About a week before the Durga Puja holidays ensued I requested the author to write a paper on this chief national festival of the Hindus of Bengal, giving an account of the rites and ceremonies connected with it. He readily complied with my request, and although written at the spur of the moment and necessarily in great hurry, the paper has proved so interesting and has been so favorably received by the public that I have thought it proper to reprint it in the present form, chiefly with a view to circulate it among oriental scholars and others, who take interest in the religious institutions of the Hindus. The difficulties, which the author has met with in rendering into English the peculiar forms and expressions of Sanskrit Mantras and Slokas, may be easily imagined by those who have an experience of such work, and it is I think sufficient to mention that he has paid more attention to matter than to manner.
The Introduction and the Notes have been added by the author and the illustrations executed by Babu Tulsidas Pal, a student of the Government Arts School of Calcutta.
From the Introduction:
Modern scholars have elevated comparative religion or mythology like comparative philology to a science, and in investigating the origin of the religious festivals and ceremonies of the ancients nothing perhaps strikes the student more forcibly that the reproduction of the same principles, the same thoughts, the same sentiments, and even the same forms in different climes and among different families of man. Thus Durgotsava, the chief religious festival of the Hindus, has its parallel among the Egyptians, the Chaldaeans, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the ancient Arabs.
In Lower Egypt and Phoenicia the ceremony or festival to Osiris or Isis (Adonis and Astarte) used to be observed for eight days at the commencement of Autumn when the sun entered the sign of Cancer. Theocritus describes the ladies of Syracuse embarking for Alexandria to celebrate the festival in honour of Adonis. Arisuoe the sister and wife of Ptolemy Philadelphus bore the statue of Adonis herself. She was accompanied with women of the highest station in the city holding in their hands basketsful of cakes, boxes of perfumes, flowers, branches of trees and all sorts of fruits. The solemuity was closed by other ladies bearing carpets. &c. The procession marched in this manner along the sea-coasts to the sound of trumpets and other instruments accompanying the voices of musicians. They carried corn in earthen vessels which they sowed there together with flowers, springing grass, fruits, and young trees and Lettices, Suidas Hesychins &cc.
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