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Full text of "Bengal in the sixteenth century, A.D."

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46 b 
B'4-7- 

Y.54- 



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CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

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Calcutta 3(mi>ereif£ 
READERSHIP LECTURES 



BENGAL 

IN THE / 

SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A. D. 



Bengal in the Sixteenth Century, 

A. D. 



BY 

J. N. DAS GUPTA 

BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD, 

OP THE MIDDLE TEMPLE, LONDON, BARRISTER-AT-LAW, 

PROFESSOR, PRESIDENCY COLLEGE, 

CALCUTTA, 

ETC. 



'-"UP 31 l 

(J 'V"ufl"«Y 
PUBLISHED BY 

THE UNIVERSITY OF CALCUTTA 
1914 



H-'BS 



ri,$-</9z-33 



'PBINTEt) BY ATULCHANDBA BHATTACHARYYA 
AT TUB CALCUTTA UNIVERSITY PRESS, SENATE HOUSE, CALCUTTA 



CONTENTS 



LECTURE I Page 

Inaugural — The Study of History ... 1 

LECTURE II 
The Renaissance in Bengal .... ... 21 

LECTURE III 

MUKUNDRAM AND BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CEN- 
TURY, A.D. (i) ... ... ... 57 

LECTURE IV 

MUKUNDRAM AND BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CEN- 
TURY, A.D. (ii) „. ... ... 85 

LECTURE V 

European Travellers in Bengal in the Six- 
teenth Century, a.d. (i) ... ... 99 

LECTURE VI 

European Travellers in Bengal in the Six- 
teenth Century, a.d. (ii) ,.. ... 125 

LECTURE VII 

Bengal in the Sixteenth Century, a.d. — Socio- 
logical (i) ... ... ... 155 

LECTURE VIII 

Bengal in the Sixteenth Century, a.d. — Socio- 
logical (ii) ... ••• ••• 175 



INAUGURAL 

THE STUDY ©F HISTORY 

Mr. Vice-chancellor, and Fellow-students : 

Comte has told us that the growing passion of modern 
time3 for historical studies is a happy symptom of philosophical 
regeneration. But before dwelling on the importance of 
these studies and entering on an examination of the subject or 
rather subjects which I have undertaken to talk over with you, 
I beg in the first place to express my thankfulness and deep 
sense of gratitude to you especially, Mr. Vice- Chancellor, and 
to the Senate and Syndicate of our University for giving me 
this opportunity of appearing before you as University Reader 
in History. For I deem it a high privilege to be thus called 
upon, in however humble a capacity, to indicate new lines of 
study and methods of research to our younger generation at 
this critical juncture in the intellectual history of our land. 
To me this is ample recompense for whatever I may have tried 
to do during the last few years as one of the band of 
teachers attached to the constituent colleges of our corporate 
body, as an unworthy member of that company of devoted 
workers who have given their best, and who are ever striving 
even under great discouragements to serve the cause which is 
your cause as much as theirs, viz., that of diffusion of true 
knowledge in this ancient and once famous home of learning.. 

Under the stimulus of the new regulations of our Univer- 
sity, there are visible signs of an intellectual awakening 
throughout Bengal. New ideals have arisen in our academic 
world, and earnest endeavours are being made for their reali- 
sation, as far as one can judge, not without a fair measure of 
success. This consideration, coupled with the fact that I am 
addressing my fellow-students in Bengal has largely determined 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

the choice of the subject of my discourses. For it seemed to 
me, under the circumstances, not altogether inappropriate to 
try to study the past of Bengal, and there is a special fitting- 
ness in the task if that past can be elucidated with the help of 
materials derived and evidence gathered from some masterpiece 
of Bengali literature. If we have had in the past successful 
examples of the economic interpretation of history, we have 
no less successful examples of historical interpretation of 
literature. I have hence ventured to invite you to study the 
social and economic condition of Bengal in the 16th century 
of the Christian era with the help of a few Bengali poems 
whose names are household words with the gentry as well as 
the peasantry of this province. 

Moreover, it has always seemed to me that the old verna- 
cular poetry of our land deserves more respectful consideration 
at the hands of our scholars and historians than it at present 
receives. If the reconstruction of the past of our home-land 
is to be a successful undertaking, part at least of the materials 
for that reconstruction should be sought in the moth-eaten and 
perhaps rotting palm -leaf pages of old Puthis, the manuscripts 
in the possesssion of the managers and organisers of our 
indigenous Tols. One of the first steps in this process ought to 
be the preservation, the deciphering and a correct rendering 
of these ancient heirlooms of our race. One of the charges 
which at one time it was the fashion to bring against Indian 
Literature as a whole is that it is weakest on its historical side, 
— that there is no true Itihas in its department of Itihas. 
It used to be said that Indians are lacking in the instinct of 
historical research, and that unlike Egypt, unlike Crete, the 
scenes of some of the noblest achievements of the archeologist 
and the excavator, India offers no monument for the study 
of the antiquarian and the historian. The work done by the 
Imperial Archeological Department in India during the last 
few years, however, has to some extent disabused the public 
mind of this latter idea, and while it is true that India presents 



iKAUGrtJuAt 

few monuments above her surface to be read by every super- 
ficial observer as he runs, there is no lack of material under- 
ground, relics of her remote past -waiting to be unearthed by 
the pickaxe and the shovel of the patient explorer. Our 
University also in its desire to foster a genuine love of letters 
and to encourage a spirit of research as well as a critical 
mental attitude amongst its graduates has taken a notable 
step in our days by making a knowledge of the vernacular 
literatures of the province obligatory in all its Examinations. 

The result is seen in a remarkable literary awakening in 
the land. A strong stimulus has been given to the publication 
of vernacular books. Translations from our old classical 
works, translations of the treasures of foreign literatures, new 
versions of old and familiar things, are now pouring in upon us 
in an uninterrupted stream. All of this, as is only to be 
expected, is not likely to be permanent additions to our 
national literature, but they afford a striking object-lesson of 
the work which it is in the power of Universities to achieve, 
and they are evidence of a remarkable indigenous literary 
activity in the present generation. Then again quite recently 
we have been made familiar with the idea of an Oriental 
Institute, a central academy for the study of India's 
past, the importance of which study even from a purely 
utilitarian point of view it is hardly possible to exaggerate. 
A great poet who is also a great satirist, and the 
greatness of whose achievements as a poet is sometimes 
marred - by his satire, has told us that the East and the 
West can never meet. India however is a land of dreams 
and every true-hearted Indian is a dreamer of dreams. The 
dream which some of us, during the last few eventful years, 
have been dreaming is that the East and the West have 
already met, and that for the welfare of humanity, for the 
upward' march and development of the race, the civilisation of 
the future should be a composite civilisation in which the ideals 
of the East and the ideals of the West should stand side by 

8 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

side, and in which the heart of the East should learn to beat 
in unison with the heart of the West. And how can this be 
a reality without a better mutual understanding of our respec- 
tive past ? 

The present therefore seems to be a favourable moment 
for carrying on historical and sociological researches such as 
I contemplate, and which the schemes of studies drawn up 
under our new University regulations would seem to favour. 

It has been remarked that happy is the land which has no 
history. When one recalls to his mind the vigorous contro- 
versies which from time to time enliven our otherwise some- 
what monotonous academic life regarding the scope of 
particular sciences and the methods of investigation proper to 
them, one feels inclined to think that happy is the science 
without a history. Unfortunately for the historian, this can 
never be the case with the subject of his study, for history has 
a long history of its own. And this has been one of the un- 
fortunate peculiarities of the Muse of history that she never 
completely forgets or lays aside her old habits, but goes on 
acquiring new habits and adding new ambitions to her old 
tendencies. It seemed at first that Clio was intent on aping 
and somewhat slavishly imitating the graces of her sister 
Muses. History as an art seemed almost to pride in being a 
branch of general literature. But with the advent of the 
19th century came a change, and now though the old habits 
subsist, for picturesque history is still with us, history has 
proudly stepped forth as an independent science, engaged in 
the search of abstract truth, true to the kindred points of 
Heaven and Earth, yet at times somewhat detached from the 
homely realities of our practical life. 

There can be little doubt that history has its beginning in 
story-telling, that it is Epic in its origin. The European 
classical scholar has only to think of the Homeric poems, the 
Indian classicist of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in this 

4 



INAUGURAL 

connection. But it seems to me that that which distinguishes 
history from general literature, that which constitutes so to 
speak its differentia, viz., the application of criticism, has 
never been altogether wanting in the pages of the true 
historian. The application of criticism may not have been a 
conscious process. It did not always take the form of a cons- 
cious quest for truth. But it was there in the attempt to 
build on the experiences of the past an ideal to mould the 
conduct of the statesman and of the citizen in the present as 
also in the future, or in the attempt to point a moral for the 
edification of coming generations. 

The first Greek historian told his contemporaries that "the 
general purpose of his work was to preserve the memory of past 
events and record great actions which deserve the meed of 
fame." "He esteemed the aim of the historian to be exactly 
the same as the aim of the Epic poet." But when 
we come to the next stage we have already advanced 
a step nearer to our modern ideas, for Thucydides 
tells^ us, "The accurate knowledge of what has happened 
will be useful, because according to human probability 
similar things will happen again". The note of criticism 
differentiating the scope of history proper from that of 
general literature is clearly discernible in the warning voice 
of Polybius. "Surely," he reminds us, "an historian's object 
should be not to amaze his readers by a series of thrilling 
anecdotes, nor should he aim to produce speeches which might 
have been delivered, nor to study dramatic propriety, in derail, 
like a writer of tragedy. On the contrary, his function is above 
all to record with fidelity what was actually said or done, no 
matter how commonplace it may be." As Prof. Bury 
speaking of the older view of the utility of history observes: — 

The two greatest of the ancient historians, Thucydides and Polybius, 
held that it might be a guide for good conduct, as containing 
examples and warnings for statesmen ; and it was generally 
regarded in Greece and at Rome as a store-house, of conorete 



Bengal in the sixteenth century, a.d. 

instances to illustrate political and ethical maxims. Cicero 
called history in this sense Hagistra Vitae and Dionysius 
designated it "Philosophy by examples." And this view, 
which ascribed to it at best the function of teaching states- 
men by analogy, at worst the duty of moral edification, pre- 
vailed generally till the last century. Of course it contained 
a truth which we should now express in a different form by 
saying that history supplies the material for political and social 
science. This is a most important function : but if it were 
the only function, if the practical import of history lay merely 
in furnishing examples of causes and effects, then history in 
respect of practical utility would be no more than the hand- 
maid of social science. 

Such was the conception of history before the advent of 
Christianity. The interest of the historian is secular. He 
contemplates, and his interest is confined to things mundane. 
But with the advent of Christianity, historians hegan to busy 
themselves in justifying the ways of God to man. Orosius for 
example, writing under the influence of St. Augustine him- 
self, saw in the ancient classical world nothing but signs of 
God's wrath. Plagues and pestilences, wars and consequent 
loss of human lives, are but indications of divine judgment on 
an unregenerate world. The example thus set, the use thus 
made of history, was not likely to be lost sight of in the 17th 
century, when bitter theological controversies rent the Chris- 
tian world into twain. Thus if in the classical world there 
was the danger that history might come to be the hand-maid 
of poetry and of the drama, she now ran the risk of being the 
bond-slave of theology. Tor Leo and Luther, Eoman Catholic 
and Protestant alike appealed to history in support of their 
cause. If the Magdeberg Centuries appealed to history for 
evidence to prove the diabolical origin of the Papacy, Baronius 
was not far behind in appealing to the same source to prove 
that the doings of the Protestants were but the workings of 
the Devil. History had to be rescued from this bondage, and 
the work of liberation began with the beginning of the 18th 
century, a work which was perhaps inaugurated by Machi- 

6 



INAUGURAL 

avelli — with his high estimation of history as an instructress in 
politics, but in which the English Gibbon and the Scotch Robert- 
son took an honourable and a distinguished part. But above 
all we hare to speak of the influence of Montesquieu and of his 
Spirit of Laws in rescuing history from this thraldom to Theo- 
logy. His thesis — the relativity of human institutions — went 
a great way in effecting this liberation. Then came the 
upheaval of the French Revolution and the cry for new consti- 
tutions, which completed the process and history resumed once 
again her old ways of thought and action. 

It should however be noticed that the dominating influence 
in the earlier decades of the 18th century, was the spirit of 
Cosmopolitanism. This in course of time gave place to the 
spirit of Nationality, whence came a strong and powerful 
stimulus to the study of History in every country in Europe. 
It came to be strongly felt that the traditions and past experi- 
ences of the race are a precious heritage which should be 
carefully studied and properly valued. This conviction fell in 
with the scientific ideas of the age — the ideas of Evolution and 
of slow and gradual development. This junction of the cry of 
Nationality with the scientific conception of Evolution marks 
a turning-point in the history of human thought, and brought 
about a revolution in our conception of the nature and utility 
of the study of history. In the memorable words, uttered in 
this very city, of one of bur former Vice- Chancellors, Sir 
Henry Maine — who had felt the full force of the spirit of his 
age with its craving for a scientific treatment of the problems 
of social life : — 

Among all our subjects of study there is no doubt as to which is the 
one to which belongs the future. The fact is that within the 
last fifteen or twenty years there has arisen in the world of 
thought a new power and a new influence — not the direct but 
the indirect influence of the physical sciences, of the science 
of experiment and observation. The landmarks between the 
fields of knowledge are being removed : the methods of culti- 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

vation .are more than suspected to be the same for all. It is 
now affirmed and was felt long before it was affirmed that the 
truth of history if it exists cannot differ from any other form 
of truth. There can be no essential difference between the 
truth of the Astronomer, of the Physiologist and of the 
Historian. The great principle that underlies all our know- 
ledge of the physical world that nature is ever consistent 
with herself must also be true of human nature and human 
society which is made of human nature. It is not, indeed, 
meant that there are no truths except of the external world 
but that all truth of whatever character must conform to the 
same conditions, so that if indeed history be true it must 
teach that which every other science teaches — continuous 
sequence, inflexible order and eternal law. 

Indeed one of the greatest achievements of the nineteenth 
century is the application of scientific methods to historical 
studies. It came to be strongly felt that the present has grown 
out of the past, that there is a gradual process of evolution and 
slow development in the things and institutions around us, and 
that to understand the present we must study the past. By the 
side of the ideal of the German historian Ranke, which had serv- 
ed as a trumpet-call in his day — namely, "I do not aspire to know 
how things were bound to happen : I am contented to know how 
the'y did happen" — a text which I fear must still be preached — 
rose the idea that in the origin of a people or an institution lies 
the clue to its nature. The English exponent of the historical 
method, the English disciple of Savigny, while firmly believing 
in the reality and the possibility of moral progress, "often dwells 
on the idea that the greater part of the social and intellectual 
structure of a nation is bequeathed to it by former generations, 
that unconscious tradition is perhaps the most potent agent 
in historical life, that the margin of change is surprisingly 
small and progressive nations quite exceptional." As Dr. 
Herford, speaking of the development of historical studies in 
the Germany of the 19th century had occassion to remark — 
History contains a good deal of mere accident, something even 
of sheer chaos. But those aspects of it had been abundantly 

8 



INAUGURAL 

represented in the historical writing of the past, it was not 
amiss that it should be re-studied in the light of a conviction 
that apparent chaos was cosmos in disguise : that every 
apparent new beginning was the climax of a long preparation, 
every revolution the simple disclosure of slowly accumulated 
forces ; and every feature, every activity of a given social 
community vitally interrelated with every other. 

In Prof. Bury's words — "A right notion of the bearing of 
history on affairs, both for the statesman and for the citizen, 
could not be formed or formulated until men had grasped the 
idea of human development. This is the great transforming 
conception which enables history to define her scope. The 
idea was first started by Leibnitz, but, though it had some 
exponents in the interval, it did not rise to be a governing 
force in human thought till the 19th century, when it appears 
as the true solvent of the anti-historical doctrines which 
French thinkers and the French Revolution had arrayed 
against the compulsion of the past. At the same time, it has 
brought history into line with other sciences, and, potentially 
at least, has delivered her from the political and ethical 
encumbrances which combined to impede her after the intro- 
duction of scientific methods." In this connection, specially 
with reference to Ranke, I should remind you of Lamprecht — 
round whose name and work rages a vigorous controversy. 
The purely political historian enquires with Ranke, Lamprecht 
tells us — how it happened. He desired to know how it became. 
As Gooch puts it in his recently published work — History 
and Historians of the 19th Century, " The genetic must be 
substituted for the narrative method involving a survey of the 
whole mass of circumstances, material and intellectual, out of 
which events grow. Living in a scientific age the historian 
must investigate causation." 

The scientific conception of evolution seriously affected 
history in another direction. We cannot understand the 
present without the help of the past : the past is inseparably 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

connected with the present. If this is the case, how can you 
cat up history into little bits and different periods, and say 
this is ancient history and that modern. Thus we come to the 
conception of the unity of history,* a thesis which that great 
Oxford teacher, Freeman, maintained with so much eloquence 
and emphasis. Let us pause for a moment and see in brief, in 
passing, how this idea affects our study of the history of our 
land. We divide the history of India for conveniences of study 
into the Hindu Period, the Mahomedan Period and the British 
Period. Are we justified in regarding these as so many air- 
tight compartments having no reference or relation to each 
other ? How can we hope to understand the land-revenue 
policy or the administrative system of Akbar or his dealings 
with the Rajputs without knowing something of the genius 
and characteristics of Hindu Civilisation? And how unhistori- 
cal, how untruthful, is the view which regards the rise and 
development of British Power in the East as the sudden in- 
rushing of an European element into an Asiatic void ? 

The idea of the unity of history has now passed into a 
common-place. It is a necessary corollary of the scientific 
conception of evolution. But there is a second corollary, or 
rather another aspect of it, which is not so generally recognised 
or emphasised. If you cannot separate the past from the 



* In reference to Freeman's favourite thesis we may note in passing what Gooch 
tells us : — 

The central doctrine of Freeman's works was the Unity of History. The Rede Lecture, 
delivered in 1873, is a land-mark in English Historiography. From early Greece to the 
Roman Empire, from Imperial Rome to mediaeval and modern Europe there was no break ■ 
and he rendered an immense service to historical thinking and teaching by his emphasis on 
continuity. Yet Stubbs devoted a considerable part of one of his lectures to an attack on his 
friend's philosophy. Classical, mediaeval and modern history, he declared, could be usefully 
studied apart. In the world of action there was continuity, but in the world of thought and 
feeling, about which Freeman knew little and cared less, there were deep gulfs. A graver 
criticism may now be made. Since Freeman enunciated his doctrine, the historian's horizon 
has widened. His vision was confined to Aryan Europe. But Greece can no longer be 
treated as the starting-point of civilisation, and the discovery of the Ancient East has 
altered our perspective. 

10 



INAtlGURAt 

present, should you exclude the future altogether from the 
contemplation of the historian ? 

In the words of a great master of the principles of history- 
teaching : — 

Science tells us that, apart from the incalculable chances of catastrophes, 
man has still myriads and myriads of years to live on this 
planet under physical conditions which need not hinder his 
development or impair his energies. That is a period of which 
his whole recorded history of six or seven thousand years 
is a small fraction. 

The dark imminence of this unknown future in front of us, like 
a vague wall of mist every instant receding with all its indis- 
cernible silent reformations, undreamed ideas, new religions, 
must not be neglected if we would grasp the unity of history in 
its highest sense. For though we are unable to divine what 
things indefinite time may evolve, though we cannot look 
forward with the eyes of "the prophetic soul of the wide 
world brooding on things to come," yet the unapparent future 
has a claim to make itself felt as an idea controlling our 
perspective. It commands us not to regard the series of what 
we call ancient and mediaeval history as leading up to the 
modern age and the twentieth century ; it bids us to consider 
the whole sequence up to the present moment as properly no 
more than the beginning of a social and psychical development, 
whereof the end is withdrawn from our view by countless 
milleniums to come. 

Thus the historian lives and works in the present, with his 
hand resting on the past, his gaze fixed on the future. 

It is pleasant to think how this conception of the unity 
and continuity of history serves as an antidote to that un- 
historical mood of mind which would find the goal of 
humanity in a long past golden age. Rousseau declares that 
man born free is found everywhere in chains, and wants us to 
go back to nature. But the true historian who understands 
his vocation and knows what he is talking about can never 
preach the lesson of going back. The goal of humanity, if 
there is any goal at all, if it is not a process of constant 

u 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

progression, lies in the future and not in the past. The burden 
of the historian's song never is — Go back, o ve tired mariners. 
It is always — O my brothers and fellow-workers, follow the 
gleam. 



Men my brothers, men the workers 

ever reaping something new, 
That which they have done but earnest 

of the things that they shall do. 

This then is the view of the nature and utility of history, 
which I beg you to accept ; and hence I urge the supreme 
importance of historical studies in a scheme of liberal educa- 
tion ; for I take it that Milton's definition of liberal education 
still holds good as when it was first put forth in his Tractate of 
Education. " I call a complete and generous education that 
which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnani- 
mously, all the offices, both private and public, of peace and 
war." This fine definition has hardly been improved upon even 
in our days. 

But leaving aside for a moment the points I have so far 
ventured to place before you, I would be content to base my 
plea for a serious study of history in the India of the present 
day on a few somewhat commonplace practical considerations. 
I would urge the utility, and even the supreme necessity of the 
study of history in our days because of the preparation it 
affords for citizenship, because of the light it sheds and the 
help it so generously extends to the conscious efforts of a people 
engaged in the upbuilding of social ideals, but above all 
because of its disciplinary effect on individual character. 

That great Oxford teacher, the venerable Dr. Stubbs, to 
whose industry and enthusiasm and soberness of judgment 

12 



INAUGURAL 

history will for ever remain indebted told a distinguished 
audience at the University of Oxford some fifty years ago : — 

I am thoroughly convinced that the purpose which is 
answered by the study of history is twofold — it is at once the 
process of acquisition of a stock of facts, an ignorance of which 
unfits a man from playing the humblest part as a citizen ; and 
it is an educational discipline directed to the cultivation of 
powers for whose development, as it seems to me, no other 
training is equally efficacious. The disciplinary benefit of the 
study of history is to make people honest and intelligent in 
their view of public events. It is a training of the judgment. 

These words which are as necessary to remember now as 
when they were spoken, I would beg my fellow-students here 
in Bengal never to forget. 

In speaking of the development of ideas regarding histori- 
cal studies I have so long confined myself to, European 
countries. But I may be permitted to make a passing 
reference to two of the Oriental countries, China and India. 
"We are told by Demetrius Boulger : — 

If the reader wishes to know what conception Chinese 
historians had of their duties, the following story taken from 
the preface to Mailla's great work may throw some light upon 
the subject: — 

" In the reign of the Emperor Ling Wang of the Chow 
dynasty, B. C. 548, Changkong, Prince of Tsi, became ena- 
moured of the wife of Tsonichow, a general, who resented the 
affront and killed the prince. The Historians attached to the 
household of the Prince recorded the fact and named Tsonichow 
as the murderer. On learning this the general caused the 
principal historian to be arrested and slain and appointed 
another in his place. But as soon as the new historian entered 
upon his office he recorded the exact facts of the whole 
occurrence including the death of his predecessor and the 
cause of his death. Tsonichow was so much enraged at this 

13 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

that he ordered all the memhers of the Tribunal of History to 
be executed. But at once the whole literary class in the 
principality of Tsi set to work exposing and denouncing the 
conduct of Tsonichow who soon perceived that his wiser plan 
would be to reconstitute the Tribunal and to allow it to follow 
its own devices." What could be finer, too, than the following 
reply, given fifteen centuries later by the President of the 
Tribunal of History of the Empire to the Tang Emperor 
Taitsong, who asked if he might be permitted to see what was 
written about himself in the state memoirs ? " Prince," said 
the President, " the Historians of the Tribunal write down the 
good and the bad actions of princes, their praiseworthy and 
also their reprehensible words, and everything that they have 
done, good or bad in their administration. "We are exact and 
irreproachable on this point and none of us dare be wanting 
in this respect. This impartial severity ought to be the 
essential attribute of history, if it is wished that she should be 
a curb upon princes and the great, and that she should prevent 
their committing faults. But I do not know that any Emperor 
up to the present has ever seen what was written about him." 
To this the Emperor said, " But supposing I did nothing good, 
or that I happened to commit some bad action, is it you, 
President, who would write it down ? " Prince, I should be 
overwhelmed with grief, but being entrusted with a charge 
so important as that of presiding over the Tribunal of the 
Empire, could I dare to be wanting in my duty ?" These two 
stories may suffice to show the spirit in which the earlier 
Chinese Historians undertook their work. 

As to the Mahomedan historians of India, we may note 
the statement of the author of the Tabalcati Ahbari, one of 
the best known of our records of the Mussulmans in India, that 
he had from his youth, "according to the advice of his father, 
devoted himself to the study of works of history, which are the 
means of strengthening the understanding of men of education, 
and of affording instruction by examples to men of observa- 

U 



INAUGURAL 

tion," a statement which sounds like an echo of the classical 
proposition that History is philosophy teaching by examples. 

In reference to historical literature in Hindu India, I feel 
tempted to quote the following opening words of Stein's intro- 
duction to the monumental Uajatarcmgim of Kalhana — "It 
has often been said of the India of the Hindus that it possessed 
no history. The remark is true if we apply it to history as a 
science and art, such as classical culture in its noblest prose- 
works has bequeathed it to us. But it is manifestly wrong if 
by history is meant either historical development or the materi- 
als for studying it. India has never known among its 
Sastras the study of history such as Greece and Rome culti- 
vated or as modern Europe understands it. Yet the materials 
for such a study are equally at our disposal in India. They are 
contained not only in such original sources of information as 
inscriptions, coins and antiquarian remains generally ; advan- 
cing research has also proved that written records of events or 
of traditions concerning them have by no means been wanting 
in ancient India." Stein's observations remind us of the 
great historical Kavyas, the s Oharitas, such as the Harsa 
Charita of Bana — the historical significance of which branch 
of Indian Literature we all now recognise — thanks to the lucid 
introduction of Professor Buhler to his edition of the Yikra- 
manka-deva-charita of Bilhana. We all realise that the fact that 
the charitas treat of contemporary events constitutes an "un- 
doubted advantage, though that is impaired to no small extent 
by the obvious limitations implied by the panegyrical character 
of these poems." To Kalhana himself his great work is prima- 
rily a kavya ; but I venture to think that he had a very definite 
conception of his task as a narrator of events. Of this the in- 
troductory verses with which his work opens furnish characteris- 
tic evidence. We read, "worthy of praise is that power of true 
poets whatever it may be, which surpasses even the stream of 
nectar, in as much as by it their own bodies of glory as well as 
those of others obtain immortality ; who eise but poets resemb- 

15 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

ling Prajapatis and able to bring forth lovely productions, can 
place the past times before the eyes of men?" In this state- 
ment we have an enunciation of the poet's view of the relation 
between his art and the subject-matter of his narrative. "It is 
his skill as a Kavi, the merit of his poetic composition, which 
is to save from oblivion the history of his country." This is 
immediately followed by a recognition of the importance of 
historical impartiality. After the panegyric on poetic intuition, 
he declares that poet alone "worthy of praise, whose words like 
that of a judge, keep free from love or hatred in relating the 
facts of the past". As Dr. Stein rightly observes, "In this 
emphatic declaration and the prominence given to it we feel 
something of the historian's spirit". The author is to make the 
past live, but in breathing life into the dry bones of the past 
he is to keep his mind free from love or hatred. 

It is however to be noted, as Dr. Stein again warns us, tbat 
"neither the general drift of Hindu thought nor the specific 
character of Kalhana's Chronicle would justify us in looking 
to the latter for a conscious appreciation of what we under- 
stand as the philosophy of history. To search for the laws 
which explain the concatenation of events and govern the 
development of a nation's history, would have presupposed a 
mental atmosphere wholly different from that in which Kalhana 
lived. Inductive analysis of the lessons of history has ever been 
foreign to the Indian mind. Tet this fact must not lead us to 
assume that the Hindu Chronicler could contemplate the 
records of the past without being influenced by certain general 
ideas. Individual events present themselves to his mind not as 
phenomena to be traced to their causes. He looks upon them 
merely as illustrations of those maxims, religious, moral or 
legal, which made up what the Hindu designates so compre- 
hensibly as 'Dharma'." 

The conception of Dharma involves a belief in the doctrine 
of Punya — the preeminently Indian idea "which explains the 
fortunes of individuals or a nation by the influence of spiri- 

16 



INAUGURAL 

tual merits from previous birth." It also involves a belief in 
divine retribution — the retribution which follows upon evil 
government, an idea in some measure in harmony with our 
modern conception of the causal relation between facts. Thus 
the Indian historian places in close association with one 
another — the verdict of the judge and the judgment of the 
historian ; Dharma and the sense of divine retribution 
working in and influencing the chain of events amid which 
we live and move ; all which remind us also of poetic justice. 

I therefore conclude by alluding once again to what I 
spoke of in an earlier part of this discourse, viz., the 
connection which must always exist between History and 
general literature. Literature may claim precedence over 
history, but the two are sister Muses engaged in the same task 
of elevating our thoughts, ennobling our character, embellishing 
our mind — a fact which should not be lost sight of in the 
correlation of studies in our Universities. 

I have already indicated that in speaking of the social and 
economic condition of Bengal in the 16th century of the Chris- 
tian era I propose to depend mainly on materials to be derived 
from contemporary vernacular literature of the day. I fear, 
historians in India for years to come must be content to rely 
on materials so derived and must be prepared to gather the 
materials for themselves. This is a fact which adds considerably 
to the difficulties of their task, but to my nfmd it also 
enhances the interest of their work. A general history of 
India, which takes a comprehensive view of the movements and 
tendencies in the different provinces of this vast continent 
before the rise and consolidation of British Power in the East 
has yet to be written, a task to the accomplishment of which 
our newly-appointed Professor of Ancient Indian History will 
no doubt make invaluable contributions. In the present state 
of things I am not quite sure if something cannot be said in 
defence of the attitude of the helpless student who is content 
with a succession of birds-eye views of the fortunes of the 

17 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Maharatta confederacy, the consolidation of the Sikh fraternity, 
the meteoric career of Hyderali, and the achievements of the 
Moghuls at Delhi. But the way for the coming of the general 
comprehensive history of India must be paved and prepared by 
the local historian. There must be a good deal of preliminary 
drawing of water and hewing of wood. Folklore, dim traditions, 
written literary productions, inscriptions, coins, monurmnts and 
architectural remains, must all be ransacked and appealed to 
and laid under contribution. See what a glorious vista is thus 
opened to our view, what vast fields of work are thrown open 
even to the meanest labourer in the domain of history. He 
who compiles, he who merely digests, or he who undertakes 
the critical work of the collation of manuscripts, each has his 
work to do, his quota to contribute. And let us think of the 
level of perfection which the completed production may attain 
in the hands of a consummate artist by taking note of the 
fascinating picture of Indian chivalry painted in the pages of 
Tod's Majasthan with materials derived from folklore and tradi- 
tion and dim memories of deeds which the local bards delighted 
to sing and to celebrate. * 

May this thought serve as a trumpet-call to our younger 
generation of historical students, and may they be stimulated 
to approach their task of study and research in the spirit of 
the true historian ! 



18 



II 

THE RENAISSANCE IN -BENGAL 



II - 

THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Fellow-students: 

"We are fortunate in our sources of information regarding 
Bengal in the 16th Century, though of systematic history 
writing and chronicling of events there is little in this period, 
and our modern guides do not help us much. The few pages 
touching the 16th Century in Stewart's history of Bengal are 
to my mind indispensable hut not very inspiring reading. 
Ferishtha as presented in Dow's translation stands practically 
on the same level, and Briggs of deserved celebrity is of course 
Ferishtha again. But then there is the ever to be remembered 
Ain-i-Akbari which is "partly a history of the Emperor, partly 
a most minute account of the revenue, household, treasury, 
military regulations and other matters with a Gazetteer of 
India and a collection of his Majesty's sayings and teachings. 
No other work gives such a picture of contemporary India, its 
learning, traditions and customs, and under the pompous style 
of a court journal, the most vivid glimpses of Akbar the man 
are disclosed amid details of etiquette, cookery recipes, or 
treatises upon religion." 

In this connection it is interesting to note what the 
author of the Tabakati Akbari puts forth as his apologia for 
undertaking to write a history of India under Akbar. He 
found that in " the wide plains of Hindustan, which form an 
empire of vast extent, the governing classes had assumed 
the title and discharged the duties of rulers in many of its 
divisions, such as Dehli, Gujrat, Malwa, Bengal, and Sindh, 
and the authors of their times have written histories of their 
affairs, and have bequeathed them as memorials to posterity. 
* * * It is most extraordinary, therefore, that not a single work 
containing a complete compendium of affairs of this (entire) 
division (of the world) has yet been written by any historian ; 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

neither have the events connected with the centre of Hindu- 
stan, the seat of Government of this Empire, the capital Dehli, 
had been collected in one book."* 

One ought also to refer to the wealth of materials gathered 
together in the 5th and 6th Volumes of Elliot's History. 
Above all, there are the priceless poetic gems of our vernacular 
literature. Of a few such gems, I propose to speak in some 
little detail. Before doing so I may, however, be permitted to 
interpolate a parenthesis. On the passing of the Ancient Monu- 
ments Act in 1904, Lord Ourzon, the then Viceroy of India and 
Chancellor of our University, uttered a few memorable words. 
He told us, — 

" It is given to but few to realise except from books and illustrations, 
what the archseological treasures of India are. As a pilgrim 
at the shrine of beauty I have visited them, as a priest in 
the temple of duty have I charged myself with their reverent 
custody and their studious repair. * * * I might 
bring you much nearer home to Gaur and Pandua in this pro- 
vince of Bengal, in the restoration of which I received the enthu- 

*The work which is best known is the Taiakati-Nasiri which Minhajus Siraj compiled 
commencing with Sultan Mu'izzu-ddin Ghori, and concluding with Nasiruddin bin Sham- 
suddin : from thence to the time of Sultan Firoz ia written in the history of Ziai Barni ; but 
from that time to to-day, because for the greater portion of the time there was much 
disturbance in India, and the people had the misfortune to be deprived of a powerful 
Imperial Government, I have only met with a few detached and incomplete compilations. 
I have not heard of a single history that comprises an account of the whole of India ; and 
now since the whole of the inlying and outlying provinces of Hindustan have been con- 
quered by the world-subduing sword of God's vicegerent, and all the fractions of the earth 
have been united in one grand whole, and many kingdoms beyond the confines of Hindustan 
which none of the great sovereigns who preceded His Majesty had ever acquired, have been 
included in his Empire, and it is to be hoped that the seven climes will yet come under the 
shade of the "standard of the good fortune of that illustrious personage, and thus be protect- 
ed and secure peace and prosperity, I conceived the idea of compiling, in a simple style 
a, history which should embrace an account of all the kingdoms of Hindustan, from the 
times of Subuktigin, 367A.H. (which is the date of the introduction of Islam into Hindu- 
stan,) up to 1001A.H., the thirty-seventh year of the Ilahi era, dividing it into chapters 
according to the several dynasties which reigned, closing each chapter with an account of 
the conquest by His Imperial Highness of the particular province under notice : the account 
of these victories in full detail being found in the Akbarnama, which Allami Abul Fazl has 
compiled with so much ability. 

22 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

siastic cooperation of the late Sir John "Woodburn. A hundred 
and twenty years ago the tombs of the Afgan Kings at Gaur* 
were within an ace of being despoiled to provide paving-stone for 
St. John's Church in Calcutta. Only a few years back these 
wonderful remains were smothered in jungle from which they 
literally had to be cut free. If the public were fully aware of 
what has been done, Malda, near to which they are "situated, 
would be an object of constant excursion from this place. "We 
have similarly restored the Hindu temples of Bhubaneshwar near 
Cuttack and the palace and temples on the rock-fortress of 
Rhotasgarh." 

The reference to Gaur makes one think of the times of 
Buktyar Khiliji and of the events which are narrated by 
Menhej Ali and recorded in the pages of Tabahati Nasiri ; but 
also of what I take to be an invaluable historical work — viz. 
The Ramcharita, published as one of its Memoirs by the 
Asiatic Society, which tends to throw light on the dark pages 
of the history of Bengal in the first half of the 12th and the 
second half of the 11th Century — days which preceded the 
appearance of the Mahomedans in Bengal. My object in 
interpolating this parenthesis is to show by reference to a con- 
crete example that even as regards Bengal we are not 
altogether devoid of highly valuable historical works, and to 
make the confession that before chosing to dwell- on 16th 
Century Bengal I had at one time actually thought of speak- 
ing to you about the Ramcharita. 

The 16th Century in Bengal truly witnessed a Renaissance, 
Undoubtedly there was a spiritual and intellectual awakening 
among the people. Enthusiasts travelled from place to place ; 
mind was brought into contact with mind ; there was a brisk 
circulation of fertilising ideas. If the classical Renaissance 
in Europe opened out and enlarged men's capacity for culture 
which in course of time has come to be an essential part of 
the ^intellectual life of the Western World, the stimulus of 

*When the capital fell into decay on the decline of Mahomedan rule, Gaur was used as a 
brick-field and quarry by the builders of Dacca, Murshidabad and Calcutta, the right to dis- 
mantle Gaur of its enamelled bricks being farmed out to the landholders in the district in 
the early days of our revenue administration — Havell. 

