The Mother Divine
Change Font Size 
(Sri Durga Charan Nag)

One of The Main Householder Disciples Of Sri Ramakrishna
by Sarat Chandra Chakravarti

Nagmahashaya was now grown up. With a view to strengthen the bond of family life, the aunt of the motherless boy settled his marriage. And he was married to Srimati Prasanna Kumari, an eleven-year-old daughter of Sri Jagannath Das, a well-to-do man of Raisdia in  Vikrampur.

Five months after his marriage, he came down to Calcutta and stayed with his father. He began his studies in the Campbell Medical School; but his zeal for learning did not meet with any measure of success. For, even here, he could not prosecute his studies for more than a year and a half, though no one knows exactly why he had to leave the School.

After this Nagmahashaya studied Homoeopathy under Doctor Behari Lal Bhaduri, the renowned physician. Dr. Bhaduri was well pleased with the amiable disposition of the boy and taught him with great care. Daily, morning and evening, he got his lessons from Dr. Bhaduri and would revise them at home.

Nearly two years passed thus. Nagmahashaya had to remain in Calcutta for the most part of the time, acquiring experience in his calling; and so his wife remained in her father's house. Consequently he had hardly any opportunity of cultivating his acquaintance with her, and even when there was an opportunity he felt shy to go near her. If she happened to be in his native village at the time when he went there, he would climb up a tree and remain there throughout the night lest he should be tempted by her presence.

His aunt could not easily understand this kind of behaviour; but like all worldly-minded people she was under the impression that time would mend matters. But unfortunately she was doomed to disappointment. The poor girl died suddenly of dysentery. This touched him deeply but he felt much relieved. He thought that Providence freed him from worldly bondage, and therefore he was happy. His father however felt that he should be married again and left instructions with his son-in-law for the selection of a suitable bride for his son.

Nagmahashaya again took to the study of Homoeopathy. He bought a small box of Homoeopathic medicines and began to treat the poor people of the neighbouring localities and distributed medicines among them free of cost. Dr. Bhaduri remarked on more than one occasion that he had very good results in many difficult cases by the use of medicines prescribed by Nagmahashaya. He was a prodigy in prescribing medicines. On a certain occasion his mother-in-law came to Calcutta; she saw the wonderful results of his treatment and said, "My son-in-law is verily Mahadeva (God). Whatever medicine he gives, it is always effective." Gradually the good name of Nagmahashaya came to be known all around. While yet a student, the young physician became the refuge of the poor. Patients began to pour in large numbers into his house. He could now earn money if he so desired, but he did not do so, as his ideal was not to get practice but only to serve the sick and the poor. He would never miss an opportunity to serve others. He never hesitated to do even menial work in the service of others. His father's friends sometimes took advantage of this and made him do their marketing; he carried even their bags of rice and bundles of fuel.

He was ever ready to serve the distressed. There was a rich man at Hatkhola named Premchand Munshi. Although he was rich, he never engaged any servant at home. He had a distant cousin of his for all kinds of household work. Besides this, he was so mean-minded as to depend even for trifles on the generosity of Nagmahashaya. Suddenly his distant cousin died. The people in the neighbourhood hated him so much that they would not even help him in cremating the dead body of his cousin. The millionaire of aristocratic birth begged for help from door to door but still none came to his rescue. Driven to despair, Munshi took refuge in the Nag family. The father and the son helped him out of that critical situation.

After a year's apprenticeship under Dr. Bhaduri, Nagmahashaya came to be acquainted with Suresh Babu. Suresh came from the well-known Datta family of Hatkhola. Before coming in contact with Sri Ramakrishna, he had a leaning towards Brahmoism. While Suresh was a worshipper of God without form and had no reverence for gods and goddesses, Nagmahashaya was a thoroughly orthodox Hindu, and had great reverence for all deities. Now and then there were hot discussions between them. Nagmahashaya used to argue thus: "The gods and goddesses of the Hindus as well as Brahman are all true but to attain Brahman is so difficult that I doubt whether one or two in a million attain it. Hence arises the necessity for a belief in the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism." He would further remark, "Well, sir, do you go so far as to say that the Vedas, the Puranas, the Tantras and the Mantras are all false? The realization of Brahman is the final goal indeed, but unless and until one goes through all these, one cannot attain Him. Unless Mahamaya wills, unless She makes way, none has the power to realize Him." Suresh would vehemently reply, "Keep aside, sir, your Sastras, etc. I have no faith in them", but Nagmahashaya’s prostrations before the images of gods and goddesses and his unshakable respect for holy men made him think within himself that a man of such great faith must surely attain Brahman very soon.

