to be partly demolished, and found in fact great riches, with which he
supported his army, consisting of more than 30,000 men. It is
impossible to disabuse these idolaters of their errors, because they
will not listen to reason, and they entirely subordinate their own
judgement to their ancient customs, the principal of which is to burn
the bodies of the deceased.
Concerning the Idolaters custom of burning the bodies of the deceased.
among the Gentiles of burning bodies after death is very ancient; they
generally burn them on the banks of rivers, where they wash the bodies
of the deceased to complete the cleansing of those sins from which they
have not been purified during life. This superstition goes to such
extremes that very often sick persons, when on the point of death, are
carried to the margin of a river or tank, and their feet are placed in
the water. According as nature fails the body is pushed forwards, and
at last it is held by the chin only, so that at the moment when the
spirit departs and leaves the body, both the one and the other can be
purged of all defilement by plunging the body wholly into the water,
after which it is burned in the same place, which is always close to
some pagoda.1 There are people who make it their business to collect wood, and there is a fixed rate of payment for their trouble.2
When an idolater is dead, all those of his caste or tribe who are in
the place assemble at the house of the deceased, and the body having
been placed on a litter covered by some fine cloth, according to the
station of the deceased and the property which he-has left, they
accompany it to the place where it is to be burnt, following the
litter, which is carried on the shoulders of those appointed for that
1 For the custom in Bengal see Ward, The Hindoos, 2nd ed., i. 192, and Bernier, 315.
2 For the extortions of the Doms at Benares, who provide fuel for the funeral pyre, see Crooke, Tribes and Castes, North-West Provinces and Owdh, ii. 329.