Observations on the Mussulmauns of India
Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali
Part 7 out of 10
spacious, and in the usual Mussulmaun style of building mausoleums; viz.,
a square, with a dome, and is ascended by a flight of broad steps. This
building stands about three miles from the city, in a good situation to be
seen from the road. I was told that the family of Oude kept readers of the
Khoraun in constant attendance at the mukhburrah; and I observed several
soldiers, whose duty it was to guard the sacred spot, at the expense of
the Oude government.
In explanation of the word Soobadhaar, it may not be uninteresting to
remark in this place, that when the government of Hindoostaun flourished
under the descendants of Timoor, Soobadhaars were appointed over districts,
whose duty, in some respects, bore resemblance to that of a Governor; with
this difference, that the soobadhaaries were gifts, not only for the life
of the individuals, but to their posterity for ever, under certain
restrictions and stipulations which made them tributary to, and retained
them as dependants of, the reigning sovereign:--as for instance, a certain
annual amount was to be punctually transferred to the treasury at Delhi;
the province to be governed by the same laws, and the subjects to be under
the same control in each Soobadhaarie as those of the parent sovereignty;
the revenue exacted in the very same way,; each Soobadhaar was bound to
retain in his employ a given number of soldiers, horse and foot, fully
equipped for the field, with perfect liberty to employ them as occasion
served in the territory which he governed, whether against refractory
subjects, or encroachments from neighbouring provinces; but in any
emergency from the Court at Delhi, the forces to be, at all times, in
readiness for the Sultaun's service at a moment's notice.
The gift of a Soobadhaarie was originally conferred on men who had
distinguished themselves, either in the army, or in civil capacities, as
faithful friends and servants of the Sultaun. In the course of time, some
of these Soobadhaars, probably from just causes, threw off their strict
allegiance to their Sovereign, abandoned the title of Soobadhaar, and
adopted that of Nuwaub in its stead, either with or without the consent of
the Court of Delhi.
As it is not my intention to give a precise history of the Indian empire,
but merely to touch on generalities, I have confined my remarks to a brief
explanation of the nature of this office; and will only add, that whilst
the Soobadhaars (afterwards the Nuwaubs) of Oude swayed over that
beautiful province under these titles, they continued to send their usual
nuzzas to the King of Delhi, although no longer considered under his
dominion; thus acknowledging his superiority, because inferiors only
present nuzzas. But when Ghauzee ood deen Hyder was created King of Oude,
he could no longer be considered tributary to the House of Timoor, and the
annual ceremony of sending a nuzza, I understood, was discontinued. The
first King of Oude issued coins from his new mint almost immediately after
his coronation, prior to which period the current money of that province
bore the stamp of Delhi.
Shah Nizaam ood deen was one of the many Mussulmaun saints, whose
history has interested me much. He is said to have been dead about five
hundred years, yet his memory is cherished by the Mussulmauns of the
present day with veneration unabated by the lapse of years, thus giving to
the world a moral and a religious lesson, 'The great and the ambitious
perish, and their glory dieth with them; but the righteous have a name
amongst their posterity for ever.'
I was familiar with the character of Nizaam ood deen long prior to my
visit at the Court of Delhi, and, as maybe supposed, it was with no common
feeling of pleasure I embraced the opportunity of visiting the mausoleum
erected over the remains of that righteous man.
The building originally was composed of the hard red stone, common to the
neighbourhood of Delhi, with an occasional mixture of red bricks of a very
superior quality; but considerable additions and ornamental improvements
of pure white marble have been added to the edifice, from time to time, by
different monarchs and nobles of Hindoostaun, whose pious respect for the
memory of the righteous Shah Nizaam ood deen is testified by these
additions, which render the mausoleum at the present time as fresh and
orderly as if but newly erected.
The style of the building is on the original, I might say, only plan of
Mussulmaun mukhburrahs--square, with a cupola. It is a beautiful structure
on a scale of moderate size. The pavements are of marble, as are also the
pillars, which are fluted and inlaid with pure gold; the ceiling is of
chaste enamel painting (peculiarly an Indian art, I fancy,) of the
brightest colours. The cupola is of pure white marble, of exquisite
workmanship and in good taste; its erection is of recent date, I
understand, and the pious offering of the good Akbaar Shah, who, being
himself a very religions personage, was determined out of his limited
income to add this proof of his veneration for the sainted Nizaam to the
many which his ancestors had shown.
The marble tomb enclosing the ashes of Shah Nizaam ood deen is in the
centre of the building immediately under the cupola; this tomb is about
seven feet long by two, raised about a foot from the pavement; on the
marble sides are engraved chapters from the Khoraun in the Arabic
character, filled up with black; the tomb itself has a covering of very
rich gold cloth, resembling a pall.
This tranquil spot is held sacred by all Mussulmauns. Here the sound of
human feet are never heard; 'Put off thy shoes', being quite as strictly
observed near this venerated place, as when the mosque and emaum-baarah
are visited by 'the faithful'; who, as I have before remarked, whenever a
prayer is about to be offered to God, cast off their shoes with scrupulous
care, whether the place chosen for worship be in the mosque, the abode of
men, or the wilderness.
I was permitted to examine the interior of the mausoleum. The calm
stillness, which seemed hardly earthly; the neatness which pervaded every
corner of the interior; the recollection of those virtues, which I so
often heard had distinguished Shah Nizaam's career on earth, impressed me
with feelings at that moment I cannot forget; and it was with reluctance I
turned from this object to wander among the surrounding splendid ruins,
the only emblems left of departed greatness; where not even a tablet
exists to mark the affection of survivors, or to point to the passing
traveller the tomb of the monarch, the prince, or the noble,--except in
the instance of Shah Allum,--whilst the humble-minded man's place of
sepulture is kept repaired from age to age, and still retains the
freshness of a modern structure in its five hundredth year.
There are men in charge of Shah Nizaam ood deen's mausoleum who lead
devout lives, and subsist on the casual bounties gleaned from the
charitable visitors to his shrine. Their time is passed in religious
duties, reading the Khoraun over the ashes of the saint, and keeping the
place clean and free from unholy intrusions. They do not deem this mode of
existence derogatory; for to hold the situation of darogahs, or keepers of
the tombs of the saints, who are held in universal veneration amongst
Mussulmauns, is esteemed an honourable privilege.
In this sketch of my visit to the tombs at Delhi, I must not omit one very
remarkable cemetery, which, as the resting place of the last reigning
sovereign of Hindoostaun, excited in me no small degree of interest,
whilst contrasting the view it exhibited of fallen greatness, with the
many evidences of royal magnificence.
The tomb I am about to describe is that erected over the remains of Shah
Allum; and situated within view of the mausoleum of the righteous
plebeian, Shah Nizaam. It is a simple, unadorned grave; no canopy of
marble, or decorated hall, marks here the peaceful rest of a monarch, who
in his life-time was celebrated for the splendour of his Court; a small
square spot of earth, enclosed with iron railings, is all that remains to
point to posterity the final resting place of the last monarch of
Hindoostaun. His grave is made by his favourite daughter's side, whose
affection had been his only solace in the last years of his earthly
sufferings; a little masonry of brick and plaster supports the mound of
earth over his remains, on which I observed the grass was growing,
apparently cultured by some friendly hand. At the period of my visit, the
solitary ornament to this last terrestrial abode of a King was a luxuriant
white jessamine tree, beautifully studded with blossoms, which scented the
air around with a delightful fragrance, and scattered many a flower over
the grave which it graced by its remarkable beauty, height, and luxuriance.
The sole canopy that adorns Shah Allum's grave is the rich sky, with all
its resplendent orbs of day and night, or clouds teeming with beneficent
showers. Who then could be ambitious, vain, or proud, after viewing this
striking contrast to the grave of Shah Nizaam? The vain-glorious humbled
even in the tomb;--the humble minded exalted by the veneration ever paid
to the righteous.
I was persuaded to visit the ruins of antiquity which are within a morning'
s drive of Delhi. Nothing that I there witnessed gave me so much pleasure
as the far-famed Kootub, a monument or pillar, of great antiquity, claimed
equally by the Hindoo and Mussulmaun as due to their respective periods of
sovereign rule. The site is an elevated spot, and from the traces of
former buildings, I am disposed to believe this pillar, standing now erect
and imposing, was one of the minarets of a mosque, and the only remains of
such a building, which must have been very extensive, if the height and
dimensions of the minaret be taken as a criterion of the whole.
This pillar has circular stairs within, leading to galleries extending all
round, at stated distances, and forming five tiers from the first gallery
to the top, which finishes with a circular room, and a canopy of stone,
open on every side for the advantage of an extensive prospect. Verses from
the Khoraun are cut out in large Arabic characters on the stones, which
form portions of the pillar from the base to the summit in regular
divisions; this could only be done with great labour, and, I should
imagine, whilst the blocks of stone were on the level surface of the earth,
which renders it still more probable that it was a Mussulmaun erection.
The view from the first gallery was really so magnificent, that I was
induced to ascend to the second for a still bolder extent of prospect,
which more than repaid me the task. I never remember to have seen so
picturesque a panorama in any other place. Some of my party, better able
to bear the fatigue, ascended to the third and fourth gallery. From them I
learned that the beauty and extent of the view progressively increased
until they reached the summit, from whence the landscape which fell
beneath the eye surpassed description.
On the road back to Delhi, we passed some extensive remains of buildings,
which I found on inquiry had been designed for an observatory by Jhy
Sing,--whose extraordinary mind has rendered his name conspicuous in
the annals of Hindoostaun,--but which was not completed while he lived. It
may be presumed, since the work was never finished, that his countrymen
either have not the talent, or the means to accomplish the scientific plan
his superior mind had contemplated.
At the time I visited Delhi, I had but recently recovered from a serious
and tedious illness; I was therefore ill-fitted to pursue those researches
which might have afforded entertaining material for my pen, and must, on
that account, take my leave of this subject with regret, for the present,
and merely add my acknowledgments to those kind friends who aided my
endeavours in the little I was enabled to witness of that remarkable place,
which to have viewed entirely would have taken more time and better health
than I could command at that period. I could have desired to search out
amongst the ruined mausoleums for those which contain the ashes of
illustrious characters, rendered familiar and interesting by the several
anecdotes current in Native society, to many of which I have listened with
pleasure, as each possessed some good moral for the mind.
It is my intention to select two anecdotes for my present Letter, which
will, I trust, prove amusing to my readers; one relates to Jhaungeer,
King of India; the other to Kaareem Zund, King of Persia. I am not aware
that either has appeared before the public in our language, although they
are so frequently related by the Natives in their domestic circles. If
they have not, I need hardly apologise for introducing them, and on the
other hand, if they have before been seen, I may plead my ignorance of the
circumstance in excuse for their insertion here.
I have already noticed that, among the true Mussulmauns, there are no
religious observances more strictly enforced than the keeping the fast of
Rumzaun, and the abstaining from fermented liquors. It is related, however,
that 'A certain king of India, named Jhaungeer, was instructed by his
tutors in the belief, that on the day of judgment, kings and rulers will
not have to answer either for the sin of omission or commission, as
regards these two commands; but that the due administration of justice to
the subjects over whom they are placed, will be required at the hands of
every king, ruler, or governor, on the face of the earth.
'Jhaungeer was determined to walk strictly in the path which he was
assured would lead him to a happy eternity; and, therefore, in his reign
every claim of justice was most punctiliously discharged. Each case
requiring decision was immediately brought to the foot of the throne; for
the King would not allow business of such importance to his soul's best
interest to be delegated to the guardianship of his Vizier, or other of
his servants; and in order to give greater facility to complainants of
every degree, the King invented the novel contrivance of a large bell,
which was fixed immediately over his usual seat on the musnud, which bell
could be sounded by any one outside the palace gate, by means of a stout
rope staked to the ground. Whenever this alarum of justice was sounded in
the King's ear, he sent a trusty messenger to conduct the complainant into
'One day, upon the bell being violently rung, the messenger was commanded
to bring in the person requiring justice. When the messenger reached the
gate, he found no other creature near the place but a poor sickly-looking
ass, in search of a scanty meal from the stunted grass, which was dried up
by the scorching sun, and blasts of hot wind which at that season
prevailed. The man returned and reported to the King that there was no
person at the gate.
