Изображения страниц

pon used by the horsemen is a sabre; in the use of which, and management of their horses they are extremely dexterous. For defence they wear a quilted jacket of cotton cloth, which comes half way down their thighs.”

According to Colonel Broughton's description of the Maharattas, nothing can present a more irregular, filthy, or wretched appearance than one of their camps ; men, horses, camels, and bullocks being all huddled in it together in a mass; which mass is surrounded on all sides by others of a similar nature, in a continued state of comfortless confusion. These camps are attended by large bazars, the shopkeepers of which, as well as the soldiers, reside under miserable pals or coverings formed of blankets or coarse cloths stretched across a bamboo ridge stick, and supported at each end by others stuck in the ground. Near these the Maharattas huddle in the cold weather round their miserable fires made of horse or cow-dung, or of dirty straw; or pass their time in the rack-shop, or the tent of the prostitute, whose mysteries are very imperfectly concealed from the public eye by the wretched coverings just noticed. At the door of every tent is a fire; the smoke of which being too heavy to ascend into the air, spreads throughout the whole camp.

In these camps acts of injustice, oppression, and misery appear to go hand in hand. When grain is dear, hundreds of families are reduced to a state of starvation. “ At such times (says Colonel Broughton) I have often seen women and children employed in picking out the undigested grains of corn from the dung of the different animals about the camp. Even now, when wheat is by no means at a high price, it is scarcely possible to move out of the limits of our own camp, without witnessing the most shocking proofs of poverty and wretchedness. I was returning from a ride the other morning when two miserable-looking women followed me for charity: each of them had a little infant in her arms; and one of them offered to sell her's for the trifling sum of two rupees (four or five shillings.)” These instances were common, and many of the sepoys in the British resident's camp had children obtained in this manner.

It is one peculiar feature in the Maharatta constitution that the government always considers itself in a state of war ; which formerly was a principal source of revenue. On the day of the festival called the

Dusserah, or Durga Puja, towards the end of September, at the breaking up of the rains, the Maharattas used to prepare for their plundering excursions. On this occasion they wash their horses, sacrificing to each a sheep, whose blood is sprinkled with some ceremony, and the flesh eaten with none.

“ Among this people the gradual progress of refinement is discernable, from the wild predatory Maharatta, almost semi-barbarous, to the polished and insidious* Brahman, whose specious politeness and astonishing command of temper leave all European hypocrisy in the shade. This extraordinary urbanity qualifies him in the highest degree for all public business. The bulk of the people under the Maharatta government are almost without property; few have an opportunity of acquiring wealth, except the powerful Brahmans, who are the principal functionaries under the state. Their avarice is insatiable; and, if ever the madness of accumulation was accompanied by the highest degree of folly, it is here exemplified; for although the Brahman be permitted to go on for years in the practice of extortion, his wealth at last attracts the attention of the prince, when he is obliged to disgorge, and is perhaps confined in a fortress for life. If he happens to die in office, his property is generally sequestrated. This mode of raising money forms a considerable part of the contingent revenue, and is known by the name of goona-geeree, or crime penalty.

The two classes of Maharattast are as much distinguished by personal peculiarities, as caste and dress : the Brahmans are fair, have prominent features and comely persons: the rest are dark, with broad flat faces, small features, and short square persons; but are seldom if ever stout. I have never been able to discover any quality or propensity they possess, which might be construed into a fitness for the enjoyment of social life. They are deceitful, treacherous, narrow-minded, rapácious, and monstrous liars : the only quality they are endowed with, which could, according to our system of ethics, be placed on the credit side of the account, being candour; for there is not one of the propensities I have enumerated to which a Maharatta would not immediately plead guilty : in his idea of things they are requisite to form a perfect character: and to all accusations of falsehood, treachery, extortion, &c., he has one common answer: 'Maharatta durbar hue,' 'tis a Maharatta camp.”

* The Maharatta may be divided into two great classes : the one composed of Brahmans, the other of inferior castes. The Brahmans are of the sect of Vishnu, and abstain from eating flesh; the others do not.

+ Broughton's Maharatta Camp.

The Maharatta Brahmans wear commonly white turbans which are plaited, in a particular fashion, high above the head, and long muslin dotees hanging down to the feet, a plain white gown reaching to the knees, and a shawl, or in warm weather a scarf of gauze or muslin thrown loosely across the shoulders. The other classes wear a flat turban, à sela or shawl or

rf, short breeches, and occasionally in the cold weather a jacket. “ They are fond of ornamenting their ears with small gold rings, and such as can afford it have silver chains, twisted like ropes, fastened round their necks. Every one wears a sword and commonly a shield; and when on horseback carries either a matchlock or a long spear called a bala.The chief who holds out to them the best prospect of pay and plunder has the best chance of attracting them to his standard. They sustain with chearfulness great deprivations and fatigue : but if they quarrel with their chief, entertain no reluctance to forsake his colours and join the ranks of his enemies.

