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HINDOOS AS THEY ARE 

A DESCRIPTION OF THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS 

AND 

INNER LIFE OF HINDOO SOCIETY 

IN BENGAL. 



BY 



SHIB CHUNDER BOSE. 



WITH A PREFATORY NOTE BY 



The Rev. W. HASTIE, b.d., 

PRINCIPAL OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S INSTITUTION, CALCUTTA. 



. NC- TBI •! 

EDWARD STANFORD, 55, CHARING CROSS. 

€aUtttta: 

W. NEWMAN & Co., 3, DALHOUSIE SQUARE. 

1 88 1. 




PRINTED BY W. NEWMAN AND CO., 
AT THE CAXTON PRESS, I, MISSION ROW, CALCUTTA. 



I The Right of Translation and Reproduction is reserved.] 



CONTENTS. 



!"•- 



Page. 

Prefatory Note. i 

Introduction. "i 

I. The Hindoo Household i 

II. The Birth of a Hindoo 22 

III. The Hindoo School-boy 30 

IV. Vows OF Hindoo Girls 35 

V. Marriage Ceremonies 4i 

VI. The Brother Festival 9° 

VII. The Son-in-law Festival 92 

VIII. The Doorga Poojah Festival 93 

IX. The Kali Poojah Festival 136 

X. The Saraswati Poojah 151 

XI. The Festival of Cakes i55 

XII. The HoLi Festival i59 

XIII. Caste 165 

XIV. A Brahmin 180 

XV. The Bengalee Baboo 191 

XVI. The Kobiraj, or Native Physician ... 209 

XVII. Hindoo Females 216 

XVIII. Polygamy , .227 

XIX. Hindoo Widows 237 

XX. Sickness, Death, and Shrad or Funeral Cere- 
monies . ." 246 

XXI. Suttee, or the Immolation of Hindoo Widows . 272 

XXII. The Admired Story of Sabitri Brata, or the 

Wonderful Triumph of Exalted Chastity . 280 

Appendix 293 



ERRATA. 



-••^^^>«- 



Page 49, line 4, for ^^ Butterfly ^'^ read, ^^ Prajdpati — the (Lord.)" 



PREFATORY NOTE. 



Babu Shib Chunder Bose is an enlightened Bengali, of 
matured conviction and character, who, having received the 
stirring impulse of Western culture and thought during the 
early period of Dr. Duffs work in the General Assembly's 
Institution, has continued faithful to it through all these long 
and changeful years. His extended and varied experience, 
his careful habit of observation and contrast, his large store 
of general reading and information, and his rare sobriety and 
earnestness of judgment, eminently qualify him for lifting 
the veil from the inner domestic life of his countrymen, and 
giving such an account of their social and religious obser- 
vances as may prove intelligible and instructive to general 
English readers. In the sketches which he has now produced 
we are presented with the first-fruits of " the harvest of a 
quiet eye" that has long meditatively watched the strange on- 
goings of this ancient society, and penetrated with living 
insight into the springs and tendency of its startling changes. 

Although I had no special claim to any right of judgment 
upon the present phases of Hindu life, the writer took me early 
into his confidence, and from the apparent quality and sin- 
cerity of his work I had no hesitation in encouraging him to 
persevere, recommending him, however, to leave historical 
speculation to others and to confine himself to a faithful deli- 
neation of facts within his own experience. While his 
manuscripts were passing through my hands, I took pains to 
verify his descriptions by frequent reference to younger edu- 
cated natives, who, in all cases, confirmed the accuracy and 
reliability of the details. The book will stand on its own 
merits with English readers, whose happily increasing inter- 



11 

est in the forms and movements of Hindu life at this transi- 
tional period when the picturesque institutions and habits of 
thousands of years are visibly and irrevocably passing away, 
should gladly welcome its fresh and opportune representations. 
And all who, viewing without regret the decay of the old order 
and animated by the faith of nobler possibilities than it has 
ever achieved, are actually engaged in the great work of reli- 
gious regeneration and social reform in India, should find much 
in these truthful but saddening sketches to intensify their sym- 
pathies and give definite direction and guidance to their best 
efforts. 

W. HASTIE. 

The General Assembly's Institution, 
2jrd March^ 1881, 



INTRODUCTION. 



"♦•- 



In presenting the following volume to the Public, 
I am conscious of the very great disadvantage I labor 
under in attempting to communicate my thoughts 
through the medium of a language differing from 
my mother-tongue both in the forms of construction 
and in the methods of expression. My appeal to the 
indulgence of the public is based on the ground of 
my work being true to its name. It professes to be a 
simple, but faithful, delineation of the present state of 
Hindoo society in Bengal, and especially in Calcutta, 
the Athens of Hindoosthan. I cannot promise any 
thing thrilling or sensational. My principal object is to 
give as much information as possible regarding the 
moral, intellectual, social and domestic economy of my 
countrymen and countrywomen. The interest atta- 
ching to the information and facts furnished will greatly 
depend on the spirit in which they may be received. 
To such of my readers as feel a genuine interest in a 
true reflection of the pre^^ent state of society in this 
country, passing from a condition of almost impenetr- 
able darkness to that of marvellous light, through the 
general and rapid diffusion of western knowledge, I do 
not think the details I have given will be found dull or 
dry. Not a few of the facts stated will, I fear, prove 



iv 



painfully interesting to those who are cognisant of the 
many incrusted defects and deficiencies still lurking in 
our social system. But if we carefully look at it we 
shall doubtless discover that it is not all darkness and 
clouds, ** it has its crimson dawns, its rosy sunsets.'* 
The multitudinous phases of Hindoo life, though sadly 
revolting and repulsive in many respects, have never- 
theless some redeeming features, revealing radiant 
glimpses of simpleand innocent joys. In discussing the 
various social questions in their purely earthly aspects 
and relationships, it may be I have treated some of 
them inadequately and superficially, but in so doing 
I claim the merit of a humble endeavour after perfect 
honesty. I have in no wise exaggerated, but have 
simply followed the golden maxim of ** nothing ex 
tenuate nor set down aught in malice." 

The men of the land, and not the land of the men, 
form the subject matter of my work. My attention 
has long been directed to the domestic, social, moral, 
intellectual and religious condition of the Hindoos. The 
deep researches of European savants have from time 
to time thrown a flood of light on the learning and 
antiquities of India. We have every reason to admire 
the great truthfulness and accuracy of their observa- 
tions in many respects. As foreigners, however, they 
were naturally constrained to pay but a subordinate 
attention to the peculiar domestic and social economy 
of the Natives. The idea of attempting a sketch of 
the inner life and habits of the Hindoos in this age, 



was originally suggested to the writer by the Revd. 
Drs. Duff and Charles — two Christian philanthropists, 
whose names are deservedly enshrined in the grateful 
memory of the Hindoo community of Bengal, the great 
centre of their educational and religious achievements. 
It was cordially approved by that high-minded states- 
man, Sir Charles Theophilus, afterwards Lord Metcalfe, 
who practically taught the Indian Public what a writer 
in the ''Nineteenth Century' so aptly calls the great 
Trinity of liberty. — freedom of speech, freedom of trade, 
and freedom of religion. 

To supply this desideratum, and not merely to 
gratify the natural curiosity to know the inner life of 
the Hindoos, but to do something in the line of social 
amelioration by ** bringing the stagnant waters of 
Eastern life into contact with the quickening stream 
of European progress," have been the chief aim of the 
following pages. Should a liberal Public, here as 
well as in Europe and America, vouchsafe its counte- 
nance to this my first literary enterprise, I purpose to 
continue my humble labor in the same sphere, extend- 
ing my observation, if advisable, to a picture of the 
social life of Upper, Western and Southern India. 
The vastness of the subject is one great difficulty. It 
will open to all civilized and philanthropic nations a 
wide and yet unexplored field for the exercise of their 
thoughts and sympathies. 

To Europeans, and more especially to English- 
men, who have, for more than a century and a half, 



VI 



been the great and beneficent arbiters under Pro- 
vidence of the destiny of this vast empire, a correct 
knov^ledge of the domestic and social institutions of 
the Hindoos, is of the most vital importance, being 
essentially indispensable to a right understanding of 
the existing v^ants, wishes, feelings and sentiments, 
condition and progress of the subject race. Many erro- 
neous ideas concerning the singular customs and obser- 
vances of the people of India still prevail in Europe and 
America. They are partly due to defective observa- 
tion, and partly to the prejudices of men whose 
minds are too pre-occupied to properly understand 
and appreciate the peculiar phases of character, 
manners and usages among nations other than their 
own. Such men are unfortunately led to associate 
the Natives ** with ways that are dark and tricks that 
are vain." To remove the mass of misconception yet 
prevailing in some quarters by placing before the 
general reader a true and comprehensive knowledge of 
the daily life of a people, who occupy such a huge 
spot on the earth's surface, and whose numbers are 
counted by hundreds of millions, is indeed an important 
step towards the solution of a great social problem, and 
towards the removal of the gulf that divides the 
sons of the soil from the English rulers of the country. 
The tendency of close and constant intercourse is to 
promote an identity of interests between the two races. 
As a Native, the author may be allowed to have had 
the facilities requisite for acquiring a clear .idea of the 
manners and customs of his countrymen, which may 



VII 



counterbalance in some degree the drawbacks and de- 
ficiencies naturally experienced by him on the score 
of language. 

The Rev. W. Hastie, B. D., Principal of the 
General Assembly's Institution, and Mr. J. B. Knight, 
C. I. E., have laid me under great and lasting obliga- 
tions by their kind suggestions and encouragement. 
I have particularly to thank the former for the prefatory 
note which he has written in response to my special 
request. 

SHIB CHUNDER BOSE. 




I. 

THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

IT IS my intention in the following pages to endeavour 
to convey to the mind of the European reader some 
distinct idea of the present manners and customs, 
usages and institutions of my Hindoo countrymen, illustrative 
of their peculiar domestic and social habits and the inner life 
of our society, the minutiae of which can never be sufficiently 
accessible to Europeans. "It is in the domestic circle that 
manners are best seen, where restraint is thrown aside, and no 
external authority controls the freedom of expression." 

I shall begin with a general account of the normal Hin- 
doo household, as at once the living centre and meeting point 
of the various elements of our society. But as it is impossible 
to describe the manifold gradations of social condition in a 
single sketch, I shall draw from the domestic arrangements 
of a family of one of the higher castes and provided with a 
convenient share of worldly prosperity. Only the principal 
elements in the group can now be alluded to, and some of them 
will be described with greater detail in separate sketches. 

The family domicile of a Hindoo is, to all intents and 
purposes, a regular sanctum, not easily accessible to the out- 
side world. Its peculiar construction, its tortuous passages, 
its small compartments and special apportionment, obviously 
indicate the prevalence of a taste " cabined, cribbed, confined,'* 
and preclude the admittance of free ventilation and free in- 
tercourse. The annals of history have long since established 
the fact that the close confinement system which exists in 
Bengal, was mainly owing to the oppressions of the Moslem 
conquerors, and more recently to the inroads of the Pindaree 
marauders, commonly termed Biirgltees, the tales pf whose 



2 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

depredations are still listened to with gaping mouths and ter- 
rified interest. 

The gradual consolidation of the British power having 
established on a firm basis the security of life and property, 
the people are beginning to avail themselves of an improved 
mode of habitation, affording better facilities of accommo- 
dation and a wider range of the comforts and conveniences 
of life. From time out of mind there has existed in the 
country a sort of domestic and social economy, bearing a close 
resemblance to the old patriarchal system, recognising the 
principle of a common father or ruler of a family, who exer- 
cises parental control over all. The system of a joint Hindoo 
family* partaking of the same food, living under the same 
roof from generation to generation, breathing the same atmos- 
phere, and worshipping the same god, is decidedly a tradi- 
tional inheritance which the particular structure of Hindoo so- 
ciety has long reared and fostered. This side of the subject 
will be enlarged upon in its proper place. 

A few words about the respective position and duties of 
the principal members of a Hindoo household will be in 
place at the outset. I shall, therefore, begin with the Kartd 
or male head, who, as the term imports, exercises supreme 
control over the whole family, so that no domestic affair of 
any importance may be undertaken without his consent or 
knowledge. The financial management, almost entirely re- 
gulated by his superior judgment, seldom or never exceeds 
the available means at his disposal. The honor, dignity 
and reputation of the family wholly depend on his prudence 
and wisdom, weighted by age and matured by experience. 

* The late Dr. Jackson, who was the family physician of the great Native 
millionaire, — Baboo Ashutosh Dey — seeing the very large number of men and wo- 
men who resided in his family dwelling house, very facetiously remarked that the 
mansion was a small colony. A similar remark was made by Dr. Duff when he 
happened to see the numerous members of the Dutt family in Nimtollah, West of 
the Free Church Institution. If all the hildren and adults, male and female, of 
the family now, are counted, the actual number would, if I am not mistaken, come 
up to near 500 persons, perhaps more, 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 3 

His own individual happiness is identified with that of the 
other members of the household. There is a proverbial ex- 
pression among the Natives, teaching that the counsel of the 
aged should be accepted for all the practical purposes of 
life (except in a few unhappy instances to be noticed here- 
after) and the rule exerts a healthy influence on the domestic 
circle. As the supreme Head he has not only to look after 
the secular wants of the family but likewise to watch the 
spiritual needs of all the members, checking irregularities 
by the sound discipline of earnest admonition. In accor- 
dance with the usual consequences of a patriarchal system, 
a respectable Hindoo is often obliged to support a certain 
number of hangers-on, more or less related to him by kinship. 
A brother, an uncle, a nephew, a brother-in-law, etc., with 
their families, are not unfrequently placed in this humiliating 
position, notwithstanding the currency of the trite apo- 
thegm, — which says, " it is better to be dependent on another 
for food than to live in his housed This saying is to be 
supplemented by another which runs thus: '' LuckJiee, the 
goddess of prosperity, always commands a numerous train." 
The proper significance of these phrases is but too practically 
understood and felt by those who have been unfortunate 
enough to come under their exemplification. 

Next in point of importance in the category of the 
domestic circleis his wife, the Ghinni.ox the female Head, whose 
position is a responsible one, and whose duties are alike 
manifold and arduous. She has to look after the victualling 
department, report to her husband or sons the exact state of 
the stores,* order what is wanted, account for the extra con- 
sumption of victuals, adopt the necessary precaution against 

* Natives' are always provident enough to lay in a month's supply of articles 
which are not of a perishable nature. In the Upper and Central Provinces, they 
generally provide a twelve-months' requirements at the harvest season when 
prices are moderate. They are thus enabled to husband their resources in the 
most economical manner possible. 



4 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

being robbed, see that everyone is duly fed, and that the 
rite of hospitality is extended to the poor and helpless, watch 
that the rules of purity are practically observed in every 
department of the household, and make daily arrangements . 
as to what meals are to be prepared for the day. The study 
of domestic economy engages her attention from the moment 
she undertakes the varied duties in the inner department of 
a household, the proper management of which, is, to her, a 
congenial occupation, becoming her sex, her position, her 
habitude, her taste. Independent of these domestic charges 
which are enough to absorb her mind, she has other duties 
to discharge, which shall be indicated hereafter. 

The next chief constituents in the body of the house- 
hold, are the daughters and daughters-in-law, whose relative 
positions and duties demand a separate notice. Viewed 
from their close relationship it is reasonable to conclude 
that they should bear the kindliest feelings to each other 
and evince a tender regard for mutual happiness, returning 
love for love and sympathy for sympathy. But, as elsewhere, 
unhappily, such is the depravity of human nature that the opera- 
tion of antagonistic influences arising from dissimilar idio- 
syncracies, embitters some of the sweetest enjoyments of life. 
In the majority of cases, a nanad^ the sister of the husband, 
though allied to another family, is nevertheless solicitous 
to minister to the domestic felicity of her vaja or the wife of 
his brother, but unhappily her intent is often misconstrued, and 
the sincerity of her motive questioned. Instead of an un- 
clouded cordiality subsisting between them, the generous 
affection of the one is but ill-requited by the other. Hence, an 
unaccountable coldness commonly springs up between them 
which materially subtracts from the growth of domestic feli- 
city. Shame on us that a vast amount of ignorance and pre- 
judice yet renders us incapable of appreciating the highest 
end of the social state. 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD, S 

When the several female members of a household meet 
together, enlivened by tlie company of their neighbours and 
friends (such visits being few and far between), these first object 
of inquiry is generally the amount of ornaments possessed, 
their workmanship, their value. Few things please them better 
than a conversation on this subject, which from the absence of 
mental culture, almost wholly monopolizes their mind, despite 
the natural tendency of human intellect to a progressive de- 
velopment. If not thus absorbed, the time is usually frittered 
away by sundry petty frivolous inquiries of a purely domestic 
character. On matters of the most vital importance their 
notions are as crude and irrational as they are absurd and child- 
ish.* Except in isolated instances, their bearing towards 
each other is generally marked by suavity, and kindliness of 
manners which has a tendency to draw closer the bond of 
unio n between them all. 

* The following scene will clearly illustrate the point. At an assembly of 
some females on a festive occasion, among other current topics of the day, the 
conversation turned on the religion of the Sahib logues (Europeans). Impelled by 
a sense of duty and justice no less than by the convictions of conscience, I admired 
the disinterested exertions of the Christian Missionaries in endeavouring to spread 
among our benighted countrymen the benefits of a good education as well as the 
blessings of a good religion. Fearlessly encountering all the dangers of the deep, 
which, happily for the cause of human advancement, have now been greatly 
minimized, renouncing all the pleasures of the world, and fortifying their minds 
against persecution, suffering and reproach, they come, not only among us but 
travel through the most uncongenial climes '*to preach Christ." The re- 
markable disinterestedness and self-denial of some of these Missionaries is a 
bright reality, to appreciate which is to appreciate Christianity. Before the pro- 
pagation of the religion of Christ, said I, the most admired form of goodness was 
centred in patriotism or the love of one's own country, but Jesus brought with him 
a new era of philanthrophy, the main pervading principle of which is a spirit of 
martyrdom in the cause of mankind. Can we find traces of such Catholicism in 
our Hindoo Shaster ? The universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man 
is only practically enunciated in the religion of Christ. The females were all 
struck with the noble, sublime, yet humble, forgiving and disinterested virtues 
of the religion of the Sahib logues. But a pert young female, quite unschooled by 
experience and too much wedded to wordly attractions, rather thoughtlessly re- 
plied that *'the act of giving education is a good thing in its own way, so far as it 
affords a means of earning money, but why do the Padrces (Missionaries) strive 
to convert our Hindoo boys, and thereby compel them to forsake their parents to 
whom they owe their being? What advantage do they gain by such conversions ? 
This is not good. Brahmo religion does not demand any such sacrifice. Why 
do the heads of the Padrees ache for this purpose ? They ought to give all their 
money to us, poor women, that we may buy ornaments therewith." Such is 
the low, grovelling idea they generally have of Christianity. It is useless to argue 
with them, simply because their minds are completely saturated with deep-rooted 
prejudice, and narrow, debased, selfish views. 



6 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

It IS on such occasions that the amiable loveliness of 
human nature, is displayed, — brightening, for a time, at least 
the otherwise dark region of a Hindoo zenana and cheering the 
hearts of its inmates. In a thickly populated city like Calcutta, 
with its broad roads and dense crowds at all hours of the 
day, without a closed conveyance, either a palkee or a carriage, 
no married female is permitted to leave the house even for 
a single moment, for that of her sister, perhaps some three 
doors from her own. So great is the privacy, and puncti- 
liousnesss with which female honor is guarded in the East. 
The sanction of the male or female head must, as a standing 
rule of female etiquette, be obtained before any one is at 
liberty to go out even to return a friendly or ceremonious 
visit. The reader may form an idea as to the tenacity with 
which the close zenana system in a respectable family is 
enforced, from the circumstance of a young Bahou or daughter- 
in-law (the rules being not so strict in the case of a daughter) 
being set down as immodest and unmannerly, if she were 
accidently seen to tread the outer or male compartment of the 
house. If she but chance to articulate a word or a phrase so as 
to reach the ear of a male outside, she is severely censured, 
and steps are instantly taken, to teach her better manners 
for the future. Even the Ghimii^ or female Head, does not 
escape censure for a like offence. With such scrupulous 
pertinacity is the privacy of the inner life of the Hindoo 
society observed. A social line of demarcation is drawn around 
the zenana which a genteel Hindoo female is told and taught 
never to overstep, either in her conversation or bearing Woe 
be to the day when she is incautiously led to move beyond 
her sphere, which, for all the practical purposes of life, is 
closely hemmed in by a ring of miserable seclusion, illus- 
trating the scornful lines of the poet : 

'* Let Eastern tyrants from the light of heaven 
Seclude their bosom slaves." 



THE HINDOO HO USD HOLD. 7 

A few advanced Hindoos, more especially the Brahmos, 
who have received the benefits of an enlightened education, 
are making strenuous efforts to ameliorate the degraded con- 
dition of their wives and sisters (the mothers being too old and 
conservative to acquiesce in the spirit of modern innovation) 
and bring them to the front, if possible, by ignoring the rules 
of orthodoxy. But it is the firm belief of such as have been 
schooled by experience and observation, that the time is yet 
far distant when this bold, sweeping, social revolution shall 
be brought about with the general consensus of the people 
at large. The moral tone of Native society must be immensely 
raised, its manners and customs entirely remodelled, and its 
traditional institutions and prescriptive usages thoroughly puri- 
fied before the consummation of so desirable an object can 
be successfully effected. 

A Hindoo girl, even after marriage, enjoys greater 
liberty and is treated with more indulgence at her father's 
house than at her father-in-law's. The cause of this is obvious. 
From the very period of her birth, she is nurtured by her 
mother, aunts, sisters and other female relatives, no less than 
by her father, uncle, brothers and other male members of the 
family, all of whom naturally continue to bear her the same 
love and affection throughout her after life. A mother hugs 
her more tenderly, caresses her more fondly, hangs about her 
more affectionately, feels greater sympathy in her joy and sor- 
row, and watches more carefully how she grows up in health 
to her present state, than a mother-in-law. Whether she 
is eating, talking or playing, her mother's care never ceases. 
Should maternal admonition fail to produce the desired effect, 
as it does in a few isolated instances, the usual threat of sending 
her to her father-in-law's, acts as the most wholesome cor- 
rective. 

The social relaxations of Hindoo females have a very 
limited range. Some delight in reading the Mahabhdrat, the 



8 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

Ramaydn, tales, romances, etc, while others are fond of needle- 
work, playing at cards, or listening to stories of a puerile de- 
scription. Though they seldom come out of their houses, except 
under permissive sanction, yet their stock of gossip is almost 
inexhaustible. They are generally lively and loquacious, and 
the chief passion of their life is for the acquisition of orna- 
ments. They possess a retentive memory, seldom forgetting 
what they once hear. Fond of hyperboles, the sober realities 
of life have little attraction for their minds. Their social tone 
is neither so pure nor so elevated as becomes a polished, re- 
fined community. It is almost needless to add, that their familiar 
conversation is not characterised by that chaste, dignified lan- 
guage, which constitutes the prominent feature of a people 
far advanced in the van of civilization. Objectionable modes 
of expression generally pass muster among them, simply 
because they labor under the great disadvantage of the national 
barrenness of intellect and the acknowledged poverty of 
colloquial literature. 

It is a well-known fact that Hindoo males and females 
do not take their meals together. Both squat down on the floor 
at the time of eating. Except in the case of little girls, it is 
held highly unbecoming in a grown up female to be seen eat- 
ing by a male member of the family. As a rule, women take 
their meals after the men have finished theirs. There is a 
popular belief that women take a longer time to eat than men. 
Of the perfection of the culinary art, the former are better 
judges than the latter. They chat and eat leisurely because 
they have no offices to go to, nor any definite occupation to 
engage their minds in. A Hindoo writer has said, that com- 
monly speaking, they eat more and digest more readily than 
men. Naturally modest, they take their meals without, any 
complaint, though sometimes they are served with food not of 
the very best description. The choicest part of the food is 
offered in the first instance to thq males and thq residue is 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 9 

kept for the females. A woman is religiously forbidden to 
taste of anything in the shape of eatables before it is given 
to a man. Simple in taste, diet and habits, but shut up in a 
state of close confinement, and leading a monotonous life, 
scarcely cheered by a ray of light, they are necessarily not 
receptive of large communications of truth. 

The children form an important link in the great chain of 
the domestic circle. When sporting about in childhood they 
have commonly spare persons, light brown skins, high foreheads 
beaming with intelligence, large dark eyes, with aquiline noses, 
small thin-lipped mouths, and dark soft hair. The fairness 
of their complexion is generally sallowed by exposure to the 
sun in the earliest stage of childhood. 

The child grows up under the fostering care of its parents 
amidst all the surroundings of the family domicile. As it 
advances in years the mother endeavours, according to her 
very limited capacity, to instil into its mind the rude elements 
of knowledge. From the incipient stage of early infancy 
when his mind is rendered susceptible of culture and expan- 
sion, crude and imperfect religious ideas largely leavened with 
superstition, are communicated to him, which subsequently 
mould his character in an undesirable manner. His early 
affections and moral principles are most entirely influenced by 
the impressions he receives at the maternal fount, and he sel- 
dom comes in contact with the outer world. He is taught to 
pay divine homage to all the idols that are worshipped at 
stated periods of the year, and his indistinct ideas grow into 
deep convictions, the pernicious influence of which can only 
afterwards be effaced by the blessings of western knowledge. 
In the villages ^^chdnaka sloaka'' ox elementary lessons are 
still given as a sort of moral exercise. The mother from want 
of adequate capacity or culture is unfit to engraft on the youth- 
ful mind the higher divine truths, to teach the child how to 
look on men, how to feel for them, how to bear with them, how 

B 



lo THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

to be true, honest, manly, and how to " look beneath the out- 
ward to the spiritual, immortal and divine." Solid, practical 
wisdom, however, is often extracted from the most common- 
place experiences, even by untutored minds. 

" Honor thy father and thy mother," is the first scriptural 
commandment with promise, the importance and excellence 
of which is early impressed on the mind of a Hindoo child 
by wise, discreet parents. And Hindoos are honorably dis- 
tinguished by their affections for their parents, and continue 
to be so even in the maturer years of their life. 

In the case of a girl, even the most elementary sort of 
instruction is neglected except that she occasionally studies 
the Bengallee primer, — an innovation which the spirit of the 
times countenances. When of proper age, she is sent to a 
female school where she pursues her studies until finally with- 
drawn therefrom after her marriage. As a rational being 
she may continue to evince a natural desire and aptitude for in- 
tellectual progress and to carry it on by home study according 
to her taste and position in life. A few have made astonishing 
progress, despite certain formidable obstacles which an abnor- 
mal state of society inevitably interposes. The traditional bug- 
bear of becoming a widow if she were to learn to read and 
write has happily passed away, not only in the great centres of 
education but likewise in several parts of the rural districts, 
where, to all appearances, females are just beginning, as it were, 
to assert their right to the improvement of their minds. This 
is certainly an unerring presage, foreshadowing the advent of 
national regeneration in the fullness of time. Many families 
being well-to-do in the world engage a Christian governess* 

* The following incident will doubtless contribute not a little to the amuse- 
ment of the reader. One day a governess was giving instructions in needle-work 
to a young married girl of thirteen years of age. She, (the girl) was indus- 
triously plying the needle, when lo ! an aged female cook from the house of her 
husband suddenly appeared before her, and simply enquired of her how she 
was. The shy girl, overpowered by a sense of shame, dropped down her veil 
almost to the ground, and not only stopped work but likewise ceased to talk to 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. ii 

both for elementary instruction as well as for needle-work, 
the latter being an accomplishment which even the most 
matronly ladies have now taken a great liking for. The 
introduction of this art of tasteful production has, in a great 
measure, superseded the idle, unprofitable gossip of the day, 
driving away ennui and slothfulness at the same time. 

In almost every respectable Hindu household there is a 
tutelar god, chiefly made of stone and metal after one of the 
images of Krishna, set up on a gold or silver throne with sil- 
ver umbrella and silver utensils dedicated to its service. Every, 
morning and evening it is worshipped by the hereditary 
Purohtty or priest, who visits the house for the purpose twice a 
day, and who, as the name implies, is the first in all religious 
ceremonies, second to none but the guru or spiritual guide. 
The offerings of rice, fruits, sweetmeats and milk, made to 
the god, he carries home after the close of the service. A 
conch is blown, a bell is rung, and a gong beat at the time of 
the Poojah, when the religiously disposed portion of the in- 
mates, male and female, in a quasi-penitent attitude, make their 
obeisance to the god and receive in return the hollow bene^ 
diction of the priest. The daily repetition of the service 
quickens the heartbeats of the devotees and serves to remind 
them, however faintly, of their religious duties. Such a wor- 
ship is popularly regarded in the light of an act of great merit 
paving the way to everlasting bliss. A suitable endowment in, 
landed property is sometimes set apart for the permanent 
support of the idol, which is called the debatra land or inalien- 
able property, according to the Hindu Shastras. Some families 

the governess. The latter struck with amazement, quietly asked her pupil if she 
had hurt her eyes because she held fast her right hand on that part of her face. 
Other ladies of the family stepped forward and explained to the governess the 
real cause of the awkward position the girl was placed in. It was nothing more 
nor less than the unexpected visit of the female cook to the family of the bride. 
From feelings of false delicacy in presence of her husband's cook, she hung down 
her face and dropped down her veil. The governess learning the true cause 
politely desired the female cook to retire that she might be enabled to give her 
lessons without any interruption. 



12 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

that have been reduced to a state of poverty through the 
reverses of fortune now live on the usufruct of the debatra 
land, which serves as a sheet-anchor in stormy weather. 

Besides the daily Poojah of the household deity there 
are some other extraordinary religious celebrations, such 
as Doorga, Kali, Lakshmi, Jagaddhatri, Saraswati, Kartik, 
Janmdshtami, Dole, Rdsh, Jhoolun, Jatras, etc., (the latter 
four being all Poojahs of Krishna) which excite the religious 
fervor of the Vaishnavas, as contra-distinguished from the 
Saktas, the followers of Kali or Doorga the female principle. 

The internal daily details of a Hindu household' next 
demand our attention. In the morning when the breakfast 
is ready the little children are served first as they have to go 
to their schools, and then the adult male members, chiefly 
brothers, nephews, etc., who have to attend their offices. 
They all squat down vis-a-vis on small bits of carpet on the 
floor, while the mother sits near them, not to eat but to see 
that they are all properly served ; she closely watches that 
each and every one of them is duly satisfied ; she would 
never feel happy should any of them find fault with a parti- 
cular dish as being unsavoury, she snubs the cook and taxes 
herself for her own want of supervision in the kitchen, be- 
cause the idea of having failed to do her duty in this respect 
is an agony to her mind. 

As a mother, she avails herself of this opportunity to 
plunge into conversation, and consult her sons about the con- 
duct of all domestic affairs, which necessarily expand as there 
are adjuncts to the original stock. For example, she takes their 
advice as to the amount of expenditure to be incurred at the 
forthcoming wedding of Sharat Shashee^ the youngest daugh- 
ter, in the month of Falgun, or February. This is an 
occasion, when the hearts of both the sons and the mother 
overflow with the milk of human kindness, yet there is a 
desire to avoid extravagance as far as possible. 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 13 

A prudent mother wisely regulates her expenses according 
to the means and earnings of her sons, and she seldom or 
never comes to grief. The idea of an extravagant Hindoo 
mother is a solecism that has no existence in the actual real- 
ities of life. She is a model of economy, devotion, chastity, 
patience, self-denial, and a martyr to domestic affection. She 
may be wanting in mental accomplishment, which is not her 
own fault, but the very large share of strong common-sense 
she is naturally endowed with, sufficiently makes up for every 
deficiency in all the ordinary concerns of life. Accustomed 
to look upon her sons as the pride of her existence, she seeks 
every legitimate means to promote their happiness. If her 
daughters-in-law turn out querulous, and fall out one with 
another, which is not unfrequently the case, she reconciles 
them by the panacea of gentle remonstrance. But unhappily, 
such is the degeneracy of the present age that the influence 
of wholesome admonition being shamefully ignored is often 
lost in the cataclysm of discord, and the inevitable conse- 
quence is, that vicious selfishness disturbs Heaven's blessed 
peace, and " love cools, friendships fall off, brothers 
divide." 

After the sons have gone to their respective offices, the 
mother changing her clothes retires into the thakurghar (the 
place of worship) and goes through her morning service, at 
the close of which she prostrates herself, invokes the blessing 
of her guardian deity, and then again changing her clothes, 
takes her breakfast and enjoys a short siesta, while chewing 
a mouthful of betel sometimes mixed with tobaco leaf, in order 
to strengthen her teeth. 

In any sketch of a Hindu family it is necessary that 
something should be said about the domestic servants attached 
to a Hindu household. The cook, whose employment involves 
some very important considerations, may be either a male or a 
female. In most families, a preference is generally shewn for 



14 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

a female cook* for reasons which are obvious. The kitchen, 
being as a rule, placed in the inner division of the house, the 
females have an opportunity to assist her in various ways, so 
as to facilitate and expedite her work, which certainly is not 
always of the most pleasant nature. The dietary of a Hin- 
du family, as may be easily anticipated, is of the simplest 
description, consisting for the most part of vegetables and 
fishes, with a little milk and ghee, but no eggs or meat of any 
kind. Not like the prepared dishes of the French and Mo- 
guls, highly flavored and richly spiced, the daily preparations 
are very simple ; no onion, garlic, or strong aromatic spices are 
used. They are easy of digestion and palatable to taste, being 
altogether free from offensive and foetid smell. The simple 
turmeric, pepper, cummin, coriander and mustard seeds, etc., 
generally impart a fine flavor to the preparations, which the 
frugal and abstemious Hindus eat with great zest. I have 
known the wives of several rich Baboos, take a delight in pre- 
paring with their own hands the evening meal of their hus- 
band and sons. This is entirely a labor of love, which they 
go through with the greatest cheerfulness. It is necessary to 
mention here that without fishes, which are very abundant, a 
nice little Hindoo breakfast or dinner in Bengal is an impos- 
sibility. The art of cooking should not be a mystery to all 
save the initiated few, it should be the study of every good 
and thrifty woman who is willing to sacrifice' needless elegance 
and pomp to comfort and economy. 

This gastronomical digression will serve to indicate the 
taste of the Hindu in Bengal, and the very simple style 
of their living. Even in the selection of articles of food 
a nice distinction is observed ; fishes are dressed in a part of 

* Whether descended from a Brahmin or Kayasth family, she goes by the 
general name of Bamun Didi (sister) so named that the members of other 
families might unsuspectingly eat out of her hands. She is also called Maye 
(woman). The entertaining of a middle aged female (generally a widow) is con- 
sidered safe and irreproachable. 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 15 

the kitchen quite distinct from where the vegetable dishes 
are prepared, because a widow is strictly forbidden to use 
anything which comes in contact with fishes. Moreover, a 
widow would not accept a dish unless it is prepared by a real 
Brahmin cook, male or female. Should a male member of 
the family be ever disposed to eat goat flesh (he being for- 
bidden to use any other kind of meat, save mutton, when 
sacrificed) a Sakta cook undertakes to prepare it for him. 
When finished, she changes her clothes and purifies her body 
by sprinkling over it a few drops of Ganges water. Except- 
ing little unmarried girls, whose parents are Saktas (worshippers 
of female deities) no other Hindu female is permitted to 
use meat even by sufferance. In other rigidly orthodox fami- 
lies a similar concession is withheld. 

The wage of a female cook, who in nine cases out of ten 
is a widow, is about six to seven Rupees a month, with a few 
annas extra for Ekadashi — the day of close fast for all widows^ — 
and cocoanut oil for her hair,* six pieces of grey shirtings 
each ten cubits long, and three bathing napkins a year. She 
also gets an extra piece of cloth at the Doorg^ Poojah festival, 
when the most wretched pauper, somehow or other, puts on 
new clothes. Some of the widow cooks have certainly seen 
better days, but the vicissitudes of fortune have made them 
hopelessly destitute. As a rule, they bear the load of mis- 
fortune with the greatest patience. They chiefly come from 
the villages, and it speaks much in favor of the purity of 
their character that they ungrudgingly submit to the menial 
offices of a drudge, instead of being seduced into the forbid- 
den paths of life. Of course there are a few black sheep in 
the flock, but happily their number is very limited. A male 



* In order to preserve the hair and keep it clean, all Hindu females in 
Bengal use cocoanut oil for the head ; they however rub their bodies with mus- 
tard oil before bathing. Young ladies occasionally use pomatum, bear's grease, 
soap, etc., which, in a religious sense, is desecration. 



i6 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

cook is always a Brahman. It is almost superfluous to add 
that the employment in a family or the admittance of any man- 
servant into the inner apartment of a Hindoo household, 
which is emphatically the great centre, as well of domestic 
happiness as of religious sanctity, is open to many objections. 
The second domestic servant that demands a notice at 
our hands is the Jhee, or maid-servant of the family. Her 
duties are alike onerous and troublesome. Like the potter's 
wheel she incessantly turns backwards and forwards and 
knows no rest till about ten o'clock at night. She rises early 
in the morning, sweeps and washes all the rooms and veran- 
dahs inside the house, cleans all the brass utensils of the 
family, makes fire in the stove, pounds the kitchen spices 
prepares fishes for cooking purposes, and attends to other 
duties of a household nature. Some maid-servants are almost 
exclusively employed in taking care of children. Their 
duties are not so hard as those of the family Jhee indicated 
above. These females are often drawn from the dregs of 
society, and their conduct, or rather misconduct, sometimes 
leads to the most unhappy results. Their wage is about two 
Rupees a month, exclusive of food and clothes. They occa- 
sionally also make something by carrying presents to rela- 

tives and friends. 

I next come to the male servants : there are more than a 
half-dozen of them in a respectable family, and their services 
are in the main confined to the outer apartment of the 
household. They sweep and clean all the rooms, spread 
white cloth bedding on the floor, change the water of the 
hookah (the first essential both at an ordinary and special 
reception) fill the chillum with tobacco, kochay, or trim 
the fine black bordered Simla Dhuti and Kalmay Urani 
(Baboo's native dressing attire) put in order the lamps, and 
go to Bazar to make purchases. Their pay ranges from three 
to four Rupees a month, exclusive of food and clothes. 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 17 

A rich Hindoo, however, has a large establishment of 
servants in addition to those mentioned above. There are 
durwans (door-keepers) ; syces (grooms) ; coachmen, gardeners, 
sircar, cashier, accountant, etc., each of whom discharges his 
functions in his own sphere, but they seldom or never come 
in contact with the female inmates of the household. The 
cashier is the most important and responsible person, and his 
income is larger than that of any other servant, because he gets 
his commission from all tradespeople dealing with the fami- 
ly. All of them get presents of clothes at the great national 
festival the Doorga Pujah. 

The khansamah of a Baboo is his most favorite servant. 
From the nature of his office he comes into closest contact 
with his master, he rubs his body with oil before bathing and 
sometimes shampooes him, — a practice which gradually in- 
duces idle, effeminate habits, and eventually greatly incapaci- 
tates a man for the manifold duties of an active life. Indeed, 
to study the life of a " big native swell " is to study the 
character of a consummate Oriental epicure, immersed in a 
ceaseless round of pleasures, and hedged in by a body of 
unconscionable fellows, distinguished only for their flattery 
and servility 

Except in isolated instances, the general treatment of 
domestic servants by their masters, is not reprehensible. 

Except such as possess a thorough insight into the 
peculiar mysteries of the inner life of the Hindoo society, very 
few are aware that a wife — perhaps the mother of three or 
four children — is forbidden to open her lips or lift her veil in 
order to speak to her husband in presence of her mother-in- 
law, or any other adult male or female member of the family. 
She may converse with the children without fear of being 
exposed to the charge of impropriety ; this is the systole and 
diastole of her liberty, but she is imperatively commanded 
to hold her tongue and drop down her veil whenever she 

C 



1 8 THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 

happens to see an elderly member in her way. A phrase 
used in common parlance {Bhasur Bhadrabau) denotes the 
utmost privacy, as that which the wife of a younger brother 
should observe towards the elder brother of her husband. 
It is an unpardonable sin, as it were, in the former, even to 
come in contact with the very shadow of the latter. The 
rules of conventionalism have reared an adamantine partition 
wall between the two. We have all learnt in our school-days 
that modesty is a quality which highly adorns a woman, but 
the peculiar domestic economy of the natives, carries this 
golden rule to the utmost stretch of restriction, verging on 
sacred, religious prohibition. 

The general state of Hindoo female society, as at present 
constituted, exhibits an improved moral tone, presenting an 
edifying contrast to the gross proclivities of former times as 
far as popular amusements are concerned. The popular amuse- 
ments of the Hindoos, like those of many European nations, 
have rarely been characterised by essentially moral principles. 
But the loose and immoral amusements of the former time 
do not now so much interest our educated females. The 
popular Native Jatras (representations) do not now breathe 
those low, obscene expressions, which was the wont only 
some thirty years back, yet they are not, withal, absolutely 
pure or elevated. It is true that some of them are touching 
and pathetic in their themes, not jarring to a moral sense but 
admirably adapted to the taste of a people having a supreme 
respect for their idolatrous and mythological systems, from 
which most of these Jatras are derived. The marvellous and 
the supernatural always exact an instinctive regard from the 
ignorant and the credulous multitude, destitute of the superior 
blessings of enlightenment. The Panchaly (represented by 
female actresses only) which is given for the amusement of 
the females, especially at the time of the second marriage, 
is sometimes much too obscene and immoral to be tolerated 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 19 

in a zenana having any pretension to gentility. On such an 
occasion, despite a strict conventional restriction, a depraved 
taste clearly manifests itself. Much has yet to be done to deve- 
lope among the females a taste for purer amusements, and 
such as are better adapted to a healthy state of society. 

In Hindoo females there is a prominent trait which 
deserves to be commended. Moses, Mohammed, and Manu, 
observes Benjamin Disraeli, say cleanliness is religion. Clean- 
liness certainly promotes health of body and delicacy of mind. 
When that excellent prelate, Heber, travelled in a boat on the 
sacred stream of the Ganges, seeing large crowds of Hindoo 
females engaged in washing their bodies and clothes on both 
sides of the river, at the rising and setting of the sun, he most 
emphatically remarked that cleanliness is the supreme virtue 
of Hindoo women. In the Upper Provinces, at all seasons of 
the year, hundreds of women could be daily seen with baskets 
of flowers in their hands slowly walking in the direction of 
the river, and chanting songs in a chorus in praise of the 
** unapproachable sanctuary of Mahadev, the great glacier world 
of the Himilayi, with its wondrous pinnacles, rising 24,000 
feet above the level of the sea, and descending into the ame- 
thyst-hued ice cavern, whence issues, in its turbulent and noisy 
infancy, the sacred river of India." They display a purity, 
a sincerity, a constant and passionate devotion to their faith, 
which present a striking contrast to the conduct of men steep- 
ed in the quagmire of profligacy. 

Our ladies bathe their bodies and change their clothes 
twice in a day, in the morning and in the afternoon, neglect- 
ing which they are not permitted to takie in hand any domes- 
tic work. 

In the large Hindoo households, the lot of the wife who 
IS childless is truly deplorable. While her sisters are rejoic- 
ing in the juvenile fun and frolics of their respective children, 
sporting with all the elasticity of a light, free, and buoyant heart, 



^ , THE HINVaO HOUSEHOLD, 

she sits sulkily aloof, and inwardly repines' at the unkind or- 
dinance of Bidhdtd and earnestly invokes Ma Shasthi (the 
patron deity of all children) to . grant hef the inestimable 
boon of offspring, without which this butterfly life is unsancti- 
fied, unprofitable and hollow. 

The barrenness of a Hindoo female is denounced as a sin» 
for the atonement of which certain religious rites are per- 
formed, arid incessant prayers offered to all the terrestrial and 
celestial gods ; but all her superstitious practices proving in 
vain, only tend to intensify her misery. 

In the beginning of this sketch I set out by stating that 
the peculiar constitution of Hindoo society bears an affinity 
to the old patriarchal system. This is true to a very great 
extent. The system has its advantages and disadvantages^ 
which are, in a great measure, inseparable from the outgrowth 
of the social organism. If properly weighed in the scale, the 
latter will most assuredly counterbalance the former, so much 
so, that in the great majority of cases, discord and disquietude 
is the inevitable result of joint fraternisation. Leader- 
ship is certainly organisation ; it formed the nucleus of the 
patriarchal system. But it is simply absurd to expect that 
there should always be a happy marriage of minds in all 
cases, between so many men and women living together, en- 
dowed with different degrees of culture and influenced by 
adverse interests and sentiments. In the nature of things^ 
it is impossible that all the members of a large family, having 
separate and specific objects of their own, should coalesce 
and cordially co-operate to promote the general welfare of a 
family, under a conimon leader or head. The millennium is 
not yet come. Seven brothers living together with their 
wives and children under one and the same paternal roof,, 
cannot reasonably be expected to abide in a state of perfect 
harmony so long as selfishness and incongruous tastes and 
interests are continually at work to sap the very foundation 



THE HINDOO HOUSEHOLD. 21 

of friendliness and good fellowship. Union is strength, but 
harmonious union under the peculiar regime indicated above, 
is already a remarkable exception in the present state of 
Hindpo society. If minutely probed, it will be found that 
women are at the bottom of that mischievous discord, which eats 
into the very vitals of domestic felicity. Segregation, there- 
fore, is the only means that promises to afford a relief from 
this social incubus ; and to segregation many families have 
now resorted, much after the fashion of the dominant race, 
with a view to the uninterrupted enjoyment of domestic 
happiness. 

Having briefly indicated in the preceding lines the chief 
family constituents of a Hindoo household in their several 
relations and characteristics, it is scarcely necessary for me 
to add, that whenever this interesting group, consisting of 
sweet children, loving husbands and wives, and affectionate 
parents and brothers, is animated by the vital, indestructible 
principles of virtue, practically recognising the obligations of 
duty, the divinity of conscience, and the moral connection of 
the present and future life, it will be found to diffuse all the 
blessings of peace, joy and moral order around the social and 
domestic hearth. 




II. 

THE BIRTH OF A HINDOO. 

HE birth of a Hindoo into the household of which he 
is to form an essential constituent is attended with 
circumstances which partake, more or less, of the 
religion he inherits. It has been said that by tradition and 
instinct as well as by early habits, he is a religious character. 
He is born religiously, lives religiously, eats religiously, walks 
religiously, writes religiously, sleeps religiously and dies reli- 
giously. His everyday life is an endless succession of rites 
and ceremonies which he observes with the utmost of scrupu- 
lousness sanctioned by divine veneration. From his very 
birth his mind is imbued with superstitious ideas, which 
subsequent mental culture can hardly ever eradicate, so strong 
being the influence of his early impressions. 

It is now generally known that Hindoo girls are betrothed 
even in their tenderest years, and that the solemnisation 
of the marriage takes place whenever they attain to the 
age of puberty. Thus it is not uncommon for a young 
wife to be delivered of her first child in her thirteenth 
year, although the glory of motherhood is more fre- 
quently not realised until the fourteenth or fifteenth year. 
When the period of delivery arrives, and to her it is an awful 
period, which can be more easily conceived than described, 
the girl writhing under agony is taken into a room called 
Sootikaghur or Antoorghur, where no male members of the 
family are admitted. She is made to wear a red-bordered 
robe and two images of the goddess Shashthi made of cow- 
dung are placed near the threshold of the room for her daily 
worship with rice and durva grass, for one month — the period of 
her confinement If in her tender age, the labor be a protract- 
ed one, she often suffers greatly from the want of a skilful 



THE BIRTH OF A HINDOO. 23 

surgeon or even a proper midwife. Before the founding of 
that noble Institution, the Calcutta Medical College, proper 
midwives were not procurable, because they had had no sys- 
tematic training ; their profession was chiefly confined to the 
Dome and Bagthee caste, yet some of them were known to 
have acquired a tolerable fortune. Their fee varied from 5 to 
50 Rupees, besides clothes and other gifts ; the poor, certainly, 
giving less. For some years past, a strong belief has sprung up 
among some women that delivery in the name of god Hari 
Krishna is very safe. They that follow this religious regime, are 
believed, in the majority of cases, to have passed through the 
struggle of childbirth quite scathless. They use no jhall or 
thap* bathe in cold water immediately after delivery, take the 
ordinary food of dhall vathy curry, fish and tamarind, after 
offering them to the god Hari, and on the 30th day make a 
Poojah (worship) consecrating in honor of the god a quantity 
of sweetmeats {sundesh and batashd) and finally distribute 
them among children and others. This distribution is called 
Hariloot. This strong faith in the god seems to enable them to 
pass the period of confinement without danger. If the off"- 
spring of such women become strong, their strength is attri- 
buted to the mercy of the said god.f 

A woman that follows the old prescribed practice has to 
tdk^ jhall and thap and go through a strict course of dietetics, 
abstaining altogether from the use of cold water or any 
cooling beverage. She has to undergo the action of heat for 
at least five hours a day. The body and head of the new- 
born babe is rubbed with warm mustard oil — an application 
which is considered the best preservative of health in children. 
Exposure of the mother in any shape, is most strictly prohi- 



* Jhall is a preparation of certain drugs to act as an antidote against cold, 
puerperal fever and other diseases incident to child birth. It often proves effica- 
cious. Thap is the application of heat to the body. 

t For observances during the period of pregnancy, see Note A in appendix. 



24 THE BIRTH OF A HINDOO, 

bited, and the use of certain indigenous drugs and warm 
applications is made as an antidote against all diseases of 
a puerperal character. 

While undergoing the throes of nature, the exhausted 
spirit of the expectant mother is buoyed up by the fond hope 
of having a male child, which, in the estimation of a Hindoo 
female, is worth a world of suffering. 

In the event of the offspring turning out a female, her 
friends try to encourage her for the moment by their assur- 
ance that the child born is a male, and a lovely and sweet 
child, ushered into the world under the peculiar auspices of 
the goddess Shasthi. Such assurances serve very much to 
keep up her spirit for the time being, but when she is brought 
to her senses and does not hear the sound of a conch* her 
delusion is removed, sorrow and disappointment take the 
place of joy and excitement, her buoyant spirit collapses and 
a strong reaction sets in. Thus in a moment, a grace is con- 
verted into a gorgon, a beauty into a monstrosity, an angel 
into a fiend. She curses the day, she curses her fate. But 
** such is the make and mechanism of human nature" that she 
soon resigns herself to the wise dispensations of an over- 
ruling Providence. She gradually feels a strong affection for 
the female child and rears it with all the care and tenderness 
of a mother ; she caresses and fondles it as if it were a boy, 
and her affection grows warmer as the child grows. This is 
natural and inevitable. At the birth of a male child, the 
occurrence is immediately announced by sanka dhani (sound 
of a conch) ; musicians without being sent for, come and 
play the torn torn ; the family barber bears the happy tidings 
to all the nearest relatives, and he is rewarded with presents 
of money and cloths. Oil, sweetmeats, fishes, curdled milk, and 
other things, are presented to the relatives and neighbours, 

* According to custom, a conch or large shell is sounded at the birth of a 
male child. Its silence is the sign of sorrow. 



THE BIRTH OF A HINDOO. 25 

who, in return, offer their congratulations. A rich Hindoo, 
though he studies practical domestic economy very carefully, 
is, however, apt to loosen his purse string at : J:he birth of a 
son and heir. The mother forgetting her trouble and agony 
implores Bidhdtd* for the longevity of the child. She cheer- 
fully suckles it and her heart swells with joy every time she 
looks at its face. 

On the second day after delivery, she gets a little sago 
and cheeray vdjdh (a sort of parched rice). On the third 
day the same diet, with the addition of a single grain of 
boiled rice, and a little fried potatoe or pull bull^ that she 
may use those things afterwards with safety. On the fifth 
day, if everything is right, the room is washed and she is allow- 
ed to come out of it for a short time ; a little boiled rice and 
moong dhall is her diet that day. 

On the sixth day, the image of the goddess Shasthi is 
worshipped in front of the room where the child was born, 
because she is the protectress of all children. The Poojah is 
called the Seytayra Poojah (worship). Offerings of rice, 
plantain, sweetmeat, clothes, milk, &c., are presented to the 
goddess by the officiating priest, and the following articles 
are kept in her room for the Bidhdtd Pooroosh (god of fate) 
in order that he may note down unseen on the forehead of 
the child its future destiny, viz,y a palm leaf, a Bengalee pen 
with ink, a serpent's skin, a brick from the temple of the god 
Shiva, and two kinds of fruits, atmora and i^eylUy a little wool, 
gold and silver. On the eighth day is held the ceremony of 
Autcowroy, or the distribution of eight kinds of parched peas, 
rice, sweetmeats, with cowries and pice, amongst the children 
of the house and neighbourhood. On the evening of that day, 
the children assemble and with a Koolo (winnowing fan) going 
up three times to the door of the room beat it (the koolo) 
with small sticks, asking at the same in a chorus " as to how 

* Bidhdti is the god of fate. 

p 



26 THE BIRTH OF A HINDOO. 

the child is doing," and shouting, " let it rest in peace on the 
lap of its mother." These juvenile ceremonies, if ceremonies 
they can be called, give infinite delight to the children, who 
are sometimes prompted by the adult members of the family 
to indulge in jocularity by way of abusing the father, not of 
course to irritate but to amuse him. At the. birth of a female 
child, in common with the depreciation in which it is held, this 
ceremony is observed on a very poor scale. On the thirty-first 
day after the birth, the ceremony of Shasthi Poojah is again 
performed. Hence a woman who has had as many as twelve 
or fifteen or more children, is called the Shasthi Booree, or 
" the old woman of Shasthi." Before a twig of a Bdtd tree, 
the priest, while repeating the usual incantation, presents offer- 
ings of rice, fruits, sweetmeats, cloths, parched peas and rice, 
oil, turmeric, betel, betel-nuts, two eggs of a duck, and 
twenty-one small wicker baskets filled with khoyee (parched 
rice) plantain and bdtdsd^ which are all given to a number of 
women whose husbands are alive. It is on this occasion that 
the priest is also required to perform the worship of the 
goddess Soobachinee^ said to be one of the forms of the 
goddess Doorga. 

When the father first goes to see the child, he puts some 
gold coin into its hand and pours his benediction on its head. 
Other relatives who may be present at the time do the same. 

All respectable Hindoos keep an exact record of the 
birth of a child, especially a male child. Every family has its 
Dowyboghee or astrologer who prepares a horoscope in which 
he notes down the day, the hour and the minute of the birth 
of the child, opens the roll of its fate and describes what shall 
happen to it during the period of its existence. These 
horoscopes are so much relied on, that if it is stated therein 
that the stellar mansion under which the child was born was 
not good, and that it shall be exposed to serious dangers, 

* For the popular story of the goddess Soobj^hinee see Note B» 



THE BIRTH OP A HINDOO, 2; 

either from sickness or accident, at such a period of its life, 
every possible care is taken through Grohojag and Sustyan 
(religious atonement) to propitiate the god of fate, and ward 
off the apprehended danger before it comes to pass. These 
papers are carefully preserved by the parents, who occa- 
sionally refer to them when anything, good or evil, happens 
to the child. A Hindoo astrologer is a man of high preten- 
sions ; he dives into the womb of futurity and foretells what 
shall happen to a man in this life, without thinking for a 
moment, that our Creator has not vouchsafed to us the powers 
of divination. In a court of justice these papers are of great 
value in verifying the exact age of a person, and at the time 
of marriage, or rather before it, they are carefully consulted 
as to the nature of the stellar mansion under which both the 
boy and girl were born, and the peculiar circumstances by 
which they were surrounded. Many a match is broken off be- 
cause the twelve signs in the zodiac do not coincide ; for 
instance, if the boy be of the Lion rass (sign) and the girl 
of the Lamb rass, the one, it is said, will destroy the other ; 
so these papers are of very great importance when a matri- 
monial alliance is in course of being negotiated. 

When a male child is six months old, the parents 
make preparations for the celebration of the Unnoprdssutiy or 
christening, when not only a name is given to the child, but 
it gets boiled rice for the first time. On this occasion, the 
father is required to perform a Bidhi Shrdd so called from 
the increase and preservation of the members of the family. 
Some who live near Calcutta celebrate the rite by going to 
Kallee Ghaut, and procuring a little boiled rice through one of 
the priests of the sacred fane at a cost of eight or ten Rupees. 
When the rice is brought home a few grains are put into the 
mouth of the child by a male member of the family. The 
ceremony being thus performed the child from that day is 
allowed to take prepared food if necessary. Such families 



28 THE BIRTH OF A HINDOO. 

as do not choose to go to Kallee Ghaut observe the cere- 
mony at home, and spend from 200 to 300 Rupees in feeding 
the Brahmans, friends and relatives, who, in return, offer 
their benediction and give from one to ten Rupees each to 
the child, which being shaved, clad in a silk garment, and 
adorned with gold ornaments, is brought out for the purpose 
after the entertainment. It is on such occasions that splen- 
did dowries are settled on some children in grants of land 
or of Government securities, and I have known instances in 
which a dowry amounted to a lakh of Rupees. Of late years, 
the practice of making gifts to the child being held in the 
obnoxious light of a tax, the good taste of some has led 
them to confine the rite within the circumscribed limit of 
their own family. Superstition has its influence in making 
the choice of the name given to the child. The Hindoos are 
generally named after their ^ods and goddesses, under a 
belief that the repetition of such names in the daily inter- 
course of life will not only absolve them from sins, but give 
them present happiness and hope of blessedness in a state of 
endless duration. Some parents purposely give an unpleasant 
name to a child, that may be born after repeated bereave- 
ments, believing thereby the curses of the wicked shall fall 
innocuous on its head. Such names are Nafar, Goburdhone, 
Ghooie, Tincurry, Panchcurry, Dookhi, &c. In the case of 
females, she who has many daughters, and does not wish for 
more, gives them such names as Khaynto (cessation,) Arnd 
(no more,) Ghyrnd (despised,) Chee chee (expression of con- 
tempt.)* 

* Apart from the horrid practice of female infanticide, now put a stop to by 
a humane Government, many instances might be given of the extreme detesta' 
tion in which the birth of a girl is held even by her mother. Among others I 
may cite the following: A woman who was the mother of four daughters and of 
no son, at the time of her fifth deliver}^ laid apart one thousand Rupees for dis- 
tribution among the poor in the event of her getting a son, when, lo I she gave 
birth to a female child again, and what did she do ? she at once flung aside the 
money, mournfully declaring at the same time, that *' she has already four fire- 
brands incessantly burning in her bosom and this is the ffth, which is enough to 
bum her to death." 



THE BIRTH OF A HINDOO. 29 

Except under extraordinary circumstances, a Hindoo 
mother * seldom engages a wet nurse ; she continues to suckle 
her child till it is three or four years old, and attends at the 
same time to her numerous household duties, which are by 
no means light or easy. Indolent loveliness, reclining on a 
sofa, is not a truthful picture of her life ; it may be she has 
to cook for her husband, because he is such an orthodox 
Hindoo that he will on no account accept prepared food 
(such as rice, dhall, vegetables, curry, &c.) from any other 
hand. In such families, the woman has to rise very early, 
perform her daily ablutions and attend to the duties of the 
kitchen, and before nine the breakfast must be ready, as the 
husband has probably to attend his office at ten. It is not 
an uncommon sight to see a woman cooking, suckling her 
child, and scolding her maid servant at one and the same 
time. A Hindoo woman is not only laborious, but patient 
and submissive to a degree ; let the amount of privation be 
ever so great, she is seldom known to murmur or complain* 
All her happiness is centred in the proper discharge of her 
domestic and social duties. So simple and unambitious is a 
Hindoo female, that she generally considers herself amply 
rewarded if the food prepared by her hands is appreciated by 
those for whom it is intended. It is a lamentable fact that, 
expert as she doubtless is in the art of cooking, she is totally 
incapable of nourishing the minds of her children with any 
solid intellectual food worthy of the name. As already 
indicated, she communicates to her child what she can out of 
her own store of simple ideas and superstitious beliefs, but 
her best gift is the care and tenderness which she lavishes 
upon it, and the wakening of its young soul to return the 
sense of her own love. 



* In cases where a woman is prolific enough to give birth to a child every 
year she is placed under the necessity of weaning her first-born, and giving it 
cow milk, a mode of sustenance not at all conducive to its health. 




III. 

THE HINDOO SCHOOL BOY. 

ROM the time when the young Hindoo passes from 
the infant stage of" mewling and puking in the nurse's 
arms," till he goes to school, he is generally a bright- 
eyed, active, playful boy, full of romping spirits and a favourite 
of all around him. His diet is light, and his health generally 
good. He usually runs about for three or four years in puris 
naturalibuSy and among the lower classes a string is tied 
round his loins with a metal charm attached to frighten away 
the evil spirits. When he attains the age of five, the period 
fixed by his parents for the beginning of his education, he 
is sent to a Pdtsdld (vernacular infant school) not, however, 
without making a Poojah to Saraswattee^ the goddess of 
learning. On the day appointed, and it must be a lucky day, 
according to the Hindoo almanac, the child bathes and puts on 
a new Dhooty (garment) and is taken to the place of worship, 
where the officiating priest has previously made all the 
necessary arrangements. Rice, fruits, and sweetmeats, are 
then offered to the goddess, who is religiously invoked to 
pour her benediction on the head of the child. After this, 
the priest takes away all the things offered to the goddess, 
with his usual gift of one or two rupees, and the child is 
taken by his parents to the Pdtsdld and formally introduced 
to the Gooroomahdshoyy or master of the school. Curious as 
little children naturally are, all present gaze on the new 
comer as if he were a being of a strange species. But time 
soon wears off the gloss of novelty and everything assumes 
its normal aspect. The old boys soon become familiar with 
the new one, and a sort of intimacy almost unconsciously 
springs up amongst them. In this country a boy learns the 



THE HINDOO SCHOOL BOY. 31 

letters of the alphabet, not by pronouncing them, but by 
writing them on the ground with a small piece of khareCy or 
soft stone, and copying them over and over again until he 
thoroughly masters them. Five letters are set him at a time. 
After this he is taught to write on palm leaves with a 
wooden pen and ink, then on slate and green plantain leaves, 
and, finally, on paper. At every stage of his progress he is 
expected to make some present to his master in the shape of 
food, clothes and money. A village school begins early in 
the morning, and continues till eleven, after which the boys 
are allowed to go home for their breakfast ; they return at 
two, and remain in the school till evening, when all the boys 
are made to stand up in a systematic order, and one of the 
most advanced amongst them enumerates aloud the mul- 
tiplication and numeration tables, and all are taught to repeat 
and commit to memory what they hear. By the daily 
repetition of these tables, their power of memory is 
practically improved. With a view to encourage the early 
attendance of the boys, a Gooroomahashoy resorts to the queer 
method of introducing the hatluhory system into his Pdtsdld^ 
which requires that all the boys are to have stripes of the 
cane in arithmetical progression, on the hand, in the order of 
their attendance, that is, the first comer to have one stripe, 
the second two, and so on, in consecutive order. The last 
boy is sometimes made to stand on one leg for an hour or so 
to the infinite amusement of the early comers. The system 
certainly has a good effect in ensuring early attendance. 

The course of instruction in such schools embraces read- 
ing in the vernacular, a little of arithmetic and writing, and 
such as become capable of keeping accounts pass for the 
clever boys. Stupid and wicked pupils are generally beaten 
with a cane, but their names are never struck off the register, 
as is the case in English schools. Sometimes a truant is 
compelled to stand on one leg holding up a brick in his right 



32 THE HINDOO SCHOOL BO V. 

hand, or to have his arms stretched out till he is completely 
exhausted. Another mode of punishment consists in apply- 
ing the leaves of Bichooty (a stinging plant) to the back of a 
naughty boy, who naturally smarts under the torturing. The 
infliction of such cruel punishments sometimes leads the boys 
to make a combination against the master for the purpose 
of retaliation, which generally results in bringing him to his 
senses. Hindoo boys are extremely sensitive, and are very 
apt to resent any affront to which they are cruelly subjected 
by their master.* The rate of fee in a village school is from 
one to three-pence a head per month, but the master has his 
perquisites by way of victuals and pice. There is a common 
saying among the Hindoos that in twelve months there are 
thirteen parbuns, or school festivals, implying thereby, that 
they are encountered by a continuous round of parbuns. On 
every such occasion the boys are expected to bring presents 
for the master, and any unfortunate boy who fails to bring 
such is denied the usual indulgence of a holiday. Little 
boys are seldom fond of reading, they would gladly sacrifice 
anything to purchase a holiday. It is not an uncommon 
thing to find a boy steal pice from his mother's box in order 
to satisfy the demands of his master at the festival. The 
principle on which a village school is conducted is essentially 
defective in this respect. Instead of teaching the rules of good 
conduct and enforcing the first principles of morality, it 
often sadly defeats the primary object of a good education, 
namely, the formation of a sound, moral and virtuous 

* Apropos, I may mention here the following incident. A few years back a 
well-known master of the Hindoo school being placed in a very awkward position, 
had to call in the aid of the Police to get himself out of the difficulty. Sailors 
and Kaffries — always a set of desperate characters — were retained by the boys for 
the purpose of insulting him on the high road, but the timely interference of the 
Police put a stop to the contemplated brutal assault. This had the effect 
of inducing the master to behave in future with greater forbearance, if not with 
more sober judgment. I forbear giving the name of the indiscreet, but well- 
intentioned master, whose connection with the school had contributed very 
largely to its efficiency and usefulness. 



THE HINDOO SCHOOLBOY. 33 

character. It is a disgrace to hear a schoolmaster, whose 
conduct should be the grand focus of moral excellence, use 
the most vulgar epithets towards his pupils for little faults 
the effects of which are seldom obliterated from their minds, 
even in the more advanced period of their life. However, 
such days of obnoxious pedagogism are almost gone by, never 
to come back again, now that the system of primary edu- 
cation has been extended to almost every village in India, 
under the auspices of our liberal Government. Whilst on 
this subject I may as well state here that some forty years 
ago our Government had appointed the late Rev. William 
Adam to be the Commissioner of Education in Bengal. That 
highly talented and generous philanthrophist, after a minute 
and searching investigation, submitted in his report to Govern- 
ment a scheme of education very similar to what is now 
introduced throughout Bengal. The scheme was then ignored 
on account of its vast expense, and the Commissioner was so 
disheartened at the apathy of Government towards the edu- 
cation of the masses, that a few days before his departure 
from Calcutta he took a farewell leave of some of his most 
distinguished native friends, and his parting words were to 
the following effect : " Your Government is not disposed to 
encourage those who are its real friends." This reproach has, 
however, been subsequently removed by the adoption of a 
primary system of education. The spirit of the times and 
the onward progress of enlightened sentiments have gradually 
inaugurated a comprehensive scheme, which, although still 
limited in its range, embraces the moral and intellectual im- 
provement of the people in general. 

In Calcutta, when a boy is six years old, his parents 
are anxious to have him admitted into one of the public 
schools, where he has an opportunity to learn both the 
Vernacular and the English languages. He may be said 
from that day to enter on the first stage of his intellectual 

E 



34 THE HINDOO SCHOOLBO Y. 

disintegration. The books that are put into his hands gradu- 
ally open his eyes and expand his intellect; he learns to 
discern what is right and what is wrong; he reasons 
within himself and finds that what he had learnt at home 
was not true, and is led by degfrees to renounce his old 
ideas. Every day brings before his mind's eye the grand 
truths of Western knowledge, and he feels an irresistible desire, 
not only to test their accuracy but to advance farther in his 
scholastic career. He is too young however, to weigh well 
everything that comes in his way, but as he advances he 
finds the light of truth illumine his mind. His parents, if 
orthodox Hindoos, necessarily feel alarmed at his new- 
fledged ideas and try to counteract their influence by the stereo- 
typed arguments, of the wisdom of our forefathers, but 
however inimically disposed, they dare not stop his progress, 
because they see, in almost every instance, that English edu- 
cation is the surest passport to honor and distinction. In 
this manner he continues to move through the various classes 
of the middle schools till he is advanced to one of the 
higher educational institutions connected with the University, 
and attains his sixteenth or seventeenth year, which is popu- 
larly regarded as his marriageable age. 




IV. 
vows OF HINDOO GIRLS. 

HEN a girl is five years of age, she is initiated by an 
elderly woman in the preparatory rites of Bratas^ 
or vows, the primary object of which is to secure her 
a good husband, and render her religious and happy through- 
out life. When the boy is sent to the Pdtsdld, the girl is com- 
monly forbidden to read or write, but has to begin her course 
of Bratas. The germs of superstition being thus early implant- 
ed in her mind, she is more or less influenced by it ever after. 
Formed by nature to be docile, pliant and susceptible, she 
readily takes to the initial course of religious exercises. 

