus. Muslim exorcists are called vastads, and they generally learn their charms from a teacher. Both Hindu and Muslim exorcists arc bound to keep certain rules. If, while a Hindu mantrik is at his meals the lamp in the room gets extinguished, or if he happens to overhear the talk of a woman in her monthly sickness, if any one sweeps in the room or mentions the name of any spirit the exorcist should at once stop eating and fast during the rest of the day. An exorcist must avoid certain vegetables and fruits and must never eat stale or twice-cooked food. A Muslim vastad must avoid eating udid pulse of which spirits stand in awe and he must not eat flesh or other food cooked by a woman during her monthly sickness.
The custom of worshipping devaks or marriage guardians at the time of marriage prevails among the Marathas and among almost all the lower castes in the Deccan. In it can be traced the idea of the totem, as some of the castes show reverence for the devak by not eating, cutting or otherwise using the object represented by the devak. Marathas are said to have ninety six kills or sections, each-section or group of sections having a separate devak. The common . devaks are: (1) vasanvel (Cocculus villosus), halad (turmeric), gold, rui (Calotropis gigantea), kalamb (Anthocephalus cadumba), (2) the peacock feather, (3) the sword blade, (4) the pancapalvi, that is, sprigs of five sacred trees such as mango, jambhul, vad, sami, kalamb, etc., (5) sankh the conch shell, (6) halad (turmeric), ketak, the flower of Pandanus odorotissimus, (7) umber (Ficus glomerata), velu (bamboo), a garland of gold or rudraks or kande (onions),
(8) aghada (Achyranthes aspera) and (9) the nagcampha (messeua ferrea). Among Brahmins and others the term devak is applied to the deity or deities worshipped at the beginning of thread or marriage ceremony. This is a complex rite of installing in sups (winnowing fans) the six mandapa-devatas (booth-spirits), the avi-ghnakalasa (impediment removing jar) and twenty-seven matrkas (village and local deities) and worshipping them.
As generally in the Konkan, fetishistic beliefs are rampant in the
Kolaba district. Fetish stones are generally worshipped for the purpose of averting evil and curing diseases. In every village stones are found held sacred to spirit deities like Bahiroba, Cedoba, Khandoba, Mhasoba, Jhoting, Vetal, Jakhai, Kokai, Kalkai and others. The low class people such as Mahars, Mangs, etc., apply red-lead and oil to stones, and call them by one of the above names, and ignorant people are very much afraid of such deities. They believe that such deities have control over all the evil spirits or ghosts. It is said that the spirit Vetal starts to take a round in a village on the night of the no-moon day of every month, accompanied by all the ghosts. When any epidemic prevails in a village, people offer to these fetish stones offerings of eatables, coconuts, fowls and goats.
The Hindus generally consider as sacred all objects, that are means of their livelihood, and, for this reason the oilman worships his oil-mill, the Brahman holds in veneration the sacred thread (Yajnyopavita) and sacred books, the goldsmiths consider their firepots as sacred, and do not touch them with their feet. In case anyone accidentally happens to touch them with his feet he apologises and bows to them. It is believed by the Hindus that the broom, the winnowing fan, the payali (measure of four seers), the samai (sweet-oil lamp), fire and sahan (levigating slab) should not be touched with foot.
Omens sakuna, good or bad subha or asubha, are given much
consideration by superstitious people. The belief that the result of every undertaking is fore-shadowed by certain signs and hints prevails generally among all classes. Many consider that the business of the day will prosper or fail according to the nature of the object first seen after waking, and so they take care to begin the day by looking at an auspicious object such as the household gods, the sun, a cow, the basil plant, etc. Traders and shop-keepers are particular to avoid dealing with a troublesome customer in their first bargain of the day.
The following are generally held to be auspicious omens: -
While going out on any business, to come across a suvasini (unwidowed woman), a cow, a spiritual preceptor or a Brahman coming in front with a pali-pancapatra (spoon and cup) after taking his bath, the moon in front, the mother, white clothes, curds, a horse, an elephant, a lighted lamp, a public woman, the appearance
of a peacock, the Bharadwaj (blue jay) and the mongoose, especially when they pass on the left side of the person going on business, all these if seen within a hundred paces are considered auspicious.
