“The Druzes remain, even more than the Jews, a peculiar people”, says Colonel Churchill, one of the few fair and strictly impartial writers. “They marry within their own race; they are rarely, if ever converted; they adhere tenaciously to their traditions, and they baffle all efforts to discover their cherished secrets. The bad name of that caliph whom they claim as their founder is fairly compensated by the pure lives of many whom they honor as saints, and by the heroism of their feudal leaders.”
And yet the Druzes may be said to belong to one of the least esoteric of secret societies. There are others far more powerful and learned, the existence of which is not even suspected in Europe. There are many branches belonging to the great “Mother Lodge” which, mixed up with certain communities, may be termed secret sects within other sects. One of them is the sect commonly known as that of Laghana-Sastra. It reckons several thousand adepts who are scattered about in small groups in the south of the Dekkan, India. In the popular superstition, this sect is dreaded on account of its great reputation for magic and sorcery.
The Brahmans accuse its members of atheism and sacrilege, for none of them will consent to recognize the authority of either the Vedas or Manu, except so far as they conform to the versions in their possession, and which they maintain are professedly the only original texts; the Laghana-Sastra have neither temples nor priests, but twice a month, every member of the community has to absent himself from home for three days. Popular rumor, originated among their women, ascribes such absences to pilgrimages performed to their places of fortnightly resort. In some secluded mountainous spots, unknown and inaccessible to other sects, hidden far from sight among the luxurious vegetation of India, they keep their bungalows, which look like small fortresses, encircled as they are by lofty and thick walls. These, in their turn, are surrounded by the sacred trees called assonata, and in Tamul, arassa maram. These are the “sacred groves”, the originals of those of Egypt and Greece, whose initiates also built their temples within such “groves”, inaccessible to the profane.”
H. P. Blavatsky