Suresh used to go to Nagmahashaya's place in the evening, and there almost every day they would have heated discussions, but neither was able to win the other over to his religious belief. It is strange how these two persons of opposed natures felt attracted to each other, but ever since their first acquaintance, they became life-long friends, and whenever they met each other, they used to have conversations on religious subjects only.

Suresh would often take Nagmahashaya to the Navavidhan Samaj founded by Keshab Chandra Sen. Though Nagmahashaya highly appreciated the preaching of Keshab, he did not like the manners of the Samaj. Nagmahashaya read with great zeal the Chaitanya Charit, Rupsanatan and the Lives of Mohammedan Saints, all published by the Brahmo Samaj; with great feeling he would sing the song, "Make me mad, in Thy love, O Mother," of the Navavidhan Samaj, although he had not the gift of a musical voice.

From the very beginning of their acquaintance, Suresh found in Nagmahashaya a man of spotless character. From his boyhood he was religious and he observed to the last day of his life all the social customs and usages prevailing among his people. It is said that in his boyhood he was particularly impressed by the translation of the Persian book named Haten Tai, yet his faith and devotion to the Lord never waned. Once a few friends of Nagmahashaya, having studied some atheistic literature, began to preach atheism and sometimes argued with Nagmahashaya. Nagmahashaya, even though vanquished in arguments, would firmly assert, "I have not the least shadow of a doubt about the existence of God." Later in his life he often said, "What is the use of reasoning about an entity which you know already to exist? God is self-effulgent like the sun."

From about this time Nagmahashaya began to lose all interest in medical science, and instead commenced a study of religious books; but on account of his father's importunities he could not sever his connection with Dr. Bhaduri all at once. Nagmahashaya did not know Sanskrit; consequently he carefully read the Bengali translations of the Puranas, the Tantras, and the like; if he chanced to meet a Pandit, he would eagerly entreat him to explain the true meaning of the Shastras. He used to take his daily bath in the Ganges and regularly observed the rites of Ekadashi (the eleventh lunar day, a fasting day). Every day at nightfall he used to go to the neighbouring cremation ground (Kashi Mitra's Burning Ghat) for a walk; he would sit there alone, absorbed in deep thought till late in the night. At dead of night the dying fires in the pyres with burnt corpses glowed, while the Ganga flowed on nearby mingling her murmuring sound with the rustling music of a solitary peepul tree, humming a melodious but pathetic song of life and death! No language could express it, but it irresistibly touched the human soul. Nagmahashaya would sit there for hours and think, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity; God alone is the Truth. Unless He is realized, life is verity a burden. How shall I realize Him? Who would show me the way?"

Sometimes Fakirs, Sannyasins, and Sadhakas came to that burning ghat; with a longing heart Nagmahashaya would ask them those questions but no one could give him any clear answer. He found that most of them were in quest of Siddhi (psychic powers); their aim was not the attainment of pure love for God. Once he met a Tantric Sadhaka, who, when he was questioned about Vamachara Sadhana, began to narrate some horribly uncouth practices. On hearing him Nagmahashaya said, "You will have yet to gather more experience, you have not understood the Tantras in the least." His experience of these types of men instead of creating faith in religion sometimes raised doubts in his mind. Only an old Brahmin, who practiced Sadhana in that cremation ground and was an initiated Tantric Sannyasin evoked his respect; he had no sectarian views; he was liberal and had great insight, although as an initiate he took Karana regularly. He explained to Nagmahashaya the profound significance of Tantric practices and mysteries of Shat-Chakra (six lotuses) very clearly and elaborately. Nagmahashaya expressed his desire to practice Sadhana according to the principles of the Tantras whereupon the Brahmin blessed him and gave him hopes, saying that the Mother would soon fulfil his desire. Nagmahashaya used to say to him, "That Brahmin had advanced much on the way to realization; he was quite conscious to the last moment and breathed his last on the bank of the Ganges."

