Hindus distributed in the various castes and sub-castes belong
to two main classes (1) Brahmanic Hindus including Brahmans and others who worship Brahmanic gods and employ Brahmans as their priests for religious and social functions and (2) low caste and tribal Hindus who mainly worship non-Brahmanic gods and animistic deities. These include the large body of Gonds and others whose way of life has been separately dealt with previously. The great mass of the people thus belong to some form of Hinduism in spite of the fact that Candrapur once was one
of the great Buddhist centres. Bhandak has been identified as one of the cities visited by the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsiang (629-45 A.D.). This ancient faith has utterly disappeared from the district. The caves and the sculptured Buddha images at Bhandak are almost the only memorials of its existence. It
appears to have been superseded by Siva worship about the 10th
or 11th century A.D. and to this day. the majority of the people
are Saivites. Nevertheless Buddhist influence may he traced in
the more advanced theories of local religious thought.
Hinduism is a comprehensive term and comprises religious opinions that range from the most transcendental theories of Hindu philosophy to the debased cults of primitive peoples and startling contrast.; of advanced speculation side by side with savage magic are spec ally characteristic of Canda Hinduism. A number of the more learned have studied the Geeta and the Upanisada but very few know anything about the systems and the majority prefer to leave the higher walks of the path that leads to Mukti or absolution to a future birth. The learned Sastris teach that all who would attain Mukti must be enlightened and practise yaga. For such, there are four states of sublime happiness as reward viz., Salokata i.e., abiding in the heaven of the god one has worshipped: samipata i.e., To be ever in the presence of his throne: Sarupata. i.e., to bear likeness to the god served and Sayaivala i.e., absorption into the essence of Brahma. From each of the first three states, the soul, after enjoying the reward of its virtue will return to the earth and be reborn, but sayajyata is perfect salvation. freedom from rebirth, from where there is no return. But this teaching is esoteric, meant for the already initiated in the pursuit of God-hunt. Much nearer the hearts of even the educated is the worship of the gods according to the forms hallowed by immemorial custom. In every Brahman household there is a pancayatana of gods, whose emblems placed in due order in a shrine, are worshipped daily. They are bathed and some of the water so used is applied to the forehead of the worshipper and a little of it is drunk. Food and flowers are offered to them. The shrine is a square or oblong platform in the centre of which is placed Mahadev and round him are grouped four others whose emblems are placed one at each corner of the platform. These emblems are as follows: Mahadev in the centre is represented by a lingam or
by a white oval stone with a groove in it brought from the Narmada river. Behind him at the back corners of the platform are Visnu and Surya. Visnu represented by the Saligram a black stone brought from the Gandaki, a tributary of the Ganga and Surya by the sphatika, a clear transparent stone. In the front of the platform are Devi, represented by a brass image and Ganapati whose emblem is a red. stone. These stones are brought and sold by wandering Brahmans. Besides the pancayatana, each household reveres a family god who may be included in the shrine. Rama and Krsna are often so worshipped.
The Pancayatana of gods supplies a clue to the maze of polytheism in the district. The majority of the Hindus seems to worship one supreme god who is called Mahadev and is identified with Siva. The cult of the multitude of minor gods appears to have relation only to the wants of this present life and corresponds to the douleia or secondary veneration paid to saints and
angels in other lands. It could scarcely he said that they arrive
at monotheism, but amongst the educated, the worship of the
supreme God stands out more distinctly and that of lesser gods fades in importance, while among the ignorant, the worship of
the lesser gods is more prominent and the idea of Mahadev becomes dimmer and vague. More people may be seen in Candrapur wearing the silver casket containing the lingam or phallic sign of Siva than in any other district of this State. A child is invested with it seven days after birth and it never parts with it, for it is buried with the body after death. Siva may be regarded as the representative of the Vedic Rudra, but in this district he is revered as the Supreme God. Megasthenes (300 B.C.) identified him with Dionysous. The coarser elements in his worship represent a compromise between Vedic religion and the Dravidian rites of which local Hinduism is compounded.
In nearly every Hindu village will be found, besides a temple of Siva, usually fashioned after the Hemadpanti style, a shrine of Mariai, another of Maruti, then probably outside the village, an earthfast stone smeared with red paint (sendur) representing Bhimsen and especially in the eastern and southern tracts, the highly ornamented earthenware horse who is Balkideva. Many other gods are there, the numerous incarnations of Visnu. Naga, the holy snake, the various trees like the tulsi plant, the peepal and the banyan. In fact several gods of the Hindu pantheon are commemorated in an occasional shrine within the district. By far the most important of the minor deities is the Mariai Devi. She is sometimes identified with Kali and protects against small-pox, cholera, ophthalmia, madhura, govar, cattle-diseases and other ills but if her worship is neglected, will bring these troubles on the people. She seems to have combined in her single person the virtues and vices of the seven Devis of the Telugu country. The seven, according to one legend, are the deities on Sat Bahini Hill near Nagbhir, called (1) Pocamma. goddess of small-pox, (2) Mariamma, goddess of cholera.
