Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VII.

DACCA.

RUINS VISIT FROM THE NAWABVISIT RETURNEDDEATH

OF MR. STOWE-CONSECRATION OF CHURCH, AND BURIAL GROUND-CONFIRMATION-ARMENIAN ARCHBISHOP-FAREWELL VISIT TO NAWAB-MEER ISRAF ALI.

July 4.-I preached to a small congregation, in a very small but pretty Gothic Church. Mr. Parish read prayers, and gave notice of the Consecration and Confirmation for the Wednesday and Friday ensuing. About 4 o'clock the pinnace arrived, but Stowe, to my great concern, sent word that he was too ill to leave it, having had a very severe relapse of dysentery. I took Mr. Todd, the surgeon of the station, to him, who pressed his making the attempt for the sake of a more airy apartment than his cabin, and in an hour's time, the wind having abated, he got into Mr. Master's house and to bed, I hope not the worse for the exertion. Nothing can exceed Mr. Master's kindness to us both, but I am sorry to say, he is himself by no means in good health.

The river on which Dacca stands, has greatly altered its character since Rennell drew his map.

It was then narrow, but is now, even during the dry season, not much less than the Hooghly at Calcutta. At present it is somewhat wider, but, from the

upper

windows of Mr. Master's house, the opposite bank may be seen also in a great degree flooded; and though the green rice rising with the water, gives it no other appearance than that of a swampy meadow, small boats are seen every where paddling about amid the crop, which yields them way without difficulty.

Dacca, Mr. Master says, is, as I supposed, merely the wreck of its ancient grandeur. Its trade is reduced to the sixtieth part of what it was, and all its splendid buildings, the castle of its founder Shahjehanguire, the noble mosque he built, the palaces of the ancient Nawabs, the factories and churches of the Dutch, French, and Portuguese nations, are all sunk into ruin, and overgrown with jungle. Mr. Master has himself been present at a tiger hunt in the court of the old palace, during which the elephant of one of his friends fell into a well, overgrown with weeds and bushes. The cotton produced in this district is mostly sent to England raw, and the manufactures of England are preferred by the people of Dacca themselves for their cheapness. There are still a Vol. I.

13

[blocks in formation]

few Armenians resident in the town, some of them wealthy, with a church, and two priests. Their Archbishop, who makes once in four or five years a journey from Nakitchwan to India, is now in the place, on the same errand with me. There are also a few Portuguese, very poor and degraded. Of Greeks the number is considerable, and they are described as an industrious and intelligent people, mixing more with the English than the rest, and filling many of the subaltern situations under Government. The clerk at the English Church_(it happens singularly enough) is a Greek, and the Greek Priest has sent to request permission to call on me. Of English there are none, except a few indigo planters in the neighbourhood, and those in the civil or military service. But the Hindoo and Mohammedan population, Mr. Master still rates at 300,000, certainly no immoderate calculation, since, as he

says,

he has aseertained that there are above 90,000 houses and huts. The climate of Dacca, Mr. Master reckons one of the mildest in India, the heat being always tempered by the vast rivers flowing near it, and the rapidity of their streams discharging the putrid matter of the annual inundation more rapidly than is ever the case in the Hooghly. The neighbourhood affords only one short ride at this season, and not many even when the ground is dry, being much intersected by small rivers, and some large and impenetrable jungles coming pretty close to the north-east of the town. Boating is popular, and they make boats very well here. Indeed I cannot conceive a situation which more naturally would lead men to take delight in sailing. No vessels, however, larger than the small country built brigs ever come to Dacca; during the rains, ships of any moderate burden might do so, but it would be attended with some risk, and the inducements to enter this branch of the Ganges are not sufficient to encourage men to endanger their vessels or themselves, though as far as Luckipoor small European craft have been known to come. The majority prefer Chittagong, though even this last has a harbour little adapted for vessels of burden.

Of Chittagong I learnt many interesting particulars. The town of Islamabad itself is not large, and the English society is still smaller than at Dacca. The country round is pretty and romantic, consisting of a number of little round steep hills covered with verdure, coffee, pepper, vines, and bamboos, on the summits of which the villas of the English are generally placed. These are not very accessible, the roads being often too steep and stony to admit of carriages or horses, and the usual method of visiting being in tonjons, and even these, no bearers but the practised ones of Chittagong would be able to carry in such a country. At some

NAWAB SHUMSHEDDOWLAH.

147

distance from the coast are mountains which divide this territory from that of the Burmese, and are covered by almost impenetrable woods and thickets. The climate, Mr. Master thinks, has been over-praised. It is certainly cooler during the hot months than Calcutta, but not than Dacca, while during the rainy season and the winter, it is exceedingly raw, aguish, and asthmetic, being subject to continual and very offensive fogs, from the quantity of uncleared land, and the neighbouring mountains. But little has been attempted at Dacca or Chittagong, for the conversion of the natives, and that little has had very small success. At the former place is a Baptist minister, who is described as a very good and diligent man, and has succeeded in establishing one Christian school (but among the Portuguese and Greek children,) and some few Bengalee schools for the natives. But in these last he has either not ventured to introduce the New Testament, or has failed in doing so; a result so different from what has been the case in every other part of India, that I suspect some want of address at least in the instructor. He appears, however, to have received considerable encouragement from the English families, and I apprehend that a Church Missionary establishment of the same sort, would find the situation by no means a bad one.

July 5.-To-day I had visits from most of the civil and military functionaries of Dacca. I had also a visit from Mr. Lee, a sort of secretary to his Highness the Nawab Shumsheddowlah, to congratulate me on my arrival, and to appoint a day for his calling on me. This potentate is now, of course, shorn of all political power, and is not even allowed the state palanquin, which his brother (whose heir he is) had, and which his neighbour the Nawab of Moorshedabad still retains. He has, however, an allowance, of 10,000 s. rupees per month, is permitted to keep a court, with guards, and is styled " highness.” The palanquin, indeed, is a distinction to which his brother had no very authentic claim, and which this man could hardly expect, having been very leniently dealt with in being allowed the succession at all

. He had in his youth been a bad subject, had quarrelled with government and his own family, and had been concerned in the bloody conspiracy of Vizier Ali. For his share in this, he was many years imprisoned in Calcutta, during which time he acquired a better knowledge of the English language and literature than most of his countrymen possess.

He speaks and writes English very tolerably, and even fancies himself a critic in Shakspeare. He has been really a man, Mr. Master tells me, of vigorous and curious mind, who, had his talents enjoyed a proper vent, might have distinguished himself.

[blocks in formation]

But he is now growing old, infirm, and indolent, more and more addicted to the listless indulgences of an Asiatic prince; pomp, so far as he can afford it, dancing girls, and opium, having in fact scarce any society but that of his inferiors, and being divested of any of the usual motives by which even Asiatic princes are occasionally roused to exertion. To such a man a strong religious feeling would (even as far

this world is concerned,) be an inestimable treasure. But to inspire Shumsheddowlah with such a feeling, there are, alas! few if any facilities.

Government has seldom more than five companies of infantry at Dacca; but this number is now doubled, and they have also sent a small flotilla of gun-vessels, which are said to be on their way. Had the Burmese really possessed any considerable force of war-boats in the neighbourhood of Teak Naaf, Dacca might easily have fallen their prey; and the alarm excited lately was very great, and with some better reason than I had supposed. Among other objects of fear and suspicion was the poor old Nawab, whom the English suspected of plotting against them, and sending information to the Burmese. That the Nawab would not weep his eyes out for

any reverses of the British army, is, indeed, probable. But as to intelligence, he had none to send which was worth the carriage, and was so far from contemplating the approach of the Burmese with indifference, that he had taken means for removing his family as soon as possible, in case of serious alarm, while he himself requested leave to attach himself to Mr. Master, to remain or go, whenever and wherever he might

Dacca, as Abdullah truly said, is 6 much place for elephant. The

have a stud of from 2 to 300, numbers being caught annually in the neighbouring woods of Tiperah and Cachar, which are broken in for service here, as well as gradually inured to the habits which they must acquire in a state of captivity. Those which are intended for the Upper Provinces, remain here some time, and are by degrees removed to Moorshedabad, Bogwangolah, Dinapoor, &c. since the transition of climate from this place to Meerut, or even Cawnpoor, is too great, and when sudden, destroys numbers. I drove in the evening, with Mr. Master, through the city and part of the neighbourhood. The former is very like the worst part of Calcutta near Chitpoor, but has some really fine ruins intermingled with the mean huts which cover three-fourths of its space. The castle which I noticed, and which used to be the palace, is of brick, yet showing some traces of the plaster which has covered it. The architecture is precisely that of the Kremlin of Moscow, of which city,

company

think proper.

[blocks in formation]

indeed, I was repeatedly reminded in my progress through the town. The Grecian houses, whose ruined conditions I have noticed, were the more modern and favourite residence of the late Nawab, and were ruined a few

years since by the encroachments of the river. The obelisk, or “Mut,” which I saw, was erected as an act of piety very frequent in India, by a Hindoo, who about 25 years ago accumulated a large fortune in the service of the East India Company. Another mut of an almost similar form was pointed out to me a little way out of the town. The pagodas, however, of Dacca, are few and small; three-fourths of the population being Mussulmans, and almost every brick building in the place having its Persian or Arabic inscription. Most of these look very old, but none are of great antiquity. Even the old palace was built only about 200 years ago, and consequently is scarcely older than the banquetting-house at Whitehall. The European houses are mostly small and poor, compared with those of Calcutta; and such as are out of the town, are so surrounded with jungle and ruins, as to give the idea of desolation and unhealthiness. No cultivation was visible so far as we went, nor any place cleared except an area of about twenty acres for the new military lines. The drive was picturesque, however, in no common degree; several of the ruins were fine, and there are some noble peepul trees. The Nawab's carriage. passed us, an old landau drawn by four horses, with a coachman and postilion in red liveries, and some horse-guards in red also, with high ugly caps, like those of the old grenadiers, with gilt plates in front, and very ill mounted. The great men of India evidently lose in point of effect, by an injudicious and imperfect adoption of European fashions. An eastern cavalier, with his turban and flowing robes, is a striking object; and an eastern prince on horseback, and attended by his usual train of white-staved and high-capped janizaries, a still more noble one; but an eastern prince in a shabby carriage, guarded by men dressed like an equestrian troop at a fair, is nothing more than ridiculous and melancholy. It is, however, but natural, that these unfortunate sovereigns should imitate, as far as they can, those costumes which the example of their conquerors has associated with their most recent ideas of power and splendour. Stowe has been very ill ever since he arrived here; to-day he is better, but still so unwell as to make me give up all idea of leaving Dacca this week.

I met a lady to-day who had been several years at Nusseerabad in Rajpotana, and during seven years of her stay in India, had never seen a clergyman, or had an opportunity of going to church. This was, however, a less tedious excommunication than has been the lot of a very good and religious

« PreviousContinue »