Part 5 out of 10
'Do you decide on having Mugganee performed?' is the question proposed
by the father of the youth to the father of the young maiden. In the
present case it was chosen, and great were the preparations of my friend
to do all possible honour to the future bride of her son.
Mugganee is the first contract, by which the parties are bound to fulfil
their engagement at an appointed time.
The dress for a bride differs in one material point from the general
style of Hindoostaunie costume: a sort of gown is worn, made of silver
tissue, or some equally expensive article, about the walking length of an
English dress; the skirt is open in front, and contains about twenty
breadths of the material, a tight body and long sleeves. The whole dress
is trimmed very richly with embroidered trimming and silver riband; the
deputtah (drapery) is made to correspond. This style of dress is the
original Hindoo fashion, and was worn at the Court of Delhi for many
centuries; but of late years it has been used only on marriage festivals
amongst the better sort of people in Hindoostaun, except Kings or Nuwaubs
sending khillauts to females, when this dress, called a jhammah, is
invariably one of the articles.
The costly dresses for the present Mugganee my friend prepared at a great
expense, and with much good taste; to which were added a ruby ring of
great value, large gold ear-rings, offerings of money, the flower-garlands
for the head, neck, wrists, and ankles, formed of the sweet-scented
jessamine; choice confectionery set out in trays with the pawns and fruits;
the whole conveyed under an escort of soldiers and servants with a band of
music, from the residence of Meer Mahumud to that of his bride elect,
accompanied by many friends of the family. These offerings from the youth
bind the contract with the young lady, who wears his ring from that day to
the end of her life.
The poorer sort of people perform Mugganee by the youth simply sending a
rupee in a silk band, to be tied on the girl's arm.
Being curious to know the whole business of a wedding ceremony amongst the
Mussulmaun people, I was allowed to perform the part of 'officiating
friend' on this occasion of celebrating the Mugganee. The parents of the
young lady having been consulted, my visit was a source of solicitude to
the whole family, who made every possible preparation to receive me with
becoming respect; I went just in time to reach the gate at the moment the
parade arrived. I was handed to the door of the zeenahnah by the girl's
father, and was soon surrounded by the young members of the family,
together with many lady-visitors, slaves, and women-servants of the
establishment. They had never before seen an English-woman, and the
novelty, I fancy, surprised the whole group; they examined my dress,
my complexion, hair, hands, &c., and looked the wonder they could not
express in words. The young Begum was not amongst the gazing throng;
some preliminary customs detained her behind the purdah, where it may
be supposed she endured all the agony of suspense and curiosity by her
compliance with the prescribed forms.
The lady of the mansion waited my approach to the dulhaun (great hall)
with all due etiquette, standing to receive and embrace me on my advancing
towards her. This ceremony performed, I was invited to take a seat on the
musnud-carpet with her on the ground; a chair had been provided for me,
but I chose to respect the lady's preference, and the seat on the floor
suited me for the time without much inconvenience.
After some time had been passed in conversation on such subjects as suited
the taste of the lady of the house, I was surprised at the servants
entering with trays, which they placed immediately before me, containing a
full-dress suit in the costume of Hindoostaun. The hostess told me she had
prepared this dress for me, and I must condescend to wear it. I would have
declined the gaudy array, but one of her friends whispered me, 'The custom
is of long standing; when the face of a stranger is first seen a dress is
always presented; I should displease Sumdun Begum by my refusal;--besides,
it would be deemed an ill omen at the Mugganee of the young Bohue Begum
if I did not put on the Native dress before I saw the face of the bride
elect.' These I found to be weighty arguments, and felt constrained to
quiet their apprehensions of ill-luck by compliance; I therefore forced
the gold dress and the glittering drapery over my other clothes, at the
expense of some suffering from the heat, for it was at the very hottest
season of the year, and the dulhaun was crowded with visitors.
This important point conceded to them, I was led to a side hall, where the
little girl was seated on her carpet of rich embroidery, her face resting
on her knees in apparent bashfulness. I could not directly ascertain
whether she was plain, or pretty as the female agent had represented. I
was allowed the privilege of decorating the young lady with the sweet
jessamine guinahs, and placing the ring on the forefinger of the right
hand; after which, the ear-rings, the gold-tissue dress, the deputtah were
all in their turn put on, the offering of money presented, and then I had
the first embrace before her mother. She looked very pretty, just turned
twelve. If I could have prevailed on her to be cheerful, I should have
been much gratified to have extended my visit in her apartment, but the
poor child seemed ready to sink with timidity; and out of compassion to
the dear girl, I hurried away from the hall, to relieve her from the
burden my presence seemed to inflict, the moment I had accomplished my
last duty, which was to feed her with my own hand, giving her seven pieces
of sugar-candy; seven, on this occasion, is the lucky number, I presume,
as I was particularly cautioned to feed her with exactly that number of
Returning to the assembly in the dulhaun, I would have gladly taken leave;
but there was yet one other custom to be observed to secure a happy omen
to the young people's union. Once again seated on the musnud with Sumdun
Begum, the female slaves entered with sherbet in silver basins. Each
person taking sherbet is expected to deposit gold or silver coins in the
tray; the sherbet-money at this house is collected for the bride; and when
during the three days' performance of the marriage ceremony at the
bridegroom's house sherbet is presented to the guests, the money collected
there is reserved for him. The produce of the two houses is afterwards
compared, and conclusions drawn as to the greatest portion of respect paid
by the friends on either side. The poor people find the sherbet-money a
useful fund to help them to keep house; but with the rich it is a mere
matter to boast of, that so much money was collected in consequence of the
number of visitors who attended the nuptials.
After the Mugganee ceremony had been performed, and before the marriage
was solemnized, the festival of Buckrah Eade occurred;--in the eleventh
Letter you will find it remarked, the bride and bridegroom elect then
exchange presents;--my friend was resolved her son's presents should do
honour to both houses, and the following may give you an idea of an
Thirty-five goats and sheep of the finest breed procurable, which I
succeeded in having sent in their natural dress, instead of being adorned
with gold-cloth and painted horns: it was, however, with some persuasion
the folly of this general practice was omitted in this instance.
The guinah or garland, of flowers on a tray covered with brocade. The
guinah are sweet-scented flowers without stalks, threaded into garlands in
many pretty ways, with great taste and ingenuity, intermixed with silver
ribands; they are formed into bracelets, necklaces, armlets, chaplets for
the head, and bangles for the legs. There are people in Lucknow who make
the preparing of guinahs a profitable business, as the population is so
extensive as to render these flower-ornaments articles of great request.
A tray filled with pawns, prepared with the usual ingredients, as lime,
cuttie (a bitter gum), betel-nut, tobacco, spices, &c.; these pawns
are tied up in packets of a triangular form and covered with enamelled
foil of many bright colours. Several trays of ripe fruits of the season,
viz., kurbootahs (shaddock), kabooza (melons), ununas (pine
apple), guavers, sherreefha (custard-apple), kummeruck,
jarmun (purple olives), orme (mango), falsah, kirhnee,
baer, leechie, ormpeach, carounder, and many other kinds
of less repute.
Confectionery and sweetmeats, on trays, in all the varieties of Indian
invention; a full-dress suit for the young lady; and on a silver tray the
youth's nuzza of five gold mohurs, and twenty-one rupees.
The Eade offering of Meer Mahumud was escorted by servants, soldiers, and
a band of music; and the young lady returned a present to the bridegroom
elect of thirty-five goats and sheep, and a variety of undress skull-caps,
supposed to be her own work, in spangles and embroidery. I may state here,
that the Natives of India never go bare-headed in the house. The turban is
always worn in company, whatever may be the inconvenience from heat; and
in private life, a small skull-cap, often of plain white muslin, just
covers the head. It is considered disgraceful in men to expose the head
bare; removing the turban from the head of an individual would be deemed
as insulting as pulling a nose in Europe.
Whatever Eade or festival may occur between the Mugganee and the final
celebration of nuptials, presents are always interchanged by the young
bride and bridegroom; and with all such observances there is one
prevailing custom, which is, that though there should be nothing at hand
but part of their own gifts, the trays are not allowed to go back without
some trifling things to keep the custom in full force.
 The _Koran_ (iv. 3) allows Musalmans to marry 'by twos, or
threes, or fours'; but the passage has been interpreted in various
 _Duli_, 'the Anglo-Indian 'dhooly'. Such wives are so called
because they are brought to the houses of their husbands in an
informal way, without a regular marriage procession.
 The King of Vijayanagar had twelve thousand wives: four thousand
followed him on foot and served in the kitchen; the same number
marched with him on horseback; the remainder in litters, and two or
three thousand of them were bound to burn themselves with his corpse
(Nicolo Conti, _India in the Fifteenth Century_, part iii, p. 6). In
Orissa a palm-leaf record states that one monarch died prematurely
just as he had married his sixty-thousandth wife, and a European
traveller speaks of a later prince who had four thousand ladies (Sir
W. Hunter, _Orissa_. ii, 132 f.). Manucci states that there were more
than thirty thousand women in the palace of Shah Jahan at Dheli,
and that he usually had two thousand women of different races in his
zenana (_Storia de Major_, i. 195, ii. 330). Tippoo Sultan of
Mysore married nine hundred women (Jaffur Shurreef, _Qanoon-e-Islam_,
 There in evidence that infanticide did prevail among some Musalman
tribes. Where actual infanticide has disappeared, it has often been
replaced by neglect of female infants, except in those castes where,
owing to a scarcity of girls, they command a high price.--_Reports
Census of India_, 1911, i. 216 ff; _Panjab_, 1911, i. 231.
 No record of this proclamation has been traced in the histories of the
 The bride is often selected by praying for a dream in sleep, by
manipulating the rosary, or by opening the _Koran_ at random, and
reading the first verse which comes under the eye. Another method is
to ascertain to which of the elements--fire, air, earth, water--the
initials of the names of the pair correspond. If these agree, it is
believed that the engagement will be prosperous.--Jaffur Shurreef,
 _Mangni_, 'the asking'.
 Compare the full account of brides' dress in Mrs. F. Parks,
_Wanderings of a Pilgrim_, i. 425.
 _Bahu_, properly a son's wife or daughter-in-law: commonly applied
to a bride or young wife.
 Probably the _genda_ or French marigold (_Tagetes erecta_).
 Sumdun is always the title of the bride's mamma; Bohue, that of the
young wife, and, therefore, my thus designating her here is premature.
[_Samdhan_ means a connexion by marriage. The mothers of bride and
bridegroom are _samdhan_ to each other.]
 _Kuth, kuttha_, the gum of _Acacia catechu_.
 The shaddock (_Citrus decumana_) is called _chakoira_; possibly
confused with the next.
 _Kharbuzah, Cucumis melo_.
 _Ananas, Ananassa saliva_.
 _Sharifah, Anona squamosa_.
 _Kamrak, Averrhoa Carambola_.
 _Jamun, jaman, Eugenia Jambolana_.
 _Am, Mangifera indica_.
 _Falsa, phalsa, Greuria asiatica_.
 _Kirni, Canthium parviflorum_.
 _Ber, Zizyphus Jujuba_.
 _Lichi, Nephelium Lichi_.
 Possibly some confusion between _um_, the mango, and _alu,
aru_, the peach.
 _Karaunda, Carissa Carandas_.
Wedding ceremonies of the Mussulmauns.--The new or full moon
propitious to the rites being concluded.--Marriage settlements
unknown.--Control of the wife over her own property.--Three days and
nights occupied in celebrating the wedding.--Preparations previously
made by both families.--Ostentatious display on those occasions.--Day
of Sarchuck.--Customs on the day of Mayndhie.--Sending presents.--Day
of Baarraat.--Procession of the bridegroom to fetch the bride.--The
bride's departure to her new home.--Attendant ceremonies
explained.--Similarity of the Mussulmaun and Hindu
ceremonies.--Anecdote of a Moollah.--Tying the Narrah to the Moosul.
