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A Hindu ascetic hanging from hooks through his back (called "cetil"). Line engraving, 1791.

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"This drawing (II) represents a fanatic of the Gentoo cast, undergoing a voluntary torture, to expiate some crime of which he is, internally, acknowledging himself to have been guilty. Previous to his being suspended in the manner represented, he comes forth preceded by music and dancers, and attended by his relations and friends, adorned with flowers (as is customary with the Indians at their festivals) and cloathed in his best dress. After marching, or rather running, several times round the scaffolding &c. (flowers being in the mean time strewed before him) he is lifted up to the men whom you see posted above the crowd, upon a kind of platform. These priests, or rather, more properly speaking, executioners then strip him of his robe and insert two large iron hooks into the fleshy part of his back, near the shoulder blades; the ropes affixed to these hooks are tied to the transverse beam. Behind him two smaller ropes depend from the beam which receive his great toes in separate loops. Over the penitent's head is suspended a kind of flat muslin canopy with a narrow flounce, just sufficient to shade him from the sun, and not conceal him from the view. Thus prepared, he is swung into the air, by means of ropes tied at the opposite end of the pole, and hauled round as the drawing represents. The air is now rent with shouts of applauding, and almost adoring, multitudes, with trumpets sounding, drums beating, and paterraroes firing; and the transverse beam, turning upon a pivot, is slowly moved round, over the heads of the crowd. Notwithstanding the excruciating pain which the man must undergo, he supports it with patient firmness. I was an eye witness to three persons submitting to this torture in one afternoon. The first was a young man, about 24 years of age. He got up on the scaffold with affected indifference; but, when he launched into the air, I could distinctly hear him send forth some agonising yells. … I was present at this ceremony in the year 1786, at Madras, near the Blacktown; and am induced to send this hasty description from having read lately, in a monthly publication, a critique upon the work of a Mr MacDonald whose credibility appears to be doubted in relating a singular Gentoo ceremony … Yours, &c. Viator."--The gentleman's magazine, loc. cit.


[London] : [J. Nicholls], [1791]

Physical description

1 print : line engraving ; image 12 x 8 cm


A Gentoo fanatick suffering voluntary torture.


Wellcome Library no. 581942i



  • English

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