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Omens and Superstitions of Southern India

Superintendent of the Madras Government Museum and of the Ethnographic Survey of the Madras Presidency


"The best known case," Mr Frazer writes1, "of human sacrifices systematically offered to ensure good crops, is supplied by the Khonds or Kandhs, a Dravidian race in Bengal and Madras. Our knowledge of them is derived from the accounts written by British officers, who, forty or fifty years ago, were engaged in putting them down. The sacrifices were offered to the earth goddess, Tari Pennu or Bera Pennu, and were believed to ensure, good crops, and immunity from all diseases and accidents. In particular, they were considered necessary in the cultivation of turmeric, the Khonds arguing that the turmeric could not have a deep red colour without the shedding of blood. The victim, a Meriah, was acceptable to the goddess only if he had been purchased, or had been born a victim, that is, the son of a victim father, or had been devoted as a child by his father or guardian."

1. "The Golden Bough," 1900, ii. 241 el seq. Bibliography of human sacrifice among the Kondhs, see Thurston, "Castes and Tribes of Southern India," 1909, iii. 412-5.

In 1837, Mr Russell, in a report on the districts entrusted to his control, wrote as follows2:—

2. " Selections from the Records of the Government of India," No. v., Suppression of human sacrifice and infanticide, 1854. The subject of Meriah sacrifice is also dealt with by F. E. Penny, in her novel entitled “Sacrifice," 1910.

"The ceremonies attending the barbarous rite (Kondh human sacrifice) vary in different parts of the country. In the Maliahs of Goomsur, the sacrifice is offered annually to Thadha Pennoo, under the effigy of a bird intended to represent a peacock, with the view of propitiating the deity to grant favourable seasons and crops. The ceremony is performed at the expense of, and in rotation, by certain mootahs (districts) composing a community, and connected together from local circumstances. Besides these periodical sacrifices, others are made by single mootahs, and even by individuals, to avert any threatening calamity from sickness, murrain, or other causes. Grown men are the most esteemed (as victims), because the most costly. Children are purchased, and reared for years with the family of the person who ultimately devotes them to a cruel death, when circumstances are supposed to demand a sacrifice at his hands. They seem to be treated with kindness, and, if young, are kept under no constraint; but, when old enough to be sensible of the fate that awaits them, they are placed in fetters, and guarded. Most of those who were rescued had been sold by their parents or nearest relations, a practice which, from all we could learn, is very common. Persons of riper age are kidnapped by wretches who trade in human flesh. The victim must always be purchased. Criminals, or prisoners captured in war, are not considered fitting subjects. The price is paid indifferently in brass utensils, cattle, or coin. The zanee (or priest), who may be of any caste, officiates at the sacrifice, but he performs the poojah (offering of flowers, incense, etc.) to the idol through the medium of the Toomba, who must be a Khond child under seven years of age. This child is fed and clothed at the public expense, eats with no other person, and is subjected to no act deemed impure. For a month prior to the sacrifice, there is much feasting and intoxication, and dancing round the Meriah, who is adorned with garlands, etc., and, on the day before the performance of the barbarous rite, is stupefied with toddy, and made to sit, or, if necessary, is bound at the bottom of a post bearing the effigy above described. The assembled multitude then dance around to music, and, addressing the earth, say “Oh! God, we offer the sacrifice to you. Give us good crops seasons, and health.” After which they address the victim. “We bought you with a price, and did not seize you. Now we sacrifice you according to custom, and no sin rests with us.' On the following day, the victim being again intoxicated, and anointed with oil, each individual present touches the anointed part, and wipes the oil on his own head. All then proceed in procession around the village and its boundaries, preceded by music, bearing the victim and a pole, to the top of which is attached a tuft of peacock's feathers.

On returning to the post, which is always placed near the village deity called Zakaree Pennoo, and represented by three stones, near which the brass effigy in the shape of the peacock is buried, they kill a pig in sacrifice, and, having allowed the blood to flow into a pit prepared for the purpose, the victim who, if it has been found possible, has been previously made senseless from intoxication, is seized and thrown in, and his face pressed down until he is suffocated in the bloody mire amid the noise of instruments. The Zanee then cuts a piece of the flesh from the body, and buries it with ceremony near the effigy and village idol, as an offering to the earth. All the rest afterwards go through the same form, and carry the bloody prize to their villages, where the same rites are performed, part being interred near the village idol, and little bits on the boundaries. The head and face remain untouched, and the bones, when bare, are buried with them in the pit. After this horrid ceremony has been completed, a buffalo calf is brought in front of the post, and, his forefeet having been cut off, is left there till the following day. Women, dressed in male attire, and armed as men, then drink, dance, and sing round the spot, the calf is killed and eaten, and the Zanee is dismissed with a present of rice, and a hog or calf.

