Page images


« The strong and healthy among our sons are always selected for palkee work; others, weakly, and without good heart, seek other employments, such as: biggaries' (porters of loads), cultivators' labourers, &c.

“ Palkee employment is considered creditable, and always gladly embraced by the stout sons, who see that hamals eat well, and can dress and live respect. ably.

" We always pray to our Hindoo god when bathing, and particularly when out of employ and hard up. We are sure to improve afterwards. When not-able to get sufficient palkee work, we carry loads, or trim fields. Our relatives or friends in all villages are the constituted carriers and guides. One always attends at the village office, and when a traveller arrives, and wants carriers or a guide, he gives intimation to others in their houses, and they run for employ. ment. Small portions of land, rent free, are allowed by government to some of our people, in the neighbourhood of each village ; and they are greatly trusted by the head men of villages, even to transport large sums of money. We hold ourselves individually and collectively answerable for any loss by theft, when employed in sets ; and any individual among us detected in robbing from a palanquin, would be expelled, with disgrace. I have been at work seventeen years, and never knew of a loss.

" Most of us have no certain provision for old age, and when unable to work, depend generally on near relations, or, failing them, we beg.

“ We are almost always in arrears to the Banian shopkeepers, whom we pay after employment, and entirely trust to keep the accounts, for none of us can read or write. God knows if they are truly kept; but we cannot object, or we should get no food or credit when out of cash, and so, perhaps, starve.

“ We always remain in sets of twelve, and the Banians will trust us to the extent of twenty rupees for the whole set in one month, which must be paid generally before a new score is commenced. Our usual daily food is one seer (two pounds) of bajree flour, which equals two Bombay seers, for one man, and fish or meat, when we can get them; we generally manage to have one good, large dinner in a month. A set receives a few rupees in advance when ordered for a journey, and then we purchase food on the road, as opportunities offer ; the remainder of the hire is paid us on our return.

“ Noon and eight at night are our feeding hours, three times a day if rich.

“ If our first wife dies we take another, with a binding, but less expensive ceremony. Widows never marry again, but nikkur,' that is a less expensive ceremony. We marry our children when infants, if we can afford to do so, otherwise wait until they grow up, for a regular marriage costs a deal of money.

“ We all speak Mahratta amongst ourselves, but the best of us can generally speak Hindustani. You see I can. We sing because it lightens the burden and shortens the road; we forget the distance ; always improvise the songs according to the circumstances of the road, the weather, the weight, travellers or animals we meet, or people or things we all know about at a distance. Some men make quick and amusing observations in their song, the rest answer, as it were, or acknowledge their merit together in chorus.

“When very tired, we walk up and down each other's backs, after which we feel greatly refreshed ; this is done when the tired man is lying flat on the ground. If a man is too much knocked up to proceed, then 'the set ’ must, at any cost to themselves, get another on the road, and sometimes have to pay a great deal for the assistance they cannot do without. It is a point of credit and character among us, that every man shall do his best on the road. I have five fingers on this hand ; none of them are alike : some long, some short, it is the same with us all. Some are strong and stout-hearted, others are so in different degrees ; but, if every man does his best, whatever that may amount to, we are all satisfied, and equally distribute the pay received for the whole set. If a man is stout and hearty, it is by the favour of God, and the best of the stout man does not cost him more than the best of the weak man costs him.

At first the pole gives pain to the shoulders, but the flesh becomes thickened after a time, and at last quite callous.

66 We sometimes get swollen (varicose) veins in the legs, but they get well, at

[ocr errors]

least for a time, after bleeding them. We are nearly always well when employ, ed; but sicken when idle, and nothing to do-no pay, the heart gets sad, and body unwell.

“ We all acknowledge ‘Bugwan' as the supreme ruler of Heaven and Earth.

“ We are Mhars, and considered of low caste; other Hindoos will not eat with us, or let us draw water from their wells, neither are we permitted to go within those portions of the temples in which the images of our deities are placed; but, notwithstanding, we are the first in the land-every one admits that.

“ We are the children of the soil; the land is ours, though the law will not let us enjoy the fruits of it, as it was intended we should do, but if it be unproductive, if men, women, or children are possessed of the evil spirit, it is the Mhar who is called by the other castes of the Hindoos to wrestle with and drive him out, and to intercede with the deities; and by these efforts and intercessions only can the object be gained. Ask all the people about you, if this is not the case. Who has the honour of swinging with hooks in his back before our images at the feast of the Dussera ? It is the Mhar alone, and no one else can be so honoured.

If a Hindoo of any caste has a domestic affliction or personal grievance, and he repairs to one of the shrines to pray for relief, he places his offering (a cocoanut or other fruit) before the image, and pours water on it, but he says nothing; it is I, the Mhar, who from the outside of the door, but looking on the image, must first address the god in the petitioner's favour, for nothing will be granted unless I do so ; it is my acknowledged right. If, on these occasions, the petitioner, or any other Hindoo, lays down, or accidentally drops anything on the earth, even money, it is mine, and all that so touches it, and he cannot, if a good Hindoo, take it back again ; but if his heart is small, he may redeem it, because there is no order of government by which I can retain it.

“We bury our dead, and do not burn them ; some other Hindoo castes bury as well as burn, but with them, as you know, to burn the dead is considered the more correct course; but we are content, and think it right to bury.

We throw flowers, if we can get them, into the graves, but there is not any particular ceremony or prayers used at funerals.”

From a note, which we have omitted, appended by Lady Falkland to the passage where the “hamal” speaks of the different lengths of his fingers, we perceive that she has entirely missed the point of the allusion. She evidently supposes that it is of the nature of a complaint, as to the laborious nature of the avocation ; whereas it is in reality an illustration of the great principle in political economy, that all the members of a community, laboring in their various measures for the good of the whole, are entitled to the recognition due to all who“ do what they can." It is in fact a more elegant version of the allegory which produced so beneficial an effect, when told in old days on the Mons Sacer; or it is an illustration of the Christian precept, “They that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves.''

As Mr. Sydney Smith declared that no improvement would be made on a certain public work, unless, by good luck, a bishop should lose his life by it, it may not be without its uses, that a Governor's lady should experience the ups and downs of travel in India. We therefore submit, for the consideration of all whom it may concern, the following sketch of


“ A traveller's bungalow is one of the most wretched-looking abodes when no visitor is there. In cach room there is a table, if it has three legs and half it

is well. Should the chairs have backs, seats, and their usual number of legs, the traveller who brings none with him may congratulate himself.

“ The small narrow cots are skeletons of beds denuded of all furniture, except dirty mosquitoe curtains with very open holes in them, large enough to admit a dragon-fly.

Everybody travels with as many comforts as they can. Linen they must bring, and if they do not bring a cook, they will often have to put up with native fare.

“ It is frequently the case that persons arrive at these wretched resting-places which are scarcely better than the durumsalas (native inns), who are far from affluent, and very ill, trying to “get home" before it is too late, and what inconveniences have such invalids to encounter! when (their few comforts being perhaps detained on the road,) they find an empty, dismantled chamber, a mud floor, a bed without furniture, and food from which the healthiest would turn with disrelish.

People in Europe talk of the luxuries of the East.' It is but little known how much the wife of a subaltern in the Indian army undergoes, when she travels with young children, on arriving at one of these bungalows. I often think of the strange and melancholy scenes which have occurred in such places.

“ I heard, not long ago, of the following sad and touching inscription being found scratched with a nail on the wall of a room of a traveller's bungalow, at Kurrachee, iu Scinde, close to one of the couches. Some of the words were almost illegible.

• As on this bed of pain I lie,
And count the hours of each long day,
And think, with terror, I must die,
And scarcely even dare to pray.


Yes! it has come at last-
The last on this sad earth for me
The time for hope, repentance, past,
An eternity of what's to be !

And I have laughed this hour to scorn
And deemed this life an endless age
The light of a returning morn-
The man is (illegible)--' turn the page.'

" The servants of the bungalow said, they knew of two gentlemen who had long lain ill in that room.

One died, and was buried at Kurrachee; the other recovered, and went away; but who they were, they could not tell.”

We have now given various extracts, exhibiting the very miscellaneous nature of the contents of her ladyship's Chow-Chow basket. With one more, considerably different from those we have hitherto submitted, we shall draw this notice to a close. old maxim that honesty is the best policy ; but there is a better policy still. It is generosity, unselfishness, self-denial : as is taught in the following legend.

It is an



• Oomraj, a small village of the Deccan, near Poona, has, like many other places here, a very pretty tradition connected with it. It is called the history of " Now-lakh Oomraj, or Oomraj of the 900,000.'

“ Once upon a time, in the days of the Mahomedan kings, there was a very covetous king, who had a very beautiful wif She was the only being in the world for whom he cared ; the only thing he loved, except money. Wlien the king's tax-gatherers oppressed the people, and denied them justice, they used to

[ocr errors]

fly to the queen, and she would always use her influence on the part of the poor and oppressed, and was the only source of mercy or justice in the kingdom.

“One day, when the king was in a very good humour with her, he told her to ask of bim whatever she wished for, and promised to give it to her. She prayed hiin to give her one day's transit duties at the toll-gate of Oomraj. The king, covetous as he was, was half angry at the smallness of her request, and said, 'That's always the way with her ! instead of asking for something really useful, she is for ever begging for something that can do her no earthly good.'

However, he was comforted by thinking that she had asked for the tolls of a wretched village in the mountain, where they hardly covered the pay of a single toll-keeper, when she might have begged for the customs of Surat or Laliore. So he gave the order, and it was proclaimed that his majesty, of his royal liberality, had granted to his beloved consort one whole day's toll of the village of Oomraj.

“ The day fixed was far in advance, so that though not one in five millions of his people knew where Oomraj was, when the edict was proclaimed, all had inquired and discovered, many months before the day came, that it was among the hills near Poona and Chakun.