When the young lady's family have made all the necessary arrangements for
that important event (their daughter's nuptials), notice is sent to the
friends of the intended bridegroom, and the gentlemen of both families
meet to settle on what day the celebration is to take place. They are
guided in the final arrangement by the state of the moon--the new or full
moon has the preference; she must, however, be clear of Scorpio, which, as
I have before stated, they consider the unfortunate sign. There are
some moons in the year considered very unpropitious to marry in. At
Mahurrum, for instance, no emergency as to time or circumstance would
induce the female party to consent to the marriage solemnities taking
place. In Rumzaun they have scruples, though not equal to those which they
entertain against fulfilling the contract in Mahurrum, the month of
Marriage settlements are not known in Mussulmaun society. All contracts
are made by word of mouth; and to their credit, honourable reliance is
usually followed by honourable fulfilment of agreements. The husband is
expected to be satisfied with whatever portion of his wife's fortune the
friends may deem consistent or prudent to grant with their daughter. The
wife is at liberty to keep under her own control any separate sum or
allowance her parents may be pleased to give her, over and above the
marriage portion granted to the husband with his wife.
The husband rarely knows the value of his wife's private property unless,
as sometimes happens, the couple in after years have perfect confidence in
each other, and make no separate interests in worldly matters.
Occasionally, when the married couple have not lived happily together, the
wife has been known to bury her cash secretly; and perhaps she may die
without disclosing the secret of her treasure to any one.
In India the practice of burying treasure is very common with females,
particularly in villages, or where there are fears entertained of robbers.
There is no difficulty in burying cash or other treasure, where the ground
floors of the houses are merely beaten earth--boarded floors, indeed, are
never seen in Hindoostaun--in the houses of the first classes of Natives
they sometimes have them bricked and plastered, or paved with marble.
During the rainy season I have sometimes observed the wooden tuckht (a
portable platform) in use with aged or delicate females, on which they
make their seats from fear of the damp from the mud floor; but they
complain that these accommodations are not half so comfortable as their
The division of personal property between married people has the effect of
rendering the wife much more independent than the married lady of other
countries. The plan is a judicious one in the existing state of Mussulmaun
society, for since the husband could at his pleasure add other wives, the
whole property of the first wife might be squandered on these additions.
In the middling classes of society, and where the husband is a religious
person, this division of property is not so strictly maintained; yet every
wife has the privilege, if she chooses to exercise it, of keeping a
private purse, which the good wife will produce unasked to meet her
husband's emergencies; and which the good husband is never known to demand,
however great may be his necessities. There are many traits of character
in the Mussulmaun world that render them both amiable and happy, wherever
politeness of behaviour is brought to bear. I have seen some bright
examples of forbearance and affectionate solicitude in both sexes, which
would do honour to the most refined societies of the civilized world.
The marriage ceremony occupies three days and nights:--The first is called,
Sarchuck; the second, Mayndhie; and the third, Baarraat, (fate or
destiny is the meaning of this word).
I am not aware that three days are required to accomplish the nuptials of
the young couple in any other society of Mussulmauns distinct from those
of Hindoostaun. Judging by similar usages among the Hindoo population, I
am rather disposed to conjecture that this is one of the customs of the
aborigines, imitated by the invaders, as the outward parade and publicity
given to the event by the Mussulmauns greatly resemble those of the
There are no licences granted, nor any form of registry kept of marriages.
Any person who is acquainted with the Khoraun may read the marriage
ceremony, in the presence of witnesses if it be possible; but they usually
employ a professed Moollah or Maulvee, in consideration of such persons
being the most righteous in their lives; for they make this engagement a
religious, as well as a civil contract.
The day being fixed, the elders, male and female, of the two families,
invite their several relatives, friends, and acquaintances to assemble,
according to their means and convenience for entertaining visitors. The
invitations are written in the Persian character on red paper, describing
the particular event which they are expected to honour. During the week
previous to Sarchuck, both families are busily engaged in sending round to
their several friends trays of ready-cooked dinners. Rich and poor share
equally on these occasions; the reason assigned for which is, that the
persons' nuptials may be registered in the minds of those who partake of
the food, who in the course of time, might otherwise forget that they had
ever heard of the young couple's nuptials.
The mother of Bohue Begum actively employed the intervening time, in
finishing her preparations for the young lady's departure from the
parental roof with suitable articles, which might prove the bride was not
sent forth to her new family without a proper provision. There is
certainly too much ostentation evinced on these occasions; but custom,
prided custom, bids defiance to every better argument; and thus the mother,
full of solicitude that her daughter should carry with her evident marks
of parental affection, and be able to sustain her rank in life, loads her
child with a profusion of worldly goods. The poorest people, in this
instance, imitate their superiors with a blameable disregard to
consequences. Many parents among the lower orders incur heavy debts to
enable them to make a parade at their children's wedding, which proves a
source of misery to themselves as long as they live.
It may be presumed the Sumdun Begum prepared more suits of finery than her
daughter could wear out for years. A silver bedstead with the necessary
furniture, as before described; a silver pawn-dawn, round, and shaped
very like a modern spice-box in England; a silver chillumchee
(wash-hand basin), and lota (water-jug with a spout, nearly resembling an
old-fashioned coffee-pot); a silver luggun (spittoon); silver
surraie (water-bottle); silver basins for water; several dozens of
copper saucepans, plates and spoons for cooking; dishes, plates, and
platters in all variety needful for the house, of metal or of stone. China
or glass is rarely amongst the bride's portion, the only articles of glass
I remember to have seen was the looking-glass for the bride's toilette,
and that was framed and cased in pure silver. Stone dishes are a curious
and expensive article, brought from Persia and Arabia, of a greenish
colour, highly polished; the Natives call them racaab-puttie, and
prefer them to silver at their meals, having an idea that poisoned food
would break them; and he who should live in fear of such a calamity, feels
secure that the food is pure when the dish of this rare stone is placed
before him perfect.
Amongst the various articles sent with the bride to her new home is the
much prized musnud, cushions and carpet to correspond; shutteringhies, and
calico carpets, together with the most minute article used in Native
houses, whether for the kitchen, or for the accommodation of the young
lady in her apartments; all these are conveyed in the lady's train when
she leaves her father's house to enter that of her husband. I am afraid my
descriptions will be deemed tediously particular, so apt are we to take
the contagion of example from those we associate with; and as things
unimportant in other societies are made of so much consequence to these
people, I am in danger of giving to trifles more importance than may be
agreeable to my readers.
On the day of Sarchuck the zeenahnahs of both houses are completely filled
with visitors of all grades, from the wives and mothers of noblemen, down
to the humblest acquaintance of the family. To do honour to the hostess,
the guests appear in their best attire and most valuable ornaments.
A wedding in the family of a respectable Mussulmaun is very often the
medium of reconciling long standing estrangements between friends. Human
nature has the same failings in every climate; there will be some who
entertain jealousies and envyings in all societies, but a wedding with
these people is a perfect peace-maker, since none of the invited can
consistently stay away; and in such an assembly, where is the evil mind to
disturb harmony, or recur to past grievances?
The day of Sarchuck is the first time the young lady receives the
appellation of Dullun, at which time also the bridegroom is designated
Dullha. Dullun is kept in strict confinement, in a dark room or closet,
during the whole three days' merriment going forward under the parental
roof; whilst the bridegroom is the most prominent person in the assembly
of the males, where amusements are contrived to please and divert him, the
whole party vieing in personal attentions to him. The ladies are occupied
in conversation and merriment, and amused with the native songs and music
of the dominie, smoking the hookha, eating pawn, dinner, &c. Company is
their delight, and time passes pleasantly with them in such an assembly.
The second day, Mayndhie, is one of bustle and preparation in the Sumdun
Begum's department; it is spent in arranging the various articles that are
to accompany the bride's Mayndhie, which is forwarded in the evening to
the bridegroom with great parade.
It is so well known that I need hardly mention the fact, that the herb
mayndhie is in general request amongst the natives of India, for the
purpose of dyeing the hands and feet; it is considered by them an
indispensable article to their comfort, keeping those members cool and a
great ornament to the person.
Long established custom obliges the bride to send mayndhie on the second
night of the nuptials to the bridegroom; and, to make the event more
conspicuous, presents proportioned to the means of the party accompany the
trays of prepared mayndhie.
The female friends of the bride's family attend the Mayndhie procession in
covered conveyances, and the male guests on horses, elephants, and in
palkies; trains of soldiers, servants, and bands of music swell the
procession (among people of distinction) to a magnitude inconceivable to
those who have not visited the Native cities of Hindoostaun, or witnessed
the parade of a marriage ceremony.
Amongst the bride's presents with mayndhie, may be noticed every thing
requisite for a full-dress suit for the bridegroom, and the etceteras of
his toilette; confectionery, dried fruits, preserves, the prepared pawns,
and a multitude of trifles too tedious to enumerate, but which are
nevertheless esteemed luxuries with the Native young people, and are
considered essential to the occasion. One thing I must not omit, the
sugar-candy, which forms the source of amusement when the bridegroom is
under the dominion of the females in his mother's zeenahnah. The artush
bajie, (fireworks) sent with the presents, are concealed in flowers
formed of the transparent uberuck: these flowers are set out in frames,
called chumund, and represent beds of flowers in their varied forms
and colours; these in their number and gay appearance have a pretty effect
in the procession, interspersed with the trays containing the dresses, &c.
All the trays are first covered with basket-work raised in domes, and over
these are thrown draperies of broadcloth, gold-cloth, and brocade, neatly
fringed in bright colours.
The Mayndhie procession having reached the bridegroom's house, bustle and
excitement pervade through every department of the mansion. The gentlemen
are introduced to the father's hall; the ladies to the youth's mother, who
in all possible state is prepared to receive the bride's friends.
The interior of a zeenahnah has been already described; the ladies crowd
into the centre hall to witness, through the blinds of bamboo, the
important process of dressing the young bridegroom in his bride's presents.
The centre purdah is let down, in which are openings to admit the hands
and feet; and close to this purdah a low stool is placed. When all these
preliminary preparations are made, and the ladies securely under cover,
notice is sent to the male assembly that, 'Dullha is wanted'; and he then
enters the zeenahnah court-yard, amidst the deafening sounds of trumpets
and drums from without, and a serenade from the female singers within. He
seats himself on the stool placed for him close to the purdah, and obeys
the several commands he receives from the hidden females, with childlike
docility. The moist mayndhie is then tied on with bandages by hands he
cannot see, and, if time admits, one hour is requisite to fix the dye
bright and permanent on the hands and feet. During this delay, the hour is
passed in lively dialogues with the several purdahed dames, who have all
the advantage of seeing though themselves unseen; the singers occasionally
lauding his praise in extempore strains, after describing the loveliness
of his bride, (whom they know nothing about), and foretelling the
happiness which awaits him in his marriage, but which, in the lottery, may
perhaps prove a blank. The sugar-candy, broken into small lumps, is
presented by the ladies whilst his hands and feet are fast bound in the
bandages of mayndhie; but as he cannot help himself, and it is an omen of
good to eat the bride's sweets at this ceremony, they are sure he will try
to catch the morsels which they present to his mouth and then draw back,
teasing the youth with their banterings, until at last he may successfully
snap at the candy, and seize the fingers also with the dainty, to the
general amusement of the whole party and the youth's entire satisfaction.
The mayndhie supposed to have done its duty, the bandages are removed; his
old unnah, the nurse of his infancy (always retained for life),
assists him with water to wash off the leaves, dries his feet and hands,
rubs him with otta, robes him in his bride's presents, and ornaments
him with the guinah. Thus attired he takes leave of his tormentors, sends
respectful messages to his bride's family, and bows his way from their
guardianship to the male apartment, where he is greeted by a flourish of
trumpets and the congratulations of the guests, many of whom present
nuzzas and embrace him cordially.
