By-Ways of Bombay
S. M. Edwardes, C.V.O.

Produced by Eric Eldred, Jerry Fairbanks, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team





The various chapters of this book originally appeared under the
_nom-de-plume_ of "Etonensis" in the _Times of India_, to the
proprietors of which journal I am indebted for permission to publish them
in book-form, They cannot claim to be considered critical studies, but are
merely a brief record of persons whom I have met and of things that I have
seen during several years' service as a Government official in Bombay. In
placing them before the public in their present form, I can only hope
that they will be found of brief interest by those unacquainted with the
inner life of the City of Bombay.


BOMBAY, _June 1912_.

S. M. E.


The first edition of "By-ways of Bombay" having been sold out within a
month, Messrs Taraporevala Sons and Co. have interested themselves in
publishing the present edition which includes several illustrations by Mr.
M. V. Dhurandhar and an additional article on the Tilak Riots which
appeared in the _Bombay Gazette_ in August, 1908. My acknowledgments
are due to the Editor for permission to republish this article.


BOMBAY. _November, 1912_.



I. The Spirit of Chandrabai

II. Bombay Scenes

III. Shadows of Night

IV. The Birthplace of Shivaji

V. The Story of Imtiazan

VI. The Bombay Mohurrum

VII. The Possession of Afiza

VIII. A Kasumba Den

IX. The Ganesh Caves

X. A Bhandari Mystery

XI. Scenes in Bombay

XII. Citizens of Bombay

XIII. The Sidis of Bombay

XIV. A Konkan Legend

XV. Nur Jan

XVI. Governor and Koli

XVII. The Tribe Errant

XVIII. The Pandu-Lena Caves

XIX. Fateh Muhammad

XX. The Tilak Riots


1. Spirit of Chandrabai

2. A Mill-hand

3. A Marwari selling Batasa

4. The seller of "Malpurwa Jaleibi"

5. A Koli woman

6. The "Pan" Seller

7. An Opium Club

8. A "Madak-khana"

9. Imtiazan

10. The Possession of Afiza

11. A Bhandari Mystery

12. An Arab

13. A Bombay Memon

14. Sidis of Bombay

15. The Parshurama and the Chitpavans

16. Nur Jan

17. A Koli

18. A Deccani Fruit-seller

19. The Coffee-seller

20. Fateh Muhammad

[Illustration: The Spirit of Chandrabai]




Fear reigned in the house of Vishnu the fisherman: for, but a week before,
his wife Chandra had died in giving birth to a child who survived his
mother but a few hours, and during those seven days all the elders and the
wise women of the community came one after another unto Vishnu and,
impressing upon him the malignant influence of such untimely deaths, bade
him for the sake of himself and his family do all in his power to lay the
spirit of his dead wife. So on a certain night early in December Vishnu
called all his caste-brethren into the room where Chandra had died, having
first arranged there a brass salver containing a ball of flour loosely
encased in thread, a miniature cot with the legs fashioned out of the
berries of the "bhendi," and several small silver rings and bangles, a
coral necklace and a quaint silver chain, which were destined to be hung in
due season upon the wooden peg symbolical of his dead wife's spirit in the
"devaghar," or gods' room, of his house. And he called thither also Rama
the "Gondhali," master of occult ceremonies, Vishram, his disciple, and
Krishna the "Bhagat" or medium, who is beloved of the ghosts of the
departed and often bears their messages unto the living.

When all are assembled, the women of the community raise the brass salver
and head a procession to the seashore, none being left in the dead woman's
room save Krishna the medium who sits motionless in the centre thereof; and
on the dry shingle the women place the salver and two brass "lotas" filled
with milk and water, while the company ranges itself in a semi-circle
around Rama the Gondhali, squatting directly in front of the platter. For a
moment he sits wrapped in thought, and then commences a weird chant of
invocation to the spirit of the dead woman, during which her relations in
turn drop a copper coin into the salver. "Chandrabai," he wails "take this
thy husband's gift of sorrow;" and as the company echoes his lament, Vishnu
rises and drops his coin into the plate. Then her four brothers drop a coin
apiece; her sister-in-law, whispering "It is for food" does likewise; also
her mother with the words "choli patal" or "Tis a robe and bodice for
thee";--and so on until all the relatives have cast down their
offerings,--one promising a fair couch, another an umbrella, a third a
pair of shoes, and little Moti, the dead woman's eldest child, "a pair of
bangles for my mother," until in truth all the small luxuries that the
dead woman may require in the life beyond have been granted. Meanwhile
the strange invocation proceeds. All the dead ancestors of the family, who
are represented by the quaint ghost-pegs in the gods' room of Vishnu's
home, are solemnly addressed and besought to receive the dead woman in
kindly fashion; and as each copper coin tinkles in the salver, Rama cries,
"Receive this, Chandrabai, and hie thee to thy last resting-place."

When the last offering has been made, the women again raise the salver and
the party fares back to Vishnu's house, where a rude shrine of Satvai (the
Sixth Mother) has been prepared. "For," whispers our guide, "Chandrabai
died without worshipping Satvai and her spirit must perforce fulfil those
rites." Close to the shrine sits a midwife keeping guard over a new gauze
cloth, a sari and a bodice, purchased for the spirit of Chandrabai; and on
a plate close at hand are vermilion for her brow, antimony for her eyes, a
nose-ring, a comb, bangles and sweetmeats, such as she liked during her
life-time. When the shrine is reached, one of the brothers steps forward
with a winnowing-fan, the edge of which is plastered with ghi and supports
a lighted wick; and as he steps up to the shrine, the relations and friends
of the deceased again press forward and place offerings of fruit and
flowers in the fan. There he stands, holding the gifts towards the
amorphous simulacrum of the primeval Mother, while Rama the hierophant
beseeches her to send the spirit of the dead Chandrabai into the

And lo! on a sudden the ghostly flame on the lip of the fan dies out! The
spirit of Chandrabai has come! Straightway Rama seizes the fan and followed
by the rest dashes into the room where Krishna the medium is still sitting.
Four or five men commence a wild refrain to the accompaniment of brazen
cymbals, and Rama passes the winnowing-fan, containing the dead woman's
spirit, over the head of the medium. "Let the spirit appear" shrieks Rama
amid the clashing of the cymbals.

"Let the spirit appear" he cries, as he blows a cloud of incense into
Krishna's face. The medium quivers like an aspen leaf; the dead woman's
brothers crawl forward and lay their foreheads upon his feet; he shakes
more violently as the spirit takes firmer hold upon him; and then with a
wild shriek he rolls upon the ground and lies, rent with paroxysms, his
face stretched upwards to the winnowing-fan. Louder and louder crash the
cymbals; louder rises the chant. "Who art thou?" cries Rama. "I am
Chandrabai," comes the answer. "Hast thou any wish unfulfilled?" asks the
midwife. "Nay, all my wishes have been met," cries the spirit through the
lips of the medium, "I am in very truth Chandrabai, who was, but am not
now, of this world." As the last words die away the men dash forward, twist
Krishna's hair into a knot behind, dress him, as he struggles, in the
female attire which the midwife has been guarding, and place in his hand a
wooden slab rudely carved into the semblance of a woman and child. "Away,
away to the underworld" chant the singers; and at the command Krishna
wrenches himself free from the men who are holding him and dashes out with
a yell into the night.

Straight as an arrow he heads for the seashore, his hands clutching the air
convulsively, his 'sari' streaming in the night-breeze; and behind, like
hounds on the trail of the deer, come Rama, the brethren, the sisters, and
rest of the community. Over the shingle they stream and down on to the hard
wet sand. Some one digs a hole; another produces a black cock; and Rama
with a knife cuts its throat over the hole, imploring the spirit's
departure, at the very moment that Krishna with a final shriek plunges into
the sea. They follow him, carry him out of danger, and lay him, stark and
speechless, upon the margin of the waves.

Thence, after a pause and a final prayer, they bear him homeward, as men
bear a corpse, nor leave him until he has regained consciousness and his
very self. For with that last shrill cry the ghost of Chandrabai fled
across the waste waters to meet the pale ancestral dead and dwell with them
for evermore: and the house of Vishnu the fisherman was freed from the
curse of her vagrant and unpropitiated spirit. "She has never troubled me
since that day," says Vishnu; "but at times when I am out in my
fishing-boat and the wind blows softly from the west, I hear her voice
calling to me across the waters. And one day, if the gods are kind, I
shall sail westward to meet her!"

* * * * *




"Binishin bar sari juyo guzari umr bibin
kin isharat zi jahani guzeran mara bas."

So wrote the great poet of Persia: "Sit thou on the bank of a stream and in
the flow of its waters watch the passing of thy life. Than this a vain and
fleeting world can grant thee no higher lesson." Of the human tides which
roll through the streets of the cities of the world, none are brighter or
more varied than that which fills the streets of Bombay. Here are Memon and
Khoja women in shirt and trousers ("kurta" and "izzar") of green and gold
or pink or yellow, with dark blue sheets used as veils, wandering along
with their children dressed in all the hues of the rainbow. Here are sleek
Hindus from northern India in soft muslin and neat coloured turbans:
Gujarathis in red head-gear and close-fitting white garments; Cutchi
sea-farers, descendants of the pirates of dead centuries, with clear-cut
bronzed features that show a lingering strain of Med or Jat, clad in white
turbans, tight jackets, and waist cloths girded tightly over trousers that
button at the ankle. There, mark you, are many Bombay Mahomedans of
the lower class with their long white shirts, white trousers and skull-caps
of silk or brocade: there too is every type of European from the almost
albino Finn to the swarthy Italian,--sailors most of them, accompanied by a
few Bombay roughs as land-pilots; petty officers of merchant ships, in
black or blue dress, making up a small private cargo of Indian goods with
the help of a Native broker; English sailors of the Royal Navy; English
soldiers in khaki; Arabs from Syria and the valley of the Euphrates;
half-Arab, half-Persian traders from the Gulf, in Arab or old Persian
costumes and black turbans with a red border. Here again comes a Persian
of the old school with arched embroidered turban of white silk, white "aba"
or undercoat reaching to the ankles, open grey "shaya," and soft yellow
leather shoes; and he is followed by Persians of the modern school in small
stiff black hats, dark coats drawn in at the waist, and English trousers
and boots. After them come tall Afghans, their hair well-oiled, in the
baggiest of trousers; Makranis dressed like Afghans but distinguished by
their sharper nose and more closely-set eyes; Sindis in many-buttoned
waistcoats; Negroes from Africa clad in striped waist cloths, creeping
slowly through the streets and pausing in wonder at every new sight;
Negroes in the Bombay Mahomedan dress and red fez; Chinese with pig-tails:
Japanese in the latest European attire; Malays in English jackets and loose
turbans; Bukharans in tall sheep skin caps and woollen gabardines, begging
their way from Mecca to to their Central Asian homes, singing hymns in
honour of the Prophet, or showing plans of the Ka'aba or of the
shrine of the saint of saints, Maulana Abdul Kadir Gilani, at Baghdad.

[Illustration: A Millhand.]

[Illustration: A Marwari selling Batassa.]

The ebb and flow of life remains much the same from day to day. The
earliest street sound, before the dawn breaks, is the rattle of the trams,
the meat-carts on their way to the markets, the dust-carts and the
watering-carts; and then, just as the grey thread of the dawn fringes the
horizon, the hymn of the Fakir rings forth, praising the open-handed Ali
and imploring the charity of the early-riser who knows full well that a
copper bestowed unseen during the morning watch is worth far more than
silver bestowed in the sight of men. On a sudden while the penurious widows
and broken respectables are yet prosecuting their rounds of begging, the
great cry "Allaho Akbar" breaks from the mosques and the Faithful troop
forth from their homes to prayer--prayer which is better than sleep. More
commonplace sounds now fill the air, the hoarse "Batasaa, Batasaa" of the
fat Marwari with the cakes, the "Lo phote, lo phote" (Buy my cocoa-cakes)
of a little old Malabari woman, dressed in a red "lungi" and white cotton
jacket, and the cry of the "bajri" and "chaval" seller, clad simply in a
coarse "dhoti" and second-hand skull-cap, purchased at the nearest
rag-shop. And as he passes, bending under the weight of his sacks, you
catch the chink of the little empty coffee-cups without handles, which the
itinerant Arab is soon to fill for his patrons from the portable coffee-pot
in his left hand, or the tremulous "malpurwa jaleibi" of the lean Hindu
from Kathiawar who caters for the early breakfast of the millhand. Mark him
as he pauses to oblige a customer; mark his oil-stained shirt, and loose
turban, once white but now deep-brown from continual contact with the
bottom of his tray of oil-fried sweetmeats: watch him as he worships with
clasped hands the first coin that has fallen to his share this morning,
calling it his "Boni" or lucky handsel and striking it twice or thrice
against the edge of his tray to ward off the fiend of "No Custom." But
hark! the children have heard of his arrival; a shrill cry of "Come in,
jaleibiwala" forces him to drop the first coin into his empty pocket; and
with silent steps he disappears down the dark passage of the neighbouring

[Illustration: The seller of "Malpurwa jaleibi".]

Now, as the Faithful wend their way homewards, bands of cheerful millhands
hasten past you to the mills, and are followed by files of Koli
fisherfolk,--the men unclad and red-hatted, with heavy creels, the women
tight-girt and flower-decked, bearing their headloads of shining fish at a
trot towards the markets. The houses disgorge a continuous stream of
people, bound upon their daily visit to the market, both men and women
carrying baskets of palm-leaf matting for their purchases; and a little
later the verandahs, "otlas," and the streets are crowded with Arabs,
Persians, and north-country Indians, seated in groups to sip their coffee
or sherbet and smoke the Persian or Indian pipe. Baluchis and Makranis
wander into the ghi and flour shops and purchase sufficient to hand over to
the baker, who daily prepares their bread for them; the "panseller" sings
the virtue of his wares in front of the cook-shop; the hawkers--the Daudi
Bohra of "zari purana" fame, the Kathiawar Memon, the Persian "pashmak-
seller" crying "Phul mitai" (flower sweets), start forth upon their daily
pilgrimage; while in the centre of the thoroughfare the "reckla," the
landau, the victoria and the shigram bear their owners towards the
business quarters of the city. "Mera churan mazedar uso khate hain,
sirdar," and past you move a couple of drug-sellers, offering a word
of morning welcome to their friend the Attar (perfumer) from the Deccan;
while above your head the balconies are gradually filling with the mothers
and children of the city, playing, working, talking and watching the human
panorama unfold before their eyes.

[Illustration: A Koli woman.]

So the morning passes into mid-day, amid a hundred sounds symbolical of the
various phases of life in the Western capital,--the shout of the driver,
the twang of the cotton-cleaner, the warning call of the anxious mother,
the rattle of the showman's drum, the yell of the devotee, the curse of the
cartman, the clang of the coppersmith, the chaffering of buyer and seller
and the wail of the mourner. And above all the roar of life broods the echo
of the call to prayer in honour of Allah, the All-Powerful and All-Pitiful,
the Giver of Life and Giver of Death.

* * * * *


[Illustration: The "Pan" Seller.]

As the sun sinks low in the west, a stream of worshippers flows through the
mosque-gates--rich black-coated Persian merchants, picturesque full-bearded
Moulvis, smart sepoys from Hindustan, gold-turbaned shrewd-eyed Memon
traders, ruddy Jats from Multan, high-cheeked Sidis, heavily dressed
Bukharans, Arabs, Afghans and pallid embroiderers from Surat, who grudge
the half-hour stolen from the daylight. At the main entrance of the mosques
gather groups of men and women with sick children in their arms, waiting
until the prayers are over and the worshippers file out; for the
prayer-laden breath of the truly devout is powerful to exorcise the demons
of disease, and the child over whom the breath of the worshipper has passed
has fairer surety of recovery than can be gained from all the nostrums and
charms of the Syed and Hakim. Just before and after sunset the streets wear
their busiest air. Here are millhands and other labourers returning from
their daily labours, merchants faring home from their offices, beggars,
hawkers, fruit-sellers and sweetmeat-vendors, while crowds enter the
cookshops and sherbet shops, and groups of Arabs and others settle
themselves for recreation on the threshold of the coffee-sellers' domain.

There in a quiet backwater of traffic a small crowd gathers round a
shabbily-dressed Panjabi, who, producing a roll of pink papers and waving
them before his audience, describes them as the Prayer-treasure of the
Heavenly Throne ("Duai Ganjul Arsh"), Allah's greatest gift to the Prophet.
"The Prophet and his children," he continues, "treasured this prayer; for
before it fled the evil spirits of possession, disease and difficulty. Nor
hath its virtue faded in these later days. In Saharanpur, hark ye, dwelt a
woman, rich, prosperous and childless, and unto her I gave this prayer
telling her to soak it in water once a month and drink thereafter. And lo!
in two months by the favour of Allah she conceived, and my fame was spread
abroad among men. The troubles of others also have I lightened with this
prayer,--even a woman possessed by a Jinn, under whose face I burned the
prayer, so that the evil spirit fled." He asks from two to four annas for
the prayer sheet and finds many a purchaser in the crowd; and now and again
he rolls the sheet into a thin tube and ties it round the neck of a sick
child or round the arm of a sick woman, whom faith in Allah urges into the
presence of the peripathetic healer. "Oh, ye lovers of the beauties of the
Prophet," he cries, "Faith is the greatest of cures. Have faith and ye have
all! Know ye not that Allah bade the Prophet never pray for them that
lacked faith nor pray over the graves of those of little faith!"

Hark, through the hum of the crowd, above the rumble of wheels and the
jangle of bullock-bells, rises the plaintive chant of the Arab
hymn-singers, leading the corpse of a brother to the last "mukam"
or resting-place; while but a short distance away,--only a narrow
street's length,--the drum and flageolets escort the stalwart young
Memon bridegroom unto the house of the bride. Thus is it ever in
this city of strange contrasts. Life and Death in closest juxtaposition,
the hymn in honour of the Prophet's birth blending with the elegy
to the dead. Bag-pipes are not unknown in the Musalman quarters of
Bombay; and not infrequently you may watch a crescent of ten or twelve
wild Arab sailors in flowing brown gowns and parti-coloured head-scarves
treading a measure to the rhythm of the bagpipes blown by a younger
member of their crew. The words of the tune are the old words "La
illaha illallah," set to an air endeared from centuries past to the
desert-roving Bedawin, and long after distance has dulled the tread of
the dancing feet the plaintive notes of the refrain reach you upon the
night breeze. About midnight the silent streets are filled with the
long-drawn cry of the shampooer or barber, who by kneading and patting the
muscles induces sleep for the modest sum of 4 annas; and barely has his
voice died away than the Muezzin's call to prayer falls on the ear of the
sleeper, arouses in his heart thoughts of the past glory of his Faith, and
forces him from his couch to wash and bend in prayer before Him "Who
fainteth not, Whom neither sleep nor fatigue overtaketh."