23 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

spiritual enthusiasm, the coiitact with the merchant adven- 
turers of foreign trading nations, the liberal tolerant policy of 
a wise ruler anxious to attend to the educational needs of the 
people and prepared to grapple with the difficulties of social 
problems — all contributed to produce the same result in the 
Bengal of the 16th century. Let us remind ourselves in 
this connection of the pregnant words of Bwkhardht in his 
Culture of the Renaissance, which is one of our historical classics. 
In Europe, with the Renaissance, we are told, man discovered 
himself and became a spiritual individual. The fetters of a 
thousand years were burst, self-realisation became the goal, and 
new valuations of the world and of man became current ; some 
of the conditions which made this possible being the intense life 
of the city-state, the revival of the art and philosophy of 
antiquity, the weakening of authority, the disintegration of 
belief. As in Europe, so in Bengal, after years of groping in 
the dark, in Green's picturesque phrase, men opened their eyes 
and saw. In some, this newly awakened mental curiosity 
busied itself in thinking of the nothingness of human life, and 
in trying to realise the glories of the Beatific vision. In some, 
their devotional ardour found employment in singing the praises 
of the apostles of the new spirit ; others again pictured the 
gloom which had so long prevailed in their social and political 
surroundings, thought of the delights of an idyllic existence, 
and sang of the glories and the beauties of external nature in 
this green lap of earth, this wonderful land of green verdure 
and pasture. All these phases of feeling find expression in 
our rich collection of Vaishnav literature — a collection of 
which any people may be justly proud. What is most to my 
purpose to note in the present connection is that in this litera- 
ture we have many an interesting side-light on the social and 
political condition of Bengal in the 16th Century which 
curiously confirms almost in every detail the truth of the 
picture which I propose to present before you with the help 
of Mukundram in some of my subsequent papers. 

24 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

I have made a passing reference to the remarkable 
personality of Chaitcmya, and to the rich vernacular 16th 
Century Vaisnav literature. The theological aspects of this 
literature do not fall properly within the scope of these dis- 
courses. Neither can I pretend to speak with any authority 
on the philosophy of Vaisnavism. But no one dwelling on 
16th Century Bengal can afford altogether to pass it by. The 
accounts, among other things, of the influence exercised by 
saintly characters like Isvarpuri, the devotional ardour of 
potentates like Protaprudra,* the wanderings of the apostles 
of the new faith, the many conversions made by them among 
the people, their constant protests against the rigidity and the 
cruelty of the caste rules, the intense ecstatic joys felt by these 
mystics as they dreamt of the Beatific vision, — each of these 
forms a distinct picture in the panorama of life in 16th Century 
Bengal unfolded in the pages of this literature, and affords 
valuable material for the reconstruction of the social history 
of the period. 

Truly history repeats itself. The phenomena with which 
we are familiar in Europe during the Renascence meet us 
everywhere in the Bengal of the 16th Century. Think of the 
pride of the new scholars in their Alma Mater, their native 
seat of learning, Navadwip, and think of incidents like the ex- 
periences of the triumphant Kasmiri — a Avandering scholar 
associated with that stage of Chaitanya's career when the 
apostle appears before us as a distinguished teacher of wide- 
spread reputation, endowed with the truly Socratic spirit of 
questioning men and things. We all know how in the Eng- 
land of the 19th Century the poetic soul of that great apostle 
of culture and master of criticism who spent his best energies 
in protesting against the inroads of philistinism on English 

* *ta «tl%B5l n 7 ^m ?N <rsm i tft ci§ ^«t^ n ft? fiW i 

CTfa arf%®1 fftl fin %M* sffal II fi"Tl TtaT f%n OT? *R ^tta*l II 

Chaitanya Charitamrita. 

25 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

literature and English social ideals is filled with a strange and 
unspeakable emotion whenever he thinks of Oxford — "Beauti- 
ful City ! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the fierce 
intellectual life of our century, so serene — home of lost causes, 
and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names and impossible 
loyalties. Yet steeped in sentiment as she lies, spreading 
her gardens to the moonlight, and whispering from 
her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Ages, who 
will deny that Oxford by her ineffable charm keeps ever 
calling us nearer to the true goal of all of us, to the 
ideal, to perfection, to beauty, in a word, which is truth seen 
from another side-— nearer perhaps than all the science of 
Tubingen." Such is the enthusiastic tribute of Matthew 
Arnold to Oxford. Similarly the hearts of the exponents of 
Nabyanya are lifted up with pride and delight when they sing 
of the glories of Navadwip. "O, who can hope to sing ade- 
quately of the glories of Navadwip — the home of enthusiastic 
scholars, of venerable teachers and erudite Professors — the 
scene of a thousand learned discussions and of perpetual wit 
combats." Such is the tribute of Chaitanya Bhagabat to the 
Oxford of 16th Century Bengal. And then the wandering 
scholar. We read of the European Renascence that that was 
"the age of the scholastics vagantes— the Knights Errant of 
the New Learning, possessed of and practising a multitude of 
arts, and masters of a mysterious variety of knowledge. They 
are '"seen at the Courts of Kings and princes, in the rapidly 
multiplying universities, in the houses and homes of every 
class of men. They are famous physicians like Paracelsus and 
academical lecturers like Bruno." It is a picture of this state 
of things which we have in that remarkable scene in the old 
16th Century English drama entitled Priar Bacon and Priar 
Bungay which is supposed to have been enacted at Oxford in 
the presence of King Hemy on the occasion of the visit of the 
German Emperor to England. The Emperor comes accom- 
panied by a triumphant wandering scholar — the redoubtable 

26 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

Jaques Vandermast, who is discomfited by the English Roger 
Bacon at Oxford — just as the Kasmiri Scholar is discomfited by 
Chaitanya at Nabadwip. Here are the relevant portions of this 
highly interesting scene, from which it will be noticed that the 
vaunting Jaques Vandermast is an exact counterpart of oar 
Kasmiri scholar and the part played by Roger Bacon corres- 
ponds exactly to the part played by Chaitanya in the present 
connection. 

Scene IX. Oxford. 

Enter King Henry, the Emperor, the King of Castile, 
Elinor, Vandermast, and Bungay. 

Mnp. Trust me, Plantagenet, these Oxford schools 

Are richly seated near the river-side : 

The mountains full of fat and fallow deer, 

The batling pastures lade with kine and flocks, 

The town gorgeous with high-built colleges, 

And scholars seemly in their grave attire, 

Learned in searching principles of Art, — 

"What is thy judgment, Jaques Vandermast ? 

Van. That lordly are the buildings of the town, 

Spacious the rooms, and full of pleasant walks ; 
But for the doctors, how that they be learned, 
It may be meanly, for aught I can hear. 

Bun. I tell thee, German, Hapsburg holds none such. 

None read so deep as Oxenford contains : 

There are within our academic state 

Men that may lecture it in Germany 

To all the doctors of your Belgic schools. 

K. Ken. Stand to him, Bungay, charm this Vandermast. 

And I will use thee as a royal king. 

Van. Wherein dar'st thou dispute with me ? 

Bun. In what a doctor and friar can. 

27 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Van. 

Mighty commander of this English isle, 
Henry, come from the stout Plantagenets, 
Bungay is learn'd enough to be a friar ; 
But to compare with Jaques Vardermast, 
Oxford and Cambridge must go seek their cells 
To find a man to match him in his art. 
I have given non-plus to the Paduans,* 
To them of Sien, Florence, and Bologna, 
Bheims, Louvain, and fair Rotterdam, 
Frankfort, Utrecht, and Orleans : 
And now must Henry, if he do me right, 
Crown me with laurel, as they all have done. 

Enter Bacon. 

Bacon. All hail to this royal company, 
That sit to hear and see this strange dispute ! — 
Bungay, how stand'st thou as a man amaz'd ? 
What, hath the German acted more than thou ? 

Van. What art thou that question'st thus ? 

Bacon. Men call me Bacon. 

Van. Lordly thou look'st, as if that thou wert learn'd; 

Thy countenance as if science held her seat 

Between the circled arches of thy brows. 

K. Sen. Now, monarchs, hath the German found his 
match. 

Emp. Bestir thee, Jaques, take not now the foil, 

Lest thou dost lose what foretime thou didst gain. 
Van. Bacon, wilt thou dispute ? 
Bacon. No. 

* Incidentally, an interesting enumeration of the various seats of learning of those 
days. 

28 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

Unless he were more learn'd than Vandermast : 

Tor yet, tell me, what hast thou done ? 

And so on, the vaunting and the contention go on, till the 
German is utterly nonplussed. 

My friends who are more competent judges of these things 
than myself and who have no doubt read with wondering 
delight accounts of the ecstatic communings of Ohaitanya and 
his disciples will excuse a reference to similar experiences in 
Europe. Eor I take it, in spite of the differences in ideals 
between Western and Eastern monasticism, in certain essential 
respects, the saint and the mystic are the same all the world 
over. M. Arnold speaking on a cognate topic reminds us 
" The ideal saint is a nature like Sales or Eenelon, a nature of 
ineffable sweetness and serenity, a nature in which struggle 
and revolt is over, and the whole man as far as possible to 
human infirmity swallowed up in love." In reference to the 
experiences of that beautiful soul, Eugenie De Guerin, who 
appeals to our love and adoration almost with a compelling 
force, he quotes from her journals, — 

', Poor soul, poor soul, what is the matter, what would you have ? Where 
is that which will do you good. Everything is greeiij everything 
is in bloom, all the air has a breath of flowers. How beautiful it 
is. Well, I will go out. No, I should be alone, and all this b eauty 
when one is alone is worth nothing . What shall I do then ? 
Read, write, pray, take a basket of sand on my head like that 
hermit saint and walk with it ? Yes, work, work ! Keep busy the 
body which does mischief to the soul." 

Again we read, 

" This morning I was suffering ; well, at present I am calm, and this I owe 
to faith, simply to faith, to an act of faith. I can think of death 
and eternity without trouble, without alarm. Over a deep of sorrow 
there floats a divine calm, a suavity which is the work of God 
only. In vain have I tried other things at a time like this, 
nothing human comforts the soul, nothing human upholds it." 

Matthew Arnold adds, 

"The poor soul cannot rest satisfied with the triumphs of self-abasement, 
with the sombre joy of trampling the pride of life and of reason 

29 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

underfoot, of reducing all human hope and joy to insignificance. 
She repeats the magnificent words of Bossuet, words which both 
Catholicism and Protestantism have uttered with indefatigable 
iteration — at the bottom of everything one finds emptiness, but 
she feels as every one but the true mystic must ever feel, their 
incurable sterility. 

Is this not also the saintly ideal of the Vaisnavas? Do we 
not find in the apostles of the new faith, as in Eenelon and in 
Erancis De Sales, " the whole man as far as possible to human 
infirmity swallowed up in love " ? 

Let us compare for example the four striking lines which 
occur at the close of the second canto of the Aiitalila of 
Chaitanya Charitamrita in which the author brings out with 
characteristic bold touches what are universally regarded as 
the prominent and unmistakable features in Chaitany's 
personality ; his overflowing love, his own selflessness, the 
teaching of self-renunciation to others, drawing out and making 
manifest the deep piety and devotional ardour of his many 
followers.* 

Again, have we not in the journals of Eugenie De Guerin 
the spirit and the temperament which also pervade what may 
be looked upon as the Tabletalh of Chaitanya as it is recorded 
e.g. in the notes stealthily jotted down by one of the best 
known of his disciples viz., Gobind Das and in the later, 
chapters of the monumental Charitamrita of Krisnadas ? 

Let me quote just three short texts — the first by way of 
illustrating one of the ideals of the Vaisnavas, the other their 
disregard of caste rules, the third the spirit of toleration 
which was slowly permeating the society of the day. As to 
the idealf, we read, let the patience, the fortitude, the powers of 
endurance of the Vaisnavas equal the fortitude of the trees of 

* *8,M ^tsPtT, finite ^tlf*W1 I + SspfR fft^sol, tw Tpfa | 

<s^itc*, Um <Ffrs[ ■sttH jfl ifm 1 1 
. 4<f ^m to ** *«j «to-it'« n ^ to t„, ▼us ftg i« *,tPrc i 

so 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

the forest. Do they ever cry out in protest when the 
woodman's axe cuts them down ? Do they ever ask for help or 
nourishment even when they are withering and slowly dying? 
As to their disregard of caste rules,* we have the passionate 
declaration t made in his new-born zeal by one of the neophytes 
to the effect that he a mlecha, had consorted with low class 
and low caste people and with those who had no scruple in 
slaughtering cows and persecuting Brahmins, and yet he 
ultimately found acceptance with the apostle himself. Then 
as regards the absence of a persecuting spirit we have a most 
important statement. We are told that the Mabomedan 
ruler of GaurJ on hearing of the multitudes who nocked 
round Chaitanya as his disciples declared that he is truly an 
apostle whom crowds follow of their own accord impelled by 
no selfish consider atio a. Hence let Kazis and Mahomedans 
practise no hostility towards the Yaisnavas. Let Chaitanya 
teach and preach whatever he likes/ Let him have perfect 
liberty of prophesying. 

In this connection I feel tempted to refer to that beautiful 
Dream of Akbar as it is presented in Tennyson's pages and to 
the wonderfully moving lines which translate the feelings of 
Abdul Pezl, and introduce Tennyson's poem. 

O God in every temple I see people that see thee, and in 
every language I hear spoken, people praise thee. 



* c#l?r| 3-WWsf "cm SI^IK I 
fcrfffa gfai m ^h fist* n 
4^5 wt% <m wf*r 3*5 *ra i 

^ ^tfiWSl CW& ^ip( 3r>R n 

ftel ift *** 3 TW'^ Tfafei i 
#t?l ^j2p srtBrortt faff i^t«rc ii 
crfa R'ft <75t*to <^w ftw*ra ; 
cm "tef :ri ^ftrcsr tM-cws?i ii 

Interview between Chaitanya and Ramananda. 
CS\m W$U§ ^ ^ftuo ^tft ffftW II 



c-stl gw cstft inr ^Ws ism n 
^fe^ 5rtf5r»T fcs Was ^sl 

srt*ft ^ffa !3jl itSl ^tt? ' S R I 



31 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Polytheism and Islam feel after thee. Each religion says, 
"Thou art one, without equal." If it be a mosqiie, people 
murmur the holy prayer, and if it be a Christian Church, 
people ring the bell from love to Thee. 

Sometimes I frequent the Christian cloister, and sometimes 
the mosque. But it is thou whom I search from temple to 
temple. 

Thy elect have no dealings with either heresy or orthodoxy; 
for neither of them stands behind the screen of thy truth. 
Heresy to the heretic, and religion to the orthodox. 

But the dust of the rose petal belongs to the heart of the 
perfume seller. 

Is it too fanciful to suggest that as in Bengal so in the 
wider India of Akbar's day there are signs of an intellectual 
awakening and a spiritual flowering, and that the toleration 
of Akbar along with the toleration preached by the Vaisnavas 
is but an indication of the working of the spirit of the age ? 
It is obviously unjust to the memory of a great ruler to hold 
that his enlightened policy of toleration was dictated purely 
by considerations of expediency or attributable solely to 
political necessity. Students of history would rather say with 
Mahmud Abdul Baki, the author of Ma-dsir-i Bahimi, that 
Akbar "extended toleration to all religions and creeds, and 
would recognise no difference between them, his object being 
to unite all men in a common bond of peace." 

My friends would pardon my placing before them the life 
history of a Vaisnav enthusiast of the 16th century, as it is 
presented in Vaisnav literature. I refer to the story of 
Haridas. Part of this story is the narrative of the fruitless 
attempts at tempting him by an agent employed by one of 
the leaders of the militant Brahmanism of the day. Similar 
stories illustrative of the weakness of the flesh and the final 
triumph of spirituality over bestial sensuality abound in Hindu 
mythology and Indian literature. But students of history 

32 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

would prefer to be reminded of the partially analogous story 
of Ambapali — who was ultimately won over by the great 
Budha to yirtue and morality and who renounced the world 
and attained to the state of an Arhat and as Fa Hian informs 
us, built a Vihara in honour of Budha and presented a garden 
to him for him to reside in. 

The story of Haridas is told in Ohaitanya Charitamrita as 
well as in Ohaitanya Bhagabat. In all essential points, the 
two versions are identical, but the episodes to which I direct 
special attention are taken from the Charitamrita and are 
there narrated with greater fullness. 

Haridas after leaving his native home lived for a time 
in the forests of Benapul. There he built himself a poor 
cottage, and spent his time in lonely prayers, depending 
for his subsistence on the alms charitably supplied by 
the people of the locality. He slowly became an object 
of adoration to a steadily growing band of admirers. . But 
his purity of character and his devotional ardour only 
excited the animosity of the local land-lord, Bamchandra 
Khan, who employed an infamous agent to bring about 
his undoing. The plan however failed. Haridas then 
came to Ohandpur. Hiranya and Gobardhan were the 
Talukdars of the place and Balaram was their priest. They 
presented a striking contrast to Ramchandra Khan of Benapul 
and never interfered with the austere practices of Haridas. 
Once on a time, in a moon -lit night, when a solemn stillness 
held the air, when the tinsel-slippered waves of the Ganges 
were dancing in the moonlight, a beautiful damsel, sumptuous- 
ly clad, like the Dalila of scriptural narrative appearing 
before Samson — intruded on the meditations of Haridas. But 
she could not make him forget his duty towards himself or 
induce him to lose sight of his ideal. Then the lady said — 
"Men call me Maya* I am illusion and earthly love, my 

33 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

purpose was to test your devotion — go on and prosper — but 
teach me a part of the gladness in your heart, purify me 
and help me to participate in the flood of divine love, so 
that I may resign myself to the force of the torrent which is 
too strong for me." 

Such is the picture of a typical Bengal Vaisnav devotee 
of the 16th century. 

Finally, before passing from this part of my subject, I 
venture to hazard the view that the Vaisnav theological 
literature does not seem to be altogether free from the 
drawbacks which are usually present in all such literature 
which records the experiences of apostles of a new evangel. 
In a remarkable passage speaking of the history of 
Evangelicalism and Methodism in the England of the 18th 
Century, Goldwin Smith, among other things, had occasion 
to observe — "no movement of the kind has ever been exempt 
from drawbacks and follies, from extravagance, exaggeration, 
breaches of good taste in religious matters, unctuousness 
and cant, from chimerical attempts to get rid of the flesh 
and live an angelic life on earth, from delusions about special 
providences and miracles, from the self- righteousness which 
fancies itself the object of a divine election." I fear what is 
true of Methodism in this regard is also true of Vaisnavism. 
I beg to refer in this connection to an interesting episode narra- 
ted in the Chaitanya-charitamrita of Krishnadas. The episode 
is significant, not merely from the present point of view, but also 
because it serves to illustrate how Buddhism was still living on 
in the land of its birth but was losing its hold over the public 
mind, and how the nascent ideals of the yet youthful and vigor- 
ous Vaisnavism were filling up the void left by the decadent 
Budhistic cult in the India ol the 16th century. 

4^r| c^-fato ^tft cftftra 5 rtft^ ii fas CTfa «^ ^m, Etc* f^ifa fass i 

fp^fa ^*twf*t ftl^a orte* ii fos^-fastg ^ cerai^s wl i 

jpr #ft c$m , e\&\ ^f«lft ^ «rar| n <n wti ct Hi ®to, ai§ #ft st? i 

Cftfc WT ^5> ®fii itfif? twfa II 

34 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

The substance of my episode* briefly stated is this. There 
came a Budhist teacher at the head of his followers, and he 
propounded all sorts of knotty abstruse questions which were 
successfully answered by the great apostle, Chaitanya. The 
Buddhists there-upon entered into a secret plot to bring about 
the undoing of the Vaisnavas by making them partake of un- 
clean food. This food they placed on a metal dish which was 
being carried to the Vaisnavas, when a huge bird swooped upon 
it, and flew with it up in the air scattering the food in all direc- 
tions. The dish fell on the head of the Budhist teacher with 
a terrific force, and in its fall inflicted a deep wound and 
stunned the teacher to the ground with the blow. The Budhists 
saw, as did the Yaisnavas, the hand of the true God in all this, 
and lost no time in embracing Vaisnavism. The teacher was 
only saved from death on his repeating Krishna, Krishna. 
He followed the example of his disciples and himself became a 
Vaisnav. Indeed they all saw the incarnation of the true God 
in Chaitanya himself before them. Thus on the present occa- 
sion Vaisnavism drew its recruits from the ranks of the dispirit- 
ed followers of Budhism, and galvanised them into life and 
activity, fllKng them with a fresh spiritual ardour with its new- 
born energy and enthusiasm of self-renunciation. 



VT$\ lfe«T «t^ 1| ttRI *ffaE5 . 
CSflCF ?fS TO Mfa It^F 5f^t®S II 

e\^ Iwt sftft cfa is cpri | 
jpft d\% faN w fiati z^*il II 
^tfts ^a ^ itfe® ■?%! i 

«lf «JtPt ^ftf*! f^stllf ^Pwl II 

c^ftrttfrtnt itita lift if%5i ^tfasl n 
c «res tfissr Itfa 1111 Tift PPl I 



^% ^bi ^Ft^j ^fsips »tj^5i n 
id "srtPt «<g it? ^ "t?M n 

^3 §TO JTW^ ^t «Milt1 1 

state «ifsjm "8? ^<re mff ii 

«l^ TO ^ TS fP f¥ sfa I 

w ^r^5 f^iti ^& ffi ii 

^ CJfai fHpl TO f^-Jpftf 1 II 
VSip TO' *TC?, ^S f¥ Ufa ^fa i 
CFs^ ll^si^iFtfj ®ti ?Hl lf% II 
f ¥ ^ft «Tt5tfl 4t^CT tot pPW I 

pf%| it»t c^rtr tt^i ft°sra n 
4^3 «^ ^ft «tfla SPFI I 
w^tt ten ctoj ill it* vK^ i 



35 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

I conclude this paper with a brief reference to a few texts 
which occur in the Madhalila of Ohaitanya Charitamrita — texts 
which to my mind are full of meaning and whose significance I 
trust will he at once apparent to all students of history. The 
passages in question of course illustrate in the first place the 
intense enthusiasm which' the sayings and the doings of 
Chaitanya excited in the country and how Vaisnavism found 
its recruits among all ranks in the society of the day. But 
they also show how Bengal in the time of Ohaitanya was to all 
intents and purposes cut up into small principalities — the 
domain of a Hindu chief like Protaprudra bordering on that of 
a Mahomedan chieftain,* each domain being administered on 
different principles. This inference which I have ventured to 
draw from Vaisnav literature would seem to be borne out by 
Ferlstha's statement that Shera divide! the kingdom of Bengal 
among a number of chiefs independent of one another and 
appointed Kafi Fazilet, a native of Kurrah, famous for his 
learning and policy to superintend the whole. These principa- 
lities had to be welded together to form a homogeneous king- 
dom. This was no doubt the task which the Mogul Emperor 
Akbar set before himself, and the passages under reference 

* wt i^atcsi^ ^tct ^fiwU i 3#it3 3^1 ws. wPtc^ o\ srtft I 

§t3 ®E3 c^s; tct Meg 5f*Hl3 ii vst^I^ <m\& ^fta t^a ^ft Ttft n 

Pt^spfl »tf re i< «ta ^ftftsi i 4*s 3^ a$ 53 '3% f sp' ?tt3 i 

\»ta «ra lift c^s 3^5 ^tcs it3 ii ?tci ^tF«f 3tt5 ?it3 ^t^pra «rta i 

f^mil 35 iftr 3*f3 *»t3 m i <sps <sft 33wa *h i^fa ppi i 

3t«tra wtofa cstil 3?at:3 im ii wWi ftrti Sfipi ^ mSt^si n 

c^tw o$ 33wa 4^ 53 i ftafi ^tPisi ^^ 53=1 3^ i 

®f®3l 3 i k3 f «[t^«I 3ffa C3*1t®3 || *fqs f ?' <FE3 OStd f^^ST ^ || 

«t^3 ^s til 5ft^ fflftnl I "fcst^T 3ift fef®3ft3f 3*15 spwfo I 

ft'Spi^c? ci| wi -itpp fa3i ii i/aWa frtfo i#t|*f ess? ^fa^st ii 

<«it iwt^l "rtl^rl srtgN tsrs i ^pj 3ft ^t^t pr? 43IF1 «it%l i 

^cr* Pra»|jw csrfa ^ st3 itc«j ii 333^33^ 313 «i^E3 c?M i 

f33®3 Id 3^3 f3s-1#l"33 I 31^5 §«,3^1 «t3 3sf3ffC5 J333 I 

1C3 $tPi f 13 itcs 3*301 3^3 ii c^rl ic5| <& if% ^rtft ^js <»3 n 

ci^ »w csrt^ ^tw offtre \5T5ft3 i «ft n^fataj 3^5 ^m f3*sra 1 

$t?1 C'f 3 ) t^Spl ifcs 3tt3 3C3 II Wt 3=^33 f^S <&5 C3* 3*33 || 

Pl| J[3 (313* 53 3t^pI3 «tl3 I Wpl 3/ft<3 <5TW aPgsI lift 33 | 

fP 3'f? Tft? TtPf liENlS 3t3 B ®^6g1 3ff?|P5 3^3 3?3 351 H 

36 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

illustrate the difficulties of the task.* An uniform system of 
administration can hardly he said to have existed, and this is 
evidenced hy the difference in the feelings of the people towards 
the administrative authorities in their respective localities. 
Conservation of peace and protection of property must have 
been extremely difficult in certain parts of the country, for 
the land was troubled by pirates and 5f«W^T. In this matter 
the testimony of Charitamrita coincides with that of Mukund- 
ram, and it is clear that the river dacoity of which one hears a 
great deal even in our days has been one of the perennial diffi- 
culties of government in Bengal. How rampant the evils of 
Dacoity were in Bengal in the earlier decades of the 16th 
Century before Akbar's authority could be firmly established 
may be seen from -certain sections of the Ohaitanya Bhagabat 
which I append.t Even in Nabadwip with its teeming popula- 
tion of scholars and traders, there were obviously organised 
bands of robbers under their regular leaders who did not scruple 
to use murderous, dangerous weapons like swords and lances, 
axes and spears, and who met and discussed and carefully 
planned their operations. These Dacoits were known to be 
such to their neighbours. They were a terror to all ; yet none 
dared to interfere with them. 

The second of my texts J narrates an episode which throws a 

* The grievoud condition of the North-West of India during the latter years of 
Humayun's reign, the inoesant risings and revolts of single vassals against the Central 
Government, the devastations wrought by continuous warfare — all this has been exhaustively 
described .by the Turkish traveller Sidi Ali Reis. In the same manner the fortynine years' 
reign of Akbar the Glorious, undoubtedly the greatest of the Mogul Princes, was one inces- 
sant whirl of strife and insurrection, and the various reforms which he introduced in the 
Government, in the army, and in the legislation of the realm, inspite of all the existing 
confusion, necessarily bore a severely Asiatic stamp. 

Prof. Va/rribery's Western Culture in Eastern Lands. 
t Vide Note V. 

j «rt5ftp5 4& ctt*t ^ft itet^i i «fl|Ri crfaii che§ wm fwfa i 

«farat TCta^a c«Prt^"t fc^r n <«& ife 1M fti- 9t< Ttfa 11 

qj«f cs<\ ira ititfl \\*w* tefl i 11ft istfirafc* *#? *rc «ct «i^i n 

ess? tiift csrfsl tses S"sfa»i1 n ^tte 5tc? c#5*1 jr #tf*tra Brtftf u 

37 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

curious sidelight on the administration of justice and the 
methods in vogue for the protection of life and property in 
the land. Chaitanya is in one of his trances, surrounded by 
five of his followers, lying senseless on the grotmd, and 
foaming in the mouth. Suddenly there appear ten Pathan 
horsemen — government officials, who immediately arrest 
the followers of Chaitanya suspecting them to be thugs 
who had drugged Chaitanya, and robbed him of all his 
possessions, and the Mussulman horsemen threaten to 
execute all the Vaisnavas summarily on the spot. The 
episode speaks for itself, and comment on the circum- 
stantial details is needless. The last of my references states 
that Hussain Khan* was the Mahomedan ruler of Gaur at the 
time of Chaitanya and the passage speaks of the relation of 
Hussain Khan to his immediate Hindu predecessor and master 
and supplies an eloquent commentary on the then general 
attitude of the Mahomedans towards the Hindus of the day. 
In this connection the following rapid sketch of the fortunes 
of Bengalt given by Dow will help us to realise in some 
measure the place of the province in Akbar's Empire : — 



vfr «rl few? ^ st^N ftw II 

% nt-spl *fa stc* pt^? -srff%5Ti ii 
ttcf in scut «fi cntas Ttsri fc?*ri i 
^^f% <rtc« cs^i i? itist^rl u 
«fa 31 ^3 stc^ c<n«t iW* ftc? I 
^fa % trara Ttftra ^ irtsprtn n 



§?ft<i ?rtrai <5rtft <st«j *ra ^«ti ii 
ft ^ ^ti% *p?, if? «rtt«i sti Tu%i i 
stol i^ ^tf% fa«r 4tcl itfe ^fci ii 

ft ifes Bit? ^1 J^U5 tf®8T| | 

^rartsta itR ^t«i ^r ««*t§sri u 

«E1 3\f% 5t5Pit» 1%1 I 

■iW'Nt ^ttori ^jin ^t^ri ii 

<2ftlf*l?S lJ|CcR ifecssi ^to | 



t Bengal is an extensive country, situated in the second clime. Its length is 450 bos, 
extending from Bundar Chatgam (the port of Chittagong) to Garhi, and its breadth, from 
the northern mountains to the province of Madaran (Ltidnapur), is 220 hog. Its revenue 
amounted to sixty hrors of dams. (One kror and fifty lacs of rupees — Ikhal ndmd.) In 
former times, its governors always maintained 8000 horse, one lac of foot soldiers, 1000 
elephants, and 400 or 500 war boats. From the time of Sher Khan Afghan and his son 
Salim Khan, this country had remained in the possession of the Afghans. When my 
revered father mounted and adorned the throne of Hindustan, he appointed an army to 
subdue it. Strenuous efforts to effect its conquest were for a long time maintained and at 



38 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

After the downfall of the Afgans, Bengal, like many other provinces, 
started up into an independent kingdom, and was governed by 
successive dynasties of Rajas, who chiefly resided at the now 
deserted capital of Ghor. Under these princes, it continued a 
powerful and opulent kingdom, to the beginning of the 
thirteenth century, when it was first invaded by the Maho- 
medans, under a prince of the race of Chillagi, who possessed 
the countries near the source of the Oxus. The name of this 
Tartar invader was Eas-uldien ; but he was soon after reduced to 
subjection by Altumsh, the Patan emperor of Delhi, who formed 
Bengal into a province, governed by a lieutenant, who derived 
his authority from the conqueror. 

Bengal, during the dominion of the Patans in India, was frequently 
subject to revolution and change: When a prince of abilities 
sat on the throne of Delhi, it held of the empire; when the 
emperor was weak, it became an independent sovereignty under 
its governor. When the valour and conduct of Babar put an 
end to the government of the Patans at Delhi, some of that race 
remained untouched in Bengal. The misfortunes of Humaioon, 
in the beginning of his reign, not only prevented him from ex- 
tending the conquests of his father, but deprived him even of 
the throne which Babar had acquired ; and death followed too 
soon, upon his return, to permit him to reduce the wealthy 
kingdom of Bengal by his arms. The glory of this conquest 
was reserved for his son, the illustrious Akbar, who, by the 
expulsion of Daood, the last king of Bengal of the Pathan race, 
annexed it in the year 1574 to his empire. Viceroys from Delhi 
governed the kingdom, from that period, till the debility of 
Mahommed Shaw gave scope to the usurpation of AKverdi ; and 
now, by a wonderful revolution of fortune, the sovereigns of that 
distant province are created by the deputies of the East 
India Company. 



length it was wrested from the hands of Daud Kirani, the last ruler of the country, who 
was killed," and his forces defeated and scattered by Khan Jahan. 

From that time to the present the country has been governed by servants of the Empire, 
excepting only a remnant of Afghans- who remained in the recesses and on the borders of 
the country. By degrees these fell into trouble and distress, and the whole country was 
annexed to the Imperial dominions. When I ascended the throne, in the first year of my 
reign, I recalled Man Singh, who had long been governor of the country, and appointed 
my kokalt&sh Kutbu-d-din, to succeed him. Waki'Atml Jahangiri. 

39 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

In this connection I would further place before you just 
a few beautiful words from a popular version of the fortunes of 
the Moguls in India which that gifted writer, Grabrielle 
Festing, placed in our hands last year. I refer to her " When 
Kings rode to Delhi," a book which Sir George Birdwood 
commends to our notice in such eloquent terms. 

Once upon a time there was a king who dreamed a dream. 

Sitting on the throne of Delhi, he looked out over Hindustan, and saw 
how marauders had despoiled it and parcelled it out among 
themselyes, how chief warred with chief, and none was strong 
enough to bid them cease. He heard the complaints of the poor 
in time of war, slain, driven forth homeless, carried away captive, 
because the great men had quarrelled with one another, or in 
time of peace ground down into the dust, stripped bare, because 
the tax-gatherer extorted many times more than was due to put 
into his own pocket. He saw men persecuted and oppressed, 
shut out from all honourable employment because they held to 
the gods of their, fathers, and he saw how the poor among 
them might not even worship in their holy places because 
they could not pay the tax upon pilgrimages imposed by their 
conquerors. He saw what the women endured — made to know 
the pangs of childbirth when they themselves were but children ; 
bound living, to a husband's corpse on a funeral pyre, when 
the Brahmans lit the flames beneath them. Alien in race, his 
heart yearned over the land, as the hearts of many aliens have 
yearned since his day ; and he dreamed a dream. He saw 
Hindustan at peace under the rule of a strong hand, men of 
every tongue and race and creed rising to honour and place in 
camp and court, or dwelling in security on the land and in the 
city, with no one to make them afraid. He saw the women, 
grown to full strength, the mothers of strong sons, who should 
all unite under the banners of the Empire to repel a common 
foe. He saw the multitude free to worship as they pleased, 
unhindered and unmulcted, so they kept the laws ; and he saw 
the wise bowing before the One God who is not contained in 
temples made by hands, the Father of all men, the spirit who 
clothes Himself with this material universe as with a garment. 
It was a dream. Akbar himself knew that it would not last. Even 
in our own day, after three hundred and fifty years of progress, it 
has not been realised in full. Tet it is something to have seen 
it, — infinitely more to have made it come true, though only in 

40 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

part and for a little while. "Akbar's dream" has become a 
byword among many of those who have the vaguest ideas as 
to when he lived or what he dreamed ; comparatively few know 
how much he did to turn the dream into reality. 

It was no time for dreams when Humayun tumbled headlong down 
the stone staircase. The Afghans were in possession of Bengal 
and the Ganges Valley, and an army from Bengal was advancing 
upon Agra and Delhi. The Moghul leaders were divided in their 
counsels, and the new Emperor was a boy of thirteen. 

It is not the purpose of this discourse to enter into too 
many purely historical details, for as J. A. Symonds reminds us 
in one of his prefaces to his Renaissance in Italy, " The 
historian of culture sacrifices much that the historian of poli- 
tics will judge essential, and calls attention to matters that 
the general reader may sometimes find superfluous," his main 
object being " to paint the portrait of national genius identical 
through all varieties of manifestation." 

I should, however, like to recall to your mind two highly in- 
teresting pen-portraits to be found in the pages of the Tabakati 
Akbari, which throw light on the position of affairs in the 
Bengal of the 16th Century on the eve of the final establish- 
ment of Akbar's authority : one relating to the defeat of Daud 
by the imperial forces and the conclusion of a short-lived peace 
with him which was broken soon after by Daud, the other 
having reference to the transfer of the capital of Bengal from 
Tanda to Gaur and the death of the Khan-hhanan. 

After the conquest of Tanda and the flight of Daud to 
Orissa, Khan-hhanan first devoted his attention to the settle- 
ment of the affairs of the country. Then he sent Raja 
Todurmull with some other amirs towards Orissa in pursuit 
of Daud who had taken refuge in Katah Banaras (Cuttack). 

Daud had suffered several defeats in succession, and Gujar Khan, his 
mainstay and support, was slain. Death stared him in the 
face ; so, in his despair and misery, he sent amessenger to Khan- 
khanan with a message to this effect : "The striving to crush a 
party of Musulmans is no noble work. I am ready to submit 
and become a subject ; but I beg that a corner of this wide 

41 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

country of Bengal sufficient for my support may be assigned to 
me. If this is granted, I will rest content, and never after 
rebel." The amirs communicated this to Khan-khanan, and after 
considerable discussion it was determined to accept the proposal, 
upon the condition that Daud himself should come out to meet 
Khan-khanan, and confirm the agreement by solemn binding oaths. 

