Page images



The crowd on the Meidan was great, and very picturesque. The music consisted chiefly of large double drums, ornamented with plumes of black feathers, like those of a hearse, which rose considerably higher than the heads of the persons who played on them; large crooked trumpets, like the litui" of the ancients, and small gongs suspended from a bamboo, which rested on the shoulders of two men, the last of whom played on it, with a large, thick, and heavy drum-stick, or cudgel. All the persons who walked in the procession, and a large majority of the spectators, had their faces, bodies, and white cotton clothes daubed all over with vermilion, the latter to a degree which gave them the appearance of being actually dyed rose-colour. They were also crowned with splendid garlands of flowers, with girdles and balrics of the same. Many trophies and pageants of different kinds were paraded up and down, on stages drawn by horses, or bullocks. Some were mythological, others were imitations of different European figures, soldiers, ships, &c., and, in particular, there was one very large model of a steam-boat. The devotees went about with small spears through their tongues and arms, and still more with hot irons pressed against their sides. All were naked to the waist, covered with flowers, and plentifully raddled with vermilion,

flags were flyinginevery direction—booths were erected with stages for dancing; the flowing white garments of the natives gave the impression of a numerous assemblage of well-dressed women; and though on a nearer approach their dingy complexions destroyed the illusion, yet the scene lost nothing of its beauty. I never saw in England such a multitude collected together; but this is one of their most famous

festivals, and the people had assembled from all the neighbouring villages. The noise of the music continued till about noon, when the devotees retired to heal their wounds. These are said to be dangerous, and occasionally to prove fatal. One of our servants, a “Musalchee,” or torch-bearer, of the lowest caste, (for it seems that none of a higher sort practise these cruelties) ran about the house with a small spear through his tongue, begging money from his fellow-servants; this man appeared stupified with opium, which I am told is generally taken by these poor wretches, to deaden their feelings: and the parts through which the spears are thrust are said to be previously rubbed for a considerable time, till numbness ensues.

In the evening the Bishop walked to the Boitaconnah, the part of the city where the trees for swinging are erected; they are not suffered to be placed near the European residences. He arrived in time to be a spectator of the whole ceremony. The victim was led, covered with flowers, and without any apparent reluctance, to the foot of the tree; hooks were then thrust through the muscles of his sides, which he endured without shrinking, and a broad bandage was fastened round his waist, to prevent the hooks from being torn through by the weight of his body. He was then raised up, and whirled round; at first the motion was slow, but by degrees was increased to considerable rapidity. In a few minutes it ceased; and the by-standers were going to let him down, when he made signs that they should proceed; this resolution was received with great applause by the crowd, and after drinking some water he was again spun round. -Ectract from the Editor's Journal.

[blocks in formation]

while their long, black, wet hair hung down their backs, almost to their loins. From time to time, as they passed us, they laboured to seem to dance, but in general their step was slow, their countenances expressive of resigned and patient suffering, and there was no appearance, that I saw, of any thing like frenzy or intoxication. The peaceableness of the multitude was also as remarkable as its number; no troops were visible, except the two sentries, who at all times keep guard on two large tanks in the Meidan; no police, except the usual “Chokeydar," or watchman,* at his post, near Allypoor Bridge ; yet nothing like quarrelling or rioting occurred, and very little scolding. A similar crowd in England would have shown three boxing-matches in half an hour, and in Italy there would have been half a dozen assassinations before night. In the evening I walked in another direction, towards the Boitaconnah, and the streets chiefly occupied by natives. Here I saw the “swinging," which may be best understood from a sketch, however rude.


April 15.-The weather is now very hot, unusually so, as we are told, owing to the want of that refreshment which northwesters usually bestow at this time of year; but my wife and I, by rising at four o'clock, continue to enjoy a delightful ride every morning, though by a little after six the sun is so hot as to drive us in again. We have tried to keep our rooms cool with

* These watchmen are less numerous, and not more efficient than their brethren in the streets of London. They do not cry the hour, but proclaim their wakefulness by uttering loud howls from time to time. They are armed with pistol, sword, and shield.-Ev.

[blocks in formation]

“tatties,” which are mats formed of the kuskos, a peculiar sweetscented grass, set up before an open window, in the quarter of the prevailing wind, and kept constantly wet by a “ bheestie," or water-carrier, on the outside. They are very pleasant when there is a strong wind, but this year four days out of five we have no wind at all. They have also this inconvenience, that if the bheestie neglects his work for a few minutes, (and unless one is always watching him he is continually dropping asleep,) a stream of hot air enters, which makes the room and the whole house intolerable. We are, therefore, advised to shut up all our windows about eight o'clock every morning, merely agitating the air within by punkabs, and getting rid as much as possible of all outward breezes. Thus we certainly find that the atmosphere within doors is preserved at a much lower temperature than the outward air, i. e. at eighty or eighty-five degrees instead of a hundred. Thus confined, it is, however, close and grave-like; but if we go to an open window or door, it is literally like approaching the mouth of one of the blast-furnaces in Colebrook Dale.

