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enthusiast named Ji Saheb, and its chief religious establishment is at Pannah.
Ji Saheb assumed the appellation of “ Lord of Life," and declared himself to be the promised Imâm Mehedi mentioned in the Koran. “His first attempts to set up his new religion were in the Punjab, that fertile spot for religious innovation. Afterwards he removed to Delhi; and finally, to avoid the persecution of the Mahomedans, he fled into Bundelcund, where he found protection under the rising power of Raja Chatrasal. None but converts to his religion are allowed to read his book, which is entitled Kulzam ; but having procured some extracts from it, and other information concerning it, I ascertained that his principal arguments for the necessity of this new religion are founded on the discrepancy which exists between the practice of Mahomedans and the precepts of the Koran; and he professes to promulgate in his book the remaining 30,000 words which Mahomed, on the occasion of his miraculous ascent into heaven, was told should be reserved for the coming of Imâm Mehedi.”
An article in the Calcutta Journal contains a farther account of this sect. “ We proceeded,” says the writer, “to the temple, a very respectable edifice, and on complying with the request of the wardens, or persons officiating as such, to leave our boots and shoes outside, we were allowed to enter.
“ The object of worship was the shrine of the saint, resembling somewhat that of the Shikhs which I had seen at Guru Devrah, on the Dhun, with this exception, that on the top of the tomb, and equidistant from each end, was placed the figure of a human head. The brow or frontal aspect of these was marked like the Vishnaiva Hindus, with three streaks uniting between the eye-brows, and on the crown was placed something like three fingers, probably in imitation of the streaks on the forehead.
“ The persons being assembled for worship, the priests opened their sacred book, and chaunted a few melodious hymns. The ceremony was soon over, and their behaviour was very decorous.
“ I was told by those people that they admitted proselytes, both from the Mahomedans and Hindus, but I did not inquire whether they admitted
the lower castes of Hindus. We were told, not by the Vaishtenaivas, but by the Mahomedans, that this sect sprung up only about one hundred years ago, and that Ji Saheb was a vizier to the Padshah of Delhi. We could not ascertain the name of the then reigning prince. It is said that the Padshah was one day remarking to his courtiers, that it was almost impossible by persuasion to convert the Hindus from their obstinate idolatry and polytheism to the true faith. Ji Saheb replied, that it was not impossible, but only required address and conciliating means to effect their conversion.
“ In consequence, having obtained the royal sanction, he proceeded to Bundelcund with only one disciple, who, on his arrival at Pannah, proclaimed that his master could perform miracles. The person who first went to him was a Brahman, who became desirous of getting his daughter married, and begged of the holy man to procure him a hundred rupees for this purpose. Ji Saheb said that he would first consult God, and give him an answer in two days;' mean time he directed his disciple to bury a hundred rupees near a certain tree that he pointed out : at the appointed time the Brahman waited on him, and was desired to go to the tree, and to dig to a certain depth, and find the money. The Brahman did as he was desired, and finding the sum became a proselyte.
“ This Ji Saheb was perhaps also acquainted with the science of mineralogy, as it is said that he directed the Rajah Chatrasal to dig mines for twelve coss round Pannah, assuring him he would certainly find diamonds, which would enrich him greatly. The Rajah followed his advice, and on finding diamonds as had been foretold, he became a proselyte ; and when the chief was converted, many of his adherents and others followed his example. They endeavour to prove that there is no difference between the god of the Hindus and of the Mahomedans, but in the language.”
THE BAZEEGURS or NUTS.
The Nuts may be considered as the gipsies of Hindustan; and a late intelligent writer has, with much plausibility, endeavoured to trace from them the origin of the gipsies of the west. They are both wandering tribes, and
have each a language understood only by themselves : live principally by juggling, fortune-telling (by palmistry and other means), and are alike addicted to thieving. The gipsies are governed by their king, the Nuts by their nardar bouthah. They appear to be equally indifferent on the subject of religion, and in no respect particular in their food, or the manner by which it is obtained. According to a list furnished by Captain Richardson, the languages adopted by these people would appear to possess a very strong affinity to each other.
“ The Bazeegurs are subdivided into seven castes, viz. the Charee, At'h b'hy'ce'a, Bynsa, Purbuttee, Kalkoor, Dorkinee, and Gungwar: but the difference seems only in name, for they live together, and intermarry as one people: they say they are descended from four brothers of the same family. They profess to be Mussulmans; that is, they undergo circumcision; and at their weddings and burials a qasee and moullah attend to read the service: thus far, and no farther, are they Mussulmans. Of the Prophet they seem to have little knowledge; and though in the creed, which some of them can indistinctly recollect, they repeat his titles, yet, when questioned on the subject, they can give no further account of him, than that he was a saint or pir. They acknowledge a God, and in all their hopes and fears address him, except when such address might be supposed to interfere in Tansyn's department, a famous musician, who flourished, I believe, in the time of Akbar, and whom they consider as their tutelary deity; consequently they look up to him for success and safety in all their professional exploits. These consist of playing on various instruments, singing, dancing, tumbling, &c.