"In the same year, Mr Arbuthnot, Collector of Vizagapatam, reported as follows: —

"Of the hill tribe Codooloo (Kondh), there are said to be two distinct classes, the Cotia Codooloo and Jathapoo Codooloo. The former class is that which is in the habit of offering human sacrifices to the god called Jenkery, with a view to secure good crops. This ceremony is generally performed on the Sunday preceding or following the Pongal feast. The victim is seldom carried by force, but procured by purchase, and there is a fixed price for each person, which consists of forty articles such as a bullock, a male buffalo, a cow, a goat, a piece of cloth, a silk cloth, a brass pot, a large plate, a bunch of plantains, etc. The man who is destined for the sacrifice is immediately carried before the god, and a small quantity of rice coloured with saffron (turmeric) is put upon his head. The influence of this is said to prevent his attempting to escape, even though set at liberty. It would appear, however, that, from the moment of his seizure till he is sacrificed, he is kept in a continued state of stupefaction or intoxication. He is allowed to wander about the village, to eat and drink anything he may take a fancy to, and even to have connection with any of the women whom he may meet. On the morning set apart for the sacrifice, he is carried before the idol in a state of intoxication. One of the villagers officiates as priest, who cuts a small hole in the stomach of the victim, and with the blood that flows from the wound the idol is besmeared. Then the crowds from the neighbouring villages rush forward, and he is literally cut into pieces. Each person who is so fortunate as to procure it carries away a morsel of the flesh, and presents it to the idol of his own village."

Concerning a method of Kondh sacrifice, which is illustrated by the wooden post preserved in the Madras Museum, Colonel Campbell records3 that "one of the most common ways of offering the sacrifice in Chinna Kimedi is to the effigy of an elephant (hatti mundo or elephant’s head) rudely carved in wood, fixed on the top of a stout post, on which it is made to revolve. After the performance of the usual ceremonies, the intended victim is fastened to the proboscis of the elephant, and, amidst the shouts and yells of the excited multitude of Khonds, is rapidly whirled round, when, at a given signal by the officiating Zanee or priest, the crowd rush in, seize the Meriah, and with their knives cut the flesh off the shrieking wretch so long as life remains. He is then cut down, the skeleton burnt, and the horrid orgies are over. In several villages I counted as many as fourteen effigies of elephants, which had been used in former sacrifices. These I caused to be overthrown by the baggage elephants attached to my camp in the presence of the assembled Khonds, to show them that these venerated objects had no power against the living animal, and to remove all vestiges of their bloody superstition."

3. "Personal Narrative of Service among the Wild Tribes of Khondistan," 1864.

It is noted by Risley4 that, while the crowd hacked"^ the body of the victim, they chanted a ghastly hymn, an extract from which illustrates very clearly the theory of sympathetic magic underlying the ritual: —

4. " The People of India," 1908, 62.

“As the tears stream from thine eyes,

So may the rain pour down in August;

As the mucus trickles from thy nostrils,

So may it drizzle at intervals;

As thy blood gushes forth,

So may the vegetation sprout;

As thy gore falls in drops,

So may the grains of rice form."

In another report, Colonel Campbell describes how the miserable victim is dragged along the fields, surrounded by a crowd of half intoxicated Kondhs who, shouting and screaming, rush upon him, and with their knives cut the flesh piecemeal from the bones, avoiding the head and bowels, till the living skeleton, dying from loss of blood, is relieved from torture, when its remains are burnt, and the ashes mixed with the new grain to preserve it from insects. Yet again, he describes a sacrifice which was peculiar to the Kondhs of Jeypore.

"It is," he says, "always succeeded by the sacrifice of three human beings, two to the sun in the east and west of the village, and one in the centre, with the usual barbarities of the Meriah. A stout wooden post about six feet long is firmly fixed in the ground, at the foot of it a narrow grave is dug, and to the top of the post the victim is firmly fastened by the long hair of his head. Four assistants hold his outstretched arms and legs, the body being suspended horizontally over the grave, with the face toward the earth. The officiating Junna or priest, standing on the right side, repeats the following invocation, at intervals hacking with his sacrificing knife the back part of the shrieking victim's neck. ‘Oh! mighty Manicksoro, this is your festal day. To the Khonds the offering is Meriah, to the kings Junna. On account of this sacrifice, you have given to kings kingdoms, guns, and swords. The sacrifice we now offer you must eat, and we pray that our battle-axes may be converted into swords, our bows and arrows into gunpowder and balls; and, if we have any quarrels with other tribes, give us the victory. Preserve us from the tyranny of kings and their officers.' Then, addressing the victim, 'That we may enjoy prosperity, we offer you as a sacrifice to our god Manicksoro, who will immediately eat you, so be not grieved at our slaying you. Your parents were aware, when we purchased you from them for sixty rupees, that we did so with intent to sacrifice you. There is, therefore, no sin on our heads, but on your parents. After you are dead, we shall perform your obsequies.' The victim is then decapitated, the body thrown into the grave, and the head left suspended from the post till devoured by wild beasts. The knife remains fastened to the post till the three sacrifices have been performed, when it is removed with much ceremony."