Next day Khan-khanan ordered a grand Court to be held, and all 
the nobles and attendants to be present in their places in fine 
array, and the troops drawn up in arms in front of the tents. Daud 
came out of the fort, attended by his Afghan nobles and officers, 
and proceeded to the tent of Khan-khanan. When he approached 
it, Khan-khanan, with great courtesy and respect, rose up and 
walked half-way down the tent to meet him. When they met, 
Daud loosened his sword from the belt, and holding it before 
him, said, "I am tired of war since it inflicts wounds on worthy 
men like you." Khan-khanan took the sword, and handed it to 
one of his attendants. Then gently taking Daud by the hand, 
he seated him by his side, and made the most kind and 
fatherly inquiries. Food and drink and sweetmeats were served, 
of which the Khan pressed him to partake. 

After the dishes were removed, the terms of peace came under 
discussion. Daud protested that he would never take any course 
hostile to the Imperial throne, and he confirmed his promise by 
the most stringent oaths. The treaty of peace was drawn up, and 
then Khan-khanan brought a sword with a jewelled belt of great 
value out of his stores, and presenting it to Daud, said, "You 
have now become a subject of the Imperial throne, and you have 
promised to give it your support. I have therefore requested 
that the country of Orissa may be settled upon you for your 
support, and I feel assured that His Majesty will confirm my 
proposition — granting this to you as my tanJcwah has been 
granted to me. I now gird you afresh with this warlike sword." 
Then he bound on the sword with his own hands ; and showing 
him every courtesy, and making him a great variety of gifts, 
he dismissed him. The Court then broke up, and Khan-khanan 
started on his return. 

On the 10th Safar, 983, he reached Tanda the capital, and sent 
a report of his arrangements to the Emperor, who was greatly 
delighted and satisfied with the conquest of Bengal. Splendid 
robes and jewelled swords, and a horse with a golden saddle, 
were sent to Khan-khanan, and all the arrangements he had 
made were confirmed. 

42 



THE KENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

The following is the account of the death of Daud to be 
found in the Akbarnama of Abul Fazl. 

When victory declared for the Imperial army, the weak-minded Daud 
was made prisoner. His horse stuck fast in the mud, and 
* * * a party of brave men. seized him, and brought him 
prisoner to Khan-jahan. The khan said to him, "Where is 
the treaty you made, and the oath that you swore ?" Throwing 
aside all shame, he said, "I made that treaty with Khan- 
khanan. If you will alight, we will have a little friendly talk 
together, and enter into another treaty." Khan-jahan, fully 
aware of the craft and perfidy of the traitor, ordered that 
his body should be immediately relieved from the weight of 
his rebellious head. He was accordingly decapi- tated, and his 
head was sent off express to the Emperor. His body was 
exposed on a gibbet at Tanda, the capital of that country. 

Here is the account of the death of Khan-khanan Mu'nim 
Khan. 

When Khan-khanan, with his mind at ease about Daud, returned to 
Tanda, the capital of the country, under the influence of his 
evil destiny, he took a dislike to Tanda, and crossing the 
Ganges, he founded a home for himself at the fortress of Gaur, 
which in old times had been the capital of Bengal, and he 
ordered that all the soldiers and raiyats should remove from 
Tanda to Gaur. In the height of the rains the people were 
involved in the trouble of expatriation. The air of Gaur is 
extremely unhealthy, and in former times, the many diseases 
which distressed its inhabitants induced the rulers to abandon 
the place, and raise the town of Tanda. Sickness of many 
kinds now broke out among the people, and every day numbers., 
of men departed from Gaur to the grave, and bade farewell 
to relatives and friends. By degrees the pestilence reached to 
such a pitch that men were unable to bury the dead, and cast the 
corpses into the river. Every day the deaths of many amirs 
and officers were reported to Khan-khanan, but he took no 
warning, and made no resolution to change his residence. 
He was so great a man that no one had the courage to remove 
the cotton of heedlessness from his ears, and bring him to a 
sense of the actual position. His own health became affected, 
and he grew worse, and at the end of ten days, in the month 
of Safar, 983, he departed this life. His nobles and officers, who 
had so often met to congratulate him, now assembled to 
lament him. 

43 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

With reference to what I stated in an earlier part of this 
discourse regarding Akbar's anxiety to grapple with the 
difficulties of social problems, I hope to place before you on a 
subsequent occasion the Emperor's ordinance about marriage. 
To-day I content myself with alluding to a record we have 
in the Ahbarnama illustrative of Akbar's attitude towards the 
question of the immolation of widows.* "We read — 

In the interior of Hindusthan it is the custom, when a husband dies, 
for his widow willingly and cheerfully to cast herself into the 
flames (of the funeral pile), although she may not have lived 
happily with him. Occasionally love of life holds her back, and 
then the husband's relations assemble, light the pile, and place 
her upon it, thinking that they thereby preserve the honour and 
character of the family. But since the country had come under 
the rule of his gracious Majesty, inspectors had been appointed 
in every city and district, who were to watch carefully over these 
two cases, :to discriminate between them, and to prevent any 
woman being forcibly burnt. About this time, Jai Mai (son of 
Mai Deo), who had been sent with his forces to join the Amirs 
in Bengal, died of sunstroke in the vicinity of Chaunsa. His 
wife, the daughter of Muna Raja, was unwilling to burn ; but her 
son Udi Singh, with a party of his bigoted frien ds, resolved upon 
the sacrifice. The matter came to the Emperor's knowedge, 
and his feeling of justice and humanity made him fear that if 
he sent messengers to stop the proceedings, some delay night 
occur, so he mounted his horse, and rode with all speed to the 
place. As the facts were not fully known, some of these men, 

* As to the burning of widows in Mogul India, attention may be invited to the following 
from Bemier's Letter to M. Chapelain, dated October 4th, 1667 : — 

There are so many writers of voyages relating the custom of the Indian women, burning 
themselves with their husbands, that I think something at last will be believed of it. For 
my part I am going to take my turn also, and to write to you of it like others ; yet in the 
meantime observing withal, that 'tis not true what is said of it, and that now they do not 
burn themselves in so great a number as formerly, because the Mahomedans, that bear sway 
at present in Indostan, are enemies to that barbarours custom, and hinder it as much as 
they can ; not opposing it absolutely, because they are willing to leave their idolatrous 
people, who are far more numerous than themselves, in the free exercise of their religion, 
for fear of some revolt : But by indirectly preventing it, in that they obhge the women, 
ready to burn themselves, to go and ask permission of the respective governors, who send 
for them, make converse with their own women, remonstrate things to them with annexed 
promises, and never give them this permission, but after they have tried all these gentle 

44 



*EtE RENAISSANCE tN BENGAL 

in their thoughtlessness, were disposed to resist und make 
disturbances. * * But when His Majesty arrived, Jogganath 
and Rai Sal came forward to meet him, and brought the leader 
of these foolish men to him. He accepted their assurance of 
repentance, and only place dthem in confinement.* 

The student of history would thus he excused if he quotes 
in connection with the work and achievements of Akbar, round 
whom centred the manysided activities of the Renaissance in the 
India of the 16th Century, and who was the living embodiment 
of the manyfold impulses of the period, Macaulay's admirably- 
worded estimate of the services of Lord William Bentinck 
which is inscribed at the foot of Bentinck's statue in this 
city: 

He abolished cruel rites ; he effaced humiliating' distinctions ; he gave 
liberty to the expression of public opinion ; his constant study was to 
elevate the intellectual and moral character of the nations committed 
to his charge. 



ways, and till they find them fix'd in their sottish resolution. Which yet hinders not but 
that many burn themselves, especially those that live upon the lands of the Rajas, where 
no Mahomedan governors are. 

* Twenty-eighth year of the reign. Alcbamama. 



45 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 



NOTE I. 

The conclusions which I have ventured to draw from the narratives and 
episodes interspersed in Vaisnav literature regarding the political condition 
of Bengal in the earlier decades of the 16th Century may be placed by the 
side of the following from Stewart's pages : — 

With Daood Khan terminated the line of Bengal kings, who had reigned 
in succession over that country for 236 years; and with him was brought 
to a conclusion the sovereignty of the Afghan nation over that province, 
of which they had held the uncontrolled possession for nearly four centuries. 

The Government of the Afghans in Bengal cannot be said to have been 
monarchical, but nearly resembled the feudal system introduced by the 
Goths and Vandals into Europe. Bukthiyar Kheelijy and the succeeding 
conquerors made choice of a certain district as their own domain ; the other 
districts were assigned to the inferior chiefs, who subdivided the lands 
amongst their petty commanders, each of whom maintained a certain 
number of soldiers, composed principally of their relations or dependants ; 
these persons however did not cultivate the soil themselves, but each officer 
was the landlord of a small estate, having under him a certain number of 
Hindoo tenants, to whom, from the principle of self-interest, he conducted 
himself with justice and moderation : and had it not been for the frequent 
change of masters, and constant scenes of rebellion and invassion, in which 
private property was little regarded, the cultivators of the soil would have 
been placed in a state of comparative happiness ; and agriculture would have 
nourished, as it subsequently did in another part of India under the 
government of their countrymen, the Rohillas. 

The condition of the upper classes of Hindoos mnst, doubtless, have 
been much deteriorted j but it is probable that many of the Afghan officers, 
averse to business, or frequently called away from their homes to attend 
their chiefs, farmed out their estates to the opulent Hindoos, who were 
also permitted to retain the advantages of manufactures and commerce. 

The authority of the Afghan kings of Bengal depended much upon 
their personal ability and conduct. We have seen them, on some occasions 
acting as despotic sovereigns ; at other times possessing little no on influence 

beyond the town or city in which they resided, often insulted 

and even murdered by their menial servants. 

46 



-THE KENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 



NOTE II. 

Sher Khan, 

Students of history will always gratefully remember what is said of 
Sher Khan by Shaik Nurul Hak in Znbdatu-t TawariJch viz. 

Sher Khan made the road which now runs from Delhi to Agra by 
cutting through jungles, removing obstacles, and building sarais. Before 
,that time, people had to travel through the Doab between those two places. 
There was so much security in travelling during his reign, that if a lone 
woman were to sleep in a desert with silver and gold about her person, no 
one would dare to commit theft upon her ; and if it ever did so happen that 
any one lost any property, the mukaddams of the village which was the 
scene of the robbery were subject to fine, and for fear of its infliction, the 
zamindars used to patrol the roads at night. 

Sher Khan founded many cities after his own name, as Sher-garh, 
Sher-kot and since old Delhi was far from the river Jumona, he demolished 
it and founded a new city on the banks of the river, which exists to this 
day. He founded also for its defence a broad wall, which through the 
absence of rebellion and the length of his reign, was brought to completion. 

It is said once, when looking in a glass, he exclaimed, "Alas ! that 
I have attained the empire only when I have reached old age, and when the 
time for evening prayer has arrived. Had it been otherwise, the world 
would have seen what I would have accomplished." Sometimes he would 
say, by way of showing what difficult and even impossible objects he con- 
templated, "I would have made a bridge to span the ocean, and have so 
contrived that even a widowed and helpless woman might without difficulty 
perform the pilgrimage to Mecca." To this day there exists a caravanserai 
of his building at Mecca, in which Afghan fakirs reside. 



47 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURA A,D. 



NOTE III. 

Eighth year of the reign (of Akbar). 

Remission of the Pilgrim Tax. 

It was an old standing custom for the rulers of Hindustan to exact 
contributions, according to their respective means, from the pilgrims who 
visited the holy shrines. This tax was called harmi. His Majesty's 
judgment and equity condemned this exaction, and he remitted it, although 
it amounted to krors of rupees. An order was accordingly issued abolishing 
it throughout his dominions. * * * He was pleased to say that 
although this was a tax on the vain superstitions of the multitude, and the 
devotees did not pay it except when they travelled abroad, still the course 
they adopted was their mode of worshipping the Almighty, and the 
throwing of a stumbling-block and obstacle in their way could never be 
acceptable in the sight of God. 

NOTE IV. 

Ninth year of the Reign. 

Remission of the Jizya. 

One of the munificent acts of the Emperor at the beginning of this the 
ninth year of his reign was the remission of the jizya (poll-tax upon infidels), 
which, in a country so extensive as Hindustan, amounted to an immense 
sum. 

Akbarnama, 



48 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAI,. 



NOTE V. 

Adventures of a band of Dacoits— a plan that failed. 

^W* *Prfa C5l<T f^I JTt^ 'BTtiT II 

m est* f ^i— st* ^tFRtifa i 

^ <7f 3t*H ^f% tW ^«(fo II 

*fFK«f wttfa Ft% "fftre i 

ft?TS*[ T5TT*M *K?f% f%«T II 
^<<8ffl»I Sift ^1 f^J ^ II 
^f^5 ^ tf^T ^t^C«m *R II 

&m «l^H «R tf^tt* ^csf ii 
<*r$re *t?re $i ftet ^ TO I 
sftf^R fwft'f ^^ ww ii 
f?*«U •tfe'5 srtw 4*f ggW i 
c*& s^fkt ftw Ifl-^spl II 
<7I§ ^tlJ^Slf *%* fsT5Jt^ I 

«rrf%*i1 fo^r «t^ ^rl ^*w ii 

CT^ $ a[ftM— *I?TC $1 «rf^ I 

si^ri j|^?i %*$ ^ct ^pf% ii 
•'■erter .<stt ! ire *rfa c*r g°.«t *tt^ i 
pit srtra ftfa ft»#fl <w ^ n 
t£i^ ^^^5?r crc^re ^^w^ i 
crKl ^i ffal . **rl ^ ^ <sfa ii 

5^t *lw ^^fo farfci ^t ii 
49 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTTTRY, A.D. 

Ft 5 ! «1W *\$ *tf® «£« ISRt^ I 

«rt*f ftai ?Rl f*R wrfa fitto ii 

ITS R»t1 <»ffi CWft ^f?FT *PR II 

TfRnl <?rfipi fasj-R 5 *? c$ ^t<R ii 

m^lOT *%l T^I T3J*W 1 
1W 5* Itit^l 1^1 4^*R II 
R«TR^ W\<^f ^^J{ CSfaR I 
S^FCT *f?Rfa5ra ^fl II 
3^RCT *F5 IWtfl WM I 

c^ ^t?r ft's^rfff crc^l ^l ?t#T ii 
3F<r ws <?rc?l ^-R 5 *? *ir i 
cw$ ^ws\fi\ f^rl ^ «n! arftr ii 
fc? £? sto ^t* *FET C*FR *r I 
FPHPff Rsl ^rtft nre^ C^5^ II 

fWM ^J *1Pe ^^F «rfel I 
"STRilte ^R *tff» ^Rl fiN fall II" 

*ft«R ttttW— <4^ *£§$& II 

c^ c^tcr 'Xfip ft^^st* Tfal II* 

"5f?T JR R^fV CTft 5 ! C^R ®R II 

jjto ^ sR^?rl <ltra <s «l$5T ii 

R3l "eM^ft "STtR 5tf*Rl *r*fa II 
50 



THE RENAISSANCE IN BENGAL 

*tfe Clt^S] 5tff^ JR% || 

*rtf^ ^tf% wft ?k® b??r gs^t *r n 
w* 5^11 jr if^T 'WfflPt ii 
*rc^ wtra ttf% •rrt%c5 ^rtf^tsr ii 
cwzl\ ctfw "^ ^? 'srtfefa artf*ral ii" 
ct cupm "^^ ^ c^w *rfa ii 

<S¥ ffa CCT f% *TC*l f«R TTC II 

^f^rtr ^ft *rtf*r CTtftil ^t*iw i 

fafa F#t ^^1 CW« CT ^faM II 

^ ^f?r ^trfw ict q^ui foil i 
5*1 *W5 is^tfSp Fit *jfe fsrat ii" 
^rer ^f?ra1 55% *rc t^m 1 
1® *rt*i fori iw *Ff*i i«r 11 
<sit*fo* f^Tf *i f tf& tW ^ 1 
"srt^R ffa-ttw *lf* %R3 11 

<£J^ 'l 5 ^ <3f?WF T^ItM II 

itffa farcfe <ttfa TSTtl ctc^ 1 

frsrafa sfarfa ^t<rc sfti 11 

srfi^l «i3«rt#t ire— •Rw <2 t^Q 11 
51 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

i^tft wi ft?reft iH^ it 
s^fet f^ *rto c^ >r ^w n 
<rFft itf% *rf^ ^Piwi <3<f f^a ii 

C^t«TW^ fftf^F ^#1 <4ffco II 

c<rc^i cstw "^^s opqus ®rfftirl i 
^t^r ft^F itfoiFtera 5t^9l ii" 

(7^ C^tC^I "^ ^^ ^5 ®ttt I 

Tti^t srfat ^e^ff c^rft 5 ^ w* sft ii 
, 'srf'W^ wi f^rt 'srttw ^^ ii 
sr{cw <srt5f ^ art ctfft 4^sr ii 

<5ltl*f1 </?? C^tC^T "fft <5f^f CT ^ 1 

ct *rre <?r *fc* ct ^1 cw® c*ft*r& ii" 

^ ^5 W5 c^rt^ Ftftff t ^£5 I 
17»^ 'srfejl ^^pS^ Cf f*tT5 II 

c^ft %t fc^s cwfo f^-ft sr?* i 
"srtlSnrt^, *5t<r twtf^F ^o^ ii 

Ftcf 5^r fwt *itf% %ri <st^ !" 

"SR^O SS .^ *WtT f^C^ II 

* • * # 

52 



!THE KENAISSAKCE 1ST BENGAL 

'srfaTfa *$& ^fir it^ wsfim i 
fcft* c^ f<rw *^1 ctw ^^ft i 

^TtCTttT fall itf? CTtW* 1«K* II 
^1 <STO* frfl CFft T?If 1 1 
iff *ff5 <5J3 <flWt^Pni ^1B^ || 

tstftfc ^sj sitar ^rfffa f^ow i 

IffS ^ «ra C^C^I Offtffs *rl ftC* II 

f^l itfl cfur, ^ &»i ^Tti i 

c%^ ettre %"f ^tt* ^t s i'5 , ferl *tor ii 
^f^l tc^cs C^l c^l-ffal *fi^ I 
sg«rfo *ran ft^l c*ftw<r Tfore-n 
c^^l retsl *\vs f^l #tfefa f%^i* i 

ttW *tt^ flfel fife lf%F5 ii ttw II 

ct^ *rfw ^tort ^ttfl *ttra te*i ^ i 
*re if^FK fcsl •tt^i ^^ ii 



Chaitanya Bhagalat. (Anta khanda) 



u 



BBNGAi ttt THfe SIXTEENTH CENTtTItY, A.B. 



note vr. 

Protaprudra's Patronage and Missionary enthusiasm. 

?t% sttPT <rN <srt®1 tit c*r*tt^i i 
TWfteiT t%ft W ^5t^ *ft^I II 
5ttW SttW ^f ^rt^pr ^fN I 
*ff5 Tt^o ^J f? JTPT.ll- <5f^| || 
'BfttCT i2(f 5[iSl '5^1 ^sfN I 

Ttfsr ffa ct§ ^^ ct^ ^t%1 h 

^ ICflt^ 5%^ stf*t«f I 

<stc* «rt®1 far TNI ^" if ^fa ii 
<$* =5^r ctWi tK ^tpt ift %* i 
trsi <st^ ^pt ^t% itre stft itor ii 
#t?i ^ c*rpt«i ^w ifrfft" *fa i 
PT5J *tpt ^f?r $txl <©te1 cr if* II 

Chaitanya Charitamrita. 



hi 



Ill 

MUKUNDRAM 

AND 

BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. (I) 



> I f 



HI 
MUKUNDRAM 

AND 

BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. (I) 

Me. Vice-Chancellor, and Fellow- Students : 

I now come to another of my chief authorities and sources 
of information — viz. Mukundram. I do not, however, propose 
to speak of the literary excellences of his work on the present 
occasion, excellences which have not failed to attract the 
attention of European scholars, which fully entitle Mukundram 
to all that has heen said of his poem by admiring readers, and 
for which he may be truly regarded as the Crabbe of Bengali 
Literature and the Chaucer of Indian story-tellers. Otherwise 
I might have spoken to you of the simplicity of his style, his 
realism, his genuine sincerity, his one aim being to say what 
he has to say in the truest possible way, without the slightest 
attention to literary finish, and hence also of his freedom through- 
out from that hard glitter which comes of the conscious 
attempt at literary elegance. I might have referred to that 
wonderful catalogue of flowers which the devoted worshipper 
gathers to lay at the feet of the deity he adores, the catalogue 
which inevitably reminds the student of English poetry 
of the catalogue of flowers in Milton's pages which the 
fancy of a devoted friend lays on the hearse of the departed 
companion of his youth, or of that earlier catalogue in Britania's 
Pastorals, or of that even earlier catalogue in Shakespeare's 
pages associated with the innocence of Perdita. I might have 
spoken of that which is the perfection of the poet's art, the 
evolution of the character of his hero, a mighty hunter, a 
veritable Nimrod in his youthful days, but who is raised to a 
higher plane of life, to the realisation of nobler and spiritual 
ideals of life, partly through the contemplation of the havoc 
which he himself wrought in the animal kingdom. But I feel 

57 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

that I am not scholar enough to dwell on these aspects of the 
poem. 

I have said that I am not scholar enough to speak of the 
literary merits of Mukundram's poetical work. Eor it would 
be a mistake to suppose that because he writes in Bengali, his 
work is intelligible to the average Bengali reader of our day. 
His Bengali stands to modern Bengali much in the same 
relation as Chaucer's English stands to modern English. 
Words from Persian and Arabic sources were being 
constantly added to the current vocabulary of his day. And 
his freedom in the use of the stock of words at his disposal was 
very much like the freedom of the author of the Eairie Queene. 
"We may fittingly remember in this connection what Craik has 
said of Spenser, for our poet's archaisms and his mannerisms 
are not the only difficulties in the way of a correct understand- 
ing of his meaning. This is what we read of Spenser's truly 
lordly freedom. "His treatment of words is like nothing that 
ever was seen, unless it might be Hercules breaking the back 
of the Nemean lion. He gives them any shape and any sense 
that the case may demand. Sometimes he merely alters a 
letter or two. Sometimes he twists off the head or the tail 
of the unfortunate vocable altogether." Those who know 
Mukundram would at once recognise how Craik's words 
may be borrowed faithfully to characterise the Bengali poet's 
methods of composition. 

And then the texts. The original poem was preserved in 
manuscripts, there being no printing presses in those days, and 
also used to be recited, like other poems belonging to the same 
category of religious poems, which went by the name of 
Mangals, by the class of bards whose business it was to give 
recitals of these. As a consequence, various readings crept in ; 
pointless, purposeless emendations would perhaps be made 
whenever a particular passage was found unintelligible, and 
thus the original text would be corrupted in various ways. 
With the introduction of printing, some of these poems began 

58 



MTJKTJNDRAM 

to be printed, and Battolah, which has been fittingly called 
the Grub Street of Calcutta, took the lead in this matter. 
Thus, though Battolah has come to be a synonym with us for 
cheap and nasty publications, it did a memorable work in 
the preservation of old productions of merit, a work which 
should be honorably mentioned and gratefully acknowledged 
by all who are interested in the development of Bengali 
Literature. But Battolah had little regard for careful edi- 
torial supervision, and while it preserved, it did not hesitate 
to introduce emendations of its own. Pundit Ramgati 
Nayaratna, author of an excellent treatise on the History of 
Bengali Literature for example, found a copy of our poet's 
work in the house of the descendants of the Baja under 
whose patronage the work was written, in which the readings 
of some of the important passages, such as that referring to 
Raja Man Sinha, differ from the readings to be found in the 
cheap popular editions. 

The difficulties about the Texts and the pitfalls of unautho- 
rised conjectural emendations make one think of all that is 
being done in England for the preservation and elucidation of 
ancient literary master-pieces under the supervision of scholars 
equipped with the necessary philological and historical 
knowledge. May we not hope that Bengal also may have her 
Chaucer Societies whose main function it would be, at times 
to rescue from oblivion, at times correctly to interpret to 
modern ear, those old treasures of art and letters in which is 
perhaps to be found India's real contribution to the elevation 
and development of human thought ? 

Mukundram's poem naturally divides itself into three 
parts. The first is the introduction, containing the usual 
invocations to the God of Success, etc., and a popular version 
of the Hindu conception of the creation of the Universe, from 
which the author skilfully glides into an account of the birth 
of the hero and the heroine of his poem, like as Chaucer -j 
makes the popular pilgrimage to Canterbury his starting-point 

59 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

and the frame-work into which to fit his many-sided pictures 
of the various aspects of the national life of his day. The 
second part consists of the story of the mighty hunter, while 
the third gives us an account of the trials and experiences of 
one of those merchant adventurers who had their counterpart 
in Elizabethan England in the explorers of unknown lands and 
the discoverers of undreamt-of trade-routes. 

The invocation to Chaitanya* startles us by its presence in 
a work which is avowedly written at the suggestion of a 
goddess, and which is therefore intended to popularise her. 
worship. This is obviously a proof of the catholicity of Indian 
society which had already learnt by force of circumstances to 
harbour rival creeds within her bosom. It also shows the 
wonderful hold which the teachings of Chaitanya had gained 
over the public mind. Chaitanya, born in Nadia — completed 
his wanderings at Puri and ended his earthly mission in the 
thirties of the 16th Century — and yet our author, the exponent 
of a rival creed, speaks of the devotion of his companions and 
the enthusiasm of his many followers as of a quite recent and 
personal experience. 

It has thus to be noted that the inferences regarding 
Chaitanya and the influence of his teachings to be drawn from 
Mukundram are precisely the inferences suggested by a study 
of the professed Vaisnava literature of the day. 



^f*ra isutil jrsnrf" • Jitrtt tor sfa sft ii 

Ijfsit prow *t?M ii *s*gsr cfffa to*i ste i 

?*ct fctjte srtt, 9«re ?1,f! atti, c«ra®f¥ W3ip, *if*i«l sftws w, 

BF^tlt in i^fw i w toil c*"H -1#ii 11 

c^rta ^Pi ^r*t«, fifos^r «( i ?ta, ^»fi> iwft-c '* sfasfl ww an, 

arelpH sfaTtt f s ii 3K* ttftn? «^-"tit 

^%i swra *ra, «ra fast *tjwr 3, ?iif¥tut«nt. c^ff ?| ^Rf ^"nr 

«ra w "ffl fctf at«il i ^j»f fsrtfit wtff n 

fal^«M *JT3W, 5^51 faf?S-'SR»l, f*tfm ITOta, ▼feiVlOT C^l ; Tt?, 

3 t«1 £ *i1 ifasi »t?ffi ii it- to TBIPT f5f«l i 

srsg -st*" C'-'i3, ^KcjiR-csta m$ it tt 55 rtf", ^rw itw 1 ftfa, 

*«* C*ffi-» f "8*t*l *fi[»IW f? t*8! 5R I 

60 



MTJKtfNDBAlVt 

At the threshold of the poem we are given an account 
of its origin, a statement of the circumstances under which it 
came to be written, a statement which arrests our attention 
from various points of view — not the least important of which 
are, in the first place the poet's conception of the source of his 
inspiration, and secondly the view which it opens up before 
us of the political, social and economic condition of Bengal in 
the latter half of the 16th Century. The following is an 
approximately literal rendering of the poet's account.t "Hear, 



<*JCqftTl 1<J?rt Iffl, 1TI sft *t? Sttl, fvm ^tfwl 13, wfa 13 nto*. 

^fll "*t*t «wft Slft^l I ^R Itt1 Slftf 1^1*1 II 

fin«»lWafWt. *PM«ttWt#. **ft**11». ft^*HW»ttl 

«**tw Hot cum i "^ **f*m " 

Mukundram. 



fcfarl *ttnra wf, *fta ftsa orrt, afctsrHifipi ft*, cw^wl^r, 

effcfl iffol <«rt5ftre n ^W«i ^i *n **t "^w ii 

Iron fast* tfflNW i if* *^ "&* «f tt ** i 

*Ws <Btqpr ift, ?t^Btnm»ft, wtt?rt stfoiHft. *CT*tsmwft 

fsi«lt»T iJJWHl||?| lit 5$t ffal f iPtW II 

w^fsflittfa*, ft? ift^r^ir, "I^^R **<*H fi»i ft*. 

CfK^-fc'^T-^ftl I l^" 9 CSfa tol Wl I 

pi TTfaPrcc?? tubt, «ota ntita it*, fart ^ffiin *ra, famr. ^»i **. 

fetfl* ^csrt fflwwi, cwtfttii w* cwi, *tft*l ctfipft ift, . *pfifl "sftfl ftft, 

atwi twra 3*i <sift i c^Sm 5? &»l% i 

■ntcl c*tti ftn fwl, cttera *tfta ?<5l, Ttsrwrasft, 1t$»[ ^teiPlft, 

lift ilw «tarta citstft ii WtTPl 13 ^F 5 ! ft® ii 

JTSrett^^H falfft 13lW *rt*T, ltiltM»firm, Slfipitl TtWlTO, 

fttl SWH *|I5 «rf% I S *t^5 fgS w* I 

cnWa *&3H*. SfFl «rti5t$ *rftt ^ tesj fati ^fa '"t. Str* TfeEf It*. 

•ift ^®T *ra ft-' «f® n Pus ^ttT win $tsr ii 

fisftvffo «tRt«f rttar, fcffl ft wrtft c?rtw, «rtarft 133 *t?l, fcrcro "N^tifl, 

«rt» i?? c?? sitft c*fi i 1*1 ^ 5W ^W ' 

a^ cift%l«l ^i 5 ^, ftitt* ?|bj i»ft, ^<<1 «n tftaiCT, fart <-t? c#ffc*, 

Of$ f?i itft *lfiarti , l il 5«t ar«fl ftc 5 ! 5 ! ^tci ii 

61 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

assembled people all, how the poem originated." It was on a 
sudden that the goddess Ohandi, descending from on high, sat 
by the head of the sleeping poet, assuming the form of his 
mother. There lived in the township of Selimabad, Neogy 
Gopinath, an honest Raja. We lived and tilled lands in 
Dhamania, in his taluk, for six or seven generations. All 
praise to Raja Man Sinha, the bee to the lotus foot of Vishnu, 
King of Gour, Banga and Utkal ! During the reign of the 
above Man Sinha, on account of the sins of the people, 
Muhammad Sharif got the Khillat; Raijada became his 
minister ; the merchants and traders became alarmed, and the 
regime became the foe of Brahmins and Vaisnavas. They 
measured lands, by placing ropes on the angular sides of fields, 
and they measured 15 cottahs to a bigha. They disregarded 
the cries of the rayats. They came to be the death of many 
people, and they entered unculturable lands as culturable. 
They exacted compensation, without conferring any correspon- 
ding benefit. The poddars became J ami (death). For every 
rupee they gave you 1\ annas less, while they took for them- 
selves as interest one pie per day per rupee. 

"A Khoja, who, in his angry mood, paid no sort of regard 
to the poverty of the people, became Dihidar (village official). 
His anger could only be appeased by presents of rupees, but 
there was nobody to buy your cow and paddy. Our lord, 

^firci •Rpwrt, fart wft sffl, ^«w ttf?1 *fo, «tf*9i *wi frt, 

TO w$ •tar i^t, ^ttft w«i ^ft «fa w s^rw, wc« «m *mfc, 

I'M IPf Plf*N ^^F II Wf ^ft ^ftsj itfsFB II 

*$ta ^stwi *l$, f"tat$ *1fl*l it§, tct Ttwfra i*?t, ci sjtFi ^wr?i 5#, 

i^tta sit 5 ! fasj ftsj ii irtirc* -m %sja ^<i a 

«rt?t*1 Tfafl ^. ^i Ttrtst ^ffi, «rej ?t«i1 ir^rrt,. ^m %*r <wte, 

iiw fw f*t »^fi *rt^ r ii ®w ^*i i»i«i ii 

Mukundiram* 

62 



MTJKUNDRAM 

Gopinath Neogy, by an accident, came to be arrested, and 
there were no means for his release. Peadas were all about, for 
fear the rayats should abscond, and kept guard at every man's 
door. The rayats were sore of heart. They sold their 
stock of rice, paddy and cows from day to day and articles 
worth a rupee sold for ten annas. Srimant Khan, of 
Chandighur, was of help to me, and, taking counsel 
with Gambhir Khan, I left Dhamania; Ramanand Bhye 
accompanied me, having met me on the way. We reached 
Telega wa. Rupare assisted me, and Jadu Kundu Teli protected 
us. He gave us his own house to live in, allayed our fears, 
and gave us alms which sufficed for three days. Descending 
the river Garain with the stream, with our minds fixed on 
Providence, we arrived at my maternal uncle's house, and 
Gangadhur conferred on us many favours. 

"Leaving Narain, Parasar and Amodar, we arrived at 
Gokra. My bath was without oil, water only was my drink 
and food, and my infant child cried for hunger. Sheltering 
myself under the raised bank of a tank, and with offerings 
of Shallook (roots of the water lily), I offered my pujah to 
the mother of Kumud. Overpowered by hunger, fear and 
fatigue, I fell asleep, when Chandi appeared to me in a 
dream. She was all gracious, and offering me the shelter of 
her feet, she bade me compose this song. 

"Leaving Gokhra, accompanied by Ramanand Bhye we 
arrived at Arrha. 

"Arrha is Brahmin-land, and a Brahmin is its lord, as wise 
as Vyas. I addressed this lord of men in poetic stanzas, and 
he gave me ten arrahs of paddy. Son of the brave Madhav, he, 
Bankura Dev, possessed of all virtues, employed me thence- 
forth as a tutor to his boy. The boy Raghunath, unequalled 
in beauty of mind and body, accepted me as his guru (tutor). 

"I learnt the mantra, which she (Goddess Chandi) inspired 
me with, and I long meditated on this Maha-Mantra. Then 

63 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

I took the leaf and the ink, and she (Goddess Chandi), sitting 
on my reed pen, caused poetry to be written by me in different 
kinds of stanzas. Ramanand was my companion. He knew 
all about my dream, and always took the greatest care of me. 

"By order of Raghunath, lord of men, the songster who 
has got his dress and ornaments, daily rehearses the song — 
Praise be to Raja Raghunath, who has no equal in caste- 
dignity, and who is unrivalled in courtesy of demeanour ! By 
his order Sri Kavi Kankan sings, and a new religious poem 
(Mangal) receives publicity." 

It will at once be seen that this short account is full of 
interest for the modern reader. But I propose to dwell on 
only a few of the noticeable points, strictly from the historical 
point of view. 

1. As to the poet's dream, the parallel case of Csedmon 
is perhaps too obvious a suggestion, yet the coincidence is so 
close and curious that the two may be placed side by side. 
The following is the version to be found in the pages of 
Stopford Brooke : — 

Csedmonwas a servant to the monastery of Hild, an abbess of royal Mood, 
at Whitby in Yorkshire. He was somewhat aged when the gift 
of song came to him, and he knew nothing of the art of verse, so 
that at the feasts when for the sake of mirth all sang in turn 
he left the table. One night, having done so and gone to the 
stables, for he had care of the cattle, be fell asleep, and One 
came to him in vision and said, "Caedmon, sing me some song.'' 
And he answered, "I cannot sing ; for this cause I left the feast 
and came hither." Then said the other, "However, you shall 
sing." "What shall I sing ?" he replied. "Sing the begin- 
ning of created things," answered the other. Whereupon he 
began to sing verses to the praise of God, and, awaking, 
remembered what he had sung, and added more in verse worthy 
of God. In the morning he came to the steward, and told him of 
the gift he had received, and, being brought to Hild, was ordered 
to tell his dream before learned men, that they might give judg- 
ment whence his verses came. And when they had heard, they 
all said that heavenly grace had been conferred on him by our 
Lord. 

64 



MTJKtTtfDRAM 

May I be forgiven a reference to a less known instance in 
this connection, in as much as these parallel cases with their 
celestial visions have a special significance and a deeper mean- 
ing than appears on the surface when we try to explain and 
understand the phenomenon of the origin and composition 
of religious poems in all climes and in all ages ? The same 
phenomenon which meets us in England in Anglo-Saxon as 
also in Norman times repeats itself in the India of the 16th 
Century. 

Just as the winsome spirit of legend casts a glamour over the first com- 
position of religious verse in Anglp-Saxon times, so it seems to 
hover over its new birth five hundred years later, when it revisits 
for a moment the scenes of past achievements. Again a man of 
lowly origin was inspired by a heavenly vision to sing in praise 
of God. The story of St. Godric, like that of Csedmon, deserves 
to be held in memory. 

Of him it is related that one day, when the sun was shining bright 
in the heavens, he lay bowed in earnest prayer before the altar of the 
Virgin, when all at once Our Lady appeared to him, accompanied 
by Mary Magdalen, both, very beautiful, with raiment shining 
white, in figure not large, resembling maidens of tender years. 
The petitioner was possessed by joy, but dared not move. Soon, 
however, the two drew near with slow steps, and Our Lady 
spoke. 

