« PreviousContinue »
Present state of Hindoo Towns and Villages. 147
the battering of the dhekye. The stair-cases in his zenana are all made to end in trap-doors. On his roof are piles of stones kept in readiness to crush the marauder who might venture to assail the little garrison. But no man now dares to defy the authority of law. The humblest individual is now assured of protection by the State in the possession of what is earned by his diligence, or hoarded by his self-denial. There are few subjects to which the attention of our provincial gentry is so urgently needed to be turned now as the sanitation of their townships—a subject important for its results in the physical history of a nation. The lapse of three thousand years has not suggested one improvement on the principles of town-building laid down by old Menu. Drainage there is none in the topography of a Hindoo town or village. The roads are mere footpaths, traversable at the best by a single draft bullock. Bowers and gardens are indeed important in rural housekeeping. But the axe should level all that riots and rots—all that hinders ventilation, sunshine, and evaporation. The gloomy orchard is no longer wanted to shelter the householder overtaken by dacoits. Tanks and ponds are the best features in an Indian village, and their ghauts often form the gayest scenes in a village life. But out of twenty such public reservoirs, fifteen are mere cess-pools which poison the air of the village by their stench and malaria.
It is remarkable in all Hindoo towns and villages to see the low-castes occupy everywhere only the outskirts and live in small low wigwams. The hatred of the ancient Sudra is now borne against the modern Bagdees and Domes. To be at quits, the Bagdees and Domes retaliate upon their aristocratic neighbours by nightly thefts and burglaries. They cannot but choose thus to live at the expense of the community. Depredation naturally becomes the vocation of those who are excluded from all social intercourse and legitimate source of gain, and to whom no incentive is left for honourable distinction in society. Owing to this baneful excommunication, crime has become normal to low life in India, and gang-robbery prevalent from times beyond the age of the Institutes. The hereditary robber, too, deems to have his own prestige, and is slowly weaned from the ancestral habits grown into a second nature. Though better days have dawned, and the gangs have been completely broken up, still there is many a sturdy
, fellow who neither digs, nor weaves, nor joins wood for his livelihood, and who has no ostensible means of living. Very often does such a chap happen to be seen to smoke squatting before the doorway of his hut, and to cast wistful glances at the passing train, with 'a lurking devil in his eye.
From Boinchi the way lies through a fine open country, every inch of which is under cultivation. On either hand the eye wanders over one sheet of waving corn-fields, and orchards, and gardens of plantain and sugar-cane. Here and there are little meadows enlivened by cattle. Near the horizon the prospect seems to be closed in a gloomy jungle. But the traveller draws near, and is agreeably surprised to find it a nar
row belt of villages teeming with population. The scene is repeated, and again does the seeming jungle turn out to be a thick mass of the habitations of men; and so on, the deception is carried for several miles in succession.
Six miles interior to the right of the station-house at Batka is Davipoor. The Kali, to whom the village is indebted for its name, is a fierce Amazonian statue, seven feet high, and quite terror-striking to the beholder. The opulent family of the Singhees have adorned their native village with a lofty pagoda, which is much to the credit of the rural masons. From the Rail the crest of this temple is faintly descried near the horizon. Personally to us the place shall always be memorable for a cobra eating up a whole big cat.
The locomotive quickens in its pace by the turn of a peg similarly to the horse of the Indian in Scheherzade's tale ; and it goes on and on quite like a pawing steed.' Passed Mamaree,-a pretty village with many brick buildings, and a fine nuboruttun, or nine-pinnacled Hindoo temple. The beautiful country, the invigorating air, the rich prospect of cultivation for miles, the rapid succession of villages, the innumerable tanks and fish-ponds, the swarming population, and the numerous monuments of art and industry peculiar to Indian 80ciety, tell the traveller that he has entered the district of Burdwan—the district which for salubrity, fertility, populousness, wealth, and civilization, is the most reputed in Bengal. Burdwan, Bishenpoor, and Beerbhoom, were the three great Hindoo Rajdoms in the
tract popularly known under the name of Raur. That of Burdwan has alone survived, and is contemplated with a far deeper interest than the other two. Though sacked and pillaged many a time, the industry, intelligence, and number of its people, have as often covered the face of the land with wealth. Nowhere in our province is ancient capital so much hoarded. Out of the wealth annually created by its population, Burdwan pays the largest revenue of all the zillahs in Bengal. The Banka, winding in serpentine meanders, adds that babbling brook' to 'the pomp of groves' and the garniture of fields, which completes the charming variety of this well-known tract. The grand Railway viaduct, half a mile long, is an architectural wonder in the valley of the Damoodur. It is a bridle curbing that river notorious for its impetuosity.* Our journey Burdwan,—the City of Flora.
* Hardly any reader needs to be informed of the sudden rises to which the Damoodur is subject during the periodic rains. One of the most severe inundations experienced was in 1823, when this river rose higher than ever it had done in the recollection of the oldest inhabitant, and overflowed the country for many miles. All the embankments were overtopped and carried away, and scarcely a .trace of them was left. In many places the face of the country was entirely changed. The sites of fine villages, tanks, and gardens, were converted into a level plain of sand. The ground on which the crops stood became a desert in a few hours, and unfit for future cultivation by the sand with which it was overlaid. There had been five feet of water in the streets of Burdwan. The Curri, Banka, and Damoodur were united, and a sheet of water, more than 6 miles in breadth, and 3 or 4 feet in depth, flowed over the country eastward towards Culna, and across the Hooghly. The devastation was overwhelming, and the loss of lives was not much less than the loss of property. In many places the inhabitants were carried off, a few only being saved by floating on the roofs of huts, or perching upon trees. Those that escaped thus, escaped only with their lives. In that inundation, a good-sized pinnace sailed through the Sooksagur bazar. Chinsurah and Chandernagore were laid under water. A rut cr car had floated
for the day now neared its end, and all eyes were turned to greet the view of Burdwan. In a little time the sight of distant steeples and temples made itself welcome to the travellers, and before the little second-hand of a watch had thrice gone the round of its circle, we alighted on the classic soil of Burdwan. Soondra had accomplished a journey of six months in six days, we have accomplished a journey of three days in three hours—a proof of science rivalling the speed of the poet's fancy.
Travellers have hardly done justice to Burdwan, the reality of which exceeds all that is chanted in ballad or song. In all directions the scenery fully justifies its ancient poetical appellation of Koosumapoor, or the city of Flora. The very walks leading to the town lie through a succession of groves, orchards, gardens, and flower-pots; and Bharutchunder's
Burdwan, maha sthan
Chow de ka ta, poospho ban is true to the very letter. The tanks on all sides, and the constant processions of women, with pitchers of water on their waists, fully realize the ghaut-scene of that poet. There was a thin cloud over the sky, and the murky day, and the gentle breaths of air, well chimed with the softest landscapes and the softest recollections. The Banka flows its crystal stream right down to Calcutta, and stranded at the ghaut which has since been called the Rut-tollah ghaut. The bunding system, maintained for many years at a great cost, has been abandoned, and the country is left to be raised by a sitling process. No serious rise has taken place since the erection of the Railway.