The Kondhs of Bara Mootah promised to relinquish the Meriah rite on condition, inter alia, that they should be at liberty to sacrifice buffaloes, monkeys, goats, etc., to their deities, with all the solemnities observed on occasions of human sacrifice; and that they should further be at liberty, upon all occasions, to denounce to their gods the Government, and some of its servants in particular, as the cause of their having relinquished the great rite. The last recorded Meriah sacrifice in the Ganjam Maliahs occurred in 1852, and there are still Kondhs alive, who were present at it. The veteran members of a party of Kondhs, who were brought to Madras for the purpose of performing their dances before the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1906, became widely excited when they came across the relic of their barbarous custom at the museum. Twenty-five descendants of persons, who were rescued by Government officers, returned themselves as Meriah at the census, 1901.

It is noted by Mr W. Francis that5 "goats and buffaloes nowadays take the place of human meriah victims, but the belief in the superior efficacy of the latter dies hard, and every now and again revives. When the Rampa rebellion of 1879-80 spread in this district, several cases of human sacrifice occurred in the disturbed tracts. In 1880, two persons were convicted of attempting a meriah sacrifice near Ambadala in Bissamkatak. In 1883, a man (a beggar and a stranger) was found at daybreak murdered in one of the temples in Jeypore in circumstances which pointed to his having been slain as a meriah ; and, as late as 1886, a formal enquiry showed that there were ample grounds for the suspicion that the kidnapping of victims still went on in Bastar."

5. " Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 202.

Even so recently as 1902, a European magistrate in Ganjam received a petition, asking for permission to perform a human sacrifice, which was intended to give a rich colour to the turmeric crop.

The flowers with which the sheep and goats which take the place of human beings are decorated are still known as meriah pushpa in Jeypore6.

6. "Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 262-3.

In an account7 of a substituted sacrifice, which was carried out by the Kondhs in the Ganjam Maliahs in 1894, it is stated that, ''the Janni gave the buffalo a tap on the head with a small axe. An indescribable scene followed. The Khonds in a body fell on the animal, and, in an amazingly short time, literally tore the living victim to shreds with their knives, leaving nothing but the head, bones, and stomach. Death must mercifully have been almost instantaneous. Every particle of flesh and skin had been stripped off during the few minutes they fought and struggled over the buffalo, eagerly grasping for every atom of flesh. As soon as a man had secured a piece thereof, he rushed away with the gory mass, as fast as he could, to his fields, to bury it therein according to ancient custom, before the sun had set. As some of them had to do good distances to effect this, it was imperative that they should run very fast. A curious scene now took place. As the men ran, all the women flung after them clods of earth, some of them taking very good effect. The sacred grove was cleared of people, save a few that guarded the remnants left of the buffalo, which were taken, and burnt with ceremony at the foot of the stake."

7. Madras Weekly Mail, 6th June, 1894.

The buffalo sacrifice is not unaccompanied by risk, as the animal, before dying, sometimes kills one or more of its tormentors. This was the case near Balliguda in 1899, when a buffalo killed the sacrificer. In the previous year, the desire of a village to intercept the bearer of the flesh from a neighbouring village led to a fight, in which two men were killed.

Like the Kondhs, the Koyis of the Godavari district believe in the efficacy of a sacrifice, to ensure good crops. In this connection, the Rev. J. Cain writes8 that "the Koyi goddess Mamili or Lele must be propitiated early in the year, or else the crops will undoubtedly fail; and she is said to be very partial to human victims. There is strong reason to think that two men were murdered this year (1876) near a village not far from Dummagudem as offerings to this devata, and there is no reason to doubt that every year strangers are quietly put out of the way in the Bastar country, to ensure the favour of the bloodthirsty goddess."

8. " Ind. Ant.,'" 1876, v. 359.

Mr Cain writes further9 that a langur monkey is now substituted for the human victim under the name of erukomma potu or male with small breasts, in the hope of persuading the goddess that she is receiving a human sacrifice.

9. Madras Christian Coll Mag., 1887-88, v. 357.

On the site of the old fort at Ramagiri in the Vizagapatam district, a victim was formerly sacrificed every third year.

"The poor wretch was forced into a hole in the ground, three feet deep and eighteen inches square, at the bottom of which the goddess was supposed to dwell, his throat was cut, and the blood allowed to flow into the hole, and afterwards his head was struck off and placed on his lap, and the mutilated body covered with earth and a mound of stones until the time for the next sacrifice came round, when the bones were taken out and thrown away. At Malkanagiri, periodical sacrifices occurred at the four gates of the fort, and the Rani had a victim slain as a thank - offering for her recovery from an illness.10"

10. " Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i, 202.