During the hot months of the year the closeness of the rooms and the
attacks of mosquitoes force many a respectable householder to shoulder his
bedding and join the great army of street-sleepers, who crowd the footpaths
and open spaces like shrouded corpses. All sorts and conditions of men thus
take their night's rest beneath the moon,--Rangaris, Kasais, bakers,
beggars, wanderers, and artisans,--the householder taking up a small
position on the flags near his house, the younger and unmarried men
wandering further afield to the nearest open space, but all lying with
their head towards the north for fear of the anger of the Kutb or Pole

"Kibla muaf karta hai, par Kutb hargiz nahin!"
The Kibla forgives, but the Kutb never!

The sights and sounds vary somewhat at different seasons of the year.
During Ramazan, for example, the streets are lined with booths and stalls
for the sale of the rice-gruel or "Faludah" which is so grateful a posset
to the famishing Faithful, hurrying dinnerless to the nearest mosque. When
the evening prayer is over and the first meal has been taken, the
coffee-shops are filled with smokers, the verandahs with men playing
'chausar' or drafts, while the air is filled with the cries of iced
drink sellers and of beggars longing to break their fast also. Then
about 8 p.m., as the hour of the special Ramazan or "Tarawih" prayer
draws nigh, the mosque beadle, followed by a body of shrill-voiced
boys, makes his round of the streets, crying "Namaz tayar hai, cha-lo-o,"
and all the dwellers in the Musalman quarter hie them to the house
of prayer.

It is in the comparative quiet of the streets by night that one hears more
distinctly the sounds in the houses. Here rises the bright note of the
"shadi" or luck songs with which during the livelong night the women of the
house dispel the evil influences that gather around a birth, a circumcision
or a "bismillah" ceremony. There one catches the passionate outcry of the
husband vainly trying to pierce the deaf ear of death. For life in the city
has hardened the hearts of the Faithful, and has led them to forget the
kindly injunction of the Prophet, still observed in small towns or villages
up-country:--"Neither shall the merry songs of birth or of marriage deepen
the sorrow of a bereaved brother." The last sound that reaches you as you
turn homewards, is the appeal of the "Sawale" or begging Fakir for a
hundred rupees to help him on his pilgrimage. All night long he tramps
through the darkness, stopping every twenty or thirty paces to deliver his
sonorous prayer for help, nor ceases until the Muezzin voices the summons
to morning prayer. He is the last person you see, this strange and
portionless Darwesh of the Shadows, and long after he has passed from your
sight, you hear his monotonous cry:--"Hazrat Shah Ali, Kalandar Hazrat Zar
Zari zar Baksh, Hazrat Shah Gisu Daroz Khwajah Bande Nawaz Hazrat Lal
Shahbaz ke nam sau rupai Hajjul Beit ka kharch dilwao!" He has elevated
begging to a fine art, and the Twelve Imams guard him from disappointment.



There are certain clubs in the city where a man may purchase nightly
oblivion for the modest sum of two or three annas; and hither come
regularly, like homing pigeons at nightfall, the human flotsam and jetsam,
which the tide of urban life now tosses into sight for a brief moment and
now submerges within her bosom. Halt in that squalid lane which looks out
upon the traffic of one of the most crowded thoroughfares and listen, if
you will, for some sign of life in the dark, ungarnished house which towers
above you. All is hushed in silence; no voice, no cry from within reaches
the ear; the chal must be tenanted only by the shadows. Not so! At the far
end of a passage, into which the sullage water drips, forming ill-smelling
pools, a greasy curtain is suddenly lifted for a minute, disclosing several
flickering lights girt about with what in the distance appear to be
amorphous blocks of wood or washerman's bundles. Grope your way down the
passage, push aside the curtain with your stick--it is far too foul to
touch with the hand--and the mystery is made plain. The room with its
tightly-closed shutters and smoke-blackened walls is filled with recumbent
men, in various stages of _deshabille_, all sunk in the sleep which
the bamboo-pipe and the little black pellets of opium ensure. The room is
not a large one, for the habitual smoker prefers a small apartment, in
which the fumes of the drug hang about easily; and its reeking walls are
unadorned save with a chromo plan of the chief buildings at Mecca, a crude
portrait of a Hindu goddess, and oleographs of British royalty. It were all
the same if these were absent; for the opium-smoker comes not hither to see
pictures, save those which the drugged brain fashions, and cares not for
distinctions of race, creed or sovereignty. The proprietor of the club may
be a Musalman; his patrons may be Hindus, Christians or Chinese; and the
dreams which riot across the semi-consciousness of the latter are not
concerned as a rule with heroes of either the spiritual or temporal kind.

[Illustration: An Opium Club.]

The smokers lie all over the room in groups of four or five, each of whom
is provided with a little wooden head-rest and lies curled up like a tired
dog with his face towards the lamp in the centre of the group. In his hand
is the bamboo-stemmed pipe, the bowl of which reminds one of the cheap
china ink-bottles used in native offices, and close by lies the long thin
needle which from time to time he dips in the saucer of opium-juice and
holds in the flame until the juice frizzles into a tiny pellet fit for
insertion in the bowl of the pipe. The room is heavy with vapour that
clutches at the throat, for every cranny and interstice is covered with
fragments of old sacking defying the passage of the night air. As you turn
towards the door, a fat Mughal rises slowly from the ground and makes
obeisance, saying that he is the proprietor. "Your club seems to pay,
shet-ji! Is it always as well patronised as it is this evening?" "Aye,
always," comes the sleepy answer, "for my opium is good, the daily
subscription but small; and there be many whom trouble and sorrow have
taught the road to peace. They come hither daily about sundown and dream
till day-break, and again set forth upon their day's work. But they return,
they always return until Sonapur claims them. They are of all kinds, my
customers. There, mark you, is a Sikh embroiderer from Lahore; here is a
Mahomedan fitter from the railway work-shops; this one keeps a tea shop in
the Nall Bazaar, that one is a pedlar; and him you see smiling in his
sleep, he is a seaman just arrived from a long voyage."

You hazard the question whether any of the customers ever die in this
paradise of smoke-begotten dreams; and the answer comes: "Not often; for
they that smoke opium are immune from plague and other sudden diseases. But
the parrot which you see in the cage overhead was left to me by one who
died just where the saheb now stands. He was a merchant of some status and
used to travel to Singapore and South Africa before he came here. But once,
after a longer journey than usual, he returned to find that his only son
had died of the plague and that his wife had forgotten him for another.
Therefore he cast aside his business and came hither in quest of
forgetfulness. Here he daily smoked until his money was well-nigh spent,
and then one night he died quietly, leaving me the parrot." You peer up
through the fumes and discern one bright black eye fixed upon you half in
anger, half in inquiry. The bird's plumage is soiled and smoke-darkened;
but the eye is clear, wickedly clear, suggesting that its owner is the one
creature in this languid atmosphere that never sleeps. What stories it
could tell, if it could but speak-stories of sorrow, stories of evil, tales
of the little kindnesses which the freemasonry of the opium-club teaches
men to do unto one another. But, as if it shunned inquiry, it retreats to
the back of its perch and drops a film over its eye, just as the smoke-film
shutters in the consciousness of those over whom it mounts guard.

Further down the indescribable passage is a similar room, the occupants of
which are engaged in a novel game. Two men squat against the wall on either
side, surrounded by their adherents, each holding between his knees a
long-stemmed pipe built somewhat on the German fashion. Into the bowls
they push at intervals a round ball of lighted opium or some other drug,
and then after a long pull blow with all the force of their lungs down the
stem, so that the lighted ball leaps forth in the direction of the
adversary. The game is to make seven points by hitting the adversary as
many times, and he who wins receives the exiguous stakes for which they
play. "What do you call this game," you ask; and an obvious Sidi in
the corner replies:--"This Russian and Japanese war, Sar; Japanese
winning!" The game moves very slowly, for both the players and onlookers
are in a condition of semi-coma, but the interest which they take in an
occasional coup is by no means feigned, and is perhaps natural to people
whose daily lives are fraught with little joy. Round the corner lies
a third room or club, likewise filled with starved and sleepy humanity.
Near the door squats a figure without arms, who can scratch his head
with his toes without altering his position, "What do you do for a living,
Baba?" you ask; "I beg, saheb. I beg from sunrise until noon, wandering
about the streets and past the "pedhis" of the rich merchants, and with
luck I obtain six or eight annas. That gives me the one meal I need,
for I am a small man; and the balance I spend in the club, where
I may smoke and lie at peace. No, I am not a Maratha; I am a Panchkalshi;
but I reck nothing of caste now. That belongs to the past."

A light chuckle behind you, as the last words are spoken, brings you sharp
round on your heels; and you discern huddled in the semi-darkness of the
corner what appears in the miserable light of the cocoanut oil lamp to be a
Goanese boy. There are the short gray knickers and the thin white shirt
affected by the Native Christian boy; there is the short black hair; but
the skin is white, unusually white for a native of Goa, and there is
something curious about the face which prompts you to ask the owner who he
is and whence he comes. The only reply is a vacant but not unpleasant
smile; and the armless wastrel then volunteers the information that the
child--for she is little more--is not a boy but a girl. Merciful Heaven!
How comes she here amid this refuse of humanity? "She is an orphan," says
the armless one, "and she is half-mad. Her parents died when she was very
young, and her mind became somehow weak. There was none to take charge of
her; so we of the opium-club brought her here, and in return for our
support she runs errands for us and prepares the room for the nightly
conclave. She is a Mahomedan." You look again at the dark-eyed child
smiling in the corner and you wonder what horror, what ill-treatment
or what grief brought her to this pass. Peradventure it is a mercy
that her mind has gone and cannot therefore revolt against the squalor
of her surroundings. It is useless to ask her of herself; she can only
smile in her scanty boyish garb. It is the saddest sight in this
valley of the abyss, where men purchase draughts of nepenthe to fortify
themselves against the cares that the day brings. The opium-club
kills religion, kills nationality. In this case it has killed sex also!

[Illustration: A "Madak-Khana."]



About half a mile westward of the town of Junnar there rises from the plain
a colossal hill, the lower portion whereof consists of steep slopes covered
with rough grass and a few trees, and the upper part of two nearly
perpendicular tiers of scarped rock, surmounted by an undulating and
triangular-shaped summit. The upper tier commences at a height of six
hundred feet from the level of the plain and, rising another 200 feet,
extends dark and repellant round the entire circumference of the hill.
Viewed from the outskirts of the town, the upper scarp, which runs straight
to a point in the north, bears the strongest similarity to the side of a
huge battleship, riding over billows long since petrified and grass grown:
and the similarity is accentuated by the presence in both scarps of a line
of small Buddhist cells, the apertures of which are visible at a
considerable distance and appear like the portholes or gun-ports of the
fossilised vessel. Unless one has a predilection for pushing one's way
through a perpendicular jungle or crawling over jagged and sunbaked rock,
the only way to ascend the hill is from the south-western side, from the
upper portion of which still frown the outworks and bastioned walls which
once rendered the fortress impregnable. The road from the town of Junnar is
in tolerable repair and leads you across a stream, past the ruined mud
walls of an old fortified enclosure, and past the camping-ground of the
Twelve Wells, until you reach a group of trees overshadowing the ruined
tombs of a former captain of the fort and other Musulmans. The grave of the
Killedar is still in fair condition; but the walls which enclose it are
sorely dilapidated, and the wild thorn and prickly pear, creeping unchecked
through the interstices, have run riot over the whole enclosure.

At this point one must leave the main road, which runs forward to the crest
of the Pirpadi Pass, and after crossing a level stretch of rock, set one's
steps upon the pathway which, flanked on one side by the lofty
rock-bastions of the hill and on the other by the rolling slopes, leads
upwards to the First Gate. At your feet lies the deserted and ruined
village of Bhatkala, which once supplied the Musulman garrison with food
and other necessaries, and is now but a memory; and above your head the
wall and outwork of the Phatak Tower mark the vicinity of the shrine of
Shivabai, the family goddess of the founder of the Maratha Empire. The
pathway yields place to a steep and roughly-paved ascent, girt with dense
clumps of prickly pear, extending as far as the first gateway of the
fortress. There are in all seven great gateways guarding the approach
to the hill-top, of which the first already mentioned, the second or
"Parvangicha Darvaja," the fourth or Saint's gate, and the fifth
or Shivabai gate are perhaps more interesting than the rest. One
wonders why there should be seven gateways, no more and no less.
Was it merely an accident or the physical formation of the hill-side
which led to the choice of this number? Or was it perhaps a memory
of the mysterious power of the number seven exemplified in both Hebrew
and Hindu writings, which induced the Musulman to build that number
of entrances to his hill-citadel? The coincidence merits passing thought.
The second gateway originally bore on either side, at the level of the
point of its arch, a mystic tiger, carved on the face of a stone slab,
holding in its right forepaw some animal, which the _Gazetteer_
declares is an elephant but which more closely resembles a dog. The tiger
on the left of the arch alone abides in its place; the other lies on the
ground at the threshold of the gate. Local wiseacres believe the tiger to
have been the crest of the Killedar who built the gate and to have
signified to the public of those lawless days much the same as the famous
escutcheon in "Marmion," with its legend, "who laughs at me to Death is

The Saint's gate, so called from the tomb of a "Pir" hidden in the
surrounding growth of prickly pear, is the largest of all the gates and is
formed of splendid slabs of dressed stone, each about 8 feet in length. On
either side of the gateway are rectangular recesses, which were doubtless
used as dwellings or guardrooms by the soldiers in charge of the gate.
Thence the pathway divides; one track, intended for cavalry, leading round
to the north-western side of the hill, and the other for foot-passengers,
composed of rock-hewn steps and passing directly upwards to the Shivabai
gate, where still hangs the great teak-door, studded with iron spikes,
against which the mad elephants of an opposing force might fruitlessly hurl
their titanic bulk.

Leaving for a moment the direct path, which climbs to the crest of the hill
past the Buddhist caves and cisterns, we walk along a dainty terrace lined
with champak and sandalwood trees and passing under a carved stone gateway
halt before the shrine dedicated to Shivaji's family goddess. The dark
inner shrine must have once been a Buddhist cave, carved out of the wall of
rock; and to it later generations added the outer hall, with its carved
pillars of teakwood, which hangs over the very edge of a precipitous
descent. Repairs to the shrine are at present in progress; and on the day
of our visit two bullocks were tethered in the outer chamber, the materials
of the stone-mason were lying here and there among the carved pillars, and
a painfully modern stone wall is rising in face of the austere threshold of
the inner sanctuary. The lintel of the shrine is surmounted with inferior
coloured pictures of Hindu deities, and two printed and tolerably faithful
portraits of the great Maratha chieftain. "Thence," in the words of the
poet, "we turned and slowly clomb the last hard footstep of that iron
crag," and traversing the seventh and last gate reached the ruined
_Ambarkhana_ or Elephant-stable on the hill top. It is a picture of
great desolation which meets the eye. The fragment of a wall or plinth,
covered with rank creepers, an archway of which the stones are sagging into
final disruption, and many a tumulus of coarse brown grass are all that
remain of the wide buildings which once surrounded the _Ambarkhana_.
The latter, gray and time-scarred, still rears on high its double row of
arched vaults; but Vandalism, in the guise of the local shepherd and
grass-cutter, has claimed it as her own and has bricked up in the rudest
fashion, for the shelter of goats and kine, the pointed stone arches which
were once its pride.

Another noteworthy feature of the summit of the hill is a collection of
stone cisterns of varying ages, still containing water. The smaller open
cisterns, in which the water is thick and covered with slime, are of
Musalman origin, but there are one or two in other parts of the hill which
clearly date from Buddhist ages and are coeval with the rock-cells. The
most important and interesting of all are four large reservoirs, supported
on massive pillars and hewn out of the side of the hill, which date from
about 1100 A.D., and were in all probability built by the Yadav dynasty of
Deogiri. One of them known as Ganga and Jamna is full of clear cool water
which, the people say, is excellent for drinking. Here again the hand of
the vandal has not been idle; for such names as Gopal, Ramchandra, etc.,
are scrawled in English characters over the face of the chief reservoir--
the holiday work no doubt of school-boys from Junnar. The presence of
these four reservoirs, coupled with other disappearing clues, proves that
between the Buddhist era and the date of the Musulman conquest, the hill
must have been fortified and held by Hindu chieftains, probably the
Yadavas already mentioned. The purely Musulman remains include the
_Ambarkhana_, a prayer-wall or _Idga_, the skeleton of a mosque, with a
delicate flying arch, and a domed tomb. In front of the prayer wall still
stands the stone pulpit from which the _moulvis_ of the fortress preached
and intoned the daily prayers; but neither the prayer-wall nor the mosque
have withstood the attacks of time as bravely as the tomb. For here scarce
a stone has become displaced, and the four pointed arches which rise
upwards to the circular dome are as unblemished as on the day when the
builder gazed upon his finished work and found it good. The _Gazetteer_
speaks of it as a man's tomb; but the flat burial-slab within the arches
points to it being a woman's grave; and local tradition declares that it
is the body of the mother of one Daulat Khan which lies here. Had those
she left behind sought to bring peace to her dust, they could have chosen
no more fitting site for her entombment. For each face of the grave
commands a wide prospect of mountain and valley, the massive hills rising
tier after tier in the distance until they are but faint shadows on the
horizon; the intense solitude peculiar to mountain-country is broken but
fitfully by the wild-dove's lamentation; and even when the sun in
mid-heaven beats down fiercely upon the grassy barrows of the hill top,
the breeze blows chill through the open arches and the dome casts a deep
shadow over all.

