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    Chapter 51

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    Chapter 52
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    Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its
    laws or its songs either.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    Yes, the city of Benares is in effect just a big church, a religious
    hive, whose every cell is a temple, a shrine or a mosque, and whose every
    conceivable earthly and heavenly good is procurable under one roof, so to
    speak--a sort of Army and Navy Stores, theologically stocked.

    I will make out a little itinerary for the pilgrim; then you will see how
    handy the system is, how convenient, how comprehensive. If you go to
    Benares with a serious desire to spiritually benefit yourself, you will
    find it valuable. I got some of the facts from conversations with the
    Rev. Mr. Parker and the others from his Guide to Benares; they are
    therefore trustworthy.

    1. Purification. At sunrise you must go down to the Ganges and bathe,
    pray, and drink some of the water. This is for your general
    purification.

    2. Protection against Hunger. Next, you must fortify yourself against
    the sorrowful earthly ill just named. This you will do by worshiping for
    a moment in the Cow Temple. By the door of it you will find an image of
    Ganesh, son of Shiva; it has the head of an elephant on a human body; its
    face and hands are of silver. You will worship it a little, and pass on,
    into a covered veranda, where you will find devotees reciting from the
    sacred books, with the help of instructors. In this place are groups of
    rude and dismal idols. You may contribute something for their support;
    then pass into the temple, a grim and stenchy place, for it is populous
    with sacred cows and with beggars. You will give something to the
    beggars, and "reverently kiss the tails" of such cows as pass along, for
    these cows are peculiarly holy, and this act of worship will secure you
    from hunger for the day.

    3. "The Poor Man's Friend." You will next worship this god. He is at
    the bottom of a stone cistern in the temple of Dalbhyeswar, under the
    shade of a noble peepul tree on the bluff overlooking the Ganges, so you
    must go back to the river. The Poor Man's Friend is the god of material
    prosperity in general, and the god of the rain in particular. You will
    secure material prosperity, or both, by worshiping him. He is Shiva,
    under a new alias, and he abides in the bottom of that cistern, in the
    form of a stone lingam. You pour Ganges water over him, and in return
    for this homage you get the promised benefits. If there is any delay
    about the rain, you must pour water in until the cistern is full; the
    rain will then be sure to come.

    4. Fever. At the Kedar Ghat you will find a long flight of stone steps
    leading down to the river. Half way down is a tank filled with sewage.
    Drink as much of it as you want. It is for fever.

    5. Smallpox. Go straight from there to the central Ghat. At its
    upstream end you will find a small whitewashed building, which is a
    temple sacred to Sitala, goddess of smallpox. Her under-study is there
    --a rude human figure behind a brass screen. You will worship this for
    reasons to be furnished presently.

    6. The Well of Fate. For certain reasons you will next go and do homage
    at this well. You will find it in the Dandpan Temple, in the city. The
    sunlight falls into it from a square hole in the masonry above. You will
    approach it with awe, for your life is now at stake. You will bend over
    and look. If the fates are propitious, you will see your face pictured
    in the water far down in the well. If matters have been otherwise
    ordered, a sudden cloud will mask the sun and you will see nothing. This
    means that you have not six months to live. If you are already at the
    point of death, your circumstances are now serious. There is no time to
    lose. Let this world go, arrange for the next one. Handily situated, at
    your very elbow, is opportunity for this. You turn and worship the image
    of Maha Kal, the Great Fate, and happiness in the life to come is
    secured. If there is breath in your body yet, you should now make an
    effort to get a further lease of the present life. You have a chance.
    There is a chance for everything in this admirably stocked and
    wonderfully systemized Spiritual and Temporal Army and Navy Store. You
    must get yourself carried to the

    7. Well of Long Life. This is within the precincts of the mouldering and
    venerable Briddhkal Temple, which is one of the oldest in Benares. You
    pass in by a stone image of the monkey god, Hanuman, and there, among the
    ruined courtyards, you will find a shallow pool of stagnant sewage. It
    smells like the best limburger cheese, and is filthy with the washings of
    rotting lepers, but that is nothing, bathe in it; bathe in it gratefully
    and worshipfully, for this is the Fountain of Youth; these are the Waters
    of Long Life. Your gray hairs will disappear, and with them your
    wrinkles and your rheumatism, the burdens of care and the weariness of
    age, and you will come out young, fresh, elastic, and full of eagerness
    for the new race of life. Now will come flooding upon you the manifold
    desires that haunt the dear dreams of the morning of life. You will go
    whither you will find

