NATIVE LIFE IN TRAVANCORE
The REV. SAMUEL MATEER, F.L.S.
Of the London Missionary Society
THE ROYAL FAMILY
THE royal family of Travancore are certainly an ancient dynasty, exercising sway for some centuries, originally over a very confined territory, which was occasionally increased by conquest or otherwise, so as at one time to include the southern portion of Tinnevelly, and within the last century and a half to comprise the whole of the present principality.
Around such a race of rulers cluster many traditions, histories, and loyal sentiments, the particulars of which can with difficulty be gathered by Europeans, because the law of caste pollution makes Hindu domestic life inaccessible to strangers. Curious customs, religious and social, have also arisen from precedents once formed in the course of time and of events. It is scarcely correct to speak of them as a single family, as it is evident from historical records that the reigning family has often died out from lack of direct heirs, which it has been remarked is singularly often the case in Hindu families of the higher classes ; and has been recruited by adoptions-usually from the allied line of Mavelikara, but formerly, it is said, even from so great a distance as Kolattiri, near Cannanore.
There are several families of petty Rajahs in Travancore allied to the Maharajahs, the principal of whom is the Mavelikara family, from whom adoption of princesses is usually made, and with whom therefore close relations of friendship subsist. The present Ranees were selected from this family in 1858. It is said that the Mavelikara line was itself perpetuated in ancient times from Travancore, mutual adoptions thus producing intimate union between the two houses.
Besides the various noble families known as Rajahs, another class are found called “ COIL TAMBURANs,” or “ Lords of the Temple.” These are usually regarded as Kshatriyas ; and from their ranks are chosen the consorts of the princesses of the realm. Several families of this class reside in the northern part of the State. The men “give cloth” to Sudra females, while the women are united to Namburi Brahmans.
The accompanying illustration is a portrait of a gentleman of this caste.
National Ensign.-As various nations have adopted particular plants or animals as their emblems, such as the rose for England, and the dragon for China, so Travancore has adopted the conch shell, and for coat-of-arms, within the last few years, two elephants rampant and a Sanskrit motto, meaning ‘’ Charity is our household divinity.” The conch shell is also one of the emblems of Vishnu, and is used in temples for blowing as a horn.
Birth and Education.-In prospect of the birth of a prince, the mother is put apart in a separate building, where she is attended by female servants and midwives. The English physician is also kept in attendance, to be ready in case of need. On the sixteenth day the lady bathes, and returns to her residence.
In the sixth month rice is given to the infant for the first time on which occasion all the relatives attend. The education of the young princes in vernacular languages, and for a long time past in English also, has always been carefully attended to ; and several princes have developed considerable taste for literature, of which the present Maharajah is a distinguished example.
Investiture of Sacred Thread.-This is done early in the sixteenth year of the young prince, when he comes of age. The ceremony is called Upanayana investiture with the sacred cord, or Tirumadampu-a royal pupil having completed his studies.
Europeans sometimes speak of it as a “marriage,” from a mistranslation of the word Kalyana, which literally means “joy,” and is applied to various occasions of special rejoicing. It is one of the twelve purificatory rites, which are supposed to purify a man from the taint of sin derived from his parents, and which are enjoined, with certain variations, on all the twice-born classes. The cord, however, is worn not only by those classes, but also by all the Kammalars or artificer castes, and even by Pariahs on particular occasions.
This ceremony is usually performed about the time of the Pongal, as an auspicious period for this or for marriage. The ceremonies are announced by a salute of 21 guns; and last for nearly a week, during which the young prince is not at liberty to go about freely, but is under strict religious rules as to food and observances. The ceremony, being rather of a domestic character, is performed in one of the palaces inside the fort.
Multitudes of Brahmans and visitors assemble, clad in holiday attire, and the fort is full of noise and excitement. The Alvancheri high-priest presides, and the Brahmans are liberally fed, as upon all great occasions, and charities distributed to them at the Palace. The native troops of the Nair Brigade, with the band, attend every morning to do the honours. Salutes of cannon and fireworks are fired repeatedly.
Music and plays fill up the day, and feasting and dances the night. On the fifth day the Maharajah circumambulates the Fort in full procession, visiting the Temple and the palace of the youth’s mother.
At the close of the ceremonies the Rajah usually entertains his European friends to dinner in a magnificent temporary shed erected for the occasion, and sumptuously fitted with furniture, lamps, pictures, and cloth and tinsel decorations in Indian style. The young Prince, in whose honour all is performed, cannot even attend the dinner, on account of ceremonial pollution, but he and the ladies of the family sit in a side room which looks into the dining-hall to enjoy the festive scene. The whole is closed with fireworks, burning of blue lights, and other illuminations.
From this time the young prince has a separate staff and residence and monthly allowance, and is very much at liberty to select his own friends, and to live as may please himself. The ceremonies cost about Rs. 18,000.
After the investiture with the cord, the young prince is required to pay a visit to Attingal, in order to offer homage at the domestic shrine there.
Marriage.-The Maharajah, as head of the family, decides whom the young princes or princesses should marry. The union is that common to the Nairs, not like that of Brahmans, except that an Ammachi, or wife of a Rajah, if put away or widowed, is not allowed to marry any other man. The connection may, according to theory, be dissolved by either party ; but an ammachi would not be likely to do so ; and now public opinion is so valued that the union is usually steadfast.
Little is heard of this ceremony amongst outsiders, because it is really not an important one like a Hindu marriage. “The ammachi is not a member of the royal household, and is in nowise associated with the royal court. She has neither official nor social position at Court, and cannot even be seen in public with the ruler whose wife she is. Her issue occupy the same position as herself, and the law of Malabar excludes them from all claims to public recognition.”
Nayars usually go to the lady chosen, give the cloth, and take her home, or reside with her at her brother’s house. In the case of the royal family, a number of splendid cloths are sent, and she is brought to the palace of her consort. But, unlike other Sudra unions, the Ammachi, having once been married to a Rajah, is required to remain single all the remainder of her days ; and is shut UP and guarded in her own residence. Hence it is not all parents that are willing to give their daughters on these terms.
The bereaved lady is comfortably provided for by endowment during the life of the husband, and pension after his decease. Precisely similar is the custom in China, where, on the death of an emperor, his women are removed to a portion of the palace, in which they are shut up for the remainder of their lives.
The Tangachis, or daughters of the Rajah, who, like sons, have no titles of rank, are first married in childhood by a Tirmulpad; when one attains to maturity “cloth is given” by some one who takes her to wife.
The nieces, who, like nephews, have the titles of Highness and Ranee (fem. of Rajah) are married when young to Coil Tamburans, who afterwards live with them so long as both parties are mutually content. It is not necessary that the same person who nominally married the lady in childhood should actually consort with her in maturity. The princess can choose for herself, and if one consort dies, another is called in.
Pulikudi, or “Tamarind drinking” ceremony. When a Hindu wife has reached the seventh month of her first pregnancy, this festival is celebrated on her behalf. A bower, formed of the leaves and flowers of the cocoanut tree, is constructed in the courtyard of her dwelling, when all her female relatives and friends assemble by invitation of the husband, who sends them betel leaf and other things.