The first rite with which she has to commence is called 
the "Shiva Poojah," after the example of the goddess 
Doorga, who performed this ceremonial that she might obtain 
a good husband ; and Shiva is regarded as a model husband. 
On the 30th day of Choytro, being the last day of the 
Bengallee year, she is required to make two little earthen 
images of the above goddess, and placing them on the coat 
of a bale-fruit (wood apple) with leaves, she begins to 
perform her worship; but before doing so, she is en- 
joined to wash herself and change her clothes, a requisition 
which enforces, thus early, cleanliness and purity in habits 
and manners, if not exactly in thought and feeling. Her 
mind being filled with germinal susceptibilities, she imbibes 
almost instinctively an increasing predilection for the per- 
formance of religious ceremonies. Sprinkling a few drops of 
holy water on the heads of the images, she repeats the follow- 
ing words : "All homage to Shiva, all homage to Shiva, all 
homage to Hara, (another name of Shiva) ; all homage to 
Bujjara," meaning two small earthen balls, like peas, 



36 VOWS OF HINDOO GIRLS. 

which are stuck on the body of the images. She is then to 
be absorbed in meditation about the form and attributes of 
the goddess, and afterwards says her prayers three times in 
connection with Doorga's various names, which I need not 
recapitulate here. Offerings of flowers and bale leaves are 
then presented to the goddess with an incantation. Being 
pleased, Mahddev (Shiva) is supposed to ask from heaven 
what Brata or religious ceremony is Gouri (Doorga) perform- 
ing? Gouri replies, she is worshipping Shiva, that she may 
get him for her husband, because, as said before, Shiva is a 
model husband. 

Then comes the Brata of Hari or Krishna. The two feet 
of the god being painted in white sandal paste on a brass 
plate, the girl worships him with flowers and sandal paste. 
The god seeing this, is supposed to ask what girl worships 
his leet, and what boon she wants? She replies : May the 
prince of the kingdom be her husband, may she be beautiful 
and virtuous, and be the mother of seven wise and virtuous sons 
and two handsome daughters. She asks that her daughters- 
in-law may be industrious and obedient, that her sons-in-law 
may shine in the world by their good qualities, that her granary 
and farm-yard may be always full, the former with corn of all 
sorts, and the latter with milch cows, that when she dies all 
those who are near and dear to her may enjoy long life and 
prosperity, and that she may eventually, through the blessing 
of Hari, die on the banks of the sacred Ganges, and thereby 
pave the way for her entrance into heaven. 

It is worthy of remark here that even young Hindoo girls, 
in the exercise of their immature discretion, make distinction 
between the gods in the choice of their husbands. In the 
first Brata, that of Shiva, a tender girl of five years of age is 
taught, almost unconsciously as it were, to prefer him to 
Krishna for her husband, because the latter, according to the 
Hindoo Sbasters, is reputed to have borne a questionable 



vows OF HINDOO GIRLS. 37 

character. I once asked a girl why she would not have 
Krishna for her husband. She promptly answered that that 
god disported with thousands of Gopeenees (milk-maids) 
and was therefore not a £^ood god, while Shiva was devotedly 
attached to his one wife, Doorga. The explanation was full 
of significance from a moral and religious point of view. 

The third Brata refers to the worship of ten images. 
This requires that the girl should paint on the floor ten 
images of deified men, as well as of gods, with alapana or 
rice paste. Offering them flowers and sandal paste, she asks 
that she may have a father-in-law like Dasarath, the father 
of Ram Chunder ; a mother-in-law like Kousala, the mother 
of Ram Chunder ; a husband like Ram Chunder ; a dayur or 
husband's brother, like Luchmon, Ram's younger brother ; a 
mother like Shasthi, whose children are all alive ; like Koontee 
whose three sons were renowned for their love of justice, 
piety, courage and heroism ; like Ganges, whose water allays 
the thirst of all ; like the mother earth, whose patience is 
beyond all comparison. And, to crown the whole, she prays 
that she may, like Doorga, be blessed with an affectionate and 
devoted husband like Dropadi (the wife of the five Pandooas), 
be justly remarkable for her industry, devotedness and skill in 
the culinary art, and be like Sita (the wife of Ram 
Chunder) whose chastity and attachment to her husband are 
worthy of all praise. The above three Bratas take place in 
the Bengalee month of Bysack, (April) which is popularly 
regarded as a good month for the performance of. meritorious 
works. The prayer contained in the above expresses the 
culminating female wish in entire accord with the injunctions 
of the holy shaster, but how often are the amiable qualities 
ennumerated above set at naught in the actual conflicts of 
life, in which the predominance of evil desires swallows up 
every generous impulse ! 

The nejct Brata is called the Sajooty Brata. It is solely 



38 VOWS OF HINDOO GIRLS. 

intended to counteract the thousand evils of polygamy — an 
unhealthy, unnatural institution, which ought to be expunged 
from the midst of every civilized community. Though God 
" has stamped no original characters on our minds wherein we 
may read his being," still we can clearly discern in His superior 
arrangements for the happiness of His creatures, that this 
abnormal practice is directly opposed to His dispensations, so 
much so that any one countenancing it, is gfuilty of a crime, 
for which, if he is not amenable to an earthly tribunal, he is 
assuredly accountable to a superior and superintending Being, 
the infringement of whose law is sure to be attended with 
misery. To get rid of the consequences of this monstrous 
evil, a girl of five years of age is taught to offer her invo- 
cation to God, and in the outburst of her juvenile feeling is 
almost involuntarily led to indulge in all manner of curses 
and imprecations against the possible rival of her bed. Nor 
can we find fault with her conduct, because " an overmaster- 
ing and brooding sense" of some great future calamity thus 
early haunts her mind. 

In performing the Sajooty Brata^ the girl paints on the 
floor with rice paste a variety of things, such as the bough 
of a flower tree, a Palkee containing a man and a woman, 
with the sun and moon over it, the Ganges and the Jumna 
with boats on them, the temple of Mahadeo with Mahadeo 
in it, various ornaments of gold and precious stones, houses, 
markets, garden, granary, farm-yard and a number of other 
things, all intended to represent worldly prosperity. After 
painting the above, she invokes Mahadeo and prays for his 
blessing. An elderly lady more experienced in domestic 
matters then begins to dictate, and the girl repeats a volley 
of abuses and curses against her Sateen or rival wife in the 
possible future. 

"There, stripped, fair rhetoric languished on the ground, 
And shameful Billingsgate her robes adorn." 



VOJVS OF HINDOO GIRLS. 39 

The following are a few of the specimens ; I wish I 
could have transcribed them in metre. : — 

**Barrey, Barrey, Barrey (a cooking utensil) 
May Sateen become a slave ! 

Khangra^ Khangra^ Khangra^ (broomstick) 
May Sateen be exposed to infamy ! 

Hatha, Hatha, Hatha, (a cooking utensil) 
May she devour her Sateen^ s head ! 

Geelay, Geelay, Geelay (a fruit) 
May Sateen have spleen ! 

Pakee, Pakee, Pakee (bird) 
May Sateen die and may she see her from the top of her house ! 

Moyna, Moyna, Moyna (bird) 
May she never be cursed with a Sateen \ 

May she cut an Usath tree, erect a house there, cause her 
Sateen to die and paint her feet with her Sateen*s blood ! 

I might swell the list of these curses, but I fear they 
would prove grating to the ears of civilized readers. 

The performance of the Sajooty Brata springs out of a 
desire to see a Sateen or rival wife become the victim of all 
manner of evils, extending even to the loss of life itself, 
simply because a plurality of wives is the source of perpetual 
disquietude and misery. By nature, a woman is so consti- 
tuted that she can never bear the sight of a rival wife. In 
civilized countries, the evil is partially remediable by a legal 
separation, but in Hindoostan the legislature makes no 
provision whatever for its suppression. A feeling of burning 
jealousy becomes rampant wherever there is a case of poly- 
gamy to poison the perennial source of domestic felicity. So 
acutely sensitive is a Hindoo lady in this respect that she 
would rather suffer the miseries of widowhood than be cursed 
with the presence of a Sateen^ whose very name almost spon- 
taneously awakens in her mind the bitterest and the most 
envenomed feelings. She can make up her mind to give 
away a share of her most valuable worldly enjoyments, but 
she can never give a share of her husband's affectio7i to any 



40 VOIVS OP HINDOO GIRLS. 

one on earth. To enjoy the exclusive monopoly of a hus- 
band's love is the life-long prayer of a Hindoo female. She 
expresses it in the incipient stage of her girlhood, and 
practically carries it with her until the last spark of life 
becomes extinct. This certainly indicates the prompting of 
a very strong natural feeling. 




V. 

MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

|HE Hindoos have a strong belief that to solemnise the 
marriage of their children at an early age, is a merito- 
rious act as discharging one of the primary obligatfons 
of life. They are, therefore, very anxious to have their sons and 
daughters formally married during their own life-time. Some- 
times children are pledged to each other even in infancy, 
by the mutual agreement of the parents ; and in most cases 
the girl is married when a mere child of from eight to ten 
years, all unconscious as yet of the real meaning and obliga- 
tions of the relation, although her girlish fancies have been 
continually directed to it Matches in the case of good 
families are commonly brought about in the following way. 

When an unmarried boy attains his seventeenth or 
eighteenth year, numbers of professional men called Ghatucks 
or match-makers come to the parents with overtures of marriage. 
These men are destitute of principle, they know how to 
pander to the frailties of human nature ; most of them being 
gross flatterers, endeavour to impose on the parents in the 
most barefaced manner. As they live on their wits, their des- 
criptive powers and insinuating manners are almost match- 
less. When the qualities of a girl are to be commended, they, 
indulging in a strain of exaggeration, unblushingly declare, 
" she is beautiful as a full moon, the symmetry of her person 
is exact, her teeth are like the seeds of a pomegranate, her 
voice isr emarkably sweet like that of the cuckoo, her gait is 
graceful, she speaks like the goddess LuckeCy and will bring 
fortune to any family she may be connected with." The 
Hindoos have a notion that the good fortune of a husband 
depends on that of the wife, hence a woman is considered 



42 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

as an emblem of Luckee^ the goddess of fortune. This is 
the highest commendation she can possess.* 

If the qualities of a youth are to be appraised, they 
describe him thus : he is as beautiful as Kartick (the god of 
beauty), his deportment is that of a nobleman, he is free from 
all vices, he studies day and night, in short, he is a precious 
gem and an ornament of the neighbourhood. The Hindoos 
know very well that the Ghatucks as a body are great impos- 
tors, and do not believe half that these people say. From 
the day a matrimonial alliance is proposed, the parents on 
both sides begin to make all sorts of preliminary enquiries 
as to the unblemished nature of the caste, respectability and 
position in society of the parties concerned. When fully 
satisfied on these points, they give their verbal consent to 
the proposed union, but not before the father of the boy 
has demanded of the father of the girl a certain number of gold 
and silver ornaments, as well as of Barabharun, ue.^ silver 
and brass utensils, couch, &c. exclusive of ( with but few 
exceptions) a certain amount of money in lieu of Foolshajay,\ 
Before proceeding further, I should observe that of late years 
a great change has taken place in the profession of the 
Ghatucks. The question of marriage, though not absolutely, 
yet chiefly, is a question the solution of which rests with the 
females. Their voice in such matters has a preponderating in- 
fluence. Availing themselves of this powerful agency a new 
class of female Ghatucks or rather Ghatkees have sprung up 
among the people. Hence the occupation of the male 

* I may be peraiitted here to obserye en passant that a civilized nation in 
describing the beauty of a woman, is sometimes apt to adopt the flowery lan- 
guage of Hafiz. At a Ministerial banquet sometime ago, the Lord Mayor of 
London was reported to have said about the Princess of Wales ; " she is perfec- 
tion, she sparkles like a gem of fifty facets, she is light when she smiles and she 
is beauty whenever you see her.'* 

t Presents of sweetmeats, fruits, clothes, flowers and sundry other articles on 
a pretty grand scale from the bride to the bridegroom, which will be described 
wore in detail afterwards, 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 43 

Ghatucks is nearly gone, except in rare cases where nice 
points of caste distinction are to be decided. The great 
influences of Shibi Ghatkee and Bfdnee's mother — two very 
popular female Ghatkees, — is well known to the respectable 
Hindoo community of Calcutta. These two women have 
made a decent fortune by plying this trade. Though cer- 
tainly not gifted with the imaginative powers of a poetic 
bard of Rajpootana, * their suasive influence is very telling. 
They have the rare faculty of making and unmaking matches. 
From the superior advantage which their sex affords them, 
they have a free access to the inner apartments of a house 
(even if it were that of a millionaire) — a privilege their 
male rivals can never expect to enjoy. When balked by the 
subtlety of a competitor in trade, by their bathos they con- 
trive to break a match. Their representations regarding a 
proposed union seldom fail to exercise a great influence oh 
the minds of the Zenana females. Relying on the accuracy 
of their description, which sometimes turns out exaggerated, 
if not false, the mother and other ladies are often led to give 
their consent to a proposed union. The husband, swayed by 
the counsel and importunity of his wife, is forced to acquiesce 
in her choice. He cannot do otherwise because, as our friend. 
Baboo Keshub Chunder Sen, has very facetiously observed, 
" man is a noun in the objective case governed by the active 
verb woman." f 

* A Rajpoot prince was said to have given a lakh of Rupees to a bard in 
order to purchase his rhythmic plaudits in a respectable assemblage of his 
countrymen. 

t If we consult properly the pages of the history of this country from the ear- 
liest period, we shall find abundant proofs of the very great influence of wo- 
men on Hindoo society in general. I cannot do better than give the following 
quotation from Tod*s Annals of Rajasthan. " What led to the wars of Rama? 
The rape of Sita. What rendered deadly the feuds of the Yadus ? The insult of 
Dropadi. What made prince Nala an exile from Nirwar ? His love for Da- 
mayanti. What made Raja Bharti abandon the throne of Avanti ? The loss 
of Pingala. What subjected the Hindu to the dominion of the Islamite ? The 
rape of the princess of Canouj. In fine, the cause which overturned kingdoms, 
commuted the sceptre to the pilgrim's staff and formed the ground-work of all 
their grand epics, is woman." 



44 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

When a Ghatkee comes up with the proposal of a matri- 
monial alliance with an educated youth, the first question 
generally asked her is, •* Has he passed his examinations ? " 
If so, how many passes has he got ? meaning thereby how 
many examinations of the University has he passed through ? 
" Has he yet any Jalpany or scholarship ? " These are diffi- 
cult questions which must be satisfactorily answered before 
a negotiation can be effected. That a University degree 
has raised the marriageable value of a boy, there can be no 
doubt. If he have successfully passed some of these examina- 
tions and got a scholarship, his parents, naturally priding 
themselves on their valuable acquisition, demand a preposter- 
ously long catalogue of gold ornaments, which, it is not often 
in the power of a family in middling circumstances easily 
to bestow. The parents of the girl, on the other hand, 
seeing the long list, demur at first to give their consent, but 
their demurring is of no avail; marry their daughter, they 
must. The present ruinous scale of nuptial expenses must 
be submitted to at any sacrifice, and after deep cogitation they 
send a revised schedule, ( as if marriage were a mere matter 
of traffic) taking off from it some costly items, which would 
press heavily on the purse. In this manner the Ghatkee continu- 
ally goes backwards and -forwards for some time, proposing 
concessions on both sides and holding out delusive hopes 
of future advantages in the event of the carrying out of the 
marriage. There is a trite saying among the Hindoos, that 
" a matrimonial alliance could not be completed without 
uttering a lakh of words." 

The parents of the girl on whose head falls the greatest 
burden, are eventually made to succumb from a consideration 
of their having secured a desirable match, namely, ?i passed 
student. If not placed in affluent circumstances, as is gener- 
ally the case, they are obliged to raise the requisite sum of 
money by loan, which sows, in many instances, the seeds of 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 4$ 

much future embarrassment. At a very moderate calculation, 
a tolerably respectable marriage now-a-days costs between 
two and three thousand Rupees (about £2O0\ — sometimes 
more. There is another native adage which says, '* we want 
twine for thatching and money for wedding." A respectable 
Hindoo gentleman who has four or five daughters to give 
in marriage and whose income is not large, is often reduced 
to the greatest difficulty and embarrassment by reason of 
the extravagantly enormous expenses of a marriage. The 
rich do not care much what they are required to spend. All 
that they look for is a desirable match. It is the middle 
and poorer classes, who form by far the largest aggregate 
of population in every country, ths^t suffer most severely 
from the present enhanced scale of matrimonial charges. 
The late Rajah Rajkissen, Baboos Ramdoolal Dey,* Nemy 
Churn Mullick and other Hindoo millionaires, spent extra- 
ordinary sums of money on the marriage of their sons. The 
amount in each instance far exceeded a lakh of Rupees. 
The annals of Rdjasthan furnish numerous instances of 
lavish expenditure, varying from five to ten lakhs of Rupees 
and upwards, on the solemnization of nuptials. There was 
a spirit of rivalry which animated the princes to surpass each 
other in magnificence and splendour on such occasions, 
regardless alike of the state of their exchequer, and the 
demoralizing eifects of such conduct. Marriages in such a 
magnificent style are seldom to be seen in Calcutta now-a- 
days, not because of the distaste of the people for such 
frivolities, but because of the lamentable decline and im- 
poverishment of the former magnates of the land. It is painful 
to contemplate that the present scale of expenditure among 
the middle classes has been in an inverse ratio to their 



* Besides the marriage expenses, this man gave to his five sons -in-law 
fifty thousand Rupees each, as well as a house worth ten thousand Rupees 
more. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

income. The exertions made sometime ago by Moonshee 
Peary Lall for the reduction of marriage expenses would have 
doubtless conferred a lasting boon on the Hindoo community 
in general, if the object had been crowned with success, but 
as the Legislature has no control over such matters, relating 
as they do to purely private affairs, the noble scheme resulted 
in failure. It is quite optional with parties to go to heavy 
expenses on such occasions ; no act of Government without the 
voice of the people could restrain them in this respect Any 
social reform to be permanent and effectual must be carried 
out by the universal suffrages of the people. 

When the preliminaries of a marriage are settled, a 
person, on each side, is deputed by turns to see the boy and 
the girl. It is customary to see the girl first. When the 
friends of the bridegroom, therefore, come for the purpose, 
they sit down in the outer apartment of the house, whilst the 
bride is engaged in her toilet duty. After fifteen or twenty 
minutes, she, glittering in jewels and accompanied by a maid 
servant as well as by the Ghatkee^ makes her appearance. 
The first thing she does in entering the room is to make a 
prandtn or bow to all present, and then she is asked to squat 
down on the clean white sheet spread on the floor. A solemn 
pause ensues for a minute or so, when one of the company, 
more officious than the rest, breaks the silence by putting 
to her a few questions. She naturally feels herself somewhat 
out of her element in the midst of so many strangers, and 
unconsciously shows a sort of embarrassment even of self 
conflict almost distressing to witness. This internal agitation 
of feeling, arising partly from modesty and partly from 
anxiety, causes her even to stammer. Her engrossing thought 
for the time being is, according to the early vow she has 
made, that she may have a good husband with lots of jewels. 
," What is your name, mother ?" is the first question. She 
may diffidently reply in a half suppressed tone " Gri Ballad 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 47 

" Who is that sitting before you ?**— perhaps pointing to the 
girl's father. She says, " My father." " Can you read and 
write ?" If she say, " yes," she is asked to read a little out 
of her book. 

The Ghatkee here plays the part of a panegyrist by 
admiring the amiable qualities of the girl, who, she adds, is 
the very type of Luckee (the goddess of prosperity.) While 
this examination is going on in the outer apartment, the 
anxious mother, whose heart beats with throbbing sensations 
while watching the scene from behind a half closed window, 
does not feel herself at ease, until she hears that her daughter 
has acquitted herself creditably. Before the girl leaves the 
room, the father or brother of the boy puts a gold mohur 
into her hand as a tangible proof of approval and bids her 
retire. It is needless to say, that she feels herself relieved, 
quite glad and free, when she again sees the faces of her 
mother and sisters, whose joy returns with her return. 

This interview is called pucca dheykha or the con- 
firmatory visit. All the Brahmins, Ghatucks and GhatkeeSy 
and other Koolins who may be present on the occasion 
receive two or four Rupees each. The servants of the house 
are not forgotten, they too receive each a Rupee. If this 
interview take place in the morning, the parties return home 
without breakfast, it being customary with them not to eat 
anything before bathing and performing their daily worship. 
If in the evening, they are treated to a good dinner consist- 
ing of the best fruits of the season, sweet and sour milk and 
sweetmeats of various kinds. It is on such ceremonious 
occasions, that the Hindoos make a display of their wealth by 
serving the dinner to their new friends with silver salvers, 
plates, glasses and paundan, (betel box). Almost every 
respectable gentleman keeps a good assortment of these silver 
articles. They are, however, reserved for special purposes, 
and used only on special occasions. As a rule, the people 



48 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

are not fond of investing their money, like Europeans, in 
plated-ware, because it is, comparatively speaking, of little 
exchangeable value in times of need and distress. 

It is now the turn of the boy to be examined in a simi- 
lar way as to his scholastic acquirements. When the father 
and the relatives of the girl pay a return visit, they generally 
bring with them a graduate of the University. Should the 
boy be one who has successfully passed the Matriculation 
standard, he is not subjected to so strict an examination as 
one who does not enjoy the same dignity. In both cases, 
however, they must undergo some examination in English 
literature, composition, grammar, history, &c. It is a note- 
worthy fact that a boy however intelligent and expert in 
other respects, betrays a lamentable deficiency, arising from 
diffidence, when required to undergo an examination in the 
presence of his father-in-law and a University graduate. The 
thought of failure acts as a heavy incubus on his mind. 
He finds himself bewildered in a maze of confusion. If he 
do not actually stammer, he talks at least very slowly and 
diffidently, and if called upon to write, his hand shakes, and 
in fact he becomes extremely nervous. After this trial is 
over, the boy retires with mingled feelings of misgiving and 
complacence. He receives, however, in his turn a gold 
mohur. The gentlemen who had come to see him are then 
asked to a dinner in the way described above. The same 
display of silver-ware is made on the occasion, and nearly the 
same amount of presents of money made to the Brahmins, 
Koolins and others. 

When both parties are satisfied as to the desirableness of 
the union, a good day is fixed for drawing ^pattra or written 
agreement in which, say, a Koolin of superior caste, engages 
in writing to give his son in marriage with the daughter of 
either a second Koolin, or, as is often the case of a Mowleek, 
an inferior in caste. This Pattra is written by a Brahmin 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 49 

on Bengallee paper with Bengallee pen and ink (as if English 
writing materials would desecrate such a sacred contract) and 
must consist of an odd number of lines, such as seven or nine 
lines. An invocation of the Butterfly must head the Pattra, 
the purport of which will run as follows : " I, Ram Chunder 
Bose, do engage to give my second son, Gopeenauth Bose, in 
marriage with Nobinmoney Dossee, the eldest daughter of 
Issen Chunder Dutt, who is also bound by his contract ; the 
marriage to be solemnized on a day to be named hereafter." 
Here the signatures of both the fathers as well as of the wit- 
nesses follow. When finished, it is rolled up in red thread. 
The Koolin gentleman hands it to the Mowleek gentleman, 
when the latter embraces the former, and gives him at the 
same time Koola marjddd and Pattra Darshanee^ as a mark 
of respect for his superior caste, — or about fifty Rupees. The 
articles required for the matrimonial contract are paddy, doov 
grass, turmeric, betel leaf, betel-nuts, sandal paste, cowries 
(small shells) and cUta * all which are considered as condu- 
cive to the future welfare of the boyf and girl. When the 
contract is religiously ratified, a couple of conchs — one 
for the bridegroom and another for the bride — are sound- 
ed by the females, announcing the happy conclusion of 
this important preliminary, at which all hearts are ex- 

* A thin stuff like paper with which Hindoo females redden their feet. A 
widow is not allowed to use it. In the absence of shoes, which they are forbidden 
•to wear, this red color heightens the beauty of their tiny feet. It is applied once 
a week. 

t In the selection of a bridegroom, outward appearances are not always to 
be trusted. The late Baboo Aushotosh Dey, a millionaire, had a very beautiful 
granddaughter to give in marriage. As was to be expected, Ghatackt and Ghai' 
kees had been rummaging the whole town and its suburbs for a suitable match, 
one who would possess all the recommendations of a good education, a respect- 
able family, and a fair, prepossessing appearance — qualities which are rarely com- 
bined in one. Among others, the name of the late Honorable Baboo Dwarkey 
Nauth Mitter (afterwards a Judge of the Calcutta High Court,) was mentioned. 
He was then a bachelor, and his reputation as a scholar spread far and wide. Some 
how or other he was brought into the house of Baboo Aushotosh Dey for the pur- 
pose of giving the ladies an opportunity of seeing him. His scholastic attain- 
ments were pronounced to be of very superior order, but not being blessed with 
a prepossessing appearance, he was rejected. 



50 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

hilarated. Arrangements are now being made for the 
dinner of all who may be present at the time. Sometimes 
fifty to sixty persons are fed. Every care is taken to 
provide a good dinner for the delectation of the guests 
and a Pattra on this scale costs from 300 to 400 Rupees. 
The Brahmins, Koolins, and others, receive, as usual, presents 
of money and return home replenished in body as well 
as in purse. 

It is worthy of remark that though the distinction of caste 
still exerts its influence on all the important concerns of our 
social and domestic life, it is nevertheless fast losing its pres- 
tige in the estimation of the enlightened Hindoos. In former 
days a Koolin occupied a prominent position in society, be his 
character what it might, but now-a-days the rapid spread of 
English education, and the manifold advantages derivable 
from it, has practically impaired his influence and lowered his 
dignity. A Koolin who happens to be the father of a girl mar- 
ried to a Mowleek^ is, in the present day, degraded into the 
rank of his traditional inferior, simply because he is the father 
of the girl ; he must even be prepared to submit to all sorts of 
humiliation and continue to serve the Mowleek father of the 
boy as long as the connection lasts. At every popular festi- 
val for at least one year he must, according to his rank, make 
suitable presents to his son-in-law, failing which a latent feel- 
ing of discontent arises which eventually ripens into bitter 
misunderstanding. 

But to return to the marriage contract. After the enter- 
tainment, both parties consult the almanac and fix a day for 
the ceremony, called Gdtray haridrd or the anointment of the 
boy with turmeric. On that day the bridegroom, after bath- 
ing and putting on a red bordered cloth,* is made to stand on 

* In Hindoo marriages and other ceremonies of a similar nature red color 
is indispensably necessary for all kinds of wearing apparel, even the invitation 
cards must be on red paper. Red color is the sign of joy and gaiety as opposed 
to black, which is held to be ominous. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. Ji 

a grindstone surrounded by four plantain trees, while five wo- 
men (one must be of Brahmin caste) whose husbands are alive, 
go round him five or seven times, anoint his body with tur- 
meric, and touch his forehead at one and the same time with 
holy water, betel, betel-nuts, a Sree made of rice paste in the 
shape of a sugarloaf, and twenty other little articles consist- 
ing of several kinds of peas, rice, paddy, gold, silver, &c. 
From this day, the boy carries about a pair of silver nut-crack- 
ers, and the girl a pair of kajulnatha^^ which must remain 
with them till the solemnization of the nuptials, for the 
purpose of repelling evil spirits. A little of the tur- 
meric paste with which the body of the bridegroom was 
anointed is sent by the family barber to the bride in a 
silver cup, her body is also anointed with it. A number 
of other gifts follow, namely, a large brass vessel of oil, 
various kinds of perfumery, three pieces of cloth (one 
must be a richly embroided Benares sateCy one Dacca, and 
the other red bordered), a small carpet, a silk musnud with 
pillows, two mats, some gold trinkets for the head, a few 
baskets of sweetmeats, some large fishes, sweet and sour 
milk, and a few gaflanda of flowers, &c., all which cost from 
two to three hundred Rupees, or sometimes more. A rich 
man sometimes gives a pair of diamond combs and flowers 
for the hair, of the value of two thousand Rupees and up- 
wards. From this, an idea may be formed as to the lavish 
expenditure of the Hindoos on marriages, even in these 
hard times. A few can afford it, but the many are put to 
their wits'-end in meeting the demands thus made upon them. 
Two or three days after the ceremony of anointment, 
the Bengali almanac is again consulted, and a lucky day is 
appointed for the celebration of Ahibarrabhdt^ so called from 
its being a feast given just before the wedding. On this 

* A coUirium case which contains the black dye with which native females 
daub their own and their childrens' eyelids. 



52 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

occasion the father of the bridegroom gives a grand entertain- 
ment to the male relatives of the family. As a counterpart 
to the same the father of the bride gives a similar entertain- 
ment to the female relatives of his own family, with this 
difference only, that in the case of the former no Palkees are 
required, whereas in the case of the latter these covered 
conveyances have to be engaged for bringing in the females. 
In either case the number of guests generally varies from two 
to three hundred, and as the present style of living among 
the Hindoos in the metropolis has become more expensive 
than that which prevailed in the good old days, partly from 
a vain desire to make an ambitious display of wealth, and 
partly from the unprecedentedly rapid increase of the popula- 
tion, which has, as a necessary sequence, considerably raised 
the prices of all kind of provisions, an entertainment of this 
nature costs from four to five hundred Rupees on each side. 
The very best kinds of loockeeSy kockareeSy vegetable curries, 
fruits, sweetmeats* and other delicacies of the season are to 
be provided for this special occasion. 

English friends are often invited to the marriages of 
rich families in Calcutta and regaled with all sorts of deli- 
cacies from the Great Eastern Hotel. " The family mansion 

* The Bengalis have become so much anglicised of late that they have not 
hesitated to give an English name to their sweetmeats. When the late Lord Can- 
ning was the Governor General of India, it was said his Baboo made a present 
of some native sweetmeats to Lady Canning, who was kindly pleased to accept it. 
Hence the sweetmeat is called ** Lady Canning," and to this day no grand feast 
among the Bengalis is considered as complete unless the ** Lady Canning" sort 
is offered to the guests. The man that first made it is said to have gained much 
money by its sale. It is not the savoury taste of the thing that makes it so popu- 
lar, but the name of the illustrious Lady. While treating the subject of Hindoo 
entertainment, it would not be out of place to make a few observations on a 
branch of it, for the information of European readers. At all public entertain- 
ments of the kind I am referring to, respectable Hindoos strictly confine them- 
selves to vegetable curries. Though those of the Sakto denomination (the 
followers of Kali and Doorga) have no religious scruples to use goat-meat (male) 
and onion in the shape of curry among select friends at home, they dare not 
expose themselves by offering it to strangers. Hence, in large assemblies, they 
strictly confine themselves to vegetable curries of different kinds. The principle 
is good, were it honestly observed ; because meat, if not necessarily, yet generally, 
is the concomitant of drink. Privately ^ however, both meat and drink are largely 
used. Respectable females are entirely free as yet from these carnal indulgences. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 53 

is splendidly furnished and brilliantly illuminated. There 
is literally a profusion pf pictures and chandeliers. All the 
furniture and surroundings are indicative more of an English 
than of a Native house. Dancing girls are hired to impart ecldt 
to the scene. A nabat covered with tinsel is put up in front of 
the house, where native musicians play at intervals, much to 
the satisfaction of the mother of the brid^room and the 
boys of the neighbourhood, and a temporary scaffolding made 
of bamboos and ornamental paper is erected on the highway 
in the form of a crescent bearing on it the inscription, " God 
save the bridegroom." Male and female servants receiving 
presents of gold and silver bangles move about the house 
gaily dressed in red uniform, or clothes. As tangible memorials 
of the happy union, presents of large brass pots, with oil, 
plates with sweetmeats, fruits, and clothes, &c., are largely 
distributed among the Brahmins and numerous friends and 
relatives of the family. This present is called Samajeek. 
With the exception of Brahmins, who are content with offer- 
ing hollow benedictions, in which the sacerdotal class, as a 
rule, is so very liberal, everyone else who receives them 
makes in return presents of clothes and sweetmeats, the near- 
est relatives making the most costly ones. In times of great 
loganshdy ue,, when numerous marriages take place, the demand 
for clothes and sweetmeats is really enormous. Dealers in 
those things make a harvest of profit and "the town becomes 
a jubilee of feasts." 

During the night preceding the marriage, the women of 
both the families scarcely sleep, being busily engaged in 
making all sorts of preparations for the next day. Very 
early in the morning, five Ayows, or females whose husbands 
are alive, take with them a light, a knife, a Sree, a Brunddld, 
containing sundry little articles, described before, a small brass 
pot, some sweetmeats, clwora and moorkee, oil, betel, betel- 
nuts and turmeric, and go to the nearest tank, sounding a 



54 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

conch, and touching the water with the knife, fill the brass 
pot with water. The above articles being presented as an 
offering to the brass pot, the females receive a portion of the 
eatables and return home sounding the conch, which is a 
necessary accompaniment of all religious ceremonies. 

What I am now about to describe may be called the 
first marriage, because it is invariably followed by a second 
ceremonial when the union is really consummated. But it 
properly forms the binding ceremony, as constituting the 
marriage relative between the two youthful parties, with all its 
legal and social rights, even if they should not be spared to 
live together as husband and wife. 

The emptiness and superficiality of the relation, especi- 
ally on the side of the childish bride, will be but too apparent, 
and is but too often realised in this uncertain life, in the 
prolonged misery of a virgin widowhood. On the day of 
the marriage both the bridegroom and the bride are forbid- 
den to eat anything except a little milk and a few fruits. 
The father of the bride also fasts, as well as the officiating 
priests of the two families. 

About twelve o'clock in the day, the Mowleek family sends 
presents of clothes, sweetmeats, fishes, sour and sweet milk 
and some money, say about twenty-five rupees, to the house 
of the KooHn family, as a mark of honor to the latter, to 
which, from his superior caste he is fairly entitled. This 
present is called Adhibassy. Both the fathers are also requir- 
ed during the day to perform the ceremony of Nannimook or 
Bidhishrady — a ceremony, the meaning of which, as said be- 
fore, is to make offerings to the manes of ancestors, and to 
wish for the increase and preservation of progeny. 

After the performance of the above ceremonies, both the 
bridegroom and the bride putting on new red bordered dhooty 
and saree respectively at their several houses, are made to 
bathe ; and five women whose husbands are alive touch their 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 55 

foreheads with sundry little things, as mentioned before. They 
have afterwards to go through a few minor rites which are 
purely the inventions of the females, not being at all enjoined 
in the Shdsters. It is obvious that the primary object of all 
these female rites is to promote conjugal felicity. Strange 
as it may appear, it is nevertheless a fact that the mother of 
the bridegroom eats seven times (of course but little at a 
time) that day through a fear lest the bride, when she comes, 
will give her but scanty meals,* while the mother of the bride 
does not eat anything until the marriage ceremony is over, 
being impressed with a notion that the more she fasts the 
more she will get to eat afterwards. 

The females on the side of the bride, with the help of a 
matron, exercise their utmost ingenuity, and literally rack their 
brains, in devising all manner of contrivances partaking of 
the character of charms to win the devoted attachment of the 
bridegroom towards the lovely little bride. They resort to 
numerous petty tricks for the purpose which are too absurd 
and childish to be dwelt upon. Credulous as they naturally 
are, and simple as they are known to be in their habits, not to 
speak of the normal weakness of their intellect, they fondly 
imagine that their thook thak or trick is sure to triumph and 
produce the desired eifect. To give an instance or two. 
They write down in red ink on the back of the Peray^ or 
wooden seat on which the bride is to sit, the names of 
twenty-one uxorious husbands, and go round the bride seven 
times. They also write the name of the goddess, Doorga, 
on the silk saree or garment which the bride is to wear at the 
time of the marriage ceremony, because Shiva, her husband, 

* The cause of the fear is as follows : When Kartick (the god of beauty 
and the son of the goddess Doorga) went out to marry, he had forgotten to take 
with him the usual pair of nut-crackers. When he remembered this on the way, 
he immediately returned home, and to his great surprise, saw his mother eating 
with her ten hands, she being a ten handed goddess. On asking the reason, 
he was told that it was lest, when he should bring his wife, she would not give her 
the proper quantity of food. Under what strange hallucinations, even the gods 
and goddesses of the Hindoos laboured ! 



56 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

was excessively fond of her. They place before her the 
Chundi Pooty^ a sacred book treating of Doorga and Shiva, 
while her mouth is filled with two betel-nuts to be afterwards 
chewed with betel by the bridegroom unawares. Meantime 
active preparations are made on both sides for the auspicious 
solemnization of the nuptials. At the house of the bride- 
groom, arrangements are being made for illumination and 
fireworks, and the grand Nacarras announce the approaching 
departure of the procession. Fac-similes of mountains and 
peacocks are made of colored paper spacious enough to 
accommodate a dozen persons ; hundreds of Khds gaylap and 
silver staves are seen on the roadside ; groups of songsters 
and musicians are posted here and there to give a passing 
specimen of the vulgar songs of the populace ; a Sookasun 
or bridegroom's seat elegantly fitted up is brought out with 
two boys gaily dressed to fan the bridegroom with chamurs ;* 
hundreds of blue and red lights are distributed among the 
swarthy coolies, who are to use them on the road when the 
procession moves. The bridegroom, being washed, is helped 
to put on a suit of superbly embroidered Benares kinkob 
dress, with a pearl necklace of great value, besides bangles 
and armlets set in precious stones and garlands of flowers. 
Durwans and guards of honor are paraded in front of 
the house ; and in short, nothing is left to impart an imposing 
appearance to the scene. As has been already observed, there 
is a growing desire among the Hindoos to imitate English 
manners and fashions. A marriage procession is considered 
quite incomplete unless bands of English musicians are 
retained, and a cavalcade of troopers like a burlesque of the 
Governor-Generars Body Guard is seen to move forward to 
clear the way. A Cook's carriage with a postillion is not 
unfrequently observed to supersede the old Sooksun^ or gilt 
Palkee. 



The chamurs are fans made of the tails of Thibet cows. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 57 

Before the bridegroom leaves his house he says his 
prayer to the goddess Doorga, and makes his preparatory 
jattrd (departure). At this time his mother asks him, " Baba 
where are you going ?" He answers, " To bring in your 
Dassee or maid-servant." Before leaving he receives from her 
a few instructions as to how he should conduct himself at the 
house of his father-in-law. He is to gaze on the stars in 
heaven, keep his feet half on the ground and half on the 
wooden seat when engaged in performing a ceremony, and 
not to use any other betel but his own. The object of these 
instructions is to thwart the intention of his mother-in-law 
that he may become a uxorious husband, a wish in which 
his mother does not share at all, because it is calculated 
to diminish his regard for her. In the majority of cases 
the wish of the mother-in-law prevails over that of the 
mother, as is quite natural. 

He has next to perform the rite of KanakdngooleCy sur- 
rounded by all the women of the family. A small brass 
plate containing rice, a small wooden pot of vermilion, and 
one Rupee, are thrown right over his head by his father into 
the SareCy or robe of his mother, who stands behind him for 
the purpose of receiving the same. This is a signal for him 
to come out, and if all arrangements are complete, take his 
seat on the bridal Sookasun^ or carriage. The procession 
moves forward amid the increasing darkness. One or two 
European constables march ahead. The usual cortege of 
stalwart durwans follow. The torches and flambeaus are 
lighted. The Khasgalabullnhs are ranged on both sides of 
the road ; in the midst are placed bands of native and En- 
glish musicians. Parties of songsters in female dress begin 
to sing and dance on the Moworpunklue^ borne on the shoul- 
ders of coolies. The flaring torches are waved around the 
procession. Blue and red lights are flashed at intervals. 
Noise, confusion, and bustle ensue. Men, women and children 

11 



58 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

all flock to see the tdmAshd. Mischievous boys try to rob 
the lights. And to lend, as it were, an enchantment to the 
scene, gay Baboos in open carriages, in their gala dresses 
bring up the rear. It is on such occasions that modest 
beauties and newly-married brides {bahus) come out from the 
Zenana, and, unveiling their faces, rise on the tops of their 
houses on both sides of the road, in order to feast their eyes 
on all the pompous accompaniments of a marriage exhibi- 
tion. As soon as the procession arrives near the house of 
the bride, the people of the neighbourhood assemble in 
groups to have a sight of the lord of the day, and four or five 
gentlemen of the party of the bride advance to welcome 
the bridegroom and his party of friends, who enter, receiving 
the stares of the idle and the salutations of the polite. The 
barber of the family brings out a light in a sard (earthen 
vessel) and places it on the side of the road. Decency for- 
bids me to mention certain of its constituents. 

As the initiatory rite of the auspicious event, the females 
blow the conch-shell in the inner apartment, and some more 
impatient than the rest peep through the latticed corridor 
or window, while the bridegroom is slowly conducted to his 
appropriate seat made up of red satin with embroidered fringes, 
having three pillows of the same stuif on three sides. An 
awning is suspended over the spacious compound, and it is 
splendidly illuminated with gas lights. Polite and compli- 
mentary expressions of good wishes and of refined native 
etiquette are exchanged on both sides, comparing favorably 
with the rude manners of past times. " Come in, come in, 
gentlemen, and sit down, please," is the general cry. " Bring 
tobacco, bring tobacco, for both Brahmin's and Soodras," is 
the next welcome expression. Boys, especially the brother- 
in-law of the bridegroom, now bring him a couple of betel- 
nuts, to be cut with the pair of nut crackers he holds in his 
hand, He objects and hesitates at first, but no excuse is ad- 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 59 

mitted, no plea heard, he must cut them in the best way he 
can. * When all the guests are properly seated, numbers 
of school boys sit face to face and begin to wrangle, much 
to the amusement of the assemblage. As English education 
is now all the " go" among the people, questions in spell- 
ing* grammar, geography and history, are put to each other. 
The following may be taken as a specimen : Aushotosh asks 
Bholanauth, " In what school do you read ?" Bholanauth 
answers, " In the Hare School." A. continues, " What books 
do you read" ? B. enumerates them. 

A. asks, " What is your pedagogue's name ?" B., a little 
confounded, remains quiet, meditating within himself what 
could a pedagogue mean. A. drawing nearer, asks him to 
spell the word, housewife? B. answers, " h-u-z-z-i-f." A. laughs 
heartily in which he is joined by other boys. Continuing the 
chain of interogations, he asks B. to parse the sentence: " To 
be good is to be happy." B. hanging down his head, at- 
tempts, but fails. " Where is Dundee, and what is it famous 
for ?" B. answers, " Dundee is in Germany." (laughter) : A. 
pressing his adversary, continues, " What was the cause of the 
Trojan war ?" B. answers hesitatingly, " The golden fleece ! " 
Thus discomfited, B. takes refuge in ignoble silence, while 
A., in a triumphant mood, moves prominently forward amidst 
the plaudits of the assembled multitude. " Long live Ausho- 
tosh," is the universal blessing. 

Here two or three professional genealogists, having 
tunics on their bodies and turbans on their heads, stand up, 
and in ntieasured rhyme recite the genealogical table of the 
two families now aflianced, blazoning forth the meritorious 

* Every commonplace minutiae in the domestic economy of a Hindoo family 
is fraught with meaning : the nuts are kept all-day in the bride's mouth and are 
saturated with her saliva. When cut by the hand of the bridegroom they are 
supposed to possess a peculiar virtue. Somehow or other, the bridegroom must 
be made to use them with the betel, in spite of the warning of his mother, 
forbidding him to use them on any account. When used, his love for his wife 
is supposed to be intensified, which is prejudicial to the interests of his mother. 



6o MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

deeds of each succeeding generation. They keep a regular 
register of all the aristocratic Hindoo families, especially 
of the Koolin class, and at respectable marriages they are 
richly rewarded. It is quite amusing to hear how seriously 
they rehearse the virtuous acts of the ancestors, carefully 
refraining from making any allusion to disreputable acts 
of any kind. Though not like Chunda, the inimitable 
bard and pole-star of Rajasthan, as Colonel Tod says, their 
services are duly appreciated by all orthodox Hindoos, who 
exult in the glowing recital of ancestral deeds. Their lan- 
guage is so guarded and flattering that it can offend nobody, 
except such as do not reward them. Having the genealogi- 
cal table in their possession they can easily turn the good 
into bad, and vice versa, to serve their own selfish ends. An 
upstart, or one who has a family stain, pays them liberally 
to have his name inserted in the genealogical register, and 
to be mentioned in laudatory terms. 

In the TItakoor dhallan, or chamber of worship, all pre- 
parations for the solemnization of nuptials are now made. 
The couch-cot, beddings, carpet, embroidered and wooden 
shoes — here English shoes will not do — gold watch with 
chain, diamond ring, pearl necklace, and one set of silver and 
one set of brass utensils,* are arranged in proper order, 
and flowers, sandal-paste, dooav grass, holy water in copper 
pans, and khoosh grass, are placed before the priests of both 
parties. The bridegroom, laying aside his embroidered robe, 
is dressed in a red silk cloth, and taken to the place of 
worship, where the bride, also attired in a silk Saree, veiled 
and trembling through fear, is slowly brought from the female 
penetralia on a wooden seat borne by two servants and placed 
on the left side of the bridegroom. The agitation of her 
internal feelings when brought before the altar of Hymen is 

* The articles consist of Silver Ghard, Gharoo, Batha, Thdlla, Batti, Glass, 
Raykab, Dabur, Dipay and Pickdan. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 6i 

greatly soothed by the wealth of gold ornaments — the sum- 
mum bonum of her existence with which her person is adorn- 
ed. The officiating priest puts into the hands of the bride- 
groom fourteen blades of khoosh grass in two small bundles 
which he winds and ties round his figures. The priest then 
pours a little holy Ganges water into the bridegroom's right 
hand, which he holds while the father-in-law repeats a mantra 
or incantation, at the close of which he lets it fall. Rice, 
flowers and doorva grass are next given him, which he lays 
near the copper pan containing the holy water. Water is 
presented as at first with a prayer, and sour milk, then again 
water. The officiating priest now directs him to put his hand 
into the copper pan, and placing the hand of the bride on 
that of the bridegroom ties them together with a garland 
of flowers, when the father-in-law says : " Of the family of 
Goutam, the great grand-daughter of Ram Churn Bose, 
the grand-daughter of Bulloram Bose, the daughter of 
Ramsoonder Bose, wearing such and such clothes and 
jewels, I, Dwarkeynath Bose, give to thee, Oma Churn Dutt, 
of the family of Bharaddz, the great grandson of Dinnonath 
Dutt, the grandson of Shib Churn Dutt, the son of Jodonauth 
Dutt." The bridegroom says, " I have received her." The 
father-in-law then takes off the garland of flowers with which 
the hands of the married pair were bound, and pouring 
some holy water on their heads, pronounces his benediction, 
A piece of silk cloth called Lajd bustur, is then put over the 
heads of the boy and girl, and they are asked to look at each 
other for the first time in their lives. While the marriage 
ceremony is being performed the boy is made to wear on his 
head a conical tinsel hat. Here the barber of the bride- 
groom gives to the priest a little Khoye Tparched rice) and 
a little ghee, which are offered with doorva grass to the god 
Brahma. A very small piece of coarse cloth called gatchardy 
or knotted cloth, containing in all twenty-one myrobolans, 



62 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

boyra fruit and betef-nuts, is tied to the silk dhobja or scarf 
of the bridegroom, which is fastened again to the silk garment 
of the bride, thus symbolising a union never to be severed. 
The married couple are then taken into the inner court where 
the females are waiting on the tiptoe of expectation, wreath- 
ed for a moment in the rapturous embraces of one another. 
As soon as the boy appears, or rather before his appearance, 
conch-shells are again blown, and he is made to stand on a 
stone placed under a small awning called cMdldhtalah^ a 
emporary shed, surrounded on four sides by plantain trees. 
By way of merriment, some females greet him with hayeum- 
llah mixed in treacle, some pull his ears, notably his sisters-in- 
law, while matrons cry out ^^ ulu^ ulu^ulul' sounds indicative 
of excessive joy. It would require the masterly pen of a 
Sir Walter Scott to adequately delineate the joyous feelings 
of the females on such an auspicious occasion. 

The bridegroom is made to wear on his ten fingers ten 
rings made of twigs of creepers, and his hands are tied by 
a piece of thread as long as his body. Putting betwixt 
them a weaver's shuttle, the mother-in-law says, "I have 
bound thee by thread, bought thee with cowries, and put a 
shuttle betwixt thy hands, now bleat thou like a lamb, * 
Bapoo," — a term of endearment. She also closes his mouth 
by touching his lips with a padlock, and symbolically sewing 
the same with twenty-one pins, that he may never scold the 
girl ; touches his nose with a slender Bamboo pipe and breaks 
it afterwards, throws over his body treacle and rice, as well as 
the refuse of spices pounded on a grindstone, which has been 

* I have known a young collegian of a rather humourous disposition bleat 
like a lamb at the time of marriage, to the great amusement of all the females, 
except his mother-in-law, who, simple as she was, took the matter in a serious 
light, and felt herself almost dejected on account of the great stupidity of her 
son-in-law (for she could not take it in any other sense), but her dejection gave 
place to joy when in the Bdsurghur — the sleeping room of the happy pair for 
the night — she heard him outwit all the females present. It is obvious that the 
meaning of this part of the female rite is to render the husband tame and docile 
as a Iamb, especially in his treatment of his wife. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 63 

kept covered with a bag for eight days, are alive, by two 
females whose husbands and finally touches his lips with 
honey and small images made of sugar, that he may ever 
treat his wife like a sweet darling. 

Afterwards the mother-in-law with several other married 
women, adorned with all their costly ornaments and dressed 
in their best attire, touch his forehead with Sree^ Baranddlld 
a winnowing fan, plantain, betel and betel-nuts ; and here the 
silk scarf of the boy, of which mention has been made before, 
is again more closely fastened to the silk garment of the 
girl, and kept with her for eight days, after which it is returned, 
accompanied by presents of sweetmeats, fishes and curdled 
milk. These puerile rites, purely the invention of females, 
are intended to act as charms for securing the love and affec- 
tion of the husband for his wife. The wish is certainly a 
good one, but often the agencies employed fail to produce 
the desired effect ! " Charms strike the sight, but merit wins 
the soul." Before the marriage ceremony is concluded, the 
boys of the neighbourhood \make the usual demand of Gram- 
vati and Barawari Poojah. At first in a polite way they 
ask the father of the bridegroom for the gift. He offers 
twenty Rupees, but they insist on having one hundred 
Rupees. After some altercation in which sometimes high 
words and offensive language are made use of, * the matter 
is eventually settled on payment of thirty-two Rupees. 
This money is used in giving a feast to the boys of the 

* In former days when education was but very scantily cultivated, unplea- 
sant quarrels were known to have arisen between the two parties from very trivial 
circumstances. The friends of the bridegroom, often pluming themselves on 
their special prerogatives as members of the strong party readily resented even 
the slightest insult offered them rather incautiously by the bridal party. These 
altercations sometimes terminated in blows, if not in lacerated limbs. Instead 
of waiting till the conclusion of the ceremony, the whole of the bridegroom's 
party has been known to return home without dinner, to the great mortification 
of the other party. There is a common saying among the Bengalees that * * he 
who is the enemy of the house should go to a marriage party." It was a common 
sport with the friends of the bridegroom to cut with a pair of scissors the bed- 
ding at the house of the bride. But happily such practices are of rare occurrence 
now-a-days. 



64 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

neighbourhood, reserving a portion for the Barawari poojah, — 
a mode of worship which will be more fully treated in another 
place. 

As an epilogue to the nuptial rite, the bridegroom con- 
tinues to stand on a stone, while two men setting the bride 
on a wooden seat, and lifting her higher than his head, makes 
three circumambulations, asking the females at the same time 
who is taller, the bridegroom or the bride ? The stereotyped 
response is, " the bride." This being done, the females throw- 
ing a piece of cloth over the heads of both, desire them to 
glance at each other with all the fond endearments of a 
wedded pair. As is to be expected, the coy girl, almost in a 
state of trepidation, casts but a transient look, and veils her 
face instanter ; but the boy, young as he is, feels inwardly 
happy to view the lovely face of his future wife. This look 
is called Slwovddristi or " the auspicious sight" which is held 
in the light of a harbinger of future felicity. 

The bridegroom returns to \he Thacoordhallan or place of 
worship and performs the concluding part of the marriage 
ceremony, while the officiating priest, repeating the usual in- 
cantation, presents the burnt offerings {home) to the gods, which 
is the finale of the religious part of the rite.* But before the 
bridegroom leaves the place of worship, the officiating priests 
of both sides must have their dackind or pecuniary reward. 
If the boy be of the Mowleek caste and the girl of the Koo- 
lin caste, the former must give double what the latter gives, 
/. ^., 1 6 Rupees and 8 Rupees. Here, as in every other in- 

* An English gentleman, who, to a versatile genius, combined an intelli- 
gent knowledge of, and a familiar acquaintance with, the manners and customs 
of the country, once advised a Native friend of his to go to England and other 
great countries on the continent with a number of Hindoo females and exhibit 
there all the important social and domestic ceremonials of this conntry in a place 
of public resort. The very circumstance of Hindoo females performing those 
rites in the manner in which they are popularly celebrated here, would be sure 
to attract a very large audience. The marriage ceremonies alone would form a 
regular night of enchantment and amusement. The time will certainly come 
when the realization of such an ingenious idea would no longer be held Utopian. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 65 

stance, the superiority of caste asserts its peculiar privileges. 
The professional genealogists, after concluding their recitation 
and singing their epithalamiums, also come in for their share 
of the reward, but they are generally told to wait till the next 
day, when in common with other Ghatacks they receive their 
recompense. The bridegroom is then permitted to have a 
little breathing time, after having undergone the infliction of 
so many religious and domestic rites, which latter formed the 
special province of the females. 

The head of the family now stands up before the assem- 
bly, and asks their permission to go through the ceremony of 
Mala Cluxndan^ or the distribution of sandaled garlands. This 
is done to pay them the honor due to their rank. The Dulla- 
putty y or the head of the order or party, almost invariably re- 
ceives the first garland, and then the assembled multitudes are 
served. For securing this hereditary distinction to a family, 
large sums of money have been spent from time to time by 
millionaires who, by the favorable combination of circum- 
stances, had risen from an obscure position in life to a state of 
great affluence. The late Rajah Rajkissen Bahadoor, Baboos 
Ram Doolal Dey, Kisto Ram Bose, Modun Mohun Dutt, 
Santi Ram Singh, Ram Rutton Roy and others, expended up- 
wards of a lakh of Rupees, or ;^ 10,000, each for the posses- 
sion of the enviable title of Dullaputty, or head of a party. 
The way by which this noble distinction was secured was to 
induce first-class Koolins, by sufficient pecuniary inducements, 
to intermarry into the families of the would-be Dullaputty. 
The generally impoverished condition of the old aristocracy 
of the land, and the onward march of intellect teaching the 
people to look to sterling merit for superiority in the scale 
of Society have considerably deteriorated the value of these 
artificial distinctions. The progress of education has opened 
a new era in the social institutions of the country, and an en- 
lightened proletariat is now-a-days more esteemed than an 

I 



66 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

empty titled Dullaputty, the magnitude of whose social status 
is not to be estimated by the numbers of Koolins he is con- 
nected with, but by the extent and character of his services 
to society. 

The bridegroom next dines with his friends outside, not- 
* withstanding the importunities of the females for him to dine 
in their presence in the inner apartment, that they might have 
an opportunity to indulge in merriment at his expense. As a 
rule, the Brahmins dine first, and then the numerous guests 
and attendants, numbering sometimes one thousand. Despite 
the precaution of the friends of the bride to prevent unwel- 
come intrusion, from a natural apprehension of running short 
of supplies, which, on such occasions, are procured at enormous 
cost, many uninvited persons in the disguise of respectable 
looking Baboos contrive somehow or other to mingle in the 
crowd and behave with such propriety as to elude detection. 
The proportion of male intruders is larger than that of female 
ones, simply because the latter, however barefaced, cannot 
entirely divest themselves of all modesty. It would not be 
above the mark to put down the number of the former at 
twenty per cent. Such men are professional intruders ; they are 
entirely devoid of a sense of self respect, and lead a wretched, 
demoralized life. Foreigners can have no idea of the extent 
to which they carry on their disreputable trade, including in 
their ranks some of the highest Brahmins of the country. 
It is not an uncommon sight, on such occasion, to behold 
numbers of people depart after dinner with bundles of loo- 
chees (fine edibles) and sweetmeats in their hands, which 
methrdnees * threaten to touch and defile. 

When full justice has been done to the feast provided 
for the occasion, the crowd melts away and streams out at 
the door, well pleased with the reception they have had. It 



Sweeper-caste females, 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 67 

IS much easier to satisfy men than women in this respect. The 
latter are naturally fastidious, and the least shortcoming is 
sure to be found fault with. When confusion and bustle sub- 
side, the bridegroom is slowly conducted into a room in the 
inner apartment which bears the euphonious name of Bdsur- 
ghuTy the bedchamber of the happy pair, or rather the store- 
house of jokes and banter, where are grouped together his 
wife, his mother-in-law, * and the whole galaxy of beauty. 
The very name of Basarghur\ suggests to the female a variety 
of ideas at once amusing and fascinating. As I have already 
observed, she, nursed from her cradle in a state of perfect 
seclusion, and immersed in all the drudgeries of a mono- 
tonous domestic life, is glad of any opportunity to share 
in the unreined pleasure of joviality. The mother-in-law, 
throwing aside conventional restraint, introduces herself, 
or is introduced by other women, to her son-in-law. They 
pull the poor lad's ears, in spite of her earnest protestation, 
and if they do not know what flirtation is, they assail him 

* According to the prescribed rules of the Hindoo society, a mother-in-law 
is not permitted to appear before her son-in-law ; it is not only considered in- 
decorous, but is associated with something else that is scandalous ; hence she 
always keeps her distance from her son-in-law, but on this particular night, her 
presence in the room with other females is quite consistent with feminine pro- 
priety. In the case of a very young son-in-law, however, a departure from this 
rule is not reprehensible. 

t In the suburbs and rural districts of Bengal, females, more particularly 
among the Brahmin class, are tacitly allowed to have so much liberty on this 
specitd occasion that they, putting under the bushel their instinctive modesty, 
entertain the bridegroom not only with epithalamiums but with other amorous 
songs, having reference to the diversions of Krishna with his mistress, and the 
numerous milkmaids. Under an erroneous impression of singing holy songs 
they unwittingly trumpet the profligate character of their god. These songs 
are generally known by the names of sdkhisungbad and birana ; the former as 
the designation implies, consist of news as conveyed by the principal milkmaids 
r^arding his mistress, to whom he oftentimes proved false, and the latter of 
disappointed love, which broadly exhibits the prominent features of his sensuous 
life. They feel such an interest in these low entertainments, that under the hal- 
lowed name of religion they are led to indirectly perpetrate a crime. Frail as 
women naturally are, the example of such a god, combined with the sanction 
of religion, has undoubtedly a tendency to impair the moral influence of a vir- 
tuous Hfe. I have always r^retted this from my personal observation, but to 
strike a death blow at the root of the evil must be the work of ages. The essen* 
tial elements of the Hindoo character must be thoroughly recast. 



68 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

with jokes which quite puzzle him and bewilder his senses. 
They burst into roars of laughter and make themselves merry 
at his expense ; he feels himself almost helpless and unpre- 
pared to make a suitable repartee, and is at length driven into 
all manner of excuses, as plausible reasons for a brief respite 
and a short repose. He complains of headache occasioned by 
the lateness of the hour ; as a sure remedy they give him 
soda, ice, eau-de-cologne, and almost bathe him in rose-water; 
but a soporific they can on no account allow him, because it 
would mar their pleasure and sink their lively spirits. Keep- 
ing up their jokes, they place the lovely bride with all her 
gold trappings on his knee, and unveiling her face ask him to 
look at it, and say whether or not he likes her ; she closes her 
eyes, moves and jerks to have the veil dropped down, but her 
sisters yield not to her wish, and keeping her yet unveiled, 
repeat the question. Of course he makes no reply, but 
blushes and hangs down his head ; their demand being impera- 
tive, he sees no other alternative, but to gently reply in the 
affirmative. They next make the girl bride, much against 
her inclination, lie down by his side ; as often as she is drag- 
ged so often she draws back, but yielding at last to the 
admonition of her mother, she is constrained to lie down, 
because, on that night, this form is strictly enjoined in the 
female shaster. The innocent girl, unconscious of the absurd 
mirth, shrinking together, turns away, and occasionally whim- 
pering, passes the sleepless, miserable hours. The dawn of 
morning is to her most welcome, although it affords her but 
a temporary relief. As the first glimpse of light is perceived, 
she flies into the bosom of her aunt, who tries to animate her 
drooping spirit by a word or two of solace, citing perhaps at 
the same time the example of Surrajiney, her elder sister, 
placed in a similar position three years ago. The women 
referred to remain in the Basarghur. As a matter of course 
aged women go to sleep faster than young sprightly girls of 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 69 

sweet seventeen, who are bent on making the best of the occasion 
by indulging in jokes and witticsms. They literally rack their 
brains to outwit the bridegroom by their t/idtd and tdntdshd 
(jokes), and their stock of it seems to be almost inexhaustible. 
They contrive to make him chew the same beera or betel 
which is first chewed by the bride, and if he be obstinate 
enough to refuse it, in obedience to the warning of his mother, 
which is often the case, four or five young ladies open out his 
lips, and thrust the chewed bettle into his mouth. What 
young man would be so ungallant as to resist them after all ? 
He must either submit or bear the opprobrium of a foolish 
discourteous boy. Thus the whole night is passed in the ban- 
ter and practical joking peculiar to the idiosyncracy of the 
Hindoo females. When in the morning he attempts to get 
away from their company, one or two ladies, notably his salees^ 
or sisters-in-law hold him fast by the skirt of his silk gar- 
ment demanding, the customary present of Sarfaytolldnee, * 
He sends a message to his man outside, and gets thirty two 
or fifty Rupees, on payment of which they are satisfied and 
permit him to go. After a short respite he is again brought 
into the inner apartment, and after shaving, bathing and 
changing his clothes, he is made to go almost through the 
same course of female rites as he had to perform on the preced- 
ing night, with this difference only, that no officiating priest 
is required to help on the occasion. This rite is named 
Bassi Bibdha (not new marriage), all the ceremonials being 
conducted by the females. It would be tedious to inflict on 
the reader a recapitulation of the same, but suflfice it to say, 
that in all the primary pervading principle is plainly percep- 
tible, namely, the long life and conjugal felicity of the happy 
pair. It is a remarkable fact that in the opinion of the Hindoo 

t The fee for the trouble of removing the bed and keeping up the night, the 
ladies who remained in the bed-chamber are justly entitled to it for their pains ; 
a widow, be it observed, is not permitted to touch the bed lest her misfortune 
would befall the bride, but she gets, however, her portion or share of the fee. 



;o MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

females the wider the circle of matrimonial ceremonies, 
the greater the chance of securing the favor of Hymen. 
At the conclusion, the boy and girl are directed to say that 
they have passed the state of celibacy and entered on that 
of matrimony. " Marriage is honorable in all and the bed 
undefiled." 

As morning advances, the bridegroom walking, and the 
bride in the arms of her relative, are next brought into a 
room— the women blowing the conch and sprinkling water,— 
and made to sit near each other. They then play with 
cowries, (shells) the girl is told to take up a few cowries in 
her left hand and put them near the boy, while on the other 
hand the boy is told to take up as much as his right hand can 
contain and put them before the girl, the meaning of which 
is, that the girl would spend sparingly and the boy give her 
abundantly. They then play with four very small earthen 
pots, called mooglivhur, filled with rice and peas ; the girl 
first opens the lids of the pots and throws the contents on a 
Koolo^ (winnowing fan) the boy takes it up and fills the pots, 
the girl slowly puts the lids on and inaudibly repeats the name 
of her husband for the first time, * expressing a hope that 
by the above process she stops his mouth and curbs his ton- 
gue, that he may never abuse her. As the first course of 
breakfast, fruits and sweetmeats are served to the bridegroom 
and the bride. He eats a little and is requested to offer a 
portion of the same to his wife, whose modesty forbids her 
to accept any in his presence, but the earnest importunities 
of the nearest of kin overcome her shyness, and she is at 
length prevailed upon to taste a little which is offered her 
by the hand of her husband, the females expressing a desire 
at the same time that she may continue to eat from the same 

* It should be mentioned that a female after her marriage is not allowed to 
utter the name of her husband or of any of his male and female relatives save 
those who are younger than she. There is no harm done in taking the name of 
a husband, but through a sense of shame she does not repeat it. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 71 

hand to the end of her days. They then receive the benedic- 
tions of the male and female members of the family in 
money, dooav grass and paddy, which embody a prayer to 
the God for her everlasting happiness. A second course 
of breakfast consisting of boiled rice, dhall, fish and vegeta- 
ble curries in great variety, sweetmeats, sour and sweet milk» 
is next brought for the bridegroom ; seeing that he eats very 
slowly and scantily through shame, his sisters-in-law help 
him with handfuls of rice and curries, &c. After he has 
finished eating, the residue of the victuals is given to his wife 
in a separate room, because it is customary that she should 
use the same that day, with a view to cement mutual love 
and affection. 

Preparations are now being made for the return of the 
procession to the house of the bridegroom, but before it starts 
some pecuniary matters are to be settled. The father of the 
bridegroom gives fifty Rupees as Sarjaytolldnee for the be- 
nefit of the sisters of the bride, and the father of the bride 
must give the same sum, if not a larger one, as Nanadkhay- 
mee for the benefit of the sisters of the bridegroom. Then 
the difficult problem of Samajeek is to be solved. In 
almost every case, the question is not decided without some 
discussion. Hindoos are above all tenacious of caste when 
the question is one of Rupees and pice. Crowds of Bhdts^ 
fakeers^ nagaSy raywoSy and mendicants shouting at times ^^ Jay^ 
Jayl' victory, victory ; " Bar, konay bachay thakoog," " may 
the bridegroom and bride live long," impatiently wait in the 
street for their usual alms. They get a few annas each and 
disperse. Professional GhatuckSy genealogists and Brahmins 
also come in for their share and are not disappointed. Then 
comes the interesting and affecting part of the ceremonial, 
the JattfUy or the approaching departure of the happy pair 
for the house of the bridegroom. A small brass pot filled 
with holy water and a small wooden pot of vermillion being 



72 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

placed before them, they are made to sit on the two wooden 
pirays on which they sat the previous evening at the time 
of marriage, and the females touch their foreheads with sour 
milk, shiddi ( hemp), and the consecrated urghi of the god- 
dess Doorga, * which latter is kept in a tuft on the Khopa 
or ringlet of the bride's hair for eight days. Her forehead 
is also rubbed with vermillion, the emblem of a female whose 
husband is alive. This is followed by the rite of Kanokan- 
jooley already described, but this time the father of the bride 
throws the brass plate right over her head into the cloth of 
his wife, who stands for the purpose behind her daughter. 
A sudden and solemn pause is perceptible here, betokening 
the subsidence of joy and the advent of sorrow. In the 
midst of the company, mostly females, the father and mother 
of the bride, alternately clasping both the hands of the 
bridegroom, with tears in their eyes, commit the very respon- 
sible trust of the young wife to his charge, saying at the 
same time in a faltering tone, among other things, that " hi- 
therto our daughter was placed under our care, but now 
through the Bhabiturbee or kind dispensation of Providence, 
she is consigned for ever to your charge, may you kindly 
overlook her shortcomings and frailties and prove your fidelity 
by constancy." At this parting expression, tears start into the 
eyes of all the females who are naturally more susceptible than 
the sterner sex. With sorrowful countenances and deep 
emotion they look steadfastly at the married pair and im- 
ploringly beseech the bridegroom to treat the bride with all 
the tenderness of an affectionate husband. The scene is 
exceedingly affecting, and the sweet sorrow of parting does 
not permit him to say Bidaya or farewell to the bridegroonv 
The mother-in-law, especially, should the bride be her only 

* The Ufghi consists of dooav grass, rice and dltd (a thin red stuff made of 
cotton like paper with which Hindoo females daub their feet,) previously con- 
secrated to the goddess Doorga, and is supposed to possess a peculiar virtue in 
promoting felicity and relieving distress. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 73 

daughter, is overwhelmed with grief, and if she does not cry 
bitterly, her suppressed emotion is unmistakable ; the idea 
even of a temporary separation is enough to break her heart, 
and no consolation can restore the natural serenity of her 
mind.* Her relatives endeavour to cheer her by reminding 
h6r of their and her own cases, and declare that all females 
are born to share the same fate. They scarcely enter the 
world before they must leave their parents and intermarry 
into other families. This is their destiny, and this the law of 
Juggut (the world), and they must all abide by it. Instead 
of repining, she ought to pray to Debta (god,) " that her 
daughter should ever continue to live at her father-in-law's, 
use Sidoor (vermillion) on her grey head, wear out her iron 
bangle^ and be a junma ayestri" blessings which are all 
enjoyed by a female whose husband is alive. Such powerful 
arguments and undeniable examples partially restore the 
equanimity of her mind, and she is half persuaded to join her 
friends and go and see the procession from the top of the 
house. The same tumult and bustle which ensued at the 

* Hindoos are so passionately fond of their children, male or female, that 
they can but ill brook the idea of a segregation, even under circumstances where 
it is unavoidable. Hence wealthy families often keep their sons-in-law under their 
own roof. Sometimes this is done from vanity. Such sons-in-law generally become 
indolent and effeminate, destitute alike of mental activity and physical energy. 
They eat, drink, smoke, play and sleep. Fattening on the ample resources of their 
father-in-law they contract demoralizing habits, which engender vice and profligacy. 
The late Baboos Ramdoolal Dey, Ramruttun Roy, Prannauth Chowdry, the 
Tagore families, the old Rajahs of Calcutta and some of the newly fledged 
English made Rajahs and others, countenanced this practice, and the result is, 
they have left with but few exceptions a number of men singularly deficient in 
good moral character. These men are called Ghar Jamayesy or home bred sons- 
in-law, which is a term of reproach among all persons who have a spark of in- 
dependence about them. The late Baboo Dinno Bundho Mitter, the celebrated 
author of ^^ Nil Durpun,^^ strongly satirises such characters in a book called 
** Jamay Bateek,^^ While on this subject I may as well mention here that 
Baboo Ramdoolal Dey of Calcutta, who had risen from obscurity to great 
opulence, had five daughters, to each of whom he gave a marriage dowry of 
Rupees 50,000 in Government securities, and 10,000 Rupees for a house. Of course 
all his sons-in-law were first class Koolins^ and used to live under the roof of 
their father-in-law. Some of their sons and grandsons are now ranked amongst 
the Hindoo millionaires of this great City, while most of the members of the 
original stock have dwindled into insignificance, strikingly illustrating the in- 
stability of fortune. 



