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the aborigines of India. The two latter classes, here alluded to, have maintained more of their original character than the Bheels: they have probably been less disturbed. The Bheels, however, have constant accessions to their numbers from the plains ; and wretches of desperate fortune, such as have by crime and misfortune been ejected from their caste or profession, flock to their standard. Hence a variety of feature is observed: Hindus of all descriptions, Mahomedans of every sect, are here mingled together, and engaged in the same pursuits.
“ They all indiscriminately eat beef and pork, and drink toddy and arrack; in fact, there is nothing in their ideas either of morality or religion, and, at a distance, they have scarcely the appearance of human beings. When pursued they evince uncommon dexterity, and a Bheel with a child on each shoulder will spring from rock to rock, and from bush to bush, with as much dexterity as awild goat; and when pushed, will coil himself up in a bush so snugly, that his pursuer will, ten to one, pass by without noticing him. Although they are generally armed with bows and arrows, when they expect much opposition they take a few matchlocks with them ; they never poison their arrows, and generally fire from ambush. They frequently shift their quarters, and a Hathy or Bheel village is soon formed. Like savages and barbarians, they are extremely improvident, seldom have a week’s provision for their families: hence death from famine is no uncommon occurrence, particularly in the monsoon. Disease appears to have made dreadful ravages amongst them, and few of the males live to an old age.
“ The Bheels are by no means deficient of intelligence; they are lively, patient of fatigue, and vigilant. They are attached to their offspring, and when pursued make a desperate resistance at a particular point, until their wives and children have had time to escape in an opposite direction, when they take to their heels!”
“ The Bheels (says Major Seely), are generally of short stature, sometimes with short curly hair, and a thickness of the lower lip; of very dark complexion, and more masculine in form than the Hindus. Their habits are migratory; but‘wherever extensive forests or mountainous woody tracts
are found, parties of Bheels reside, and only quit their strongholds for plunder, or to engage as auxiliaries in a foray, to devastate and destroy that which contending chiefs cannot themselves accomplish. A refinement in the vengeance of sanguinary warfare was always had recourse to in the employment of Bheels; and of late years, likewise, in those desultory vindictive inroads of petty chiefs, the Bheel became a willing and useful ally; and the work of destruction was incomplete without his demoniacal aid, in poisoning the wells, burning the villages, murdering the inhabitants, destroying the crops, and driving off the cattle. Fifty Bheels could be more useful than five hundred troops, approaching by paths through the deep forest known only to themselves. Their appearance was as sudden as unexpected, and the visit fatal to the devoted spot. To find treasure, the most horrid and refined cruelties were practised, the like of which we have not in history. Their retreats were unknown; the jungle and mountains were impenetrable to all but themselves, and woe to the individual who opposed a Bheel, or was marked out by them for vengeance. three hundred miles would be a mere walk to a Bheel. Wily, hardy, and bold, no danger could arrest his progress, and no security protect his victim, though years might elapse of unavailing pursuit ; and if the Bheel did not succeed, at last he would destroy himself.
“ An oflicer, a Captain B—d, had, by interrupting and wounding a Bheel while labouring in his vocation, been marked. In consequence of this he had a sentry to his house; but from the neighbouring bank of the river they had worked a subterraneous passage for a considerable distance, large enough for one man to crawl along, and had begun to perforate the floor of his bed-chamber when he was discovered. We had at the city where this took place nearly two thousand troops, yet it was necessary, for the officer’s safety, to remove him to Bombay. A Parsee messman, who had refused to pay the usual tribute to the Bheels, was found dead in the morning in the mess-room. It was his custom to put his mat on a large winechest where he slept: in the morning he was found with his head placed on the mess-table, the headless body lying on the chest. In neither of the above instances was plunder their object; but the choute (tribute), which
A journey of they consider to be their unquestionable right, by established and immemorial custom, had not been paid. At the mess-room there were two sentries stationed, whom they had eluded, a matter of no difficulty to a Bheel on a dark night, as will be duly shown.
“ In some parts of Guzerat the Bheels are not only numerous but formidable. Neither their interest nor inclination induces them to attack an armed force, though probably a large booty would prevail on them to incur danger; but if revenge was to be gained, they wouldrisk the chance of an encounter. To follow them into their wilds is impracticable, for if driven from one spot they would retire to another. A herdsman by necessity, a freebooter by profession, and a hunter by choice, the Bheel cares forv no one, but makes mankind and the soil subservient to his wants and caprices.
“ Travelling with my wife (adds Major Seely) in a palanquin carriage, or shigrumpo, towards Baroda, the capital city of Guzerat, at which place we had a subsidized force stationed, amounting to about two thousand men, when within a few- miles of the city we were stopped by two Bheels, who demanded tribute. I had a pair of pistols, and instantly cocked one. It appeared to me, at the moment, an insult to the British flag, flying but a few miles off, to submit to the impost. Remonstrances were unavailing; and having a lady with me whose fears were excited, I paid the required amount; and, singular as it must appear, although I had a dozen rupees in my hand, the Bheels only levied one out of that number.