The nomad Koravas are said to have formerly performed human sacrifices, one effect of which was to increase the fertility of the soil. The following account of such a sacrifice was given to Mr C. Hayavadana Rao by an old inhabitant of the village of Asur near Walajabad in the Chingleput district. A big gang of Koravas settled at the meeting point of three villages of Asur, Melputtur, and Avalur, on an elevated spot commanding the surrounding country. They had with them their pack-bullocks, each headman of the gang owning about two hundred head. The cow-dung which accumulated daily attracted a good many of the villagers, on one of whom the headman fixed as their intended victim. They made themselves intimate with him, plied him with drink and tobacco, and gave him the monopoly of the cow-dung. Thus a week or ten days passed away, and the Koravas then fixed a day for the sacrifice. They invited the victim to visit them at dusk, and witness a great festival in honour of their caste goddess. At the appointed hour, the man went to the settlement, and was induced to drink freely. Meanwhile, a pit, large enough for a man to stand upright in, had been prepared. At about midnight, the victim was seized, and forced to stand in the pit, which was filled in up to his neck. This done, the women and children of the gang made off with their belongings. As soon as the last of them had quitted the settlement, the headmen brought a large quantity of fresh cow-dung, and placed a ball of it on the head of the victim. The ball served as a support for an earthen lamp, which was lighted. The man was by this time nearly dead, and the cattle were made to pass over his head. The headmen then made off, and, by daybreak, the whole gang had disappeared. The sacrificed man was found by the villagers, who have, since that time, scrupulously avoided the Koravas. The victim is said to have turned into a Munisvara, and for a long time troubled those who happened to go near the spot at noon or midnight. The Koravas are said to have performed the sacrifice, so as to insure their cattle against death from disease. The ground, on which they encamped, and on which they offered the human sacrifice, is stated to have been barren, prior thereto, and, as the result thereof, to have become very fertile.

A similar form of human sacrifice was practised in the former days by the nomad Lambadis, concerning which the Abbe Dubois writes as follows11:—

11. "Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies," translation by H. K. Beauchamp, 1897, i. 70-1.

"When they wish to perform this horrible act, it is said, they secretly carry off the first person they meet. Having conducted the victim to some lonely spot, they dig a hole, in which they bury him up to the neck. While he is still alive, they make a sort of lamp of dough made of flour, which they place on his head. This they fill with oil, and light four wicks in it. Having done this, the men and women join hands, and, forming a circle, dance round their victim, singing and making a great noise, till he expires."

12. "Ind. Ant.," 1879, viii. 219.

It is recorded by the Rev. J. Cain13 that the Lambadis confessed that, in former days, it was the custom among them, before starting out on a journey, to procure a little child, and bury it in the ground up to the shoulders, and then drive their loaded bullocks over the unfortunate victim. In proportion to their thoroughly trampling the child to death, so their belief in a successful journey increased. I am informed by the Rev. G. N. Thomssen that, at the present day, the Lambadis sacrifice a goat or chicken, in case of removal from one part of the jungle to another, when sickness has come. They hope to escape death by leaving one camping ground for another. Halfway between the old and new grounds, the animal selected is buried alive, the head being allowed to be above ground. Then all the cattle are driven over the buried creature, and the whole camp walk over the buried victim.

In the course of an interview with Colonel Marshall on the subject of infanticide13 among the Todas of the Nilgiri hills, an aged man of the tribe remarked that14 "those tell lies who say that we laid the child down before the opening of the buffalo-pen, so that it might be run over and killed by the animals. We never did such things, and it is all nonsense that we drowned it in buffaloes' milk. Boys were never killed—only girls; not those who were sickly and deformed—that would be a sin; but, when we had one girl, or in some families two girls, those that followed were killed. An old woman used to take the child immediately after it was born, and close its nostrils, ears, and mouth with a cloth. It would shortly droop its head and go to sleep. We then buried it in the ground."

13. Infanticide, see Thurston, "Ethnographic Notes in Southern India," 1907, 502-9.

14. Marshall, "A Phrenologist amongst the Todas," 1873, 195.

The old man's remark about the cattle-pen refers to the Malagasy custom of placing a new-born child at the entrance to a cattle-pen, and then driving the cattle over it, to see whether they would trample on it or not15.

