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words:—“There can be no doubt that the
government of the English is the best in the world, and no Eastern government can be compared to it. Their law too is excellent, and their judges and magistrates incorruptible; still, there are serious drawbacks in the way of obtaining justice. Knowing this by experience, I long forbore pressing a case against a man who was indebted to me to a large amount; but a Parsee acquaintance eventually persuaded me to put myself into the hands of an English lawyer who, he was sure, would get my claim settled promptly and economically, and moreover gave me a note of introduction to his legal adviser. Thanking him for his courtesy, but still wary of the machinery of the law, I took the note to a Banyan and begged him to read it for me.
It contained this sentence : My dear
I send you a good fat cow; milk him well.' I need not tell you that my suspicions were confirmed, and that I preferred a voluntary compromise with my debtor, to an involuntary milking at the hands of the English advocate.” The anecdote, whether true or fabricated, is illustrative of a very common notion among the natives respecting the obstacles in the way of securing prompt justice from a British court of law in India.
It is high time to revert to our travellers, but we must leave them a little longer in the house of the “ Moorish ” merchant at Pulicat, (who was delighted with the corals and saffron, figured-velvet and knives, which they had brought for sale,) while we take a cursory glance at the political condition of the countries whither they subsequently proceeded.
The principal monarchies in the great Burmese peninsula at this period were those of Pegu and Siam. The capital of the former was the city of the same name, and of the latter, Yûthya, or Odia, situated on the river Menam above the modern capital of Bangkok. The kingdom of Pegu appears to have comprised the sea-coast as far as the fifteenth degree of south latitude, and that of Siam the whole of the Malayan peninsula, the maritime districts of which were divided into three provinces, viz., Tenasserim, Ligor, and Queda, ruled by semi-independent viceroys, of whom the chief was the viceroy of Tenasserim. It would seem, however, that Malacca, though subject to Siam, formed a separate jurisdiction under a Muhammedan deputy, whereas the governors of all the other provinces, like the mass of the people, were Buddhists. There were frequent wars at this time between Pegu and Siam, and between Pegu and the inland states of Ava and Toungoo, which before the end of the sixteenth century considerably modified the territories of the rival sovereigns.
The island of Sumatra was divided into several kingdoms, of which the principal were those of Achin and Pedir, though it is not improbable that the latter was tributary to the former. Most of the inland sovereigns professed Hinduism, and in Varthema's time the king of Pedir was a “ Pagan;” but there were many “ Moors” resident on the eastern coast, and Achin had embraced Islamism as early, at least, as the fourteenth century.
Java, also, was ruled by a number of petty Hindî kings, who were for the most part subject to a paramount sovereign, called “ Pala-Udora” by Barbosa, who resided in the interior. According to the same authority, this personage was a “Pagan;" but Crawfurd assigns A.D. 1478 as the date when the principal Hindû state was overthrown by the Muhammedans. There were many “ Moors” settled at the different seaports, and about this period Islamism appears to have been making rapid progress among the inhabitants of the maritime provinces.
Of the places visited by our travellers to the eastward of Java, there is but little to be remarked under this head. According to Varthema, the inhabitants of the Banda or Nutmeg Islands were “Pagans, who had no king, nor even a governor ;” Barbosa makes them Moors and Pagans, and Pigafetta, Moors only; to which De Barros adds, that “ they had neither king nor lord, and all their government depended on the advice of their elders." The people of the Moluccas were Pagans and Muhammedans, but most of the “ kings” were of the latter denomination. Barbosa describes one of these sovereigns, however, as being “nearly a Pagan;" from which we may infer that the population generally, as regards religion, were in a state of transition between heathenism and Islâm. Of the prevailing government in Borneo, we know scarcely anything, beyond the fact that it comprised a number of petty independent states, which were chiefly subject to heathen rulers. The inhabitants of the place where Varthema landed were Pagans, as were those of the island generally; but Crawfurd adduces evidence to prove that many of the Malay and Javanese settlers had embraced Islamism long prior to this period.
Rejoining our travellers, we shall now proceed to accompany them in their subsequent wanderings. From Pulicat, they sailed to “ Tarnassari,” which I have found no difficulty in identifying with Tenasserim, although Dr. Vincent was disposed to locate it either at Masulipatam, or between that place and the Ganges. Varthema's description of this city, its situation on the southern bank of a large river, forming a good port; the military power of the king, who maintained a standing army of 100,000 men, whose weapons were bows and lances, swords and shields, some of the latter made of tortoise-shell; the animal and vegetable productions of the country; the domestic habits of the people generally;' the
1 Varthema describes the cocks and hens at Tenasserim (p. 200) as the largest he ever saw; and among the domestic usages of the people, he speaks of their eating out of "some very beautiful vessels of wood.” (p. 201.) Colonel Yule informs me that the big cocks and hens, and very handsome vessels of lackered wood, are notable features in Burmah at the present day. He also suggests whether the word “ Mirzel,” which he has found applied to an Indian dye in a work written by a Dutch author twelve hundred years ago, and which seems to indicate the brazil-wood, one of the products of Tenasserim, may not have originated the Italian “ verzino," which Varthema uses to describe the dye, but the etymology of which I have failed to discover. (See note on p. 205.) The quotation with which he has kindiy supplied me is as follows:-“Tinctura quædam, Mirzel illis dicta, qua panni elegantissimo colore jecorario sive castaneo inficiuntur.” Whereon he remarks : “Now, has the illis dicta any foundation? It might
peculiar dress of the Brahmins, or, more correctly, Buddhist priests; the amusement of cock-fighting; the concremation of the dead bodies of the kings and principal Buddhists, and the prevailing practice of Sati, or widow-burning, with their attendant rites ;all these subjects are treated of in detail, and with an accuracy which is amply confirmed by the testimony of subsequent writers. Among the birds enumerated by our author, there is one “much larger than an eagle,” with a yellow and red beak, “a thing very beautiful to behold,” the upper mandible of which was made into sword-hilts. Professor Owen considers that this parti-coloured bill applies to the Buceros galeatus, of which a jewelled bowl, belonging to the crown jewels of the Ottoman Sultan, is formed; but which tradition had believed to have been made from the beak of the fabulous Phænix.
Varthema devotes a whole chapter to the description of an extraordinary usage among the people of Tenasserim, connected with their marriages, in which the concurrence of foreigners was importunately solicited, and illustrates it by the personal experience of his party. Extravagant and obscene as the custom is, its prevalence in the Burmese provinces is confirmed by writers of a later date, and evidence is not wanting of its existence up to a very recent period.
help us to the origin of the words brazil and verzino. Drury or Ainslie would give the synonymes." I have searched through both writers in vain for an Indian name anything approaching that of Mirzel either in form or sound, and am therefore inclined to think that it is nothing more than a native corruption of Verzino.