Every trader and cultivator in the kingdom had some cause to bless the queen's name, and wish her well ; so with one accord, they agreed, in every village throughout the land, that, as the king's rapacity left little else in their power, they should every man go, with his cart or his bullocks, and pay toll to her on that day. So to Oomraj they went; and though there was no Bhore Ghaut road in those days, they all found their way to the place ; and from sunrise to sunset, filed through the village by thousands and millions, each paying his four pice for one hundred head of cattle, and when the wearied toll-keeper counted the heaps of money after the day was done, the total was 900,000 rupees (£90,000), and the village has been called Oomraj of the 900,000, ever since. His majesty was so struck by this practical illustration of the financial benefits of a character for justice and mercy, that he reformed his administration, and the good queen had the pleasure of seeing his people happy and prosperous ever after."*

Here we stop--Chow-Chow is not a book of high pretensions ; but it is the lively production of an intelligent, amiable woman, and well accomplishes alĩ that it professes. We are indebted to its author for the pleasant employment of some hours; and have much pleasure in recommending it to our readers.


Sakoontala ; or the Lost Ring, an Indian Drama, translated into English Prose and Verse, by Monier Williams, 3rd Edition, 1856.

POETRY in a foreign tongue ought to be translated by poetry. If this applies to such poems as the Lusiad, Tasso's Jerusalem, the Henriade, how much more is it the case with oriental poetry, whose language is a reflexion of the gorgeous clime of the East. Professor

* Another story of royal domestic life in the palace of the Delhi emperors, is told in connection with zodiacal gold molurs, each of which bears the impress of some sign of the zodiac. I do not vouch for it as an historical fact. It was told me, I think, of Noor Mahal, who, when her husband bade her ask a favour of him, begged that, for one day, money might be coined in a woman's name. So the emperor ordered all his mints, for one day, to coin in her name: and I have seen a very beautiful gold mohur, which was shown me as Noor Mahal’s. I believe there are coins with her name on them. The story is told with variations : some athrming that the emperor allowed her to reign supreme for one day and that the coinage was only one of her acts of sovereignty."

Williams is doing for Sanskrit what Socrates professed to do for morals-bringing them down from the clouds to the level of common humanity. The Belles Lettres and poetic beauties of Sanskrit have been greatly overlooked. Mr. Williams has rendered full justice to the beauties of the original, and as his preface opens out the subject to general readers, we shall give extracts from it :

“ The earliest Hindoo drama, with which we are acquainted, ' The Toy-Cart,' translated by Professor H. H. Wilson, is attributed to a regal author, king Sudraka, whose reign is generally fixed in the second century B.C., and it is not improbable that others, the names of which only have been preserved, may be. long to a previous century. Considering that the nations of Europe can scarcely be said to have possessed a dramatic literature before the fourteenth or fifteenth century of the present era, the great age of the Hindu plays would of itself be a most interestiug and attractive circumstance, even if their poetical merit were not of a very high order. But when to the antiquity of these productions is added their extreme beauty and excellence as literary compositions, and when we also take into account their value as representations of the early condition of Hindu society-which, notwithstanding the lapse of two thousand years, has in many particulars obeyed the law of unchangeableness ever stamped on the manners and customs of the East-we are led to wonder that the study of the Indian drama has not commended itself in a greater degree to the attention of Europeans and especially of Englishmen. The English student, at least, is bound by considerations of duty, as well as curiosity, to make himself acquainted with a subject which illustrates and explains the condition of the millions of Hindus who owe allegiance to his own Sovereign and are governed by English lalys.

“Of all Indian dramatists, and indeed of all Indian poets, the most celebrated is Kálidísa, the writer of the present play. He comes next in date to the author of the Toy-cart; and although little is known of the circumstances of his life, yet there is satisfactory evidence to prove that he lived in the time of King Vikramáditya I., whose capital was Ujjayinì, now Oujein (a sacred and very ancient city situated to the north-east of Gujarat), and who flourished in the middle of the century preceding the commencement of our era.

Indeed, the popularity of this play with the natives of India exceeds that of any other dramatic, and probably of any other poetical, composition. But it is not in India alone that the "Sakoontala' is known and admired. Its excellence is now recognized in every literary circle throughout the continent of Europe; and its beauties, if not yet universally known and appreciated, are at least acknowledged by many learned men in every country of the civilized world. The four well-known lines of Goethe, so often quoted in relation to the Indian drama, may here be repeated : Wouldest thou the young year's blossoms and the fruits of its decline,

And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed ? Would thou the earth and heaven itself in one sole name con

I name thee, ( Sakoontala ! and all at once is said."

Augustus William von Schlegel, in his first Lecture on dramatic literature, says : Amoug the Indians, the people from whom perhaps all the cultivation of the human race has been derived, plays were known long before they could have experienced any foreign influence. It has lately been made known in Europe that they have a rich dramatic literature, which ascends back for more than two thousand years.”

- The need felt by the British public for some such translation as I have here offered, can scarcely be questioned. A great people, who, through their empire in India, command the destinies of the Eastern world, ought surely to be conversant with the most popular of Indian dramas, in which the customs of the Hindús, their opinions, prejudices, and fables, their religious rites, daily occupations and amusements, are reflected as in a mirror."


« PreviousContinue »