    8. Fulfillment of Desire. To wit, to the Kameshwar Temple, sacred to
    Shiva as the Lord of Desires. Arrange for yours there. And if you like
    to look at idols among the pack and jam of temples, there you will find
    enough to stock a museum. You will begin to commit sins now with a
    fresh, new vivacity; therefore, it will be well to go frequently to a
    place where you can get

    9. Temporary Cleansing from Sin. To wit, to the Well of the Earring.
    You must approach this with the profoundest reverence, for it is
    unutterably sacred. It is, indeed, the most sacred place in Benares, the
    very Holy of Holies, in the estimation of the people. It is a railed
    tank, with stone stairways leading down to the water. The water is not
    clean. Of course it could not be, for people are always bathing in it.
    As long as you choose to stand and look, you will see the files of
    sinners descending and ascending--descending soiled with sin, ascending
    purged from it. "The liar, the thief, the murderer, and the adulterer
    may here wash and be clean," says the Rev. Mr. Parker, in his book. Very
    well. I know Mr. Parker, and I believe it; but if anybody else had said
    it, I should consider him a person who had better go down in the tank and
    take another wash. The god Vishnu dug this tank. He had nothing to dig
    with but his "discus." I do not know what a discus is, but I know it is a
    poor thing to dig tanks with, because, by the time this one was finished,
    it was full of sweat--Vishnu's sweat. He constructed the site that
    Benares stands on, and afterward built the globe around it, and thought
    nothing of it, yet sweated like that over a little thing like this tank.
    One of these statements is doubtful. I do not know which one it is, but
    I think it difficult not to believe that a god who could build a world
    around Benares would not be intelligent enough to build it around the
    tank too, and not have to dig it. Youth, long life, temporary
    purification from sin, salvation through propitiation of the Great Fate
    --these are all good. But you must do something more. You must

    10. Make Salvation Sure. There are several ways. To get drowned in
    the Ganges is one, but that is not pleasant. To die within the limits of
    Benares is another; but that is a risky one, because you might be out of
    town when your time came. The best one of all is the Pilgrimage Around
    the City. You must walk; also, you must go barefoot. The tramp is
    forty-four miles, for the road winds out into the country a piece, and
    you will be marching five or six days. But you will have plenty of
    company. You will move with throngs and hosts of happy pilgrims whose
    radiant costumes will make the spectacle beautiful and whose glad songs
    and holy pans of triumph will banish your fatigues and cheer your spirit;
    and at intervals there will be temples where you may sleep and be
    refreshed with food. The pilgrimage completed, you have purchased
    salvation, and paid for it. But you may not get it unless you

    11. Get Your Redemption Recorded. You can get this done at the Sakhi
    Binayak Temple, and it is best to do it, for otherwise you might not be
    able to prove that you had made the pilgrimage in case the matter should
    some day come to be disputed. That temple is in a lane back of the Cow
    Temple. Over the door is a red image of Ganesh of the elephant head, son
    and heir of Shiva, and Prince of Wales to the Theological Monarchy, so to
    speak. Within is a god whose office it is to record your pilgrimage and
    be responsible for you. You will not see him, but you will see a Brahmin
    who will attend to the matter and take the money. If he should forget to
    collect the money, you can remind him. He knows that your salvation is
    now secure, but of course you would like to know it yourself. You have
    nothing to do but go and pray, and pay at the

    12. Well of the Knowledge of Salvation. It is close to the Golden
    Temple. There you will see, sculptured out of a single piece of black
    marble, a bull which is much larger than any living bull you have ever
    seen, and yet is not a good likeness after all. And there also you will
    see a very uncommon thing--an image of Shiva. You have seen his lingam
    fifty thousand times already, but this is Shiva himself, and said to be a
    good likeness. It has three eyes. He is the only god in the firm that
    has three. "The well is covered by a fine canopy of stone supported by
    forty pillars," and around it you will find what you have already seen at
    almost every shrine you have visited in Benares, a mob of devout and
    eager pilgrims. The sacred water is being ladled out to them; with it
    comes to them the knowledge, clear, thrilling, absolute, that they are
    saved; and you can see by their faces that there is one happiness in this
    world which is supreme, and to which no other joy is comparable. You
    receive your water, you make your deposit, and now what more would you
    have? Gold, diamonds, power, fame? All in a single moment these things
    have withered to dirt, dust, ashes. The world has nothing to give you
    now. For you it is bankrupt.

