Imagens das páginas

and luxurious inclinations never have been denied. Examples, to be sure, are fewer in these than in former times; but, in the present fallen state of their fortunes, they continue to display the same propensities, tastes, and appetites, which characterised more extensively the age of their richer fathers.

· The mixed tribes of Hindoos, composing the grcat mass of the Hine doo population, are certainly under no legal restraints in this respect. Accordingly, the higher classes who can afford it consume meat daily. Many, it is true, from affectation of Brahminical purity, content themselves with simpler food; and some may be supposed, as in other countries, to prefer it ; but the custom of eating animal food is so general, as for example, in Bombay, that a public bazaar or market-place, is there set apart for the convenience of the Hindoos, in which mutton, kid, lamb, and fish, are daily sold for Hindoo consumption. It is situated in a separate quarter of the town from that in which meat is sold for the use of the Europeans, and Mussulmans; because in the latter, the flesh of oxen, and cows, and beef calves, killed by low caste people, being exposed, is offensive to Hindoo superstition. I have a personal knowledge of Hindoo families of wealth and respectability, persons, indeed, who claim descent from the second or Cshatrya caste, in which the meats and fish furnished in this bazaar enter into their ordinary and daily meals.

The Indian seas abound with fish ; and the coasts of India, for many thousand miles in extent, are lined with fishermen, who all eat animal food. It has often been remarked that no towns or villages are so populous, in proportion to their extent, as those occupied by fishermen ; and the quantities of fish cured on the coast, to be afterwards conveyed for consumption into the interior of the country, is immense. The palankeen bearers are Hindoos, mostly fishermen; and no man, who has kept a palankeen in India, but knows the thankfulness with which his bearers receive a present of a sheep or goat, and the good appetite with which they immediately feast upon it. The Hindoos are in many parts addicted to hunting, and eat wild hog, venison, and other descriptions of game.

* There are, besides, other low castes, such as Dheras, Halalcores, Chandalas, Mochees, and other denominations, who, being found all over India, consequently constitute in the aggregate a numerous body, and who are so fond of meat, as in their state of degradation and poverty, actually to devour carrion with great avidity, when they can get nothing better. To these may be added another race, also spread over the face of the country, who live by entrapping wild animals and birds; and are exceedingly expert in their calling. In Guzerat this tribe are called Vagrees or Wagrees, and they avowedly eat the flesh of every bird and beast, without distinction—whether killed, or dying a natural death.

'To these instances many more might be added; but it is perhaps of more importance in the present question, to prove that the higher classes of the Hindoos are not prohibited the use of animal food. It has accordingly been shown that, with habitual or acquired objections to the flesh of cattle, they consume other animal meats daily, where they

have the means of so doing; and the fair inference from the preceding facts is, that poverty is the only check to a more extended use of this food, which, with the progress of wealth, might consequently become universal, or be only limited by the prejudices of the priesthood, who may always be expected to give to their habits a cast of oysterious peculiarity and self-denial, to excite more effectually the reverence and admiration of the vulgar.'

If any additional testimony had been wanting to prove the fallacy of the opinions so generally entertained with respect to the immutable castes and habits of the Hindoos, it would be found in the lately published Journal of Bishop Heber. Every one who has looked into this work, must be deeply impressed with admiration of the good sense, the calm discriminating judgment, and the truly benevolent feelings of its learned and amiable author. In describing the condition of the natives of India, Dr Heber bas not trusted to the reports of others, but has told what he himself saw and carefully examined. The testimony of such a witness is invaluable. He had peculiar opportunities of observation; and his candour and discrimination are too conspicuous, to allow us to entertain any doubts with respect to the authenticity of his statements. Such being the high and deserved character of Dr Heber's work, we think Mr Rickards did right in extracting from it some of the more prominent passages, bearing on the subjects he had been discussing. The trouble of reference to two large volumes is thus avoided; and the passages, when brought together, and their incidence on the different questions pointed out, are calculated to have greater weight than might be attached to them by the mass of ordinary readers, engaged in the perusal of Dr Heber's work. We shall subjoin a few of these extracts.