74 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

time of coming now prevail at the departure of the bride- 
groom in his SookasuHy and the bride in her closely covered 
crimson Mohdpdyd, preceded by all the tinsel trappings and 
bands of English and Native musicians. The procession 
slowly moves forward with all the pomp and consequence of 
a grand, imposing exhibition, amidst the staring of the 
wondering populace and of the sight-seeing public. " It is 
on such occasions," as Macaulay observes, " that tender and 
delicate women, whose veils had never been lifted before the 
public gaze, came forth from the inner chambers in which 
Eastern jealousy keeps watch over their beauty." The great 
body of Barjattars — bridegroom's friends — who graced the 
procession with their presence the previous night, do not ac- 
company it now on its return homewards, and notwithstand- 
ing all the vigilance of the extra guards, the mob scrambles 
and forcibly takes away the tinsel flower and fruit trees 
on the way. In an hour or two, all the objects of wonder vanish 
from the sight, and leave no mark behind them : " the gaze 
of fools, the pageant of a day." 

On the arrival of the procession at its destination, the 
bridegroom alights from the Sookasun and the bride from the 
Mohdpdyd, under which, by way of welcome, is thrown 2.ghara^ 
or pot of water. Hereupon the silk chadur or scarf of the 
brid^room, so long in the possession of the bride, being 
entwined between both while the conch is blowing, they 
are taken into the inner apartment, the former walking, the 
latter in the arms of one of her nearest female relatives 
whose husband is alive. The boy is made to stand on an 
allpana piray (white-painted wooden seat), the girl on a 
thdld or metal plate filled with milk and altawater, and holding 
in her hand a live shole fish. A small earthen pot of milk is 
put upon the fire by a female whose husband is alive, and when 
through heat it overflows, the veil of the girl being lifted> 
she is desired to witness the overflowing process and say 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES, 75 

gently three times, " may the wealth and resources of her father- 
in-law overflow," while her mother-in-law puts round her left 
hand an iron bangle,* and with the usual benediction that 
she may be ever blessed with her husband, rubs the middle 
of her forehead with a little vermillion. A small basket of 
paddy or unhusked rice, over which stands a small pot of 
vermillion, is placed on the head of the bride, which the bride- 
groom holds with his left hand, and when they are both greeted 
three times with the Sree^ Barandala Koolo^ water, plantain, 
betel and betel-nuts, as has been described before, by the 
bridegroom's mother, he, with his pair of nut-crackers in his 
right hand, throws over the ground a few grains of paddy 
from the reck^ walks slowly over a new piece of red bordered 
cloth into a room, accompanied by his wife and preceded by 
other females, one of whom blows a conch and another 
sprinkles water, — both tokens of an auspicious event. 

When all are properly seated upon bedding spread on 
the floor, the bridegroom and the bride play again the 
game ol jatook with cowries (shells)f as before. They after- 
wards receive the usual asseerbad (blessing) in paddy, doov- 
grass and money. The mother-in-law in order to ensure the 
permanent submissiveness of the bride puts honey into her 
ears and sugar into her mouth that she may receive her 
commands and execute them like a sweet obedient girl. 
Some females then, placing a male child on the thigh of the 

* The use of an iron bangle or bracelet has a deep meaning, it outlasts 
gold and silver ones. A girl may wear gold ornaments set in precious stones 
to the value of ten or fifteen thousand Rupees, but an iron bangle worth a pice, — 
a veritable insignia of ayestreehood opposed to widowhood — is indispensable 
to a married woman for its comparatively durable quality. A youn^ widow may 
wear gold bangles till her twentieth year, but she is not privileged to put 
on an iron bangle after the death of her husband. 

+ In the early part of the British Government in Bengal, cowries were the 
common currency of the Province in the ordinary transactions of life. People 
used to make thdr hatUbazar (market) with cowries^ and a family that made a 
daily bazar with sixteen or eighteen kahuns of cowries, equal to one rupee or so, 
was reckoned a very respectable family. The prices of provisions ranged nearly 
one-third of what they now are. Even the revenues of Government were some- 
times paid in cowries in the Eastern districts, namely, Assam, Sylhet, &c. 



y6 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

bridegroom, desire him to hand it to the bride. According to 
prescribed custom, the mother-in-law, on first seeing the face 
of her daughter-in-law, presents her with a pair of gold bangles. 
Other near female relatives, following her example, present 
her severally with a pair of gold armlets, a pearl necklace, 
a set of gold pitjhapa^ or an ornament for the back, jingling 
as the girl moves, a pair of diamond cut gold earrings set 
in precious stones, and so on. To account for the common 
desire of the Hindoos to give a profusion of jewels to their 
females, Menu, their great fountain of authority, enjoins "let 
women be constantly supplied with ornaments at festivals and 
jubilees, for if the wife be not elegantly attired, she will not 
exhilarate her husband. A wife gaily adorned, the whole house 
is embellished." 

She is next taken into the kitchen, where all sorts of 
cooked victuals, except meat, are prepared in great abundance. 
She is desired to look at them and pray to God that her father- 
in-law may always enjoy plenty. Returning from the cook- 
room, the bridegroom gives into her hands an embroidered 
Benares saree as also a brass thalUy (plate) with a few batees 
(cups) containing boiled rice, dhall^ and all the prepared cur- 
ries, vegetables, and fish, frumenty, &c., and addresses her, de- 
claring that from this day forward he undertakes to sup- 
port her with food and clothes. He then partakes of the din- 
ner and retires, while the bride is made to share the residue. * 
She is thus taught, from the moment of her union at the Hy- 
meneal altar, her fundamental duty of absolute submission 
to, and utter dependence on, her husband. Should she be of 
dark complexion and her features not beautiful, the bridegroom 
is thus twitted by his elder brothers' wives: "you all along dis- 

* There is a custom amongst the Hindoos that a married woman considers it 
no disgrace but rather an act of merit to eat the residue of her husband's meal in 
his absence ; so great is the respect in which a husband is held, and so warm the 
sympathy existing between them. Even an elderly woman, thp mother of five or 
six children, cheerfully partakes of the residue, as if it were the orts of gods. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 77 

liked a kalo (black) girl, now what will you do, thacoorpo? Sure- 
ly you cannot forsake her, we will see by-and-bye you shall 
have to wash her feet." Words like these pierce the heart of 
the bridegroom, but politeness forbids him to reply. As re- 
gards the power of woman, the same lawgiver says — "a female 
is able to draw from the right path in this life, not a fool only, 
but even a sage, and can lead him in Subjection to desire 
or to wrath." 

The nearest relatives and friends of the family are invited 
to partake of the Bowbhdt or bridal dinner consisting of boiled 
rice, dhall, fish and vegetable curries, frumenty, polowyUy &c., 
served to the guests by the bride's own hands, which is tanta- 
mount to her recognition as one of the members of the family. 
To eat unna (boiled rice) is one thing and to eat jalpan (loo- 
chees and sweetmeats) is quite another. A Hindoo can take 
the latter at the house of one of inferior caste, but he would 
lose his caste if he were to eat the former at the same place. 
Even among equals of the same caste, and much more among 
inferiors, boiled rice is not taken without mature consideration, 
and some sort of compensation from the inferior to the supe- 
rior for condescending to eat the same. The compensation is 
made in money and clothes according to the rank of the Koo- 
lifts. Before departing, the guests invited to the Bowbhdt at 
which they eat boiled rice from the hands of the bride, 
give her one, two, or more Rupees each. 

The day following is a very interesting day or rather 
night,' being the night of Foolsajya* or flowery bed. At about 
eight o'clock in the evening the father of the bride serxds to 

* It is a noteworthy fact that in contracting matrimonial alliances, some fami- 
lies placed in mediocre circumstances are satisfied with taking a certain sum of 
money in lieu of the presents mentioned, partly because the articles are mostly 
of a perishable nature, and partly because the making presents of money to nu- 
merous servants for their trouble and feeding them, is regarded more as a tax than 
anything else. They prefer utility to show. Even in such cases of verbal con- 
tract, the father of the bride must send at least thirty servants with presents, be- 
sides 100 or 150 Rupees in cash as is stipulated before. 



78 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

his son-in-law ample presents of all sorts of fruits in or out 
of season, home and bazar made sweetmeats, some in the 
shape of men, women, fishes, birds, carriages, horses, elephants, 
&c., &c., each weighing from 6 to lO Ifcs., sweet and sour milk 
(bdtdsdy) a kind of sweet cakes, chineere moorkey, paddy, fried 
and sugared comfits, spices of all sorts, betel and prepared 
betel-nuts, sets of ornaments and toys made of cutch, repre- 
senting railway carriages, gardens, house, dancing girls, &c., 
imitation pearl necklaces made of rice, imitation gold neck- 
lace made of paddy, colored imitation fruits made of curd *, 
butter, sugar, sugar-candy, chdna (coagulated milk), otto of rose, 
rose-water, chaplets of flowers and flower ornaments, in great 
variety, Dacca and embroidered Benares dhooty and saree for 
the boy and the girl, clothes for all the elderly females, couch- 
cot, beddings, sets of silver and brass utensils, carpet, embroid- 
ered shoes, gold watch and chain, &c., &c. Between 125 and 
150 servants, male and female, carry these articles, some in 
banghy, some in baskets, and some in large brass thdlds or 
trays. These presents being properly arranged in the Tkdcoor- 
ddlldn the male friends of the family are invited to come down 
and see them, some praising the choice assortment and large 
variety, as well as the taste of the father of the bride, while 
others more calculating make an estimate as to the probable 
cost of the whole. These articles are then removed into the 
inner apartment, where the females, naturally loquacious, criti- 
cise them according to their judgment ; the simple and the 
good-natured say they are good and satisfactory, others more 
fastidious find fault with them. They are, however, soon si- 
lenced by the prudent remarks of the adult male members of 
the family. The servants are next fed and dismissed with 
presents of money, some receiving one Rupee each being the 

* In making the above imitations, Hindoo females exhibit an astonishing de- 
gree of skill and ingenuity which, if directed by the hand of an expert, is capable 
of still further improvement. Naturally and instinctively they evince a great ap- 
titude for learning all sorts of handiwork. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 79 

servants of the bride's family, some half a Rupee being the 
servants of other families. They then take back all the brass 
thdlds and trays, leaving the baskets behind. 

Here we come to the climax of interest. The bridegroom 
and the bride, adorned with a wealth of flower wreaths, and 
dressed in red-bordered Dacca clothes, with sandal paste on 
their foreheads, and sitting side by side in the presence of 
females whose husbands are alive, are desired to eat even a 
small portion of the articles of food that have been presented, 
and what is the most interesting feature in the scene, is that 
the former helps the latter and the latter helps the former, 
both throwing aside for the first time the restraint which 
modesty naturally imposes on such an occasion. To be more 
explicit, the boy eats one half of a sweetmeat and gives the 
other half to the girl, and the girl in her turn is constrained 
to follow the same example, though with a blushing coun- 
tenance and a veiled face. Female modesty predominates in 
this isolated instance. If the boy give blushingly, the girl 
gives shyly and tremulously ; in spite of her best efforts, she 
cannot consistently make up her mind to lift up her right 
hand and stretch it towards the mouth of her husband, but is 
after all helped to do so by a woman, whose husband is alive. 
This process of eating* and mutual help, when three days 
have scarcely passed over their heads, naturally gives rise to 
joy, merriment and laughter among the females ; and one 
amongst them exclaims ; " look, look, Soudaminey^ how our 
new Rddha and Krishna are sitting side by side and eating 
together ; may they live long and sport thus." The mother 
of the boy watches the progress of the interesting scene, and 

* It is perhaps not generally known that the dinner of a native, Hindoo 
or Mussulman, male or female, is not considered complete, until he chews 
his pan beera or betel. The bridegroom after eating and washing his mouth 
chews his usual pan^ and is asked to give a portion thereof to the bride ; he 
hesitates at first, but consents at length to give it into the right hand of his elder 
brother's wife, who forcibly thrusts the same into the mouth of the bride, observ- 
ing at the same time that their mutual repugnance on this score will soon be 
overcome when their incipient affection grows into true love. 



80 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

in transports of joy wishes for their continued felicity. The 
young and sprightly, who have once passed through the same 
process, and whose hearts are enlivened by the reminiscences 
of past occurrences, too recent to be forgotten, tarry in the 
room to the last moment, till sleep weighing down the eyelids 
of the happy pair, the mother of the bridegroom gently calls 
them aside, and leaves them to rest undisturbed. In accord- 
ance with the old established custom, their bed is strewn 
with flowers and their bodies perfumed with otto of rose. 
This is not enough for the sprightly ladies, the complement 
of whose amusement and merriment is not yet full. Even 
if the night be a chilly one, regardless of the effects of ex- 
posure, they must aripato, or jealously watch through the 
crevices of windows, whether or not the boy talks to the girl, 
and if he do, what is the nature of the talk. Thus they pass 
the whole night prying and laughing, chatting with each 
other on subjects suited to their taste and mode of thought, 
When morning dawns, the boy opening the door goes outside, 
and the girl slowly walks to her maid-servants, who accom- 
panied her from her father's house. Her whole desire is to 
get back to her mother and sisters ; nothing can reconcile 
her to her new home ; novelty has no charms for her except 
in her paternal domicile. She repeatedly asks her maid- 
servants as to when the Palkee will come, and what is the 
time fixed for her jattra, (departure); the maid-servants, con- 
soling her, induce her to wash her mouth and break her fast 
with a few sweetmeats. In obedience to the kind instruction 
of her mother, she sits closely veiled and talks little, if at 
all, even to young girls of her tender age. She next takes 
her vojan, or dinner, and to while away time, little girls try 
to amuse her with toys or a game at cards ; at length the time 
comes for the toilet work, and the arrival of the covered 
Mohapaya is announced. She again takes a few sweetmeats, 
and making a /r^«^;« (bow) to all her superiors, is helped 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 8i 

into the Palkee by her mother-in-law, a female having pre- 
viously washed her feet. The usual benediction on such an 
occasion is, " may you continue to live under the roof of your 
father-in-law in the enjoyment of conjugal bliss." 

On the arrival of the Mahdpdyd at her father's house, 
almost all the females come out for a moment, taking care 
previously to have the suddur door bolted and the Palkee 
bearers removed. They cheerfully welcome the return of the 
girl home. Her mother, unveiling her face and taking her 
in her arms, thus affectionately addresses her, "my BacAa, 
(child) my sonarchand (golden moon) where have you been ? 
Did not your heart mourn for us ? " Our house looked kha-- 
klia (desolate) in your absence. "What did they (bride- 
gfroom's family) say about our dayway thowya (presents)? 
Did they express any nindya^ (dissatisfaction) ? How have the 
women behaved toward3 you? How are your sassooree 
and sasoor (mother-in-law and father-in-law,) ?" Thus 
interrogating, they all walk inside and, making the girl 
change her silk clothes and sit near them, begin to examine 
and criticise the ornaments given her by her father-in-law. 
" Let us see the pearl necklace first** says Bhoopada ? The 
pearls are not smooth and round, what may be its value ?" 
Geeri Bulla, taking her own pearl necklace from off her neck, 
compares the one with the other. They unanimously pro- 
nounce the latter to be more costly than the former ; be that 
as it may, its value cannot be less than Rupees 500. They 
next take in hand the //^i?/^, ornament for the back, look- 
ing at it for a few minutes they pass their opinion, saying it is 
heavier and better made than that of Geeri Bulla. The Situ 
kaury or Juruwyu ♦ (gold necklace) afterwards attracts their 
attention, and they roughly estimate its price at Rupees 350. 
It is not a little surprising that though these women are never 

* Jorawya jewellery is set in precious stones, the value of which it is not 
easy to estimate. ^ 



S2 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

permitted to go beyond the precincts of the zenana, yet their 
valuation of ornaments, unless it be a jarawya bijoutry of 
enormous cost, such as is worn on grand occasions by the 
wife of a " big swells' often bears the nearest approximation 
to the intrinsic worth of an article. Thus almost every orna- 
ment, one after another, forms the subject of their criticism. 
When their discussion is over, the girl is desired to take 
the greater portion of her ornaments off her body — save 
a pair of gold bulla ♦ on her hands and a necklace on her 
neck — ^and leave them to the care of her mother. She then 
mixes in the company of other little girls of her tender age, 
some married, some unmarried ; who curiously ask her all 
about her new friends, until their talk resumes its usual childish 
topics. She passes the day among them very pleasantly, so 
much so that when her mother calls her to take her lun- 
cheon, she stays back and says only ^^jac/ieey jacJieel^ (coming, 
coming,) her mind being so much absorbed in her juvenile 
sports. 

The next day is again a day of trial for her, she has 
to go for gharbasath f to her father-in-law's house. On 
awaking, she remembers where she will have to go in course 
of the day ; a sensation bordering on sulkiness almost un- 
consciously steals upon her, and as time passes it increases 
in intensity. About four in the afternoon the arrival of 
the MaMpdyd is announced, her sister combs her hair and 

* A Hindoo Ayistree female, i. e,, one whose husband is alive, whether 
young or old, is religiously forbidden to take off balla ( bangle) from her hands, 
if is a badge of Ayistreeifm, even when dead red thread is substituted in the 
place of the ballut so great is the importance attached to it by Ayistree females. 
When the balla Is not seen on the hand, it is called the raur hatha^ or the hand 
of a widow, than which there could not be a more reproachful term. 

t Gharbasath implies dwelling in a father-in-law's house. If the bride do not 
go there within eight days from the date of marriage, she could not do so for 
one year, but after gharbasath she can go and come back any time when 
necessary. The object is to impress on her mind that her father-in-law's house 
is her future home. It is on this occasion that the worship of Shoobachini 
already described is performed, and both the bridegroom and bride are taken to 
Kally Ghat to sanctify the hallowed union and obtain the blessings of the 
goddess. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 83 

adorns her person with all the ornaments she has lately 
received. Dressed in her bridal silk saree^ her eyes seem 
charged with tears, and symptoms of reluctance are visible 
in every step ; but go she must ; no alternative is left 
her. So her mother helps her into the Mahdpdyd and 
orders a durwan and two maid-servants to accompany her, 
not forgetting to assure her that she is to be brought back 
the next day. Despite this assurance, she whimpers and 
weeps, and is consoled on the way by her maid-servants. At 
her father-in-law's, young girls of her age being impatient to 
receive her, are seen moving backwards and forwards to get a 
glimpse of the Mahdpdyd^ the arrival of which is a signal for 
almost all the ladies to come out and greet the object of their 
affection. Her mother-in-law steps forward, and taking up 
the girl in her arms walks inside, followed by a train of other 
ladies, whose hearts are exhilarated again at the prospect of 
merriment at the expense of the married pair. When the time 
comes round for them to retire, the same scene of arepdta 
is re-enacted by the mirth-loving ladies, with all their 
"quips and cranks and wanton wiles. " At day-break, the 
girl, as must naturally be expected, quietly walks to her 
confidential maidservant, and whispers her to go and tell her 
mother to send the Mahdpdyd Palkee as early as possible. 
Bearing her message, one of them goes for the purpose 
but the mother replies, How can she send the Palkee 
except at the lucky hour after dinner ? When this reply is 
communicated to the girl, she sits sulkily aloof, until her 
mother-in-law cajoles her and offers for her breakfast a few 
sweetmeats with milk. After a great deal of hesitation she 
complies with her request, which, to be effective, is always 
accompanied by a threat of not allowing her to return to her 
father's in the event of a refusal. About ten o'clock she takes 
her regular breakfast as described before, but she does not eat 
with zest, for whatever delicacy may be offered her, it palls 



84 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

upon her taste ; continually brooding on the idea of a return 
home. This is the day when the bridegroom and the bride 
untie from each other's hand the yellow home-spun charka 
thread with which they were entwined on the day of marri- 
age, as a mark of their indissoluble union. At length the 
lucky hour arrives, and with it the Mahdpdyd comes. The 
very announcement of the fact revives the drooping spirits 
of the bride. After going through the usual toilet work and 
a slight repast, she gets into the covered conveyance, assisted 
by her mother-in-law and other ladies. When she returns 
home, she changes her bridal silk garment and strips herself 
of the greater portion of her ornaments. Now uncontrolled 
and unreserved, she breathes a free, genial, atmosphere; 
her mother and sisters welcome her with their heartfelt con- 
gfratulations, and she moves about with her wonted buoyancy 
of spirit. Throwing aside her sulkiness, she commingles 
readily in conversation with all around her. She praises 
the amiable qualities of her father-in-law and mother-in- 
law, and the very kind treatment she has had while under 
their roof, but she keeps her reserve when even the slight- 
est allusion is made to her husband, because this is to her 
young mind forbidden gfround on which she cannot venture 
to tread without violating the sacred rules of conventionalism. 
At the marriages of rich families, as will be understood 
from our description, vast sums of money are expended. The 
greatest expense is incurred in purchasing jewels and making 
presents of brass utensils, shawls, clothes, sweetmeats. &c., to 
Brahmins, Koolins, Ghatacks and numerous friends, relatives 
and acquaintances, besides illuminations, fireworks and all 
the pageantry of a pompous procession. In and about Cal- 
cutta, the Rajahs of Shobabazar, the Dey family, the MulHck 
family, the Tagore family, the Dutt family, the Ghosal family, 
and others, are reported to have spent from fifty thousand 
rupees to two lakhs (;£"s,ooo to ;^20,ooo) and upwards in the 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 85 

marriages of their sons. Whilst writing this I am told Maha- 
rajah Jotendro Mohun Tagore is said to have expended about 
two lakhs of rupees in the marriage of his nephew. The 
most interesting feature in the extraordinary munificence of 
the Moharajah is, as I have learnt, his princely contribution 
io the " District Charitable Society," — an act of benevolence 
which has shewn, in a very conspicuous manner, not only his 
good sense, but his warm sympathy with the cause of suffer- 
rng humanity. It were to be wished that his noble ex- 
ample would exercise some influence on other Hindoo 
millionaires. If a tithe of such marriage expenses were 
devoted to Public Charity, the poor and helpless would cease- 
lessly chant the names of such donors, and the reward would 
be something better than the transient admiration of the 
idle populace. 

For one or two years after marriage, the girl generally re- 
mains under the paternal roof, occasionally paying a visit to 
her father-in-law's as need be. As she advances in years, her 
repugnance — the effect of early marriage — to live with her 
husband is gradually overcome, till time and circumstances 
completely reconcile her to her future home. Her affection 
grows, and she learns to appreciate the grave meaning of a 
married life. She is still, however, but a girl, in habit and 
ideas, when the real union of wedded life or the second 
marriage takes place, which is solemnised when she arrives 
at the age of puberty, say at her twelvth or thirteenth year. 
There is a popular belief, whether erroneous or not it is not 
for me to decide, that in this country heat accelerates growth, 
and hence the Hindoo Shasturs enjoin the necessity of early 
marriage,the injurious consequences of which are chiefly seen 
in the weak constitution of the offspring, and the premature 
decay of the mother. 

So abominable are some of the ceremonies connected with 
this event in the life of a female that to describe them fully 



86 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

would be an outrage on common decency.* I will, therefore, 
confine myself to a description of the ceremonies, entirely 
abstaining from an allusion to the abominations connected 
therewith. A general depravity of manners can only account 
for the prevalence of this obnoxious institution, in the eradica- 
tion of which every Hindoo whose moral sense is not entirely 
blunted ought to co-operate. As the delay of the union is in 
the belief of a Hindoo an unpardonable sin, the fact referred 
to is announced by the sound of a conch, and the bodies of 
all the females are smeared with turmeric water, — an unmis- 
takable evidence of joy. The news is also conveyed to the 
nearest relatives by the family barber who receives presents 
of clothes and money. It is quite evident from the silence of 
the Hindoo Shastur on the subject that the origin of the 
female rites is comparatively recent. Irrespective of the 
religious observances, it affords an opportunity to the zenana 
females to indulge in obscene depravities, the outcome of 
vitiated feeling. 

The poor girl is placed on this occasion in the corner 
of a dark, dingy room, with a small round pebble before her, 
shut out from the gaze of men, and surrounded on four sides 
by four pieces of slender split bamboos about one yard long 
fastened by a piece of thread. This is called the teerghur 
mentioned before. Being regarded as unclean, she remains 
in this room for four days without a bedding or a musquito 
curtain, and no one touches her, not even her sisters. She is 
forbidden to see the sun, her diet is confined to boiled rice, 
milk, sugar, curd, and tamarind without salt. On the morning 
of the fifth day, she is taken to a neighbouring tank, accom- 
panied by five women whose husbands are alive. Smeared 



* It is perhaps not generally known that some women, not from any mali- 
cious design but rather from the ennui of a monotonous life, as well as for the 
sake of amusement in which they might participate, make a secret combination, 
and invent some artificial means to prematurely drag the girl — the poor victim of 
superstition—into the Teerghur before she actually arrives at the age of puberty. 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 87 

with turmeric water, they all bathe and return home, throw- 
ing away the mat and other things that were in the room. 
She then sits in another room, and a very low caste woman, 
in the presence of five other respectable females (not widows), 
performs a series of what is vulgarly called Nith Kith^ 
purely female rites, which are exceedingly indecent and 
immoral, so much so that a woman who has any sense of 
shame feels quite disgusted. During the day, according to 
previous invitations, numerous female guests assemble and 
partake of a good dinner provided for the occasion. They are 
also entertained with songs, dancing and music, all done by 
professional females. When the guests retire, they congratu- 
late the girl with the usual benediction to the effect, — " may 
you be blessed with a male child." 

After a day or two the religious part of the ceremony is 
performed, which is free from obscenity. On this occasion, 
the officiating priest reading, and the bridegroom repeating 
the service after him, presents offerings of rice, sweetmeats, 
plantain, clothes, doovgrass, fruits and flowers to the follow- 
ing gods and goddesses, viz.^ Shasthi^ Mdrcando^ Soorja^ Soo- 
bkachiniy Ganneshy and the nine planets, much f n the same way 
as when the nuptial rites were formally solemnized. After this 
the hands of the bridegroom and the bride are joined together, 
and the priest repeating certain formulas, the bridegroom then 
causes a ring to slide between the bride's silk garment and her 
waist. Twenty-one small images (twenty male and one 
female) made of pounded rice are placed before the happy 
pair, and the priest feeds the bride with sugar, clarified butter, 



* This part of the rite is called JCddd or mire. A small pool is dug in the 
court-yard and some water thrown into it ; — two women, the one personating 
a Rajah (King) and the other, a Ranee (Queen) feign to bathe in the pool, 
change their clothes, put on straw ornaments and dine on the refuse of vegetables, 
while the songstress recites all sorts of obscene songs and the females hide theiy 
faces through shame. This loose and ludicrous representation proves nause- 
ating even to those for whose amusement it is performed. We cannot regard 
in any other light than as a relic of unmitigated barbarism. 



88 MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

milk, and the urine and dung of a calf to ensure the purity 
of the offspring. They then partake of a good dinner, the 
bride taking the residue of the bridegroom's meal. The 
twenty-one images are put into the room of the pair as a token 
of happy offspring, and the proportion of the males to the 
females, shews the premium and discount at which they are 
respectively held. The bride now takes up her permanent 
residence in the house of her father-in-law and becomes one 
of his family. 

For one twelve month after the marriage, the parents of 
the bridegroom and the bride have to make exchanges of 
suitable presents to one another at all the grand festivals. 
At the jfirst tatto or present, besides clothes, heaps of fruits, 
sweetmeats, English toys and sundries, the father of the 
youth gives one complete set of miniature silver and brass 
utensils to the girl, while in return the father of the girl 
sends such presents as a table, chair, writing desk, silver 
inkstand, gold and silver pencil cases, stationery, perfumery, 
&c, in addition to an equally large quantity of choice eata- 
bles of all kinds too numerous to be detailed. The most 
expensive presents are two, namely, the sittory or winter 
present and the Doorga Poojah present, the former requir- 
ing a Cashmere shawl, choga and sundry other articles of use, 
and the latter, fine Dacca and silk clothes to the >vhole fami- 
ly, including men, women and children. 

It is a lamentable fact that though a Hindoo bears a 
great love and affection to his wife while she lives, yet in the 
event of her death, the effects of these amiable qualities are 
too soon effaced by the strong influence of a new passion, 
and another union is very speedily formed. Even during 
the period of his mourning, which lasts one month, proposals 
for a second marriage are entertained, if not by the husband 
himself, by his father or elder brother. When the remem- 
brance of this heavy domestic bereavement is so very fresh 



MARRIAGE CEREMONIES 89 

in the memory, it is highly unbecoming and ungenerous to 
open or enter into a matrimonial negotiation, and have it 
consummated immediately after the asiicki or mourning is 
over. A wife is certainly not a beast of burden that is no 
sooner removed by death than it may be replaced by ano- 
ther. She is a being whose joy and sorrow, happiness and 
misery, should be identical with her husband's, and he is a 
savage in the widest sense of the word who does not cherish 
a sacred regard for her memory after her death. In regard 
to the whole conduct and relations of the married life, Hin- 
doos cannot have the golden rule too strongly impressed : 
* Let every one of you in particular so love his wife, even as 
himself; and let the wife see that she reverence her husband." 



M 




^ VI. 
THE BROTHER FESTIVAL. 

NY social institution that has a tendency to promote 
the growth of genuine love and affection between 
man and woman, is naturally conducive to the hap- 
piness of both. In this sublunary vale of tears, where unal- 
loyed felicity is but transient and short lived, even a temporary 
exemption from the cares and anxieties of the world adds at 
least some moments of pleasure to life. The Bhratridvitiyuy 
ox fraternal rite of the Hindoos, is an institution of this nature, 
being admirably calculated to cement the natural bond of 
union between brothers and sisters of the same family. Bhra- 
tridvitiya, as the name imports, takes place on the second day 
of the new moon immediately following the Kali Poojah or 
Dewali. On the morning of this day, a brother comes to the 
house of a sister, and receives from her hand the usual benedic- 
tive present of unhusked rice, doova-grass and sandal, with a 
wealth of good wishes for his long, prosperous life, and the happy 
commemoration of the event from year to year. The brother 
in return reciprocates, and putting a Rupee or two into her 
hands, expresses a similar good, wish, with the addition that 
she may long continue to enjoy the blessings of a conjugal 
life, — a benediction which she values over every other worldly 
advantage. The main object of this festival is to renovate 
and intensify the warmth of affection between kith and kin 
of both sexes by blessing each other on a particular day of 
the year. It is a sort of family reunion, pre-eminently calcu- 
lated to recall the early reminiscences of life, and to freshen 
up fraternal and sisterly love. No ritualistic rite or priestly 
interposition is necessary for the purpose, it being a purely 
social institution, originating in the love that sweetens life. 



THE BROTHER FESTIVAL. 91 

After interchanging salutations, the sister who has every 
thing ready thrice invokes a blessing upon the brother in a 
Bengali verse, and marks his forehead thrice with sandal 
paste by the tip of her little finger. She then serves him 
with the provisions provided for the festive occasion. Here 
genuine love and true affection almost spontaneously gush 
forth from the heart of the sister towards one who is united 
to her by the nearest tie of consanguinity and tenderest 
remembrances. If the brother be not inclined to relish or 
taste a particular dish, how affectionately does she cajole 
him to try it, adding at the same time that it has been pre- 
pared by her own hand with the greatest care. Any little 
dislike evinced by the brother instantly bathes her eyes in 
tears, and disposes her to exclaim somewhat in the following 
strain : " Why is this slight towards a poor sister who has been 
up till twelve o'clock last night to prepare for you the ckunder- 
pooley and Khirarchdch (two sorts of home-made sweetmeats) 
regardless of the cries of Khokd (the baby). Such a pathetic, 
tender expression bursting from the lips of a loving sister 
cannot fail to melt a brother's heart, and overcome his dislike. 
About four o'clock in the afternoon, the sister sends, as 
tangible memorials of her affection, presents of clothes and 
sweetmeats to the house of the brother, fondly indulging in 
the hope that they may be acceptable to him. On this 
particular day, Hindoo homes as well as the streets of 
Calcutta in the native part of the town, present the lively 
appearance of a national jubilee. Each of the brothers of 
the family visits each of the sisters in turn. Hundreds of 
male and female servants are busily engaged in carrying pre- 
sents, and return home quite delighted. On such occasions 
the heart of a Hindoo female, naturally soft and tender, 
becomes doubly expansive when the outflow of love and 
affection on her part is fully reciprocated by the effusion of 
good wishes on the part of her brother. 




VII. 
THE SON-IN-LAW FESTIVAL. 

F not precisely analogous in all its prominent features 
to the popular festival described in the preceding 
Chapter, the following bears a striking resem- 
blance to it, in its adaptation to promote domestic happiness. 
The festival familiarly known in Bengal by the name of 
^^ Jamai Shasthi' is an entertainment given in honor of a son- 
in-law, in order to bind him more closely to his wife's family. 
Nothing better illustrates the manners and usages of a 
nation from a social and religious standpoint than the fes- 
tivals and ceremonies which are observed by it. They form 
the essential parts of what DeQuincey calls the equipage of 
life. As a nation, the Hindoos are proverbially fond of 
festivals, which are engrafted, as it were, on their peculiar 
domestic and social economy. A designing priesthood had 
concocted an almost endless round of superstitious rites with 
the view of acquiring power, and looking for permanent 
reverence to the credulity of the blind devotees. Such foolish 
rites are eventually destined to fall into desuetude, as popular 
enlightenment progresses, but those which are free from the 
taint of priestcraft by reason of their being interwoven into 
the social amenities of life, are likely to prevail long after 
the subversion of priestly ascendency. And Janiai Shasthi 
is a festival of this unobjectionable type. No superstitious 
element enters into its observance. 

It invariably takes place on the sixth day* of the increase 

* It appears to me rather anomalous, as far as Hindoo astrology is concerned, 
that such a national jubilee is fixed to be celebrated on this particular day, which 
is specially marked as an unlucky day for any good work. The Hindoo almanac 
places Shasthi^ the sixth day of the moon, as dugdhd or destructive of any good 
thing in popular estimation. A Hindoo is religiously forbidden to commence 
any important work or set out on a journey on this day. It portends evil. 



V. 



THE SON-IN'LA W FESTIVAL. 93 

of the moon in the Bengali month of May, when ripe mangoes 
— the prince of Indian fruits — are in full season. Then all 
the mothers-in-law in Bengal are actually on the qui vive to 
welcome their sons-in-law and turn a new leaf in the chapter 
of their joys. A good son-in-law is emphatically the most 
darling object of a Hindoo mother-in-law. She spares no 
possible pains to please and satisfy him, even calling to her 
aid the supernatural agency of charms. Ostensibly and 
even practically a Hindoo mother-in-law loves her son-in-law 
more than her son, simply because the son can shift for 
himself even if turned adrift in the wide world, but the 
daughter is absolutely helpless, and the cruel institution of 
perpetual widowhood, with its appalling amount of misery 
and risk, renders her tenfold more so. 

On this festive occasion, the son-in-law is invited to spend 
the day and night at his father-in-law's house. No pains 
or expense is spared to entertain him. When he comes in the 
morning, the first thing he has to do is to go into the female 
apartment, bow his head down in honor of his mother-in-law, 
and put on the floor a few Rupees, say five or ten, sometimes 
more if newly married. The food consists of all the deli- 
cacies of the season, and both the quantity and variety are 
often too great to be done justice to. The perfection of 
Hindoo culinary art is unreservedly brought into requisition 
on such occasions. Surrounded by a galaxy of beauty, the 
youthful son-in-law is restrained by a sense of shame from 
freely partaking of the feast specially provided for him. The 
earnest importunity of the females urges the bashful youth 
to eat more and more. If this be his first visit as son-in-law 
he finds himself quite bewildered in the midst of superfluity 

Respectable Hindoo females who have children do not eat boiled rice on this 
particular day for fear of becoming Rakhasses, or cannibals prone to destroy 
their own offspring. The goddess Shasthi is the protectress of children. She 
is worshipped by all the women of Bengal six times in the year, except such 
as are barren or ill-fated enough to become virgin-widows. 



94 THE SON-IN'LA W FESTIVAL. 

and superabundance of preparations. Many are the tricks 
employed to outwit him. With all his natural shrewdness, 
and forewaried by the females of his own family, he is no 
match for either the playful humor and frolics of the young, 
sprightly ladies. Sham articles of food cleverly dressed in 
close imitation of fruits and sweetmeats are offered him with- 
out detection in the full blaze of day, and the attempt to 
partake of them excites bursts of laughter and merriment. 
The utmost female ingenuity is here brought into play to call 
forth amusement at the expense of the duped youth. In 
their own way, the good-natured females are mistresses of 
jokes and jests, and nothing pleases them better than to find 
the youthful new comer completely nonplused. This forms 
the favorite subject of their talk long after the event. Shut 
up in the cage of a secluded zenana, quite beyond the in- 
fluence of the outside world, it is no wonder that their minds 
and thoughts do not rise above the trifles of their own narrow 
circle. 

As in the case of the " Brother" festival, ample presents 
of clothes, fruits, and sweetmeats are sent to the house of the 
son-in-law, and every lane and street of Calcutta is thronged 
with male and female servants trudging along with their 
loads in full hopes of getting their share of eatables and a 
Rupee or a half Rupee each into the bargain. 




VIII. 
THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

Y far the most popular religious festival of the present 
day among the Hindoos of Bengal, is the Doorga Poo- 
jaky which in the North- Western and Central Provin- 
ces is called the Dusserah festival. It is believed that the 
worship of the goddess Doorgah has been performed from time 
out of mind. The following is a description of the image of 
the goddess which is set up for worship : " In one of her right 
hands is a spear, with which she is piercing the giant, Mbhi- 
shasur ; with one of the left, she holds the tail of a serpent and 
the hair of the giant, whose breast the serpent is biting. Her 
other hands are all stretched behind her head and filled with 
different instruments of war. Against her right leg leans a lion, 
and against her left, the above giant. The images of Luckee, 
Saraswathi, Kartick and Gannesh are very frequently made 
and placed by the side of the goddess." The majestic 
deportment of the goddess, with her three eyes and ten 
arms, the warlike attitude in which she is represented, her 
sanguinary character, which was the terror of all other gods, 
and the mighty exploits (far surpassing in feats of strength, 
courage and heroism, those of the Greek Hercules,) all com- 
bine to give her an importance in the eyes of the people, 
which is seldom vouchsafed to any other deity. Even 
Bramah, Visknoo and Shiva the Creator, Preserver and Des- 
troyer of the world, were said to have propitiated her, and 
Ram Chunder, the deified hero, invoked her aid in his contest 
with Ravana, and as he worshipped her in the month of 
October, her Poojah has, from that particular circumstance, 
been ever after appointed to take place in that period of the 



96 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

year.* A short description of this festival, the preliminary rites 
with which it is associated, and the national excitement and 
hilarity which its periodical return produces among the people, 
will not be altogether uninteresting to European readers.-f- 

Twenty-one days before the commencement of the 
Doorga Poojah festival, a preliminary rite, by way of purifying 
the body and soul by means of ablution, is performed. The rite 
IS called the ^^ Aapar pakhaya tarpan'' so called from its taking 
place on the first day of Pratipad and ending on the fifteenth 
day of ArndbashyUy an entire fortnight, immediately preceding 
the Debipakhya during which the Poojah is celebrated. It gener- 
ally falls between the fifteenth of September, and the fifteenth 
of October. As already observed, this popular festival, called 
Doorga Poojah in Bengal and Dussera "or the tenth" in the 
North-West, although entirely military in its origin is univer- 
sally respected. It is commemorative of the day on which the 
god Ram Chunder first marched against his enemy, Rdvana, 
in Lanka or Ceylon for the restoration of his wife, Seeta, \ 
who was deservedly regarded as the best model of devotion, 
resignation and love, as is so beautifully painted by the poet : 

" A woman's bliss is found, not in the smile 

Of father, mother, friend, nor in herself : 

Her husband is her only portion here, 

Her heaven hereafter. If thou indeed 

Depart this day into the forest drear, 

I will precede, and smooth the thorny way." 



* Doorga is also worshipped in the month of April, in the time of the 
vernal equinox, but very few then offer her their devotion, though this celebra- 
tion claims priority of origin. 

t For some general remarks on the religion of the Hindoos, see Notec. 

i**In this ancient story" says Tod, "we are made acquainted with the 
distant maritime wars which the princes of India carried on. Even supposing 
Havana's abode to be the insular Ceylon, he must have been a very powerful 
prince to equip an armament sufficiently numerous to carry off from the remote 
kingdom of Kousula the wife of the great king of the Suryas. It is most 
improbable that a petty king of Ceylon could wage equal war with a potentate 
who held the chief dominion of India; whose father, Domratha drove his 
victorious car (ratha) over every region (desa) and whose intercourse with the 
countries beyond the Bramaputra is distinctly to be traced in the Ramayana,^^ 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL, 97 

In the mornings of Apar pakhaya, for fifteen days con- 
tinually, those who live near the sacred stream go thither 
with a small copper-pan and some teel seeds, which they 
sprinkle on the water at short intervals, while repeating the 
formulae in a state of half immersion. To a foreigner quite 
unacquainted with the meaning of these rites, the scene is 
well calculated to impress the mind with an idea of the 
exceeding devotedness of the Hindoos in observing their reli- 
gious ordinances. The holy water and teel seeds which are 
sprinkled are intended as offerings to the manes of ancestors 
for fourteen generations, that their souls may continue to 
enjoy repose to all eternity. The women, though some of 
them are in the habit of bathing in the holy stream every 
morning, are, however, precluded by their sex from taking 
a part in this ceremony. Precisely on the last day of the 
fortnight, u ^., on the AmaddskyUy as if the object were attain- 
ed, the rite of ablution ends, followed by another of a more 
comprehensive character. On this particular day, which is 
called MoJtdloyd,^ the living again pay their homage to the 
memory of the fourteen generations of their ancestors by 
making them offerings of rice, fruits, sweetmeats, clothes, 
curded milk, and repeating the incantations said by the priest, 
at the conclusion of which he takes away all the articles 
presented and receives his dakshind of one Rupee for his 
trouble. Apart from their superstitious tendency, these 
anniversaries, are not without their beneficial effects. They 
tend, in no small degree, to inspire the mind with a religious 
veneration for the memory of the departed worthies, and by 
the law of the association of ideas not unfrequently bring 
to recollection their distinctive features and individual 
characteristics. 

Some aristocratic families that have been observing this 
festival for a long series of years, begin their Kalpa or preli- 

^ * This is also the day which is vulgarly called the Kald kdtd amabdshay when 
unripe plantain fruits are cut in immense quantities for offerings to Doorga. 

N 



98 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

minary rite on the ninth day of the decrease of the moon, when 
an earthen water pot called ghaf^ is placed in a room called 
bodanghur^ duly consecrated by theofficiating priest, who, assist- 
ed by two other Brahmins, invokes the blessing of the deity by 
reading a Sanskrit work, called Chundee^ which relates the nu- 
merous deeds and exploits of the goddess. It is a noteworthy 
fact that the Brahmin, who repeats the name of the god, Modo- 
soodufty seems, to all appearance, to be absorbed in mental abs- 
traction. With closed eyes and moving fingers, not unlike the 
Rishis of old, he, as it were, disdains to look at the external 
world. From early in the morning till lO o'clock the worship 
before the earthen pot is continued, and the officiating priests-f- 
are strictly prohibited from using j/^>4^, (rice) taking more than 
one meal a day, or sleeping with their wives, as if that would be 
an act of unpardonable profanation. This strict regime is to be 
observed by them until the whole of the ceremonial is com- 
pleted, on the tenth day of the new moon. It should be men- 
tionedhere that the majority of the Hindoos begin their ^a:^^^, or 
preliminary rite, on pratipad.ox^'^ beginning of the new moon, 
when almost every town and village resounds with the sound 
of conch, bell and gong, awakening latent religious emotions, 
and evoking agamaney^ (songs or inaugural invocations) which 
deeply affect the hearts of Doorga's devout followers. Some of 
these rhythmic effusions are exceedingly pathetic. Iwish I could 
give a specimen here of these songs divested of their idolatrous 
tinge, but I am afraid of offendingtheearsof my European readers. 
The BrahminsJ as a rule, commence their kalpa on the 
sixth day or one day only previous to the beginning of the 

* This sacred jar is marked with two combined triangles, denoting the 
union of the two deities, Siva and Doorga,— the worshippers of the Sakti^ 
female energy, mark the jar with another triangle. 

t The day before the Kalpa begins, these priests receive new clothes, com- 
prising a dhootie and dtibj'a, and some money for habishay^ or food destitute of fish. 
Very few, however, abide by the rules enjoined in the holy writings. 

X Even in the observance of this religious preliminary, the Brahmins take 
advantage of their superior caste, and curtail five days out of six in order to save 
expense. Every thing is allowable in their case, because they assume to be 
the oracles between the god and man. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL, 99 

grand poojah on the seventh day of the new moon. From 
the commencement of the initial rite, what thrilling sensations 
of delight are awakened in the bosom of the young boys and 
girls! Every morning and evening while the ceremony is 
being solemnized, they scramble with each other to get 
striking the gong and Kasur which produces a harsh, deafen- 
ing sound. Their excitement increases in proportion to the 
nearer approach of the festival, and the impression which 
they thus receive in their early days is not entirely effaced 
even after their minds are regenerated by the irresistible light 
of truth. The females, too, manifest mingled sensations of 
delight and reverence. If they are incapable of striking the 
gongs, they are susceptible of deep devotional feelings which 
the solemnity of the occasion naturally inspires. The encir- 
cling of their neck with the end of their saree or garment, 
expressive of humility, the solemn attitude in which they 
pose, their inaudible muttering of the name of the goddess, 
and their prostrating themselves before the consecrated pot 
in a spirit of perfect resignation, denote a state of mind 
full of religious fervour, or, more properly speaking, of su- 
perstitious awe, which goes with them to their final rest- 
ing place. On the night of the sixth day (Shashti) after 
the increase of the moon, another rite is performed, which is 
termed Uddhibassey, its object being to welcome the advent of 
the visible goddess with all necessary paraphernalia. Another 
sacred earthen pot is placed in the outer temple of the 
goddess, and a young plantain tree, with a couple of wood 
apples intended for the breast, is trimmed for the next 
morning's ablution. This plantain tree, called kalabhoyCy is 
designed as a personification of Doorga in another shape. 
It is dressed in a silk saree^ its head is daubed with vermilion * 

* The vermilion is used by a Hindoo female whose husband is alive^ the 
privilege of putting it on the forehead is considered a sign of great merit and 
virtue. 



icx) THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

and is placed by the side of Gannesh. Musicians with 
their ponderous dhak and dhole and sannai (flutes) are retained 
from this day for five days at 12 or 1 6 Rupees for the occasion * 
That music imparts a solemnity to religious service is admitted 
by all, but its harmony may be taken as an indication of the 
degree of excellence and refinement to which a nation has 
attained in the scale of civilization. What with the sonorous 
sound oidkak and dkoky sannai^ conch and gong, the effect can- 
not fail to be impressive to a devout Hindoo mind. Except 
Brahmins, no one is allowed to touch the idol from this night, 
after the bellbarun^ when it is supposed life and animation is 
imparted into it. By the marvellous repetition of a few in- 
cantations a perfectly inanimate object stuffed only with clay 
and straw, and painted, varnished and ornamented in all the 
tawdriness of oriental fashion, is suddenly metamorphosed 
into a living divinity. Can religious jugglery, and blind erf '^*^^ 
dulity go farther ? 

It will not be out of place to say a few words here abouFl^f^^ 
the embellishments of the images. As a refined taste is 
being cultivated, a growing desire is manifested to decorate 
the idols with splendid tinsel and gewgaws, which are admi- 
rably calculated to heighten the magnificence of the scene 
in popular estimation. Apart from the feast of colors 
presented to public view, the idols are adorned with tinsel 
ornaments, which, to an untutored mind, are in the highest 
degree captivating. Some families that are placed in afflu- 
ent circumstances, literally rack their brains to discover new 
and more gaudy embellishments which, when compared with 
those of their neighbours, might carry off" the bubble reputa- 
tion. It is, perhaps, not generally known that a certain class 
of men — chiefly drawn from the lower strata of society — 



* There is a singular coincidence between the Hindoos and the ancient 
heathen nations in regard to music. In both it is used as an indispensable accom- 
paniment to religious worship. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. loi 

subsist on this trade ; they prepare a magnificent stock of tinsel 
wares for a twelve month, and supply the entire Hindoo 
community, from Calcutta to the remotest provinces and 
villages. Indeed so great is the rage for novelty and so strong 
the influence of vanity, that not content with costly home 
made ornaments, some of the Baboos send their orders to 
England for new patterns, designs and devices, that they may 
be able to make an impression on the popular mind ; and 
as English taste is incomparably superior to native taste, both 
in the excellence and finish of workmanship as well as in 
neatness and elegance, the images that shine in new fashioned 
English embellishments * are sure to challenge the admira- 
tion of the populace. On the day of Nirunjun, or Vhasan 
as it is vulgarly called, countless myriads of people throng 
the principal streets of Calcutta, to catch a glimpse of the 
celebrated pritimas^ or images, and carry the information 
home to their absent friends in the villages. 

Before sunrise on Saptami^ or the seventh day of the 
bright phase of the moon, the oflGciating priest, accompanied 
by bands of musicians and a few other members of the family, 
proceeds barefooted to the river side bearing on his shoulder 
the kalabhoye or plantain tree described above with an air 
of gravity as if he had charge of a treasure chest of great 
value. These processions are conducted with a degree of 
pomp corresponding with the other extraneous splendours of 
the festival. In Calcutta, bands of English musicians, and 
numbers of staff holders with high flying colors, give an 
importance to the scene, which is not ill suited to satisfy the 
vulgar taste. After performing some minor ceremonies on 



* It is no less strange than surprising that ornamental articles prepared by 
the hands of European artisans who are accustomed to eat beef and Dork, the 
very mention, and much more, the touch of which contaminates tne purity 
of religion, are put on the bodies and heads of Hindoo gods without the least 
religious scruple, simply for the gratification of vanity. So much for the consist- 
ent and immaculate cnaracter of the Hindoo creed I 



102 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

the banks of the river, and bathing the plantain tree, the 
procession returns home, escorting the officiating priest with 
his precious charge in the same way in which he was con- 
veyed to the Ghdt. On reaching home, the priest, washing his 
feet, proceeds to rebathe the plantain tree, rubbing on its 
body all kinds of scented oils * as if to prepare it for a gay, 
convivial party. This part of the ceremony, with appro- 
priate incantations, being gone through, the plantain tree 
is placed again by the side of the image of Gannesh, who 
being the eldest son of Doorga, must be worshipped first. 
Thus the right of precedence of rank is in full force even 
among the Hindoo gods and goddesses. 

Previous to the commencement of the Saptami^ or first 
Pooja, the officiating priest again consecrates the goddess 
Doorga, somewhat in the following manner: "Oh, goddess, 
come and dwell in this image, and bless him that worships 
you," naming the person, male or female, who is to reap the 
benefit of the meritorious act. Thus, the business of giving 
life and eyes to the gods being finished, the priest, with two 
forefingers of his right hand, touches the forehead, cheeks, 
eyes, breast and other parts of the image, repeating all the, 
while the prescribed incantation: "May the soul of Doorga 
long continue to dwell in this image." This part of the cere- 
mony, which is accompanied with music, being performed, 
offerings are made to all the gods and goddesses, as well as to 
the companions of Doorga in her wars, which are painted in 
variegated colors on the chall or shed over the goddess in the 
form of a crescent. The offerings consist principally of small 
pieces of gold and silver, rice, fruits, sweetmeats, cloths, brass 
utensils and a few other things. These are arranged in large 
round wooden or brass plates, and a bit of flower or bell leaf 

* These scented oils are mostly prepared by Mussulmans, whose very touch 
is enough to desecrate a thing ; the Brahmins knowing this fact unhesitatingly 
use them for religious purposes. Thus we see in almost every sphere of social 
and domestic life the fundamental rules of religious purity are shamefully violated. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 103 

IS cast upon them to guard against their being desecrated by 
the demon Ravana, who is supposed to take delight in insult- 
ing the gods and goddesses ; the officiating priest then con- 
secrates them all by repeating a short mantra and sprinkling 
flowers and bell leaves on them, particular regard being had 
to the worship of the whole host of deities according to their 
respective position in the Hindoo pantheon. Even the most 
subordinate and insignificant gods or companions of Doorga 
must be propitiated by small bits of plantain and a few grains 
of rice, which are afterwards given to the idol makers and 
painters of the gods and goddesses. More valuable offerings 
form the portion of the Brahmins, who look upon and claim 
these as their birthright. In the evening, as in the morning, 
the goddess is again worshipped, and while the service is being 
held the musicians are called to play their musical instru- 
ments with a view to add to the solemnity of the occasion. 
In the morning, some persons sacrifice goats and fruits, such 
as pumpkin, sugar-cane, &c., before the goddess. In the pre- 
sent day, many respectable families have discontinued the prac- 
tice from a feeling of compassion towards the dumb animals, 
though express injunctions are laid down in the Shasters in 
its favor. It is a remarkable fact that the idea of sacrifice as a 
religious institution tending to effect the remission of sin was 
almost co-existent with the first dawn of human knowledge. 
The Reverend Dr. K. M. Banerjea thus writes: "Of the in- 
scrutable Will of the Almighty, that without shedding of 
blood there is no remission of sin, this, too, appears im- 
bedded in ancient Ayrian tradition in the sruti or hearings 
of our ancestors." Next to the Jews, this religious duty was 
scrupulously observed by the Brahmins. Names of priests, 
words for fire, for those on whose behalf the sacrifices were 
performed, for the materials with which they were performed, 
abound in language etymologically derived from words im- 
plying sacrifice. No literature contains so many vocables 



104 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

relating to sacrificial ceremonies as Sanskrit. Katyayana 
says, "that heaven and all other happiness are the results of 
sacrificial ceremonies. And it was a stereotyped idea with 
the founders of Hindooism that animals were created for 
sacrifices. Nor were these in olden days considered mere 
offerings of meat to certain carnivorous deities, followed by 
the sacrificers themselves feasting on the same, as the prac- 
tice of the day represents the idea. The various nature of 
the sacrifices appears to have been substantially comprehend- 
ed by the promoters of the institution in India. The sacri- 
ficer believed himself to be redeemed by means of the sacrifice. 
The animal sacrificed was itself called the sacrifice, because 
it was the ransom for the soul." If we leave India and go 
back to the tradition and history of the other ancient nations, 
we shall find many instances, proving the existence among 
them of the sacrificial rite for the remission of sin and the 
propitiation of the Deity. The hecatombs of Greece, and the 
memorable dedication of the temple of Solomon when 20,000 
oxen* and 100,000 sheep were slain before the altar, are too 
well known to need any comment. 

In these later ages, when degeneracy has made rapid 
strides amongst the people of the country, the original inten- 
tion of the founder of the institution being lost sight of, a 

* It is deserving of notice that the slaughter of oxen, cows or calves is most 
religiously forbidden in the Hindoo Shaster. Divine honors are paid to the 
species. The cow is regarded as a form of Doorga and called Bhuggobutty. The 
husband of Doorga, Shiva, rides naked on an ox. The very dung of a cow 
purifies all unclean things in a Hindoo household, and possesses the property of a 
disinfectant. The milk of a cow assuredly affords the best nourishment to the 
young and the old, hence the species was deified by the Hindoo sages. Even 
after the advent of the English into this country for above two centuries, an or- 
thodox Hindoo is apt to exclaim "what impious times !" whenever he happens 
to see a Mussulman butcher carry a cow or calf in the street for slaughtering 
purposes. Not a few wonder how the English power continues to prosper amidst 
the daily perpetration of such irreligious acts. By way of derision, the English 
are called gokhdduk or beef-eaters and the goylds (milkmen) Kdsays or butchers. 
If such Hindoos had power enough they would certainly have delivered their 
country from the grasp of these beef-eaters and placed it above the reach of sacrilli- 
gious hands. But alas 1 in the present Kaliyaga or iron age, both they and 
their gods are alike impotent. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 105 

perverted taste has given it an essentially sensual character. 
Instead of offering sacrifice from purely religious motives, it is 
now made for the gratification of carnivorous appetite. The 
late King of Nuddea, Rajah Kristo Chunder Roy, though an 
orthodox Hindoo of the truest type, was said to have offered at 
one of these festivals a very large number of goats and sheep 
to the goddess Doorga. "He began," says Ward, "with one, 
and, doubling the number each day, continued it for sixteen 
days. On the last day, he killed 33,168, and on the whole he 
slaughtered 65,535 animals. He loaded boats with the bodies 
and sent them to the neighbouring Brahmins, but they could 
not devour them fast enough, and great numbers were thrown 
away. Let no one, after this, tell us of the scruples of the 
Brahmins about destroying animal life and eating animal food." 
About twelve o'clock in the day, when the morning 
service is over, the male members of the family make their 
poospaunjooley or offerings of flowers to the images, repeating 
an incantation recited by the priest, for all kinds of worldly 
blessings, such as health, wealth, fame, long age, children, 
&c. The women come in afterwards for the same hallowed 
purpose, and inaudibly recite the incantation repeated by the 
priest inside the screen. The very sight of the images glad- 
dens their hearts and quickens their throbs. Though fasting, 
they feel an extreme reluctance to leave the shrine and the 
divinities, declaring that their hunger and thirst are gone not 
from actual excess in eating and drinking but from their full- 
ness of heart at the presence of Ma Doorga. But go they 
must to make way for the servants to remove the offerings, 
distribute them among the Brahmins, and clean the temple 
for the evening service, at the close of which Brahmins and 
other guests begin to come in and partake of the entertain- 
ment* provided for the occasion. 

* It is generally known that except the Brahmins, who are proverbially noted 
for their eating propensities, scarcely any respectable Hindoo condescends to sit 



io6 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

On the second day of the Poojah, offerings and sacrifices 
are made in the same manner as on the first day, but this is 
considered a specially holy day, being the day, as is generally 
supposed, when the mighty goddess is expected to come down 
from the mount Himalaya, and cast a twinkling of her eye 
upon the divers offerings of her devotees in the terrestrial 
world. This day is called Moha Ustamyy being the eighth day 
of the increase of the moon, and is religiously observed through- 
out Bengal. In Calcutta, this is the day when thousands 
and tens of thousands of Hindoos, who have had no 
Poojah in their houses, proceed to Kalyghdt in the suburbs, and 
do not break their fast before making suitable offerings to the 
goddess Kali, who, according to Hindoo mythology, is but 
another incarnation of the goddess, Doorga. Except little chil- 
dren, almost all the members of a family, male and female* 
together with the priest, fast all day, and, if the combination 
of stars require it, almost the whole night. Elderly men of 
the orthodox type devote the precious time to religious con- 
templation. Until the Moha Ustaniy^ and its necessary ad- 
junct Shundya Poojah^ is finished, all are on the qui vive. It 
generally happens that this service is fixed by astrologers to 
take place before night's midmost stillest hour is past, when 
nature seems to repose in a state of perfect quiescence, and 
to call forth the religious fervour of the devotees. As the 



down to a regular jalpdn dinner at this popular festival. He comes, gives his 
usual prandmy of one Rupee to the goddess in the thdcoonUUany talks with the 
owner of the house for a few minutes, is presented by way of compliment with 
otto of roses and pan, and then goes away, making the stereotyped plea that he 
has many other places to go to. Besides this, every man is expected to provide 
himself at home with a good stock of choice eatables on this festive occasion. 
The prices of sweetmeats, already too high, are nearly doubled at this time, 
because of the large demand and small supply. From 32 Rupees a maund (82 lbs) 
the normal price of sumiesh in ordinary times, it rises to 60 or 70 Rupees in the 
Poojah time. Milk sells at four annas a pound, and without milk no sundesh 
could be made. It is the most expensive article of food among the Hindoos of 
Bengal, when well made with fresh channa (curded milk) it has a fine taste, but 
is entirely destitute of nutrilive property. The Hindoos of the Upper Provinces, 
however, do not regard the preparation as /«;v, and consequently do not use it, 
because of its admbcture with curded milk. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 107 

edge of hunger is sharpened, a Hindoo most anxiously looks 
at his watch or clock as to when the precious moment should 
arrive, and as the hour draws near, men, women and chil- 
dren are all hushed into silence. Not a whisper nor a buzzing 
sound is to be heard. All is anxeity, suspense and expectation, 
as if the arrival of the exact time would herald the advent 
of a true Saviour into the world. Amid perfect silence and 
stillness, all ears are stretched to catch the sound of the gun* 
which announces the precise minute when this most impor- 
tant of all Poojahs is to begin. As soon as the announce- 
ment is made by the firing of a gun, the priest in all haste 
enters on the work of worship, and invokes the blessings of 
the goddess on himself and the family. When the time of 
sacrifice arrives, which is made known by the sound of 
another gun, all the living souls in the house are bade to 
stand aloof, the priest with trembling hands and in a state 
of trepidation consecrates the Kharra^ or scimitar, with which 
the sacrifice is to be made, and placing the Khaparer sara by 
the side of the haureekat^ (the sacrificial log of wood) bids the 
blacksmith finish off his bloody job. Should the latter cut 
the head of a goat off at one stroke, all eyes are turned to- 
wards him with joy. The priest, the master, and the inmates 
of the house, who are all this while under the influence of 
mental agitation, now begin to congratulate each other on their 
good luck, praying for the return of the goddess every year. 
Nor must I omit to mention the other secondary rites 
which are performed on the second day of the Poojah. Be- 
sides absolute fasting, the females of the household actually 
undergo a fiery ordeal. About one in the afternoon, when 
the tumult and bustle have subsided a little, all males being 
told to go away, the women unveiling their faces, and holding 
in each hand a sara or earthen plate of rosin, squat down 



* Rich men are in the habit of firing guns for the guidance of the people. 



io8 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

before the shrine of the goddess, and in the posture of quasi-* 
penitent sinners, implore in a fervent spirit the benediction 
of the goddess on behalf of their sons, while the rosin con- 
tinues to bum in slow fire. As if dead to a sense of con- 
sciousness, they remain in that trying state for more than half 
an hour, absorbed, as it were, in holy meditation, repeating 
in their minds, at the same time, the names of their guardian 
deities. Towards the close of this penitent service, a son is 
asked to sit on the lap of his mother. Barren women to whom 
Providence has denied this inestimable blessing must go 
without this domestic felicity resulting in religious consola- 
tion, and not only mourn their present forlorn condition, but 
pray for a happier one at next birth. A few puncture their 
breasts with a slender iron naroon or nail cutter, and offer a 
few drops of blood to the goddess, under a delusion that the 
severer the penance the greater the merit. Many women 
still go through this truly revolting ordeal at Kali Ghat, 
in fulfilment of vows made in times of sickness. 

Another ceremony which is performed by the females on 
this particular day is their worship of living Brahmin Kama- 
rees (virgins) and matrons {sodkavas). After washing and 
wiping the feet of the objects of their worship, with folded 
hands, and, with the end of their sari round their necks, in 
a reverential mood, they fall prostrate before the Brahmin 
women, and crave blessings which, when graciously vouch- 
safed, are followed by offerings of sweetmeats, clothes and 
rupees. The purpose of this ceremony is to obtain exemp- 
tion from the indescribable misery of widowhood, and ensure 
the enjoyment of domestic happiness. 

On the third or last day of the Poojah, being the ninth 
day of the increase of the moon, the prescribed ritualistic cere- 
monies having been performed, the officiating priests make 
the koam and dkukinantOy a rite, the meaning of wl>ich is to 
present farewell offerings to the goddess for one year, adding 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 109 

in a suitable prayer that she will be graciously pleased to 
forgive the present shortcomings on the part of her devotees, 
and vouchsafe to them her blessings in this world as well as 
in the world to come. This is a very critical time for the 
priests, because the finale of the ceremony involves the impor- 
tant question of their respective gains. Weak and selfish as 
human nature assuredly is, each of them (generally three in 
number) fights for his own individual interest, justifying his 
claim on the score of the religious austerities he has had to 
undergo, and the devotional fervour with which his sacred duties 
have been discharged. Until this knotty question is satisfac- 
torily solved, they forbear pronouncing the last munter or prayer. 
It is necessary to add here that the presents of rupees which 
the numerous guests offered to the goddess during the three 
days of the Poojah, go to swell the fund of the priest, to 
which the worshipper of the idol must add a separate sum, 
without which this act of merit loses its final reward in a 
future state. The devotee must satisfy the cupidity of the 
priests or run the risk of forfeiting divine mercy. When 
the problem is ultimately solved in favor of the officiating 
priest who actually makes the Poojah, and sums of money 
are put into the hands of the Brahmins, the last prayer is 
read. It is not perhaps generally known that the income 
the Indian ecclesiastics thus derive from this source supports 
them for the greater part of the year, with a little gain in 
money or kind from the land they own. 

The last day of the Poojah is attended with many offer- 
ings of goats, sheep, buffaloes* and fruits. The area before 
the shrine becomes a sort of slaughter house, slippery with 
gore and mire, and resounding with the cries of the dying 
victims, and the still more vociferous shouts of " Ma^ Mai* 

* The flesh of buflfaloes is used only by sweepers, shoemakers, &c., who 
sometimes quarrel for the possession of the slaughtered animals. The meat with 
country liquor ends in drunken feasts. 



no THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

uttered by the rabble amidst the discordant sound of gongs 
and drums. Some of the deluded devotees, losing all sense 
of shame and decency, smear their bodies from head to foot 
with this bloody mire, and begin to dance before the goddess 
and the assembled multitude like wild furies. In this state 
of bestial fanaticism, utterly ignoring the ordinary rules of 
public decorum, and literally intoxicated with the glory of the 
meritorious act, the deluded mob, preceded by musicians, 
proceed from one house to another in the neighbourhood where 
the image has been set up, sing obscene songs, and otherwise 
make indecent gestures which are alike an outrage on public 
morals and common decency. When quite exhausted by 
these abominable orgies, they go and bathe in a river or a 
tank, and return home, thinking how to make the most of the 
last night. Should any sober-minded person remonstrate 
with them on their foolish conduct, the stereotyped reply 
is — "this is Mohamayer Bazar and the. last day of the Poojah, 
when all sorts of tomfoolery and revelry are justifiable." The 
sensible portion of the community, it must be mentioned, keep 
quite aloof from such immoral exhibitions. 

However great may have been the veneration or the 
depth of devotional feeling in which the Doorga Poojah was 
held among the Hindoos of bygone ages, it is certain that 
in the lapse of time this and all other national festivals have 
lost their original religious character, and in the majority of 
cases degenerated into profanities and impure orgies, which 
renew the periodical license for the unrestrained indulgence of 
sensuality, not to speak of the dissipation and debauchery 
which it usually brings in its train. Except a few patriarchal 
Hindoos, whose minds are deeply imbued with religious pre- 
possessions as well as traditional proclivities, the generality 
celebrate the Poojah for the sake of name and fame, no less 
than for the purposes of amusement, and for the satisfaction 
of the women and children, who still retain, and will continue 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL, iir 

to do so for a long time to come, a profound veneration for 
the old Doorga Uttsob, Apart from the children, whose 
minds are susceptible of any impression in their nascent 
state, the women are the main prop of the idolatrous 
institutions and of the colossal superstructure of Hindoo 
superstition. If I am not much mistaken, it was to satisfy 
them that such distinguished Hindoo Reformers as the late 
Baboos Dwarkeynauth Tagore, Prosonocoomar Tagore, Roma- 
nauth Tagore, Ram Gopal Ghose, Digumber Mitter and others 
celebrated this Poojah in their family dwelling houses. How 
far they were morally justified in countenancing thig popular 
festival, it is not for me to say. The fact speaks for itself. 
Even in the present time, when Hindoo society is being pro- 
foundly convulsed by heterodox opinions, not a few of my 
enlightened countrymen observe this religious festival, and 
spend thousands of rupees on its celebration. There are, 
however, a few redeeming features in connection with this 
annual demonstration, which ought to be prominently no- 
ticed. First and foremost, it affords an excellent opportunity 
for the exercise of benevolent feelings ;* secondly, it materi- 
ally contributes to the promotion of annual reunions, brotherly 
fraternization, and to the general encouragement of trade 
throughout Bengal. 