"We will," said she, "protect thee to the end of the world, and seek 
to support thee in every need." Godric threw himself at her feet, 
and confided himself to her care. Thereupon the holy ones laid 
their hands on his head and stroked the hair from his temples, 
and the whole place was filled with sweet fragrance. Next the 
mother of mercy taught him a new song, which she sang before 
him as before a pupil, and he sang it after her and remem- 
bered it all the days of his life. "When he had the text and 
melody fast in his mind, she bade him, as often as pains plagued 
him, or temptation, or vexation threatened to overcome him to 
sing the same, giving him this assurance. " From now on, if 
thou wilt call on me with this prayer, thou shalt have me at 
once as a propitious helper." Then, after making repeatedly over 
his head the sign of the cross, she and her companion vanished, 
leaving behind them the most wonderful fragrance. This tale, 
with tears flowing from his eyes, Godric more than once related 

65 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

to Reginald, monk of Durham, by whom it was recorded, together 
with the text of the song, as follows. 

" St. Mary, Virgin, mother of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, receive, 
shield, help thy Grodric ; embrace and bring him aloft with thee 
into the Kingdom of Grod. — St. Mary, Christ's abode, pearl 
(cleanness) of maidens, flower of mothers, remove my sin, rule 
in my mind, aid me to reach to God Himself." 

2. Man Sinha came to the Eastern Province in the 32nd 
year of Akbar's reign, and did not leave these parts till the 
44th year — when as we know from the Aini-Akbary he was 
ordered by the Emperor to join the forces in the Deccan. He 
came back, however, after a very short interval on the death 
of his son Jagat Sinha and in consequence of the disturbances 
caused by the Afgans. He did not leave the Subah till the 
third year of Jahangir's reign. "We may thus safely say that 
our poem contains a picture of Bengal in the 16th Century of 
the Christian Era. There is a slight piece of internal evidence* 
in the work which lends colour to the suggestion that the main 
body of the poem was composed at an earlier date than the 
Introductory Section which refers to Man Sinha. That how- 
ever does not affect our general conclusion that in the poem we 
have a picture of Bengal in the 16th Century, A.D. 

3. Our poet probably lived on a piece of rent-free land 
under a Hindu Zemindar, or paid a nominal quit rent. As a 
consequence of the Toder Mull Settlement which we learn from 
the Aini-Akbary was introduced into Bengal between 1575- 
1583, his holding was remeasured, waste lands were entered as 
arable and culturable and hence assessable, and a higher rent 
was demanded of him. He had thus to leave his ancestral 
holding where the family had lived happily for generations. 
We can well understand the bitterness of the poet's heart on 



"lire ^iRW "MtT tfW I 

<?i^ttsi fan %s ^m ^pn h" 
66 



MUKTJNDRAM 

the occasion. But while describing this, he speaks feelingly of 
the brotherly help which he received from his neighbours in 
his difficulty. This calls up a pleasing picture of the friendli- 
ness which in those days animated the villagers in their deal- 
ings with one another. It is permissible to an Indian to 
remark that this same spirit continues to be a marked charac- 
teristic of Indian society down to the present day. The present 
relief operations in the flooded districts of Bengal would seem 
to lend a special point to this reflection. Perhaps it 
is not too fanciful to suggest that this is an inheritance 
from our primitive past, in as much as it is found to be a 
characteristic common to the whole family of Indo-European 
nations. 

4. The poet's picture does not perhaps justify us in con- 
cluding that there was any general mal-administration in 
the Subah under Man Sinha. Individual cases of hardship 
there must have been, individual tyrannical landlords there 
must always be.. But what happened to him may have been 
the result of a too strict application of the rules of the new 
Todar Mull Settlement, which, among other things, provided for 
the depreciation of the current coin and sanctioned an elaborate 
system of Batta. Indeed, what the poet himself tells us of the 
help extended to him by his well-to-do neighbours and the 
patronage and protection he received from a neighbouring Raja, 
can hardly be consistent with any theory of general mal-ad- 
ministration in the Province. The poet's statement that the 
Poddars became Jam (death) need not therefore be interpreted 
too literally. There is, however, ample food for reflection in 
this picture — specially if we place it by the side of Akbar's 
lofty ideals and his truly statesmanlike declarations of humane 
principles of government. The following is the ideal sketched 
out for the Collector of Revenue in the pages of the Aini- 
Alebari. The Collector of the Revenue 

should be a friend of the agriculturist. Zeal and truthfulness should be 
his rule of conduct. He should consider himself the represen- 

67 „ 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

tative of the lord paramount and establish himself where every 
one may have- easy access to him without the intervention of 
a mediator. 

He should not cease from punishing highway robbers, murderers 
and evildoers, nor from heavily mulcting them, and so administer 
that the cry of complaint shall be stilled. He should assist 
the needy husbandman with advances of money and recover them 
gradually. And when through the exertions of the village 
headman the full rental is received, he should allow him half a 
biswah on each bighah or otherwise reward him according to the 
measure of his services. He should ascertain the extent of 
the soil in cultivation and weigh each several portion in the 
scales of personal observation and be acquainted with its quality. 
The agricultural value of. land varies in different districts and 
certain soils are adapted to certain crops. He should deal differ 
ently, therefore, with each agriculturist and take his case into 
consideration. He should take into account with discrimination 
the engagements of former collectors and remedy the pro- 
cedure of ignorance or dishonesty. He should strive to bring 
waste lands into cultivation and take heed that what is in 
cultivation fall not waste. • He should stimulate the increase of 
valuable produce and remit somewhat of the assessment with a 
view to its augmentation. And if the husbandman cultivate 
less and urge a plausible excuse, let him not accept it. Should 
there be no waste land in a village and a husbandman be 
capable of adding to his cultivation, he should allow him land 
in some other village. He should be just and provident*in his 
measurements. Let him increase the facilities of the husband- 
man year by year. 

He should not entrust the appraisement to the headman of the 
village lest it give rise to remissness and incompetence and undue 
authority be conferred on high-handed oppressors, but he should 
deal with each husbandman, present his demand, and separately 
and civilly receive his dues. 

He should collect the revenue in an amicable manner and extend 
not the hand of demand out of season. 

5. While it is true that there was no general malad- 
ministration in the Subah during the rule of Man Sinha, we 
must admit that we come to a very different state of things 
later on. 

68 



MUKTJNDRAM 

In this connection it is instructive to note one of the 
Institutes or Regulations* of Jahangir, and the eloquent com- 
mentary appended to it by Sir Henry Elliot. 

"I ordered," declares Jahangir, "that the officers of Govern- 
ment and Jagirdars should not forcibly seize possession of the 
lands of my subjects, and cultivate them for their own 
benefit." 

Here is the commentary. 

" The administration of the country had rapidly declined 
since Akbar's time.t The governments were farmed, and the 
governors exacting and tyrannical." 

"The edict of his father, enjoining the observance of 
kindness and conciliation towards the cultivators, goes much 
further than this." 

" Bengal, Gujarat, and the Deccan, are likewise full of 
rebels, so that no one can travel in safety for out-laws : all 
occasioned by the barbarity of the government, and the cruel 
exactions made upon the husbandmen, which drive them to 
rebellion." 

* a,/. Memoirs of Jahangir (Oriental Translation Fund — New Series) P. 9. 

t The land-tax has always been the principal source from which Oriental potentates 
have derived their revenues. For all practical purposes it may be said that the system which 
they have adopted has generally been to take as much from the cultivators as they could 
get. Eeformers, such as the Emperor Akbar, have at times endeavoured to introduce more 
enlightened methods of taxation, and to carry into practice the theories upon which the 
fiscal system in all Moslem countries is based. Those theories are by no means so objection- 
able as is often supposed. But the reforms which some few capable rulers attempted to 
introduce have almost always crumbled away under the regime of their successors. 

If, from drought or other causes, the cultivator raises no crop, he is not required to 
pay any land-tax. The idea of expropriation fcjr the non-payment of taxes is purely Western 
and modern. Under Boman Law, it was the rule in contracts for rent that a tenant was 
not bound to pay if any vis major prevented him from reaping. The European system is 
very different.- A far less heavy demand is made on the cultivator, but he is, at all events 
in principle and sometimes in practice, called upon to meet it in good and bad years alike. 
He is expected to save in years of plenty in order to make good the deficit in lean years. 
If he is unable to pay, he is liable to be expropriated, and he often is expropriated. This 
plan is just, logical, and very Western. It may be questioned whether Oriental cultivators 
do not sometimes rather prefer the oppression and elasticity of the Eastern to the justice 
and rigidity of the Western system. Cromer on The Government of Subject races. 

60 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

" But this observation may serve universally for the whole 
of this country, that ruin and devastation operates every where 
for since the property of all has become vested in the King, 
no person takes care of anything ; so that in every place the 
spoil and devastations of war appear, and nowhere is anything 
repaired." 

"For, all the great men live by farming the several 
governments, in which they all practise every kind of tyranny 
against the natives under their jurisdiction, oppressing them 
with continual exactions." 

Sir John Shore in a memorable minute which forms an 
appendix to what is known as the Fifth Report frankly admits 
that the principles of Mogul taxation, as far as we can collect 
from the institutes of Timor and Akbar, from the ordinations 
of the emperors, and the conduct of their delegates, however 
limited in practice, were calculated to give the sovereign a 
proportion of the advantages arising from extended cultivation 
and increased population. As these were discovered, the 
tvmar or standard assessment was augmented ;* and whatever 
the justice or policy of the principle might be, the practice in 
detail has this merit, that it was founded upon a knowledge of 
real and existing resources. 

Referring however to the measures of JafEer Khan, Sir John 
notes — " the Zemindars, with few if any exceptions, were dis- 
possessed of all management in the collections, and his own 
officers were employed to scrutinize the lands and their produce. 
The severities inflicted upon renters in arrears, and upon the 
Zemindars to compel them to a discovery of their resources, 



* c. /. The Roman Indiction. 

"This was the name given to the system under which the taxable value of the land 
throughout the Empire was reassessed every fifteen years." At each reassessment, says, Mr. 
Hodgkin, the author of Italy and her Invaders, "the few who had prospered found themselves 
assessed on the higher value which their lands had acquired, while the many who were 
sinking down into poverty obtained, it is to be feared, but little relief from taxation on 
aocount of the higher rate which was charged to all." 

70 



MUKTJlTDItAM 

were disgraceful to humanity ; and, as if personal indignities 
and tortures were not sufficient, the grossest insults were 
offered to the religion of the people. Pits filled with ordure 
and all impurities, were used as prisons for the Zemindars, 
and these were dignified with the appellation of Bykont, the 
Hindoo Paradise." 

6. In reference to the experience of Gopinath who was 
imprisoned obviously for nonpayment of revenue, we have 
therefore to think of the powers which the revenue collector 
exercised in those days. He was vested with a large share 
of the powers of Government. As James Mill puts it for us, 
"He was allowed the use of a military force, — the police of 
the district was placed in his "hands, and he was vested with 
the civil branch of judicature." 

Here again Yaisnab literature helps us to understand the 
existing state of things. The Ninth Canto of the Antalila of 
Chmtanya Charitamrita which speaks of the release of Gopi- 
nath Patyanayak throws a lurid light on the methods in 
vogue in those days for the realisation of Government dues 
from defaulters. Gopinath* had proved a defaulter — He 



* 4^fw csrto sttft *<f>t3 FmIw i 

w& «W ttf^ *5t3 Slcit ifftfif %3 i 
«^ afl ^ciR 3t3, <su3 faaiRn n 
»RWt rafrt? <?I33> ^faT 31*1 1 

$1? *%% OSllta PTCf fltPfPs ^Itfl II 

ar§> Tfts. 3terl era 3*301 <§¥&[ ? 
«ci a$ <&& 3^ *re f333«l ii 

crt*NW ^^rtw ifimm «i^ n 

Itft ItfiB ^t15l tf3J fff^T iTtBNta II 
5^5W 3^ $t3 3t$ 3t#t ^f I 

5^w 3*1^1 "Stm iWs itPfei ii 
c*t?l 3^ yr ;B3j *rtf?, ci tftal % i 

3fd WW f3fa-f*Fft 33J <5f33 II 

c*rtv5l ft 313 33 or? ^ir 3^3 i 
4*3 3fo C3fisi ' 5 rt1 ? i sitsmfei «rf3 n 



<DT TW^ C3fi5t3 ^fil <St°T ^fftf I 
slug ftfctt 5 ! 3W licapM 1C*l II 

d§ 3'M3 ^511 3^ 3151^31 I 
Cft% 3 (ttt3 C3Ft«f C?«T Iff! «fa1 II 

cut Tt«»|jara ^<st3 afl3l fJRtfl I 
^Wt ^t33ts ^f% S^ Ftn ii 
stcg 'shtI 3^3 3*t? »pr^ 3ra 1 
3W f *ri 3>t3, sfao «u srtft Tlw 11 

S5tr\s c^ta 3lii> ^ 3>Rt\s sri ^313 n 
tsfa steia-itr C3FW Stfsro 1 
3W3 $1$ 3t3 31 iWt^ 3*fw 11 

^W of^ *#, 5lc^ 67tt ^1 C3*tt$ 11 

sflSfl C3tt«T C3§ «fl C1^ 3»3 313 I 

ci ®»ttra 'Vffi? tt$, 3ni ct ^tt3 11 
^itefjai "rtPt set fit* 67t^»i 1 

«t<95t-§t3 C^fe® SW *W *ftf^ s T II 



71 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

piteously begged for time, and prayed to be allowed to pay- 
off by instalments. He offered to sell off his horses and 
things. But all to no purpose. He was placed on a chang 
with a sword hanging over him and a sword beneath. This 
was the usual fate of defaulters who had failed to pay Govern- 
ment dues, and this is how royal dues were realised. 

Then again there is Bamchandra Khan of Benapul whom 
we have already noticed in connection with the experiences of 
Haridas. 

Bamchandra Khanf was remiss in paying the Government 
dues, upon which the Mahoraedan Wazir came to the village, 
bound him, his wife and . children hand and foot, and looted 
the village for three days. After that he took away Bam- 
chandra and his family with him as prisoners. In consequence 
the village remained a waste for a long time. In this case 
however, the landlord in question seems to have been a tyranni- 
cal person and apparently met with condign punishment, though 
unfortunately the innocent ryots suffered along with him. I 
should add that it is just possible that Bamchandra Khan is 
painted in Vaisnava Literature in darker colours than he 
deserves because of his hostility towards Haridas, for on the 
Jessore side there are still living traditions of Bamchandra 
Khan's beneficent actions towards his tenantry. 



T$fti s^ «R3 f%n ^ft sit?! c^ft i c^wtcst Ttsi c^rfa «rt^i ft^rl i 

irtsfr^ fiftta *rc$, sWa ft arft ? 11 sffi-i 1 «tlR *rwt fam Ttfirai n 

starts faito Jrtft «rts, 'rtft stw «* : «tf s^ start "srtfi csptfa BSJ frit | 

?rtf -it^stts* twi s^a iki sis 11 «rtiN fssv iwffi, «tc^ fa s#i ? 
est 5^>s ci^ srspsr-stsr fsss i 
stswsj cntf% iis^fti s*ts m ii 

t TO^f% s^ts sfaraj, ?i ws stsrs's i ci^ sts fs^rffa s?cs ipw-s^ i 

^% ^1 cg^ fesTts ^fc\ ^fa ss ii «rtsfiR isl sm>1 s*fsr fH ii 

«rtfa w§ stowi sfal ^ i *rtfe-«rc-BR «rtws jr ii ^ i 

'Wd ss s^fs itsi ci sts sM^r ii seftt »rtr> tffa fesft? sftt n 
ft-^ ifcre sfaMsau stf%sl l 
^ts ss «tfa ^p> ^#t sftsl ii 

72 



taUKUNDRA.M 

7. What about the Poddar that our poet speaks of ? In 
the poem he evidently appears in a twofold capacity—; firstly 
as the receiver of Government dues giving 2£ annas less for 
every Rupee and secondly as the Tillage money lender 
charging an interest of one pie per day on every Rupee.* 
As to the name itself it is interesting to note the following ; — 

The Treasurer is called in the language of the day Fotadar* "The 
term Fota is applied in Arabic to cloths used as waist 
wrappers brought from Sind, and the word itself is supposed to be 
derived from that country, and not to be of Arabic origin. 
The office was no doubt originally named from the distinguish- 
ing portion of apparel — In Mai-athi, it is termed potdar whence 
the common name Podar applied to a banker, a cash keeper, 
or an. officer in public establishments for weighing money or 
bullion." (Wilson's Glossary). 

8. For the elucidation of the landre venue system of the 
poet's day we have in the first place to go to the pages of the 
Aini-Akbari, and to the Mahomedan Historians of India as 
they are condensed and presented in Elliot's collection, but we 
should also refer to the materials collected by the Committee of 
the House of Commons which enquired into the affairs of the 
East India Company in 1810. Speaking of Indian Villages 
the Committee remark : — 

"A village geographically, considered is a tract of country 
comprising some hundreds, or thousands of acres of arable and 

* Dow has given us the following specimen of a firman or commission of a Fotadar or 
District Treasurer which enables us to form some idea of a Fotadar's official position and 
responsibilities ; — 

To our honoured and faithful Mirza Abrahim Crorie of Perganah Mahomedabad be it 
known ; that as the Office of Fotadar of the abovementioned Pergannah hath become 
vacant, we have been pleased to appoint our trusty and diligent servant Jaffier Beg to 
that Office. You are therefore commanded to give into his custody all the rents and oustoms 
of the Dewany in that district, and he shall lodge it with care in his treasury j and yon are 
to take. his receipts, which you are to send monthly to the royal Exchequer, nor are you 
permitted to keep one Dam of the revenues in your own hands after the stated periods, and 
you must beware of treating any of his agents ill, which he may send to demand the 
collections. And should there be any deficiencies in his accounts, you are to be answerable 
for the same : know this to be confirmed, nor deviate from the order, 

73 



Bengal in the sixteenth century, a.d. 

waste land. Politically viewed, it resembles a corporation or 
township." 

The state of taxation is described by the same committee 
in the following terms : "By the custom of the Hindu Govern- 
ment, the cultivators were entitled to one half of the paddy 
produce (that is grain in the husk) depending on the periodical 
rains. Of the crops from the dry grain lands, watered by 
artificial means, the share of the cultivator was about two 
thirds. Before the harvest commenced the quantity of 
crop was ascertained in the presence of the inhabitants 
and village servants, by the survey of persons, unconnected 
with the village, who, from habit, were particularly skilful 
and expert in judging of the amount of the produce, and 
who, in the adjustment of this business, were materially aided 
by a reference to the produce of former years, as recorded by 
the accountants of the villages. The quantity which belonged 
to the Government being thus ascertained, it was received in 
kind, or in money." 

" Such," continue the committee, " were the rights of the ryots, according 
to the ancient usage of the country. In consequence, however, 
of the changes introduced by the Mahomedan conquest, and the 
many abuses which later times had established, the share 
really enjoyed by the ryots was often reduced to a sixth, and but 
seldom exceeded a fifth. The assessments had no bounds but 
those which limited the supposed ability of the husbandman. 
The effects of this unjust system were considerably augmented 
by the custom, which had become common with the Zemindars, 
of sub-renting their lands to farmers, whom they armed with 
unrestricted powers of collection, and who were thus enabled to 
disregard, whenever it suited their purpose, the engagements they 
entered into with the ryots ; besides practising every species 
of oppression, which an unfeeling motive of self-interest could 
suggest. If they agreed with the oultivators at the commencement 
of the year, for a rent in money, and the season proved an 
abundant one, they then insisted on receiving their dues in kind. 
When they did take their rents in specie, they hardly ever failed 
to collect a part of them before the harvest time had arrived and 
the crops were cut ; which reduced the ryots to the necessity 

74 



MUKUNDRAM 

of borrowing from money lenders, at a heavy interest of 3, 4 
and 5 per cent per month, the sums requisite to make good 
the anticipated payments that were demanded of them. If, from 
calamity or other cause, the ryots were the least remiss in the 
discharge of their rents, the officers of the renters were instantly 
quartered upon them ; and these officers they were obliged to 
maintain, until these might be recalled on the demand being 
satisfied. It was also a frequent practice with the renters to 
remove the inhabitants from fertile lands, in order to bestow 
them on their friends and favourites, and to oblige the ryots to 
assist farmers, in the tilling of their lands ; and to furnish them 
gratuitously with labourers, bullocks, carts, and straw." 

Before passing from this part of the subject I would place 
before you the following from Tarikh-i-Badauni and invite 
reference to the Revenue Regulations to be found in the 
Akbar-Nama of Abdul Pazl which I append.* 

" In this year (982) an order was promulgated for improv- 
ing the cultivation of the country, and for bettering the 
condition of the raiyats. All the parganas of the country, 
whether dry or irrigated, whether in towns on hills, in deserts 
and jungles, by rivers, by reservoirs, or wells, were all to be 
measured, and every such piece of land as, upon cultivation, 
would produce one kror of tankas, was to be divided off, and 
placed under the charge of an officer to be called krori, who 
was to be selected for his trustworthiness, and whether known 
or unknown to the revenue clerks and treasurers. So that in 
the course of three years all the uncultivated land might be 
brought into cultivation, and the public treasury might be 
replenished. Security was taken from each one of these 
officers. The measurement was begun in the vicinity of 
Fathpur. One kror was named Adampur, another Shethpur, 
another Ayubpur, and so on, according to the names of the 
various prophets (and patriarchs). Regulations -were circula- 
ted, but eventually these regulations were not observed as they 
ought to have" been. A great portion of the country was laid 

* Vide Note II. 

fr5 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.t). 

waste through the rapacity of the kroris, the wives and children 
of the raiyats were sold and scattered abroad, and everything 
was thrown into confusion. But the kroris were brought 
to account by Raja Todar Mai, and many good men died from 
the severe beatings which were administered, and from the 
tortures of the rack and pincers. So many died from protrac- 
ted confinement in the prisons of the revenue authorities, that 
there was no need of the executioner or swordsman, and no 
one cared to find them graves or grave-clothes. Their 
condition was like that of the devout Hindus in the country 
of Kamrup, who, having dedicated themselves to their idol, 
live for one year in the height of enjoyment, appropriating 
everything that comes to their hands ; but at the end of the 
period, one by one they go and assemble at the idol temple, 
and cast themselves under the wheels of its car, or offer up 
their heads to the idol. • 

" All the country, with the exception of that which was 
under the khdlisa (exchequer), was held bxjdgir by the amirs. 
But from the prevalence of indulgence and debauchery, 
extravagance in household expenditure, and accumulation of 
riches, there was no means of maintaining the soldiery or of 
fostering the peasants." 

So also the author of the Tdbakat-i-Akbari. 

" It had become manifest that much of the cultivable land 
of Hindustan was lying uncultivated; and to encourage 
cultivation, some rule for dividing the profits of the first year 
between the Government and the cultivator seemed to be 
required. After careful consideration, it was arranged that 
the various pargcmas should be examined, and that those 
which contained so much land as being cultivated would yield 
a kror of tankas, should be divided off and given into the 
charge o£ an honest and intelligent officer, who was to receive 
the name of krori. The clerks and accountants of the 
exchequer were to make arrangements with these officers, and 

76 



, MUKTJNDRAM 

send them to their respective districts, where, by vigilance and 
attention, in the course of three years the uncultivated land 
might be brought into cultivation, and the revenues recovered 
for Government. To carry out these views, a number of the 
most honest and trustworthy servants of the State were 
selected, and appointed to the office of krori. The amirs also 
were called upon severally to appoint kroris who were sent 
into the country upon their responsibility." 

9. I conclude my review of the introductory section of 
Mukundram's poem by alluding to a less controversial matter 
and a distinctly pleasing feature of the Hindu society of the 
day — TTe read, " By order of Raghunath, the songster who 
has got his dress and ornaments daily rehearses the song " — 
Raghunath proved a generous patron of letters — and he was 
not singular in his day. Each landlord had his own band of 
singers, who beguiled his leisure hours by singing or reciting 
songs of their own composition. There was no printing 
press in those days and there was no daily newspaper. 
Public opinion thus found vent in the songs of these court 
poets. 



77 



fcENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A»D. 



Note I. 

Twenty- Fifth year of the Reign (of Akbar). 

A Census. 

An Imperial mandate was issued directing the jagirdare, shikkdars, and 
darogahs throughout the Empire to draw up, village by village, lists of all 
the inhabitants, specifying their names and occupations ; and that these 
lists should all be collected together. The officers were hot to allow any 
one to reside who was not engaged in some business or occupation, and 
they were to inquire into the arrival and departure of clever men, and 
ascertain whether their designs were good or 'evil, so that in a short time 
the true characters of the outwardly respectable and inwardly malicious 
might be brought to the test. This regulation was the means of establish- 
ing tranquillity, and of providing security for the broad expanse of 
Hindustan. 



78 



MTJKTTNDKAM 



Note II. 

Twenty- Seventh year of the Reign. 

Revenue Regulations. 

At the beginning of 1 his year, His Majesty directed his attention to 
an improvement of the administration of his territories and passed new 
laws for^the management of civil and revenue business. Raja Todar Mai 
had, previous to this, been named as wazir ; but the dangers and difficulties 
of the post, and the opposition to be encountered, made him unwilling to 
accept the office. But this unambitious man, who was acquainted with all 
the mysteries of administration, was now elevated to the office of diwan, and 
in reality to the wahalat. His clear judgment soon set matters to rights. 
Civil and revenue matters received his especial attention. Careful to keep 
himself free from all selfish ambition, he devoted himself to the service 
of the State, and earned an everlasting fame. He devoted his skill and 
powerful mind to simplify the laws of the State, and he allowed no grasping 
and intriguing men to obtain any influence over him. He now proposed 
several new laws calculated to give vigour and glory to the Government. 

That the collectors of the khalisa lands and the jagirdars should realize 
the mal and jihat (cesses), according to the dasturu-l 'amal ; and if by 
^fraud or oppression anything beyond the settled amount should be received 
from the cultivators, they were to account it an excess of the proper pay- 
ment, and were to levy a fine upon those who had exacted it, and enter 
the amount in the monthly accounts. At every harvest they were to care- 
fully guard the rights of the lower classes. These cases of giving and 
taking were dealt with in two ways ; — the complainant received redress, 
and power was given" to punish the offenders. 

The 'amils of the khalisa had two subordinates, a karkun (manager), 
and a khass-navis (accountant). These officers had been oppressors, and 
leaguing with the rich, they had been a great source of evil to the poor. 
If instead of these two infamous officials, one worthy and honest man 
should be appointed, the country would prosper, and the people would be 
contented. 

It had been discovered that in the khalisa districts, the cultivated lands 
decreased year by year ; but if the lands capable of cultivation were once 

79 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

measured, they would increase year by year in proportion to the powers of 
the raiyats ; and engagements should be made for them according to rule. 
The raiyats having nominated each other as sureties, were to take the 
proper writings, and in all questions of arrears were to be treated in a 
considerate manner. 

For lands which had lain waste four years, they were to receive a 
deduction of one-half for the first year, for the second year one-quarter, and 
for the third year they were to pay according to established rule. For lands 
which had lain untilled for two years they were to receive a deduction of 
one-fourth for the first year. For uncultivated lands, they were to receive 
a small allowance of grain, so as to make the lands capable of yielding 
revenue. When advances were made for the assistance of poor cultivators, 
engagements were to be taken from men of respectability and part was to 
be repaid at the spring harvest, part at the autumnal harvest. By these 
arrangements, the country would in a short period become cultivated, the 
raiyats would be contented, and the treasury flourishing. When the 
collectors increased the assessment, back payments were not to be required 
from small and insignificant estates. 

Every year a report was to be made to the Emperor by the collecters, 
so that efficient officers might receive augmentations of their pay, 
and an increase of their honours and rewards ; while those who did not 
faithfully discharge their duties would incur punishment and fall into 
disgrace. 

When a portion of cultivated land was fixed upon, some surveyors, in 
proportion to its extent, were to be appointed. They were first to measure 
the land, and were then to acquaint themselves with its quality and produce. 
(The collectors) were to select a central spot for their residence. They were to 
carry out their duties everywhere diligently, and to inquire into the state of 
affairs. In seasons when a sufficient quantity of rain fell, and the lands 
received adequate irrigation, two and a half iiswas (in the bigha) were to 
be left unassessed ; in jungles and sandy lands, three Iiswas were to be 
left. Weekly accounts of sequestrations, and daily accounts of the collec- 
tions, were to be sent monthly to the Imperial Exchequer. An Imperial 
order was issued, that when lands suffered under any visitation of Provi- 
dence, a description of them was to be drawn up, and a copy of it sent to 
Court, so that the Emperor might give directions appropriate to the case. 

If the occupants of hill forts, trusting in the security of their fastnesses, 
should engage in freebooting, the generals, the fatijdars, the feudatories, 
and the revenue collectors were directed to unite and effect a remedy. They 

80 



• • MTJKTJNDRAM 

were first to admonish the offenders, and if that proved unavailing, tbey 
were to take measures for inflicting chastisement upon them. Their country 
was to be laid waste, and the land was to be granted to jagirdars, from 
whom the revenue officers were to make no demands. If the Imperial troops 
received any injury, a fine was to be imposed upon the offenders. 

Whatever was levied from the raiyats was to be paid over to the 
treasurers, and they were to give receipts to the raiyats. The collectors were 
to remit the payments four times a month, aDd at the end of this time no 
balance was to be left unrealized from the raiyats. The raiyats were to be 
so treated that they should be willing to make their payments to the treasury 
voluntarily. Satisfactory security was to be taken from the disaffected and 
contumacious; and if the bail was not given, watchmen were to be placed 
over the crops, and the revenue was to be realized. 

A descriptive account was to be drawn up of the assessment of each 
individual, according to his cultivation and labour, and the dates were not to 
be either postponed or anticipated. The patwari (accountant) of each village 
was to apportion (the village) name by name, among the various subordinate 
agents, and the collectors were to send the cash under the seal of the patwari 
to the treasurer. They were to be vigilant to prevent oppression, and to 
treat each individual according to his deserts. The treasurer was to draw 
up a statement of the mohurs, rupees, and clams according to the value 
indicated by their respective names and impressions, and showing the value of 
the old coinages in the new royal coins, so that the collectors and sarrafs 
might be able to ascertain the respective values of old and new 
coins. The La'l-i Jalali of full weight and perfect touch was of 
the value of 400 dams. The Chahargoshah (four-cornered) rupee 
was worth forty dams. The ordinary (dasturi) ashrafi and the Akbar- 
shahi rupee, which had become deteriorated in use, were to be taken 
at the following rates. If the ashrafi was only two birinj (grains 
of rice) deficient, it was to be deemed of full value, and to be received 
as equal to 360 dams. If it was deficient from three birinj to one surkh, it 
was to be reckoned at 355 dams; if deficient from a surkh to a surkh and a 
half, at 350 dams. The rupee not more than one surkh deficient was to be 
considered of full value, and worth 39 dams. If deficient one and a half to 
two surkhs, it was worth 38 dams. The La'l-i Jalali of proper touch and 
just weight ; the Jalala rupee not more than from one and a half to two 
surkhs deficient ; old rupees of the Akbar-shahi coinage which might not be 
deficient more than from three birinj to one surkh were to be received at 
the treasury. Those of greater deficiency were to be tested separately by 

81 



BENGAL IN r ME SIXTEEN!^ CENTURY, A.D* 

the cashier, the particulars of them were to be entered by the accountants in 
their day-books, and accounts of them were to be sent every day to the 
Government record office. THhejagirdars, treasurers, and sarrafs (money- 
changers) were to act upon the abovementioned rules. The officers of the 
kkalisa and the jagirdars were to make proper reports about the well-conduct- 
ed and the ill-conducted, the obedient and the refractory people in their 
jurisdictions, so that they might get their deserts, and that the tranquillity 
of the country might be secured. Instead of the former expenses (kharch), 
the amount having been settled at one dam for each bigha of cultivated land, 
it was hoped that, upon this principle, 24 dams might be the estimated 
sum to be allowed for each cultivator. 



82 



IV 
MUKUNDRAM 



AND 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. (II) 



IV 
MUKUNDRAM 

AND 

BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. (II) 

Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Fellow-Students: 

In a noteworthy volume published in England in 1911, one 
of the Honorary Secretaries of the Essex Archaeological Society 
has put together a curious collection of the customs and costumes 
of mediaeval England, and indicated the prominent types and 
outstanding features of the social and economic world of the 
day. The materials rendered available for examination in this 
recent publication, only confirm the general conclusions of the 
student of Chaucer's poetry and of the wonderful national 
picture gallery to be found in his pages. What we are now 
told of the merchant princes, of the part played by some of the 
other subordinate but by no means unimportant characters in 
the. trading world, of the day, the characteristics of market 
towns and the operations of merchant guilds are what might 
have been naturally expected. Only we realise all the more 
vividly how true to life are Chaucer's pictures of the merchant 
with his " forked beard ", and of the other members of the 
trader class, such as the haberdasher, the carpenter, the weaver 
and the dyer. . 

All this is full of instruction and full of interest for the 
student of the social and economic history of India. If the 
mediaeval west had its merchant princes and trade-guilds, India 
had its Srimanta Sadagars* and caste groups, each following its 

* In ancient India, " the regulations of society appear to have awarded a high rank to 
persons who were employed in the business of commerce." Heeren. 

85 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

own hereditary profession, and the state of things which obtain- 
ed in Europe in the 15th century of the Christian era apparent- 
ly corresponds more or less to what we find described in the 
pages of a sixteenth century Bengali poet. If the present 
industrial organisation of England is the result of a gradual 
process of evolution out of the past, we in India have little 
reason to despair of the economic future of the land. We may 
take it that the future will work out its own salvation, and a 
new order of things will spring out of the old mediaeval frame- 
work which we still find in the Indian social organisation, but 
which has already lost, to some extent, its rigidity of 
structure owing to the influence of silent forces brought 
into operation by India's contact with a wider outer 
world. 

"Internal trade in mediaeval England was carried on 
chiefly at great annual fairs for the wholesale business, at 
weekly markets for the chief towns and by means of itinerant 
traders of whom the modern pedler is the degenerate represen- 
tative." They had their merchant princes in those days like 
the De la Poles who were on intimate terms with the highest 
in the land, who were honoured by visits from the royalty and 
even entered into matrimonial alliances, with members of the 
royal family. We have in the publication I spoke of a rude 
copy of an woodcut from an old manuscript which represents a 
mediaeval shop of a high class, probably a goldsmith's. There 
is little difficulty in recognising the shopkeeper eagerly bar- 
gaining with his customer, while the shopkeeper's clerk 
is making an entry of the transaction, " and the customer's 
servant stands behind him, holding some of his purchases ; 
flagons and cups and dishes seem to be the principal wares ; 
heaps of money lie on the table, which is covered with a hand- 
some table-cloth, and in the back-ground are hung on a 
" perch," for sale, girdles, a hand-mirror, a cup, a purse, and 
sword." Then there. is an illustration of a mediaeval shop from 
the French National Library. 

86 



MUKUKDHAM 

This is a mercer's, and the merceress describes her wares in 
the following lines : — 

Quod sche, Gene* I schale the telle 
Mercerye I have to selle 
In boystes,t soote oynementes, 
Therewith to don allegementesj 
To ffolkes which be not gladde, 
But discorded and malade. 
I have kyves, phylletys, callys, 
At ffestes to hang upan walles ; 
Kombes no mo than nyne or ten, 
Bothe for horse and eke ffor men ; 
Mirrours also, large and brode, 
And ffor the syght wonder gode 
Off hem I have ffull greet plente, 
Eor ffolke that haven volunte 
Byholde himselffe therynne. 

To an Englishman all these have only an academic or 
antiquarian interest. To an Indian they are more or less 
living realities. We have still our annual fairs at Hurdwar, 
at Sonepur and elsewhere, associated with memories of sacred 
pilgrimages and national festivals and to some extent serving 
the purpose of industrial exhibitions in the modern social 
economy. We have our markets with their weekly or biweek- 
ly gatherings of buyers and sellers practically throughout 
Bengal outside the head- quarters of our Divisional Commis- 
sioners. The open movable stalls with their exhibits are 
prominent features of these gatherings. There are even stalls 
with their heaps of small change, for book- credit and bank 
cheques have not yet been able to do away with the need of 
immediate cash payments on ordinary occasions in rural 
Bengal, " although India had her gold and silver coinage and 

* If. + Boxes. % To give relief, 

87 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTUltV, A.D. 

the conveniences of a system of banking long before the Bardi 
and Medici of Florence had introduced its blessings into 
Europe." The 16th Century Bengali poet's account of 
marketings by house-maids would make us pause and enquire 
to what extent the life of the mass of our rural population and 
of those who form the lower strata of Indian society has been 
affected by the march of events, the spread of education, the 
stirrings of intellectual life, and the hopes and aspirations 
engendered thereby. 

The following description of the fair of Hurdwar by 
Captain Hardwicke, (Asiatic Researches, Vol. vi p. 312) will 
serve to illustrate what is here stated. " This fair is an annual 
assemblage of Hindoos to bathe, for a certain number of days, 
in the waters of the Ganges at this consecrated spot. The 
multitude collected on this occasion might, I think, with 
moderation be computed at two and a half million of souls. 
Although the performance of a religious duty is their primary 
object, yet many avail themselves of the opportunity to 
transact business, and carry on an extensive annual commerce. 
In this concourse of nations, it is a matter of no small amuse- 
ment to a curious observer to trace the dress, features, 
manners etc. which characterize the people of the different 
countries of Cabul, Cashmir, Lahore, Bootan, Srinagar, and the 
plains of Hindoostan. Erom some of these very distant 
countries whole families, men, women and children undertake 
the journey, some travelling on foot, some on horseback and 
many, particularly women and children, in long heavy carts, 
railed and covered with sloping matted roofs to defend them 
against the sun and wet weather ; and during the continuance 
of the fair these also serve as habitations." 

