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Old Daniel by Thomas Hodson


After some of the ceremonies had been performed in honour of the shepherds' god, Bir-ap-pa, certain consecrated things were carried by the priest, and others by his wife, to a particular tank, or artificial lake, where special washings and other purifying ceremonies had to be performed. The shepherds and their relations were accompanied by musicians, dancing-girls, religious beggars, and many others. They also had a Brahman to perform the appointed purifying ceremonies at the tank. These being completed the procession came back with great pomp. The priest, his wife, the hired Brahman, and some others, walked on garments which had been spread in the way on purpose for them to walk on. As the wife of the priest came along carrying a Kalasha, a particular kind of water vessel, which for the time, with its contents, was held to be pure and sacred, she pretended to be under the influence of some god. She began to swing and roll herself about in a most strange manner, trying to make the multitude believe that Bir-ap-pa, or some other god or goddess, had entered into her. She struck and kicked those persons who tried to hold her, and abused many in very foul language. I saw and heard all this, and thought the woman was a great hypocrite. I could not believe it possible that any god or goddess would compel a woman to act in such a foolish way. I said to myself, |What a shameful impostor this woman is!| After thinking a little as to what I could do in order to expose her, and shew the people that she was deceiving them, I watched for a favourable opportunity, and then cried out, |Snakes! snakes!| as loud as I could. This produced immediate confusion. The priest and his wife, through fear of being stung by the snakes, tried to get away; no one knew which way to run; some were knocked down, and the sacred things which the priest and his wife were carrying fell to the ground and were broken. |The worshippers of Bir-ap-pa, and the mob of followers all dispersed in vexation and grief; but I went home greatly amused.|

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