Page images

all; their chief cities are Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras: the first being the principal residence of the governor-in-chief, and the capital of British India. It stands on the Hooghly, one of the tributaries to the Ganges, in lat. 22° 35′ N., long. 88° 30′ E. Its stationary population, in 1855, was nearly half a million, and comprised European Christians, Armenians, Hindoos, Jews, Mohammedans, and Chinese. Besides these residents, it was computed that upwards of 150,000 persons daily frequented the city from the vicinity.

Calcutta stands about a hundred miles from the sea, and extends for four or five miles along the banks of the river. It has been called "the city of palaces," and its first appearance well justifies the epithet; for, like the approach to Constantinople, it is beautiful and attractive in the highest degree. A recent traveller says-" On arriving at Garden Reach, the stranger may begin to imagine that, not wholly without reason, Calcutta has acquired the title of the city of palaces.' From the lower part of this Reach, on the right, the river-bank is laid out in large gardens, each with a handsome mansion in its centre; and the whole scene speaks of opulence and splendour. On approaching the head of Garden Reach, the stranger all at once beholds Fort William and the town of Calcutta spread out before him; and a splendid view it is. Should he arrive in the month of November or December, he will behold, perhaps, the finest fleet of merchant shipping the world could produce." This is the European quarter of the town, and it is called the "Chowringhee," or fashionable part. It lies on the south; and passing through it, to the north, the "Black Town" is entered, which is chiefly occupied by natives, who use the lower part of their houses as bazaars, and live in the upper rooms. The streets in this part of Calcutta are little more than dirty lanes; the houses are mean, and the odour from most of them, as well as from the streets, is anything but agreeable. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between Chowringhee and the Black Town, in every respect. Few Europeans reside in the former who are not wealthy, keeping numerous carriages and servants; their houses being splendidly furnished, and supplied with every necessary and luxury. These houses, all having a garden in front, consist of three stories: the dining-room and offices are on the ground-floor; above are the drawing and

sitting-rooms, which open into balconies covered with verandahs, and usually decorated with plants and flowers. The sleeping apartments are in the upper story. Walking and bathing are usually practised before breakfast, baths being attached to every house. After breakfast the business of the day proceeds, interrupted by “tiffin,” or luncheon, about the middle of the day. Towards evening, the ladies drive out; and at eight o'clock they dine: In the winter season, from November to February, boarhunting and horse-racing are the out-door sports; whilst the drama, music, or dancing furnish the evening's amusements.

The city of Bombay (which name is derived from the Portuguese Buon-Bahia, meaning a good harbour) stands upon a narrow neck of land, forming the extremity of the island of Bombay. It has not only the best harbour in India, but extensive docks, warehouses, and bazaars; and is the second city of Hindostan for trade, Calcutta being the first. It is situated in lat. 18° 13′ N., long. 72° 51′ E., its population being, in 1716, 16,000; in 1816, 161,356; and, in 1849, 512,656; since which year it has considerably increased. About one-half the inhabitants are Hindoos, the rest chiefly Mohammedans or Parsees, the Europeans being very few. The Parsees, we are told, "still observe the ancient form of adoration paid to the solar luminary, and also the old ceremony of exposing their dead as food for the fowls of the air." The city is very unhealthy, from the swamps and marshes in the vicinity, and Europeans who reside there are always short-lived. Recently, sanitary measures of improvement have been adopted, from which the most beneficial effects are expected.-Madras, on the Coromandel coast, lies in lat. 13° 4′ N., long. 80° 14′ E.; and the population is estimated at 720,000. The situation is bad, as nothing can be landed except from rafts or "catamarans ;" the ships anchoring in the opposite roadstead. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, Madras carries on a considerable trade.

The wealthier classes of inhabitants, whether Europeans or natives, live chiefly in the suburbs, which are extensive. There also are the residences of the governor and of the Carnatic nabob.