Mediaeval towns in England owed their origin to 
various causes. Some were of ancient lloman foundation, 
others had grown up in the neighbourhood of monasteries or 
under the sheltering shadow of the castle of some powerful 
and wealthy lord. " But there is a third category of mediseval 

88 



MUKUNDEAM 

towns which did not descend from ancient towns, or grow by 
accidental accretion in course of time but were deliberately 
founded and built in the mediaeval period for specific purposes; 
and in these we have a special interest from our present point 
of view. There was a period when Kings and feudal Lords 
from motives of high policy, fostered trade with anxious care ; 
encouraged traders with countenance, protection and grants 
of privileges and founded commercial towns." 

Once, we are told, when an English king on his way back 
from Scotland was engaged in hunting, he was led by the 
chase to a particular hamlet belonging to a convent. The 
king at once perceived the capabilities of the place for a 
fortress for the security of the kingdom, and a port for the 
extension of commerce. He left the hunt to take its course, 
and at once took steps to acquire the site. He issued a procla- 
mation offering freedom and great commercial privileges to all 
merchants who would build and settle there. He erected 
there a manor house. In course of time a church was built 
and the place was fortified by walls and towers. 

The point which is of interest to us to note in the present 
connexion is that this is exactly how a new town with all its 
environments is described by our poet to have sprung up in 
India. 

The poet begins with an account of the emigration of the 
Mussulmans from Kalinga, they being among the first to come 
and settle in the new settlement. 

Foundation of a town in Gujrat* " Leaving the city of 
Kalinga, the ryots of all castes settled in the city of the Bir 



89 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

(the hunter of the story) with their household gods. Accept- 
ing the pan (betel) of the Bir, in token of their consent to the 
agreement, the Mussulmans settled there, the western end of 
the town being assigned to them as their abode. There came 
the Moghuls, Pathans, Kazis mounted on horses, and 
the Bir gave them rent free lands for their houses. At the 
extreme western end of their settlement they made their 
BZoseiribati (place of Mohurrum Tazia), and they congregated 
all about the place. They rise very early in the morning, and 
spreading a red patty (mat) they make their namajes five 
times during the day. Counting the Sulaimcmi beads, they 
meditate on Pir Paigumbar. Each of them contributes to the 
decoration of the Mokam (Hosein's house). Ten or twenty 
sit together and decide cases, always referring to the Koran, 
while others sitting in the market-place distribute the Pir 
Shirni (the confectioneries offered to the Pir), beat the drum 
and raise the flag. They are very wise according to their own 
estimation, they never yield to any one, and they never give 
up the roza (fast) as long as they have life in them. 

wm tos fefo. ftffts csrffcs *rrf>, ^tlt djtfa Pral, iPm w^ Pwi, 

*ftKlft W3 spit5 I ^f»3l ^t*t05 CfaS ^5 

%?ra c^Ww m ^|Bf o itfrfupMitsrlsFte'ii 

ft frf c^rtf ta, tPral f^st?i *fri, <srWi ^w fsrcl, iPfi "SftspF twl, 

sretffi irai cpfttt i c^tsr^i res to fart i 

%5f ®fa1 Cft Sftfe, %iHI falfl 3tfS, CTtal t^ftS fsWI, if It 1ft ft^l ft*1, 

%H itra vp|vE pplfl ii crftl to ^srcl Ifpl II 

^ ftfspft^, Tterl srtft to s* to ifl <ra fft, ^r sits *ft, 

«tti c^ catsl srtfs stfs i fwai vfa fft ^f? i 

sot ?FlwrtBf re*t, ittft srl iiW rel i«tfl sits it), crfatci afl *rt*i1, 

^f «rtel fort iftt ftfis Tft 1ft ^fa I* if? i 

sil 5ft? "ftl 5 ! Ht, ft CiWI |^ TtCt 1® ft* ^Pratsj, ^Plt W1 Ttt 

ssft <ftsi f? ittt i *Wf*i 1?ft iSrcl I 

ift cvfc«t ttfr itfl, ^Tcst fl to. ftl i*f%l 5«ft «o1k, SlTfrori IK 

jjiflstl cs^rft ttnj itft w*fi> Ifft ifa j 

90 



MUKXJNDRAM 

" Their appearance is rather formidable. They have no hair 
on the head but they allow their beards to grow down to their 
chest. 

" They always adhere to their own ways. They wear on 
their head a topi (cap) which has ten sides, and what they call 
an ijar (paijama) tied tight round the waist. If they meet 
one who is bareheaded, they pass him by without uttering a 
word, but going aside, they throw clods of earth at him. Many 
mians with their followers settled there, they do not use 
water but wipe their hands on their clothes after taking their 
food. All four classes of Pathans settled there. Some con- 
tract nikas and others marry. The Mollas for reading the 
mka get a present of a sikka (4 anna bit) and bless the pair by 
reading the kalma. With a sharp knife they (the Mollas) 
butcher the fowl and get ten gandas of cowries (less than ^rd 
of a copper pice) for the job. For butchering a she-goat 
(ba/cri) the Mollah gets six buries of cowries (about a copper 
pice) as also the head of the animal killed. Moktabs also were 
set up where young Mahomedans were taught by pious 
Maulvis. 

" By making the Roza Nemaj* some become Gola (Moghul) r , 
while by accepting the occupation of a weaver one becomes 

* ortwl 5ratsf ^ft <rn #*r tfM i tMw #$1 Tft «nrto ftttf i 

f*frl <3f53l JtN c^ wfa ffittfo II CTtfe WI ftel im *RtP5* 

•nvs crfs m? c^ fsrfa ^rtft i 33Fo ^fistl 5rtx Wn S'^rft i 

ftw* fttrl ^ Jitft <rfc«r <rtf? n jrc? *i^t Pra il to fast* n 

f^^ni ^PRR^flt? "I*! i ^tfefl ^t*t® csrtw wfef *n»l i 

sft^I fetft *5ft Pit* #ffvs 1st II Tfasffa 3B[ «1 ft 5 ?? ^Nfa II 

1% ifpl IpT C^ W* iffi* I spgfts! SsEl if^F fs|Bf f^s I 

^sR^ ^31 CF? ftsWfa "ft II 31+Rwl 1ft 5f^ 1#5 II 

91 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.t>. 

a Jolha.^Those ""who drive pack bullocks call themselves 
Mookheri. Those who sell cakes call themselves Pitari. Those 
who sell fish are called Kabari. Those who being Hindus 
become Mussulmans are called Gorsal (mixed). Those who 
beg for alms are called kals. Those who make the weaver's 
looms call themselves Salakars (a people who make a living 
out of the Tantis). Some go from town to town making 
colored stripes. Some make bows and are called Tirgars, 
while those who make paper are called Kagozia. Some wander 
about night and day and are called Kalandars (Fakirs)." 

This is obviously of the highest importance to the student 
of the social history of Bengal. What were the salient 
features in the daily life of the Mahomedans in the poet's day, 
what was their general attitude towards their Hindu neigh- 
bours, how did the Hindus feel towards them, — these are some 
of the questions suggested by the poet's account. The Maho- 
medans in the picture are represented as a highly devotional 
class of men. Then as now, nothing is allowed to interfere 
with their prayers which come regularly five times every day. 
The principal item of their dress is the ijar tightly tied round 
the waist. They never go out with the head uncovered, the 
usual head-dress being a kind of ten-sided cap which according 
to a competent authority continued to be the characteristic 
head-dress of Mahomedans round about Murshidabad down to 
a recent date. They have a kind of clannish spirit among 
them, keeping close to one another and forming a distinct 
compact community of their own, and yet they are divided 
into classes among themselves according to the profession 
which they follow. "We have thus incidentally an enumera- 
tion of the trading pursuits and occupations of the Mahomedans 
of those days. 

They have the Nika among them, but the reference to the 
fees which used to be paid on these occasions to the officiating 
priest would lead one to suppose that the Nika was looked 

92 



MUKUNDRAM 

upon as an inferior kind of marriage. Our author apparently 
suggests that Hindus and Mahomedans who live in the land 
as close neighbours should learn to live in amity. He has no 
sympathy with manifestations of haughty aloofness or the 
spirit of contemptuous nonchalance in one community towards 
the other. He notes that the Mahomedans live in a quarter 
of their own separated from the Hindus, which reminds one of 
the Mmsulmanparas and Darjiparas of modern Calcutta, and 
he refers, apparently regretfully, to the difference in the 
customs of the two communities. 

In all these we have an illustration and a confirmation of 
what Sir Henry Maine tells us in his Village Commtmities 
viz. "sometimes men of widely different castes, or Mahomedans 
and Hindus, are found united in the same, village group. But 
in such cases, the sections of the community dwell in different 
parts of the inhahited area." 

The Mahomedans of the poet's day in Bengal were probab- 
ly all Shiahs, for they contribute to decorate the house of 
Hossain, and had their green flags and beat their drums. But 
■the majority of the Bengal Mussalmans could not have been 
very rich, for they cannot afford a red carpet and have to be 
satisfied with a red mat (pati). Agreements between parties 
must have been entered into by the acceptance of pan, for 
accepting the Pan of the Hero, we are" told, the Mussalmans 
settled in the new town. 

It may be noticed in passing that; one of the inferences 
suggested by Mukundram's account is that the education of 
the young was not neglected by the Mahomedans of those 
days, and the teaching imparted in the Moktabs could not 
have been altogether dissociated from religion, for if we 
accept the testimony of the poet, as I have no doubt we 
may, these educational institutions were placed under the 
guidance of pious and learned Maulvis. 

93 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Permit me to place before you in this connection the 
following Regulations regarding Education which Akhar 
promulgated : — 

In every country, but specially in Hindustan, boys are kept for years at 
school, where they learn the consonants and Towels. A great 
portion of the life of the students is wasted by making them read 
many books. His Majesty orders that every school boy should first 
earn to write the letters of the Alphabet, and also learn to trace 
their several forms. He ought to learn the shape and name of 
each letter, which may be done in two days, when the boy should 
proceed to write the joined letters. They may be practised for 
a week, after which the boy should learn some prose and poetry 
by heart, and then commit to memory some verses to the praise 
of God, or moral sentences each written separately. Care is to be 
taken that he learns to understand everything himself ; but the 
teacher may assist him a little. He then ought for some time to 
be daily practised in writing a hemistich or a verse and will soon 
acquire a current hand. The teacher ought especially to look 
after five things : knowledge of the letter ; meanings of words ; 
the hemistich ; the verse ; the former lesson. If this method of 
teaching be adopted, a boy will learn in a month, or even in 
a day, what it took others years to understand, so much 
S3 that people will get quite astonished. Every boy ought 
to read books on morals, arithmetic, the notation pecular 
to arithmetic, agriculture, mensuration, geometry, astronomy, 
physiognomy, household matters, the rules of government, 
medicine, logic, the tabi'i, riyazi, and il&hi sciences, and history ; 
all of which may be gradually acquired. 

These regulations, we are told, "shed a new light on schools 
and cast a bright lustre over Madrasahs." 

I may explain that the Tabii would include the Physical 
Sciences, while Biyazi includes Mathematics and Rhetoric and 
IlaM is Theology. 

These expressions thus remind one of the trivium and the 
quadrivium of the middle ages in Europe, the former including 
the first three liberal arts viz., Rhetoric, Grammar and Logic, 
quadrivium including the other four viz, Arithmetic, Music, 
Geometry and Astronomy. 

94 



MUKUNDRAM 

Frederic Harrison in his Autobiographical Memoirs, which 
came to our hands last year has sounded a timely and neces- 
sary warning for us. 

He tells us, " Greatly as I value the acute and laborious 
research which is stimulated by learned historical Societies, 
too often I am reminded of the inevitable tendency of petty 
isolated researches to breed an arid specialism which must 
choke and then dissipate the serious study of history. Let us 
regard history as the instrument of a true sociology of human 
evolution and not as an end in itself. To collect facts about 
the past, and leave the social application of this information 
for any one or no one to give it a philosophic meaning, is 
merely to encumber the future with useless rubbish." 

May we all, who are interested in carrying on historical 
studies and sociological researches such as I have attempted 
to-day, profit by these words; and may we learn so to use the 
results of our investigations as not " to encumber the future 
merely with useless rubbish !" 

95 



V 
EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 



IN 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A,D. (I) 



13 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

IN 

BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. (I) 

Me. Vice-Chancellor, and Fellow-Students: 

I propose in some of my subsequent papers to speak of the 
sociological data supplied by contemporary Vernacular 
Literature of Bengal in the 16th Century. I propose also to 
refer to the light which that literature throws on the trading 
operations in the country. If the inferences to be drawn from 
contemporary literature are also the inferences suggested by 
the narratives of foreign travellers who may have visited 
Bengal in course of their wanderings in the 16th Century, we 
shall have presented before us a noteworthy example of 
historical coincidence — the two sources of our information — 
indigenous literature and narratives of foreign travellers, each 
testifying to the accuracy Of the descriptions and the faithful- 
ness of the observations of the other. To-day I therefore 
recall to your mind the wonderfully vivid if somewhat concise 
narratives of two such wanderers, Master Caesar Frederick, a 
merchant of Venice who visited the East Indies about the 
year 1563, and Ralph Fitch, who came to India in his 
celebrated Tiger about the year 1583 and did not leave these 
Eastern regions till 1591. These narratives form parts of 
that remarkable collection of voyages and discoveries which 
Richard Hacqluit made — a collection which truly breathes that 
spirit of adventure and testifies to that exaltation of national 
feeling which constitute at once the glory and the essential 
characteristics of Elizabethan England. And be it remembered 
here, that if the assumption of the direct government 

99 



J3ENGAL itf THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

of India by the British Crown is in the times of our 
beloved departed Queen Empress Victoria of pious memory, 
the first vitally intimate contact between England and India 
which no doubt paved the way for the incorporation of the 
East India Company is in the spacious times of that other great 
British Queen, Elizabeth. Here is her letter to Akbar, which 
Ralph Eitch and his leader and comrade John Newberry 
brought with them — a letter which says little and yet which 
means such a great deal. 

A letter written from the Queenes Majestie, to Zelabdvm 
Echebar* and sent by John Newbery. In February Anno 1583. 

Elizabeth by the grace of God, &c. To the most invin- 
cible, and most mightie prince, Lord Zelabdim Echebar King 
of Cambay, Invincible Emperor, &c. The great affection 
which our Subjects have, to visit the most distant places of 
the world, not without good will and intention to introduce 
the trade of marchandize of al nations whatsoever they can, by 
which means the mutual and friendly trafique of marchandize 
on both sides may come, is the cause that the bearer of 
this letter John Newbery, joyntly with those that be in his 
company, with a curteous and honest boldnesse, doe repaire 
to the borders and countreys of your Empire, we doubt not 
but that your imperiall Majestie through your royal grace, 
will favourably and friendly accept him. And that you 
would doe it the rather for our sake, to make us greatly 
beholding to your majestie ; wee should more earnestly, and 
with more wordes require it, if wee did think it needful. But 
by the singulr report that is of your imperial majesties 
humanitie in these uttermost parts of the world; we are 
greatly eased of that burden, and therefore we use the fewer 
and lesse words : onely we request that because they are our 



* The great Jalaloodeen Ukbur, liberal, merciful, and intrepid, a follower of Truth in all 
her obscure retreats and a generous friend of her humblest and least attractive votaries, 
Keene's Moghul Empire. 

100 



ETJROPEAtf TRAVELLERS 

subjects, they may be honestly intreated and received. And 
that in respect of the hard journey which they have under- 
taken to places so far distant, it would please your majestie 
with some libertie and securitie of voiage to gratifie it, with 
such privileges as to you shall seeme good : which courtesie if 
your Imperial majestie shal to our subjects at our requests 
performe, we according to our royal honour, will recompence 
the same with as many deserts as we can. And herewith we 
bid your Imperial majestie to farewel. 

I now place before you, as' far as possible in the very 
words of Master Thomas Hickocke himself who translated the 
narrative from the original Italian, without any attempt at 
contraction or suppression of details, what Master Csesar 
Frederick, the Venetian merchant, tells us about Orissa, about 
Satgaon and a few other relevant things more or less strictly 
appertaining to Bengal. My only regret is that I have for 
the present to withhold from your view the information which 
the traveller's narrative supplies regarding other parts of 
India such as Vijaynagar, and the neighbouring regions of 
Bengal such as Aracan and Pegu. The title of the work and 
the author's address to the reader prepare us for what to 
expect in the narrative. 

The voyage and travell of M. Caesar Eredericke, marchant 
of Venice, into the East India, and beyond the Indies. 
"Wherein are conteined the customs and rites of .those 
countries, the merchandises and commodities, as well of 
golde and silver, as spices, drugges, pearles, and other jewels : 
translated out of Italian by M. Thomas Hickocke. 

Caesar FredericJce to the Reader. 

I having (gentle Reader) for the space of eighteene yeeres 
continually coasted and travelled, as it were, all the East 
Indies, and many other countreys beyond the Indies, wherein 
I have had both good and ill successe in my travells : and 

101 



JBENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

having seene and understood many things woorthy the 
noting, and to be knowen to all the world, the which were 
never as yet written of any : I thought it good (seeing the 
Almighty had given me grace, after so long perils in passing 
such a long voyage to returne into mine own countrey, the 
noble city of Venice) I say, I thought it good, as briefly as 
I could, to write and set forth this voyage made by me, with 
the marvellous things I have seene in my travels in the 
Indies : The mighty Princes that governe those countreys, 
their religion and faith that they have, the rites and customes 
which they use, and live by, of the diverse successe that 
happened unto me, and how many of these countreys are 
abounding with spices, drugs, and jewels, giving also 
profitable advertisement to all those that have a desire to 
make such a voyage. And because that the whole world may 
more commodiously re Joyce at this my travell, I have caused 
it to be printed in this order : and now I present it unto you 
(geutle and loving Reader) to whom for the varieties of 
things herein conteined, I hope that it shall be with great 
delight received. And thus God of his goodnesse keepe you. 

Here follows the account of the kingdom of Orissa, and 
the river Ganges. 

" Orissa was a faire kingdom and trustie, through the which 
a man might have gone with golde in hande without any 
daunger at all, as long as the lawef ull King reigned which 
was a Gentile, who continued in the city called Catecha, 
which was within the land sixe days journey. This king loved 
strangers marveilous well, especially marchants which had 
traffique in and out of his kingdome, in such wise that hee 
would take no custome of them, neither any grievous thing. 
Onely the shippe that came thither payde a small thing 
according to her portage, and every yeere in the port of Orisa 
were laden five and twentie or thirtie ships great and small, 
with ryce and diverse sortes of fine white bumbaste cloth, 

102 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

oyle of Zerzeline which they make of a seed, and it is very 
good to eate and to fry fish withal, great store of butter, 
Lacca, long pepper, Ginger, mirabolans dry and condite, 
great store of cloth of herbes, which is a kinde of silke 
which groweth amongst the woods without any labour of 
man, and when the bole thereof is growen round as bigge as 
an Orenge, then they take care onely to gather them. About 
sixteene yeeres past, this king with his kingdome were 
destroyed by the King of Patane, which was also king of the 
greatest part of Bengala, and when he had got the kingdome, 
he set custome there twenty procento, as marchants paide in 
his kingdome : but this tyrant enjoyed his kingdome but a 
small time, but was conquired by another tyrant, which was 
the great mogol king of Agra, Delly, and of all Cambaia, 
without any resistance. I departed from Orisa to Bengala, 
to the harbour Piqueno, which is distant from Orisa towardes 
the East a hundred and seventie miles. They goe as it were 
rowing alongst the coast fiftie and f oure miles, and then we 
enter into the river Ganges : from the mouth of this river to a 
citie called Satagan, where the marchants gather themselves 
together with their trade, are a hundred miles, which they 
rowe in eighteene houres with the increase of the water : in 
which river it floweth and ebbeth as it doth in the Thamis, 
and when the ebbing water is come, they are not able to 
rowe against it, by reason of the swiftnesse of the water, yet 
their barkes be light and armed with oares, like Poistes, 
yet they cannot prevail against that streeme, but for refuge 
must make them fast to the banke of the river untill the 
next flowing water, and they called these barkes Bazars* and 
Patuas : they rowe as well as a Galliot, or as well as ever I 
have seene any. A good tides rowing before you come to 
Satagan, you shall have a place which is called Buttor, and 



* Budgerows. House-boats are still known by this name. 

103 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

from thence upwards the ships doe not goe, because that 
upwards the river is very shallowe, and little water. Every 
yeere at Buttor they make and unmake a Village, with houses 
and shoppes made of strawe, and with all things necessarie 
to their uses, and this village standeth as long as the ships 
ride there, and till they depart for the Indies, and when they 
are departed, every man goeth to his plot of houses, and 
there setteth fire on them, which thing made me to marvaile. 
For as I passed up to Satagan, I saw this village standing 
with a great number of people, with an infinite number of 
ships and Bazars, and at my returne coming downe with my 
captaine of the last ship, for whom I tarried I was al amazed to 
see such a place so soone razed and burnt, and nothing left but 
the signe of the burnt houses. The small ships go to Satagan, 
and there they lade." 

In reviewing this account written more than three hundred 
years ago, one would like to dwell in the first place on the 
traveller's enumeration of the natural products of the soil, 
which no doubt formed the staple articles of trade between 
India and the west ; secondly, the reference to the primitive 
modes of navigation, and thirdly the temporary stalls with 
which we are all familiar in Bengal ori occasions of local fairs, 
and of which our Venetian traveller speaks under a curious 
misapprehension. " Unchanging East ", is the reflection called 
up by the narrative. Eor, after three centuries of agricultural 
improvements, besides the jute and the tea, we in India have 
added few to the natural products here enumerated, which 
may form articles of export. Again, all who have travelled in 
native crafts through the Sunderbuns, say from Calcutta to 
Khulna or to Barisal, would at once recognise how true to life 
is the Venetian's narrative, and how our boatmen even in these 
days wait hours and hours for the coming of the tide, and how 
slow but steady and rhythmical is their manipulation of the 
oars. 

104 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

In reference to jute as an article of export,, which I spoke 
of just now, we may note what has been stated by a highly 
competent authority.* 

" As the result of his explorations of India, Tavernier 
introduced to the notice of European manufacturers the jute 
fibre, now such an important export from India. It made in 
those days coarse gunny bags for wrapping up merchandise. 
Jute fibre is produced by a bush known scientifically as corchosus 
capsularis. This is a near relation of the corchosus, with 
beautiful yellow rose-like flowers, which is such a prominent 
feature in English gardens in the spring time." 

As to tobacco, it was introduced into India by the Turks 
and Persians about the beginning of the seventeenth century, 
during the latter part of the reign of Akbar. Asad Begt has 
given us an interesting account of its introduction into 
Akbar's court, who, we are told, expressed great surprise on 
the occasion and examined the tobacco which was made 
up in pipefulls. It did not come into common use for some 
time after its introduction, and we are told by Bowrey that 
hemp or bhang was the herb which generally served as 
a narcotic '.for the people in the seventeenth century. Hence 
tobacco does not naturally find a place among the articles 
mentioned by our sixteenth century travellers. I may in this 
connection refer to the following statement which we have in 
Jahangir's Memoirs. " As the smoking of tobacco had taken a 
very bad efEect upon the health and mind of many persons, 
I ordered that no one should practise the habit.. My brother 
Shah Abbas, King of Persia, also being aware of its evil effects 
had issued a command against the use of it in Iran." 

This edict against the use of tobacco must have come 
with very good grace from Jahangir, who had such a strong 
partiality for wine. 

* Sir Harry Johnston, 
t Vide Note I. 

X05 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Here is the account of the Citie of Satagan. 

" In the port of Satagan every yeere lade thirtie or five and 
thirtie ships great and small, with rice, cloth of Bombast of 
diverse sortes, Lacca, great abundance of sugar, mirabolans 
dried and preserved, long pepper, oyle of Zerzeline, and many 
other sorts of marchandise. The citie of Satagan is a reasonable 
faire citie for a citie of the Moores, abounding with all things, 
and was governed by the king of Patane, and now is subject 
to the great Mogul. I was in this kingdome foure moneths, 
whereas many marchants did buy or fraight boates for their 
benefites, and with this barkes they goe up and downe the 
river of Ganges to faires, buying their commoditie with a 
great advantage, because that every day in the weeke they 
have a faire, now in one place, and now in another, and I also 
hired a barke and went up and downe the river and did 
businesse, and so in the night I saw many stange things. The 
Kingdome of Bengala in times past hath bene as it were in 
the power of Moores, nevertheless there is great store of 
Gentiles among them alwayes whereas I have spoken of 
Gentiles, is to be understood Idolaters, and whereas I speak of 
Moores I meane Mahomets sect. Those people especially that- 
be within the land doe greatly worship the river of Ganges 
for when any is sicke, he is brought out of the countrey to 
the banke of the river, and there they make him a small 
cottage of strawe, and every day they wet him with that water, 
whereof there are many that die, and when they are dead, 
they make a heape of sticks and boughes and lay the dead 
body thereon, and putting fire thereunto, they let the bodie 
alone untill it be half roasted, and then they take it off from 
the fire, and make an emptie iarre fast about his necke, and 
so throw him into the river. These things every night as I 
passed up and downe the river I saw for the space of two 
moneths, as I passed to the f ayres to buy my commodities with 
the marchants. And this is the cause that the Portugales will 
not drinke of the water of the river Ganges, yet to the sight 

106 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

it is more perfect and clearer than the water of the 
Nilus is." 

Fortunately for us, Master Caesar Frederick as well as 
■Ralph Fitch had drawn up fairly full lists of the articles in 
which the East traded with the West in those days. I invite a 
comparison of these with the articles mentioned by our 
sixteenth century Bengali poet, Mukundram, as constituting 
the staple articles of trade between Bengal and Ceylon, which 
practically meant between the East and the "West — for Ceylon 
long continued to be an emporium of trade and a meeting 
ground between the East and the West till the relative 
importance of the trade routes was changed by that epochmaking 
event, — the discovery of the passage round the Cape of Good 
Hope — an event which will never lose its interest for those who 
love to note how " through the ages one increasing purpose 
runs, and the thoughts of men are widened with the process 
of the suns." Besides, the poet's picture of India's trade with 
Ceylon may legitimately be taken to stand for a general 
picture of India's foreign trade. Master Ralph Fitch concludes 
his narrative thus — 

Here I thought good, before I make an end of this my 
book to declare some things which India and the country 
further eastward do bring forth. 

The pepper groweth in many part, of India, especially 
about Cochin and much of it doeth grow in the fields among 
the bushes without any labour : and when it is ripe they go 
and gather it. The shrubbe is like unto our ivy tree : and if it 
did not run about some tree or pole, it would fall downe and 
rot. When they first gather it, it is greene : and then they 
lay it in the sun, and it becometh blacke. 

The ginger groweth like unto our garlike, and the root 
is the ginger : it is to be found in many parts of India. 

The cloves doe come from the lies of the Moluccoas, which 
be divers Hands, their tree is like to our bay tree. 

107 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.l>. 

The nutmegs and maces grow together, and come from 
the He of Banda : the tree is like to our walnut tree, but 
somewhat lesser. 

The white sandol is wood very sweet and in great request 
among the Indians ; for they grinde it with a little water, and 
anoynt their bodies therewith : it commeth from the Isle of 
Timor. 

Camphora is a precious thing among the Indians, and is 
solde dearer then golde. I thinke none of it commeth for 
Christendome. That which is compounded commeth from 
China but that which groweth in canes and is the best, 
commeth from the great Isle of Borneo. 

Lignum aloes commeth from Cauchinchina. 

The beniamin commeth out of the countreys of Siam and 
Iangomes. 

The long pepper groweth in Bengala, in Pegu, and in the 
Hands of the lavas. 

The muske commeth out of Tartarie, and is made after 
this order, by report of the marchants which bring it to 
Pegue to sell ; In Tartarie there is a little beast like unto a 
yong roe, which they take in snares, and beat him to death 
with the blood : after they cut out the bones, and beat the 
flesh with the blood very small, and fill the skin with it : and 
hereof cometh the muske. 

Of the amber they holde divers opinions ; but most men 
say it commeth out of the sea, and that they finde it upon the 
shores side. 

The rubies, saphires, and spinelles are found in Pegu. 

The diamants are found in divers places, as in Bisnagar, 
in Agra, in Delli, and in the Hands of the Javas. 

The best pearles come from the Hand of Baharim in the 
Persian Sea, the woorser from the Piscaria neere the Isle of 

108 



European tjravelLers 

Ceylon, and from Aynam a great Hand on the Souther-most 
eoast of China. 

Spodium and many other kindes of drugs come from 
Cambia. 

The following is the list which Master Caesar Frederick has 
drawn up for us. I shall only state that the remarkable thing 
about it is its exact correspondence with the list of the later 
traveller which I have just placed before you. 

I thinke it very necessary before I ende my voyage, to 
reason somewhat, and to shewe what fruits the Indies do 
yeeld and bring forth. First, in the Indies and other East 
parts of India there is Peper and ginger, which groweth in all 
parts of India. And in some parts of the Indies, the greatest 
quantitie of peper groweth among wilde bushes, without any 
manner of labour : saving, that when it is ripe they goe and 
gather it. The tree that the peper groweth on is like to our 
Ivie, which runneth up to the tops of trees wheresoever it 
groweth: and if it should not take holde of some tree, it 
would lie flat and rot on the ground. This peper tree hath 
his floure and berry like in all parts to our Ivie berry and 
those berries be graines of peper : so that when they gather 
them they be greene, and then they lay them in. the sunne ? 
and they become blacke. 

The Ginger groweth in this wise : the land is tilled and 
sowen, and the herbe is like to Panizzo, and the roote is the 
ginger. These two spices grow in divers places. 

The Cloves come all from the Moluccas, which Moluccas 
are two Islands, not very great, and the tree that they grow 
on is like to our Lawrell tree. 

The Nutmegs and Maces, which grow both together, are 
brought from the Island of Banda, whose tree is like to our 
walnut tree, but not so big. 

All the good white sandol is brought from the Island of 
Timor. Canfora being' compound commeth all from China, 

109 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTUET, A.T>. 

and all that which groweth in canes commeth from Borneo, 
and I thinke that this canfora commeth not into these parts : 
for that in India they consume great store and that is very- 
dear. The good Lignum Aloes commeth from Oauchinchina. 

The Beniamin commeth from the Kingdom of Assi and 
Sion. Long peper groweth in Bengala, Pegu, and Java. 

Muske commeth from Tartaria, which they make in this 
order, as by good information I have been told. There is a 
certaine beast in Tartaria which is wilde and as big as a wolfe, 
which beast they take alive, and beet him to death with small 
staves I his blood may be spread through his whole body, then 
they cut it in pieces, and take out all the bones, and beat the 
flesh with the blood in a morter very smal, and dry it, and 
make purses to put it in of the skin, and these be the cods 
of muske. 

Truely I know not whereof the Amber is made, and there 
are divers opinions of it, but this is most certain, it is cast 
out of the Sea, and throwne on land, and found upon the sea 
bankes. 

The Rubies, saphyres, and the spinels be gotten in the 
Kingdome of Pegu. The Diamants come from divers places ; 
and I know but three sorts of them. That sort of Diamants 
that is called chiappe, commeth from Bezeneger. Those that 
be pointed naturally come from the land of Delly, and from 
Java, but the Diamants of Java are more waightie then the 
other. I could never understand from whence they that are 
called Balassi come. 

Pearles they fish in divers places. 

Prom Cambaza commeth the spodiam which congeleth in 
certaine canes, whereof I found many in Pegu, when I made 
my house there, because that (as I have sayd before) they 
make their houses there of woven canes like to mats. Prom 
Chaul they trade alongst the coast of "Melinde in Ethiopia, 

uo 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

within the land of Cafraria : on that coast are many good 
harbors kept by the Moores. Thither the Portugals bring a 
kinde of Bombast cloth of a low price, and great store of 
Paternosters or beads made of paltrie glasse which they make 
in Ohaul according to the useftf the countrey : and from thence 
they carry Elephants teeth for India, slaves called cafari, and 
some Amber and Gold. On this coast the King of Portugall 
hath " his castle called Mozambique, which is of as great 
importance as any castle that hee hath in all his Indies under 
his protection, and the captaine of this castle hath certaine 
voyages to this cafraria, to which places no Marchants may 
goe, but by the Agent of this captaine : and they use to goe 
in small shippes, and trade with the cafars, and their trade in 
buying and selling is without any speach one to the other. In 
this wise the Portugals bring their goods by litle and litle 
alongst the Sea coast, and lay them downe : and so depart, 
and the cafar Marchants come and see the goods, and there 
they put downe as much golde as they thinke the goods are 
worth, and so goe their way and leave their golde and the goods 
together, then commeth the Portugal, and finding the golde to 
his contente, hee taketh it and goeth his way into his ship, and 
then commeth the cafar and taketh the goods and carrieth 
them away : and if he finde the golde there still, it is a signe 
that the Portugals are not contented, and if the cafar thinke 
he hath put too litle, he addeth more, as he thinketh the thing 
is worth : and the Portugales must not stand with them too 
strickt; for if they doe, then they will have no more trade 
with them : Por they disdaine to be refused, when they thinke 
that they have offered enough, for they bee a peevish people, 
and have dealt so of a long time: and by this trade 
the Portugales change their commodities into golde, 
and cary it to the castle of Mozabique which is in an 
Island not farre distant from the firme land of cafraria on 
the coast of Ethiopia, and is distant from India 2,800 
miles. 

Ill 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

I now come to Ralph Eiteh who with his imprisonment 
and subsequent escape had a far more exciting experience than 
Master Caesar Frederick. The narrative of Pitch throughout 
breathes the spirit which animates the pages of Charles 
Kingsley's ' Westward Ho,' the spirit of daring and risking, of 
adventuring and energising which has been rightly regarded 
as the chief constituent of the romance of history. 

As regards the celebrated Tiger, I may be permitted to 
refer to the speech of one of the witches in Shakespeare's 
Macbeth (Act 1, Scene 111) : — 

A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap, 

And muneh'd, and munch'd and munch'd. ' Give me ' quoth 1 ; 

'Aroint thee, witch!' the rump-fed ronyon cries. 

Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o'the Tiger : 

But in a sieve I'll thither sail, 

And, like a rat without a tail, 

I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do. 

Shakespeare could not have been unmindful of Master 
Eitch and his adventures when writing this speech — which 
thus throws light on the interest excited by the doings of these 
caravans and merchant adventurers in Elizabethan England, 
besides affording a valuable piece of internal evidence helping 
us to determine the date of the composition of the play. 

In this connection, I may also refer to our friend, the 
immortal Malvolio of the Twelfth Night — a play which 
appeared in 1601, and is thus contemporaneous with the 
founding of the English East India Company. Malvolio smiles 
his face into more lines than are in the new map, with the 
augmentation of the Indies (Act 111, Scene 11). This is 
how the East India Company had already begun to change the 
map of the world, and it is something to remember and to be 
proud of that the East Indies were so prominently present in 
Shakespeare's mind. Indeed there is nothing to wonder in 
this, for national literature is but the reflex of national ideals 
and national aspirations. 

112 



UROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

Before entering into the details of Pitch's narrative, let me 
take you back to two still earlier European travellers — 
Barbosa and Varthema— Barbosa a Portuguese whose narrative 
speaks to us of Bengal about the year 1514 A. D., and 
Varthema who paid a passing visit to our province about 1*505. 
The English translator of Barbosa — the Hon'ble Henry Stanley, 
referring to the manuscript in the Barcelona Library states 
that " this work is not a book of travels ; it is rather an 
itinerary or description of countries. It gives ample details 
of the trade, supplies, and water of the various seaports 
mentioned in it. It contains many interesting historical details, 
some of which, such as the account of Diu, the taking of Ormuz, 
the founding of the Portuguese Port in Calicut, their interrup- 
tion of the Indian trade to Suez by capturing the Indian 
ships &c. fix pretty nearly the exact date at which the 
narrative was composed as the year 1514." 

This is what we learn from Barbosa about the Kingdom of 
Orissa and about Bengal. 

KINGDOM OP OEISSA. 

It is of the Gentiles, very good fighting men, and the 
king is frequently at war with the king of Narsynga* 
and is powerful in the numbers of his foot soldiers. The 
. greater part of his country is withdrawn from the sea, and 
has few seaports and little trade. His territory extends 
seventy leagues along the coast as far as the river Ganges, 
which they call Guenga, and on the other side of this river 
commences the kingdom of Bengala, with which he is 
sometimes at war. And all the Indians go in pilgrimage 
to this river to bathe in it, saying that with this they all 
become safe, because it issues from a fountain which is in the 
terrestrial paradise. This river is very great and magnificent, 
it is studded on both banks with opulent and noble cities of 



* The Hindu Kingdom of Vijaynagar, 

113 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

the Gentiles. Between this river and the Eufrates are the 
first and second India, a territory very abundant and well 
provided, very healthy and temperate, and from this river 
further on to Malaca is the third India, according as the Moors 
say. 