As directed by this old Brahmin, Nagmahashaya would now and then do Japam and meditate in the stillness of the night in the cremation ground. One day while he was meditating, he saw the vision of a white effulgence; thenceforth he regularly went there and practiced Japam and meditation.

In course of time Dindayal came to know of it and it created some anxiety in his mind. He at once wrote to his son-in-law to select a bride for Nagmahashaya. He thought that his son was quite young, and that it was because there was nothing in life to bind him down to worldly life, that he roamed with mendicants and Sannyasins, and that when he was married all those foolish ideas would disappear. The son-in-law lost no time in selecting a bride, Sreemati Sarat Kumari, the first daughter of Ramdayal Bhunia of Deobhog, and informed Dindayal about it. Dindayal brought this proposal of marriage before his son but Nagmahashaya refused to marry again. Dindayal tried his utmost but could not persuade his son to marry. Since then, there were often exchangers of hot words between the father and the son. The father fasted in anger; the son also went without food. Thus they passed some time miserably. Once Dindayal said, "For you, I have been made a liar at this old age because I have given my word for your marriage to the bride's party." Nagmahashaya replied, "Once you got me married, but that girl died; again you are going to place somebody's daughter in the jaws of death!" Dindayal replied, "Aye, fate is determined by the divine dispenser! If you disobey me, your father, you will not succeed in any sphere of life. I will curse you so that you shall not progress even in your religious life."

He was indeed between two fires. On the one hand there would be the curse of his father, on the other the realization of Truth would be barred to him. He thought within himself, "I know, family life is the root of all misery and bondage, but my father directs me that way. Alas! O God! what am I to do?" Being much mortified, Nagmahashaya once said to his father, "We see that all the sorrows and sufferings of men result from marriage. Therefore please have mercy on me, father, and give up your resolution; I beseech you, kindly do not put me into bondage again. So long as you are alive I shall serve you heart and soul. I shall serve you a hundred times more devotedly than your would-be daughter-in-law. Please save me."

The sorrowful looks of his son and his importunities deeply impressed the old man. He thought that if his son for whose happiness he was proposing the marriage, be not happy by this alliance, it would be futile indeed; and so he consented to drop the proposal. But it at once struck him that if Durgacharan did not marry, his lineage would be at an end; the Sraddha ceremony of his forefathers would be stopped. At this Dindayal was overwhelmed with grief, but there was no remedy for it. Reasonings, reproaches and rebukes were of no avail. The old man was much afflicted and wept secretly. Nagmahashaya was not at home at the time. On his return, he entered the room and found his father weeping; it touched him to the quick. Nagmahashaya argued within himself, "There is none to call my own in this world except my father, and alas! I have become the cause of so much sorrow to him. Away with religion; from this day forward I shall obey my father at all cost. If my father gets consolation by getting me married, I must do that." Arriving at this conclusion, the son lost no time to report to his father that he would marry. The old man could not catch his words at once and remained dumbfounded. He only stared at his son, with tears still in his eyes. Nagmahashaya repeated, "Please fix the date for the marriage and drop a letter to inform our people in the village."

Coming to himself, Dindayal replied with great joy, "My boy, you have saved my honour and thus my Dharma also. Do what you like after you have married. I shall not say anything. I whole-heartedly bless you, my dear boy. May God fulfil your desire!" Next, Dindayal hastened to Messrs. Pal's place to tell them this good news. They were very glad to hear it and promised to bear a portion of the marriage expenses.

All were merry; but he who was going to be married was in the throes of great agony. He left the house as soon as he gave his consent for marriage. All day long he roamed about in the streets and passed the whole night sitting on the banks of the Ganges, weeping bitterly; there was none to share his feeling. To whom would he disclose his mental suffering? He went without any food. Dindayal could not know anything of it; for he was busy fixing the marriage date, writing letters to his village and buying the necessaries.

Gradually everything was bought with the exception of the bridegroom's suit. Dindayal asked his son to buy it from the market after his own choice, but he refused to do so; consequently, Dindayal himself had to get it from the market.

The day for them to start for their native village approached. Dindayal was busy packing things. As usual, even on that day, Nagmahashaya went out for a walk on the bank of the Ganges at night-fall. Before returning home he bowed to Mother Ganges and said, "O Mother! I have heard that Thou art the purifier of all sins; therefore, if I be defiled by the dirt and dust of the world in becoming a householder, wash them off, O Mother; and both in weal and in woe give me refuge at Thy hallowed feet!" Thereafter he returned to his house, and the father and the son set out for their native village.

