Are Certain Indian Rites Of Melanesian Origin ? พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Erik Seidenfaden.   




                                                    notes and queries.

                            Are Certain Indian Rites Of Melanesian Origin ?


              The   rite   of  " wien thien,"  or  passing  the  lighted  tapers  in  a
circle,   is  a  well-known  and  integral   part  of  several  important  cere-
monies  in  Siaim.  It  is  used  both  in  purely  Brahmanical  and  purely
Buddhist  ceremonies.  It  may  be  used  in  case  of  persons, of certain
objects  or  even  buildings  which  it  is  desired  to  protect  against evil
influences.   We  encounter   this   rite   as  a  part  of  the  Tonsure  cere-
mony ; at  the  former  annual  oath-taking  with drinking of  consecrated
water—Tu'nam  ;  at  the  blessing  of  the  nine-tiered  royal umbrella in
the  Chatr  Mongkol  ceremony  ;  and  even  in  such a  purely Buddhist
ceremony  as  that  of  " buat năk ".  the  ordination of a  layman  and his
reception  into  the  brotherhood  of  the  yellow-robed  monks. Here the
candidate  is  placed  on  the  floor  in  the  upasada or bôt,  and lighted
tapers  are  passed  round  him,  each of the assisting  persons fanning
the  smoke  of  the  tapers  towards  the candidate. A  building may also
be  the  object  of  such  a ceremony, which is sometimes  the case with
Wat   Phra  Kaeo,  the  national   sanctuary  of  the  Siamese.  Here  the
assisting   persons   walk    round  the  building  with  lighted   tapers  in
their   hands,   fanning   the  smoke  towards  the   sacred  building.   Dr.
Quaritch  Wales,  in  his  meritorious   pioneer   work  called   " Siamese
State Ceremonies," says  that this rite is  a form of pradaksina intended
to  ward  off   evil  influence  and  that  it  is  well  known   in India, being
first mentioned in the Satapatha Brahmana.

             Prosessor  P. S. Sastri, of  the National  Library, Bangkok, writes
kindly   as   follows  :— "   A   rite   exactly   similar   to  "  Wien Thien "  is
still  observed   in the temples of Malabar  (a district  on the West Coast
of  Southern  India).  They   call  it  "   Talappili ".  This  word   " Talappili "
is  compounded  of  two  words  ;  —  Talam  =   plate  (cf.  the  Siamese




word  Kongsadal * )  and  pili  =  hold  ( verb ).  The  rite  is named  thus
because   young   unmarried   girls   who  do  the  Indian  " Wien  Thien "
carry  a  lighted  lamp  on  a  plate  in  their  hands. I have seen  the rite
myself,  and  when  I  saw  the  " Wien  Thien "  here  I  was  very  much
struck  by  the   similarity  between  the  two.  The  object  of  the  rite  is
to  remove  the  bad  effects  of  the  "evil  eye"  and  it  is  therefore per-
formed  in  India  when an image  of a deity  which has been taken out
on a ceremonial procession has returned to the temple".

            In a recent book called "Sex and temperament  in three primitive
societies ", the  authoress,  Miss  Margaret  Mead,  says,  on p. 94,  that
the  girls  of  the   Arapesh tribe  in  Northern  New  Guinea,   after  their
first   menstruation,   are placed  in  the  agehu  or  village  feast   place,
where  they  are  encircled  with  fires.  When asked  the reason for this
custom,   the   natives   replied   that   they    did  not  know!   There  can,
however,  be  no  doubt that this ceremony is meant as a purifying  and
protective   rite   and   as   such   it  recalls  strikingly  the  rite  of  " Wien
Thien ", as performed both in Siam and in India.

              The  rite  of  piercing  the  earlobe  is also found among certain
tribes  in  New  Guinea, which  ceremony  in  Burma takes the place of
the " kon chuk " or Tonsure ceremony in Siam.

              As will be known, recent researches in India tend to prove that
the  Melanesians came,  from  that  country,   ƚ  It  therefore  seems  not
unreasonable   to   assume  that  the  rites  of   " Wien  Thien "  and  the
piercing  of  the  earlobe  are  both  of  Melanesian  origin.  To  assume
the  opposite,  namely,  that  the  Melanesians  got  these rites from the
Aryan  Brahmans  is  not likely, as the ancestors of the Melanesians of
New    Guinea    must    have   left   India   long   before   the   Aryan   in-
vasion  took  place.  A  second  alternative  would  be  that  the Melane-
sians  could  have  received these rites from the city building people of
Mohenjo   Daro   and   Harappa   in   the   Indus   valle  (Ca 3,000 B. C.)
but this  solution must  also be  rejected as the Melanesians' departure,
from  India  must  have  been  prior  to  the  building of the cities in N.W.
India  by  many  thousands  of  years.   At  what  time  the  Melanesians
left  India  to  migrate  via  the  Malay  Peninsula  and Insulinde to New



 * The Siamese word is กังสดาล—E. S.
ƚ  See   the   writer's   review  of  Sir  R. 0.  Winstedt's  "A  history  of  Mala-
ya." J, S. S., vol. XXIX, Part 2, p. 154,





Guinea  and  Melanesia  we  shall  perhaps  know  when Dr. van Stein
Callenfels,   in   a   near   future,   will   have  finished  his  work  on  the
discovery  of  Melanesian  skeletons  made  on the mainland opposite
Penang a few years ago.

               In this  connection  it  may  be useful to point out that for the time
being  quite  a  number of European  and  American  students  of  anthro-
pology  and  sociology  are  doing  useful  research  work  in  Melanesia,
and as it becomes more and more an accepted fact that the Melanesians
were  immigrants  from  the  west  the  work  of  these students should be
followed   closely   by   all   students  of  the  same  matter  in  Hither  and
Further    India.    It    is   very    likely   that   many   ancient   and   obscure
beliefs,   traditions  and  customs  in  both  of  the  Indies,   which  hitherto
seemed inexplicable, may  find  their explanation in corresponding ones
still   alive   among   the   Melanesians   of   New   Guinea  and  the  other
Pacific islands.


Bangkok, 22nd May, 1937.

                                                                              Erik Seidenfaden.



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