BENGAL. 

Having passed the river Ganges, along the coast twenty 
leagues to north-east by east and twelve leagues to the south- 
west, and then twelve leagues to the east until reaching the 
river Paralem, is the kngdom of Bengala, in which there are 
many towns, both in the interior and on the sea-coast. Those of 
the interior are inhabited by the Gentiles, subject to the King 
of Bengal, who is a Moor ; and the sea-ports are inhabited by 
Moors and Gentiles, amongst whom there is much trade in 
goods and much shipping to many parts, because this sea is a 
gulf which enters towards the north, and at its inner extremity 
there is a very great city inhabited by Moors which is called 
Bengala, with a very good harbour. Its inhabitants are white 
men and well formed. Many foreigners from various parts 
live in this city, both Arabs and Persians, Abyssinians and 
Indians, who congregate here on account of the country being 
very fertile and of a temperate climate. They are all great 
merchants, and own large ships of the same build as those of 
Mekkah, and others of the Chinese build which they call 
jungos, which are very large and carry a very considerable 
cargo. "With these ships they navigate to Oholemender, 
Malabar, Cambay, Peigu, Tarnasari, Samatra, Ceylon, and 
Malaca ; and they trade in all kinds of goods, from many 
places to others. There is much cotton in the country, and 
sugar cane plantations, and very good ginger and much long 
pepper. They manufacture many kinds of stuffs, extremely 
fine and delicate, coloured for their own use, and white for 
trade to all parts ; they call them saravetis, and they are 
excellent women's head gear, and much valued for that 

114 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

purpose ; the Arabs and Persians make caps of this stuff, in 
such great quantities, that every year they fill several ships 
with them for different places. And they make others which 
they call mamuna, and others duguza, and others chautar, 
and others called topan and sanabafos which are the most 
valued for their shirts, and which are very durable. They 
are all of the length of twenty cubits, very little more or 
less, and in this city they are all at a low price. They are 
spun by a man with a wheel and woven. 

White sugar of very good quality is made in this city, but 
they do not know how to join it to make loaves, and so they pack 
it up in powder in stuff covered over with raw hide, well sewn 
up. They load many ships with it and export it for sale to all 
parts. And when these marchants were accustomed to go 
freely and without dread to the parts of Malabar and Cambay 
with their ships, the quintal of this sugar was worth two ducats 
and a half in Malabar, and a good sinabafo was worth two 
ducats, and a piece of muslin for women's caps three hundred 
maravedis; and a chautar of the best quality six hundred 
maravedis. And those who brought them gained much money. 

They likewise make many preserves in this city of Bengal, 
very good ones of ginger, and of oranges,* lemons and other 



* About oranges we have the following interesting note in one of Sir Harry Johnston's 
recently published works : 

The orange which was introduced to Mediaeval Europe through the Arabs — for such a 
fruit was practically unknown to the Romans and Greeks before the 8th century of the 
christian Era — was equivalent to the Seville or bitter orange. The sweet orange was appa- 
rently first developed from the wild species, and cultivated in China whence it was carried 
to Ceylon and Southern India. It is generally supposed that " China orange " (as it was 
called in Elizabeth's day) was first brought to Europe by the Portuguese. This is mainly 
true and is the reason why throughout most Arabic-speaking countries the ordinary sweet 
orange is called to this day Bordigam or Portugal. But Varthema distinctly mentions 
(if he has been rightly translated) sweet oranges as being cultivated in the southernmost 
parts of India and in Ceylon, and if that is the case, it is more probable that the Portuguese 
obtained from these regions the first sweet orange trees which they introduced into Europe 
in the early part of the 16th century. 

115 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. A.D. 

fruits which grow in the country. There are also in this 

country many horses, cows and sheep, and all other meats in 

great abundance, and very extremely large hens. The Moorish 

merchants of this city go into the interior of the country and 

buy many Gentile children of their fathers and mothers, or of 

others who steal them, and castrate them. Some of them die 

of it, and those who recover they bring them up very well, 

and sell them as merchandise for twenty or thirty ducats each 

to the Persians, who value them much as guards to their wives 

and houses. The respectable Moors of this city go dressed in 

long morisco shirts reaching to the instep, white and of slight 

texture, and underneath, some cloths wrapped round below the 

waist, and over the shirt a silken sash round the waist, and a 

dagger set with silver ; they wear many jewelled ring3 on their 

fingers, and fine cotton caps on their heads. They are luxurious 

people, who eat and drink a good deal, and have other bad 

habits. They bathe frequently in large tanks which they have 

in their houses ; they have many servants, and have each of 

them three or four wives, and as many more as they can 

maintain. They keep them very much shut up and very richly 

dressed and adorned with silks and jewels set in. gold; they go 

out at night to visit one another and to drink wine, and hold 

festivals and marriage feasts. They make various kinds of 

wine in this country, chiefly of sugar and palm trees, and also 

of many other things. The women are very fond of these 

wines, and are much accustomed to them. They are great 

musicians both in singing and playing on instruments. The 

men of the common people wear short white shirts half way 

down the thigh, and drawers, and very small head wraps of 

three or four turns ; all of them are shod with leather, some 

with shoes, others with sandals, very well worked, sewn with 

silk and gold thread. The king is a great lord and very rich, 

he possesses much country inhabited by Gentiles, of whom 

every day many turn Moors, to obtain the favour of the king 

and governors. This king possesses more territory further on 

116 



E1JR6PEAN TRAVELLERS 

the before, named gulf, inhabited by Moors and Gentiles, both 
inland and on the sea coast, which turns to the south. 

Of the narrative of Varthema, the Italian, the English 
translator notes that " it is impossible to peruse the work and 
not feel a conviction that the writer is telling the truth, that 
he is recording events which actually took place and describing 
men, countries and scenes which he had examined with his 
own eyes. There is a manifest absence of all attempts at 
composition. The tale is told with a charming simplicity and 
all the concise freshness of a note-book". 

Varthema was apparently more interested in other parts 
of India, than in Bengal. He came to our Province only for 
a short time from Tenasserim in one of the ships used by the 
native inhabitants of that region, of which he gives us a vivid 
description. He tells us that " these people make use of very 
large ships and of various kinds, some of which are made flat 
bottomed, because such can enter into places where there is 
not much water. Another kind are made with prows before 
and behind, and they carry two helms and two masts, and are 
uncovered. There is also another kind of large ship which is 
called Giunchi, and each of these is of the tonnage of one 
thousand butts, on which they carry some little vessels to a 
city called Melacha". 

A voyage of eleven days brought him to the " City of 
Banghella" from Tenasserim. 

Varthema represents Banghella as one of the finest cities 
he had hitherto seen. The Sultan was a Muhammadan, and 
had a standing army of 20,000 men. Here they found the 
richest merchants they had ever met ; the principal exports were 
cotton and silk stuffs,* which were woven by. men and not by 
women ; the country abounded in grain of every kind, sugar, 
ginger, and cotton, and was withal, the best place in the world 

* No doubt those stuffs were conveyed in Arab ships to the red Sea and the Persian gulf 
whence t hey were distributed over East Africa, Syria, Egypt and Europe. 

117 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.l>. 

to live in. In this latter particular, our author's statement 
is corroborated by the experience of Ibn Batuta nearly two 
centuries before, who says, " I never saw a country in which 
provisions were so cheap. I there saw one of the religious of 
the West, who told me that he had bought provisions for 
himself and family for a whole year with eight dirhems," or 
about twenty-four shillings of our money ! At Banghella our 
adventurers met two Christians from the city of Sarnau in 
Cathay. 

The two Sarnau Christians whom our travellers encountered 
at Banghella had evidently come to that part of India for 
trading purposes, and as Varthema describes them as writing 
from right to left, they were probably Nestorians. On seeing 
the branches of coral which Varthema's" Persian companion 
had for sale, they advised him to accompany them to Pegu, as 
being the most eligible market for such articles ; and the party 
accordingly set off together on a voyage of " about one 
thousand miles", during which they " passed a gulf towards 
the south", (Martaban) and in due time reached their 
destination. 

Varthema's short reference to the " City of Bengala" has 
given rise to an interesting discussion regarding its identifica- 
tion. Before inviting your attention to some of the salient 
points of this controversy, let me place before you the 
following from Major Rennel's Memoir of a map of 
Hindustan. 

" Gour, called also Lucknouti, the ancient capital of Bengal, 
and supposed to be the Gangia Regia of Ptolemy, stood on the 
left bank of the Ganges, about twenty-five miles below 
Rajemal. It was the capital of Bengal (730 years B.C.), and 
was repaired and beautified by Homayoon, who gave it the 
name of Jennuteabad, which name a part of the Circar, in 
which it was situated, still bears. According to Perishta's 
account, the unwholesomeness of its air occasioned it to be 

118 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

deserted soon after, and the seat of Government was removed to 
Tandah or Tanrah, a few miles higher up the river. No part of 
the site of ancient Gour is nearer to the present bank of the 
Ganges than four miles and a half, and some parts of it 
which were regularly washed by that river are now twelve 
miles from it." 

As to the question of the indentification of the site of the 
city of Banghella, which Varthema mentions, I invite attention 
to the following considerations : — 

" (a) Varthema's narrative taken in conjunction with 
Barbosa's account which we have already noticed is satisfactory 
evidence that a city called Banghella or Bengala existed at this 
period, that it was a seaport of considerable trade, and was 
situated beyond the Hooghly at the head of the gulf known in 
those days as the Gulf of Bengal. It is remarkable that 
Barbosa makes no allusion whatever either to Satigan or 
Chatigam. (Satgong and Chittagong.) 

"(b) Of the travellers subsequent to Barbosa, Caesar 
Eredericke (A.D. 1563) represents Satigan as a flourishing 
commercial port, and locates it 120 miles from the mouth of 
the Ganges (Hooghly), but he does not allude either to Bengala 
or Chatigam ; Balph Fitch, twenty years later, describes both 
Satagan and Ohatigan, and tells us that Chatigan was called 
" Porto Grande " by the Portuguese ; but he says nothing 
about Bengala. In Hamilton's time A.D. 1688-1723, the town 
of Hoogly appears to have succeeded Satign as the chief 
seaport on the western branch of the Ganges, for he represents 
the former as " driving a great trade, because all foreign goods 
are brought thither for import, and all goods of the product of 
Bengal are brought hither for exportation", which circumstance 
sufficiently accounts for his not naming Satigan. " Chittagong, 
or, as the Portuguese call it, Xatigam," he describes at some 
length, but he never mentions the city of Bengala, which the 
earlier writers located at no great distance from that town." 

119 



Ji.aiN'GAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

(c) A map of Asia published by Gastaldi of Venice in 
1561 A.D. mentions Bengal as well as Satigan. 

After a review of all the available evidence on the subject, 
Badger, the editor of the volume of Varthema's Travels 
published by the Hacqluit Society thus concludes : — 

In the absence, therefore, of any direct proof to the contrary, 
beyond the not very reliable information contained in the old 
atlases, I am inclined to infer that Bengala occupied a 
position between the Hattia and Sundeep islands, situated at 
the present mouth of the Brahmaputra, which I conceive to be 
the eastern branch of the Ganges of the earlier geographers. 



120 



Note K 

Introduction of Tobacco. 

In Bijapur I had found some tobacco. Never having seen the like in 
India, I brought some with me, and prepared a handsome pipe o£ jewel 
work. The stem, the finest to be procured at Achin, was three cubits in 
length, beautifully dried and coloured both ends being adorned with 
jewels and enamel. I happened to come across a very handsome mouth- 
piece .of Yaman cornelian, oval-shaped, which I set to the stem ; the 
whole was very handsome. There was also a golden burner for lighting it 
as a proper accompaniment. ' Adil Khan had given me a betel bag of very 
superior workmanship ; this I rilled with fine tobacco, such, that if one leaf 
be lit, the whole will continue burning. I arranged all elegantly on a silver 
tray. I had a silver tube made to keep the stem in, and that too was 
covered with purple velvet. 

His Majesty was enjoying himself, after receiving my presents, and 
asking me how I had collected so many strange things in so short a time, 
when his eye fell upon the tray with the pipe and its appurtenances ; he 
expressed great surprise, and examined the tobacco, which was made up in 
pipefuls ; he inquired what it was, and where I had got it. The Nawab 
Khan-i ' Azam replied : " This is tobacco, which is well known in Mecca and 
Medina, and this doctor has brought it as a medicine for your Majesty." 
His Majesty, looked at it, and ordered me to prepare and take him a pipe- 
ful. He began to smoke it, when his physician approached and forbade 
his doing so. But His Majesty was graciously pleased to say he must smoke 
a little to gratify me, and taking the mouth piece into his sacred mouth, 
drew two or three breaths. The physician was in great trouble, and would 
not let him do more. He took the pipe from his mouth, and bid the 
Khan-i' Azam try it, who took two or three puffs. He then sent for his 
druggist, and asked what were its peculiar qualities. He replied that there 
was no mention of it in his books; but that it was a new invention and the 
stems were imported from China, and the European ^doctors had written 
much in its praise. The first physician said, "In fact, this is an untried 
medicine, about which the doctors have written nothing. How can we 
describe to Your Majesty the qualities of such unknown things? It is not 
fitting that Your Majesty should try it". I said to the first physician : "The 
Europeans are not so foolish as not to know all about it ; there are wise men 

121 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

among them who seldom err or commit mistakes. How can you, before you 
have tried a thing and found out all its qualities, pass a judgment on it that 
can be depended on by the physicians, kings, great[men, and nobles ? Things 
must be judged of according to their good or bad qualities, and the decision 
must be according to the facts of the case". The physician replied, "we do 
not want to follow the Europeans, and adopt a custom, which is not 
sanctioned by our own wise men, without trial." I said, "It is a strange 
thing, for every custom in the world has been new at one time or other; 
from the days of Adam till now, they have gradually been invented. When 
a new thing is introduced among a people, and becomes well known in the 
world, every one adopts it ; wise men and physicians should determine accor- 
ding to the good or bad qualities of a thing ; the good qualities may not 
appear at once. Thus the China root, not known anciently, has been newly 
discovered, and is useful in many diseases". When the Emperor heard me 
dispute and reason with the physician, he was astonished, and being much 
pleased gave me his blessing, and then said to Khan-i' Azam, " Did you 
hear how wisely Asad spoke ? Truly, we must not reject a thing that has 
been adopted by the wise men of other nations merely hecause we cannot find 
it in our books ; or how shall we progress ? " The physician was going to say 
more, when His Majesty stoppod him and called for the priest. The priest 
ascribed many good qualities to it, but no one could persuade the physician ; 
nevertheless, he was a good physician. 

As I had brought a large supply of tobacco and pipes, I sent some to 
several of the nobles, while others sent to ask for some ; indeed, all, without 
exception, wanted some, and the practice was introduced. After that the 
merchants began to sell it, so the custom of smoking spread rapidly. His 
Majesty, however, did not adopt it. 

H&l&t-i Asad Beg. 



122 



VI 
EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

IN 

BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, AD. (II) 



VI 
EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

IN 

BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. (II) 

Mr. Vice-Chancellor and Fellow- Students : 

Strictly speaking, what Pitch has told us of regions lying 
outside the limits of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa does not fall 
within the province of an observer of 16th Century Bengal. 
But it is hard to resist the temptation of referring you to the 
activities of some of the notable cities and seaports of Mogul 
India or of repeating the traveller's naive statements regarding 
the primitive customs, the homely joys, the unsophisticated 
delights of the people of those days. 

Listen, for example, to what he tells us of Chaul and of 
Goa, of the diverse uses of the palmtree which obviously 
impressed him greatly, of the cremation of the dead in Hindu 
India which attracted his attention, and of the marriage 
festivities he was privileged to witness at Barrampore.* 

The tenth of November we arrived at Chaul 
which standeth in the firme land. There be two 
townes, the one belonging to the Portugalis, and 
the other to the Moores. That of the Portugalis 
is neerest to the sea, and commaundeth the bay, 
and is walled round about. A little above that 
is the towne of the Moores which is governed by 
a Moore king called Xa-Maluco {Shah Bahadur). 
Here is great traffike for all sortes of spices and 
drugges, silke, and cloth of silke, sandales, 



* Burhanpore of the Central Provinoea. 

125 



Bengal in the sixteenth century, a.1>. 

elephant's teeth, and much China worke, and 
much sugar which is, made of the nutte called 
Gagara : the tree is called the Palmer : which is 
the profitablest tree in the world : it doth alwayes 
beare fruit and doth yeeld wine, oyle, sugar, 
vinegar, cordes, coles ; of the leaves are made 
thatch for the houses, sayles for shippes, mats to 
sit or lie on : of the branches they make their 
houses, and broomes -to sweepes, of the tree wood 
for shippes. The wine doeth issue out of the toppe 
of the tree. They cut a branch of a bo we and binde 
it hard, and hange an earthen pot upon it, which 
they emptie every morning and every evening and 
still it and put in certaine dried raysins, and 
it becommeth very strong wine in short time. 

We may note in passing that Pitch has evidently "mixed up 
the Palmyra with the wild date and the Cocoanut. The nuts of 
the Palmyra i.e. the tree Palm do not yield oil, and the sugar 
derived from its sap is not as abundant as that from the wild 
date Palm."* 

Hither many shippes come from all partes of 
India, Ormus, and many from Mecca : heere be 
manie Moores and Gentiles. They have a very 
strange order among them ; they worshippe a 
cowe, and esteeme much of the cowes doung to 
paint the walles of their houses. They will kill 
nothing, not so much as a louse : for they holde 
it a sinnet to kille anything. They eate no flesh, 
but live by rootes and ryce, and milke. And 
when the husbande dieth, his wife is burned with 
him if shee be alive : if she will not, her head is 
shaven, and then is never any account made of 

* Sir Harry Johnston. 

+ Obviously our traveller here speaks of the Jainas. 

126 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

her after, Jhey say if they should be buried, 
it were a great sinne, for of their bodies there 
would come many wormes and other vermine, 
and when their bodies were consumed, those 
wormes would lacke sustenance, which were a 
sinne ; therefore they will be burned. In 
Cambaia they will kill nothing, nor have any- 
thing killed : in the towne they have hospitals to 
keepe lame dogs and cats, and for birds. They 
will give meat to the Ants. 

Goa is the most principal citie which the 
Portugals have in India, wherein the viceroy 
remain eth with his Court. It standeth in an 
Hand, which may be 25, or 30, miles about. It is 
a fine citie, and for an Indian towne very faire. 
The Hand is very faire, full of orchards and 
gardens, and many palmer trees, and hath some 
villages. Here be many many marchants of all 
nations. And the Pleete which commeth every 
yeere from Portugal, which be-foure, five, or sixe 
great shippes commeth first hither. And they 
come for the most part in September, and remaine 
ther fortie or fiftie dayes; and then goe to 
Cochin, where they lade their Pepper for 
Portugall. Oftentimes they lade one in Goa, the 
rest goe to Cochin which is from Goa an hundred 
leagues southward. Goa standeth in the countrey 
of Hidalcan* who lieth in the countrey sixe or 
seven daye journey. His chief e citie is called 
Bisapor. 

Fitch came to Burhanpore from Belapur 
(in Berar). 

* The Adfl Shah, the Ehan Adil, the uoler of the Musulman State of Bijapore. 

127 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

In this place their money is made of kind 
of silver round and thicke to the value of 
twentie pence, which is very good silver. It 
is marueilous great and a populous country. 
In their winter which is in June, July, and 
August, there is no passing in the streets but 
with horses, the waters be so high. The houses 
are made of lome and thatched. Here is great 
store of cotton cloth made, and painted clothes" 
of cotton wool : here groweth great store of 
corn and Rice. We found marriages great store 
both in townes and villages in many places where 
we passed of boys of eight or ten years and girls of 
five or six years old. They both do ride upon one 
horse very trimly decked and are caried through 
the town with great piping and playing, and so 
return home and eate of a banket made of Rice 
and fruits, and there they dance the most part of 
the night and so make an end of the marriage. 

The statement which follows immediately afterwards 
leaves little doubt that this was more a betrothal than a 
marriage, as the children must have been withdrawn to their 
parents' keeping till they were of marriageable age. • 

They lie not together untill they be ten years 
old. They say they marry their children so 
young because it is an order that when the man 
dieth, the woman must be burned with him : so 
that if the father die, yet they may have a 
father-in-law to help to bring up the children 
which he maried : and also that they will not 
leave their sons without wives, nor their daughters 
without husbands. 

After this came the imprisonment of Fitch and his escape 
from Goa, and possibly from the horrors of the Inquisition 

128 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

which had been set up by the Portuguese even in these Eastern 
.regions. 

"At our coming we were cast into prison, and examined 

before the justice and demanded for letters, and were charged 

c .to be spies, but they could prove nothing by us. , We 

. continued in prison until the two and tWentie of December, 

and then we were set at liberty, putting in sureties -for 

two thousand ducats not to depart the town ; which 

.sureties Father Stevens, an English Jesuit which we found 

there, and another religious man, a friend of his procured 

for us." 

Of what follows we can hardly afford to miss a single word, 
and I will carry you rapidly through what Eitch tells us of 
our old glory, Saptagram and Sonargau, of our Ganges and 
our Benares, and of the Brahmins of India. 

Let us start with Eitch at Eatepore. 

" Here in Eatepore we staied all three untill the 
28th of September 1585, and then master John 
Newberie tooke his journey toward the citie of 
Lahor, determining from thence to goe for Persia 
and then for Aleppo or Constantinople, whither 
hee could get soonest passage unto, and directed 
me to goe for Bengala and for Pegu, and did 
promise me, if it pleased God, to meete me in 
Bengala within two yeeres with a shippe out of 
England. "Wil. Leades serued the king of Cambaia. 
I left William Leades the Jeweller in seruice 
with the king Zelabdim Echebar in Eatepore, 
who did entertaine him very well, and gaue him 
an house and flue slaues, an horse, and euery day 
sixe S. S. in money." 
"Very likely the jeweller married an Indian wife, and 
lost all inclination J,o return to England. At any rate he 
is not heard of again. Nor indeed was John Newberry, who 

129 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

seems to have reached Lahor but thence-forth disappeared, 
having been it is supposed murdered in the journey between 
there and Persia. "* 

Pitch went from Agra to Satagam in Bengala, in the 
companie of one hundred and fourescore boates laden with 
Salt, Opium, Hinge, Lead, Carpets, and diuers other 
commodities downe the riuer Iemena. 

Thus the journey of Fitch to Bengal was quite a safe and 
comfortable one, for he had only to embark on a boat at Agra 
and sail or row down the Jumna into the Ganges. " His 
boat was one of a little fleet of one hundred and eighty 
similar vessels mostly laden with salt, opium, indigo, lead, 
carpets, and other commodities, which Muhammadan and 
Hindu merchants were taking for sale in Bengal. As he 
journeyed down these great rivers he passed a panorama of 
the most varied interest and beauty : swarms of people and 
swarms of wild birds — immense cranes, Chinese geose, 
pelicans (which Pitch mistook for swans), adjutant storks, 
ibises, and flamingoes ; waterside temples with strange and 
fantastic idols of stone or painted wood, some like lions, tigers, 
monkeys or peacocks, others like men and women and some 
which could only be compared to devils with four arms sitting 
cross-legged. The fields by the river banks were full of 
partridges and turtle doves, and at night time visited by 
tigers ; the towns and market places were patrolled by strange, 
naked, longhaired beggars. Pitch was perhaps most of all 
struck with the Brahmans, the Hindu priests, "t 
The superstitious The chiefe marchants are Moores and 

ceremonies of the 

Bramanes. Gentiles. In these countries they haue many 

strange ceremonies. The Bramanes which are 
their priests, come to the water and haue a string 
about^their necks made with great ceremonies, 
and lade vp water with both their hands, and 

# Johnston. f Sir Harry Johnston, 

130 



iUROPSAtf TRAVELLERS 

turne the string first with both their hands 
within, and then one arme after the other out. 
Though it be neuer so cold, they will wash 
themselves in cold water or in warme. These 
Gentiles will eate no flesh nor kill anything. 
They liue with rice, butter, milke, and fruits. 
They pray in the water naked, and dresse their 
meat and eate it naked, and for their penance 
. they lie flat vpon the earth, and rise vp and 
turne themselues about 30, or 40, times, and vse 
to heaue vp their hands to the sunne, and to 
kisse the earth, with their armes and legs 
stretched along out, and their right leg always 
before the left. Euery time they lie downe, they 
make a score on the ground with their finger 
to know when their stint is finished. The 
Bramanes marke themselues in the foreheads, 
eares and throates with a kind of yellow geare 
which they grind, and every morning they do 
it. And they haue some old men which go in 
the streetes with a boxe of yellow pouder, and 
marke men on their heads and necks as they 
meet them. 
One cannot fail to note how pretty is the .picture which 
follows. Here indeed we get a glimpse of real India, and not 
merely of the external aspects of the life of the people. 

"And their wiues do come by 10. 20. and 30. together to 
the water side singing, and there do wash themselues, and 
then vse their ceremonies, and marke themselues in their 
foreheds and faces, and cary some with them, and so depart 
singing. Their daughters be married, at, or before the age 
of 10. Their men may haue 7, wiues." 

When they salute one another, they heaue vp 
their hands to their heads, and say Eame, Rame. 

131 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTtJR*, A.fc. 

Fro Agra I came to Prage, where the riuer 
Iemena entereth into the mightie riuer Ganges, 
and Iemena loseth his name. Ganges cometh 
out of the Northwest, and runneth East into the 
gulfe of Bengala. In those parts there are many- 
Tigers and many partriges and turtle doues, and 
much other foule. Here be many beggers in 
these countries which goe naked, and the people 
make great account of them : they call them 
Schesche. Here I sawe one which was a monster 
among the rest. He would haue nothing vpon 
him, his beard was very long, and with the haire 
of his head he covered his priuities. The nailes 
of some of his fingers were two inches long, for 
he would cut nothing from him, neither would 
he speake. He was accompanied with eight or 
tenne, and they spake for him. "When any man 
spake to him, he would lay his hand upon his 
brest and bowe himselfe, but would not speake. 
Hee would not speake to the king. We went from 
Prage down Ganges, the which is here very 
broad. Here is great store of fish of sundry 
sorts, and of wild foule, as of swannes, geese, 
cranes, and many other things. The country 
is very fruitfull and populous. The men for the 
most part haue their faces shauen, and their heads 
very long, except some which bee all shauen saue 
the crowne : and some of them are as though a 
man should set a dish on their heads, and shaue 
them round, all but the crowne. In this river 
of Ganges are many Hands. His water is very 
sweete and pleasant, and the country adioyning 
very fruitfull. 
Banaras. From thence we went to Bannaras which is 

a great towne, and great store of cloth is made 

132 



. . there of cotton, and Shashes for the Moores. In 

A pilgrimage of ' 

the Gentiles. this place they he all Gentiles. To this towne 
come the Gentiles on pilgrimage out farre 
countreys. Here alongst the waters side bee 
very many faire houses, and in all of them, or 
for the most part they haue their images standing. 
By breake of day and before, there are men and 
women which come out of the towne and wash 
themselues in Ganges. And there are diuers 
old men which vpon places of earth made for the 
purpose, sit praying, and they giue the people 
three or four strawes,* which they take and hold 
them betweene their fingers when they wash 
themselues : and some sit to marke them in the 
foreheads, and they haue in a cloth a little Bice, 
BarKe, or money, which, when they haue washed 
themselues, they giue to the old men which sit 
there praying. Afterwards they go to diuers of 
their images, and giue them of their sacrifices. 
And when they giue, the old men say certain 
prayers, and then is all holy. And in diuers 
places there standeth a kind of image which in 
their language they call Adi. And they haue 
diuers great stones carued, whereon they poure 
water, and throw thereupon some rice, wheate, 
barly, and some other things. Moreouer, they 
haue a great place made of stone like to a well 
with steppes to goe downe ; wherein the water 
standeth very- foule and stinketh : for the great 
quantitie of flowers, which continually they 
thro we into it, doe make it stinke. There 
be alwayes many people in it : for they 
say when they wash themselues in it, 
that their sinnes be forgiuen them, because 

• The reference no doubt is to Kuea gross which is used in sacred Tarpon. 

133 



fcENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTTJB-f, A.t>. 

God, as they say, did wash himselfe in that place-. 
They gather vp the sand in the bottome of it, 
and say it is holy. They neuer pray but in the 
water, and they wash themselues ouerhead, and 
lade vp water with both their handes, and turne 
themselues about, and then they drinke a little 
of the water three times, and so goe to their 
gods which stand in those houses. Some of them 
will wash a place which is their length, and then 
will pray vpon the earth with their armes and legs 
at length out, and will rise vp and lie downe, and 
kisse the ground twentie or thirtie times, but they 
will not stirre their right foote. And some of 
them will make their ceremonies with fif teene or 
sixteene pots little and great, and ring a little bel 
when they make their mixtures tenne or twelue 
times : and they make a circle of water round 
about their pots and pray, and diuers sit by them, 
and one that reacheth them their pots : and they say 
diuers things ouer their pots many times, and when 
they haue done, they goe to their gods, and strowe 
their sacrifices which they thinke are very holy, and 
marke many of them which sit by, in the foreheads, 
which they take as a great gift. There come 
fiftie and sometime and hundred together, to wash 
them in this well, and to offer to these idols. 

They haue in some of these houses their idoles 
standing and one sitteth by them in warme 
weather with a fanne to blowe winde vpon them. 
And when they sec any company coming, they 
ring a little bell which hangeth by them, and 
many giue them their almes, but specially those 
which come out of the countrey. 

Here some bee burned to ashes, somes scorched 
in the fire and throwen into the water, and 

134 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

dogges and foxes doe presently eate them. The 
wiues here doe burne with their husbands when 
they die, if they will not, their heads be 
shauen, and neuer any account is made of them 
afterward. The people goe all naked saue a 
little cloth bound about their middle. Their 
women haue their necks, armes and eares decked 
with rings of siluer, copper, tinne, and with 
round hoopes made of Iuorie, adorned with 
amber stones, and with many agats, and they are 
marked with a great spot of red in their 
foreheads, and a stroke of red vp to the crowne, 
and so it runneth three manner of wayes. In 
their Winter, which is our May, the men weare 
quilted gownes of cotton like to our mattraces 
and quilted caps like to our Grocers morters, 
with a slit to looke out at, and so tied downe 
beneath their eares. 

My friends will at once recognise the identity of these 
items of dress with their modern representatives and will 
note that lapse of years has wrought absolutely no change 
in them. But there is a more interesting point still in 
connection with these quilted caps and quilted gowns. 

Major Rennell, I was almost going to say our Major 
Eennell, in a fascinating volume of Dissertations oh the 
Geography of Herodotus refers to the statement of the Greek 
historian that the dress of the Indians was cotton, and 
suggests that he was probably thinking of quilted things like 
those worn^by the Phoenicians and the Assyrians, and refers 
us to the description of the equipment of the Assyrian forces 
in the army of Xerxes, viz. that they wore linen cuirasses. 
Thus we may take it that circumstances suggested their own 
remedy in India as well as in Assyria. The justification for 
the existence of quilted garments is to be found in the need 

135 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

for protection against the weather in one country, and in 

the need for warding off the attacks of the enemy in the 

other. 

If a man or a woman be sicke and like to 
die, they will lay him before their idols all night, 
and that shall helpe him or make an ende of 
him. And if he do not mend that night, his 
friends will come and sit with him a little and 
cry, and afterwards will cary him to the waters 
side and set him vpon a little raft made of reeds, 
and so let him goe downe the riuer. 

When they be married the man and the woman 
come to the water side, and there is an olde man 
which they call a Bramane, that is, a priest, a 
cowe, and a calfe, or cowe with calfe. Then the 
man and the woman, cowe and calfe, and the olde 
man goe into the water together-} and they giue 
the olde man a white cloth of foure yards 
long, and a basket crosse bound with diuers 
things in it : the cloth hee laieth vpon the 
backe of the cowe, and then he taketh the cowe 
by the ende of the taile, and saieth certain 
wordes : and she hath a copper or a brasse pot 
full of water, and the man doeth hold his hand 
by the olde mans hand, and the wiues hand by 
her husbands, and all haue the cowe by the taile 
and they poure water out of the pot vpon the 
cowes taile, and it runneth through all their 
hands, and they lade vp water with their handes, 
and then the olde man doeth tie him and her 
thb tying of together by their clothes. Which done, they 

new married folks goe round about the cowe and calfe, and then 

together by the fa^ ^ UQ SQme what fo ^g p Qore w hich he 

bythoMeriLTin alwayes there, and to the Bramane or priest 
old time, they give the cowe and calfe, and afterwards 

136 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

goe to diuers of their idoles and offer money, and 
lie downe flat vpon the ground and kisse it diuers 
times, and then goe their way. 

You may not come into the house where the 
idols stand, with your shooes on. They haue 
continually lampes hurning before them. 

From Bannaras I went to Patenaw downe the 
riuer of Ganges : where in the way we passed many 
faire townes, and a countrey very fruitful : and 
many very great riuers doe enter into Ganges ; 
and some of them as great as Ganges, which 
cause Ganges to bee of a great breadth, and so 
broad that in the time of raine you cannot see 
from one side to the other. These Indians when 
they bee scorched and throwen into the water, 
the men swimme with their faces downewards, the 
women with their faces vpwards, I, thought they 
tied something to them to cause them to doe so : 
but they say no. There be very many thieues in 
this countrey, which be like to the Arabians : 
for they have no certaine abode, but are sometime 
in one place and sometime in another. Here the 
women bee so decked with siluer and copper, that 
it is strange to see, they vse no shooes by reason 
of the rings of siluer and copper which they 
weare on their toes. Here at Patenaw they finde 
gold in this manner. They cligge deepe pits in 
the earth, and wash the earth in great bolles, 
and' therein they finde the gold, and they make 
the pits round about with bricke, that the earth 
fall not in. 
■We know from the_ Ain-i-Ahbari that the rivers which 
descended from the Northern mountains in the west of 
India yielded much gold ; and that the Indians in those days 

137 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

■were familiar with the processes of gold washing. We read, 
" Gold may he obtained hy the salmi process from the sands 
of the Ganges and the Indus, and several other rivers as 
most of the waters of the country are mixed with gold." It 
would seem that Herodotus was aware of the fact that gold 
was found in India, a point which comes out in connection 
with the statement of the Greek historian regarding the 
payment of the Indian tribute to Darius in gold. 

Patenaw is a very long and a great towne. 
In times past it was a kingdom, but now it is 
vnder Zelabdim Echebar, the great Mogor. The 
men are tall and slender, and haue many old folks 
among them : the houses are simple, made of earth 
and couered with strawe, the streets are very 
large. In this towne there is a trade of cotton, 
and cloth of cotton, much sugar, which they cary 
from hence to Bengala and India, very much 
Opium & other commodities. He that is chief e 
here vnder the king is called Tipperdas, and 
is of great account among the people. Here in 
Patenau I saw a dissembling prophet which sate 
vpon an horse in the market place, and made 
as though he slept, and many of the people came 
and touched his feete with their hands, and then 
kissed their bands. They tooke him for a great 
man, but sure he was a lasie lubber. I left him 
there sleeping. The people of these countries 
be mu ch giuen to such prating and dissembling 
hypocrites. 

Erom Patenaw I went to Tanda which is in 

the land of Gouren. It hath in times past bene 

' ! " '' a kingdom, but now is subdued by Zelabdim 

Echebar. Great trade and traffique is here of 

cotton, and of cloth and cotton. The people goe 

138 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, AO). 



Couohe 


: this 


seemeth 


to be 


Quichen, accort- 


ed by 


some 


among 


the 


provinces 


of 


China. 





naked with a little cloth bound about their waste. 
It standeth in the conntrey of Bengala. Here be 
many Tigers, wild Bufs, and great store of wilde 
foule : they are very great idolators. Tanda 
standeth from the riuer Ganges a league, because 
in times past the riuer flowing over the bankes, 
in time of raine did drowne the countrey and 
many villages, and so they do remaine. And the 
old way which the riuer Ganges was woont to 
run, remaineth drie, which is the occasion that 
the citie doeth stand so farre from the water. 
From Agra down the riuer Iemena, and downe 
riuer Ganges, I was five moneths coming to 
Bengala, but it may be sailed in much shorter 
time. 

I went from Bengala into the country of 
Couche, which lieth 25 dayes iourny North- 
wards from Tanda. The king is a Gentile, his 
name is Suclcel Counse * : his countrey is great, 
and lieth not far from Oauchin China : for they 
say they haue pepper from thence. The port is 
called Oacchegate. All the countrie is set with 
Bambost or Canes made sharpe at both endes 
and driuen into the earth, and they can let in the 
water and drowne the ground aboue knee deepe, 
so that me nor horses can passe. They poison 
all the waters if any wars be. Here they haue 



* The, author of Burma Past and Present says that he had a geneologioal table of the 
Coooh Behar family in whioh this prince appears under the name of Sukladuge or Seela 
Bay : he was the progenitor of the Durrung branch of the family. 

t It will thus be seen that the ordinary means of access to its frontier were 
defended against Mahomedan incursions by sharply pointed bamboo stakes being 
driven to a certain distance into the ground on most of the routes approaching Kuch Behar. 
In addition, the people were able to flood the frontier land with water from the river, so 
that in addition to the stakes the passage of both men and horses was made well nigh 
impossible. The people of Kuch Behar in those days expanded and pulled downwards the 
lobes of their ears till they were about 8 inches long. Johnston. 



