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I do not leave the city before encountering a benevolent-looking Muhammedan fakir, who has attained wide local reputation as being the holiest man of the district. I do not doubt this statement: goodness is plainly written on his face. But when enthusiastic persons show me his footprint sunk deeply in a broad rock and tell me that he caused it to appear by stamping his foot when a sceptic demanded proof of his miraculous powers, I sadly turn away.* (*footnote: One can find similar myths in other parts of India, though this was the first occasion when I had seen it created during a man's lifetime. At the hill of Bhurmoilla there is a footprint of the god Vishnu imprinted in stone; at St. Thome there is a rock which retains the faintly discoloured impression of the foot of Saint Thomas, made after he was wounded by an arrow more than a thousand years ago; at Buddh Gaya there are no less than twenty footprints of Gautama Buddha, all unnaturally large--as though size indicates sanctity! One, indeed, is two feet long! And in a Delhi mosque the keeper will show you a footprint neatly made by the historic Muhammed Shah in marble. Common sense, plus a little understanding of Oriental mentality, indicates that all these visible tokens of the miraculous are nothing more than the handiwork of pious devotees, who think it necessary to bolster up a single fact with fifty fictions.)

We drive westwards again and ultimately pass through the old town of Miraj, where men foregather from the surrounding country to sell their produce and to trade. One slips back to the early medieval period in its streets, which are covered with thick sandy dust.


-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 2: India > # 156






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