Изображения страниц

the case, and Seetoo, the most powerful of all the Pindarie leaders, was a few years ago a person of no consideration. It is only of late that these banditti have become really formidable,. and they may now be looked upon as an independentj power, which, if properly united under an able com-' mander, would prove the most dangerous enemy that could arise to disturb the peace and prosperity of India.

“ The climate and the hardy habits of these plunderers render tents or baggage an unnecessary incumbrance; each person carries a few days’ provisions for himself and for his horse, and they march for weeks together at the rate of thirty and forty miles a day, over roads and countries impassable for a regular army. They exhibit a striking resemblance to the Cossacks, as well in their customs as in the activity of their movements. Their arms are the same, being a lance and a sword, which they use with admirable dexterity; their horses, like those of the Cossacks, are small, but extremely active: and they pillage, without distinction, friends as well as foes. They move in bodies seldom exceeding two or three thousand men, and hold a direct undeviating course until they reach their destination, when they at once divide into small parties, that they may with more facility plunder the country, and carry off a larger quantity of booty; destroying at the same time what they cannot remove. They are frequently guilty of the most inhuman barbarities, and their progress is generally marked by the smoking ruins of villages, the shrieks of women, and the groans of their mutilated husbands. At times they wallow in abundance, while at others they cannot procure the common necessaries of life; and their horses are trained to undergo tho same privations as their masters. Night, and the middle of the day, are dedicated to repose; and recent experience has shewn us that they may be surprised with effect at such hours. Fighting is not their object, they have seldom been known to resist the attack even of an inferior enemy; if pursued they make marches of extraordinary length, and if they should happen to be overtaken, they disperse, and re-assemble at an appointed rendezvous; or, if followed into their country, they immediately retire to their respective homes. Their wealth and their families are scattered over that mountainous tract of country which borders the Nerbudda to the north. They find protection either in castles belonging to themselves, or from those powers with whom they are either openly or secretly connected. They can scarcely be said to present any point of‘ attack, and the defeat or destruction of any particular chief, would only effect the ruin of an individual, without removing the evil of a system equally inveterate in its nature, and extensive in its influence.

The Pindaries may probably amount altogether to between thirty and forty thousand horses; but in a community so subject to constant-fluctuations, it is impossible to form any accurate idea of their number, which. must vary from day to day, according to the caprice of individuals and the condition of the adjoining countries. Throughout the greater part of the territories of the native powers in Central India, the husbandmau is seldom permitted to reap the fruits of his labours; his fields are laid waste, his cottage reduced to ashes, and he has no alternative but that of joining the standard of some lawless chief. Thus the number of the Pindaries may be said to increase in the same ratio as the means of subsistence diminish; hunger goads them on to the work of destruction, and they rejoice in anticipation of the spoils of wealthy countries. Were they permitted to continue their merciless depredations without molestation, the peninsula of India would, in time, become a desert, and the few inhabitants that survived the general wreck, a band of savage and licentious robbers. The Pindaries are confined to a tract of waste land which has become the general rendezvous of every vagabond and outlaw, and whence they issue in desperate bands in search of the necessaries of life.

In 1814, they entered the province of Bahar, and threatened Bengal; and in the two following years invaded the British territories under Fort St. George. Passing with the rapidity of lightning through the country of the Nizam, they suddenly broke in upon the defenceless district of Guntoor, and in an instant spread themselves over the face of the country, every where committing the most shocking and wanton atrocities. In 1816 they returned with redoubled numbers, and extending themselves from the coast of the Concan to that of Orissa, threw the whole southern part of the peninsula into a state of alarm‘. They again passed without difiiculty, and without opposition, through the dominions of our allies the Peishwah and the N izam, carried fire and sword almost from one end to the other of the district of Ganjam, and returned home laden with the spoil and stained with the blood of our subjects.”—-Origin of the Pindarz'es.

The result of these daring attacks on the British territories and those of our allies was the complete overthrow of these rapacious tribes; and, from our since extended control over central and western India, it may be hoped for ever. The people, however, are still the same, and the first native power in that part of India which might feel itself strong enough to defy us to the field, would not find the Pindarie slow in answering any signal of plunder that might be then displayed to him.