At a little distance from the flying-arch mosque are two rooms built of
stone, in one of which according to our Muhammadan guide Shivaji was born.
Whether it was actually upon the rough walls of this small chamber that
Shivaji's eyes first rested is open to considerable doubt, and probably
they are but a small portion of a once spacious mansion which covered the
surrounding area, now relic-strewn and desolate, and in which the family of
the chieftain resided. These crumbling halls, the shrine of Shivabai, and
the outwork at the extreme north point of the hill are the only remains
directly connected with Maratha supremacy. The out-work which overhangs the
sheer northern scarp performed the same function as the famous Tarpeian
Rock of old Rome. Thence the malefactor of Maratha days was hurled down to
swift death; and history records one instance of seven outlaws being cast
"unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved" into space from this inaccessible eyrie
by an officer of the Peshwa. Viewed from this point the whole plain seems a
vast brown sea streaked here and there with green: and the smaller hills
rise like islands from it, their feet folded in the mist which creeps
across the levels. To the north beyond the larger ranges which encircle the
valley the peak of Harischandragad is dimly visible, towering above the
Sahyadris; and across the plain to eastward the Suleman range ends in the
huge rounded shoulders of the Ganesh Lena spur.

Shivner has known many changes. It gave shelter to the Buddhist in the
first and second centuries of the Christian era; It was excavated and
fortified by early Hindu Kings who in turn yielded place to the "imperial
banditti," and they held it until the English came and cried a truce to the
old fierce wars. And all these have left traces of their sovereignty amid
the rocks, the grass and the rank weeds of the hill. It is a living
illustration of the words of the poet:--

"Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp.
Abode his destined Hour and went his way."



The scene of her earliest memories was a small room with spotless
floor-cloth, the windows whereof looked out upon the foliage of "ber" and
tamarind. During the day a black-bearded man would recline upon the
cushions, idly fondling her and calling her "Piyari" ( dearest); and at
night a pretty young woman would place her in a brightly-painted "jhula"
(swinging-cot) and sing her to sleep. Then the scene changes. He of the
black beard is away, and the form of the beloved lies stark beneath a white
sheet while mysterious women folk go to and fro within the house. A
kindly-faced old man, who in earlier days had helped her build little
dust-heaps beneath the trees, takes her from the warm cot and hands her
over to a woman of stern face and rasping tongue, with whom she dwells
disconsolate until one fateful day she finds herself alone in a
market-place, weeping the passionate tears of the waif and orphan. But
deliverance is at hand.

The sight of the weeping child touches a chord in the heart of Gowhar Jan,
the famous dancing girl of Lahore. She takes the orphan home, christens her
Imtiazan, and does her best to blunt the evil memories of her desertion.

Gowhar Jan did her duty by the child according to her lights. She engaged
the best "Gawayyas" to teach her music, the best "Kath-thaks" to teach her
dancing, the best "Ustads" to teach her elocution and deportment, and the
best of Munshis to ground her in Urdu and Persian _belles lettres_; so
that when Imtiazan reached her fifteenth year her accomplishments were
noised abroad in the bazaar. Beautiful too she was, with the fair
complexion of the border-races, slightly aquiline nose, large dark eyes and
raven hair, the latter unadorned and drawn simply back in accordance with
the custom of her mother's people which forbids the unmarried girl to part
her hair or deck it with flowers. Her Indo-Punjabi dress, the loose
many-folded trousers, the white bodice and the silver-bordered scarf of
rose pink--but added to her charm. Yet was Gowhar Jan troubled at heart,
for the girl was in her eyes too modest, too retiring, and cared not at
all whether her songs and dances found favour with the rich landholders,
Sikh Sardars and the sons of Babu millionaires, who crowded to Gowhar
Jan's house. "Alas," sighed Gowhar Jan, "she will never be like Chanda
Malika, gay, witty and famous for generations; her education has been
wasted, and her name will die!" But Imtiazan only pouted and answered;
"I care not to throw good saffron before asses!"

[Illustration: Imtiazan.]

Then Fate cast the die. Her Munshi one day brought to the house a Musulman,
dressed in the modern attire of young India, who had acquired such skill in
playing the "Sitar", that he was able straightway and without mistake to
accompany Imtiazan's most difficult songs. Thereafter he came often
to the house and gradually played himself into the affection of the
young girl, who after some hesitation consented to marry him and elope
with him to a distant city. Thus Imtiazan left the house of her girlhood
and fled with her husband to Bombay. Money they had not, where-fore
Imtiazan, not without a pang, sold her necklace of gold beads and
bravely started house-keeping in the one small room they chose as
their home, while he went forth to seek employment worthy of his
degree at the Calcutta University and of his Rohilla ancestry But alas!
work came not to his hands: and as the money slowly dwindled, he grew
morose and irritable and often made her weep silently as she sat stitching
the embroidery designed to provide the daily meal. She knew full well that
vain pride baulked his employment; and after many a struggle she prevailed
upon him to become a letter-writer. "An undergraduate, who has read
Herbert Spencer, Comte and Voltaire," said he, "cannot demean himself to
letter-writing for the public," to which she justly replied that an
education which prevents a man earning his daily bread must be worthless.

So in due course he installed himself with an ill grace upon the footpath
of Bhendi Bazaar with portfolio and inkhorn, writing letters for uneducated
Musulmans, petitions for candidates and English accounts for butlers. And
the more he wrote the more convinced he became that he was sacrificing
himself for a woman who could not realize the measure of his fall. Thus for
a time matters remained--little Imtiazan wearing her delicate fingers out
at home, he plying his pen in the street, until one day a dancing-girl from
Lucknow called him to her house to write an important missive on her
behalf. This chance acquaintance ripened into a friendship that boded no
good for Imtiazan: for within a month, amid specious statements of
lucrative employment and fair promises of future well-being, he bade her
prepare to leave the small room and accompany him to a larger house,
fronting a main thoroughfare, which, said he, would henceforth be their
home. The sight of the unscreened windows of her new home struck a chill
into Imtiazan's heart; and when the door opened and she was met by three
elderly Muhammadans who saluted her as their "Bai-Saheb," fear took
possession of her soul. The thin red cases hanging on the wall told her
that the men were musicians; and in response to the mute appeal in her eyes
her husband bade her with almost brutal candour prepare to adopt her old
profession of dancing and singing in order to save him from the hateful
duties of a public letter-writer.

For two days Imtiazan tended by the musicians and their wives was a prey to
the blackest despair, and then deeming it useless to protest, she set
herself courageously to do her husband's bidding and to dance as she had
danced in the house of Gowhar Jan. But she little knew the true depths of
her husband's selfishness. "Money comes not fast enough" was his perpetual
cry and he urged her, at first gently but with ever-increasing vehemence,
to sink still lower. The memory of the past and who knows what higher
instinct helped her to withstand his sordid demands for many days; but at
length, realizing that this was _kismet_ and tired of the perpetual
upbraiding, she consented to do his bidding. So for three weary years the
waters closed over Imtiazan. One day she awoke to find that her husband had
crowned his villainy by decamping with her valuables and all her savings.
She followed and found him, and, pressing into his hand a little extra
money that he had in his hurry overlooked, she bade him a bitter farewell
for ever. She rested a day or two to get herself properly divorced from
him, and then returned alone to the hated life in Bombay.

There Fortune smiled upon her and wealth poured into her lap. Two years
later by dint of careful inquiry she discovered that the stern-faced woman
who had abandoned her in the Lahore market was her uncle's wife, now
widowed and in poverty; and to her she of her bounty gave a pension. For
Imtiazan, though she never forgot, could always forgive and had never lost
the sense of her duty to relations. She also provided for the old man who
had helped her when a child to build the dust-castles beneath the trees of
her old home; and then, while still young and with enough money left to
keep herself in comparative affluence, she turned her back for ever upon
the profession which she loathed and devoted the rest of her life to the
careful rearing of an orphan girl, whom the desire for a child of her own
and the memories of her own youth urged her to adopt. When she died, the
child who had grown up and under her guidance had married a respectable
merchant, mourned for her as one mourns for those who have lovingly
shielded our infancy and youth; and many of the neighbours were sincerely
grieved that Imtiazan had departed for ever.

Such is the life-history of Imtiazan, one of the most famous dancing-girls
Bombay has ever known--a history that lacks not pathos. After her final
renunciation of the profession of singing and dancing she might have
remarried and in fact received more than one offer from men who were
attracted by her kindliness of heart and by her beauty. But she declined
them all with the words "Marriage is not my _kismet_," which is but
the Indian equivalent of "My faith hath departed and my heart is broken."
Surely the earth lies very lightly upon Imtiazan.




The luxury of grief seems common to mankind all the world over, and the
mourning of the Mohurrum finds its counterpart in the old lamentation for
the slain Adonis, the emotional tale of Sohrab's death at the hand of his
sire Rustom, and the long-drawn sorrow of the Christian Passion. The
Persian inclination towards the emotional side of human nature was not slow
to discover amid the early martyrs of the Faith one figure whose pathetic
end was powerful to awaken every chord of human pity. The picture of the
women and children of high lineage deceived, deserted and tortured with
thirst, of the child's arms lopped at the wrist even at the moment they
were stretched forth for the blessing of the Imam, of the noblest chief of
Islam betrayed and choosing death to dishonour, of his last lonely onset,
his death and mutilation at the hand of a former friend and fellow-champion
of the faith,--this picture indeed appealed and still appeals, as no other
can, to the hidden depths of the Persian heart. The Sunni may object to the
choice of Hasan and Husain as the martyrs most worthy of lamentation,
putting forward in their stead Omar, companion of the Prophet himself, who
lingered for three days in the agony of death, or Othman, the third
Khalifa, who died of thirst, or "the Lion of God," whose life came to so
disastrous a close. But the Shia, while admitting that the death of the
first martyrs may have wrought severer loss to Islam, cannot admit that
their end surpasses in pathos the tale of the bitter tenth of Mohurrum when
the stars quivered in a bloodied sky and the very walls of the palace of
Kufa rained tears of blood as the head of the Martyr was borne before them.
He cannot also approve the Sunni practice of converting a season of
mourning into one of revelry and brawl, for he does not realize the
influence of the local Hindu element upon the Mohurrum and cannot
comprehend that the Indian additions to the festival have their roots in
the deep soil of Hindu spirit-belief. For to the Hindu, and to the Sunni
Mahomedan who has borrowed somewhat from him, all seasons of death and
mourning act as a lode-stone to the unhoused and naked spirits who are ever
wandering through the silent spaces of the East. Some of these spirits we
can appease or coax into becoming guardian-angels by housing them in
handsome cenotaphs; others we can lodge in the horse-shoe or in that great
spirit-house, the tiger, letting them sport for a day or two in the bodies
of our men and youths, who are adorned with yellow stripes symbolical of
their role; while other more malevolent spirits can only be driven away by
shouting, buffeting and drumming, such as characterize the Mohurrum season
in Bombay. The Indian element of nervous excitement might in course of ages
have been sobered by the puritanism of Islam but for the presence of the
African, who unites with a firm belief in spirits a phenomenal desire for
noise and brawling; and it is the union of this jovial African element with
the sentimentality of Persia and the spirit-worship of pure Hinduism which
renders the Bombay Mohurrum more lively and more varied than any Mahomedan
celebration in Cairo, Damascus or Constantinople.

Although the regular Mohurrum ceremonies do not commence until the fifth
day of the Mohurrum moon, the Mahomedan quarters of the city are astir on
the first of the month. From morn till eve the streets are filled with
bands of boys, and sometimes girls, blowing raucous blasts on hollow
bamboos, which are adorned with a tin 'panja,' the sacred open hand
emblematical of the Prophet, his daughter Fatima, her husband Ali and their
two martyred sons. The sacred five, in the form of the outstretched hand,
adorn nearly all Mohurrum symbols, from the toy trumpet and the top of the
banner-pole to the horseshoe rod of the devotee and the 'tazia' or domed
bier. Youths, preceded by drummers and clarionet-players, wander through
the streets laying all the shop-keepers under contribution for
subscriptions; the well-to-do householder sets to building a 'sabil' or
charity-fountain in one corner of his verandah or on a site somewhat
removed from the fairway of traffic; while a continuous stream of people
afflicted by the evil-eye flows into the courtyard of the Bara Imam Chilla
near the Nal Bazaar to receive absolution from the peacock-feather brush
and sword there preserved. Meanwhile in almost every street where a 'tabut'
is being prepared elegiac discourses ('waaz') are nightly delivered up to
the tenth of the month by a _maulvi_, who draws from Rs. 30 to Rs. 100
for his five nights' description of the martyrdom of Husain; while but a
little distance away boys painted to resemble tigers leap to the rhythm of
a drum, and the Arab mummer with the split bamboo shatters the nerves of
the passerby by suddenly cracking it behind his back. The fact that this
Arab usually takes up a strong position near a 'tazia' suggests the idea
that he must originally have represented a guardian or scapegoat, designed
to break by means of his abuse, buffoonery and laughter the spell of the
spirits who long for quarters within the rich mimic tomb; and the fact that
the crowds who come to gaze in admiration on the 'tazia' never retort or
round upon him for the sudden fright or anger that he evokes gives one the
impression that the crack of the bamboo is in their belief a potent scarer
of unhoused and malignant spirits.

Turn off the main thoroughfare and you may perhaps find a lean Musalman,
with a green silk skullcap, sitting in a raised and well-lighted recess in
front of an urn in which frankincense is burning. He has taken a vow to be
a "Dula" or bridegroom during the Mohurrum. There he sits craning his neck
over the smoke from the urn and swaying from side to side, while at
intervals three companions who squat beside him give vent to a cry of "Bara
Imam ki dosti yaro din" (cry "din" for the friendship of the twelve Imams).
Then on a sudden the friends rise and bind on to the Dula's chest a pole
surmounted with the holy hand, place in his hand a brush of peacock's
feathers and lead him thus bound and ornamented out into the highway.
Almost on the threshold of his passage a stout Punjabi Musulman comes
forward to consult him. "Away, away" cry the friends "Naya jhar hai" (this
is a new tree), meaning thereby that the man is a new spirit-house and has
never before been possessed. A little further on the procession, which has
now swelled to considerable size, is stopped by a Mahomedan from Ahmednagar
who seeks relief. He places his hand upon the Dula's shoulder and asks for
a sign. "Repeat the creed," mutters the ecstatic bridegroom. "Repeat the
durud," say the Dula's supporters; and all present commence to repeat the
"Kalmah" or creed and the "Durud" or blessing. Then turning to the
Mahomedan who stopped him, the bridegroom of Husein cries: "Sheikh
Muhammad, thou art possessed by a jinn--come to my shrine on Thursday
next," and with these words sets forth again upon his wanderings. Further
down the Bhendi Bazaar a Deccan Mhar woman comes forward for enlightenment,
and the Dula, after repeating the Kalmah, promises that she will become a
mother before the year expires; while close to Phulgali a Konkani Musulman
woman, who has been possessed for six months by a witch (Dakan), is flicked
thrice with the peacock-feather brush and bidden to the Dula's shrine on
the following Thursday. So the Dula fares gradually forward, now stopped by
a Kunbi with a sick child, now by some Musulman mill-hands, until he
reaches the Bismillah shrine, where he falls forward on his face with
frothing mouth and convulsed body. The friends help the spirit which racks
him to depart by blowing into his ear a few verses of the Koran; whereat
the Dula, after a possession of about four hours, regains consciousness,
looks around in surprise, and retires to his home fatigued but at last

Wherever a "tazia" or tomb is a-building, there gather all the Mohurrum
performers, the Nal Sahebs or Lord Horse-shoes, the tigers and the mummers
of Protean disguise. The spot becomes an "Akhada" or tryst at which the
tomb-builders entertain all comers with draughts of sherbet or sugared
water, but not with betel which has no place in seasons of mourning. Here
for example comes a band of Marathas and Kamathis with bells upon their
ankles, who form a ring in front of the "tazia", while their leader chants
in a loud voice:--

"Alif se Allah; Be se Bismillah; Jum se meri
Jan. Tajun Imam Husein Ki nyaz dharun."

"Alif for Allah; B for Bismillah; J for my life.
An offering is this to Husein."

The chorus take up the refrain at intervals accompanying it with the tinkle
of the ankle-bells; and then as distant drumming heralds the approach of a
fresh party, they repeat the Mohurrum farewell "Ishki Husein" (Love of
Husein) and pass away with the answer of the tryst-folk: "Yadi Husein"
(Memory of Husein) still ringing in their ears. The new party is composed
of Bombay Musulman youths, the tallest of whom carries an umbrella made out
of pink, green and white paper, under which the rest crowd and sing the
following couplet relating to the wife and daughter of Husein:--

"Bano ne Sakinah se kaha. Tum ko khabar hai
Baba gae mare!"

"Bano said unto Sakinah. Have you heard that
your father is dead?"

This party in turn yields place to a band of pipers and drummers,
accompanying men who whirl torches round their head so skilfully that the
eye sees nought but a moving circle of flame; and they are succeeded by
Musulman men and boys, disguised as Konkani fishermen and fishwives, who
chant elegies to Husein and keep the rhythm by clapping their hands or by
swinging to and fro small earthen pots pierced to serve as a lamp. The last
troupe, dressed in long yellow shirts and loose yellow turbans, represent
Swami Narayan priests and pass in silence before the glittering simulacrum
of the Martyr's tomb.

The most curious feature of the Mohurrum celebration is the roystering and
brawling of the _Tolis_ or street-bands which takes places for two or
three nights after the fifth day of the month. Each street has its own band
ready to parade the various quarters of the city and fight with the bands
of rival streets. If the rivalry is good-humoured, little harm accrues; but
if, as is sometimes the case, feelings of real resentment are cherished,
heads are apt to be broken and the leaders find themselves consigned to the
care of the Police. It is difficult to see the connection between these
brawling street-companies and the lamentation for Hasan and Husein; but the
rivalry of the _mohollas_ recalls the free-fighting which used once to
take place between the various quarters of Gujarat and Kathiawar towns
during the Holi festival, while the beating, shouting and general
pandemonium evoked by the _Tolis_ are probably akin to the
extravagance once practised at the beating of the bounds in England and
Scotland and are primarily designed to scare away evil-spirits from the
various quarters of the city. The _Tolis_ are indeed a relic of pure
Hinduism--of aboriginal spirit-belief, and have in the course of centuries
been gradually associated with the great Mahomedan Festival of Tears.
Originally they can have had no connection with the Mohurrum and are in
essence as much divorced from the lamentation over the slaughter at Karbala
as are the mummers, the Nal Sahebs and the Lords of the conchshell (Sain
Kowra) of the modern celebration from the true Mahomedan who wanders back
from the sea-shore uttering the cry of grief--

"Albida, re albida, Ya Huseini albida."
"Farewell, farewell, ah, my Husein, farewell!"