First, a rice offering, called pongal, is made on a plantain leaf. Along with the rice there may be some figs, sugar, and butter. This offering is made to ensure the protection of the young mother from all dangers during this period. Next, a cocoanut is broken and presented as an offering to Ganesha. Sitting in the centre of her bower, a garland of flowers is hung round the neck of the woman ; and a dish of water, in which saffron and lime are dissolved, is placed before her.
To frighten away the evil demons, to whose malice females in these circumstances are supposed to be peculiarly exposed ; all the women present take up the dish and wave it backwards and forwards three times before the woman’s face. A wooden vessel is then brought containing some milk, with gold and silver coins, which she holds in her hand. Taking a piece of gold or silver, the women place it between her shoulders, invoking the aid of the goddess Lakshmi for a safe delivery in due course. Having put some cloth on a tamarind tree, they walk round it; and, on returning to the house, the woman is to taste or drink some juice pressed out of tamarind leaves.
Order of Succession.-The nearest heir to the throne is usually the Rajah’s next younger brother, or the eldest son of his sister. Should the nephew be older than the brother, the senior is the heir. The heir apparent is called Eliya, or “junior” Rajah ; and the next heirs First, Second, Third Princes, and so on. When one dies, the next takes the vacant title, so that the Third Prince will become Second, then First, then Eliya Rajah. These changes of title are rather puzzling to outsiders, as young princes grow older, and older ones are removed by the hand of death.
Native designations, however, are permanent, being taken from the star under which each prince was born. As the succession is continued through sisters’ sons, it is not, as amongst Brahmanical Hindus, males who are adopted in case of need, but females, as sisters to existing heirs, and their sons will succeed. Should there be no sons, or only infants, the mother rules during the minority.
The sons of the Rajah, who are called Tambi-younger brother-reside with him in his palace during their youth, and are provided for while the father is alive, as are their mothers also, by gifts of estates, houses, or money, which they thenceforth enjoy as private property.
Accession to the Musnud, or Throne.-During the eleven days of mourning for the deceased Rajah, the new king lives a life of seclusion, attends to the funeral ceremonies and mourning, and receives expressions of sympathy in his bereavement, and of submission to himself as the incoming ruler.
On the second day after the obsequies, all the officers of state visit his palace, in mourning attire, to condole with the young Rajah. And on the sixth day, the native officers of the brigade visit the new ruler, when each offers a present of a piece of silk cloth. The new king is not, however, proclaimed for thirteen days ; but, by order of the British Resident, the usual guard of honour sent to the Maharajah attends upon the Prince in the meantime. Until formally installed, he is addressed by his previous title.
A new governor-general having arrived in India in the interregnum between the death of the late, and the accession of the present Maharajah, the usual official intimation had to be addressed to the Ranee. The letter was in English, accompanied by a translation in Persian, beautifully written on paper powdered with silver, and enclosed in a rich satin bag, covered with white net.
The days of mourning for the deceased ruler being ended, purification is made on the twelfth day; and on the thirteenth day the new Rajah visits the pagoda of Patmanabhan for the native ceremonial answering to a coronation. The whole kingdom having been bestowed by Rajah Martandah Vurmah on this deity, in I750, in perpetual endowment, the crown can only be received from him through the Brahmans. The ceremony is called padiyettam, “receiving of subsistence allowance,” and is the clearest possible acknowledgment of entire subservience to the god and his only representatives, the priests.
The Ranees being regarded as the custodians of the keys of the temple while the god is absent from it at the Arattu procession, receive for this service a small allowance of rice ; the new Rajah likewise attends the temple for his instructions, and allowances of food and clothing, and for investment with office, and with the first of his official titles, Sree Patmanabha Dausa, “the servant, or slave, of the holy Patmanabhan.”
The royal house of Orissa in like manner, “has for centuries performed menial offices before the image of Jagannath ; and, as the sweeper caste is the lowest in the Hindu commonwealth, so the kings of Qrissa have reached the climax of religious humility in their most cherished title of ‘Hereditary Sweeper of Jagannath.”’-(Hunter’s “Orissa,” p. 115.)
Ascending the temple steps with due acts of homage to the presiding deity, the Maharajah receives from him an allowance of rice and cloth, in token of administering the kingdom as his tenant and vicegerent.
The head-accountant of the temple reads from the ritual the rules originally prescribed for observance on the accession of a new sovereign. Offerings are then presented, and various acts of adoration performed, such as pradakshina, circumambulating the pagoda, and sashtangam, prostration of the whole body. The Maharajah is anointed (abhishekham) with consecrated water, and the whole is concluded by the high priest handing to His Highness the sword of state and the belt (which are supposed to belong to Patmanabhan, and have been kept in the temple from the demise of the late king), the prasadam (sandal-wood powder given from the temple as a mark of the god’s favour), the ration of a cocoanut, and 1½ edungalys, of rice, which the Rajah has boiled, and eats.
The eight Yogakar (Brahmans who are the members of the ruling council of the temple) give the neet, or “grant” of the regal office. O n receiving the sword, the Maharajah says, ‘’I will keep this sword until the uncle who has gone to Mecca returns.” Finally, marching round the pagoda, he returns to take possession of the palace and to sign his first order.
This, in the case of the present sovereign, was a grant of an additional five thousand rupees per annum for the repairs of temples, which caused a profound sensation throughout the country in favour of idolatry. So, also, on the arrival of the new Dewan, his first official act was to sign an order for the punctual feeding of the Brahmans.
On the day of the native installation, special pujas and offerings for the Rajah’s health and prosperity are made at the temple in the fort, and at all other pagodas throughout the kingdom. European officials and friends now congratulate him on his accession.
As soon as convenient, a Durbar, or ‘’levee” is held for the public recognition and installation by the British Government. Till this comes off, there is a sort of interregnum, the reign of each Rajah being officially dated from this day. The old Audience Hall in the fort is still preferred, on account of its historical associations, to the Durbar Hall in the new public buildings.
The British sepoys from Quilon, with their English officers, are invited to be present, and all Europeans resident in the country ; while multitudes of the native population flock into the capital for a holiday, to witness the pageant and join in the general rejoicings. The houses are gaily decorated with floral arches and fruiting stems of the plantain ; and festoons of foliage, bright-coloured flowers, and palm-leaf ornaments are strung across the roads from tree to tree.
The Durbar Hall is a long, narrow, upper room, handsomely furnished with carpets, sofas, large mirrors and lamps, paintings of former Rajahs and distinguished British officers, and other furniture in Western style. Outside, in the great square, the troops are drawn up under arms in imposing array; the state elephants, richly caparisoned, and with bells about their necks, bear costly howdahs, though rarely, or never used for riding purposes ; and crowds of the people assemble in honour of the occasion.
The royal party, officers, and retinue being in readiness a little beforehand, the British Resident is received on his arrival, with the usual salute from _ the artillery and troops, takes the Maharajah’s arm, and is placed on a seat immediately on his right The Commanding Officer of the Nair Brigade, who also bears Her Majesty’s commission, sits on the other side; and the Princes and English officials or guests, with their respective wives, take their seats on either side of the room, the whole forming a brilliant and impressive scene.
The ivory throne at the head of the hall is adorned with cushions, shield, and weapons, and a glittering canopy sup- ported on pillars of silver. Beside it stand the Prime Minister and favoured officers in appropriate costume.
