Page images

take occur in a matter, of all others, the most obvious to the eye? There are many small mosques, indeed, but the Muezzins all stand at the door, or on some small eminence adjoining. Minarets there are none. Perhaps he confounded the church and steeple, and supposed that mosque and minaret were synonymous. But none of the mosques are seen in any general view of Calcutta, being too small, too low, and built in too obscure corners to be visible, till one is close upon them. They rather, indeed, resemble the tombs of saints, than places for public worship, such as are seen in Turkey, Persia, and the south of Russia. Though diminutive, however, many of them are pretty, and the sort of eastern Gothic style in which they are built, is to my eye, though trained up to reverence the pure English style, extremely pleasing. They consist generally of a parallelogram of about thirtysix feet by twelve, or hardly so much, surmounted by three little domes, the apex of each terminated by a flower, with small but richly ornamented pinnacles in the angles. The faces of the building are covered with a good deal of Arabesque tracery, and pierced with a small door, of Gothic form, in the centre of one of the longest faces, and a small window, of almost similar form, on each side. Opposite to the door, which opens eastward, and on the western side, is a small recess, which serves to enshrine the Koran, and to direct the eyes of the faithful to the “ Kibla" of Mecca. The taste of these little oratories is better than their materials, which are unfortunately, in this part of India, no

[blocks in formation]



thing but brick covered with plaister: while they last, however, they are really great ornaments to the lanes and villages where they occur, and might furnish some advantageous hints, I think, to the Christian architects of India.

March 25.–Our friends, Mr. and Miss Stowe arrived, well and in good spirits, after a very tedious voyage.

April 9.— The Hindoo festival of “ Churruck Poojah” commenced to-day, of which, as my wife has given an account in her journal', I shall only add a few particulars.

i One of the Hindoo festivals in honour of the goddess Kali commenced this evening. Near the river a crowd was assembled round a stage of bamboos, 15 feet high, composed of two upright, and three horizontal poles, which last were placed at about five feet asunder. On this kind of ladder several men mounted, with large bags, out of which they threw down various articles to the by-standers, who caught them with great eagerness; but I was too far off to ascertain what they were. They then one by one raised their joined hands over their heads, and threw themselves down with a force which must have proved fatal had not their fall been broken by some means or other. The crowd was too dense to allow of my discovering how this was effected; but it is certain they were unhurt, as they immediately reascended, and performed the same ceremonies many times.

On the 10th we were awakened before day-break, by the discordant sounds of native musical instruments, and immediately mounted our horses, and rode to the Meidân. As the morning advanced we could see an immense crowd coming down the Chowringhee road, which was augmented by persons joining it from all the streets and lanes of the city. We entered the crowd, taking the precaution of making the saees walk close by my horse's head, who was frightened at the music, dancing, and glare of torches, accompanied at intervals by the deep sound of the gong.

“ The double double peal of the drum was there,

And the startling sound of the trumpet's blare,
And the gong, that seemed with its thunders dread
To stun the living, and waken the dead.”






The crowd on the Meidân was great, and very picturesque. The music consisted chiefly of large

In the midst of this crowd walked and danced the miserable fanatics, torturing themselves in the most horrible manner, and each surrounded by his own particular band of admirers, with music and torches. ****** Their countenances denoted suffering, but they evidently gloried in their patient endurance, and probably were supported by the assurance that they were expiating the sins of the past year by suffering voluntarily, and without a groan, this agony.

We had considerable difficulty in making our way through the crowd ; but when we had arrived at a short distance from the scene of action, the coup d’æil was beautifully picturesque, and forcibly reminded me of an English race-course : flags were flying in every 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

« PreviousContinue »