'The King was much surprised at the singularity of the circumstance, and
whilst he was talking of the subject with his nobles and courtiers, the
bell was again rung with increased violence. The messenger being a second
time despatched, returned with the same answer, assuring the King that
there was not any person at or within sight of the gate. The King,
suspecting him to be a perverter of justice, was displeased with the man,
and even accused him of keeping back a complainant from interested motives.
It was in vain the messenger declared himself innocent of so foul a crime;
a third time the bell rang, "Go," said the King to his attendants, "and
bring the supplicant into my presence immediately!" The men went, and on
their return informed the King that the only living creature near the gate
was an ass, poor and manged, seeking a scanty meal from the parched blades
of grass. "Then let the ass be brought hither!" said the King; "perhaps
_he_ may have some complaint to prefer against his owner."
'The courtiers smiled when the ass was brought into the presence of the
monarch, who upon seeing the poor half-starved beast covered with sores,
was at no loss for a solution of the mysterious ringing at the bell, for
the animal not finding a tree or post against which he could rub himself,
had made use of the bell-rope for that purpose.
"Enquire for the owner of the ass!" commanded the King, "and let him be
brought before me without delay!" The order promptly given, was as readily
obeyed; and the hurkaarahs (messengers, or running footmen) in a short
time introduced a poor Dhobhie (washerman) who had owned the ass from a
foal. The plaintiff and defendant were then placed side by side before the
throne, when the King demanded, "Why the sick ass was cast out to provide
for itself a precarious subsistence?" The Dhobhie replied, "In truth, O
Jahaum-punah! (Protector or Ruler of the World), because he is grown
old and unserviceable, afflicted with mange, and being no longer able to
convey my loads of linen to the river, I gave him his liberty."
'"Friend," said the King, "when this thine ass was young and healthy,
strong and lusty, didst thou not derive benefits from his services? Now
that he is old, and unable from sickness to render thee further benefits,
thou hast cast him from thy protection, and sent him adrift on the wide
world; gratitude should have moved thee to succour and feed so old and
faithful a servant, rather than forsake him in his infirmities. Thou hast
dealt unjustly with this thy creature; but, mark me, I hold thee
responsible to repair the injury thou hast done the ass. Take him to thy
home, and at the end of forty days attend again at this place, accompanied
by the ass, and compensate to the best of thy power, by kind treatment,
for the injury thou hast done him by thy late hard-hearted conduct."
'The Dhobhie, glad to escape so well, went away leading the ass to his
home, fed him with well-soaked gram (grain in general use for cattle), and
nicely-picked grass, sheltered him from the burning sun, poured healing
oil into his wounds, and covered his back to keep off the flies; once a
day he bathed him in the river. In short, such expedients were resorted to
for the comfort and relief of the ass, as were ultimately attended with
the happiest effects.
'At the expiration of the forty days, the Dhobhie set off from his home to
the palace, leading his now lively ass by a cord. On the road the
passers-by were filled with amazement and mirth, at the manners and
expressions of the Dhobhie towards his led ass. "Come along,
brother!--Make haste, son!--Let us be quick, father!--Take care, uncle!"
'"What means the old fool?" was asked by some; "does he make his ass a
relation?"--"In truth," replied the Dhobhie, "my ass is a very dear old
friend, and what is more, he has been a greater expense to me than all my
relations latterly: believe me, it has cost me much care and pains to
bring this ass into his present excellent condition." Then relating the
orders of the King, and his own subsequent treatment of the beast, the
people no longer wondered at the simple Dhobhie's expressions which had
prompted them at first to believe he was mad.
'The King, it is related, received the Dhobhie graciously, and commended
and rewarded him for his careful attention to the animal; which in his
improved condition became more useful to his master than he had ever been,
through the King's determination to enforce justice even to the brute
The second anecdote, translated for me by the same kind hand, is often
related, with numerous embellishments, under the title of 'Khareem
'Khareem Zund ruled in Persia. One day he was seated in the verandah of
his palace smoking his hookha, and, at the same time, as was his frequent
practice, overlooking the improvements carried on by masons and labourers,
under the superintendence of a trusty servant. One of the labourers, who
was also named Khareem, had toiled long, and sought to refresh himself
with a pipe. The overseer of the work, seeing the poor man thus engaged,
approached him in great wrath, rated him severely for his presumption in
smoking whilst he stood in the presence of his sovereign, and striking him
severely with a stick, snatched the pipe from the labourer and threw it
away. The poor wretch cared not for the weight of the blow so much as for
the loss of his pipe: his heart was oppressed with the weight of his
sorrows, and raising his eyes to Heaven he cried aloud, "Allah
Khareem!" (God is merciful!), then lowering his eyes, his glance
rested on the King, "App Khareem!" (thou art named merciful!), from whom
withdrawing his eyes slowly he looked at his own mean body, and added,
"Myn Khareem!" (I am called merciful!).
'The King, who had heard the labourer's words, and witnessed with emotion
the impressive manner of lifting his eyes to Heaven, had also seen the
severity of the overseer to the unoffending labourer; he therefore
commanded that the man should be brought into his presence without delay,
who went trembling, and full of fear that his speech had drawn some heavy
punishment on his head.
'"Sit down," said the King.--"My sovereign pardon his slave!" replied the
labourer.--"I do not jest; it is my pleasure that you sit down," repeated
the King; and when he saw his humble guest seated, he ordered his own
silver hookha to be brought and placed before the poor man, who hesitated
to accept the gracious offer; but the King assured him in the kindest
manner possible it was his wish and his command. The labourer enjoyed the
luxury of a good hookha, and by the condescending behaviour of the King
his composure gradually returned.
'This King, who it would seem delighted in every opportunity that offered
of imparting pleasure and comfort to his subjects of all ranks and degrees,
seeing the labourer had finished his second chillum (contents of a
pipe) told him he had permission to depart, and desired him to take the
hookha and keep it for his sake. "Alas, my King!" said the labourer, "this
costly silver pipe will soon be stolen from me; my mud hut cannot safely
retain so valuable a gift; the poor mazoor inhabits but a chupha (or
coarse grass-roofed) hut."--"Then take materials from my store-houses to
build a house suited to your hookha," was the order he received from the
King; "and let it be promptly done! I design to make you one of my
overseers; for _you_, Khareem, have been the instrument to rouse _me_ to
be Khareem (merciful); and I can now approach Allah with increased
confidence. Who is the only true Khareem!"'
 Akbar Shah II, King of Delhi, A.D. 1806-37.
 _Darvesh_, 'a religious mendicant'.
 Mansur 'Ali Khan, Safdar Jang, Nawab of Oudh
(A.D. 1739-56), his successors being--his son, Shuja-ud-daula
(1756-75); his son, Asaf-ud-daula (1775-97); his reputed son Wazir
'Ali (1797-8); Sa'a dat 'Ali Khan, half-brother of
Asaf-ud-daula (1798-1814); his son, Ghazi-ud-din Haidar
(1814-37). The tomb of Safdar Jang is near that of the Emperor
Humayun. 'This tomb in one of the last great Muhammadan
architectural efforts in India, and for its age it deserves perhaps
more commendation than is usually accorded to it. Though the general
arrangement of the tomb in the same as that of the Taj, it was not
intended to be a copy of the latter' (H.C. Fanshawe, _Delhi Past and
Present_, 1902, 246 f., with a photograph). For a different
appreciation, see Sleeman, _Rambles_, p. 507.
 _Subahdar_, the Viceroy or Governor of a Subah or Province of
the Moghul Empire.
 Ghazi-ud-din announced his independence of Delhi under the
advice of his Minister, Agha Mir.
 Shaikh Nizam-ud-din. Auliya, one of the noblest disciples of
Shaikh Farid-ud-din Shakkarganj; born at Budaun, A.D. 1236,
died at Delhi, 1325.
 The entrance to the Dargah was built by Firoz Shah, and bears
the date A.D. 1378. The structure over the tomb has been rebuilt by
many pious donors, and little of the original work is left (Fanshawe,
op. cit., 235 ff.; Sleeman, _Rambles_, 490 ff., 507).
 Shah 'Alam II, King of Delhi, A.D. 1759-1806. 'Three royal graves
in the little court to the south side of the mosque lie within a
single marble enclosure--that on the last is the resting-place of
Akbar Shah II (died 1837 A.D.); the next to it is that of Shah
Alam II (died 1806), and then beyond an empty space, intended for
the grave of Bahadur Shah, [the last King of Delhi], buried at
Rangoon, comes the tomb of Shah Alam Bahadur Shah, a plain
stone with grass on it' (Fanshawe, 281 f.; Sleeman, _Rambles_, 500).
 Qutb, 'the polar star'. The pillar, 238 feet in height, was begun by
Qutb-ud-di Aibak (A.D. 1206-10), and there are inscriptions of
Altamsh or Iltutmish, his son-in-law. It is entirely of Muhammadan
origin, and was primarily intended to serve as a minaret to
Qutb-ud-din's mosque adjoining it; but its name refers to the saint
Qutb-ud-din, buried close by. (Fanshawe, 265 ff.; Sleeman,
_Rambles_, 492 ff.)
 This observatory was built by Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur (A.D.
1693-1743) in 1724. He also erected similar observatories at Benares,
Multan, Ujjain, and Jaipur (Fanshawe, 247).
 Jahangir, eldest son of the Emperor Akbar, reigned A.D. 1605-27.
 'The first order that I issued was for the setting up of a Chain of
Justice, so that if the Officers of the Courts of Justice should fail
in the investigation of the complaints of the oppressed, the injured
person might come to this chain and shake it, and so give notice of
their wrongs. I ordered that the chain should be made of pure gold,
and be thirty _gaz_ [yards] long, with sixty bells upon it. The
weight of it was four Hindustani _mans_ [8 lb.] of 'Irak.
One end was firmly attached to a battlement of the fort of Agra, the
other to a stone column on the bank of the river' (_Memoirs of
Jahangir_ in Sir H.M. Elliot, _History of India_, vi. 284). It
does not appear that this silly contrivance was ever used, and it was
meant only for parade. Raja Anangpal had already set up a
similar bell at Delhi (ibid. vi. 262, iii. 565).
 Karim Khan, of the Zand tribe, defeated the Afghans and
secured the Kingdom of Fars or Southern Persia, with his capital at
Shiraz. He died at an advanced age, A.D. 1779 (Sir J. Malcolm,
_History of Persia_, 1829, ii. 58 ff.).
 _Allah Karim, Ap Karim, Main Karim_.
 _Chilam_, the clay bowl of a water-pipe: its contents.
 _Mazdur_, a day labourer.
Natural Productions of India.--Trees, shrubs, plants, fruits,
&c.--Their different uses and medicinal qualities.--The Rose.--Native
medical practice.--Antidote to Hydrophobia.--Remedy for the venom of
the Snake.--The Chitcherah (Inverted thorn).--The Neam-tree.--The
Hurrundh (Castor-tree).--The Umultass (Cassia-tree).--The
Myrtle.--The Pomegranate.--The Tamarind.--The Jahmun.--The
Mango.--The Sherrefah.--White and red Guavers.--The Damascus Fig.--The
Peach, and other Fruits.--The Mahdhaar (Fire-plant).--The Sirrakee and
Sainturh (Jungle-grass).--The Bamboo, and its various uses
In Europe we are accustomed to cultivate the rose merely as an ornament of
the garden. This is not the case with my Indian acquaintance; they
cultivate the rose as a useful article, essential to their health, and
conducive to their comfort.