About his marriage Nagmahashaya used to say, "Marriage with the pure desire for progeny does not defile a man. But only saints and sages of yore were fit for such marriages. Having observed austere Brahmacharya (celibacy) for a long time, they took wives for the purpose of continuing their progeny; and having begot sons like Vyasa, Sukadeva, Sanaka and Santkumara, they retired to the forest to lead the life of a recluse. But it cannot be so in this iron age. Nowadays there is not that deep meditation and self-restraint (Tapas), and so, the children born of lust become wicked and immoral." About his second marriage, he said, "What could I do? It was my father's command! I had to obey it, although it was venom itself to me."

The father and the son reached their native village five or six days before the marriage. The auspicious day approached, and Dindayal with all the fondness of a father's heart took the bridegroom in procession to the bride's house, and holy ceremonies were gone through with great joy and merriment. But with it withered the long-cherished hope of Nagmahashaya to lead a life absolutely devoted to spiritual practices without the distractions of family life. Moreover, with the thought of the responsibility of married life, it occurred to Nagmahashaya that henceforth he must also earn something for the maintenance of his family. When through the will of Providence he was hurled into this life, he must stand up to it manfully and shirk no duty. But he had an inborn hatred for servitude, and so he chose the independent profession of a doctor.

After the marriage, both the father and the son returned to Calcutta. Nagmahashaya set up his medical practice in right earnest. From this time forward, Nagmahashaya began to accept fees from his patients for their treatment. For seven years the smooth life of Nagmahashaya was gliding on uneventfully in the joy of study and meditation in the company of noble friends and in attending to the numerous patients who flocked to him. All of a sudden a cloud appeared in the clear sky -- a letter came bearing the news of his aunt's illness. She was old and infirm, and was suffering from dysentery. The news caused so much anxiety in his mind that he started at once for his native village. As soon as his aunt saw him, she exclaimed in delight, "My boy! I deem it my great luck that I shall be able to die in your presence." All his attempts to save her life were of no avail. Before she expired, she asked him whether all the inmates of her house had taken their meals. Even fifteen minutes before her death, the old lady, sitting on the verandah of the house, was repeating the name of God, saying, "My time is up." She beckoned to him to come near her; and placing her hand upon his head, she blessed him saying, "Let your mind always dwell in God" -- these were the last words the affectionate aunt spoke to him. She had been initiated in the Rama-mantram, and her last breath came out with the sound 'Ra'. Nagmahashaya heard it distinctly.

Before this mishap, Nagmahashaya never knew what bereavement was. He had no attachment to his wife and did not feel the loss of his first wife. His mother died in his infancy, but in her stead he found another mother in his aunt. Her unbounded love and affection for him never made him feel the loss of his mother. Now that very aunt had left him for ever. Oh! unbearable was the woe! Even to remain in that house became impossible for him. He used often to run to the spot where his aunt was cremated and pass the whole night there. Sometimes he would retire to a jungle and spend the silent hours of the night in solitude. Referring to this period, his sister Sarada remarked, "This incident drove my brother almost mad. He had to be urged often and often to take his bath and his meal. Sometimes I used to find him lying quite prostrate on the ground behind our house. So we had to get down our father from Calcutta."

The funeral rites of the aunt being completed, he came back to Calcutta with his father. Time, the great healer, assuaged, no doubt, the intensity of his grief, but in its place another thought appeared on his mental horizon and raised a storm not less convulsive than the former grief. His mind began to be haunted day and night by the thoughts, "Why does man come into this world and why does he die? What becomes of him after death? What has become of my aunt? To what region has she been transferred? The aunt who would give her life to spare me from even a scratch on my body, is no longer paying heed to my heart-rending sorrows and cries. Well! if all relationship ceases with death, then why all this bother with 'I' and 'mine'? Oh! why have we strayed into this world of miseries and bondage -- this vale of tears and woes? Having come here, what is the primary duty of life? How are we to free our agonizing soul from the grip of mortal life?" Such questions began to agitate his mind constantly, and he was yet to find their solution.