The following objects and persons are generally believed to be inauspicious: Oil, buttermilk; a monkey, pig, and an ass; firewood, ashes and cotton; red garlands, wet clothes; an empty earthen vessel, a woman wearing red cloth, a Brahman widow, a bare-headed Brahman; a cat going across the path, a dog flapping his ears, meeting a barber with his bag, sneezing or asking a question at the time of departure; howling of dogs and jackals, a lighted lamp extinguished by its fall to the ground, and a pair of crows playing on the ground. While plans or proposals are being made, it is considered inauspicious if any one sneezes or the sound of a lizard is heard.
Lucky and Unlucky days.
Some persons are very particular about auspicious days and
moments. Whenever any important work is to be done, a journey undertaken, or a ceremony solemnised, the auspicious time (muhurta) for it is calculated by the astrologer-priest (josi). That Saturday is an unlucky day is a general belief among all classes of Hindus. In some places Friday and Tuesday are also considered inauspicious. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday are believed to be auspicious or lucky days. Sowing seed and watering trees is forbidden on Sunday; trees do not bear well if watered on Sunday. Tuesday and Friday are considered unlucky for beginning a new task, and Wednesday and Saturday are said to be inauspicious for visiting another village.
The Evil Eye.
Hindus generally believe in the effects of the evil eye. If an accident befalls anything of value, or it undergoes any sudden change, it is said to be due to the effects of an evil eye. Because of it a healthy child becomes sickly and cries, or small red pustules appear on its face, a man may suffer from indigestion or loss of appetite, a cow or a she-buffalo yielding plenty of milk suddenly ceases to give milk or gives blood in place of it, a good image is disfigured or broken, and even stones are shattered to pieces.
Various devices are popularly followed to evade the effects of an evil eye of which the following are' found current in the district.
Dry chillies are waved round the body of the affected person and thrown into the fire, and if they do not thereupon burst with loud noise, it is said that the effects of an evil eye are averted. Similarly for evading the effects of an evil eye, salt, mustard seed, hair, garlic, dry leaves of onions, dry chillies, and seven small stones from the road are put on the fire, and the fire is then waved round the body of the affected person and thrown away. A potsherd is heated till it gets red hot. One then spits on it and utters the name of the person suspected of the evil, the process being repeated with different names. The coincidence of the potsherd becoming red-hot at the utterance of a name identifies the individual; abuses are showered on the name and the affair is dismissed. It is believed that when black ointment is applied to the eyes, cheeks or forehead
of a child, there is no fear of its being affected by an evil eye; black beads called drstamani and vajrabattu, or copper amulet charmed by a sorcerer are tied round its neck; charmed black cotton strings are turned over burning incenses and tied round its arm or neck. Charmed ashes from the temples of certain deities or sacred ashes over which the Rama-raksa stotra i.e., the protecting prayer to Rama, the seventh incarnation of Visnu has been recited, are applied to the forehead of the affected person. When children are sickly, always crying, and weak, or when they are short-lived, approbrious names such as Marya, Dhondya, Ukirdya, Kerya, Rodya, etc., are given to them. It is believed they improve thereby in health.