(3) Muttiyalamma (pear), goddess that protects against madhura, (4) Duggalamma. goddess of cough, (5) Bangaramma. goddess of gold, (6) Mahisamma, goddess of buffaloes, and (7) Illamma, the protectress. In propitiating the goddess to induce her to avert or to cure disease, an offering which typifies the symptoms of the illness, such as a necklace of pearls for Madhura. painted eyes for ophthalmia. etc.. are usually presented. Mariai is worshipped before all marriages. Miniatures of the wedding garments are left at her shrine and the bride fills the lap or skirt of her garment with rice in order that the goddess may grant fertility to her. On the full moon day of Asadha each family propitiates her to secure protection for themselves from all calamities and immunity for their cattle from the diseases to which they are liable in the rainy season. A joint puja is engaged in by the whole village to avert cholera or to bring rain. In a dry year, work is stopped on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday and each family pours a potful of water over her image to induce
her to send the wished-for showers. Goats, sheep and fowls are
sacrificed to her, the blood of the victims is sprinkled on the
fields and rice soaked in it is sown in order that the crop may be
abundant and free from blight. Wooden images of herself in nim or Mahua and sometimes teak-wood are offered to the
goddess and crowd her platforms. Curds or nim leaves are in- dispensable in her worship as they are cooling substances in the Indian pharmacopoeia and diseases sent by Mariai Devi are generally hot. Rice, kumkum, turmeric, water and cloth which must always be sewn, are also commonly offered. Marial Devi has numerous shrines all over the district but the most distinguished is the Mahakali temple at the cast gate of Candrapur where formerly human sacrifices were offered and the Mahakali yatra is still held in her honour.
Maruti or Hanuman, the warden of the village boundaries, is represented by the carved figure of a monkey with a very long tail and usually armed with a very serviceable club. His shrine is a prominent feature of every village save amongst the Gonds. In former times, Maruti was enshrined in the four quarters of the village. In Bhatala, the ruins of which show that it was once a large city, there are still four Makaradhvaja shrines. Makaradhvaja was the son of Maruti begotten of a crocodile, who swallowed the phlegm that Maruti spat on the water. His image is exactly like that of Maruti. The shrine of Maruti is usually seen under a banyan tree in the middle of the village facing south or east. In the month of Sravan a subscription is raised and the villagers join in a feast at Maruti's shrine and beseech him to ward off danger from their cattle. The name Hanuman connects the god with the deity of wind whose adventures are told in the Ramayana.
Bhimsen is an agricultural God. His emblem is some stone of a peculiar shape on the outskirts of the village. It is smeared with sendur and offerings of fruit and incense are made to him. In a year of drought a goat is sacrificed to him and his image is immersed in water to induce him to send rain. He its worshipped in Asadha at the beginning of agricultural operations and again when grain is thrashed in the autumn.
Bhimsen is an agricultural God. His emblem is some stone of ern and eastern parts of the district. His image is a highly ornamented horse of baked clay set on a platform at some little distance from the village. It is worthy of note that in the worship of these lesser gods, the Bhumak officiates. He is usually a Pardhan or a Gond as representing the people of the soil, but sometimes he is a Gowari or a Dhimar. The Bhumak is a village servant and receives contributions of grain from the tenants. The flesh of animals offered to Mariai Devi is usually given to the Dhobi, but he receives no other public contributions.
The numerous tombs at which offerings and prayers are made bear witness to the prevalence of the worship of the sainted dead in the city and the district. If the legends of the saints are to
be believed, they may claim reverence for their possession of
miraculous powers but scarcely for any innocence of a pre-eminent character in life. Of the prominent Hindu saints whose tombs are in Candrapur, Govind Svami is worshipped for seven
days in the saptaha of Asadha when Gurus are commemorated.
He died over 200 years ago. He granted a boon to a barber that he should excel as a physician and the descendants of that barber are still reputed to be skilled in medicine. On one occasion the saint drank water from the lota of a low caste woman. When his disciples objected, he turned the pot of water into a perennial spring to show that his sanctity had not suffered at all. He has the reputation of granting the desires of his devotees. A cupful of prasad (offering of food) prepared at the tomb of Dasoba. an Udasi mendicant will suffice to feed hundreds of people. Somesvar Maharaj of Sindevahi was similarly very famous who died over hundred years ago. It is related of him that he restored a Mahar to life in the village of Bhivapur and cured a concubine of leprosy in Umrath. A temple of Siva has been raised over his grave at Sindevahi and on Sundays, hundreds of offerings are made at the shrine in the name of Somesvara. Dharmarav has maths connected with his name at Wardha and Amar Pimpalganv where childless husband and wives go through a twenty days penance to remove their reproach of childlessness.