April 21.-I entered into my 42d year. God grant that my future years may be as happy, if he sees good! and better, far better spent than those which are gone by ! This day I christened my dear little Harriet. God bless and prosper her with all earthly and heavenly blessings ! We had afterwards a great dinner and evening party, at which were present the Governor and Lady Amherst, and nearly all our acquaintance in Calcutta. To the latter I also asked several of the wealthy natives, who were much pleased with the attention, being in fact one which no European of high station in Calcutta had previously paid to any of them. Hurree Mohun Thakoor observing "what an increased interest the presence of females gave to our parties," I reminded him that the introduction of women into society was an ancient Hindoo custom, and only discontinued in consequence of the Mussulman conquest. He assented with a laugh, adding, however, “it is too late for us to go back to the old custom now." Rhadacant Deb, who overheard us, observed more seriously, “it is very true that we did not use to shut up our women till the times of the Mussulmans. But before we could give them the same liberty as the Europeans, they must be better educated.” I introduced these Baboos to the Chief-justice, which pleased them much, though perhaps they were still better pleased with my wife herself presenting them pawn, rose-water, and attar of roses before they went, after the native custom.

April 24.—The Cholera Morbus is making great ravages among the natives. Few Europeans have yet died of it, but to all it is sufficiently near to remind us of our utter dependence on

Vol. 1.-13

[blocks in formation]

God's mercy, and how near we are in the midst of life to death! Surely there is no country in the world where this recollection ought to be more perpetually present with us than India. All persons experienced in this climate deny that any of the country fevers are contagious. A very blessed circumstance surely, whatever


be its immediate cause. June 10,- The time that has intervened since the 24th of April has been spent in a very painful manner. I have had to deplore the death of my excellent friend Sir Christopher Puller, and for a considerable time had also to apprehend that it would soon be followed by those of his widow and son ; but it pleased God to bless with success Dr. Abel's medical skill, and they embarked for England in the same vessel which, six weeks before, had brought them out with a husband and a father,—all happi. ness, and agreeable anticipation ! May God protect and comfort them!

During the greater part of last month the weather was intensely hot and very sickly, though a temporary relief was afforded by a few north-westers, accompanied by heavy showers, thunder, and lightning. These storms were some of them very awful at the time, but as they increased in frequency their fury abated, and recently the weather has not been unlike a close damp rainy autumn in England. The change these storms produced, both on the animal and vegetable creation, is great. The grass and trees, which always indeed retained a verdure far beyond what I could have expected, have assumed a richer luxuriance. A fresh crop of flowers has appeared on many of the trees and shrubs, the mangoes and other fruits have increased to treble and quadruple the bulk which the first specimens exhibited, the starved cattle are seen every where greedily devouring the young grass, which, young as it is, is already up to their knees; the gigantic cranes, most of whom disappeared during the drought, have winged their way back from the Sunderbunds (their summer retreats); the white and red paddy birds are fluttering all over the Meidân; and the gardens, fields, and ditches (and the ground floors of some of the houses too) swarm with the largest and noisiest frogs 1 ever saw or heard. One of these frogs I saw, about as large, I think, as a good sized gosling, and very beautiful, being green speckled with black, and almost transparent. Some of the lizards (also green) are very beautiful, but they are less abundant now than they were during the hot season. I have as yet seen in Calcutta neither snake, scorpion, nor centipede, nor any insect more formidable than a long thin starveling sort of hornet, or rather wasp, which has now disappeared. Of the fruits which this season offers, the finest are leechees, and mangoes; the first is really very fine, being a sort of plum, with the flavour of a Fron



tignac grape. The second is a noble fruit in point of size, being as large as a man's two fists ; its flavour is not unlike an apricot, more or less smeared with turpentine. It would not, I think, be popular in England, but in India it may pass for very good, particularly when the terebinthian flavour does not predominate. When not quite ripe it makes an excellent tart.

June 14.-I have had a very interesting and awful ceremony to perform in the ordination of Christian David, a native of Malabar, and pupil of Swartz, who has been for many years a Catechist in the employ of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in Ceylon, and now came to me, recommended by Archdeacon Twistleton, and qualified with the title of a Colonial Chaplaincy by Sir Edward Barnes, the Governor of the island. David passed an exceeding good examination, and gave much satisfaction to every body by his modesty, good sense, and good manners. He was ordained Deacon on Holy Thursday, on which day also I held my Visitation, and had a good attendance of clergy, and a numerous audience, notwithstanding the early hour at which it was celebrated. On Trinity Sunday I had the satisfaction (though by me it was felt at the same time, in some degree, a terrible responsibility) of ordaining him Priest. God grant that his ministration may be blessed to his own salvation, and that of many others ! He was lodged during his residence in Bengal in the Bishop's College, and received much attention and kindness from Lady Amherst, and many others. He preached on Thursday evening at the old Church, and it was proposed to publish his sermon; but this I thought it best to discourage.

« PreviousContinue »