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|There are some words (concerning se+) I cannot write in full or in the normal way anymore, because these generate unwanted interest via search engines on the internet.|
Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde.
|The artist Bernard Picart, who made this engraving in 1729 as part of his encyclopaedia of paganism, had to depend totally on the information of the traveller Tavernier who had witnessed the scene and had some sketches made on the spot over sixty years before. Nevertheless its accuracy is remarkable, although a few mistakes in observation, some artistic inventions for lack of information, and some embellishments were made.
It shows two kinds of ascetics, the long-haired nČked ones (the majority) and the shaven ones (two sitting on the left) one of whom is also nČked. The latter two are probably Jain Digambar monks, the others Shaiva sadhus. The man in the middle with the cloth over his mouth and nose is a Jain Svetambar monk, who must wear the mask and sweep the ground with a broom in order not to inadvertently kill any vermin. (A Jain broom, though, would look quite differently.)
The most glaring inaccuracy concerns the gigantic ungodly head in the central shrine at the foot of the banyan tree, where according to Tavernier, ... in its trunk, which is hollow, a monster is represented like the head of a deformed woman. Apparently no sketch was made of the monster, in all probability a boulder painted red, with eyes pasted on. These types of idols can be found all over India, and represent local gods and goddesses. Picart knew it was a goddess, ... the representation of the first woman, whom they call Mamaniva (which is probably a corruption of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess), but for the picture he had to use his imagination, and in those days monsters were always gigantic.
The penitences are quite correctly portrayedundoubtedly based on the sketchesand with some minor alterations resemble those of today. The long nails of all the Faquirs can be attributed to an artistic exaggeration of their wondrous appearance. These long nailsas Tavernier correctly observedproperly belong only to the ascetic who keeps-his-arms-raised for years on end. On the left side of the central shrine is an ascetic of this type, being fed by a woman devotee. It also seems that this baba has an ere+t ph..s. Further to the left, an ascetic hangs over a sling suspended from the tree, performing the austerity of standing, never lying down or sitting. To the right, the sadhu standing on one knee and one arm is performing the artists impression of hatha-yoga. Next to him, the ascetic standing on one leg between two fires might also be a standing baba, who is doing fire-austerities as well. A lay devotee makes an offering of cowdung cakes. Behind him, leaning against the tree is another two-arms-raised baba, and further in the backgroundbetraying the artists uncertaintya woman peering into a sarcophagus (the grave mentioned by Tavernier would probably have looked more like a covered hole in the ground) in which the ascetic would practise samadhi, staying underground for days without food or drink, in suspended animation.
|On the other hand, these practices took place apparently not only in India but also elsewhere. Flaubert, in his book Voyage en Orient, seems to have witnessed this peculiar ritual in Damascus, in 1850, although it seems he has the more extreme event from hearsay.
From Flauberts observation we gather that the practice wasnt just worship, but that it was meant to promote fertility.
Nowadays no traces of this practice can be observed in public anyway but it seems quite plausible that it actually happened in those days. Some 'proof' for this statement may be furnished by an etching by Solvyns of an avadhuta whose p-.-. is also kissed by devout ladies.
Interestingly, there are no trishuls to be seen. No other paraphernalia either, for that matter.
|Some info about Tavernier
Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French precious stones merchant, made six long journeys to India, travelling all over the place, visiting many royal patrons and checking out the diamond mines. He amassed a small fortune, wrote a book about his travels which was published in 1676, [Tavernier, J.B. Les six voyages de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Paris, 1676.] and became so famous that he was personally received by Louis XIV and raised to the peerage.
But this low opinion did not blind him to the facts, which as an inquisitive observator, not being satisfied with mere hearsay, he set out to investigate for himself.
|For comments: Dolf Hartsuiker|