It was quite evident that something was seriously wrong with Abdulla the
Dhobi. His features had lost their former placidity and wore an aspect of
troubled wonder; the clothes which he erstwhiles washed and returned to
their owners with such regularity were now brought back long after the
proper date and occasionally were not returned at all; and the easy good
temper which once characterized his conversation had yielded place to
sudden outbursts of anger or protracted spells of sulkiness. The major-domo
consulted on the point could only suggest that Abdulla's ill-temper was
typical of the inherent "badmashi" of the Dhobi nature and that probably
Abdulla had taken to nocturnal potations, while the youngest member of the
household unhesitatingly laid down that Abdulla had been seized by a "bhut"
or in other words was possessed of a devil. When the former suggestion was
laid before Abdulla, he contemned it with unmeasured scorn and then turned
and rent the spirit of the butler with winged words, but the small boy's
opinion seemed to give him pause. He held his peace for a moment, gazing
earthwards and rubbing a small heap of dust towards him with his toe; and
then on a sudden he burst out into the tale which is here set down in his
own words:--

"Nay, Saheb, I am possessed of no devil, but my wife Afiza is sore troubled
by one. Only three months ago I sent for her from my village, as she was
expecting to become a mother and I was desirous of looking early upon my
first-born child; and for six weeks she dwelt contentedly with me in the
house which I have rented near the ghat. And then the child was born--a
child without blemish; and Afiza and I were happy. But, Saheb, the shadow
of evil was even then drawing nigh unto us. For on the sixth day after
birth, when the midwife was about to light the four-wicked lamp for the
'chatti' ceremony, Afiza suddenly cast the child from her, leaped wildly
from the couch, tearing at her hair and swaying to and fro as one demented,
and broke the lamp with her hands. And the midwife fled from the room
crying for help, and brought my mother and my sister in to try and soothe
her. And even while they wrestled with her spirit someone set light to the
urn of frankincense, for it was the evening of Thursday; and as the thick
smoke curled upwards towards Afiza, she trembled and gasped out: 'This is
my house; and this woman hath been delivered on the spot where I died in
childbirth five years ago! I will never cease troubling her, for she hath
forgotten even to burn a little 'loban' (frankincense) for the repose of my
spirit.' So saying my wife fell senseless on the ground and remained
motionless for thirty minutes until the spirit had fled. And, Saheb, from
that day forward not an evening passes but the 'suwandi' (the spirit of a
woman who has died in travail) lays hold upon her, and my house has become
a place of evil and a byword among the neighbours. Several exorcists,
Siyanas and Syeds have we consulted, but all in vain. Their ministrations
only make her worse. What can be done!"

One can hardly conjecture the ultimate fate of Abdulla and his family, had
not some one who took an interest in the case suggested a final resort to
the Syed from Cambay, who some little time ago opened in Goghari street a
branch of the famous Gujarat shrine of Miran Datar. To him Abdulla
half-hopeful, half-desperate, repaired: and the Syed came into his house
and gave Afiza a potion composed of incense-ashes and water from the Miran
shrine. But the evil spirit was terribly violent; and it required regular
treatment of this nature for fully twenty days ere it could be dislodged.
Evening after evening Afiza was taken into the presence of Syed, who
summoned forth the spirit with a drink of the sacrosanct water; and at home
Abdulla and his mother who had been supplied with water and ashes by the
Syed, were wont likewise to summon the spirit at any hour which they felt
would cause it inconvenience. Thus the struggle between the powers of light
and darkness for the soul of Afiza continued, until at length the evil
spirit deemed it wise to depart; and on the twenty-first day, when it was
racking Afiza for the last time, it demanded as the final price of its
departure the liver of a black-goat. So Abdulla hearkened to the spirit's
will and buried the pledge of his wife's recovery in a new earthen pot just
at the spot where the four roads meet near his house And Afiza was at

[Illustration: Possession of Afiza.]

Since that date nought has occurred to disturb Abdulla's peace of mind. The
Syed of Goghari street has earned well-merited fame among the poorer
Musulman inhabitants of that quarter; Abdulla has cast off his ill temper
as it were a garment; Afiza the possessed has become Afiza the
self-possessed, helping Abdulla to earn his livelihood and obtain the
approval of his masters; and the child, unharmed by the Evil Eye and
beloved of his parents, is daily waxing in favour with God and man.
According to Abdulla the only spirit which occasionally attacks him is a
spirit of mischief not unknown to the parents of healthy little boys.



Wander down one of the greatest arteries of the city and you will perhaps
notice on the east side of the street a double-storied house bearing all
the appearance of prolonged neglect and decay. Enter the low door and take
a sharp turn to the right and you will find yourself at length on an ill-
smelling landing with a creaking ladder-like staircase in one corner,
enveloped from top to bottom in darkness so profound that one can almost
conjure up visions of sudden death from the assassin's dagger. After a
moment's hesitation you commence to grope your way upwards: the staircase
sways and creaks beneath your feet; the air is heavy with strange odours;
something,--probably a cat--scuttles past you and nearly upsets your
balance; and putting out your hand to steady yourself your fingers touch
something clammy and corpselike which turns out to be a Ghati labourer,
naked save for a loin-cloth, asleep in the narrow niche between the walls
of the ground-floor and the first storey. One wonders what he pays for this
precarious accommodation, in which a sudden movement during sleep may mean
a sheer drop down the dark staircase. But fortunately he sleeps motionless,
like one physically tired out, perchance after dragging bales about the
dock sheds since early morn or wandering all day round the city with heavy
loads upon his head.

At length on the second storey a half-open door casts an arrow of light
upon your path. You hail it with joy after the Cimmerian gloom of the lower
floors; and, pushing the door further ajar, you find yourself in a square
low room lit by two windows which command a view of the street below. It is
carpeted with cheap date-leaf mats and a faded polychrome "dhurri"; dirty
white cushions are propped against the wall below the windows; a few square
desk-like boxes lie in front of the cushions; and in a semi-recumbent
attitude around the room are some 20 or 30 men--Bombay and Gujarat
Mahomedans, men from Hindustan and one or two Daudi Bohras, the regular
customers of the "Kasumba" saloon. There is one woman in the room--a member
of the frail sisterhood, now turned faithful, nursing an elderly and
peevish Lothario with a cup of sago-milk gruel, which opium-eaters consider
such a delicacy: while the other customers sit in groups talking with the
preternatural solemnity born of their favourite drug, and now and again
passing a remark to the cheery-looking landlord with the white skull-cap
and henna-tinged beard.

Each occupant of the room has been provided with a tiny glass of weak
opium-water from the large China jar on the landlord's desk, paying a pice
per glass for the beverage. Some drink one glass, some two, some three or
more; but as a rule the "kasumba" drinker confines himself to two glasses,
being ashamed to own even to a brother "Tiryaki" the real quantity of the
drug consumed by him: while a few, strengthened by prolonged habit, pay
somewhat more than the ordinary price for a thicker and stronger dilution.
When the glasses are empty the company calls for desert; for the
opium-drinker must always have his "_kharbhanjan_" or bitter taste
remover; and the landlord straightway produces sweets, fruit, parched
grain, or sago-gruel known as "_khir_" according to the taste of his
customers. Hardly has dessert ended when an elderly Mahomedan in shabby
garb falls out of the group and clearing his throat to attract attention
commences to recite a flowery prelude in verse. He is the "Dastan-Shah,"
own brother (professionally) of the "Sammar" or story-teller of Arabia and
the "Shayir" of Persia and Cairo: and his stories, which he delivers in
a quaint sing-song fashion, richly interspersed with quotations from the
poets of Persia, are usually culled from the immortal "Thousand and one
Nights" or are concerned with the exploits and adventures of one of the
great heroes of Islam. Amir-Hamza for example is a favourite subject of
the imaginative eastern story-teller. Amir-Hamza according to Professor
Dryasdust died before the Prophet, but according to the Troubadours of
Islam was the hero of a thousand stirring deeds by flood and field and
by the might of his right hand converted to the Faith the Davs and the
Peris of Mount Kaf (the Caucasus). You will hear, if you care to, of his
resourceful and trusty squire Umar Ayyar, owner of the magic "zambil" or
satchel which could contain everything, and master of a rude wit, similar
to that of Sancho Panza, which serves as an agreeable contrast to the
somewhat ponderous chivalry of the knight-errant of Islam.

* * * * *

Thus the Dastan-Shah whiles away time until about 8 p.m. when the club
breaks up and the faded Aspasia helps her fractious Pericles down the
rotten staircase and out into the night. Ere the company departs each
member subscribes a pice for the story-teller, who in this way earns about
forty pice a day, no inconsiderable income in truth for the mere retail of
second-hand fables: and then with a word of peace to the landlord the men
troop slowly forth to their homes. As we pass down the rotten staircase,
lit this time for our benefit with a moribund cocoanut oil lamp, we mark
the Maratha labourer still sleeping heavily in his niche, dreaming perhaps
amid the heavy odours of the house of the fresh wind-swept uplands of his
Deccan home.



Fifty-six miles to the north of Poona lies the old town of Junner, which
owing to its proximity to the historic Nana Ghat was in the earliest times
an important centre of trade. As early as 100 years before the birth of
Christ, the Nana Pass was one of the chief highways of trade between
Aparantaka or the Northern Konkan and the Deccan; and although the steep
and slippery nature of the ascent must have prevented cart-traffic, the
number of pack-bullocks and ponies that were annually driven upwards
towards the cooler atmosphere and richer soil of Junner must have been
considerable. Once the Nana Ghat had been crossed the traveller found
himself in a land marked out by Nature herself for sojourn and settlement:
for there lay before his eyes a fruitful plain, well-shaded, well-watered
and girt with mighty hills of rock, which needed but the skill of man to be
transformed into a chain of those "Viharas" or places of rest and
recreation, which the Buddhists of pre-Christian and early Christian ages
sought to establish. Thus it happens that in each of the mountain ranges
which rise around Junner are found caves and shrines hewn out of the solid
rock by the followers of Buddhism, some with inscriptions in obsolete
characters and all of them in a wonderful state of preservation,
considering the ages that have passed since their foundation.

Among those most easy of access are the Ganesh Lena, as they are called,
hollowed out of the vast rounded scarp, which rising a hundred feet above
the plain projects from the Hatkeshvar and Suleman ranges about a mile
northward of the town. A fairly smooth but dusty road leads the traveller
down to the Kukdi river dried by the fair weather into stagnant pools, in
which the women wash their clothes and the buffaloes lounge heavily, and
thence through garden-land and clumps of mango-trees to the under-slopes of
the mountain. There the road proper merges into a rocky pathway, which in
turn yields place some little distance further on to a series of well-laid
masonry steps, of comparatively recent date, which, as they curve upwards,
recall to one's mind the well-known Hundred Steps at Windsor Castle. The
steps are divided into about ten flights, and are said to have been built
at different times by devotees of God Ganesh in gratitude for his having
granted their prayers. What prompted the first worshipper to prove his
gratitude in this form none can say: he might have so easily satisfied his
conscience with a presentation to the God or by the erection of a small
shrine in the plains. But happily for all men he adopted the more
philanthropic course of smoothing the road to the presence of the kindly
Deity. Others, the recipients of like favours and fired by his example,
added each in their turn to the work, until the once rude track was
transformed into a massive stone-approach fit for the feet of princes.

The caves are twenty-six in number and consist mainly of dwellings and
cells, with three water-cisterns two of which bear inscriptions, and a
chapel. The cells are all hewn into somewhat similar pattern and shape,
containing on one and sometimes two sides long stone benches, which served
doubtless as the resting-place of their Buddhist occupants. The "Chaitya
Vihara" or chapel cave alone is worth a visit. Pillars and pilasters with
eight-sided shafts and waterpot-bases, which scholars attribute to the
period B. C. 90 to A. D. 300, stand sentinel over verandahs stretching away
into darkness on either side of the main aisle. Their capitals are
surmounted with crouching animals, twin elephants, a sphinx and lion, twin
tigers, all beautifully carved through in places broken; while above them
the main walls of the cave rise steep into a pointed vault, the centre of
which is some twenty-four feet from the ground-floor. The relic-shrine or
"Daghoba" at the far end of the chapel stands upon a high plinth, and is
crowned by a rounded dome, similar to the "Daghoba" at Vyaravali which
overlooks the dead city of Pratappur in Salsette. One of the members of our
party struck the plinth with a _dhotar_ to awaken the echoes which
eddy loudly round the vault and rouse the wild birds that have built their
nests in the holes and cornices. The birds as well as the bats which lurk
in the darker recesses of the chapel are said to be responsible for the
very pungent and unpleasant odour which greets one on entering and forces
one to cut short one's visit. And what of him who built the shrine? Deep in
the back wall of the verandah is graven, in characters long since obsolete,
an inscription interpreted some time ago by scholars, which tells how
Sulasadata, the illustrious son of Heranika of Kalyana, presented the
chapel to the monastery, to the glory of God and his own lasting merit. The
rock-hewn words are headed and ended with the "Swastika" or symbol of good
fortune, which appears in so many messages from Buddhist ages.

* * * * *

On the left of the chapel at a slightly higher level stands the largest of
this group of caves, a large hall with a verandah and twenty cells around
it. Later ages have converted the whole cave into a temple of Ganpati,
whence the caves obtain their name of Ganesh Lena; and the once plain
walls, whose very austerity reflected perhaps the life of the monks
dwelling within them, have been rudely plastered, white-washed and covered
with inferior representations of incidents in the lives of Devi, Krishna,
Shiv and Ganpati. In the centre of the back wall, between two ancient stone
seats, glowers a rude "eidolon," aflame with red lead and _ghi_, so
thickly smeared indeed that the original features and form of the god have
well-nigh disappeared. Yet this is Ganesh, the kindly Ganesh, who turns not
a deaf ear to the prayers of his servants and in whose honour the stone
steps were hewn and laid. Two _pujaris_ of the Yajurvedi Brahman stock
and three or four women, who are attached to the shrine, crave alms for the
God. They and their forbears, they tell you, have been the officiating
priests for years; wherefore, desirous of testing their knowledge, you
enquire who built these mighty dwelling-places. "Hindus of a thousand years
ago," say they, "who desired to acquire merit." But ask the untutored
villager who has guided you up the hill; and straightway comes the
answer:--"Sahib, these were not built by man, but by the Gods ere man
came hither!"

Outside the cave is a pleasant verandah and balus trade, whence you look
down over the bare lower slopes to the garden-studded course of the river.
Beyond lies a long low trail of vapour, which marks the position of Junner,
and behind that again climb heaven-ward the Manmoda hills. On the right,
with its ruined mosque and conning-tower grey in the morning light, the
massive pile of Shivner frowns over the valley, like some dismasted
battleship, hurled upwards into sudden petrifaction by the hands of Titans.
It is an impressive scene--the pre-Christian monastery behind you; the
relics of Musulman and Maratha sovereignty in front; and below, bathed in a
sea of morning-mist which Surya is hastening to disperse, Junner, the town
of ancient memories, in her latest _avatar_ of a British Taluka
Headquarter station. Let us hope that the monuments which we raise will
last as long as those of Buddhist monk or Mahomedan Killedar.



[Illustration: A Bhandari Mystery.]

In the heart of the great palm-groves to the north-west of Dadar lies an
"oart" known as Borkar's Wadi, shaded by tall well-tended trees whose
densely-foliaged summits ward off the noon-day sun and form a glistening
screen at nights, what time the moon rises full-faced above the eastern
hills. Not very long ago, at a time when cholera had appeared in the city
and was taking a daily toll of life, this oart was the scene of a bi-weekly
ceremony organized by the Bhandaris of Dadar and Mahim and designed to
propitiate the wrath of the cholera-goddess, who had slain several members
of that ancient and worthy community. For the Bhandaris, be it noted, know
little of western theories of disease and sanitation; and such precautions
as the boiling of water, even were there time to boil it, and abstention
from fruit seem to them utterly beside the mark and valueless, so long as
the goddess of cholera, Jarimari, and the thirty-eight Cholera Mothers are
wroth with them. Thus at the time we speak of, when many deaths among their
kith and kin had afforded full proof that the goddess was enraged, they met
in solemn conclave and decided to perform every Sunday and Tuesday night
for a month such a ceremony as would delight the heart of that powerful
deity and stave off further mortality. The limitation of the period
of propitiation to one month was based not so much upon religious
grounds as upon the fact that a Municipality, with purely Western
ideas of sanitation and of combating epidemics, refused to allow
the maintenance of the shed, which was to be the temporary home of
Jarimari, for more than thirty days. Yet it matters but little, this
time-limit: for a month is quite long enough for the complete assuagement
of the anger of one who, though proverbially capricious, is by no means

* * * * *

Let us glance at the ceremony as performed on a Tuesday night towards the
middle of the month of propitiation. In the darkest portion of the
_wadi_ stands a rude hut, containing the emblems of the Mother,
occupied for the time being by Rama Bhandari, who acts as a species of
medium between the goddess and his kinsmen. In front of the hut a space has
been cleared and levelled, flanked on one side by mats for the Bhandari
musicians, singers, drummers and cymbal-players, and on the other by four
or five chairs and a few wooden benches for the initiates in the mysteries;
and to the stems of several neighbouring trees lamps have been affixed
about five feet from the ground, which cast weird shadows across the
threshold of the goddess's home. Rama, the high-priest of this woodland
rite--a dark, thin man with a look of anxiety upon his face--enters the hut
with his assistant, Govind, while several fresh looking Bhandari boys take
up their position near the gong, cymbals, and drum, prepared when the hour
comes to hammer them with might and main. A pause--and Rama returns bearing
the symbol or idol of the Mother, followed by Govind carrying a lighted
saucer-lamp. The idol, for such we must perforce style it, is nothing more
nor less than a bright brass pot, full of water, set on a wooden stool
which is thickly covered with flowers. In the mouth of the water-pot rests
a husked cocoanut, with a hole in the upper end into which are thrust the
stems of a bouquet of jasmine, with long arms of jasmine hanging down on
either side. Now the water-pot is the shrine, the very home of Jarimari and
the thirty-eight cholera mothers. Behind the jasmine-wreathed stool Govind
places another stool bearing a tin tray full of uncooked rice, camphor, and
black and red scented powder; and close to it he piles the cocoanuts,
sugar, camphor, cakes, betel-nuts, and marigolds which the Bhandari
initiates have sent as an offering to Rama. He next produces a pile of
incense-sprinkled cinders, which he places in front of the goddess, and
several incense-cones which he lights, while Rama lays down a handful of
light canes for use at the forthcoming ceremony. And while the rich scented
smoke rises in clouds into the still night-air, shrouding the goddess's
face, Govind takes a little rice from the tray and a few flowers, and
places them on a Tulsi or sweet basil shrine which stands a little
northward of the hut.