It is not known whether the Hindoos

were the first inhabitants of Hindostan; but they are certainly the earliest people whose residence can be traced. They point to the north as the origin alike of their race

marriage did take place, the couple and their descendants were held in a state of the greatest degradation, having no lawful employment, or means of subsistence; they were Pariahs, with whom no one would associate. As a consequence, each man found his "class stationed between certain walls of separation, which were impassable by the purest virtue and most conspicuous merit;"t his "station was unalterably fixed; his destiny irrevocable; and the walk of his life marked out, from which he must never deviate."

Since their intercourse with Europeans, the division of castes has been much weakened; and for some time back, the vast majority of the Hindoos have been found ready to engage in any occupation.

and of their religion; but it would appear, forming the classes of priests, soldiers, hushowever, "both from the tradition of the bandmen and traders, and labourers. Till Hindoos, and the similarity of the Sanscrit lately, these distinctions were rigidly obto the Zend, Greek, and Latin languages, served; those of one class were not suffered that the nation from which the genuine to mix or marry with the other: if such Hindoos are descended, must, at some period, have inhabited the central plains of Asia, from which they emigrated into the northern parts of Hindostan. Whatever opinion may be entertained respecting the origin of the Hindoos, that people never regarded the southern part of the peninsula as forming part of Aryavarta, or holy land,' the name of the country inhabited by genuine Hindoos."* This holy land was bounded on the north by the Himalaya, and on the south by the Vindhya mountains; but the boundaries on the east and west are not ascertained. The inhabitants of this district became divided into numerous tribes, and their descendants, still divided and distinct, are now scattered over the country. Five small aboriginal tribes inhabit the Nilgherry hills; they are more numerous in the Ghauts; and others are dispersed over the plains extending from the rivers Godavery and Ganges, in the east, to the valleys of Tapty and Nerbudda in the west. The principal of these tribes-all of whom are in a lower state of civilisation than the Hindoos proper-are the Gonds or Goands, the Beels, Nairs, Jauts, Sontals, the Kamusis, and the Coolies; the latter of whom are a labouring people, inhabiting the western Ghauts. The various conquerors of the country (the Scythians, the Greeks, and the Persians) have all, to some extent, no doubt, been mixed with the aborigines; aud numerous descendants of the Mohammedan conquerors form a distinct class of the present population.

From the earliest ages, the Hindoos have been divided into four distinct classes or castes, called by themselves, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. Their tradition carry the origin of these castes back to the Creation, when they say, that Brahmanas proceeded from the mouth of Brahma; Kshatriyas from his arms; Vaisyas from his thighs; and Sudras from his foot. Each had his female; and as they referred themselves to Brahma for their occupation, he decreed that the first should rule and instruct; the second protect; the third trade and cultivate the earth; and the fourth serve his brethren. This they did, as did their descendants for many years, • National Cyclopædia.

The Hindoos believe in three gods, or a triune godhead-Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver or sustainer), and Siva (the destroyer.) They did not, generally, recognise in the first an object of worship, but merely one of devout contemplation, though they erected temples to him; and, in some places, a particular form of worship to the deity was observed. He was considered as the great source from which sprung the visible universe, and all the individual deities of mythology; and into which all the latter will ultimately be reabsorbed. Their system of theology is found in the Vedas, or Indian scriptures; and their original worship appears to have been addressed to the elements. "In the Mantras, or prayers," we learn, "which form the principal portion of the Vedas, Indra (or the firmament), fire, the sun, the moon, the air, the spirits, the atmosphere, and the earth, are the objects most frequently addressed. The mythology of the Vedas personifies the elements and the planets; and thus differs from the more legendary poems, which inculcate the worship of deified heroes." Notwithstanding, the Vedas taught the unity of the deity. Though, as Mr. Colebrooke remarks, "the deities invoked appear, on a cursory inspection of the Veda, to be as various as the authors of the prayers addressed to them;" yet, "according to the most ancient annotations on the Indian scriptures, these numerous names of persons and things are all resolvable into different titles of three deities, and, ulti.