The Maharajah is now placed upon the throne by the Resident and the Commanding Officer, when the Resident also presents the insignia of sovereignty-what may be called the Crown-a plumed and jewelled turban worn by each ruler in succession, with drooping feathers of birds of Paradise, aigrette of diamonds and emeralds, and two large pendent pearls. The new Rajah, in turn, resigning the turban that appertains to the heir apparent, hands it over to the next heir, who thus becomes Eliya Rajah.
It cannot but be deeply touching to those who may have known and entertained personal affection for the ruler so recently departed, to witness his crown thus solemnly handed over to his successor. A Proclamation by the Governor of Madras is then read, proclaiming the new king, and “requiring and directing all the subjects of the Travancore Sirkar to acknowledge and obey His Highness as their Maharajah and sovereign.”
The reading of this proclamation is followed by a royal salute and a feu de joie. A translation of the same in Malayalam, accompanied by a proclamation from the new ruler, is read to the people outside, the Rajah, Resident, and assembled company standing in the long verandah in front of the Hall ; another salute being fired, a number of unfortunate criminal convicts, corresponding to the years of the Maharajah’s age, and previously selected as the fittest objects of his clemency, are liberated down below from their chains to commemorate the auspicious day.
Throughout the ceremonial, the company politely rise and stand whenever His Highness does so, or sit when he does. After further congratulations, a speech by the Rajah expressing his sentiments on the occasion, and the principles on which he intends to govern, is read. On the installation of the present Maharajah, this was a most remarkable document, such, it was observed, as few of the native Princes of India could prepare or deliver. Another royal salute, and the assemblage is dismissed with distribution of garlands and bouquets of jasmine flowers, and the fragrant leaves of the Artemisia; rose water is sprinkled, and each visitor shakes hands with the Maharajah on retiring.
After this Durbar, attended by Europeans and the representatives of the British Government, is over, the Rajah resumes his seat on the musnud; and another levee is held for the reception of the native officers of position in the service of the State, who have all been ordered in from their posts through-out the country in order to pay homage by offering the usual tribute of money, each according to his rank and grade. The amount formerly presented was one-tenth of a month’s salary -now a much smaller sum.
About 3 o’clock P.M. the Rajah goes in public procession for pattana pradesam, “entering the city,” in his state palankeen, every one but himself marching on foot ; even a little son will walk holding on by a corner of the royal palankeen for assistance. They go round the principal streets of the Fort, escorted by the Bodyguard and Brigade, and attended by the Dewan and native officials, and a vast concourse of the people.
All being obliged to walk, and no umbrellas allowed by etiquette to the highest or the feeblest, this is a very exhausting ceremony in the hot sun. A royal salute and three volleys of musketry are fired on His Highness appearing after his return on the upper terrace of the palace. Provisions are afterwards distributed to the Brahmans under the superintendence of the sepoys out of uniform.
In the evening a State dinner is given at the Residency ; and next day, the Maharajah honours the British Resident with a visit, coming in full procession of cavalry and led horses, Brigade brass bands and native musicians with strange flutes and other instruments, the State elephants and carriages, attendants strewing green leaves on the ground, the sword and emblems of State, and two curious gold stands for a kind of incense sticks always borne burning before the Rajah in State procession.
Visits to Attingal.-This is a village and. palace situated on the bank of the river about five miles inland from Anjengo, the revenues of which, with the surrounding district, comprising four Athigarams, form the private patrimony of the Ranees. This district is called Sree Bhagam, or “the sacred portion,” and is administered by the princesses through their kariakar or manager. They reside here at least once a year, for a time, for change of air, river bathing, and boating, and worship at their tutelar shrine. It is said that Attingal was selected as a residence for the Travancore Ranees in M.E. 480 (A.D. 1305), when pagodas were erected to their guardian goddess, Bhagavathi or Durga.
In the earliest periods of the English factory at Anjengo, contracts for pepper were all made with the Ranee of Attingal. Cantervisscher says, “Attingal is the name of the maternal house of the Rajah of Travancore who rules over the country lying between Tengapatnam and Paroor, three leagues south of Quilon.” And from the account which he gives of the massacre of a hundred and forty English there, in 1721, in revenge for cruelties which had been practised on a Brahman priest, it would seem as if the Queen of Attingal then possessed a sovereign power distinct from that of the Rajah of Travancore. According to tradition, this power was surrendered by the reigning princess in 1740, when the arm of a strong man was felt necessary to reduce the petty chiefs to one master.
Attingal is still visited by the Maharajah as an ancient and honoured residence of the family. He goes about the same time in January of each year, to begin the reaping of the rice harvest, and to make offerings of the firstfruits ; and is accompanied by the Dewan and a military escort. Some notes of the royal visit in 1881, will best supply definite information regarding the observances.
The Maharajah arrived at the landing place in the afternoon of 20th January, and proceeded to the palace in procession, in the royal palankeen, accompanied by his officers, sepoys, and band. After walking to bathe in the river, and going out in a boat a short distance, he went in procession to the Pagoda, where the festival is celebrated, at the time prescribed by the astrologer as auspicious.
Previous to the arrival of the Rajah, the Potti Brahmans themselves conduct preliminary rites as follows :-The golden image of Bhagavathi is decorated with silk cloth, bright flowers, sandal paste, &c., and having been placed on the back of an elephant and held by a priest, it is conducted four times round the pagoda. There are never less than four elephants at the procession; on this occasion there were eight, on the tallest of which the idol is carried. During the procession a splendid silk umbrella is held over the head of the image by a Brahman. The cortege is accompanied by drumming and music, fireworks, cheering of women and shouting; and the goddess is again placed in the temple.
After this, two or three people of a caste called ponnara panikkar draw a sketch of Ganesha on the ground in front of the temple, with powders of various colours, such as rice, charcoal, red ochre, dried leaves of the acacia, turmeric and lime. The priest then offers to this figure plantain fruits, parched rice, cakes, sugar, ghee, and cocoanut water.
These offerings are afterwards given to those who have drawn the picture; and they obliterate it again with further accompaniment of music. The place is then swept, and sprinkled with cow-dung by Sudra women ; and the priest places there an altar adorned with silk cloth. He then takes the sword which is placed before the goddess in the temple, brings it with music to the altar, on which he fixes it upright. Then he offers worship to the sword, presenting flowers, sacred water, and sandalwood.
All this being in readiness some days previously, the Rajah comes in procession, wearing no covering on the head or chest, but only the cloth round the waist, and carrying a sword in his hand. With great pomp and solemn reverence, he approaches the sword upon the altar, and stands before it. The priest now brings a measure of raw rice in a vessel, which he lays in front of the sword. The Maharajah lifts this with his own hand, and gives it back to the priest .
The latter then scoops up some of the rice in a hollow conch shell, pours a little three times on the top of the sword, and thrice on the head of the image in the temple : the remainder of the rice in the conch shell he puts on the head of the Rajah. This is called abhishekam- anointing or consecration. It is also called, “Putting rice on the threshing-floor.” It may be compared with the old western custom of throwing rice on the bride and bridegroom ; and with the Malabar rite in the coronation of Rajahs-a Brahman taking some rice in his hand from a silver dish, and dropping it slowly on the crown of the Rajah three times while proclaiming his titles.