Though Nagmahashaya accepted fees from his patients, yet he himself would not demand anything from any one. He gladly accepted whatever was offered to him out of love and gratitude, and so his practice began to increase day by day. He had no outward show in his profession. He would go mostly walking to his patients even at distant places. Once Dindayal got from him a suit of fine cloth thinking that it would count much in increasing his practice. But the son had no idea of the kind and he complained, "What need have I of this dress? You would have done a good thing had you spent the money in the service of the poor." Dindayal replied with a deep sigh, "I had great hopes in you, but alas! now I see it is doomed to frustration. You are about to become a mendicant." But that was not all. All his ways were strange and not befitting a man of the world.

He found to his great amazement that much of his son's time was spent in helping the diseased and the destitute of the neighbourhood, and that he would not take even a drop of water without carrying relief to them. Very often he would not only give medicine free to the poor but also help them with money to obtain proper food. If he happened to meet any destitute sufferer deserted in the street, uncared for and unnoticed, he would take him to his place and nurse him with the tenderest care. Sometimes he would offer his own dishes to the hungry beggar, choosing to starve himself. All these acts appeared to Dindayal as quite strange and unpromising for the future of his son.

One day Nagmahashaya went on a visit to a poor man's house and there he found the patient in a most deplorable condition. He at once set himself to nursing and remained by his side, consoling him with soothing words and looking to his other needs. In the night he came to him again. It was winter. The old tiled roof of his house with its thousand holes and cracks was no barrier to the chill of the wintry night, and as if that was not enough, he found further that the patient had little or no clothing at all. Nagmahashaya thought within himself that his case was very serious and that if here were allowed to remain exposed, the case would prove fatal. He had a thick woolen shawl on his person; he quietly spread it over the patient and slipped away. The patient called him repeatedly but he did not return. He only replied from outside the house, "Don't be afraid, tomorrow I shall come to see you again." Next morning when he visited, the patient began to express very feelingly his deep gratitude for him. Nagmahashaya merely remarked that there was nothing extraordinary in the matter, that he had felt his need of warm clothing more imperative than his own, and that he had therefore left the shawl with him.

At home, Dindayal asked him about it, and on knowing the facts, began to scold him severely and make a great row about it. As a result both the father and the son went without food that day. Next morning Dindayal got another woolen wrapper for his son.

Another day when Nagmahashaya went to treat a poor man, he found the patient lying on the bare floor of his room. The sight was unbearable to him. There was an extra bedstead in Nagmahashaya's house. At once he took it to the patient's place and first laid him on it and then commenced his treatment. Such acts were not to Dindayal's liking.

On another occasion a little boy of a certain family was attacked with cholera. Nagmahashaya was called in and he treated the boy with the utmost care for a whole day, but nothing was of any avail; and the poor boy collapsed in the evening. His friend Suresh thought that Nagmahashaya would get a handsome fee that day, but in the evening he was found to return with an empty purse, deeply lamenting, "Alas! it was the only child of the family. All attempts to save it became futile! A gloom and void have now occupied their whole house!" So keenly did he feel for the child that he could not take even a drop of water that night.

Gradually his practice began to increase immensely. Messrs. Pals appointed him as their family physician. For that reason, even today Nagmahashaya is referred to as 'Doctor' by the Pals. "There was not a single premature death in our family as long as Nagmahashaya was our family physician," so testifies Babu Haralal Pal. Once a female relation of the Pal family had an attack of cholera and Nagmahashaya was required to treat her. But the case soon took a very bad turn in spite of his careful treatment. Nagmahashaya got nervous and asked them to send for Dr. Bhaduri. Upon his arrival, Dr. Bhaduri was informed of the medicines administered to the patient; he was perfectly satisfied with the prescription and remarked that he had nothing to add. The Pals urged him notwithstanding to make such changes as he thought fit, but Dr. Bhaduri not only refrained from prescribing any other medicine but also requested them not to place the patient under the treatment of anyone else. Gradually the patient recovered under the treatment of Nagmahashaya . From that day onward Pals' faith in their physician increased and they never called any other doctor to their family. They entrusted even the most difficult cases to his treatment. When the lady had recovered, Messrs. Pals presented him with a silver box full of rupees. Nagmahashaya never used to take any fees directly from their hands, as they were his benefactors. He used to say, "Whatever you have to give me, please give it to my father." So he did not accept the silver box or the money. The Pals thought he was unwilling to accept it, perhaps because the remuneration was not equal to his expectation; so they brought fifty rupees more and pressed him hard to accept the whole amount. But Nagmahashaya exclaimed with a touch of pathos in his tone, "Sir, the price of the medicine and the whole amount of my fees cannot be more than rupees twenty." Upon further insistence, he accepted that amount and not a pie more. Consequently Messrs. Pals put the remaining money as a donation for the performance of the Durga Puja.

