William Sleeman.

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and grant their prayers.[l4] The day is past. Beef continued to be
eaten with undiminished appetite, the blight, nevertheless,
disappeared, and every other sign of vengeance from above; and the
people are now, I believe, satisfied that they were mistaken. They
still think that the lands do not yield so many returns of the seed
under us as under former rulers; that they have lost some of the
_barkat_ (blessings) which they enjoyed under them - they know not
why. The fact is that under us the lands do not enjoy the salutary
fallows which frequent invasions and civil wars used to cause under
former Governments. Those who survived such civil wars and invasions
got better returns for their seed.

During the discussion of the question with the people, I had one day
a conversation with the Sadr Amîn, or head native judicial officer,
whom I have already mentioned. He told me that 'there could be no
doubt of the truth of the conclusion to which the people had at
length come. 'There are', he said, 'some countries in which
punishments follow crimes after long intervals, and, indeed, do not
take place till some future birth; in others, they follow crimes
immediately; and such is the country bordering the stream of _Mother
Nerbudda_. This', said he, 'is a stream more holy than that of the
great Ganges herself, since no man is supposed to derive any benefit
from that stream unless he either bathe in it or drink from it; but
the sight of the Nerbudda from a distant hill could bless him, and
purify him. In other countries, the slaughter of cows and bullocks
might not be punished for ages; and the harvest, in such countries,
might continue good through many successive generations under such
enormities; indeed, he was not quite sure that there might not be
countries in which no punishment at all would inevitably follow; but,
so near the Nerbudda, this could not be the case.[l5] Providence
could never suffer beef to be eaten so near her sacred majesty
without visiting the crops with blight, hail, or some other calamity,
and the people with cholera morbus, small-pox, and other great
pestilences. As for himself, he should never be persuaded that all
these afflictions did not arise wholly and solely from this dreadful
habit of eating beef. I declare', concluded he, 'that if the
Government would but consent to prohibit the eating of beef, it might
levy from the lands three times the revenue that they now pay.'

The great festival of the Holî, the Saturnalia of India, terminates
on the last day of Phâlgun, or 16th of March.[16] On that day the
Holî is burned; and on that day the ravages of the monster (for
monster they will have it to be) are supposed to cease. Any field
that has remained untouched up to that time is considered to be quite
secure from the moment the Holî has been committed to the flames.
What gave rise to the notion I have never been able to discover, but
such is the general belief. I suppose the siliceous epidermis must
then have become too hard, and the pores in the stem too much closed
up to admit of the further depredation of the fungi.

In the latter end of 1831, while I was at Sâgar, a cowherd in driving
his cattle to water at a reach of the Biâs river, called the
Nardhardhâr, near the little village of Jasrathî, was reported to
have seen a vision that told him the waters of that reach, taken up
and conveyed to the fields in pitchers, would effectually keep off
the blight from the wheat, provided the pitchers were not suffered to
touch the ground on the way. On reaching the field, a small hole was
to be made in the bottom of the pitcher, so as to keep up a small but
steady stream, as the bearer carried it round the borders of the
field, that the water might fall in a complete ring, except at a
small opening - which was to be kept dry, in order that the _monster_
or _demon blight_ might make his escape through it, not being able to
cross over any part watered by the holy stream. The waters Of the
Bias river generally are not supposed to have any peculiar virtues.
The report of this vision spread rapidly over the country; and the
people who had been suffering under so many seasons of great calamity
were anxious to try anything that promised the slightest chance of
relief. Every cultivator of the district prepared pots for the
conveyance of the water, with tripods to support them while they
rested on the road, that they might not touch the ground. The spot
pointed out for taking the water was immediately under a fine large
pîpal-tree[l7] which had fallen into the river, and on each bank was
seated a Bairâgî, or priest of Vishnu. The blight began to manifest
itself in the alsî (linseed) in January, 1832, but the wheat is never
considered to be in danger till late in February, when it is nearly
ripe; and during that month and the following the banks of the river
were crowded with people in search of the water. Some of the people
came more than one hundred miles to fetch it, and all seemed quite
sure that the holy water would save them. Each person gave the
Bairâgî priest of his own side of the river two half-pence (copper
pice), two pice weight of ghî (clarified butter), and two pounds of
flour, before he filled his pitcher, to secure his blessings from it.
These priests were strangers, and the offerings were entirely
voluntary. The roads from this reach of the Bias river, up to the
capital of the Orchhâ Râjâ, more than a hundred miles, were literally
lined with these water-carriers; and I estimated the number of
persons who passed with the water every day for six weeks at ten
thousand a day.[18] After they had ceased to take the water, the
banks were long crowded with people who flocked to see the place
where priests and waters had worked such miracles, and to try and
discover the source whence the water derived its virtues. It was
remarked by some that the pîpal-tree, which had fallen from the bank
above many years before, had still continued to throw out the richest
foliage from the branches above the surface of the water. Others
declared that they saw a _monkey_ on the bank near the spot, which no
sooner perceived it was observed than it plunged into the stream and
disappeared. Others again saw some flights of steps under the water,
indicating that it had in days of yore been the site of a temple,
whose god, no doubt, gave to the waters the wonderful virtues it had
been found to possess. The priests would say nothing but that 'it was
the work of God, and, like all his works, beyond the reach of man's
understanding.' They made their fortunes, and got up the vision and
miracle, no doubt, for that especial purpose.[l9] As to the effect, I
was told by hundreds of farmers who had tried the waters that, though
it had not anywhere kept the blight entirely off from the wheat, it
was found that the fields which had not the advantages of water were
entirely destroyed; and, where the pot had been taken all round the
field without leaving any dry opening for the demon to escape
through, it was almost as bad; but, when a small opening had been
left, and the water carefully dropped around the field elsewhere, the
crops had been very little injured; which showed clearly the efficacy
of the water, when all the ceremonies and observances prescribed by
the vision had been attended to.