Witches are found in almost all castes but they are specially
numerous among low caste Hindus and the tribals. They are supposed to work mischief by their glance or by seizure and incantation. The mischief by glance is the working of the 'evil eye' and the glance of an inveterate witch, particularly under the influence of jealousy, is believed to be very deadly. The working by seizure is through cetuk, a form of black art believed to be learnt secretly by women. A cetakina by the power of her incantations can kill a child or turn any person into a dog or other animal, can remove all the hair from the head of a woman or scatter filth etc., in a person's house, and make marks of crosses with marking nuts on all the clothes, or play many other such tricks without betraying a trace of the author of the mischief. She is said to be able to mesmerise a man and order him do anything she wants. She assumes horrid forms, terrifies her victims, drinks up or spoils the supply of milk, and plays the nightmares. She makes women barren, interferes with the milk-yielding power of cows and buffaloes, destroys standing crops, and lurking within the churn prevents butter from forming. To acquire these powers they follow some revolting forms of ceremonies and those who have learnt the black art meet at night on the amavasya day of every month at the burning grounds outside the village and there repeat their mantras so that none are forgotten. A witch has dirty habits and observances. Her supernatural powers bring gain as well as trouble to the witch. Through fear of offending her some villagers may supply the witch with all articles of everyday use. But people generally keep watch over the actions of a woman who is suspected to be a witch, and if she is found practising her black art, and is caught red-handed, people then pour into her mouth water brought from the shoe-maker's earthen pot (kundi). It is believed that, when she is compelled to drink such water, her black art becomes ineffective.
Ghosts and Spirits.
A number of persons in the district, particularly villagers and
low-caste people, believe in the existence of spirits and ghosts.
There are both benign and malign spirits, and of them incredible but interesting stories are in circulation. Bhute spirits are said to belong to two classes: gharace bhut that is family or house spirit and baherce bhut that is outside spirit, and the act of their attacking or taking possession of a person in order to work out some mischief or harm is known as badha. The influence of a house or
family spirit is confined to the family to which it belongs and it is generally the ghost of a member who died with some unfulfilled desire, in appearance and character the spirit is believed to resemble the dead person.
In respect of the types and the descriptions of the outside spirits no two persons can ever agree. However, on a general consensus it could be said that Alvantin or Alvat is the spirit of a Hindu woman who died in childbirth or during her menses. The Asaras are water fiends seven in number and look like Brahman women each wearing a dress of different colour. They generally haunt rivers and ponds, and the person whom they attack runs towards water. Babar is a ghost of a young child. Brahma Samandh or the Brahman ghost is dressed in a loin-cloth, a shoulder-cloth, and a cap; he lives in empty houses, cremation grounds and on river-banks and seldom attacks people but when he does he is hard to shake off. Candaki or Candkai, that is the fierce mother is supposed to cause convulsions in children. It is the guardian spirit of low caste Hindus between two and twelve years of age. Cudal is the ghost of a Muslim woman who had died in childbed, while. Hadal is a ghost of a Hindu woman who died within ten days of a childbirth. For the Thakurs, Hedali is a female goblin, black in complexion. She appears always with her head swathed in a rough blanket. She changes her form at will, suddenly disappearing and changing into flames. Sometimes for frightening people she bends the branch she is sitting on with such a tremendous crack that one expects the tree to break [Chapekar, L.N., Inc. cit., p. 91.]. Similarly Jakhin is the ghost of a married Hindu woman who died in childbed or with some unfulfilled wish. She is dressed in yellow sari and bodice and wears her hair hanging down her back. Khavis, is the ghost of a learned Muslim exorcist. For the Thakurs the Khais or Baba as this ghost is popularly called is white and the stick in his hand rattles as he walks. His back is marked with a furrow like depression, and his feet, it is said, are reversed so that the heels arc in front and the toes at the hack. He also changes form but it is easy to detect him, for in whatever form he may appear, he always smells of meat [ibid, p. 91.]. Girha is the spirit of a Hindu who met his last by drowning or was murdered. He is supposed to be full of guiles and deceives passers-by by leading them into false paths or to places where the water is deep. Kapari is also a ghost of a man who is drowned perhaps in the sea.