The very great interest which Hindoo females feel in the 
periodical return of this grand festival, is known to every one 
who is at all conversant with the existing state of things in 



* The late Rajah Rajkissen Bahadoor, Baboos Santiram Sing, Ramdoolal 
Dey, Shibnarain Ghose, Prankissen Holdar, the Mullick family, the Ghosal family 
of Bhookoylash and others, spent large sums of money from year to year in giving 
clothes, food and money to a very large number of poor men, and liberating pri- 
soners from jail on payment of their debts. Any relief to suffering humanity is 
certainly an act of great merit for which the donors deserve well of the community. 
In our days there are several Baboos who do the same on a limited scale, but 
the name of Baboo Tarucknauth Puramanick of Kassiriparrah deserves a special 
notice. Naturally unassuming and unambitious, his character is as irreproachable 
as his large-hearted ness is conspicuous. On every anniversary of the Doorga 
Poojah, and on almost every religious celebration, he gives alms to hundreds and 
thousands of poor people without distinction of caste or creed. On the occasion 



112 THE DOORGA POO J AH FESTIVAL. 

this country. In the numerous districts and villages of Bengal 
inaugural preparations are made for the celebration of this anni- 
versary rite precisely from the day on which the Juggernauth 
car is drawn in Assar, from the date of the festival of Ruth 
Jattra, that is for about four months before the date of the 
Doorga Poojah. While the koomar, or the image maker, 
is engaged in nriaking the Bamboo frame-work for the images, 
the women in the villages devote their time to cleaning and 
storing the rice, paddy, different kinds of pulse, cocoanuts, and 
other products of the farm, all which are required for the ser- 
vice of the goddess. Ten times a day they will go to the temple 
to see what the Koomar is doing. Not capable of writing, nor 
having any idea of * Letts' Diaries,* they note down in their 
minds the daily progress of work, and feel an ineffable pleasure 
in communicating the glad tidings to each other. When day 
by day the straw forms are converted into clay figures, and they 
are for the first time plastered over with chalk and then 
painted with variegated colors, the hearts of the females leap 
with joy, and again when the completed images are being 
decorated with dack ornaments or tinsel ware, their exhilaration 
knows no bounds. In the fulness of anxiety, the mistress 
of the house directing her attention to what more is 
yet wanted for the due completion of the Poojah, rebukes 
the master for his apparent neglect somewhat in the fol- 
lowing manner : " Where is the dome sujah, (basketware) ? 
Where is the koomar stijah^ (pottery) ? Where are the spices 
and clothes ? Where are the sidoorchupry and sundry other 
things for the Barandalla ?" Adding that there is no time to 

of the Doorga Poojah festival he would not break his fast until midnight, when 
he is assured that all the poor people who came to his door have been duly pro- 
vided with food and coppers. For three nights this distribution of alms continues. 
The public road before his house is closed by order of the police for the accom- 
modation of beggars. Five or six times in a month he feeds all the poor people 
that come to his house, hence the fame of his generosity is spread far and wide, and 
he is surnamed Taruck Baboo, **the datta* or charitable — a distinction which 
the more opulent of his countrymen (and there are not a few) should seek to 
covet. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL, 113 

be lost, the Poojah is near at hand. The husband acquiescing 
in what the wife says assures her that everything shall be 
procured by Saturday or Sunday next. 

On the first day of the new moon, when every Hindoo 
in the city becomes more or less busy on account of his 
official, domestic and religious engagements, the lady of the 
house is chiefly occupied with making suitable arrangements 
for tutwa or presents, first to her son-in-law and then to her 
other relatives, a subject on which I shall have to say a few 
words in its proper place. On the eve of the sixth day of 
the new moon, when the grand Poojah may be said to 
commence, the females, consigning all their past sorrows to 
oblivion, feel a sort of elasticity, hopefulness and confidence 
which almost involuntarily draw forth from the depths of their 
hearts, feelings of joy and ecstacy. Even a virgin widow, 
whose grief is yet fresh, forgets her miseries for awhile, and 
cheerfully mingles in the jubilee. She forms part and parcel 
of the domestic sisterhood, and for the five days of her life at 
least, her settled sadness gives way to pleasing sensations, and 
though forbidden by a cruel priesthood to lend her hand to 
the ceremonial, she nevertheless goes up to the goddess and 
prays in a devotional spirit for a better future. Amidst such 
a scene of universal hilarity, supplemented by a confident 
hope of eternal beatitude, it is quite natural that Hindoo 
females, socially divorced from every other innocent amuse- 
ment, should feel a deep, sincere and intense interest in such 
a national festival which possesses the twofold advantages of 
a religious ceremony and a social demonstration. None but 
the most callous hearted can remain indifferent. Men, women 
and children, believers and unbelievers, are alike overcome by 
the force of this religious anniversary. The females go to 
the temple at all hours of the day, and feast their eyes 
upon the captivating figure of mighty Doorga and her 
glorious satellites. Nor do they stare at her with a vacant 

P. 



114 THE DOORGA POO/AH FESTIVAL. 

mind ; each has her grievance to represent, her wish to 
express ; prayer in a fervent spirit is offered to the goddess 
for the redress of the one and the consummation of the other. 
Should a son die prematurely, should a husband suffer from 
any difficulty, should a son-in-law be not true to his wife, should 
a daughter be doomed to widowhood, the females wrestle 
hard in prayer for relief and amelioration. On the fourth 
or Bijoya day, when the image is to be consigned to the 
river, one takes away a bit of the consecrated urghy* ; a 
second, the khappurer sara^ or the sacrificial earthen plate ; 
a third, the crushed betel ; a fourth, the sacred billaw leaves, 
and so on ; each forms a sacred trust, and all are preserved with 
the greatest possible care, as the priceless heirloom of a 
benignant goddess. 

Having briefly described the main features of this reli- 
gious festival, I will now endeavour to give a short account of 
the oth6r circumstances connected with it. In the house of 
a Brahmin, Kkickree^ rice, dhall, fish and vegetable curries, 
together with sweetmeats and sour milk, are given to the 
guests, chiefly in the day time during the three Pooja days. 
Many Hindoos, whose religious scruples will not allow them 
to kill a goat themselves, generally go to the house of a Brah- 
min — but not without an eight anna piece or a Rupee — to 
satisfy their carnivorous appetite during the Poojah. It is 
very creditable to the women of the sacerdotal class that 
three or four of them undertake the duty of the cuisine^ and 
feed from six to eight hundred persons for three days succes- 
sively. As fish is not acceptable to Doorga, neither cooked 
goat's and sheep's flesh, a separate kitchen is set apart for the 
purpose of cooking meat of sacrificed annimals. Brahmin 

* An Urghy is a bunch of doorva grass tied up at the last, either with red 
cotton or a slip of plaintain leaf. Two or three of such bundles are made, one 
is placed on the crown of the goddess and two on her two feet. It is usually 
stuffed with paddy and besmeared with sandal wood water and vemillion. It is 
a sacred offering and consequently preserved for solemn occassions. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 115 

women, as a rule, cook remarkably well. Their long expe- 
rience in the culinary art, their habitual cleanliness, their un- 
divided attention to their duty, and above all, the religious awe 
with which they prepare food for the goddess, give quite a 
relish to every thing they make. Nor is this all. Their devotion 
and earnestness is so great that they cannot be persuaded 
to eat any thing until all the guests are fully satisfied, and 
what is still more commendable, they look to no other reward 
for their trouble than the fancied approbation of the goddess, 
and the satisfaction of the guests. It is not before nine o'clock 
at night that they become disengaged, after which they bathe 
again, change clothes, say their prayers to the goddess, and 
then think of appeasing their hunger. Simple and unartifical 
as they naturally are, they, being mostly widows, are quite 
content with habishi unnOy which was of yore the food of the 
Hindoo riskis or saints. It consists of autob rice, or rice from 
unboiled paddy, green plaintain and dhall, all boiled in the 
same pot. Of course a large quantity of ghee is added to it, 
and at the time of eating milk is taken. These Brahmin 
women are, indeed, mistresses of the culinary art, if the 
bill of fare is not long, yet the. dishes they make are generally 
very palatable. The truth is, they practically follow the 
trite saying, "what is worth doing at all, is worth doing 
well." Their simple recipes always produce appetising and 
wholesome dishes, they are thrifty housewives. It must be 
admitted that simplicity is not meanness, nor thriftiness a 
fault. 

. In the house of a Kayasta or Sndra^ whose female 
members, it must be observed, are generally more indolently 
inclined, and whose style of living is consequently more lux- 
urious, the food offered to the guests consists chiefly of differ- 
ent kinds of sweetmeats, fruits, lochees, vegetable curries, &c. 
Four or five days before the Poojah begins, professional 
Brahmin sweetmeat-makers are employed to make the neces- 



ii6 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

sary arrangements at home, the principal ingredients required 
being flour, soojee^ chatioo, (gram fried and powdered) safeyda 
(pounded rice) sugar, spices, almonds, raisins, &c. Not a 
soul is permitted, not even the master of the house, to touch 
and much less taste these articles* before they are religiously 
offered to the goddess in the first instance and afterwards to 
the Brahmins. In these "feast days" of the Poojah in and 
about Calcutta, where nearly five hundred pratimas or images 
are set up, every respectable Hindoo, as has been observed 
before, is previously provided at home with an adequate supply 
of all the necessaries and luxuries of life that would last about 
a month or so, it being considered unpropitious then to be 
wanting in any store, save fruit and fish. This accounts for 
a general disinclination on the part of the well-to-do Baboos 
to partake of any ordinary entertainment when visiting the 
goddess at a friend's house, but to the Brahmins and the pover- 
ty-stricken classes this is a glorious opportunity for "gorging." 
The despicable practice to which I have alluded elsewhere 
of carrying a portion of the jalpan (food) home is largely 
resorted to on this occasion. It is certainly a relic of 
barbarism, which the growing good sense of the people ought 
to eschew. 

The night of the ninth day of the increase of the moon 
is a grand night in Bengal. It is the nabamee ratree^ and 
modesty is put to the blush by the revelry of the hour. The 
houses of the rich become as bright as the day, costly chan- 
deliers, hanging lamps and wall lights burning with gas, bril- 
liantly illuminate the whole mansion, while the walls of the 
Boytuckhana or sitting room are profusely adorned with 
English and French paintings and engravings, exhibiting 
certainly not the best specimens of artistic skill, but sin- 

* Home made things are, in the long run, cheaper and more preferable to 
the questionable products of the market, which are not only inferior in quality 
but are more or less subject to defilement, being exposed for sale to people of 
all castes. This detracts.from the absolute purity of the preparation. 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 117 

gularly calculated to extort the plaudits of the illiterate, 
because engravings and pictures are the books of the unlearned, 
who are more easily impressed through the eye than the ear. 
All the rooms and antechambers are frequently furnished in 
European style. Splendid Brussels or Agra carpets are spread 
on the floors of the rooms, a few of which, as if by way of 
contrast, have the ordinary white cloth spread on them. 
Nor are hanging Punkhas wanting. In one of the spacious 
halls sits the Baboo of the house, surrounded by courtiers 
pandering to his vanity. Indolently reclining on a bolster, 
and leisurely smoking his dlbollah with a long winding 7ial or 
pipe, half dizzy from the effects of last night's revelry, he 
feels loath to speak much. Like an opium eater, he falls 
into a siesta, whilst the Punkah is moving incessantly. If 
an orthodox Hindoo, freed from the besetting vice of drinking, 
and awake to all that is going on around him, before him 
are placed the Dacca silver filagree worked attei^dan and 
golappass^ as well as th^pandan with lots of spices and betel 
in it. On entering the room, the olfactory nerves of a visitor 
are sure to be regaled with fragrant odours. At intervals 
rose water is sprinkled on the bodies of the guests, and 
weak spiced tobacco is served them every fifteen minutes, 
the current topics of the day forming the subject of conver- 
sation. All this is surely vain ostentation and superfluity. 
So far the arrangements and reception of friends are essen- 
tially oriental^ the manner of sitting, the mode of conversa- 
tion, and the way in which otto of roses, rose water and 
betel are given to guests are Mahomedan and Hindoo-like, 
but there is something beyond this ; here orthodoxy is virtually 
proscribed and heterodoxy practically proclaimed. While the 
officiating priests and the female devotees are offering their 
prayers to the presiding goddess, the Baboo, a liberal Hindoo, 
longs to retire to his private room, perhaps on the third storey, 
at the entrance of which a guard is placed to keep off unwel- 



Ii8 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

come visitors, that he might partake of refreshments supplied 
by an English Purveying Establishment with a few select 
friends. The room is furnished after European fashion, chairs, 
tables, sofas, cheffoniers, cheval glass, sideboard, pictures, 
glass and silver and plated ware, knives, forks and spoons, 
and I know not what more, are all arranged in proper order, 
and friends of congenial tastes have free access. First class 
wines and viands, such as Giesler's champagne, Heatly*s Port 
and Sherry, Exshaw's Brandy No. i. Crabbie's Ginger wine, 
Bass's best bottled beer, soda water, lemonade, ice, Huntley 
and Palmer's mixed biscuits, manilla cigars, cakes and fruits 
in heaps, poloway^ kurmUy hiptay kallyUy roast fowl, cutlets, 
mutton chop and fowl curry,* are at your service, and an 
English visitor is not an unwelcome guest. LoocJtee, Sundesh 
mittoye^ btirfi^ rasagullah^ sittavogy &c., the ordinary food of 
the Hindoos on festive days, are at a discount. The Great 
Eastern Hotel Company should be thankful for the large 
orders which the Hindoo aristocracy of Calcutta and its 
suburbs favor them with during this grand festival. The 
taste for the English style of living is not a plant of recent 

* It would not be out of place to observe here that liberal Hindoos as a 
body are not beef-eaters as is vulgarly supposed. They are content with fowls, 
goat, sheep and fish. About forty years ago before the Calcutta University was 
founded, the late Baboo Isser Chunder Goopto, the editor of Pravakur^ a verna- 
cular news paper, very cleverly hit off and satirised in popular ballads the then 
growing desire of the young Hindoo reformers to adopt a European style of eating. 
He commenced with Rammohun Roy — the pioneer of Hindoo reformation — and 
thus sarcastically described his public career. Addressing Saranvattee the Hin- 
doo goddess of learning, he thus laments : ** Oh goddess ! in vain have you estab- 
lished schools in Calcutta, look at the end of that Roy (Rammohun Roy); profound 
learning had wafted him over the waters to a distant region (England), and never 
brought him back again." As regards the young alumni, he makes a wife thus 
accost her husband : **/Va«, Pran^ my heart, my heart, you go to society and 
lectures every day, and when the Examination is held at the Town Hall you get 
prizes, heaps and heaps of books you read and always remain outside. Is it 
written in the books that you should never touch the body of a female ? What 
sort of a gooroo (master) is your Sahib ? he is a regular gam (bull) if he give you 
such lessons. You dislike loochee and mundd (Hindoo sweetmeats) but you get 
gunda and gunda of fowl eggs and satisfy your hunger, and for you all there is 
an end of cows and calves." But this is an exaggeration about the eating of 
beef by the educated Hindoos. Except a few medical students, who have, in a great 
measure, overcome their prejudices by the constant handling of dead bodies, the 
rest still feel a sort of natural repugnance to eating beef. This is, perhaps, the 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 119 

growth. It has been germinating since the days of John 
Company, when India merchantmen enjoyed the monopoly of 
the foreign trade of the country, when the highest authorities 
of the land had no religious scruples as Christians to be 
present at a Hindoo festival, when, in fact, Hindoo million- 
aires were wont to indulge in lavish expenditure* for the 
purpose of pleasing their new European masters. Leaving 
aside the dignity and gravity of the clerical profession for a 
while, the Reverend Mr. Ward was induced out of curiosity 
to pay a visit to the palatial mansion of the Shoba Bazar 
Rajahs of Calcutta on the last night of the Poojah. 

"In the year 1806," says he, "I was present at the wor- 
ship of this goddess, as performed at the house of Rajah 
Rajkishnu at Calcutta. The buildings where the festival was 
held were on four sides, leaving an area in the middle. The 
room to the' east contained wine, English sweetmeats, &c., 

effect of early impressions produced by the religious veneration in which a cow 
is held among the Hindoos. *'The superstitious reverence," says an eminent 
writer, ** for the ox, points doubtless to a period when that useful animal was 
first naturalized in India and protected by a law for its preservation and en- 
couragement, which, now that the original intention is lost sight of in the lapse of 
ages, has invested the cattle with a religious character, and, indeed, it is not 200 
years sifice the Emperor Jehangir was obliged once to prohibit the slaughter 
of kine for a term of years, as a measure absolutely required to prevent the ruin 
of agriculture." It is a striking fact that that loathsome disease, leprosy, is 
very common among the lower orders of Mussulmans who use this meat freely. 
Perhaps it is more suited to the inhabitants of milder regions than those of a 
tropical climate. 

* So great was the mania for entravagant, ostentations show, that instances 
were not wanting in which a lakh of Rupees was freely spent on this grand occa- 
sion. The late Prankissen Holdar, of Chinsurah, in the neighbourhood of Calcutta, 
expended annually for three or four years the above sum in furnishing his house 
without stint of cost in truly oriental style, giving rich entertainments to Europeans 
and Natives, and distributing alms among the poor. There was no Railway then, 
and consequently the boat hire alone from Calcutta to Chinsuiah for English 
and Native grandees might have cost four to five thousand Rupees. The very 
invitation cards written iti golden letters with gold fringes cost eight to ten 
Rupees each. For the entertainment of his English friends he used to give ten 
thousand Rupees to Messrs. Gunter and Hooper, the then public Purveyors of 
Calcutta. First class wines and provisions were procured in abundance, and 
arranged in the corridor under European and Mahomedan stewards, while one 
hundred Brahmins were engaged in prayers, reciting Chundee and repeating the 
name of the god, Modosoodun, for the propitiation of the goddess and the interests 
of the family. It sometimes so happened that the clang of knives, forks and 
spoons was simultaneous with the sound of the holy bell and conch, the one 
neutralising what the other was supposed to produce in a religious point of view. 



120 THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

for the entertainment of English guests, with a native Por- 
tuguese or two to wait on the visitors. In the opposite room 
was placed the image, with vast heaps of all kinds of offerings 
before it. In the two side rooms, were the native guests, and 
in the area groups of Hindoo dancing women, finely dressed, 
singings and dancing with sleepy steps, surrounded with 
Europeans who were sitting on chairs and couches. One or 
two groups of Mussulman-men singers entertained the com- 
pany at intervals with Hindoosthanee songs, and ludicrous 
tricks. Before two o*clock the place was cleared of the danc- 
ing girls, and of all the Europeans except ourselves, and 
almost all the lights were extinguished, except in front of 
the goddess, — when the doors of the area were thrown open, 
and a vast crowd of natives rushed in, almost treading one 
upon another, among whom were the vocal singers, having 
on long caps like sugar loaves. The area might be about 
fifty cubits long and thirty wide. When the crowd had sat 
down, they were so wedged together as to present the 
appearance of a solid pavement of heads, a small space only 
being left immediately before the image for the motions of 
the singers, who all stood up. Four sets of singers were 
present on this occasion, the first consisting of Brahmins,- 
(Hum TkacoorX the next of bankers, (Bhuvanundu), the 
next of boeshnuvus, (Nitaee)y and the last of weavers, 
(Lukshmee)y who entertained their guests with filthy songs 
and danced in indecent attitudes before the goddess, hold- 
ing up their hands, turning round, putting forward their 
heads towards the image, every now and then bending 
their bodies, and almost tearing their throats with their vo- 
ciferations. The whole scene produced on my mind sensations 
of the greatest horror. The dress of the singers, their inde- 
cent gestures, the abominable nature of the songs, (especially 
khayoor) the horrid din of their miserable drum, the lateness 
of the hour, the darkness of the place, with the reflection 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 121 

that I was standing in an idol temple, and that this immense 
multitude of rational and immortal creatures, capable of 
superior joys, were in the very act of worship, perpetrating 
a crime of high treason against the God of heaven, while 
they themselves believed they were performing an act of merit, 
excited ideas and feelings in my mind which time can never 
obliterate. I would have given in this place a specimen of 
the songs sung before the image, but found them so full of 
broad obscenity that I could not copy a single line. All 
those actions which a sense of decency keeps out of the 
most indecent English songs, are here detailed, sung, and 
laughed at, without the least sense of shame. A poor ballad 
singer in England would be sent to the house of correction, 
and flogged, for performing the meritorious actions of these 
wretched idolaters.* The singing is continued for three days 
from two o'clock in the morning till nine." 

It is a noteworthy fact that in those days when Bengal 
was in the zenith of its prosperity and splendour, the Gover- 
nor-General, the members of the Council, the judges of the 
Supreme Court, and distinguished officers and merchants, did 
not think it derogatory to their dignity, or at all calculated 
to compromise their character as Christians, to honor the Ra- 
jahs with their presence during this festival, but since the 
days of Daniel Wilson, the highly venerated Lord Bishop of 
Calcutta, who must have expressed his strong disapprobation 
of this practice, these great men have ceased to attend. At 
present but a few young officers, captains of ships in the port 
and East Indians may be seen to go to these nautches, and as a 
necessary consequence of this withdrawal of countenance, the 
outward splendour of the festival has of late considerably 
diminished. Seeing the apparent approval of idolatrous 

* ** The reader will recollect that the festivals of Bacchus and Cybele were 
equally noted for the indecencies practised by the worshippers both in their 
words and actions," 



122 THE DOORGA POO/AH FESTIVAL. 

ceremonies by some Europeans, a conscientious Christian once 
exclaimed : " I am not ashamed to confess that I fear 
more for the continuance of the British power in India, 
from the encouragement which Englishmen have given to 
the idolatry of the Hindoos, than from any other quarter 
whatever." * 

As regards the other amusements at this popular festival, 
a few words about the Indian nautch (dancing) girls may 
not be out of place here. These women have no social status, 
their principles are as loose as their character is immoral. 
They are brought up to this disreputable profession from 
their infancy. They have no husbands, and many of them 
are never married. The Native Princes, and chiefs, rich 
zemindars and persons in affluent circumstances, the capacity 
of whose intellect is as stinted as its culture is scanty, have 
been their great patrons. Devoid of a taste for reading and 
writing, they managed to drive the ennui of their lives by 
the songs of these dancing girls. Great were the rewards 
which they sometimes received at the hands of the Native 

* The Reverend Mr. Maurice, a pious clergyman, who had never seen 
these ceremonies, attempted to paint them in the most captivating terms. Should 
he think that Hindoo idolatry is capable of exciting the most elevated concep- 
tions about the godhead and leading the mind to the true path of righteousness, 
let him come and join the Brahmins and their numerous devotees in crying 
"Huree Bole! Hurree Bole! Joy Doorga ! Joy Kally ! " ** Mr. Forbes, of 
Stanmore Hill, in his elegant museum of Indian rarities, numbers two of the 
bells that have been used in devotion by the Brahmins. They are great curi- 
osities, and one of them in particular appears to be of very high antiquity, in 
form very much resembling the cup of the lotus, and the tune of it is uncommon- 
ly soft and melodious. I could not avoid being deeply affected with the sound 
of an instrument which had beeil actually employed to kindle the flame of that 
superstition which I have attempted so extensively to unfold. My transported 
thoughts travelled back to the remote period when Biahmin religion blazed 
forth in all its splendour in the caverns of Elephanta : I was, for a moment, en- 
tranced, and caught the odour of enthusiasm. A tribe of venerable priests, ar- 
rayed in flowing stoles, and decorated with high tiaras, seemed assembled around 
me, the mystic song of initiation vibrated in my ear ; I breathed an air fragrant 
with the richest perfumes, and contemplated the deity in the Are that symbolized 
him." And again, in another place, **She, (the Hindoo religion) wears the 
similitude of a beautiful and radiant cherub from Heaven, bearing on his persua- 
sive lips the accents of pardon and peace, and on his silken wings benefaction 
and blessing." What strange hallucinations some of these Christian ministers 
labour under in attempting to reconcile the ideas of idolatry with those of the 
True and Living God ! 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 123 

kings in their palmy days. When a Principality groaned under 
extravagance and financial embarrassment, these bewitching 
girls were entertained at considerable expense to drown the 
cares of state-craft and king-craft. Even the most astute 
prince was not free from this courtly profligacy. Though 
these girls often basked in the sunshine of royal favor, yet 
there was not a single Jenny Lind among them either in 
grace or accomplishment. As regards their income, a girl has 
been known to refuse ten thousand Rupees for performing 
three nights at the Nazim*s Court. When Rajah Rajkissen 
of Sobha Bazar, the Singhee family of Jorasanko, and the 
Dey family of Simla, celebrated these Poojahs with great 
pomp, dancing girls of repute were retained a month previ- 
ous to the festival at great cost, varying from 500 to looo 
Rupees each for three nights. Now that those prosperous 
days are gone by, and the big English officials do not con- 
descend to attend the nautch, the amount has been reduced 
to fifty Rupees or a little more. Their general attire and 
gestures, as well as the nature and tendency of their songs, 
are by no means unexceptionable. These auxiliaries to 
sensual gratification, combined with the allurements of 
Bacchus, even in the presence of a deity, are the least of 
all fitted to animate or quicken devotional feelings and 
prayerful thoughts. 

Theatrical performances from the popular dramas of 
the Indian poets, and amateur jattras^ pantomimical exhibi- 
tions, also contribute largely to the amusement of the people. 
The old Bidday Soonder, Maunvimjun^ Dukha Juggn^ and 
others of a similar character are still relished by pleasure- 
seekers and holiday-makers. It is, however, one of the 
healthy signs of the times that native gentlemen of histrionic 
taste have recently got up amateur performances, which bear 
a somewhat close approximation to the English tragedies 
and comedies. 



124 Tnn DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL 

Having previously described all the important circum- 
stances and details, religious and social, connected with this 
popular festival, I will now give a short account of the 
Bhasdn or Nirunjmi which takes place on the tenth day of 
the new moon, or in the fourth day of the Poojah. It is also 
called Bijoyd^ because the end of a ceremonial is always 
attended with melancholy feelings. This is the day when the 
image is consigned to water either of a river or tank. Apart 
from its religious significance, the day is an important one to 
English and Native merchants alike. Although all the public 
offices. Government and mercantile, are absolutely closed for 
twelve days, agents of Manchester and Glasgow firms must 
open their places of business on this particular day, which to 
native merchants and dealers is an auspicious day when large 
bargains of Piece Goods for present and forward delivery are 
made. Ten to fifteen lakhs of Rupees worth of articles are 
sold this day in three or four hours, the general impression 
being that such bargains bring good luck both to the buyer 
and the seller. 

About eight o'clock in the morning, the officiating priest 
begins the service, and in half an hour it is over. Music, the 
indispensable accompaniment of Hindoo Poojahs, must attend 
every such service. A small looking-glass is placed on a 
pan of Ganges water and every inmate of the family, male 
or female, is invited to see the shadow or rather the reflex 
of the goddess on its surface. Deeply imbued as the minds 
of the votaries are with religious ideas, every individual looks 
on the mirror with a sort of devotional feeling, and expresses 
his or her conviction as to the reality of the representation. 
The children, more from amusement than faith, hang about 
the place, but the females steadfastly cling to the panora- 
mic view, quite unwilling to leave it. Though totally ignor- 
ant of the philosophical theory of the association or suggestion 
of ideas, the scene naturally presents to their mind's eye the 



THE DOORGA PoOJAM FESTIVAL 125 

emotions they feel when leaving the paternal roof for the father- 
in-law's house. ** Ala Doorga is going to her father-in-law's 
and will not return for anothe^r twelve month," exclaims 
one. " Look at her eyes, her sorrowful countenance," ejacu-* 
lates another. "The temple will look wild and desolate when 
Ma Doorga goes away," adds a third. To console them, the 
mistress of the house exhorts all to offer their prayers to 
the goddess, beseeching that she may continue to vouchsafe 
her blessings from year to year, and give prolonged life and 
happiness to all concerned. With this solemn invocation, 
they, each and every one, fall down on their knees before 
the "goddess, whose spirit had departed on the day previous, 
and in a contemplative mood implore her benediction. 
Before retiring, however, every one takes with her some 
precious relic of the offerings (flowers or billaputtrd) made 
to Doorga when her spirit was present, and preserves it with 
all the care of a divine gift, using it religiously in cases of 
sickness and calamity. 

About three in the afternoon, after washing their 
bodies and putting on new clothes and ornaments, the 
females make preparations for performing the last and 
farewell ceremony in honor of the goddess. The sudder 
(main) door is closed, musicians are ordered to go out in 
the streets, the Doorga with all her satellites is brought 
out into the area of the temple, the baranddlldk with all 
its sundries is produced, and the females whose husbands 
are alive begin to turn round the images and touch the 
forehead of each and every one of the deities with the 
baranddlldk^ repeating their prayers for lasting blessings on 
the family. To the inexpressible grief of the widows, who 
are present on the occasion, a cruel institution has long 
since debarred them from assisting in this holy work. 
These ill-fated creatures are doomed only to stare at the 
images, but are not permitted to take an active part in the cere- 



126 THE DOORGA POO/AH FESTIVAL 

monial. Is it possible to conceive a more gloomy picture 
of society than that which absolutely expunges from a human 
breast all traces of a religious privilege the exercise of which, 
though under a mistaken faith, tends to sweeten a wretched 
life ? The miserable widows of India are unhappily destined 
to pine away their existence until greater leaders of native 
reforms arise and deliver them from the galling fetters of 
superstition. 

The epilogue which closes the parting ceremony is called 
the kanakdnjally^ which consists in a woman (not a widow) 
taking a small brass plate of paddy and doova grass with a 
Rupee dyed in red lead in it, and throwing it from the fore 
part of the image right over its head into the cloth of a man 
who stands behind for the purpose of receiving it. This last 
offering, it is needless to say, is preserved with the greatest 
care. The female who performs the rite is an object of envy. 
This rite being performed, the females take each a bit of the 
sweetmeat and betel which has been last offered to Ma Doorga, 
A sudden reaction of feeling takes place, all hearts are 
grieved, and some actually shed tears. Two sensations, 
though not exactly analogous, arise in their minds ; first the 
religious part of the festival, and the consequent arousal of a 
devotional spirit, vividly reminding one of the unceasing round 
of ritualistic ceremonies as well as festivity and gaiety that 
the presence of the goddess naturally enough produced, and 
which are about to vanish and disappear in an hour by the 
immersion of the goddess in the river or pond ; and second, a 
worldly one, the recurrence of the idea when a mother sends 
her daughter to the house of her father-in-law. In either 
case, the tender heart of a Hindoo female easily breaks down 
under the pressure of grief. 

The goddess is afterwards brought out and placed on a 
Bamboo stage borne on the shoulders of a set of coolies, all 
he flowers and billdptittrd offered her during the past three 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 127 

days are also put in a basket and taken to the riverside. 
The procession moves slowly forward, preceded by bands of 
English and Native musicians, and the necessary retinue of 
servants and guards, while from within the house, the women, 
not satiated with the sight of the goddess for one long 
month, stretch their eyes as far as their visual organs can 
extend to catch a last farewell glimpse of her. The streets 
of Calcutta, the English part of the town excepted, become 
literally crammed and almost impassable on such a day. 
Groups of Police constables are posted here and there with 
a view to maintain peace and order, the streets become a 
pavement of heads. At the lowest calculation, there cannot 
be less than 100,000 sight-seers abroad. Men, women 
and children of all classes and ranks come from a great dis- 
tance to have a sight of the image. The tops of houses, the 
verandahs, the main roads, nay the unfrequented corners 
present a thick mass of living creatures, all anxious to feast 
their eyes upon the matchless grandeur of the scene. A 
foreigner, unaccustomed to such a magnificent spectacle, is 
apt to overrate the wealth and prosperity of the people on 
such a day. The number of images, the dazzling and costly 
embellishments with which they are decorated, the rich livery 
of some of the servants, the bands of musicians preceding 
the procession, the letting off of red and blue lights at inter- 
vals, the gala dress of the multitude, and last but not least, the 
elegant carriages of the big "swells," and the still more 
elegant attire of their owners, who loll back on the 
cushion of the carriages, diffusing fragrant odours as they 
pass, cannot fail to produce an imposing effect. Here a gaily 
clad Baboo with his patent Japan leather shoes ; there a 
Hindoosthanec dandy with his massive gold necklace and 
valuable pearls hanging down his ears ; here a proud Mogul 
in all the bravery of cloth of gold ; there a frowning Mus- 
sulman with his dazzling cap and gossamer chdpkdn (tunic). 



128 THE DOORGA POO I AH FESTIVAL. 

and ivory mounted stick, all combine to present a motley group 
of characters, national in their costumes, and unique in 
appearance. The poor country woman, her lord and children, 
though not favored by fortune, still cut a figure far above 
their normal condition. 

Those Hindoos, \\\c adorn their images without stint 
of cost, parade them tJicugh the most densely crowded 
streets till eight in the evening — ^vanity being the chief motive 
of action — while those who move in humbler spheres of life 
take them to boats on the river hired for the purpose, and 
throw them into the water amidst shouts of exultation. The 
mob of course sing obscene songs and dance indecently, all 
which is tolerated for the occasion. The growing sense of 
the people — the result of English education — has now-a-days 
greatly diminished the amount of indecency which was one 
of the distinguishing characteristics of former days on such 
an occasion. 

Between seven and eight o'clock in the evening, the 
assembled crowd begins to disperse in joyous mood, talking all 
the way as to the respective superiority of such and such 
images. Amongst such a great number and variety, there 
is sure to be difference of opinion, but it is soon settled by 
the affirmation of a wise head that " the spirit of the goddess 
is the same in all the images ; Ma Doorga^ does not mind 
show." 

When the worshippers and others return home, they go 
at once to the temple, where the officiating Brahmin waits 
for them to sprinkle on their bodies the sacred water ; all 
are made to sit down on the floor with their feet covered 
with their clothes, lest a drop should fall upon them. The 
Brahmin with a small twig of mangoe leaves sprinkles the 
water, while repeating at the same time the usual incantation* 
the meaning of which is that health, wealth and prosperity 
may attend the votaries of Doorga, from jxar to year. After 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 129 

this they write on a piece of green plantain leaf the name 
of the goddess several times, and then clasp one another in 
their arms, and take the dust off the feet of all the seniors, 
with the mutual expression of good wishes for their worldly 
prosperity. An elderly man thus blesses a boy ; " may you 
have long life, gold inkstand and gold pen, acquire profound 
learning and immense wealth, and support lakhs of men" ; 
If a girl, he thus pronounces his benediction (there being no 
clasping of arms between man and woman nor between 
woman and woman), " may you enjoy all the blessings of a 
married life (/. ^., never become a widow) become the mother 
of a rajah (king), use vermillion on your grey head, continue 
to wear the iron bangle, get seven male children, and never 
know want." It is well known that no blessing is more accep- 
table to a Hindoo female than that she may never become 
a widow, because the intolerable miseries of widowhood are 
most piercing to her heart ; nor can it be otherwise so long 
as human nature remains unaltered. This social institution 
of the Hindoos of cordially embracing each other and ex- 
pressing all manner of good wishes on a particular day of 
the year, when all hearts are more or less affected with 
grief at the departure of the goddess, is a very commen- 
dable one. It has an excellent tendency to promote social 
reunion, good fellowship and brotherhood. Not only all the 
absent friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbours, male 
and female, join in this annual greeting, but even strangers 
and the most menial servants are not forgotten on the 
occasion. Every heart rejoices, every tongue blesses, every 
acrimonious feeling is consigned to oblivion. This is a "quiet 
interval at least between storm and storm ; interspaces of 
sunlight between the breadths of gloom, a glad voice 
on summer holidays, happy in unselfish friendships, in 
generous impulses, in strong health, in the freedom from 
all cares, in the confidence of all hopes." During such a 

R 



I30 THE DOORGA POO J AH FESTIVAL. 

happy period " it is a luxury to breathe the breath of 
life." 

To drown their sorrows in forgetfulness, the Hindoos 
use a slight intoxicating beverage made of hemp leaves on 
this particular occasion. Every one that comes to visit — 
and there must be a social gathering — or is present, is treated 
with this diluted beverage and sweets. Even the most inno- 
cent and simple females for once in a year are tacitly allow- 
ed to use it, but very sparingly. One farthing's worth of 
hemp leaves, or about one ounce, suffices for fifty persons or 
more, so that it becomes almost harmless when so copiously 
diluted. But those who have imbibed a taste for English 
wines and spirits always indulge freely on this occasion, 
giving little heed to temperance rules and lectures. It is 
" Bijoya " and drinking to excess is justifiable. 

It would not be proper to close this subject without 
saying a few words about the national excitement which the 
approach of this festival produces, and the powerful impetus 
it gives to trade in general. It has been roughly estimated 
that upwards of a crore of Rupees (;^ 10,000,000) is spent 
every year in Bengal on account of this, festival. Every 
family, from the aristocracy to the peasant, must have new 
clothes, new shoes, new every thing. Men, women, children* 
relatives, poor acquaintances and neighbours, nay beggars 
must have their holiday dress. Persons in straitened cir- 
cumstances, who actually live from hand to mouth, deposit 
their hard-earned savings for a twelvemonth to be spent on 
this grand festival. Famished beggars who drag a miserable 
existence all their lives, and depend on precarious alms to keep 
their body and soul together all the year round, hopefully 
look forward to the return of this anniversary for at least a 
temporary change in their .rags and tatters. Hungry Brah- 
mins, whose daily avocation brings them only a scanty allow- 
ance of rice and plantain, cheerfully welcome the advent of 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 131 

" Ma Doorgal^ and gratefully watch the day when their empty 
coffer shall be replenished. Cloth merchants, weavers, braziers, 
goldsmiths, embroiderers, lace-makers, mercers, haberdashers, 
carpenters, potters, basket-makers, painters, house-builders, 
English, Chinese and Native shoemakers, ghee, sugar and 
corn merchants, grocers, confectioners, dealers in silver and 
tinsel ware, songsters, songstresses, musicians, hackney car- 
riage keepers, Oorya bearers, hawkers, pedlars and such 
dealers in miscellaneous wares, all look forward to the busy 
season when their whole year's hopes shall be realised by 
bringing lots of Rupees into the till. To a man of practical 
experience in business matters, as far as the metropolis of 
British India is concerned, it is perhaps well known that the 
" Trades " because of the Doorga Poojah make more in one 
month than they can possibly make in the remaining eleven 
months. From the first week in September to the middle 
of October, when the Poojah preparations are being actually 
made by the Hindoos, when they, frugal as they assuredly 
are, once in a twelvemonth, loosen their purse strings, when 
the accumulated interest on Government securities is drawn, 
when all thd arrears of house rent are peremptorily demanded, 
when remittance from the distant parts of the country arrives, 
when in short, rupees, annas and pice, are the " Go " of the 
inhabitants, the shopkeepers make a display of their goods 
as best they can. From sunrise to ten o'clock at night the 
influx of customers continues unabated, extra shops are 
opened and extra assistants employed, the shopkeepers 
themselves have scarcely leisure enough to take a hasty meal 
a day, and each day's sales swell the heart of the owner. 
The thrifty and economical Provincial, who loves money as 
dearly as the blood that runs through his veins, leisurely 
makes his sundry purchases before the regular rush of cus- 
tomers begins to pour in. He has not only the choice of a 
large assortment, and the " pick," of a new investment, but 



132 THE DOORGA POO/AH FESTIVAL. 

gets the benefit of a reasonable price, because the shopkeeper is 
not hard and tenacious in the early stage of the Poojah sale. 
As each day passes, and novelties are exposed for public 
inspection, the shopkeeper raises his prices according to in- 
creasing demand. The effeminate and extravagant Baboo 
of the City, who does not worship Mammon half so devoutly 
as his country brother, does not mind paying a little too 
much for his " whistle," because he is large hearted and liber- 
al minded. His more frequent intercourse with Englishmen 
has taught him to look upon money as "filthy lucre." He is 
not calculating, and hence he defers making his purchases till 
the eleventh hour, when, to use a native expression, "the shop- 
keeper cuts the neck with one stroke." 

About one-fifth of the Hindoo population of Calcutta 
consists of people that are come from the contiguous villages 
and pergunnas of the Presidency Division ; these men live in 
Calcutta solely for employment, keeping their families in the 
country where they have generally small farms of their own 
which yield them enough produce in the shape of rice, pulses, 
cereals, vegetables, &c., to last them throughout the year, 
leaving, in some instances, ample surplus stock, with which 
and a few milch cows as well as tanks, they husband their 
resources with the greatest frugality, and enjoy every domes- 
tic comfort and convenience. They do not care for Davie 
Wilson's biscuits and sponge-cakes, or a glass of raspberry 
ice-cream or Roman Punch on a summer day ; their bill of fare 
is as short and simple as their taste is primitive. These men 
make their Poojah purchases much earlier than their brethren 
in the city, simply because they have to start for home as 
soon as the public holidays commence on the eve of the 
fourth day of the increase of the moon. If the Indian Rail- 
ways have benefited one class of the people more than 
another, it is these men who should be thankful for the boon. 
If the East Indian and Eastern Bengal Railway Companies* 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 133 

coaching receipts are properly examined for two days, viz,^ 
the fourth and fifth days of the new moon or the beginning 
of the Doorga Poojah holidays, they will certainly exhibit an 
incredibly large amount of receipts from third class carriages. 
Indeed it has been rather facetiously remarked by town's people 
that Calcutta becomes much lighter by reason of the exit 
of country people during the Doorga Poojah holidays, but 
then the return of the former to their home from the Moffussil 
should be also taken into the account. On a fair calculation, the 
outgoing number far exceeds the incoming proportion. It 
should also be observed that the list of purchases of the former 
embraces a greater variety of items than that of the latter. 
Their mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, not to speak of 
the male members of the family, being absent in the country- 
house, the want of each and every one must be supplied. 
Articles for domestic consumption in a Hindoo family are 
in the greatest requisition. Looking-glasses, combs, dltd^ sidoor 
or China vermillion, ghoomsi (string round the loins), scented 
drugs for ladies' hair, black powder for the teeth, soap, poma- 
tum, otto of rose, rose water, wax candles, sidoorchoobry 
(toilet box made of small shells), silk, thread, wool, carpets, 
spices of all sorts both for the betel and the kitchen, betel- 
nuts, cocoanut oil for ladies' hair, sugarcandy, almonds, raisins, 
Cabul pomegranates, Dacca, Santipore and English made dhoo- 
tieSy oorunees (sheets), sarees (lady's apparel), silk handker- 
chiefs, silk cloth, Benares embroidered cloth, satin and velvet 
caps, lace, hose, tinsel ornaments for the images, English 
shoes and sundries, constitute the catalogue of their purchases. 
This explains their going into the Bazar early and accounts 
for their extra expenditure on the score of luxuries and super- 
fluities of life, but the reader should bear in mind that such 
extravagance is indulged in only once a year. Generally es- 
teemed as these people are for their saving qualities, frugal, 
simple and abstemious habits, an annual departure from the es- 



134 THE nOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

tablished rule is not unjustifiable. The rich classes, as will 
be evident from what has been said, spend enormous sums in 
making their fashionable purchases on this occasion. 

From the foregoing details it is easy to infer that the 
Doorga Poojah anniversary presses heavily on the limited 
resources of a Hindoo family. A rich man experiences little 
dffficulty in meeting his expenses, but the middling and the 
humbler classes, who comprise nine-tenths of the population, 
are put to their wits' end to make both ends meet. They are 
sornetimes obliged to solicit the pecuniary aid of their rich 
friends to enable them to get over the Doorga difficulty. It 
is, perhaps, not generally known that during this popular 
festival, or rather before it, when all Bengal is in a state of 
social and religious ferment, when money must be had by 
fair means or foul, not a few unfortunate men, chiefly liber- 
tines and rakes, deliberately commit frauds by forging 
cheques, drafts, and notes, which eventually lead them into the 
greatest distress and disgrace. Besides the high price of 
clothes and of all descriptions of eatables, every family must 
have a month's provision to carry them through the period 
during which no money is forthcoming. 

I had almost forgotten to say anything about the annual 
gratuity which the Brahmins of Bengal obtain on the occasion 
of this festival. From time immemorial, when orthodox 
Hindooism was in the ascendant, the Brahmins not only ad- 
vanced their claims, as now, to all the offerings made to gods 
or goddesses, small or great, but established a rule that every 
Hindoo, whose circumstances would permit it, should give 
them individually, one, two, four, or five Rupees at the return 
of this festival. Every respectable Hindoo family, even now- 
a-days when heterodoxy is rampant in all the great centres 
of education, has to give ten, fifteen, twenty-five, or fifty 
Rupees to Brahmins. Rich families give much more. So 
very tenacious are the Brahmins of this privilege that even 



THE DOORGA POOJAH FESTIVAL. 135 

if they earn one hundred Rupees a month by employment 
they will not forego a single Rupee once a year on this occa- 
sion, seeing they claim it as a birthright. 

These men have studied human nature, but they have 
built their hopes of permanent gain on the baseless fabric 
of a hollow superstition, which is destined, through the pro- 
gress of improvement, inevitably to fall into decay. It is 
too late to retrieve the huge blunder of laying a false founda- 
tion for their gains. 




IX. 

THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

IN Bengal, next to the Doorga Poojah in point of im- 
portance stands the Kali Poojah, which invariably 
takes place on the last night of the decrease of the 
moon, in the month of Kartik (between October and Novem- 
ber). She is represented as standing on the breast of her hus- 
band, Shiva, with a tongue projecting to a great length. She 
has four arms, in one of which she holds a scimitar ; in another, 
the head of a gaint whom she has killed in a fight, the third hand 
is spread out for the purpose of bestowing blessing, while by 
the fourth, she welcomes the blessed. She also wears a neck- 
lace of skulls and has a girdle of hands of giants round her 
loins. To add to the terrific character of the goddess, she 
is represented as a very black female with her locks hanging 
down to her heels. The reason ascribed for her standing on 
the breast of her husband, is the following: In a combat 
with a formidable giant called Ruckta Beeja, she became so 
elated with joy at her victory that she began to dance in the 
battle-field so frantically that all the gods trembled and deli- 
berated what to do in order to restore peace to the earth, 
which, through her dancing was shaken to its foundation. 
After much consultation, it was decided that her husband 
should be asked to repair to the scene of action and persuade 
her to desist. Shiva, the husband, accordingly came down, 
but seeing the dreadful carnage and the infuriated counten- 
ance as well as the continued dancing of his wife, who could 
not in her frenzy recognise him, he threw himself among the 
dead bodies of the slain. The goddess was so transported 
with joy that in one of her dancing feats she chanced to 
step upon the breast of her husband, whereupon the body 



THE KALI P GO J AH FESTIVAL. 137 

moved. Struck with amazement she stood motionless for a 
while, and fixing her gaze at length discovered that she had 
trampled on her husband. The sight at once restored her 
feminine modesty, and she stood aghast feeling shocked at the 
unhappy accident. To express her shame, she put out her 
tongue and in that posture she is worshipped by her 
followers.* 

Her black features, the dark night in which she is wor- 
shipped, the bloody deeds with which her name is associated, 
the countless sacrifices relentlessly offered at her altar, the 
terrific form in which she is represented, the unfeminine and 
warlike posture in which she stands, and last but not least, the 
desperate character of some of her votaries, invest her name 
with a terror which is without a parallel in the mythological 
legends of the Hindoos. The authors of the Hindoo mytho- 
logy could not have invented in their fertile imagination a 
sanguinary character more singularly calculated to inspire 
terrorf and thereby extort the blind adoration of an ignorant 
populace. About seven hundred years ago, a devoted fol- 
lower of this goddess, named Agum Bagish, proclaimed 
that her worship should be performed in the following manner: 
The image is to be made, set up, worshipped and destroyed 
on the same night. It is a nishi or midnight Poojah on the 
darkest night of the month, so that not a single soul from 
outside could know it. He strictly observed this rule while 
he was alive, and it was said that Rajah Krishnu Chunder 
Roy of Kishnaghur followed his example for some time. 
Baboo Obhoy Churn Mitter of Calcutta and Bhobaney Churn 
Mookerjee of Jessore also tried to observe the rule prescribed 
above, but as it has been alleged the spirit of secret devotion 
forsook them after a little while. They reverted to the general 

* The Hindoos put out their tongues when they are shocked at anything. 

t " The image of Minerva, it will be recollected, was that of a threatening 
goddess, exciting terror. On her shields she bore the head of a gorgon. Sir 
William Jones considers Kali as the Proserpine of the Greeks." 



138 THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

custom of worshipping the goddess on the darkest night in 
Kartik, inviting friends and making pantomimic exhibitions. 

Though her Poojah lasts but one night, the sacrifices of 
goats, sheep and buffaloes are as numerous as those offered 
before the altar of Doorga. In former times, when idolatry- 
prevailed universally throughout Bengal and religious belief 
of the people therein was firm and unshaken, the splendour 
with which the worship of this goddess was performed was 
second only, as I have remarked, to that of the Doorga. 
Both goddesses, however, still continue to count their votaries 
by millions. " The reader may form some idea," says Mr. 
Ward, " how much idolatry prevailed at the time when the 
Hindoo monarchy flourished from the following circumstance* 
which belongs to a modern period, when the Hindoo author- 
ity in Hindoosthan was almost extinct. Rajah Krishnu 
Chunder Roy, and his two immediate successors, in the month 
of Kartick, annually gave orders to all the people over whom 
they had a nominal authority to keep the shynta festival, and 
threatened every offender with the severest penalties on non- 
compliance. In consequence of these orders, in more than ten 
thousand houses in one night, in the Zillah of Kishnaghur, the 
worship of this goddess was celebrated. The number of 
animals destroyed could not have been less than ten thousand." 
Kali, like Doorga, Siva, Vishnu and Krishna, is the guar- 
dian deity of many Hindoos, who daily offer their prayers 
to her both in the morning and evening. Several, who pos- 
sess great wealth and know not how to employ it better, de- 
dicate temples to her service and consecrate them with 
ample endowments. In the holy City of Benares, there still 
exists a Kali shrine where hundreds of beggars are daily fed 
at the expense of the founder, the late Rani Bhobaney of 
Nattore. Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, Raja Ram- 
krishna erected a temple at Burranagore, about six miles north 
of Calcutta, in honor of this goddess, and spent upwards of a 



THE, KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 139 

lakh of Rupees when it was first consecrated. He endowed 
it with a large revenue for its permanent support, so that any 
number of religious mendicants who might come there daily 
could be easily fed. In his prosperous days, this rich zemin- 
dar paid an annual revenue of fifty-two lakhs of Rupees to 
the East India Company. Unfortunately the family has 
since been reduced to a state of poverty, and the temple is 
a heap of ruins. The endowment, like most other endowments 
of this nature, disappeared soon after the death of the founder. 
The Rajah of Burdwan's endowment of this kind still en- 
dures, and promises to enjoy a longer lease of life. 

The name of Kali, be it observed, is more extensively 
used than either that of Doorga or Shiva. Whenever a 
Native Regiment is to march or set out on an expedition the 
stereotyped acclaim is, — ^^ Kali Maikey Jayl^ "victory to 
mother Kali." When the evening gun is fired in any of the 
military stations, the almost involuntary exclamation is> 
^^ Jay Kali Calcutta Wallee^ Nor is her worship less uni- 
versal than her fame. On the last night of the decrease of 
the moon in Kartik, every family in Bengal must worship her 
though in a somewhat different shape. Every family, rich 
or poor. Brahmin or Soodar, must celebrate the Lucki or 
Kali Poojah before the sacred Reck of dhdn or paddy, 
which in the estimation of a Hindoo is a valuable heritage.* 
Several incidents connected with this religious festival are 
worth recording. In the Upper and Central Provinces, as 
in the South of Hindoostan, it is called the Dewallee Fes- 
tival. Though the image is not set up, yet the Hindoo and 
Parsi inhabitants observe the holiday by opening their new 
year's account on that day. Illuminations, fireworks and all 
sorts of festivities mark the day. To try their luck for the 
next year, almost all Hindoo merchants and bankers indulge 

* A Reck is a small round basket, with which Natives measure rice, the 
staff of life in Bengal. Every family has its sacred Reck of paddy which is 
preserved with religious care and brought out on such special occasions. 



140 THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

in gambling that night, and large sums are sometimes at 
stake on the occasion. In Calcutta, where gambling is 
strictly prohibited, the law is shamefully violated on that 
dark night. This does not imply any reflection on the vigi- 
lance of the Police, because the game is carried on surrepti- 
tiously. The Parsi merchants who deal in wines and stores 
throw open their shops and treat their European customers 
free of cost on that particular day. Their brethren in Bengal 
are, however, not so liberal to their customers, simply because 
it is not their new year's day. In Calcutta and all over 
Bengal the night is remarkable for illumination,* fireworks, 
feasting, carousing and gambling. There is a time-honored 
custom among the people to light bundles of paycdttee or 
faggots that night. As is naturally to be expected the chil- 
dren take a great delight in such pastimes. At the close of 
the Poojah a servant of the house takes a Koolow or winnow- 
ing fan and a stick with which he beats and sings " Bad luck 
out " and " Good luck in."t 

Kali is also the guardian deity of thieves, robbers, thugs 
and such like desperate characters. Before starting on 
their diabolical work, they invoke her aid to protect them 
from detection and punishment. The supposed aid of the 
goddess arms them with courage and leads them to commit 
the most atrocious crimes. When successful they come and 

* A superstitious idea prevails among the Hindoos that unless they illu- 
minate their houses on this particular night, devils would come and take posses- 
sion of them. In the Upper and Central Provinces it is customary with the 
Hindoo inhabitants"not only to illuminate but whitewash their houses and deco- 
rate the doors and walls of shops with colored China paper so that every thing 
may look ''smart'' according to Native taste. In the Jubbulpore District I 
have seen the poorest laborer whitewash the mud walls of his tiled-hut with one 
farthing's worth of white earth called Stwmattee which is found in great abun- 
dance in that part of the country. 

t One Joy Ghose, a notorious buffoon, was once asked by his old mother 
to perform the above rite. Joy, instead of reciting the motto in the right way, 
purposely inverted it just to irritate the old lady, and repeated the first 
last and the last first. The joke was too much for the sensitive mother ; she 
wrung her breast, tore her hair, and refused to be consoled until the son repeated 
the song in proper order, i, e,, **bad luck out, good luck in." Trifling with 
Luckecy the goddess of prosperity, is the height of folly. It is punished with 
misery here and perdition hereafter. 



THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 141 

offer sacrifices of goats, spirituous liquors and other things, 
under an impression that the superintending power of the 
goddess has shielded them from all harm. But the un- 
bending rigor of the British law has almost entirely dissi- 
pated the delusion. Many an infamous dacoit in Bengal has 
confessed his guilt on the scaffold, lamenting that " Ma Kali'' 
had not protected him in the hour of need. The notorious 
" Rugho Dacoit" of Hooghly, whose very name terrified a way- 
ward child into sleep, made fearful disclosures as to the 
originating cause of his numerous crimes. Some forty years 
ago there lived in Calcutta a very respectable Hindoo gentle- 
man, by name Rajkissore Dutt, who was a very great devotee 
of this goddess. Every month, on the last night of the 
decrease of the moon, he, it was said, used to set up an 
image of this goddess, and adorned her person with gold 
and silver ornaments to the value of about one thousand 
Rupees which were afterwards given to the officiating priest. 
On the annual return of this grand Poojah in the month of 
Kartik, he used to give the goddess a gold tongue, and deco- 
rate her four arms with divers gold ornaments to the cost of 
about three thousand Rupees, and his other expenses amount- 
ed to another six or seven thousand. For a number of 
years he continued to celebrate the Poojah in the above 
magnificent style, his veneration becoming more intensified 
as his wealth increased. He established a Bank in Calcutta 
called the " India Bank," which circulated notes of its own to 
a considerable amount. A combination was formed among 
a few influential Natives, whose names I am ashamed to 
mention, and a well concocted system of fraud was organised. 
Through one, Dwarkey Nath Mitter, a son-in-law of 
Rajkissore, Company's Paper or Government Securities to the 
amount of about twenty Lakhs of Rupees were forged and 
passed off as genuine on the public. But as fraud succeeds 
for a short while only, the gigantic scheme was soon dis- 



142 THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

covered, and the delinquent was tried, convicted and sen- 
tenced to transportation for life to one of the Penal Settle- 
ments of the East India Company, where he lived for several 
years to rue the consequences of his iniquitous conduct. 
His eldest son told the writer that his father concealed in a 
wall of one of the rooms of his house Bank notes for 
upwards of a Lakh of Rupees. When the search of the 
Police was over he opened the part of the wall and to his utter 
disappointment found all the notes crumbled to pieces, and 
become a small bundle of rotten paper of no earthly use to 
any one. Thus was iniquity rightly punished. No wonder that 
the deep faith of Rajkissore in the goddess Kali did not avail 
him in the hour of danger. His flagitious career commenced 
by a blind dovotion to his guardian deity, culminated in a 
gigantic forgery, and closed with transportation and infamy. 
It is generally known that there exists a temple of this 
goddess in the suburbs of Calcutta, which has long been cele- 
brated for its sanctity. The place is called Kali Ghat, about 
four miles south of Government House. It is not exactly 
known when this temple was first built. The probable con" 
jecture is that some three hundred years ago a shrewd and 
far-seeing member of the sacerdotal class, observing the great 
veneration in which the goddess was held among the Hindoos 
of those days, erected a temple to the image and gave the place 
a name after her, the renown of which, as Calcutta grew in 
importance, gradually spread far and wide. To perpetuate 
the holy character of the shrine, and to consecrate it by 
traditional sanctity, the following story was given out, in the 
truth of which the generality of the orthodox Hindoos have a 
firm belief. In time out of mind, when the Suttee (Doorga) 
destroyed herself on the Trisool (three edged weapon), one of 
her fingers was said to have fallen on the spot on which the 
temple now stands and in whose recess the priests pretend it is 
still preserved. Hence the sacred character of the shrine, 



THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 143 

which still attracts thousands of devotees every year from all 
parts. In popular estimation from a religious point of view 
she does not yield much to the Juggernauth of Orissa, the 
Bisseshur of Benares, the Krishna of Brindabun, the Gyasoor 
of Gya, and the Mahadeb of Buddinauth. Fortunately for the 
site of th6 temple, which is in close proximity to the metropolis 
of British India, and until recently was in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the highest Appellate Court (Suddur 
Dewanny Adawlut) independently of its bordering on the 
Addigunga (the original sacred stream of Ganges), it has 
always drawn the wealthiest and poorest portions of the 
Hindoo community. Had the offerings in gold, silver and in 
kind fallen to the share of one priest, it is not too much to say 
that he would long before this have been as rich as the Juggut 
Sett (Banker of the world) of Moorshedabad, who was reputed 
to have been worth upwards of fifteen crores of Rupees. 

Wealthy Hindoos, when on a visit to Kali Ghat, 
expend from one to fifty thousand Rupees on the worship 
of this goddess, in the shape of valuable ornaments, silver 
plate, dishes &c., sweetmeats and food for a large number of 
Brahmins, and small presents to thousands of beggars, 
besides numerous sacrifices of goats, sheep and buffaloes, 
which make the space before the temple swim with blood. 
The flesh of goat, and sheep is freely used by the saktd class 
of Hindoos when offered to Kali and Doorga, but they 
would never use it without such an oblation. It is otherwise 
called brithd or unsanctified flesh, which is altogether quite 
unfit for the use of a religious Hindoo. But the progress 
of English education has made terrible inroads on the reli- 
gious practices of the people, at least of the rising genera- 
tion.* The following description of the Kali or Shyma 



* Young Bengal is no longer satisfied with Kali Ghat meat ; his taste 
being improved and his mind disabused, he must needs have kid and mutton 
from the new Municipal market, which is certainly superior in quality to that 
of Kali Ghat. 



144 THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

Poojah given by Mr. Ward will serve to convey to the 
reader some idea of the nature of the festival. 

" A few years ago," says he, " I went to the house of 
Kali Sunkur Ghose at Calcutta, at the time of the Shyma 
festival, to see the animals sacrificed to Kali. The 
buildings where the worship was performed were raised on 
four sides, with an area in the middle. The image was 
placed at the north end with the face to the south ; and the 
two side rooms, and one of the end rooms opposite the 
image, were filled with spectators : in the area were the 
animals devoted to sacrifice, and also the executioner, with 
Kali Sunkur, a few attendants, and about twenty persons 
to throw the animal down and hold it in the post, while the 
head was cut off. The goats were sacrificed first, then the 
buffaloes, and last of all, two or three rams. In order to 
secure the animals, ropes were fastened round their legs ; they 
were then thrown down, and the neck placed in a piece of 
wood fastened into the ground and open at the top like the 
space betwixt the prongs of a fork. After the animal's neck 
was fastened in the wood by a peg which passed over it> 
the men who held it pulled forcibly at the heels, while the 
executioner, with a broad heavy axe cut off the head at one 
blow ; the heads were carried in an elevated posture by an 
attendant, (dancing as he went) the blood running down him 
on all sides, into the presence of the goddess. Kali 
Sunkur, at the close, went up to the executioner, took him in 
his arms, and gave him several presents of cloth, &c. The 
heads and blood of the animals, as well as different meat 
offerings, are presented, with incantations, as a feast to the god- 
dess, after which clarified butter is burnt on a prepared altar of 
sand. Never did I see men so eagerly enter into the 
shedding of blood, nor do I think any butchers could 
slaughter animals more expertly. The place literally swam 
with blood. The bleating of the animals, the numbers slain, 



THE KALI POOJAH PESTIVAL 14S 

and the ferocity of the people employed, actually made me 
unwell, and I returned about midnight, filled with horror 
and indignation.'* In the foregoing account, Mr. Ward has 
omitted to say anything about the nocturnal revelry with which 
the festival is in most instances accompanied. I have witness- 
ed scenes on such occasions, which are too disgusting to be 
described. Not only the officiating priest and the spiritual 
guide, but all the members of the family and not a few of 
the guests partake of the spirituous liquors offered to the 
goddess, and in a state of intoxication sing Ramprasadi 
songs befitting the occasion. The festival closes with orgies 
such as are observed in the worship of Bacchus. There are, 
however, a few honorable exceptions to the rule, who, though 
they perform the worship of this goddess, yet altogether 
abstain from drinking. The goddess. Kali, is their guardian 
deity, they worship her daily, but are known never to touch 
a drop of wine. They attribute to her all the worldly 
prosperity they enjoy and look to her for everlasting blessed- 
ness. Such men have no faith in the common drunken 
motto, ^^ Bhatey ma Bhobaneyl' mother Bhobaney (another 
name of Kali) is in the cup." But the grand characteristic 
of this and similar festivals which are annually recurring 
is, as I have already mentioned, " the wine, the fruit and the 
lady fair." 

" Even bacchanalian madness has its charms." 
But to return to the priests of Kali Ghat. — As time 
rolled on, their descendants multiplied so rapidly that it soon 
became necessary to allot a few days only in the year to 
each of the families, and on grand occasions, which are not 
a few, the offertories are proportionately divided among the 
whole set of the sacerdotal class. Thus it has now become 
a case of what a Hindoo proverb so aptly expresses : " The 
flesh of a sparrow divided into a hundred parts," or infini- 
te simal quantities. 

T 



!46 THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

God has so constituted man that he can find little or no 
enjoyment in a state of inactivity. The proper employ- 
ment of time, therefore, is essentially necessary to the 
progressive development of our powers and faculties, the 
non exercise of which must needs induce idle and vicious 
habits. No bread is sweet unless it is earned by the sweat 
of our brow. The Haldars (priests) of Kali Ghaut having 
no healthy occupation in which to engage their minds, and 
depending for their sustenance on a means which requires 
neither physical nor mental labor, have inevitably been led 
to adopt the Epicurean mode of life, which says, " eat, drink 
and be merry." This habit is further confirmed by the 
peculiar nature of the religious principles which the worship 
of this goddess enjoins. Certain texts of the Tantra Shaster 
expressly inculcate that without drinking the mind is not 
properly prepared for religious exercise and contemplation. 
The pernicious effects of such a monstrous doctrine are suffi- 
ciently obvious. It has been said that not only the men but 
the women also are in the habit of drinking. As a necessary 
consequence the vicious practice has not only enervated their 
minds but made their " wealth small and their want great." Dis- 
putes often arise between the worshippers and the priests of the 
temple respecting the offerings and the proper division of 
the same, the latter often claiming the lion's share which the 
former are unwilling to submit to. Gross lies are sometimes 
told in the presence of the goddess in order to secure to the major 
portion of the offerings in the interests of the worshippers — 
an expedient which the notorious rapacity of the officiating 
Brahmins imperatively demands. Surrounded by an atmos- 
phere densely impregnated with the miasm of a false reli- 
gion and a corrupt morality, the ennobling thought of a true 
God and the moral accountability of man never enters their 
minds. The chief end and aim of their life is to impose on 
the credulity of their blind votaries, and thereby pander to 



THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 147 

their unhallowed desires and selfish gratification. Nor can 
they rise to a higher and purer sphere of life because from 
their childhood they are nurtured in the cradle of error, 
ignorance, indolence and profligacy. Who can contemplate 
the effects of their impure orgies on the eighth, ninth, four- 
teenth and fifteen nights of the increase and decrease of the 
moon without being reminded of the saturnalia of the Greeks?* 
If a sober-minded man were to visit the holy shrine of Kali 
Ghat on one of these nights, he would doubtless be shocked at 
the unrestrained debauchery that runs riot in the name of 
religion. The temple, no less than the private domicile of the 
priests, presents an uninterrupted scene of bacchanalian revel- 
ry, which is unspeakably abominable. Men deprived of a 
sense of shame, and women of decency and morality, mingle 
in the revels, and the result is that all the cherished 
notions of the better part of humanity are at once put to 
flight. It is painful, to reflect that notwithstandings the pro- 
gress of enlightenment in the great centre of Indian civili- 
zation, people still cling to the adoration of a blood-thirsty 
goddess, and to the support of a depraved class of priests. 
The sacrifices of goats that are daily offered before the altar 
of Kali being too numerous for local consumption, are sold to 
outside customers much in the same manner as fruits and 
vegetables are brought from the neighbouring villages into 



* The writer in his younger days remembers to have been once taken up on 
a Kali Poojah night by a gang of infamous drunkards in the very heart of Cal- 
cutta. When he was returning home about midnight in company with some of 
his friends after seeing the tdntdshd^ he being the youngest of the lot had neces- 
sarily lagged behind, when to his utter dismay he was suddenly laid hold of by a 
man who smelt strongly of liquor and carried him hurriedly into an empty house 
on the roadside. The first shout at the very threshold was, — ** here we have got 
a moorV\ i, e. a victim ; the ruffians, who had their faces covered with clothes, 
jumped up at the announcement, and one of them accosted him in the following 
manner — "what money and pice have you got? The writer replied a few an his 
pice only. No Rupees ? asked another; whereupon they all fell to searching his 
person and stripped him of all his clothes, which consisted of a dhooty^ a chddur 
and z.jamd^ and finally bade him go. As a matter of course he was obliged 
to return home almost in a state of nudity, one of his friends lending him a chddur 
on the occasion. In these days the introduction of gas light and the posting of 
constables on the highway have greatly checked such ruffianism. 



148 THE KALI POOJAH FESTl VAL. 

the market. On Saturday the sale is larger than on the other 
week days, because that night is specially dedicated to the 
worship of Bacchus, Sunday affording a respite from work. 
But the sale of Kali Ghat goat meat has of late been much 
interfered with by the establishment of rival shrines in 
several parts of Calcutta, where a pound is to be had for 
three annas. The owners (mostly prostitutes and drunkards) 
of these pseudo-goddesses, vulgarly called Kashdye or butcher 
Kali, sacrifice one or two goats every morning without any 
ceremony, except on Saturday when the number is doubled 
to meet increased requirements. Thus a regular and profi- 
table butcher's trade is openly carried on in the name of the 
goddess, and the generality of the Sakta Hindoos feel no 
religious scruples in using the meat which is thus sanctified. 
The comparative ease with which flesh is now obtained in 
Calcutta has tended, in no small degree, to encourage habits 
of drinking among a proverbially abstemious race of men ; 
it being the popular impression that meat neutralises the 
effects of spirituous liquors* 

Many images of Kali which have from time to time been 
set up in and about Calcutta, ostensibly for religious but prac- 
tically for secular purposes, in imitation of the unrivalled pro- 
totype at Kali Ghat, have acquired unenviable celebrity, and 
been made subservient as a source of income to the owner 
and the officiating priests, who fatten on the offerings made to 
the goddess in the shape of money and provisions. Thus, for 
instance, the Sidhassurry or Kali of Nimtollah obtains a few 

* This idea is strengthened by the opinion of Native medical students, many 
of whom, it is a matter of regret, are not great advocates of temperance. Natives 
use liquor not for health but solely for intoxicating purposes. A very successful 
Native Practitioner to whom not only the writer but many of his respectable 
friends are under great obligation, not long ago fell a victim to the besetting 
vice of intemperance, and confessed his guilt like a penitent sinner in his dy- 
ing moments. His reputation was so great at one time that it was said '* patients 
felt half cured when he entered the room." In the beginning of his brilliant 
career, he was one of the most staunch advocates of temperance. How frail 
is human nature ! 



THE KALI POOJAfJ FESTIVAL. 149 

Rupees daily from such Hindoos as are carried to the river- 
side to breathe their last, independently of the small presents 
made at all hours of the day, especially in the mornings and 
evenings, when the crowd assembles. It is amusing to ob- 
serve the complaisance with which a Brahmin gives a conse- 
crated Billaputtra or flower to a devotee in return for a Rupee 
or so. A shrewd Brahmin, like the ancient Roman soothsayer, 
laughs in his sleeves at such stupidity. 