During this performance the firing of guns and crackers, drumming and music, the kurava cheer and shouting are continued. His Highness still standing before the sword, the priest enters the temple, brings the garlands of flowers and the sandalwood from the goddess, and presents these in a golden vessel to the king. He receives the gifts, which are called Baghavathi prasadam, with much humility, and is at liberty to return to the palace.
This festival is celebrated annually from Ist to 10th Magaram (say 13th to 22nd January), but the Rajah attends only on the ninth day after the sword has been placed and worshipped. It appears to correspond to some extent with the ordinary Pongal or “boiled rice feast,” seeking prosperity throughout the year.
Birthday Rejoicings.-The Maharajah’s birthday, according to native calculations, is celebrated on dates varying considerably in each year, whether in accordance with the astrologer’s determination of lucky days, or at the period when the natal star attains its position.
On the first birthday after his accession a ceremony, called Tirumudi kalasam or purification, is performed in the great pagoda by pouring holy water on the Maharajah’s head, a royal salute being at the same time fired. A series of religious ceremonies having been solemnized within the palace, he sets out in grand procession, adorned with his finest jewelry of diamonds and emeralds, to go through the main streets of the fort in the state palankeen, headed by the cavalry, the band playing a lively march, and the infantry under its English officers following in two columns. In front of the palankeen walk the Dewan, the judges, and peishcars, and the palace and other officials. Slowly moving round the fort, His Highness visits all the principal pagodas inside and outside the fort. At each he alights to drop in his offerings at their shrines.
The procession is over by ten o’clock ; and then commence the festivities, closing with sarvani or peace offerings to the Brahmans, who have also been feasted for days before, and small donations to some other castes. The more intelligent Sudras are beginning to exclaim against this incessant feeding and feeing of idle and profitless Brahmans from public funds to which the Sudra taxpayers so largely contribute, to meet which feeling the present Maharajah thoughtfully included the Nair officials, subordinates, and pupils in his hospitality-a sensible arrangement unheard of before. Dinners are also given at the Residency, and an entertainment by the Dewan to the native officials at his residence in the fort.
On this day the Maharajah breakfasts with all the family privilege accorded once a year to each prince on his birthday.
Another procession to the temple at Shastamangalam, in the suburbs of Trevandrum, is undertaken, usually about a week after this, with full procession of horses, elephants, peons, ensigns and banners, officials and soldiery, the Rajah riding in his great Car of State, ornamented with flowers, and drawn by six horses.
(See engraving.) The English officers accompany the procession part of the way : it then proceeds to the temple, where offerings are made, and coins are thrown to the assembled multitude.
Daily Life. The Maharajah is an early riser, and goes first to bathe, visits the temple for private devotions, then takes a drive to his country house, where visitors are commonly received between seven and eight o’clock. Returning to the palace, he bathes again, and partakes of breakfast in Hindu fashion at nine or ten o’clock.
Animal food is not used, and Brahmanical customs in several respects have been adopted. Though not absolutely bound, they are as particular in diet as Brahmans ; as also are various high Sudra families. Rice and a great variety of curries, bread and cakes, tea and coffee, sweetmeats and fruit, are the ordinary diet. Pure water is brought every morning, under a guard, from the river at Karamana. When invited to dinner with Europeans, no food can be eaten with them, but His Highness sits at table, and engages in polite conversation with his nearest neighbours.
The day is occupied with public business, receiving officials and hearing their reports, consulting on affairs of State, signing orders, &c. On particular days audience is given to the Dewan, the judges, and heads of departments, who present their respective reports. After seeing the Rajah on Monday, the Dewan visits the Resident on Tuesday to convey or receive any communication. Other officials are received as may be convenient ; and presents of gold bangles, valuable rings, and other tokens of favour are sometimes given to deserving officers.
In the afternoon or evening, the late Maharajah was accustomed to hear the Sastries read the Hindu religious works for an hour, and to converse with them. Another drive is taken in the cool of the evening. Petitioners often place themselves at prominent points of the road, hoping to remind their royal master of their applications or needs.
At 8 or 9 o’clock, supper is taken; and on special occasions nautches or plays fill up some more time. Rajah Bhagyodya Martandah Vurmah was remarkable for his attention to religious duties.
“Every day,” says Mr.P.S. Menon, “the Maharajah spent no less than three hours in the morning and evening in prayers and devotions, which often interfered with His Highness taking his meals at the proper time.
"There was scarcely a day on which the Maharajah took his breakfast before 1 P.M., and supped earlier than twelve in the night; and on certain particular days of fasting, or on the occasion of any other ceremonies, he would not swallow even a drop of water during the day, and would take his meals only at night after all the ceremonies were over.’’
These lengthened hours of attendance at devotions, and also at theatrical representations, of which he was very fond, with the consequent irregularity of retiring to sleep, probably affected the Rajah’s health, and tended to shorten his life.
While at home and at ease, and on the most solemn religious occasions, all dress in the simplest possible fashion-a mere cotton cloth wound around the waist and a cap or turban on the head. They pleasantly call this undress their “uniform,” apparently on the principle that they are ‘’when unadorned, adorned the most”. Fine robes and valuable jewelry are reserved for great occasions and for appearance in portraiture.
Dogs are not kept, nor the chase engaged in, though there appears to be a relic of former hunting expeditions in the palli vettu ceremony.
The amusements of the Court are pretty fully detailed in Mr. Shungoony Menon’s “History.” English books and illustrated papers are procured and read. Occasional tours are made through various parts of the land, for change of air, restoration to health, or pilgrimage to temples. In long journeys to Madras or Benares, the ladies may accompany their husbands or uncles, and a great retinue of hundreds of persons, including the family gods, and the priests, who need some precautions to avoid pollution. Once a golden casket containing the tutelary idols was missing for some time, and only recovered by the police after much expense and anxiety.
The members of the royal family pay their devoirs to the head of it from time to time. The strictest attention is always required to etiquette and respectful bearing, a humble salutation being given on entering the presence, and no inferior presuming to sit before the sovereign till invited to do so by word or sign.
Pleasant intercourse is maintained with Europeans of position by attending their garden parties, or meeting them at the military band in the public gardens. The Maharajah pays visits only to the Resident or distinguished visitors to the capital ; but the princes visit more freely ; and all receive visits of courtesy, appointments for which must always be made beforehand. They correspond in English in the usual style of polite society. English officials and friends write notes of congratulation and good wishes to the Rajah on his birthday, and he addresses such notes to them on our New Year’s day.
The Ranees lead a secluded life in the bosom of their own families, rarely appearing in public. They did so, however, in Travancore, in June, 1881, on the investiture of the Senior Ranee with the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, and at Madras in February, 1883, on the investiture of the Maharajah with the Order of the Star of India. They are often visited by English ladies, and sometimes even gentlemen.
They are not allowed to leave the kingdom without special permission, but travel in company with their consorts to various palaces and visit noted temples such as Vaikkam, Tiruvattar, &c. Both royal ladies are educated in English as well as the vernaculars ; and are accomplished in music, needle-work, &c.