And first, as to the food of Hindoos, and the allegation that they are compelled to live wholly upon rice.' Dr Heber observes :

• The caste of fishermen does not rank high, though fish is considered as one of the purest and most lawful kinds of food. Nothing, indeed, seems more generally mistaken than the supposed prohibition of animal food to the Hindoos. It is not from any abstract desire to spare the life of living creatures, since fish would be a violation of this principle as well as beef, but from other notions of the ballowed or polluted nature of particular viands. Thus many Brahmins eat both fish and kid. The Rajepoots, besides these, eat mutton, venison, or goat's flesh. Some castes may eat any thing but fowls, beef, or pork, while pork is with others a favourite diet, and beef only is prohibited. (Journal, vol. i. p. 7.)

We have all heard of the humanity of the Hindoos towards brute creatures, their horror of animal food, &c.; and you may be perhaps as much surprised as I was, to find that those who can afford it are hardly

less carnivorous than ourselves; that even the purest Brahmins eat mutton and venison ; that fish is permitted to many castes, and pork to many others.' (Vol. ii. p. 306.)

I had always heard and fully believed till I came to India, that it was a grievous crime, in the opinion of the Brahmins, to eat the flesh or shed the blood of any living creature whatever. I have myself seen Brahmins of the highest caste cut off the head of goats as a sacrifice to doorga ; and I know from the testimony of Brahmins, as well as from other sources, that not only hecatombs of animals are often offered in this manner, as a most meritorious act; (a raja, about twenty-five years back, offered sixty thousand in one fortnight ;) but that any person, Brahmins not excepted, eats readily of the flesh of whatever has been offered up to one of their divinities, while among almost all the other castes, mutton, pork, venison, fish, any thing but beef and fowls, are consumed as readily as in Europe. (Vol. ii. p. 379.)

Let the reader next compare the following paragrapbs with the statements as to the alleged immutability of Hindoo habits; as to their being doomed to go · half-covered with a slight cot'ton cloth;' and as to their demand for European articles being confined, as was stated by Sir Thomas Monro, in his evidence before the House of Commons, to a ' few penknives, scissars, 6 and spectacles.'

Nor have the religious prejudices, and the unchangeableness of the Hindoo habits, been less exaggerated. Some of the best informed of their nation, with whom I have conversed, assure me, that half their most remarkable customs of civil and domestic life are borrowed from their Mahommedan conquerors; and at present there is an obvious and increasing disposilion to imitate the English in every thing, which has already led to very remarkable changes, and will, probably, to still more important. The wealthy natives now all affect to have their houses decorated with Corinthian pillars, and filled with English furuiture ; they drive the best horses and the most dashing carriages in Calcutta; many of them speak English fluently, and are tolerably read in English literature; and the children of one of our friends I saw one day dressed in jackets and trowsers, with round hats, shoes and stockings. In the Bengalee newspapers, of which there are two or three, politics are canvassed with a bias, as I am told, inclining to Whiggism ; and one of their leading men gave a great dinner, not long since, in honour of the Spanish revolution-among the lower orders the same feeling shows itself more beneficially in a growing neglect of caste.' (Vol. ii. p. 306.)

"To say that the Hindoos or Mussulmans are deficient in any essential feature of a civilized people, is an assertion which I can scarcely suppose to be made by any who have lived with them ; their manners are, at least, as pleasing and courteous as those in the corresponding stations of life among ourselves; their houses are larger, and, according to their wants and climate, to the full as convenient as ours ;-their architecture is at least as elegant ; nor is it true that in the mechanic arts, they are inferior to the general run of European nations. Where they fall short of us, (which is chiefly in agricultural implements, and the mechanics of common life,) they are not, so far as I have understood of Italy, and the South of France, surpassed in any degree by the people of those countries. Their goldsmiths and weavers produce as beautiful fabrics as our own; and it is so far from true that they are obstinately wedded to their old patterns, that they show an anxiety to imitate our models, and do imitate them very successfully. The ships built by native artists at Bombay are notoriously as good as any which sail from London or Liverpool. The carriages and gigs which they supply at Calcutta are as handsome, though not as durable, as those of Long Acre. In the little town of Monghyr, 300 miles from Calcutta, I had pistols, double-barrelled guns, and different pieces of cabinet work, brought down to my boat for sale, which in outward form (for I know no further) nobody but perhaps Mr

could detect to be of Hindoo origin ; and at Delhi, in the shop of a wealthy native jeweller, I found brooches, ear-rings, snuff-boxes, &c. of the latest models (so far as I am a judge,) and ornamented with French devices and mottos.' (Vol. ii. p. 382.)

As Bishop Heber penetrated into the interior of India, he found the same taste as in Calcutta, for European articles and for luxuries, to prevail everywhere among the natives. Of Benares, he writes as follows:

• But what surprised me still more, as I penetrated further into it, were the large, lofty, and handsome dwelling-houses, the beauty and apparent richness of the goods exposed in the bazaars, and the evident hum of business. Benares is in fact a very industrious and wealthy, as well as a very holy city. It is the great mart where the shawls of the north, the diamonds of the south, and the muslins of Dacca and the eastern provinces centre; and it has very considerable silk, cotton, and fine woollen manufactories of its own; while English hardware, swords, shields, and spears, from Lucknow and Monghyr, and those European luxuries and elegancies which are daily becoming more popular in India, circulate from hence through Bundlecund, Gorruckpoor, Nepaul, and other tracts which are removed from the main artery of the Ganges.' (Vol. i. p. 289.)

Proceeding still further into the interior of the country, and when at Nusseerabad, distant above 1000 miles from Calcutta, the Bishop continues his journal in the same strain, viz.

- European articles are, at Nusseerabad,* as might be expected, very dear; the shops are kept by a Greek and two Parsees from Bombay : they had in their list all the usual items of a Calcutta warehouse. English cotton cloths, both white and printed, are to be met with commonly in wear among the people of the country, and may, I learned to my surprise, be bought best and cheapest, as well as all kinds of hardware, crockery, writing-desks, &c. at Pallee, a large town and celebrated mart in Marwar, on the edge of the desert, several days' journey west of

* Nusscerabad, near Ajmere, in the heart of the Rajepoot country.

Joudpoor, where, till very lately, no European was known to have penetrated.' (Vol. ii. p. 36.)

As to the character of the Hindoos, their capacity, and even anxious desire for improvement, the Bishop's testimony is equally clear and decided; and as this is a point of pre-eminent importance, the reader's attention is requested to the following statements.

• In the schools which have been lately established in this part of the empire, of which there are at present nine established by the Church Missionary, and eleven by the Christian Knowledge Societies, some very unexpected facts have occurred. As all direct attempts to convert the children are disclaimed, the parents send them without scruple. But it is no less strange than true, that there is no objection made to the use of the Old and New Testament as a class-book ; that so long as the teachers do not urge them to eat what will make them lose their caste, or to be baptized, or to curse their country's gods, they readily consent to every thing else ; and not only Mussulmans, but Brahmins, stand by with perfect coolness, and listen sometimes with apparent interest and pleasure, while the scholars, by the road side, are reading the stories of the creation and of Jesus Christ. (Vol. ii. p. 290.)

Hearing all I had heard of the prejudices of the Hindoos and Mus. sulmans, I certainly did not at all expect to find that the common people would, not only without objection, but with the greatest thankfulness, send their children to schools on Bell's system ; and they seem to be fully sensible of the advantages conferred by writing, arithmetic, and, above all, by a knowledge of English. There are now in Calcutta, and the surrounding villages, twenty boys' schools containing 60 to 120 each ; and twenty-three girls', each of 25 or 30. (Vol. ii. p. 300.)

• Though instances of actual conversion to Christianity, are, as yet, very uncommon, yet the number of children, both male and female, who are now receiving a sort of Christian education, reading the New Testament, repeating the Lord's prayer and Commandments, and all with the consent, at least without the censure of their parents or spiritual guides, have increased during the last two years, to an amount which astonishes the old European residents, who were used to tremble at the name of a missionary, and shrink from the common duties of Christianity, lest they should give offence to their heathen neighbours. So far from that being a consequence of the zeal which has been lately shown, many of the Brahmins themselves express admiration of the morality of the Gospel, and profess to entertain a better opinion of the English since they have found that they too have a religion and a Shaster. All that seems necessary for the best effects to follow is, to let things take their course, to make the missionaries discreet, to keep the government as it now is, strictly neuter, and to place our confidence in a general diffusion of knowledge, and in making ourselves really useful to the temporal as well as spiritual interests of the people among whom we live. In all these points there is indeed great room for improvement. I do not by any means assent to the pictures of depravity and general worthlessness which some have drawn of the Hindoos. They are decidedly, by nature,

« AnteriorContinuar »