A Sanskrit proverb says that a meritorious work 
endures. It keeps alive the name of the founder, and 
this vanity furnishes the strongest stimulus to the endow- 
ment of works of a religious character, and of public 
utility. It is, however, a painful fact that the nature and 
character of such endowments is, in most cases, lamentably 
wanting in the element of stability. Two or three gener- 
ations after the death of the founder, the substance of the estate 
being impaired, the family is reduced to a state of poverty, the 
surviving members, often a set of demoralised idlers, depend 
for their support on the usufruct of the DeybatrUy originally 
set apart for exclusively religious purposes, and placed 
beyond the reach of law. In these days the offshoots of 
many families are absolutely dependent on this sacred fund 
for their subsistence, and the consequence naturally is that 
the endowment is frittered away and the work itself inevi- 
tably falls into decay. Thus in process of time both the 
fund and the founder's name pass into utter oblivion.* 

The following account given by Mr. Ward about the death 
of a devotee of this goddess will not be uninteresting. "In 
the year 1809, Trigonu Goswamee, a vyuktavudhootu, died 
at Kali Ghat in the following manner: Three days before 
his death; he dug a grave near his hut, in a place surrounded 
by three vilwti trees which he himself had planted. In the 
evening he placed a lamp in the grave, in which an offering 

* For an account of the Bamacharee Sect, see note D. 



ISO THE KALI POOJAH FESTIVAL. 

of flesh, greens, rice, &c., to the shakals was made, repeating it 
the next evening. The following day he obtained from a rich 
native ten rupees worth of spirituous liquors, and invited a 
number of mendicants, who sat drinking with him till twelve 
at noon, when he asked among the spectators at what hour it 
would be full moon ; being informed, he went and sat in his 
grave, and continued drinking liquors. Just before the time 
for the full moon, he turned his head towards the temple of 
Kali, and informed the spectators that he had come to 
Kali Ghat with the hope of seeing the goddess, not the 
image in the temple. He had been frequently urged by 
different persons to visit the temple, but though he had not 
assigned a reason for his omission, he now asked what he 
was to go and see there : a temple ? He could see that from 
where he was. A piece, of stone made into a face, or the 
silver hands? He could see stones and silver any where 
else. He wished to see the goddess herself, but he had 
not, in this body, obtained the sight. However, he had 
still a mouth and a tongue, and he would again call upon 
her ; he then called out aloud twice, " Kali ? Kali ?" and 
almost immediately died ; — probably from excessive intoxi- 
cation. The spectators, though Hindoos (who in general 
despise a drunkard), considered this man as a great saint, 
who had foreseen his own death, when in health. He had 
not less than four hundred disciples." 

The various causes which have hitherto conspired to 
impart a sanctity to this famous temple are gradually waning 
in their influence, but it will be a very long time before the 
minds of the mass of the people are completely purified in 
the crucible of true Religion, before which superstition and 
priestcraft must vanish into air. 




X. 

THE SARASWATI POOJAH. 

|ARASWATI is the Hindoo goddess of learning. She 
is represented as seated in a water lily and playing 
on a lute. Throughout Bengal her worship is cele- 
brated with more or less pomp on the fifth day of the increase 
of the moon, in the Bengali month of Magha or Falgoon 
(February). As the popular Shastras reckon the commence- 
ment of spring from this date, the people, especially the 
young and gay of both sexes, put on basantee or yellow 
garments, and indulge in all sorts of low merriment, manifest- 
ing a depraved and vitiated taste. 

Every Hindoo, young or old, who is able to read and write, 
observes this ceremony with apparent solemnity, abstaining 
from the use of fish on that day as a mark of reverence to 
the goddess. The worship is performed either before an 
image of the goddess, or before a pen, ink-bottle and pooti 
(manuscript), which are symbolically regarded as an appro- 
priate substitute for the image. The officiating priest, after 
reading the prescribed formula, and presenting rice, fruits, 
sweetmeats, flowers, &c., directs the votaries of the goddess 
to stand up with flowers in their hands and repeat the 
usual service, beseeching her to bestow on them the bless- 
ings of learning, health, wealth, good luck, longevity, fame, 
&c. Apart from its idolatrous feature, it is a rather strange 
sight to see a number of youths, after going through the 
process of ablution and changing their clothes, stand up 
before the goddess in a body, and in a devotional spirit ad- 
dress her in prayer for the blessings above enumerated. Even 
apart from its superstitious character, it is decidedly objection- 
able on the score of its purely secular tendency, as it 



iS2 THE SARASWATI POOJAtt, 

makes no allusion whatever to the primary object of all pray 
er, vi::,^ the atonement and pardon of sin and the salvation 
of the soul — an element in which the religious ceremonies of 
the Hindoos are singularly deficient. 

** Life is real, life is earnest, 

And the grave is not its goal ; 
*Dust thou art, to dust returnest,' 

Was not spoken of the soul." 

It was reported of Sir William Jones that when he 
studied Sanscrit, he used to place on the table a metal image 
of this goddess, evidently to please his Pundit. Let it not 
be inferred from this that he advocated the continuance of 
idolatry ; far from it, but even in appearance to acquiesce in 
homage to an idol made of clay and straw is to withhold from 
the Most High the reverence, gratitude and obedience due 
to Him alone. The early formation of a prayerful habit 
divested of any idolatrous feature will always exercise a 
healthy religious influence on the mind in maturer years. 

In every cluxtoospati or school, the Brahmin Pundit and 
his pupils worship this goddess with religious strictness. 
The Pundit setting up an image, invites all his patrons, neigh- 
bouring friends and acquaintances on this occasion. Every 
one who attends must make a present of one or a half Rupee 
to the goddess, and returns home with the hollow benedic- 
tion of the Brahmin. To so miserable a strait have the learn- 
ed Pundits been reduced of late years, that they anxiously 
look forward to the anniversary of this festival as a small 
harvest of gain to them, as the authoritative ministers of 
the goddess. They make from fifty to one hundred Rupees 
a year by the celebration of this Poojah, which keeps them 
for six months ; should any of their friends fail to make 
the usual present to the goddess, they are sure to come and 
demand it as a right.* 

* A gift once made to a Brahmin must be continued from year to year 
till the donor dies ; in some cases it is tenable from one generation to another. 



THE SARASWA TI POOJAH. 153 

Females are not allowed to take a part in the worship of 
this goddess, simply because the great lawgiver of the coun- 
try has denied them this privilege. They, however, now-a- 
days read and write in spite of the traditional prohibition* 
but are religiously forbidden to say their prayer before the 
goddess, though she is herself an embodiment of their sex. 
It is quite obvious that feelings of lamentable debasement 
arise in their hearts at the annual recurrence of this festival, 
strongly reminding them of the unhealthy, unnatural or- 
dinance of their great lawgiver. 

The day following the Poojah, the women are not per- 
mitted to eat any fresk prepared article of food, but must be 
satisfied with stale, cold things, such as boiled rice and boiled 
pease with a few vegetables, totally abstaining from fish, 
which they cannot do without on any other day. Taking place 
on the sixth day of the increase of the moon, this part of the 
festival is called Situl Shasthi as enjoining the use of cold food. 

As a mark of homage to the goddess, the Hindoos do 
not read or write on that day. Hence the day is observed 
as a holiday in public and mercantile offices where the 
clerks are mostly Hindoos. Should any necessity arise they 
write in red ink, as all the inkstands in the household are 
washed out and placed before the goddess for annual conse- 
cration. They are, however, not prevented from attending 
to secular business on this occasion. Unlike the sanguinary 
character of the Poojahs of Doorga and Kali, no bloody sacri- 
fices are offered to this gentle goddess, but as regards rude 
merriment, the one in question does not form an exception 
to the others. Revelry and unbecoming mirth are the grand 
characteristics of this as indeed of almost every other Hindoo 
festival. It is sickening to reflect how indecency and im- 
morality are thus unblushingly countenanced under the sacred 
name of religion. 

U 



1 54 THE SARA S WA TI POO J AH. 

Loose women celebrate this festival, and keep up dan- 
cing and singing all night in a bestial state of intoxica- 
tion to the utter disgust of all sober-minded men. The 
Moharajah of Burdwan used to expend large suras of money 
on this occasion, engaging the best dancing girls of the metro- 
polis and illuminating and ornamenting his palace in a 
splendid style, besides giving entertainment to his English 
and Native friends. Vast multitudes of people from Calcutta 
still resort to his palace and admire the profuse festoons of 
flowers and the yellow appearance of everything, indicative 
of the advent of spring, — a season which, according to popu- 
lar notion, invites the mind to indulge in licentious mirth. 
It is needless to enumerate farther the many obscenities prac- 
tised in songs and actions on this occasion. 



t, .li. , en 




XL 

THE FESTIVAL OF CAKES. 

|N the annual commemoration of this popular festival 
in Bengal, which is analogous to the English 
" Harvest home," the people in general, and the 
agricultural classes in particular, manifest a gleeful appearance, 
indicative of national demonstrations of joy and mirth. It 
takes place in the Bengalee month of Pous or January, fol- 
lowing immediately in the wake of the English Christmas and 
New year's day. With the exception of the upper ten thou- 
sand, almost all men, women and children alike participate 
in the festivities of the season, and for three succeeding days 
are occupied in rural pastimes and gastronomical enjoyment. 
"The popular cry on this occasion, is — ^^ Awoynee^ Bownee^ teen 
deeUy pittaeyy bhat^ khawneel^ " the Pous or Makar Sankranti is 
come, let three days be passed in eating cakes and rice," 
accompanied by a supplementary invocation to the goddess 
of Prosperity (Lukshmee) that she may aflTord her votaries 
ample stores so that they may never know want. As the 
outward manifestation of this internal wish, they tie all their 
chests, boxes, beddings, the earthen cooking pots in the 
kitchen, as well as those in the store-house containing their 
food grains, and in fact every movable article in the house, 
with shreds of straw that they may always remain intact. The 
origin of this festival is involved in obscurity, but tradition 
says that it sprung from the general desire of the people 
engaged in agricultural pursuits to celebrate the last day of 
PouSy and two succeeding days, in eating what they most 
relish, cakes of all sorts, to their hearts' content, after having 
harvested and gathered their corn and other food grains, 



156 THE FESTIVAL OF CAKES. 

which form the main staff of their life. Whatever may have 
been the origin of this festival, it is evident that it does not 
owe its existence, like most other Hindoo festivals, to priest- 
craft. The idea is good and the tendency excellent. After 
harvesting and gathering the fruits of their labour, on which 
depend not only their individual subsistence throughout the 
year, but the general prosperity of the country by the deve- 
lopment of its resources, the husbandmen are well entitled to 
lay aside, for a short while, the ploughshare, and taking 
three days rest, spend them in rural amusements and 
festivities amid their domestic circle. All this tends, in no 
small degree, to awaken and revive dormant feelings of love 
and friendliness by mutual exchange of invitations as well as 
of good fellowship. Their incessant toil in the field during 
the seven previous months, their intense anxiety on the score 
of weather, carefully noting, though not with the scientific 
precision of the meteorological reporter, deficient and plen- 
teous rainfall, and apprehending the destructive October gale, 
when the ears of corn are almost fully developed, their con- 
stant watchfulness for the prevention of theft and the destruc- 
tion of the crops by cattle, their unceasing weeding out of 
troublesome and useless plants and cassay grass, sometimes 
wading in marshy swamp or mire knee deep, and their inces- 
sant anxiety for the due payment of rent to the zemindar, or 
perhaps of interest to the relentless money lender, are sources 
of uneasiness that do not allow them a moment's peace of 
mind. Should they, by way of relaxation, cease to work for 
three days in the year, they are not to be blamed for laziness 
or supineness. The question of a good harvest is of such 
immense importance to an agricultural country like India, 
that when the god, Ram Chunder, the model king, visited his 
subjects in Oude, the first thing he asked them was about the 
state of the crops, and when the enquiry was favorably 
answered, his mind was set at rest, and he cheerfully unfolded 



THE FESTIVAL OF CAKES. 157 

to them the scheme of his future Government * Physically 
and practically considered, temporary cessation from labor 
is indispensable to recruit the energy of the exhausted frame 
of body, and promote the normal vigor of mind. So in 
whatever light this national jubilee is regarded, socially, 
rnorally or scientifically, it is productive of beneficial results, 
ultimately contributing to the augmentation of the material 
prosperity of the land. 

Some of my countrymen of a fastidious taste look upon 
this festival as a puerile and foolish entertainment, because it 
possesses no dignified feature to commend it to their atten- 
tion, but they should consider that it is free from the idola- 
trous abominations and rank obscenity by which most of 
the Hindoo festivals are charaterised, independently of its 
having a tendency to promote the innocent mirth and gene- 
ral hilarity of the masses, whose contentment is the best test 
of a good government and of a generous landed aristocracy. 

So popular is this festival amongst the people that the 
Mussulmans have a common saying to the effect, that their 
Eedf Bakrid and Skub-i-Barat — three of their greatest 
national festivals — are no match for the Hindoo Pous Sakrad. 

Our children and women in the city, whose minds 
are so largely tinctured with an instinctive regard for 
all festivities, share in the general excitement. On 
this occasion, exchanges of presents of sweetmeats, 
cloths, jaggery, ghee, flour, oranges, cereals, cocoanuts, 
balls of concentrated milk, vegetables, spices, sugar, al- 
monds, raisins, etc, are made between relatives in order 

* Indeed, it has become a byword among the Natives in general that the 
compound word, ** Ram-Eajya^'''' or the empire of Ram is synonymous with a 
happy dynasty. There existed peace, union and harmony among the people 
in the infancy of society. Almost every family had its assigned plot of land 
which they cultivated, and the fruits of which they enjoyed without the incubus 
of a rack-renting system, because the virgin soil always afforded an abundant 
harvest. The wants of the people were few and those were easily supplied. 
In fact there was a complete identity ofinterests between the rulers and the ruled. 
The result was universal contentment and happiness. But unhappily the present 
advanced stage of social organisation has considerably impaired the relation. 



n 



158 THE FESTIVAL OF CAKES. 

that they may be enabled to solemnise the cake festival 
with the greatest Mat In respectable families, the women 
cheerfully take the trouble of making these preparations, 
instead of trusting them to their female cooks, because 
male cooks are no adepts in the art. So nicely are these 
cakes made and in such variety, that the late Mr. Cock- 
erell, a highly respected merchant of this City, used every 
year to get an assortment from his Baboo and invite his 
friends to partake of them ; and notwithstanding the pro- 
verbial differences of taste, there are few who would not 
relish them. 

The boys in the many pdtshdlds or primary schools 
around Calcutta, annually keep up this festival in a splendid 
style. The more advanced form themselves into a band 
of songsters, and, attended by bands of musicians with all 
the usual accompaniments of flags, staves, etc., proceed in 
procession from their respective schools to the bank of the 
river Bhagiruttee, singing rhythmically in a chorus all the 
way in praise of the holy stream, and of her powers of salva- 
tion in the present Kali Yuga^ or iron age. When they reach 
their destination they pour forth their songs most vociferously. 
They afterwards perform the usual ablutions and return home 
in the same manner as they set out from the PdtshdlA, regard 
ing the performance as an act of great merit. 




XII. 

THE HOLI FESTIVAL. 

HE annual return of this festival in honor of the god 
Krishna, excites the religious feelings and superstitious 
'frenzy of the Hindoos not only in Bengal but also in 
Orissa, Bombay, and in the Upper Provinces of India. From 
time immemorial, it has continued to exercise a very great 
influence over the minds of the people at large, so much so that 
what the Holi festival is in the Upper Provinces, the Doorga 
Poojah is in the Lower Provinces of Bengal, being by far 
the most popular and demonstrative in all their leading fea- 
tures. Though originally and essentially a Hindoo festival 
of a religious character, dedicated to the worship of a Hindoo 
god, it has subsequently assumed a jubilant phase, drawing 
the followers of a different creed to its ranks; hence not a few 
Mussulmans in Upper India observe it in a secular sense,, 
quite distinct from its religious aspect or requirements. 

In Bengal it is called Dole Jattra^ or the rocking of the 
image of Krishna on its throne* It occurs on the day of the 
full moon in the Bengallee month of Falgoon or March, at 
the vernal equinox, — a season of the year when all the ap- 
petites, passions and desires of the people are supposed ta 
be more or less inflamed, and they naturally seek outlets of 
gratification. In the Upper Provinces it is known by the 
name of Holi^ or festival of scattering fhag or red powder 
among friends and others. On the previous night the 
people both here and in the Upper Provinces bur» 
amidst music the effigy of an uncouth straw image of a 
giant named Maydhasoor, who caused great disturbance among 
the gods and goddesses in their hours of meditation and pray- 



i6o THE HOLI FESTIVAL. 

er. To put a stop to this unholy molestation the god 
Narayan or Krishna destroyed the giant by means of his 
matchless valor and skill, and thus restored peace in heaven 
as well as on earth. To commemorate this glorious achieve- 
ment, the image of the above giant is annually burnt on the 
night previous to the Holi festival. 

The religious part of the ceremony, irrespective of its 
idolatrous element, is performed in accordance with the ori- 
ginal rules of the Hindoo ritual, which are free from all kinds 
of abominations. But the great body of the people, lacking 
the vital principle of a pure and true faith and following the 
impulse of unrestrained appetites, have gradually sunk into 
the depths of corruption, — the outcome of impure imagi- 
nations and of a vitiated taste. In Bengal, the observance 
of this festival is not characterised by anything that is vio- 
lently opposed to the social amenities of life. Notwithstand- 
ing the many-featured phases and multitudinous requirements 
of the Hindoo creed, the peculiarities of this festival are main- 
ly confined to the worship of the household image, and the 
entertainment of the Brahmins and friends. Daubing the 
bodies of the guests with red powder in an either dry or liquid 
state, and singing songs descriptive of the sports of Krishna 
with the milk-maids in the groves of Brindabun, form the 
constituent elements of the festival in Bengal. Offerings of 
rice, fruits and sweetmeats are made to the god, and its body is 
also smeared with red powder by the officiating priest, so as to 
render it one with that of its followers. At the close of the cere- 
mony, the rite of purification is performed, which restores the 
image — either a piece of stone or metal — to its normal purity. 

It is a noteworthy fact that in this festival, no new 
image made of clay and straw is either set up or thrown 
into the sacred stream, as is invariably the case with the other 
Hindoo gods and goddesses generally worshipped by the 
people of Bengal. Krishna, in whose honor this festival is 



THE HOLI festival: i6i 

celebrated, has many forms, one of which generally consti- 
tutes the household deity that is worshipped every morning 
and evening by the hereditary priest with all the solemnity 
of a religious service. A Hindoo who keeps an image of 
this god is esteemed more in a religious point of view than 
one who is without it. In the popular estimation he escapes 
many censures to which a godless Hindoo is often exposed. 
Nor is this at all singular. An orthodox Hindoo who offers! 
up his daily prayer to his tutelar deity is at least more con- 
sistent in his principles, which, as Confucius very justly says, 
means Heaven, than one who is tossed about by a wavering 
faith in the indistinguishable whirl of life. 

The festival of Dole Jattra or Holi in Bengal, commenc- 
ing on the day of the full moon, varies, however, in its 
observance as to the day on which it is to be held. Some 
celebrate it on the first, some on the second, and some again 
on the third, fifth, seventh, ninth day of the dark phase of the 
moon. Generally Vaishnaws, or the followers of Krishna, 
observe it, though in some cases, the Saktos, — ^the followers 
of Doorga and Kalli — also celebrate it. No bloody sacri- 
fices are offered on the occasion. Apart from the religious 
merit attributed to the ceremonial, it is comparatively a 
tame and undemonstrative affair in the Lower Provinces of 
Bengal when compared with the sensational excitement with 
which it is celebrated in the Upper Provinces. In Orissa 
too, it is kept up with great eclat before the shrine of Juggur- 
nauth and its environs. Thousands and tens of thousands 
of pilgrims from a great distance congregate there on this? 
occasion and offer their oblations to the " stumped" lord of 
the world. When the inhabitants of Bengal talk of their 
most popular festivals, they pronounce almost involuntarily 
the Dole and Doorgutsuby but the latter has long since com- 
pletely eclipsed the former. Morally, socially and intellec- 
tually the enlightened Bengallees are assuredly the Athenians 

w 



1 62 THE HOLI FESTIVAL. 

of Hindoostan. Their growing intelligence and refined 
taste, — ^the outcome of English education — have imbued 
them with a healthier ideal of moral excellence than any 
other section of the Indian population throughout the length 
and breadth of the land (the Parsis of Bombay excepted). 
It is owing to the influence of this superior moral sense 
that they do not abandon themselves to the general corruption 
of manners obtaining in Upper India during the Holi 
festival 

" Fools make a mock at sin*' is a scriptural proverb which 
is especially applicable to the inhabitants of the Upper Pro- 
vinces on the annual return of this festival. Unlike their 
brethren in Bengal they pay greater attention to the secular 
than to the religious part of the ceremony. A few days 
before the Holiy as if to enkindle the flame of a national 
demonstration of a sensational character, they return to the 
low, obscene old ballads which constitute a notable feature 
of the ceremonial. Week after week, day after day, and hour 
after hour, they pour them out almost as spontaneously as a 
bird, because they have a perverse propensity for the indul- 
gence of impure thoughts, and rude, profane mirth, which is an 
outrage on common decency and a scandal to a rational being. 
Notwithstanding the vigilance of the Police and the stringency 
of the Penal Code, these ragamuffins stroll along the public 
streets in bands, dance antics and sing obscene songs with 
impunity, simply because the major portion of the Native 
constables come from the same lower strata of society. Of 
course before a European they dare not commit the same 
nuisance. Should a luckless female, even old and infirm, chance 
to come in their way, they unblushingly assail her with a 
volley of scurrilous and insulting epithets much too gross 
to be tolerated by a rational being having the smallest 
modicum of decorum about him. To give a specimen of 
the songs, vulgar as they unquestionably are, would be 



THE HOLI FESTIVAL 163 

an act of unpardonable profanation. Even in the Burra 
Bazar of Calcutta, where the Up-country Hindoos mostly 
reside, excesses and enormities are committed, even in the 
full blaze of day, which alike belie reason and conscience, 
and ignore the divine part of humanity. Mirth, music 
and melody do not form the programme of their amuse- 
ment, but a feverish excitement, originating in lust 
and leading to criminal excesses, is the characteristic of the 
scene. If a sober-minded man were permitted to examine the 
Cash Book of a country liquor shop, he would most assuredly 
be struck with the enormous receipts of the shopkeeper 
during the festive days on this occasion. Bacchanalianism 
in all its most detestable forms reigns rampant in almost 
every home and purlieu throughout the Upper Provinces. 
Every brothel, every toddykhannah, every grog shop, is crowd- 
ed with customers from early morning to dewy evening and 
later on. An almost incessant volume of polluted and pollut- 
ing outcries rises to the skies from these dens of sin, snrirch- 
ing and vulgarising the brilliant ideals of a holy festival. 
The endless chanting of obscene songs, the discordant notes 
of the inebriated songsters almost tearing their throats in 
excessive vociferations, the harsh din of music, their frightful 
gesticulations and contortions of the body, their frantic 
dance, their dithyrambic fanaticism in which every sense of 
decorum is lost, their horrid looks rendered tenfold more 
horrid by reason of their smearing their bodies with red 
powder, the pestiferous atmosphere by which they are encom- 
passed, and their reeling posture and bestial intoxication, all 
conspire to make them " mock at sin."* Nor is this to be 
wondered at. The lives and examples of the Hindoo gods 

* When the late Mr. ThomascJn, the 'Lieutenant-Governor of the North- 
Western Provinces, visited Benares, the far famed city of holy shrines and holy 
bulls, during this festival, he exclaimed in pious indignation, "what disgusting 
scenes are enacted and frightful crimes perpetrated in the name of religion by 
rational beings capable of purer and sublimer enjoyments. Surely the shameless 
ragamuffins are the fit subjects of a bedlam/' 



i64 THE HOLI FESTIVAL. 

have, in a great measure, moulded the character of their 
followers: "Shiva is represented as declaring to Luckhee 
that he would part with the merit of his works for the grati- 
fication of a criminal passion ; Brahma as burning with lust 
towards his own daughter; Krishna as living with the wife of 
another, murdering a washerman and stealing his clothes, and 
sending his friend Yoodhisthira to the regions of torment by 
causing him to utter a falsehood ; Indra and Chundra are 
seen as the paramours of the wives of their spiritual guides." 
It is much to be lamented that the authors of the Hindoo 
mythology have unscrupulously held up the revels of their 
gods to the imitation of their followers. 

It is but just to observe that the more respectable classes 
are restrained by a sense of honor from participating with the 
populace in the vicious pleasures of undisciplined passions. 
But their implied approval of such sensual gratifications 
tends, in no small degree, to fan the flame of superstitious 
frenzy. If they do not expose themselves in the highway, 
they betray their concupiscence within the confines of their 
own dwellings. They substitute opium and bhang (hemp) 
for spirituous liquors, and among the females of the iiouse, 
some aunt or other is the butt of their rude, unseemly satire. 
Their lusts and want of inward discipline, stimulated by a 
false religion as well as by the demoralized rules of an abnor- 
mal conventionalism, have deadened, as it were, their finer 
sensibilities, and generations must pass away before they are 
enabled rightly to appreciate their social relations and their 
moral and religious duties. 



% ■ — m ■■ I. . .» 




XIII. 

CASTE. 

he distinction of caste is woven into the very tex- 
ture of Hindoo society. In whatever h'ght it 
is considered, religiously, morally, or socially, it 
must be admitted that this abnormal system is calculated 
to perpetuate the ignorance and degradation of the 
race among which it prevails. It is useless to enquire 
when and by whom it was founded. The Hindoo 
Shastras do not agree as to this point, but it is obvious 
to conclude that it must have originated in a dark age when 
a proud and selfish priesthood, in the exercise of its sacer- 
dotal functions, imposed on the people this galling yoke of 
religious and social servitude. Even the rulers of the land 
were not exempt from its baneful influence. They were as 
much subject to the prescribed rules of their order as the 
common people. Calculating on the implicit and unques- 
tioning obedience of men to their authoritative injunctions, 
a scheming hierarchy established a universal system, the 
demoralizing effects of which are perhaps without a parallel 
in the annals of human society. The capacity and culture 
of man's intellect was shamefully under-estimated when it 
was expected that such an artificial order, so preposterously 
unsuited to the interests of humanity and to the advancement 
of civilization, should for ever continue to influence the life 
and destiny of unborn generations. 

"The distinctions of rank in Europe" says Mr. Ward, "are 
founded upon civic merit or learning, and answer very im- 
portant ends in the social union ; but this system commences 
with an act of the most consummate injustice that was ever 
perpetrated ; binds in chains of adamant nine-tenths of the 



1 66 CASTE. 

people, debars them for ever from all access to a higher state, 
whatever their merits may be ; puts a lock upon the whole 
intellect of three of the four orders, and branding their very- 
birth with infamy, and rivetting their chains for ever, says 
to millions and millions of mankind, — * you proceeded from 
the feet of Brahma, you were created for servitude/ " 

History furnishes no parallel to such an audacious declar- 
ation, made in utter defiance of the fundamental principles 
of humanity. The onward march of intellect can never be 
checked, even when fenced in by the strongest of artificial 
barriers. Still will that " grey spirit " rise and chase away the 
errors which age has accumulated and superstition cherished. 

** That grey spirit yearning in desire 

To follow knowledge, like a sinking star, 
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought." 

The distinction of caste, it is obvious, was originally insti- 
tuted to secure to the hierarchy all the superior advantages 
of a privileged class, and to condemn all other orders to follow 
menial occupations such as the trades of the country could 
furnish. They kept the key of knowledge in their own hands, 
and thus exercised a domineering influence over the mass of 
the people, imagining that their exclusive privileges should 
have endless duration. This power in their hands was 
•* either a treasury chest or a rod of iron." The mind recoils 
from contemplating what would have been the state of the 
country, the extent of her hopelessness and helplessness, if 
the light of European knowledge had not dawned and pene- 
trated the Hindoo mind, and thereby introduced a healthier 
state of things. Eighty years back this system was at the 
zenith of its splendour; men clung to it with all the tenacity 
of a natural institution, and proscribed those who ventured to 
break through its fetters. It was a terrible thing then to 
depart from the established order of social union ; the least 
whisper of a deviation and the slightest violation of its rules 



CASTE. 167 

were visited with social persecution of the worst type. I 
cannot do better than give a few instances, illustrating the 
nature of the punishments to which a Hindoo was subjected 
in that period of terror, when caste-mania raged most furiously. 

" After the establishment of the English power in Bengal, 
the caste of a Brahmin of Calcutta was destroyed by a Euro- 
pean who forced into his mouth flesh, spirits, &c. After 
remaining three years an outcast, great efforts were made, at 
an expense of eighty thousand rupees, to restore him to the 
pale of his caste, but in vain, as many Brahmins of the same 
order refused to associate with him as one of their own. After 
this, an expense of two lacks of Rupees more was incurred, 
when he was re-admitted to the privileges of his caste. About 
the year 1802, a person in Calcutta expended in feasting and 
presents to Brahmins fifty thousand Rupees to be re-admitted 
into the ring of his caste from which he had been excluded 
. for eating with a Brahmin of the Peeralee caste. Not long after 
this, two Peeralee Brahmins of Calcutta made an effort to 
wipe out the opprobrium of Peeralismy but were disappointed, 
though they had expended a very large sum of money. 

" Ghunusyamu, a Brahmin, about thirty-five years ago, 
went to England and was excommunicated. Gocool, another 
Brahmin, about the same time went to Madras, and was re- 
nounced by his relatives ; but after incurring some expense in 
feasting Brahmins, he was received back. In the year 1808, 
a blacksmith of Serampore returned from Madras and was 
disowned by his fellow caste men, but after expending two 
thousand Rupees amongst the Brahmins, he was restored to 
his family and friends. In the same year the mother of Kali 
Prosaud Ghose, a rich Kayusto of Benares, who had lost caste 
by intercourse with Mussulmans and was called a Peeralee^ 
died. Kali Prosaud was much concerned on account of the 
rites required to be performed in honor of the manes of his 
deceased parent, but no Brahmin would officiate at the 



i68 CASTE. 

ceremony ; after much entreaty and promise of rewards, he 
prevailed at last upon eleven Brahmins to perform the neces- 
sary ceremonies at night. A person who had a dispute with 
these Brahmins informed against them, and they were imme- 
diately abandoned by their friends. After waiting several 
days in vain, hoping that his friends would relent, one of 
these Brahmins, tying himself to a jar of water, drowned 
himself in the Ganges. Some years ago, Ram, a Brahmin of 
Tribany, having, by mistake, married his son to a Peeralee 
girl, and being abandoned by his friends, died of a broken 
heart. In the year 1803, Shibu Ghose, a KayustOy mai:ried a 
Peeralee girl, and was not restored to his caste till after seven 
years, and after he had expended seven thousand Rupees for 
the expiation of his offence. About the same period, a 
Brahmin woman of Velupookuria, having been defloured, and 
in consequence outcasted, put an end to her existence by 
voluntary starvation. In the village of Buj Buj, some years 
ago, a young man who had lost his caste through the crimi- 
nal intrigues of his mother, a widow, in a state of frenzy 
poisoned himself, and his two surviving brothers abandoned the 
country. Goorooprasaud, a Brahmin of Churna, in Burdwan, 
not many years ago, through fear of losing caste, in conse- 
quence of the infidelity of his wife, left his home and died of 
grief at Benares. About the year 1800, a Brahmin lady of 
Santipore murdered her illegitimate child, to prevent dis- 
covery and loss of caste. In the year 1807, a Brahmin of 
Tribany murdered his wife by strangling her to avert loss of 
caste through her criminal intrigues. About the year 1790, 
Kalidass, a Brahmin, who had been inveigled into marrying 
a washerman's daughter, was obliged to flee the country to 
Benares, where being discovered, he sold all his property and 
fled, and his wife became a maniac. In the time of Rajah 
Krishna Chunder Roy, a Brahmin of Santipore was found to 
have a criminal intrigue with the daughter of a shoemakers 



CASTE. 169 

the Rajah forbade the barber of the village to shave thp 
family or the washerman to wash for them : in this distress 
they applied to the Rajah and afterwards to the Nawab for 
restoration, but in vain. After having been despoiled of their 
resources by the false promises of pretended friends, the 
Rajah relented and removed the ban, but the family have not 
obtained to this day their pristine position * 

" Numbers of outcasts abandon their homes and wander 
about till death. Many other instances might be given 
in which the fear of losing caste had led to the perpetra- 
tion of the most shocking murders, which in this country 
are easily concealed, and thousands of children are mur- 
dered in the womb, to prevent discovery and the consequent 
loss of caste, particularly in the houses of the Koolin 
Brahmins." 

The inveterate tenacity with which the rites and privileges 
of caste are clung to is a prominent feature of the Hindoo 
character, showing, like many other facts, that as a nation — the 
Rajpoots excepted — they fear the sword-blade, but can meet 
death with calmness and fortitude when they apprehend any 
danger to the purity of caste. In the year 1777, a Mussul- 
man nobleman forcibly seized the daughters of three Brah- 
mins. They complained to the judge of the district, but ob- 
taining no redress, they committed suicide by poison under 
the nose of the unrighteous judge. " When, about a century 
since, a body of sepoys were being brought from Madras to Cal- 
cutta, the provisions ran short, till at last the only food consisted 
of salted beef and pork. Though a few submitted to the neces- 
sity of circumstances and defiled themselves, many preferred 
a languishing death by famine to a life polluted by tasting 

• Rajah Kissen Chunder Roy, in the latter end of the i8th century, used to 
restore persons and families who had forfeited their caste by their laches by re- 
covering from them a heavy fine for which there used to be much higgling. This 
fine was in addition to the expenses incidental to the ceremony of Prayischittra*. 
Many heads of Dalls or parties of our day follow the same practice. 

X 



170 CASTE. 

forbidden food. The Mussulman Governors often took ad- 
vantage of this prejudice, when their exchequers were empty 
The Hindoo would submit to the most excruciating 
tortures rather than disclose his hoard, but the moment his 
religious purity was threatened, he complied with any de- 
mand, if the sum asked for was within his means ; if not, the 
man being linked to his caste fellows, the latter raised the 
required sum by subscription." 

In a moral point of view, the effects of this distinction 
are equally mischievous. Far from promoting a spirit oi 
benevolence and good fellowship between man and man, 
it has a natural tendency to engender hostile feelings, which 
cannot fail to militate against the best interests of humanity. 
Should a Hindoo of inferior caste happen to touch one of 
superior caste, while the latter is cooking or eating, he throws 
away everything as defiled. Even in cases of extreme 
sickness, the one will seldom condescend to drink water out 
of the hands of the other. There are also instances on record 
in which two Hindoos of the same caste refuse to eat together, 
simply because they belong to two several dalls or parties ; 
in the villages especially this partisan feeling is sometimes 
carried to so great a length that no party will scruple to 
blast the fair fame of their antagonists by scandalous accusa- 
tions and uncalled-for slanders. Thousands and thousands 
of Rupees are spent in securing the favors or alliance of 
the Koolins — ^the great arbiters of caste, — and he who by 
the power of his purse can enlist on his side a larger num- 
bers of these pampered Koolins^ generally takes away the 
palm. The hard struggle for the attainment of this hollow, 
ephemeral distinction, instead of stimulating any noble desire 
or laudable ambition, almost invariably terminates in foster- 
ing an antagonistic spirit, which is decidedly opposed to 
the laws of good fellowship and the general brotherhood of 
mankind. Genuine charity can never exist in such an unex- 



CASTE, 171 

pansive state of society, and mutual love is torn in shreds. 
If the original founder of the system had calmly and soberly 
considered, apart from selfish motives, a tithe of the evils 
which the caste system was calculated to inflict on society, 
he would, I make no doubt, have paused before imposing on 
Hindoo society the fetters of caste servitude. 

It has been urged by the advocates of the system that it 
is designed to confer a great boon on society by confining 
each trade or occupation to one particular class, and thereby 
securing perfection in that line ; but the argument is as 
fallacious as the result is disappointing. Experience and 
observation sufficiently prove that the Hindoo artisans use 
almost the same tools and implements which their predecessors 
used centuries ago. They work with the same loom and 
spindle, the same plough, the same spade, the same scythe, 
the same threshing machine, and the same everything that 
were in vogue at the time of Vicramadyatta in the six- 
teenth century, and if any improvement has been effec- 
ted, it is owing to the superior skill of the foreigners. 
It is, however, creditable to the native artisans to say that 
they evince a great aptitude for learning and imitating 
what they see. Native carpenters, shoemakers, tailors, 
engravers, lithographers, printers, gold and silver-smiths, &c., 
now-a-days turn out articles which in point of workmanship 
are not very much inferior to those imported from Europe. 
Of course they are materially indebted to Europeans for 
this improvement. 

The circumstances which cause the loss of caste are the 
following: The abandonment of the Hindoo religion, journey 
to foreign countries which involves the eating of forbidden food, 
the eating of food cooked by one of inferior caste or of food 
forbidden to the Hindoos, female unchastity in a family, 
the cohabiting with women of a lower caste, or with those of 
foreign, nations and the non-performance of religious rites 



172 CASTE. 

prescribed in the Shastras * There are other circumstances 
which detract from the dignity of a family, but they are of 
secondary importance. These causes were in full operation 
some seventy or eighty years ago. The unanimous voice of 
the neighbours denounced a Hindu as an outcast if he 
were found guilty of any of the above transgressions. Purity 
of caste was then watched with greater solicitude than purity 
of conscience and character. The magnates of the land 
spared neither expense nor pains to preserve inviolate the 
outward purity of their caste. The popular shastras of the 
Hindoos are certainly very convenient and accommodating in 
every respect ; the sins of a life-time, nay of ten lives, may be 
washed away by an ablution in the sacred stream of the Gan- 
ges on the occasion of certain Jtoly days called yogas; so re- 
quisite provision is made in them for the atonement of the 
loss of caste by performing certain religious rites and feasting, 
and making suitable presents to Brahmins in money and 
kind. But it has always been a matter of wonder to many 
that the Peeralees or the Tagores of Calcutta, alike noted for 
their wealth and liberality, have not as yet been able to re- 
gain their caste or their original position in Hindu society. 
The obvious reason appears to be that they are not desirous 
of a restoration by submitting to any kind of humiliating 
atonement. They have shown their wisdom in pursuing such 
an independent and manly course. The history of Peeralee 
is thus given by Mr. Ward : " A Nabob of the name of 
Peeralee is charged with having destroyed the rank of many 
Hindus, Brahmins and others ^ and from these persons have 
descended a very considerable number of families scattered 
over the country, who have been branded with the name of 
their oppressor. These persons practise all the ceremonies 
of the Hindu religion, but are carefully avoided by other 

* The non-performance of religious rites does not now, however, entail for- 
eiture of caste. Hindu society is getting lax in our days. 



CASTE. 173 

Hindus as outcasts. It is supposed that not less than fifty 
families live in Calcutta, who employ Brahmin priests to per- 
form the ceremonies of the Hindu religion for them. It is 
said that Rajah Krishna Chunder Roy was promised five 
lacks of Rupees by a Peeralee, if he would only honor him 
with a visit of a few moments, but he refused." Such was the 
virulence with which the caste mania raged when Hindu 
bigotry had reached its culminating point. Rajah Krishna 
Chunder Roy of Kishnaghur, about 100 miles north of Cal- 
cutta, was otherwise reputed to have been a very generous- 
hearted man, a great patron of learning and learned men, but 
he was so blindly led away by the impulse of bigotry that he 
unhesitatingly declined to assist a brother countryman of his 
who had been subjected to social ostracism through mere 
accident. But the Rajah's grandson, if I am rightly informed, 
when he had occasion to come down to Calcutta a few years 
back, unscrupulously took up his quarters at Spence's Hotel, 
and freely enjoyed the company of his European friends, 
indicating a healthy change in the social economy of the 
people, the result solely of intellectual expansion, and of the 
inauguration of a better era through the rapid diffusion of 
western knowledge.* 

The Peeralee or the Tagore family of Calcutta, be it 
recorded to their honor, have long been eminently distin- 
guished by their liberality, manly independence, enlightened 
principles and enterprising spirit. Some of the members of 
this family occupy the foremost rank amongst the friends of 
native improvement. The late Baboo Dwarkey Nath Tagore 
set a noble example to his contrymen by his disinter- 
ested exertions in the cause of native education and public 
charities. Several of his European friends were under deep 
obligations to him for his unbounded liberality under peculiarly 

* I am inclined to believe that what the late Nuddea Raja did was his 
individual act ; as the head of the Hindus of Bengal, the Rajah of Nuddea 
would strictly follow the pratices of his great ancestor even to this day. 



174 CASTE, 

embarrassed circumstances ;* the length of his purse was equal- 
led by the breadth of his views. His object in proceeding to 
England was mainly to extend his knowledge by a closer 
and more familiar intercourse with Europeans. He was the 
right hand of the illustrious Hindoo reformer, the late Raja 
Rammohun Roy. His magnanimous mind, his enlightened 
views, his engaging manners, his amiable qualities both in 
public and private life, and his indomitable zeal in endea- 
vouring to elevate his country in the scale of civilization, gave 
him an influence in English society never before or after 
enjoyed by any Hindoo gentleman. His worthy relative and 
coadjutor, the late Baboo Prosono Coomar Tagore, C. S. I., 
who has left a princely fortune, was no less distinguished for 
his enlarged views and liberal sentiments. His rich endow- 
ment of the Tagore Law Lecturship in connection with the 
Calcutta University has substantially established his claim 
on the gratitude of his countrymen. It was he that first 
started the native English Paper called the " Reformer," 
which not only opened the eyes of the Hindoos to the errors 
of the antiquated system under which they lived, but diffused 
a healthy taste for the cultivation of English literature among 
the rising generation of his countrymen, and thereby paved 
the way for the development of advanced thought and in- 
telligent opinion on the practical enunciation and appreciation 
of which mainly depends the future advancement of the nation. 
The late Moha Rajah Ramanauth Tagore, C. S. I., another 
member of the Tagore family, was deservedly esteemed for his 
liberal sentiments, his high sense of honor, his scrupulous 
fidelity and his unblemished character. Baboo Debender- 
nath Tagore, the son of the late Baboo Dwarkeynauth Tagore, 
bears a highly exemplary character. His uncompromising 
straightforwardness, his sincerity and piety, his high integrity, 

* To one friend alone he gave two lacs of Rupees without any security, 
showing a degree of magnanimity seldom to be met with among the millionaires 
of the present day. 



CASTE, 175 

his devotedness to the cause of religion, his unassuming 
habits, the suavity of his disposition, and his utter contempt for 
worldly enjoyments, have shed an unfading lustre around his 
name. Well may India be proud of such a worthy son. Moha 
Raja Jotendeimohun Tagore, C. S. I., Raja Sourendermohun 
Tagore, his brother, and Baboo Gynendermohun Tagore, the 
son of the late Baboo Prosonocoomar Tagore, also belong to 
this family : all of them bear a very high character for intel- 
ligence, integrity, and sound moral principles. 

All these distinguished individuals are descended from 
Peeralee ancestors. Few have more deservedly merited 
the respect and esteem of their countrymen, or better vindi- 
cated their rightful claim to the honors bestowed on some 
of them. If they are denounced as outcasts, such outcasts 
are the ornaments of the country. If they are far in the rear 
of caste they are assuredly far in the van of intelligence, ability, 
mental activity, refinement and honesty. If to be a Peeralee 
were an indelible stigma, it is certainly a glory to the whole 
nation that such a noble and stainless character as Baboo 
Debendemauth Tagore is a member of the same family. We 
would search in vain among the countless myriads of India 
for such a meek, spotless, but bright and glorious model. 

It is, moreever, to the Peeralee or Tagore family that 
the enlightened Hindoo community of Calcutta \s principally 
indebted for its refined taste and elevated ideas. May they 
continue to shed their benign influence not only on the rising 
but unborn generations of their countrymen, and carry on the 
work of reformation, not with the impetuosity of rash innova- 
tors, but with the cool deliberation of reflecting minds. 

The rules of caste are not now strictly observed, and 
their observance is scarcely compatible with the spirit of the 
age, and in one sense we have scarcely a Hindoo in Bengal, 
especially amongst those who live in the Presidency town 
and the district towns. 



176 CASTE, 

The distinction of caste is more honored in the breach 
than in the observance of it .♦ As English schools and col- 
leges are multiplying in every nook and corner of the empire, 
more liberal ideas and principles are being imbibed by the 
Hindoo youths, which bid fair in process of time to exercise a 
regenerating influence on the habits of the people. Idolatry, 
and its necessary concomitant, priestcraft, is fast losing its 
hold on their minds ; a new phase of life indicates the near 
approach of an improved order of things ; ideas which had 
for ages been pent up in the dark, dreary cell of ignorance 
now find a free outlet, and the recipients of knowledge 
breathe a purer atmosphere, clear of the hazy mists that had 
hitherto clouded their intellect. To a philanthropist such a 
forecast is in the highest degree encouraging. The 
distinction of caste has also received a fatal blow by the 
frequent visits of young and aspiring native gentlemen to 
England for the purpose of completing their education there. 
This growing desire among the rising generation should be 
encouraged as it has an excellent tendency to promote the 
moral and intellectual improvement of the nation. 

The late Baboo Ramdoolal Dey,f of Calcutta, who was 
a self-made man and a millionaire, was a DuUaputty or head 

* The young membeis of a family have no hesitation in partaking of food 
cooked by Mussulmans and forbidden in the Hindoo Shasters. On holidays or 
on special occasions, they send orders to the ** Great Eastern Hotel," and get 
supplies of English delicacies such as they have a liking for. It is a well-known 
fact that almost every rich family in Calcutta and its suburbs (the orthodox mem- 
bers excepted) recognised as the head of the Hindoo community, patronise the 
English Hotel-keepers. Mr. D. Wilson, the famous purveyor in Government 
Place, seeing the great rush of native gentlemen into his shop on a Christmas 
eve, was said to have remarked that the Baboos were amongst his best customers. 
The great purveyor was right, because the Baboos give large orders and pay 
regularly for fear of exposure. Such of them as are placed in mediocre circum- 
stances arrange with their Mussulman syces and get fowl curry or roast as often as 
they choose. There are indeed a few honorable exceptions, who on principle do 
not encourage the English style of eating and drinking. A very little reflection 
will convince any one that the English mode of living is ill suited to the Natives. 
It not only leads a man into extravagance, but what is more reprehensible, 
begets a habit of drinking, which, I need hardly say, has been the ruin of many 
a promising young Baboo. 

t This gentleman was a Banian to several American and English firms, which 
used to deal largely in cow and other hides. From religious scruplei he refused 



CASTE. 177 

of a party. When the subject of caste was discussed, he 
emphatically said, that " the caste was in his iron chest," the 
meaning of which was that money has the power of restor- 
ing caste. 

The late Baboo Ram Gopal Ghose, a distingushed mer- 
chant and reformer of this City, had a country residence at 
Bagati, near Tribani, in the Hooghly district, about lOO miles 
east of Calcutta. He had a mother who was, as might 
be expected, a superstitious old lady. Baboo Ram Gopal 
on principle never wounded her feelings by interfering with 
her religious belief. On the occasion of the Doorga Poojah at 
his country house, his mother as usual directed the servants to 
distribute the noybidhiy or offerings, consisting of rice, fruits 
and sweetmeats, among the Brahmins of the neighbourhocxJ ; 
but they all, to a man, refused to accept the same, on the 
ground that Ram Gopal was not a Hindoo^ which was tanta- 
mount to declaring that he had no faith in Hindooism, and 
was an outcast from Hindooism. On seeing the offerings 
brought back, his mother's lamentations knew no bounds, 
because the refusal of the Brahmins to accept the offerings 
was a dishonor, and involved the question of the loss of caste. 
Apprehending the dreadful consequences of such a refusal, 
especially in a village where bigotry reigned supreme, the old 
lady became quite disconsolate. Ram Gopal, who with strong 
common sense combined the benefit of a liberal English 
education, thought of the following expedient : He at oncfj 
suggested that every noybidhi (offering) should, be accompa- 
nied by a sum of five Rupees. The temptation was too 
great to be resisted, the very Brahmins who, two hours back, 
openly refused to take the offerings, now came running in 
numbers to Ram Gopal's house for their share, and regularly 

to accept the usual commission on such articles by which he might have obtained 
at least forty thousand Rupees per annum. In these days no Baboo declines 
to take the usual commission, but on the contrary, many are engaged in the trade* 
which is a sacrilegious act in the eye of the Hindoo Shaster. 



178 CASTE 

scrambled for the thing. In fact, he had more demands than 
he could meet. Thus a few Rupees had the marvellous effect 
of turning a Sakib into a pure Hindoo, fully illustrating the 
truth of Ramdoolal Dey's saying, that " Caste was in his 
iron chest." Examples of this nature may be multiplied to 
any extent, but they are not necessary. Thus we see the 
decadence of this artificial system is inevitable, as indeed of 
every other unhealthy institution opposed to the best interests 
of humanity. 

I cannot close this chapter without drawing the atten- 
tion of my readers to the gross inconsistency of the conduct 
of the caste apologists. Thousands and tens of thousands of 
the most orthodox Hindoos daily violate the rules of caste 
by using the shidho chdll, (rice produced from boiled paddy) 
which is often prepared by Mussalmans and other low caste 
husbandmen, whose very touch is pollution to the food of the 
Hindoo, It is a notorious fact that nine-tenths of the Hindoos 
of Bengal, including the Brahmin class, are in the habit of 
eating shidho chdlly which is the prime staff of their lives, 
simply because the other kind of rice, dtab chdll (rice produced 
from sun-dried paddy), contains too much starch or nutri- 
tive property and is difficult of digestion by bhayto or rice-fed 
Bengallees who are, with a few exceptions, constitutionally 
weak from a variety of causes enumerated before. In the 
North-West Provinces, people never use shidho rice owing to 
its being boiled in an unhusked state. 

The Hindoos of our day often consume sugar refined 
with the dust of charcoal bones. The universal use of shidfio 
rice and sweetmeats which contain refined sugar leads the Hin- 
doos to break the rules of caste almost every hour of their lives. 
Besides these two chief articles of food, there are several other 
things made by Mussulmans, such as rose-water, kaywra drauky 
and the like, the general use of which is a direct violation of the 
rules of caste. A Hindoo female, when she becomes a widow 



CASTE 179 

at an advanced period of life, sometimes takes to dtab rice 
because it is not produced from boiled paddy which makes 
it impure, but from sun-dried paddy, and here the members 
of the Tagore family are more strict in their regime than 
any other class of Hindoos in Bengal. There are, however, 
yet a few orthodox Hindoos, who, though they eat shidlto rice, 
nevertheless abstain from using bazar-made sweetmeats and 
Municipal pipe water because the engines of the latter are 
said to be greased and worked by Mussalman and Christian 
hands. Such men make their own sweetmeats at home with 
Benares sugar and drink Ganges water, but the younger 
members of their family, if not without their approval at 
least with their partial cognisance, daily make the greatest 
inroads on this institution without having the moral courage 
to avow their acts. They eat and drink in the European 
fashion, and preserve their castes intact by a positive and 
emphatic disclaimer. So much for the consistency of their 
character. When the orthodox heads of Hindoo families 
are gathered unto their fathers, the key-note of the present 
or rising generation will be — " perish caste with all its mons- 
trous evils." 




XIV. 

A BRAHMIN. 

Brahmin of the present iron age is quite a different 
ecclesiastic from what he was in the past golden age. 
He is a metamorphosed being. Believing in the 
doctrine of metempsychosis, he claims tio have descended 'from 
the mouth of the Supreme Brahma, the Creator according to 
the Hindoo triad. In the lapse of time, his physical organisa- 
tion, his traditional reputation as a saint and sage, his thorough 
devotion to his religious duties, his mental abstraction, his 
logical acumen, the purity of his character, his habitude 
and mode of living, have all undergone a radical change, 
unequivocally indicating the gradual declension of cor- 
poreal strength, of intellectual vigor, as well as of moral 
worth. In former times he was popularly regarded as the 
visible embodiment of the Creator, and the delegated ex- 
ponent of all knowledge, revealed or acquired. The old 
and venerable Munis and Rishis, and their philosophical 
dissertations, their theological controversies and their religious 
and ethical disquisitions, evoked the admiration of the 
world in the dark ages before the Christain era. Almost 
all of them lived in a state of asceticism, and devoted 
their lives to religious contemplation, renouncing all the 
pleasures, passions and desires of the niundane world. The 
longevity of their lives in their sequestered retreat, the perfect 
purity of their manners, the simplicity of their habits, and 
their elevated conception of the immutable attributes of God, 
inspired the people with a profound reverence for their precepts 
and principles. The prince and the peasant alike paid their 
homage to the sacerdotal class, whose doctrines had, in the 
primitive state of society, the authority of religion and law. 



A BRAHMIN, . i8i 

The power of the Brahmins penetrated every class of 
the people, and by way of eminence they called themselves 
Dvija, u e,y the regenerated or the twice born — a term which 
should only be applied to the really inspired sons of God. 
Since the promulgation of the Institutes of Manu they ob- 
tained that prominent rank among the Hindoos which they 
have retained unimpaired amidst all dynastic changes. Keep- 
ing the key of all knowledge in their exclusive custody, their 
functions were originally confined to the performance of 
religious ceremonies and the promulgation of laws. In 
all the affairs of the state or religion, the fiat of their ordi- 
nances had all the weight of a sacred command. Even the 
order of a mighty potentate was held in subordination to 
their injunctions. They were enjoined to worship their guar- 
dian deity three times a day, and were strictly prohibited 
from engaging in any secular occupation. They practised 
all manner of austerities tending to beget a contempt for all 
worldly enjoyments, and paved the way by religious medita- 
tion for ultimate absorption into the divine essence, — an ideal 
of the sublimity of which we can have no conception in 
the present degenerate age. 

The complete monopoly of religious and legal know- 
ledge which the Brahmins enjoyed for a very considerable 
period after the first dawn of learning in the East anterior 
to the Christian era, enabled them to put forth their very 
great influence upon the spiritual and temporal concerns of 
the three other orders of the Hindoo population, who implicitly 
accorded to them all the valuable rights of a privileged class, 
superior to all earthly power whatsoever. It has been ex- 
pressly declared in the Institutes of Manu that Hindoo Law 
was a direct emanation from God. " That Immutable Power," 
says Manu, "having enacted this Code of Laws, himself 
taught it fully to me in the beginning; afterwards I taught 
Marichi and the nine other holy sages." It is believed that 



1 83 A BRAHMIN. 

in the tenth century, B. C. " the complete fusion of Hindoo 
law and religion," was effected, and that both were ad- 
ministered by the Brahmins, until some mighty kings arose 
in Rajpootana, who curtailing their supreme influence reduced 
them to a secondary position. Thenceforward their ascen- 
dency gradually began to decline, till at length through 
succeeding generations it dwindled into comparative insigni- 
ficance.* In process of time, the four grand original classes 
slowly multiplied, which is not to be wondered at in a great 
community split into divisions and subdivisions, separated 
from each other by different creeds, manners, customs and 
modes of life. These ramifications necessarily involved 
diversities of religious, moral and legal opinions and doctrines 
more or less fatal to the unquestioned authority of the 
Brahmins, who seeing in the progress and revolution of 
society the inevitable decay of their hitherto undisputed 
influence, abandoned the traditional and prescribed path of 
religious life and betook themselves to secular pursuit of 
gain for their subsistence. The necessary consequence now 
is that in almost every sphere of life, in every profession or 
calling, the Brahmins of the present day are extensively 
engaged. And their cupidity is so great, that every principle 
of law and morality is shamefully compromised in their 
dealings with mankind. A Brahmin is no longer typical of 
either religious purity or moral excellence. His profound 
erudition, his logical subtlety in spinning into niceties the 
most commonplace distinctions, his spirit of deep research and 
his illimitable power of polemical discussion, have all forsaken 
him, and from an inspired priest he has degenerated into a 
mercenary purohit He no longer wears on his forehead the 
frontlet of righteousness, his whole heart, his whole soul is 

* As the natural consequence of this declension of supremacy, Brahminical 
learning, from this and other analogous circumstances, slept a winter sleep, 
occasionally disturbed and broken by brilliant coruscations of light thrown upon 
it by Western researches, contemporaneously sustained by the faint efforts of 
learned Pundits. 



A BRAHMIN, 183 

impregnated with corruption. In a fervent spirit, he no 
longer says to his followers — " let us meditate on the adorable 
light of the Divine Ruler ; may it guide our intellects." His 
sacred poita (Brahminical thread) his divine gayutree (prayer) 
his holy basil (bead roll), his three daily services with the 
sacred water of the Ganges, no longer inspire the minds of 
his votaries with awe, obedience and homage. From the 
worship of the only Living and True God he has descended 
to the worship of 330 millions of gods and of god- 
desses. Human numeration reels at the list. The indivi- 
duality of the godhead is lost in the never ending cycles of 
deified objects, animate and inanimate. We no longer recog- 
nise in the Brahminical character and life an unsullied image of 
godlike purity, holiness and sublimity. His ministrations no 
longer fill us with joyful and exhilarating hopes which extend 
beyond the grave and promise to lead us to the safe anchorage 
of everlasting bliss. They no longer stir up in our breasts 
during each hour of life's waning lustre " a sublimer faith, a 
brighter prospect, a kinder sympathy, a gentler resignation.*^ 
I ask every Hindoo to look into his heart honestly and answer 
frankly whether a Brahmin of the present day is a true embodi- 
ment, a glorious display, a veritable representative of Brahma, 
the Creator, Has he not long since sacrificed his traditional 
pure faith on the altar of selfishness and concupiscence and 
committed a deliberate suicide of his moral and spiritual 
faculty ? We blush to answer the question in the afiirnlative. 
I now purpose to give a short account of the ceremonies 
connected with the investiture of the poita^ the sacred thread 
of a Brahmin, on the strength of which he assumes the high- 
est ecclesiastical honors and privileges. According to the 
Hindoo almanac, an auspicious day is fixed for this important 
ceremonial, which opens a new chapter in the life of a 
Brahmin especially intended to ensure him all the rare bene- 
fits of a full-blown Divija, or the twice-born. In celebrating 



1 84 A BRAHMIN. 

the rite, particular regard is had to the state of the weather ; 
should any atmospheric disturbance occur, the ceremony is 
postponed to the next clear day. The age assigned for the 
investiture is between nine and fifteen years. The occasion 
is accompanied in many cases by the preparation of 
ananunda narUy a kind of sweetmeat made of powdered 
rice, treacle, cocoanut and gingelly seeds rolled up into small 
round balls and fried in mustard oil. This particular sort 
of Hindoo confectionery, evidently a relic of primitive pre- 
parations, is manufactured on all occasions indicative of 
domestic rejoicing, hence the significance of the name 
given above. Before the appointed day, the boy is enjoined 
to abstain from the use of fish and oil, and on the morning 
of the ceremony, having been shaved, he is made to bathe, and 
put on red clothes, and when the rite of investiture commences 
wears a conical shaped tinsel hat, while the priest reads certain 
incantations and worships Narayan or Vishnoo, represented by 
a small round stone called Saligram Sutu^ the ordinary house- 
hold god of all Hindoos^ A piece of cloth is held over his head> 
that he may not see or be seen by any of the non Brahmi- 
nical caste. He then assumes the dunda^ or the staff of an 
ascetical mendicant, which is represented by the branch of a 
vilwa tree held in his right hand, at the top of which is tied a 
knot with a bit of dyed cloth. An initiatory poita made 
of twisted kltoosh grass, to which is fastened a piece of deer's 
skin, is next placed over the boy's left shoulder during the 
repetition of the prescribed incantations. The father then 
repeats to his son, in a low voice, lest a Soodra should hear, 
the ssicred g'oyutree three times, which he tries his best to com- 
mit to memory. The khoosh grass poita is here removed, 
and a real thread poita spun by Brahmin women* which 

* To so miserable a strait are some of them reduced that they 
actually strive to get a living by making these sacred thread poitas 
and strings for loins, indicating the pinching poverty and repulsive 
squalor in which they pine away their wretched existence. Indeed not 



A BRAHMIN. 185 

he is to wear ever afterwards, is substituted in its place. The 
boy now puts on his shoes and holds an umbrella in his hand 
while the priest reads and the father repeats the usual incan- 
tations, tending to awaken in the boy a sense of the grave 
responsibility he assumes. Thus dressed as a Brahmacharee 
(a religious mendicant), with a staff upon his shoulder and a 
beggar's wallet hanging by his side, he goes to his mother, 
father and other relatives and begs alms, repeating at the 
same time a certain word in Sanskrit. They give him each a 
small quantity of rice, a ie:w poitas and a few Rupees, amount- 
ing in some case's to two or three hundred. The boy then 
squats down while the father offers a burnt sacrifice and 
repeats the customary incantations. After the performance 
of these ceremonies, the boy in his Brahmacharee attire 
suddenly rises up in a fit of pretended ecstacy and declares 
before the company that he is determined in future to lead 
the life of a religious mendicant. The announcement of this 
resolution instantly evokes the synipathy of the father, 
mother and other relatives, and they all persuade him to 
change his mind and adopt a secular life, citing instances 
that that life is favourable to the cultivation and growth of 
domestic and social affections as well as religious principles 
of the highest order. The holy Shastra expressly inculcates 
that a clean heart and a righteous spirit make men happy 
even amid the sorrows of earth, and that the sackcloth of 
mendicancy is not essential to righteousness if we earnestly 
and sincerely ask God to give us His true riches. Thus 

a few of these widows are left "to the cold pity and grudging charity of a 
frosty world." They might almost sing and sigh with the poet as he sat in deep 
dejection on the shore. 

" Alas ! I have nor hope, nor health, 

Nor peace within, nor calm around ; 

Nor that content, surpassing wealth, 

The sage in contemplation found ; 



• • « « 



Others I see whom these surround, 

Smiling Ihey live, and call life pleasure ; 

To me that cup hath been dealt in another measure." 



1 86 A BRAHMIN. 

admonished, he with apparent reluctance abandons his pre- 
concerted design, which is a mere sham, and assumes the rS/e 
of secularism. Certain formulas are now repeated, after 
which the boy leaves his vi/wa staff, and takes in hand a 
thin Bamboo staff, which he throws over his shoulder. Other 
ritualistic rites are then performed, at the close of which the 
priest receives his fee for the trouble and departs home with 
the offerings. The boy next walks into a room, a woman 
pouring out water as he goes. He is then taught to commit 
to memory his daily service, called sundhya^ after the re- 
petition of which he eats the charA made of milk, sugar 
and rice boiled together. 

For three days after being investited with the poita the 
boy is enjoined to sleep either on a carpet or a deer's skin, 
without a mattress or a musquito curtain. His food consists of 
boiled rice, ghee, milk and sugar, etc., only once a day, without 
oil and salt. He is strictly prohibited to see the sun or the 
face of a soodra, and is constantly employed in learning the 
sacred gayitree and the forms of the daily service which 
should be repeated thrice in a day. On the morning of the 
fourth day, he goes to the sacred stream of the Ganges, 
throws the two staves into the water, bathes, repeats his 
prayers, returns home, and again enters on the performance 
of his ordinary secular duties. During the day, a few 
Brahmins are fed according to the circumstances of the 
family. Thus the ceremony of investiture is closed, and the 
boy being purified and regenerated is elevated to the rank of 
a Dwija or twice born. How easily does the Brahminical 
Shastra make a change for the better in a religious sense 
in a youth quite incapable of forming adequate conceptions of 
a spiritual regeneration by the mere administration of a single 

rite ! 

Having endeavoured to give thus a short account of 
the ceremonies connected with the investiture of the sacred 



A BRAHMIN. 187 

thread of a Brahmin, it remains to be seen how far his present 
position, character and conduct harmonise with the re- 
puted sanctity of his regenerated nature. Great blame is 
laid at the door of the British Government, because it does 
not accord that high respect to the sacerdotal class which 
their own Rajahs had shewn them in the halcyon days of 
Hindooism. Before the advent of the British to India, the 
doctrines of the Brahminical creed, as indicated above, were 
in full force. Every Hindoo king used to enforce on all 
classes of the people high or low, a strict observance of the 
idolatrous ceremonies prescribed in the Hindoo Shastra. In 
the dark ages scarcely any nation in the world was hemmed 
in by such a close ring of religious ceremonials as the people 
of this country. Almost every commonplace occurrence had 
its peculisu- rites which required the interposition of the 
sacerdotal class. On occasions of prosperity or adversity, of 
rejoicing or calamity, their ministration was alike needed. 
These formed their ordinary sources of gain, but the greatest 
means of support consisted in the grants of lands, including 
sometimes houses, tanks, gardens, etc., given in perpetuity to 
gods or the priests. These grants are called, as I have 
already stated, the Dehatras and Brahmatras. Among others, 
the Rajahs of Burdwan, Kishnaghur, and Tipperah made the 
greatest gifts, and their names are still remembered with 
gratitude by many a Brahmin in Bengal. But the Law 
authorizing the resumption of rent-free tenures has, as must 
naturally be expected, made the English Government ob- 
noxious, and it is denounced in no measured terms for the 
sacrilegious act. If Manu were to visit Bengal now, his 
indignation and amazement would know no bounds in witness- 
ing the sacerdotal class reduced to the humiliating position 
of a servile, cringing and mercenary crowd of men. Their 
original prestige has suffered a total shipwreck. Generally 
speaking, a Brahmin of the present day is practically a 



1 88 A BRAHMIN. 

Soodra (the most inferior class) of the past age, irretrievably 
sunk in honor and dignity. Indeed it was one of the curses 
of the Vedic period that to be a Brahmin of the present 
Kaliyagu would be an impersonation of corruption, baseness 
and venality. 

There is a common saying amongst the Natives that a 
Brahmin is a beggar even if he were possessed of a lakh 
of Rupees (;f 10,000.) It is a lamentable fact that impecu- 
niosity is the common lot of the class. In ordinary conver- 
sation, when the question of the comparative fortunes of the 
different classes is introduced, a Brahmin is often heard to 
lament his most impecunious lot. The gains of the sacer- 
dotal class of the present day have been reduced to the 
lowest scale imaginable. If an officiating priest can make 
ten Rupees a month, he considers himself very well off. He 
can no longer plume himself on his religious purity and 
mental superiority, once so pre-eminently characteristic of 
the order. The spread of English education has sounded the 
death-knell of his spiritual ascendancy. In short, his fate is 
doomed ; he must bear or must forbear, as seems to him best. 
The tide of improvement will continue to roll on uninter- 
ruptedly, in spite of every " freezing and blighting influence," 
and we heartily rejoice to discover already that the " tender 
blade is grown into the green ear, and from the green ear to 
the rich and ripened corn." 

When, a few years ago. Sir Richard Temple carefully ex- 
amined the Criminal Statistics of Bengal, he was most deeply 
concerned to find that the proportion of the Brahmin criminals 
in the jails of the Province far outnumbered that of any 
other caste. This is an astounding fact, bearing the most 
unimpeachable testimony to the very lamentable deterioration 
of the Hindoo ecclesiastical class in our days. To expatiate 
on the subject would be unpalatable. But we believe we can 
point with a degree of pardonable pride to a past period when 



A BRAHMIN. 189 

nine men of literary genius, among whom the renowned Kalidas, 
the Indian Shakespeare, was the most brilliant, flourished 
in the Court of Vikramaditya in Ougein ; but dynastic changes 
were simultaneously accompanied by the rapid decline of 
learning as well as of religious purity. 

The English rule, though most fiercely denounced by 
selfish, narrow-minded men, has nevertheless been productive 
of the most beneficial results even as far as the sacerdotal 
class is concerned. Every encouragement is now-a-days 
afforded to the cultivation of the classical language of India 
— Sanskrit — and not only are suitable employments provided 
for the most learned Pundits* in all the Government, 
Missonary and private educational Institutions throughout 
the country, but the University degrees conferred on the most 
successful students, tend to stimulate them to further lau- 
dable exertions in the study of the sacred language, which, 
but for this renewed attempt at cultivation and improvement, 
' would have been very much neglected. 

Independently of the above consideration, it is no less 
gratifying than certain that the progress of education has 
produced men, sprung from the sacerdotal class, whose emi- 
nent scholarly attainments, high moral principles and un- 
blemished character, as well as a practical useful career, have 
raised them to the foremost ranks of Hindoo society. 
Rammohun Roy, Dr. K. M. Banerjea, Pundit Isser Chunder 
Vidyasager, Baboo Bhoodeb Mookerjee, and others of equal 

* However learned a Pundit might be in philology, philosophy, logic and 
theology, he is lamentably deficient in scientific knowledge, notably in geography 
and ethnology. With a view to test the knowledge of his Pundit on those two 
subjects, Bishop Middleton was said to have once asked him two very simple 
questions, (i) whence are the English come ? (2) what is their origin ? The reply 
• of the Pundit was somewhat to the following effect : The English are come 
somewhere from Lunka or Ceylon (the imaginary land of cannibals), and they 
are of mixed origin, sprung from monkey and cannibal, because they jabber like 
monkeys, and sit like them on chairs with their legs hanging down, — an attitude 
pecular to the monkey species,— and they eat like cannibals half-boiled beef, pork, 
mutton, &c. Childish as the reply was, the pious Bishop, however, with his 
wonted benignity, smiled and corrected his error. 