Court Etiquette may be described as simply the ordinary regulations of caste, carried out in all their details and to the fullest extent. Shoes are laid off by natives before entering the presence ; the chest must be uncovered ; and the head covered with a cloth or turban. Umbrellas must be lowered before royalty. Native officials and subjects meeting the royal carriage must stop and get out and stand, make a low obeisance raising both hands and performing the curious twiddlings, or closing and extending of the fingers, which is the Malabar salutation to Rajahs.
On obtaining an audience, presents of fruits, cloth, or money are offered by subjects. In the presence, all stand with the left hand on the breast and the right hand covering the mouth lest the breath should pollute the king or other superior. So also at Parisnath Jain temple, a low-caste man carries in the incense and musical instruments with a broad bandage tied over his nose and mouth, in order that his breath might not pollute the idols. And in China it was formerly customary for the officers of the Court to hold cloves in the mouth before addressing the sovereign, in order that their breath might have an agreeable odour.
A special language of a highly artificial and conventional character is used of the royal person, property, and actions, ordinary terms being forbidden. The palace occupied by the prince is called bajanapura-”worship building ; “ the royal food, “nectar;” a birth, an “incarnation;” and a birthday, a “holy day ;” a death, “leaving the country,” or, “going to the heaven of Vishnu, Vaikuntha;” travelling, erunnellu or procession ; and the word palli, church, or tiru, sacred, is applied to almost everything connected with the king.
The Maharajah cannot in the vernacular be spoken of as “he,” but at least “the Maharajah themselves;” and is personally addressed as ponnu tambran”, literally “ golden god,” but perhaps implying not much more at present than “precious lord” - Tiru manassu - the “sacred mind,” is also incessantly used. None dare say nyan, “I,” but “adiyen,’’ “your slave” or servant.
Proper names are never uttered, but the various members of the royal family are spoken of in the third person by the star under which they respectively were born -as the Visagha or the Mulam Prince ; or by descriptive epithets, as the Senior or Junior Rajah, the Great, or Little, Coil Tamburan; and so forth.
On the decease of a Maharajah, the literati compose poems and elegies in language of the highest Sanskrit style, quite incomprehensible to ordinary people.
As no subject can be seated in the presence of the Rajah, the coachman has to stand up while driving him out in the carriage. Formerly when a series of lectures was commenced, at which the Prince kindly consented to preside, serious difficulty was at first experienced from the highest officials being compelled to stand with others during the whole time, but afterwards His Highness kindly gave a special permission to sit; to avoid entire reversal of recognized etiquette he himself, when delivering addresses, now sits to allow the hearers to do the same.
Tulabharam and Hiranya Garbham Ceremonies - The extraordinary ceremonies called Tulabharam, “Scale Weighing,” and Hiranya Garbham “Golden Womb,” each performed once in the life-time of each Rajah, have been fully described in “Land of Charity,” pp. 169-175; and further reference to them will be found in the review of the “ History of Travancore” in the present volume, Chapter XXXV.
For the “Scale Weighing,” the Maharajah is seated on one scale of an ornamental balance, with his sword and shield ; and in the other scale his weight is heaped in gold coins having the name of the god inscribed thereon, which are afterwards distributed to the Brahmans in various proportions according to their dignity and claims. The weight of gold for this costs about £I 2,000 and additional expenditure, say, £4.000 besides. One king performed this ceremony a second time in silver at the end of his reign.
The “Hiranya Garbham” ceremony is performed in a large golden vessel or tub with a cover of gold, an engraving of which with the accompanying priests, officials and guards in procession, forms the frontispiece of this book. Inside the vessel is placed a mixture of “the five products of the cow.”
After many preparatory rites the Maharajah enters the golden tub, the cover is put on, he bathes and offers prayers inside for ten minutes while the assembled priests continue praying and chanting hymns. After coming out, he is again crowned by the chief priest and is supposed to be advanced in caste purity, and religious privilege, as well as full authorization to reign over his people.
This golden vessel is also cut up and distributed amongst the Brahmans. The ceremony costs the State about £14,000.
Bhadradipam Ceremony.-One of the principal religious ceremonies in which the Rajah himself takes a principal part, is the Bhadradipam, or “Lamp of Good Fortune.” After the wars for the subjection of the petty Rajahs and neighbouring principalities, in which much blood was shed, and that often without just cause, Rajah Bala Martandah Vurmah appears to have been somewhat pricked in conscience (as our own fierce but superstitious barons were in similar circumstances in the dark ages), and he set about inquiring what could be done to expiate these sins, secure general prosperity, the destruction of his remaining enemies, and the conciliation of the conquered peoples.
Consulting learned Brahmans from various parts of the country, they recommended the Bhadradipam and Murajapam ceremonies. Bartolomeo falls into error in referring the “Golden Cow ceremony” to this origin, instead of the Bhadradipam.
This festival is a kind of sun worship, like the Pongal of the Tamils, which occurs at the same time, and in which offerings-of boiled rice are made to the sun. It is performed at the two ayanas, or solstices of the year, calculated by the Hindus as occurring about 12th January and 14th July. It was first celebrated in M.E. 9I9 (A.D. 1744), and the first Murajapam six years afterwards.
The Bhadradipam chiefly consists in the priests transferring, by means of mantrams or invocations, the spirit of the Sun to sacred lamps. The five lamps are lighted on 1st Magaram (13th January). After seven days of prayers and offerings are made, Brahmans are feasted, and special donations made to them. This is repeated on 1st Karkadagam (15th July). The Trevandrum Siveli, or circumambulation of the temple with the images, is made on the previous evening.
At these times the Rajah is secluded and fasting, and unable to receive European visitors. Presents of money are still made by the Sirkar to leading Brahmans at Kidangur, as a peace-offering to compensate for the crime of killing Brahmans in the last century.
Every twelfth Bhadradipam is preceded by the Murajapam, which thus occurs once in six years. The last took place in November and December, 1881. It is a special and extraordinary observance of the Bhadradipam, and is supposed to compensate for any defect during the preceding six years. The three Vedas (Rig, Yajur, and Sama) are recited in rotation in the great temple once in eight days.
This recitation is thus repeated seven times during the fifty-six days continuance of the festival. About 3000 Brahmans are feasted all this time at the expense of the Sirkar. The fifty-sixth, or concluding day, is called Lakshadeepam, or “Hundred thousand Lamps,” when innumerable lights are lit in the evening. For further notes, see “Land of Charity,” p. 167.
The Worship of the Sword.-The great Hindu festival, called Dasara, or “The Ten Days,’’ occurring about the end of September or the beginning of October, is known in Northern India as Durga Pujah, and in Travancore by the terms Puja Weippu and Eduppu, which means literally “setting worship” and “removing worship.”
This is rather of the character of a domestic festival, when all families adore the instruments, tools, and implements by which they gain their livelihood-the plough of the farmer, the hammer and chisels of the artisan, the barber his razor, the tailor his needle, the writer his pen, teachers and scholars their books, the soldier his sword, shield, and gun, and so forth. Women heap together their baskets, the pestle and mortar with which they clean the rice, and other household implements, and worship them.
The worship of the sword appears to have descended from the ancient Scythians, and is practised especially by the martial tribes of India. Among the Mahrattas the cannon are praised, invoked, and propitiated. These instruments are adored as so many deities, to whom the Hindus present their supplications, and offerings of incense, flowers, fruit, and rice, that they would continue propitious, and still furnish them with the means of living.
