Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

PATRIARCHAL LIFE.

97

any nation, where the art of printing is unknown, and no books are introduced, the higher classes can enjoy but little intellectual pleasure.

I sometimes frequented places where the natives had never seen an European, and were ignorant of every thing concerning us : there I beheld manners and customs simple as were those in the patriarchal age; there, in the very style of Rebecca and the damsels of Mesopotamia, the Hindoo villagers treated me with that artless hospitality so delightful in the poems of Homer, and other ancient records. On a sultry day, near a Zinore village, having rode faster than my attendants, while waiting their arrival under a tamarind tree, a young woman came to the well ; I asked for a little water, but neither of us having a drinking vessel, she hastily left me, as I imagined, to bring an earthen cup for the purpose, as I should have polluted a vessel of metal: but as Jael, when Sisera asked for water, him milk, and brought forth butter in a lordly dish,”—Judges, ch. v. ver. 25, su did this village damsel, with more sincerity than Heber's wife, bring me a pot of milk, and a lump of butter on the delicate leaf of the banana, “the lordly dish” of the Hindoos. The former I gladly accepted: on my declíning the latter, she immediately made it up into two balls, and gave one to each of the oxen that drew my hackery. Butter is a luxury to these animals, and enables them to bear additional fatigue. On my

first arrival at Zinore, the zemindars, as customary, paid me a respectful visit, bringing presents of money and jewels : those I refused, except one rupee; which, notwithstanding every injunction to the

contrary, I did take from the head zemindar of

gave

[blocks in formation]

98

ANTIQUITY OF THE HINDOOS.

each district under my charge. These four rupees I preserve in remembrance of the people among whom I lived, who would have been hurt at a total refusal. Although prohibited by oaths and covenants from accepting any valuable presents, I did not refuse what they sent for me and my people to the shamyanah I fixed near the bank of the river, for want of a more comfortable residence in the town. These articles so exactly resembled those which Barzillai and his friends brought to David at Mahanaim, that hardly a single word need be altered : “ Shobi, and Machir, and Barzillai brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse, and honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him to eat: for they said the people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty in the wilderness.” II. Samuel, ch. xvii. ver. 27, 28, 29.

The more I saw of the Hindoos in those remote districts, the more I perceived the truth of Orme's remark, that Hindostan has been inhabited from the earliest antiquity, by a people who have no resemblance, either in their figure, or manners, with any of the nations contiguous to them; and that although conquerors have established themselves at different times, in various parts of India, yet the original inhabitants have lost very little of their original character.

A few of the Guzerat Brahmins, especially at Zinore and Chandode, were men of education, who had studied at Benares, and were masters of the Sanscreet language, that inexhaustible mine of Hindoo literature, art, and science; which, Sir William Jones says, is “a most wonderful structure; more perfect than the

BANKS OF THE NERBUDDA.

99

Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either ; yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs, and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which perhaps no longer exists."

Those towns on the banks of the Nerbudda, so famous for Brahmin seminaries, contain numerous schools for the education of other boys: these are generally in the open air, on the shady side of the house. The scholars sit on mats, or cow-dung floors, and are taught as much of religion as their caste admits of; as well as reading, writing, and arithmetic ; the two latter by making letters and figures in sand upon the floor, which I have before observed is the oriental manner of instruction.

Near Zinore were several monuments in memory of those devotees, so often mentioned, who bury themselves alive, in hopes of expiating their sins, or of pleasing the destructive powers by such a sacrifice ; and under the lofty banks of the Nerbudda, as on the shores of the Ganges, I was told the Hindoos sometimes drown their sick and aged parents.

From my little encampment on the banks of this river, although accustomed to such spectacles at Baroche and Surat, I have been frequently astonished at the number of both sexes in the water during great part of the day. From Zinore to Chandode the stream is reckoned peculiarly holy; and there not only religious purity, but healing efficacy, is annexed to the ablution. Pilgrims from distant provinces resort thi

[blocks in formation]

ther for the cure of different complaints: they do not, I believe, entirely rely on the virtue of the water for convalescence, but apply also to the medical skill of the Brahmins, who are the principal physicians in India.

We recommended the cleansing virtues of the Nerbudda to an elderly Mahomedan, named Shaik Edroos, who lived many years in our family. At first he waited at table, and performed little offices about our persons ; but on the appearance of some spots of leprosy, we excused him from that part of his employment. These spots increasing, his motley skin grew so disgusting, that we dispensed with his attendance at table, and at length procured him a situation where the disorder did not interfere with his duty; for, although Shaik was not suddenly smitten, like Gehazi, for avarice and falsehood, yet his skin gradually experienced the same effect, until, like him, he became “a leper as white as snow.” The whiteness of the Indians afflicted with this disorder, is so extremely disagreeable as to render the complexion of the blackest Ethiopian beautiful in the comparison. Shaik having no faith in the religious or physical effects of the Nerbudda, took a voyage up the Red Sea, and performed a pilgrimage to the sacred shrines of his own prophet at Mecca and Medina, by which he imagined he attained no small degree of sanctity. After his return, I frequently saw him mounted on an eminence near one of the gates of Baroche, haranguing a large crowd of both sexes on religious and moral subjects, to the delight of his wondering audience, and the surprise of his quondam employers, who were ignorant of his oratorical powers.

Shaik was one of those enthusiasts who laid a great stress on having performed a pilgrimage to Mecca ;

A MAHOMEDAN ENTHUSIAST.

101

and, in consequence, thought himself superior to every person in our family, which consisted of Hindoos, Mahomedans, Parsees, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians, exclusive of the Pariahs and Chandalas who were employed in menial offices without doors. We all agreed very well ; for, except our slaves, none ate in the house, nor did we furnish them with clothes, or provisions of

any

kind. A monthly stipend of twelve rupees to the upper servant, gradually lessened to that of the poor Chandala, who received but two; which I believe was fully sufficient in a climate where their wants are very few compared with colder regions. Shaik had seen better days ; was of a good family, had served in the army, and been wounded in Ragobah’s campaign in Guzerat ; as a domestic servant he was not so contented as the rest, his religion not having taught him that patience and resignation, so generally practised by the Indians in consequence of their belief in a sort of unlimited predestination : neither was he at all given to taciturnity, another striking trait in the Mahomedan character. He often amused me with his account of the haje, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and confirmed all that is related by travellers on those occasions ; especially the ceremonies and penances mentioned by Pitts, when the hajes, or pilgrims, enter into Hirrawen, a ceremony from which the females are exempted; but the men, taking off all their clothes cover themselves with two hirrawens, or large white wrappers ; “ one they put round their middle, which reaches down to their ancles; with the other they cover the upper part of the body, except the head; and they wear no other thing on their bodies except these wrappers, and a pair of thin-soled shoes like sandals,

« AnteriorContinuar »