190 A BRAHMIN. 

mental calibre, are names deservedly enshrined in the grateful 
memory of their countrymen. If Western knowledge had 
not been introduced into India, men of such high culture 
and moral excellence would have passed away unnoticed 
and unrecognised in the republic of letters, and the fruits of 
their literary labors, instead of being regarded as a valuable 
contribution to our stock of knowledge, would have been 
buried in obscurity. To study the lives of such distinguished 
pioneers of Hindoo enlightenment, " is to stir up our breasts 
to an exhilarating pursuit of high and ever-growing attain- 
ments in intellect and virtue." 




XV. 

THE BENGALEE BABOO. 

|HIS is an euphonious oriental title, suggestive of some 
amiable qualities which are eminently calculated to 
adorn and elevate human life. A Bengalee Baboo 
of the present age, however, is a curious product composed of 
very heterogeneous elements. The importation of Western 
knowledge has imbued him with new fangled ideas, and 
shallow draughts have made him conceited and supercilious, 
disdaining almost everything Indian, and affecting a love of 
European aesthetics. The humourous performance of Dave 
Carson, and the caustic remarks of Sir Ali Baba, give 
graphic representations of his anglicised taste, habits and 
bearing. Any thing affected or imitated is apt to nauseate 
when contrasted with the genuine and natural. 

The anglicised Baboos are certainly well-meaning men, 
instinctively disposed to move within the groove traditionally 
prescribed for them, but the scintillation of European ideas 
and a servile imitation of Western manners have played 
sad havoc with their original tendencies. Ambitious of being 
considered enlightened and elevated above the common herd, 
their improved taste and inclination almost unconsciously 
relegate them to the enchanted dream-land of European 
refinement, amidst the ridicule of the wise and the discern- 
ing. Society now-a-days is a quick-shifting panorama. Old 
scenes and associations rapidly pass away to make room for 
new ones, and prescriptive usages fall into oblivion. A new 
order of things springs up, and new actors replace the old 
ones. The influence of the aged is diminished, and the 
young and impulsive seize with avidity the prizes of life, for- 
getting in their wild precipitancy the unerring dictates of 



192 THE BENGALEE BABOO. 

cool deliberation. " The hurried, bustling, tumultuous, fever- 
ish Present swallows up men's thoughts," and the momentous 
interests of society looming in the Future are almost entirely- 
disregarded. The result necessarily carries them wide of 
.the great object of human life. They forfeit the regard and 
sympathy of their fellow countrymen whose moral and 
intellectual advancement they should gradually strive to 
promote by winning their love and confidence. 

As a man of fashion he cuts a burlesque figure by 
adopting partly Mussulman and partly European dress, and 
imitating the European style of living, as if modern civiliza- 
tion could be brought about by wearing tight pantaloons, tight 
shirts and black coats of alpaca or broadcloth. He culminates 
in a coquettish embossed cap or thin-folded shawl turban, 
with perhaps a shawl neckcloth in winter. He eats mutton 
chops and fowl curry, drinks Brandy panee or Old Tom, 
and smokes Manilla or Burmah cigars a la Francaise. 
Certainly the use of those eatables and drinkables is pro- 
scribed in the Hindoo Shastra, and an honest avowal of it 
will sooner or later expose him to public derision, and estrange 
him from the hearts of the orthodox Hindoos. A wise European, 
who has the real welfare of the people at heart, will never 
encourage such an objectionable line of conduct, because it 
is per se calculated to denationalise. To be more expli- 
cit, even at the risk of verbosity, it should be mentioned that 
Baboos resident in Calcutta not unjustly pride themselves 
on being the denizens of the great Metropolis of British 
India, which is unquestionably the focus of enlightenment, 
the centre of civilization and refinement, and the emporium 
of fashion in the East. People in the country glory and con- 
sole themselves with the idea that in their adoption of social 
manners and customs they follow the example of the big 
Baboos of Calcutta. Although the fashions of Hindoo 
society in Calcutta do not change with the rapidity they do 



THE BENGALEE BABOO, 193 

in Paris and London, monthly, fortnightly and weekly, yet 
they vary, perhaps, once in two or three years, and even 
then the change is partial and not radical. Slowly and 
gradually, the Hindoos of Bengal have abandoned their origi- 
nal and primitive dress, which consisted of thin slender 
garments, suited to the warm temperature of the climate at 
least for the greater part of the year, and adopted that of their 
conquerors. A simple dhootee and dubjah^ with perhaps an 
dlkhdld on the back and a folded piigree on the head, con- 
stituted the dress of a Bengali not long before the battle of 
Plassey. The court dress was, indeed, somewhat different, 
but then it was a servile imitation of that of a Rajpoot chief 
or a Mussulman king. When Rajahs Rajbullub, and 
Nubkissen, and Suddur-ud-din, a Mohamedan, attended the 
Government House in the time of Clive and Hastings, what 
was their court costume but an exact copy of the Mussul- 
man dress ? Even now, after the lapse of a century and a 
half, they use their primitive dress at home, viz,^ a dhootee 
and an uraney. An Englishman would not easily recognise 
or identify a Bengalee at home and a Bengalee in his office 
dress, the difference being striking and marked. But the 
establishment of the British rule in India has introduced a 
very great change in the national costume and taste, irres- 
pective of the intellectual revolution, which is still greater. 
Twenty years ago the gala dress of a Bengalee boy consist- 
ed of a simple Dacca dhootee and a Dacca ecloye^ with a pair 
of tinsel-worked shoes ; but now rich English, German and 
China satin, brocade and velvet with embossed flowers, and 
gold and silver fringes and outskirts, have come into fashion 
and general use. It is a common sight to see a boy dressed 
in a pantaloon and coat made of the above costly stuffs, with 
a laced velvet cap, driving about the streets of Calcutta during 
the festive days. Of course the more genteel and modest 
of the class, sobered down by age and experience, do not 

M 



194 THE BENGALEE BABOO. 

share in the juvenile taste for the gaudy and showy. As 
becomes their maturer years, they are satisfied with a decent 
broadcloth coat and pantaloon, with a white cloth or Cash- 
mere shawl /i(^(^^, more in accordance with simple English 
taste. But both the young and the old must have patent 
Japan leather shoes from Cuthbertson and Harper, Monteith 
& Co., or the Bentinck Street Chinese shoemakers, the laced 
Mussulman shoes having gone entirely out of fashion. Nor 
is the taste of the Hindoo females in a primitive stage as 
far as costliness is concerned. Instead of Dacca Taercha or 
Bale Boota Sari, they must have either Benares gold em- 
broidered or French embossed gossamer Sari^ with gold lace 
borders and ends. It would not be out of place to notice 
here that it would be a very desirable improvement in the way 
of decency to introduce among the Hindoo females of Bengal 
a stouter fabric for their garment in place of the present 
thin, flimsy, loose sari^ without any other covering over it. 
In this respect, their sisters of the North-Western and 
Central Provinces, as well as those of the South, are decidedly 
more decent and respectable. A few respectable Hindoo 
ladies have of late years begun to put an unghia or corset 
over their bodies, but still the under vestment is shamefully 
indelicate. Why do not the Baboos of Bengal strive to 
introduce a salutary change in the dress of their mothers, 
wives, sisters and daughters, which private decency and 
public morality most urgently demand? These social re- 
forms must go hand in hand with religious, moral and intellec- 
tual improvement. The one is as essential to the elevation 
and dignity of female character as the other is to the advance- 
ment of the nation in the scale of civilization. 

The Lancashire and German weavers have ample cause 
to rejoice that their manufactured colored woollen fabrics 
have greatly superseded the Indian Pashmina goods — Cash- 
mere shawls not excepted, — and European Cashmere, broad- 



THE BENGALEE BABOO. 19S 

cloth, flannel, hosiery and haberdashery are now in great 
request. From the wealthiest Baboo to the commonest fruit 
seller, half hose or full stockings are very commonly used. 
This forms an essential part of the official gear of a keranee 
(writer) of the present day, though he is now seen without 
his national pugree or head dress. 

A Bengalee Baboo is said to be a money-making man. 
By the most ingenious makeshifts he contrives to earn 
enough to enable him to make both ends meet, and lay 
by something for the evening of his life. He is generally 
a thrifty character, and does not much mind how the world 
goes when his own income is positive. He lacks enterprise, 
and is therefore most reluctant to engage in any haphazard 
commercial venture, though he has very laudable patterns 
amongst his own countrymen, who, by dint of energy, pru- 
dence, perseverance and probity, have risen from an obscure 
position in life to the foremost rank of successful Native 
merchants. He is destitute of pluck, and the risk of a com- 
mercial venture stares him in the face in all his highways 
and byways. In many cases he has inherited a colossal for- 
tune, but that does not stir up in his breast an enterprising 
spirit. He seeks and courts service, and in nine cases out 
of ten succeeds. The sweets of service, and the prospect 
of promotion and pension, slowly steal into his soul, and he 
gladly bends his neck under the yoke of servitude. It is a 
lamentable fact that he is a stranger to that " proud submission 
of the heart which keeps alive in servitude itself the spirit 
of an exalted freedom." As a vanquished race, subordi- 
nation is the inevitable lot of the Natives, but it is edifying 
to see how they hug its trammels with perfect complacency. 

The English Government is to the people of Bengal 
a special boon, a god -send. Almost every respectable family 
of Bengalee Baboos, past or present, is more or less indebt- 
ed to it for its status and distinction, position and influence, 



19^ THE BENGALEE BABOO. 

affluence and prosperity. The records of authentic history 
clearly demonstrate the fact that the Baboos of Bengal have 
been more benefited by their British rulers than ever they were 
under their own dynasty. Instances are not wanting to 
corroborate the fact. The love of money is natural in man, 
and few men are more powerfully and, in many cases, more 
dangerously influenced by it than the people of this country. 
" It is a thirst which is inflamed by the very copiousness of 
its draughts." Possession or accumulation does not suffi- 
ciently satisfy it. 

Experience and observation amply attest the truth of the 
following current saying among the Hindoos of the Upper 
Provinces, viz,, '' Kamayta topeewallah, lotetah dhoteewallahl^ 
the meaning of which is, the English earn, the Bengalees 

plunder. To be more explicit, the English continue to extend 

* 

their conquests, the Bengalee Baboos participate in the loaves 
and fishes of the Public Service. In a dejected spirit of 
mind, a Hindoosthanee is often heard to mourn ; he ad- 
dresses a Sahib in the most respectful manner imaginable, 
by using such flattering terms as ^^ Khodabundy garibpar- 
bary but in nine cases out of ten the Sahib scornfully turns 
away his head ; when, on the contrary, a Bengalee gir gir 
karkay dho bath sanay diya, i, e., jabbers to him a few words, 
he patiently listens to him, and signifies his acquiescence in 
what he says by a nod. In his boorish simplicity, the Hindoos- 
thanee concludes that the Bengalee Baboos are well versed in 
charms, or else how do they manage to tame a grim biped 
like a Sahib. 

With a view to remove this erroneous impression, which 
until recently was so very common among the inhabitants 
of the Upper Provinces, and the existence of which is so 
prejudicial to the general encouragement of education 
throughout India, as well as to the impartial character and 
high dignity of the paramount power, the local Governments 



THE BENGALEE BABOO, tg^ 

have been directed in future to select for public service all 
the educated Natives born and bred up under their respective 
Administrations in preference to the Bengalees. Thus the 
aspiration of a Bengalee Baboo, so far as Public Service 
is concerned, is now restricted within the limits of his own 
Province. 

A Bengalee Baboo is an eager hunter after academic 
honors. The University confers on him the high degrees of 
B. A., M. A. and B. L., and he distinguishes himself as a 
speaking member of the British Indian Association or of the 
Calcutta Municipality. He also reads valedictory addresses 
to retiring Governors and other Government Magnificoes. 
He is created a Maharajah, a Rajah, a Rai Bahadoor, with 
perhaps the additional paraphernalia of C. S. I. or C. I. E. 
As a ripe man of vivid ambition and lofty aspiration, he 
necessarily hankers after and is all a-gog to dash through 
thick and thin for these new honors and decorations. He drives 
swiftly about in his barouche with his staff holder on the 
coach-box in broadcloth livery. Unfortunately no baronetcy 
blazons forth in Bengalee heraldry, like that bestowed on 
Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy. The cause is obvious. No 
millionaire Bengalee has to this day contributed so muni- 
ficently to public charities as the Parsee baronet. 

When that distinguished Hindoo reformer. Baboo 
Dwarkanath Tagore, — the most staunch coadjutor of Rajah 
Rammohun Roy, — visited England, it was reported that Her 
Majesty had most graciously offered to confer on him the 
title of a Rajah; and his liberality and public spirit fully 
entitled him to that high distinction, but he politely refused it 
on the ground that his position did not justify his accepting 
it. He felt that the shadow of a name without substance 
was but a mockery. When Rajah Radhakant Deb was elect- 
ed President of the British Indian Association "he used to 
declare that he was more proud of that office than of his 



198 THB SBN6ALBE BABOO. 

title of Rajah Bahadoor, inasmuch as it indicated the chief- 
ship of a body which was a power in the State and was des- 
tined to achieve immense good for the country." At the time 
of the Prince of Wales' visit to Calcutta, it was said that a 
certain English-made Rajah was introduced by a Govern- 
ment Magnifico to the Maharajah of Cashmere ; among other 
matters, the Cashmere Rajah out of curiosity asked the 
Bengal Rajah, "where was his Raj and what was the strength 
of his army?** The question at once puzzled him, and his 
answer was anything but satisfactory. Of all the Indian 
Viceroys, Lord Lytton was certainly the most liberal in be- 
stowing these hollow titles on the Baboos of Bengal, under a 
mistaken notion of winning the love and confidence, which 
ought to constitute the solid basis of a good Government. A 
Rajahship,* without the necessary equipage and material and 
moral grandeur of royalty is but a gilt ornament that dazzles 
at first sight but possesses little intrinsic value. It is in fact a 
misnomer, a sham, a counterfeit. The love of honor or power 
constitutes one of the main principles of human nature. A 
Rajah, in the true sense of the word, is one who shares in the 
royalty of divine attributes. He should remember that a man 
is bound to look to something more than his mere wardrobe 
and title ; he must possess a goodness and a greatness which 
would benefit thousands and tens of thousands of his fellow- 



* It is a disreputable fact, but it most assuredly is a fact, that when some years 
ago a teacher of the Government School of Art published a book in Bengallee 
on the ancient arts and manufactures of Hindoosthan, and sent a copy of it 
to one of these English-made Rajahs, he politely refused to take it — the price 
being one Rupee only — sa3ring it was of no use to him though it was an instruc- 
tive and suggestive manual. This refusal offers a sad comment on the liberality 
of my fellow countrymen towards the encouragement of learning. But turning 
from the dark to the bright side of the picture, I may perhapis be permitted to 
point with pardonable pride to the almost unparalleled munificence of the late 
Baboo Kally Prosono Singh of this City, in this respect. That distinguished 
patron of vernacular literature had, it is said, spent upwards of ;£'5o,ooo on 
the compilation of Mohabharat, that grand Epic poem ot the Hindoos, which 
says Talboys Wheeler, still continues to exercise an influence on the masses of 
the people "infinitely greater and more universal than the influence of the Bible 
upon modem Europe. 



THE BENGALEE BABOO. 199 

creatures by the exercise of real, disinterested virtue. Such 
a career alone can leave an imperishable and ennobling name 
behind, which will go down to posterity as a pattern of moral 
grandeur.* Politically considered these titles and decorations 
have their value, inasmuch as they have a tendency to pro- 
mote the entente cordiale between the rulers and the ruled, 
and, next to the Public Debt, furnish, in an indirect way, an 
additional buttress to the stability of the British Indian em- 
pire. 

In former times, when the English rule was in its incep- 
tive stage, when external pageant — the outcome of vanity — 
was not much thought of, when the simple taste of the people 
was not tainted by luxury and corruption, an unnatural crav- 
ing for titles exerted but a very feeble influence on the minds 
of the great. Instead of seeking "the bubble reputation" they 
vied with each other in the extent of their religious gifts and 
endowments, affording substantial aid to the learned of the 
land and to the poorer classes of the community. A spirit 
of disinterestedness and self-sacrifice never at variance with 
magnanimity was conspicuous in all their gifts. The im- 
mense extent of Debatra and Brahmatra land, /. ^., rent-free 
tenures throughout Bengal, even after the relentless operation 
of the Resumption Act, still bears testimony to their disinter- 
ested benevolence and the heartiness with which they entered 
into other men's interests. Of course they were incapable 
of comprehending the innumerable affinities and relations of 
life in all its varied phases, rising from the finite and transient 
to the infinite and the enduring, but whatever they gave, they 

* Of all the English-made Rajahs of the present day, it is pleasing to recog- 
nise, in Moharajah Rajender MuUick of this City, some of the noble attributes 
of a Rajah. Modest and unassuming, he manifests to a great degree a generous 
disposition to relieve suifering humanity and to do good by stealth. Never did he 
stru^le to thrust himself, by the nature of his work, upon public notice. 
Gifted with an intelligent mind, a refined taste, and considerable artistic ability, 
his moral greatness throws all other forms of greatness into the shade. He is not 
ambitious to make his name the theme, the gaze, the wonder of a dazzled 
community. 



200 THE BENGALEE BABOOHl^T^ 

gave not with a stinted hand nor in an ostentatious way, but 
with a truly benevolent and disinterested heart, looking to the 
Most High for their guerdon. The sublime and elevated con- 
ception of organised charity never penetrated their minds. 
Religious gifts and endowments formed the great bulk of 
their contributions, but they also made permanent provision 
for the relief of the helpless and the destitute,* not on the 
recognised principles of English charity, t. e, the Hospital 
system, the Nurses' Institutions, Reformatories for unfortu- 
nates, parish relief, funds for the aged and infirm, provision 
of improved dwellings as well as for baths and wash-houses 
for the working-classes inaugurated by the magnificent gift 
by Mr. G. Peabody of ;^2 50,000, ragged schools and asylums 
for the deaf, dumb and blind, supported by voluntary contri- 
butions, and other organised methods for the relief of distress 
and destitution throughout the country. It is a sad reflection 
on the benevolent disposition of the Natives that they cannot 
boast of anything bearing a remote analogy to the above 
recognised forms of Charity. In India there is much indivi- 
dual charity of an impulsive and interested character, but 
the great element of success in English charity is combina- 
tion and organisation, without which no work of public 
utility can be practically carried out. 

* Of all the Hindoo millionaires whose life afforded the most ennobling 
example of a pious and disinterested man that of Lalla Baboo —the ancestor of 
the present Paikpdrra Rajah family, in the suburbs of Calcutta — was certainly 
one of the most remarkable. He possessed a princely fortune, a considerable 
portion of which he wisely set apart for the support of the poor and destitute. 
Unlike most of his wealthy countrymen, he renounced all the pleasures of the 
world, and in the evening of his life retired with only a shred of cloth into the 
holy city of Brindabun. As a practical illustration of self-denial he actually 
led the life of a religious mendicant, daily begging from door to door for a mouth- 
ful of bread. His religious endowments still continue to offer shelter arid food 
to hundreds of poor people in and around Brindabun, which has been so graphi- 
cally described by Colonel Tod. "Though the groves of Brinda" says he, ** in 
which Kanaya (Krishna) disported with the Gopis, no longer resound to the echoes 
of his flute ; though the waters of the Jumna are daily polluted with the blood 
of the sacred kine, still it is the holy land of the pilgrim, the sacred Jordan of 
his fancy, on whose banks he may sit and weep, as did the banished Israelite 
of old, the glories of Mathoora, his Jerusalem." 



THE BENGALEE BABOO. 201 

It IS obvious that the peculiar social economy of the 
Natives presents an almost insuperable barrier to the harmo- 
nious amalgamation of the different classes artificially split 
into numerous subdivisions. In the neighbourhood of Poona, 
Mr. Elphinstone says, there are about 1 50 different castes, 
and in Bengal they are very numerous. They maintain their 
divisions, however obscurely derived, with great strictness. * 
The religious, social and moral duties of these classes, exhi- 
bit marked differences, which are opposed to the combination 
of united efforts in the cause of relieving suffering huma- 
nity. The idea of a national brotherhood knd a system 
of universal philanthropy, such as Christianity has nobly 
inaugurated, is much too elevated for the narrow, contracted 
minds of the people. Independent of the numerous sub- 
divisions of caste, unhappily there still exists an impassable 
gulf between the Hindoos and Mussulmans — at present the 
children of the same soil — which has hitherto kept up a state 
of unhallowed separatism, essentially at variance with a 
cordial coalition for the consummation of any comprehensive 
system of Public Charity designed to benefit both. Age 
has rooted in the minds of the two communities an impla- 
cable mutual hate, quite subversive of the best interests of 
humanity. Plausible arguments may be adduced in support 
of the existence of this race antagonism, but let both of 
them be assured that " by abusing this world they shall not 
earn a better." Let every act or feeling or motive of both 
races be merged in one harmonious whole, developing the 
perfection of human nature in a distinct and bright reality. 

A Bengalee Baboo is fond of discussing European 
politics. The reading of history has given him a superficial 
insight into the rise and progress of nations. He does not 



* Division always implies weakness and ** estrangement intolerable isolation" 
impeding the expansion of genuine benevolent feelings in a comprehensive 
sense. 

BB 



202 THE BENGALEE BABOO. 

deny that he amph'fies and emphasises the sentiments he has 
learnt in the school of English politics. The orations of 
Lall Mohun Ghose in England have proved that a native of 
India has mastered the art of thinking on his legs, which is 
the beginning and end of oratory. A few more men like 
him, steadily working in earnest at the fountain head of 
power, would certainly awaken public attention towards the 
present condition of our country. It was Lord William 
Bentinck who advised a body of Native Memorialists, anxious 
for the political emancipation of their country, " to continue 
to agitate until they gained their end." Constitutional repre- 
sentation to proper authority, his Lordship remarked, would 
as much command public attention as idle, factious de- 
clamation divert it.* He was emphatically the "People's 
William" in India, as Gladstone is the " People's William" 
in England. He was a statesman who directed his whole 
attention and energy to internal improvement, repudiating 
all schemes of aggression or conquest. His beneficence, 
immortalised in a noble monument — the Calcutta Medical 
College, — will be more gratefully acknowledged by the latest 
generation than the genius of a Hastings, a Wellesley, or 
a Dalhousie. 

The complete emancipation of India, however, is a 
question of time. Baboo Lall Mohun Ghose's speeches in 
England have not been entirely fruitless, inasmuch as they 
have evoked and enlisted the sympathy of a few leaders of 
public opinion. He is manfully struggling to remove the bar 
of political disabilities, and to secure for his countrymen the 
benefit of representative institutions, for the recognition and 
appreciation of which they are now prepared. While they 
hope for the best, they must be prepared for the worst. They 

* Very few persons remember the days when Chuckerbutty faction and 
grievance Thomson used to raise a hue and cry in the Fouzdairy Balakhanah 
Debating Club, formed for the political emancipation of India before the people 
were fully prepared to appreciate the value of their rights and privileges. 



THE BENGALEE BABOO. 203 

must learn meanwhile to cherish, as among the essential 
elements of ultimate success, a firm, manly, independent and 
self-denying spirit. 

A Bengalee Baboo is often voted a man of tall talk. 
Platitude is his forte. This is surely true to a certain extent ; 
and until he descends from the elevated region of specula- 
tion to the matter of fact arena of practice, both his writings 
and harangues must necessarily prove abortive. He must 
learn to exchange his verbosity for action in the great battle 
of life. Every great politician or statesman must have a 
thorough practical training to enable him to overcome the 
opposition of different factions whose interests are jeopardised 
by his success, and to render his administration a blessing to 
the people. He must be prepared to grow and advance 
under adverse influences. The history of that consummate 
statesman, Sir Salar Jung, of that distinguished scholar and 
councillor, Sir T. Madeo Rao, of that astute minister, Maha- 
rajah Sir Dinkur Rao, furnishes the most convincing examples 
of superior adminstrative ability combined with practical 
wisdom. Lord Northbrook, in a recent speech at Birming- 
ham, has made honorable mention of these three eminent 
statesmen, whose valuable services in their respective spheres 
have long since established their substantial claims to the 
the gratitude of their fellow countrymen. When Sir Salar Jung 
visited Europe, his very comprehensive and enlightened views 
elicited the admiration of several of the wisest statesmen of 
the age. His able and successful administration at Hyderabad, 
amidst the fierce opposition of factious parties, affords an 
admirable illustration of his superior practical wisdom. 
When, some thirty years ago, Maharajah Sir Dinkur Rao 
visited Calcutta, he was the wonder of all who heard him 
enunciate, in a telling speech at the Town Hall, his high* 
noble and practical views on civil Government. The speech 
was not made feverish by visions of indistinct good, as Mr. 



204 THE BENGALEE BABOO. 

Theodore Dickens said, but it was a clear exposition of the 
liberal sentiments of a wise statesman. 

The Bengalees are not a warlike race. Their traditional 
habits and usages, their physique, their diet and dress, their 
natural tendency to slothfulness and effeminacy, their prover- 
bial quietude, their general want of pluck and manly spirit, their 
ascetic composure, placing the chief joys of life in rest and 
competency, — an heirloom descended from their ancestors, — 
all indicate an unwarlike temperament. During the Mutiny 
of 1875, — an event which in atrocious acts of cruelty incom- 
parably surpasses all other historical events ever record- 
ed, — that kind hearted Governor General, Lord Canning, 
was advised to introduce Martial Law into Calcutta, but 
he negatived the proposal by emphatically declaring in the 
Council Chamber that the Bengalees are a mild, tame, in- 
offensive and loyal race of people, whose only weapon of 
defence is a simple penknife. A common Police constable 
with his baton is to them a grim master of authority. A 
red-coated Highlander is formidable enough to cope with 
and drive away an immense crowd of Bengalees even in 
the very heart of the City of Palaces, while in the villages 
all shops and houses are closed at the very sight of an 
European soldier in his uniform. In fact, Bengal can well be 
governed by a handful of Native Police constables, especially 
when the Arms' Act is in full force. Unlike the military 
races of Upper India, or the border tribes, the Bengalees will 
never, even under the influence of the most aggravated wrongs 
and injuries, retaliate or resort to such a desperate court of 
appeal as war and murder. 

English \s the adopted language of a Bengalee Baboo. 
It is an instructive study to take a cursory view of the 
rapid progress of English education throughout India from 
the day when David Hare had held out pecuniary induce- 
ments to Hindoo youths to attend his school, and Dr. Duff 



THE BENGALEE BABOO, 205 

called in the aid of Rammohun Roy to found the infant 
General Assembly's Institution, now developed into the largest 
College in India. Fifty years ago, who dreamt or even hazard- 
ed a prediction that a Native lad of sixteen or seventeen 
years of age would venture to traverse the perilous ocean and 
compete for the Civil Service Examination in England, paying 
no heed whatever to the manifold disadvantages arising from 
social persecution, and the disruption of domestic relations 
of the tenderest nature. When Bacon said that knowledge 
is power, he certainly did not mean physical but intellectual 
power. It is the irresistible influence of this power that 
has inspirited an Indian youth to appear at the English 
^'^open competition" for the purpose of winning academic 
spurs and entering a closely fenced service ; it is the quicken- 
ing influence of this power, combined with an enterprising 
spirit, that has gradually enabled a mere handful of English 
adventurers to convert a small factory into one of the vastest 
empires in the East. The gigantic strides that English 
education has made in India within a short time, have been 
the wonder of the age, the foundation rock of her ultimate 
emancipation, socially, morally and intellectually. The prison 
wall round the mind which ages had reared and learning 
fortified has been completely demolished, and not only men 
but matronly zenana females have picked up a few crumbs of 
broken English words which they occasionally use in familiar 
conversation, for instance. Rail, Talygraf, Guvner, Juj 
Majister, High Cote, etc. 

Some of the Bengalee Baboos read and write English 
with remarkable fluency, and the epistolary correspondence of 
most of them is commonly carried on in that language. 
When two or more educated Baboos meet together, or take 
their constitutional in the morning, they perhaps talk of some 
leading articles in the Anglo-Indian or English journals or 
periodicals, and eagerly communicate to each other " the flot- 



2o6 THE BENGALEE BABOO, 

sam and jetsam of advsinced European thoughts, the ripest 
outcome in the Nineteenth century, or the aftermath in 
the Fortnightly," as if the vernacular dialect were not at all 
fitted for the communication of their ideas. It is a pity that 
the cultivation and improvement of a national literature — the 
embodiment of national thought and taste and the main- 
spring of national enlightenment — seldom or never engages 
their serious attention. But it is a great mistake to suppose 
that the large mass of the Indian population can be thoroughly 
instructed and reformed through the medium of a foreign 
language. The richness and copiousness of modern English, 
combining as it does conciseness with solidity and perspi- 
cuity, are admittedly very great ; it is admirably adapted for 
the educated few^ but it is not equally suited to the capacity 
and comprehension of the many. It is incumbent, therefore, 
on all well disposed Hindoos, who have the real welfare of 
their country at heart, to endeavour to fertilise their national 
literature by transplanting into it the advanced thoughts 
of modern Europe, and to enrich it with copiousness, such as 
would obviate its acknowledged deficiency and barrenness. 
Until this is done, it is as unreasonable to expect elegance 
and perfection in the national literature as it is to expect 
harvest in seed-time or the full vigor of manhood in the 
incipient state of childhood. 

Assuredly the Bengalees are a race of keranees or 
writers, as Napoleon said the English were a nation of shop- 
keepers. Every morning and evening, almost all the main 
streets of Calcutta leading to the English quarter — bright 
prospect for the Tramway — are literally thronged with dense 
crowds of keranees in their white cloth uniform, busily 
making for their respective offices, either in shabby looking 
third class hackney carriages or on foot. A foreigner not 
used to such sights cannot fail almost unconsciously to come 
to a conclusion that the Bengalees are a nation of keranees. 



THE BENGALEE BABOO. 207 

Every Government, Railway or Merchant's office, is filled 
with these Baboos, either actually employed or serving on 
probation, biding their time in fond expectation of picking 
up a slice of official bread, buttered or unbuttered. Even 
graduates of the Calcutta University do not hesitate to serve 
as apprentices, because a collegiate course does not teach the 
rules of bureaucracy or official routine. Most of them are 
good copyists or clever accountants, while a few are corres- 
pondence clerks. As a rule, their pay is very small compared 
with what is given to English Clerks, for reasons which I 
need not dilate upon here. 

Within the range of our experience, extending over fifty 
years, we remember only one Native gentleman — Baboo 
Shama Churn Dey, the present vice-chairman of the Calcutta 
Municipality — who, by his tried ability, intelligence and 
integrity has managed to climb to the top of keraneedom. 
In recognition of his high efficiency his salary has been 
raised to one thousand Rupees a month, in spite of many 
instances of supersession. I, in common with others, am 
fully persuaded that had he been a British-born Civilian, 
he would undoubtedly have drawn a much larger salary. 
But it is useless to repine at a misfortune which is inevi- 
table. 

Even the amusements of a Bengalee Baboo are more 
or less anglicised. Instead of the traditional JattraSy (re- 
presentations) and Cobees (popular ballads) he has gradually 
imbibed a taste for theatrical performances, and native 
musical instruments are superseded by European flutes, 
concertinas and harmoniums, organs and piano-fortes. This 
is certainly a decided improvement on the old antiquated 
system, demonstrating the slow growth of a refined taste* 
Thus we see in almost every phase of life, at home or outside, 
the Bengalee Baboo is Europeanized. In his style of living 
in his mode of dress, in his writings, in his public and private 



2o8 THE BENGALEE BABOO. 

utterances, in his household arrangements and furniture, in 
his bearing and department, in his social intercourse, in his 
mental accomplishments, and in fact, in his passionate par- 
tiality for Western aesthetics, he is a modified Anglo-Indian. 
But it were devoutly to be wished that he possessed a 
larger admixture of the essential elements of European 
truthfulness of character, energy and manliness of spirit, 
straightforwardness in his dealings with society, nobility of 
sentiment, magnanimity combined with simplicity, disinterest- 
ed love and sympathy, and above all,moral and spiritual 
elevation. 




XVI. 
THE KOBIRAJ OR NATIVE PHYSICIAN. 

OTWITHSTANDING the rapid progress of medical 



science throughout the country since the establish- 
ment of the Calcutta Medical College, it is an 
undeniable fact that the practice of Hindoo Kobirajes and 
Mussulman hakims still continues to find favour in the eyes 
of a large section of the Indian population. In Chemistry, 
Anatomy, Midwifery and Surgery, the decided superiority of 
the English over the Native system, is admitted by all. This 
is unquestionably an age of improvement ; everything around 
us indicates the progressive development of arts and sciences, 
and a society that does not keep pace with the onward march 
of intellect is certainly much behind the age. 

There was a time when upwards of sixteen original 
medical writers, some of whose works are still extant, flour- 
ished in India, and medicines prepared according to the 
formulas of the Ayurveda — the best standard medical work — 
were supposed to have produced wholesome results, affording 
no inconsiderable amount of relief to thousands afflicted with 
diseases of various kinds, and even of a most malignant charac- 
ter. U^nder the Hindoo dynasty, every encouragement was 
given to the cultivation and improvement of medical science. 
Next to the Brahmins, the Vidya class was respected, though 
sometimes they are unjustly twitted with what is called 
a hybrid origin. It is, however, foreign to our purpose 
to determine this point, which seems to be enveloped in 
obscurity. The common theory on which the Hindoo system 
of physic is based, has reference to the country, the season 
and the age of the patient, to which is superadded the course of 
regimen suited to his physical organisation. The scientific 

cc 



210 THE KOBIRAJ OR NATIVE PHYSICIAN, 

and philosophical theory is that there are certain defined 
elements in the human body on the natural equilibrium of 
which mainly depends the health of man. The disturbance 
of this normal equilibrium, either by the increase or decrease 
of the essential ingredients, deranges the system and requires 
the use of medicines generally obtained from several kinds 
of indigenous drugs, bark, root, wood, fruits, flowers, me- 
tals, &c. 

From the existing medical works according to which 
medicines are prepared and cures effected, it is evident that the 
Hindoo system is not entirely destitute of science, but the light 
it is capable of diffusing is greatly dimmed by a combination 
of unfavourable circumstances brought about by the over- 
throw of the Hindoo dynasty, the decay of learning in every 
branch of human knowledge, and the consequent growth and 
progress of empiricism. 

In his eleventh discourse before the Asiatic Society, that 
distinguished orientalist. Sir William Jones, has said " Physic 
appears in these regions to have been from time immemorial 
as we see it practised at this day by the Hindoos and 
Mussulmans, a mere empirical history of diseases and medi- 
cines." This is presumably a remark applicable to a society 
but little removed from a state of barbarism, but the exis- 
tence of such scientific works as Ayurveda^ Nidan^ Churruck- 
SivasrUy Sarasungrafuiy Boidya^ SarvuswHy &c., furnishes 
abundant proof that the Hindoo system of physic is not 
altogether founded on empiricism. 

In 1838 the Honorable the East India Company ap- 
pointed a Committee, consisting of Drs. Jackson, Rankin 
Bramby, Pearson, W. B. O'Shaughnessy and Mr. James Prinsep, 
to examine and report upon the state of the Honorable Com- 
pany's Dispensaries, and the possibility of substituting native 
drugs for European medicines, the primary object being two- 
fold, namely cheapness and efficacy. Death, ill health and 



THE KOBIRAJ OR NATIVE PHYSICIAN. 2U 

the casualties of the service dispersed the Committee long^ 
before the members could accomplish the task imposed on 
them, and subsequently the whole charge devolved upon 
Dr. W. B. O'Shaughnessy, who, after the unwearied labour 
of four years, assisted by some of the best Native physicians, 
produced a work entitled "The Bengal Dispensary" published 
under the authority of the Government of India, which still 
remains a valuable monument of his indomitable zeal and 
untiring devotion to medical science. 

Great attention has also been given to the scientific 
analysis of the various indigenous drugs by Roxburgh^ 
VVallick, Ainslie, White, Arson, Royle, Pereira, Lindlay, 
Richard, &c., &c. The result of their analytical examina^ 
tion, though not so exhaustive as the very great import- 
ance of the subject required, was nevertheless very favour* 
able to the opinion that the native system was based on 
fixed scientific principles, and that many of the drugs possessed 
great curative properties. Unfortunately the improved prin- 
ciples and important discoveries of modern Europe have 
not been sufficiently brought to bear on the simultaneous 
development of the native system. They have, however; 
proved greatly beneficial in teaching the native kobirajes to 
adopt, to a certain extent, the European method and regime. 

It is a- remarkable fact that even now, when this science 
may be said to be in a retrogressive stage both for want 
of adequate culture as well as of sufficient encouragement, 
there are a few Hindoo kobirajes * in this City, and in other 
parts of the country, whose treatment in chronic cases of 
fever, dysentery, diarrhoea, phthisis, pulmonary consumption, ^ 
asthma, &c., proves, in a great measure, successful. Hence 

* The most popular and successful among them are, Gunga Prosad Sen, 
Chunder Coomar Roy, Gopee Bullub Roy, Prosono Chunder Sen, Brojendro 
Coomar Sen, Kally Dass Sen, &c. They profess to practise on the principles of 
Ayurveda, the best standard work on Hindoo Medical Science, and their mode of 
treatment is much appreciated by respectable Hindoos. 



212 THE KOBIRAJ OR NATIVE PHYSICIAN. 

in almost every respectable Hindoo family there is a compe- 
tent ko.biraj\ who is always consulted in cases of a serious 
nature. It is generally considered that on the subject of pul- 
sation greater weight is attached to the opinion of a Hindoo 
kobiraj than to that of an English doctor. By the pulse, 
in the different parts of our physical organisation, the state 
of the body may be ascertained and suitable remedies applied. 
In cases of severe indisposition among the Hindoos, the 
friends of a patient have not only to contend against the 
struggle between life and death, but to closely watch the last 
expiring flicker of vitality that he may be removed in time 
to the banks of the sacred stream for insuring his entrance 
into heaven. 

It has been urged by some native physicians that the 
Sanskrit work, Ayurveda^ above-mentioned, treats of ana- 
tomy and of the doctrine of the circulation of the blood. If 
this be true, great credit is doubtless due to its author for 
having made in a comparatively dark age such consider- 
able advances in an important branch of medical science, 
without which medicine and surgery are of little avail. Che- 
mistry, which enables us to distinguish the real properties 
of different substances, was certainly not unknown to the 
Hindoo physicians, because their medicines indicate a scienti- 
fic selection of several ingredients mixed together to produce 
a certain result. But it can by no means be asserted that 
the people ever attained to a thorough knowledge, either in 
the one or the other, which can bear comparison with the 
perfection of the modern European system. In almost every 
department of human knowledge steady progress is the grand 
characteristic of the age, but in this country unhappily a 
spirit of scientific investigation has very nearly been extin- 
guished simply for want of adequate cultivation and support. 

If empirics abound in enlightened Christendom, where 
chemical analysis, scientific researches in materia medica and 



THE KOBIRAJ OR NAIIVE PHYSICIAN, 213 

pharmacy, and anatomical demonstration and surgical opera- 
tions almost daily bring to light new discoveries and inven- 
tions, what can be expected in a country where medical science 
has long since been in a state of absolute stagnation. Ignor- 
ant and unprincipled quacks, quite unacquainted with the rules 
of the Hindoo medical shastras, abound all over the country, 
which has for some years past been severely suffering from 
malarious fever of a virulent type, carrying death and devasta- 
tion wherever it prevails * They literally sport with the health 
of their patients, and the natural consequence is, hundreds 
and thousands of human beings are mercilessly sacrificed 
to their ignorance and cupidity. Not one in a hundred of 
those who call themselves kobirajes is acquainted with the 
principles of physic as laid down in the standard medical 
works of the Hindoos. Some of them have a few nostrums 
of their own, the composition of which is unknown to every 
one but themselves. 

, A Bengalee kobiraj carries a miniature dispensary about 
him. He takes with him a small packet, containing differ- 
ent kinds of pills or powders, wrapped up in a piece of paper, 
in small doses which are commonly used twice a day with 
ginger, honey, betel, roots of doov-grass, &c. He seldom uses 
phials ; liquids, when required, are made in a patient's own 
house. His medicines are chiefly made of drugs, but he has 
neither a proper classification of them, nor a complete system 
of botany. He uses, however, certain preparations of oil, 
which are sometimes beneficially administered in chronic 

B I , - - --■---■ ■■-■■ -■-■ » 

* The general climate of Bengal has for some years past become very 
unhealthy, and as fever is the most prevalent epidemic in the Lower Provinces, 
Dr. D. N. Gupto's Mixture has become a patent medicine, proving efficacious 
in the majority of cases, so that the doctor is said to have made a very large for- 
tune by the sale of it within a few years. As far as success is concerned, Dr. 
D. N. Gupto has almost become the minimized Holloway of Bengal. Several 
other Native assistant surgeons have from time to time endeavoured to offer their 
anti-malarious mixture to the inhabitants of Lower Bengal, but they have signally 
failed in winning public confidence and favor. Attempts at counterfeit trade 
marks have also been tried, but on conviction before a Court of Justice the guilty 
have been punished. 



214 THE KOBIRAJ OR NATIVE PHYSICIAN. 

cases. These preparations are rather expensive, selling 
from two to ten Rupees per pound. The popularity of 
some of these kobirajes stands very high in Native public 
estimation. Almost every wealthy family in the interior as 
well as in the Town has its own physician. The fee of a 
quack in the villages is one Rupee on the first day of his visit, 
and he continues to attend twice daily until the patient re- 
covers. When completely recovered, the physician gets one 
or two Rupees more, a suit of clothes and some provisions. 

The introduction of English medicines into the interior, 
though not scientifically administered in every case, has 
very considerably affected the trade of the native quacks. 
Their occupation, it may be said, is nearly gone, because the 
doctors of the Bengalee class, more systematically trained 
under the auspices of the Government Vernacular Colleges, 
have, in a manner, superseded them. In strong fevers, in- 
stead of compelling the patient to fast for twenty-one days or 
longer, and restricting his regimen to parched rice, the Ben- 
galee class doctor first reduces him by evacuations,* and then 
gives him either fever mixture, or cinchona febrifuge, or qui- 

— I I -- ~ — ' — ■ M I ■ - I Mil » 

♦ The late indisposition of the Marquis of Ripon gave rise to many 
alaiming rumours as to the probable turn and termination of the disease — 
malarious fever — with which he was unhappily attacked during his travels to 
tnd from Bombay, and which, according to telegraphic messages, had consider- 
ably weakened his constitution, and diminished the wonted activity and vigor of 
his mind. The antiquated notion that violent paroxysm of fever in a European 
in this country causes the abnormal depletion of the system by constant evacu- 
ations has still a strong hold on the popular mind. Hence a pessimist view was 
generally taken of the speedy and complete recovery of so good and beneficent a 
Governor-General, whose rule, though only just begun, has been happily inaugurat- 
ed by several circumstances of a peculiarly hopeful character, tending, in no small 
degree, to make the people happy and contented by anticipation. The termi- 
nation of the disastrous and ruinous Afghan war, the few public utterances of his 
Lordship bearing on the future policy of the Government of India for the general 
well-being of the subjects, and the sure prospect of an abundant harvest, and the 
consequent appreciable reduction in the price of rice — the main staff of life in 
this country — by nearly fifty per cent., have all combined to evoke a sincere desire 
and fervent hope among the people for the long continuance of a rule so nobly 
begun and beneficently administered. May undisturbed peace and undiminished 
plenty and prosperity be the distinguishing features of such a liberal, generous 
and pure administration, and may it end fitly what it has begun so auspiciously. 
In speaking thus favorably of the Marquis of Ripon's Government, I merely echo 
the sentiments of my countr>'men from one end of the vast British Indian empire 
to the other. 



THE KOBIRAf OR NATIVE PHYSICIAN. 215 

nine mixture as he thinks best. In place of warm appli- 
cations — the quondam regimen of a kobiraj in strong fevers — 
he gives ice or cold water, thus relieving the patient from the 
effects of a merciless abstinence and excessive thirst. On the 
periodical return of the unhealthy season in Bengal, i. e., in 
the months of September, October, November and December, 
when the atmosphere is surcharged with a large quantity of 
vapour, these doctors generally reap a harvest of gain from 
their practice. It should be mentioned, however, that their 
imperfect knowledge and want of sufficient experience, are 
too often attended with the most disastrous results. 




XVII. 

HINDOO FEMALES. 

HE condition of a Hindoo female, partially described 
in the preceding pages, is usually deplorable. The 
changes and vicissitudes to which her chequered 
life IS subject are manifold. From the day she is ushered 
into the world to her dissolution, she is surrounded by adven- 
titious circumstances, which, from the peculiar constitution 
of the society in which her life is cast, contain a larger ad- 
mixture of misery than of happiness. Weak and frail as 
she assuredly is made by nature, the conventional forms and 
social usages to which she is religiously enjoined to adhere 
alike tend to deprive her of temporal and spiritual happi- 
ness. Born under unfavorable circumstances chiefly by 
reason of her sex, her life is rendered doubly miserable by 
the galling chains of ignorance and superstition. " Accursed 
the day when a woman child was born to me," was the em- 
phatic exclamation of a Rajpoot when a female birth was 
announced. " The same motive," says Colonel Tod, " which 
studded Europe with convents, in which youth and beauty 
were immured until liberated by death, first prompted the 
Rajpoot to infanticide : and, however revolting the policy, 
it is perhaps kindness compared to incarceration. There 
can be no doubt that monastic seclusion, practised by the 
Frisians in France, the Langobardi in Italy and the Visigoths 
in Spain, was brought from Central Asia, the cradle of the 
Goths.* It is in fact a modification of the same feeling, which 

* **The Ghikers, a Scythic race, inhabiting the banks of the Indus, at 
an early period of history were given to infanticide". • ** It was a custom," says 
Ferishta, ** as soon as a female child was born, to carry her to the market place, 
and there proclaim aloud, holding the child in one hand, and a knife in the other, 
that any one wanting a wife might have her ; otherwise she was immolated. 
By this means they had more men thar. women, which occasioned the custom 
of several husbands to one wife. When any husband visited her, she set up a 
mark at the door, which being observed by the others, they withdrew till the 
signal was removed." 



THE HINDOO FEMALES. 217 

characterizes the Rajpoot and the ancient German warrior, 
— the dread of dishonor to the fair : the former raises the 
poniard to the breast of his wife rather than witness her 
captivity, and he gives opiate to the infant, whom, if he can- 
not portion and marry to her equal, he dare not see degrad- 
ed." Descending from the lofty ideal of a chivalrous 
Rajpoot character to the more familiar portraiture of tame 
Hindoo life in Bengal, we find the same sad destiny is the 
portion of a female in both cases. " When a female is born 
no anxious inquiries await the mother — no greetings welcome 
the new comer, who appears an intruder on the scene, which 
often closes in the hour of its birth. But the very silence 
with which a female birth is accompanied forcibly expresses 
sorrow." In almost every stage of life, from infancy to old 
age, her existence presents a uniform picture of gloominess, 
uncertainty, despondency, and neglect. Freedom of thought 
and independence of action — the natural birthrights of a 
rational being — are denied her not by her Creator but by a 
selfish, narrow-minded and crafty priesthood. She is treated 
and disposed of as if she were entirely destitute of the feelings 
and ideas of a sentient being. She dare not emerge from the 
unhealthy seclusion of the closely confined andannahal^ or 
female department, where suspicions and jealousies, envy and 
malignity are not unfrequently brewing in the boiling caldron 
of domestic discord. Born within the precincts of an ill- 
ventilated zenana, and cooped up in the cage of an uncon- 
genial cell, she is destined to breathe her last in that unwhole- 
some retreat. 

^A European lady can have no idea of the enormous 
amount of misery arid privation to which the life of a Hindoo 
female is subjected. In her case, the bitters far counter- 
balance the sweets of life. The natural helplessness of her 
condition, the abject wretchedness to which she is inevitably 
doomed, the utter prostration of her intellect, the ascendency 

DD 



2i8 THE HINDOO FEMALES. 

of a dominant priesthood exacting unquestioning submission 
to Its selfish doctrines, the unmerited neglect of an unsym- 
pathetic world, and the appalling hardships and austerities 
which she is condemned to endure in the event of the death 
of her lord, literally beggar description. All the graces and 
accomplishments with which she is blessed by nature, and 
which have a tendency to adorn and ennoble humanity, are 
in her case unreasonably denounced as unfeminine endow- 
ments and privileges, to assert which is a sacrilegious act. 

If she is ever happy, she is happy in spite of the cruel 
ordinances of her lawgiver, and the still more cruel usages 
and institutions of her country. Manu, the greatest fountain 
of authority, has expressly inculcated the doctrine that no 
man other than a Brahmin should receive the blessings of 
knowledge, and much more severely was the rule enforced 
in the case of females, who were held to be naturally unfit 
for mental culture! It was worse than a blasphemy to 
attempt to educate a female; she was bom in ignorance, 
she must die in ignorance. All the horrors of a premature 
and certain widowhood were pictured forth to her eyes, were 
she to make an eflfort to enlighten her mind.* How shame- 
fully contracted were the views of the Hindoo lawgiver in 
respect of the progressive development of the human intellect ! 
His prohibitory injunction was and is now more honored in 
the breach than in observance. 

* The Hindoo lawgivers, whatever their shortcomings in other respects^ 
showed a great insight into human nature when they looked more to women than 
men for the comparative stability of their doctrines. That the perpetual ignorance 
of the former promises a permanent harvest of gain to the hierarchy, is quite 
evident. If a correct return were available as to the number of pilgrims who 
periodically visit the different holy places throughout the country, it would doubt- 
less establish the fact that upwards of two-thirds of such pilgrims are females. 
If it were not for their pertinacious adherence to their traditional faith, the 
Brahminical creed, at least in the great centres of education, would have long 
since fallen into desuetude. The blind unquestioning faith of the female devotees 
in their gods and goddesses is the great secret of the very high estimation in which 
they are still held. If we educate the females and gradually disabuse their minds 
of early prejudices, we not only lay the axe at the very root of idolatry, but 
pave the way for the ultimate recognition of the true religion. 



THE HINDOO FEMALES. 219 

From the moment a female child is brought into the 
world, a new source of anxiety arises in the minds of its 
parents, which becomes more and more intense as it advances 
in years. The thought of educating the child is not what trou- 
bles their heads, it is a thought which is at the furthest re- 
move from their imagination ; but the idea how to dispose of 
It in the world continually preys on their minds. The child, 
perfectly unconscious of the fate that awaits it, begins to handle 
the playthings set before it, and as nature in almost every 
case works intuitively, it soon learns to make a miniature 
kitchen with earthen pots and pans resembling that in the 
midst of which it has to spend the greater portion of its ex- 
istence. It is a noteworthy fact that a Hindoo lady even when 
placed in affluent circumstances does not consider it beneath 
her dignity to occasionally take a part in the cuisine^ or at 
least in making preparations for the same, though the family 
has professional cooks in its employ, the principal object 
being to feed her husband and children with extra delicacies 
prepared with her own hand. Instead of idle and unprofitable 
talk and scandalous gossipings, reflecting on the characters 
of others, such an occupation is deserving of commendation * 

When six or seven years of age, the mother endeavours 
to initiate the girl in the first course of simple Bratas or reli- 
gious vows, which are destined, as has been already shewn, to 
exercise a vast influence on her mind. The germs of super- 
stition being thus sown so early take a deep root. Meanwhile 
the anxiety of the mother for her marriage increases with her 
growth. Numerous proposals are received and rejected, till 

* The late Baboo RajbuUub Roy Chowdhry, of Baripore, a very wealthy 
zemindar, south of Calcutta, used, it was said, to bring up the girls of his family, 
which was almost a small colony, in the art of cooking all sorts of native dishes, 
from the highly spiced polowyd to simple dhall-bath and vegetable curry ; he also 
taught them to bring up water for culinary purposes from a tank inside of the 
house in silver ghara or pots. Though he possessed the most practical of all 
worldly advantages, — the power of a purse, — yet he did not hesitate to initiate 
the girls in the art of cooking, that they may be fully prepared to perform 'the 
duty in case of necessity. I can easily cite other instances of a similar nature, 
but I believe they are not necessary. 



220 THE HINDOO FEMALES. 

at length a selection is made according to the rules stated in 
a former sketch. In this manner, persons are married with 
as much indifference as cattle are yoked together, they are 
disposed of according to the judgment of their parents, 
without the parties, who are to live together till death, having 
the slightest opportunity of seeing each other, much less of 
studying each other's disposition. 

If a female child possess, as is very rarely the case, finely 
chiselled features^ embodying the ideal of a Hindoo beauty, 
the breast of the mother is freed for a time, but for a time 
only, from perturbation or internal agitation. It may be she 
is congratulated on the birth of so beautiful a child, and it is 
but natural that she should indulge in pleasant delusions 
about the future of her offspring. She looks forward to a 
match at once desirable and happy. Fed with such hopes, 
she cherishes many a fond idea of the wealth of joys in store 
for her daughter. But how often are our brightest hopes 
blasted by the ruthless hand of fortune. 

If, on the contrary, the girl be deficient in beauty, the 
bosom of the niother is perpetually disturbed by gloomy fore- 
bodings, which no worldly advantage can effectually remove, 
no reasoning can sufficiently suppress. The reassuring ad- 
monition of congenial minds may sustain her spirits for a 
time, but whenever alone or disengaged from the toils of 
domestic duties, her mind almost involuntarily reverts to the 
future destiny of the girl. As day by day she grows older, 
and her features begin to assume a more distinctive form, the 
deformity, which was but faintly perceived at first, becomes 
more striking. The mother herself, perhaps, being a living 
illustration of how fruitless were the attempts of her parents 
to secure for her a desirable match, naturally feels a strong 
misgiving as to the good fortune of her child. 

While the hearts of the parents are thus filled with dis- 
quieting thoughts, the girl is perfectly unconscious of the fate 



THE HINDOO FEMALES. 221 

that awaits her. She laughs and sports about, regardless of 
what is written on her forehead by the Bidhata pooroosk. The 
performance of the religious vow in her infancy, having for its 
object the securing a good husband, might incidentally 
remind her of marriage, but the thought passes off in a mo- 
ment like the streaks of a morning cloud. Hence it has been 
justly said that the happiest days in the life of a Hindoo 
female are those preceding her marriage. If in Bengal, under 
the paternal care of a Christian Government, she is not per- 
mitted to become a victim to the poppy at her dawn, or the 
flames at her riper years, like her Rajpoot sister in times of 
yore, she is ever and anon subject to the appalling hardships 
of a bidhaba life, or widowhood. Though too young to fully 
realise the thousand and one evils of such a wretched ex- 
istence, yet the living examples she daily and hourly sees 
around her make, to use a native phrase, " her hands and feet 
enter into her belly." 

To those who have studied the existing state of Hindoo 
society, it is a matter no less of wonder than of gratulation 
that the system of early marriage, the arbitrary manner in 
which it is consummated, and the utter absence of the voice 
and consent of the parties thus affianced, deriding the very 
idea of the slightest opportunity being given to study each 
other's disposition and habitude, should produce such a large 
amount of conjugal felicity, which is the fundamental object 
of this solemn compact. In every nation removed from bar- 
barism, marriage is a recognised ordinance, alike sanctioned 
by the law of God and the law of man. It is a solemn cove- 
nant between a man and a woman to love each other 
through all the vicissitudes of life, till the union is dissolved 
by the death of either. We may go further and say that even 
then the tie of relationship does not become totally extinct, 
inasmuch as the party surviving has to provide for the nur- 
ture and education of children, should there be any. Such 



222 THE HINDOO FEMALES. 

being the nature of a matrimonial engagement, it is next to 
impossible that a boy of fourteen wedded to a girl of nine 
should be capable of forming an adequate idea of the grave 
responsibility. The evil must work its own remedy with the 
general spread of education and the growth of a sound sys- 
tem of domestic and social ecomony, because the existing 
one is unhealthy and unnatural. It is useless to dilate on the 
evil consequences of early marriage, they are clearly apparent 
in the every-day life of a Hindoo. 

Nature is so propitious to us in every respect that out of 
evil she brings good. When the female, destitute as she is of 
the blessings of knowledge, becomes the mother of several 
children, she is raised to the rank of a governess, or in other 
words, she becomes a ghinni^ or head of the family. To all 
intents and purposes, she seems to understand her duties so 
thoroughly that almost instinctively she exercises a salutary 
control over a number of young girls, newly married, cor- 
rects all improprieties of conduct, and teaches them to 
cherish feelings of mutual kindness, love and affection. 

In many cases, however, it must be acknowledged, the 
custom of several families — all branches of the same stem, 
— living together under one roof, is a fruitful source of evil, 
often embittering the sweet enjoyments of a peaceful conjugal 
life. Where there is no harmony among the several female 
members of a family, the slightest misunderstanding occasions 
bitterest quarrels, especially when there is no recognised 
ghinni or female head to check the same, or reconcile the 
parties by matronly advice. For instance, if one son in a 
family be well-to-dg in the world, and another does not possess 
the same advantages, it is ten to one but that the wife of the 
former constantly advises him to mess separately, if not to 
remove to a different house, and as unequal combination is 
always disadvantageous to the weaker side, the latter has 
to put up with slights and indignities which are oftentimes 



THE HINDOO FEMALES. 223 

unbearable, and terminate in a separation either in food or 
domicile, or both. It is a well established fact that a woman 
is the principal cause of a disruption between brothers and 
other members of a family. Though she is mild, soft, 
kind and flexible, yet she belies her nature when sordid 
self and mean avarice exert a dominant sway over her mind. 
Stinted in her culture and contracted in her views, Mammon 
is her god, and she looks to the welfare of her husband and 
her own children as the chief end of her existence. She 
is naturally loath to give a share of the affection of her 
husband to a rival ; she also cannot brook the idea of fritter- 
ing his earnings among his kindred. I have known of the 
most affectionate and devoted of brothers not being able to see 
each other's face under the all powerful influence of petticoat 
government. A European becomes a housekeeper as soon as 
he marries. The arrangement is an excellent one, no doubt, 
and as educated Hindoos are very much disposed to imitate 
English manners, the practice where feasible is gradually 
gaining ground, despite the prevalence of the old patriarchal 
system throughout the greater portion of the country. There 
is a common native saying, which runs thus : " as many brothers, 
so many abodes." It is to a certain extent a striking illustra- 
tion of the existing state of things ; harmony and peace 
can scarcely be found in a family where brothers are swayed, 
as they must be, by the irresistible influence of their wives. * 
To the credit of the patriarchal system, there still exist in 
every part of the country numerous families that scout the 
idea of a segregation. 

L ■ 

* At the time of the Churruck Poojah or swinging festival, which takes place 
about the middle of April, the Khdshdrees or Braziers of Calcutta are accus- 
tomed to make Sungs or caricature-representations of different sorts of familiar 
scenes, illustrative of the prevailing manners of the present age. In many cases 
they hit off the mark so admirably that they cannot fail to make a deep im- 
pression on the popular mind. Among other representations they once exhibited 
a caricature of a son taking a wife on his shoulder, while dragging a mother by 
a rope round her neck, exemplifying thereby the respective estimation in which 
each is held. 



224 THE HINDOO FEMALES. 

Turning from the dark to the bright side of the picture, 
it IS gratifying to observe that of late years, attention has 
been directed to, and laudable exertions are being made for, 
the education of Hindoo females. Nothing can compare 
in importance with the steady progress of this movement. 
After the movement had been begun by the Missionary Socie- 
ties, the late Hon. Mr. Drinkwater Bethune gave an important 
impetus to this noble cause from the side of Government. 
These examples have since been followed up by other devoted 
friends of native improvement, and the Government has fully 
recognised the paramount importance of the object. This 
combination of efforts has already produced the most grati- 
fying results. That there is a growing desire for learning 
among the females by the study of such elementary books, 
Bengallee and English, as have a tendency to improve their 
understanding, is a patent fact. Not only young girls, 
whose age permits them to attend schools, but grown up 
ladies, who are confined within the precincts of a zenana, 
are alike influenced by this commendable desire. Almost 
every respectable Hindoo family in Calcutta has a Christian 
governess, who besides giving primary and Bible instruction, 
teaches all sorts of needle-work — an art in which consider- 
able progress has been made within the last few years.* 
This is an indication of the growth of a refined taste which 
is a great step towards the cause of national improvement. 
As we have said elsewhere, instead of spending their time 
in idle talk and unprofitable occupation, if not in unpleasant 
dissension, they now vie with each other in producing works 
of art and usefulness, and as a matter of course the annual 
distribution of rewards is a great incentive to exertion. It 

* An annual fair or mela is held near Calcutta, at which the best specimens 
of needle-work executed by Hindoo females are exposed to public view, and 
prizes awarded by European and Native gentlemen. Great credit is due to 
Baboo Nobo Gopal Mitter, the editor of the National Paper, for this annual 
exhibition. Unfortunately the mela is languishing for want of sufficient public 
support. 



THE HINDOO FEMALES. 225 

IS devoutly to be wished that this desire for learning and 
taste for works of art should gradually spread and be 
appreciated throughout the length and breadth of the land. 
In the interior, however, the mass of the people of all ranks 
and of both sexes are still as remote from the influence of 
this improvement as they were centuries ago. 

It is a pity that Hindoo females are withdrawn from 
schools the moment they are married ; this is an insuperable 
obstacle to the full development of their mental powers. 
The progress made by some of them in the zenana is really 
very creditable, and challenges the commendation of all who 
have the elevation of native female character at heart. 
They are not only assiduous in the cultivation of feminine 
graces and accomplishments, but their superior grasp 
of thought and language rank them among the literary 
women of their country. Some thirty years back the 
Hindoo females of Bengal were immersed in ignorance; 
they were represented as degraded beings incapable of im- 
provement; not one in a thousand could read or write; but 
since proper steps have been taken to remove this national 
reproach, they have evinced an ardent desire to enrich their 
minds by a course of study which, though not profound, is 
well fitted to adorn female life. The English Church 
Mission, " The Scottish Ladies' Association," a department 
of the Church of Scotland Mission, the Free Church Mission, 
the American Mission, &c. are all doing an incalculable 
amount of good by their disinterested efforts to impart the 
blessings of knowledge to such zenana females as are pre- 
cluded by being married from attending schools. The 
complete regeneration of India cannot be expected until the 
emancipation of the females is accomplished, practically 
proving to the world, as it has already done in a very limited 
degree, the palpable absurdity of Manu's interdictory edict, 
restraining them from cultivating their intellectual powers. 

EE 



226 THE HINDOO FEMALES, 

As a proof of the progress already made in the higher 
branches of female education, it is gratifying to state that two 
young ladies passed the First Arts' Examination of the Calcutta 
University at the end of last year. One of these was trained 
in the Bethune School, and the other in the Free Church 
Normal School. This examination represents a very consi- 
derable amount of acquirement, and is next to the B. A. 
Several other female candidates also passed the Entrance or 
Matriculation Examination at the same time. Similar pro- 
gress has been reported from the Madras Presidency. 

Authentic history furnishes abundant evidence of the 
prevalence of female education in the country to a consider- 
able extent, until Mahomedan oppression not only proscribed 
Hindoo women from pursuing a literary career, but ulti- 
mately dragged them into a state of unhealthy seclusion for 
the preservation of their honor, which they valued more than 
their very life. In Rajpootana every respectable female was 
instructed to read and write. Of their intellectual endow- 
ments and knowledge of mankind, whoever has had oppor- 
tunities of conversing with them could not fail to form a favor- 
able impression.* 



* ** I have conversed for hours," says Colonel Tod, ** with the Boondi queen- 
mother on the affairs of her government and welfare of her infant son, to whom 
I was left guardian by his dying father. She had adopted me as her brother : 
but the conversation was always in the presence of a third person in her confi- 
dence, and a curtain separated us. Her sentiments shewed invariably a correct 
and extensive knowledge, which was equally apparent in her letters, of which I 
had many. I could give many similar instances. The history of India is filled 
with anecdotes of able and valiant females. Ferishta in his history gives an ani- 
mated picture of Durgavati^ queen of Gurrah, defending the rights of her infant 
son again.<:r. Akbar's ambition. Like another Boadicea, she headed her army, and 
fought a desperate battle with Asoph Khan," in- which she was wounded and 
defeated ; but scorning flight, or to survive the loss of independence, she, like the 
Roman of old in a similar predicament, slew herself on the field of battle." 

The accomplished Maharatta lady — Roma Bai — who lately visited Calcutta, 
affords a remarkable example of an educated Hindoo woman. She is an 
excellent Sanskrit scholar, well read in Sreemut Bhagabat, Several Pundits were 
astonished at her wonderful acquirements. 




XVIII. 
POLYGAMY. 

N this, as well as in some other eastern countries, 
polygamy has from time out of mind been in ex- 
istence. That it is subversive of moral order and 
of conjugal felicity, is admitted by all who have paid the 
slightest degree of attention to the very many evil conse- 
quences of this abnormal institution. It is a violation of a 
just and divine law, opposed to the nurture and education of 
children, and inconsistent with the due equality of the sexes. 
In every country where this obnoxious practice prevails, and 
is dignified with the hallowed name of a social and religious 
ordinance, as is done in India, woman occupies a degraded 
position, and society is rude and unexpansive in its character. 
The most heinous crimes are committed without remorse, 
and conscience is seared, as it were, with a red-hot iron. 
" Nature has designed woman to be the equal of man as a 
moral and intellectual being ; and confined to the exer- 
cise of her own proper duties as a wife and mother, she 
is placed in a favourable position as relates to her own 
happiness and the happiness of her husband." Much of 
the civilization of Europe is due to the high position of the 
fair sex in the social scale. Their education, their capacity 
for rearing their children in orderly and virtuous habits, their 
elevated conceptions of a Supreme Being, their social and 
domestic manners, the purity of their lives, their natural ten- 
derness and affection, their freedom, and the moral influence 
of their actions on society, give them a rank in no way 
inferior to that of the other sex. But in this country, it is 
painful to realise that they are not only denied the inestimable 
blessings of a good education but that their first lawgiver has 



228 POLYGAMY. 

condemned them to a state of abject servitude. " Women 
have no business" says Manu, " with the text of the Veda, 
this is the law fully settled ; having, therefore, no evidence 
of law, and no knowledge of expiatory texts, sinful women 
must be as foul as falsehood itself; and this is a fixed rule. 
Through their passion for men, their mutable temper, their 
want of settled affection, and their perverse nature, (let them 
be guarded in this world ever so well,) they soon become 
alienated from their husbands." Manu allotted to such women 
"a love of their bed, of their seat, and of ornament, impure 
appetites, wrath, weak flexibility, desire of mischief and 
bad conduct. Day and night must women be held by their 
protectors in a state of dependence." Apart from their 
practically servile condition, the apparent complacence with 
which polygamy is tolerated, and the facility with which a 
plurality of wives can be obtained, are circumstances which 
poison the perennial source of conjugal felicity, reduce them 
to a state of moral and intellectual degradation, and sap the 
very foundation of virtue. "A barren wife," says Manu, 
" may be superseded by another in the eighth year ; she 
whose children are all dead, in the tenth ; she who brings 
forth only daughters, in the eleventh year ; she who speaks 
unkindly, without delay." Bullal Sen, who, if I mistake not, 
had first established the system of Koolmism in Bengal, and 
prescribed certain rules in favor of polygamy, was singularly 
deficient in foresight and wisdom when he entirely over- 
looked the evil consequences inseparable from this monstrous 
matrimonial arrangement, so pregnant with mischief in what- 
ever cLspect we view it. Any artificial institution which is 
subversive of divine law will, in the main, prove highly 
unfavourable to the best interests of society. The marriage 
of a man with but one wife is an arrangement which should 
never be departed from. To dispose of the ministering angels 
of our existence, without the slightest regard to their future 



POLYGAMY. 229 

happiness, and yoke them to an unprincipled libertine, or a 
Koolin perhaps on the verge of his grave, is a system alike 
destructive of all social, benevolent and humane feelings. A 
Koolin has no regard, much less sympathy, for any one of his 
numerous wives, on the contrary he looks to them for gain 
and other worldly advantages. It is a notorious fact that 
Koolin wives after their marriage almost invariably live with 
their parents, thus virtually closing all avenues to the growth 
of affection between the husband and wife. The one is as 
estranged from the other as if there had been no bond of 
union between them. As the temptations to vicious indul- 
gences are so very powerful and numerous in this wicked 
world of ours, the unscrupulous Koolin females of the sacer- 
dotal class often sacrifice chastity at the altar of sensuality. 
The perpetration of the most horrible crimes is the necessary 
effect. The fault does not rest so much with the poor unfor- 
tunate females as with the diabolical system which openly 
tolerates and religiously upholds polygamy. That it is an 
unnatural state, even the most thoughtless will readily admit. 
In every case it is the source of perpetual disputes and 
misery. Domestic happiness can have no place in a family 
in which more than one wife lives. I have known many a 
person who under the impulse of passion had entered into 
this unnatural state deplore it as the greatest of all domestic 
afflictions. Even separate cook rooms, separate apartments, 
and separate mehals^ and dining and sleeping alternately 
with two wives with the greatest punctuality, and giving the 
same set of ornaments to both, were not enough to ensure 
harmony, peace and tranquillity. Indeed it has become a 
proverb among the Hindoos, that " one wife would rather go 
with her husband to the gloomy regions of yama (Pluto) 
than see him sit with the other." As has already been des- 
cribed, a tender girl of five years of age is, as her j^rst instruc- 
tion before emerging from her nursery, initiated into the Brata 



230 POLYGAMY. 

or religious vow of Sayjooty, the primary object of which 
is the ruin and destruction of a Sateen or rival wife. The 
germs or jealousy against, and contempt for, a rival being 
thus sown so early^ they take deep root and expand in time 
so as to become absolutely ineradicable. 