A British officer, who seemed not to have fully considered the moral aspect of his action, informed me that he and many others are accustomed to hand over their swords to the sepoys for this festival, with a contribution towards the expenses. Enlightened natives, on the other hand, plead that they only join in this absurd worship through fear of giving offence to their elders.
In this Puja, several deities are worshipped, especially Saraswathi, the wife of Brahma, and goddess of music and letters ; and Durga, Parvathi, or Bhagavathi, formerly propitiated with human sacrifices and offerings of blood.
To honour this festival with their presence, two of the ancient deities of the royal family, kept in temples which belong to their ancient territory, are brought to Trevandrum. “They must needs be borne because they cannot go.” The Maharajah himself goes to Attingal to present his offerings ; but the images of Kumaraswami of Kumarakoil, near Palpanabhapuram, and of Saraswathi, are brought to the capital in solemn procession, carried on a great litter or wooden frame, by forty or fifty bearers of good caste, bedecked with flowers, and escorted by a company of the Nair Brigade, temple women cheering and shouting, magistrates, and some of the people.
The image of Kumaraswami, or Supramanyan, son of Siva (the same as Shastavu, or Iyenar, and virtually a species of demon worship, as in Tinnevelly-probably the religion of the aboriginal inhabitants, including the Sudras) is in the form of a human figure riding on a horse, all in silver.But Kumaraswami, they say, married one wife of the Kuravan, and another of the Pariah caste.
He is, therefore, supposed to have lost caste, and is not allowed entrance into the pagoda of Patmanabhan, but made to reside in a temple outside the fort, called Ariya Chaley, and taken for the Puja Eduppu to a Mandapam, or Stone Pillared Hall at Pujapura, in the suburbs of Trevandrum. They also say that his two wives are on bad terms with one another, and ready to proceed to blows. Yet Kuravars, and other low castes, are driven out of the road on the procession day lest they should pollute the god who married into their castes.
The presence of this god for the feast costs the native Government over four hundred rupees annually, besides travelling expenses. The god is supposed to receive this fee on account of his difficult task in crossing three great rivers, at Kulitory, Neyattankara, and Karamana. After the close of the ceremonies, the images return to the South in state, escorted as before.
On the first of the Ten Days the flag is hoisted in the temple on the golden flagstaff, and dancing and other amusements are kept up during the whole night. On the second day the Puja Weippu is held in the palace itself, in honour of the goddess Saraswathi. During the ten days the Maharajah remains partially secluded, and is obliged to fast for the last two or three days. Splendid feasts are given to the Brahmans during the whole time.
The ninth day is called Maha navami, “the great Ninth,” being celebrated on the ninth day of the increasing moon, which is also a grand night in Bengal. Then the implements are collected, and placed on altars for adoration. The next day, Puja Eduppu, they are removed, and the celebration ends.
On this day the grandest pageant of the year is exhibited-an imposing State procession from the Fort to Pujapura, for a ceremony called palli vettu, or nayattu, “royal hunting.” In other parts of India it is not unusual for Hindu kings to move a short way out of town or camp on this day, to a sacred tree planted for the occasion, and adored in order to secure a propitious time for undertaking various enterprises, especially hunting and war-like expeditions. The palli vettu seems to be a relic of such expeditions formerly conducted in Travancore.
In the afternoon the Rajah sets out, under a royal salute, in procession in his magnificent royal car of state, glittering with gold and perfumed with scents and flowers, drawn by six large white horses, preceded by the State elephants, one bearing the national standard, the Nair Brigade with the band playing lively airs, the bodyguard, and the officers and native musicians of the palace. Behind the car move the carriages of the princes, the Dewan, peishcars, and judges-then the sastries, songsters, and other native officials.
The houses in the streets traversed by the procession are profusely decorated with garlands of flowers, bunches of plantain fruits, flags, and various devices. On some gates are arches with the motto, “ Long live His Highness the Maharajah,” and the streets were lined with crowds of people - men, women, and children in holiday attire hurry from all quarters to Pujapura.
Even the poor Pulayars come out in clean or yellow-stained cloths, but have great difficulty in getting along without touching any others in the crowd, where the roads are narrow and enclosed with walls on either side.
The people seem to meet one another, and chat in an unusually friendly and good-humoured way. Near the open plateau at Pujapura a very lively scene is presented. It is a stirring sight to witness the dense moving mass of soldiers, elephants, carriages, and men coming up ; and everywhere as the car passes a low obeisance is made by the people, which is acknowledged by a courteous bow from their Sovereign.
Before the procession arrives, various ceremonies are gone through by the Brahman priest of Kumaraswami, who accompanied the image from the south. It is placed on its carriage in a small enclosed space added to the Mandapam. A square pedestal of stone also stands in front of the building, on which are planted some green branches of a tree and a plaintain stalk in fruit, garnished which the blossom of the palm, and festoons of flowers.
At the foot of these is laid a large soft cocoanut, with one end of the husk sliced off to shoot into ; also a brass pot of consecrated water, a bell to call the attention of the god, and a lamp blazing the whole time. The priest puts some sacred grass between his fingers, sprinkles holy water, and puts flowers one by one on the cocoanut, muttering mantrams, or prayers. All this is repeated several times.
A little before reaching the Mandapam, the party alight and proceed on foot. The military forming a cordon around them to secure a clear open space, they stand till Kumaraswami is lifted on the shoulders of his bearers and carried round the stone pedestal several times. This is called pradakshina, or circumambulation, and in it the right side is kept towards the person or object to be honoured.
The idol is then set down on one side, and the priest takes a large bow in his hand : he first shoots three arrows cautiously into the cocoanut, then the Maharajah comes forward and receives the royal bow, a small and highly decorated one, with light, steel-headed arrows, which he quietly and carefully shoots into the cocoanut, standing quite close to avoid the illluck of missing*. The booming of another salute, followed by three volleys of musketry, announces the accomplishment of this exploit.
The god is again carried to the Mandapam, where His Highness and the princes enter, witness the burning of incense and camphor, and present each a number of coins and a few yards of silk to the god. They come out again in a few minutes, and pass to the adjoining palace for a brief interval of rest.
As soon as the Maharajah retires, a scramble ensues for the flowers, fruit, and leaves on the pedestal, which are immediately torn away and carried off.
Sir J. Malcolm speaks of a similar ceremony by the Mahratta Peishwa, who plucks some leaves from a sacred tree, and from a field a stalk of grain. The whole crowd then fire off arms, pluck in like manner, and carry the leaves and grain home with joy.
Songs of praise are chanted, and dancing performed before the idol by the temple women, led by an old Brahman whom they surround in a circle. But neither reverence nor pious awe is exhibited, and the tumult of the crowd is distracting. The dancing is, like most idolatrous worship, a mere play — a subject of laughter amongst the dancing women and attendants — the spectators, at the same time, pushing and fighting to get a good place for seeing, and the Sepoys almost striking with their muskets to maintain some order. When the singing has ceased, these decorations also are torn away by the crowd.
The procession returns after dark to the fort, where it receives a final salute, and the Puja Eduppu closes.