“ The two latter accomplishments are peculiar to the women of this sect. The notions of religion and a future state, among this vagrant race, are principally derived from their songs, which are beautifully simple. They are commonly the production of Kubier, a poet of great fame, and who, considering the nature of his poems, deserves to be still better known. He was a weaver by trade, and flourished in the reign of Sher Shah, the Cromwell of Indian history. There are, however, various and contradictory traditions relative to our humble philosopher, as some accounts bring him down to the
time of Akbar. All, however, agree as to his being a Soopee, or Deist, of the most exalted sentiments, and of the most unbounded benevolence. He reprobated with severity the religious intolerance and worship of both Hindus and Mussulmans, in such a pleasing poetic strain of rustic wit, humour, and sound reasoning, that to this day both nations contend for the honour of his birth in their respective sects or tribes. He published a book of poems that are still universally esteemed, as they inculcate the purest morality, and the greatest good will and hospitality to all the children of man. From the disinterested, yet alluring doctrines they contain, a sect has sprung up in Hindustan under the name of Kubeir-punt-hee, who are so universally esteemed for veracity, and other virtues, among both Hindus and Mussulmans, that they may be with propriety considered the Quakers * of this hemisphere. They resemble that respectable body in the neatness of their dress and simplicity of their manners, which are neither strictly Mahomedan nor Hindu, being rather a mixture of the best parts of both.
“ The Bazeegurs conceive that one spirit pervades all nature; and that their soul, being a particle of that universal spirit, will of course rejoin it when released from its corporeal shackles. At all their feasts, which are as frequent as the means will admit, men, women, and children drink to excess. Liquor with them is the very summum bonum of life: every crime may be expiated by plentiful libations of strong drink.
“ Though professing Islamism, they employ a Brahman, who is supposed to be an adept in astrology, to fix upon a name for their children, whom they permit to remain at the breast till five or six years of age. It is no uncommon thing to see four or five miserable infants clinging round their mother, and struggling for their scanty portion of nourishment, the whole of which, if we might judge from the appearance of the woman, would hardly suffice for one. This practice, with the violent exercises which they are taught in their youth, and the excessive and habitual indulgence in drinking intoxicating liquors, must greatly curtail the lives of these wretched females. Their marriages are generally deferred to a later period than is usual in this
* Query the Sauds, described in page 241 and following pages.
climate, in consequence of a daughter being considered as productive property to the parents by her professional abilities. The girls, who are merely taught to dance and sing, like the common Nach or Nautch girls of Hindustan, have no restrictions on their moral conduct as females; but the chastity of those damsels whose peculiar department is tumbling is strictly enjoined, until their stations can be supplied by younger ones, trained up in the same line. When this event takes place, the older performers are then permitted to join the mere dancers, from among whom the men, though aware of their incontinence, make no difficulty of selecting a wife. After the matrimonial ceremony is over, they no longer exhibit as public dancers. A total change of conduct is now looked for, and generally, I believe, ensues. To reconcile this in some manner to our belief, it may be necessary to mention that, contrary to the prevailing practice in India, the lady is allowed the privilege of judging for herself; nor are any preparations for the marriage thought of till her assent has been given, in cases where no previous choice has been made.
“ There are, in and about the environs of Calcutta, five sets of these people, each consisting of from twenty to thirty, exclusive of children. There is a surdur to each set, one of whom is considered as the chief, or nardar boutah, at this station. The people of each set are, like our actors, hired by the surdur, or manager of a company, for a certain period, generally one year; after which they are at liberty to join any other party. No person can establish a set without the sanction of the nardar boutah, who, I believe, receives a chout (tribute or small portion) of the profits, besides a tax of two rupees, which is levied on the girls of each set, as often as they may have attracted the notice of persons not of their own caste. This, from their mode of life, must be a tolerably productive duty. When the parties return from their excursions, this money is paid to the nardar boutah, who convenes his people, and they continue eating and drinking till the whole is expended. When any of the surdurs are suspected of giving in an unfair statement of their profits, a puncha'et is assembled, before whom the supposed culprit is ordered to undergo a fiery ordeal, by applying his tongue to a piece of red-hot iron : if it burns him, he is de