Maharbhut is the ghost of a dead Mahar, and Mhasa-sura is the ghost of a buffalo which dies of an accident. Munja is the ghost of a Brahman youth who dies after his thread-ceremony and before sodmunj or thread-loosening. He generally lives in a Pimpal tree, and is fond of attacking women whom he cruelly teases, scorching them with fire, or making them barren. Jhoting is the ghost of a low caste Hindu dying of an accident; he is said to be afraid to enter sacred places and attack people strict in keeping religious rites. There is a general belief that when a person dies prematurely with a wish unfulfilled, his or her soul never has peace. The soul of that person never rests but comes back, wanders
here and there harassing innocent people. To prevent the uneasy dead troubling the living special funeral rites are performed. When a woman dies in childbirth to prevent her spirit from coming back grains of ralas (panicum ibalicum) are scattered on the road as the corpse is being carried to the burning ground. In some cases charmed nails are driven into the threshold and charmed lemons. eggs and nails are buried at the four corners of the house.
Whosoever comes under the influence of spirits behaves in a manner that is not human or ordinary.
The symptoms ascribed to spirit seizures are fever and delirium, pain in the hands and feet, pain in the stomach, loss of appetite, hiccup, and any sudden or unusual illness. Whenever any illness baffles the skill of the physician its origin is ascribed to spirit possession. Several home cures are tried in case of a person believed to be suffering from spirit-attack. A fire is kindled and on the fire some hair and red pepper or sulphur are dropped and the head of the sufferer is held over the fumes for a few minutes. If the spirit is not scared by these means the patient is taken to a bhagat, well known as an exorcist. And when the exorcist fails to effect a cure the case may be referred to a spirit-scaring deity in the vicinity or asked to go to Narsoba's Vadi (in Kolhapur) sacred to god Dattatraya and serve a term in service of the god. In this district, Asare, a village near Pali in Sudhagad Peta is such a place.
Earthen images of snakes are worshipped in some Hindu families on the Naga pancami day. The Naga (cobra) is considered to be a Brahman by caste, and it is believed that the family of the person who kills a snake becomes extinct. The cobra being considered a Brahman by caste, its dead body is adorned with janave (sacred thread), and then burnt as that of a human being.
The Hindus generally believe that snakes guard treasures. A covetous person who acquires great wealth during his life-time and dies without enjoying it, or without issue, becomes a snake after death, and guards his buried treasures. He does not allow anyone to go near the treasures and frightens those who try to approach. But when he wishes to hand over the treasure to anybody he goes to that person at night, tells him in a dream of the buried treasure and requests him to take it over. The snake disappears from the spot after the person has taken possession of the treasure as requested. This snake, it is said, is generally very old, white in complexion, and has long hair on its body.
A snake festival is observed in the Nagesvar temple at Avas (Tal. Alibag) on the night of the 14th of bright Kartika, when a number of devotees of Siva assemble holding in their hands vetra-sarpa long cane sticks with snake images at their ends. They advance dancing and take turns round the temple till midnight, and then with the permission of the chief devotee scatter with axes throughout the neighbouring villages to cut down and bring from gardens coconuts, plantains and such edible fruits. They return after two hours no one interfering with them in their exploits. On the next day they go dancing in the same way to the Kanakesvar hill with the snake sticks in their hands.
It is believed that an old snake having long hair on its body has a white jewel (mani) in its head, and it loses its life when this jewel is removed. This jewel has the power of drawing out the poison of snakebite. When it is applied to the wound, it becomes green but when kept in milk for sometime, it loses its greenness and reverts to its usual white colour. It can thus be used several times as an absorbent of the poison of snakebite.
Several methods are used in villages as cures for snakebite; they are: (1) The use of charmed water and the repetition of mantras by a mantrik (sorcerer). (2) The use of certain roots and herbs as medicine. (3) The removal of the sufferer to a temple famous for the cure. (4) Chickens (their anus) numbering from twenty to twenty-five are applied to the wound caused by the snakebite. This is known to have the power of drawing out the poison from the body through the wound, but it causes the death of the chicken.
It is believed that by the power of mantras a snake can be prevented from entering or leaving a particular area. This process is called sarpa bandhane. There are some sorcerers who can draw snakes out of their holes by the use of their mantras, and carry them away without touching them with their hands.