15. Ellis, " History of Madagascar."

It is recorded by Bishop Whitehead16, in a note on offerings and sacrifices in the Telugu country, that ''sometimes, when there is a cattle disease, a pig is buried up to its neck at the boundary of the village, a heap of boiled rice is deposited near the spot, and then all the cattle of the village are driven over the head of the unhappy pig. . . . When I was on tour in the Kurnool district, an old man described to me the account he had received from his ' forefathers ' of the ceremonies observed when founding a new village. An auspicious site is selected on an auspicious day, and then, in the centre of the site, is dug a large hole, in which are placed different kinds of grains, small pieces of the five metals, and a large stone called boddu-rayee (navel-stone), standing about three and a half feet above the ground, very like the ordinary boundary stones seen in the fields. Then, at the entrance of the village, in the centre of the main street, where most of the cattle pass in and out on their way to and from the fields, they dig another hole, and bury a pig alive."

16. " The Village Deities of Southern India," Madras Museum Bull., 1907, V. 3, 137, 186.

It is suggested by Bishop Whitehead that the custom of thus burying a pig may be connected with the worship of an agricultural goddess, or a survival of a former custom of infanticide or human sacrifice, such as prevailed among the Lambadis.

It has been suggested that certain rites performed by the Panan and Malayan exorcists of Malabar are survivals, or imitations of human sacrifice. Thus, in the Ucchaveli ceremony of the Panans for driving out devils, there is a mock burial of the principal performer, who is placed in a pit. This is covered with planks, on the top of which a sacrifice (homam) is performed with a fire kindled with jak (Artocarpus integrifolia) branches17.

17. " Gazetteer of Malabar," 1908, i. 132.

The disguise of Ucchaveli is also assumed by the Malayans for the propitiation of the demon, when a human sacrifice is considered necessary. The Malayan who is to take the part puts on a cap made of strips of cocoanut leaf, and strips of the same leaves tied to a bent bamboo stick round his waist. His face and chest are daubed with yellow paint, and designs are drawn thereon in red or black. Strings are tied tightly round the left arm near the elbow and wrist, and the swollen area is pierced with a knife. The blood spouts out, and the performer waves the arm, so that his face is covered with blood. In the ceremony for propitiating the demon Nenaveli (bloody sacrifice), the Malayan smears the upper part of the body and face with a paste made of rice-flour reddened with turmeric powder and chunam (lime), to indicate a sacrifice. Before the paste dries, parched paddy (unhusked rice) grains, representing smallpox pustules, are sprinkled over it. Strips of young cocoanut leaves, strung together so as to form a petticoat, are tied round the waist, a ball of sacred ashes (vibhuthi) is fixed on the tip of the nose, and two strips of palm leaf are placed in the mouth to represent fangs. If it is thought that a human sacrifice is necessary to propitiate the devil, the man representing Nenaveli puts round his neck a kind of framework made of plantain leaf sheaths; and, after he has danced with it on, it is removed, and placed on the ground in front of him. A number of lighted wicks are stuck in the middle of the framework, which is sprinkled with the blood of a fowl, and then beaten and crushed. Sometimes this is not regarded as sufficient, and the performer is made to lie in a pit, which is covered over by a plank, and a fire kindled. A Malayan, who acted the part of Nenaveli before me, danced and gesticulated wildly, while a small boy, concealed behind him, sang songs in praises of the demon, to the accompaniment of a drum. At the end of the performance, he feigned extreme exhaustion, and laid on the ground in a state of apparent collapse, while he was drenched with water brought in pots from a neighbouring well.

A very similar rite has been recorded by Mr Lewis Rice as being carried out by the Coorgs, when a particular curse, which can only be removed by an extraordinary sacrifice, rests on a house, stable, or field. Concerning this sacrifice, Mr Rice writes as follows18: —

18. "Mysore and Coorg Manual," 1878, iii. 265.

"The Kaniya (religious mendicant)19 sends for some of his fraternity, the Panikas or Bannus, and they set to work. A pit is dug in the middle room of the house or in the yard, or in the stable, or in the field, as the occasion may require. Into this one of the magicians descends. He sits down in Hindu fashion, muttering mantras. Pieces of wood are laid across the pit, and covered with earth a foot or two deep. Upon this platform a fire of jackwood is kindled, into which butter, sugar, different kinds of grain, etc., are thrown. This sacrifice continues all night, the Panika sacrificer above, and his immured colleague below, repeating their incantations all the while. In the morning the pit is opened, and the man returns to the light of day. These sacrifices are called maranada bali, or death atonements. Instead of a human being, a cock is sometimes shut up in the pit, and killed afterwards."

19. The Kaniyans of the west coast are exorcisers.

Evidence is produced by Mr Rice20 that, in former days, human sacrifices were offered in Coorg, to secure the favour of the Grama Devatas (village goddesses) Mariamma, Durga, and Bhadra Kali.

20. " Mysore and Coorg Manual," 1878, iii. 264-5.