Throughout the country in all public offices and schools this holiday is more or less kept. In schools it is considered essential to prosperity for the coming year; and a teacher who cannot himself attend to it, hands his books to a neighbour, and gets them back next day, paying in return a suitable fee for the accommodation. A portion of the schoolroom is screened off with leaves as a kind of sanctuary, and beautified with flowers, plantain stems, and ornaments plaited of the white soft leaf of the palm. On a chair inside, covered with fine silk cloth, are placed the books to be worshipped. A Brahman is called to perform the service, for which he receives a fee of, at least, three quarters of a rupee.
Sickness Death, and Funeral Ceremonies.— In case of illness famous native doctors are applied to for treatment, as well as the services of the English Court physician. Difficulties arise from the conflict of Hindu and caste usages with the particular diet or drugs that may be prescribed according to European medical science. Frequently a fair and sufficient trial is not given to European skill and medicines.
Travelling for change of air and scene, and for pleasant bathing, is commonly resorted to with advantage. This is turned into, or combined with, a pilgrimage to shrines and sacred places, to which sometimes an improvement in health is attributed rather than to the fresh air and exercise, and the hopefulness inspired by the effort.
One prince expended more than his income on gifts to the deities and temples in seeking to ward off death, and spent all his time in repeating “Rama, Rama,” employing a person to count the number of repetitions.
Further superstitious measures are tried. The prasadom or oblations of food consecrated by dedication to the idol, and brought from the temple of Patmanabhan, are expected to exert a healing power. Special praises of the gods, sacrifices to conquer death, vows to noted temples, and other rites are performed by Brahman priests. Many Brahmans are fed with the most delicious articles of food, and endowed with liberal gifts.
Should sickness be prolonged and distressing, and appear to be mortal, it is supposed that the sins of the invalid hinder his peaceful departure. And, in any case, the burden of sin and the need of a sin-bearer cannot but be felt.
The Alingana Danam — “Embrace Gift” is now made, a most touching ceremony, which bears some resemblance to the Jewish institution of the scapegoat. A holy Brahman is found who is willing to undertake this responsibility in consideration of a large sum of money, rupees ten thousand; he is brought in, and after the performance of certain ceremonies by the Brahmans, closely embraces the dying man, and says, O King! I undertake to bear all your sins and diseases. May Your Highness live long and reign happily.” Thereby assuming the sins of the sufferer, the man is sent away from the country and never more allowed to return.
Gifts of cows are also made to Brahmans to ensure the support of a cow in crossing the river of death. Gomulya Danam or “Gift to purchase cows,” is a present of 45 fanams each, given in money, instead of the actual animals, to a thousand Brahmans, this being equal to the gift of a thousand cows.
Sudras, when ill, sometimes offer a cow, with silver decorations on the horns, to Brahmans for atonement of sin and recovery of health.
The worship of cows, especially at the time of death, is a favourite one with the Hindus. Baka Bhai, widow of the last Rajah of Nagpore, spent twelve hours daily in the adoration of cows, the Ocimum plant (tulasi), the Sun, and her idols. When her end was at hand, five cows were introduced into the room where she lay, in order to be bestowed on Brahmans.
The gift of the animal was accompanied by a further donation in money; and as one after another they passed onward from the bedside, they were supposed to help the dying woman forward on her way to heaven. Among the last acts of her life, was to call for a cow, and having fallen at its feet, as far as her now fast waning strength would allow her, she offered it grass to eat, and addressed it by the venerated name of mother.
When death is imminent, Kala Danam, or the “Death Gift,” is made, A buffalo is brought; it is covered with valuable cloths, the neck and horns decked with jewels, and a little fire in a pot tied under its belly, but without touching it. A Brahman is called, who receives four paras of sesamum seed and a few rupees, and is then mounted on the buffalo and sent away.
The dying person is laid on the ground upon soil brought from Attingal, a last farewell taken of the members of the family, and disposition made of personal effects. Words of consolation and kind advices are also addressed, and reconciliations effected. All the rites and donations are completed; the sacred oblations of the household deity brought from the pagoda, and applied to the eyes and forehead; and a Brahman repeats some mantrams in the ears of the expiring Rajah.
The women connected with the palace, assembled in expectation of the solemn event, stand in two lines, ready to commence mourning. Immediately that death occurs, they begin a terrible wail, beating their breasts and unloosing their long hair. The cry is heard outside, and hundreds of women join in concert.
Trumpeters are instantly sent round, whether it be day or night, to call in the whole of the Nair Brigade, and the barrack bell is also rung. At dead of night, as on the last occasion, the melancholy sounds of the death horn are sadly impressive. The household being polluted by the occurrence of death, none can partake of food till the remains are disposed of. The body is therefore washed, rubbed with sacred ashes, and at once prepared for cremation.
The funeral pile is quickly erected in a small yard outside the fort, the fuel of mango, with some cedar and sandalwood, being in readiness beforehand. A shed ornamented with flowers is put up to protect the pile from rain, and sufficiently high to be out of reach of the fire. The body is lavishly decked with bracelets, necklaces, and ear-rings of plain gold (no precious stones being allowed), all of which are burnt along with it, the melted gold becoming the perquisite of the priest and others. The body is also wrapped in a silk cloth and girdle bestowed by Patmanabha swami on his servant the king, as he also is accustomed to give the sere cloth for burial to his dependants. This cloth is brought from the temple in procession with music.
Placed in the State palankeen, the mortal remains are closely covered up, the palankeen also being overspread with a rich silken pall, and decked with garlands of jasmine and other flowers. It is taken out of the palace through a breach in the wall, made for the purpose, to avoid pollution of the gate, and afterwards built up again so that the departed spirit may not return through the gate to trouble the survivors. On the starting of the mournful procession, and during its progress, minute guns are fired, one for each year of age of the departed prince.
The funeral procession much resembles that on the occasion of the Arattu, or bathing of the god, and starts within a few hours after the decease. It is headed by the Maharajah’s body guard on foot, bareheaded, and leading their horses, followed by the band, with drums muffled and colours draped in black.
The bandmen march bareheaded, playing the Dead March; the Brigade also bareheaded, their muskets reversed and flags furled; the English officers on foot in full uniform with strips of crape. Behind the band walk the great Officers of State, then the Eliya Rajah who is to succeed, next the Princes in order. Behind these comes the palankeen with the royal remains borne by a caste called Pounders, It is surrounded by the domestics and favourite followers, and by hundreds of Sudra women, with their hair dishevelled, wearing but a single cloth around the waist, and filling the air with their loud weeping and lamentations.
All are in similar undress; even in the heaviest showers not an umbrella is permitted, so that the risk is sometimes great to delicate constitutions from standing two or three hours in rain during the cremation. A vast multitude of men, women, and children, of various castes and creeds, follow the funeral procession to the burning ground, but only the princes and chief officials are allowed to enter it. The ceremonies are performed under the direction of the Brahmans.
Underneath the high outer shed, a small inner canopy immediately over the pile is very handsomely decorated with flowers, plantain trees, young cocoanuts, palmyra nuts, and many other ornaments. The fuel is piled on planks, and a mattrass placed on the top. The remains are laid in the centre — the head southwards, the feet to the north, and completely covered with sandal-wood.