    I do not claim that the pilgrims do their acts of worship in the order
    and sequence above charted out in this Itinerary of mine, but I think
    logic suggests that they ought to do so. Instead of a helter-skelter
    worship, we then have a definite starting-place, and a march which
    carries the pilgrim steadily forward by reasoned and logical progression
    to a definite goal. Thus, his Ganges bath in the early morning gives him
    an appetite; he kisses the cow-tails, and that removes it. It is now
    business hours, and longings for material prosperity rise in his mind,
    and he goes and pours water over Shiva's symbol; this insures the
    prosperity, but also brings on a rain, which gives him a fever. Then he
    drinks the sewage at the Kedar Ghat to cure the fever; it cures the fever
    but gives him the smallpox. He wishes to know how it is going to turn
    out; he goes to the Dandpan Temple and looks down the well. A clouded
    sun shows him that death is near. Logically his best course for the
    present, since he cannot tell at what moment he may die, is to secure a
    happy hereafter; this he does, through the agency of the Great Fate. He
    is safe, now, for heaven; his next move will naturally be to keep out of
    it as long as he can. Therefore he goes to the Briddhkal Temple and
    secures Youth and long life by bathing in a puddle of leper-pus which
    would kill a microbe. Logically, Youth has re-equipped him for sin and
    with the disposition to commit it; he will naturally go to the fane which
    is consecrated to the Fulfillment of Desires, and make arrangements.
    Logically, he will now go to the Well of the Earring from time to time to
    unload and freshen up for further banned enjoyments. But first and last
    and all the time he is human, and therefore in his reflective intervals
    he will always be speculating in "futures." He will make the Great
    Pilgrimage around the city and so make his salvation absolutely sure; he
    will also have record made of it, so that it may remain absolutely sure
    and not be forgotten or repudiated in the confusion of the Final
    Settlement. Logically, also, he will wish to have satisfying and
    tranquilizing personal knowledge that that salvation is secure; therefore
    he goes to the Well of the Knowledge of Salvation, adds that completing
    detail, and then goes about his affairs serene and content; serene and
    content, for he is now royally endowed with an advantage which no
    religion in this world could give him but his own; for henceforth he may
    commit as many million sins as he wants to and nothing can come of it.

    Thus the system, properly and logically ordered, is neat, compact,
    clearly defined, and covers the whole ground. I desire to recommend it
    to such as find the other systems too difficult, exacting, and irksome
    for the uses of this fretful brief life of ours.

    However, let me not deceive any one. My Itinerary lacks a detail. I
    must put it in. The truth is, that after the pilgrim has faithfully
    followed the requirements of the Itinerary through to the end and has
    secured his salvation and also the personal knowledge of that fact, there
    is still an accident possible to him which can annul the whole thing. If
    he should ever cross to the other side of the Ganges and get caught out
    and die there he would at once come to life again in the form of an ass.
    Think of that, after all this trouble and expense. You see how
    capricious and uncertain salvation is there. The Hindoo has a childish
    and unreasoning aversion to being turned into an ass. It is hard to tell
    why. One could properly expect an ass to have an aversion to being
    turned into a Hindoo. One could understand that he could lose dignity by
    it; also self-respect, and nine-tenths of his intelligence. But the
    Hindoo changed into an ass wouldn't lose anything, unless you count his
    religion. And he would gain much--release from his slavery to two
    million gods and twenty million priests, fakeers, holy mendicants, and
    other sacred bacilli; he would escape the Hindoo hell; he would also
    escape the Hindoo heaven. These are advantages which the Hindoo ought to
    consider; then he would go over and die on the other side.

    Benares is a religious Vesuvius. In its bowels the theological forces
    have been heaving and tossing, rumbling, thundering and quaking, boiling,
    and weltering and flaming and smoking for ages. But a little group of
    missionaries have taken post at its base, and they have hopes. There are
    the Baptist Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society, the London
    Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, and the Zenana Bible
    and Medical Mission. They have schools, and the principal work seems to
    be among the children. And no doubt that part of the work prospers best,
    for grown people everywhere are always likely to cling to the religion
    they were brought up in.
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