139 



EUROPEAN TAVELEERS 

much silke and muske, and cloth made of cotton. 
The people haue eares which be marueilous great 
of a span long, which they draw out in length by 
deuises when they be yong. 

Our traveller notices that there were no more 
Mahomedans, the people being either Hindus or Buddhists. 

• Here they be all Gentiles, and they kill nothing. 

Pure gcniiiisins. They haue hospitals for sheepe, goates, dogs, cats, 

birds, and for all other liuing creatures. "When 

> t t . . vi i_. they be old and lame, they keepe them vntil they 

in ; Mpjxioq (Ji e _ jf a man ca tch or buy any quicke thing 

ey use i vc- ^ ^^^ pi aces an( j k r i n2 . it thither, they will 

wise tor small x . ~ ' » 

money the fruit giue him mony f or it or other victuals, and 
cacao which keepe it in their hospitals or let it go. They 
ahiionds ,wll giue meat to the Ants. Their smal mony is 

almonds, which often times they vse to eat. 

No doubt an ideal state of things, to be able to eat, the 
current coin of the realm when hungry ! 

From thence I returned to Hugeli, which is 
the place where the" Portugals keep in the 
country of Bengala which standeth in 23 degrees 
of Northerly latitude, and standeth a league from 
Satagan : they Cal it Porto Piqueno. We went 
through the wildernes., because the right way was 
full of thieues, where we passed the countrey 
of Gouren, where we found but few villages, 
but almost all wildernes, and saw many buffes, 
swine and deere, grasse longer than a ma, and 
very many Tigers. Not far from Porto Piqueno 
south west ward, standeth an hauen which is called 
Angcli, in the countrey of Orixa. It was a 

Porto Anpreli.. * 

kingdom ot it selfe, and the king was a great 
friend to strangers. Afterwards it was taken by 
the king of Patau which was their neighbour, but 

140 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.L\ 

lie did not enjoy it long, but was taken by Zelab- 
dim Echebar which is king of Agra, Delli, and 
Cambaia. Orixa standetb 6 daies iourney from 
Satagan southwestward. In this place is very 
much Hice, and cloth made of cotton, and great 
The like cioih store of cloth which is made of grasse, which 

may be made of y &R T(J . fc ^ ^ ft ^ ^ fc , 

the long grass ' JO 

in Virginia. cloth of it which they send for India and 

clieurs other places. To this hauen of Angeli 
come euery yere many ships out of India, 
Negapatan, Sumatra, Malacca, and diuers other 
places ; and lade from thence great store of Rice, 
and much cloth of cotton wooll, much sugar, 
and long pepper, great store of butter and other 
Sataoum victuals for India. Satagam is a fair citie for 
a citie of the Moores, and very plentifull of all 
things. Here in Bengala they j haue euery day in 
one place or other a great market which they 
call Chandeau, and they haue many great boats 
which they cal peri cose, where withall they go from 
place to place and buy Hice and many other 
things : these boates haue 24 or 26 oares to rowe 
them, they be great of burthen, but haue no 
couerture. Here the Gentiles haue the water of 
Ganges in great estimation, for hauing good water 
neere them, yet they will fetch the water of 
Ganges a great way off, and if they haue not 
sufficient to drinke, they will sprinkle a little on 
them, and then they thinke themselues well. 
From Satagam I trauelied by the countrey of 
Tipp^a or Porto the king of Tippara or porto Grande, with 

Grande. whom the Mogores or Mogen haue almost 

continuall warres. The Mogen which be of the 
kingdom of llecon and name, be stronger then 
the king of Tippara, so that Chatigan or 

141 



EUROPEAN TAVELLERS 

porto Grande is oftentimes vnder the king of 
Recon. 
It may thus be noted in passing that Fitch found that 
the people in the Delta of the Ganges on the verge of the 
Tipperah District were not as yet subdued by the Mogul 
Emperors. The Mogul Empire was not extended up to the 
borders of Assam and Burma until the next century. 

We may further note the following in this connection : — 

(*) The name Eamu is applied to the country of 

Chittagaon in a general description of Bengal 

which is found in Purchas. 

(ii) There is now a village called Eamu in the southern part 

of the Ohittagong District, which is a police station. 

(in) Hunter states that the District was probably first 

conquered by the Mahomedans during the 

period of Af gan supremacy in Bengal between 

the 13th and 16th centuries. Towards the close 

of the 16th century Chittagong seems to have 

been reconquered by the Raja of Arakan, but 

this was ignored by the Moguls after the final 

expulsion of the Afgans from Bengal. We find 

that Todar Mull assessed the place, which must 

have been about 1582. 
When in Cooch- Bihar Eitch received and recorded the 
first information which is to be found in English about 
Bhutan ; and the suggestion has been made that at that time he 
might have easily passed on to Thibet and Lahsa. What a 
tract of time intervenes between that and the embassy of Bogle 
and the days of Warren Hastings ! 

There is a country 4 daies iournie from 
Bottanter u, Couche or Quickeu before mentioned, which is 
great Northern called Bottanter and the citie Bhuttia, the king 
chantfofchi!^ is called Dermain ; the people whereof are very 
Moscouia and tall and strong, and there are marchants which 
Tartane. come out of China, and they say out of 

142 



These seeme to 
be the moun- 
tains of Imaus, 
called by the 
people Cumao. 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Muscouia or Tartarie and they come to buy muske, 
cambals, agats, silke, pepper and saffron like the 
saffron of Persia. The countrey is very great, 3 
moneths iourney. There are very high mountains 
in this countrey, and one of them so steep that 
when a man is 6 daies iourney off it, he may see 
it perfectly. Vpon these mountains are people 
which haue eares of a spanne long : if their eares 
he not long, they call them apes. They say that 
when they he vpon the mountaines, they see ships 
in the Sea sayling to and fro ; but they know not 
from whence they come, nor whether they go. 
There are marchants which come out of the East, 
they say, from vnder the sunne, which is from 
China, which haue no beards, and they say there 
it is something warme. But those which come 
from the other side of the mountains which is 
from the North, say there it is very cold. These 
Northern marchants are apparelled with woollen 
cloth * and hats, white hosen close, and bootes 
which be of Moscouia or Tartarie. They report 
that in their countrey they haue very good horses, 
but they be litle : some men haue foure, fiue, or 
six hundred horses and kine : they liue with 
milke and fleshe. They cut the tailes of their 
kine, and sell them very deere, for they bee in 
great request, and much esteemed in^those partes. 
The hair of them is a yard long, the rumpe is 
aboue a spanne long : they vse to hang them for 
brauerie vpon the heades of their Elephants : 
they bee much vsed in Pegu and China : they buie 
and selle by scores vpon the ground. The people 
be very swift on foote. 

* Fa Hien speaking of the people of Shen Shen (Chapter II) notes how the common 
people wore felts and woollens instead of blue cottons as worn by the Chinese, 



The aparrel of 
Tartarie mar- 
chants. 



Cowes tailes in 
great request. 



143 



EUROPEAN TAVELEEES 



Serrepore. 



Sinndrgan.. 



From Chatigan in.Bengala, I came to Bacola* ; 
the king whereof is a Gentile, a man very well 
disposed and delighted much to shoot in a gun. 
His countrey is very great and fruitful, and hath 
store of Rice, much cotton cloth, and cloth of 
silke. The houses be very faire and high builded, 
the streetes large, the people naked, except a 
little cloth about their waste. The women weare 
great store of siluer hoopes about their neckes and 
amies, ' and their legs are ringed with siluer and 
copper, and rings made of elephants teeth. 

From Bacola I went to Serrepore f „ which 
standeth vpon the riuer of Ganges, the king is 
galled Chondery. They be all, hereabouts rebels 
against their king Zelabdim Echebar : for here are 
so many riuere and Hands, that they flee from 
one to another, whereby his horsemen cannot 
preuaile against them. Great store of cotton cloth 
is made here. v- 

Sinnergan j is a towne sixe «■ leagues from 
Serrepore, where there is the best and finest cloth 
made of cotton that is in all India. The chiefe 
king of all these countries is called Isacan, and he. 
is chiefe of all the other kings, and is" a great 
friend to all Christians. The houses here, as they 
be in the most part of India, are very little, and 
couered with strawe, and haue a fewe mats round 
about the wals, and the doore to keepe out the 
Tygersand the Foxes. Many of the people are 



* Backerganj. , t . 

t Serampcre. 

J The ancient Mahomedan capital of Eastern Bengal. Azim Shah, son of Sikandar 
proclaimed his independence hero, and invited the poet Haflz to his court.. "It lies hidden 
in a grove of palms and bush and is surrounded by a deep muddy ditch, once » moat. 
Isa Khan, who was in power when Fitch -visited the city, maintained his independent rule 
lor several years, but at his death the District became part of the Mogul Empire, " 



in 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.t). 

very rich. Here they will eate no flesh, nor kill 
no beast : They Hue of Rice, milke, and fruits. 
They goe with a little cloth before them, and all 
the rest of their bodies is naked. Great store of 
Cotton cloth goeth from hence, and much Rice, 
wherewith they serue all India, Ceilon, Pegu, 
Malacca, Sumatra, and many other places. 

I have now rapidly carried you through the narratives of 
the four European travellers who came to Bengal in the 
16th century of the Christian era, and have tried to place before 
you the general results of their observations. The 
accuracy of these observations and the truthfulness 
of their narration make us think of Strabo of remote antiquity 
who told us long ago that " the accounts we receive of India 
require an impartial and unprejudiced consideration, for it is 
situate at a very remote distance from us, and but few of our 
countrymen have examined it with attention ; and those even 
who have travelled thither have seen only parts of it, and what 
they relate is mostly from hearsay ". 

Our 16th century travellers, however, unlike the Greek 
observers, do not speak from hearsay and their statements as 
a rule can well stand the test of "an impartial and 
unprejudiced consideration " on which Strabo rightly insists. 

It is curious that two of these four travellers should be 
speaking to us of the first half of the century, while the other 
two speak of the second half. It is remarkable that all of them 
speak of the same outstanding features of the life of the 
people, — their weaving, their muslins, their many-coloured 
woven cotton stuffs, their seaports and trading operations, 
their marriages, the cremation of their dead, the sanctity they 
attached to the Ganges, their respect for Brahmins, their 
shrines and holy places, the sanctity attached to all animal 
life by certain sections of the community, and so forth. Most 
remarkable of all is the fact that what the travellers speak 

145 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

of, are also some of the things which the Bengali poet 
celehrates in his pages, thus supplying convincing corroborative 
evidence of each other's trustworthiness. The regret of the 
modern reader is therefore all the keener that these travellers 
did not enlighten us a little more regarding the inner life of 
the people of Bengal and the administrative systems and 
political institutions of those days. But in the nature of 
things, that could not be in the 16th century. For a 
partial realisation of that, at least as far as the wider India 
is concerned, we have to wait till the days of our stately 
ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, and of our dear old gossipping 
(may I add, scandal-loving) Manucci, whose chronicle, 
containing as it does a record of a long and protracted stay in 
the country, is a precious possession to every student of Mogul 
India. Palimbothra had her Megasthenes ; would that 16th 
century Bengal had her Megasthenes also! But even 
Megasthenes tells us nothing of the life of the Greek Princess 
with whom he came to India, and little of the religious life 
of the people. It may be. that diplomatic considerations withr 
held him from talking about these things. It may be that 
he did write of these matters, and the parts of his work which 
spoke of these, the really vital elements in the life of the 
people, have been lost to us, and unquestionably what 
little of Megasthenes we have is of engrossing interest and 
of immeasurable value to us. Yet, after all, religion is the 
soul of the people in India. For that, and for the inner 
life of the people in the Bengal of the 16th century, we must 
go to our contemporary Vernacular Literature. 



146 



APPENDIX 

TO 

LECTURES V AND VI. 

That the Indians have been a commercial people from the remotest days 
of which we have any written record is now no longer to be disputed. It 
is said in the Rigveda that " merchants desirous of gain crowd the great 
waters with their ships." The code of Manu provides, " Let the king 
establish rules for the sale and purchase of all marketable things, having 
duly considered whence they come, if importer!, whither they" must be sent, 
if exported." We feel that we are among products from India when 
reading of King Hiram's trade in the Ophir — " once in three years came 
the navy bringing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks" (I. Kings. 
Chapter X.) The natives of the land have given the^ name of their 
father-land to that valuable dye which has certainly been known in Europe 
by the name of indico from the time of Pliny, who says " cast the right 
indico upon live coals, it yieldeth a flame of most excellent purple," and 
in reference to which Bancroft in his work on colours remarks that " the 
natives of India deserve praise for having many thousand years ago 
discovered means by which the colourable matter of the plant might be 
extracted, oxygenated and precipitated from all other matters combined 
with it." 

The evidence of Sanskrit literature* tends to confirm the same con- 
clusion. As is explained by Mrs. Manning in her work on ancient and 
medieval India, " The code of Manu requires the King to determine the 
prices of commodities and also the trustworthiness of the weights and 
measures used. And that the transactions contemplated were not 
restricted to local products is evident from reference to the charges for 
freight for articles in river boats, and the undetermined and larger 
charges to which sea-borne goods were liable. The account of King 
Yudhisthira's coronation in the Mahabharata affords an instance of 
precious articles from distant lands brought into India. So also in the 
Ramayana, we read that when Rama and his brothers married, the 

- ■ - . . i — . — *- — i — — — fe ■ ■ ' ' — ^^— — ^^— ^— 

* The Hindus in their ancient works of poetry are represented as a commercial people, 
Heeren, 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

brides were clad in silk from China.* The drama of Sakuntala again 
affords testimony of the importance attached to trade. A case, written 
on a leaf, is presented at the footstool of the king. It states that a 
merchant, who had extensive commerce, had lost a son, and left a fortune of 
many millions. 

We might speak also of the caravan of merchants in the well-known 
story of Nala and Damayanti, but not to multiply instances, we will 
merely observe that merchants are constantly being introduced into Sanskrit 
fiction, and equally often into Buddhist legend. They seem to have been 
always at hand to give variety and movement to the monotony of daily 
life." 

We may in this connection refer to the Periplus of Arrian, the work 
entitled the Circumnavigation of the Red or Indian sea, which relates the 
voyage of a merchant from Egypt to the western coast of India per- 
formed sometime within the first two centuries of the Christian era. The 
internal commeree of the peninsula is represented as unexpectedly thriving 
and " that confidence may be attached to his narrative has been proved by 
the discovery of the remains of important cities in the positions which he 
has described as emporia. This testimony is corroborated by Hindu 
writings and the character and civilisation of the various races inhabiting 
the peninsula." Irving in his essay on the commerce of India further 
explains — 

That the native commerce, was not simply confined to that by land, 
may also be gathered from Menu, who in one chapter treats of the interest 
of money lent on risk, which was to be determined by " men well 

# The mode of life peculiar to the higher classes, especially in courts of cities, and 
represented to us by the poets, implies the existence of a multitude both of natural 
and artificial wants, only to be satisfied by a corresponding system of active internal 
commerce. 

Let us only compare the picture which the Eamayana draws of the capital town of 
Ayodhya. "It was filled with merchants, and artificers of all kinds; gold, precious 
stones, and jewels were there found in abundance ; every one wore costly garments, and 
necklaces.'' And in another passage, in allusion to the mourning which took place on 
the death of the king, the poet says : " The tables for the sacrificial offerings are empty, 
the shops where they sold garlands are closed; and the bankers and merchants do not 
show themselves as usnal." Such descriptions as these, even though we make every 
allowance for poetic colouring, will nevertheless show what was the Hindu idea of a rich 
and flourishing city, and we may be sure it would represent nothing but what was perfectly 
well-known. 

Heeren. 

148 



BENGAL IK $HE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

acquainted with sea voyages and journeys by land" ; and, in another 
passage, enumerates among the fourth class, Sudras, " the shipbuilders and 
sailors, as many as navigate rivers." The further importance which, in this 
celebrated Code, is attached to commerce, may be conjectured from the 
fact, that the third class of Hindoos is absolutely set apart for its pursuit. 
That it was not simply petty trade, but an extensive intercourse between 
distant regions which is contemplated, is proved by the nature of the 
duties which are enjoined. Their principal occupation is denned to be 
" The keeping of herds of cattle (with which in India commodities are 
transported from place to place), to carry on trade, to lend on interest, and 
cultivate the soil. Hence they are to turn their attention to practical 
knowledge. They must be thoroughly acquainted with all commodities 
and soils, with the productions and wants of other countries, with various 
dialects and languages, and whatever 'else has direct or indireet reference to 
purchase and sale. In one word, they are to be perfect men of business." 

Hence in a popular poem constant references to trading operations and 
to the trials and experiences of merchant princes in course of perilous 
journeys to distant lands in quest of trade do not come as a surprise to the 
modern reader. 

Heeren in his dissertation on the commerce of Ceylon shows that 
" for the space of about two thousand years, Ceylon continued to be the 
common emporium of southern commerce ; and that consequently commer- 
cial history in general, but particularly with reference to India, is mainly 
dependent on that of Ceylon." No apology is therefore needed for 
inserting here a circumstantial account of Ceylon and of its commerce which 
has come down to us from about the middle of the sixth century of the 
Christian era. 

About A. D. 560, and in the reign of the emperor Justin II, a merchant 
named Cosmos, who afterwards became a monk, travelled for commercial 
purposes as far as Adule, at that time a celebrated port, belonging to the 
king of Axume in Ethiopia and situate near to Arkeeko. Here he met 
with a certain acquaintance by the name of Sopater, just then on his 
return from Ceylon, which he had visited in the capacity of a merchant. 
It was from the report of this voyager that Cosmas drew his account of 
Ceylon and its commerce as it then existed, and which he has inserted in 
his TypograpMa Christiana, a work of unquestionable varacity. The follow- 
ing is this account of Cosmas, which is transcribed from the version of 
Montfaucon. " Taprobane is a large island in the Indian ocean called by 



European Travellers 

the Hindus Silediva, where the precious stone termed hyacinth is found; 
aud it is situated above the pepper country. A great number o£ small 
islands, closely adjoining, surround it; each of which contains fresh- water 
springs, and abounds with cocoanuts. According to the inhabitants, the 
large island is nine hundred miles in length, and as many in breadth. 
It is governed by two kings, who are always in a state of mutual hostility j 
one of them possesses the mountanous region producing the hyacinth stone, 
and the other, the remaining portion of the island, and which are the 
commercial towns and harbours, and which is, therefore, most frequented 
by the neighbouring people. There is also a church of Christians* from 
Persia, under the inspection of a presbyter ordained in the latter country, 
together with a deacon, and other eceleciastical officers. The native 
inhabitants, with their respective kings, profess a different religion. 
Numerous temples are to be seen in the island, and in one of them 
particularly there is said to be a hyacinth of great brilliance and un- 
common size, being almost as large as the cone of a pine-tree ; this stone 
is placed in an elevated and conspicuous situation within the sacred edifice, 
and when illumined by the rays of the sun, reflects a light which may be 
seen a considerable distance, forming altogether a most curious and extra- 
ordinary spectacle. 

" A great number of vessels from all parts of India, Persia, and Ethio- 
pia are in the habit of trafficking with Ceylon, so conveniently situated 
as it is with regard to those countries, while the island itself has also a 
numerous fleet of ships belonging to its own merchants. From the interior 
countries of the East, that is to say, from Sina and other mercantile 
places, she procures silk, aloes, cloves and tzandana, with other articles of 
commerce peculiar to those regions : these, in her turn, she transmits to 
more distant countries ; to Male where the pepper grows ; to Calliana, a 
place of great trade, from whence the return cargo consists of native brass, 
sesamum-wood, and other articles adapted for clothing ; further, she trans- 
ports them to Sindus, the country of musk, or castoreum, and spikenard ,• 
and also to Persia, Homerite, and Adule; from all these parts Ceylon 
receives an exchange of merchandise, which, together with her own produce, 
she forwards into the interior of India. Sinde, moreover, is the commence- 
ment of the last named country; for the river Indus divides it from 
Persia. The principal trading towns- of India are Sindus, Orrhota,t 

— .1 . J » , r,„ , , „ 

• These Christians were Nestorians. 
t Surat. 

150 



BENGAL IN THE SIXJEE$!NTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Calliana* Sibon, Parti, Mangaruth, Salopatana, Nalopatana, and Puda- 
patana, the last five being included under the province of Malet. About 
five days and nights' journey further (from Male) is Silediva, or Taprobana. 
Still further, on the continent, is Mavallo, which produces a peculiar kind 
of shell-fish; and Caber which affords the alabandanum. Next to this is 
the country where cloves grow ; and lastly, Sina, whence silk is procured ; 
beyond this there is no other region,. the ocean forming the boundary of 
Sina to the east. 

" The island of Silediva, therefore, being situated almost in the middle 
of India, and producing the precious stone called hyacinth, receives 
merchandise from all other countries and supplies them in its turn; it, is 
consequently itself a place of very great mercantile resort. This I was 
told both by Sopater himself, and his fellow-travellers, who had sailed from 
Adule to the same island." 

Let us place by the side "of this account the following from Fa Hien : — 

Fa Hien embarked from Tamalipti (then the principal emporium for the 
trade with Ceylon and China) in a large merchant-vessel, and went floating 
over the sea to the south-west. It was the beginning of winter, and the 
wind was favourable ; and, after fourteen days, sailing day and night, 
they came to the country of Singhala. The people said that it was distant 
(from Tamalipti) about 700 yojanas. 

The kingdom is on a large island, extending from east to west fifty 
yojanas, and from north to south thirty. Left and right from it there 
are as many as 100 small islands, distant from one another ten, twenty, 
or even 200 le ; but all subject to the large island. Most of them produce 
pearls and precious stones of various kinds ; there is one which produces 
the pure and brilliant pearl, — an island which would form a square of about 
ten le. The king employs men to watch and protect it, and requires 
three out of every ten such pearls, which the collectors find. 

The country originally had no human inhabitants, but was occupied 
only by spirits and nagas, with which merchants of various countries carried 
on a trade. "When the trafficking was taking place, the spirits did not show 
themselves. They simply set forth their precious commodities, with labels 
of the price attached to them while the merchants made their purchases 
according to the price ; and took the things away. 

Through the coming and going of the merchants (in this way), when 
they went away, the people of (their) various countries heard how pleasant 

* The modern Callian, near Bombay, + Malabar. 

151 



EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS 

• 
the land was, and flocked to it in numbers till it became a great nation, 

The (climate) is temperate and attractive, without any difference of summer 

and winter. The vegetation is always luxuriant. Cultivation proceeds 

whenever men think fit : there are no fixed seasons for it. 

Thus there can be little doubt that India has always been in close touch 
with Ceylon, and the beginnings of the commercial intercourse between 
the island and the mainland may be traced back to the remotest antiquity, 
in support of which statement we may further refer to the testimony of 
Ptolemy, to the earlier accounts of Arrian and Pliny, and even to what 
Alexander the Great heard reported of the island of Ceylon during his 
expedition to India. 



152 



VII 
BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 



SOCIOLOGICAL, (i) 



20 



VII 
BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 

SOCIOLOGICAL. 

Mb. Vice-Chancellor and Fellow- Students : 

I begin to-day by placing before yon the following 
observation of a modern writer* in a recent publication 
entitled Ethics and the Family — Conquering legions have 
tramped backwards and forwards over the plains of India, and 
over her mountain ranges ; but her peasants have ploughed 
their fields, administered their village business, worshipped 
their Gods, and perpetuated their families as continuously as 
her sages have remained plunged in thought. Yet every 
change of dynasty, every conquering race, has left marks 
on the social and economic life of the people. 

Let us remember this in reviewing Mukundram's account 
of the foundation of a new town in India, and the description 
which follows of the various quarters of that town, affording as 
it does valuable materials for the reconstruction of the social 
and economic history of Bengal. 

I proceed to place before you a more or less literal 
rendering of the poet's description and apologise at the out- 
set for the quaintness of some of the details noticed by him. 

Description of the Hindu Quarters. One quarter is called 
Kulastan (the Bhadralog quarter) where live the Rarhi 
Brahmins and the Barendra Brahmins, with their temples and 
tols (educational institutions). Here also live the un- 
lettered Brahmins. They officiate as priests, and teach the 
rituals of worship. They mark their forehead with sandal, or 

* Lofthouse. 

155 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

with Tilak marks, they worship Devatas (idols) and run from 
house to house with bundles of offered rice tied in their cloth. 
They get a pice worth of sweetmeat in the house of the 
sweetmeat seller : they get a vessel full of milk in that of 
the milkman : while the oilmen give them their cup-full of 
oil. They get their monthly cowries from some houses and 
their dalbaris (dried balls of pulse) from others. The village 
priest thus swims in happiness. In the town of Guzrat, the 
citizens perform shradhs, the village priest officiating at the 
ceremony. 

The mantras over, the Brahmin declares the dakshina 
(final present) to be a kahan (a little more than three annas 
of the present coin), and they haggle for the dakshina, tying 
the hand of the Jmman (person for whom the priest officiates) 
with Kusa grass. 

The Ghatak Brahmins live by abuses. Their occupation 
is the reading of the Kulpanji (geneologies). People who do 
not secure their good will by presents, are abused at public 
gatherings till such time as the presents come. 

We have, after this, a description of the astrologers, 
Sanyiasis, Vaishnavas, Khetris, Rajputs, Bhats, and of the 
Vaisyas. Regarding the latter the poet says : " They serve 
Krishna. Some till lands, others tend cows. Some act as 
carriers* with pack bullocks, while some make purchases, at 
the proper season, growing crops, to sell them when the 
markets rise. Some travel from place to place, making 
purchases of precious stones. Some arrange for long journeys 
in boats with various goods, and bring back with them 

* It is a mistake to confine the individuals composing this class to merchants, they 
being merely a subdivision, for it also includes husbandmen. Agriculture, breeding of cattle 
commerce and the lending of money upon interest are their prescribed modes of occupation. 
The breeding of cattle seems to have been the first destination of the Vaisyas to which 
agriculture and commerce were subsequently added. Heeren. 

As to the occupation of the Vaisyas we may compare the Code of Manu which says : 
" The creator entrusted the management of. cattle to the Vaisyas as he did that of men to 
the Brahm ans and the Kshatriyas." 

156 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

chamors, sandal wood and conch shells, Bhutia Chamors, shawl 
pusthus, and coats (angarakhi). They are always buying and 
selling and the Vaisyas are a happy lot at Guzrat." 

The poet proceeds : Let us now describe the medicine men 
(Vaidyas) : " They are the Guptas, Senas, Dasses, Duttas, etc., 
who live in this (Kulastan) part of the town. Some become 
famous by adopting the mercurial treatment prescribed in the 
Tantras. They rise in the morning and place a Tilak mark 
high up on the forehead ; they wrap a piece of cloth round 
the head, and, putting on a fine dhuti and taking the puthi 
(Palm-leaf book) under their arm, they stalk forth in the 
different wards of the town. 

" When the disease is curable, the Vaidhya beating his 
raised chest, proclaims a cure, but if the disease is incurable, 
he contrives a retreat, and asks for leave on various pretences. 
Says he, " If I can make a decoction of camphor, I am sure 
to effect a cure." " Search for camphor," says the sick man 
with all eagerness ; and the medicine man on the pretence of 
procuring camphor, takes to his heels. 

"Agardanis (a Ioav class of Brahmins who officiate at 
funerals) live close to the Vaidyas, and they are in daily 
search for patients. They pay no taxes, but it is their due to 
take the cow that is given away by the dying to secure a safe 
passage across the river Bytarini (the Indian Styx) and the 
Til-dan (sesamum gift) with gold pieces." 

We have then an account of the settlement of the 
Kayesthas, on the south side of the town, by themselves, as 
perhaps representing the middle class. They made their 
demands thus: " The Goddess Yani (Saraswati) is bountiful to 
us all. We can all read and write. We are the ornaments of 
a town. Decide to give us the best lands and houses and make 
them rent-free". 

157 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

Then comes an account of the lower classes, the great mass 
who occupy the east end of the town. 

" There settle the Hakil Gopes, who do not know what 
deceit or anger is, and in whose fields all kinds of wealth 
grow. Each of them has his home well-filled with pulses of 
sorts, linseed, mustard, wheat, cotton and molasses. There 
you find the oil-men who express the oil with the ghani 
(the oil-pressing machine) some of the class buy oil to sell it 
in the market. The black-smith, with his smithy, makes 
spades, axes, arms, and bridle pieces. With his betel and 
betelnuts settles the Tambuli. Here settle the potters who 
make earthen vessels and the earthen frames of mridang 
(drums) and karras (musical instruments). 

" Hundreds and hundreds of pairs of dhuties are woven* at 
one place by the weavers of Guzrat. The Mali grows flowers, 
makes garlands and toy-flower houses, and with baskets full 
of flowers, he goes round the town selling his wares. Barcees 
are there, who grow betel in the betel nurseries, and if any 
one forcibly takes their things, the only resistance they offer 
is by crying Do-hai. The barbers are there, who go about 
with their leathern cases under their arms and looking-glass in 
hand. The confectioners manufacture sugar and confec- 
tioneries of sorts, and some of them go about the town with 
their stock of confectioneries for children. There settle the 
shroffs (Jains), who never kill animals and who abstain from 
meat all the year round. Those who make silk filatures are 
encouraged to settle here by the grant of rent-free lands, and 



* According to the unanimous report both of history and tradition, weaving is reckoned 
among the most important manufactures of ancient India. 

The variety of cloth fabrics mentioned even by the author of the Periplua as articles of 
commerce is so great that we can hardly suppose the number to have increased afterwards. 
We there read of the finest Bengal muslins : of coarse, middle and fine cloths, either plain 
or striped j of coarse and fine calicos ; of coloured shawls and sashes s of coarse aud fine 
purple goods, as well as pieces of gold embroidery ; spun silk aud furs from Serica. Heeren, 

158 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

the Bir's heart rejoices when he sees the first red silk sari* 
(pat-sari) being woven in his town. 

" The Ganda Banias settle here. They go to the market 
with their baskets full of various kinds of spices and scents; 
The Sankha Banias (those who make conch-shell bracelets) 
cut conch shells, and some of them turn them into beautiful 
forms. The braziers, on their anvils, make jharris (a kind of 
jug), cups and thalis (large plates), lotas (large cooking 
vessels), and sips, dhabars (large vessels for washing purposes), 
pan-dans (betel-boxes with compartments for the various 
necessary spices), ghantas (ringing bells), singhashans (thrones 
for idols) and panch-dip (lamp stands). There are the 
goldsmiths who test gold and silver, and if there be any 
suspicion, melt them in the fire. They sell and buy, and, in 
the process, they draw to themselves the wealth of the people. 
Then there are two kinds of Dasses ; the one class catch fish, 
and the other till the land. There are Bowries, who are the 
musicians of the town. The Bagdies, accompanied by ten or 
twenty spearmen, go about the town with arms. The 
fishermen make nets and catch fish, and the Kuch leads here a 
merry life. There are a number of washermen who dry the 
clothes washed by them on ropes hung up on poles. There are 
the tailors who sew clothes by the job, or who engage as 
servants on salaries, and all these occupy one ward of the 
town. There are the Shiulis who tap the khajoor (date) trees 
and make molasses from the date juice. There are carpenters 
in the market place and people who fry and prepare parched 
rice ; and there are painters. The Patneys (ferrymen) are 
there, who receive the Raj -dues for ferrying people over. The 
bards settle there, and beg from house to house." 

Then comes an account of people living outside the town : 
The Kols, Korengs, and amongst others, the Maharattas, whose 

* Vestments of silk are usually worn on festal occasions. Heeren. 

c.f. " All these ladies — Kausilya, Sumitra, the fair Kaikeyi — sumptuously clad in silk, 
hastened to the temples of the gods to offer incense. " Ramayana. 

159 



feENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

occupation, it is said, was to tap for the cure of diseased 
spleens, and to operate for cataract. 

The picture here presented affords one more proof, 
if any were needed, of the paramount influence which 
Brahmin priests have always exercised over Hindu Society, 
though the references to the unlettered priests who preside 
over the daily religious ceremonies of the villagers and who 

Prieati in mn ^ rom house to house on their daily errand as 
fluence. a i so ^ the Ghatalc Brahmins whe are represented 

as parasites preying upon society may perhaps be taken to be 

Position of indications of a growing spirit of revolt against 
Ghataks. tb. e abuses of priestcraft. The Hakil Gopes 

" in whose fields all kinds of wealth grow" must have been a 

condition of h a PP v group of people in those days. Then there 
Hakii Gopes. were the medicine men — the traders and crafts 
men — the braziers, carpenters and goldsmiths — all of whom 
had their allotted part in the social economy of the day. 
Those medicine men were a set of empirics and some of 
them were bold impostors, while craftiness was as prominent 
a characteristic of the goldsmiths in the 16th century 
as it is to-day, for they buy and sell and in the process 
suck the substance of the people. The traders traded mostly 
in anga rakhis, chamors (yak-tails), sandal wood, 

Internal trade. , , , , . , ., , , 

conch shells, spices and precious stones, these 
being some of the prominent articles in the internal trade of 
Domestic ^e county; while the braziers supplied the 
utensils. domestic utensils such as, thalis, lotas, sips, 
pandans, pancha pradips, dabars etc. — There were the tailors, 
who sometimes hired themselves out by the month, sometimes 
worked on a system of contract. 

The carpenters produced a few simple articles of furniture 
m such as wooden stools and wooden bed-steads which 

The community 

a self-contained sufficed f or the simple wants of the people. It 

will thus be seen that the settlement is intended 

to be represented as a self-contained, self-sufficing unit, the 

160 



SOCIOLOGICAL 

citizens as a rule depending for the supply of their daily needs 
on the efforts of their neighbours. 

The inference which Mukundram's account suggests I 
would venture to place by the side of the following classical 
description of the Indian Village Community : — - 

" Each Hindu township is, and indeed always was, a 
particular community or petty republic of itself ; and furnishes 
us with a vivid representation of' the early state of things, when 
men first joined themselves together in societies for the purpose 
of relieving their mutual wants. Every community of the 
above kind, in addition to the landed proprietors, contains 
twelve different members ; the judge and magistrate (Potail); 
the registrar ; the watchman of the place and the fields ; the 
distributor of water for the purposes of inundation : the astro- 
loger, for determining lucky and unlucky days and hours ; the 
cart wright ; the potter ; the washerman of the few garments 
for which there is occasion and which are generally manufac- 
tured in the family itself, or purchased at the nearest market ; 
the barber ; and lastly, the goldsmith, or maker of ornaments 
for the women and young maids, who is in many villages re- 
placed by the poet (rhapsodist) and schoolmaster. These 
twelve functionaries are paid either in land, or in a certain 
quantity of grain, furnished by the agriculturists of the 
community. The whole of India is nothing more than one 
vast congeries of such republics. The inhabitants, even in war, 
are dependent on their respective Potails, who are at the same 
time magistrates, collectors, and principal farmers. They 
trouble themselves very little about the fall and dismember- 
ment of empires ; and provided the township within its limits, 
which are exactly marked out by a boundary line, remain 
intact, it is a matter of perfect indifference to them who 
becomes sovereign of the country ; and therefore their internal 
administration always continues the same." 

Sir Stamford Raffles, in his account of the small island of 
Bali, situate to the eastward of Java, has furnished us with a 

161 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

remarkable instance of these petty states yet existing under 
their original constitution. " Here," says he, " together with 
the Brahman religion, is still preserved the ancient form of 
Hindu municipal polity, and its accompanying Potails; called 
by the natives Parbakes, in subordination to a Rajah of 
unlimited power." 

I need hardly remind my friends that recent researches, 
and more specially the work done by our own settlement 
officers in India have largely modified the older views about 
the Indian Village Community. We now know that " Indian 
villages are divisible into two principal and widely different 
types of which the assemblage of co-proprieto?°s formerlv 
assumed to be the only normal one is not the more ancient." 
But though in liaiyatwari villages there is no communal 
ownership or tenure, there is little doubt that there is a head 
man and there are village officers, and as Sir Frederick Pollock 
puts it, " we may say there is administrative unity for many 
purposes." 

Let me take you back for a moment in this connection 
to the 16th Century Vaisnav Literature, a literature which 
by the way illustrates the vitality of the Village Community 
in order to show how the testimony of that literature coincides 
with the testimony of Mukundram regarding the various 
trading groups in the social economy of the day. In the 
eighth canto of the Adihlianda of Chaitanya Bhagabat* we 
have an account of the peregrinations of Cuaitanya through 
the town of Navadhip on a certain occasion which enumerates 
for us in a most interesting fashion the various occupations 
and professions of his townsmen. 

He goes first of all to the abode of the weavers, whence he 
passes on to and visits one after another, those who deal in 
dairy products, the Gandhabanilcs who manufacture all 
kinds of scents, the Malakars who sell flowers and garlands 

* Fide' Note I. 