[blocks in formation]

great enormities. The burning the wives of a deceased Hindoo was also a part of their religion. The suttee was considered as a solemn sacrifice, acceptable to the gods; and such was the influence of their evil faith, that females frequently went to the stake with joy, thinking they were doing God service."

mately, of one god" *-Brahma. At the present day, however, each religious sect of the Hindoos seem to worship a distinct deity, who, they contend, unites all the attributes of divinity in his person. Few educated Brahmins will admit that they belong to any of these popular divisions of the Hindoo faith, some of which, no doubt, sprung out of an opposition to the Brahminical order. Socially-Thuggism and Dakoitee were The teachers of these sects are frequently organised systems of murder and robbery, chosen from the lower castes, and the dis- which prevailed through a great part of tinction of caste is found to be in a great Hindostan. The Indian government were degree lost in the similarity of schism. The ignorant of these practices for a long time. Brahmins themselves acknowledge the Vedas, "We had been nearly two centuries conPuranas, and Tantras as the only orthodox nected with them," remarks Mr. Kaye, "by ritual, and regard all practices, not derived ties at least of commerce, before we knew from them, as profane. An important article very much more about the natives of India, in the Brahmin faith is the transmigration than that they were a race of black people, of souls. It is the great object of Hindoo with bare legs, carrying the greater amount worship to secure for the worshipper a state of their apparel piled up on the top of their of future existence; and this, it is supposed, heads." It is not more than a quarter of a cenwill be effected by the reunion of the spiritual tury since what has been truly styled, "the nature of man with that primitive spirit which hideous crime of Thuggism," was revealed pervades all nature, and which, according to in all its enormity; though, as far back as the Hindoo belief, receives the souls of men, 1810, we find the sepoys commissioned, in when they have been purified, into its essence. a general order from the then commanderBy adopting an ascetic mode of life, and sub-in-chief, to proceed "against a description jecting the body to sufferings and privations of murderers denominated Thugs." These in this state of existence, it is believed the longed-for blessed futurity may be obtained. They have various systems of philosophy, all of which they deem orthodox; and their professed design is, " to teach the means by which eternal beatitude may be attained after death, if not before it."

Some horrible practices prevailed amongst the Hindoos when their intercourse with Europeans commenced; most of which existed till within a comparatively recent period. One of them was connected with the worship of Vishnu, called also Juggernaut, in honour of whom an annual festival was held in many parts of India, when the ignorant natives prostrated themselves before the car which bore the image of their deity, and suffered the wheels to pass over their bodies. But this was a venial practice compared with the Meriah sacrifice; which consisted in the offering up, with every circumstance of atrocity, young victims for the propitiation of the special divinity which presided over the fertility of the earth. This practice chiefly prevailed among the hill and jungle tribes of the province of Orissa; and was attended with

On the Philosophy of the Hindoos. See Mr. Wilson's paper, "On the Religious Sects of the Hebrews," in the Asiatic Researches.

murderers by profession, for such they were, formed a brotherhood, bound by secret ties, strengthened by oaths, and confirmed by | the belief that the horrible life they led, was in conformity with the precepts of their religion. They lived in villages, occupying themselves, apparently, in industrial pursuits; and there they left their wives and children when they went upon a murdering expedition; and, their purpose accomplished, they dispersed, and, from their knowledge of the country, and the inefficiency of the mere police arrangements (where such arrangements existed at all), escaped detection. They bred up their children to their horrible profession. "I and my fathers have been Thugs for twenty generations,” was the boast of one of them; and they communicated to each other by means of signs, and a language known only to themselves. Thus, Thuggism had become quite an old-established Indian institution when its practices became known to the Indian government; and many in high places, hereditary landowners, chief officers of villages, and others, held a private connection with the Thugs, affording them every facility for carrying on their horrible trade.-The "Dakoitee, or systematic gang robbery," was a crime less in degree than that of

