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« REPORT of the number of Women who were burned
alive on the Funeral Pile of their Husbands, within . thirty miles round Calcutta, from the beginning of • Bysakh (15th April) to the end of Aswin (15th • October) 1804.
From Garria to Barrypore; at eleven diferent places*
six places.... From Chanok to Kachrapara ; at four places......
Total of women burned alive in six months,
• The above report was made by persons of the Hindoo cast, deputed for that purpose, under the superintendence of the Professor of the Shanscrit and Bengalee languages in the College of Fort-William. They
* See the names of the places and other particulars in Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment in British India, p. 102, 4to. Edit.
were ten in number, and were stationed at different places during the whole period of six months. They gave in their account monthly, specifying the particulars of each immolation, so that every individual instance was subject to investigation immediately after its occurrence.
• By an account taken in 1803, the number of women sacrificed during that year, within thirty miles round Calcutta, was two hundred and seventy-five.
In the foregoing Report of six months, in 1804, it will be perceived that no account was taken of burnings in a district to the west of Calcutta, nor farther than twenty miles in some other directions ; so that the whole number of burnings within thirty miles round Calcutta, must have been considerably greater than is here stated.'
The following account will give the reader some idea of the flagitious circumstances which sometimes attend these sacrifices.
« SACRIFICE OF THE KOOLIN BRAHMIN'S
Calcutta, 30th Sept. 1807.
• A horrid tragedy was acted, on the 12th instant, near Barnagore (a place about three miles above Calcutta). A Koolin Brahmin of Cammar-hatti, by name Kristo Deb Mookerjee, died at the advanced age of ninetytwo. He had twelve wives ;* and three of them were burned alive with his dead body. Of these three, one was a venerable lady, having white locks, who had been long known in the neighbourhood. Not being able to walk, she was carried in a palanquin to the place of burning; and was then placed by the Brahmins on the funéral pile. The two other ladies were younger; one of them had a very pleasing and interesting countenance. The old lady was placed on one side of the dead husband, and the two other wives laid themselves down on the other side ; and then an old Brahmin, the eldest son of the deceased, applied his torch to the pile, with unaverted face. The pile suddenly blazed, for it was covered with combustibles; and this human sacrifice was completed amidst the din of drums and cymbals, and the shouts of Brahmins.--A person present observed, Surely if Lord Minto were here, who is just come from England, and is not used to see women burned alive, he would have
* The Koolin Brahmin is the purest of all Brahmins, and is privileged to marry as many wives as he pleases. The Hindoo families account it an honour to unite their daughters with a Koolin Brahmin. “ The Ghautucks or Registrars of the Koolin cast state, that Rajeb Bonnerjee, now of Calcutta, has forty wives; and that Raj-chunder Bonnerjee, also of Calcutta, has forty-two wives ; and intends to marry more : that Ramraja Bonnerjee, of Bicrampore, aged thirty years, and Pooran Bonnerjee, Rajkissore Chutterjee, and Roopram Mookerjee, . have each upwards of forty wives, and intend to marry more ; that Birjoo Mookerjee, of Bicrampore, wbo died about five years ago, had ninety wives.” This account was authenticated at Calcutta, in the year 1804. See further particulars in - Memoir" before quoted, 4to. p. 111.
saved these three ladies' The Mahomedan Governors saved whom they pleased, and suffered no deluded female to commit suicide, without previous investigation of the circumstances, and official permission.
In a discussion which this event has produced in Calcuttå, the following question has been asked : Who WAS GUILTY OF THE BLOOD OF THE OLD LADY; for it was manifest that she could not destroy herself ? She was carried to be burned. It was also alleged that the Brahmin who fired the pile was not guilty, because he was never informed by the English government, that there was any immortality in the action. On the contrary, he might argue that the English, witnessing this scene daily, as they do, without remonstrance, acquiesced in its propriety. The Government in India was exculpated, on the ground that the government at home never sent any instructions on the subject; and the Court of Directors were exculpated, because they were the agents of others. It remained that the Proprietors of India Stock, who originate and sanction all proceedings of the Court of Directors, WERE REMOTELY ACCESSARY TO THE DEED
The best vindication of the great body of Proprietors, is this, that some of them never heard of the Female sacrifice at all, and that few of them are acquainted with the full extent and frequency of the crime.*.--Besides, in the
* " When Rao Lacka, grandfather of the present Chief of “ Cutch, died, FIFTEEN Rakelis (concubines) burnt at his
above discussion, it was taken for granted that the Court of Directors have done nothing towards the suppression of this enormity; and that the Court of Proprieters have looked on, without concern, at this omission of duty ---But this, perhaps, may not be the case. The question then remains to be asked, ---Have the Court of Directors at any time sent instructions to their Government in India, to report on the means by which the frequency of the female sacrifice might be diminished, and the practice itself eventually abolished ?
Or have the Proprietors of India Stock at any time instructed the Court of Directors to attend to a point of so much consequence to the character of the Company, and the honour of the nation?
That the abolition is practicable has been demonstrated, and that too by the most rational and lenient measures : and these means have been pointed out by the Brahmins themselves.*
“ funeral pile ; but not one of his wives sacrificed themselves “ on this occasion. This ceremony is less expected from the " wife than from the Rackeli; and these unfortunate females “ conceive it a point of honour to consume themselves with or their Lords."
See Colonel Walker's official Report, dated 15th March, 1808, transmitted by the Bombay government to the Honourable Court of Directors. Paragraph 160.
* See them detailed in “ Memoir," before quoted, 4to.p. 49.