When the presence of two wives in the same house is at- 
tended with so much disquietude, the evil arising from the prac- 
tices of professional Koolins is much greater. They are married 
to a number of females whose prospect of connubial bliss is 
as remote as the poles are asunder. Instead of true love and 
genuine attachment, the legitimate conditions of matrimony, 
the natural apathy of the husband is often requited by the infide- 
lity of his numerous wives ; nor can it be otherwise, the visits of 
the husband being, like those of a meteor, few and far between. 
Being destitute of the finer susceptibilities of human nature, 
and looking upon matrimony as a matter of traffic, he regards 
his wives as so many automata whose happiness is not at all 
identified with his own. Influenced by a sordid love of gain, 
bred and brought up in the lap of ignorance and laziness, and 
pampered by effeminate habits, he leads a profligate life typi- 
cal of utter demoralisation. He cares as little for the chas- 
tity of his wives as a child does for the nicety of his play- 
things. By rank, profession and habit he is a debauchee. His 
sense of female honor is totally blunted. The thought of 
nurturing and educating his numerous children never enters 
into his mind. He knows not how many sons and daughters 
he has, whether legitimate or illegitimate ; he is not capable 
of recognising them, simply because he has seldom or never 
seen their faces. If he keep a register of the number of his 
wives, he keeps no record of the number of his children. 
When he wants money, he pounces on such a father-in-law as 
can satisfy him. If he keep one wife at home, it is not from 
warmth of affection that he does so, but merely for his own 
convenience and comfort ; she is made to discharge all the 



POLYGAMY, 231 

menial offices of a domestic maid-servant. Though never 
placed in affluent circumstances, yet he is the lord of thirty, 
forty or fifty women. It has been very aptly remarked by an 
eminent writer who had paid much attention to the manners 
and customs of the Hindoos, — that "amongst the Turks, 
seraglios are confined to men of wealth, but here, a Hindoo 
Brahmin, possessing only a shred of cloth and a piece of 
thread, (poita) keeps more than a hundred mistresses." In- 
deed such a system of monstrous polygamy is without a 
parallel in the history of human depravity. Prostitution, 
adultery, and the horrible crime of the destruction of the foe- 
tus in the womb by means of deleterious drugs administered 
by old women, are the inevitable consequences of this unna- 
tural state of things. It is an undeniable fact that the 
daughters of Koolin Brahmins, abandoned by their unprinci- 
pled husbands, are often led into the forbidden paths of life, 
partly through the impulse of passion amidst the seductions 
of a wicked world, and partly through their exceedingly 
miserable circumstances. The houses of ill fame in Calcutta 
and other large towns are filled with women of this infamous 
character, and the inhuman practice of patefaldno pre- 
vails to an alarming extent, notwithstanding the increased 
vigilance of the police. Some fifty years ago a number of 
respectable Hindoos felt so disgusted at the mischievous ten- 
dency of the Koolin system of marriage that they were on 
the eve of memorialising the Government to put down the 
practice by a legislative enactment, such as had been done in 
the prohibition of sati or female immolation, but they were 
assured that the authorities would not interfere in the domes- 
tic and social usages of the people. 

It is gratifying to observe, however, that the growth of 
intelligence and the march of intellect has of late years 
greatly counteracted the influence of this monstrous evil. If 
the Rulers will not attempt to abolish a social system 



232 POLYGAMY. 

opposed to the feelings of natural affection by the denuncia- 
tion of the severest temporal penalties, the good sense of 
the people who are victimised by it must be appealed to for 
its total suppression. 

The following extract from Mr. Ward's excellent work on 
the Hindoos will give the reader an idea of the fearful extent to 
which Koolinism prevailed in Bengal some fifty or sixty years 
back, when English education could scarcely be said to have 
commenced the work of reformation or rather disintegration. 

"Notwithstanding the predilection for koolins they are 
more corrupt in their manners than any of the Hindoos. I 
have heard of a Koolin Brahmin, who, after marrying sixty- 
five wives, carried off another man's wife, by personating her 
husband. Many of the Koolins have a numerous posterity. 
I select five examples, though they might easily be multi- 
plied : Oodhoy Chunder, a Brahmin, late of Bdgndpdrd, had 
sixty-five wives, by whom he had forty-one sons, and twenty- 
five daughters. Ramkinkur, a Brahmin, late of Kooshda, had 
seventy-two wives, thirty-two sons, and twenty-seven daugh- 
ters. Vishnooram, a Brahmin, late of GundulpdrA, had sixty 
wives, twenty-five sons and fifteen daughters. Gouree Churn, 
a Brahmin, late of Treebanee, had forty-five wives, thirty-two 
sons, and sixteen daughters. Ramakant, a Brahmin, late of 
Bhoosdaranee, had eighty-two wives, eighteen sons and 
twenty-six daughters; this man died about the year 1810, at 
the age of 85 years or more, and was married, for the last 
time, only three months before his death. Most of these 
marriages are sought after by the relations of the female, to 
keep up the honor of their families ; and the children of these 
marriages invariably remain with their mothers, and are 
maintained by the relations of these females. In some cases, 
a Koolin father does not know his own children." 

Not only the rules of caste, but poverty is also a great 
barrier to the marriage of Koolin women, a fact which has 



POLYGAMY. 233 

been very feelingly deplored in the following lines. Maid- 
enly anxiety finds a natural vent in them : — 

** Out spake the bride's sister, 
As she came frae the byre, 

! gin I were but married, 
It's a* that I desire ; 

But we poor folk maun live single, 
And do the best we can, 

1 dinna care what I should want 
If I could but get a man." 

Another, and 1 what will come o' me ! 
And O! what will I do? 
That sic a braw lassie as I 
Should die for a wooer, I trow." 

When BuUal Sen first introduced this obnoxious system, 
which went under the euphonious title of the Order of Merit, 
he little anticipated that the very small seed of mischief he 
then planted would soon grow into a luxuriant tree, and pro-^ 
duce an abundant crop of evils, poisoning the very source of 
domestic felicity. It requires no depth of thought to predict 
that the evil is destined to die a natural death, as all such 
social evils are fated to do, when ignorance and superstition 
are driven into their congenial darkness. Though many a 
Hindoo still lives in the sin of polygamy without any parti- 
cular repentance, yet the irresistible progress of virtue, like 
that of truth, will ultimately teach him that it is an unsafe 
foundation on which to build the 3ober structure of domestic 
happiness. 

The details of the following conversation between a hus- 
band, his old mother, and his two wives, placed at the dispo- 
sal of the writer by a friend, may, he trusts, not be out of 
place: — 

" What is this noise for," exclaims Radhamoney, a widow, 
(the name of the mother) coming out of the thacoor ghur in 
which she was worshipping ; " this noise, this tumult, this 
quarrel, this wringing of the hands, these curses will surely 

FF 



234 POLYGAMY. 

drive away Luckhee from the house, it is enough to make 
the devil fly ; you have lost every sense of shame, ma^-o ma, 
your clamour has deafened my ears, where shall I go ? one 
is apt to leave her clothes behind. You have been served 
right ; it was only the other day that Grish, (name of the son) 
lost 5,000 Rupees in a case at the Burra Adawlut (High Court.) 
If I be a Sail (chaste woman), I say, you two women (point- 
ing to the two wives) will be beggared and reduced to the 
condition of harrees (those who carry night soil) ; in what 
unlucky hour did these two women enter the house. You are 
both Rakhasees (female cannibals.) Day by day, sorrow is 
eating into the vitals of my son, his golden body is being 
darkened every day ; Oh ! Bidhata (God) you have ordained 
this for me ?*' " Ullungo (name of the maid-servant) what is 
the cause of this uproar ?" asks the mother. " Ma, what will 
I say," replies the maid-servant ; " the cook first gave the vatk, 
boiled rice to Comul," (name of the daughter of the first wife). 
" Is this all ? nothing more ?" continues the mother; "my Bdchd 
(child) has had no food for seven days, being ill with fever. 
You all know this ; the kobeeraj (physician) this morning has 
ordered some rice for her, whereupon the second wife, all 
this while roaring and bawling, cursing and swearing, stepped 
forward and said, it is past nine and my Hurree (her son's 
name, 12 years old) has not yet got a morsd, his belly has 
shrunk, and the school time is come; if late, his master will 
make him stand." Radhamoney, the old mother, or ghini, 
sent for the cook, and enquired if the rice were ready. "Yes, 
ma, Hurree Baboo came into the cook room half an hour ago, 
and I asked him to take his meal ; chotta ma (second wife) 
prevented him, because I first gave the rice to Comul who 
was so long ill." "Where is Hurree now?" enquired the old 
lady. The maid-servant replied " Clwtta ma gave him a few pice 
and told him to go to his school, though he could have eaten 
rice if he liked." " Let Grish return home," added the old lady, 



POLYGAMY. 235 

** and I will tell him to send me to Benares without delay ; I 
am sick of your incessant broils ; for giving Comul rice ^rsi 
you two dous fell into a quarrel, and cursed each other so fear- 
fully that you, hirra bou (first wife), ate the head of Hurree, 
and you, chotta bou (second wife), ate the head of Comul's 
husband." * 

It was evening, and Grish, the son, returned home from 
office. Before he had time to take off his office dress, the old 
mother, impatient to tell him what had occurred during the 
day, and with tears in her eyes, thus addressed him : "You, my 
son, have brought the greatest curse on yourself by marrying 
two wives ; to-day the whole family has been starving, and 
why? because Comul, suffering from fever for the last eight 
days, had got a little rice this morning, and she ^t^ first; chotta 
bou^ therefore, prevented her son from eating anything, and sent 
the little bacha to the school without rice. From what pajee 
(mean) families have you brought these two females ? I can no 
longer remain in the house. Under the slightest pretext, like 
infamous wenches, they not only brawl but curse each other 
and the son and son-in-law into the bargain. Can Luckhee 
dwell in such a house ? send me to Benares instantly, I can 
no longer live in such a hell of a place. Your wives have 
made it a regular hell." The son consoles the old mother, 
promising that everything would be done according to her 
wish, begging her at the same time to eat something, and 
adding that he does not mind whether his two wives eat or 
not. After going through the evening service, he slept out- 
side that night, pondering what should be done for the 
future quiet of the family. Next day he removed the first 
wife to her father's house, because the second wife is always 
the Zuburdusty imagining that one hand can never make a 



* Eating the head means wishing death. When two rival wives fall out 
they literally become frantic through anger and jealousy. With shaking hands 
and dishevelled locks they abuse and curse each other most violently. 



236 POLYGAMY. 

clap. But he was sadly mistaken, the deserted wife, conti- 
nually brooding over her misfortune, at length resolved to 
put an end to her existence, and accordingly one night took 
an overdose of opium, and bade a final adieu to the world. 

The above story is founded on real life and should serve 
as a warning to those who under the impulse of passion 
blindly run into a state of polygamy, which is undoubtedly 
one of the greatest domestic evils among the natives. 




XIX. 

HINDOO WIDOWS. 

HE system of early marriage, and the barbarous 
institution of condemning a Hindoo female to a life 
of perpetual widowhood after the death of her 
husband, are evils which cannot be too strongly deprecated. 
In this country, owing to the prevalence of early marriage 
and the manner in which it is consummated, a Hindoo does 
not become a housekeeper immediately after his marriage. 
The wife generally remains one or two years with her parents, 
occasionally going to her father-in-law's house for a few days 
only ; her husband pays her a visit now and then, but not 
without the special invitation of his mother-in-law. The 
object of such an invitation is evidently to make the son-in- 
law behave well towards her daughter. For the attainment 
of this object, as I have described before, no means is left 
untried. Indeed it has become a proverb among the Hindoos 
that when a man fares sumptuously, it is said, he has been 
fed with all the fondness shown to a son-in-law. It has 
always struck me that if a Hindoo female were permitted to 
re-marry after the death of her first husband, the affection of 
a mother-in-law for a son-in-law would not have been so 
warm as it now is under the existing state of things, which 
admits of no alternative. 

Living under the paternal roof for one or two years after 
her marriage, a Hindoo girl sometimes becomes a widow,* — 

* Such a widow is called a Kbrayraur, or one who has never enjoyed the 
company of her husband. A stronger term of female reproach can scarely be 
found in the Hindoo vocabulary. From the day this terrible bereavement occurs 
she is constrained by conventional rules, in such cases, to put off from her hand 
the iron bangle, but owing to her tender age she is tacitly j)ermitted to continue 
to wear the gold bangle and a bordered Saree cloth. She is forbidden to use 
fish — her most favorite dish,^ — and she must partially fast on every ekadossee, or 
eleventh day of the increase or decrease of the moon. When she arrives at the 
age of twenty her life presents an unvaried picture of despair and wretchedness. 
She becomes a regular widow. 



238 HINDOO WIDOWS. 

a state of life which is unspeakably miserable. When a 
young female of ten or eleven years of age loses her 
husband, with whom perhaps she had scarcely ever exchanged 
a single word, she is quite unconscious of the unmitigated 
misery she is fated to endure for the remainder of her long 
existence. * Deplorable as such a condition undoubtedly is, 
it becomes doubly miserable from the cold, uncongenial and 
unsympathetic atmosphere by which she is surrounded, and 
the uncared-for neglect with which she is treated ever after- 
wards. Except a mother, who can adequately conceive the 
thousand and one miseries which are in store for the daughter? 
It is a gloomy picture from the beginning to the end, and the 
gloom deepens as time rolls over her devoted head. Cursed 
be the name of the lawgiver who has made such a cruel 
ordinance, and cursed the society that has become a thrall to 
it ! Opposed to the feelings of humanity and natural affection, 
the divine lawgiver of the Hindoos, Manu, expressly enjoins 
that "although the state of widowhood might be deemed 
onerous by the fair sex of the west, it would be considered 
little hardship in the east. Let her emaciate her body, by 
living voluntarily on pure flowers, roots and fruits, but let 
her not, when her lord is deceased, even pronounce the name 

* It has been justly remarked, and I believe is in most cases borne 
out by facts, that a Hindoo widow generally lives to a very long age. Her 
simple and abstemious habits, her devotional spirit, her scanty meal once a 
day, her total abstinence from food of any kind on the eleventh day of the 
increase and decrease of the moon, besides other days of close fast, neutralising 
in a great measure the effects of every kind of irregularity from whatever cause 
arising, and the fearful amount of hardships she is accustomed to endure, all 
contribute to prolong her existence. Surely her life may be said to extend in 
the inverse ratio of her misery. It is a common expression used by a Hindoo 
widow, shewing her contempt of life, **will she ever die? Yama^ Pluto, seems 
to have forgotten her ? " If the statistics of the land are consulted, it will assuredly 
be found that Hindoo widows comparatively speaking enjoy a longer life than 
the adult male population, because the latter is subject to irregularitids and 
other adverse contingencies of life which the former is almost entirely free 
from. It is not uncommon to see a Hindoo widow of eighty, ninety or a hundred 
years of age. In short, nature evidently seems to have exemplified in her the 
symbol of misery associated with longevity. 

It is also a remarkable fact that idolatry and superstition chiefly owe their 
continued influence to the wide-spread ignorance of these female devotees. At 
a religious festival, nearly three-fourths of the assembly are composed of widows. 



HINDOO WIDOWS. 239 

of another man. A virtuous wife ascends to heaven, if, after 
the decease of her lord, she devote herself to pious austerity ; 
but a widow, who slights her deceased husband by marrying 
agairiy brings disgrace on herself here below and shall be 
excluded from the seat of her lord. Abstinence from the 
common pursuits of life, and entire self-denial, are rewarded 
by high renown in this world, and in the next the abode of 
her lord, and procure for her the title of sadhvi or the virtuous." 
From the above it is evident that widowhood has prevailed 
in this country from time out of mind. Its mischievous 
tendency is apparent in the degraded and corrupt state 
of female society. We can never thoroughly conquer na- 
ture ; we can never restrain our passions so effectually as 
to render ourselves proof against temptation. The frailty 
of women is admittedly great, and the ease with which they 
may be seduced into the forbidden paths of life is too well- 
known to need being enlarged on. However sedulously a 
Hindoo mother may guard the virtue of her widowed daugh- 
ter, and however forcibly she may inculcate the doctrine of 
purity of life and manners, it proves but a feeble barrier against 
the irresistible impulse of passion. Numerous instances are 
on record, proving the utter futility of human efforts to 
contend successfully against nature in this respect. A young 
widow may be sent to the holy cities of Benares and Brinda- 
bun, where she is not unfrequently removed with her mother 
or grandmother to spend the remainder of her days in 
a state of isolated seclusion and religious service, but this 
is a poor safe-guard for the preservation of constancy and 
virtue. Volumes after volumes have been written on the sub- 
ject, denouncing in an unmistakable manner the monstrous 
perversity of the existing system, but the evil has taken such 
a deep root in the social economy of the people that the 
utmost exertions must be put forth before it can be wholly 
eradicated. 



240 HINDOO WIDOWS, 

The evils of widowhood are not only confined to the en- 
durance of accumulated hardships, and self-denials enough to 
rend asunder the tenderest chord of humanity, but they like- 
wise extend to unlawful connections, and the perpetration 
of another crime, that of abortion, which is no less revolt- 
ing in enormity than infanticide itself. Many respectable 
families, which are otherwise esteemed for their meritorious 
actions, have more or less sunk in honor from this indelible 
stigma ; a few have even lost their caste and status in society 
from the above cause. In the primitive state of Hindoo society, 
when every female other than a wife was regarded either 
as a mother or sister according to age, irregular intercourse 
was almost unknown, but in these days of libertinism per- 
fect purity of life is rarely known. Our divine lawgiver, 
in view to the interests of humanity and female honor, 
ought to have made proper provision by lending his authority 
and sanction to a system of widow remarriage within a 
reasonable period of life. Some such edict would have 
been alike honorable to our venerable sage, and beneficial 
to those \vho are morally and socially most deeply interested 
in it ; but unfortunately his cruel dicta, running counter to 
the fundamental principles of virtue and morality, have 
necessarily engendered a rank crop of evils, undermining the 
very foundation of human happiness. 

The benevolent exertions of that high priest of Nature, 
Pundit Isswara Chunder Vidyasagar, Baboo Keshub Chunder 
Sen, the Brahmo apostle, and other Hindoo reformers, to pro- 
mote the cause of widow marriage in particular, and female 
emancipation in general, have not, it is sad to contemplate, 
been attended with the measure of success they deserve, 
simply because the state of Hindoo society is not yet ripe 
for the innovation. I am, however, sanguine in my expect- 
ation that at no very distant future the progress of enlighten- 
ment will ultimately bring about the consummation so devoutly 



HINDOO WIDOWS. 241 

to be wished for. It is for the advanced pioneers to endea- 
vour to remove the incrustation which age and learning have 
formed and tradition and custom enshrined with jealous 
and sedulous care. Until this is done, a Hindoo widow must 
continue to mourn her lot amidst the dexiunciations of a 
heartless world. Sighs will never cease flowing from her heart 
so long as she finds herself deprived of the master charm of 
life. She is now cast amongst the dregs and tatters of human- 
ity. Bereft of the substance of what endears life to a female, 
she is constrained to cleave to the shadow^ which is destined to 
leave her when she leaves the light of life. Losing all hope 
of worldly enjoyments, she deposits the treasures of her 
heart in the sanctuary of religion, convinced that to sell the 
world for the life to come is profitable. It is terrible to con- 
template the awful amount of physical and mental suffering 
with all its varied complications, to which she is doomed ; 
her life is a steadfast battle against misery, her soul soars in 
a vacuum where all is unreal, empty and hollow, and all the 
sweet enjoyments of life fall flat on her taste. Her mental 
strife is never over. She is like a weary swimmer who 
throws himself back and floats, because he is too much 
exhausted to swim longer, yet will not sink and let the cold 
and merciless water close over his head. Her spirit has 
broken wildly loose from its normal attitude, and her mind 
is overwhelmed in a surging tide of misery. From the 
day she loses her husband, she has a new lease of life, 
and a miserable lease it must be. She will not cease to 
lament until her soul itself shall die. If she could say, joy was 
once her portion, it lighted on her as the bird rests on the 
tree in passing and takes wing, yet she would now say, her 
existence is so unlife-like that to her death is sweet. She 
is a poor fallen outcast of humanity. No one can enter into 
her feelings and views of things. She has no influence, no 
control over' herself, she cannot turn over a new leaf within 

GG 



242 HINDOO WIDOWS. 

her own mind. Though society is almost a necessity of our 
existence, yet she lives wholly alone ; a cheerless train of 
thoughts always haunts her mind, she feels a dismal void 
in her heart, she finds herself cut off at once and for ever from 
one most dear to her, no conversation, however pleasant, can 
bring her consolation or cheat her grief. The tide of settled 
melancholy threatens her reason. As an outcast, she is re- 
ligiously forbidden to take a part in any of the social and 
domestic concerns of life, tending to relieve the ennui of a 
wearisome existence, and to enliven the mind for a while. She 
is a living example of an angel sent by heaven to minister 
to the comforts of man, turned by a cruel institution into 
a curse. Estranged from the affection of those who are, 
by the ties of consanguinity, nearest and dearest to her, 
she passes her days like a recluse, quite apart from the 
communion of society. She stares and gazes wildly at every 
festive celebration, while, as the poet sings, 

*' The glad circle round them yield their souls 
To festive mirth and wit that knows no gall." 

If she have longings irrepressible and cravings insatiable 
to lend her hand to any shoova karma (meritorious work), 
her widowed condition interposes an insurmountable barrier 
to her participation therein, as if everything would be dese- 
crated when touched by her polluted hand. 

As a sentient being, endowed with all the finer suscepti- 
bilities of human nature, is it possible that she should so far 
forget herself as not to feel the bitterest pangs of despon- 
dency at her hopelessly forlorn condition? Driven from the 
genial atmosphere of a social circle, she drags a loathsome 
existence in this selfish and unsympathetic world. Except 
she that gave her birth, who would deign to look upon her 
with love and affection ? Instead of being regarded, as she 
assuredly should be, as the soul of simplicity, a living picture 
of sweet innocence, she is shunned as one whose very pre- 



HINDOO WIDOWS. 243 

sence portends evil. If she possess unafTected modesty and 
a keen sense of honor and virtue, who is to recognise and ap- 
preciate those amiable qualities in a society which is prepos- 
terously estranged from all natural susceptibilities? If she 
have riches what would that avail her, a poor misguided victim 
of superstition ! * Her charity, instead of being founded on 
the catholic principles of genuine liberality shewing a dis- 
criminate breadth of view, too often exhibits an unhappy 
tenacity of adhesion to exclusiveness in the performance 
of idolatrous ceremonies. If she is placed above the atmos- 
phere of artificialness, it is her misfortune to be surrounded by 
a concatenation of conventional restrictions which render her 
life a visible embodiment of helpless misery and anguish, 
and if she ever appeals, she appeals to the Being who is the 
only friend of the hopeless and the poor. To attempt to 
reconcile a widow to her forlorn lot is to tell a patient burning 
with fever not to be thirsty. Her days are dismal, her nights 
are dreary. 

It was the dread of widowhood, and the unmitigat- 
ed life-long miseries inseparable from it, that led fifty 
wives at a time to ascend the funeral pyre of a Rajpoot 
husband, with all the composure of a philosophic mind. It 
redounds greatly to the credit of the British Government 
that its generous exertions have not only struck the death- 
knell of this inhuman practice, even in the remotest corner 
of the Empire, but, what is more commendable, endeavoured 
"to heal the wounds of a country bleeding at every pore 
from the fangs of superstition." 

Not content with depriving her of the best enjoyments of 
life which society affords, and the laws of God sanction, by con- 
demning her to a state of perpetual widowhood, the great 
lawgiver — the unflinching foe of freedom in females — has 



* The worship of Juggodhatri (mother of the world), is performed by a 
widow for four years successively to forfend the calamity in the next birth. 



244 HINDOO WIDOWS. 

further enjoined the strict observance of certain practices 
that add gall to her already overflowing cup of misery. As 
has been observed before, she is restricted to one scanty meal 
a day, always of the coarsest description, devoid of fish* 
which is generally more esteemed by an ayistree lady than 
any other article of food in her bill of fare. She must reli- 
giously fast on every ekadossee^ twice a month, and on all other 
popular religious celebrations. She must bare her body of 
all sorts of ornaments, even the iron and the gold bangles, 
which once constituted the summum bonum of her life. As an 
appropriate substitute for the gold and pearl necklaces, she 
is enjoined to wear a toolsee tnala (a basilwood chaplet), and 
count a tookee wood bead roll for the final rest of her soul. She 
is prohibited from wearing any bordered clothes^ a thaytih€\n% 
her proper garment ; she is not permitted to daub her forehead 
with sidooTy (vermillion), once the pride of hfer life when her 
lord was alive ; she is forbidden to use any bazar-made article 
of food, and to complete the catalogue of restrictions she 
sometimes shaves her head purposely that she may have an 
ugly appearance and thereby more effectually repel the inroads 
of a wicked, seductive world. 

If she have any children to nurture, the happy circum- 
stance affords a great relief to her wearisomely monotonous 
life. Day and night she watches them with great care, and 
looks forward to their progressive development with intense 
anxiety, forgetting in the plenitude of her solicitude her 
own forlorn condition. Should there be any mishap in their 
case, it causes an irreparable break-down in her spirit, which 
is for ever " sicklied over with the pale cast of thought." 

* It should be mentioned here that, except the widows of Brahmins and Kdy- 
estus of Bengal, those of lower orders continue to use fish without any scruple. 
It is a remarkable fact that Hindoo women are more fond of fish than men. 
There are some men, especially among the Boystubs, followers of Krishna, who 
feel an abhorrence to eat fish at all by reason of its offensive smell, but there 
is not a single woman whose husband is alive that can live without it. When 
a girl becomes a widow, she can hardly take half the quantity of boiled rice she 
was accustomed to take before for want of this, to her, necessary article of food. 



HINDOO WIDOWS. 245 

It IS a painful fact that riches when not properly used 
have a tendency to corrupt the minds of human beings, and 
lead them from the path of virtue to that of vice. A wealthy 
widow who has the command of a long purse more readily 
falls a prey to the temptations of the world than one who, 
moving in an humbler sphere of life, has her mind almost 
wholly engrossed with domestic cares, and the thoughts of 
a future state of beatitude. " Verily," as Lord Lytton says, 
" in the domain of poverty there is God's word." 

Considering the endless round of hardship and self 
abnegations to which she is inevitably doomed by a terrible 
Stroke of fortune, "which scathes and scorches her soul," 
it is cheering to reflect that she so often shines brightest 
in adversity. Indeed she may be occasionally said " to die 
ten times a day," but her incredible powers of patient endur- 
ance, coupled with her high sense of female honor, are deser- 
ving of the highest admiration. 




XX. 

SICKNESS, DEATH, AND SHRAD, OR FUNERAL 

CEREMONY. 

|S I have said in the beginning that a Hindoo hVes 
religiously and dies religiously, so his last days are 
attended with a degree of melancholy interest 
which is characteristic of the religion which he professes, 
as well as of the race to which he belongs. When a Hindoo 
becomes seriously ill, the first thing he does is to consult the 
Almanac as to the stellar mansion of the period, and en- 
gage the officiating priest to perform a series of religious 
atonements, called sastydna^ for the removal of the evil spirit, 
and the restoration of health. Mornings and evenings are 
dedicated to the service, and the mother or the wife of the 
patient, as the case may be, makes a vow to the gods, pro- 
mising to present suitable offerings on his recovery, for which 
purpose a small sum of money is laid aside as a tangible 
proof of sincerity. If the patient should be a useful mem- 
ber of the family, enjoying a good income, greater solicitude 
is, as must naturally be expected, manifested for his sake 
than for that of an unproductive member ; it being not 
uncommon that a whole family, consisting of eight or ten 
persons, male and female, depend for their sustenance on the 
earnings of a single individual, — the inevitable result of a joint 
Hindoo family. It is customary among the Hindoos, as it is 
among other civilized nations, that when a person is ill, his 
friends and relatives come to see and console him. The sick 
man generally remains in the inner apartment of the house, 
where the females — the ministering angels of life — watch him 
and administer to his comfort. When visitors enter the room, 
they go away for a time, but it must be mentioned that they 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 247 

are not wanting in attention, kind-heartedness and careful 
nursing. Days and nights of watching pass over their heads 
without a murmur, prayers are continually offered to the 
guardian deity for a favorable turn in the fortune of the fa- 
mily, and available supernatural agency is secretly employ- 
ed for the attainment of the end. The following conversa- 
tion will give some idea of the melancholy scene : — 

Rdmkdnto (a neighbour), enters the room, and gently 
accosts Mohun (the son of the patient.) 

Rdmkdnto, sitting, asks How is your father ? I see he 
IS very much pulled down ; the times are very bad, I hear of 
sickness on all sides, when did he get ill ? Have you seen 
the almanac? Have you arranged for sastydna (religious 
atonement) ? Don't you despair. He will get well through 
the blessing of God ; who attends him? 

Brojobundhoo (doctor) replies Mohun. 

Rdmkdnto. Yes, he is a good doctor, but you must 
have a good Khobiraj also (native physician) who under- 
stands the naree (pulse) well ; these English doctors do not 
much care about the pulse. 

Mohun-Well,sir,I have engaged Gopeebullub (native phy- 
sician) to feel the pulse and watch the progress of the disease. 

Rdmkdnto — That is good, Gopeebullub is a very clever 
physician, though not old, he understands pulsation and other 
symptoms thoroughly. When does the fever come on ? See, 
how he remains to-day ; should the pulse sink after fever, send 
for an English doctor to-morrow^ either Dr. Charles or Dr. 
Coates, both are very good doctors. 

Mohun — My uncle gave the same advice. 

Rdmkdnto, (taking Mohun aside) Baba, what will I say ? 
To tell you the truth, I have no very great hopes of his 
recovery, the case is serious, if through the blessing of God 
he gets well, it would be a second birth ; your father has 
been a great friend of mine, you all know very well, he is 



. 248 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

a staunch Hindoo ; in these days of depravity, when the 
customs of the Mlechas (Christians) threaten to obliterate all 
traces of distinction, and merge everything in one homo- 
geneous element after the English fashion, very few men 
are to be found like your father, ready to sacrifice his life 
for the purity of his religion ; if his end do not accord with 
his faith, his future state (parakdll) is jeopardised ; you, 
young men may laugh at us, old fools, thinking we have no 
sense ; a few pages of English do not make a man learned ; 
English shastra does not make us wise unto salvation ; one's 
own religion is the best panacea for the good of his parakdll 
or future state. If you lose your father, you will never get a 
father again, he has nourished you with care and affection up 
to this day ; as a dutiful son you are bound to serve him in this 
his last stage ; you must be prepared to take him to the river 
side when need be, and that is not far distant ; if you neglect, 
you commit a very great sin, quite unpardonable. What do 
fathers and mothers wish children for ? It is only for the good 
of thQparakdlly and to take them to Gunga (Ganges) in pro- 
per time. Let your father pass three nights on the river side 
I return this afternoon ; take care, watch him closely and let 
Gopeebullub see him constantly. 

Giving these instructions, Rdmkdnto goes away. After 
three or four hours, the fever returns, the patient becomes 
delirious and talks nonsense, and the wife becoming very 
uneasy calls the son in a very depressed tone, and tells him 
to send for the English doctor. The son obeying the order 
sends for the English doctor at once. 

After an hour or so, in comes Dr. Charles accompanied 
by Baboo Brojobundhoo. Entering the sick man's room, Dr. 
\ Charles examines the patient carefully, asks Brojobundhoo 

what medicines he has been giving him, (the women all the 
while peeping through the window, unable to understand 
what the doctors are talking about), and being satisfied on 



SICKNESS, DEA TH AND SHRAD. 249 

this point, comes out and tells the son that his father is 
dangerously ill, and that his friend's prescriptions are all 
right ; he, Dr. Charles, could not do better. 

Here enters Rdmkdnto with two other friends. Before 
going inside he. thus speaks to the son: I hear Dr. Charles 
was here, what did he say ? How was the fever to-day. 

Mohun answers. Dr. Charles said father is very ill, the 
paroxysm to-day was somewhat more violent than that of 
other days. 

Rdmkanto — That's bad ; day by day the fever eats into the 
vitals of his system. (Here the native physician comes). Well, 
KIwbiraj Moliashoy^ please go and see how the patient is doing? 
GopeebuUub (native physician) goes inside, examines the sick 
man with great care, satisfies the eager enquiries of the women 
by assuring them that there is no fear, and returns outside. 

Rdmkdnto to GopeebuUub — How did you find him ? Is 
the pulse in its right place? Do you apprehend any immediate 
danger ? Dr. Charles was here, you have heard what he has 
said, whatever the youngsters may say, I have greater con- 
fidence in you than in the English doctors ; take good care 
and tell us the exact time when to remove the patient to the 
river side, that is our last sacred office; should anything 
happen at home, which God forbid, we shall never be able to 
show our faces through shame. What with such a big son, 
and so many friends and relations, it would be a crying 
shame if the patient die at home ? Destiny will have its 
course but your hathjitss (skill) will go a great way. 

GopeebuUub — Everything depends on the will of God, 
what can we mortals do ? Whatever fate has ordained must 
come to pass, we are mere instruments in the hands of God ; 
the patient is gradually sinking, the pulse neither steady nor 
in its right place, we must be prepared for the worst, a strong 
pulse in a weak body is an ominous sign, there is no fear to- 
night, I can guarantee that. 

HH 



2S0 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

Rdmkdnto— Well, it appears his end is nigh, he is no 
more destined to have rice and water. * Then, pointing to 
Mohun, Rdmkdnto says, to-morrow morning his Boyetami 
ritef must be performed ; make the necessary preparations at 
once, and send a man to procure a cot (charpoy), also see that 
nothing may be wanting to hurry him to the riverside. 

Mohun — I must do what you bid me do, hitherto I re- 
mained behind a mountain, now I shall be without protection. 

Next morning, the rite of Boyetami being performed, pre- 
parations are made to carry the sick man to the river side : 
all the nearest relations and friends assemble, and the patient, 
then in the full possession of his senses, is brought outside and 
laid on the cJidrpoy; his forehead is daubed with the mud of the 
Ganges, and a toolsee plant is placed about his head. He is told 
to repeat the name of his guardian deity, and one man going 
up to him says, let's go to visit the mother Gunga, at which he 
nods ; this serves as a signal for lifting the cimrpoyy and putting 
it on the shoulders of four strong persons of equal size. The 
heart-rending scene that ensues hereupon among the females 
cannot be adequately described. Their falling on the ground, 
their loud and affecting cries, the tearing of their dishevelled 
locks, the wringing of their breast, the contortions of their 
bodies, all produce a mournful scene of anguish and despair 
which my feeble pen can hardly pourtray. 

The sick man is thus carried, perhaps a distance of 
two or three miles, in a state of consciousness^ exposed to all 

* This means that he must soon die. 

+ Boyetami is a river which must be crossed before one gets to heaven ; 
the rite consists in distributing a certain amount of cowries among the Brahmins 
for guiding the soul through the Death Valley to the other side. 

X A Hindoo, especially a grown up man, if he die at home is branded as an 
unrighteous person ; many a one otherwise esteemed righteous in his lifetime is 
denounced as a sinful being should he not expire on the banks of the holy stream. 
In the rdi-i, or inland provinces, through which the Ganges does not flow, people 
are constrained to breathe their last on the banks of a neighbouing tank and are 
consequently precluded, from their geographical position, from securing the bene- 
fit of this cheap mode of salvation. As a partial atonement for this natural disad- 
vantage, they bring the navel of the dead and throw it into the holy stream, which, 
in their supposition, is tantamount to the purification of the soul. 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 251 

the dangers of inclement weather, fully aware of his approach- 
ing end, the carriers exchanging their shoulders every now and 
then, and shouting out every five minutes, " Hurry, Hurry- 
bole, Gunga Narain, Brahma, Shiva Rdma," until they reach 
their destination, which, in Calcutta, is Nimtollah Ghaut, 
on the banks of the Hooghly. * When the chdrpoy on which 
the sick man is borne is placed on the ground, some one calls 
out to the patient to see the sacred stream, which he does in 
a state of mind that can be better imagined than described. 
On opening his eyes he beholds a dark, gloomy scene, the 
ghastliness of which is enough to strike horror into the heart 
of the most callous and indifferent. Here a dying man 
suffering from the convulsive agony of acute pain, is, perhaps, 
gasping for breath, there a fellow mortal is taken in a hurry 
to the very edge of the holy water to breathe out the last flic- 
ker of life ; to deepen the gloom perhaps a corpse borne on 
a Hindoo hearse is just brought to the Ghaut amidst the voci- 
ferous cries of "Hurry, Hurrybole," which is a significant 
death-warrant. 

** 'Tis too horrible; 
The weariest and most loathed earthly life 
Which age, ache, penury, and imprisonment 
Can lay on nature, is a paradise 
To what we fear of death ?" 



* A few years back the Calcutta Municipality proposed to have the burning 
Ghaut removed to Dhappa, a notoriously unhealthy marshy swamp, some six 
miles east of Calcutta, bordering on the Soonderbunds, because the present site 
was considered a nuisance to the city. As must naturally be expected, great 
sensation was produced among the Hindoo population, and memorials were sub- 
mitted to the Government of Bengal, signed by the most influential portion of the 
Hindoo community. In spite of solicitation and remonstrance, the Municipality 
were determined to carry out their plan, but the mighty Ramgopal Ghose, as 
the late Mr. James Hume, the Editor of the ^^ Eastern Star,^^ styled him, inter- 
posed and exerted his best, at great personal sacrifice, to nullify the proposal . 
The Hindoos called a meeting, and Ramgopal, moved by the entreaties of his 
countrymen, made an admirable speech at the Town Hall, on which occasion no 
less than fifty thousand people assembled on the viaidan facing the Town Hall. 
In the speech he set forth, in a graphic manner, the suitableness of the present 
site, and the distress and hardship of the people, as well as the shock to religious 
feeling which the removal would involve. He eventually succeeded in prevailing 
on the authorities to withdraw the proposal. When he came out of the Town 



252 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

Can imagination conceive a more dismal, ghastly scene ? 
But religion has crowned the practice with the weight of na- 
tional sanction, and thus deadened the finer sensibilities of 
our nature. Sad as this picture is, the most staunch advocate 
of liberalism can hardly expect to escape such a fate. To 
a person accustomed to such scenes, death, and its con- 
comitant agony, loses half its terrors. How many Hindoos 
are annually hurried to their eternal home by reason of this 
superstitious, inhuman practice ? Instances are not wanting 
to corroborate the truth of this painful fact. Persons entrusted 
with the care and nursing of a dying man at the burning 
Ghaut soon get tired of their charge, and rather than adminis* 
ter to his comfort, are known to resort to artificial means, 
whereby death is actually accelerated. They unscrupulously 
pour the unwholesome, muddy water of the river down his 
already choked throat, and in some cases suffocate him to 
death. "These are not the ebullient flashes from the glowing 
caldron of a kindled imagination," but undeniable facts 
founded on the realities of life. 

The process of Hindoo antarjal or immersion is another 
name for suffocation. Life is so tenacious, especially in what 
the Hindoos call old bones y or aged persons, that I have seen 
some persons brought back home after having undergone this 
murderous process nine or ten times in as many days. The 
patient, perhaps an uncared-for widow cast adrift in the world, 
retaining the faculty of consciousness unimpaired, is willing 
to die rather than continue to drag on a loathsome existence, 
but nature would not readily yield the vital spark. In spite 
of repeated murderous processes, the apparently dying flicker 
of life would not become extinct. In the case of an aged 
man, the return home after imviersion is infamously scanda- 
lous, but in that of an aged widow the disgrace is more 

— ^— ■ I M^ —^ M l» n il ■ I ■ I ■■ ■ II ■■ III II ■ ■ 1 ■ . 

Hall, he was most enthusiastically cheered by thousands of people, Brahmins and 
Soodras, and loud cries of ** may he live long" were heard on all sides, 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 253 

poignant than death itself. I have known of an instance 
in which an old widow was brought back after fifteen iminer- 
sionSy but being overpowered by a sense of shame she drown- 
ed herself in the river after having lived a disgraceful life 
for more than a year. As I have observed elsewhere, no 
expression is more frequent in the mouth of an aged widow 
than the following: " Shall I ever die?'* Scarcely any effort has 
ever been made to suppress or even to ameliorate such a bar- 
barous practice, simply because religion has consecrated it with 
its holy sanction. 

But to return to the thread of my narrative, the sick 
man dies after a stay of four days at the Ghaut, suffering 
perhaps the most excruciating pangs and agony generally 
attendant on a deathbed. The names of his gods are 
repeatedly whispered in his ears, and the consolations of 
religion are offered him with an unsparing hand, in order to 
mitigate his sufferings, and if possible to brighten his last 
hours. The corpse is removed from the resting place to the 
burning Ghaut, a distance of a few hundred yards, and pre- 
parations for a funeral pile are speedily made. The body 
is then covered with a piece of new cloth and laid upon the 
pyre, the upper and lower part of which is composed of 
firewood, faggots, and a little sandalwood and ghee to neutra- 
the effects of effluvia. The Marooyapora Brahmin,* (an 
outcast) reads the formula, and the son or the nearest of 
kin sets fire to the pile ; the body is consumed to ashes, but 
the navel remaining unburn t is taken out and thrown into the 
river. Thus ends the ceremony of cremation ; the son 

* Some forty years back these Brahmins and their whole crew of murdur- 
farashassys were a regular set of ragamuffins whose sole occupation was to 
fleece their victims in the most extortionate manner imaginable ; the Brahmin 
would not read the formula, nor his myrmidons put up the funeral pile, without 
having received nearly four times the amount of the present cost. Great credit 
is due to Baboo Chunder Mohun Chatterjee, the late Registrar, for his strenuous 
exertions in making the Police frame a set of rules for regulating the funeral 
expenses at the burning Ghaut. It is a public boon which cannot be too highly 
appreciated. 



254 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD, 

putting a few jars of holy water on the pile, bathes in the 
stream, and returns home with his friends, changing his old 
garment for new white clothes, called uttary, on one end 
of which is fastened an iron key to keep off evil spirits. It 
is worthy of remark here, that providence is so propitious 
to us in every respect that in a few hgurs the son becomes 
reconciled to his unhappily altered circumstances caused 
by the loss of his father ; instead of bemoaning his loss in 
a despondent frame of mind, he is soon awakened to a sense 
of his new responsibility. 

On reaching the gate of the house, all persons touch 
fire, and putting neem leaves and a few grains of kalie (a kind 
of pulse) into the mouth, cry out as before " Hurrybole, 
Hurrybole" and enter the house. The lamentation of the 
females inside the house, which was suppressed for a while 
through sheer exhaustion, is instantly renewed at the sound 
of " Hurrybole," as if fresh fuel were added to the flame, and 
every voice is drowned in the overwhelming surge of grief. 
Their melancholy strain, their pointed, pathetic allusion to 
the bereavement, the cadence of their plaintive voices, the 
utter dejection of their spirit, their loud, doleful cries 
reverberating from one side of the house to the other, 
the beating of their breasts, and the tearing of their hair, 
are too affecting not to make the most obdurate shed tears 
of sorrow. 

The son, from the hour of his father's death to the con- 
clusion of the funeral ceremony, is religiously forbidden to 
shave, wear shoes, shirts, or any garment other than the piece 
of white cloth, his food being confined to a single meal 
consisting only of atab rice, khasury dhall (a sort of inferior 
pulse) milk, ghee, sugar and a few fruits, which must be 
cooked either by his mother or his wife ; at night he takes a 
little milk, sugar and fruits. This course of regime lasts 
ten days in the case of a Brahmin, and thirty-one days in 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 255 

that of a Soodra* Here the advantages of the privileged 
class are twofold; (i), he has to observe the rigid discipline 
for ten days only; (2), he has ample excuse for small ex- 
penditure at the funeral ceremony on the score of the short- 
ness of time. This austere mode of living for a month 
in the case of a Kayast, by far the most aristocratic 
and influential portion of the Hindoo population, serves 
as a tribute of respect and gratitude to the memory of a 
departed father. As the country is now in a transition 
state, a young educated Hindoo does not strictly abide by 
the above rule, but breaks it privately in his mode of 
living, of which the inmates of the family only are cogni- 
sant. He repudiates publicly what he does privately. Thus 
the outer man and the inner man are not exactly one and 
the same being, he dares not avow without what he does 
within, in short, he plays the hypocrite. But an orthodox 
Hindoo observes the rule in all its integrity, he is more 
consistent if not more rational, he does not play a double 
game, but conforms to the rules of his creed with scrupulous 
exactness. 

Fifteen or sixteen days after the demise of his father, 
the son, if young, is assisted by his friends in drawing an es- 
timate of the probable cost of the approaching Shrddov funer- 
al ceremony. In the generality of cases, an estimate is made 
out according to the length of the purse of the party ; a few 
exceed it under a wrong impression that a debt is warranted 
by the special gravity of the occasion, which is one of great 
merit in popular estimation, -f- 



* In the case of a daughter (married) the mourning lasts for three days. On 
the morning of the fourth day she is enjoined to cut her nails, and perform the 
funeral ceremony of a departed father or mother. An entertainment is to be 
given to the Brahmins and friends. This is always done on a comparatively 
small scale, and in most cases the husband is made to bear all the expenses of 
the ceremony and the entertainment. 

t Apart from erroneous popular notions, which in this age of depravity are 
corrupted by vanity, the Hindoo Shastra, be it mentioned to its credit, abounds 
in explicit injunctions on the subject of a funeral ceremony in various ways accord- 



2S6 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD, 

' The Sobha Bazar Rajah family, the Dey family of Simla, 
the Mullick and Tagore families of Patooriaghdttd, all of 
Calcutta, were said to have spent upwards of ;£'20,ooo or 
two lacks of Rupees each on a funeral ceremony. They 
not only gave rich presents to almost all the learned Brahmins 
of Bengal, in money and kind, fed vast crowds of men of all 
classes, but likewise distributed immense sums among beg- 
gars and poor people,* who for the sake of one Rupee, walked 
a distance of perhaps thirty miles, bringing with them their 
little children in order to increase their numerical strength. 
Some really destitute women, far advanced in a state of preg- 
nancy, were known to have been delivered in the midst of 
this densely crowded multitude. Although, now-a-days, the 
authorities do not sanction such a tumultuous gathering, or 
tolerate such a nuisance oftentimes attended with fatal ac- 
cidents, no Shrad of any note at all takes place without the 
assemblage of a certain number of beggars and paupers, who 
receive from two to four annas each. 

After the twentieth day, the son, accompanied by a 
Brahmin and a servant who carries a small carpet for the 
Baboo to sit on, walks barefooted to the house of each and 
every one of his relations, friends and neighbours, to announce 
that the Shrad is to take place on such a day, /. ^., on the 

ing to the peculiar circumstances of parties. From an expenditure of lacks 
and lacks of Rupees to a mere trifle, it can be performed with the ultimate prospect 
of equal merit. It is stated in the holy Shastra that the god Ramchundra consi- 
dered himself purified (for a Hindoo under mourning is held unclean until the 
funeral ceremony is performed) by offering to the manes of his ancestors simple 
balls of sand, called pimiar, on the bank of the holy stream. In these days a 
poor man would be held sanctified or absolved from this religious responsibility 
by making a tilakdnchdn Shrdd^ or offering a small quantity of rice, teelseed and 
a few fruits, and feeding only one Brahmin, all which would not cost more than 
four Rupees. 

* At the Shrad of Raja Nubkissen, Nemy Churn Mullick and Ramdoolal 
Dey, very near 100,000 beggars were said to have assembled together ; this 
mode of charity is much discountenanced now and better systems are adopted 
for the ostensible gratification of generous propensities. The District Charitable 
Society should have a preference in every case. Instead of making a great 
noise by sound of trumpet and raising an ephemeral name from vainglorious 
motives, it is far wiser that a permanent provision should be made for the 
relief of suffering humanity. 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 257 

thirty-first day after death, and to request that they should 
honour him with their presence and see that the ceremony is 
properly performed, adding such other complimentary epithets 
as the occasion suggests. This ceremonious visit is called 
lowkata, and those who are visited return the compliment in 
time. The practice is deserving of commendation, inasmuch 
as it manifests a grateful remembrance for the memory of 
one to whom he is indebted for his being. 

Precisely on the thirtieth day, the son and other near 
relatives shave, cut their nails, and put on new clothes again, 
giving the old clothes to the barber. Meantime invitations 
are sent round to the Brahmins as well as to the Soodras, 
requesting the favor of their presence at the Sabhd or assembly 
on the morning of the Shrdd, and at the feast on the following 
day or days. On the thirty-first day, early . in the morning, 
the son, accompanied by the officiating priest, goes to the 
river side, bathes and performs certain preliminary rites. 
Here the rayowbhats and tastirams (religious mendicants), 
who watch these things just as closely as a vulture watches 
a carcase, give him a gentle hint about their rights, and 
follow him to the house, waiting outside for their share 
of the articles offered to the manes of the deceased. These 
men were so troublesome or boisterous in former days, when 
the Police were not half so vigilant as they now are, that for 
two days successively they would continue to shout and roar 
and proclaim to the passers by that the deceased would never 
be able to go into Boykanta or paradise, and that his soul 
would burn in hell fire until their demands were satisfied. 
Partly from shame, but more from a desire to avoid such 
a boisterous, unseemly scene, the son is forced to succumb 
and satisfy them in the best way he can. 

As the style of living among the Hindoos has of late 
become rather expensive, and the potent influence of vanity 
— purely the result of an artificial state of society — exerts 

II 



258 SICKNESS, DEA TH AND SHRAD. 

its pressure even on this mournful occasion, the son, if he 
be well to do in the world, spends from five to six thousand 
Rupees on a Shrad; the richer, more. He has to provide for 
the apparently solemn purpose the following silver utensils, 
viz,: — Ghara, Gharoo, T Italia, Baita, Bat tee, Raykab, glass, 
besides couch, bedding, shawls, broadcloth, a large lot of brass 
utensils and hard silver in cash, all which go to pay the 
Brahmins and Pundits, who had been invited. The waning 
ascendency of this privileged class is strikingly manifest on 
an occasion of this nature. For one or two rupees they will 
clamour and scramble, and unblushingly indulge in all manner 
of fulsome adulation of the party that invited them. * 

The Pundits of the country, however learned they may 
be in classical lore and logical acumen, are very much 
wanting in the rules of polished life. The manner in 
which they display their profound learning is alike puerile 
and ludicrous. History does not furnish us with sufficient 
data regarding their conduct in ancient days. As far as 
research or investigation has elucidated the point, it is reason- 
able to conclude that the ascendency of the Brahmins was 
built on the ignorance of the people, and there is a very 
strong probability that there was a secret coalition Between 
the priests and the rulers for the purpose of keeping the 
great mass of the nation in a state of perpetual darkness 
and subjection, the latter being oftentimes content with 
the barter of " solid pudding against empty praise." But 
the progress of enlightenment is so irresistible that the 
strongest bulwark of secret compact for the conservation of 
unnatural Brahminical authority is liable, as it should be, to 
crumble into dust. It would be a great injustice to deny that 
among these Brahmins there were some justly distinguished 
for their profound erudition and saintly lives ; they displayed 

* The appearance of Brahmins on such occasions has the ludicrous admix- 
ture of the learned and the ragged, exhibiting the insolence of high caste 
and the low cringe of poverty. 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 259 

a piety, a zeal, a constant and passionate devotion to their 
faith, which contrast strangely enough with the profligacy 
and worldliness of the present ecclesiastics. 

The Pundits of the present day, when they assemble 
at a Shrad — and that is considered a fit arena for discus- 
sion — are generally seen to engage in a controversy, the 
bone of contention being a debatable point in grammar, 
logic, metaphysics or theology. They love to indulge in 
sentimental transcendentalism, as if utterly unconscious of 
the matter-of-fact tendency of the age we live in. A strong 
desire of displaying their deep learning and high classi- 
cal acquirements in Sanskrit, not sometimes unmixed with 
a contemptible degree of affectation, insensibly leads them 
to violate the fundamental laws of decorum. When two 
or more Pundits wrangle, the warmth of debate gradually 
draws them nearer and closer to each other, until from sober, 
solid argumentation, they descend to the argiimentiiin adigno- 
rantiam, if not, to the argttinentum adbaculum. Their taking a 
pinch of snuff, the quick moving of their hands, the almost 
involuntary unrobing of their garment, which consists of 
a single dhonty and dubja often put round the neck, the 
vehement tone in which they conduct a discussion, the utter 
want of attention to each other's arguments, and their con- 
stant divergence from the main point whence they started, 
throw a serio-comic air over the scene which a Dave Carson 
only could imitate. They do not know what candour 
is, they are immovable in their own opinion, and scarcely 
anything could conquer their dogged persistence in their 
own argument, however fallacious it may be. They are as 
prodigal in the quotation of specious texts in support of 
their own particular thesis as they are obstinately deaf to 
the sound logical view of an opponent. Brahminical learning 
is certainly uttered in "great swarths" which, like polished 
pebbles, are sometimes mistaken for diamonds. The way in 



26o SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

which the disputants give flavour to their arguments is quite 
a study in the art of dropping meanings. The destruction of 
the old husks, and the transparent sophistries, of the disputa- 
tious Brahmins, is one of the great marvels achieved by the 
rapid diffusion of Western knowledge. 

When engaged in an animated discussion, these Pundits 
will not desist or halt until they are separated by their 
other learned friends of the faculty. Some of them are 
very learned in the Shastra,' especially in Smrittee, on which 
a dispute often hangs, but they have very little pretension 
to the calm and dispassionate discussion of a subject. 
Cogency of argument is almost invariably lost in the vehe- 
mence of declamation and in the utterance of unmeaning 
patter. Their arguments are not like Lord Beaconsfield*s 
speeches, — a little labored and labyrinthine at first, but soon 
working themselves clear and becoming amusing and sagacious. 
Let it not be understood from this that the language 
(Sanskrit) in which they speak is destitute of sound logic, 
as Mr. James Mill would have his readers believe ; it is certainly 
deficient in science and the correct principles of natural 
philosophy as developed by modern discoveries, but the 
elegance of its diction, the beautiful poetical imagery in 
which it abounds, the sound moral doctrines which it in- 
culcates, the force of argument by which it is distinguished, 
and the elevated ideas which its original system of theology 
unfolds, afford no good reason why it should not be stamped 
with the dignity and importance of a classical language, and 
why "the deep students of it should not enjoy some of the 
honors and estimation conferred by the world on those 
who have established a name for an erudite acquaintance 
with Latin and Greek." If the respective merits of all the 
classical languages are properly estimated, it is not too much 
to say that the Sanskrit language will in no way suffer 
by the comparison, though as history abundantly testifies it 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 261 

labored under all the adverse circumstances of mighty poli- 
tical changes and convulsions, no less than the intolerant 
bigotry of many of the Moslem conquerors, whose unsparing 
devastations have destroyed some of the best specimens 
of Sankrit composition. " When our princes were in exile," 
says a celebrated Hindoo writer, **driven from hold to hold 
and compelled to dwell in the clefts of the mountains, often 
doubtful whether they would not be forced to abandon the 
very meal preparing for them, was that a time to think of 
historical records," and we should say, of literary excellence ? 
The deep and laborious researches of Sir William Jones, 
Colebrooke, Macnaghten, Wilson, Wilkins, and a host of other 
distinguished German and French savants, have, in a great 
measure, brought to light the hidden treasures of the San- 
skrit language. 

From eight o'clock in the morning to 2 o'clock in the 
evening, the house of a Shrad is crammed to suffocation. 
A spacious awning covers the open space of the court-yard, 
preventing the free access of air ; carpets and satterangees 
are spread on the ground for the Kayastas and other castes 
to sit on, while the Brahmins and Pundits by way of prece- 
dence take their seats on the raised Thacoordalla^t, or place 
of worship. The couch-cot with bedding, and the dan con- 
sisting of silver and brass utensils enumerated before, with 
a silver salver filled with Rupees, are arranged in a straight line 
opposite the audience, leaving a little open space for kittaneeSy 
or bands of songsters or songstresses and musicians, which 
form the necessary accompaniment of a Shrad for the purpose 
of imparting solemnity to the scene. Three or four door- 
keepers guard the entrance, so that no intruders may enter 
and create a disturbance. The guests begin to come in at 
eight, and are courteously asked to take their appropriate 
seats (Brahmins among Brahmins, and Kayastas among 
Kayastas,) the servants in waiting serve them with hookah and 



262 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

tobacco,* those given to the Brahmins having a thread or string 
fastened at the top for the sake of distinction. The Kayastas 
and other guests are seen constantly going in and coming out, 
but the generality of the Brahmins stick to their places until 
the funeral ceremony is completed. The current topics of 
the day form the subject of conversation while the fiookak 
goes round the assembly with great precision and punctu- 
ality. The female relatives are brought in covered palkees, 
as has been described before, by a separate entrance, shut 
out from the gaze of the males. But as this is a mourning 
scene their naturally convivial spirit gives way to condolence 
and sympathy. Excessive grief does not allow the mother 
or the wife of the deceased to take an active part in the 
melancholy proceedings of the day; they generally stay 
aloof in a separate room, and are perhaps heard to mourn 
or cry. The very sight of the mourning offerings, instead of 
affording any consolation, almost involuntarily enkindles the 
flame of sorrow, and produces a train of thoughts in keeping 
with the commemoration of the sad event. Sisters of a 
congenial spirit try to soothe them by precepts and examples, 
but their admonition and condolence prove in the main 
unavailing. The appearance of a new face revives the sad 
emotions of the heart. Nothing can dispel from the minds of a 
disconsolate mother or wife the gloomy thoughts of her 
bereavement, and the still more gloomy idea of a perpetual 
widowhood. The clang of khole and kharatal (musical in- 
struments), which is fitted, as it were, from its very dissonance, 

* The Hindoos are so much accustomed to smoking that it has almost 
become a necessary of life. At a reception it is the first thing required. The 
practice is regulated by rules of etiquette, so that a younger brother is not per- 
mitted to smoke in the presence of his elder brother or his uncle. Even among 
the reformed Hindoos, I have seen two brothers eat aud drink together at the 
same table in European style, but when the dinner is over the youuger brother 
would on no account smoke in the presence of his elder brother, if he do, he 
would be instantly voted a bayddiib, or one wanting in the rules of good breeding. 
The observance of this etiquette, however, is confined only to the high caste 
people ; among the lower orders, a son smokes before a father with the same 
freedom as if he were taking his ordinary meal. 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 263 

to drive away the'ghost and kill the living, falls doubly grating 
on her ears, while the fond endearments of Jasoda, the mother 
of Krishna, rehearsed by the songsters in the outer court-yard, 
but aggravate her grief the more. Weak and tenderhearted 
by nature, she gradually sinks under the overwhelming load 
of despondency, and raising her hand to her forehead mourn- 
fully exclaims, " has Fate reserved all this for me ?" In such 
cases, there is appropriateness in silence. 

About ten o'clock the son begins to perform the rite of 

the funeral obsequies, taking previously the permission of the 

» 

Brahmins and the assembled guests to do so. The officiating 
priest reads the formulas, he repeating them. It must be 
noticed here that tenacious as the Hindoos are in respect 
of the distinction of caste, they do not scruple to invite lower 
orders on such an occasion, but they would not mix with 
them at the time of eating. The Dullopiitty or head of 
the party, makes his appearance about this time ; when he 
enters the house, all other guests then present, except the 
Brahmins, as a token of respect for his position, rise on 
their legs, and do not resume their seats until he sits down, 
For this distinction or honour a Dullopatty has to spend an 
immense sum of money, to which allusion has already been 
made. His appearance serves as a signal for the performance 
of the rite, called mala c/tandan, or the distribution of garlands 
and sandal paste among the assembled multitude. As a 
matter of course, the Brahmins by way of pre-eminence receive 
the first garland, and after them the Dullopatty obtains the 
same honour, and then the Kaolins''^ and other guests 

* The following anecdote illustrating the very great honor shewn to first- 
class Koolins, will, I trust, not be considered out of place. 

When the late Rajah Rajkissen Bahadoor of Calcutta had to perform the 
Skrdd or funeral ceremony of his illustrious father, the late Moha Rajah 
Nubkissen (the ceremony was said to have cost about five lacks of Rupees or 
;^5o,ooo,) he had to invite almost all the celebrated Koolins of Bengal at con- 
siderable expense. On the day of the Shrdd those who were invited assembled 
at his mansion in Sobha Bazar, when all eyes were dazzled at the unparalleled 
magnificen«e of the scene, displaying a gorgeous array of gold, silver and brass 



264 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

according to rank. Where there is no Dullopatiy, the garland 
is put round the neck of a boy, at which no one can take any 
offence, and afterwards they are distributed indiscrirriinately. 

Meantime the son is engaged in the performance of 
the ceremony, while the bands of songsters quarrel with one 
another for the privilege of entertaining the audience with 
their songs, which renders confusion worse confounded. 
Female songsters of questionable virtue are now more in 
favor than their male rivals, which is an unerring proof of 
the degeneracy of the age. Only one band is formally 
engaged, but thirty bands may come of their own accord, 
quite uninvited. The disappointed ones generally get from 
two to four Rupees each, but the party retained gets much 
more, the rich guests coming in making them presents, besides 
what they obtain from the family retaining them. 

About one in the afternoon, the ceremony is brought 
to a close, and the assembled multitudes begin to disperse. 
Those who have to attend their offices return earlier, but 
not without offering the compliments suited to the gravity 
of the occasion. Some of the Brahmins remain behind to 
receive their customary bid/my or gift. According to their 
reputation for learning they obtain their rewards. The first 
in the list gets, in ordinary cases, about five Rupees in 

utensils for presents to Brahmins, exclusive of large sums of money, Cashmere 
shawls, broadcloth, &c. After the performance of the ceremony, as is usual 
on such occasions, the distribution of garlands and sandal paste had to be gone 
through ; the whole of the splendid assemblage had been watching with intense 
anxiety as to who should get theyf; -j/ garland — the highest respect shewn, accord- 
ing to precedence of rank, to \}\q first Koolin present. This is a very knotty 
point in a large assemblage to which all orders of Koolins had been brought 
together. The honor was eagerly contested and coveted by many, but at length 
a voice from a comer loudy proclaimed to the following efteet i **Put the 
garland on my ^(i?^iV," (elephantiasis) laying bare and stretching his right leg at 
the same time and thus suiting the action to his words. The attention of the 
assembled multitude was immediately directed in that direction, and to the amaze- 
ment of all, the garland had to be put round the neck of the very man who 
shouted from a corner, because by a general consensus he was pronouced to be 
the first Koolin then present. But such artificial and demoralising distinctions, 
built on the baseless fabric of quicksand, having no foundation in solid, sterling 
merit, are fast falling, as they should, into disrepute. 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 265 

cash, and one brass pot valued, at four or five Rupees, the 
second and third in proportion, and the rest, say, from one 
to two Rupees each, in addition to a brass utensil. The 
silver utensils of which the soroshes are made are afterwards 
cut and allotted to the Brahmins according to their worth 
or status in the republic of letters. The Gooroo or spiritual 
guide, and the Purrohit or officiating priest, being the most 
interested parties, generally carry off the lion's share. So 
great is their cupidity that the one disputes the right of the 
other as to the amount of reward they are respectively 
entitled to. As a matter of course, the Gooroo, from his 
spiritual ascendency, manages to carry off the highest prize. 
The distribution of rewards among the Brahmins and Pun- 
dits of different degrees of scholarly attainments, is a rather 
thankless task. In common with other human beings, they 
are seldom satisfied, especially when the question is one of 
Rupees. Each sets a higher value on his own descent and 
learning, undervaluing the worth of his compeers. The voice of 
the President, who has many a knotty question to solve, 
decides their fate, but it is seldom that a classification of this 
nature results in producing general satisfaction. As these 
Pundits, or rather professors, called Adhaypucks, do not eat in 
the house of Soodras, in addition to their reward in money and 
kind, they, each of them, receive a small quantity of sweet- 
meats and sugar, say about two pounds in all in lieu of ach- 
many jalpan or fried and prepared food. On a Shrad day 
in the afternoon one can see numbers of such Brahmins walk 
through the native part of the city, with an earthen plate 
of sweetmeats in one hand and a brass pot in the other, 
the fruits of their day's labor. Such gains being quite 
precarious, and the prospect looming before them quite dis- 
couraging, the annual sum total they derive from this source 
is quite inadequate to their support, and that of the chottoos- 
pattee or school they keep. Hence many such institutions 

KK 



266 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

for the cultivation of Sanskrit have been abandoned for want 
of sufficient encouragement, and as a necessary consequence 
the sons and grandsons of these Brahmins have taken to 
secular occupations, quite incompatible with the spirit of 
the Shastra. In the halcyon days of Hindoo sovereignty, 
when Brahminical learning was in the ascendant and rich 
religious endowments were freely made for the support of 
the hierarchy,* as well from the influence of vanity as from 
the compunctions of a death-bed repentance, such chottoos- 
pattees annually sent forth many a brilliant scholar, — the 
pride of his professor and the ornament of his country. But 
the advancement of English education — the only passport 
to honor and emoluments — has necessarily laid, as it were, 
an embargo on the extensive culture of Brahminical erudition. 
The University curriculum, however, under the present Govern- 
ment, embraces a system well calculated to remove the 
reproach. 

The day following the funeral ceremony is spent in 
giving an entertainment to the Brahmins, without which a 
Hindoo cannot regain his former purity. About twelve, they 
begin to assemble, and when the number reaches two or three 
hundred, Koosasan or grass seats in long straight rows are 
arranged for them in the spacious court-yard, and as Hindoos 
use nothing but green plantain leaves for plates on such 
grand occasions, each guest is provided with a cut piece 
on which are placed the fruits of the season, ghee-fried 
loochees and kachoories, and several sorts of sweetmeats in 
earthen plates for which there are no English names. In 
spite of the utmost vigilance of door-keepers and others, in- 
truders in rather decent dress enter the premises and sit 
down to eat with the respectable Brahmins, but should such 



* Manu commands, "Should the king be near his end, through some in- 
curable disease, he must bestow on the priests all his riches accumulated from 
legal fines." 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 267 

a character be found out, steps are instantly taken to oust 
him. On a grand occasion, some such unpleasant cases are 
sure to occur. There are loafers among Hindoos as there are 
among Europeans. These men, whom misfortune or crime 
has reduced to the last state of poverty, are prepared to put 
up with any amount of insult so long as they have their fill. 
When a Hindoo makes a calculation about the expenses 
of an entertainment at a Shrad or marriage (both grand 
occasions), he is constrained to double or treble his quantum 
of supply that he may be enabled to meet such a contingency 
without any inconvenience. The practice referred to is a 
most disreputable one, and beseems a people not far above 
the level of a Nomad tribe. Even some of the Brahmins* 
who are invited do not scruple to take a portion home, regard- 
less of the contaminated touch of a person of the lowest 
order, simply because the temptation is too strong to be 
resisted. Before departure, each and every one of the 
Brahmins obtains one or two annas as dakhinah, a concession 
which is not accorded to any other caste. 

The next day, a similar entertainment Is given to the 
Kdyastas and other classes, which is accompanied by the 
same noise, confusion and tumult that characterised the 
entertainment given on the previous day. The sober and 
quiet enjoyments of life which have a tendency to enliven 
the mind can seldom be expected in a Hindoo house of 
Shrad, where all is golemal, confusion and disorder. When 
a dinner is announced, a regular scramble takes place, the 
rude and the uninvited occupy the Jirst seats to the exclusion 
of the genteel and respectable, and when the eatables are 

* To preserve order and avoid such unseemly practices, a wealthy Baboo — 
the late Doorgaram Cor — when he invited a number of Brahmins allotted to 
each two separate rations, one on the plantain leaf for eating on the spot, and 
another in an earthen hamiy or pot for carrying home for the absent members 
of the family. Even this excellent arrangement failed to satisfy the greedy 
cravings of the voracious Brahmins. k% Q.iUrnier ressort^ht at last substituted 
cash for eatables, which was certainly a, queer mode of satisfying i\iQ inner man. 



289 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

beginning to be served, the indecent cries of ^^hrmg loocheey bring 
kach^orie, bring tarkaril' and so on, are heard every now and 
again, much to the disturbance of the polite and the discreet. 

The day following is called the neeumbhangay or the day 
on which the son is allowed to break the rules of mourning 
after one month. In the morning the band of songsters 
previously retained come and treat the family to songs of 
Krishna, taking care to select pieces which are most pathetic 
and heart-rending, befitting the mournful occasion of a 
very heavy domestic bereavement. The singing continues 
till twelve or one o*clock, and some people seem to be so 
deeply affected that they actually shed tears, and forget for 
a while their worldly cares and anxieties. When the songs 
are finished, the son and his nearest relatives, rubbing their 
bodies with oil and turmeric, remove the brisakdt on their 
shoulders from the house to a place near it. A hole is made, 
and the brisakat (a painted log of wood about six feet high) 
with an ox on the top, &c., is put into it ; after this they 
all bathe and return home. The songsters are dismissed 
with presents of money, clothes and food. 