I could never find the cowherd who was said to have seen this vision,
and, in speaking to my old friend, the Sadr Amîn, learned in the
shâstras,[20] on the subject, I told him that we had a short saying
that would explain all this: 'A drowning man catches at a straw.'

'Yes,' said he, without any hesitation, 'and we have another just as
good for the occasion: "Sheep will follow each other, though it
should be into a well".'


Notes:

1. We are told in 2 Samuel, chap. xxiv, that the Deity was displeased
at a census of the people, taken by Joab by the order of David, and
destroyed of the people of Israel seventy thousand, besides women and
children. [W. H. S.] The editor, in the course of seven years'
experience in the Settlement department, six of which were agent in
Bundêlkhand, never heard of the doctrine as to the incestuous
character of surveys. Probably it had died out. Even a census no
longer gives rise to alarm in most parts of the country. The wild
rumours and theories common in 1872 and 1881 did not prevail when the
census of 1891 was taken, or during subsequent operations.

2. This theory is, of course, erroneous.

3. The flax plant (_Linum usitatissimum_) is grown in India solely
for the sake of the linseed. Linen is never made, and the stalk of
the plant, as ordinarily grown, is too short for the manufacture of
fibre. The attempts to introduce flax manufacture into India, though
not ultimately successful, have proved that good flax can be made in
the country, from Riga seed. Indian linseed is very largely exported.
(Article 'Flax' in Balfour, _Cyclopaedia_, 3rd ed.)

4. Spores is the more accurate word.

5. That is to say, cattle-trespass. Cattle do not care to eat the
green flax plant. The fields are not fenced.

6. The rust, or blight, described in the text probably was a species
of _Unedo_. The gram, or chick-pea, and various kinds of pea and
vetch are grown intermixed with the wheat. They ripen earlier, and
are plucked up by the roots before the wheat is cut.

7. Chap. 4 of the Korân is entitled 'Women', and chap. 24 is entitled
'Light'. The story of Ayesha's misadventure is given in Sale's notes
to chap. 24.

8. Muhammad died A.D. 632. Abû Bakr succeeded him, and after a
khalîfate of only two years, was succeeded by Omar, who was
assassinated in the twelfth year of his reign.

9. Basrah (Bassorah, Bussorah) in the province of Baghdad, on the
Shatt-ul-Arab, or combined stream of the Tigris and Euphrates, was
founded by the Khalîf Omar.

10. In the author's time the Muhammadan criminal law was applied to
the whole population by Anglo-Indian judges, assisted by Muhammadan
legal assessors, who gave rulings called _fatwas_ on legal points.
The Penal Code enacted in 1859 swept away the whole jungle of
Regulations and _fatwas_, and established a scientific System of
criminal jurisprudence, which bas remained substantially unchanged to
this day. Adultery is punishable under the Code by the Court of
Session, but prosecutions for this offence are very rare. Enticing
away a married woman is also defined as an offence, and is punishable
by a magistrate. Complaints under this head are extremely numerous,
and mostly false. Secret and unpunished murders of women undoubtedly
are common, and often reported as deaths from snake-bite or cholera.
An aggrieved husband frequently tries to save his honour, and at the
same time satisfy his vengeance, by tromping up a false charge of
burglary against the suspected paramour, who generally replies by an
equally false _alibi_.

11. A prosecution under the Penal Code for adultery can be instituted
only by the husband, or the guardian representing him, and the woman
is not punishable. Although the Muhammadan law of evidence has been
got rid of, the Anglo-Indian courts are still unsuitable for the
prosecution of adultery cases, especially where Indians are
concerned. The English courts, though they do not require any
specified number of witnesses, demand strict proof given in open
court, and no Indian, whose honour has really been touched, cares to
expose his domestic troubles to be wrangled over by lawyers. Many
officers, including the editor, would be glad to see the section
which renders adultery penal struck out of the Code. The matrimonial
delinquencies of Indians are better dealt with by the caste
organizations, and those of Europeans by civil action.

12. The Trigonometrical Survey, originated by Colonel Lambton, was
begun at Cape Comôrin in 1800. It is now almost, if not quite,
complete, except in Burma. See Markham, _A Memoir of the Indian
Surveys_ (2nd ed., 1878). The stations are marked by masonry pillars,
for the partial repair of which a small sum is annually allotted.

13. Hindoos believe that holy men, by means of great austerities, can
attain power to compel the gods to do their bidding.

14. For some account of the modern agitation against cow-killing. See
note _ante_, Chapter 26, note 6.

15. On the sacredness of the Nerbudda see note _ante_, Chapter 1,
note 13.

16. The Holî festival marks approximately the time of the vernal
equinox, ten days before the full moon of the Hindoo month Phâlgun.
The day of the bonfire does not always fall on the 16th of March. It
is not considered lucky to begin harvest till the Holî has been
burnt. Mr. Crooke holds that 'on the whole, there seems to be some
reason to believe that the intention to promote the fertility of men,
animals, and crops, supplies the basis of the rites' ('The Holî, a
Vernal Festival of the Hindus', _Folklore_, vol. xxv (1914), p. 83).
I agree.

17. The pîpal-tree (_Ficus religiosa_, Linn.; _Urostigma religiosum_,
Gasp.) is sacred to Vishnu, and universally venerated throughout
India.

18. About four hundred thousand persons.

19. Two pice x 400,000 = 800,000 pice, = 200,000 annas, = 12,500
rupees. Even if the author's estimate of the numbers be much too
large, the pecuniary result must have been handsome, not to mention
the butter and flour.

20. Hindoo sacred books.




CHAPTER 28


Pestle-and-Mortar Sugar-Mills - Washing away of the Soil.

On the 13th [December, 1885] we came to Barwâ Sâgar,[1] over a road
winding among small ridges and conical hills, none of them much
elevated or very steep; the whole being a bed of brown syenite,
generally exposed to the surface in a decomposing state, intersected
by veins and beds of quartz rocks, and here and there a narrow and
shallow bed of dark basalt. One of these beds of basalt was converted
into grey syenite by a large granular mixture of white quartz and
feldspar with the black hornblende. From this rock the people form
their sugar-mills, which are made like a pestle and mortar, the
mortar being cut out of the hornblende rock, and the pestle out of
wood.[2]

We saw a great many of these mortars during the march that could not
have been in use for the last half-dozen centuries, but they are
precisely the same as those still used all over India. The driver
sits upon the end of the horizontal beam to which the bullocks are
yoked; and in cold mornings it is very common to see him with a pair
of good hot embers at his buttocks, resting upon a little projection
made behind him to the beam for the purpose of sustaining it [_sic_].
I am disposed to think that the most productive parts of the surface
of Bundêlkhand, like that of some of the districts of the Nerbudda
territories which repose upon the back of the sandstone of the
Vindhya chain, is [_sic_] fast flowing off to the sea through the
great rivers, which seem by degrees to extend the channels of their
tributary streams into every man's field, to drain away its substance
by degrees, for the benefit of those who may in some future age
occupy the islands of their delta. I have often seen a valuable
estate reduced in value to almost nothing in a few years by some new
_antennae_, if I may so call them, thrown out from the tributary
streams of great rivers into their richest and deepest soils.
Declivities are formed, the soil gets nothing from the cultivator but
the mechanical aid of the plough, and the more its surface is
ploughed and cross-ploughed, the more of its substance is washed away
towards the Bay of Bengal in the Ganges, or the Gulf of Cambay in the
Nerbudda. In the districts of the Nerbudda, we often see these black
hornblende mortars, in which sugar-canes were once pressed by a happy
peasantry, now standing upon a bare and barren surface of sandstone
rock, twenty feet above the present surface of the culturable lands
of the country. There are evident signs of the surface on which they
now stand having been that on which they were last worked. The people
get more juice from their small straw-coloured canes in these pestle-
and-mortar mills than they can from those with cylindrical rollers in
the present rude state of the mechanical arts all over India; and the
straw-coloured cane is the only kind that yields good sugar. The
large purple canes yield a watery and very inferior juice; and are
generally and almost universally sold in the markets as a fruit. The
straw-coloured canes, from being crowded under a very slovenly
System, with little manure and less weeding, degenerate into a mere
reed. The Otaheite cane, which was introduced into India by me in
1827, has spread over the Nerbudda, and many other territories; but
that that will degenerate in the same manner under the same slovenly
system of tillage, is too probable.[3]


Notes:

1. The lake known as Barwâ Sâgar was formed by a Bundêla chief, who
constructed an embankment nearly three-quarters of a mile long to
retain the waters of the Barwâ stream, a tributary of the Betwâ. The
work was begun in 1705 and completed in 1737. The town is situated at
the north-west corner of the lake, on the road from Jhânsî to the
cantonment of Nowgong (properly Naugâon, or Nayâgâon), at a distance
of twelve miles from Jhânsî (_N.W.P. Gazetteer_, 1st ed., vol. i, pp.
243 and 387).

2. The rude sketch given here in the author's text is not worth
reproduction.

3. The 'pestle-and-mortar' pattern of mill above described is the
indigenous model formerly in universal use in India, but, in most
parts of the country, where stone is not available, the 'mortar'
portion was made of wood. The stone mills are expensive. In the Bânda
and Hamîrpur districts of Bundêlkhand sugar-cane is now grown only in
the small areas where good loam soil is found. The method of
cultivation differs in several respects from that practised in the
Gangetic plains, but the editor never observed the slovenliness of
which the author complains. He always found the cultivation in sugar-
cane villages to be extremely careful and laborious. Ancient stone
mills are sometimes found in black soil country, and it is difficult
to understand how sugarcane can ever have been grown there. The
author was mistaken in supposing that the indigenous pattern of mill
is superior to a good roller mill. The indigenous mill has been
completely superseded in most parts of the Panjâb, United Provinces,
and Bihâr, by the roller mill patented by Messrs. Mylne and Thompson
of Bihîa in 1869, and largely improved by subsequent modifications.
The original patent having expired, thousands of roller mills are
annually made by native artisans, with little regard to the rights of
the Bihîa firm. The iron rollers, cast in Delhi and other places, are
completed on costly lathes in many country towns. The mills are
generally hired out for the season, and kept in repair by the
speculator. The Râjâ of Nâhan or Sirmûr in the Panjâb, who has a
foundry employing six hundred men, does a large business of this
kind, and finds it profitable. Since the first patent was taken out,
many improvements in the design have been effected, and the best
mills squeeze the cane absolutely dry. Messrs. Mylne and Thompson
have been successful in introducing other improved machinery for the
manufacture of sugar in villages. The Rosa factory near Shahjahânpur
in the United Provinces makes sugar on a large scale by European
methods.

When the author says that the large canes are sold 'as a fruit' he
means that the canes are used for eating, or rather sucking like a
sugar-stick. The varieties of sugar-cane are numerous, and the names
vary much in different districts. According to Balfour, the Otaheite
(Tahiti) cane is 'probably _Saccharum violaceum_'. The ordinary
Indian kinds belong to the species _Saccharum officinarum_. The
Otaheite cane was introduced into the West Indies about 1794, and
came to India from the Mauritius. It is more suitable for the roller
mill than for the indigenous mill, the stems being hard (_Cyclopaedia
of India_, 3rd ed., 1885, s.v. 'Saccharum'). In a letter dated
December 15, 1844, the author refers to his introduction of the
Otaheite cane, and mentions that the Indian Agricultural Society
awarded him a gold medal for this service. The cane was first planted
in the Government Botanical Garden at Calcutta.




CHAPTER 29


Interview with the Chiefs of Jhânsî - Disputed Succession.

On the 14th[1] we came on fourteen miles to Jhânsî.[2] About five
miles from our last ground we crossed the Baitantî river over a bed
of syenite. At this river we mounted our elephant to cross, as the
water was waist-deep at the ford. My wife returned to her palankeen
as soon as we had crossed, but our little boy came on with me on the
elephant, to meet the grand procession which I knew was approaching
to greet us from the city. The Râjâ of Jhânsî, Râm Chandar Râo, died
a few months ago, leaving a young widow and a mother, but no
child.[3]

He was a young man of about twenty-eight years of age, timid, but of
good capacity, and most amiable disposition. My duties brought us
much into communication; and, though we never met, we had conceived a
mutual esteem for each other. He had been long suffering from an
affection of the liver, and had latterly persuaded himself that his
mother was practising upon his life, with a view to secure the
government to the eldest son of her daughter, which would, she
thought, ensure the real power to her for life. That she wished him
dead with this view, I had no doubt; for she had ruled the state for
several years up to 1831, during what she was pleased to consider his
minority; and she surrendered the power into his hands with great
reluctance, since it enabled her to employ her _paramour_ as
minister, and enjoy his society as much as she pleased, under the
pretence of holding _privy councils_ upon affairs of great public
interest.[4] He used to communicate his fears to me; and I was not
without apprehension that his mother might some day attempt to hasten
his death by poison. About a month before his death he wrote to me to
say that spears had been found stuck in the ground, under the water
where he was accustomed to swim, with their sharp points upwards;
and, had he not, contrary to his usual practice, walked into the
water, and struck his foot against one of them, he must have been
killed. This was, no doubt, a thing got up by some designing person
who wanted to ingratiate himself with the young man; for the mother
was too shrewd a woman ever to attempt her son's life by such awkward
means. About four months before I reached the capital, this amiable
young prince died, leaving two paternal uncles, a mother, a widow,
and one sister, the wife of one of our Sâgar pensioners, Morîsar Râo.
The mother claimed the inheritance for her grandson by this daughter,
a very handsome young lad, then at Jhânsî, on the pretence that her
son had adopted him on his death-bed. She had his head shaved, and
made him go through all the other ceremonies of mourning, as for the
death of his real father. The eldest of his uncles, Raghunâth Râo,
claimed the inheritance as the next heir; and all his party turned
the young lad out of caste as a Brahman, for daring to go into
mourning for a father who was yet alive; one of the greatest of
crimes, according to Hindoo law, for they would not admit that he had
been adopted by the deceased prince.[5]

The question of inheritance had been referred for decision to the
Supreme Government through the prescribed channel when I arrived, and
the decision was every day expected. The mother, with her daughter
and grandson, and the widow, occupied the castle, situated on a high
hill overlooking the city; while the two uncles of the deceased
occupied their private dwellings in the city below. Raghunâth Râo,
the eldest, headed the procession that came out to meet me about
three miles, mounted upon a fine female elephant, with his younger
brother by his side. The minister, Nârû Gopâl, followed, mounted upon
another, on the part of the mother and widow. Some of the Râjâ's
relations were upon two of the finest male elephants I have ever
seen; and some of their friends, with the 'Bakshî', or paymaster
(always an important personage), upon two others. Raghunâth Râo's
elephant drew up on the right of mine, and that of the minister on
the left; and, after the usual compliments had passed between us, all
the others fell back, and formed a line in our rear. They had about
fifty troopers mounted upon very fine horses in excellent condition,
which curvetted before and on both sides of us; together with a good



Online LibraryWilliam SleemanRambles and Recollections of an Indian Official → online text (page 24 of 72)