* * * * *

All is now ready. Rama bids the boys sound the note of gathering, and at
once such a clashing and drumming arises as would frighten all the devils
of the palm-groves. The people come but slowly, for many of them work late
in the mills and have to go home and cook and eat their evening-meal before
they can take part in the rites of the Mother. But at last groups of women
appear out of the darkness, bareheaded save for flower-wreaths and a few
gold ornaments, their saris wound tightly round waist and shoulder. They
cluster silent and close-packed round the door of the hut; for they are the
women whom the thirty-eight Mothers love to possess and to lash into the
divine frenzy which only the human form can adequately portray. Govind
stirs the incense-heap; the dense smoke rolls forth again and shrouds all;
there is a feeling of witchery in the air and in the midst of the
smoke-pall one can just descry Rama bending low before the Mother. Now he
rises, draws the rattan-canes through his hands, and then leans against a
palm-tree with eyes tightly closed and hands quivering as if in pain. But
hark! there is something toward in the hut, and out of the darkness dash
two young women right in front of the goddess, leaping and tossing their
arms. They sway and twist their lithe forms in the smoke but utter no
word. Only one can see their breasts heaving beneath the sari and can
catch the sharp "Hoo, hoo" of their breathing, as their frenzy heightens.
Now from the other end of the hut two more rush forth, staggering, towards
the Tulsi shrine, and after the same mad gyrations dance towards the
Mother and bury their heads in the smoke; and they are followed at
momentary intervals by others who fly, some to the Tulsi shrine, others
to the Goddess but all mad with frenzy, dancing, leaping, swaying, until
they sink overpowered by fatigue. Meanwhile Rama is performing a devil
dance of his own in the smoke-clouds; the gong is ringing, cymbals
clashing, onlookers shouting; the tresses of the women have fallen down
and in the half-light look like black snakes writhing in torture; the
women themselves are as mad as the Bacchantes and Menads of old fable:
in a word, it is Pandemonium let loose!

* * * * *

The noise ebbs and flows, now dying down as the first frenzy fades away,
now rising more shrill as the spirit of the Mother wracks her devotees more
fiercely. That tall finely-formed young woman, who dances like a puppet
without will and who never seems to tire, is Moti, leader of the dancers
and the favourite choice of Jarimari. There behind her is Ganga, the
slightly-built, beloved of Devi, and in the midst of the smoke, swaying
frog-like, is Godavari, lashed to madness by Mother Ankai. Around them
dance by twos and threes the rest of the women with dishevelled locks and
loosened robes, whom Rama taps from time to time with his cane whenever
they show signs of giving in. But at length Nature reasserts her sway, and
the dancers one and all crouch down in the smoke, their dark sides heaving
painfully in the dim light like the implements of some ghostly forge. Now
Govind appears again with a tray and marks the brows of the women with a
finger-tip of vermilion, his own brow being marked by them in turn. He
places a cake of camphor on the tray and sets light to it; and as the clear
flame bursts forth in front of the Mother, the whole congregation rises and
shouts "Devi ki Jaya" (Victory to the Goddess). Then Moti takes the tray
and, balancing it on her head, dances slowly with long swinging stride
round the Mother, while the music bursts out with renewed vigour, urging
the other women, the human tabernacles of the cholera deities, to follow
suit. Thereafter the camphor-cake is handed round to both women and men in
turn who plunge their hands in the ashes and smear their faces with them;
and so, after distribution of the offering of cocoanuts, sugar, and betel,
the celebration closes. A few girls still dance and jerk their shining
bodies before the altar, but Rama who is getting weary touches them with
his hands, commanding the frenzy to cease, and with a sigh they withdraw
one by one into the dark shadows of the palm-grove.

* * * * *

Such is in brief the ceremony of propitiation of the Cholera-Goddess. What
does it signify? It appears that according to Bhandari belief the disease
is the outcome of neglect of the Mother. The present conditions of life in
the cramped and fetid chawls of the city, the long hours of work
necessitated by higher rentals and a higher standard of living, leave her
devotees but little leisure for her worship. She is maddened by neglect and
in revenge she slays her ten or fifteen in a night. Yet is she not by
nature cruel. Fashion for her a pleasant shrine, flower-decked, burn
incense before her, beat the drum in her honour, let the women offer
themselves as the sport and play-thing of her madness and of a surety will
she repent her of the evil she hath done and will stay the slaughter. In
spirit-parlance a woman chosen by the spirit, into whom as into a shrine
the mother enters, is known as a "Jhad" or tree: for just as a tree yields
rustling and quivering to the lightest breath of the gale, bends its head
and moves its branches to and fro, so the women, losing all consciousness
of self, play as the breath of the Mother stirs them, quivering beneath her
gentler gusts, bending their bodies and tossing their arms beneath the
stronger blasts, and casting themselves low with bowed heads and streaming
hair as the full force of the storm enwraps them. They are in very truth as
trees shaken by the wind. Nay more, the Mother herself once lived in human
form: she knows the pleasure, the comforts of the body and she is fain, by
entering the bodies of her female devotees, to renew the memories and
suggestions of her former life.

* * * * *

In conclusion one may briefly record what the Bhandaris thought of the
presence of a European at their sacred rite. Some feared him as one that
contemplated the imposition of a new tax; others viewed him askance as a
doctor from the Hospital despatched by higher authority to put an end to
the ceremony; and yet others,--the larger number insooth,--deemed that here
at last was a Saheb who had found physic a failure and had learned that the
Mother alone has power to allay grievous sickness.




Nearly all the Mahomedan inhabitants of Bombay observe as a general picnic
day the last Wednesday of the month of 'Safar' which is known as 'Akhiri
Char Shamba' or 'Chela Budh'; for on this day the Prophet, convalescent
after a severe illness, hied him to a pleasance on the outskirts of Mecca.
During the greater portion of the previous night the women of the house are
astir, preparing sweetmeats and salt cakes, tinging their hands with henna,
bathing and donning new clothes and ornaments; and when morning comes, all
Mahomedans, rich and poor, set forth for the open grounds of Malabar Hill,
Mahalakshmi, Mahim or Bandora, the Victoria Gardens, or the ancient shrine
of Mama Hajiyani (Mother Pilgrim) which crowns the north end of the Hornby
Vellard. To the Victoria Gardens the tram cars bring hundreds of holiday-
makers, most of whom remain in the outer or free zone of the gardens and
help to illumine its grass plots and shady paths with the green, blue, pink
and yellow glories of their silk attire. Here a group of men and women are
enjoying a cold luncheon; there a small party of Memons are discussing
affairs over their 'bidis' while on all sides are children playing with the
paper toys, rattles and tin wheels which the hawkers offer at such seasons
of merry-making. Coal-black Africans, ruddy Pathans and yellow Bukharans
squat on the open turf to the west of the Victoria and Albert Museum;
Mughals in long loose coats and white arch-fronted turbans wander about
smoking cigars and chatting volubly, while Bombay Memons in gold turbans or
gold-brocade skullcaps, embroidered waistcoats and long white shirts stand
on guard over their romping children.

* * * * *

The road leading from Mahalakshmi to the shrine of Mama Hajiyani is
particularly gay, and the Vellard is lined throughout its entire length
with carriages full of men, women and children in their finest attire;
while under the palms on the east side of the road the hum of a great crowd
is broken from time to time by the cry of the sellers of sweets, toasted
grain, parched pistachio nuts and salted almonds, or by the chink of the
coffee seller's cups. A happy, orderly crowd it is, free from all signs of
quarrelling and excess, packed more densely than usual around the shrine of
Mama Hajiyani, where every little vacant space is monopolised by merry-go-
rounds and by the booths of bakers and pastry-sellers. Here are men playing
cards; others are flying kites; many are thronging the tea, coffee, and
cold drink stalls; while in the very heart of the crowd wander Jewish,
Panjabi and Hindustani dancing-girls, who have driven hither in hired
carriages to display their beauty and their jewels. Mendicants elbow one at
every step,--Mahomedan and Jewish beggars and gipsy-like Wagri women from
North Gujarat, who persistently turn a deaf ear to the "Maf-karo" or
"Pardon" of those whom they persecute for alms.

* * * * *

Many of the holiday-makers carry packets of basil leaves and flowers, which
they place upon the grave of the Mother Pilgrim, silently repeating as they
do so the 'Fatiha' or prayers for the dead. Others more Puritanical,
perchance more sceptical, utter not their prayers to the grave; but as the
words pass their lips, turn their faces seawards, remembering Holy Mecca in
the far west. Glance for a minute within the room that enshrines the tomb,
and you will see the walls hung with tiny toy cradles,--the votive
offerings of heartsick women from whom the grace of Mama Hajiyani has
lifted the curse of childlessness. So, as the sun sinks, you pass back from
the peace of the Mother Pilgrim's grave to the noise of the holiday-making
crowd; and turning homewards you hear above you the message of the green
parrakeets skimming towards the tomb "like a flight of emerald arrows
stolen from the golden quiver of the Twilight."

* * * * *


Who does not know the Mahomedan quarters of the city of Bombay, with their
serried ranks of many-storeyed mansions extending as far as eye can reach?

Dark and forbidding seem many of these houses; and to few is it given to
know the secrets they enshrine. But these square battalions of brick and
plaster are not wholly continuous. For here and there the ranks are broken
by the plain guard-wall and deep-eaved porch, or by the glistening domes
and balcony-girt minarets of a mosque: and at such points one may, if one
so wish, see more of the people who dwell in the silent houses than one
could hope to see during the course of a month's peregrinations up and down
the streets devoted to the followers of the Prophet.

* * * * *

Stand with me at sundown opposite the gateway of the mosque and watch the
stream of worshippers flowing in through the portals of the house of
prayer. Here are the rich purse-proud merchants of Persia, clad in their
long black coats; there the full-bearded Maulavis. Behind them come smart
sepoys hailing from Northern India, golden-turbaned, shrewd-eyed Memon
traders and ruddy-complexioned close-bearded Jats from Multan. Nor is our
friend the dark Sidi wanting to the throng: and he is followed by the Arab
with his well-known head-gear, by the handsome Afghan, and by the broad-
shouldered native of Bokhara in his heavy robes. Mark too the hurried steps
of the brocade-worker from Surat, and note the contrast of colour as the
grimy fitter or black-smith passes through the porch side by side with the
spotlessly-clad Konkani Musulman, whose high features and olive skin betray
his Indo-Arab origin. Rich and poor, clean and unclean, all pass in to
prayer. As the concourse increases the shoes of the Faithful gather in
heaps along the inner edge of the porch: only the newer shoes are permitted
to lie, sole against sole, close to their owners, each of whom after
washing in the shaded cistern takes his place in the hindmost line of

* * * * *

As the service proceeds the ranks of the congregation kneel, stand, fall
prostrate, and press the brow upon the ground with a rhythm so reverential
and so dignified that the watcher forgets for a time the torn or tawdry
raiment, the grime of the factory, the dust of the streets, and feels that
each fresh attitude of devotion is indeed the true posture of prayer. It is
as a sea troubled by the breath of some unseen spirit,--wave upon wave
rising, bending, and finally casting itself low in humility and self-
sacrifice at the very footstool of the Most High. But all the worshippers
are men. "Where are the women," you ask; "do they not repeat the daily
prayers also?" "Verily yes," replies our guide; "they are all praying in
their homes at this hour. More regular, more reverent are they than we are;
and if we men but prayed as the women pray, no shadow would dim the
brightness of Islam."

* * * * *

[Illustration: An Arab.]

As the evening-prayer progresses groups of men and women with children in
their arms gather at the main entrance of the mosque. For the children are
vexed with sickness against which medicine has availed nought, and in a
higher healing lies their only chance of recovery. So, as the congregation
passes out through the gateway, the parents hold out their ailing
children; and well-nigh every worshipper, rich or poor, young or
old, turning his face downwards lets his prayer-laden breath pass
over the face of the sick child that needs his aid. A picturesque custom is
this, which illustrates two ancient and universal beliefs, namely that all
disease is spirit-caused and that the holy book is charm-laden. He who
repeats the inspired words of the Koran is purged of all evil, and his
breath alone, surcharged with the utterances of divinity, has power to cast
out the devils of sickness. Thus to this day all classes of Mahomedans, but
particularly the lower classes, carry their sick children to the mosques to
receive the prayer-laden breath of the Musallis (prayer-sayers): and
sometimes in cases of grievous disease a Pir or Mashaikh is asked to
perform the healing office, prefacing the brief ceremony with that famous
verse of the Koran:--"Wa nunaz-zilo minal Kuraani ma huwa Shifaun wa rah
matun lil moaminina" which being interpreted means, "We send down from the
Koran that which is a cure and a mercy unto true believers." So the mosques
of the City are homes of healing as well as of prayer.

* * * * *

Occasionally, when the prayer-breath of the ordinary worshipper has failed
to effect a cure, a Mussulman mother will take her sick child to some Syed
or other holy man in the city for what she calls "Jhada dalwana"
(_i.e._ the sweeping-over). The Syed questions her about the symptoms
and duration of the disease. "Ay me," moans the mother, "I cannot say what
ails the child, Syed Saheb! He was full of life and health till the other
day when I left him on the threshold sucking a sweetmeat. There came by an
old Wagri woman who stared at him, whining for alms. I gave her a little
bread, wishing her well away: but alack! no sooner had she gone than my
child sickened and hath not recovered since." The Syed then asks her to
drop a pice upon a paper covered with magic squares; which being done, he
consults a thumb-marked manuscript and decides that the child is a victim
of the Evil Eye. Accordingly he proceeds to pass the end of a twisted
handkerchief seven times over the child's body, murmuring at the same time
certain mystic formulae which he, as it were, blows over the child from
head to foot. This operation is performed daily for three or four days;
after which in many cases the child actually gets better, and the mother in
gratitude pays the Syed from eight annas to a rupee for his kind offices.
So too it is the Syed and the prayers he breathes which exorcise the spirit
of hysteria that so often lays hold of young maidens; and it is likewise
the prayer-laden breath of the devout man which fortifies the souls of them
that have journeyed unto the turnstiles of Night.




[Illustration: A Bombay Memon.]

Would you learn how the Memon and the Rangari--two of the most notable
inhabitants of the city--pass the waking hours? They are early risers as a
rule and are ready to repair to the nearest mosque directly the Muezzin's
call to prayer breaks the silence of the approaching dawn, and when the
prayers are over they return to a frugal breakfast of bread soaked in milk
or tea and then open their shops for the day's business. If his trade
permits it, the middle-class Memon will himself go a-marketing, taking with
him a "jambil" or Arab-made basket of date-leaves in which to place his
vegetables, his green spices, his meat and a little of such fruit as may be
in season. His other requisites,--flour, pulse, sugar and molasses,--come
to him in what he calls his "khata,"--his account with a neighbouring
retail-dealer. He is by no means beloved of the Bombay shop-keeper, for he
is strict in his observance of the "sunna" which bids him haggle "till his
forehead perspires, just as it did in winning the money". The Bombay
shop-keeper commences by asking an exorbitant price for his commodities;
our Memon retorts by offering the least they could possibly fetch; and the
battle between the maximum and the minimum eventually settles itself
somewhere about the golden mean, whereupon the Memon hies him homewards as
full of satisfaction as Thackeray's Jew. In many cases the mother of the
house or the sister, if old, widowed and in the words of the Koran
"despairing of a marriage," performs the business of shopping and proves
herself no less adept than her kinsman at driving a bargain.

About mid-day the Memon or Rangari has his chief meal consisting of
leavened or unleavened bread, meat curry or stew or two "kababs" or fried
fish, followed perhaps by mangoes, when in season; and when this is over he
indulges in a siesta whenever his business allows of it. The afternoon
prayers are followed by re-application to business, which keeps him busy in
his shop until 8 or 9 p.m., when he again returns home to a frugal supper
of "khichdi." It is hardly a satisfying meal, and many young Memons indulge
in a fresh collation before retiring to rest. The "khichdi" finished, the
young members of the family set forth for their evening resorts, nor
forbear to take such refreshment as the city offers on their journey. They
purchase a glass of ice-cream here, accept a cup of tea offered by a friend
there or purchase a tumbler of "faludah," which plays the same part in the
Mahomedan life of Bombay as macaroni does in the life of the Neapolitan. It
consists of rice-gruel, cooked and allowed to cool in large copper-trays
and sold at the corners of Mahomedan streets. On receiving a demand, the
Faludah-seller cuts out a slice from the seemingly frozen mass, puts it
into a large tumbler mixes sugar and sherbet with it, and then hands it to
his customer who swallows the mixture with every sign of deep satisfaction.
If possessed of a conveyance the middle-class Memon will drive about sunset
to the Apollo Bunder, Breach Candy or the Bandstand. Happy possessor of a
tolerably decent horse and victoria, he considers himself above the
conventionalities of dress, and thus may be seen in the skull-cap,
waist-coat, long white shirt and trousers which constitute his shop or
business-attire, attended not infrequently by little miniatures of himself
in similar garb. Reaching the Bunder he silences the importunity of the
children by a liberal purchase of salted almonds and pistachios or grain
fried in oil, and passes an hour or so in discussing with a friend the
market-rate of grain, cotton, _ghi_, or indigo.