Thuggism: and it was only recently that our government discovered "that Dakoitee was the normal condition of whole tribes born and bred to the profession; that there were robber-castes in India, just as there were soldier-castes or writer-castes; and that men went out to prey upon the property of their fellows-and, if need be, on their lives -with strict religious observance of sacrament and sacrifice." The Dakoites, like the Thugs, abode in villages, and were apparently engaged, like them, in honest and praiseworthy pursuits for a livelihood. Like the Thugs, too, they were not unknown to the police; on the contrary, the latter, with the head men of their villages, are said to have shared in the spoils of the Dakoitee. Notwithstanding the degrading and terrible superstitions, and the deep and horrible criminality which we have mentioned, there is no doubt, not only that wealth abounded in India, but that civilisation was extended far and wide, and that the people, generally, exhibited good dispositions, and a capacity to cultivate the highest arts of life. We have evidences of literary and philosophical genius in their remaining epic poems, their metaphysical, mechanical, and scientific treatises. Many very excellent laws are preserved in their various codes; and they brought several industrial arts to great perfection. They raised vast, magnificent, and not inelegant edifices; manufactured rich and costly fabrics; and long before our forefathers had merged from their rude simplicity, "the princes and nobles of India already dwelt in splendid palaces, and, clothed in the gorgeous products of its looms, glittering with gold and gems, indulged a corresponding luxury in every act and habit of their lives."+

Very surprising are the discoveries which the Indians made in the art of dyeing. They "extracted, oxygenated, and precipitated the colouring matter of the indigo plant" many centuries before other countries knew anything of its qualities. They were equally distinguished for manufacturing iron and steel; and Dr. Royle expresses astonishment that "a primitive people could have overcome the difficulties of smelting the one, and forging the other, of those metals!" It is only lately that it has been discovered "that the once celebrated Damascus blades were

• See a well-written article on our "Indian Empire," in Blackwood's Magazine for December, 1856. Thornton's History of India.

Mrs. Spiers' Life in Ancient India.

made from steel manufactured in the west of India;" and still the Hindoos evince great knowledge in the art of dealing with these metals. Mr. Heath informs us, "that iron is converted into cast-steel by the natives of India in two hours and a-half; while at Sheffield it requires at least four hours to melt blistered steel." Their curious workmanship in steel was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in 1851; some of the most beautiful specimens of arms exhibited there were sent by the Rajah of Pattiala, which is a Seik principality within the province of Delhi.‡ "In another art," says Mrs. Spiers, "the granite rocks, in the now silent quarries of Bijanagur, still show distinctly the marks of the chisels that hewed out the huge blocks with which the grandest of old Indian cities was constructed."-In the science of astronomy, also, they excelled. "The lofty dial,” says the same accomplished lady, "and extraordinary mural instruments for astronomical purposes, near Delhi, immortalise the memory of the rajah Jeyor Jaya Sing, who reigned from 1690 to 1743."

The remains of ancient Hindoo architecture, which are found in the old cities of Hindostan, show that a strong affinity existed between it and that of Egypt, more especially in "their hypogæa, or subterranean cavern structures, hewn out of solid rock." The one, like the other, exhibited works "more properly of extruction than of construction, and to which, no doubt, ought to be ascribed the chief peculiarities of the style originating in them, namely, extraordinary massiveness of bulk and proportions, coupled with no less singular capaciousness of form." In both we find a frequent "use of caryatid figures, or such as serve as columns; and either entire animal figures, or the upper parts of them, both human and brute, enter abundantly into the composition of Hindoo columns and capitals." The Hindoo, like the Egyptian temples, have generally an open court, leading to a covered vestibule or nave; and in both we meet with a number of small chambers, the use of which-unless they were set apart for purposes of worshipping distinct deities, as the Lady and Saints' chapels in Roman catholic cathedrals are devoted to the honour of the Holy Virgin and the saints

it is difficult to imagine. The age of the Bhuddist temples is long anterior to ChrisTod considers "to be, with the exception of tianity; and that at Ajmeer, which Colonel the cave temples, probably one of the oldest now existing in India, is remarkable for the