About the cause of the eclipses (grahana) of the sun and the
moon the people have various notions, the traditional belief being that the sun and moon are superior deities, and the demons Rahu and Ketu who belong to the caste of Mahgs attempt to touch them and devour them. The vedha or malign influence of the monster-is believed to begin about five hours before the commencement of the obscuration in the case of the Sun and about four hours in the case of the Moon, and during the period till the whole eclipse is over some observe strict fast. They take a bath at the commencement of the eclipse and at its close, and spend the time repeating the names of gods, or the gayatri or some of the mantras. Those who want to acquire the art of magic or witchcraft or the power of removing the evil effects of snake poison or scorpion sting, go to a lonely place on the riverside, and there standing in water repeat the mantras taught to them by their guru (teacher). Mangs, Mahars, etc., are supposed to be the descendants of Rahu and Ketu and when the eclipse is on they go about the streets saying loudly "De dan, sute girdn (give us. alms and the eclips will be over)", and receive from householders gifts made to them in charity.
In many an orthodox Hindu family, when the eclipse is over every one bathes either at home, or in a river or in the sea. They fetch fresh drinking water and start cooking for the day, purify the house gods by going through the regular daily worship and then take a meal.
In a Hindu Pancang (almanac) are mentioned several religious holidays. Almost in every month there occurs a sana (holiday), an utsava (festival), a 'jayanti (birthday of a god/goddess), a punya-tithi (anniversary of saint), and a
jatra (religious fair). Every
tithi (lunar day) has some religious significance; it is sacred, suitable, auspicious or otherwise for some purpose or the other, but in the observance of these a person is led by the tradition of his family, caste and local usage. While all Hindus have a few common holidays or festivals, some sections have their exclusive ones, the Brahmans claiming many more than the rest. A number of traditional holidays have by now become either extinct or are fast dying out; a few new ones have come in and some neglected ones have been revived or infused with a new spirit, and according to the times, a category known as national holidays is getting added to that of the religious one. The following is a chronological enumeration of the holidays in a year observed by different Hindu sections in the district:-
The first of Caitra known as Gudhi-padva, it being the New Year Day according to Salivahana Saka (era), is ushered in by householders by setting up in front of the house a gudhi or decorated bamboo pole and worshipping it. The birthday anniversary of god Rama and that of Hanuman, his devotee and henchman, are celebrated on the bright ninth and bright fifteenth of Caitra respectively. Brahman women inaugurate the yearly festival of Caitra-Gaur by installing the deity on the bright third of this month.
On the third of bright Vaisakh comes Aksaya Tritiya known as Akhati by Konkan agriculturist, a day of auspicious beginning for their field activities in the year. With Brahman women it is the last day of halad-kunku ceremony of Gauri installed last month as the goddess is said to go to her maher (mother's house) that day. The full-moon, day of Jyestha known as Vata-paurnima is observed by married women as a day of fast and prayer by worshipping the banyan tree so that their husbands' lives may be prolonged.
The bright eleventh of Asadh marks the beginning of caturmas (holy season) and is observed as a Maha-ekadasi by a very large number of people. The dark fifteenth of the month known as Deep-amavasya is dedicated to the worship of household lamps. A naiveaya of dough-lamps is offered to the 'God of Lights' and then eaten as his prasad.
A number of festivals occur in the month of Sravana. The bright fifth of the month is observed as Nagapancami when in many a Hindu house a clay naga (cobra) is worshipped and a feast enjoyed. On the full-moon day comes Narali-Paurnima when merchants and traders particularly in sea coast towns, to appease the rough waters of the monsoon sea, worship it with an offering of a coconut and pray for the safety of their ships which start sailing from the day. Brahmans and others entitled to wear the sacred thread observe the day as Sravani day and performing certain Vedic rites discard the old sacred threads and put on new ones. The day is also known as Povatyaci Paurnima when Kunbis and others wear a povate (hauls of cotton thread dipped
in turmeric) round the neck or tied to the wrist. The dark eighth of Sravana is celebrated as Janmastami, a festival in honour of Srikrsna's birthday. The no-moon, day of the month known as Pithori Amavasya is observed as a vrata (vow) day by women, particularly by mothers whose children die young.