''In Kirinadu and Koniucheri Gramas," he writes, “once every three years, in December and June, a human sacrifice used to be brought to Bhadra Kali, and, during the offering by the Panikas, the people exclaimed 'Al Amma' (a man, Oh mother), but once a devotee shouted 'Al all Amma, Adu ' (not a man, oh mother, a goat), and since that time a he-goat without blemish has been sacrificed. Similarly, in Bellur, once a year, by turns from each house, a man was sacrificed by cutting off his head at the temple; but, when the turn came to a certain home, the devoted victim made his escape to the jungle. The villagers, after an unsuccessful search, returned to the temple, and said to the pujari (priest) ' Kalak Adu,' which has a double meaning, viz., Kalake next year, adu he will give, or adu a goat, and thenceforth only scapegoats were offered."

Human sacrifice is considered efficacious in appeasing the earth spirit, and in warding off devils during the construction of a new railway or big bridge. To the influence of such evil spirits the death of several workmen by accident in a cutting on the railway, which was under construction at Cannanore in Malabar, was attributed. A legend is current at Anantapur that, on one occasion, the embankment of the big tank breached. Ganga, the goddess of water, entered the body of a woman, and explained through her that, if someone was thrown into the breach, she would cause no further damage. Accordingly, one Musalamma was thrown in, and buried within it. The spot is marked by several margosa (Melia Azadirachta) trees, and sheep, fowls, etc., are still occasionally offered to the girl who was thus sacrificed. When a tank bund (embankment) was under Construction in Mysore, there was a panic among the workmen, owing to a rumour that three virgins were going to be sacrificed. When a mantapam or shrine was consecrated, a human sacrifice was formerly considered necessary, but a cocoanut is now sometimes used as a substitute. At Kalasapad in the Cuddapah district, a missionary told Bishop Whitehead that, when a new ward was opened at the mission dispensary in 1906, none would enter it, because the people believed that the first to enter would be offered as a sacrifice. Their fears were allayed by a religious service. During the building of a tower at the Madras Museum, just before the big granite blocks were placed in position, the coolies contented themselves with the sacrifice of a goat. On the completion of a new building, some castes on the west coast sacrifice a fowl or sheep, to drive away the devils, which are supposed to haunt it.

In a field outside a village in South Canara, Mr Walhouse noticed a large square marked in lines with whitewash on the ground, with magic symbols in the corners, and the outline of a human figure rudely drawn in the middle. Flowers and boiled rice had been laid on leaves round the figure. He was informed that a house was to be built on the site marked out, and the figure was intended to represent the earth spirit supposed to be dwelling in the ground (or a human sacrifice?). Without this ceremony being performed before the earth was dug up, it was believed that there would be no luck about the house21.

21. " Ind. Ant.," 1881, x. 366

Belief in the efficacy of human sacrifice as a means of discovering hidden treasure is widespread. It is recorded by Mr Walhouse22 that *'one of the native notions respecting pandu kuli, or kistvaens, is that men of old constructed them for the purpose of hiding treasure. Hence it is that antiquarians find so many have been ransacked. It is also believed that spells were placed over them as a guard, the strongest being to bury a man alive in the cairn, and bid his ghost protect the deposit against any but the proprietor. The ghost would conceal the treasure from all strangers, or only be compelled to disclose it by a human sacrifice being offered."

22. Ibid., 1876, V. 22.

Many beliefs exist with regard to the purpose for which the large prehistoric burial jars, such as are found in various parts of Southern India, were manufactured. In Travancore, some believe that they were made to contain the remains of virgins sacrificed by the Rajas on the boundaries of their estates, to protect them23. According to another idea, the jars were made for the purpose of burying alive in them old women who refused to die.

23. "Ind. Ant.," 1878, vii. 177.

In a note on the Velamas of the Godavari district, Mr F. R. Hemingway writes that they admit that they always arrange for a Mala (Telugu Pariah) couple to marry, before they have a marriage in their own houses, and that they provide the necessary funds for the Mala marriage. They explain the custom by a story to the effect that a Mala once allowed a Velama to sacrifice him in order to obtain a hidden treasure, and they say that this custom is observed out of gratitude for the discovery of the treasure which resulted. The Rev. J. Cain gives a similar custom among the Velamas of Bhadrachalam in the Godavari district, only in this case it is a Palli (fisherman) who has to be married. Some years ago, a Native of the west coast, believing that treasure was hidden on his property, took council with an astrologer, who recommended the performance of a human sacrifice, which happily was averted. On one occasion, a little Brahman girl is said to have been decoyed when on her way to school, and murdered in the god's room at a temple in Vellore, in which treasure was supposed to be concealed.

