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and its place was supplied by extremely green fields, like meadows, which were said to be of rice, interspersed with small woods of round-headed trees, and villages of huts, thatched, and with their mud walls so low, that they looked like hay-stacks.
We anchored a few miles short of Diamond Harbour. The current and ebb-tide together ran at a rate really tremendous, amounting, as our pilot said, to 10 and 11 knots an hour. We were surrounded soon after our anchoring by several passage vessels ; among these was a beautiful ship of about 250 tons, with the Company's Jack, and a long pendant, which we were told was the Government yacht, sent down for our accommodation.
During this day and the next I made several fresh observations on the persons and manners of the natives, by whom we were surrounded. I record them, though I may hereafter see reason to distrust in some slight degree their accuracy. I had observed a thread hung round the necks of the fishermen who came first on board, and now found that it was an ornament worn in honour of some idol. The caste of fishermen does not rank high, though fish is considered as one of the purest and most lawful kinds of food. Nothing, indeed, seems more generally mistaken than the supposed prohibition of animal food to the Hindoos. It is not from any abstract desire to spare the life of living creatures, since fish would be a violation of this principle as well as beef; but from other notions of the hallowed or the polluted nature of particular viands. Thus many Brahmins eat both fish and kid. The Rajpoots, besides these, eat mutton, venison, or goat's flesh. Some castes may eat any thing but fowls, beef, or pork ; while pork is with others a favourite diet, and beef only is prohibited. Intoxicating liquors are forbidden by their religion ; but this is disregarded by great numbers both of high and low caste; and intoxication is little less common, as I am assured, among the Indians, than among Europeans. Nor is it true that Hindoos are much more healthy than Europeans. Liver-complaints, and indurations of the spleen, are very common among them, particularly with those in easy circumstances, to which their immense consumption of “ Ghee,” or clarified butter, must greatly contribute. To cholera morbus they are much more liable than the whites, and there are some kinds of fever which seem peculiar to the native race.
The great difference in colour between different natives struck me much: of the crowd by whom we were surrounded, some were black as Negroes, others merely copper-coloured, and others little darker than the Tunisines whom I have seen at Liverpool. Mr. Mill, the principal of Bishop's College, who, with Mr. Corrie, one of the chaplains in the Company's service, had come down to meet me, and who has seen more of India than most men, tells me that
he cannot account for this difference, which is general throughout the country, and every where striking. It is not merely the difference of exposure, since this variety of tint is visible in the fishermen who are naked all alike. Nor does it depend on caste, since very high caste Brahmins are sometimes black, while Pariahs are comparatively fair. It seems, therefore, to be an accidental difference, like that of light and dark complexions in Europe, though where so much of the body is exposed to sight, it becomes more striking here than in our own country.
At six o'clock in the evening of October the 6th, we went on board the yacht, which we found a beautiful vessel, with large and convenient cabins, fitted up in a very elegant and comfortable manner; and slept for the first time under musquito curtains, and on a mattrass of coco-nut coir, which though very hard is cool and elastic. The greater part of this day was occupied in ecclesiastical business, so that I had less opportunity for observing the country and people around us. The former improves as we ascend the river, and is now populous and highly cultivated. On the 7th we left Diamond harbour, a place interesting as being the first possession of the East India Company in Bengal; but of bad reputation for its unhealthiness, the whole country round being swampy. Many ships were lying there. I saw no town, except a few native huts, some ruinous warehouses, now neglected and in decay, and an ugly brick dingy looking house with
a flag-staff, belonging to the harbour master. There are, however, many temptations for seamen among the native huts, several of them being spirit houses, where a hot unwholesome toddy is sold. We proceeded with a light breeze up the river, which still presents a considerable uniformity of prospect, though of a richer and more pleasing kind than we had seen before. The banks abound with villages, interspersed with rice-fields, plantations of coco-palms, and groves of trees of a considerable height, in colour and foliage resembling the elm. We have seen one or two Pagodas, dingy buildings with one or more high towers, like glass-houses.
The Hooghly is still of vast width and rapidity. Our ship tacks in it as in a sea, and we meet many larger vessels descending. One of these was pointed out to me as an Arab, of completely European build, except that her stern was overloaded with open galleries and verandahs, with three very tall masts, and carrying more sail than English merchant ships generally do. She had apparently a good many guns, was crowded with men, and had every appearance of serving, as occasion required, for piracy as well as traffic. Her“ Rais,” or master, had a loose purple dress on, and her crew I thought were of fairer complexions than the Hindoos. These last perform their evolutions with a great deal of noise, and talk most vociferously: but the Arabs excelled them
in both these particulars. They shifted their sails with a clamour as if they were going to board an enemy. The old clumsy Arab Dow, mentioned by Neibubr, is now seldom seen; they buy many ships from Europeans; they build tolerable ones themselves, and even their grabs, which still have an elongated bow, instead of a bowsprit, are described as often very fine vessels and good sailers. In short, they are gradually becoming a formidable maritime people, and are not unlikely to give farther and greater trouble in the Indian Seas to ourselves and other European nations.