The country of the Goands (Goandwana) borders on that of the Bheels. Though not less savage these people appear to be somewhat less predatory than their neighbours. They are divided in various tribes, which, like others of the semi-barbarous races of Hindustan, can scarcely be considered as Hindus, as they eat every kind of flesh. “ They have many rude super‘ stitions amongst them; and worship Banga, or Banca Deva, to whom they offer fowls, goats, fruit, rice, grain, spirits, and, in short, whatever the country affords. They distil a sort of spirituous liquor called handia, and are much addicted to intoxication. They are very expert in the chace, and kill game with bows and arrows: these also are their chief implements of war, in addition to the hatchet and sword. When they meditate any act of aggression, the chiefs of the villages, after fasting for a day, take in the evening two fowls, which they designate as their own and the opposite party. These are put into a hole near the idol, and left buried during the night. In the morning the fowls are taken from their sepulchre, and the fortune of the contest is foretold, according to the bird which has survived the night’s inhumation. Should their own' representative have perished, the hostile purpose is abandoned, or suspended.

“ All disputes amongst themselves are decided by the chiefs of the village‘, who seldom award a severer punishment than the cost of feasting the acquitted, or victorious party.

“ Their marriages do not take place before the fourteenth or fifteenth year, and seem to be attended with a singular ceremony. It is said that the bride is brought home in the evening, when in an assembly of the people the bridegroom applies the frontal mark made with vermilion, throws a garland of flowers round her neck, and then retires and conceals himself in the thickets. The relations of the bride arm themselves and go in quest of him, and if he is found during the night, the marriage is void; if not discovered, he appears in the morning, takes the bride by the hand, removes the veil from her face, and they dance together in the centre of a ring, formed by the assistants, who also dance round them. The ceremony is thus completed, and the rest of the day is devoted to festivity and mirth. The Lurka-Koles burn their dead in front of their dwellings, bury the ashes, and burn a light on the grave for the space of one month : they then erect a stone upon the spot. Their little traffic consists chiefly of an exchange of pulse, mustard, sesamum, and ghee, for salt and coarse cloths from the neighbouring pergunnahs.”—-Asiatic Journal.

One of the Goand tribes, the Binderwars, who inhabit the hills of Oomacuntu, near the source of the Nerbuddah river, is described as a race of cannibals. It may be presumed the only one inhabiting the hither peninsula of India.

This race live in detached parties, and have seldom more than eight or ten huts in one place. They are cannibals in the real sense of the word, but never eat the flesh of any person not belonging to their own family or tribe, nor do they do this except on particular occasions. It is the custom of this singular people to cut the throat of any person of their family who is attacked by severe illness, and who they think has no chance of recovering, when they collect the whole of their relations and particular friends, and feast upon the body. In like manner, when a person arrives at a great age, and becomes feeble and weak, the Khulal Khor operates upon him, when the different members of the family assemble for the same purpose as above stated. In other respects, this is a simple race of people, nor do they con

[ocr errors]

sider cutting the throats of their sick relations or aged parents any sin; but on the contrary, an act acceptable to Kali, a mercy to their relations, and a’blessing'to the whole race. “ Our Goand guide (says Lieutenant Pendergast, the writer of this extract,) drank the oil provided for the Mushal or flambeau, when I thought this a good opportunity of ascertaining the truth of their being cannibals, and on qusetioning him about killing and eating the sick and aged of his tribe, he did not deny it; but said it was an ancient custom of their’s. I asked him if he would eat the flesh ‘of people not belonging to his tribe, when, with visible marks of anger and disgust, he said, ‘ no——I never eat of any person not belonging to my own tribe.’ These people form cisterns of bamboos and mud in the most accessible parts of the- forest, which in the rains are filled with water; but in the dry season, should their scanty supply run short, they remove to a more convenient place, or to a cistern which has not been used; for each family forms a number of cisterns, sometimes several miles distant, to supply their wants as well as to facilitate their flight, should any unwelcome guest approach their dwellings. Their principal food is coarse rice, snakes of all sorts, wild hogs, deer, wild fowls of all kinds, cows, bullocks, monkeys, and in fact every thing they can put their hands on.”—Ibid.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »