« PreviousContinue »
FESTIVAL OF RAMA AND SEETA.
good many questions, and obtained very ready answers in much the same way, and with no more appearance of reverence or devotion than one should receive from an English mob at a puppet-show. "I see Rama, Seeta, and Luchmun, but where is HunimanP" (the famous monkey general.) “Huniman," was the answer, ' is not yet come; but that man," pointing to a great stout soldier of singularly formidable exterior, is Huniman, and he will soon arrive.” began laughing as if half ashamed of his destination, but now took
up the conversation, telling me that “next day was to be a far prettier play than I now saw, for Seeta was to be stolen away by Ravanu and his attendant evil spirits, Rama and Luchmun were to go to the jungle in great sorrow to seek for her,
(“Rama, your Rama! to greenwood must hie!") That “then (laughing again) I and my army shall come, and we shall fight bravely, bravely." The evening following I was engaged, but the next day I repeated my visit; I was then too late for the best part of the show, which had consisted of a first and unsuccessful attack by Rama and his army on the fortress of the gigantic ravisher. That fortress, however, I saw,--an enclosure of bamboos, covered with paper and painted with doors and windows, within which was a frightful paper giant, fifteen feet high, with ten or twelve arms, each grasping either a sword, an arrow, a bow, a battle-axe, or a spear. At his feet sate poor little Seeta as motionless as before, guarded by two figures to represent demons. The brothers in a splendid palkee were conducting the retreat of their army; the divine Huniman, as naked and almost as hairy as the animal whom he represented, was gamboling before them, with a long tail tied 'round his waist, a mask
to represent the head of a baboon, and two great painted clubs in his hands. His army followed, a number of men with similar tails and masks, their bodies dyed with indigo, and also armed with clubs. I was never so forcibly struck with the identity of Rama and Bacchus. Here were before me Bacchus, his brother Ampelus, the Satyrs, (smeared with wine lees,) and the great Pan commanding them. The fable, however, can hardly have originated in India, and probably has been imported both by the Greeks, and brahmins from Cashmere, or some other central country where the grape grows, unless we suppose that the grape
has been merely an accidental appendage to Bacchus's character, arising from the fact that the festival occurs during the vintage. There yet remained two or three days of a pageant, before Seeta's release, purification, and re-marriage to her hero
lover, but for this conclusion I did not remain in Allahabad. At Benares, I am told, the show is on such occasions really splendid. The Raja attends in state with all the principal inhabitants of the place, he lends his finest elephants and jewels to the performers, who are children of the most eminent families, and trained up by long previous education. I saw enough, however, at Allahabad to satisfy my curiosity. The show is now a very innocent one, but there was a hideous and accursed practice in "the good old times,” before the British police was established, at least if all which the Mussulmans and English say is to be believed, which shows the Hindoo superstition in all its horrors. The poor children who had been thus feasted, honoured, and made to contribute to the popular amusement, were, it is said, always poisoned in the sweetmeats given them the last day of the show, that it might be said their spirits were absorbed into the deities whom they had represented! Nothing of the sort can now be done. The children, instead of being bought for the purpose, from a distance, by the priests, are the children of neighbours, whose prior and subsequent history is known, and Rama and Seeta now grow old like other boys
ALLAHABAD TO CAWNPOOR.
DESCRIPTION OF CARAVAN-ARMED PEASANTRY-CAMAULPOOR
-FYZEE MUSSEEHVISITS FROM ZEMINDAR AND IMAM MUSSULMAN SOLDIER TURNED SAINT-RYUTS OPPRESSED BY SOLDIERY-FUTTEHPOOR-SERAI-BEGGARS LIVING IX TOMBS-STORMY MARCH TO KULEANPOOR-DAK JOURNEY TO CAWNPOOR-HOSPITAL AND SCHOOL-DESCRIPTION OF TOWX AND CLIMATE.
At length, on Thursday morning the 30th of September, we began our journey, having sent off some hours before our motley train, consisting of twenty-four camels, eight carts drawn by bullocks, twenty-four horse-servants, including those of the Archdeacon and Mr. Lushington, ten ponies, forty bearers and coolies of different descriptions, twelve tent-pitchers, and a guard of twenty sepoys under a native officer. The whimsical caravan filed off in state before me; my servants, all armed with spears, to which many of them had added, at their own cost, sabres of the longest growth,
looked, on their little ponies, like something between cossacks and sheriff's javelin-men; my new Turkoman horse, still in the costume of his country, with his long squirrel-like tail painted red, and his mane plaited in love-knots, looked as if he were going to eat fire, or perform some other part in a me1o-drama; while Mr. Lushington's horses, two very pretty Arabs, with their tails docked, and their saddles English (“ Ungrigi,”) fashion, might have attracted notice in Hyde-park, the Archdeacon's buggy and horse had every appearance of issuing from the back gate of a college in Cambridge on a Sunday morning; and lastly came some mounted gens d'armes, and a sword and buckler-man on foot, looking exactly like the advanced guard of a Tartar army.
Rain, however, long prayed for, but which was now an inconvenience to us, prevented our starting all together, and it was late in the evening before we arrived at Čooseah, sixteen miles from Allahabad, where we found two excellent tents, of three apartments each, pitched for our reception, and the tea-kettle boiling under the shade of some stately trees in a wild country of ruins and jungle, now gemmed and glowing with the scattered fires of our cofilah.
This was the first night I ever passed under canvass, and, independent of its novelty, I found the comforts of my dwelling greatly exceed my expectation. The breeze blew in very fresh and pleasantly through the tent door, the ground, covered with short withered grass, was perfectly dry, though rain had so lately fallen, and my bed and moscheto-curtains were arranged with as much comfort as in Calcutta. The only circumstance which struck me as likely to be annoying even to a lady, was the publicity of the situation,-her bed within a few inches of an open door, a body of men-servants and soldiers sleeping all round that door, and a sentry pacing backwards and forwards before it. After all, however, this publicity is more apparent than real. The check of the tent prevents effectually, any person from seeing what passes within who does not come purposely up to peep, and this the sentry would not allow.
At five o'clock on the morning of October first we again began our march, and proceeded about twelve miles, to the second customary station, called Cussiah, a grove of neem trees, more extensive than that which we had left, and at a small distance from a large but ruinous village. We passed through a country much wilder, worse cultivated, and worse peopled than any which I have seen in India. What cultivation there was consisted of maize, growing very tall, but sadly burnt by the continued drought.' This, however, was only in patches, and the greater part of the prospect consisted of small woods,
Scattered in a very picturesque manner over a champaign coun. try, with few signs of habitations, and those most of them in ruins. I was strongly reminded of the country of the Tchemoi-morski cossacks, to which the groups of people in dresses nearly similar, and all armed, who passed us on the road, undoubtedly in a great measure contributed. I had been disposed to wonder at Colonel Francklin's counsel to buy speare for my servants, and at the escort which had been ordered me; but I soon found, that, whether necessary or not, such precautions were at least customary. Every traveller whom we met, even the common people going to market, had either swords and shields, spears, or match-lock guns, and one man had a bow and quiver of arrows, in that circumstance, as well as in his dress and person, extremely resembling a Circassian warrior. The road was ruggid; nothing indeed, so far as I had yet seen, could appear more unfounded than the assurances which I have heard in Calcutta, that an open carriage is an eligible method of travelling in the Dooab, on any other ground than cheapness. I have been often told that the road as far as Meerut would answer perfectly for a gig: The fact is, there are no roads at all, and the tracks which we follow are very often such as to require care even on horseback. By driving slowly, no doubt a gig may go almost any where, but it is anything but an agreeable pastime to drive along, tracks which, when beaten, are so poached by the feet of horses and cattle, and so hardened by the sun as to resemble a frozen farm-yard, while if the traveller forsakes these roads, he encounters cracks deep and wide enough to break his wheels. Here and there is a tolerably level mile or two, but with a few such exceptions, there is no fast or pleasant driving in this part of India.
Both men and women whom we met on the road, I thought decidedly taller, fairer, and finer people than the Bengalees Some of the sepoys, indeed, of a regiment who passed us, were of complexions so little darker than those of Europe, that as they approached I really at first took them for Europeans. Every thing seems to assimilate gradually to the scenes and habits of the eastern and southern parts of Europe. The people no longer talk of their daily rice, but say 6 it is time to eat bread to-day.” Instead of the softness and gentleness so apparent in those Indians whom we first şaw, these men have a proud step, a stern eye, and a rough loud voice, such as might be expected from people living almost always in the open air, and in a country where, till its acquisition by the English, no man was sure that he might not at any moment be compelled to fight for his property Much of this necessity is passed away, but something yet
remains. The nation is still one of lawless and violent habits, containing many professed thieves, and many mercenary soldiers, who, in the present tranquillity of the country, are at any instant ready to become thieves; and the general sense of moral feeling is, in this particular, so low, that one ceases to wonder that banditti are from time to time heard of, and that every body finds it desirable to take his arms with him on a journey.
I was greatly pleased with my new horse, but I was annoyed in the course of the ride by one of his shoes breaking. At Cassiah I inquired of the “tussildar," or tacksman, a very decent sort of gentleman-farmer, where a smith could be obtained, and he told me to my sorrow that the people of the country seldom shod their horses, and that I should not meet with one nearer than Futtehpoor, a distance of three days' journey. There was no remedy but patience, and I had my horse led as quietly as possible. In other things there was enough to occupy my attention, as I was assajled by complaints from every part of the cofilah, of some deficiency or other in our equipments, or some experienced or apprehended inconvenience. My own tents were found to be so large as to require elephants to carry them, the camels were too few, and some of them very weak, there were no “ sitringees,"
or tent-carpets, and no tent for the sepoys. In the midst of all this hubbub, it began to rain hard, and the camp-followers with one consent began to say that we must halt next day to supply these deficiencies, and to dry the tents, which, being so large, could not be carried in a wet state. To halt on a Saturday I was very unwilling, inasmuch as I had always proposed to rest on the Sunday following. I did my best, therefore, to persuade them to get on with all which could be done that day, and since the camels were too few, applied to the tussildar for some hackeries to help them. Even to this, however, the poverty of the village was unequal, and I was glad to obtain four baggage-oxen, to make up the deficiency in the Company's appointments. Meantime arrived a sepoy, with sitringees from General Morley, and I sent back by him some of the most useless articles of our equipage, thus materially lightening one of the heaviest laden camels. The rest were relieved by the accession of the oxen, and if the tents got dry, the “ clashees” (tent pitchers) again allowed that we might proceed in the morning prosperously. The evening was fair and very pleasant, and we all found abundant interest and employment, in walking round the motley groups of men and animals which made up our caravan, seeing the camels, horses, and oxen fed, and talking with the tussildar, who,