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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 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, a sela or shawl or scarf, 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 awholesome 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 Koom-a bees 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, J emnee 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 bythe first marriage. When a marriage is contemplated, the following points must be settled: lst, 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.
“ 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 placein 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 jamzum 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 of the deceased call on him to know why he is unhappy, that he has no reason to be so, as his family will be protected, &c. Every expedient is tried to get the crows to eat of the food; and, after waiting till night without success, a figure of a crow is formed by the priest, and if made to touch the offering, the party go home, but generally persuaded that the soul of their friend remains at large, and becomes a ghost or demon.
“ The community all implicitly believe in incantations, witchcraft, a modification of fatalism, and in the existence of ghosts and evil spirits. The male ghosts and evil spirits are termed keins, or joting ; and those of females handalfi" Those of Brahmans, Mahomedans, and outcasts have different names; and the general term boot is applied to the whole. Their favourite haunts are large trees in lonely places, deserted buildings, and old wells. They are seen or heard making strange noises, especially at noon and midnight, , and assume different shapes, often that of a deer, and suddenly becoming a very tall figure, or of a strange ox, or goat, mixing in the flock for a time and vanishing into air. 1‘ The evil spirits that possess them occasion madness and strange diseases; they haunt them in their sleep, destroy their families, and deprive them of every enjoyment. The incensed spirits are attempted to be appeased by ceremonies, and are cast out by a numerous set of impostors, who derive a handsome livelihood from their trade. One way of casting out devils is by the exorciser placing the person possessed with the evil spirit in front of an idol, seizing him by the lock of hair on his crown, and threatening him, or actually scourging him, till the demon says what offering or penance will satisfy him.
“‘They have many holidays. Those of greatest interest are the Hooly, Dussera, Dewallee, and one in honour of their cattle. The holiday of the Hooly is said to be in celebration of the spring. The favourite dance is the
* The Sept-Asira, Ag'ja, or Jel doota, are seven water nymphs, who destroy or carry off handsome young men for their own enjoyment.
1- A ghost haunts an Indian fig-tree and well in a field near the Bungalow at Lony, and is 0ccasionally seen in different shapes. It once carried a person, for presuming to bathe in the well, to the bottom, and drowned him, and has done other mischief; but if not disturbed, it is harmless. This ghost is ordinarily termed “ Peepree Bana,” from the peepree-tree, near which it stays.
tipree dance. Twenty, thirty, or more young men form a ring, each with a piece of seasoned wood, a foot in length, in his hand, which he strikes alternately with that of the person before and behind him, keeping time with it and his foot, while the circle moves round keeping time to a drum and shepherd’s pipe of three or four sweet and plaintive notes.
“ During the moonlight throughout the year, in the fine weather, the Koombees are found sitting in the open air, and chanting songs in chorus, with the accompaniment of a drum and the chondkia (a simple stringed instrument), and listening to stories.”—Transactions Bombay Literary Society.
About fourteen years ago these people came under the dominion of the British. They are principally husbandmen, as their name imports.
The account from which the following extracts relative to this predatory race were taken, was written previous to the result of the Pindarie war about fourteen years ago. The description may be, however, considered equally applicable to them at the present day.
“ The name of Pindarie may be found in Indian history as early as the
commencement of the last century; several bands of these freebooters followed the Maharatta armies in their early wars in Hindostan. They are
divided into Durrahs, or tribes, commanded by Sirdars, or chiefs; people of every country, and of every religion, were indiscriminately enrolled in this heterogeneous community, and a horse and sword were deemed sufiicient qualifications for admission. A common interest kept them united; the chiefs acquired wealth and renown in the Maharatta wars; they seized upon lands which they were afterwards tacitly permitted to retain, and transmitted, with their estates, the services of their adherents to their descendants.
“ In an association which is daily augmented by the admittance of strangers, it is natural to suppose that influence will not be confined to hereditary claims, and that men of superior genius and enterprise will ultimately rise to the chief command. This is accordingly found to have been