In 1901, a Native of the Bellary district was tried for the murder of his child, in the belief that hidden treasure would thereby be revealed to him. The man, whose story I heard from himself in the lock-up, had apparently implicit faith that the god would bring the child to life again. The case, as recorded in the judgment of the Sessions Judge, was as follows: —

"The prisoner has made two long statements to the Magistrate, in each of which he explains why he killed the child. From these statements it appears that he had been worshipping at the temple of Kona Irappa for six or seven years, and that, on one or more occasions, the god appeared to him, and said: ' I am much pleased with your worship. There is wealth under me. To whom else should it be given but you? ‘The god asked the prisoner to sacrifice sheep and buffaloes, and also said: ' Give your son's head. You know that a head should be given to the god who confers a boon. I shall raise up your son, and give you the wealth which is under me.' At that time, the prisoner had only one son—the deceased boy was not then born. The prisoner said to the god: ' I have only one son. How can I give him?' The god replied: ‘A son will be born. Do not fear me. I shall revive the son, and give you wealth.' Within one year, the deceased boy was born. This increased the prisoner's faith in the god, and it is apparent from his own statement that he has for some time past been contemplating human sacrifice. He was advised not to sacrifice the son, and for a time was satisfied with sacrificing a buffalo and goats, but, as a result, did not succeed in getting the wealth that he was anxious to secure. The prisoner says he dug up some portion of the temple, but the temple people did not let him dig further. The boy was killed on a Sunday, because the prisoner says that the god informed him that the human sacrifice should be on the child's birthday, which was a Sunday. The prisoner mentions in his statement how he took the child to the temple on the Sunday morning, and cut him with a sword. Having done so, he proceeded to worship, saying: ' I offered a head to the bestower of boons. Give boons, resuscitate my son, and show me wealth.' While the prisoner was worshipping the god, and waiting for the god to revive his son, the Reddi (headman) and the police came to the temple, and interrupted the worship. The prisoner believes that thereby the god was prevented from reviving the son. . . . The facts seem to be clear. The man's mind is sound in every respect but as regards this religious delusion. On' that point, it is unsound."

A bad feature of the case, which was reckoned against the prisoner, was that he deferred the sacrifice until a second son was born, so that, in any case, he was not left without male issue. It was laid down by Manu that a man is perfect when he consists of three—himself, his wife, and his son. In the Rig Veda it is laid down that, when a father sees the face of a living son, he pays a debt in him, and gains immortality. In Sanskrit works, Putra, or son, is defined as one who delivers a parent from a hell called put, into which those who have no son fall. Hence the anxiety of Hindus to marry, and beget male offspring.

A few years ago, in the Mysore Province, two men were charged with the kidnapping and murder of a female infant, and one was sentenced to transportation for life. The theory of the prosecution was that the child was killed, in order that it might be offered as a sacrifice with the object of securing hidden treasure, which was believed to be buried near the scene of the murder. A witness gave evidence to the effect that the second accused was the pujari (priest) of a Gangamma temple. He used to tell people that there was hidden treasure, and that, if a human sacrifice were offered, the treasure might be acquired. He used to make puja, and tie yantrams (charms). He also made special pujas, and exorcised devils. Another witness testified that her mother had buried some treasure during her lifetime, and she asked the pujari to discover it. He came to her house, made an earthen image, and did puja to it. He dug the ground in three places, but no treasure was found. In dealing with the evidence in the Court of Appeal, the Judges stated that “it is well known that ignorant persons have various superstitions about the discovery of hidden treasure, and the facts that the second accused either shared such superstitious beliefs, or traded on the credulity of his neighbours by his pretensions of special occult power, and that a Sanyasi (religious mendicant) had some four years ago given out that treasure might be discovered by means of a human sacrifice, cannot justify any inference that the second accused would have acted on the last suggestion, especially when the witnesses cannot even say that the second accused heard the Sanyasi's suggestion."

The temple was searched, and the following articles were found: —three roots of the banyan tree having suralay (coil), a suralay of the banyan tree, round which two roots were entwined, a piece of banyan root, and a wheel (alada chakra) made of banyan root. Besides, there were a copper armlet, copper thyati (charm cylinder), nine copper plates, on which letters were engraved, a copper mokka mattoo (copper plate bearing figures of deities), a piece of thread coloured red, white and black, for tying yantrams, a tin case containing kappu (a black substance), a ball of human hair, and a pen-knife. There was also a dealwood box containing books and papers relating to bhuta vidya (black art).