When the matter was reported to Dindayal, he could not contain himself. "He to be drudging on for a petty salary even at that old age and his thoughtless son to refuse to accept his just remuneration! How foolish, how absurd, how suicidal!", he thought. But neither rebuke nor advice was of any avail. The son observed, "It is you, father, who always instruct me to tread the path of righteousness. In all conscience, how could I demand more? I know for certain that the price of the medicines given will, at the most, be rupees six, and my fees for these seven days cannot be more than rupees fourteen. So I have taken rupees twenty in all. To take more than this would be a sin. I beseech you, father, therefore not to take any more money on this account."

Dindayal remarked, "If the balance be given to you by the Pals as a present, with love and satisfaction, would you not accept it? You will never progress, I tell you, in your profession, if you go on in this manner."

Nagmahashaya said, "If it be so, let it be. I cannot help it! What I think is wrong, I shall never do, come what may. God is truth. False conduct brings ruin."

The reply indicated in a clear manner to Dindayal's mind the future of his son. He understood that his son would never prosper in the world. On the other hand, the son reflected within himself, "Good God! such is the world! Truly it is the veritable 'wilderness of a world, where life is in tangled mazes lost'. If you can acquire money no matter by whatever means, fair or foul, then only you will get name, fame and power in this world. Fie! Let me have nothing to do with this sort of world! It is a thousand times better to maintain oneself by begging and leading an honest and pious life, than to enjoy oneself with money earned by unrighteous means."

The practice of Nagmahashaya increased so much that, had he been worldly wise, he would have made a fortune. He did not demand any fees from anyone. He only accepted whatever was offered to him with great cheerfulness. Cunning fellows always tried their best to cheat him. Some would not pay their fees after being treated by him, while others would take loans from him and never care to repay. Suresh used to say, "When my uncle (Nagmahashaya) would return from his rounds, I often saw some four or five persons waiting for him at his house to take loans from him. He never said 'no', whenever anything was asked of him. That is why all his earnings were mostly spent away in loans and charity, so much so that on some days he used to have nothing left for his own meal. He was obliged to pass such days, taking only a few handfuls of puffed rice for his dinner, although he might have earned on those very days nine or ten rupees."

No one cared to repay the loan taken from him. Moreover some of them would even remark, "You need not be anxious about anything, my friend. God will provide you with all you require." Nagmahashaya never saved even a pie for his own sake. Whatever surplus money he had, he gave to his father Dindayal. If he happened to require anything for his dress etc., which was always very frugal and scanty, he would ask his father for it. While speaking of savings, he used to say, "It is certain that God supplies the real wants of all. There is no good in being anxious about it. Complete self-surrender to God can procure one's well-being here and hereafter. Whatever we endeavour to do, prompted by our own egotism, always defeats its own end -- this is my personal experience."

Nagmahashaya could never brook any unseemly religious conduct and hypocrisy. One day a Vaishnava mendicant, accompanied by a young Vaishnavi, came to his place for alms. Nagmahashaya was then absorbed in meditation. He came out of his house as soon as he heard the cry of 'Radha, Radha' from outside. But when saw the couple in false Vaishnava garb, he cried with all indignation, "You won't get anything, if you say, 'Radha, Radha' like that, in hollow insincere tone. If you can utter it from the bottom of your heart, you shall then get something." The Vaishnava couple went away silently without saying anything further. Nagmahashaya thought, "Alas! here is this Iron-age come to destroy the world! Here have I seen today with my own eyes the veritable Kali."

Nagmahashaya thought, "Man is liable to fall into such a deplorable condition, if he has no good teacher; not only does he ruin himself, but also brings ruin upon others." Referring to these religious charlatans, he often used to remark, "One might be forgiven, if one commits a mistake unwillingly. But there is no salvation even to the end of this cycle, for those hypocrites who practice immorality under the garb of religion."