162 



SOCIOLOGICAL 

of flowers, the Tambulies who deal in betels, the Sankha- 
baniks who manufacture things of conchshells, and lastly the 
Sharbajnya, the all-knowing astrologer, who knows all the 
past and can read the future, divining things with a prophetic 
eye. 

It may be noted with just pride that nowhere is there 
Absence of any reference to the prevalence of drunkenness 
among the people. No tavern is set up in the 
new settlement, not even among the Bagdies and other low 
castes who take their abode on the outskirts of the new Capital. 
Perhaps this is not altogether a fancy picture, and one 
naturally thinks in this connection of what Ea Hien said of 
Testimony of the Indian Middle Kingdom viz., " throughout 
Fa men. ^e w ^ i e C0U ntry the people do not drink in- 

toxicating liquor. In the markets there are no dealers in 
intoxicating drink."* 

The poet's reference to the Mahrattas is indeed curious, for 
TheMaharatus. the Mahratta comes before us not as a freebooter 
to demand his chcrnth, but as a peaceful citizen 
experimenting upon the spleen of his deluded patient, much 
as the Madrasi Doctor is to be found about the streets of 
Calcutta in our days. Thus the Borgis of the times of Ali 
Vardi Khan were not the first Mahrattas known in these 
parts of the country. 

I conclude this portion of my subject with a reference by 
anticipation to some of the incidents narrated in the second 
of the stories to be found in Mukundram's pages. The 
merchant Srimanta as well as his father saw a wonderful 
vision on his way to Ceylon. But the vision was visible only 
to the father and the son, and not even to the boatmen, the 
crew who manned the vessels in which the merchants proceeded 

* Of strong and intoxicating liquors, ancient India was acquainted with more than one 
sort ; the use of them however was by no means general. The Eamayana distinguishes 
the Surs who indulged themselves in these liquors from the Asura who abstained from 
them. Seer en. 

163 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

to Ceylon. The ruler of Ceylon was loathe to believe the 
statements of the Indian merchants — who were thus forced 
to appeal to the testimony of the boatmen, and though the 
boatmen could have saved themselves and their masters from 
captivity by telling an untruth, never hesitated for a moment 
in truthfully declaring that they had not seen the sight. In 
the appeal* which the merchants make to their crew, we are 
told in unmistakable terms that the man who tells the truth 
is received in Heaven, that there is no sin more heinous than 
untruthfulness, that the earth which bears the burden of all 
refuses to bear the burden of the untruthful man. 

I would leave the incidents to point their own moral and 
to suggest their own conclusions. 

On a previous occasion, I ventured to speak to you of my 
strong feeling that there was a Renaissance in Bengal in the 
16th century of the Christian era, and that the spiritual and 
intellectual awakening in Bengal proper M r as but part of a 
widespread movement affecting more or less the whole of 
India, and every department of life among the Indian popula- 
tion. An examination of contemporary records of life, as I 
have tried to show, leaves hardly any room for doubt on the 
point. Whether we note the toleration of the times, or a singular 
phenomenon like the prevalance of the cult of Satya Pir, 
the name itself redolent of the spirit of the B/enascence, or 
whether we try rightly to interpret the significance of the 
love of the ruling race, the Mahomedans, for Sanskrit learning 
and of the mastery of Arabic and Persian by the Hindu 
devotees of Hindu learning, the inference suggested is the 
same. Further, the fact that Mukundram speaks of Bengal 
and of Gujurat almost in the same breath, would tend to 



"WSJ *pr|J[ ntt Itft PHj«M 

'si'rat ^m^ ■srtft jrat^tni ^ 
fatjl d ^ <5tH ®1sl itft *& II 

164 



SOCIOLOGICAL 

show that Gaur and Gujurat were two of the centres of the 
permeating influence and the visible activities of the day. 
It is a source of satisfaction to find this view partially con- 
firmed by the materials put together in Mr, Havell's recently 
published, admirably executed work on Indian architecture. 
I refer to this work all the more readily, for I hold with Sir 
E. Burton that in architecture we have the highest expression 
of the artistic feeling of a people. I refer to it also^ because 
it recalls to our mind that quiet scene which was enacted 
in London early this year* amidst the beating of war drums 
and the unfurling of flags on the European continent, when 
a largely and influentially signed petition was presented to 
the Secretary of State for India containing the following 
remarkable dictum : — 

English workmen of the 16th Century by the strength of 
their inherited craftsmanship made real the architecture 
of the Renaissance. The native architecture suffered, but the 
buildings were still living. Indian native architecture would 
suffer in the same way if it was required to take its inspiration 
from abroad, but if left to the craftsmen the product would 
still be living art. 

Of the character and characteristic excellences of 16th 
Century Indian architecture, of the relation between Hindu 
art and Mogul or Islamic art I should not attempt to speak, 
though I believe a highly interesting treatise may be written 
on the influence of the bamboo in shaping the history of 
architecture in Bengal, and on the differences in the structural 
arrangements of Hindu temples and Mahomedan mosques 
due to differences in their respective rituals of worship, the 
one being individualistic, while the other is communal. As 
Eerguson tells us : — 

" It may be as well to explain that the roofs of the huts 
in Bengal are formed of two rectangular frames of bambus, 

* February, 1913. 

165 



BENGAL IN TflE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

perfectly flat and rectangular when formed, but when lifted 
from the ground and fitted to the substructure they are bent, 
so that the elasticity of the bambu, resisting the flexure, 
keeps all the fastenings in a state of tension, which makes 
a singularly firm roof out of very frail materials. It is the 
only instance I know of elasticity being employed in build- 
ing, but is so singularly successful iu attaining the desired 
end, and is so common, that we can hardly wonder when the 
Bengalis turned their attention to more permanent modes 
of building they should have copied this one." 

On the present occasion I content myself with placing 
before you just a few statements out of Mr. Havell's book 
which I have spoken of, my object being to invite the attention 
of the younger generation of our historical students to this 
department of Indian life and to the influence of the Moslem 
rulers on the canons of the Hindu Silpa Sastras, an influence 
which acted as a solvent on the rigidity of the traditional 
rules. 

"When the subject is rightly understood, I have no doubt 
that the 10th Century rather than the 17th will be appreciated 
as the classic epoch of Mahomedau architecture in India. 
The Taj Mahal, the Matt Masjid at Agra and a few other 
buildings of Shah Jahan's time are unique in themselves 
and surrounded by a halo of romance which appeals strongly 
to popular imagination. But exquisite as those are in art 
and craftsmanship, they belong to the lyric rather than 
the epic school of architecture, and many of the buildings 
contemporary with them betray a weakness of design which 
was a faithful reflection of the approaching decadence of the 
Mogul Empire/' 

"In the beginning of the 16th Century Gaurand Gujurat, 
the former chiefly in brick and the latter mostly in stone, 
were the great creative centres of the architecture of nor- 
thern India." 

" The cusped arches of the early 16th Century buildings 
at Gaur are of the same type as those of Shah Jahan's 
palace at Delhi and many other of his buildings — both 

166 



SOCIOLOGICAL 

derived from Buddhist — Hindu prototypes. The bent corni- 
ces and curvilinear roofs of Gaur, derived from the Bambu 
construction of the Buddhists of Bengal, are found in many 
of the buildings of the Moguls and belong to the building 
traditions of modern Rajputana." 

" Gaur is important in the history of Indian architecture 
not so much for the monuments it bequeathed to posterity 
as for its influence on the living tradition of Indian 
architecture.'" 

The 16th Century in Bengal saw the conception and the 

completion of the Soma Mmjid, so called from its gilded 

domes, and the Chota Sona Mmjid at Gaur under Hussain 

Shah and his son, Nasarat Shah, besides the Jcmi Mmjid 

of Akhi Serajuddin. It is curious that while Mukundram 

just mentions the building of a temple dedicated to the great 

Siva in his new town, he makes no reference to the building 

of any elaborate Hindu temple compelling attention by its 

imposing splendour and magnificence. The absence of any 

such reference suggests that though multitudes of minor 

temples must have existed, no great moWmental Hindu 

temple was built in Bengal in the 16th Century ; and this 
we know to have been the case, though in the wider India 

outside Bengal, we find beautiful examples like Govind Deva's 

temple at Brindaban, which temple by the way has an 

interesting history of its own. 

Further it may be noticed that in Mukundram we have 
a description of the planning and building of the new capital 
which shows that in those days people in India had definite 
ideas about town planning and that sanitary considerations 
as well as the practical requirements of convenience were by 
no means overlooked by them in their pursuit of the proverbial 
Oriental magnificence. This, however, does not come as a 
surprise to those who are familiar with our Silpa Sastras — or 
who think of the rise of a new town like Eatehpur Sikri. 
Indeed it seems to me that those who can speak with authority 

167 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D., 

on questions connected with architecture will find interesting 
parallels between Akbar's newly designed Fatehpur Sikri, 
with its mosque, its palaces and assembly halls, its baths and 
waterworks, its spacious caravanserais for travellers — and 
the configuration of the new capital described in the pages 
of our poet with its temple dedicated to Siva — its Natsala — its 
public gardens — its Bhatsala — its Fatsala (Schoolhouse) and 
its buildings for the reception of weary travellers — points 
which might prove of interest to our modern town improve- 
ment committees. 



168 



Note I. 

c*rf«ftl isfi ^^ft ^^c^ ii 
*«fi to < 5 rft" <st^ <3t*iai ^ i 

^fa TO 'SJtf^R C^l II 

«f| C^tt»J "4 5 TC3PT f% ^ *fal ?" 

*55Rtt C^tW W <*R ^MW It fat «" 

$tf% c^tt*i "«re*t tw fal ^1 ciwfaj ii 

TO foil *fa $ft 1tW 1C*tW I 
Iftf ^ft ff% CTt* tH JRtPJCt II" 

&lk*M fail <2t i f CttftCI^ ^ II 

^f^n^R ^«ti c*ttt*fr ssftw i 

gfttf W*R <Stf if^t 1 ! TO II 
^fa CSt?T ^JT^ *fo **tTfa II" 

jisct f^R ^tf^ ^pt ^^ ii 
<2f^ iw c*ttw to ift^ i 
'*rW srW ^ iw to^ *r®tt n 

CTOl C^ ^ *TR! .1 «t^8 <tt^ fad I 

crfa clt*t ^Ri to Tfa tot frral II 

StPI ^t«2f| CtWEl* ^W II 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTTJKT, A.D. 

$*, w, rfk, m, ^«f*r mft i 

CtWltfPlW «li Sftsf ^91 1 
*fiflf«lm TOT fcltcsR fad II 

13CT #F* ^3T 5HM <2tffa I 

•fill c^ "'srtra ^ ! ^ *fa ^ H" 

faj *fa #tf *rfft*i ^ft I , 

^t1% «RR it* TOT Tte: <s fcf^r ! 
^tf*i if* if ra «rf «rfani <2fpr ii 

^W« lft If W I'K.Tfft 5ft? I 
^ ^ f^ CTft*T C^ fBC^S *|C® ll" 

I 5 * <?f| =tf«ft, sfl Sftft CTt^^W II 

^%^^ <sre^ ^fa fate* i 
fetter farl <2t^ srfatTtm *h ii 

itfi^ *$*& ftfl *fe<t srcrat* ii 

^f% ltt% *n:l f%i Tff^F "srfat* II" 

fii tpi <sm cm nWfti i 

tt% c^rfti "f%i ?fo iff** C5t*rfa ii" 

45 #i Thl ffa <%* aiN^f I 
STCT ^-^ ^ *fc*t* TO? II 

fclN st^t-TOT citato %fa n 
17Q 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

<7Ffa ^Mi^ft ^W store ssre ii" 

%*ra sttji «ttfa, «sff orfa stor ii 
<sf^ c*toi ^f% re*ti c^w ^1 fail f 

$ftf!t C^OI "fcl <£^ »K^1 II" 
l^sf 1C¥tW Wl ^1 <5^4 II 

far *t< 'H^tfa 1^5 ^Rfi i 
afoil ^re fart, *>w *rtft fat ^ ii 
sfa*ftor ^s$ ^re c*ft* *rc i 
stf»ra1 stfoil i^ ^*tor c*^fa n 
si^ft sift <?R ^iftt-'jft I 

dlt^l Sftfa ®w If ^%5 ifl ttre II 

*2t^r rest* Bitf^r nto^ fartei i 
*wi *n< ^re $*fe5 v5««ti n 
*2p6 OT t^ft ^re>*rl ^sr I 
efc *H 'rc* <nw ihfft i «rc ii 
^Fu*tre ct*rt "W^PttT* *nre I 
crfa *wrf«t¥ igw wr* ii 

>2t^ C^tC^T "far "N <srfa ffffa <sfc I 
CW> *1 ft* "K ^% ftfs Tffa ll" 

faj »w *ft*t1* <s rft^1 ct^ fc«i I 
<2t^* %re fal *fai <2Mtw ii 
""W i§ *c* ffa 5^ clfrffo ! 
•ttn *fa Are, ^1 ftwe frt «rtf* ii" 

<&fc i$«\\ i2tl "f*T*ffo TO* I 
5%*H Stfa W-$fc ^ S5tW II 

jpsf* *f%* «2tf ^H Sifal II 

171 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.t). 

^ I«l1^ cfhrear <5*tffa„ I 

l4fc** TOT <2f? ^Pf^Tt tftl II 
ClfftRll <5(f* C^gf c^ J(#rft I 

fant is* ^fa ^fanl <2f e ft s t ii 

at*! crfr, , »raf sfCTi fa srff^rts <srfft ?" 

Chaitwnya Bhagafrat. 



VIII. 
BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 



SOCIOLOQICAL (II). 



Vlll 
BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 

SOCIOLOGICAL (II). 

Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Fellow- Students: 

I now. pass on to review the strictly sociological informa- 
tion supplied by contemporary vernacular literature regarding 
Bengal in the Sixteenth Century, A.D. But before I ask you 
to consider the validity of the conclusions which I venture 
to suggest in this connection, permit me to place before you in 
its briefest outline the argument of Mukundram's story. 

Indra's son having incurred the displeasure of the great 
Siva was cursed to live on earth as a mortal for a term of 
years. On his death his disconsolate wife immolated herself 
on his funeral pyre, and the two were born on earth as 
members of neighbouring families of hunters. In due course 
they were united in happy wedlock — but they got tired of 
the privations of a hunter's life, when the Goddess Chandi 
appeared in their cottage in the shape of a beautiful young 
maiden to relieve their misery — but also to popularise her cult 
and to win worshippe rs for herself. She placed untold wealth 
at the disposal of the hunter, advised him to clear parts of 
the primeval forest and to select a suitable site for a new 
city — This is the beginning of the Kingdom of Gujurat. 

. In the meantime Kalinga was afflicted with a dire flood 
which forced the inhabitants to migrate to Gujurat with all 
their trade guilds and caste groups. Through the machina- 
tions of a wily Kayastha war broke out between Kalinga and 
Gujurat, the hunter king was taken prisoner, but soon released 
and peace was restored between the two Kingdoms. On the 
expiry of the term of the curse, the hunter king and the queen 

175 



Bengal in the sixteenth century, a.1>. 

were translated to heaven leaving Gujurat in the keeping 
of their young son — and the cult of Chandi hegan to flourish 
in Gujurat as well as Kalinga. 

Fortunately we have a history of Gujurat (Mirat Ahmadi) 
from the pen of a Mahomedan writer — who was a revenue 
minister in the state, had ample materials at his disposal and 
displayed a critical turn of mind. I give in full what he has 
to say about the foundation of Gujurat, as the coincidences 
between the Hindu poet and the Mahomedan historian would 
suggest that a traditional account of the foundation of Gujurat 
was long prevalent in Hindustan, that both the poet and the 
historian were drawing upon this source and that the poet 
adapted and modified it to suit his purpose. 

In ancient times, the country of Gujurat was possessed by 
the Rajputs and Kulies ; when every chief, being independent 
of another, was a person of power in his own domain. The 
army of Raja Phiru, (Porus), however, then Deva Raja of 
Kanauj, greatest of all the Rajas of Hindustan, was annually 
sent to collect the tribute ; and after having done so, returned 
to the capital. 

One of the Raja's slaves, named Sawarit Singh, having 
committed some fault, was put to death; and, as his house 
was plundered at the same time, his wife, while pregnant, fled 
towards Gujurat. On her journey to his country, she bore 
a son ; who, being discovered in the wilderness by Raja Sil 
Deva, was carried to Palanpur, and their brought up by him. 
This boy, on arriving at man's estate, became so fond of evil 
company, that soon following the ways of his companions, he 
turned highwayman and robber. Having, at length, seized 
on some treasure on his way from Gujarat to Kanauj he was 
from that time, blessed with the smiles of fortune, and established 
his power and independence. Soon after he became intimate 
with a marketman named Champa, who weaned him from his 
evil propensities ; and having now assumed the title* of Ban 
Raj or Bansraj, he laid the foundation of the city of Patan, and 
made it the seat of his Government. This occurred five years 
after he had first become independent; and from the time 
until the foundation of the good city of Ahamadabad, Patan 
continued to be the royal residence and the capital of Gujurat, 

176 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

When Ban Raj had resolved on founding the city of Patan, 
he went in search of a site favourably situated for the amuse- 
ment of the chase; and having at length met a shepherd, 
was informed by him where a suitable place might be found. 
The shepherd, whose name was Anhill, stipulated that the city 
should be named after him; saying at the same time, that 
he had there seen a hare beat a dog by her exertion and agility. 
The ground was selected ; and when a population had collected, 
received the name of Anhilwarah. This became known by 
degrees under the name of Nahrwalah; which when the 
population increased, and the town became a place of note, 
was changed to Patan ; for in the Hindi language they call a 
favoured town and a royal residence Patan. The era of the 
foundation is 802 of Vikramaditya corresponding to A. D. 817." 

To those who may feel tempted to examine the poem for 
themselves, I would commend the characterisation of that 
smooth-tongued wily village banker who never loses an oppor- 
tunity of earning a penny — honest or dishonest, and the 
scenes which follow the appearance of the goddess in the 
hunter's cottage in the disguise of a young maiden. Now 
comes the first cloud, the first flutter in the simple life of our 
heroine, who had lived so long happily, warbling her native 
wood notes wild. She suspects a possible rival in the young 
maiden before her, and she appeals to her legendary lore and 
to her whole stock of historical examples of Indian woman- 
hood to prove that the chiefest virtue of the wife is devotion 
to the husband. She tries her best to persuade the maid to 
leave her cottage. But all to no purpose. Then she runs to 
her husband — her eyes red with weeping. The hunter in his 
surprise enquires what could be the matter with her. She 
had no co-wife and no sister-in-law — why then should her 
eyes be red ? Every Indian reader would at once perceive the 
force of the implications in these references to the sister-in- 
law and the co-wife. The sections of the poem, however, 
which give an account of the settlement of the various castes, 
trading groups and craft guilds in the new town are, as already 
indicated, the sections which are of engrossing interest to the 

177 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

student of Indian institutions. Here I propose to discuss only 
a few questions of subsidiary importance strictly from the 
sociological point of view. 

(«) Did polygamy prevail? The poem leaves abso- 
lutely no doubt that polygamy was prevalent 
in Hindu society in the poet's day, though it 
was not regarded with high favour The refer- 
ences to it and to its consequences are 
too numerous not to have been suggested by 
familiar incidents in the daily life of the people. 
The heroine of the poet's second episode has her 
cousin as her co-wife. But obviously there was a 
volume of public opinion and strong feeling 
against it. 
(6) What was the usual age for marriage ? One poor 
fellow who lives in single blessedness till his 
twenty-fifth year is spoken of by the poet as an 
object of pity. The hero of the second story 
is married in his eleventh year. As to the 
marriageable age for girls, we have a most 
interesting scene in the second story in which a 
house-holder, the father of an unmarried daughter 
of twelve summers, is severely taken to task. 
In the scene is summed up the public opinion on 
the subject, and we are told that the father is lucky 
and worthy of the favour of the Gods who can get 
his daughter married in her ninth year — but he 
is worthier still who succeeds in getting her married 
in her seventh year. The inference from this is 
natural that in the majority of cases, marriages 
took place between seven and nine. It was in 
very rare cases that marriage was put off till 
the twelfth year. 

In this connection, I would invite reference to what our 
sixteenth century European travellers tell us, to the testimony, 

178 



Sociological. 

that is to say, of Caeser Frederick, Ralph Pitch and others 
which I have already quoted. I would also remind you 
of the following Regulations regarding marriages which Akhar 
promulgated : — 

Every care bestowed upon this wonderful tie between men 
is a means of preserving the stability of the human race, and 
ensuring the progress of the world ; it is a preventive against 
the outbreak of evil passions, and leads to the establishment 
of homes. Hence His Majesty, inasmuch as he is benign, 
watches over great and small and imbues men with his notions 
of the spiritual union and the equality of essence which 
he sees in marriage. He abhors marriages which take place 
between man and woman before the age of puberty. They 
bring forth no fruit, and His Majesty thinks them even 
hurtful; for afterwards, when such a couple ripens into 
manhood, they dislike having connexion, and their home is 
desolate. 

Here in India, where a man cannot see the woman to 
whom he is betrothed, there are peculiar obstacles; but His 
Majesty maintains that the consent of the bride and 
bridegroom, and the permission of the parents, are absolutely 
necessary in marriage contracts. 

Marriages between near relations His Majesty thinks highly 
improper. He says, "The fact that in ancient times (?) 
even, a girl was not given to her twin brother, ought to silence 
those who are fond of historical proofs. Marriage between 
first cousins, however, does not strike the bigoted followers 
of Muhammad's religion as wrong ; for the beginning of a 
religion resembles, in this regard, the beginning of the 
creation of mankind." 

His Majesty disapproves of high dowries ; for as they are 
rarely ever paid, they are mere sham ; but he admits that the 
fixing of high dowries is a preventive against rash divorces. 
Nor does His Majesty approve of every one marrying 
more than one wife ; for this ruins a man's health, and 
disturbs the peace of the home. He censures old women 
that take young husbands, and says that doing so is against 
all modesty. 

179 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

He has also appointed two sober and sensible men, one 
of whom enquires into the circumstances of the bridegroom, 
and the other into those of the bride. These two officers 
have the title of Tuibegi, or masters of marriages. In many 
cases, the duties are performed by one and the same officer. 
His Majesty also takes a tax from both parties, to enable 
them to shew their gratitude. The payment of this tax is 
looked upon as auspicious. In demanding this tax, the officers 
have to pay regard to the circumstances of the father of the 
bride. 

(<?) Did our ladies read and write in those days ? We 
have in the poem the story of a forged letter. 
The forgery is planned and executed by two 
women. One of these certainly does not belong 
to the highest rank in society. The forged letter 
is placed in the hands of another lady who reads 
it for herself, discovers that it was not in the 
handwriting of the person by whom it purported 
to be written — and declares it to be a forgery. 
There is evidence to show that women belonging 
to the lower ranks of society such as house-maids 
were illiterate ; but there is nothing in the poem 
to indicate that public opinion discountenanced 
female education. If this was the case in the Bengal 
of the sixteenth century, it would be interest- 
ing to enquire into the causes of the decay of 
female education in Hindu society in the earlier 
decades of the nineteenth Century. 

(d) "Were the Hindus strict vegetarians ? Here again the 
poem leaves absolutely no doubt. In their youth- 
ful days, the hunter and his wife earn their living 
by the sale of wild fowls and game of all sorts, 
and they have little difficulty in finding custo- 
mers. Curiously enough in the earlier edicts of 
Asoka we have references to the pleasures of the 

180 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

chase and to the slaughter of animals and con- 
sumption of meat on a large scale on festive 
occasions. 

Without trenching on controversial grounds, I may just 
note that there is a remarkable passage in the Brihadaranya 
Upatiishad which thus concludes : — " He who desires to have a 
son unvanquished in the assembly of Pundits and the speaker 
of a speech respected by all, who can explain all the Vedas 
and lives a long life, should eat rice cooked with flesh and 
clarified butter ; whether the flesh be that of a bull or a ram." 
Whatever may be thought of the value of this recipe, the 
passage under reference leaves little doubt that the Indo- 
Aryans at a certain stage of their history did believe that a 
meat-eating people necessarily excels in mental vigour as 
well as in physicaLprowess. 

In this connection students of 16th Century Vaisnav 
Literature would be inevitably reminded of the gorgeous 
descriptions of feasts and vegetable dishes to be found in the 
pages of Chaitanya Charitamrita as also of the Chaitanya 
Bhagabat — preparations "of herbs and other country messes, 
which the neat -handed Phillis dresses." Similar gorgeous 
descriptions are also fairly frequent in the pages of Mukundram. 
Thus there can be little doubt that these vegetable dishes were 
highly esteemed by the people. And indeed the details 
of the recipes are such as may suggest points to our modern 
Professors of culinary art and to the somewhat dulled and 
jaded taste of a generation nourished on a too exclusive meat 
diet. 

(e) Prom the materials supplied by the poem it would be 
easy to make up a fairly long list of the utensils 
in use in Hindu households for domestic purposes. 
They had their plates and cups, water- jugs and 
candlesticks, all made of brass. I wonder if an 
ordinary Hindu house-hold in our days has added 

181 



iJENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH" CENTURY, A.D. 

very many to these conveniences of life — with the 
exception perhaps of the tea-cup and saucer 
especially since the days of Lord Curzon who 
among other things aimed at making the Bengalis 
a nation of tea-drinkers. Is this a proof of the 
conservatism of Hindu society — or does it show 
that the standard of living in those days was 
sufficiently high ? Would it come as a surprise to 
the modern observer to be told that the hero of 
the poet's second story, the merchant prince 
actually dines off golden plates and golden cups ? 

While I have been calling your attention to evidence of 
prosperity in the Province and to our poet's references to high 
standards of living among certain sections of the community, 
I ought also to state that in the poem itself we have descrip- 
tions of almost extreme destitution. Indeed our hero himself 
— the hunter — had felt the pangs of poverty at a certain stage 
of his life — meeting at the same time on all hands from 
friends and neighbours, sympathy invariably materialised into 
substantial bounty — a fact which, as I had occasion to remark 
in one of my previous discourses, continues to be a marked 
feature of Hindu society down to the present day. In this 
connection I may be permitted to recall to your mind that in 
the pages "of the Ain-i Akbari we have certain tables, which 
using modern phraseology may be spoken of as tables of prices 
and wages, giving us the prices of certain articles in daily use 
and wages of diverse classes of labourers and artisans, 
mechanicals and handicraftsmen. One has always to think of 
differences in the purchasing power of money,* but the figures 

* In this connection we may well remind ourselves of an instructive Appendix to 
Dr. Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce entitled Some Difficulties in the 
interpretation of historical statistics. Dr. Cunningham says, " The interpretation of quotations 
of prices and other information of similar kinds is beset with many difficulties. It must be 
remembered that statistics only serve to set economic problems before us in a very precise 
form ; the greatest care and skill is needed to solve the questions they present for our 
consideration. Figures, however correct they may be, show the amount of some changes, 

182 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

in the Ain-i Akbari would justify us in stating generally that 
the material condition of labourers and artisans in Akbar's India 
was one of ease and comfort, an inference which is further 
corroborated by the contemporary records of life in the pages 
of our Bengali poet. 

(/) One of the occupations of the low castes who settle 
on the outskirts of the new city of Gujurat 
is said to be the preparation of Moja and Panai, 
shoes and stockings. We- know from the Inclika 
of Arian that Indians so far back as the time of 
Alexander's invasion of India used to wear shoes 
made of white leather and these were elaborately 
trimmed, " while the soles were variegated, and 
made of great thickness, to make the wearer seem 
so much the taller." Our poet's reference to the 
Moja shows that it is not a thing which came into 
India only in our days. It is interesting to com- 
pare in this connection the following summary to 
be found in the pages of the Ain-i Akbari of the 
state of things in ancient Hindu society : — 

While a woman is adorned by sixteen things, a man is 
adorned by twelve things viz. : — 

(1) Trimming his beard, (2) Ablution of his body, (3) Draw- 
ing the Sectarial marks of caste, (4) Anointing with perfumes 
and oil (5) Wearing gold earrings, (6) Wearing the Jama 
fastened on the left side, (7) Bearing the Mukuta which is a 
golden tiara worn on the turban, (8) Wearing a sword 

Taut they do not in themselves give us any light as to the reason of the changes, or as to the 
ulterior results brought about in social life, or economic conditions. These must be the 
matter of carefully reasoned enquiry." " We must take account of cases where the modern 
labourer has to pay for things which the mediaeval labourer got for nothing, and of things 
which the modern labourer habitually uses, and which the mediaeval labourer never had at aft. 
It is now recognised that the question of a labourer's comfort depends, not merely on his own 
wages, but on the family income. Before, then, we can get satisfactory informations 
regarding the standard of comfort we must know what opportunities there are for bye- 
employment and domestic industry." 

183 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTTTRY, A.D. 

(9) Carrying a dagger and the like at the Waist, (10) Wearing 
a ring on the finger, (11) Wearing Sandals or Shoes. 

As to the ornaments prized by the womenfolk, one would 
gather from the descriptions in Mukundram's pages that 
these included the bala which is a kind of bracelet usually 
made of silver, the kanhcm which again is a variety of the 
bracelet surmounted with small knobs and usually of gold, 
the gold necklace with its five or seven strings of gold beads, 
the ornament for the ear, ring for the ten fingers and the 
sounding anklet of silver. Curiously enough in the Fifth Canto 
of the Antalchanda of Chaitanya Bhagabat we have an 
enumeration of the ornaments which were held in esteem 
at the time. The noteworthy point about the list* is that it 
reads like an inventory of the ornaments mentioned by 
Mukundram on various occasions and in various connections. 

As to the popular superstitions of those days, they had their 
faith in love-compelling potions and such like preparations. One 
section of our poem speaks of a medicine which could endow 
childless women with children ; another speaks of a decoction 
which could win the undying love of man for the particular 
woman who uses it, securing her triumph over her rivals — the 



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tfe5R "srorttt CW ^5g1 ^sft II 
wt SNspsi cnM m ft§?«M || 

^fi-^SFi-mtsVlf? ^5 J)#lt3 II 

wfa foita ^ ^f mus i 

5§ affsqtsi c*tft« 1st c»lt»q 11 
Wtfa 1st c*1tt* s^wf^ 11 

184 



SOCIOLOGICAL 

ingredients of which decoction would challenge comparison 

with the ingredients of the witches' cauldron in Shakespeare's 
Macbeth. 

What were the popular amusements of the day ? One 
must freely admit that gambling, betting and diceplaying 
occupied a prominent place among these. "We hear of betting 
in the dealings of our merchant-adventurers with the King of 
Ceylon, and when one of these merchant princes goes to Gaur 
and there forgets his home, his native-land, his newly-wedded 
wife in the indulgence of delights which cannot be described 
as "unreproved pleasures free," his addiction to diceplaying is 
specially spoken of by the poet. Even husbands and wives 
are represented as amusing themselves with diceplaying. 
Indeed, this has been a national weakness of the Indo- Aryans 
from the earliest times, and one has only to think in this 
connection of the description of the great match at diceplaying 
at Hastinapur to be found in the pages of our Mahabharata. 
Hence it is interesting to note the following observations of 
Tacitus regarding the Teutons — "What is extraordinary, they 
play at dice when sober as a serious business, and that with 
such a desperate venture of gain or loss, that when everything 
else is gone, they set their liberties and persons on the last 
throw. The loser goes into voluntary servitude, and though 
the youngest and strongest, patiently suffers himself to 
be bound and sold. Such is their perseverance in a bad 
practice." 

Pigeon-flying was another of the popular amusements. 
It is through pigeon-flying that one of our merchant princes 
has his first interview with his future wife and illustrates 
once again the truth of the dictum, "Now, dead shepherd, I see 
thy saw of might, who ever loved that loved not at first sight." 
It used to be played in some such fashion as the following : — 
each player had a pair of pigeons, one male and the other female. 

185 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

The male pigeon was let loose, while the female was held in the 
hand. He whose pigeon* soaring high, came down and 
perched on the hand of the owner out of fondness for its mate, 
was considered to he the victor. 

Pigeon-flying was one of the favourite amusements of the 
Emperor Akbar,"and this is what we read in the Aini Akbari. 

"His Majesty calls pigeon flying 'ishqbazi (love-play). 
This occupation affords the ordinary run of people a dull 
kind of amusement ; but His Majesty, in his wisdom, makes 
it a study. He even uses the occupation as a way of reducing 
unsettled, worldly-minded men to obedience, and avails 
himself of it as a means productive of harmony and friend- 
ship. The amusement which His Majesty derives from the 
tumbling and flying of the pigeons reminds of the ecstacy and 
transport of enthusiastic dervishes : he praises God for the 
wonders of creation. It is therefore from higher motives 
that he pays so much attention to this amusement. 

[The pigeons of the present age have reached a high state 
of perfection. Presents of pigeons are sent by the kings of 
Iran and Tnran ; but merchants also bring very excellent 
ones in large numbers.] 

When His Majesty was very young, he was fond of this 
amusement ; but afterwards, when he grew older and wiser, 
he discontinued pigeon-flying altogether. But since then, on 
mature consideration, he has again taken it up." 

We have in our poem also a list of juvenile amusements — 
the amusements of lads of the schoolgoing age, which includes 
mock-fights, hlind man's huff, swimming, climbing of trees, 
Bagchal and other games of a like kind which are still in 
great favour among our rural population. 



* ttfft irtf*rai stra, festt«i tM.^5 
186 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

In my rapid enumeration, I can only afford to make a 
bare reference to the soul-stirring Kir tans which the Vaisnavas 
brought into vogue and in which they found a potent instru- 
ment for popularising their cult, and to the recitations of the 
court-poets who formed a necessary part of the establishment 
of the Narapatis — the lords of villages of those days. 

There were further the rude theatricals of those times 
giving dramatic representation of scenes culled from the life 
of Krisna, which appealed strongly to popular imagination 
and which remind us of the mysteries and miracle plays of 
Pre-Elizabethan England. 

The historian has gratefully to acknowledge the immense 
services rendered by all these, and through these by 
Vaisnavism to the cause of culture and of popular education 
in 16th Century Bengal. The elevating influence of these in 
implanting high ethical ideals in the minds of the common 
people can hardly be questioned, while Mukundram's pages 
and other contemporary records leave no doubt of the fact 
that schools and educational institutions were lovingly 
cherished, and that learning — even Sanskrit learning, had 
ceased to be the monopoly of the Brahmins — mainly owing 
to the influence of Vaisnavism in the Bengal of the 16th 
Century. In the account which the poet gives us of the early 
education of one of our merchant adventurers, we are told 
that the boy — a non-Brahmin — had a thorough mastery of 
Sanskrit Grammar and rhetoric and that Meghaduta, 
Naishadha and Kumarsambhavam were some of the Sanskrit 
works he had critically studied. Thus Vaisnavism has been 
one of the chief contributory causes of the undertone of 
religious feeling which still constitutes the base of the 
character of the mass of our rural population, and of the 
poetry which is still found in their life in the midst of the 
fierce struggle for existence in these days of mechanical 
inventions and manufacturing industries. 

187 



BENGAL IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. 

I conclude my present rambling comments by calling 
attention to a few rather curious points : 

(a) Our merchant princes on their way to Ceylon pass by 
a tract of land which is spoken of as Firinghi desha 
and the sailors when passing by that region row 
without intermission as hai'd and as fast as they 
can for fear of Haramadas. What are the references 
here, firstly in the Firinghi desha and then in the 
Haramadas ? Have we here an Indianised version 
of the Spanish word Armada ? If so, the poet was 
evidently thinking of the dreaded Portuguese 
privateers of the 16th Century, and his words 
throw an interesting side-light on the relation 
which then existed between the Portuguese and the 
native inhabitants of the Indian maritime districts. 
Probably Sir William Hunter is thinking of the 
same state of things as our Bengali poet when he 
says, "The ravenous hordes let loose on India made the 
race name of Christian (Firinghi*) a word of terror, 
until the strong rule of the Mogul Empire turned it 
into one of contempt," and the historian incidentally 
refers to their buccaneering in the narrow seas, their 
pirate nests in the Bay of Bengal, their plunder 
of the coast and island princes. 

(b) The mariners who man the sea- going vessels are 
spoken of as Bangals — which leaves little doubt 
that these were recruited from Chittagong and its 
neighbourhood. Thus the art of navigation in 
dangerous seas is an inheritance of Eastern Bengal 
from the remote past, and in these 16th Century 



* As to the name Fringi and its signification, we are told by an old authority that Firinghi 
represents through Arabic and Persian the "Francos quo noraini omnes passim Christiani 
dicuntur." c.f "The Portugals which they call by the name of Fringes" 

188 



SOCIOLOGICAL. 

Bengal sailors of our poet with their uncouth dialect 

we have probably the predecessors of the modern 
Lascars of our P. and O. boats. 

(e) The sly humour of the poet lends an indescribable 
charm to the speech of these sailors. Their dialect 
with the S all awry and invariably changed into 
H shows that the linguistic difference between 
Eastern Bengal and Western Bengal is not a thing 
of modern growth. < 



189