As soon as the body reaches the place, it is borne round the pile three times, then placed on the pyre, and three volleys of musketry fired — the last salute to departed royalty. Then the brothers and nephews put a little rice and money in the mouth, and break the pots of water according to custom. Two lights are placed at the head and at the feet, and kept burning for five days and nights.
Before lighting the pile, a mantram is repeated, giving the elements of the body to the five elements — the eye to the sun, the breath to the wind, the limbs to the earth, the water, and the plants whence they had been derived. In accordance with the theory that each element must have a portion of the body at dissolution, it usually expires on the earth, is washed with water, burnt with fire, to set free the spiritual element from the superincumbent clay and complete the regenerative process; and the ashes are, in some cases, scattered in the air, in others buried in the earth, or thrown into the rivers or the sea.
Fire is applied to the pile by several of the nearest relatives, the chief mourners, who hold the torch behind their backs, reverently looking away from the remains. The military and band are now permitted to depart, but the princes and high officials remain for two or three hours till the body is consumed. Fuel is added, and oil and butter poured on, with fragrant substances, till the body is fairly reduced to ashes. Then more oil and ghee are supplied in order to raise the flame so as to ignite the sheds and their decorations. At intervals the mourning women utter a loud wail all in unison.
The bereaved family now return to their palaces, bathe, and continue in deep mourning for eleven days, the pile being left to smoulder under charge of a guard of about fourteen sepoys, till the fire dies out in a day or two.
After the funeral is over, Brahmans flock in and receive gratuities of three or four fanams each.
A notification is at once issued by the Dewan announcing the demise, the consequent closing of all public offices and institutions, and suspension of all business for three days, and other customary marks of mourning. All shops are closed and work dropped throughout the kingdom. Umbrellas also are not allowed to enter the fort. For eleven days the palace women and all Nairs have to go mourning with hair loose and without wearing new cloths or rubbing sacred ashes.
For the same period, mourning is observed by the Nair Brigade, the men shaving off their moustaches and hair, excepting the kudumi, which hangs loose, and going about bareheaded, without their turbans.
In Alleppey, as soon as the sad intelligence is known, the Commercial Agent orders all the shops in the town to be closed, and the national standard hoisted half mast from the flagstaff.
Barbosa, writing early in the 16th century of the death of the kings of Malabar, says (p. 107)*—
“After having burned him, all shave themselves from head to foot, excepting the eyelashes, from the prince, the heir of the throne, to the smallest child of the kingdom; and they also clean their teeth, and universally leave off eating betel for thirteen days from that time; and if in this period they find any one who eats it, his lips are cut off by the executioner.”
For a full year it is forbidden to celebrate marriages, or other occasions, with the usual music or display. It is customary to give a chuckram to each Sirkar official present at the burning, which he is supposed to place in the mouth of the deceased. The surviving relatives, therefore, for some days after, always enclose a chuckram in letters to officials whom they may have occasion to address.
After the cremation, the royal palankeen is again brought morning and evening, for five days in procession to the burning ground, accompanied by a Brahman priest, sepoys, and attendants, and mourning women, who cry as before. It is carried round the ashes thrice, and then returns.
On the fifth day, by which time relatives who live at a distance will have arrived, the new prince goes as before, bare-headed and barefooted, and wearing only a single cloth, in procession with music, wailing women, &c., to collect the ashes and the remains of bones still unconsumed.
After a Brahman called the Kakkattu Potti has performed certain ceremonies, the bones are gathered, and part placed in a pot to be sent to the Ganges at Benares in charge of a Brahman, who receives two thousand rupees for this service, and is also regarded as degrading himself by such an office.
The remainder is put with many ceremonies in another urn, and buried under a jack tree in some compound in the neighbourhood. Over this grave is placed a stone with the name and age of the deceased; and the owners of the garden receive for the perpetual guardianship of the tomb a daily grant of two measures of rice, and half a nari of cocoanut oil for constantly burning at night in a lamp over the grave.
The ashes of junior members of the royal family are buried at the burning place, and a jack tree planted over each.
The melted gold is divided into three or four parts, and distributed to the officiating priest, the temple, the palankeen bearers, and the mourning women.
On the twelfth day Punyaham, or cleansing from pollution, is celebrated by the Potties, after which the new ruler can take possession. Into a quantity of water in a vessel they throw sacred flowers, then prayers are recited; the holy water is sprinkled over the person and house to be purified. Presents are again made to Brahmans.
Sixteen days after the cremation the Sraddha, or oblation to the manes for the repose of the soul, is celebrated, and this is continued daily in the palace itself for some time. It consists in the offering of pindam or rice balls, and oblations of water to the deceased ancestors and the gods, with the feeding of Brahmans required in all ceremonies. The Sraddha is explained by Prof. Monier Williams to the following effect : —
The Hindus fancy that a man has three bodies; and sometimes the attempt is made to puzzle Christian preachers by’ catechising them on this point. The first is the sthula sarira, or gross body, which is burned; but the soul quits with the; linga sarira or subtile body, sometimes described as the size of the thumb, and hovering near the former. The departed spirit has now no real body capable of enjoying or suffering anything, so that it is restless, uncomfortable, and impure. If funeral rites are not performed, it may become a foul, wandering ghost, disposed to take revenge for its misery on all living creatures by malignant acts.
The object of the Sraddha is to soothe the troubled spirit by libations of consecrated water, and to furnish it with an intermediate body, by which alone it can obtain gathi, or progress onward to other births, and ultimate emancipation. The first pinda offered endows it with the rudiments or basis of a body; the next day another pinda supplies limbs, and so on. When the soul receives a complete body it becomes a pitri (ancestor), and is held to be a deva or deity, and practically worshipped as such in the Sraddha ceremonies, which continue to accelerate its progress onwards to a temporary heaven, and then through various stages of bliss to final union with the Supreme.*
As the new sovereign cannot, through press of official duties, observe all the mourning ceremonial, it is customary for the next heir, the Eliya Rajah, to conduct these: he willingly remains in mourning and unshaven for the twelve months, during which the Sraddhas are frequently repeated.
On the first anniversary of the Maharajah’s death, and commencing some days before that date, the Tirumassam or annual Sraddha is observed. Many thousands of people are then amply fed, and largesses freely distributed for four days amongst the Brahmans, the first day at the rate of one rupee each, on succeeding days one fanam each, and five rupees per head to Namburi Brahmans. The royal party and suite visit in procession the temple of Parasu Rama at Tiruvellam, near Trevandrum, where further rites are performed, and gifts presented to Brahmans. The Eliya Rajah is now relieved from mourning observances. The temple at Neyattankara is also visited in state, and offerings presented there.
Sraddhas are repeated annually as long as there are relatives to take an interest in the ancestors and remember the anniversary of their deaths. At Palpandbhapuram and Suchindram, a ceremony of long-standing usage is annually observed in grand style — the feeding of some hundreds of Namburi Brahmans for the good of the departed spirits of some Rajahs of bygone days.
A palace in which the sovereign dies is left vacant, and preserved, with all its furniture and contents intact for one or two generations before it is again opened and re-occupied; as in Central Africa, everything belonging to the deceased king is preserved with the greatest reverence. Care is taken, if possible, that younger members of the house die in some unoccupied palace that can conveniently be spared from ordinary use.