On the bright fourth of Bhadrapada comes Ganes-caturthi, the birthday anniversary of Ganes, the god of wisdom and of all auspicious beginnings. With it starts a public festival often continued for days. Conjoined with the Ganes festival women hold a feast for three days in honour of Parvati or Gauri, the mother of Ganes. No festival is more enthusiastically observed by the agricultural classes of Konkan than the Gaurica Sana. On the third and the fifth lunar days of Bhadrapada come Haritalika and Rsi-Pancami which are observed as days of fast particularly by Brahman women.
The dark half of Bhadrapada known, as Pitrpaksa (the Spirits' Fortnight) is held sacred to the spirits of ancestors; the ninth is known as avidhava-navami, and the fifteenth as sarvapitri-ama-vasya. The Navaratri festival begins from the first day of bright Asvin and lasts for ten days, the first nine being known as Nava-ratra (Nine Nights and the last as Dasara or Tenth); Devi-worship for the nine nights and Dasara celebrations on the tenth are the chief functions of the festival. The full-moon of Asvin is known as Navanna Paurnima or Kojagari Paurnima. Agriculturists pluck some ears of the new crop, offer them to the family god and after cooking partake of the food as navanna (new food); others celebrate the day by taking their supper in open moon-light or drinking sugared milk in company.
The Divali or Dipavali festival signifying "a Feast of Lights" starts from the 13th of dark Asvin and lasts for five days. Of these, the fourteenth of dark-Asvin or Narak-Caturdasi is observed as a gala-day or Divali by all classes; Dhanatrayodasi and Laksmipujana, the thirteenth, and the fifteenth of dark-Ashvin respectively are of special importance to merchants and traders. The first day of Kartika known as Balipratipada marks the beginning of the commercial New Year; and the second day of Kartika, known as Bhaubij is meant for brothers to express their affection for their sisters by giving them presents. Other minor holidays occurring in the month are the Maha-Ekadasis, the elevenths of both the bright and the dark half, Tulasi-vivaha celebrated on the 12th of the bright half, and Tripuri-paurnima falling on the full-moon-day.
In Margasirsa the bright sixth known as Campa sasthi is observed with tali ceremony by families who are devotees of god Khandoba of Jejuri.
The day the sun enters Makara (the zodiac sign of capricornus) which as a solar incident occurs on the 14th of January but on an uncertain tithi (lunar date) in the month of Pausa is celebrated
as Makara Sankrant. It is marked with a feast in the afternoon, and in the evening
by an exchange of tilagula between friends and relatives to the accompaniment of the standard Marathi formula, which means, 'take this sesamum and jaggery and talk sweet'. The day previous to Sankrant is called Bhogi on which a special dish called khicadi is offered to the gods and eaten; the next day, following Sankrant is known as Kinkrant on which newly married girls distribute auspicious articles to suvasinis.
The dark thirteenth or fourteenth of Magh known as Maha-Sivaratra is a festival particularly observed by the devotees of god Siva. To them it is a day of fast and prayer. Siva's temples are lighted and alms are given to mendicants and religious beggars.
The last festival of the year is Shimga or Holi which begins from the fifth of bright Phalguna and lasts till the Ranga-Pancami day i.e., the fifth of dark-Phalguna. Bonfires are lit from the tenth day of Phalguna, but the principal day is the full-moon day, when the mothi holi (big bonfire) is celebrated. The next day, known as dhulavad is also observed as a holiday. The dark fifth is known as Ranga-pancami when the sacred fire of the Holi is extinguished by throwing coloured water over it, and people walk through the streets enjoying the liberty of throwing at passers-by dashes of coloured water.
26th January-Indian Republic Day, 27th April-Shivaji Jayanti, 1st August-Punyatithi holiday of Lokmanya Tilak, 15th August- Independence Day and 2nd October-Gandhi Jayanti are observed as National Holidays.