« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
D0CILITY AND SAGACITY OF ELEPHANTS. 103
and the materials given by the proprietor towards the erection of a Christian chapel. May 19. Several men came to our door, to exhibit dancing serpents. Some of these reptiles were six or seven feet long. Each was coiled up in a separate basket, out of which they were dragged, and thrown upon the ground; their keepers singing to them certain drawling airs, accompanied by strokes upon a small drum, which regulated the motions of the serpents. These raised themselves to the height of two feet, flattening their breasts, and turning their heads to bite their keepers, which they were allowed to do, occasionally, so as even to draw blood; but they are innoxious, their poisonous fangs having been extracted. We have been told of a gentleman, a fine performer on the violin, who, living at Chinsurah, was obliged to lay aside his instrument, as the lively sounds so charmed the serpents in the neighborhood that his house could not be kept free from them. May 20. Visiting a rich rajah, who lives about five miles from the city, his highness ordered two of his elephants to be accoutred, that we might have the gratification of riding upon them. The seat was a scarlet pad, fastened on the animal's back by means of a crupper and girths round the body; an ornament of silver also was put round the face, and over the upper part of the trunk. The command being given, the elephant crouched down, stretching his hinder legs backward, so as to bring his belly nearly to the ground, and then kneeling down on his fore ones. A short ladder was placed against his flank, which the rider mounted, and took his seat on the pad. The driver then bestriding the elephant's neck, immediately behind his enormous ears, holds in his hand an iron instrument, about a foot in length, with several hooks along the side; the one end being blunt, and the other pointed. With the latter he strikes upon the skull, to quicken the creature's pace. This seems cruelty, but is the readiest way of reaching sensibilities not very accessible. Ours, however, needed no such barbarous excitement, but were guided this way or that, and went slower or faster, by a gentle word or motion of their drivers. The gait of the elephant is a long step, which occasions an unpleasant rocking to the unpractised rider at first, but he soon contrives to accommodate himself to it. After an amusing ride, we dismounted, each from his noble beast, as we had ascended, by means of a ladder; at parting, giving him a salaam, or bow
104 KALEE GHAUT.
of acknowledgment for his good services, which he courteously returned by raising his trunk above his head. These tractable creatures are sent out regularly to collect their own provender in the neighboring jungles. This consists principally of the branches of trees, which they rend off with their trunks, and pile upon their backs in great ricks, so aptly laid together, and so nicely poised, that their attendants have only to fling a rope across, and fasten it under their bellies, when the load is perfectly secure, and they return home with it. The food thus gathered is given to them as they require it, and when exhausted they are dispatched for more. May 24. At the famous temple of the goddess Kalee Ghaut, we witnessed idolatry in perfection. The building, which appears to be very ancient, stands near the river, in the midst of a village of miserable thatched cabins. The face of the great image is black, having three red eyes, and a golden tongue a foot and a half long, of which the upper part is smeared with blood. The lips, eye-brows, and ears, are of gold. Rich ornaments, and wreaths of crimson flowers, adorn the head. In one of her four golden arms this female fiend brandishes a scymetar, and in another holds, by a silver chain, a head of gold, as though it had been just smitten off. The idol is a bust, raised upon a stone pedestal, and the height of the whole may be eight feet. Many Brahmins, presenting flowers, performing puerile ceremonies, or muttering prayers, were seated, cross-legged, before the shrine; and on the floor were strown many idols of black stone—all ugly, and not a few utterly detestable to look upon. Several men came in, and prostrated themselves, full length, before the horrid figure; others stretched their hands, imploringly, towards it, and struck their foreheads repeatedly against the stones of the pavement. In the place of sacrifice, two posts were driven into the ground, forked at the tops. To one of these was tied a kid, with a garland of red flowers about its head, which had previously been dipped in the waters of the Ganges. The unconscious victim was waiting for its death-wound at the appointed hour, which being too late for our convenience, we did not wait to see the rite performed. The animal's head, whether kid, or sheep, or bullock, must be severed—by what force we know not— at a blow; miscarriage indicating ill-luck to the offerer. Multitudes of worshippers are on the road, to and fro, all day long—so great is Kalee Ghaut of the Hindoos. Human
sacrifices are confidently affirmed to be offered up occasionally here, but in secret. In a neighboring village we had an opportunity of seeing the machine for swinging—an exercise which is supposed to be so meritorious here, that, as a penance, it may be performed, not in person only, but by proxy for those who can afford to purchase exemption in the flesh at the expense of the purse. This apparatus consists of an upright pole, with a cross-bar, having unequal arms, at the top, and which may be turned up, down, and all round. The man who intends to swing is hung to the cross-arm, by means of hooks forced through the muscles of the back, while a number of persons haul him up, by managing a rope fastened on the shorter end, to the height of nearly thirty feet, whirling the infatuated being round, for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, with fearful velocity. The poor wretch sometimes dies of the torture, and always comes down miserably sick or exhausted. In general, however, the devotees soon recover, and sometimes may be seen, the next day, bearing the palanquin, or at their usual occupations. z
Sailing up the Hooghly—Buffaloes crossing the River—Milkmen on the Ganges—Evening Sights and Sounds—Strong Current—River-scenery—Shocking Spectacle—Burning of a Hindoo Corpse—A Yogee or Hindoo Saint—A Funeral by Water—Benares—Allahabad—Voluntary Drownings—Baboon-worship—Subterranean Temple—Barbers , and Bathers—Superb Mahommedan Procession—Privileged Monkeys—Native Termagants—Fashions at Benares.
