Concerning various customs of the Idolaters of India.
The Brahmans possess much knowledge of astrology, and know how to predict eclipses of the sun and moon for the people.2 On the 2nd of July 1666 at one o'clock p.m. an eclipse of the sun was visible at Patna, a town of the Kingdom of Bengal.3
It was a wonderful sight to watch the multitude of people, men, women,
and children, who came from all quarters to bathe in the Ganges. But
they must begin this bathing three days before they see the eclipse,
during which time they remain day and night on the banks of the river
preparing all kinds of rice, milk, and sweetmeats to throw to the
fishes and crocodiles. Immediately when the Brahmans give the word, and
they know it is the fortunate hour, whichever kind of eclipse it may
be, of the sun or moon, the idolaters break all the earthen vessels
used in their households, and
1 These figures are not given in any of the editions which are accessible. Probably they were never reproduced.
Brachmanes of this Kingdome [Bengal] are great Students of the Magick
art, and make their Sorceries more apparent than they of any Other
Kingdome in Asia ' (Bowrey, 205). Similar accounts will be found in
Roe, i. 192; Terry, 236 f. ; Fryer, ii. 102; Bernier, 161, 244 f. For
modern accounts see A. K. L. Anantha Krishna Iyer, Cochin Tribes and Castes, ii. 217 ff.; Russell, Tribes and Castes, Central Provinces, iii. 255 ff. ; Thurston, Castes and Tribes, Southern India, i. 10 ; Dubois, Hindu Manners, 379 ff.
3 Bernier (p. 300) gives a lively account of eclipse observances at Delhi in 1666. On modern ceremonies see Crooke, Popular Religion and Folklore of N. India, i. 21 ; Bombay Gazetteer, ix, part i, 395 ; Mrs. S. Stevenson, Rites of the Twice-born, 351
f. Compare Fryer, i. 275, ii. 306 f. The ' fortunate hour ', mentioned
by Tavernier, is the Sa'at or Mahurat. The earthen vessels are broken
because they are believed to be defiled by the presence of the demon
Rahu, who causes the eclipse by swallowing the sun or moon.