Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

noted down at the time. “ When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish, came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy!”—Job, ch. xxix. ver. 11–13.

The rajah of Meah Gaum was indeed an amiable exception to the Indian portraits lately introduced. With equal pleasure I now bring forward two others, in the characters of Hiroo Nand, and his amiable wife, then lately deceased, and burnt at Brodera. Hiroo Nand was duan to Futty Sihng ; who, however deficient in princely virtues himself, knew how to value them in a faithful servant. His superior abilities and unshaken integrity gained him the esteem of his prince; he was equally beloved by his subjects for his justice, moderation, and clemency in collecting the revenues of the Guickwar, which annually amounted to sixty lacs of rupees. Thus respected by all ranks, his happiness was complete, from having married a young lady of family, in every respect worthy of such a husband. When his presence was required in distant provinces, to her he intrusted all his concerns in Brodera ; she not only transacted business, audited accounts, carried on his correspondence and received his own officers, but gave audience to foreign deputations. This is the more extraordinary, as very few Hindoo women can either write or read.

A short time previous to our visiting Brodera, Hiroo was seized with a dangerous fever at Neriad. The Brahmin physicians giving very little hope of reco. very, he sent for his wife, who arrived in time to ad

[blocks in formation]

minister the last consolations to her expiring husband. She accompanied his corpse to Brodera, where the funeral pile was to be erected, with a fixed resolve not to survive him. On hearing of the duan's illness, Futty Sihng sent to assure his wife of his favour and protection ; and in case of his decease promised the regard due to a faithful minister should be transferred to his widow and children.

Her husband amply provided for her by will, and, contrary to the laws of dowry, and general customs of the Hindoos, he made her totally independent of his family. All were of no avail, she persisted in her determination to attend him to a better world, and suffered not the tears nor supplications of an aged mother and three helpless infants to change her purpose.

The funeral pyre was erected on the banks of the river Biswamintree, without the gates of Brodera. An immense concourse of all ranks assembled at the cremation ; a band of music accompanied the Brahmins who superintended the ceremony. The bower of death, enwreathed with sacred flowers, was erected over the pile of sandal-wood and spices, on which lay the body of the deceased. After various ceremonies, the music ceased, and the crowd in solemn silence waited the arrival of the heroine ! She approached from a temporary retirement with the Brahmins, attended by her mother, and three lovely children, arrayed in rich attire, and wearing the hymeneal crown, an ornament peculiar to a Hindoo bride at her marriage. On reaching the


she made a salam to the surrounding spectators, and a low obeisance to her husband's body. After a few religious ceremonies, the atten

[blocks in formation]

dants took off her jewels, anointed her dishevelled hair with consecrated ghee, as also the skirts of her flowing robe of yellow muslin (the colour of nuptial bliss). Two lisping infants clung round her knees, to dissuade her from the fatal purpose; the last pledge of conjugal love was taken from her bosom by an aged parent, in speechless agony.

Freed from these heart-piercing mourners, the lovely widow, with an air of solemn majesty, received a lighted torch from the Brahmins, with which she walked seven times round the pyre. Stopping near the entrance of the bower, for the last time she addressed the fire, and worshipped the other deities, as prescribed in the Sutty-ved: then setting fire to her hair, and the skirts of her robe, to render herself the only brand worthy of illuminating the sacred pile, she threw away the torch, rushed into the bower, and, embracing her husband, thus communicated the flames to the surrounding branches. The musicians immediately struck up the loudest strains, to drown the cries of the victim, should her courage have forsaken her. But several spectators then present assured me the serenity of her countenance, and dignity of her behaviour, surpassed all the sacrifices of a similar nature they had ever witnessed. I was invited to this cremation, which took place within twelve miles of my residence, and am now sorry I did not attend so extraordinary an immolation.

The widow of Hiroo walked seven times round the funeral pile; some Hindoo females only encompass it thrice; and there may be other exceptions. But in ancient and modern history we find the numbers seven and three generally considered to be sacred ; the former number is most common in Scripture. Among

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

the Greeks and Romans the latter prevails, especially at funerals.

« Οι δε τρίς περί νεκρόν εύτριχας ήλασαν ίππους

Homer, 23. B.

They drive their horses thrice about the dead

“ Ter circum accensos cincti fulgentibus armis

Decurêre rogos, ter mæstum funeris ignem
Lustravere in equis, ululatusque ore dedere."


Well-arm'd, thrice round the pile they march'd on foot,
Thrice round it rode, and with a dismal shout
Survey'd the rolling flames.

The character and conduct of the young Hindoo widow excites our admiration and claims our pity; for, although we may admire the heroism, we must pity a female, biassed by a wrong education, and influenced by a false religion, to make this dreadful sacrifice. Christianity would have regulated her affections, have taught her the delights of resignation, the necessity of fulfilling her relative duties to society, and especially those implanted in the maternal bosom.

“ Woman, the sweet enchantress! given to cheer
The fitful struggles of our passage here;
In pity to our sorrows, sent to show
The earlier joys of Paradise below;
With matron love, and matron duty, pour
Her gentle influence on our evening hour,
When the world-wearied spirit longs to rest
Its throbbing temples on her sheltering breast.
Woman, whose tear, whose glance, whose touch, whose sigh,
Can wrap us in despair, or ecstacy!

[blocks in formation]

With untold hope, and passion's nameless thrill,
Refine our raptures, bid our cares be still ;
With Love's sweet arts the gloom of Woe dispel,
Bid in our breast returning transport swell ;
Cling round our soul, the rising fiend destroy,
And lead to Virtue, by the path of Joy."


The Indian women, especially the high castes of Hindoos, have their peculiar virtues ; delicate, retired, and feminine. On the present journey, as well as on the preceding one, not only in the English districts, but those belonging to other governinents, the women drew water at the public wells for ourselves, our servants, and cattle, while others presented us with butter, milk, vegetables, fruit, and flowers.

However shy they may be reckoned in their general deportment to strangers, in my purgunnas I have often known them to exceed these stated duties of hospitality ; and have seen a woman of no mean rank, literally illustrate the conduct of an unfortunate princess in the Jewish history: “So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house; and she took flour and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight; and did bake the cakes; and she took a pan, and. poured them out before him.”— 2 Samuel, ch. xiii. ver. 8.

However decidedly some travellers may write on the Asiatic women, it is difficult to form a correct portrait of the high Mogul or Hindoo female character ; especially among the former. I have known English physicians sent for to the durbar at Cambay, and the palaces of other Mahomedans. The princes openly consulted them on their real and imaginary complaints ; they generally entertain a high opinion of their medical skill, are fond of conversing upon the subject, and

« AnteriorContinuar »