June 8. FINDING that it would not be expedient to attempt the journey to Benares by land, we engaged a pinnace, about fifty feet in length; a flat-bottomed vessel, brig-rigged, and containing all sufficient means of accommodation for an inland voyage. The crew consists of eighteen men and boys, besides a cook, and consumer—that is, a person to go on shore and purchase such necessaries as might be wanted by the way. Accordingly, we embarked this day, and proceeded up the Hooghly, the most sacred branch of the Ganges, with wind and tide in our favor.
The daily incidents of this leisurely navigation, which was
106 BUFFALoes CRossING THE River.
not completed till the 18th of July, though interesting to ourselves, were of too monotonous a description to be detailed in this place. We came to anchor every evening, and sailed again the next morning—occasionally went on shore—and suffered some inconveniences, as might be expected, from weariness and confinement; but, on the whole, as hitherto through all our journeyings, we experienced the presence, protection, and blessing of the Lord. Our principal entertainment from without was in viewing and contrasting the scenery and aspect of the vast regions which we thus quietly traversed. The variety in these was abundantly gratifying to the eye; while the multitude of human beings, their dwellings, temples, persons, dress, manners, and occupations, alternately furnished subjects of painful and pleasing contemplation, as they glided in continual succession, like the images of a magic lantern, before us. The following are the names of the principal places in the vicinity of which we passed, without making more than a brief visit to any —Chinsurah, Surdah, Jellingly, Bogwangola, Rajemahal, Terriagully, Pattergotta, Boglipore, Janguira, Monghir, Bar, Patna, Dinapore, Chupra, Gazypore, Benares.” A few circumstances, by the way, may be noticed. At Terriagully there is a pass, which, in former times, was of great military importance, and was often contested between the two provinces of Bengal and Bahar. The Ganges here is about two miles in breadth. Some men were driving a large herd of buffaloes across the stream, and they had to swim the principal part of the distance. It was curious to see the animals, with their muzzles and horns above the surface, while the drovers made a hideous outcry, swimming behind them, and splashing the water to urge them forward. Occasionally they plunged among the cattle, striking them with bamboos, forcing up their heads, or laying hold of their tails, to support them in the current. Some of the calves were taken over in a boat. One poor beast, whose calf was among these, appeared in most pitiable distress. For a while she would swim a little onward, then suddenly turn round, and, with sad lowing and moaning, come to the boat's side,
* The deputation having drawn up two distinct reports of the missionary intelligence collected, and also their own observations thereon, during several tours in North and South India, an epitome will be given, in separate sections, at the conclusion of the extracts from their personal narrative which follow the above date, and extend to October 13, 1827.
to gaze at her young one; till at length, losing all patience, she made a resolute effort to get into the vessel, but was beaten off again. Distraction was in her looks, and every motion exhibited intensity of affection. When all were safely landed on the other side, no small joy was discovered by the whole herd gambolling and bellowing about the beach for very transport. The drovers, whom we have repeatedly seen conducting such transits of buffaloes, seem to have no fear of the alligators that infest the river, but wade or swim about wherever they like, or as necessity requires. The doodh wallas, or milkmen, who have to cross the Ganges to milk their cows, or to sell their commodity, are equally regardless of these formidable-looking reptiles. The vessel which they use is a large bottle made of thick leather, which, when empty, or rather when filled with air, is very buoyant. This, being fastened to a piece of light wood, makes a powerful float, on which the man rests, and easily ferries it over the river by the action of his hands and feet. On the contrary, when the bottle is full of milk, though it sinks deeper in the water, yet, the contents being specifically lighter, his raft, including the attachment of timber or bamboo, is sufficient to bear him through the current, paddled, as before, by his hands and feet. Among the numberless temples which, wherever we sailed, marked the landscape on the right hand and on the left, we observed one which the roots of a banyan-tree had so entirely overgrown, that the walls, both within and without, were imbedded in the wood. The edifice was about eight feet square, and, being open at the top, there was placed in it the odious symbol most worshipped throughout India; and on this “abomination” a votive wreath of flowers had recently been hung, before our arrival. Anchoring in a narrow creek, near the town of Congong, and the evening being very calm, numbers of the natives, of both sexes, came down to bathe in the river, which they did with the utmost decorum. Many women also were seen returning with their water-pots on their heads; some carrying their infants in their arms, and others astride of the hip, as in the South Sea Islands. A drum, trumpet, and human voice singing, in the distance, were sounds so familiar as to remind us at once of the land of our nativity, which was brought, as it were, before our eyes, by the appearance of a flag flying on the top of a long bamboo. Towards this we