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WHO knows anything of Hindû mythology,
or who, indeed, does not shudder at its very
name? People will answer you, if you talk
of Jupiter; they will blandly wonder if you
speak of Zeus; but, breathe the faintest
suspicion of Brahma and Vishnû, and they will
vote you a bore and a pedant, fit only for the
dusty shelves of the British Museum. Beyond
a confused notion of gods all legs and arms,
like huge-bodied centipedes, no one in general
society, certainly, no one in good society,
knows anything of the matter. People have
a vague idea that the Hindû Pantheon
contains a few millions of deities, all with
more than their due proportion of limbs, and
some with less than their due proportion of
humanity; that monkeys and monsters are
the chief curiosities of the adytum; that
no rational exposition of all these nightmare
fancies can, by any possibility, be given.
Nevertheless, if we would take the trouble
of learning them, we would find various
tales spread through the divine books of
Hindûsthan, which are perfect gems of poetry
and beauty.

The Greek religion had all the accessories
of a perfected art, and of a language which
was the classical or court language in every
country of the then known world, as was the
Norman-French in after times; but, who studies
the Vedas in the original tongue, or moulds
his plaster of Paris into likenesses of the
Hindû Triad? Who cares to master a literature,
the very alphabet of which is a juggler's
mystery, more like, to uninitiated eyes, the
scrawling traces of multitudinous spiders,
than the rational strokes of human penmanship?
Fewer still care to penetrate into the
secret recesses of a temple, which sets up
an elephant-headed aldermanic-looking deity,
(Ganesa, God of Wisdom, and Hindû Janus,)
with, perhaps, a monkey god by his side
as the porter. Which gives you, farther
in, a woman creature, (Bhavani, a form of
the female Siva,) astride on a black bull,
with a necklace of human heads, a sacrificial
knife, half-a-dozen arms, and various other
unladylike accompaniments, as the Lady of the
House. Which makes nothing of a four-headed
master (Brahma), and talks lightly of a
bright blue complexionSiva or Mahadevi
being sometimes of a blue colour. A pretty
legend is given for this translation of Vishnû's
proper hue. Vishnû is also blue by right
of elemental identity. He is air. Which, the
deeper you penetrate, offers you only a confused
phantasmagoria of divinities, whom no one can
make anything of, every one being somebody
else besides himself, and all being each other
not one of the whole crew having the honest
individual integrity of the Greek and Latin
Sons of Saturn. Which finally leads you into
a small dark cell, filled only with a Namea
Name which must be meditated on in silence
and secrecyand which is the greatest
mystery of all. This sounds very uninviting;
but this is what Hindû mythology is to the
superficial observer. Pierce the husk, and
you have your reward. The prospect clears
before you. The horrible forms are mere
physical enigmas answered; the confused
phantasmagoria divides itself into matter-of-
fact phenomena, plain and evident; the mystic Name comes home to your own heart with
awe; and you acknowledge in the dark, silent
cell, that, in the believer, be he Brahmin, or be
he Jew,—be he the worshipper of Allah, or
the caller upon Ormuzd,—the same thought
is to be recognised, the same aspiration, the
same cry from the wide human heart.

The Hindû mythology has some exquisite
passages, to the full as lovely as the loveliest
of the Greek. If Aphrodite rose from the
dark blue wave, the lotos-marked Rhemba
(Rhemba is the Hindû Aphrodite, or Venus,
and also the Pandora,) came blushing forth
from the sea of milk which Vishnû churned.
If the Hellenic nymphs of land and wood, hill,
vale and water, were beautiful, the Apsaras
are more beautiful still. They are ten million
nymphs; who fill the office of the Mohammedan
houris; who were created as attendants
on Rhemba, and who disport themselves in
heaven, and dance round their graceful
mistress. Although Cupid is acknowledged god
of all, the mischievous Cama with his flower-
tipped shafts might dispute his supremacy.
Cama is the Hindû God of Love; he bears
five arrows tipped with flowers, and has a
banner marked with a fish.

Of Brahma there is not much to say. He,
though the first of the great Triad, has neither
peculiar temples nor private rites, but is
included in the worship paid to Vishnû and