The son then sits down to a dinner with his nearest 
blood relation, and this is the first day that he leaves his 
habishee diet after a month's mourning, and takes to the use 
of fish and other Hindoo dishes. He is also allowed to 
change his mourning dress and put on shoes, after having 
made a present of a pair to a Brahmin ; he, moreover, sleeps 
with his wife from this day as before, in fact he reverts to his 
former mode of living in every respect. 

As the entertainment this time consists of vojan, made 
up of rice and curries, and not jalpan, made up of loochees and 
sweetmeats, comparatively a smaller number of guests assem- 
ble on the occasion* and that of loafers and intruders ex- 

* There is a vast difference between a vojun and a jalpAn dinner. If there 
be a thousand guests at the latter, at the most there would be only three 
hundred at the former, as none but the nearest relatives and friends will con- 



SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 269 

hibits a very diminished proportion. Even on such occa- 
sions, one can always tell from a distance that there is a 
feast at such a house from the noise it is invariably attended 
with. 

Having described above the details connected with the 
funeral ceremony, I will now endeavour to give an account 
of one or two of the most celebrated Shrads that took place 
in Bengal after the battle of Plassey, premising that every 
thing which shall be said on the subject is derived chiefly 
from hearsay, as no authentic historical records have come 
down to us. The first and most celebrated Shrad was that 
performed by Dewan Gunga Gobind Set, on the occasion 
of his mother's death. It was performed on so large a scale 
that he caused reservoirs to be made which were filled with 
ghee and oil, immense heaps of rice, flour and dhall were 
piled on the ground. Several large rooms were quite filled 
with sweetmeats of all sorts. Mountains of earthen pots and 
firewood were stacked on the Maidan. Hundreds of Brahmin 
cooks and confectioners were constantly at work to provide 
victuals for the enormous concourse of people. Silver and brass 
utensils of all kinds were arranged in pyramids. Hundreds 
of couches with bedding were placed before the Sabha^ 
(assembly). Elephants richly caparisoned with silver trappings 
formed presents to Brahmins. Tens of thousands of silver coins 
bearing the stamp of Shah A Hum were placed on massive silver 



descend to take rice (vath), which is almost akin to one and the same clanship, 
whereas in Kjaipdn, not only the members of the same caste but even those 
of the inferior order are tacitly permitted to partake of the same entertainment 
without tarnishing the honor of the aristocratic classes. 

The following anecdote will, I hope, prove interesting : — 
At the marriage procession of a washerman, confessedly very low in the 
category of caste, two Kdyastas (writer caste) joined it on the road in the hope 
of getting a hearty Jalpdn dinner ; but lo ! when, after the nuptial rites were 
over, rice and curries were brought out for the guests, the two Kdyastas, who sat 
down with the rest of the company, tried to escape unnoticed, because if they 
ate rice at a washerman's they were sure to lose their caste, but the host would 
not let them go away without dinner. They at last spoke the truth, asked 
forgiveness and were then allowed to leave the house. To such disappointments 
unfortunate intruders are sometimes subjected. 



270 SICKNESS, DEATH AND SHRAD. 

plates. And to crown the whole, thousands of learned Pundits 
from all parts of the country congregated together to impart 
a religious solemnity to the spectacle. All these prepara- 
tions lent a grandeur to the scene, which was in the highest 
degree imposing. Countless myriads of beggars from the 
most distant parts of the Province assembled together, and 
they were not only fed for weeks at the expense of the 
Dewan, but were dismissed with presents of money, clothes 
and food, with the most enthusiastic hosannas on their lips. 
For more than two months the distribution of alms and 
presents lasted, and what was the most praiseworthy feature 
in the affair \^ as the Job-like patience of the Dewan, whose 
charity flowed like the rushing flood-tide of the holy Ganges 
on the banks of which he presented offerings to the manes of 
his ancestors. Some of the Adhapucks or Professors obtained 
as much as one thousand Rupees each in cash and gold and 
silver articles, or rather fragments of the same, to a consider- 
able value. Besides these magnificent honorariums the 
whole of their travelling and lodging expenses were defrayed 
by the Dewan, who was reputed to be so rich that like 
Croesus of old he did not know how much he was worth ; 
hence there is still a current saying amongst the Bengalees, 
which runs thus : " If ever money were wanted, Gouri Set 
will pay." Gouri Set was the son of Gunga Gobind Set. 
The expenses of the Shrad have been variously estimated 
at between ten and twelve lacks of Rupees. The result of 
this truly extravagant expenditure was wide-spread fame, 
and the name of the donor is still cherished with grateful 
remembrance. But as all human greatness is evanescent, the 
fame of the family for charity once unparalleled in the annals 
of Bengal has long since dwindled into insignificance. 

The next Shrad of importance was that of Maharajah 
Nabkissen Bahadoor of Shobhabazar, Calcutta. His son Raja 
Rajkissen performed the Shrad^ which, to this day, stands 



SICKNESSy DEATH AND SHRAD. 271 

unrivalled in this city. Four sets of gold and sixty-four sets 
of silver utensils described before, amounting in value to 
near a lakh of Rupees, were given on the occasion. Such 
paraphernalia go by the name of dansagor or " gift like the 
sea." Besides these presents in money to Brahmins upwards 
of two lakhs of Rupees were given to the poor. 

If these immense sums of money had been invested for 
the permanent support of a Charitable Institution, it would 
have done incalculable good to society. But then there was no 
regularly organised system of Public Charity, nor had the 
people any idea of it. Such immense sums were spent mostly 
for religious purposes according to the prevailing notions of 
the age. Tanks, reservoirs, flights of steps on the banks of 
the river,* fine rows of trees, every three miles stone build- 
ings or choultries for travellers, affording a grateful shelter 
throughout the country, were among the works of public 
utility constructed by the charitably disposed. 

* In the sacred city of Benares vast sums of money have been sunk in build- 
ing Ghauts with magnificent flights of steps stretching from the bank to the 
very edge of the water at ebb-tide, affording great convenience to the people 
both for religious and domestic purposes, but the strong current of the stream 
in the months of August, September and October, has played a sad havoc 
with the masonry works. Scarcely a single Ghaut exists in a complete state of 
preservation. 




XXI. 

SUTTEE, OR THE IMMOLATION OF HINDOO 

WIDOWS. 

IFTY years ago, when the British Government was 
endeavouring to consolidate its power in the East, 
and when the religious prejudices of the Natives 
were alike tolerated and respected, there arose a great man in 
Bengal who was destined by Providence to work a mighty 
revolution in their social, moral and intellectual condition. 
That great man was Rammohun Roy, the pioneer of Hindoo 
enlightenment. Having early enriched his mind with Euro- 
pean and Eastern erudition, he soon rose, by his energy, to a 
degree of eminence and usefulness which afterwards marked 
his career as a distinguished reformer and a benevolent phil- 
anthropist. He was emphatically an oasis in this sterile 
land — a solitary example of a highly cultivated mind among 
many millions of men grovelling in ignorance. To his inde- 
fatigable exertions we are indebted for the abolition of the 
inhuman practice of Suttee, the very name of which evokes 
a natural shrinking from the diabolical deed, which appallingly 
and suddenly expunged a tender life from the earth, and severed 
the dearest tie of humanity. It was the severest reflection 
on the Satanic character of a religion that ignores the first 
principle of divine law. Women are of an impressionable 
nature, their enthusiasm is easily fanned into intensity, and 
superstition and priestcraft took advantage of it. 

Not content with sending a sick man to the riverside to 
be suffocated and burnt to ashes, a narrow-minded hierarchy 
lent its sanction to the destruction of a living creature, by 
burning the Hindoo widow with the dead body of her hus- 
band, the fire being kindled perhaps by the hand of one 



SUTTEE. 273 

whom she had nurtured and suckled in infancy. It is awful 
to contemplate how the finest sensibilities of our nature are 
sometimes blunted by a false faith. 

My apology for dwelling on this painful subject now that 
the primary cause of complaint has long since been removed 
by a wise Legislature, is no other than that I had been an 
eye-witness of a melancholy scene of this nature, the dread- 
ful atrocity of which it is impossible even at this distance of 
time to call to mind without horror and dismay. As the tale 
I am going to relate is founded in real life its truthfulness 
can be thoroughly relied upon. 

When I was a little boy reading in a Patsdld at home, 
my attention was one morning roused by hearing from my 
mother that my aunt was " going a Suttee." The word was 
then scarcely intelligible to me. I pondered and thought over 
and over again in my mind what could the word ' Suttee' 
mean. Being unable to solve the problem, I asked my 
mother for an explanation ; she, with tears in her eyes, told 
me that my aunt (living in the next house) "was going to eat 
fire." Instantly I felt a strong curiosity to see the thing 
with my own eyes, still laboring under a misconception as to 
what the reality could be. I had then no distinct notion that 
life would be at once annihilated. I never thought for a 
moment that I was going to lose my dear aunt for ever. My 
mind was quite unsettled, and I felt an irresistible desire to 
look into the thing more minutely. I ran down to my aunt's 
room and what should I see there, but a group of sombre com- 
plexioned women with my aunt in the middle. I have yet 
after fifty years, a vivid recollection of what I then saw in the 
room. My aunt was dressed in a red silk sari with all the 
ornaments on her person, her forehead daubed with a very 
thick coat of sidoor or vermillion, her feet painted red with 
alta, she was chewing a mouthful of betel, and a bright lamp was 
burning before her. She was evidently wrapt in an ecstacy 

LL 



274 SUTTEE. 

of devotion, earnest in all she did, quite calm and composed as 
if nothing important was to happen. In short, she was then 
at her matins, anxiously watching the hour when this mortal 
coil should be put off. My uncle was lying a corpse in the 
adjoining room. It appeared to me that all the women as- 
sembled were admiring the virtues and fortitude of my aunt. 
Some licking the betel out of her mouth, some touching her 
forehead in order to have a little of the sidoor or vermillion, 
while not a few falling before her feet, expressed a fond hope 
that they might possess a small particle of her virtue. Amidst 
all these surroundings, what surprised me most was my aunt's 
stretching out one of her hands at the bidding of an old Brah- 
min woman and holding a finger right over the wick of the 
burning lamp for a few seconds until it was scorched and forci- 
bly withdrawn by the old lady who bade her do so, in order to 
have a foretaste of the unshaken firmness of her mind. The 
perfect composure with which she underwent this fiery ordeal 
fully convinced all that she was a real Suttee, fit to abide 
with her husband in Boykonto, paradise. Nobody could notice 
any change in her countenance or resolution after she had 
gone through this painful trial. 

It was about eleven o'clock when preparations were 
made for the removal of the corpse of my uncle to the 
Ghaut. It was a small mourning procession, nearly thirty 
persons, all of respectable families, volunteered to carry the 
dead body alternately on their shoulders. The body was laid 
on a charpoy^ my aunt followed it, not in a closed but an open 
Palkee. She was unveiled and regardless of the conse- 
quences of a public exposure ; she was, in a manner, dead to the 
external world. The delicate sense of shame so charac- 
teristic of Hindoo females was entirely suppressed in her 
bosom. In truth, she was evidently longing for the hour when 
her spirit and that of her husband should meet together and 
dwell in heaven. She had a toolsee mala (string of basil 



SUTTEE, 2;5 

beads) in her right hand which she was telling, and she 
seemed to enjoy the shouts of "Hurree, Hurree bole" with 
perfect serenity of mind. How can we account for the 
strange phenomenon wherein a sentient being in a state of 
full consciousness was ready to surrender at the feet of 
"Hurree" the last vital spark of life for ever, without a mur- 
mur, a sigh, or a tear? A deep, sincere religious faith, which 
serves as a sheet-anchor to the soul amidst the storms of life, 
can only unriddle the enigma and disarm death of its terrors. 
We reached NimtoUah Ghaut about twelve, and after staying 
ten or fifteen minutes, sprinkling the holy water on the dead 
body, and all proceeded slowly to KooltoUah Ghaut, about 
three miles north of Nimtollah. On arriving at the destina- 
tion which was the dreary abode of Hindoo undertakers, 
solitary and lonesome, the Police Darogah, (who was also a 
Hindoo) came to the spot and closely examined my aunt, in 
various ways attempting if possible, to induce her to change 
her mind, but she, like "Joan of Arc," was resolute and 
determined, she gave an unequivocal reply, to the purport 
that "such was her predestination, and that Hurree had sum- 
moned her and her husband into the Boykonto." The 
Darogah, amazed at the firmness of her mind, staid at the 
Ghaut to watch the proceedings, while preparations were 
being made for a funeral pile, which consisted of dry firewood, 
faggots, pitch with a lot of sandalwood, ghee, &c. in it to im- 
part a fragrant odour to the air. Half a dozen Bamboos or 
sticks were procured also, the use of which we afterwards 
understood and saw. We little boys were ordered to stand 
aloof. The Brahmin undertaker came and read a few mantras 
or incantations. The dead body wrapped in new clothes being 
placed on the pyre, my aunt was desired to turn seven times 
round it, which she did while strewing a lot of flowers, cow- 
ries (shells) and parched rice on the ground. It struck me 
at the time that at every successive circumambulation, her 



2/6 SUTTEE. 

strength and presence of mind failed, whereupon the Darogah 
stepped forward once more and endeavoured even at the last 
moment to deter her from her fatal determination, but she, at 
the very threshold of ghastly death, in the last hour of expir- 
ing life, the fatal torch of Yama (Pluto) before her, calmly 
ascended the funeral pile and lying by the side of her hus- 
band with one hand under his head and another on his breast, 
was heard to call, in voice half suppressed, on "Hurree, Hur- 
ree," — a sign of firm belief in the reality of eternal beatitude . 
When she had thus laid herself on the funeral pyre, she was 
instantly covered or rather choked with dry wood, while some 
stout men held and pressed down the pyre which was by 
this time burning fiercely on all sides, with the Bamboos. A 
great shout of exultation then arose from the surrounding 
spectators, till both the dead and living bodies were converted 
into a handful of dust and ashes. When the tragic scene 
was brought to a close and the excitement of the moment 
subsided, men and women wept and sobbed, while cries and 
groans of sympathy filled the air. 

If all religions be not regarded as " splendid failures, * 
that outlook into the future, which sustains us amid the 
manifold griefs and agonies of a troublous life, holds out 
the sure hope of a blessed existence hereafter. My aunt, 
Bhuggobutty Dassee, tht^ugh a victim of superstition, had 
nevertheless a firm, unalterable faith in the merciful dis- 
pensations of Hurree which prompted her to renounce her 
life for the salvation of her own and her husband's souls, 
giving no heed whatever to the importunity of her friends 
or the admonition of the world. The sincerity of her reli- 
gious conviction immeasurably outweighed every other worldly 
consideration, and no fear or temptation could deter her 
from her resolute purpose, despite its singularly shocking 
character. It was the depth of a similar religious convic- 
tion and earnestness of purpose that led Joan of Arc to 



SUTTEE. 27; 

suffer martyrdom on a funeral pile. When asked by the 
executioner if she believed in the reality of her mission, 
" Yes," she firmly replied, while the flames were ascending 
around her. " My voices were of God. All that I have 
done was by the command of God. No, my voices did not 
deceive me. My revelations were of God." " Nothing more 
was heard from her but invocations to God, interrupted 
by her long drawn agony. So dense were the clouds of 
smoke that at one time, she could not be seen. A sudden 
gust of wind turned the current of the whirlwind and Jeanne 
was seen for a few moments. She gave one terrific cry, 
pronounced the name of Jesus, bowed her head, and the spirit 
returned to God who gave it. Thus perished Jeanne, the maid 
of Orleans," and thus perished Bhuggobutty Dassee, my aunt. 
About the year 181 3, Rammohun Roy published a pam- 
phlet in which he very clearly exposed the barbarous character 
of the rite of burning widows alive. He was unfortunately 
backed by few friends. The orthodox party was then very 
strong, and included the most influential and wealthy portion 
of the Hindoo community. Maharajah Tejchunder Baha- 
door of Burdwan, Rajahs Gopeemohun and Radhakanto 
Bahadoors, Promothnath Dey, Boystubchunder Mullick, 
Rammohun Mullick and, in fact, the entire aristocracy of 
Calcutta were enlisted on the side of opposition. The 
" Sumachar Chandrika," the recognised organ of the Dhurmo 
Shabhay edited by Bhowbany Churn Bonerjea, vilified Ram- 
mohun Roy, as an outcast and infidel and persecuted those 
who were bold enough to avow their sentiments in favour 
of the abolition of this inhuman practice. Rammohun Roy 
almost single-handed encountered this formidable opposition, 
he fought for a just and righteous but not a popular cause, 
regardless alike of the consequences of social persecution 
and the threats and scoffs of his orthodox countrymen. 
Patiently but steadily and consistently he worked his way, 



278 SUTTEE. 

until at last his appeal finding a responsive echo in a 
Christian heart, that noble minded Governor General — Lord 
William Bentinck — gradually put a stop to the practice. That 
eminent statesman had many a conference with Rammohun 
Roy on the propriety or otherwise of abolishing this shocking 
practice. The anti-abolitionists presented a memorial to 
Government, urging therein its unjustifiable interference with 
the religious usages of the country. That wise Governor 
General, who was very anxious to preserve in full integrity 
the solemn pledge of government about a neutral policy in 
matters of religion, consulted the distinguished Orientalist, 
Mr. H. H. Wilson, on the subject, and finally came to the 
resolution of abolishing this' inhuman institution through- 
out the British dominion in the East. But before giving 
effect to the resolution, he recorded in a Minute that 
the authoritative abolition of the practice would be an out- 
rageous violation of the engagement of the Supreme Govern- 
ment. Accordingly his Lordship observed : " I must ac- 
knowledge that a similar opinion, as to the probable excitation 
of a deep distrust of our future intentions, was mentioned 
to me in conversation by that enlightend Native, Rammohun 
Roy, a warm advocate for the abolition of Suttees, and of 
all other superstitions and corruptions engrafted on the Hindu 
religion, which he considers originally to have been a pure 
deism. It was his opinion that the practice might be sup- 
pressed quietly and unobservedly by increasing the difficulties, 
and by the indirect agency of the Police. He apprehended 
that any public enactment would give rise to general appre- 
hension, that the reasoning would be, while the English were 
contending for power, they deemed it politic to allow univer- 
sal toleration and to respect our religion ; but having obtained 
the supremacy, their first act is a violation of their professions 
and the next will probably be, like Mahomedan conquerors 
to force upon us their own religion." 



SUTTEE. 279 

The argument urged by Government was as reasonable 
as its conduct was compatible with its known policy. But it 
must be mentioned to the credit of an enlightened Govern- 
ment that its generous exertions have effectually healed one 
of the most shocking wounds inflicted by inhuman supersti- 
tion upon our unhappy country 




XXII. 
THE ADMIRED STORY OF THE SABITRI BRATA, 

OR 

THE WONDERFUL TRIUMPH OF EXALTED 

CHASTITY. 

IN the halcyon days of the Hindoo Raj, when religion was 
regarded as the mortar of society, and righteousness 
the cement of domestic happiness, when Judhistra 
the Just inculcated, by precept and example, the inflexible 
rules of moral rectitude, there reigned in the country of Madra 
a very pious, truthful, wise and benevolent king named Aswa- 
pati. For a long time he had no child, which made him 
extremely unhappy. Seeing that the evening of his life 
was drawing nearer every day and there was no sign of 
the approach of the wished-for consummation, he undertook 
to perform a grand religious ceremony with the object of ob- 
taining a son and heir, and daily made ten thousand offer- 
ings to please the goddess, Sabitri, from whom the boon 
was expected. 

Thus passed away several long and painful years, at 
the end of which it came to pass that the goddess, Sabitri, 
one day suddenly appeared before him in the shape of a 
beautiful woman, and told him that she was ready to grant 
him any boon he might ask for, because she was well pleased 
with him for his austere asceticism, for the purity and 
sincerity of his heart, for the strict observance of his vow, and 
for his firm, unshaken faith in her. As was to be expected, 
he prayed for a good number of sons, affirming that without 
offspring the life of man upon earth is but a wilderness, 
obscuring the transitory sunshine of bliss into a chaotic mass 
of settled gloom. 



THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRl BRATA t%\ 

The goddess said that foreknowing this to be his cherish- 
ed desire, she had gone to the Creator (BrahmA) to consult 
him as to the best means for its realization, and through his 
mercy he would soon be blessed with a female child, in every 
way worthy of such a pious and virtuous father. Her beauty 
would shed a lustre around her name and the fame of her 
rare gifts of nature spread far and wide. She would be the 
cynosure of all princely eyes, and her charms radiate in all 
directions. So saying, the goddess disappeared and the king 
returned to his own capital. 

In a short time, the eldest queen became pregnant and 
in due course of time, gave birth to a daughter of matchless 
beauty. The king and his Brahmin friends called her Sabitri, 
after the name of the goddess who granted the boon. Day 
by day, the princess grew fairer and fairer, and soon passed 
from the incipient stage of smiling childhood to that of 
blooming youth. Every one that saw her chiselled features 
and prepossessing appearance believed that some angelic 
beauty, — the embodiment of loveliness itself — had descended 
upon earth in the shape of a lovely damsel. Indeed she 
was so surpassingly beautiful that no prince, how great or 
eminent he might be, dared seek her hand in marriage lest 
his suit should be spurned. 

The king, Aswapati, thought of marrying his only daugh- 
ter, then in the fullness and freshness of youth, to some one 
worthy of the honor. For some time no royal suitors ventured 
to solicit her hand for the reasons stated above. At length, 
Sabitri sought and obtained her father's permission to secure 
for herself a suitable match. In complying with her request, 
the father moreover allowed her to take in her travels 
some of the wisest ministers of the state, whose experience 
and counsel would be available to her in so momentous an 
affair. Mounted on a golden chariot and accompanied by a 
number of gray headed ministers, she left the capital with the 

MM 



a82 THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRI BRATA. 

benedictions of the hereditary priests, and journeyed far and 
wide through many a strange country, visiting on her way 
some of the most deh'ghtful hermitages of the venerable old 
RishiSf who were absorbed in meditation. 

Sometime after, while the king was attending to the 
duties of the State and conversing with that renowned sage, 
Ndrada, Sabitri with the ministers returned home from her 
peregrination. The princess, seeing her father talking with 
the great Rishi, Ndrada, bowed her head down in token of 
due homage to the venerable Rishi and her respected father. 
The bustle consequent on the first interview after a long 
absence being over, Ndrada asked the king : " O monarch, 
where did your daughter go ? Whence is she now coming ? 
It is high time that you should give her in marriage to some 
noble prince worthy of her hand." The king replied, " O 
revered Rishi, I sent her abroad with some of my wisest 
ministers in quest of some noble prince, who, to a beautiful 
person should add all the rarest gifts of wisdom, courage, 
piety and virtue ; now hear from her own mouth, how far 
she has succeeded in her sacred mission." So saying, the 
king desired Sabitri to tell them whom she had chosen for 
her husband. Sabitri, in obedience to her esteemed father's 
behest, thus spoke in a tone becoming her age and sex. 
" Father, a pious king named Dyumutsen once ruled the 
kingdom of Sala. A few days after his accession he lost both 
his eyes and became totally blind. At that time, his only 
child was in his infancy, quite incapable of conducting the 
affairs of the kingdom. His treacherous enemies, taking 
advantage of his blindness and the infancy of his child, invaded 
his kingdom and wrested it from his hands. The dethroned 
king and his beloved queen with their infant child betook 
themselves to a quiet life of contemplation in an adjacent 
wood, renouncing all the pleasures of a wicked, ungrateful 
world. For some years they passed their days in the sequest- 



THE ADMIRED STORY OP SABITRI BR ATA, 283 

ered wood amidst the abodes of many revered sages, who took 
a special delight in imbuing the nascent mind of the boy 
with the germs of moral and religious instruction, promising 
a full development in maturer years. He was in every way 
my equal, and him have I chosen as my worthy husband. 
His name is Satyavana." 

Hearing this, the hoary headed Rishi, Narada, thus ad- 
dressed the monarch. "O monarch, I am grieved to say 
that your daughter has been unfortunate in her choice, in 
having thoughtlessly selected the virtuous Satyavana as her 
husband." The king feelingly enquired : " O great Rishi, 
are the noble qualities of valour, prudence, forgiveness, 
piety, devotion, generosity, filial love and affection to be 
found in Satyavana ?" Narada answered, " Satyavana is 
Siirya's (sun's) equal in matchless glory, is wise as Vrihashpati 
himself, brave and warlike as Indra, mild and forgiving as 
Earth." The king asked : " Is the prince a sincere worship- 
per of God, walking in the path of righteousness? Is he 
beautiful, amiable and high-minded ? " Narada replied, " O 
king, like Ratideva, the son of Sankriti, the beautiful Satya- 
vana, is generous ; like Sibi, the son of Usinara, he is a lover 
of God and Truth ; and is as high-minded as Yaydti ; all the 
pious old Rishis and other good men believe that Satyavana 
is brave, mild, meek, truthful, faithful to his friends, magna- 
nimous, pious, and sincere in devotion and earnestness." 
The king again asked : " O venerable sage, you have named 
all the good qualities that can ennoble humanity ; be kind 
enough to inform me in what he is wanting." " He has one 
great disqualification," said Narada, " which is enough to out- 
weigh all his virtues, his life upon earth is very short, he is 
fated to live exactly one year from this day." 

Hearing the fearful prophecy of Narada, the king tried 
his best to dissuade his daughter from the fatal alliance, but 
all his efforts proved unavailing. Sabitri, firm and constant 



284 THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRI BRATA. 

in her plighted faith, fearlessly replied that, despite the omi- 
njous prediction which is suggestive of the appalling horrors 
of premature widowhood to the mind of a Hindoo female, she 
could not retract her pledge and surrender her heart to any 
other being upon earth. 

Narada then exclaimed ; "O king, I see your daughter is 
true to her promise, firm in her faith and constant in her love 
and attachment to Satyavana. No one will be able to lead 
her astray from the path of righteousness. Let the unrivalled 
pair, therefore, be united in the sacred bond of wedlock." The 
king replied, "O great Rishi, unalterable are your words ; 
what you have now said is just and right. As you are my 
Gooroo (spiritual guide) I will do what you have ordered me 
to do." "Heaven's choicest blessings be upon you all," said 
Narada, and departed. 

The king now directed his attention to the solemnisation 
of the nuptials of his beloved daughter with becoming pomp 
and ^clat. 

The fair daughter of Aswapati was thus married in due 
form to Satyavana, the son of the blind old king, Dyumutsen. 
For a while the happy pair continued to enjoy all the bless- 
ings of conjugal life in their blissful and retired cottage, re- 
mote from the busy throng of men and quite congenial to 
religious meditation, though Sabitri knew full well, as predes- 
tined by Bidhdtel, that this short and transient happiness 
would be soon followed by long and painful suffering which 
would very nigh destroy them both. 

Thus week after week and month after month rolled 
away, when at length the prophetic day on which the terrible 
doom was to be pronounced upon Satyavana drew nearer 
and nearer, and when Sabitri saw that there remained only 
four days to complete the terrible year, perhaps the last year 
of Satyavana's life, at the end of which the fatal torch of 
Yama would appear before her beloved husband, her heart 



THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRI BRATA, 2is 

recoiled at the idea. To avert the dreadful doom she under- 
took the performance of an austere vow, which strictly en- 
joined three days of continuous fasting and prayer, pouring 
forth at the feet of the Almighty all the fervours of a devo- 
tional heart. Her father-in-law, Dyumutsen, though over- 
whelmed by the surging wave of grief, endeavoured to dissuade 
her from undertaking so trying a vow, but his admonition was 
quite ineffectual. She persistently adhered to her resolution 
and calmly resigned herself to the dispensations of a wise, 
and merciful Providence. 

Mental conflict, internal perturbation, and continuous fast- 
ing made her weak and emaciated, and the prophetic words 
of Narada incessantly haunted her mind like some fatal vision. 
It is quite impossible to describe the violent struggles that 
passed within her when that terrible day at last arrived, an^j 
when the inevitable decree of fate by which her dear husband 
should for ever cease to live would be fulfilled. After bathing 
in the sacred stream she made burnt offerings to the gods and 
prostrated herself on the ground, as a mark of profound 
homage to the honoured feet of the old Rishis, and those of 
her revered father-in-law and mother-in-law, who in return 
heartily pronounced their sincere benedictions upon her 
When the hour for dinner came, she was desired to partake 
of some refreshment, especially after three days' continuous 
fastings, but animated by a fervent spirit of devotion she de- 
clined to take any food before sunset. 

Presently she saw her husband going to the forest with 
his axe and a bag, to procure fruits and dry wood. Sabitri 
begged to accompany him, but from the prescience of immi- 
nent danger as well as from the warmth of affection he would 
fain keep her at home, being assured that her tender feet were 
not fittted to wander in the " brambly wilderness " in her 
present enfeebled state of body ; but regardless of all admoni- 
tion she thus exclaimed : "O my beloved Lord, I am not at 



386 THE Admired story op sabiTri brata. 

all weary with fasting, your very presence is my strongest 
support. I can never be happy without you, so do not turn a 
deaf ear to the earnest entreaty of an already disconsolate 
wife, whose fate is bound with yours in a gordian knot which 
no earthly force can break or cut." Satyavana was at last 
constrained to yield to her solicitations, and bade her take his 
father and mother's permission before her departure. It was 
with the greatest reluctance that their permission was given. 
Obtaining their benedictions and being armed with the pano- 
ply of divine grace, the unhappy pair quitted their sweet home 
for the dreary forest. On the way, Satyavana, half conscious 
of what would soon befall him, addressed his loving wife in 
the following affectionate words: "O dear Sabitri, behold 
how nature smiles in all her beauty, how the fields are adorned 
with fragrant flowers, shady groves, and a wide expanse of 
living verdure, how slowly and smoothly runs the murmuring 
brook with soothing melody, how the warblers of the forest 
pour forth their wild but sweet notes without fear of moles- 
tation, how merrily the peacock is dancing, how cheerfully 
the stag is frisking about, and above all, how the stillness of 
the scene invites the mind to contemplation." 

While Sabitri was attentively listening to her husband's 
descriptive illustration of nature, her heart swelled in her 
throat, but her eyes were not sullied with even one tear-drop. 
She continued to follow her husband as a faithful, obedient 
wife. 

At length they entered the forest, and Satyavana after 
having filled his bag with various kinds of fruits began to 
cut with his axe the withered branches of the trees. The effort 
soon overpowered him and he felt some uneasy sensation 
about his head. He slowly walked down to his dear wife 
and observed : *' O much beloved Sabitri, suddenly I feel an 
acute headache which, becoming more and more painful, makes 
me quite insensible and almost breaks my heart, I cannot 



THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRI BRATA. 287 

stand here any longer, but I trust by the aid of balmy sleep, 
soon to regain my health and strength." 

On hearing her husband's heart-rending words, she sat 
down upon the ground and placed Satyavana's head upon her 
lap. But as fate had ordained he soon became perfectly insen- 
sible. When Sabitri saw this, her wonted presence of mind did 
not fail her ; trusting, however, in the boundless mercy of an 
overruling Providence, she calmly and composedly waited for 
the ill-fated hour, when the shadow of death would hide for 
ever her beloved Satyavana — a doom she was herself pre- 
pared to share. Suddenly, after a short while, she believed 
she saw a grim figure, clothed in red and resplendent with 
lustre like the sun, slowly approaching her with a chain in his 
hand. This was not a figment of her imagination. The 
veritable Yama stood beside Satyavana and looked stead- 
fastly upon him. 

No sooner did Sabitri see him than she, taking her hus- 
band's head from her lap and placing it upon the ground, 
with trembling heart thus addressed him. " God-like person, 
your heavenly form and majestic appearance bespeak unmis- 
takably that you are a god among gods. Vouchsafe to 
unfold yourself and break your mind to me." 

Yama replied ; " O Sabitri, thou art chaste and constant 
in thy devotion and meditation, I, therefore, feel no delicacy 
in satisfying your eager inquiry. I am Yama (Pluto), I am 
come here for the purpose of carrying away thy dead husband, 
as his days upon earth are numbered." To this, Sabitri 
said, "O king, I have heard that your imps carry away 
the dead bodies from the earth; why are you then come 
yourself?" 

Yama replied, "O amiable Sabitri, while living, your 

excellent husband possessed many good qualities and was 

justly remarkable for his righteousness. It was improper, 

herefore, to have sent my imps to carry him away. With 



288 THE ADMIRED STOR Y OF SABITRI BR ATA, 

this view I am come myself." So saying Yama forcibly drew 
out the finger-shaped soul from Satyavana*s body. Being 
deprived of the vital spirit, the dead body became motionless, 
pale and pallid ; and Yama went towards the South. The 
chaste Sabitri, in order to obtain the fruit of her vow, fol- 
lowed him with sad looks and a heavy heart. Seeing this, 
Yama remonstrated with her and ordered her to return home 
and perform the funeral obsequies of her husband. Sabitri 
said she would go wherever her husband was carried, and 
that by her unceasing prayer to the Almighty, by her firm 
faith in her spiritual guide, by the solemn fulfilment of her 
sacred vow, and by his (Yama's) grace, her course would be 
free and unrestrained. " O king of the infernal regions," said 
she, "kindly deign to lend a listening ear to a suppliant's 
prayer. He that has not obtained a complete mastery over 
his senses should not come to the forest to lead there either 
a domestic life, or a student's life, or the life of a devotee. 
Those who have effectually controlled their passions are fit to 
fulfil the necessary conditions of the four different modes 
of life. Of these four modes, the domestic life is decidedly 
the best, being most favourable to the acquisition of know- 
ledge and wisdom, and to the cultivation of piety and virtue. 
Persons like myself do not desire to lead any other than a 
domestic life." 

"Now return home, O fair Sabitri ; I am much pleased 
with your wise observations ; I am willing to grant you any 
boon save the life of your husband," exclaimed Yama. 
Sabitri replied, "O king, be graciously pleased to restore eye- 
sight to my blind father-in-law, and make him powerful as 
the Sun or the Fire, that he may be enabled to regain his king- 
dom and rule it with vigour." Yama granted the boon, and di- 
rected her to return home after the fatiguing journey. Sabitri 
answering said, "O virtuous king, I feel no trouble or fatigue 
white I am with my husband, for a husband is the strength 



THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRI BR ATA. 289 

and stay of his wife, and the wife is the sharer of her husband's 
weal or woe: 

The wife, where danger or dishonor lurks, 
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays, 
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures. 

Wherever, therefore, you carry my husband, my foot- 
steps will dog you thither. Our very first intercourse with 
the good and the righteous leads to the growth of confi- 
dence and kindly feeling, which is always productive of the 
most beneficial results." Whereupon Yama replied, " O 
thoughtful lady, thy words are agreeable to my heart ; they 
are fraught with meaning and good sense. I shall willingly 
grant you another boon save the life of your husband." " Al- 
low me, then, O virtuous king, to ask for a hundred be- 
gotten sons to my father, who has no son," said Sabitri. 

"I grant the boon," said Yama, "now that all your wishes 
have been consummated, do not continue to follow me any 
longer. You are far away from your father-in-law's cottage ; 
return home at once." 

Sabitri replied, " O virtuous king, we are apt to repose 
more confidence in the righteous than in ourselves ; their kind- 
ness amply requites our love and regard." Yama said, " I am 
very much satisfied with your edifying speech, and am disposed 
to grant you another boon." Sabitri feeling grateful for the 
several boons granted unto her, presumed this time to ask for 
the resurrection of her husband as well as for the birth from 
them of a hundred powerful, wise and virtuous sons, to be the 
glory of the country and the ornament of society. 

" Be it so," said Yama cheerfully and disappeared. 

It is obvious that the fertile imagination of the heredi- 
tary priests of Hindoosthan, who, from their traditional men- 
tal abstraction, delighted more in the concoction of legendary 
lore than of the solid, sober realities of life, invented the 
above Brata or vow, mainly for the consolation of ignorant 

NN 



290 THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRI BRATA. 

females, to avert the hardships of widowhood, than which a 
more unmitigated evil is not to be found in the domestic eco- 
nomy of the Hindoos. The unhallowed institution of the 
immolation of widows alive, was primarily traceable to the 
dread of this terrible calamity, which preyed, as it were, on 
the vitals of humanity. Hence the performance of this Brata 
is the culminating point of meritorious work in popular esti- 
mation, promising to the performer the perpetual enjoyment 
of connubial happiness, which is more valued by a Hindoo 
female than all the riches of Golconda. 

It is annually celebrated in the Bengalee month of Joys- 
to both by widows and by women whose husbands are alive, 
by the former, in the hope of averting the evil in another 
life,' by the latter, in the expectation of continuing to enjoy 
conjugal bliss both in this world and the next. 

On the celebration of this Brata on the fourteenth night 
of the decrease of the moon, the husband, being dressed in clean 
new clothes, is made to sit on a carpet, the wife, previously 
washing and drying his feet, puts round his neck a garland of 
flowers and worships him with sandal and flowers, wrestling 
hard in prayer for his prolonged life. This being done, she 
provides for him a good dinner, consisting of different kinds of 
fruits, sweetmeats, sweet and sour milk and ghee-fried loochees^ 
&c. It should be mentioned here that a widowed lady offers the 
same homage to the god, Naraian, in the place of a husband. 

The usual incantation is read by the priest, and she 
repeats it inaudibly, the substance being in harmony with 
her cherished desire. He gets his usual fee of two or four 
rupees and all the offerings in rice, fruits, sweetmeats, clothes, 
brass utensils, &c. If not dead, a woman has to perform this 
Brata regularly for fourteen long years, at the end of 'which 
the expense is tenfold more, in clothes, beddings, brass uten- 
sils, and an entertainment to Brahmins, friends and neigh- 
bours, than in the ordinary previous years. 



THE ADMIRED STORY OF SABITRl BR ATA. 291 

Besides the Bratas described above, there are many 
others of more or less note, which are annually observed by 
vast numbers of females, who, from their early religious ten- 
dencies, seem to enjoy a monopoly of them. It is, however, 
a singular fact that the primary object of all these religious 
vows is the possession of all sorts of worldly happiness^ 
seldom supplemented by a desire of endless blessedness here- 
after. This is unquestionably a lamentable desideratum in 
the original conception and design of the popular Hindoo 
Shgistras, clearly demonstrating its superficiality and poverty. 




APPENDIX. 



Note A. 
OBSERVANCES AND RITES DURING PREGNANCY. 

From the period pf conception a woman is enjoined by way of 
precaution, to live under certain rules and restrictions, the observance 
of which is to ensure a safe delivery as well as the safety of the 
offspring. She is not allowed to put on clothes over which birds of the 
air have flown, lest their return might prolong the period of her delivery. 
She fastens a knot to one end of the Achal of her Saree* and keeps it 
tied about her waist, and spits on her breast once a day before washing 
her body, and is not allowed to sit or walk in the open compound in 
order to avoid evil spirits ; as a safeguard against their inroads, she con- 
stantly wears in the knot of her hair a slender reed five inches long. 

When in a state of pregnancy, a Hindoo female is treated with 
peculiar care, tenderness and affection. She is generally brought from 
her father-in-law's house to that of her father, where all the members of 
the family shew her the greatest love lest she should not survive the 
throes of childbirth. Indeed the first childbirth of a young Hindoo 
girl is justly considered a struggle between life and death. As a religious 
safeguard and guarantee for safe delivery, she is made to wear rouud her 
neck a small Madoolee (a very small casket made of gold, silver, or copper), 
containing some flowers previously consecrated to Baba Thacoor\ and to 
drink daily until her delivery a few drops of holy water after touching it 
with the Madoolee, 

It is perhaps generally known that a Hindoo girl is married between 
9 and 12 years of age — an age when her European sister would not even 
dream of being united in the bonds of wedlock ; and the natural con- 
sequence is, she becomes a mother at thirteen or fourteen years. An 
eminent writer who had studied the subject carefully thus remarks : 
" Till their thirteenth year, they are stout and vigorous ; but after that 
period, they alter much faster than the women in any of the nations of 
Europe." Her tender age, her sedentary life, her ignorance of the laws 
of hygiene, the common dread of childbirth, the want of proper midwives 
as well as of timely medical aid (should any be necessary), conspire 

* A Saree is a piece of cloth, 5 yards long with colored borders. 

t A Hindoo god generally kept by the lower orders of the people, such as Domes^ Chdrdls 
and Bagthegs. 



294 APPENDIX, 

sometimes to cause an untimely death. She must continue to observe 
many precautions until her accouchement is completed. 

In the fifth month of her pregnancy takes place her Kacha Shdd.^ 
The day must be an auspicious one according to Hindoo astrologers, and 
she is treated that day with special indulgence, inasmuch as all the deli- 
cacies of the season are given to her without restriction. In the seventh 
month she is treated with Bhdjd Shdd^ when she eats with a few other 
females (whose husbands and children are all alive) all sorts of parched 
peas and rice as well as Methais and other sweetmeats ; in the ninth 
month, the Paunchdmrita\ ceremony is held, when she is made to wear 
a red-bordered Akhanda Saree (a piece of cloth ten cubits long with the 
edges uncut), which is preserved with the greatest care lest any jealous 
and mischievous woman who has lost her children, should clandestinely 
cut and take away a portion of the same, which is considered a very 
portentous omen for the preservation of the new born babe. 

On the celebration of Paunchdmrita above mentioned the officiat- 
ing priest, after repeating the usual incantation, pours into her mouth 
a little of the delicacies, without the same coming in contact with her teeth. 
She is forbidden to eat anything else that day except fruits and sweet- 
meats ; and then a good day is appointed for the celebration of the 
grand final Shdd^ when all the female relatives and connections of the 
family are invited. In Calcutta, Hindoo females of respectability are 
not permitted to be seen, much less to walk in the streets ; they live in a 
state of perfect seclusion, entirely apart from the male members of the 
family, it being considered a very great disgrace should a respectable 
female be in any way exposed to public gaze. The very construction of a 
Hindoo family dwelling house clearly indicates the prevalence of the close 
zenana system ; the inmates must have an inner and an outer apartment, 
there must be an inclosed court-yard reached by tortuous passages, 
closed by low constructed doors, through which one has to wriggle 
rather than to walk ; the sun seldom shines into it ; small contracted stair- 
cases, foul confined air, no circulation or ventilation are the result : the 
noxious effluvia evaporating from this or that side of the house, espe- 
cially from the lower floor, is a nuisance which the inmates put up with, 



* Kacha means raw ; the term Shdd is synonymous with desire. The ceremony is so called 
from the female being allowed that day to eat all kinds of native pickles, preserves, sweetmeats, 
confectionery, several kinds of fruits then in season, sweet and sour milk, &c., but not rice or 
any sort of food grains. Her desire is gratified, lest the girl should not survive the childbirth. 
It should be mentioned here that from the second month of her preganancy, she feels a great long- 
ing to eat PdthkholA (a sort of half burnt very thin earthen cake) which pregnant girls relish very 
much on account of its peculiar sodha flavour. ^ ^ ^ 

t Paunchdmrita means five kinds of delicacies, the food of the gods, consisting of milk 
ghee (clarified butter), dhahie (curded milk), cowdung and honey. 



APPENDIX. 295 

with scarcely any complaint. The drainage and water works have 
certainly effected considerable improvement towards the promotion of 
cleanliness, but still the dirty and filthy state of most of the family 
dwelling houses is a notorious fact. By a small door only there exists , 
a communication between the inner and outer apartment ; should the 
house be a small one, say from three to four cottahs, which is generally 
the case in such a crowded city as Calcutta, and should the women talk loud 
enough to be heard by men outside, they are not only instantly checked 
but severely reprimanded for the liberty. The great privacy of the close 
zenana system is, however, broken by females being obliged to travel in a 
Railway carriage : though Hindoos of rank, whenever they have occasion 
to go on pilgrimage by Rail, generally engage a reserved compartment 
for the females, yet they cannot manage to preserve absolute privacy 
when going into or coming out of the carriage at the Railway Stations. 

To return to the grand final Shdd^ on the day appointed an awning 
is put up over the court-yard of the house. Palkees are sent to 
each of the families invited ; and the guests (nearest female relatives) 
begin to come in from ten in the morning ; a general spirit of hilarity 
prevails on all sides, noise and bustle ensue, the women are busy 
in receiving their guests, preparations are being made for the grand 
feast, the men outside direct the Palkee bearers where next to go, the 
little children have their own share of juvenile frolic, the young damsels 
and the aged matrons are seen speaking to their respective friends with 
mutual love, affection and confidence ; and signs of joviality and convi- 
viality are seen every where. It is on such occasions that women un- 
bosom themselves to each other, and freely and unreservedly commu- 
nicate their feelings, their thoughts, their wishes, nay their secrets to 
friends of congenial spirit and temper ; their conversation knows no end, 
their amiable loveliness almost spontaneously developes itself; they 
unburden their minds of the heavy load of accumulated thoughts ; 
their joys and sorrows, their happiness and misery, their sympathy and 
emotion, pleasurable or painful, have their full scope. If they are 
naturally garrulous they become more so at such a jovial assemblage, 
so that one can dive deepest down into their hearts on such an 
occasion. Many a matrimonial match is proposed and matured at such 
meetings, and to crown the whole, sisters of kindred spirit embrace each 
other with all the warmth of genuine love and affection. If their 
minds are contracted by reason of scanty culture, their hearts are full of 
affection, sympathy and susceptibility, which cannot fail to exercise a 
beneficial influence on human nature. 



296 APPENDIX, 

On such occasions, females are allowed to have some amusement or 
fdmdshdy according to their liking, (but of course not such as betrays a 
vitiated taste, overstepping the bounds of decorum, which was the case 
some years back). Dancing girls and PancMlleys are entertained, who 
contribute not a little to the amusement of the assembled guests. 
Immured within the walls of a close zenana they are seldom suffered to 
enjoy such unrestrained liberty. Otto of roses, rose water out of gold 
or silver pots, nbsegays, and paun or betel are freely distributed among 
them. They sit on benches or chairs, or squat down barefooted on 
forash bichana (a clean white sheet), and enjoy the tdmdshd to their 
hearts' content. These amusements continue till evening, entertain- 
ing the guests with songs on gods and goddesses (Doorga, Krishna and 
his mistress, Rddhd) : those relating to Doorga have a reference to 
the ill treatment she experienced at the hands of her parents, but 
those pertaining to Krishna and Rddhd tell of his juvenile frolics with 
his mother and the milkmaids, and amorous songs on disappointed love, 
which, though they may appear harmless to their worshippers, have 
nevertheless a partial tendency to debase the minds of females. By 
way of encouragement, the singing and dancing girls receive, besides 
their hire, presents of money, clothes and shawls, according to the 
circumstances of the parties retaining them. To do our women justice, 
however, it is pleasing to reflect that the progress of enlightenment has 
of late years wrought a salutary change in their minds. Instead of the 
former Kabees (songs) which were shamefully characterised by the worst 
species of obscenity and immorality, they have imbibed a taste for more 
sober and refined entertainments. Moral and intellectual improvement 
amongst perfectly secluded females is a sure harbinger of national 
regeneration. The young and the sprightly, as is naturally to be ex- 
pected, enjoy these amusements most ; but the more elderly and thought- 
ful females make the best of the opportunity in conversation about 
domestic affairs with those of their cwn age and kinship. They have 
certainly no distaste for these frivolous entertainments, but the thoughts 
and cares of home press more heavily on their minds. Age and ex- 
perience have taught them to regard the enjoyment of unalloyed 
domestic felicity as the chief end of life. A good Hindoo housewife is 
a model of moral excellence. 

About four o'clock in the afternoon, when almost all the guests are 
assembled together, long parallel rows oipirays, or wooden seats, the one 
quite apart from the other — are arranged in straight lines in the court- 
yard, in the midst of which is placed the seat of the pregnant girl, which, 



APPENDIX, 297 

by way of distinction, is painted white with rice paste (dlpdnd) with 
appropriate devices. Adorned with ornaments of glittering gold, be- 
decked with precious stones, and dressed in an embroidered Benares 
Saree^ she walks gracefully towards her particular seat, which is a signal 
for others (widows excepted) to follow ; they all squat down on the 
wooden seats, before which are placed small pieces of green plantain 
leaves and a few little earthen plates and a cup, which are intended to 
serve the purposes of plates and glasses. Before her stands a light, a 
conch is sounded, and a rupee with which her forehead is touched is 
kept for the gods, for safe delivery. Fruits of different kinds, about 
fifteen or sixteen sorts of sweetmeats, loochee^ kachoory^ papur (flour 
fried with ghee) in the shape of chdppdtees^ vegetable curries of several 
kinds, sweet and sour milk, are provided for the guests^ the female 
relativ^es of the girl serving as stewards. No adult male member of the 
family is allowed to assist in the feast, because Hindoo females blush 
to eat before men. Being most pre-eminent in point of caste, ^Brahmin 
women are served first. Here the rules of caste are strictly observed, 
and no departure therefrom is tolerated. It is not uncommon that 
uninvited females, or more properly speaking, intruders contrive by some 
means or other, to mix with the company ; but they are soon singled out 
by the more shrewd and experienced, and to their chagrin and disappoint- 
ment, instantly removed from their seats. They do not, however, go 
away with curses on their lips, but receive a few things and aVe ordered 
to leave the house without a Palkee.* 

After the feast is over, the women, washing their hands and mouths, 
express their good wishes for the safe delivery of the girl, and make 
preparations for returning home. Here confusion and bustle ensue con- 
sequent on the simultaneous desire of all to return homeyfr^/, and as the 
sun begins to set, their anxiety becomes more intense to see the faces 
of their absent children ; laying aside their wonted modesty, some 
of them almost unblushingly make a rush and enter the first Palkee 
that comes in their way, regardless alike of their sex and the rules of 

* A rather contemptible practice still lurks in the Hindoo community at the time of dining on 
such public occasions. The females for the most part place a portion of the dinner aside for the 
sake of carrying it home for their absent children ; even a rich woman feels no hesitation or hu- 
miliation in following the example of her less fortunate sisters. We can only account for this 
unseemly practice on the supposition that the Hindoo ladies do not like to partake of good things 
without sharing them with their beloved children at home. The wish is not an unnatural one 
but the practice most unquestionably is. In making provision for a grand feast, the Hindoos are 
obliged to treble the quantity of food for the number of guests invited, specially when it is a 
pucca jaipan^ consisting of loochees and sundeshes (sweetmeats). If they invite 100 families they 
must provide for about 300 persons, for the reasons specified above. It is a pity that in a matter of 
public entertainment both males and females cannot resist the temptation of appropriating a 

fortion of the food to other than the legitimate purpose. Here feminine modesty is violated 
y infringing the ordinary rules of etiquette. 

00 



298 APPENDIX, 

decorum. If loo families are invited, about ten Palkees are retained. 
Hackney carriages are sometimes substituted in place of Palkees^ 
but whatever arrangements are made it is next to impossible to satisfy 
at least 200 people at one and the same time. The guests are never 
expected to find their own conveyances. Before coming, some of them 
keep the Palanquin waiting for an hour or so, while they are engaged 
at their toilet and adorning their persons with divers ornaments. It 
is not unfrequently the case on such occasions that females in poor 
circumstances borrow ornaments from their more prosperous friends, 
in order to appear in society to the best advantage. In the absence 
of mental accomplishments, Hindoo ladies necessarily set a high 
value on the jewels about their persons. Some twenty years back, 
massive articles of gold were considered the most rechercM ornaments, 
so much so that some rich ladies were adorned with gold articles alone 
to the weight of 6 or 7 ibs. ; to an English lady, this might appear incre- 
dible, but it is a fact which does not admit of any contradiction. 
Hindoo females are religiously forbidden to wear gold ornaments about 
their feet, it being considered a mark of disrespect to Lukxmee (goddess 
of prosperity,) hence they put on pairs of solid massive silver malls 
or anklets, weighing sometimes about 3ft>s. ; though such massive arti- 
cles are a great incumbrance to the free motion of the limbs, they are 
nevertheless used with great pleasure. Indeed it has been sarcastically 
remarked that were a Hindoo lady offered a gold grindstone to wear 
round her neck, weighing some 2o!t)s. she would gladly accept the offer 
and go through the ordeal. But as the spread of EngHsh education has 
improved the minds of the people, it has likewise improved their taste ; 
instead of massive gold ornaments, ladies of the present day prefer those 
of delicate diamond cut workmanship, set with pearls and precious stones 
such as chickt sittahaur^ tdrdhdur^ seetee^ tabij, bajoo^ jasum^ nabaruttun 
/dj^^, bracelets of six or seven patterns, and ear-rings of three or four, 
kinds, for which girls in very early youth perforate their ears in 8 or 10 
places, as also their noses in two places. By their choice of the modern 
ornaments they shew their preference for elegance to mere weight. 
Brilliant Pearl necklaces* of from seven to nine rows, and costly 

■^-^-l ■ ■' IIIIIM. ■■■»■ n il. I ■■ ■■ ■ I II ■ ^111 ■III ■ 11 I ' 

* That the Hindoos have, for a long time, manifested a strong passion for ornaments, is a his- 
torical fact. Even so far back as the Mahratta dynasty, it was said of Dowlut Rao Sindhia 
that " his necklaces were gorgeous, consisting of many rows of Pearls, as large as small marbles, 




which he was commonly designated in his Camp. It was perhaps a sight of this desciiption 
that led Macaulay to say— "Our plain English coats command more respect than all the gorgeous 
orient pearl of the East," indicating thereby the involuntary awe of savage for civilized life. 



APPENDIX, 299 

bijouteries of modern style, have superseded the old-fashioned solid 
gold Bhawootees and Taurs. A rich lady is sometimes seen with 
jewellery worth 15,000 to 20,000 Rupees and upwards ; as a matter of 
course, such a lady is the cynosure of all eyes, and the rest of the com- 
pany move as satellites round the primary planet. Conscious of her 
superiority in this respect and puffed up with vanity she disdains to 
hold converse with her less fortunate sisters. She is tramping, as it 
were, "to the tinkling sound of the ornaments of gold and gems on her 
person." As the grand centre of attraction, her gait, her gestures, her 
movements form the subject of general criticism, and as an object of 
envy she continues to be talked of even after the return of the guests 
to their homes. 

In the villages, however, silver ornaments are more in vogue than 
gold ones, simply because the rural population have neither the taste 
nor the means of the people of the city. As a rule, the Hindoos 
invest their savings in gold and silver which is turned to good 
account in times of need and distress. Throughout Hindoosthan, the 
people have so great di penchant for gold and silver ornaments that not 
only women but men also adorn their persons with solid articles of sterl- 
ing gold. I have seen Setts (shroffs) and Malgoozars go about with 
ornaments of considerable value ; their dress, however, is generally 
exceedingly tawdry, and bears no correspondence to the worth of the 
articles of gold they carry about. I once weighed a solid pure gold 
chain worn by a Sett round his waist, which the natives call Gote^ weigh- 
ing over 4 ft)s., worth about 3,000 Rupees. 

In Bengal little children are seen with gold ornaments on their per- 
sons* till they are 6 years of age, but adults are entirely free from this 
passion. When a male child is born to a respectable Hindoo, the heart 
of the mother irresistibly yearns to adorn its person with ornaments, 
especially at the time of vath (christening), /. ^., at 6 months of age for a 
male and 7 months for a female child. 

When the females return home after the entertainment, it is truly a 
scene of " sorry to part, happy to meet again." It is seldom that such 
opportunities are afforded them to give free vent to their feelings, thoughts 
and wishes ; — a human being always feels unhappy at living in a 
perfectly isolated state ; he or she naturally longs for society, and this 
longing is alike manifest in both sexes. The greater the restraint, as 

1,111 - — ■ 

* Such as Bore^ Komurpatta^ Nim/ully Neyboofull^ Ghoomur round the waist, Tabeeu 
Baj'ooy Bulla, Jasum, Toga, &c. on the hands, pearl and sold necklaces of various sorts and gold 
roohurs or sovereigns strung together in the shape of a necklace. 



300 APPENDIX. 

in the case of Hindoo ladies, the stronger the desire for social inter- 
course. Can a zenana Hindoo lady with her veiled modesty suppress 
the impulse to look about through the shutters of a closed Palkee, 
with g^uards on both sides, in the light of day ? The impulse is by no 
means a criminal one but is prompted by the irresistible influence of 
nature. The parting exclamation on such occasions is, '* Sister, when 
shall I have the good fortune to see you again ?" " Why, not before long," 
is the common reply. The consummation of the desire, if long deferred, 
naturally produces feelings of discontent A few days after the feast the 
families that were invited, g^ve a tangible proof of their regard for the 
pregnant girl by making her presents of clothes and sweetmeats according 
to their respective circumstances, as a matter of course the nearest rela- 
tives making the richest presents. 



Note B. 
THE GODDESS SOOBACHINEE. 

The following is the story of this goddess : — In a certain village there 
lived a poor Brahmin boy, whose poverty was well-known throughout the 
neighbourhood. One day a fisherman came to sell some fish, on seeing 
which the boy began to cry for them. His mother, a poor aged widow, 
though very desirous to satisfy the craving of her son, had unfortunately no 
means to buy them, whereupon the fisherwoman affected by the cries of 
the boy, offered to give her credit and said she would come for the price 
on her way home. Meantime the mother cooked the fish ; but before 
her son had time to eat them, the fisherwoman, according to her pro- 
mise, returned for the price. The old woman being still unable to pay, 
the fish vendor demanded the return of the fish, which, though cooked, 
she was willing to take back. This being done, the boy, however, had 
the advantage of tasting the soup made of the fishes and was so much 
pleased with the taste of animal food that he could not resist the temp- 
tation of stealing one day a lame duck belonging to the king, and eating 
it privately. Investigation being made, the theft was traced to the poor 
Brahmin boy, who being summoned before the king, was tried, convicted 
and sentenced to be imprisoned, at which the mother became inconso- 
lable. Seeing her distress and despondency, the goddess Doorga, in the 
form of Soobackineey appeared to her in a dream, and, giving her hopes of 



APPENDIX, 301 

consolation and better luck for the future, eventually advised her to per- 
form the worship of the goddess Soobachinee. In obedience to the above 
injunction, she did as she was directed. Seventeen ducks made of rice- 
paste (sixteen with two perfect legs and one with a lame leg) formed a 
part of the ceremony. After the performance of the worship and the 
expiatory rite of homa (burnt offering) which expiates all sin, the holy 
water being sprinkled on the feathers of the stolen lavie duck, that were 
concealed under the ashes, the devoured duck was at once restored to life 
and sent back to the king's poultry-yard. The miraculous resuscitation of 
the duck was brought to the notice of the king, who immediately sent for 
the poor old woman and questioned her how the dead lame duck was 
made alive again ; the old woman, trembling through fear, related all the 
particulars about the appearance of the goddess in a dream. The king, 
being satisfied as to the truth of the tale, ordered the captive boy to be 
released at once and brought to his presence, concluding that the god- 
dess must have been very propitious to the old woman and her son 
Consulting his ministers on the subject, he said within himself he could, 
not have a better match for his daughter, who was of marriageable age, 
than the late delinquent. So the nuptials were duly solemnized with be- 
coming pomp, and the poor Brahman family lived ever after in a state of 
great affluence and happiness. Hindoo ladies of the orthodox school 
learn this tale almost in their nursery, and feel a peculiar delight in recit- 
ing it on certain occasions. 



Note C. 

The writings of the ancient Hindoo sages, as handed down to us by 
history and tradition, incontestably prove that they were chiefly theists; 
but as their religious ideas were supremely transcendental, ill suited to 
the comprehension of the great mass of the people, and consequently 
not adapted to bring joy, peace and rest to the mind, their descendants 
learnt to modify those ideas and practically reduce them to the level of 
the popular understanding. They gradually created a Trinity, u e.^ the 
Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer. But as this triad was not 
sufficiently attractive or intelligible to the unlettered mass, who wanted 
something in the shape of real, tangible personification of the deity, in 
place of indistinct, invisible supernatural beings, a designing priesthood 



302 APPENDIX. 

subsequently attempted to satisfy their wishes by foisting upon them a 
whole rabble of gods and goddesses, which are almost as innumerable as 
the pebbles on the sea shore. In numerical strength the Pantheon 
of the Hindoos far surpasses that of the Egyptians, Greeks, and the 
Romans. What ancient system of mythology contained so many as 
330 million gods and goddesses ? As in mythology, so in chronology, 
the Hindoos stand unrivalled. Their pantheon is as capacious and ex- 
tensive as their antiquity* is unfathomable and prehistoric. The origin 
of the Puranic mythology is to be attributed to this national predilection ; 
and the worship of the female deities with bloody sacrifices is intended 
to terrify the ignorant populace into superstitious beliefs still grosser than 
were habitual to them. 

The antiquity of the Brahminical creed and of the religious systems 
incorporated into, and engrafted on it, has long been a subject of inter- 
esting inquiry. It is not my intention to go into the subject more deeply 
than merely to affirm that it is still a debatable point among the most 
distinguished orientalists, whether or not the Egyptians and Greeks 
borrowed their system of mythology from that of the Hindoos, and after- 
wards improved on it by divesting it of the grosser excrescences. The 
character of the Hindoo deities is more or less puerile, impure and 
ungodly, not possessing any of the cardinal virtues, such as become 
the living and true God. Desiring to steer clear of such deformities and im- 
purities, the Greeks and Romans consecrated separate temples to "Virtue, 
Truth, Piety, Chastity, Clemency, Mercy, Justice, Faith, Hope and 
Liberty." 

It is a remarkable fact, says Ward, that "the sceptical part of man- 
kind have always been partial to heathenism. Voltaire, Gibbon, Hume 
&c. have been often charged with a strong partiality for the Grecian and 
Roman idolatries ; and many Europeans in India are suspected of hav- 
ing made large strides towards heathenism. Even Sir William Jones, 
whose recommendation of the Holy Scripture (found in his Bible after 
his death,) has been so often and so deservedly quoted, it is said, to 

* It is curious to relate that Mr. Halhed. when he wrote his " Code of Gentoo Laws," hesi- 
tated to believe the Bible because it was outdone in chronology by the histories of the Chinese 
and Hindoos. With sacred reverence he exclaims, at the close of his account of the {oryc yagas^ 
*' To such antiquity the Mosaic Creation is but as yesterday, and to such ages the life of Methuselah 
is no more than a span T _ He says in another page. ** Tlie conscientious scruples of Brydone 
will always be of some weight in the scale of philosophy." If the age or reign of Brahma, viz.y 
55,987,300,000,000 years, excited such sacred awe in the mind of this gentleman, what would 
have been his sensations, and how strong his faith in the holy writ of uie Hindoos, if he had 
happened to read in the Kamayana the account of Rama's army, which this holy writ says, 
amounted to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 soldiers, or rather monkeys? Again, two thousand 
times the four yagas^ or 8.^60,000,000 years is the age of the sage, markanda. What ; in the 
name of Mr. Halhed, is the life of Methuselah to this ? This unbeliever in Moses became at 
last, it is said, a firm believer in Richard Brothers'* " 



APPENDIX, 303 

please his Pundit, was accustomed to study the Shastras with the image 
of a Hindoo god placed on his table ; and his fine metrical translations 
of idolatrous hymns are kno\^n to every lover of verse. In the same 
spirit, we observe, that figures and allusions to the ancient idolatries 
are retained in almost all modern poetical compositions and even in some 
Christian writings." 

It has been very wisely remarked by a philosophical traveller, Dr. 
Clarke, that " by a proper attention to the vestiges of ancient superstition, 
we are sometimes enabled to refer a whole people to their original ances- 
tors, with as much, if not more certainty, than by observations made 
upon their language ; because the superstition is engrafted on the stock* 
but the language is liable to change." Writing on the same subject, Sir 
William Jones remarks, " if the festivals of the old Greeks, Persians, 
Romans, Egyptians and Goths, could be arranged with exactness in the 
same form with the Indian, there would be found a striking resemblance 
among them ; and an attentive comparison of them all, might throw 
great light on the religion, and perhaps on the history, of the primitive 
world." 

The Egyptians described the source of the Nile as flowing from 
Osiris ; so the Hindoos represent the holy stream of the Ganges as flow- 
ing from the head of Iswara, which Sir William Jones so beautifully des- 
cribes in his hymn to Ganga : 

*' Above the reach of mortal ken, 

On blest Coelasa's top, where every stem 

Flowed with a vegetable gem, 

Mahasa stood, the dread and joy of men ; 

While PSrvati, to gain a boon, 

Fixed on his locks a beamy moon. 

And hid his frontal eye in jocund play. 

With reluctant sweet delay ; 

All nature straight was locked in dim eclipse, 

Till Brahmins pure, with hallowed lips 

And warbled prayers restored the day. 

When Ganga from his brow, with heavenly fingers free, 

Sprang radiant, and descending, graced the caverns of the west." 

For composing such fine metrical translations of idolatrous hymns, 
Mr. Foster finds fault with the conduct of Sir William Jones : he writes, 
" I could not help feeling a degree of regret, in reading lately the Me- 
moirs of the admirable and estimable Sir William Jones. Some of his 
researches in Asia have no doubt incidentally served the cause of religion ; 
but did he think the least possible direct service had been rendered to 
Christianity, that his accomplished mind was left at leisure for hymns to 



304 APPENDIX. 

the Hindoo gods? Was not this a violation even of neutrality, and 
an ofTence, not only against the gospel, but against theism itself? I know 
what may be said about personification, license of poetry, and so on, but 
should not a worshipper of God hold himself under a solemn obligation 
to abjure all tolerance of even poetical figures that can seriously seem, 
in any way whatever, to recognise the pagan divinities or abominations, 
as the prophets of Jehovah would have called them ? What would Eli- 
jah have said to such an employment of talents? It would have availed 
little to have told him, that these divinities were only personifications 
(with their appropriate representative idols) of objects in nature, of ele- 
ments, or of abstractions. He would have sternly replied — * And was not 
Baal, whose prophets I destroyed, the same?'" 

Dr. Stiles, President of Yale College in North America, was so highly 
impressed with the amazing antiquity of the Hindoo Shastras that he 
wrote to Sir William Jones, asking him to make a search among the 
Hindoos for the Adamic books. Had he not been a sincere Christian, he 
would have asked Sir William to send him a translation of a book writ- 
ten some two or three millions of years ago. 

General Stewart, who lived in Wood Street, Calcutta, was said to 
have made a large collection of Hindoo idols, which he arranged in the 
portico of his house. He was so fond of them that, it was said, a Brah- 
min was engaged to perform the daily worship, while he himself led the 
life of a Hindoo rishi or saint, inasmuch as he totally abstained from 
the use of either wine or meat. 

Such instances of partiality on the part of enlightened Christians to_ 
wards heathenism, we do not see in the present day. In the early times 
of the British settlement in India, there was a strong mania for exploring 
the untrodden field of Braminical learning, and the unfathomable anti- 
quity in which it was imbedded. The philosophical theories of the 
Munees and RishiSy their sublime conceptions concerning the origin of 
the world and the unity of God, their utter indifference to worldly concerns 
and sensual gratifications, their living in sequestered dshrumsy the prac- 
tice of religious austerities, the subjugation of passions, and above all, 
their pure, devotional spirit, lent an enchantment to their teachings, 
which was, in the highest degree, fascinating. It was not an ordinary 
phenomenon in the annals of the human intellect that Europeans, pos- 
sessing all the advantages of modern civilization, should go so far as to 
entertain a sort of religious veneration for a system of polytheism, which 
even the natives of the country now-a-days denounce as puerile and 
absurd. Deeper researches have, however, subsequently dissipated the 



APPENDIX. 305 

delusion, and thrown on the subject a great body of light, which the 
progress of Western knowledge is daily increasing. 



Note D. 

THE bAmACHArEE FOLLOWERS OF KALL 
In some parts of Bengal and Assam, there still exists a sect of 
Hindoos, known by the name of Bdmdchdreesy or the followers of the 
female energy, who practise a series of Poornabishaka orgies in the name 
of this celestial goddess which are nothing less than abominable. The 
following is a rough programme of the rite. The Brahmin who is to perform 
the ceremony sits upon a sham image of the goddess in a private room, 
having beside him at the same time a quantity of flowers, red sandal paste, 
holy water, copper pans, plantain and other fruits, green plantain leaves, 
parched peas, cooked fish and flesh, and a certain quantity of spirituous 
liquor. When night approaches he takes the disciple who is to be initiat- 
ed into the room, with nine females and nine males of different castes, 
with one female for himself and another for the disciple, and makes them 
all sit down on the floor. Taking up a small copper pan and a little of 
the holy water, he sprinkles it on all present and then proceeds with 
closed eyes to repeat a solemn incantation to the following effect : " O 
goddess, descend and vouchsafe thy blessings to Horomohun (the name 
of the devotee) who has hitherto groped in the dark, not knowing what 
thou art ; these offerings are all at thy service " ; saying this, he whispers 
in his ear the root of the mantra. From that time the goddess becomes 
his guardian deity. The Brahmin Gooroo then goes through divers other 
formulas, pausing for a while to serve and distribute liquor in a human 
skull or cocoanut shell to all the devotees, himself setting the example 
first. He next desires the females to lay aside their clothes, and bids his 
new disciple adore them as the living personifications of the goddess. 
Eating and drinking now go on freely, the males taking what is left by 
the females. Towards the close of the ceremony, the disciple, baptised in 
liquor, makes presents of clothes and money to the priest and all the men 
and women present. It is easy to conceive what sort of devotional 
spirit is evoked by the performance of these abominable orgies. Happily 
for the interests of morality in this country, the sect is nearly extinct, 
except in the most obscure parts of Assam and Bengal. 



April, 1881. 



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