The only rose I have ever seen them solicitous about is the old-fashioned
'hundred-leaf' or cabbage-rose'. Where-ever a Mussulmaun population
congregate these are found planted in enclosed fields. In the month of
September, the rose trees are cut down to within eight inches of the
surface of the earth, and the cuttings carefully planted in a sheltered
situation for striking, to keep up a succession of young trees. By the
first or second week in December the earliest roses of the season are in
bloom on the new wood, which has made its way from the old stock in this
short period. Great care is taken in gathering the roses to preserve every
bud for a succession. A gardener in India is distressed when the Beeby
Sahibs (English ladies) pluck roses, aware that buds and all are
sacrificed at once. I shall here give a brief account of the several
purposes to which the rose is applied.
Rose-water is distilled in most Mussulmaun families as a medicine and an
indispensable luxury. For medicine, it is administered in all cases of
indigestion and pains of the stomach or bowels,--the older the rose-water
the more effectual the remedy. I have been accustomed to see very old
rose-water administered in doses of a wine-glass full, repeated frequently,
in cases of cholera morbus and generally with good effect, when the
patient has applied the remedy in time and due care has been observed in
preventing the afflicted person from taking any other liquid until the
worst symptoms have subsided. This method of treatment may not accord with
the views of professional men generally; however, I only assert what I
have repeatedly seen, that it has been administered to many members of my
husband's family with the best possible effect. On one occasion, after
eating a hearty dinner, Meer Hadjee Shaah was attacked with cholera;
rose-water was administered, with a small portion of the stone called zahur
morah. In his agony, he complained of great thirst, when rose-water was
again handed to him, and continued at intervals of half-an-hour during the
day and part of the night. In the morning, the pain and symptoms had
greatly subsided; he was, notwithstanding, restrained from taking any
liquid or food for more than forty-eight hours, except occasionally a
little rose-water; and when his Native doctors permitted him to receive
nourishment, he was kept on very limited portions of arrow-root for
several days together. At the end of about eight days (the fever having
been entirely removed) chicken-broth was allowed, and at first without
bread; solids, indeed, were only permitted when all fears of a relapse had
ceased, and even then but partially for some time, fearing the
consequences to the tender state of the bowels. Such persons as are
abstemious and regard the quality of their daily food are most likely to
recover from the attack of this awful scourge. Very young children are
rarely amongst the sufferers by cholera; the adults of all classes are
most subject to it in India; indeed, I do not find the aged or the
youthful, either male or female, preponderate in the number attacked; but
those who live luxuriously suffer most. Amongst the Natives, it is
difficult to prevail on them to forego their usual meals, particularly
amongst the lower orders: if they feel rather inconvenienced by heartburns
or other indications of a disordered stomach, they cannot resist eating
again and again at the appointed hours, after which strong symptoms of
cholera usually commence. I never heard of one case occurring after a good
night's rest, but invariably after eating, either in the morning or the
My remarks have drawn me from my subject, by explaining the supposed
medicinal benefits of rose-water, which as a luxury is highly valued in
India. It is frequently used by the Natives in preparing their sweet
dishes, is added to their sherbet, sprinkled over favoured guests, used to
cleanse the mouth-piece of the hookha, and to cool the face and hands in
very hot weather. Although they abstain from the use of rose-water,
externally and internally, when suffering from a cold,--they fancy
smelling a rose will produce a cold, and I have often observed in India,
that smelling a fresh rose induces sneezing,--yet, at all other times,
this article is in general use in respectable Mussulmaun families. Dried
rose-leaves and cassia added to infusions of senna, is a family medicine
in general request.
The fresh rose-leaves are converted by a very simple process into a
conserve, which is also used as a medicine; it is likewise an essential
article, with other ingredients, in the preparation of tobacco for their
A syrup is extracted from the fresh rose, suited admirably to the climate
of India as an aperient medicine, pleasant to the taste and mild in its
effects. A table-spoon full is considered a sufficient dose for adults.
The seed of the rose is a powerful astringent, and often brought into use
in cases of extreme weakness of the bowels. The green leaves are
frequently applied pounded as a cold poultice to inflamed places with much
the same effect as is produced in England from golard-water.
The oil or otta of roses is collected from the rose-water when first
distilled. Persons intending to procure the otta, have the rose-water
poured into dishes while warm from the still: this remains undisturbed
twenty-four hours, when the oily substance is discovered on the surface as
cream on milk; this is carefully taken off, bottled, the mouth closed with
wax, and then exposed to the burning rays of the sun for several days. The
rose-water is kept in thin white glass bottles, and placed in baskets for
a fortnight, either on the roofs of houses or on a grass-plot; or wherever
the sun by day and the dew by night may be calculated on, which act on the
rose-water and induce that fragrant smell so peculiar to that of India.
I have elsewhere remarked that the Native medical practice is strictly
herbal; minerals are strongly objected to as pernicious in after
consequences, although they may prove effectual in removing present
inconvenience. Quicksilver is sometimes resorted to by individuals, but
without the sanction of their medical practitioners. They have no notion
of the anatomy of the human body, beyond a few ideas suggested in the old
Grecian school of medicine, in favour of which they are strongly
prejudiced. They, however, are said to perform extraordinary cures by
simple treatment, many cases of severe fever occurred under my own
observation, which were removed, I really believe, by strict attention to
diet, or rather starving the enemy from its strong hold, than by any of
the medicines administered to the patients. If any one is attacked by
fever, his medical adviser inquires the day and the hour it commenced, by
which he is guided in prescribing for the patient. On the borehaun
(critical days) as the third, fifth, and seventh, after the fever
commences, nothing could induce the medical doctor to let blood or
administer active medicines; there only remains then for the patient to be
debarred any kind of food or nourishment, and that duly observed, the
fever is often thrown off without a single dose of medicine. By three or
four days of most strict abstinence, and such simple nourishment as the
thinnest gruel or barley water,--the latter made from the common field
barley, very sparingly allowed, the patient is rendered convalescent.
The Natives of India profess to have found an antidote to, and cure for,
hydrophobia in the reetah berry, described as a saponaceous nut. I have
never seen a case of hydrophobia, but it is by no means uncommon, I
understand. They always advise that the person bitten by a rabid animal,
should have the limb promptly tied up with a bandage above and below the
bite; the wound, as speedily as possible, to be seared with a red-hot iron,
and a few doses of the reetah berry with a portion of soap administered.
The berry is well known for its good property in cleansing and softening
the hair, for which purpose it is generally found in the bathing-rooms
both of the European and Native ladies.
The Native remedy for snake bites, is called neellah tootee (blue
vitrol): if from eight to twelve grains be administered in ghee or butter
immediately after the bite is received, the happiest results will follow.
A person in our family was bitten by a snake, but neglected to apply for
the remedy for more than half an hour after the accident, when his own
expressions were, that 'he suffered great uneasiness in his body, and his
faculties seemed darkened;' half a masha, about eight grains of blue stone,
was now given in ghee. In a few hours he was apparently quite well again,
and for several days he found no other inconvenience than a slight
numbness in the hand which had been bitten by the snake.
This person had occasion soon after to leave home, and had exerted himself
unusually by walking, when he found the same symptoms of uneasiness return;
he hurried to a house where he was known, and requested to be supplied
with a certain quantity of blue stone without delay. He had sense enough
remaining to explain for what purpose he required it, when the person
applied to objected to furnish him with the poisonous article. The remedy,
however, was ultimately procured, taken, and in a few hours he was
recovered sufficiently to return home. He never found the symptoms return
again to my recollection.
The chitcherah (inverted thorn), is a shrub common to India, which
bears small grains not unlike rice; these seeds are poisonous in their
natural state, but when properly prepared with a portion of
urzeez--(tin), it becomes a useful medicine; and in particular cases
of scrofula, which have resisted all other remedies offered by the medical
practitioners, the Natives tell me this has proved an effectual remedy;
and my informant, a Native doctor, assures me that three doses, of three
grains each, is all he finds necessary to give his patient in scrofula
The chitcherah in its green state is resorted to as a remedy for the sting
of scorpions: when applied to the wound, which is often much inflamed and
very painful, the cure is prompt. The scorpion runs from this shrub when
held to it, as if it were frightened: many people declare scorpions are
never met with in the grounds where the chitcherah grows.
The neam-tree is cultivated near the houses of Natives generally, in
the Upper Provinces, because, as they affirm, it is very conducive to
health, to breathe the air through the neam-trees. This tree is not very
quick of growth, but reaches a good size. When it has attained its full
height, the branches spread out as luxuriantly as the oak and supplies an
agreeable shelter from the sun. The bark is rough; the leaves long, narrow,
curved, pointed, and with saw teeth edges; both the wood and leaves
partake of the same disagreeable bitter flavour. The green leaves are used
medicinally as a remedy for biles; after being pounded they are mixed with
water and taken as a draught; they are also esteemed efficacious as
poultices and fomentations for tumours, &c. The young twigs are preferred
by all classes of the Natives for tooth-brushes.
The hurrundh, or castor-tree, is cultivated by farmers in their
corn-fields throughout Hindoostaun. This tree seldom exceeds in its growth
the height of an English shrub. The bark is smooth; the leaf, in shape,
resembles the sycamore, but of a darker green. The pods containing the
seed grow in clusters like grapes, but of a very different appearance, the
surface of each pod being rough, thorny, and of a dingy red cast when ripe.
The seed produces the oil, which is in common use as a powerful medicine,
for men and animals. In remote stations, where any difficulty exists in
procuring cocoa-nut oil, the castor oil is often rendered useful for
burning in lamps; the light, however, produced by it is very inferior to
the oil of cocoa-nut. The green leaves are considered cooling to wounds or
inflamed places, and therefore used with ointment after the
blister-plaster is removed.
As I have seen this tree growing in corn-fields, I may here remark that
the farmer's motives for cultivating it originate in the idea that his
crops are benefited by a near vicinity to the hurrundh. It is also very
common to observe a good row of the plant called ulsee(linseed),
bordering a plantation of wheat or barley: they fancy this herb preserves
the blade healthy, and the corn from blight.
The umultass (cassia) is a large and handsome forest tree, producing
that most useful drug in long dark pods, several inches long, which hang
from the branches in all directions, giving a most extraordinary
appearance to the tree. The seed is small and mixed with the pulp, which
dissolves in water, and is in general use with the Natives as a powerful
and active medicine in bilious cases. I am not, however, aware that the
seed possesses any medicinal property: it certainly is not appropriated to
such cases in Hindoostaun.
Myrtle-trees, under many different names, and of several kinds, are
met with in India, of an immense size compared with those grown in Europe.
They are cultivated for their known properties, rather than as mere
ornaments to the garden. The leaves, boiled in water, are said to be of
service to the hair; the root and branches are considered medicinal.
The pomegranate-tree may be ranked amongst the choicest beauties of
Asiatic horticulture; and when its benefits are understood, no one wonders
that a tree or two is to be seen in almost every garden and compound of
the Mussulmaun population in India.
The finest fruit of this sort is brought, however, from Persia and Cabul,
at a great expense; and from the general estimation in which it is held,
the merchants annually import the fruit in large quantities. There are two
sorts, the sweet and the acid pomegranate, each possessing medicinal
properties peculiar to itself. Sherbet is made from the juice, which is
pressed out, and boiled up with sugar or honey to a syrup; thus prepared
it keeps good for any length of time, and very few families omit making
their yearly supply, as it constitutes a great luxury in health, and a
real benefit in particular disorders. The Natives make many varieties of
sherbet from the juices of their fruits, as the pine-apple, falsah,
mango, or any other of the same succulent nature, each having properties
to recommend it beyond the mere pleasantness of its flavour.
An admirer of Nature must be struck with the singular beauty of the
pomegranate-tree, so commonly cultivated in India. The leaves are of a
rich dark green, very glossy, and adorned at the same time with every
variety of bud, bloom, and fruit, in the several stages of vegetation,
from the first bud to the ripe fruit in rich luxuriance, and this in
succession nearly throughout the year. The bright scarlet colour of the
buds and blossoms seldom vary in their shades; but contrasted with the
glossy dark green foliage, the effect excites wonder and admiration. There
is a medicinal benefit to be derived from every part of this tree from its
root upwards, each part possessing a distinct property, which is employed
according to the Native knowledge and practice of medicine.
Even the falling blossoms are carefully collected, and when made into a
conserve, are administered successfully in cases of blood-spitting.
The tamarind-tree may often be discovered sheltering the tomb of revered
or sainted characters; but I am not aware of any particular veneration
entertained towards this tree by the general population of India, beyond
the benefit derived from the medicinal properties of the fruit and the
The ripe fruit, soaked in salt and water, to extract the juices, is
strained, and administered as a useful aperient; and from its quality in
cleansing the blood, many families prefer this fruit in their curries to
other acids. From the tamarind-tree, preserves are made for the affluent,
and chatnee for the poor, to season their coarse barley unleavened cakes,
which form their daily meal, and with which they seem thoroughly contented.
From what cause I know not, but it is generally understood that vegetation
does not thrive in the vicinity of the tamarind-tree. Indeed, I have
frequently heard the Natives account for the tamarind being so often
planted apart from other trees, because they fancy vegetation is always
retarded in their vicinity.
The jahmun-tree is also held in general estimation for the benefit of
the fruit, which, when ripe, is eaten with salt, and esteemed a great
luxury, and in every respect preferable to olives. The fruit, in its raw
state, is a powerful astringent, and possesses many properties not
generally known out of Native society, which may excuse my mentioning them
here. The fruit, which is about the size and colour of the damson-plum,
when ripe is very juicy, and makes an excellent wine, not inferior in
quality to port. The Natives, however, are not permitted by their law to
drink wine, and therefore this property in the fruit is of no benefit to
them; but they encourage the practice of extracting the juice of jahmun
for vinegar, which is believed to be the most powerful of all vegetable
acids. The Native medical practitioners declare, that if by accident a
hair has been introduced with food into the stomach, it can never digest
of itself, and will produce both pain and nausea to the individual. On
such occasions they administer jahmun vinegar, which has the property of
dissolving any kind of hair, and the only thing they are aware of that
will. Sherbet is made of this vinegar, and is often taken in water either
immediately after dinner, or when digestion is tardy.
The skin of the jahmun produces a permanent dye of a bright lilac colour,
and with the addition of urzeez (tin), a rich violet. The effect on wool I
have never tried, but on silks and muslins the most beautiful shades have
been produced by the simplest process possible, and so permanent, that the
colour resisted every attempt to remove it by washing, &c.
The mango-tree stands pre-eminently high in the estimation of the Natives,
and this is not to be wondered at when the various benefits derived from
it are brought under consideration. It is magnificent in its growth, and
splendid in its foliage, and where a plantation of mango-trees, called 'a
tope', is met with, that spot is preferred by travellers on which to pitch
their tent. The season of blooming is about February and March; the
aromatic scent from the flowers is delightful, and the beautiful
clustering of the blossoms is not very unlike the horse-chestnut in
appearance and size, but branching horizontally. The young mangoes are
gathered for preserves and pickles before the stone is formed; the
full-grown unripe fruit is peeled, split, and dried, for seasoning curries,
&c. The ripe fruit spoken of in a former Letter requires no further
commendation, neither will it admit of comparison with any European fruits.
The kernels, when ripe, are often dried and ground into flour for bread in
seasons of scarcity. The wood is useful as timber for doors, rafters, &c.,
and the branches and leaves for fuel; in short, there is no part of the
whole tree but is made useful in some way to man.
The sherrefah (custard-apple) is produced on a very graceful tree, not,
however, of any great size; the blossom nearly resembles that of the
orange in colour and shape; the fruit ripens in the hottest months, and is
similar in flavour to well-made custards. The skin is of a dusky pea-green
rough surface, in regular compartments; each division or part containing a
glossy black seed covered with the custard. This seed is of some utility
amongst the lower order of Natives who have occasion to rid themselves of
vermin at the expense of little labour; the seed is pounded fine and when
mixed in the hair destroys the living plague almost instantly. The same
article is often used with a hair-pencil to remove a cataract of the eye
(they have no idea of surgical operations on the eye). There is one thing
worthy of remark in this tree and its fruit, that flies are never known to
settle on either; ants of every description feed on the fruit without
injury, so that it cannot be imagined there is anything poisonous to
insects, generally, in the quality of the fruit; yet, certain it is, the
sherrefah is equally obnoxious to flies as the seed is destructive to
vermin. The leaves and tender twigs are considered detrimental to health,
if not actually poisonous to cattle.
The guaver, white and red, are produced in the Upper Provinces; but
the fruit is seldom so fine as in the Bengal district. The strong aromatic
smell and flavour of this fruit is not agreeable to all tastes; in size
and shape it resembles the quince.
The Damascus fig ripens well, and the fruit is superior to any I have met
with in other countries. The indigenous fig-tree of Hindoostaun is one of
the objects of Hindoo veneration. It has always been described to me by
those Natives, as the sacred burbut,--why? they could not explain. The
fruit is very inferior.
The peach is cultivated in many varieties, and every new introduction
repays the careful gardener's skill by a rich and beautiful produce. They
have a flat peach, with a small round kernel (a native of China), the
flavour of which is delicious, and the tree prolific.
I may here remark, that all those trees we are accustomed in Europe to
designate wall-fruit, are in India pruned for standards. The only fruit
allowed to trail on frames is the vine, of which they have many choice
varieties; one in particular, of late introduction from Persia, has the
remarkable peculiarity of being seedless, called 'Ba daanah' (without
seeds); the fruit is purple, round, and sweet as honey.
Peach, nectarine, and apricot trees, are cut down early in February, much
in the same way as willows are docked in England: the new wood grows
rapidly, and the fruit is ready for the table in the month of June. A tree
neglected to be pruned in this way annually, would the first year yield
but little, and that indifferent fruit, the tree become unhealthy, and, in
most cases, never again restored to its former vigour.
Apple-trees are found chiefly in the gardens of Europeans; they are not
perhaps as yet understood by Native gardeners, or it may be the climate is
not favourable to them; certain it is, that the apples produced in
Hindoostaun are not to be compared with those of other countries. Singular
as it may seem, yet I have never met with more than one species of apple
in my visits to the gardens of India. I have often fancied a fresh
importation of English apple-trees would be worth the trouble of the
The apple-trees grow tall and slender, the blossoms break out on the top
of each branch in a cluster; the fruit, when ripe, is about the size of
small crabs, and shaped like golden-pippins, without any acidity, but the
sweetness rather resembles turnips than the well-flavoured apple. In the
bazaars are to be met with what is called apple-preserve, which, however,
is often a deception,--turnips substituted for apples.
Mulberries are indigenous, and of several varieties. The Native gardeners,
however, take so little pains to assist or improve the operations of
Nature, that the mulberry here is seldom so fine as in other countries.
The common sort is produced on an immense tree with small leaves; the
berry is long, and when ripe, of a yellow-green, very much resembling
caterpillars in colour and form.
Plum-trees would thrive in Hindoostaun if introduced and cultivated,
since the few, chiefly the bullace-plum, I have seen, produce tolerably
Cherries, I have never observed; they are known, however, by the name of
'glass' to the travelling Natives, who describe them as common to
Cashmire, Cabul, and Persia.
Gooseberries and currants are not known in India, but they have many good
substitutes in the falsah, American sorrel, puppayah, and a great
variety of Chinese fruits--all of which make excellent tarts, preserves,
and jellies. Strawberries and raspberries repay their cultivation in the
Upper Provinces: they thrive well with proper care and attention.
The melon I have described elsewhere as an indigenous fruit greatly valued
by the Natives, who cultivate the plant in the open fields without much
trouble, and with very little expense; the varieties are countless, and
every year adds to the number amongst the curious, who pride themselves on
novelty in this article of general estimation.
The pine-apple requires very little pains to produce, and little demand on
art in bringing it to perfection. The Bengal climate, however, suits it
better than the dry soil of the Upper Provinces. I have frequently heard a
superstitious objection urged by the Natives against this fruit being
planted in their regular gardens; they fancy prosperity is checked by its
introduction, or to use their own words,--'It is unfortunate to the
proprietor of the garden.'
There is a beautiful shrub, called by the Natives, mahdhaar, or
arg,--literally, fire-plant,--met with in the Upper Provinces of India,
inhabiting every wild spot where the soil is sandy, as generally as the
thistle on neglected grounds in England.
The mahdhaar-plant seldom exceeds four feet in height, the branches spread
out widely, the leaves are thick, round, and broad; the blossom resembles
our dark auricula. When the seed is ripe, the pod presents a real treat to
the lover of Nature. The mahdhaar pod may be designated a vegetable bag of
pure white silk, about the size of large walnuts. The skin or bag being
removed, flat seeds are discovered in layers over each other, resembling
scales of fish; to each seed is affixed very fine white silk, about two
inches long; this silk is defended from the air by the seed; the texture
greatly resembles the silky hair of the Cashmire goat. I once had the
mahdhaar silk collected, spun, and wove, merely as an experiment, which
answered my full expectation: the article thus produced might readily be
mistaken for the shawl stuff of Cashmire.
The stalks of mahdhaar, when broken, pour out a milky juice at all seasons
of the year, which falling on the skin produces blisters. The Natives
bring this juice into use both for medicine and alchymy in a variety of
The mahdhaar, as a remedy for asthma, is in great repute with the Natives;
it is prepared in the following way:--The plants are collected, root,
stalks, and leaves, and well dried by exposure to the sun; they are then
burnt on iron plates, and the ashes thrown into a pan of water, where they
remain for some days, until the water has imbibed the saline particles; it
is then boiled in an iron vessel, until the moisture is entirely absorbed,
and the salt only left at the bottom. The salt is administered in
half-grain doses at the first, and increasing the quantity when the
patient has become accustomed to its influence: it would be dangerous to
add to the quantity suddenly.
Another efficient remedy, both for asthma and obstinate continuance of a
cough, is found in the salt extracted from tobacco-leaves, by a similar
process, which is administered with the like precaution, and in the same
The sirrakee and sainturh are two specimens of one genus of
jungle-grass, the roots of which are called secundah, or khus-khus,
and are collected on account of their aromatic smell, to form thatch
tatties, or screens for the doors and windows; which being kept constantly
watered, the strong wind rushing through the wet khus-khus is rendered
agreeably cool, and produces a real luxury at the season of the hot winds,
when every puff resembles a furnace-heat to those exposed to it by
This grass presents so many proofs of the beneficent care of Divine
Providence to the creatures of His hand, that the heart must be
ungratefully cold which neglects praise and thanksgiving to the Creator,
whose power and mercy bestows so great a benefit. The same might be justly
urged against our insensibility, if the meanest herb or weed could speak
to our hearts, each possessing, as it surely does, in its nature a
beneficial property peculiar to itself. But here the blessing is brought
home to every considerate mind, since a substitute for this article does
not appear to exist in India.
I have seen the sainturh stalks, on which the bloom gracefully moves as
feathers, sixteen feet high. The sirrakee has a more delicate blossom,
finer stalk, and seldom, I believe, exceeds ten feet; the stalk resembles
a reed, full of pith, without a single joint from the shoot upwards; the
colour is that of clean wheat straw, but even more glossy. The blossom is
of a silky nature possessing every variety of shade, from pure white to
the rainbow's tints, as viewed in the distance at sunrise; and when
plucked the separated blossoms have many varieties of hue from brown and
yellow, to purple.
The head or blossom is too light to weigh down the firm but flexible stalk;
but as the wind presses against each patch of grass, it is moved in a mass,
and returns to its erect position with a dignity and grace not to be
I have watched for the approaching season of the blooming sirrakee with an
anxiety almost childish; my attention never tired with observing the
progressive advances from the first show of blossom, to the period of its
arriving at full perfection; at which time, the rude sickle of the
industrious labourer levels the majestic grass to the earth for domestic
purposes. The benefits it then produces would take me very long to
The sirrakee and sainturh are stripped from the outward sheltering blades,
and wove together at the ends; in this way they are used for bordering
tatties, or thatched roofs; sometimes they are formed into screens for
doors, others line their mud-huts with them. They are found useful in
constructing accommodations after the manner of bulk-heads on boats for
the river voyagers, and make a good covering for loaded waggons. For most
of these purposes the article is well suited, as it resists moisture and
swells as the wet falls on it, so that the heaviest rain may descend on a
frame of sirrakee without one drop penetrating, if it be properly placed
in a slanting position.
I cannot afford space to enumerate here the variety of purposes which this
production of Nature is both adapted for and appropriated to; every part
of the grass being carefully stored by the thrifty husbandman, even to the
tops of the reed, which, when the blossom is rubbed off, is rendered
serviceable, and proves an excellent substitute for that useful invention,
a birch-broom. The coarse parent grass, which shelters the sirrakee, is
the only article yet found to answer the purposes for thatching the
bungalows of the rich, the huts of the poor, the sheds for cattle, and
roofs for boats. The religious devotee sets up a chupha-hut, without
expense,--(all the house he requires,)--on any waste spot of land most
convenient to himself, away from the busy haunts of the tumultuous world,
since bamboo and grass are the common property of all who choose to take
the trouble of gathering it from the wilderness. And here neither rent or
taxes are levied on the inhabitant, who thus appropriates to himself a
home from the bounteous provision prepared by Divine goodness for the
children of Nature.
This grass is spontaneous in its growth, neither receiving or requiring
aid from human cultivation. It is found in every waste throughout
Hindoostaun, and is the prominent feature of the jungle, into which the
wild animals usually resort for shelter from the heat of the day, or make
their covert when pursued by man, their natural enemy.
The beneficence of Heaven has also exacted but little labour from the
husbandman of India in procuring his daily provision. Indeed the actual
wants of the lower order of Natives are few, compared with those of the
same class in England; exertion has not, therefore, been called forth by
necessity in a climate which induces habits of indulgence, ease, and quiet;
where, however it may have surprised me at first, that I found not one
single Native disposed to delight in the neat ordering of a flower-garden,
I have since ascertained it is from their unwillingness to labour without
a stronger motive than the mere gratification of taste. Hence the
uncultivated ground surrounding the cottages in India, which must
naturally strike the mind of strangers with mingled feelings of pity and
regret, when comparing the cottages of the English peasantry with those of
the same classes of people in Hindoostaun.
The bamboo presents to the admirer of Nature no common specimen of her
beautiful productions; and to the contemplating mind a wide field for
wonder, praise, and gratitude. The graceful movements of a whole forest of
these slender trees surpass all description; they must be witnessed in
their uncultivated ground, as I have seen them, to be thoroughly
understood or appreciated, for I do not recollect wood scenery in any
other place that could convey the idea of a forest of bamboo.
The bamboos are seen in clusters, striking from the parent root by suckers,
perhaps from fifty to a hundred in a patch, of all sizes; the tallest in
many instances exceed sixty feet, with slender branches, and leaves in
pairs, which are long, narrow, and pointed. The body of each bamboo is
hollow and jointed, in a similar way to wheat stalks, with bands or knots,
by which wonderful contrivance both are rendered strong and flexible,
suited to the several designs of creative Wisdom. The bamboo imperceptibly
tapers from the earth upwards. It is the variety of sizes in each cluster,
however, which gives grace and beauty to the whole as they move with every
breath of air, or are swayed by the strong wind.
Where space allows the experiment, the tallest bamboo may be brought down
to a level with the earth, without snapping asunder. In the strong tempest
the supple bamboo may be seen to bow submissively,--as the self-subdued
and pliant mind in affliction,--and again rear its head uninjured by the
storm, as the righteous man 'preserved by faith' revives after each trial,
The wood of the bamboo is hard, yet light, and possesses a fine grain,
though fibrous. The outward surface is smooth and highly polished by
Nature, and the knot very difficult to penetrate by any other means than a
saw. The twigs or branches are covered with sharp thorns, in all
probability a natural provision to defend the young trees from herbaceous
animals. I have heard of the bamboo blossoming when arrived at full age;
this I have, however, never seen, and cannot therefore presume to
In the hollow divisions of the bamboo is found, in small quantities, a
pure white tasteless substance, called tawurshear, which as a medicine
is in great request with the Native doctors, who administer it as a
sovereign remedy for lowness of spirits, and every disease of the heart,
such as palpitations, &c. The tawurshear when used medicinally is pounded
fine, and mixed up with gold and silver leaf, preserved quinces and apples,
and the syrup of pomegranates, which is simmered over a slow fire until it
becomes of the consistence of jam. It is taken before meals by the patient.
The bamboo is rendered serviceable to man in a countless variety of ways,
both for use and ornament. The chuphas (thatched-roofs) of huts, cottages,
or bungalows, are all constructed on frames of bamboo, to which each layer
of grass is firmly fixed by laths formed of the same wood.
The only doors in poor people's habitations are contrived from the same
materials as the roof: viz., grass on bamboo frames, just sufficient to
secure privacy and defend the inmates from cold air, or the nightly
incursions of wolves and jackals. For the warm weather, screens are
invented of split bamboos, either fine or coarse, as circumstances permit,
to answer the purpose of doors, both for the rich and poor, whenever the
house is so situated that these intruders may be anticipated at night.
The bamboo is made useful also in the kitchen as bellows by the aid of the
cook's breath; in the stable, to administer medicine to horses; and to the
poor traveller, as a deposit for his oil, either for cooking or his lamp.
To the boatman as sculls, masts, yards, and poles; besides affording him a
covering to his boat, which could not be constructed with any other wood
equally answering the same varied purpose of durability and lightness.
The carriers (generally of the bearer caste), by the help of a split
bamboo over the shoulder, convey heavy loads suspended by cords at each
end, from one part of India to the other, many hundred miles distant. No
other wood could answer this purpose so well; the bamboo being remarkably
light and of a very pliant nature lessens the fatigue to the bearer,
whilst almost any wood sufficiently strong to bear the packages would fret
the man's shoulder and add burden to burden. The bearers do not like to
carry more than twelve seer (twenty-four pounds) slung by ropes at each
end of their bamboo for any great distance; but, I fear, they are not
always allowed the privilege of thinking for themselves in these matters.
When a hackery (sort of waggon) is about to be loaded with of corn or
goods, a railing is formed by means of bamboos to admit the luggage; thus
rendering the waggon itself much lighter than if built of solid wood, an
object of some moment, when considering the smallness of the cattle used
for draught, oxen of a small breed being in general use for waggons, carts,
ploughs, &c. I have never seen horses harnessed to any vehicle in India,
except to such gentlemen's carriages as are built on the English principle.
The Native carriages of ladies and travellers are indebted to the bamboo
for all the wood used in the construction of the body, which is merely a
frame covered with cloth, shaped in several different ways,--some square,
others double cones, &c.
Baskets of every shape and size, coarse or fine, are made of the split
bamboo; covers for dinner trays, on which the food is sent from the
kitchen to the hall; cheese-presses, punkahs, and screens, ingeniously
contrived in great varieties; netting-needles and pins, latches and bolts
for doors; skewers and spits; umbrella sticks, and walking canes; toys in
countless ways, and frames for needle-work.
A long line of etceteras might here be added as to the number of good
purposes to which the bamboo is adapted and appropriated in Native economy;
I must not omit that even the writing-paper on which I first practised the
Persian character was manufactured from the bamboo, which is esteemed more
durable, but not so smooth as their paper made from cotton. The young
shoots of bamboo are both pickled and preserved by the Natives, and
esteemed a great luxury when produced at meals with savoury pillaus, &c.
I am told, a whole forest of bamboo has sometimes been consumed by fire,
ignited by their own friction in a heavy storm, and the blaze fanned by
the opposing wind; the devouring element, under such circumstances, could
be stayed only when there ceased to be a tree to feed the flame.
 The Indian rose-water is made principally from _Rosa damascena_ about
Ghazipur in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. It has no
medicinal value, but is used as a vehicle for other mixtures (Watt,
_Economic Dictionary_, VI, part i. 560 ff.).
 _Bibi Sahiba_. 'On the principle of the degradation of titles
which is general, this word in application to European ladies has been
superseded by the hybrid _Mem Sahib_ or Madam Sahib, though it
is often applied to European maid-servants or other Englishwomen of
that rank of life' (Yule, _Hobson-Jobson_, 78).
 It is one of the flowers which produce pollen catarrh. Pope's
suggestion that a man with a hypersensitive nervous system might 'die
of a rose in aromatic pain', is not an impossible contingency.
 Goulard water, named after Thomas Goulard, a French surgeon: a
solution of sub-acetate of lead, used as a lotion in cases of
inflammation (_New English Dictionary, s.v._).
 P. 235.
 Not in Platts' _Hindustani Dictionary_: probably _barhan_,
 _Ritha_, the berry of the soap-nut tree, _Sapindus trifoliatus_
or _mukorossi_. (Watt, _Economic Dict_., vol. vi, part ii, 468.)
 _Nila tutiya_, copper sulphate: used as an emetic in cases
of poisoning, but not now recognized as a remedy for snake-bite.
 _Chichra, Achryanthes aspera_ (Watt, i. 81).
 _Nim, Melia Azadirachta_. The belief that it is a prophylactic
against fever and cholera is held even by some Europeans
(Watt, v. 217).
 _Arand, Ricinus communis_.
 Alsi, _Linum usitatissimum._
 _Amaltas, Cassia fistula_. The pulp of the fruit and the root-bark
form the most useful domestic medicine, a simple purgative.
 _Myrtus communis_.
 _Punica Granatum_. The best varieties of the fruit come from
Afghanistan and Persia.
 _Phalsa, falsa, Grewia asiatica_.
 The shade of the tree is supposed to be unhealthy to men, animals,
and plants, as it is believed to be haunted by spirits, and it is
worshipped on a day known as 'Tamarind Eleventh'.
 See p. 194.
 Watt, however, writes: 'Tin is a highly important metal in dyeing as
practised in Europe, but in this respect is apparently unknown to the
natives of India.' (Watt, _Economic Dictionary_, vol. vi, part iv, 60.)
 _Sharifa, Anona squamosa_.
 _Bargat_, the banyan-tree.
 _Pyrus persica_.
 Excellent apples are now grown on the lower Himalayas.
 _Prunus communis_ grows in the lower Himalayas and as far down as
Saharanpur, but the fruit is inferior.
 The sweet or wild cherry, _Prunus avium_, is called _gilas_ in the
 _Papaiya_, the papau tree, _Carica papaya_, has the curious
property of making meat tender, if placed near it.
 _Madar, ak._ The latter term is derived from Sanskrit _arka_,
'the sun', on account of the fiery colour of its flowers.
 The plant yields a silk cotton from the seeds and a rich white bass
fibre from the bark, both likely to be of commercial value (Watt, ii.
 Used in equal proportions with black pepper, the fresh blossoms are a
useful and cheap remedy for asthma, hysteria, and epilepsy (_ibid_. ii.
 _Sirki_ is the upper portion of the blossoming stem, and
_sentha_ the lower portion of the reed grass _Saccharum ciliare_
(_ibid_. vi, part ii, 2.)
 _Sarkanda_ is the Panjab name for the grass _Saccharum
arundinaceum_, but it is also applied to _Saccharum ciliare_ in last
note (_ibid_. vi, part ii, 1 f.).
 _Khaskhas_, used for screens, is the root of the grass _Andropogon
muricatus_ (_ibid_. i, 245 ff.)
 This is true of the higher class Musalmans; but there were
splendid gardens in the palaces of the Moghul Emperors: see C.M.
Villiers Stuart, _The Gardens of the Great Mughals_, 1913.
 The subject of the flowering of the bamboo has been investigated by
Sir G. Watt, who writes: 'A bamboo may not flower before it has
attained a certain age, but its blossoming is not fixed so arbitrarily
that it cannot be retarded or accelerated by climatic influences. It
is an undoubted fact that the flowering of the bamboo is decided by
causes which bring about famine, for the providential supply of food
from this source has saved the lives of thousands of persons during
several of the great famines of India.' Hence the provision of the
edible seeds by the extension of bamboo cultivation has been
recommended as a means of mitigating distress (_Economic Dictionary_,
vol. i, 373 ff., 386).
 _Tabashir_, bamboo manna, is a siliceous substance found in the
joints of the bamboo: considered cooling, toxic, aphrodisiac and
pectoral, but as a medicinal agent it is inert (_ibid_. i. 384, Yule,
 A bullock carriage, Hindustani _chhakra_ (Yule,
_Hobson-Jobson_, 407 f.).
Monkeys.--Hindoo opinions of their Nature.--Instances of their
sagacity.--Rooted animosity of the Monkey tribe to the
snake.--Cruelty to each other when maimed.--The female remarkable for
affection to its young.--Anecdotes descriptive of the belief of the
Natives in the Monkey being endowed with reason.--The Monkeys and the
Alligator.--The Traveller and the Monkeys.--The Hindoo and the
The Natives of India, more particularly the Hindoos, are accustomed to pay
particular attention to the habits of the varied monkey race, conceiving
them to be connecting links in the order of Nature between brutes and
rational creatures; or, as some imagine and assert, (without any other
foundation than conjecture and fancy), that they were originally a race of
human beings, who for their wicked deeds have been doomed to perpetuate
their disgrace and punishment to the end of time in the form and manner we
see them, inhabiting forests, and separated from their superior man.
I have had very few opportunities of acquainting myself with the general
principles of the Hindoo belief, but I am told, there are amongst them
those who assert that one of their deities was transformed to a particular
kind of monkey, since designated Hummoomaun, after the object of their
adoration; whence arises the marked veneration paid by Hindoos of certain
sects to this class of monkeys.
The Natives firmly believe the whole monkey race to be gifted with reason
to a certain extent, never accounting for the sagacity and cunning they
are known to possess by instinctive habits; arguing from their own
observations, that the monkeys are peaceable neighbours, or inveterate
enemies to man, in proportion as their good will is cultivated by kindness
and hospitality, or their propensity to revenge roused by an opposite line
of conduct towards them.
The husbandman, whose land is in the vicinity of a forest, and the abode
of monkeys, secures safety to his crops, by planting a patch of ground
with that species of grain which these animals are known to prefer. Here
they assemble, as appetite calls, and feast themselves upon their own
allotment; and, as if they appreciated the hospitality of the landlord,
not a blade is broken, or a seed destroyed in the fields of corn to the
right and left of their plantation. But woe to the farmer who neglects
this provision; his fields will not only be visited by the marauders, but
their vengeance will be displayed in the wasteful destruction of his
cultivation. This undoubtedly looks more like reason than instinct; and if
credit could be given to half the extraordinary tales that are told of
them, the monkeys of India might justly be entitled to a higher claim than
that of instinct for their actions.
Monkeys seem to be aware that snakes are their natural enemies. They never
advance in pursuit of, yet they rarely run from a snake; unless its size
renders it too formidable an object for their strength and courage to
attack with anything like a prospect of success in destroying it. So great
is the animosity of the monkey race to these reptiles, that they attack
them systematically, after the following manner:--
When a snake is observed by a monkey, he depends on his remarkable agility
as a safeguard from the enemy. At the most favourable opportunity he
seizes the reptile just below the head with a firm grasp, then springs to
a tree, if available, or to any hard substance near at hand, on which he
rubs the snake's head with all his strength until life is extinct; at
intervals smelling the fresh blood as it oozes from the wounds of his
victim. When success has crowned his labour, the monkey capers about his
prostrate enemy, as if in triumph at the victory he has won; developing,
as the Natives say, in this, a striking resemblance to man.
Very few monkeys, in their wild state, ever recover from inflicted wounds;
the reason assigned by those who have studied their usual habits is, that
whenever a poor monkey has been wounded, even in the most trifling way,
his associates visit him by turns, when each visitor, without a single
exception, is observed to scratch the wound smartly with their nails. A
wound left to itself might be expected to heal in a short time, but thus
irritated by a successive application of their sharp nails, it inflames
and increases. Mortification is early induced by the heated atmosphere,
and death rapidly follows.
The monkeys' motives for adding to their neighbour's anguish, is accounted
for by some speculators on the score of their aversion to the unnatural
smell of blood; or they are supposed to be actuated by a natural
abhorrence to the appearance of the wound, not by any means against the
wounded; since in their domestic habits, they are considered to be
peaceable and affectionate in their bearings towards each other. The
strong will exercise mastery over the weak where food is scarce, but, in a
general way, they are by no means quarrelsome or revengeful amongst
themselves. They are known to hold by each other in defending rights and
privileges, if the accounts given by credible Natives be true, who add
that a whole colony of monkeys have been known to issue forth in a body to
revenge an injury sustained by an individual of their tribe; often firing
a whole village of chupha-roofs, where the aggressor is known to be a
resident, who in his anger may have maimed or chastised one of their
The female monkey is remarkable for her attachment to her progeny, which
she suckles until it is able to procure food for its own sustenance. When
one of her young dies, the mother is observed to keep it closely encircled
in her arms, moaning piteously with true maternal feelings of regret, and
never parting with it from her embrace until the dead body becomes an
offensive mass: and when at last she quits her hold, she lays it on the
ground before her, at no great distance, watching with intense anxiety the
dead body before her, which she can no longer fold in her embrace, until
the work of decomposing has altered the form of the creature that claimed
her tender attachment. What an example is here given to unnatural mothers
who neglect or forsake their offspring!
I shall here insert a few anecdotes illustrative of the opinions of the
Natives on the subject of monkeys being possessed of reasoning faculties.
They shall be given exactly as I have received them, not expecting my
readers will give to them more credit than I am disposed to yield to most
of these tales; but as they are really believed to be true by the Natives
who relate them, I feel bound to afford them a place in my work, which is
intended rather to describe men as they are, than men as I wish to see
In the neighbourhood of Muttra is an immense jungle or forest, where
monkeys abound in great numbers and variety. Near a village bordering this
forest, is a large natural lake which is said to abound with every sort of
fish and alligators. On the banks of this lake are many trees, some of
which branch out a great distance over the water. On these trees monkeys
of a large description, called Lungoor, gambol from spray to spray in
happy amusement: sometimes they crowd in numbers on one branch, by which
means their weight nearly brings the end of the bough to the surface of
the water; on which occasion it is by no means unusual for one or more of
their number to be lessened.
Whether the monkeys told their thoughts or not, my informant did not say,
but the retailers of this story assert, that the oldest monkey was aware
that his missing brethren had been seized by an alligator from the branch
of the tree, whilst they were enjoying their amusement. This old monkey,
it would seem, resolved on revenging the injury done to his tribe, and
formed a plan for retaliating on the common enemy of his race.
The monkeys were observed by the villagers, for many successive days,
actively occupied in collecting the fibrous bark of certain trees, which
they were converting into a thick rope. The novelty of this employment
surprised the peasants and induced them to watch daily for the result.
When the rope was completed, from sixty to seventy of the strongest
monkeys conveyed it to the tree: having formed a noose at one end with the
nicest care, the other end was secured by them to the overhanging arm of
the tree. This ready, they commenced their former gambols, jumping about
and crowding on the same branch which had been so fatal to many of their
The alligator, unconscious of the stratagem thus prepared to secure him,
sprang from the water as the branch descended but instead of catching the
monkey he expected, he was himself caught in the noose; and the monkeys
moving away rather precipitately, the alligator was drawn considerably
above the surface of the water. The more he struggled the firmer he was
held by the noose; and here was his skeleton to be seen many years after,
suspended from the tree over the water, until time and the changes of
season released the blanched bones from their exalted situation, to
consign them to their more natural element in the lake below.
On one occasion, a Hindoo traveller on his way to Muttra, from his place
of residence, drew down the resentment of the monkeys inhabiting the same
forest, by his inattention to their well-known habits. The story is told
'The man was travelling with all his worldly wealth about his person: viz.,
fifty gold mohurs, (each nearly equal to two pounds in value), and a
few rupees, the savings of many a year's hard service, which were secreted
in the folds of his turban; a good suit of clothes on his back; a few gold
ornaments on his neck and arms; and a bundle of sundries and cooking
'The Hindoo was on foot, without companions, making his way towards the
home of his forefathers, where he hoped with his little treasury to be
able to spend his remaining years in peace with his family and friends,
after many years' toil and absence from his home. He stopped near to the
lake in question, after a long and fatiguing march, to rest himself
beneath the shade of the trees, and cook his humble meal of bread and
dhall. I ought here, perhaps, to say, that this class of Natives always
cook in the open air, and, if possible, near a river, or large body of
water, for the purpose of bathing before meals, and having water for
purifying their cooking utensils, &c.
'The man having undressed himself, and carefully piled his wardrobe
beneath the tree he had selected for shelter, went to the lake and bathed;
after which he prepared his bread, and sat himself down to dine. As soon
as he was comfortably seated, several large monkeys advanced and squatted
themselves at a respectful distance from him, doubtless expecting to share
in the good things he was enjoying. But, no: the traveller was either too
hungry or inhospitable, for he finished his meal, without tendering the
smallest portion to his uninvited visitors, who kept their station
watching every mouthful until he had finished.
'The meal concluded, the traveller gathered his cooking vessels together
and went to the bank of the lake, in order to wash them, as is customary,
and to cleanse his mouth after eating; his clothes and valuables were left
securely under the tree as he imagined,--if he thought at all about
them,--for he never dreamed of having offended the monkeys by eating all
he had cooked, without making them partakers. He was no sooner gone,
however, than the monkeys assembled round his valuables; each took
something from the collection; the oldest among them having secured the
purse of gold, away they ran to the tree over the very spot where the man
was engaged in polishing his brass vessels.
The Hindoo had soon completed his business at the lake, and unconscious of
their movements, he had returned to the tree, where to his surprise and
sorrow, he discovered his loss. Nearly frantic, the Hindoo doubted not
some sly thief had watched his motions and removed his treasures, when he
heard certain horrid yells from the monkeys which attracted his attention:
he returned hastily to the lake, and on looking up to the tree, he
discovered his enemies in the monkeys. They tantalized him for some time
by holding up the several articles to his view, and when the old monkey
shook the bag of gold, the poor man was in an agony; they then threw the
whole into the lake, the coins, one by one, were cast into the deep water,
where not a shadow of hope could be entertained of their restoration, as
the lake was deep and known to be infested with alligators.
'The man was almost driven mad by this unlooked-for calamity, by which he
was deprived of the many comforts his nursed treasure had so fairly
promised him for the remainder of life. He could devise no plan for
recovering his lost valuables, and resolved on hastening to the nearest
village, there to seek advice and assistance from his fellow-men; where
having related his unfortunate adventures, and declaring he had done
nothing to anger the creatures, he was asked if he had dined, and if so,
had he given them a share? He said, he had indeed cooked his dinner, and
observed the monkeys seated before him whilst he dined, but he did not
offer them any.
'"That, that, is your offence!" cried the villagers in a breath; "who
would ever think of eating without sharing his meal with men or with
animals? You are punished for your greediness, friend."--"Be it so," said
the traveller; "I am severely used by the brutes, and am now resolved on
punishing them effectually in return for the ill they have done me."
'He accordingly sold the gold ornaments from his arms and neck, purchased
a quantity of sugar, ghee, flour, and arsenic, returned to his old
quarters, prepared everything for cooking, and, in a short time, had a
large dish filled with rich-looking cakes, to tempt his enemies to their
'The feast was prepared in the presence of the assembled multitude of
monkeys. The Hindoo placed the dish before his guests, saying, "There, my
lords! your food is ready!" The old monkey advanced towards the dish, took
up a cake, raised it to his nose, and then returning it to the dish,
immediately ran off, followed by the whole of his associates into the
'The man began to despair, and thought himself the most unlucky creature
existing; when, at length, he saw them returning with augmented numbers;
he watched them narrowly, and observed each monkey had a green leaf in his
paw, in which he folded a cake and devoured the whole speedily. The man
expected of course to see them sicken immediately, for the quantity of
arsenic he had used was sufficient, he imagined to have killed twenty
times their number. But, no: his stratagem entirely failed; for the leaf
they had provided themselves was an antidote to the poison put into their
food. The traveller thus sacrificed even that little which would have
carried him on his journey, had he been satisfied with his first loss; but
the Hindoo cherished a revengeful disposition, and thereby was obliged to
beg his way to his family.'
The next monkey story is equally marvellous, the Natives believe that it
actually occurred; I am disposed, however, to think all these stories were
originally fables to impress a moral upon the ignorant.
'Near a small town in the province of Oude there is a jungle of some
extent, inhabited by monkeys. A certain man of the Hindoo class, residing
in the town, resolved upon enjoying himself one day with a bottle of
arrack he had procured by stealth, and since it is well known that spirits
or fermented liquors are prohibited articles in the territories governed
by Mussulmaun rulers, the man betook himself with his treat to the
neighbouring jungle, where in private he might drink the spirit he loved,
and escape the vigilance of the police.
'Arriving at a convenient spot, the Hindoo seated himself under a tree,
prepared his hookha, drew from his wrapper the bottle of spirits, and a
small cup he had provided; and if ever he knew what happiness was in his
life, this moment was surely his happiest.
'He drank a cup of his liquor, smoked his hookha with increased relish,
and thought of nothing but his present enjoyment. Presently he heard the
sound of rustling in the trees, and in a few minutes after, a fine sturdy
monkey, of the Lungoor tribe, placed himself very near to him and his
'The Hindoo was of a lively temper, and withal kindly disposed towards the
living, though not of his own species. Having a cake of dry bread in his
waistband, he broke off a piece and threw it to his visitor; the monkey
took the bread and sniffed at the cup. "Perhaps you may like to taste as
well as to smell," thought the Hindoo, as he poured out the liquor into
the cup, and presented it to his guest.
'The monkey raised the cup with both paws to his mouth, sipped of its
contents, winked his eyes, appeared well satisfied with the flavour, and
to the surprise of the Hindoo, finished the cup, which was no sooner done,
than away he sprang up the tree again.
'"Had I known you would run away so soon, my guest, I should have spared
my arrack;" thought the Hindoo. But the monkey quickly returned to his old
position, threw down a gold mohur to his entertainer, and sat grinning
with apparent satisfaction. The Hindoo, astonished at the sight of gold,
thought to repay his benefactor by another cup of spirits, which he placed
before the monkey, who drank it off, and again mounted the tree, and
shortly returned with a second gold mohur.
'Delighted with the profit his arrack produced, the Hindoo drank sparingly
himself, for each time the monkey took a cup, a gold mohur was produced,
until the man counted eight of these valuable coins on his palm. By this
time, however, the monkey was completely overcome by the strength of his
potations, and lay apparently senseless before the Hindoo, who fancied now
was his turn to mount the tree, where he found, on diligent search, in a
hollow place, a small bag of gold mohurs, with which he walked off,
leaving the monkey prostrate on the earth.
'The Hindoo determined on going some distance from his home, in a
different direction, fearing his secret treasure might be the means of
drawing him into difficulties amongst the people of his own town, who had
probably been robbed by the monkey at some previous period.
'In the meanwhile the monkey is supposed to have recovered from his stupor,
and the next morning on discovering his loss, he set up a horrid yell,
which brought together all his fellow-inhabitants of the jungle; and some
neighbouring villagers saw an immense number of monkeys of all sorts and
sizes, collected together in a body. The story runs that this army of
monkeys was headed by the one who had recovered from his drunken fit, and
that they marched away from the jungle in pursuit of the robber.
'Their first march was to the adjacent village, where every house was
visited in turn by the monkeys, without success; no one ever venturing to
obstruct or drive away the intruders, fearing their resentment. After
which they sallied out of the village to the main road, minutely looking
for footsteps, as a clue, on the sandy pathway; and by this means
discovering the track of the Hindoo, they pursued the road they had
entered throughout the day and night. Early in the morning of the
following day, the monkeys advanced to the serai (inn, or halting place
for travellers) soon after the Hindoo himself had quitted it, who had
actually sojourned there the previous night.
'On the road, when the horde of monkeys met any traveller, he was detained
by them until the chief of them had scrutinized his features, and he was
then liberated on finding he was not the person they were in pursuit of.
After having marched nearly forty miles from their home, they entered one
of the halting places for travellers, where the Hindoo was resting after
his day's journey.
'The monkey having recognized the robber, immediately grasped him by the
arm, and others entering, the frightened robber was searched, the purse
discovered in his wrapper, which the chief monkey angrily seized, and then
counted over its contents, piece by piece. This done, finding the number
correct, the monkey selected eight pieces, and threw them towards the
Hindoo; and distributing the remaining number of gold mohurs amongst the
monkeys, who placed each his coin in the hollow of his cheek, the whole
body retired from the serai to retrace their steps to the jungle.'
 Hanuman, the divine monkey of the Ramayana epic, who helped
Rama to recover his abducted wife, Sita.
 _Langur, Semnopithecus entellus_.
 Now worth a little more than a sovereign.
The Soofies.--Opinion of the Mussulmauns concerning Solomon.--The
Ood-ood.--Description of the Soofies and their sect.--Regarded with
great reverence.--Their protracted fasts.--Their opinion esteemed by
the Natives.--Instance of the truth of their predictions.--The Saalik
and Majoob Soofies.--The poets Haafiz and Saadie.--Character and
attainments of Saadie.--His 'Goolistaun'.--Anecdotes descriptive of
the origin of that work.--Farther remarks on the character and
history of Saadie.--Interesting anecdotes illustrative of his virtues
and the distinguishing characteristics of the Soofies.
The life of King Solomon, with all his acts, is the subject of many an
author's pen, both in the Arabic and Persian languages; consequently the
learned Mussulmauns of Hindoostaun are intimately acquainted with his
virtues, his talent, and the favour with which he was visited by the great
goodness of the Almighty. In the course of my sojourn amongst them, I have
heard many remarkable and some interesting anecdotes relating to Solomon,
which the learned men assure me are drawn from sources of unquestionable
They affirm that the wisdom of Solomon not only enabled him to search into
the most hidden thoughts of men, and to hold converse with them in their
respective languages, but that the gift extended even to the whole brute
creation; by which means he could hold unlimited converse, not only with
the animate, as birds, beasts, and fish, but with inanimate objects, as
shrubs, trees, and, indeed, the whole tribe of vegetable nature; and,
further, that he was permitted to discern and control aerial spirits, as
demons, genii, &c.
The pretty bird, known in India by the name of Ood-ood, is much
regarded by the Mussulmauns, as by their tradition this bird was the
hurkaarah of King Solomon; and entrusted with his most important
commissions whenever he required intelligence to be conveyed to or from a
far distant place, because he could place greater confidence in the
veracity of this bird, and rely on more certain dispatch, than when
entrusting his commands to the most worthy of his men servants.
The ood-ood is beautifully formed, has a variegated plumage of black,
yellow, and white, with a high tuft of feathers on its head, through which
is a spear of long feathers protruding directly across the head for
several inches, and is of the woodpecker species. The princes, Nuwaubs,
and nobility of Hindoostaun, keep hurkaarahs for the purpose of conveying
and obtaining intelligence, who are distinguished by a short spear, with a
tuft of silk or worsted about the middle of the handle, and the tail of
the ood-ood in the front of their turban, to remind them of this bird,
which they are expected to imitate both in dispatch and fidelity. I am
told, these men (from their early training) are enabled to run from fifty
to sixty miles bare-footed, and return the same distance without halting
on the same day.
The religious devotees of the Mussulmaun persuasion, who are denominated
Soofies, are conjectured, by many, to have a similar gift with Solomon
of understanding the thoughts of other men. By some it is imagined that
Solomon was the first Soofie; by others, that Ali, the husband of Fatima,
imparted the knowledge of that mystery which constitutes the real Soofie.
I am acquainted with some Natives who designate the Soofies 'Freemasons'
but I imagine this to be rather on account of both possessing a secret,
than for any similarity in other respects, between the two orders of
My business, however, is to describe. The Soofies then are, as far as I
can comprehend, strictly religious men, who have forsaken entirely all
attachment to earthly things, in their adoration of the one supreme God.
They are sometimes found dwelling in the midst of a populous city, yet,
even there they are wholly detached from the world, in heart, soul, and
mind, exercising themselves in constant adoration of, and application to
God; occasionally shutting themselves up for several weeks together in a
hut of mud, thatched with coarse grass, with scarce sufficient provision
to support the smallest living animal, and water barely enough to moisten
their parched lips during the weeks thus devoted to solitary retirement
When these recluses can no longer support their self-inflicted privation,
they open the door of their hut, a signal anxiously watched for by such
persons as have a desire to meet the eye of the holy man, of whom they
would inquire on some (to them) interesting matter; probably regarding
their future prospects in the world, the cause of the ill-health and
prospects of recovery of a diseased member of their family, or any like
subject of interest to the inquirer.
The Soofie, I am told, does not approve of being thus teased by the
importunities of the thronging crowd, who beset his threshold the instant
his door is heard to open. Being weak in body, after the fatigue of a
protracted fast of weeks together, his replies to the questions (preferred
always with remarkable humility) are brief and prompt; and the Natives
assure me dependence may always be placed on the good Soofie's reply being
strictly the words of truth. On this account, even if the oracle's reply
disappoint the hopes of the questioner, he retires without a murmur, for
then he knows the worst of his calamity, and if God orders it so, he must
not complain, because Infinite Wisdom cannot err, and the holy man will
assuredly speak the truth.
The practice so long prevailing in Europe of visiting the cunning man, to
have the hidden mysteries of fate solved, occurred to my recollection when
I first heard of this custom in India.
'Will my son return from his travels during my lifetime?'--was the inquiry
of a truly religious man, whom I knew very intimately, to one of the
professed Soofie class, on his emerging from his hut. The reply was as
follows:--'Go home!--be happy;--comfort your heart;--he is coming!' By a
singular coincidence it happened, that the following day's daak produced a
letter, announcing to him that his son was on his way returning to his
home and his father, who had for some years despaired of ever again seeing
his son in this life.
It is needless to say, that the veneration shown to this Soofie was much
increased by the singular coincidence, because the person who consulted
him was a man of remarkable probity, and not given to indulge in idle
conversations with the worldly-minded of that city.
There are many men in this country, I am told, who make Soofieism their
profession, but who are in reality hypocrites to the world, and their
Maker: actuated sometimes by the love of applause from the multitude, but
oftener, I am assured, by mercenary motives. A Soofie enjoying public
favour may, if he choose, command any man's wealth who gives credit to his
supposed power. All men pay a marked deference to his holy character, and
few would have the temerity to withhold the desired sum, however
inconvenient to bestow, should the demand be made by one professing to be
The real Soofie is, however, a very different character, and an object of
deserved veneration, if only for the virtue of perfect content with which
his humble mind is endued: respect cannot be withheld by the reflecting
part of the world, when contemplating a fellow-creature (even of a
different faith) whose life is passed in sincere devotion to God, and
strictly conforming to the faith he has embraced. My Native friends inform
me,--and many reprobate the notion,--that the Soofies believe they resolve
into the Divine essence when their souls are purified from the animal
propensities of this life by severe privations, fervent and continual
prayer, watchings, resisting temptations, and profound meditation in
solitude. When they have acquired the perfection they aim at, and are
really and truly the perfect Soofie, they rarely quit the hut they have
first selected for their retirement, and into which no one ever attempts
to intrude, without the Soofie commands it. He enjoys the universal
respect and veneration of all classes of people; he has no worldly rewards
to bestow, yet there are servants always ready to do him any kindness,
amongst the number of his admirers who flock to catch but a glimpse of the
holy man, and fancy themselves better when but the light of his
countenance has beamed upon them. Proudly pre-eminent, in his own eyes, is
the one amongst the multitude who may be so far honoured as to be allowed
to place a platter of food before the Soofie, when the imperative demands
of Nature prevail over his self-inflicted abstinence.
Some Soofies shut themselves in their hut for a few days, and others for
weeks together, without seeing or being seen by a human being. Their
general clothing is simply a wrapper of calico, and their only furniture a
coarse mat. They are said to be alike insensible to heat or cold, so
entirely are their hearts weaned from the indulgence of earthly comforts.
I must explain, however, that there are two classes of the professedly
devout Soofies, viz. the Saalik, and the Majoob. The true Saalik
Soofies are those who give up the world and its allurements, abstain from
all sensual enjoyments, rarely associate with their fellow-men, devote
themselves entirely to their Creator, and are insensible to any other
enjoyments but such as they derive from their devotional exercises.
The Majoob Soofies have no established home nor earthly possessions; they
drink wine and spirits freely, when they can obtain them. Many people
suppose this class have lost the possession of their reason, and make
excuse for their departure from the law on that score. Both classes are
nevertheless in great respect, because the latter are not deemed guilty of
breaking the law, since they are supposed to be insensible of their
actions whilst indulging in the forbidden juice of the grape.
Haafiz, the celebrated poet of Persia, it is related, was a Soofie of
the Majoob class, he lived without a thought of providing for future
exigencies, accepted the offerings of food from his neighbour, drank wine
freely when offered to him, and slept under any shed or hovel he met with,
as contented as if he was in the palace of a king.
Saadie, the Persian poet, was, during the latter years of his life, a
Saalik Soofie of the most perfect kind. Many of the inspirations of his
pen, however, were written in that part of his life which was devoted to
the world and its enjoyments; yet most of these indicate purity of thought
in a remarkable degree. Saadie's life was subject to the most
extraordinary vicissitudes; he possessed an independent mind, scorning
every allurement of wealth which might tend to shackle his principles. He
is said to have repeatedly rejected offers of patronage and pecuniary
assistance from many noblemen, whilst he still loved the world's
enticements, declaring he never could submit to confine himself to
attendance on an earthly master for any lengthened period. His wit,
pleasing deportment, and polite manners, together with the amiable
qualities of his heart, rendered him a general favourite, and they who
could boast most intimacy with Saadie were the most honoured by the world;
for, though but the poor Saadie, he shed a lustre over the assemblies of
the great and noble in birth or station, by his brilliant mind.
The 'Goolistaun' of Saadie has been so often eulogized, as to render it
unnecessary for me to add a single word in commendation of its style and
morality; but I will here take leave to insert an anecdote translated for
me by my husband, in allusion to the incident which prompted Saadie to
write that work, under the title of 'Goolistaun' (Garden of Roses). I will
also here remark, that in the principal cities of Persia, the Mussulmauns
of that age were not equally rigid in their observance of the law
interdicting the use of fermented liquors, as are those of the present day
in Hindoostaun. Many young men among the higher orders indulged freely in
the 'life-inspiring draught', as they were wont to call the juice of the
'Shiraaz was the abode and the presumptive birth-place of Saadie. In his
early years he was led by a love of society to depart from the rigid
customs of his forefathers, and with the wild youth of his acquaintance to
indulge freely in nightly potations of the forbidden juice of the grape.
He had long delighted his friends and favourites by sharing in their
nocturnal revels, and adding by his wit and pleasantry to the mirthful
moments as they flew by unheeded.
'At a particular season of the year, a convivial party were accustomed to
assemble in a garden of roses, from midnight to the rising sun, to indulge
in the luxury of wine during that refreshing season; as to receive the
first scent from the opening roses as they expand with the dawn of the
morning, constituted a delight, proverbially intoxicating, amongst the
sons of Persia. Saadie composed many airs for the occasion, and gifted by
Nature with a voice equalled only by his wit, he sang them with a melody
so sweet as to render him almost the idol of his companions.
'At one of these seasons of enjoyment, the festival was prepared by his
circle of friends as usual, but Saadie delayed his visit. The whole party
were lost in surprise and regret at an absence as unexpected as deplored.
Some time was passed in fruitless conjecture on the cause of his delay,
and at last it was agreed that a deputation from his well-beloved
associates should go in quest of their favourite. They accordingly went,
and knocked at the door of his room, which they found was securely
fastened within. The poet inquired "Who is it that disturbs my repose, at
this hour, when all good subjects of the King should be at rest?"--"Why,
Saadie, Saadie!" they replied, "it is your friends and associates, your
favourites!--have you forgotten our enjoyments and this season of bliss?
Come, come, open the door, Saadie! away with us! our revels await your
presence. Nothing gives enjoyment to our party until you add your smiles
to our mirth."
'"Let me alone," replied Saadie; "enjoy your pastime, if such it be to ye;
but for me, I am heartily ashamed of my late wanton pursuits. I have
resolved on mending my ways, whilst yet I have time; and be ye also wise,
my friends; follow Saadie's example. Go home to your beds, and forsake the
sinful habits of the world!"
'"Why Saadie, what aileth thee! art thou mad?--or has the study of
philosophy drawn thee from thy former self, whilst yet thine hairs are jet
with youth? These reflections of thine will suit us till far better when
time hath frosted our beards. Come, come, Saadie, away with us! let not
the precious moments escape in this unprofitable converse. You must come,
Saadie; our hearts will break without you!"
'"Nay, nay," responded Saadie, "my conscience smites me that I have erred
too long. It suits not my present temper to join in your mirth."--"Open
the door to us at any rate," sounded from the many voices without; "speak
to us face to face, our dear and well-beloved friend! let us have
admission, and we will argue the subject coolly."--Saadie's good-nature
could not resist the appeal, the door was unbarred, and the young men
entered in a body.
'"We have all wickedly broken the law of the faithful," said Saadie to his
guests; and he tried to reason with his unreasonable favourites, who, on
their part, used raillery, bantering, argument, and every power of speech,
to turn Saadie from his steady purpose of now fulfilling the law he had
wilfully violated. They effected nothing in moving him from his purpose,
until one of the young men, to whom Saadie was much attached, spoke
tenderly to him of the affection both himself and friends entertained for
him, adding, "It is written in our law, that if a Mussulmaun be guilty of
any sin, however great, (and all kinds of sin are therein enumerated), and
he afterwards sincerely repents before God, with fasting and prayer, his
sins shall be forgiven. Now you, Saadie, who are deeply versed in the way
of wisdom, and better acquainted with the words of the Khoraun than any
other man on earth, tell me, is there in that holy book a promise made of
forgiveness for that man who breaks the hearts of his fellow-creatures?
With us there are many hearts so devotedly attached to you, that must
assuredly burst the bonds of life by your complete and sudden desertion of
them, so that not one sin but many shall be hurled by their deaths on your
conscience, to be atoned for how you may."
'Saadie loved them all too dearly to resist their persevering proofs of
affection, and he suffered himself, after a little more argument, to be
led forth to the scene of their revels, where, however, he argued strongly
on the impropriety of their habits and refused to be tempted by the
alluring wine. He then promised to prepare for them a never-fading garden
of roses which should last with the world; every leaf of which, if plucked
with attention, should create a greater and more lasting bliss about their
hearts than the best wine of Shiraaz, or the most refined aromatic had
hitherto conveyed to their sensual appetites.'
After the evening in question, Saadie abstained from all participation in
the revels of his friends, and devoted his hours to retirement that he
might accomplish the 'Goolistaun' he had pledged himself to cultivate for
their more substantial benefit and perpetual enjoyment. The simplicity,
elegance, purity of style, and moral precepts conveyed in this work, prove
the author to have been worthy the respect with which his name has been
reverenced through all ages, and to this day, by the virtuously disposed
his work is read with unabated interest.
Saadie did not remain very long at Shiraaz after his conversion, nor did
he settle any where for any long period. The Persian writers assert that
he disliked the importunities of the world, which, sensible of his merits
as a poet and companion, constantly urged him to associate with them. He,
therefore, lived a wandering life for many years, carefully concealing his
name, which had then become so celebrated by his writings, that even
beyond the boundaries of Persia his fame was known.
As his manner of life was simple, his wants were few; he depended solely
on the care of Divine Providence for his daily meal, avoiding every thing
like laying by from to-day's produce for the morrow's sustenance. He
considered that provision alone acceptable, which the bounty of Divine
Providence daily provided for his need, by disposing the hearts of others
to tender a suitable supply. In fact, he is said to have been of opinion
that the store laid up by men for future exigencies lessened the
delightful feeling of dependance on the bounty of God, who faileth not,
day by day, to provide for the birds and beasts of the forest with equal
care as for the prince on his throne; he would say, 'I shall be tempted to
forget from whom my bread is received, if I have coins in my purse to
purchase from the vender. Sweet is the daily bread granted to my prayers
and dependance on the sole Giver of all good!'
To illustrate the necessity of perfect content, he relates, in his
writings, the following interesting anecdote:--'I was once travelling on
foot, where the roads were rugged, my shoes worn out, and my feet cut by
the stones. I was desirous of pursuing my journey quickly, and secretly
mourned that my feet pained me, and that my shoes were now rendered
useless; often wishing, as I stepped with caution, that I possessed the
means of replenishing these articles so useful to a traveller.
'With these feelings of dissatisfaction, I approached the spot where a
poor beggar was seated, who, by some calamity, had been deprived of both
his feet. I viewed this sad object with much commiseration, for he was
dependant on the kindness of his fellow-beggars to convey him daily to
that public spot, where the passing traveller, seeing his misery, might be
induced to bestow upon him a few coins to provide for his subsistence.
"Alas! alas!" said I, "how have I suffered my mind to be disturbed because
my feet pained me, and were shoeless. Ungrateful being that I am! rather
ought I to rejoice with an humble heart, that my gracious Benefactor hath
granted me the blessing of feet, and sound health. Never let me again
murmur or repine for the absence of a luxury, whilst my real wants are
One of my objects in detailing the anecdotes of Saadie in this place, is
to give a more correct idea of the Soofie character of that particular
class called Saalik, to which he ultimately belonged.
The next translation from the life of Saadie will show how beautifully his
well-tempered spirit soared above those difficulties which the common mind
would have sunk under. His fame, his superior manners, were of that rare
kind, that distance from his birth-place could be no obstacle to his
making friends, if he chose to disclose his name in any city of Asia.
I have no dates to guide me in placing the several anecdotes in their
proper order; this, however, will be excused, as I do not pretend to give
'On one occasion, Saadie was journeying on foot, and being overtaken by
the Arabs, (who, or a party of, it may be presumed, were at war with
Persia), he was taken prisoner, and conveyed by them, with many others, to
Aleppo. The prisoners, as they arrived, were all devoted to the public
works (fortifying the city), and obliged to labour according to their
'Saadie, unused to any branch of mechanical labour, could only be employed
in conveying mortar to the more scientific workmen. For many months he
laboured in this way, degrading as the employment was, without a murmur,
or a desire that his fate had been otherways ordained. Hundreds of men
then living in Aleppo would have been proud of the honour and the good
name they must have acquired from the world, by delivering the Poet from
his thraldom, had they known he was amongst them, a slave to the Arabs;
for Saadie was revered as a saint by those who had either read his works,
or heard of his name, extolled as it was for his virtues. But Saadie
placed his trust in God alone, and his confidence never for an instant
forsook him; he kept his name concealed from all around him, laboured as
commanded, and was contented.
'Many months of degrading servitude had passed by, when one day, it so
happened that a rich Jew merchant, who had formerly lived at Shiraaz, and
there had been honoured by the regard of the idolized Saadie, visited
Aleppo, on his mercantile concerns. Curiosity led him to survey the
improvements going on in the city; and passing the spot where Saadie was
then presenting his load of mortar to the mason, he thought he recognized
the Poet, yet deemed it impossible that he should be engaged in so
degrading an employment, who was the object of universal veneration in
Persia. Still the likeness to his former friend was so striking, that he
felt no trifling degree of pleasure, whilst contemplating those features
whose resemblance recalled the image of that holy man who was so dear to
him, and brought back to his recollection many delightful hours of
friendly converse, which at Shiraaz had cheated time of its weight, and
left impressions on his heart to profit by during life.
'"I will talk with this man," thought the Jew; "surely he must be related
to my friend; the face, the form, the graceful manner, and even in that
rude garb and occupation, he so strongly resembles my friend, that I
cannot doubt he must be of the same kindred."
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