“ At one time, passing through a Bheel district between the villages of Ittola and Meagaum, to avoid any alarm at night, or the probability of being plundered, I hired a Bhaut and two Bheels as a night-guard. As it got towards the evening, the Bhaut and one Bheel only arrived, the remaining one was shortly to follow them. At the usual hour I retired to my couch, perfectly secure from insult or depredation; nor had I taken any precaution to repel the one or protect me from the other; the security of the Bheels being a sufficient guard against attack.
“ It being a hot night, I got up about one o’clock to enjoy the cool air outside of my tent. I had not stepped a few yards out when the Bheel on watch instantly and rudely seized me, exclaiming, ‘ what business have you there?’ This noise awoke the other two, who rushed to the spot. They seeing who it was, informed the Bheel (for it was the man who arrived after I had gone to bed) of his mistake. He, hearing this, fell down with his face to the ground, beseeching me to place my foot on his neck and kill him. He then began, while prostrate, touching my feet with his forehead, nor would he quit his position until I forcibly withdrew myself into the tent, when the other Bheels pacified his feelings.
“ The other instance of the watchfulness, daring, and honour of the‘
Bheels is as follows: Major F——, afterwards my commanding officer, having some supplies coming to Baroda, in their journey they passed by a post where thirty-five of his own siphauees were stationed. These men having just been relieved from that duty, they returned with the supplies, which were in charge of a Parsee servant. On the road they were met by the Bheels, who wanted the usual tribute for the bullocks. This exaction the Parsee, with the approbation of the siphauees, refused to pay. Whether the Bheels found the party too strong for them, or had orders from their Raj not to engage in any affray, I know not, but the party escaped without paying or being molested, and the Parsee did not a little pride himself on his address and achievement. Some considerable time after this period, Major F—— and his wife taking their evening ride, had gone beyond the prescribed limits of the British cantonment, and heedlessly were pursuing their course, when some Bheels came upon them and claimed the money owing by the Parsee for himself and bullocks. Major F-—having no rupees about him, they took him, his wife, horse, and vehicle together. After some consultation, and a promise on the Major’ s part to pay the tribute demanded, he and his lady were allowed to depart, and an agreement entered into to send seven rupees (the sum required) by a servant unarmed and alone. This stipulation was carried into effect, and at the appointed time and place the cash was paid, and the gig and horse returned uninjured, with the Bheels’ compliments.
“ We were cautioned by those who had suffered on the spot from Bheels, against their depredations. The trunks belonging to each officer were
chained together, and the chain fastened round his tent-pole. There being about two hundred of our siphauees on guard round our camp that night, we apprehended no danger, and in consequence did not hire any Bhauts, or the Bheels deputed by them, for our protection. When, as before stated, the precaution is taken, money, effects, and life are safe. It costs but a trifling sum; half a rupee for a man, or when they keep a regular nightwatch, two rupees for three. On the first night no molestation occurred, and the next day (as is too often the case when we are in security) we grew a little careless, in opening trunks, and making arrangements for a large dinner-party that evening. Our servants also were getting careless, and laughing at the idea of a corps, having two hundred sentries mounted, being robbed by a few wretched, dastardly Bheels or Coolies; and I believe among ourselves such an idea was scouted. We thought ourselves valiant fellows, and fancied ourselves cunning ones. Night came and we sought our repose. Perhaps some few of us, from having drunk a little more than usual of ‘ very good wine in very good company,’ slept rather soundly. Be that, however, as it may; when the morning broke forth, every officer had been robbed, save one, and he had a priest (Bhaut) and a Bheel guard. Nor did the poor siphauees escape; for when they gave the alarm of ‘ thief ! thief!’ they were sure to get a blow or wound in the leg or thigh, from a Bheel lying on the ground, or moving about on all-fours, wrapped in a bullock’s hide or a sheep-skin, or carrying a bush before or over him ; so that the sentries were deceived; and if they fired, they were as likely to hit some of the women or children, or the followers, or the officers, as the Bheel himself; and, had they fired, the Bheel, in the dark, thus placed in a populous camp, had every advantage, his weapon making no noise, and his companions being ready to shoot the siphauee through the head.
“ Most of the officers were up during the night, but their presence was useless. Lieutenant B— did lay hands on a Bheel, but he literally slipped through his fingers, being naked, his body oiled all over, and his head shaved ; and on giving the alarm, one or two arrows were seen to have gone through the cloths of the tent. \Vere it possible to retain a hold of a Bheel your motions must be quick as lightning; for they carry the blade of