A man was accused in 1907, in the Kurnool district, of stabbing a supposed wizard in the darkest hours of a new -moon night. In the course of his judgment, the Judge stated that ''what may be taken as the facts of the case are very curious. The accused and his elder brother saw an 'iguana' (lizard) run from the foot of a hill. This is supposed to be one of the signs of buried treasure. They killed the animal (and ate it eventually), and dug, and found, where it had slept, treasure in the shape of a pot full of old-time pagodas (gold coins). Now a goddess (called here Shatti, i.e. Sakti) is supposed to guard such buried treasure, and the finder ought to sacrifice a cock to the goddess before receiving the treasure. The brother of the accused neglected to do so, and came to the deceased, who was supposed to be a warlock, though his wife represents him to be merely a worshipper of Vira Brahma, and a distributor of holy water (thirtham) and holy ashes to people possessed with devils. The deceased gave holy water to Pedda Pichivadu to avert ill-luck, but the man suddenly died from running a thorn into his foot, and his leg swelling in consequence. About the same time, the accused's younger brother got palsy in his head, and the deceased failed to cure him, though he made the attempt24."

24. "Gazetteer of the Anantapur District," 1905, i. 179.

At Girigehalli in the Anantapur district, there is a temple, concerning which the story goes that the stomach of the goddess was once opened by an avaricious individual, who expected to find treasure within it. The goddess appeared to him in a dream, and said that he should suffer like pain to that which he had inflicted upon her, and he shortly afterwards died of some internal complaint.

In the Cuddapah district, many of the inhabitants are said25 to believe that there is much treasure hidden from the troublous days of the eighteenth century, but they have a superstitious dread against looking for it, since the successful finder would be smitten by the guardian demon with a sudden and painful death.

25. "Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 284.

The Panos (hill weavers) of Ganjam are said, on more than one occasion, to have rifled the grave of a European, in the belief that buried treasure would be found.

Many years ago, a woman was supposed to be possessed with a devil, and an exorcist was consulted, who declared that a human sacrifice was necessary. A victim was selected, and made very drunk. His head was cut off, and the blood, mixed with rice, was offered to the idol. The body was then hacked so as to deceive the police, and thrown into a pond26.

26. Lieutenant-General F. F. Burton, "An Indian Olio," 307.

At a village near Berhampur in Ganjam, Mr S. P. Rice tells us27, a number of villagers went out together. By and bye, according to a preconcerted plan, one of the party suggested a drink. The intended victim was drugged, and taken along to the statue of the goddess, or shrine containing what did duty for the statue. He was then thrown down with his face on the ground in an attitude suggesting supplication, and, while he was still in a state of stupor, his head was chopped off with an axe.

27. " Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life," 1901, 72-3.

It is narrated by Chevers28 that, in 1840, a religious mendicant, on his way back from Ramesvaram, located himself in a village near Ramnad, and gave himself out to be gifted with the power of working miracles. One evening, the chucklers (leather-workers) of the village, observing crows and vultures hovering near a group of trees, and suspecting that there was carrion for them to feast upon, were tempted to visit the spot, where they found a corpse, mangled most fearfully, and with the left hand and right leg cut off. Many nails were driven into the head, a garland was placed round the neck, and the forehead smeared with sandal paste. It was rumoured that a certain person was ailing, and that the holy man decreed that nothing short of a human sacrifice could save him, and that the victim should bear his name. The holy man disappeared, but was captured shortly afterwards.

28. " Manual of Medical Jurisprudence in India," 1870.

A copper-plate grant, acquired a few years ago at Tirupati, and believed to be a forgery, records that a temple car was made for the goddess Kalikadevi of Conjeeveram by certain Panchalans (members of the artisan classes). While it was being taken to the temple, a magician stopped it by means of incantations. The help of another magician was sought, and he cut off the head of his pregnant daughter, suspended it to the car, and performed certain rites. The car then moved, and the woman, whose head was cut off, was brought back to life. A somewhat similar legend is recorded in another copper-plate grant discovered in 1910 in the North Arcot district, which is also believed to be a forgery. It is there stated that the five castes of artisans made a bellmetal car for the Kamakshiamman temple at Conjeeveram. Members of these five castes, belonging to the left-hand faction, commenced to drag it, but Seniyasingapuli, belonging to the right-hand faction, by means of magical powers, raised a thousand evil spirits against each wheel, and arrested its progress. A woman, named Mangammal, offered to sacrifice her son, and the artisans accordingly purchased the boy, saying that they would give her a head equal to that of a new-born child. Eventually, Mangammal herself laid down before the car. Her head was cut off, and hung at the top of the car. Her abdomen was torn open, and the foetus removed therefrom, and dedicated to the evil spirit. The headless trunk was buried in the path of the wheels.

1.  William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’

2.  MEIN KAMPF by Adolf Hitler - A demystification!

3.  Native life in Travancore by Rev. Samuel Mateer

4.  Castes and Tribes of Southern India by Edgar Thurston

5. A commentary on Kamasutra

6. Feudal languages! What are they?

7. Software codes of mantra, tantra &c.

8. Indian culture! What is it exactly?

9. You and your star by CHEIRO

10. English Classics Illustrated

A small annotated commentary on this book can be seen in the book:

Software codes of mantra