If young, the middle-class Memon and Rangari is fond of the native theatres
where he rewards Parsi histrionic talent by assiduous attention and
exclamations of approval. He and his friends break their journey home by a
visit to an Irani or Anglo-Indian soda-water shop, where they repeat the
monotonous strain of the theatre songs and assure themselves of the
happiness of the moment by asking one another again and again:--"Kevi
majha" (what bliss!) to which comes the reply "Ghani majha" or "sari majha"
(great bliss!). Then perhaps, if the night is still young, they will knock
up the household of a singer and demand a song or two from her. Phryne
cannot refuse, however late the hour may be, but she has her revenge by
charging a very high price for her songs, which her "ustads" or musicians
take care to pocket beforehand. Home is at length reached, and there after
a final supper of "malai ke piyale" (cups of cream) and hard-boiled eggs
the young Memon disappears until the morrow. The older and more settled
members of the community amuse themselves till mid-night by congregating in
the tea and coffee shops of the city and there discussing the general trend
of trade. Others have formed unions, which assemble at the house of each
member in turn and spend a few hours in singing the "maulud" or hymns on
the birth of the Prophet (upon whom be peace). These hymns, in pure Hejazi
verse, are sung in different measures and are not unpleasant to the ear at
a distance. Another peculiar Memon custom is the street-praying for rain. A
number of men and boys assemble about 9 p.m., in the street and sing chants
set to music by some poet of Gujarat or Hindustan. The chants are really
prayers to God for rain, for forgiveness of sins and for absolution from
ingratitude for former bounties. One with a strong voice sings the
recitative, and then the chorus breaks in with the words "Order, O Lord,
the rain-cloud of thy mercy!" Thus chanting the company wanders from street
to street till midnight and continues the practice nightly until the rain

A Rangari betrothal though simple enough in itself contains certain
elements of interest. The father of the bridegroom usually informs the
Patel of the caste that his son's betrothal will take place on a certain
day, and on the evening of that day the bridegroom's retinue, accompanied
by the Patel and various friends and relations, journeys to the house of
the bride. After the company has fully assembled someone brings forward a
cocoanut on a tray with a few copper coins beside it. The Patel then asks
why the cocoanut has been brought, to which one of the bride's supporters
replies "It is for the betrothal of the daughter of Zeid with Omar." This
feature of the ceremony is obviously of Hindu origin and must be a legacy
of the days when the Rangaris, not yet converted to Islam, belonged to the
Hindu Khatri or Kshattriya caste of Gujarat and Cutch. For the loose copper
coins, which till recently were styled "dharam-paisa," must be lingering
remnants of the Brahman "dakshina," which always accompanied the "shripal"
or auspicious fruit; while among Hindus from the very earliest ages
cocoanuts have been sent by the bride to the bridegroom, sometimes as
earnest of an offer of marriage, sometimes in token of acceptance. After
this ceremony is complete the parties cannot retract, the ceremony being
considered equivalent to a "nikah" or actual registration by the Kazi; and
this fact again discovers the Hindu origin of the Mahomedan Rangaris and of
their customs, for among foreign Musulmans the betrothal is a mere period
of probation and is terminable at the desire of either party. The
"dharam-paisa" usually finds its way into the pocket of the street-Mulla,
who has a room in the neighbouring mosque and is charged with the
circulation of invitations to all members of the Rangari jamat to
assemble at the bride-groom's house for the betrothal-ceremony.




Among the most curious of the modern portions of Bombay City one may reckon
Madanpura, which lies off Ripon Road and is commonly known as the home of
the Julhais or Muhammadan weavers from Northern India. It is a rapidly
growing quarter, for new chals and new shops spring up every year and
quickly find a full complement of tenants from among the lower classes of
the population. Amongst those who like the Julhais have moved northward
from the older urban area are the Sidis or Musulmans of African descent,
who supply the steamship companies with stokers, firemen and engine-room
assistants, and the dockyards and workshops with fitters and mechanics. A
hardy race they are, with their muscular frames, thick lips and crisp black
hair--the very last men you would wish to meet in a rough-and-tumble, and
yet withal a jovial people, well-disposed and hospitable to anyone whom
they regard as a friend. If they trust you fully they will give you
_carte blanche_ to witness one of their periodical dances, in which
both sexes participate and, which commencing about 10-30 p.m., usually last
until 3 or 4 o'clock the following morning. They are worth seeing once, if
only for the sake of learning how the Sidis amuse themselves when the
spirit moves them.

* * * * *

Imagine a bare white-washed room, opening directly upon the street, the
walls of which boast of no ornament save a row of tom-toms, and the sides
and window ledges of which are lined with an expectant crowd of Sidis of
varying age, from the small boy of eight years to the elderly headman or
patel, who is responsible for the good behaviour of the community and is
the general arbiter of their internal disputes. This is the Sidi Jamatkhana
or caste-hall: and long before you reach the door threading your way
through a crowd of squatting hawkers, your ears are assailed by the most
deafening noise, reminding you forcibly of the coppersmith's bazaar with an
accompaniment of rythmic drumming. The cause is not far to seek. In the
centre of the room two Sidis are sitting, in cock-horse fashion, astride
what appear to be wooden imitations of a cannon and beating the parchment-
covered mouths of their pseudo-steeds with their hands; at their feet a
third Sidi is playing a kind of _reveille_ upon a flattened kerosine
oil-tin; and in the corner, with his back to the audience, an immense
African--an ebony Pan blowing frenzy through his wide lips--is forcing the
whole weight of his lungs into a narrow reed pipe. The noise is phenomenal,
overpowering, but is plainly attractive to Sidi ears; for the room is
rapidly filling, and more than one of the spectators suddenly leaps from
his seat and circles round the drummers, keeping time to the rythm with
queer movements of his body and feet and whirling a "lathi" round his head
in much the same fashion as the proverbial Irishman at Donneybrook Fair.

* * * * *

Meanwhile there is some movement toward in the half-light of the inner
room. From time to time you catch a glimpse of the black sphinx-faces,
immobile and heavy-eyed, framed in scarves bearing a bold pattern of red
monkeys and blue palm-trees: and as the din increases the owners of those
inscrutable faces creep out and sink down upon a strip of china matting on
the far side of the room. They are the wives and daughters of the
community--some of them young and, from the Sidi point of view, good to
look upon, others emulating the elephant in bulk, but all preternaturally
solemn and immovable. Here and there among the faces you miss the well-
known type. The thick prominent lips yield place to more delicate mouths,
the shapeless nose to the slightly aquiline, for there are half-breeds
here, who take more after their Indian fathers than their African mothers,
and who serve as a living example of the tricks that Nature can play in the
intermingling of races.

[Illustration: Sidis of Bombay.]

And now the piper in the corner sets up a wilder strain; the drummers work
till their muscles crack, now looking as if they were undergoing torture,
now turning half-round to have a joke with a fresh arrival, until the
tension reaches breaking-point and with a shout some ten men dash forward
and forming a ring round the musicians commence the wild "Bomo" dance, even
as their savage ancestors were wont to do in past ages round the camp-fires
of Africa. Watch them as they move round. They are obviously inspired
by the noise and are bent heart and soul upon encouraging the laggards
to join in, One of them, as he passes, shouts out that he sails by
the P. and O. "Dindigul" the next day and intends to make a night
of it; another is wearing the South African medal and says he earned
it as fireman-serang on a troopship from these shores; while a third,
in deference to the English guest, gives vent at intervals to a resonant
"Hip, hip, Hurrah," which almost drowns the unmelodious efforts of
the "maestro" with the kerosine-tin. The "Bomo" dance is followed
with scarce a pause by the "Lewa," a kind of festal revel, in which
the dancers move inwards and outwards as they circle round; and this
in turn yields place to the "Bondogaya" and two religious figures,
the "Damali" and "Chinughi," which are said when properly performed to give
men the power of divination.

Long ere the "Lewa" draws to a close, the women have joined in. First two
of the younger women move from the corner, one of them with eyes half-
closed and preserving a curious rigidity of body even while her feet are
rythmically tapping the floor: then two more join and so on, until the
circumference of the dancing-circle is expanded as far as the size of the
room will allow and not a single woman is left on the china matting. Some
of them are as completely under the spell of the music as the men, but they
exhibit little sign of pleasure or excitement on their faces; and were it
not for an occasional smile or the weird shriek they raise at intervals,
one might suppose them all to be in a state of hypnotism. Perchance they
are. The most vivacious of them all is the old Patelni, who since the death
of Queen Sophie has been in almost complete control of the female portion
of the Sidi community. She has no place in the chain of dancing fanatics
but stands in the centre near the drummers, now breaking into a "pas seul"
on her own account, now urging a laggard with all the force of a powerful
vocabulary, beating time the while upon the shoulder of the nearest

So the revel progresses, sometimes dying down into a slow movement in which
only the hoarse breathing of the men, the tap-tap of female heels, is
heard; and anon breaking into a kind of gallop, punctuated with shouts of
"Bravo" "Hip, hip, Hurrah" and the queer dental shriek, which our friendly
serang tells us is the peculiar note of the African reveller. But at length
Nature asserts her sway; and after the dancing has lasted almost without
interruption for three hours, the Sidi Patel, Hassan, gives permission for
a brief recess, during which he introduces to the spectators the son of the
Sidi chief Makanda,--a fine specimen of manhood whose six-foot stature
belies the fact that he is still according to Sidi views a minor incapable
of looking after his own interests. At this juncture too an itinerant
coffee-seller limps into the room with his tin can and cups and is
straightway pounced upon by the breathless performers, who apparently find
coffee better dancing-powder than any other beverage.

"How much" you ask him "do you charge per cup?"

"Saheb," comes the answer, "for two rupees you can treat the whole
gathering, men, women and children to a cup apiece; for this coffee is of
the best!" So we pay our footing in kind and bid adieu to the dancers who
are prepared to continue the revels till the early hours of the morning. As
we turn the corner into Ripon Road, we catch a final glimpse of our
bemedalled serang executing a fandango on the door-step, and of the Sidi
Patel with a cup of hot coffee in his hand shouting in broken English,
"Good-night, God Save the King!"



Legend and tradition have rendered many a spot in India sacrosanct for all
time; and to no tract perhaps have such traditions clung with greater
tenacity than to the western littoral which in the dawn of the centuries
watched the traders of the ancient world sail down from the horizon to
barter in its ports. As with Gujarat and the Coast of Kathiawar, so with
the Konkan it is a broken tale of strange arrivals, strange building,
strange trafficking in human and inanimate freight that greets the student
of ancient history and bewilders the ethnologist. The Konkan, in which in
earliest days "the beasts with man divided empire claimed," and which
itself is dowered with a legendary origin not wholly dissimilar in kind
from the story of Rameses III and his naval conquest, offers a fair sample
of these semi-historical myths in the tale of the arrival of the Chitpavans
at Chiplun in Ratnagiri. For, so runs the tale, on a day long buried in the
abyss of Time it chanced that a terrific storm gathered over the western
waters; and as night drew on the sky, black with serried ranks of clouds,
burst into sharp jets of fire, the rain poured forth in torrents
unquenchable, and the shriek of a mighty whirlwind, mingling with the deep
echoes of Indra's thunder, drowned even the roar of the storm-lashed seas.
Among the ships abroad on that night was one of strange device with high
peaked prow, manned by a crew of fair-skinned and blue-eyed men, which was
forging its way from a northern port to some fair city of Southern India;
and when the storm struck her, she was not many miles from what we now call
the Ratnagiri coast. Bravely did she battle with the tempest; bravely did
her men essay to keep her on her course, bringing to play their hereditary
knowledge of sea-craft, their innate dexterity of brain. But all their
scheming, all their courage proved fruitless. As a bridegroom of old time
scattering the bridal procession by the might of a powerful right arm, the
sea swept away her protectors and carried her, lone and defenceless, on to
the surge-beaten shore. And when morning broke Surya, rising red above the
eastern hills, watched the hungry waves cast up beside her fourteen white
corpses, the remnants of her crew--silent suppliants for the last great
rites which open to man the passage into the next world.

Now at the ebb of the tide the dark people that dwelt upon the marge of the
sea fared shorewards and found the blue-eyed mariners lying dead beside
their vessel; and they, marvelling greatly what manner of men these might
have been, took counsel among themselves and decided to bestow upon them
the last rites of the dead. So they built a mighty funeral pyre for them
with logs of resinous wood hewn in the dark forest that stretched inland,
and they fortified the souls of the dead seamen with prayer and
lamentation. But lo! a miracle: for as the flames hissed upwards,
purging the bodies of all earthly taint, life returned to them by the grace
of Parashurama; and they rose one and all from the pyre and praised Him of
the Axe, in that he had raised them from the dead and made them truly
"Chitta-Pavana" or the "Pyre Purified." And they dwelt henceforth in the
land of the arrow of their Deliverer and were at peace, forgetting their
former home and their drear wandering over the pathless sea, and taking
perchance unto themselves wives from among the ancient holders of the soil.
Now the place where they abode is called Chittapolana or Chiplun unto this

[Illustration: Parashurama and the Chitpavans.]

* * * * *

And it came to pass in the fulness of time, as the Sahyadri-khand tells,
that Parashurama called all Brahmans to a great festival in the new land
which he had created between the mountains and the sea. But the twice-born
hearkened not to his words; whereas the God waxing wroth determined to
create new Brahmans who would not turn a deaf ear to his counsel. Revolving
this decision in his heart he walked down to the shore, and there in the
seaward-gazing burning-ground he met a stranger-people, white-skinned,
blue-eyed, and fair to look upon, and asked them who they were and whence
they came. "Fishermen (or hunters) are we," they answered, "and dwell upon
the seashore, sixty families of us in all." And the God was pleased with
them and raising them to the rank of Brahmans, divided them into fourteen
"Gotras," and made them a solemn promise that should they ever call him to
mind in any real emergency he would come to their assistance. So they dwelt
for many a day, waxing by the favour of God both numerous and learned,
until by ill-hap they hearkened into evil counsel and called upon the God
without just reason. And He, when he learned what they had done, was
exceeding wroth and cursed them, dooming them to sorrow and to the service
of other men so long as the sun and moon should endure. Thus the Chitpavans
gained their Brahmanhood, but lost their right to superiority in that they
flouted the promise of their God.

Such are the legends, popular and Puranic, of the coming of the Chitpavans
to Western India. That some historic truth lies below the garbled tale of
shipwreck and resurrection is partly proved by the physical traits of their
descendants,--of those men, in fact, whose immediate ancestors, employed at
first as messengers or spies of Maratha chieftains, by innate cleverness,
tact, and faculty for management gradually welded together the loose
Maratha confederacy and became directors of the internal and external
politics of the Peshwa's dominions. For to this day the true Chitpavan
perserves the fair skin, the strange grey eyes, the aspect of refined
strength and intelligence, which must have characterized the shipwrecked
mariners of old fable and marked them out in later years as strangers in a
strange land. But whence came they, these foreign immigrants, who after
long sojourn in the country of their adoption moved upwards to the Deccan
and stood within the shadow of the Peshwa's throne? Much has been written
of their origin, much that is but empty theory: but, as 'Historicus' has
remarked in the columns of a local journal, the lesson to be learned from
their home dialect and from their strange surnames,--Gogte, Lele, Karve,
Gadre, Hingne and so on,--is that the Chitpavan Brahmans of Western India
came in legendary ages from Gedrosia, Kirman and the Makran coast, and that
prior to their domicile in those latitudes they probably formed part of the
population of ancient Egypt or Africa. That they were once a seafaring and
fishing people is proved by the large number of words of oceanic origin
which still characterize their home-speech, while according to the
authority above mentioned the "Chandrakant" which they recognize is not the
sweating crystal of Northern India and ancient Sanskrit lore, but a fossil
coral found upon the Makran coast. Forty years ago Rao Saheb V. N. Mandlik
remarked that "the ancestors of the tribe probably came by ships either
from some other port in India or from the opposite coast of Africa;" and in
these later days his theory is corroborated by General Haig, who traces
them back to the great marts on the Indus and thence still further back to
the Persian Gulf and Egypt. Why or at what date they left the famous
country of the Pharaohs, none can say: but that these white-skinned
Brahmans are descendants of such people as the Berbers, who belonged of
right to the European races, seems the most plausible theory of their
origin yet put forward, and serves as an additional proof of the enormous
influence exercised upon posterity by the famous country of the Nile.

Thus perhaps the legend of storm and shipwreck is not false, but records in
poetic diction the arrival on these shores of men who presumably had in
some degree inherited the genius of the most famous and most civilized
country of prehistoric ages, and who had by long trafficking in dangerous
waters and by the hardships of long migration acquired that self-reliance
and love of mastery which has been bequeathed almost unchanged to their
Brahmanised descendants. The Chitpavans were indeed the children of the
storm, and something of the spirit of the storm lives in them still. Some
trace is theirs of the old obstinacy which taught those pale ancestors to
fight against insuperable forces until they were cast naked and broken upon
the seashore. And peradventure the secret lesson of the ancient folk-tale
is this, that the God of the Axe, despite the curse, is still at hand to
help them along the path to new birth, provided always that their cause is
fair, that they invoke not his aid for trivial or unjust ends, and that
they have been truly purified in the pyres of affliction.



"The singer only sang the Joy of Life,
For all too well, alas! the singer knew,
How hard the daily toil, how keen the strife,
How salt the falling tear, the joys how few."

"Nay, Saheb, I accept no money for my songs from you and your friend; for
you have taken a kindly interest in me and my past history, and have shewn
me the respect which my birth warrants, but which alas! my occupation hath
made forfeit in the eyes of the world. But,--if you have found satisfaction
in my singing, then write somewhat of me and of my Mimi to the paper, even
as you did of Imtiazan, that thus your people--the people who know not the
inner life of India may learn that I was not born amid the saringis and the
bells, and that I, the singer, hide within my heart a life-long regret."

[Illustration: Nur Jan.]

So she spake, seated on the clean white floor-cloth of the brightly-lighted
"diwankhana," like some delicate flower cradled on a crystal lake. We had
seen her once before at the house of an Indian friend, who had hospitably
invited a company to witness her songs and dances; we had heard her chant
the subtle melodies of Hindustan and even old English roundelays
for the special delectation of the English guests; we had remarked her
delicate hands, the great dark eyes, the dainty profile, the little ivory
feet, and above all the gentle voice and courteous bearing; and we realized
that Nur Jan had not been bred to this uncurtained life, but must once have
known the care, affection and the gentle training of a patrician home.

By what caprice of evil fortune had she come to this, hiring out her voice
and her nimble feet to enhance the pleasure of a chance entertainment, far
from her own people and from her northern Indian home? What secret lay in
the song of the frail maiden on the banks of the Jamna, in the earnest
request she made to us not to mention the name of dead Royalty before her
attendant-musicians? The mystery remained unsolved for that evening; and it
was not till some weeks later that the chances of an official enquiry
brought us face to face again. But this time the ill-starred dancing-skirt
and bells had been locked away; and in their stead we saw the silken
jacket, the spangled pale-blue sari, covered by a diaphanous black veil,
like a thin cloud half-veiling the summer heavens, the necklace of pearls
round the olive pillar of her throat, and above them the calm face and the
wealth of dark hair that scorned all artificial adornment. There she sat in
her own house, singing to two rich Arabs and a subordinate agent of one of
the greatest rulers of Asia, while behind her Mimi, aged two years,--the
legacy of a dead affection, crooned and tried to clap her small hands in
rythm with her mother's song. And in the pauses of her singing, while the
musicians tightened their bows and the silver "pan-box" was passed round to
her Indian-guests, she lifted a little way, a very little way the curtain
of the past.

"Yea, Saheb, you have rightly spoken. I come of a good family, and as a
child I was sent to school in Calcutta and learned your English tongue.
When I grew to girlhood I determined to study medicine and serve the women
of my faith as a doctor. But barely had I commenced the preliminary lessons
of compounding when the trouble came upon our house, and my sister and I
were brought away from the old home to Bombay and bidden to find the
wherewithal to support those to whom we owed respect and affection. Saheb,
with us the word of near relations is law, and their support a sacred duty.
What could we, gently-bred Mahomedan girls, do in a strange city? We had
always liked singing and had taken lessons in our home; and it seemed that
herein lay the only chance of supporting ourselves and others. Therefore,
not without hesitation, not without tears, we bade adieu to the 'pardah' of
our people and cast the pearls of our singing before the public. Thus has
it been since that day. My sister by good-hap has married well and regained
the shelter of the curtain: but I am still unwed and must sing until the
end comes."

"How can I seek help of my grandsire? Have I not disgraced his name by
adopting this life? And were I mean enough to ask his favour, would he not
first insist that I become once more 'pardahnashin'? I cannot live again
behind the screen, for too long have I been independent. The filly that has
once run free cares not afterwards for the stall and bridle. It has been an
evil mistake, Saheb, but one not of my making. I sometimes loathe the
lights, the tinsel, the bells, aye even the old songs; for they remind me
of what I might have been, but for another's fault, and, of what I am. You
ask of Mimi's future? So long as I live, she never shall play a part in
this work. Mated with a good man of mine own faith she will never know
regret. That is my great wish, Saheb. The issue lies with Allah."

So the tale ran on with its accompaniment of song, its suggestion of
regret. Once in the middle of a ballad a funeral passes in the street
below. The mourner's chant sounds above the bourdon of the tom-tom, the
wail of the saringis. "Hush, hush" cries Nur Jan, "let the dead pass in
peace. It is not meet that the song of the dancing-girl should be heard
upon the final journey." One more refrain, one more question on the mystery
of her birth, and we ask permission to depart, offering at the same time
some small token of our approval of her songs, to which she replies in the
words that commence this chapter. We catch a last glimpse of her, bidding
us good-bye in the gentle manner that tells its own tale, and of Mimi
crooning to herself and trying to push a much-crumpled playing-card,--the
Queen of Hearts,--into the cinglet of her small pyjamas.




A friend has supplied me with the following quaint history of a well-known
Marathi ballad, which is widely chanted by the lower classes in and around
Bombay. Composed originally as a song of seed-time, it has now lost its
primary significance and is sung by men at their work or by mothers hushing
their children in the dark alleys of the city. The verse runs thus:--

"Nakhwa Koli jat bholi,
Ghara madhye dravya mahamar,
Topiwalyane hukum kela,
Batliwalyachya barabar."

which may be rudely interpreted as follows:--

"Seaman Koli of simple mould
Hath in his house great store of gold
Lo! at the order of Topiwala
Koli is peer of Batliwala"!

Now the word "Topiwala" means an Englishman; and "Batliwala" is a reference
to the first Parsi Baronet, Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy: albeit the word is
often used as a synonym for "millionaire" in much the same way as
"Shankershet" has crept into Marathi parlance as the equivalent of "rich
and prosperous."

The story, which the Kolis relate with pride, refers to the great wealth of
Zuran Patel, the ancestor of Mahadev Dharma Patel who at this moment is the
headman and leader of the Christian Kolis of Bombay.

That Zuran Patel was a rich man can be proved from the ancient documents
relating to the properties recently acquired by the Improvement Trust in
and around Mandvi. For his name appears as chief owner in many of them; and
it seems clear that the spoils which he gathered from the sea formed the
basis of a goodly heritage upon dry land. He was an intimate friend of a
certain Parsi millionaire, whom the composer of the ballad has supposed to
be Sir Jamserji Jeejeebhoy, but who was more probably a member of the great
family of Wadia,--the original ship-builders and dock-masters of the East
India Company.

It chanced one day that the Governor of Bombay (perhaps Lord Falkland or
Lord Elphinstone) wandered into Mandvi Koliwada and came suddenly upon the
Parsi and the Koli Patel sitting in converse with one another. Up rose the
Parsi millionaire and made obeisance; but the Koli quite indifferent and
not recognising the solitary "Topiwala," remained in his seat. His
Excellency's curiosity was aroused; and asking the Parsi the name of his
scantily-clad comrade, he was informed that the man was a rich fisherman,
who from time to time was accustomed to spread out his piles of gold and
silver in the street to dry. "And" added the Parsi, "so simple and
guileless is he that the people walk over the glittering heap with wax
on their feet, thus robbing him in open daylight; and yet he does
nought, believing that the pile of wealth must shrink even as his
piles of fish shrink, when placed in the sun to dry." Interested in the
man's personality, the Governor asked the Parsi to introduce the Patel to
him, and enquired whether he would grant some portion of his wealth to
Government. "Yes, as much as the Government may desire" was the ready
answer. "But" quoth his Excellency, "what will you ask of Government
in return?" "Only this," answered the Koli, "that Government will
grant me the exclusive privilege of roofing my house with silver tiles."
After some little discussion, a compromise was effected, and Zuran
Patel received permission, as a special mark of favour, to place a few
copper tiles above his house.

The house in Dongri Street, where Mahadev Dharma Patel now resides, is
reputed to be the identical house upon which the copper tiles were once
fixed. But many alterations have taken place, and the tiles have
disappeared. For many years, so runs the tale, they were preserved as a
sort of family escutcheon, being taken off the roof and fixed in a
conspicuous position in the wall. Perhaps they were stolen, perhaps
they were worn away by constant polishing, who can say? They have passed
beyond the realm of fact to that of legend. Suffice it to say that the
Kolis firmly believe the whole story, and add that Zuran Patel's house
was the only real strong-house in Bombay at that epoch, the walls being
built upon a framework of iron girders and the cellar, containing
the piles of silver, being stouter than a modern safe. It seems not
improbable that the old cellars of Mandvi Kolivada were originally the
colouring-ponds of the fishermen, which, as building progressed and
crowding set in, were enclosed with tiles and brick and mortar and
utilised as store-rooms.

Such is the history of the quaint ballad of the English Governor, the
Parsi millionaire, and the Koli Patel. It seems to us to crystallise the
honourable connection and friendship which has existed from the earliest
days of British rule in Bombay between the aboriginal-fishermen, the Parsi
pioneers of commerce and the English Government in the person of its
highest representative. It recalls to us the days of siege and warfare
when the Governor of the struggling settlement sought the help of the
sturdy fishermen and when Rustom Dorabji put himself at their head, formed
them into a rudely-drilled corps, and drove the Sidi off the island. It
recalls the action of the Honourable Thomas Hodges in their behalf a
century and a half ago, and the subsequent confirmation of their ancient
rights by Sir James Fergusson and Sir Bartle Frere. And lastly it
represents a belief, which has attained almost the sanctity of religion
in the heart of Kolidom, that between themselves and the King's
representative in Bombay there exists a bond of good-feeling and respect
which dating as it does from 1675 has been welded firm by time and
shall never be broken.

[Illustration: A Koli.]

* * * * *



[Illustration: A Deccani Fruit-seller.]

In the more thickly-populated quarters of the city of Bombay--quarters that
are rarely explored by the European, a succession of criers and hawkers
pass through the streets from morn till eve and sometimes far into the
night. In the early morning, before the house-sparrow has chirped himself
and his family into wakefulness, you catch the doleful and long-drawn cry
of the early Fakir or Mahomedan beggar, whose object is not so much to wake
the Faithful and bid them remember "the prayer that is better than sleep"
as to be the earliest bird to catch the mouthful of Moslem charity. Watch
him as he awakens the echoes of the quarter by repeating in the most
melancholy tones Ali's famous gift of his sons to the beggars of the Hegira
or some other great tradition of the generosity of Ali, set to verse for
the special behoof of his brotherhood by some needy poetaster like the
famous Nazir of Agra. He is followed by another who chants in deep bass
tones a legend explanatory of the virtues of the great saint of Baghdad.
But Ali is the favourite of the beggar-tribe, because forsooth the beggar
runs no risk in singing his praises. If one glorify the other three
Khalifas in a Sunni quarter, it is well with one, but not so in an area
devoted to the Shia population: and so the beggar chooses Ali's name
as a convenient and fitting means of opening the purse-strings of
both the great Musulman sects.

As the day dawns, sturdy Hyderabad chorus-singers pass along the streets
chanting the "prayers for the Prophet" in voices that awaken the denizens
of the dark garrets and hidden courts of the teeming chals. And after them
come the beggars of that class which is the peculiar product of Mahomedan
life in Bombay. As the majority of the middle-class Musulmans and all the
poorer class live in chals or "malas," each family occupying one or at most
two rooms in a building, the passages, corridors and staircases of these
human warrens become the chosen paths of those astute mendicants who
disdain not, when chance offers, to turn their hand to a little quiet
thieving. Even as they fare upon their rounds, you catch the welcome call
of the vendor of "jaleibi malpurwa," who sells wheat-cakes fried rarely in
_ghi_ and generally in oil, and the "jaleibi" a sort of macaroni fried
likewise in oil. These crisp cakes are a favourite breakfast-dish of the
early-rising factory-operative, who finds himself thus saved the drudgery
of cooking when he is barely awake and when moreover he is in a hurry to
reach the scene of his daily labours. The vendor of these dainties is truly
"a study in oils," and his hands, which serve the purpose of knife and fork
for the separation of his customers' demands, drip--but not with myrrh.
Though a vendor of oleaginous dainties, he is himself far from well-
nourished. You can see his collar-bone and count his ribs and almost mark
the beatings of his poor profit-counting heart. A dirty dhoti girds his
loins, and upon his head is a turban of the same questionable hue which
serves both as a head-dress and as a support for his tray of cakes. If a
Musulman, he wears only a skullcap, a shirt or jacket and a pair of soiled
baggy trousers. Once he has called, the jaleibi-vendor has a habit of
presenting himself every day at the very hour when the children of the
house begin to clamour for food, and calmly defies the angry order of the
householder not to appear unless bidden.

Next comes the vendor of "chah, chah garam, chaaah garaaam" or hot tea, who
is unusually an Irani. For having introduced tea into Western Asia the
inhabitants of the land of "the gul and the bulbul" claim the secret of
making a perfect infusion of the celestial leaves. He is no longer the
embodiment of Tom Moore's Heroic Guebre, this tea-vending Irani, and his
apron forbids the suggestion that he has any association with Gao, the
subverter of a monarchy and the slayer of the tyrant Zuhhac. He has sadly
degenerated from the type of his Guebre ancestor. If he owns a shop he
combines the sale of other commodities with the tea business. He has an
ice-cream, a sherbet and a "cold-drink" department; and he touts for
customers, singing the praises of hot and cold beverages in a language
redolent of Persian. It does not pay him to use fresh tea-leaves from
Kangra or China; so he purchases his stock from small traders, who in their
turn obtain it as a bargain from butlers or stewards. The latter dry them
after one infusion by their masters and, mixing some unused leaves, make up
a fresh box and dispose of it in the markets. As for soda-water and allied
beverages, he gets his supply from the cheapest manufacturers; while his
ice-cream contains probably more water than milk and is flavoured, not with
vanilla, pine-apple or orange, but with some article which he declares is a
complete antidote against internal discomfort. He prepares his tea _a la
Russe_ in a brightly-polished samovar which compares favourably with his
tea-cups and country-made tin spoons. He charges his customer from two to
four pice for this delightful mixture which has a flavour of hot-water and
iron-rust rather than of tea.

Here too comes the itinerant fruit-seller, very often a woman, who hawks
fruit of all kinds from the superior mango to the acid "karaunda" of the
Ghats. For the sale of country-mangoes a place of vantage is required; so
she takes up a strong position on the roadside or on the doorstep of a
house and sets to work to pick out her best fruit and place it on the top
of her basket. She is generally a Deccani, either Musulman or Hindu,
varying in age from 20 to 40 and is fully capable of conciliating the Lord
of the Bombay pavements, when he somewhat roughly commands her to move on.
"Jemadar Saheb" she calls him; and if this flattery is insufficient she
offers one of her ripest mangoes with a glance that he cannot resist. It is
too much for the sepoy: he smiles and tramps off, and she holds her
position undisturbed. If she be a Hindu, you will probably notice
the bright-red mark on her forehead, joining brow to brow, or, in
the words of a Persian poet, uniting two Parthian or Tartar bows
into Kama's Long-bow. The male mango-hawker is a Deccan Hindu or
Musulman gardener who purchases a stock of showy inferior fruit from the
wholesale dealers. After the mango season is over he becomes a vendor of
Poona figs or Nagpur oranges. He is often a small, dark, muscular man who
began life as a day-labourer in the highly-cultivated fields of the Deccan
and has journeyed to the city with his modest savings tightly tied up in
his waist-cloth in the hope of eventually cutting as big a figure in the
village home as does his friend Arjuna, who some years ago returned to his
village as a capitalist and is even now the bosom-friend of the Patel.

[Illustration: The Coffee-seller.]

The itinerant coffee-vendor is a characteristic feature of the Musulman
quarters of Bombay. Of Arab or Egyptian origin, this coffee-trade
immediately proved attractive to the Musulman public and, inasmuch as it
requires little stock or capital, has been a boon to many a poor Mahomedan
anxious to turn an honest penny. The "kahwe-wala" has no cry and yet
manages to proclaim his presence by sounds which are audible in the inmost
darkness of the chals. He is the beetle of the pedlar tribe. He does not
sing, he does not cry--he stridulates. Carrying in his hand a large number
of small coffee-cups, fitted one within another, he strikes them together
like a string of castanets, while in the left hand he bears a portable
stove-like article on which rests his tin or copper kettle.

His entire stock-in-trade, including the ground coffee in his kettle, does
not as a rule exceed five rupees in value. The "kahwe-wala" belongs to
three nationalities, Arab, Negro and Native Indian. If an Arab, he may be a
disabled sailor or the retired body-servant of some Arab merchant; if an
Indian, he is usually an old resident of the city, experienced in the wiles
of the urban population and sometimes perhaps a protege of the local
police. He has a perfect acquaintance with the intricacies of Bombay galis
and back-slums; he is a creature of jovial temper, being hail-fellow-well-
met with most of his customers, and he is not a grasping creditor. His
account, which he notes down on whitewashed walls, sometimes reaches the
sum of Rs. 10 to Rs. 15 where thriftless wives are concerned. Generally the
score is paid: but if it be shirked or disputed, he never thinks of
invoking legal aid for the recovery of his money. He has an abiding faith
in the doctrine of "Live and let live."




Nasik! What a story the name evokes! Nasik the Lotus-city, Nasik the home
of Gods; who has borrowed her name from the nine hills which lay within the
compass of her sacred walls. For we like not, nor do we believe, that
alternative derivation of the name from "Nasika," a nose, in allusion to
the fate which here overtook the demon Shurpanakhi. It is altogether too
savage an appellation for a city whose purity was established in the "Krita
Yuga," and whose fame is coeval with that of the great protagonists of
Hindu myth and epic. The great city of religion in the West stood upon
seven hills, the holy city of the East stood upon nine; and the famous
rivers which flow past them whisper in each case of a heritage of undying
renown. Fancy hand in hand perhaps with a substratum of historical truth
has discovered traces of Rama's chequered life, of Sita's devotion in many
spots within the limits of Nasik. The Forest of Austerity (Tapovan),
Panchvati and Ramsej or Ram's seat, that strangely-shaped hill fortress to
the north of Nasik, are but three of the holy places which appeal so
forcibly to the hearts of the people as the visible legacies of divine life
on earth.

But to us the temples and the sacred pools seem nothing by comparison with
the mighty monuments of Buddhism, which local wiseacres have erroneously
named the Pandu-Lena or caves of the Pandavas. We drive out in the fresh
morning air along the trunk road, which extends southwards of the holy city
like a grey ribbon streaked by two parallel lines of lighter colour where
the wheels of the bullock-carts have ground the hard metal into dust; and
hard by the fifth milestone we come face to face with three stark hills,
standing solitary out of the plain. A congeries of Mhars' huts fringing the
roadside marks the most convenient spot for alighting, whence we strike
across the belt of level land which divides the highway from the foot of
the easternmost of the triad of hills. "Trirashmi" or Triple Sunbeam is the
name by which the hill is known in seven of the cave-inscriptions, and is
held by the learned Pundit who wrote the _Gazetter_ account to refer
to its pyramidal or triple fire-tongue shape. But is it not conceivable
that the hand which carved the earliest of those priceless inscriptions
desired to designate the triad of contiguous hills as "the tripla ray," and
not the eastern hill alone in which the caves have been hewn? Who can tell?
When we recall the almost unbroken chain of caves,--the Shivner, the
Ganesh, the Manmoda and the Tulja,--which surround Junner, we suspect that
the original intention of those primeval devotees was to carve dwellings
and chapels in all three hills, which thus would have surely formed a
triple beam of light in honour of the great Master, whom an English
missionary has characterized as "one of the grandest examples of self-
denial and love to humanity which the world has ever produced." A narrow
and devious path, worn by the feet of worshipers, leads upward to the broad
terrace which fronts the caves. Here you are sheltered from the wind, and
peace inviolate broods upon these dwellings of a vanished people; but turn
your steps round the western corner and the boisterous breeze will quickly
chase you back behind the sheltering bulwarks of the hill.

Of the twenty-four caves all except the eighteenth or chapel-cave were
originally _layanas_ or monastic dwellings and contained no images
when first their makers gazed upon their work and found it good. But long
after their earliest inmates had conquered Desire and had gained Nirvana
for their souls the followers of the Mahayana school from Northern India
took the dwellings for their own use and carved out of the austere walls of
their precursors' cells those images and idols which are now the chief
feature of the caves. Buddha seated upon the lion-throne and the figures of
his Bodhisattvas with their fly-whisks are symbols of a later and more
idolatrous form of Buddhism and are several centuries later than the days
(b. c. 110) when the great monk (Sramana) fashioned the nineteenth cave in
the reign of Krishna the Satakarni. Nor has Vandalism in the guise of the
Mahayana school been alone at work here. The tenth cave once contained a
relic-shrine or _dagoba_ similar to the relic-shrines at Karli,
Shivner and Ganesh Lena; but in its place now stands a hideous figure of
Bhairav aflame with red-lead, and nought remains to testify to the former
presence of the shrine save the Buddhist T capital, the umbrellas and the
flags which surmounted it. The eleventh cave bears traces of Jain sacrilege
in the blue figure of the Tirthankar or hierach who sits cross-legged in
the back wall and in the figure of Ambika on the right. But the most
conspicuous example of the alteration of ancient monuments to suit the
needs of late comers is the twentieth cave, where the colossal Buddha, who
muses with his attendants in the dense darkness of the inner shrine, has
been smeared with black pigment and adorned with gold tinsel and is proudly
introduced to you by the local _pujari_ as Dharmaraja, the eldest of
the five Pandavas, the surrounding Bodhisattvas being metamorphosed into
Nakula, Sahadeva, Bhima, Arjuna, Krishna and Draupadi, the joint wife of
the five! Alas for "the Perfect One" in whose honour, as the inscription
tells us, "the wife of the great war-lord Bhavagopa" commenced building the
cave in B.C. 50. He has long been forgotten and the hand which he uplifts
in token of the Four Verities, discovered after great agony and temptation
beneath the Tree of Wisdom, is now pointed out as the wrathful hand of the
demi-god of the Mahabharata. Once and once only in these later days has the
Buddha evinced his displeasure at the modernization of his ancient shrine.
About the year 1880 came hither a Bairagi, naked and wild, who walled off a
corner of the cave and raised a clay altar to his puny god. Sacrilege
intolerable! And the Buddha through the hand of an avaricious Koli smote
him unto death and hurled his naked corpse down hill. The titanic figure is
still worshipped by the Hindus: flowers and lighted lamps are daily offered
up to him by the ignorant Hindu priest; but he sits immutable,
inarticulate, content in the knowledge that to them that have understanding
his real message of humanitarianism speaks through the clouds of falsehood
which now enwrap his Presence.

Much might be written of the strange medley of creeds which are symbolised
in these caves. The Nagdevas with their serpent-canopies, which are relics
of a primordial Sun and Serpent worship totally foreign to pure Buddhism,
appear side by side with the Swastika or Life-symbol of the greater creed,
with the lotus and other symbols of a phallic cult, and as in the small
cistern near cave 14 with the female face representing the low-class Hindu
belief in the divinity of the smallpox. Jain images of a later school of
Buddhism, dating from the 5th or 6th century after Christ, have helped to
rob these homes of Buddhist mendicants of their original simplicity and
severity, and have rendered it almost impossible for any save the wise men
of the East to read their chequered history aright. In almost the last cave
we entered, where two standing figures on the right and left mount guard
over the well-known image of the Master, our footsteps roused a large
female rat and her young, which crawled up the silent seated figure and
took refuge on the very crown of its head. Sanctuary! So we turned aside to
scrutinise the strange symbolical figures of the twenty-fourth cave and the
stories of the chaste and unchaste wives which are hewn in the ornamental
gateway of the third.

From the terrace in front of the caves a fine panorama greets the eye.
Below commences the wide plain which creeps northwards to the rugged hills
comprising the weird couch-shaped summit of Ramsej and the solitary cone
of the Chambhar Hill, embosoming the great Jain caves of the 12th century.
Beyond the Chambhar cone climb heavenwards the castellated pinnacles of the
Chandor range, mist-shrouded in this monsoon season. In the nearer distance
the primeval Brahman settlement of Govardhan sleeps amid her mango-groves,
and opposite to it the modern Christian village of Sharanpur marks the
threshold of that tract of fair woodland and fairer garden which is Nasik's
pride. Here and there a red roof catches the sun's rays and shews a splash
of orange amid the green; but save for this the picture has but two tints,
the warm green of the plain country in the foreground and the grey of the
mighty mountain-range which stands sentinel behind it. Your feet rest upon
soil hallowed by the memories of two thousand years, upon ground which
bears the sign-manual of early and late Buddhist, of Jain and lastly of
Maratha, who used the hill as a muster-ground of warriors and bored holes
in the graven images for the tethering of his cattle and steeds. By some
divine decree "the imperial banditti" kept their impious hands from the
famous inscriptions which are the real glory of these caves and form the
connecting-link between ourselves and that great king whose face was "as
the sun-kissed lotus, whose army drank the waters of three oceans," Shri
Gautamiputra the Satakarni.

And so ends our morning's exploration. One last visit to the silent keepers
of these messages from dead monarchs--and we pass down to the high road,
whence we look back once more upon Trirashmi, the casket of jewels without
price, and her twin sisters gleaming in the morning light like the triple
prongs of some giant Trident set there by Nature in honour of the great
apostle of Humanity.



We had wandered off the main thoroughfare, where the trams, hurtling past
the Irani's tea shop, drown from time to time the chatter of Khoda Behram's
clientele; and skirting a group of Mahomedans who nightly sit in solemn
conclave, some on the 'otlas,' others on charpoys or chairs placed well in
the fairway of traffic, we reached at length a sombre and narrow 'gali,'
seemingly untenanted save by the shadows. Here a sheeted form lay prone on
the roadside; there a flickering lamp disclosed through the half-open door
a mother crooning to her child, while her master smoked the hubble-bubble
with the clay bowl and ruminated over the events of the day,--the villainy
of the landlord who contemplated the raising of the rent and the still
greater rascality of the landlord's 'bhaya' who insisted upon his own
'dasturi' as well. Here a famished cat crouched over a pile of garbage hard
by the sweeper's 'gali'; there on the opposite side of the road a Marwadi
with the features of Mephistopheles dozed over his account book; and a
little further away a naked child was dipping her toes in a pool of sullage
water that had dripped from the broken pipe athwart the house wall.
Darkness reigned on the upper floors. At intervals a faint glimmer might be
discerned behind the sodden 'chicks' which shrouded the windows; and once
the stillness was broken by a voice humming a refrain from an Indian drama:

"Jahan jahan mukam rahe, amne jhulakiram rahe,
Safarse ghar ko to phire, Aman-chaman khuda rakhe."

Which, being interpreted, runs:--"Wheresoever thou mayst halt, may God
protect thee! When thou hast returned, may God give thee His peace!" The
singer was invisible, but around the words of her song one could conjure up
pictures of the sturdy serang asleep in the foc'sle of some westward-flying
steamer, or haply of the bearded trader afare through the passes of the
North-West Frontier, the while his wife in the small upper room waited with
prayers for his home-coming, even as the lady of Ithaca waited for the man
of many wiles.

At length we reached a small doorway which opened into a cavern black as
Erebus. For a moment we paused undecided; and then out of the darkness
crawled an aged Mahomedan bearing a tiny cocoanut-oil lamp. Lifting it
above his head he pointed silently to a rickety staircase in the far
corner, up which we groped our way with the help of a rope pendent from an
upper beam. Up and up we mounted, now round a sharp corner, now down a
narrow passage: the stairs swayed and shook; the air was heavy with a
mixture of frankincense and sullage; until at last we crawled through
a trap-door that opened as by magic, and found ourselves at our journey's

[Illustration: Fateh Muhammad]

Imagine a small attic, some fifteen feet by ten, under the very eaves of
the 'chal,' filled with the smoke of frankincense so pungent that the eyes
at once commenced to water nor ceased until we were once again in the open
air. In one corner was spread a coarse sheet with a couple of pillows
against the wall, upon which the silent Mahomedan bade us by a sign
recline; in the opposite corner a 'panja', a species of altar smothered in
jasmine wreaths and surmounted by a bunch of peacock's feathers; and
immediately in front of this an earthen brazier of live charcoal. Behind
the brazier sat three persons, Fateh Muhammad, a Musalman youth with
curiously large and dreamy eyes, and two old Musalman beldames, either of
whom might have sat as a model for the witch of Endor. The three sat
unmoved, blinking into the live charcoal, save at rare intervals when the
elder of the two women cast a handful of fragrance upon the brazier and
wrapped us all in a fresh pall of smoke which billowed round the room and
lapped the interstices of the rotten tiles. Only the peacock's eyes in the
corner never lost their lustre, staring wickedly through the smoke-wreaths
like the head of Argus.

Then on a sudden the youth shivered, fell forward with his face over the
brazier, and rose again to a sitting posture with eyes closed and every
muscle in his body taut as though stricken by a sudden paralysis. "The
spirit has entered," whispered my friend, and even as he spoke I saw the
youth's throat working as if an unseen hand were kneading the muscles, and
forth from his lips echoed the words "La illaha illallah illahi laho." He
was deep in a trance, the curtains of his eyes half-dropped, looking as one
that is dead; and the voice with which he spoke was not the voice of Fateh
Muhammad, "La illaha illallah illahi laho"! and as the words died away one
that was present passed two green limes into his left hand and asked for a
sign. "I am fain to journey to Lahore, starting on Tuesday next. Will it be
well," he said; and after a pause came the answer "Set not forth on
Tuesday, for the stars be against thy journeying; but send thine agent on
Thursday and go thyself, if need be, two days later." As the message died
away, the trap-door in the floor was slowly tilted upwards and through the
opening crawled an obvious member of the Dhobi class. He slid forward
almost to the feet of the dreaming youth and, placing as before two green
limes in his hand, spoke saying "Master, my wife hath written from our
country, bidding me to go unto her nor tarry by the road. But there is work
toward here and the purse is light. Is it that I should go?" "La illaha
illallah illahi laho!" "Aye, go unto her, lest evil haply befall thee; for
much is there that is hid from thine eyes."

Thus the seance went forward. For twenty minutes or more odd waifs and
strays of humanity crawled in through the trap-door, obtained their message
of good or ill, and departed into the shadows as silently as they had come.
Among them were several women, one of whom sought a cure for her sick
child, whimpering over the symptoms of his malady. "Meningitis, I expect,"
muttered my friend the doctor; but the answer came swift and sure "Bind
thou the 'tawiz' round his brows and carry him to the shrine of Miran
Datar, whence cometh thy help." "La illaha illallah illahi laho!"

The end came suddenly. After the last visitor had vanished through the
floor there was dead silence for three minutes, while Fateh Muhammad
wrestled with the spirit within him; and then with chest heaving and hands
convulsively grasping the heavy air, he fell prone upon his face and lay
still. The two old women moved forward and commenced making passes over his
body, murmuring the while some charm, and as they waved the seven-knotted
handkerchief above his head he regained consciousness and sat slowly up,
"breathing like one that hath an evil dream" and bearing upon his features
the signs of deathly fatigue. By this time the attic was almost clear of
smoke; the guttering wick of the only oil-lamp was nearly burnt through,
and Fateh Muhammad was fain to sleep. Wherefore we thanked him for
permitting us this glance behind the curtain of his daily life, then
crawled through the trap, slid down the reeking staircase and gained the
street. One last glance, as my eyes reached the floor-level of the trap,
showed me that the room was untenanted, save by the prostrate form of the
visionary, above whom the eyes of the peacock still glinted with something
of mockery in their blue depths.

As we passed homewards down the street we heard the woman in the upper
chamber still singing her prayer, but with a note of hope in its cadence:--

"O dilruba tu gam na kho, khuda hamen baham kare"
"Janejahan bhulo nahi, karim sada karam kare."
"Grieve not, heart of my heart, for God will
order our meeting! Soul of the world,
forget not; and may the peace of God be
on us twain."

Perchance she also, like Fateh Muhammad's guests, had caught a message of
good hap from out the darkness.

And so back to the light and the noise of the City's greatest artery.




(_Written August_. 1908)

Affairs in the City may now be regarded as having resumed their normal
course, and the chance of further disorder seems for the present to have
been obviated. One of the most curious features of the disturbances was the
difference of feeling exhibited by the two classes of mill-operatives,
namely the Ghatis and the Malwanis. Of the whole mill-population one would
have assumed that the Kunbis from the Deccan, where Tilak is stated to have
so great a following, would have shown a greater disposition to riot in
consequence of his arrest and conviction than the men from Ratnagiri. And
yet so far as I could judge the Ghatis were far less interested in the
trial and were much less disposed to express their resentment than the
latter class, which comprises one or two extremely hot-headed and
uncompromising individuals. The Ghatis of Sewri indeed at the very height
of the riots, informed an Englishman with whom they are familiar, that they
would sooner die for him than do him any harm, and their words carried home
the conviction that they felt no personal sorrow at Tilak's well-deserved
fate and that they would be ready in an emergency, as they have often been
in past history, to stand staunchly by the side of any individual whom they
know and who has been kind to them. The attitude of the Ratnagiri hands
must in my opinion have been engendered by continuous and careful tuition;
and this was particularly the case in the Currey Road and Delisle Road
areas where agents, belonging to their own native district, had been
suborned by the seditionary party to stir up trouble.

No less remarkable was the quaint juxtaposition during the height of the
riots of seething disorder and the quiet prosecution of their daily
avocations by the bulk of the people. An officer of one of the regiments
quartered on the City during the trial in the High Court gave expression to
this fact in the following words:--"Warfare I understand; but this sort of
business beats me altogether. At the top of the street there is a native
'tamasha' with people singing and beating tom-toms; half-way down the
street there are stone-throwing and firing, and at the bottom of the street
there are people, Europeans and Natives, shopping!" He was struck, as I
was, by the incongruity of the whole business. At Jacob's Circle there was
a great display of military and magisterial strength. Tommy Atkins had
taken up a strong position at the corner of Clerk Road; sentries paced up
and down by day and night; machine guns gaped upon the fountain erected to
the memory of Le Grand Jacob. At intervals a squadron of cavalry dashed
into the open, halted for a space, and then as suddenly disappeared; and
they were followed by motor cars and carriages containing Commissioners,
Deputy Commissioners, Police Subordinates, Special Magistrates and
miscellaneous European sightseers. All the pomp and circumstance of Law and
Order were represented there, and there could scarcely have been a greater
display of armed force, more secret consultations, more wild dashes hither
and thither, more troubled parleying, if the entire City north of Jacob's
Circle had been in flames. And yet behind it and around it the daily life
of the people moved forward in its accustomed channel, The Bhandari's
liquor-shop at the corner had its full complement of patrons, and the
Bhandari himself might be seen pulling out handfuls of thirst-producing
parched grain for those of his customers who desired a relish with their
liquor; members of that degraded class which follows one of the immemorial
vices of the East wandered round the Marwaris' shops, begging and clapping
their hands in the manner peculiar to them; and across the diameter of the
Circle strayed a group of Barots--those strange semi-gipsy looking men from
Kathiawar who act as priests and magicians to the Bhangi population. Seeing
the military and police they halted for a moment and gave one time to have,
a word with them:--"Whither go ye?" we asked, and they replied that they
were bound to the big Bhangi settlement that lies not far from the Circle.

One of them carried a "bina," a second an ordinary school-slate covered
with crude cabalistic signs and a third a rude book, something like a
Vani's "chopda," filled with Marathi characters, which doubtless plays a
part in the fortune-telling and spirit-scaring that form the stock-in-trade
of these wandering hierophants. Hardly had they disappeared than four
Sadhus hove in sight. One of them, who was smeared with ashes from head to
foot, the lobes of whose ears had been pierced and dragged down till they
nearly touched his shoulders, and who wore an enormous rosary of Rudraksha
berries, acted as the spokesman of the party and stated that they were on
their way to Nasik. They had come from Benares, he said, and had spent a
week in the shady compound of the Mahalaksmi temple, where all the
Bairagis, Gosavis and Fakirs of the Indian continent from time to time
congregate. "Do you walk to Nasik or go by rail" we asked. "By rail"
replied the silver-man. "But surely the true Sadhu should walk, taking no
heed of horse-vehicle or fire-carriage," whereat the little fat ascetic
with the gourd smiled pleasantly and made some remark to the effect that
all methods of conveyance are permitted to the truly devout.

So they passed down Ripon Road towards the heart of the City. Followed a
couple of Muhammadan Kasais driving a small flock of sheep, dyed pink and
blue in patches, which they urged forward in approved Native fashion by
driving the fingers into the base of the hindmost animal's spine; and after
them wandered a Syed in a faded green silk robe and cap, carrying the
inevitable peacock feather brush, which plays so large a part in exorcism
and divination. Later in the day a Hindu lady-doctor hurried past on her
way home, and four youths of the student-class, who had left their legal
studies in the Fort to see what was toward in the northern portion of the
Island. A Municipal sweeper lurched across the open and proceeded to spend
twenty minutes in brushing the grating of a drain, leaving the accumulated
filth of the adjoining gutter to fester and pollute the surroundings; and
two elderly cooly-women, each carrying a phenomenal head-load of dung-
cakes, becoming suddenly aware of the presence of troops and thereby struck
with terror, collided violently with one another and shot the entire
contents of their baskets on to the road. This caused some amusement to the
passers-by, particularly to a Pathan who had just taken a very complete
bath under one of the taps of the memorial fountain, but the trouble was
soon mended by a small boy who, bribed by the offer of one dung cake,
helped the old ladies to repack their burdens and replace them on their
heads. Next came a swarthy gentleman from Palanpur, who said he was a
hawker of glass sugar-bowls, and produced one bowl without a top as proof
of his profession. He struck me as being uncommonly and perhaps designedly
vacant in speech and appearance, and seemed to have no stock of glassware
whatever. I am still wondering whether that topless bowl was really his own
or whether he may not have filched it from some convenient dispense-khana.

Meanwhile the Irani at the corner where the trams halt did a roaring trade.
He must have boiled his tea-leaves four and five times over in order to
supply the constant demands for "adha kop chha-a," preferred by casual
visitors who had come up out of the City to see what was going on. Memons,
Bohras, Khojas, Jews, Eurasians and Europeans all patronized his shop
during the days of tumult, and the amount of soda-water, "pick-me-up" and
raspberryade which was consumed was phenomenal. It was as good as a play to
watch the constant stream of people who came out to have a look at the
soldiers and to hear their remarks on the situation. "I have heard," one of
them would begin,--and then followed a string of the wildest bazaar-
rumours, interspersed with many a "tobah" (fie) "iman-se" (honestly or
truly) or "mag kai" (what happened next), which apparently produced such a
hunger and thirst that the Irani, thanking his stars for the outbreak of
disorder, had to ransack all his cases for comestibles, aerated waters and
tea. They sat in deep attention when Motor Car No. O swung out of De Lisle
Road and halted near the fountain; they watched with animation the Punjab
cavalry trot homewards to their lines after a scurry in Kalachauki; and
they burst into merriment when a refractory mule deposited one of the
Northampton Regiment plump in the muddiest portion of the Circle. They had
a thoroughly interesting week, these sight-seers; but not half so
interesting as he did, who watched them and chatted with them and spent
hours interrogating the human flotsam and jetsam of this City of a myriad


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