To describe the religious beliefs of the Hindus of the lower
castes, the term animism is often used. It denotes technically, the collection of beliefs possessed by the Dravidian tribes who have not even nominally been admitted to the caste system or become Hindus. The general nature of animism may perhaps be explained as the belief that everything which has life or motion has also a spirit or a soul and all natural phenomena are caused
by direct personal agency. Instances of animistic beliefs may even be found in the daily practices of the Hindus. Before climbing a tree it is frequently the custom to pray for its pardon for the rough usage to which it is to be subjected. Stones and rocks of any peculiar shape and certain trees suggesting the intervention of personal agency in their construction are considered the abodes of spirits and are revered. When women go out to the field, they take a little sugar and place it on an ant-hill to feed the ants. It is considered a virtuous act to satisfy the atma or spirit which resides in all animals. Offerings of food to cows, dogs and crows is a daily religious observance among even the Brahmans and may be construed as an exhibition of faith in animism. The habit of worshipping the implements of one's trade or caste should probably be classified as animism. Such practices belong as much to the Indo-Aryan Hindus as to the Dravidian tribes.
The Musalmans number about 25.000 and a considerable
population resides in Candrapur. Waroda and Ballalpur. The increase from 11,000 to 25.000 in about fifty years may be considered as not unnatural. They have their masjids in Candrapur
and elsewhere and Urdu schools also. Representatives of both Sias and Sunnis are to he found and very
few are very orthodox
and strict. The majority are illiterate and ignorant and have assimilated many Hindu ideas. In rural areas, they subscribe to joint pujas and some even worship Hindu gods. Hindus are equally tolerant and accommodating. There is a sect even, which openly permits intercourse between Hindus and Musalmans, though for a time. It is said to have been founded by a Faqir and a Mehra from North India from whose conjoined names it is called the "Shadwal or Dawalmalak" sect. Mahars, Telis, Kunbis join the ceremony and pay reverence to Baba Seikh Farid a well-known Musalman saint. Every third or fourth year, the priest of the sect who is always a Musalman, ties a nada or thread to the wrist of the saint devotees. Those who are Hindus are then freed of all caste obligations until Farid Baba appears before them in a dream and reveals to them the name of a shepherd from whom they must purchase a goat. The shepherd is also warned in a vision. When the devotees
visit the shepherd the fated goat comes forth from the herd of its own accord and
the price fixed in the dream is paid. The goat is ceremonially killed and cooked by the Musalman priest and the flesh partaken by all. From the tying of the nada till the closing meal, the devotees wander about shouting 'Dum Dum' and eating whatever is offered to them, regardless of caste. But after the last meal, they return home and are readmitted to caste by going through a purification ceremony and giving a feast in their caste fellows.
A tomb near the Dak bungalow at Candrapur is raised to the memory of Bhabrat-Ullah Sah. This saint had no teeth bur could crush large bones in his mouth. His tomb is always intended and many devotees resort to it during the Muharram. A few miles to the west of Canda are the tombs of Inayat Sah Mian and his tiger. The saint used to ride to Candrapur on a tiger. One night a stranger visited the shrine and Inayat Sah Mian set him upon his seat. The tiger came and licked the stranger's feet, but seeing another man present, leaped on him and slew him. When he found that he had slain the saint, he clashed his head against the stones and killed himself. Near the Mahakali temple is the tomb of Juman Sah Mian who stopped human sacrifices at the shrine of the goddess by offering himself as a substitute for the intended victim. When the goddess came to slay him he attacked her and drove her off. This legend is also told of an Ahir. A few miles to the east of Candrapur. in the jungle is the abode of Papa Mian, the hermit. He had renounced the world and had a great reputation for holiness and was once a Deputy Commissioner's chaprasi.
Christians numbered 266 in 1901 of whom 48 were Europeans, 14 Eurasians and 204 native Christians. During the last fifty years they have swelled to about 3,000 due to the proselytising activities of the various Christian missions and natural growth
in population. The various missions carry on philanthropic
activities like running schools and orphanages and thus attract
poor and needy from among the Hindus for conversion. Among these is the Episcopal Church of Scotland. The American Methodist Church works particularly in Sironcha. There are.
however, no forcible conversion and emphasis is more on altruistic work and service to the needy and the indigent in a true Christian spirit.