Accidents often happen in this great river, and storms are frequent and violent. The river is now unusually high, and the Brahmins have prophesied that it will rise fourteen cubits higher, and drown all Calcutta ; they might as well have said all Bengal, since the province has scarely any single eminence so high above the river. Whenever we see the banks a few feet higher than usual, we are told it is the dam of a “ tank," or large artificial pond. The country is evidently most fertile and populous, and the whole prospect of river and shore is extremely animated and interesting. The vessel in which we are, is commanded by one of the senior pilots of the Company's service, who, with his mate, are the only Europeans on board ; the crew, forty in number, are Mohammedans, middle-sized, active and vigorous, though slender. Their uniform is merely a white turban, of a singularly flat shape, a white shirt, and trowsers, with a shawl wrapped round their hips. I was amused to-day by seeing them preparing and eating their dinner, seated in circles on the deck, with an immense dish of rice, and a little sauce-boat of currie well seasoned with garlic, set between every three or four men; the quantity which they eat is very great, and completely disproves the common opinion that rice is a nourishing food. On the contrary, I am convinced that a fourth part of the bulk of potatoes would satisfy the hunger of the most robust and laborious. Potatoes are becoming gradually abundant in Bengal; at first they were here, as elsewhere, unpopular. Now they are much liked, and are spoken of as the best thing which the country has ever received from its European masters. At dinner these people sit, not like the Turks, but with the knees drawn up like monkeys.
Their eating and drinking vessels are of copper, very bright and well kept, and their whole appearance cleanly and decent, their countenances more animated, but less mild and gentle than the Hindoos. They do not seem much troubled with the prejudices of Mohammedanism, yet there are some services which they obviously render to their masters with reluctance. The captain of the yacht ordered one of them, at my desire, to lay hold of our spaniel ; the man made no difficulty, but afterwards rubbed his hand against the side of the ship with an expression of disgust
which annoyed me, and I determined to spare their feelings in future as much as possible.
We had hoped to reach Fulta, where there is an English hotel, before night; but the wind being foul, were obliged to anchor a few miles short of it. After dinner, the heat being considerably abated, we went in the yacht's boat to the nearest shore. Before us was a large extent of swampy ground, but in a high state of cultivation, and covered with green rice, offering an appearance not unlike flax; on our right was a moderate sized village, and on the banks of the river a numerous herd of cattle was feeding; these are mostly red, or red and white, with humps on their backs, nearly resembling those which I have seen at Wynnstay and Combermere. Buffaloes are uncommon in the lower parts of Bengal. As we approached the village, a number of men and boys came out to meet us, all naked except the Cummerbund, with very graceful figures, and distinguished by a mildness of countenance almost approaching to effeminacy: They regarded us with curiosity, and the children crowded round with great familiarity. The objects which surrounded us were of more than common beauty and interest; the village, a collection of mud-walled cottages, thatched, and many of them covered with a creeping plant bearing a beautiful broad leaf, of the gourd species, stood irregularly scattered in the midst of a wood of coco-palms, fruit, and other trees, among which the banyan was very conspicuous and beautiful; we were cautioned against attempting to enter the houses, as such a measure gives much offence. Some of the natives, however, came up and offered to show us the way to the pagoda,—“ the Temple," they said, “ of Mahadeo.” We followed them through the beautiful grove which overshadowed their dwellings, by a winding and narrow path; the way was longer than we expected, and it was growing dusk; we persevered, however, and arrived in front of a small building with three apertures in front, resembling lancet windows of the age of Henry the Second. A flight of steps led up to it, in which the Brahmin of the place was waiting to receive us,an elderly man, naked like his flock, but distinguished by a narrow band of cotton twist thrown two or three times doubled across his right shoulder and breast, like a scarf, which is a mark of distinction, worn, I understand, by all Brahmins; a fine boy with a similar badge, stood near him, and another man with the addition of a white turban, came up and said he was a policeofficer ("police-wala"). The occurrence of this European word in a scene so purely Oriental, had a whimsical effect. It was not, however, the only one which we beard, for the Brahmin announced himself to us as the “Padre" of the village, a name which they have originally learnt from the Portuguese, but which
MANNERS OF THE PEOPLE.
is now applied to religious persons of all descriptions all over India, even in the most remote situations, and where no European penetrates once in a century. The village we were now in, I was told, had probably been very seldom visited by Europeans, since few persons stop on the shore of the Ganges between Diamond Harbour and Fulta. Few of the inhabitants spoke Hindoostanee. Mr. Mill tried the Brahmin in Sanscrit, but found him very ignorant; he, indeed, owned it himself, and said in excuse, they were poor people.
I greatly regretted I had no means of drawing a scene so beautiful and interesting; the sketch I have made is from recollection, and every way unworthy of the subject.
I never recollect having more powerfully felt the beauty of similar objects. The greenhouse-like smell and temperature of the atmosphere which surrounded us, the exotic appearance of the plants and of the people, the verdure of the fields, the dark shadows of the trees, and the exuberant and neglected vigour of the soil, teeming with life and food, neglected, as it were, out of pure abundance, would have been striking under any circumstances; they were still more so to persons just landed from a three months' voyage ; and to me, when associated with the recollection of the objects which have brought me out to India, the amiable manners and countenances of the people, contrasted with the symbols of their foolish and polluted idolatry now first before me, impressed me with a very solemn and earnest wish that I might in some degree, however small, be enabled to conduce to the spiritual advantage of creatures so goodly, so gentle, and now so misled and blinded.“ Angeli forent, si essent Christiani !” As the sun went down, many monstrous bats, bigger than the largest crows I have seen, and chiefly to be distinguished from them by their indented wings, unloosed their hold from the palmtrees, and sailed slowly around us. They might have been supposed the guardian genii of the pagoda.
During the night and the whole of the next day the wind was either contrary, or so light as not to enable us to stem the current; it was intensely hot; the thermometer stood at about 96o. The commander of our vessel went this morning to a market held in a neighbouring village, to purchase some trifles for the vessel ; and it may show the poverty of the country, and the cheapness of the different articles, to observe, that having bought all the commodities which he wanted for a few pice,* he was unable in the whole market to get change for a rupee, or about two shillings.
In the evening we again went on shore, to another village,
* A small copper coin, about the value of our halfpenny.- Ep. Vol. 1.-7