The dinner is introduced at twelve amongst the bridegroom's guests, and
the night passed in good-humoured conviviality, although the strongest
beverage at the feast consists of sugar and water sherbet. The
dancing-women's performances, the display of fireworks, the dinner, pawn,
and hookha, form the chief amusements of the night, and they break up only
when the dawn of morning approaches.
The bride's female friends take sherbet and pawn after the bridegroom's
departure from the zeenahnah, after which they hasten away to the bride's
assembly, to detail the whole business of their mission.
I have often heard the ladies complain, that the time hangs very heavy on
their hands whilst the party have gone to perform Mayndhie, until the
good ladies return with their budget of particulars. Hundreds of questions
are then put to them by the inquisitive dames, how the procession passed
off?--whether accident or adventure befel them on the march?--what remarks
were made on the bride's gifts?---but most of all they want to know, how
the bridegroom looked, and how he behaved under their hands? The events of
the evening take up the night in detailing, with the occasional
interruptions of dinner, pawn, and sherbet; and so well are they amused,
that they seldom feel disposed to sleep until the crowing of the cock
warns them that the night has escaped with their diversified amusements.
The eventful Baarraat arrives to awaken in the heart of a tender mother
all the good feelings of fond affection; she is, perhaps, about to part
with the great solace of her life under many domestic trials; at any rate,
she transfers her beloved child to another protection. All marriages are
not equally happy in their termination; it is a lottery, a fate, in the
good mother's calculation. Her darling child may be the favoured of Heaven
for which she prays; she may be, however, the miserable first wife of a
licentious pluralist; nothing is certain, but she will strive to trust in
God's mercy, that the event prove a happy one to her dearly-loved girl.
I have said the young bride is in close confinement during the days of
celebrating her nuptials; on the third she is tormented with the
preparations for her departure. The mayndhie must be applied to her hands
and feet, the formidable operations of bathing, drying her hair, oiling
and dressing her head, dyeing her lips, gums, and teeth with antimony,
fixing on her the wedding ornaments, the nut (nose-ring) presented by her
husband's family: the many rings to be placed on her fingers and toes, the
rings fixed in her ears, are all so many new trials to her, which though a
complication of inconveniences, she cannot venture to murmur at, and
therefore submits to with the passive meekness of a lamb.
Towards the close of the evening, all this preparation being fulfilled,
the marriage portion is set in order to accompany the bride. The guests
make their own amusements for the day; the mother is too much occupied
with her daughter's affairs to give much of her time or attention to them;
nor do they expect it, for they all know by experience the nature of a
mother's duties at such an interesting period.
The bridegroom's house is nearly in the same state of bustle as the
bride's, though of a very different, description, as the preparing for the
reception of a bride is an event of vast importance in the opinion of a
Mussulmaun. The gentlemen assemble in the evening, and are regaled with
sherbet and the hookha, and entertained with the nuutch-singing and
fireworks until the appointed hour for setting out in the procession to
fetch the bride to her new home.
The procession is on a grand scale; every friend or acquaintance, together
with their elephants, are pressed into the service of the bridegroom on
this night of Baarraat. The young man himself is mounted on a handsome
charger, the legs, tail, and mane of which are dyed with mayndhie, whilst
the ornamental furniture of the horse is splendid with spangles and
embroidery. The dress of the bridegroom is of gold-cloth, richly trimmed
with a turban to correspond, to the top of which is fastened an immense
bunch of silver trimming, that falls over his face to his waist, and
answers the purpose of a veil, (this is in strict keeping with the
Hindoo custom at their marriage processions). A select few of the females
from the bridegroom's house attend in his train to bring home the bride,
accompanied by innumerable torches, with bands of music, soldiers, and
servants, to give effect to the procession. On their arrival at the gate
of the bride's residence, the gentlemen are introduced to the father's
apartments, where fireworks, music, and singing, occupy their time and
attention until the hour for departure arrives.
The marriage ceremony is performed in the presence of witnesses, although
the bride is not seen by any of the males at the time, not even by her
husband, until they have been lawfully united according to the common form.
In the centre of the hall, in the zeenahnah, a tuckht (platform) six feet
square is placed, on which the musnud of gold brocade is set. This is the
bride's seat when dressed for her nuptials; she is surrounded by ladies
who bear witness to the marriage ceremony. The purdahs are let down, and
the Maulvee, the bridegroom, the two fathers, and a few male friends are
introduced to the zeenahnah court-yard, with a flourish of trumpets and
deafening sounds of drums. They advance with much gravity towards the
purdahs, and arrange themselves close to this slender partition between
the two sexes.
The Maulvee commences by calling on the young maiden by name, to answer to
his demand, 'Is it by your own consent this marriage takes place
with ----?' naming the person who is the bridegroom; the bride answers,
'It is by my consent.' The Maulvee then explains the law of Mahumud, and
reads a certain chapter from that portion of the Khoraun which binds the
parties in holy wedlock. He then turns to the young man, and asks him
to name the sum he proposes as his wife's dowry. The bridegroom thus
called upon, names ten, twenty, or perhaps a hundred lacs of rupees; the
Maulvee repeats to all present the amount proposed, and then prays that
the young couple thus united may be blessed in this world and in eternity.
All the gentlemen then retire, except the bridegroom, who is delayed, as
soon as this is accomplished, entering the hall until the bride's guests
have retreated into the side rooms: as soon as this is accomplished he is
introduced into the presence of his mother-in-law and her daughter by the
women servants. He studiously avoids looking up as he enters the hall,
because, according to the custom of this people, he must first see his
wife's face in a looking-glass, which is placed before the young couple,
when he is seated on the musnud by his bride. Happy for him if he then
beholds a face that bespeaks the gentle being he hopes Fate has destined
to make him happy; if otherwise he must submit; there is no untying the
Many absurd customs follow this first introduction of the bride and
bridegroom. When the procession is all formed, the goods and chattels of
the bride are loaded on the heads of the carriers; the bridegroom conveys
his young wife in his arms to the chundole (covered palankeen), which is
in readiness within the court, and the procession moves off in grand style,
with a perpetual din of noisy music until they arrive at the bridegroom's
The poor mother has perhaps had many struggles with her own heart to save
her daughter's feelings during the preparation for departure; but when the
separation takes place the scene is affecting beyond description. I never
witnessed anything to equal it in other societies: indeed, so powerfully
are the feelings of the mother excited, that she rarely acquires her usual
composure until her daughter is allowed to revisit her, which is generally
within a week after her marriage.
P.S.--I have remarked that, in important things which have nothing to do
with the religion of the Mussulmauns, they are disposed to imitate the
habits of the Hindoos; this is more particularly to be traced in many of
their wedding customs.
In villages where there are a greater proportion of Hindoos than
Mussulmauns the females of the two people mix more generally than is
usually allowed in cities or large towns; and it is among this mingled
population that we find the spirit of superstition influencing the female
character in more marked manner than it does in more populous places,
which the following anecdote, will illustrate. The parties were known to
the person who related the circumstance to me.
'A learned man, a moollah or head-teacher and expounder of the
Mahumudan law, resided in a village six koss (twelve miles English)
distant from Lucknow, the capital of Oude. This moollah was married to a
woman of good family, by whom he had a large progeny of daughters. He
lived in great respect, and cultivated his land with success, the produce
of his farm not only supporting his own family, but enabling the good
moollah to distribute largely amongst the poor, his neighbours, and the
passing traveller. A hungry applicant never left his door without a meal
of the same wholesome, yet humble fare, which formed his own daily
sustenance. Bread and dhall he preferred to the most choice delicacies, as
by this abstemious mode of living, he was enabled to feed and comfort the
afflicted with the residue of his income.
'This moollah was one of the most pious men of the age, and alive to the
interests of his fellow-mortals, both temporal and eternal. He gave
instruction gratis to as many pupils as chose to attend his lectures, and
desired to acquire from his matured knowledge an introduction to the
points of faith, and instruction in the Mussulmaun laws. Numbers of young
students attended his hall daily, to listen to the expounding of the rules
and maxims he had acquired by a long life devoted to the service of God,
and his duty to mankind. In him, many young men found a benefactor who
blended instruction with temporal benefits; so mild and persuasive were
this good moollah's monitions, that he lived in the affection, venerations
and respect of his pupils, as a fond father in the love of his children.
'The wife of this good man managed the domestic affairs of the family,
which were very little controlled by her husband's interference. On an
occasion of solemnizing the nuptials of one of their daughters, the wife
sent a message to the moollah, by a female slave, requiring his immediate
presence in the zeenahnah, that he might perform his allotted part in the
ceremony, which, as elder of the house, could not be confided to any other
hands but his. This was to "tie the naarah to the moosul".
'The moollah was deeply engaged in expounding to his pupils a difficult
passage of the Khoraun when the slave entered and delivered her message.
"Coming", he answered, without looking at the messenger, and continued his
'The good woman of the house was in momentary expectation of her husband's
arrival, but when one hour had elapsed, her impatience overcame her
discretion, and she dispatched the slave a second time to summon the
moollah, who, in his anxiety to promote a better work, had forgotten the
subject of tying the naarah to the moosul. The slave again entered the
hall, and delivered her lady's message; he was then engaged in a fresh
exposition, and, as before, replied "coming", but still proceeding with
his subject as if he heard not the summons.
'Another hour elapsed, and the wife's ordinary patience was exhausted; "Go
to your master, slave!" she said with authority in her voice and manner;
"go ask your master from me, whether it is his intention to destroy the
peace of his house, and the happiness of his family. Ask him, why he
should delay performing so important a duty at this ceremony, when his own
daughter's interest and welfare are at stake?"
'The slave faithfully conveyed the message, and the moollah, finding that
his domestic peace depended on submitting to the superstitious notions of
his wife, accompanied the slave to the zeenahnah without further delay.
'The moollah's compliance with the absurd desires of his wife surprised
the students, who discussed the subject freely in his absence. He having
always taught them the folly of prejudice and the absurdity of
superstition, they could not, comprehend how it was the moollah had been
led to comply with a request so much at variance with the principles he
endeavoured to impress upon them.
'On his return, after a short absence, to his pupils, he was about to
re-commence the passage at which he had left off to attend his wife's
summons; one of the young men, however, interrupted him by the inquiry,
"Whether he had performed the important business of tying the naarah to the
moosul?"--"Yes," answered the moollah, very mildly, "and by so doing I
have secured peace to my wife's disturbed mind."--"But how is it, reverend
Sir," rejoined the student, "that your actions and your precepts are at
variance? You caution us against every species of superstition, and yet
that you have in this instance complied with one, is very evident."--"I
grant you, my young friend," said the moollah, "that I have indeed done so,
but my motive for this deviation is, I trust, correct. I could have argued
with you on the folly of tying the naarah to the moosul, and you would
have been convinced by my arguments; but my wife, alas! would not listen
to anything but the custom--the custom of the whole village. I went with
reluctance, I performed the ceremony with still greater; yet I had no
alternative if I valued harmony in my household: this I have now secured
by my acquiescence in the simple desire of my wife. Should any evil
accident befall my daughter or her husband, I am spared the reproaches
that would have been heaped upon me, as being the cause of the evil, from
my refusal to tie the naarah to the moosul. The mere compliance with this
absurd custom, to secure peace and harmony, does not alter my faith; I
have saved others from greater offences, by my passive obedience to the
wishes of my wife, who ignorantly places dependance on the act, as
necessary to her daughter's welfare."
'The students were satisfied with his explanation, and their respect was
increased for the good man who had thus taught them to see and to cherish
the means of living peaceably with all mankind, whenever their actions do
not tend to injure their religious faith, or infringe on the principles of
morality and virtue.'
 See p. 158.
 For the right of the bride to her private property, see N.E.B. Baillie,
_Digest of Moohummudan Law_ (1875), 146 ff.
 _Sachaq_, the fruits and other gifts carried in procession in
earthen pots ornamented with various devices.--Jaffur Shurreef,
 _Barat, barat_: meaning 'bridegroom's procession'.
 Among the Khojas of West India a person from the lodge to which the
parties belong recites the names of the Panjtan-i-pak, the five
holy ones--Muhammad, 'Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, Husain--with the
invocation: 'I begin the wedding of ---- with ----, to wed as did
Fatimah, the bright-faced Lady (on whom be peace!) with the Lord and
Leader, the Receiver of the Testament of the Chosen and Pure, the Lord
'Ali, the son of Abu-Talib.'--_Bombay Gazetteer_, ix, part ii,
 _Rikab_, 'a cup'; _patthari_, 'made of stone'. China dishes are
also supposed to betray poison: see J. Fryer, _A New Account of East
India and Persia_ (Hakluyt Society's edition), i. 87.
 _Menhdi_: the henna plant, _Lawsonia alba_.
 _Atishbazi_, fire-play.
 _Abrak_, talc.
 _Chaman_, a flower-bed.
 Otto, _'itr_ of roses.
 'The dress of the bridegroom consisted entirely of cloth of gold;
and across his forehead was bound a sort of fillet made of an
embroidery of pearls, from which, long strings of gold hung down all
over his face to his saddle-bow; and to his mouth he kept a red silk
handkerchief closely pressed to prevent devils entering his
mouth.'--Mrs. F. Parks, _Wanderings of a Pilgrim_, i. 438 f. This
fillet is called _sihra_, and it is intended to avert the influence
of the Evil Eye and of demons.
 The officiating Mulla or Qazi lifts the bridegroom's veil,
makes him gargle his throat three times with water, and seating him
facing Mecca, requires him to repeat a prayer to Allah for forgiveness
(_istighfarullah_); the four Qul, or chapters of the _Koran_
commencing with the word _qul_, 'say' (cix, cxii, cxiii, cxiv); the
Kalima or Creed: 'There is no deity but Allah: Muhammad is the
Apostle of Allah'; the Articles of Belief (_Sifat-i-iman_) in
Allah, his Angels, the Scriptures, the Prophets, the Resurrection,
and Day of Judgement. His absolute decree and predestination of Good
and Evil; the Prayer of Obedience, said standing
(_du'a'l-qunut_). If he be illiterate, the meaning of all these
should be explained to him.--Jafnir Shurreef, _Qanoon-e-Islam_, 86.
 The naarah is a cord of many threads dyed red and yellow; the moosul
the heavy beam in use where rice is to be cleansed from the husks. The
custom is altogether of Hindoo origin. [_Author_.] [When the condiment
(_ubtan_), made of the flour of gram, mixed with oil and perfumes,
which is rubbed on the bride and bridegroom, is being ground, the
handle of the hand-mill is smeared with sandalwood paste, powder of a
kind of nut ( _Vangueira spinosa_), and some betel leaves; betel-nuts
wrapped in a piece of new red cloth are tied to it. Then seven women,
whose husbands are living, sit down to grind the condiment. Some raw
rice is put in a red cloth, and with a parcel of betel-leaf is tied to
the mill-handle with a thread (_nara_). Women pretend to beat it,
and sing a marriage song. The rite is a form of fertility magic. The
handle of the mill here represents the rice-pounder (_musal_) in
the rite described in the text.--_Bombay Gazetteer_, ix, part i, 101;
part ii, 163 f.]
On the birth and management of children in Hindoostaun.--Increase of
joy on the birth of a Son.--Preference generally shown to male
children.--Treatment of Infants.--Day of Purification.--Offerings
presented on this occasion to the child.--The anniversary of the
birthday celebrated.--Visit of the father to the Durgah.--Pastimes of
boys.--Kites.--Pigeons.--The Mhogdhur.--Sword-exercise.--The Bow and
Arrows.--The Pellet-bow.--Crows.--Sports of Native
gentlemen.--Cock-fighting.--Remarks upon horses, elephants, tigers,
and leopards.--Pigeon-shooting.--Birds released from captivity on
particular occasions.--Reasons for the extension of the royal
clemency in Native Courts.--Influence of the Prime Minister in the
administration of justice.
The bustle of a wedding in the family of a Mussulmaun having subsided, and
the bride become familiar with her new relatives, the mother also
reconciled to the separation from her child by the knowledge of her
happiness,--for they are allowed frequent intercourse,--the next important
subject which fills their whole hearts with hope and anxiety, is the
expected addition to the living members of the family. Should this occur
within the first year of their union, it is included in the catalogue of
'Fortune's favours', as an event of no small magnitude to call forth their
joy and gratitude. Many are the trifling ceremonies observed by the
females of this uneducated people, important in their view to the
well-being of both mother and infant, but so strongly partaking of
superstition that time would be wasted in speaking of them; I will
therefore hasten to the period of the infant's birth, which, if a boy, is
greeted by the warmest demonstrations of unaffected joy in the houses both
of the parents of the bride and bridegroom. When a female child is born,
there is much less clamourous rejoicing at its birth than when a son is
added to honour the family; but the good mother will never be
dissatisfied with the nature of the gift, who can appreciate the source
whence she receives the blessing. She rests satisfied that unerring Wisdom
hath thus ordained, and bows with submission to His decree. She desires
sons only as they are coveted by the father, and procure for the mother
increased respect from the world, but she cannot actually love her infant
less because it is a female.
The birth of a son is immediately announced by a discharge of artillery,
where cannon are kept; or by musketry in the lower grades of the Native
population, even to the meanest peasant, with whom a single match-lock
proclaims the honour as effectually as the volley of his superiors. The
women say the object in firing at the moment the child is born, is to
prevent his being startled at sounds by giving him so early an
introduction to the report of muskets; but in this they are evidently
mistaken, since we never find a musket announcing the birth of a female
child. They fancy there is more honour attached to a house where are
many sons. The men make them their companions, which in the present state
of Mussulmaun society, girls cannot be at any age. Besides which, so great
is the trouble and anxiety in getting suitable matches for their daughters,
that they are disposed to be more solicitous for male than female children.
Amongst the better sort of people the mother very rarely nourishes her own
infant; and I have known instances, when a wet-nurse could not be procured,
where the infant has been reared by goals' milk, rather than the good lady
should be obliged to fatigue herself with her infant. The great objection
is, that in Mussulmaun families nurses are required to be abstemious in
their diet, by no means an object of choice amongst so luxurious a people.
A nurse is not allowed for the first month or more to taste animal food,
and even during the two years--the usual period of supporting infancy by
this nourishment--the nurse lives by rule both in quality and quantity of
such food only as may be deemed essential to the well-being of the child.
The lower orders of the people benefit by their superiors' prejudices
against nursing, and a wet-nurse once engaged in a family becomes a member
of that house to the end of her days, unless she chooses to quit it
On the fourth day after the birth of a son, the friends of both families
are invited to share in the general joy testified by a noisy assembly of
singing-women, people chattering, smell of savoury dishes, and constant
bustle; which, to any other females in the world would be considered
annoyances, but in their estimation are agreeable additions to the
happiness of the mother, who is in most cases screened only by a curtain
from the multitude of noisy visitors assembled to rejoice on the important
event. I could not refrain, on one of these occasions, remarking on the
injudicious arrangement at such a time, when I thought quiet was really
needed to the invalid's comfort. The lady thought otherwise; she was too
much rejoiced at this moment of her exaltation to think of quiet; all the
world would know she was the mother of a son; this satisfied her for all
that she suffered from the noisy mirth and increased heat arising from the
multitude of her visitors, who stayed the usual time, three days and
nights. The ladies, however, recover their strength rapidly. They are
attended by females in their time of peril, and with scarcely an instance
of failure. Nature is kind. Science has not yet stepped within the
confines of the zeenahnah. All is Nature with these uneducated females,
and as they are under no apprehension, the hour arrives without terror,
and passes over without weakening fears. They trust in God, and suffer
patiently. It may be questioned, however, whether their pains at that
juncture equal those of females in Europe. Their figure has never been
tortured by stays and whalebone; indeed, I do not recollect having met
with an instance of deformity in the shape of any inhabitant of a
On the ninth day the infant is well bathed,--I cannot call any of its
previous ablutions a bath,--then its little head is well oiled, and the
fillet thrown aside, which is deemed necessary from the first to the ninth
day. The infant from its birth is laid in soft beaten cotton, with but
little clothing until it has been well bathed, and even then the dress
would deserve to be considered more as ornamental covering than useful
clothing; a thin muslin loose shirt, edged and bordered with silver
ribands, and a small skull-cap to correspond, comprises their dress.
Blankets, robes, and sleeping-dresses, are things unknown in the nursery
of a zeenahnah. The baby is kept during the month in a reclining position,
except when the nurse receives it in her arms to nourish it; indeed for
many months the infant is but sparingly removed from its reclining
position. They would consider it a most cruel disturbance of a baby's
tranquillity, to set it up or hold it in the arms, except for the purpose
of giving it nourishment.
The infant's first nourishment is of a medicinal kind, composed of
umultass(cassia), a vegetable aperient, with sugar, and distilled water
of aniseed; this is called gootlie, and the baby has no other food for
the first three days, after which it receives the nurse's aid. After the
third day a small proportion of opium is administered, which practice is
continued daily until the child is three or four years old.
The very little clothing on infants in India would of itself teach the
propriety of keeping them in a reclining position, as the mere natural
strength of the poor baby has nothing to support it by the aid of bandages
or clothing. The nurse receives the baby on a thin pillow of calico
quilted together, called gooderie; it is changed us often us required,
and is the only method as yet introduced amongst the Natives to secure
cleanliness and comfort to their infants. In the cold season, when the
thermometer may range from forty-five to fifty, the method of inducing
warmth is by means of cotton or wadded quilts; flannel, as I have said
before, they know not the use of. The children, however, thrive without
any of those things we deem essential to the comfort of infancy, and the
mamma is satisfied with the original customs, which, it may be supposed,
are (without a single innovation) unchanged since the period of Abraham,
their boasted forefather.
On the fortieth day after the infant's birth, the same rites are observed
as by the Jews (with the exception of circumcision), and denominated, as
with them, the Day of Purification. On this day the infant is submitted to
the hands of the barber, who shaves the head, as commanded by their law.
The mother bathes and dresses in her most costly attire. Dinner is cooked
for the poor in abundance. Friends and relatives call on the mother to
present nuzzas and offerings, and to bring presents to the child, after
the manner of the wise men's offerings, so familiar to us in our
Scriptures. The offerings to the child are often costly and pretty;
bangles and various ornaments of the precious metals. The taawees of
gold and silver are tablets on which engraved verses from the Khoraun are
inscribed in Arabic characters; these are strung on cords of gold thread,
and suspended, when the child is old enough to bear their weight, over one
shoulder, crossing the back and chest, and reaching below the hip on the
opposite side; they have a remarkably good effect with the rich style of
dressing Native children. In some of the offerings from the great people
are to be observed precious stones set in necklaces, and bangles for the
arms and ankles. All who visit at these times take something for the baby;
it would be deemed an omen of evil in any one neglecting to follow this
immemorial custom; not that they are avaricious, but that they are anxious
for their infant's prosperity, which these tributes are supposed to
The mother thus blessed with a darling son is almost the idol of the new
family she has honoured; and when such a person happens to be an agreeable,
prudent woman, she is likely to remain without a rival in her husband's
heart, who has no inducement to add dhollie wives to his establishment
when his home is made happy to him by the only wife who can do him honour
by the alliance.
The birthday of each son in a family is regularly kept. The term used for
the occasion is Saul-girrah--derived, from saul, a year, girrah, to
tie a knot. The custom is duly maintained by tying a knot on a string kept
for the purpose by the mother, on the return of her boy's birthday. The
girls' years are numbered by a silver loop or ring being added yearly to
the gurdonie, or silver neck-ring. These are the only methods of
registering the ages of Mussulmaun children.
The Saul-girrah is a day of annual rejoicing through the whole house of
which the boy is a member; music, fireworks, toys, and whatever amusement
suits his age and taste, are liberally granted to fill up the measure of
his happiness; whilst his father and mother have each their assemblies to
the fullest extent of their means. Dinner is provided liberally for the
guests, and the poor are not neglected, whose prayers and blessings are
coveted by the parents for their offspring's benefit; and they believe the
blessings of the poor are certain mediations at the throne of mercy which
cannot fail to produce benefits on the person in whose favour they are
The boy's nurse is on all occasions of rejoicing the first person to be
considered in the distribution of gifts; she is, indeed, only second in
the estimation of the parents to the child she has reared and nourished;
and with the child, she is of more consequence even than his natural
parents. The wet-nurse, I have said, is retained in the family to the end
of her days, and whatever children she may have of her own, they are
received into the family of her employer without reserve, either as
servants or companions, and their interest in life regarded and watched
over with the solicitude of relations, by the parents of the boy she has
At seven years old the boys are circumcised, as by their law directed. The
thanksgiving when the child is allowed to emerge from confinement, gives
rise to another jubilee in the family.
At Lucknow we see, almost daily, processions on their way to the Durgah
(before described), where the father conveys the young Mussulmaun to
return thanks and public acknowledgements at the sainted shrine. The
procession is planned on a grand scale, and all the male friends that can
be collected attend in the cavalcade to do honour to so interesting an
When the prayer and thanksgiving have been duly offered in the boy's name
at the Durgah, money is distributed amongst the assembled poor; and on the
way home, silver and copper coins are thrown to the multitude who crowd
around the procession. The scrambling and tumult on these occasions can
only be relished by the Natives, who thus court popularity; but they
rarely move in state without these scenes of confusion following in their
train. I have witnessed thousands of people following the King's train, on
his visiting the Durgah at Lucknow, when his Majesty and his Prime
Minister scattered several thousands of rupees amongst the populace. The
noise was deafening, some calling blessings on the King, others
quarrelling and struggling to force away the prize from the happy one who
had caught, in the passing shower, a rupee or two in his drapery. Some of
the most cunning secure the prize in their mouths to save themselves from
the plunderer; some are thrown down and trampled under foot; the sandy
soil, however, renders their situation less alarming than such a calamity
would be in London, but it is altogether a scene of confusion sufficient
to terrify any one, except those who delight in their ancient customs
without regarding consequences to individuals.
The amusements of boys in India differ widely from the juvenile sports of
the English youth; here there are neither matches at cricket nor races;
neither hoops nor any other game which requires exercise on foot. Marbles
they have, and such other sports as suit their habits and climate, and can
be indulged in without too much bodily exertion. They fly kites at all
ages. I have seen men in years, even, engaged in this amusement, alike
unconscious that they were wasting time, or employing it in pursuits
fitted only for children. They are flown from the flat roofs of the houses,
where it is common with the men to take their seat at sunset. They are
much amused by a kind of contest with kites, which is carried on in the
following manner. The neighbouring gentlemen, having provided themselves
with lines, previously rubbed with paste and covered with pounded glass,
raise their kites, which, when brought in contact with each other by a
current of air, the topmost string cuts through the under one, when down
falls the kite, to the evident amusement of the idlers in the streets or
roadway, who with shouts and hurrahs seek to gain possession of the toy,
with as much avidity as if it were a prize of the greatest value: however,
from the numerous competitors, and their great zeal to obtain possession
of it, it is usually torn to pieces. Much skill is shown in the endeavours
of each party to keep his string uppermost, by which he is enabled to cut
that of his adversary's kite.
The male population are great pigeon-fanciers, and are very choice in
their breed, having every variety of the species they can possibly procure;
some are brought from different parts of the world at an enormous expense.
Each proprietor of a flock of pigeons knows his own birds from every other.
They are generally confined in bamboo houses erected on the flat roofs of
the mansions, where at early dawn and at sunset the owner takes his
station to feed his pets and give them a short airing. Perhaps a
neighbour's flock have also emerged from their cages at the same time,
when mingling in the circuit round and round the buildings (as often
happens), one or more from one person's flock will return home with those
of another; in which case, they are his lawful prize for ever, unless his
neighbour wishes to redeem the captives by a price, or by an exchange of
prisoners. The fortunate holder, however, of such prize makes his own
terms, which are perhaps exorbitant, particularly if he have any ill-will
against the proprietor, or the stray pigeon happen to be of a peculiarly
rare kind. Many are the proofs of good breeding and civility, elicited
on such occasions between gentlemen; and many, also, are the perpetuated
quarrels where such a collision of interests happens between young men of
bad feelings, or with persons having any previous dislike to each other.
The chief out-door exercise taken by the youth of India, is an occasional
ride on horseback or the elephant. They do not consider walking necessary
to health; besides which, it is plebeian, and few ever walk who can
maintain a conveyance. They exercise the moghdhur (dumb-bell) as the
means of strengthening the muscles and opening the chest. These moghdhurs,
much resembling the club of Hercules, are used in pairs, each weighing
from eight to twenty pounds; they are brandished in various ways over the
head, crossed behind, and back again, with great ease and rapidity by
those with whom the art has become familiar by long use. Those who would
excel in the use of the moghdhurs practise every evening regularly; when,
after the exercise, they have their arms and shoulders plastered with a
moist clay, which they suppose strengthens the muscles and prevents them
from taking cold after so violent an exercise. The young men who are
solicitous to wield the sabre with effect and grace, declare this practice
to be of the greatest service to them in their sword exercise: they go so
far as to say, that they only use the sword well who have practised the
moghdhur for several years.
At their sword exercise, they practise 'the stroke' on the hide of a
buffalo, or on a fish called rooey, the scales of which form an
excellent coat of mail, each being the size of a crown-piece, and the
substance sufficient to turn the edge of a good sabre. The fish is
produced alive from the river for this purpose; however revolting as the
practice may appear to the European, it does not offend the feelings of
the Natives, who consider the fish incapable of feeling after the first
stroke; but, as regards the buffalo, I am told the most cruel inflictions
have been made, by men who would try their blade and their skill on the
staked animal without mercy.
The lance is practised by young men of good family as an exercise; and by
the common people, as the means of rendering them eligible to the Native
military service of India. It is surprising to witness the agility of some
of the Natives in the exercise of the lance; they are generally good
horsemen, and at full speed will throw the lance, dismount to recover it,
and remount, often without stirrups, with a celerity inconceivable. I have
seen them at these exercises with surprise, remembering the little
activity they exhibit in their ordinary habits.
The Indian bow and arrow has greatly diminished as a weapon of defence in
modern times; but all practise the use of the bow, as they fancy it opens
the chest and gives ease and grace to the figure; things of no trifling
importance with the Mussulmaun youth. I have seen some persons seated
practising the bow, who were unable to bear the fatigue of standing; in
those cases, a heavy weight and pulley are attached to the bow, which
requires as much force in pulling as it would require to send an arrow
from sixty to a hundred yards from the place they occupy.
The pellet-bow is in daily use to frighten away the crows from the
vicinity of man's abode; the pellets are made of clay baked in the sun,
and although they do not wound they bruise most desperately. Were it not
for this means of annoying these winged pests, they would prove a perfect
nuisance to the inhabitants, particularly within the confines of a
zeenahnah, where these impudent birds assemble at cooking-time, to the
great annoyance of the cooks, watching their opportunity to pounce upon
anything they may incautiously leave uncovered. I have often seen women
placed as watchers with the pellet-bow, to deter the marauders the whole
time dinner was preparing in the kitchen. The front of these cooking-rooms
are open to the zeenahnah court-yard, neither doors, windows, nor curtains
being deemed necessary, where the smoke has no other vent than through the
open front into the court-yard.
The crows are so daring that they will enter the yard, where any of the
children may be taking their meals (which they often do in preference to
eating them under the confinement of the hall), and frequently seize the
bread from the hands of the children, unless narrowly watched by the
servants, or deterred by the pellet-bow. And at the season of building
their nests, these birds will plunder from the habitations of man,
whatever may be met with likely to make a soft lining for their nests;
often, I am told, carrying off the skull-cap from the children's heads,
and the women's pieces of calico or muslin from their laps when seated in
the open air at work.
Many of the Natives are strongly attached to the brutal practice of
cock-fighting; they are very choice in their breed of that gallant bird,
and pride themselves on possessing the finest specimens in the world. The
gay young men expend much money in these low contests: the birds are
fought with or without artificial spurs, according to the views of the
contending parties. They have also a small bird which they call 'the
buttaire', a species of quail, which I hear are most valiant
combatants; they are fed and trained for sport with much care and
attention. I am told these poor little birds, when once brought to the
contest, fight until they die. Many are the victims sacrificed to one
mornings amusement of their cruel owners, who wager upon the favourite
bird with a spirit and interest equal to that which may be found in more
polished countries among the gentlemen of the turf.
Horse-racing has very lately been introduced at Lucknow, but I fancy the
Natives have not yet acquired sufficient taste for the sport to take any
great delight in it. As long as it is fashionable with European society,
so long it may be viewed with comparative interest by the few. But their
views of the breed and utility of a stud differ so much from those of a
European, that there is but little probability of the sport of
horse-racing ever becoming a favourite amusement with them, When they
are disposed to hunt, it is always on elephants, both for security and to
A horse of the finest temper, form, or breed, one that would be counted
the most perfect animal by an English connoisseur, would be rejected by a
Native if it possessed the slightest mark by them deemed 'unfortunate'. If
the legs are not all of a colour, the horse is not worthy; if an unlucky
turn of the hair, or a serpentine wave of another colour appears on any
part of the animal, it is an 'omen of ill-luck' to the possessor, and must
not be retained on the premises. A single blemish of the sort would be
deemed by a Native gentleman as great a fault in an otherwise perfect
animal, as if it could only move on three legs. The prejudice is so
strongly grounded in their minds to these trifling marks, that they would
not keep such horses in their stables one hour, even if it belonged to
their dearest friend, fearing the evil consequences that might befall
The swiftness of a good English hunter would be no recommendation to a
Native gentleman; he rides for pleasant exercise and amusement, and the
pace therefore never exceeds the gentlest canter of an English lady's
jennet. Many of their horses are trained to a pace I have never remarked
in other countries; it is more than a walk but not quite a canter, the
steps are taken very short, and is, I am assured, an agreeable exercise to
the rider. I was once in possession of a strong hill pony, whose walk was
as quick as the swiftest elephant; very few horses could keep up with him
at a trot. The motion was very easy and agreeable, particularly suited to
invalids in that trying climate.
The Native method of confining horses in their sheds or stables appears
somewhat remarkable to a European. The halter is staked in the ground, and
the two hind legs have a rope fastened to each; this is also staked in the
ground behind. The ropes are left sufficiently long to allow of the animal
lying down at his pleasure.
The food of horses is fresh grass, brought from the jungles daily, by the
grass-cutters, who are kept solely for this purpose. In consequence of
these men having to walk a distance of four or more miles before they
reach the jungles, and the difficulty of finding sufficient grass when
there, one man cannot procure more grass in a day than will suffice for
one horse; the consequence is, that if a gentleman keep twenty horses,
there are forty men to attend them; viz., twenty grooms, and as many
grass-cutters. The grass of India, excepting only during the rainy season,
is burnt up by the heat of the sun, in all exposed situations. In the
jungles and forests of mango-trees, wherever there is any shade, the men
search for grass, which is of a different species to any I have seen in
Europe, called doob-grass, a dwarf creeper, common throughout India;
every other kind of grass is rejected by the horse; they would rather eat
chaff in the absence of the doob-grass. The refuse of the grass given for
food, answers the purpose of bedding; for in India straw is never brought
into use, but as food for the cows, buffaloes, and oxen. The nature of
straw is friable in India, perhaps induced by climate by the wise ordering
of Divine Providence, of which indeed a reflecting mind must be convinced,
since it is so essential an article for food to the cattle where grass is
very scarce, excepting only during the season of rain.
When the corn is cut, the whole produce of a field is brought to one open
spot, where the surface of the ground is hard and smooth; the oxen and
their drivers trample in a continued circuit over the whole mass, until
the corn is not only threshed from the husks, but the straw broken into
fine chaff. They winnow it with their coarse blankets, or chuddahs
(the usual wrapper of a Native, resembling a coarse sheet), and house the
separate articles in pits, dug in the earth, close to their habitations.
Such things as barns, granaries, or stacks, are never seen to mark the
abode of the Native farmers as in Europe.
An invading party could never discover the deposits of corn, whilst the
Natives chose to keep their own secret. This method of depositing the corn
and chaff in the earth, is the only secure way of preserving these
valuable articles from the encroachment of white ants, whose visits to the
grain are nearly as destructive, and quite as much dreaded, as the flights
of locusts to the green blades.
The corn in general use for horses, sheep, and cattle, in called gram;
the flavour resembles our field pea much more than grain. It is produced
on creepers, with pods; and bears a pretty lilac blossom, not unlike peas,
or rather vetches, but smaller; the grain, however, is as large as a pea,
irregularly shaped, of a dark brown skin, and pale yellow within. There
are several other kinds of grain in use amongst the Natives for the use of
cattle; one called moat, of an olive green colour. It is considered
very cooling in its nature, at certain seasons of the year, and is greatly
preferred both for young horses and for cows giving milk.
Horses are subject to an infectious disease, which generally makes its
appearance in the rainy season, and therefore called burrhsaatie. Once
in the stable, the disorder prevails through the stud, unless timely
precautions are taken to prevent them being infected--removal from the
stable is the most usual mode adopted--so easy is the infection conveyed
from one animal to the other, that if the groom of the sick horse enters
the stable of the healthy they rarely escape contagion. It is a tedious
and painful disorder and in nine cases out of ten the infected animal
either dies, or is rendered useless for the saddle. The legs break out in
ulcers, and, I am informed, without the greatest care on the part of the
groom, he is also liable to imbibe the corruption; if he has any cut or
scratch on his hands, the disease may be received as by inoculation.
The Natives have the greatest aversion to docked-tailed horses, and will
never permit the animals to be shorn of the beauty with which Nature has
adorned them, either in length or fulness; besides which, they think it a
barbarous want of taste in those who differ from them, though they fancy
Nature is improved when the long tail and mane of a beautiful white Arab
are dyed with mayndhie; his legs, up to the knees, stained with the same
colour, and divers stars, crescents, &c., painted on the haunches, chest,
and throat of the pretty gentle creature.
When the horses are looking rough, the Natives feed them with a mixture of
coarse brown sugar and ghee, which they say gives sleekness to the skin,
and improves the constitution of the horse. When their horses grow old,
they boil the gram with which they feed them, to make it easy of digestion;
very few people, indeed, give corn at any age to the animal unsoaked, as
they consider it injudicious to give dry corn to horses, which swells in
the stomach of the animal and cannot digest: the grain swells exceedingly
by soaking, and thus moistened, the horse requires less water than would
be necessary with dry corn.
The numberless Native sports I have heard related in this country would
take me too long to repeat at present; describe them I could not, for my
feelings and views are at variance with the painful tortures inflicted on
the brute creation for the perverted amusements of man, consisting of many
unequal contests, which have sickened me to think they were viewed by
mortals with pleasure or satisfaction. A poor unoffending antelope or stag,
perhaps confined from the hour of its quitting its dam in a paddock,
turned out in a confined space to the fury of a cheetah (leopard) to
make his morning's repast. Tigers and elephants are often made to combat
for the amusement of spectators; also, tigers and buffaloes, or alligators.
The battle between intoxicated elephants is a sport suited only for the
cruel-hearted, and too often indulged. The mahouts (the men who sit as
drivers on the neck of the elephant) have frequently been the victims of
the ignoble amusement of their noble masters; indeed, the danger they are
exposed to is so great, that to escape is deemed a miracle. The
fighting-elephants are males, and they are prepared for the sport by
certain drugs mixed up with the wax from the human ear. The method of
training elephants for fighting must be left to abler hands to describe. I
have passed by places where the animal was firmly chained to a tree, in
situations remote from the population of a city, as danger is always
anticipated from their vicinity; and when one of these infuriated beasts
break from their bonds, serious accidents often occur to individuals
before they can again be secured.
Amongst the higher classes tigers and leopards are retained for field
sports, under the charge of regular keepers. In many instances these wild
inhabitants of the jungle are tamed to the obedience of dogs, or other
domestic animals. I have often seen the young cubs sucking the teats of a
goat, with which they play as familiarly as a kitten with its mother. A
very intimate acquaintance of ours has several tigers and leopards, which
are perfectly obedient to his command; they are led out by their keepers
night and morning, but he always feeds them with his own hands, that he
may thereby make them obedient to himself, when he sports in the jungles,
which he often does with success, bringing home stags and antelopes to
grace the board, and distribute amongst his English friends.
The tigers and cheetahs are very generally introduced after breakfast,
when Native noblemen have European visitors. I remember on one of these
occasions, these animals were brought into the banqueting-room, just as
the self-performing cabinet organ had commenced a grand overture. The
creatures' countenances were terrifying to the beholder, and one in
particular could with great difficulty be reined in by his keepers. The
Natives are, however, so accustomed to the society of tigers, that they
smiled at my apprehension of mischief. I was only satisfied when they were
forced away from the sounds that seemed to fill them with wonder, and
perhaps with rage.
Pigeon-shooting is another amusement practised among the sporting men of
Hindoostaun. I, of course, allude to the Mussulmauns, for most Hindoos
hold it criminal to kill a crow, or even the meanest insect; and I have
known them carry the principle of preserving life to the minutest insects,
wearing crape or muslin over their mouths and noses in the open air,
fearing a single animalcule that floats in the air should be destroyed by
their breath. For the same reason, these men have every drop of water
strained through muslin before it is used either for drinking or for
There are people who make it a profitable means of subsistence to visit
the jungles with nets, in order to collect birds, as pigeons, parrots,
minas, &c.; these are brought in covered baskets to the towns, where they
meet with a ready sale.
Many a basket have I delighted in purchasing, designing to rescue the
pretty creatures from present danger. I am annoyed whenever I see birds
immured in cages. If they could be trained to live with us, enjoying the
same liberty, I should gladly court society with these innocent creatures;
but a bird confined vexes me, my fingers itch to open the wicket and give
the prisoner liberty. How have I delighted in seeing the pretty variegated
parrots, minas, and pigeons fly from the basket when opened in my verandah!
I have sometimes fancied in my evening walk that I could recognize the
birds again in the gardens and grounds, which had been set at liberty in
the morning by my hand.
The good ladies of India, from whom I have copied the practice of giving
liberty to the captive birds, although different motives direct the action,
believe, that if a member of their family is ill, such a release
propitiates the favour of Heavenly mercy towards them. A sovereign
(amongst the Mussulmauns) will give liberty to a certain number of
prisoners, confined in the common gaol, when he is anxious for the
recovery of a sick member of his family; and so great is the merit of
mercy esteemed in the creature to his fellow-mortal, that the birth of a
son, a recovery from severe illness, accession to the throne, &c., are the
precursors to royal clemency, when all prisoners are set at liberty whose
return to society may not be deemed cruelty to the individual, or a
calamity to his neighbours. I may here remark, the Mussulmaun laws do not
allow of men being confined in prison for debt. The government of Oude
is absolute, yet to its praise be it said, during the first eight years of
my sojourn I never heard of but one execution by the King's command; and
that was for crimes of the greatest enormity, where to have been sparing
would have been unjust. In cases of crime such as murder, the nearest
relative surviving is appealed to by the court of justice; if he demand
the culprit's life, the court cannot save him from execution. But it is
rarely demanded; they are by no means a revengeful people generally; there
are ambitious, cruel tyrants to be found, but these individuals are
exceptions to the mass of the people. Examples of mercy set by the King in
all countries have an influence upon his subjects; and here the family of
a murdered man, if poor, is maintained by the guilty party or else
relieved by royal munificence, as the case may require. Acts of oppression
may sometimes occur in Native States without the knowledge even, and much
less by the command, of the Sovereign ruler, since the good order of the
government mainly depends on the disposition of the Prime Minister for the
time being. There is no check placed in the constitution of a Native
government between the Prime Minister and his natural passions. If cruel,
ambitious, or crafty, he practises all his art to keep his master in
ignorance of his daily enormities; if the Prime Minister be a
virtuous-minded person, he is subjected to innumerable trials, from the
wiles of the designing and the ambitious, who strive by intrigue to root
him from the favour and confidence of his sovereign, under the hope of
acquiring for themselves the power they covet by his removal from office.
 When, a boy is born, the midwife, in order to avert the Evil Eye and
evil spirits, says: 'It is only a girl blind of one eye!' If a girl is
born, the fact is stated, because she excites no jealousy, and is thus
protected from spirit attacks.
 This is intended to scare evil spirits, but has become a mere form of
announcing the joyful event.
 After the first bath pieces of black thread are tied round the child's
wrist and ankle as protection.
 _Amaltas, Cassia fistula_
 The purgative draught (_guthl_) is usually made of aniseed,
myro-bolans, dried red rose leaves, senna, and the droppings of mice
or goats.--_Bombay Gazetteer_, ix, part ii, 153.
 Among the Khojahs of Bombay a stool is placed near the mother's bed,
and as each, of the female relatives comes in she strews a little rice
on the stool, lays on the ground a gold or silver anklet as a gift for
the child, and bending over mother and baby, passes her hands over
them, and cracks her finger-joints against her own temples, in order
to take all their ill luck upon herself.--_Bombay Gazetteer_, ix, part
 _Duli_: see p. 184.
 _Salgirah_ or _barasganth_, 'year-knot'.
 P. 36.
 The Mahomedans are very keen on breeding pigeons in large numbers;
they make them fly all together, calling out, whistling, and waving
with a cloth fastened to the end of a stick, running and making
signals from the terraced roofs, with a view of encouraging the
pigeons to attack the flock of some one else.... Every owner is
overjoyed in seeing his own pigeons the most dexterous in misleading
their opponents.'--Manucci, _Storia do Mogor_, i. 107 f.
 _Rohu_, a kind of carp, _Labeo rohita_.
 The use of the bow and arrow has now disappeared in northern India,
and survives only among some of the jungle tribes.
 A curious relic of the custom of cock-fighting at Lucknow survives in
the picture by Zoffany of the famous match between the Nawab
Asaf-ud-daula and Col. Mordaunt in 1786. The figures in the picture are
portraits of the celebrities at the Court of Oudh, whose names are
given by Smith, _Catalogue of British Mezzotint Portrait_, i. 273.
 _Bater, Coturnix communis_.
 Lucknow is now an important racing centre, and the Civil Service Cup
for ponies has been won several times by native gentlemen.
 The feather or curl is one of the most important marks. If it faces
towards the head, this is a horse to buy; if it points towards the
tail, it is a 'female snake' (_sampan_), a bad blemish, as is a
small star on the forehead. A curl at the bottom of the throat is very
lucky, and cancels other blemishes. A piebald horse or one with five
white points, a white face and four white stockings, is highly valued.
The European who understands the rules can often buy an 'unlucky'
horse at a bargain.
 _Dub, Cynodon Dactylon_.
 _Cicer arietinum_: the word comes from Port, _grao_, a grain.
 _Moth_, the aconite-leaved kidney-bean, _Phaseolus aconitifolius_.
 _Barsati_ from _barsat_, the rainy season; a pustular
eruption breaking out on the head and fore parts of the body.
 The Native gentleman's charger, with his trained paces, his
henna-stained crimson mane, tail, and fetlocks, is a picturesque sight
now less common than it used to be.
 _Chita_, the hunting leopard. _Felis jubata_.
 _Mahawat_, originally meaning 'a high officer'.
 This specially applies to the Jain ascetics, who keep a brush to
remove insects from their path, and cover their mouths with linen.
 A common piece of imitative magic: as the bird flies away it carries
the disease with it. The practice of releasing prisoners when the King
or a member of his family was sick, or as a thanksgiving on recovery,
was common.--Sleeman, _Journey_, ii. 41.
 This is incorrect. Imprisonment for debt is allowed by Muhammadan
Law.--Hughes, _Dictionary of Islam_, 82.
 This gives a too favourable account of the administration of justice
in Oudh. 'A powerful landlord during the Nawabi could evict a
tenant, or enhance his rent, or take away his wife from him, or cut
his head off, with as much, or as little, likelihood of being called
to account by Na zim or Chakladar for one act as for another'
(H.C. Irwin, _The Garden of India_, 258). Gen. Sleeman points out that
Musalmans wore practically immune from the death penalty,
particularly if they happened to kill a Sunni. A Hindu, consenting
after conviction to become a Musalman, was also immune (_Journey
Through Oudh_, i. 135). Executions used constantly to occur in Lucknow
under Nasir-ud-din (W. Knighton, _Private Life of an Eastern
Remarks on the trades and professions of Hindoostaun.--The
Bazaars.--Naunbye (Bazaar cook).--The Butcher, and other
trades.--Shroffs (Money-changers).--Popular cries in Native
cities.--The articles enumerated and the venders of them
Butcher-bird, the Coel, and Lollah.--Fireworks.--Parched
corn.--Wonder-workers.--Snakes.--Anecdote of the Moonshie and the
Snake-catcher.--The Cutler.--Sour curds.--Clotted
cream.--Butter.--Singular process of the Natives in making
butter.--Ice.--How procured in India.--Ink.--All writing dedicated to
God by the Mussulmauns.--The reverence for the name of God.--The
Mayndhie and Sulmah.
The various trades of a Native city in Hindoostaun are almost generally
carried on in the open air. The streets are narrow, and usually unpaved;
the dukhauns (shops) small, with the whole front open towards the
street; a tattie of coarse grass forming an awning to shelter the
shopkeeper and his goods from the weather. In the long lines of dukhauns
the open fronts exhibit to the view the manufacturer, the artisan, the
vender, in every variety of useful and ornamental articles for general use
and consumption. In one may be seen the naunbye (bazaar cook) basting
keebaubs over a charcoal fire on the ground with one hand, and beating
off the flies with a bunch of date-leaves in the other; beside him may be
seen assistant cooks kneading dough for sheermaul or other bread, or
superintending sundry kettles and cauldrons of currie, pillau, matunjun,
&c., whilst others are equally active in preparing platters and trays, in
order to forward the delicacies at the appointed hour to some great
The shop adjoining may probably be occupied by a butcher, his meat exposed
for sale in little lean morsels carefully separated from every vestige of
fat or skin; the butcher's assistant is occupied in chopping up the
coarser pieces of lean meat into mince meat. Such shops as these are
actually in a state of siege by the flies; there is, however, no remedy
for the butcher but patience; his customers always wash their meat before
it is cooked, so he never fails to sell even with all these disadvantages.
But it is well for the venders of more delicate articles when neither of
these fly-attracting emporiums are next door neighbours, or immediately
opposite; yet if it even should be so, the merchant will bear with
equanimity an evil he cannot control, and persuade his customers for
silver shoes or other ornamental articles, that if they are not tarnished
a fly spit or two cannot lessen their value.
The very next door to a working goldsmith may be occupied by a weaver of
muslin; the first with his furnace and crucible, the latter with his loom,
in constant employ. Then the snake-hookha manufacturer, opposed to a
mixer of tobacco, aiding each other's trade in their separate articles.
The makers and venders of punkahs of all sorts and sizes, children's toys,
of earth, wood, or lakh; milk and cream shops; jewellers, mercers,
druggists selling tea, with other medicinal herbs. The bunyah
(corn-dealer) with large open baskets of sugar and flour, whose whiteness
resembles each other so narrowly, that he is sometimes suspected of mixing
the two articles by mistake, when certain sediments in sherbet indicate
It would take me too long were I to attempt enumerating all the varieties
exposed in a Native street of shops. It may be presumed these people make
no mystery of their several arts in manufacturing, by their choice of
situation for carrying on their trades. The confectioner, for instance,
prepares his dainties in despite of dust and flies, and pass by at what
hour of the day you please, his stoves are hot, and the sugar simmering
with ghee sends forth a savour to the air, inviting only to those who
delight in the delicacies he prepares in countless varieties.
The most singular exhibitions in these cities are the several shroffs
(money-changers, or bankers), dispersed in every public bazaar, or line of
shops. These men, who are chiefly Hindoos, and whose credit may perhaps
extend throughout the continent of Asia for any reasonable amount, take
their station in this humble line of buildings, having on their right and
left, piles of copper coins and cowries. These shroffs are occupied the
whole day in exchanging pice for rupees or rupees for pice, selling or
buying gold mohurs, and examining rupees; and to all such demands upon him
he is entitled to exact a regulated per centage, about half a pice in a
rupee. Small as this sum may seem yet the profits produce a handsome
remuneration for his day's attention, as many thousands of rupees may have
passed under his critical eye for examination, it being a common practice,
both with shopkeepers and individuals, to send their rupees to the shroff
for his inspection, always fearing imposition from the passers of base
coin. These shroffs transact remittances to any part of India by
hoondies, which are equivalent to our bills of exchange, and on which
the usual demand is two and a half per cent at ninety days, if required
for any distant station.
The European order is here completely reversed, for the shopkeeper sits
whilst the purchasers are compelled to stand. The bazaar merchant is
seated on the floor of his dukhaun, near enough to the open front to
enable him to transact business with his customers, who, one and all,
stand in the street to examine the goods and to be served; let the weather
be bad or good, none are admitted within the threshold of the dukhaun. In
most places the shops are small, and look crowded with the articles for
sale, and those where manufactories are carried on have not space to spare
to their customers.
Very few gentlemen condescend to make their own purchases; they generally
employ their confidential domestic to go to market for them; and with the
ladies their women servants are deputed. In rich families it is an office
of great trust, as they expend large sums and might be much imposed upon
were their servants faithless. The servants always claim dustoor
(custom) from the shopkeepers, of one pice for every rupee they lay out;
and when the merchants are sent for to the houses with their goods, the
principal servant in the family is sure to exact his dustoor from the
merchant; and this is often produced only after a war of words between the
crafty and the thrifty.
The diversity of cries from those who hawk about their goods and wares in
streets and roadways, is a feature in the general economy of the Natives
not to be overlooked in my brief description of their habits. The
following list of daily announcements by the several sonorous claimants on
the public attention, may not be unacceptable with their translated
'Seepie wallah deelie sukha' (Moist or dry cuppers).--Moist and dry
cupping is performed both by men and women; the latter are most in request.
They carry their instruments about with them, and traverse all parts of
the city. The dry cupping is effected by a buffalo's horn and resorted to
by patients suffering under rheumatic pains, and often in cases of fever,
when to lose blood is either inconvenient on account of the moon's age, or
not desirable by reason of the complaint or constitution of the patient.
'Jonk, or keerah luggarny wallie' (The woman with leeches).--Women
with leeches attend to apply the required remedy, and are allowed to take
away the leeches after they have done their office. These women by a
particular pressure on the leech oblige it to disgorge the blood, when
they immediately place it in fresh water; by this practice the leeches
continue healthy, and may be brought to use again the following day if
'Kaan sarf kerna wallah' (Ear-cleaner).--The cleansing of ears is
chiefly performed by men, who collecting this article make great profits
from the sale of it, independent of the sums obtained from their employers.
It is the chief ingredient in use for intoxicating elephants previous to
the furious contests so often described as the amusement of Native Courts.
'Goatah chandnie bickhow' (Sell your old silver trimmings).--The
several articles of silver trimmings are invariably manufactured of the
purest metal without any alloy, and when they have served their first
purposes the old silver procures its weight in current rupees.
'Tale kee archah wallah' (Oil pickles).--The method of pickling in oil
is of all others in most request with the common people, who eat the
greasy substance as a relish to their bread and dhall. The mustard-oil
used in the preparation of this dainty is often preferred to ghee in
The better sort of people prefer water pickle, which is made in most
families during the hot and dry weather by a simple method; exposure to
the sun being the chemical process to the parboiled carrots, turnips,
radishes, &c., immersed in boiling water, with red pepper, green ginger,
mustard-seed, and garlic. The flavour of this water pickle is superior to
any other acid, and possesses the property of purifying the blood.
'Mittie wallah' (Man with sweetmeats).--The many varieties of
sweetmeats, or rather confectionery, in general estimation with the
natives, are chiefly composed of sugar and ghee, prepared in countless
ways, with occasional additions of cocoa-nut, pistachias, cardimuns,
rose-water, &c., and constantly hawked about the streets on trays by men.
'Kallonie wallah' (Man with toys).--Toys of every kind, of which no
country in the world I suppose exhibits greater variety, in wood, lakh,
uberuck (tulk), paper, bamboo, clay, &c., are constantly cried in the
streets and roadways of a Native city.
'Punkah wallah' (Vender of fans).--The punkahs are of all descriptions
in general use, their shape and material varying with taste and
circumstances, the general form resembling hand-screens: they are made for
common use of date-leaf, platted as the common mats are; some are formed
of a single leaf from the tor-tree, large or small, the largest would
cover a tolerable sized round table; many have painted figures and devices,
and from their lightness may be waved by children without much labour. I
have seen very pretty punkahs made of sweet-scented flowers over a frame
of bamboo. This, however, is a temporary indulgence, as the flowers soon
lose their fragrance.
'Turkaaree', 'Mayvour' (The first is vegetables; the last,
fruit).--Vegetables of every kind and many sorts of fruits are carried
about by men and women, who describe the name and quality of the articles
they have to sell. It would occupy too large a space to enumerate here the
several productions, indigenous and foreign, of the vegetable world in
India. The Natives in their cookery, use every kind of vegetable and fruit
in its unripe state. Two pounds of meat is in general all that is required
to form a meal for twenty people, and with this they will cook several
dishes by addition of as many different sorts of vegetables.
Herbs, or green leaves, are always denominated saag, these are
produced at all seasons of the year, in many varieties; the more
substantial vegetables, as potatoes, turnips, carrots, &c., are called
The red and green spinach is brought to the market throughout the year,
and a rich-flavoured sorrel, so delicious in curries, is cultivated in
most months. Green peas, or, indeed, vegetables in general, are never
served in the plain way in which we see them at our tables, but always in
stews or curries. The green mango is used invariably to flavour their
several dishes, and, at the proper season, they are peeled, cut, and dried
for the year's consumption. They dislike the acid of the lemon in their
stews, which is never resorted to when the green mango or tamarind can be
The fruits of India in general estimation with the Natives are the mango
and the melon. Mangoes are luscious and enticing fruit; the Natives eat
them to an excess when they have been some hours soaked in water, which,
they say, takes away from the fruit its detrimental quality; without this
preparatory precaution those who indulge in a feast of mango are subject
to fevers, and an increase of prickly heat, (a fiery irritable rash, which
few persons are exempt from, more or less, in the hot weather); even biles,
which equally prevail, are less troublesome to those persons who are
careful only to eat mangoes that have been well soaked in water. The
Natives have a practice, which is common among all classes, and therefore
worthy the notice of foreigners, of drinking milk immediately after eating
mangoes. It should be remembered that they never eat their fruit after
dinner, nor do they at any time indulge in wine, spirits, or beer.