The Maharatta confederacy is now broken, and the political power and importance of its chiefs become little better than nominal. They, however, still demand the utmost vigilance of the British government. Treacherous, crafty and enterprising, no treaties can bind them, no benefits secure them to our interest; nor have successive defeats sufficiently subdued them to prevent their seizing the first, apparently, favourable opportunity to throw off the mask of friendship, and attempt the hazard of another struggle to regain their former power.

THE KOOMBEES of LONY. These people, now under the dominion of the British government, are a branch of the Maharattas, and inhabit the town and country of Lony, situated on the mountain range, about twelve miles from Poonah. They are Hindus, and worship principally Siva and Parvati, or local incarnations of them.

“ Their system of faith and worship is extremely absurd and lamentable, but many of its precepts are good, and have a wholesome influence on their moral conduct. It inculcates the belief in future rewards and punishments, enjoins charity, benevolence, reverence to parents, &c., and respects all other modes of worship, but does not admit of proselytism. The Koombees are sincere and devout in their worship, which is exempt from the idle and protracted ceremonies of the Brahmans, and does not restrain them from any of the duties of life. They are professedly followers of Mahadeo; but are led by a spirit of toleration, or rather superstition, to join in the worship of any sect or object that comes in their way. They constantly make vows at the tombs of Mahomedans, and occasionally even at those of Christians.

“ The idols of Cundoo* and Byroo, Jemnee Yemnee and Tookia, local incarnations of Mahadeo and Parvati, are their principal objects of worship; and are believed to be vindictive and prone to anger, and only to be appeased or conciliated by penances, sacrifices, and offerings. The figures of these idols are in relief, on plates of gold or silver, about four inches high and two broad, and every family has two or more of them placed on a stand (dewarah) in a suitable part of the house, which constitute their kooldiewut, or household gods. Cundoo is represented with four hands, holding a sword and shield, and seated on horseback, with a dog by his side. Byroo has also four hands, which hold a trident and a small drum. Jemnee Yemnee and Tookia are females, with four or more heads, each holding weapons of offence, with necklaces of human skulls, &c.

“ Their religion strongly enjoins marriage, which is by far the most important consideration on this side the grave, and considered so essential to respectability and happiness that it is universally adopted, except by persons labouring under some incurable disease or deformity, or by the most wretched. One who has not been married is not admitted to join in certain rites and festivals; and the calamity of being without a son to perform the obsequies and offer prayers to his name, extends beyond this world. Polygamy is allowed, but seldom practised, except by the rich or those who have no family by the first marriage. When a marriage is contemplated, the following points must be settled : Ist, that the parties are not of the same kool, or clan. They may both bear the same surname, but in this case their dewack or family crest must be different. Consanguinity in the female line is no ground for objection. 2d, that the planets under which they were respectively born are in harmony, and auspicious to the union; which is decided by the astrologer. 3d, that they are healthy, and without any personal defect. The amount of the portion and quality of presents to be made to the bride are then settled, preparations are made for the marriage, and the lucky day and moment fixed by the priest for its celebration. The ceremony occupies three or four days. The ordinary expenses of a marriage are two or three hundred rupees, but often much more.

* Kandeh Rao.

“ Widows are sometimes permitted to marry; but it is looked on by some families as disreputable, and not practised. It is only widowers who marry widows, and the offspring are not entitled to inherit in the same proportion as those by a first marriage. Widows sometimes go with their husbands to the funeral pile, but it is very rare. It is between forty and fifty years since a suttee took place in a Koombee family at Lony. .

“ They generally burn their dead; but it is also a custom in some families to bury them. At this time a small piece of gold is put into the mouth of the deceased, the reason of which they do not explain. It is believed that the soul of the deceased, from a longing after its earthly enjoyments, hovers about its late abode for ten days before it is disposed to take its flight to its new jannum or birth. On the tenth day the heir and his family, accompanied by the priest, proceed to a stream of water nearest the village, and perform ceremonies for the rest of the soul of the deceased, and make offerings of hallowed food. If the crows come and eat it, the omen is good, and it is believed the soul is happy and has entered its new birth : on the contrary, if they avoid it, the greatest consternation takes place; the friends

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »