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HERE follow a few short extracts from among the many taken at the India Board, where I was Joint Secretary from the summer of 1845 till the close of Sir Robert Peel's administration. They are intended to illustrate the strange superstitions and the revolting rites that unhappily lingered in some parts of India. Against some of the rites, and more especially those of the Khondes, the English Government took the most energetic measures in its power, but never, it is feared, with complete success. S.
“THE Khondes, a savage race dwelling in the extensive range of hills and jungles beyond Ganjam, are notorious for their Meriahs, or human sacrifices to their false gods. One of these abominable rites was solemnised in all their villages at the full moon, January 8th, 1841. “There are at this day, writes Lord Elphinstone, in a
Minute of that date, ‘probably not less than two hunK
dred and forty human beings immolated within the hills of Ganjam.'
“It had been supposed that the Khondes did not sacrifice any of their own tribe; but Major Campbell, Assistant Commissioner in Ganjam, ascertained that the only condition which is strictly observed is, that the victim or Meriah should be purchased; and he states that children are sometimes sold as Meriahs by their parents and other relations for so small a sum as three or four rupees—Khondes as well as Panoos, but the former more rarely.”
Assistant-Surgeon J. Cadenhead to P. B. Smollett, Esq. [Extract. Coll. P. C. 5000.]
March 17, 1845.
“I next proceeded to visit the sacrificing tracts of Athara and Bara Mootah. Everything was tranquil; nevertheless there was still an intense longing on the part of the great body of the people to return to ancient usages. Men's minds were far from easy. The general feeling was given expression to in council by the chiefs, who said: ‘The country is happy, but the government has not yet permitted us to celebrate a sacrifice.’”
Sir H. Hardinge to Secretary of India Board (Lord Mahon).
[Extract of Private Letter.]
Calcutta, August 6, 1845. “It would be most improper to attempt to punish these poor savages of the hills, the aborigines of the country, for crimes so revolting to humanity, perpetrated within 250 miles of the seat of government. The system must chiefly be one of persuasion as regards the Khondes: punishment would only induce them to perform these atrocities in secret, which in point of numbers are supposed to amount to 1500 human victims cruelly tortured every year. “Punishment by death cannot meet the case of numerous tribes who do not fear death. For instance, a party of these savages were invited to Madras. They were hospitably treated, received presents, and when about to be sent home, a distance of 500 miles, begged as a favour to be killed, confident that they would be born again, and so reappear as infants in their own villages "
To the Governor of Fort St. George.
“We highly'approve of the measures adopted by Mr. Conolly, Collector of Malabar, for the purpose of ameliorating the wretched condition of the Niaides, an abject race of people, consisting of not more than six hundred persons, and reputed to be the descendants of a Brahmin excommunicated many centuries ago. He states that they were regarded as outcasts even by the slaves, whom they were not allowed to approach within forty paces, and that their subsistence has been of the most precarious and disgusting kind.”
The Tinnevelly District.
Report from Mr. E. B. Thomas, Collector, at Tinnevelly. [P.C. 5212, Coll. 12.]
“In the centre of the large Cusbah of Streevygoontum exists an old mud fort, or rather wall, of about twenty feet high, surrounding some hundred and twenty houses, of a body of people calling themselves Footie Wellalers, that is, Fort Wellalers. Within this wall no police officer, warrant, or Peon ever enters. . . . The females are said to be kept in a state of great degradation and ignorance. They never pass without the walls alive: when dead they are carried out by night in sacks.”
Petition of the Kotie Wellalers at Tinnevelly. [P.C. 5212, Coll. 12.] “As your petitioners' ancestors were the persons who crowned Pandiam Kings of the Pandiam kingdom from generation to generation, your petitioners alone are the persons who crown annually in the Oothra Nutchuthra of the Pungoony month the God Anaravadadanadar, in the town of Tinnevelly; the same day in which the God delivers a sceptre to a person in authority. It is true that your poor petitioners are Hindoos, but our manners and customs are quite different from those of all other Hindoo castes. Even in our wedding days the bride is kept within a curtain, so that our near relations also might not see her; and still even the dead body of a woman should not be looked at by any man but her father, husband, and son ; for when any woman dies, only the wives of the Kottamars, who are our slaves, go into the department of the woman, put the corpse into a bag, tying well its mouth, and then the female slaves take the bag out of the house, carry it to a bier which is prepared at a little distance by the male slaves, called Kottamars, where the female slaves put the bag into the bier, and the bier is taken out to the burying ground by four male slaves, which is followed by all of her relatives. But all persons except her father, husband, sons, and brothers, and the four bearers, should stop at a considerable distance from the burying ground; and then the funeral rites are performed by the said relations, and the body is burnt out by the four bearers.” The object of this petition, which extends to some length, is that no change should be permitted or enjoined in the customs it describes.