The mango in appearance and flavour has no resemblance to any of the
fruits of England; they vary in weight from half an ounce to half a seer,
nearly a pound; the skin is smooth, tough, and of the thickness of leather,
strongly impregnated with a flavour of turpentine; the colour, when ripe,
is grass green, or yellow in many shades, with occasional tinges and
streaks of bright red; the pulp is as juicy as our wall-fruit, and the
kernel protected by a hard shell, to which fine strong silky fibres are
firmly attached. The kernel of the mango is of a hot and rather offensive
flavour; the poor people, however, collect it, and when dried grind it
into flour for bread, which is more wholesome than agreeable; in seasons
of scarcity, however, it is a useful addition to the then scanty means of
the lower orders of the people. The flavour of the fruit itself differs so
much, that no description can be given of the taste of a mango--even the
fruit of one tree vary in their flavour. A tope (orchard) of mango-trees
is a little fortune to the possessor, and when in bloom a luxurious resort
to the lovers of Nature.
The melon is cultivated in fields with great ease and little labour, due
care always being taken to water the plants in their early growth. The
varieties are countless, but the kind most esteemed, and known only in the
Upper Provinces, are called chitlahs, from their being spotted green
on a surface of bright yellow; the skin is smooth and of the thickness of
that of an apple; the fruit weighing from half-a-pound to three pounds.
The flavour may be compared to our finest peaches, partaking of the same
moist quality, and literally melting in the mouth.
The juice of the melon makes a delicious cider; I once tried the
experiment with success. The Natives being prohibited from the use of all
fermented liquors, I was induced by that consideration to be satisfied
with the one experiment; but with persons who are differently situated the
practice might be pursued with very little trouble, and a rich beverage
produced, much more healthy than the usual arrack that is now distilled,
to the deterioration of the health and morals of the several classes under
the British rule, who are prone to indulge in the exhilarating draughts of
At present my list of the indigenous vegetables of India must be short; so
great, however, is the variety in Hindoostaun, both in their quality and
properties, and so many are the benefits derived from their several uses
in this wonderful country, that at some future time I may be induced to
follow, with humility, in the path trodden by the more scientific
naturalists who have laboured to enrich the minds of mankind by their
The natives are herbalists in their medical practice. The properties of
minerals are chiefly studied with the view to become the lucky discoverer
of the means of transmuting metals; seldom with reference to their
medicinal qualities. Quicksilver, however, in its unchanged state, is
sometimes taken to renew the constitution. One gentleman, whom I well
knew, commenced with a single grain, increasing the number progressively,
until his daily close was the contents of a large table-spoon; he
certainly appeared to have benefited by the practice, for his appetite and
spirits were those of a man at thirty, when he had counted eighty years.
'Muchullee' (Fish).--Fish of several kinds are caught in the rivers
and tanks; the flavour I can hardly describe, for, since I knew the
practice of the Hindoos of throwing their dead bodies into the rivers the
idea of fish as an article of food was too revolting to my taste. The
Natives, however, have none of these qualms; even the Hindoos enjoy a
currie of fish as a real delicacy, although it may be presumed some of
their friends or neighbours have aided that identical fish in becoming a
delicacy for the table.
There are some kinds of fish forbidden by the Mussulmaun law, which are,
of course, never brought to their kitchens, as the eel, or any other fish
having a smooth skin; all sorts of shell-fish are likewise prohibited
by their code. Those fish which have scales are the only sort allowable to
them for food.
The rooey is a large fish, and in Native families is much admired for
its rich flavour; the size is about that of a salmon, the shape that of a
carp; the flesh is white, and not unlike the silver mullet. The scales of
this fish are extremely useful; which, on a tolerable sized fish, are in
many parts as large as a crown-piece, and of a substance firmer than horn.
It is not uncommon to see a suit of armour formed of these scales, which,
they affirm, will turn the edge of the best metal, and from its lightness,
compared with the chain armour, more advantageous to the wearer, though
the appearance is not so agreeable to the eye.
'Chirryah wallah' (Bird-man).--The bird-catcher cries his live birds
fresh caught from the jungles: they seldom remain long on hand. I have
before described the practice of letting off the birds, in cases of
illness, as propitiatory sacrifices. The Natives take delight in petting
talking-birds, minas and parrots particularly; and the bull-bull, the
subzah, and many others for their sweet songs.
The numberless varieties of birds I have seen in India, together with
their qualities, plumage, and habits, would occupy too much of my time at
present to describe. I will here only remark a few of the most singular as
they appeared to me. The butcher-bird, so called from its habit, is
known to live on seeds; yet it caters for the mina and others of the
carnivorous feathered family, by collecting grasshoppers, which they
convey in the beak to the thorny bushes, and there fix them on sharp
thorns, (some of which are nearly two inches in length), and would almost
seem to have been formed by Nature for this use only. The mina follows
his little friend's flight as if in the full assurance of the feast
prepared for him.
The coel is a small black bird, of extreme beauty in make and plumage;
this bird's note is the harbinger of rain, and although one of the
smallest of the feathered race, it is heard at a considerable distance.
The coel's food is simply the suction from the petals of sweet-scented
The lollah, known to many by the name of haverdewatt, is a beautiful
little creature, about one-third the size of a hedge sparrow. The great
novelty in this pretty bird is, that the spots of white on its brown
plumage change to a deep red at the approach of the rainy season; the
Natives keep them by dozens in cages with a religious veneration, as their
single note describes one of the terms in use to express an attribute of
But enough--I must hasten to finish my list of popular cries by the Indian
pedlars, who roar out their merchandize and their calling to the inmates
of dwellings bounded by high walls, whose principal views of the works of
Nature and art are thus aided by those casual criers of the day.
'Artush-baajie' (Fireworks).--Fireworks are considered here to be very
well made, and the Native style much extolled by foreigners; every year
they add some fresh novelty to their amusing pastime. They are hawked
about at certain seasons, particularly at the Holie (a festival of the
Hindoos,) and the Shubh-burraat of the Mussulmauns. Saltpetre being
very reasonable, fireworks are sold for a small price. Most of the
ingenious young men exercise their inventive powers to produce novelties
in fireworks for any great season of rejoicing in their families.
'Chubbaynee' (Parched corn).--The corn of which we have occasionally
specimens in English gardens, known by the name of Indian corn, is here
used as a sort of intermediate meal, particularly amongst the labouring
classes, who cook but once a day, and that when the day's toil is over.
This corn is placed in a sort of furnace with sand, and kept constantly
moved about. By this process it is rendered as white as magnesia, crisp,
and of a sweet flavour; a hungry man could not eat more than half-a-pound
of this corn at once, yet it is not as nutritious as barley or wheat. I
have never heard that the Natives use this corn for making bread.
'Tumaushbeen' (Wonder-workers).--This call announces the rope-dancers
and sleight-of-hand company; eating fire, swallowing pen-knives, spinning
coloured yarn through the nose, tricks with cups and balls, and all the
arts of the well-known jugglers. I have seen both men and women attached
to these travelling companies perform extraordinary feats of agility and
skill, also most surprising vaultings, by the aid of bamboos, and a
frightful method of whirling round on the top of a pole or mast. This pole
is from twenty to thirty feet high; on the top is a swivel hook, which
fastens to a loop in a small piece of wood tied fast to the middle of the
performer, who climbs the pole without any assistance, and catches the
hook to the loop; at first he swings himself round very gently, but
increasing gradually in swiftness, until the velocity is equal to that of
a wheel set in motion by steam. This feat is sometimes continued for ten
or fifteen minutes together, when his strength does not fail him; but it
is too frightful a performance to give pleasure to a feeling audience.
'Samp-wallah' (Snake-catchers).--These men blow a shrill pipe in
addition to calling out the honourable profession of snake-catcher. I
fancy it is all pretence with these fellows; if they catch a snake on the
premises, it is probably one they have let loose secretly, and which they
have tutored to come and go at the signal given: they profess to draw
snakes from their hiding-place, and make a good living by duping the
The best proof I can offer of the impositions practised by these men on
the weakness and credulity of their neighbours, may be conveyed in the
following anecdote, with which I have been favoured by a very intelligent
Mussulmaun gentleman, on whom the cheat was attempted during my residence
in his neighbourhood at Lucknow.
'Moonshie Sahib, as he is familiarly called by his friends, was absent
from home on a certain day, during which period his wife and family
fancied they heard the frightful sound of a snake, apparently as if it was
very near to them in the compound (court-yard) of the zeenahnah. They were
too much alarmed to venture from the hall to the compound to satisfy
themselves or take steps to destroy the intruder if actually there. Whilst
in this state of mental torture it happened (as they thought very
fortunately) that a snake-catcher's shrill pipe was heard at no great
distance, to whom a servant was sent; and when the ladies had shut
themselves up securely in their purdahed apartment, the men servants were
desired to introduce the samp-wallahs into the compound, to search for and
secure this enemy to their repose.
'The snake-catcher made, to all appearance, a very minute scrutiny into
every corner or aperture of the compound, as if in search of the reptile's
retreat; and at last a moderate sized snake was seen moving across the
open space in an opposite direction to the spot they were intent on
examining. The greatest possible satisfaction was of course expressed by
the whole of the servants and slaves assembled; the lady of the house was
more than gratified at the reported success of "the charmers" and sent
proofs of her gratitude to the men in a sum of money, proportioned to her
sense of the service rendered on the occasion; the head samp-wallah placed
the snake in his basket, (they always carry a covered basket about with
them) and they departed well satisfied with the profits of this day's
'The Moonshie says, he returned home soon after, and listened to his
wife's account of the event of the morning, and her warm commendation of
the skilful samp-wallahs; but although the servants confirmed all the lady
had told her husband of the snake-charmers' diligence, still he could not
but believe that these idle fellows had practised an imposition on his
unwary lady by their pretended powers in charming the snake. But here it
rested for the time; he could not decide without an opportunity of
witnessing the samp-wallahs at their employment, which he resolved to do
the next convenient opportunity.
'As might have been anticipated, the very same snake-catcher and his
attendant returned to the Moonshie's gateway a very few days after their
former success; Moonshie Sahib was at home, and, concealing his real
intentions, he gave orders that the two men should be admitted; on their
entrance, he said to them, "You say you can catch snakes; now, friends, if
any of the same family remain of which you caught one the other day in
this compound, I beg you will have the civility to draw them out from
'The Moonshie watched the fellows narrowly, that they might not have a
chance of escaping detection, if it was, as he had always suspected, that
the snakes are first let loose by the men, who pretend to attract them
from their hiding-places. The two men being bare-headed, and in a state of
almost perfect nudity (the common usage of the very lowest class of Hindoo
labourers), wearing only a small wrapper which could not contain, he
thought, the least of this class of reptiles, he felt certain there could
not now be any deception.
'The samp-wallah and his assistant, pretending to search every hole and
crevice of the compound, seemed busy and anxious in their employment,
which occupied them for a long time without success. Tired at last with
the labour, the men sat down on the ground to rest; the pipe was resorted
to, with which they pretend to attract the snake; this was, however,
sounded again and again, without the desired effect.
'From the apparent impossibility of any cheat being practised on him, the
Moonshie rather relaxed in his strict observance of the men: he had turned
his back but for an instant only, when the two fellows burst out in an