elegance and slenderness of its columns, so
very different in their character from those
of the excavated works, and which might,
therefore, be thought to indicate a totally
different period of art; they are about forty
in number, and partake somewhat of a can-
delabrum in shape, although no two are
alike. The ceiling is highly enriched with
square panels or coffers, containing others in
the form of lozenges, enriched with foliage
and sculpture not very much unlike the
cinque cento of the Italians."-The architec-
ture, introduced into Hindostan subsequent
to the Mohammedan conquest at the close
of the ninth century, is not dissimilar to
the Gothic style. Describing the mosque at
Chunar Ghur, on the Ganges, Mr. Hodges
notices the similarity between its architec-
ture and that introduced into Spain by the
Moors, from whence it spread over the rest
of Europe. "All the minuter ornaments
are the same; the lozenge square,
filled with
roses, the ornaments in the spandrels of the
arches, the little panelings and their mould-
ings, so that a person would almost be led
to think that artists had arrived from the
same school, at the same time, to erect simi-
lar buildings in India and in Europe."-At
the present day the Hindoos are no mean
architects, as we may learn from the descrip-
tion given of one of their temples by Mr.
Forbes :-"It consisted of two edifices, the
furthermost of which was surmounted by a
lofty spire, composed of cupolas gradually
diminishing to the summit, with appropriate

which he considers inseparable, viz., the Sanscrit language, serfdom, and municipal institutions; and although the system is no longer found in Malwa, or in great part of the Madras presidency, yet there is reason to believe, that it did once exist throughout the country; each village having its own registrar, watchman, cartwright, washerman, barber, goldsmith, and poet, who also served as schooltions travelled with the language, we have the statement of Sir Stamford Raffles, that Bali, an island to the east of Java, possesses municipal institutions, the Sanscrit language, and the Brahminical religion; and again, in Java, there are village associations, bearing the Indian name Nagri, which Mr. Crawford mentions as corporations, governed by officers of their own electing. This system is still characteristic of India, where village communities' are noted as the indestructible atoms from which empires are formed.' 'Village communities,' says Sir Charles Metcalfe, are little republics, having nearly everything they can want within themselves; they seem to last where nothing else lasts. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down. Hindoo, Patan, Mongul, Mahratta, Seik, English-are all masters in turn; but the village community remains the same. In times of trouble, they arm and fortify themselves; collect their cattle within their walls, and let the enemy pass unprovoked. If plunder and devastation be directed against themselves, and the force employed be irresistible, they flee to friendly villages; but when the storm is passed over, they return and resume their occupations.'"*

master. And in further evidence that the institu

The Hindoos have always been regarded as a peculiar people: they are of the same family group as the slaves; and, as has been remarked, "many centuries have elapsed since they appear to have been stationary in all that relates to the progress of civilisation, the elevation of moral sentiment, or the peculiarities of their religious belief." There are still various tribes dispersed over the peninThe early government of the Hindoos was, sula-Jauts, Bheels, Nairs, Ghonds, Moplike those of all Eastern people, despotic. lahs, Santals, and others. Generally, the Whether under native or Mohammedan Hindoos are of graceful, slender figures, princes, the will of the ruler was law to a agile in their movements, and with comgreat extent; and that seems to be pretty plexions varying from a dark olive (somenearly the rule which is followed now." Yet times quite black) to a light transparent municipal institutions appear (according to brown. "The face is oval, the forehead Mrs. Spiers, who has devoted much time moderately large and high, the eyes and hair and research to enable her to illustrate black, the eyebrows finely turned, and the "ancient life in India") to be intimately nose and mouth generally of a European connected with Hindoo manners. Each cast." Their dress is simple. The men village was a distinct, and nearly an inde- wear, some of them, three pieces of cotton pendent, community; it had its own chief or headman, who represented the superior authority of the district; and the institution has come down to the present day.

“The headman of the village still receives a certain allowance from the king or government; but the greater part of his income is derived from fees paid by the villagers. This system is supposed, by General Briggs, to have accompanied the Hindoos into every settlement they have made, whether in India, or beyond its confines. There are three things

cloth-one fastened round the waist, falling down to the knee; a second wrapped round the upper part of the body; and a third tied round the head: this is the ancient costume. Others adopt a pair of cotton drawers coming down to the ankle; a long robe, crossed ou the breast, and tied round the body with a scarf, and a turban. A universal article of female dress is the shalice-of silk or cotton, * Life in Ancient India, + W. Hughes.

« EelmineJätka »