Page images
PDF
EPUB

pour and Golconda. The ruby, sapphire, topaz, turmalin, and other precious stones, are among the productions of Hindoostan. Gold is found in the rivers flowing into the Ganges from Tibet, but not in mines. 754. Pofiulation and State of Society. The inhabitants of Hindoostan are estimated at 60 millions. These are divided into four classes or casts—the bramins, or priests; the cheteree, or military men ; the bice, or merchants and men of business ; and the sooders, who are servants and laborers. Below these are the flarians, a set of outcasts who are held in the utmost detestation. It is now asserted and believed that the gipseys of Europe are fugitives of the pariar class, who fled from the cruelties of Timur, who conquered Hindoostan about the year 1400. 755. Religion. The Hindoos are the followers of Brahma, who is supposed to have been the progenitor of men. From him the ancient Brachmans, or philosophers, and modern Bramins, or priests, seem to have derived their name. They acknowledge a supreme God, and many subaltern deities. - Their temples are filled with idols in monstrous shapes. They believe in the transmigration of souls, and hold a feast in honor of the sun. Their principal idol is Boodh, who was probably some deified philosopher. Their religion and sacred mysteries are contained in the vedas, or sacred books, and the shaster, or commentary on the vedas. These are written in the Sanscrit, the ancient language of Hin

doostan, which is now understood only by the Bramins.

In these books are all the precepts of the Hindoo religion, which has connected with it all the duties of social life. 756. Government. Hindoostan has at times been mostly subjected to emperors, or great conquerors and their descendants, as to, Timur, the Mongul invader. But in the beginning of the last century, on the death of Aurengzeb, the Mongul empire was gradually dissolved by means of competitions for the sovreignty and civil wars. . From that time the country has been subject to * number of rajah kings or princes. Some of them have under them ryots and zemindars, who possess large tracts of land, on condition of paying rent to the prince: Since the middle of the last century, the English have interfered in the disputes between the princes, and have gradually extended their government over several large provinces, amounting to nearly a fourth of Hindoostan. The government of the native princes is despotic and oppressive. 757. Manners and Customs. The Hindoos are black, with long black hair and good persons. They are mild, obedient, faithful and ingenious, extremely temperate, abstaining from animal food and intoxicating liquors. Polygamy is practiced, but one wife is supreme. The custom of burning a widow with the corpse of her husband is not yet extinct, tho less common than formerly. The tribes or casts are forbid to intermarry, and to eat or drink with each other, so that they are separated by insurmountable barriers ; and each family follow the occupation of their ancestors from generation to generation. All their customs, fashions, every thing among them is regulated by their religion. 758. Food, Dress, Buildings. The Hindoos subsist chiefly on rice, milk and vegetables. The inferior casts are forbid to eat flesh, but the military tribe may eat the flesh of goats, sheep and poultry, and other superior tribes may eat poultry and fish. In so warm a climate, little clothing is necessary ; a single piece of cotton cloth sometimes answers the purpose. The houses are of earth or bricks, covered with mortar or cement, with no windows or only small openings. There is usually only a ground floor, inclosing a court, with a small gailery supported by pillars. Their amusements are said to consist in religious processions. 759. Language and Literature. The ancient language of Hindoostan, called the Sanscrit, is now obsolete, and known only in old books which are studied by the Bramins. The languages in use in this extensive country are ten different dialects, and most of them written in different characters. The learning of the Hindoos is confined to a few men, and altho they have many books, yet if we may judge of their literature by such translations as have been made from them, they contain little which can interest the people of Europe and America. The art of printing was not known by the Hindoos, till introduced by the English, and their history, contained in perishable manuscripts, consists mostly of fables. There are some universities and schools of repute, as at Benares, and in Deccan. 760. Mangfactures. The cotton manufactures of Hindoostan are well known, and have been celebrated from antiquity. The muslins and calicoes of that country constitute important articles of export. The shawls of Cashmir are highly esteemed. In manufactures few tools are used, and it is said a loom is reared under a tree in the morning, and carried home in the evening. 76.1. British Possessions. The British East India company first began to trade and formed establishments in Hindoostan. This company is supported by the British government, the power of whose arms has extended her empire over a considerable portion of Hindoostan. On the Ganges, the British possess Bengal, Bahar, and Benares, comprehending a territory of 550 miles in length, by 300 in bredth. They possess several other parts of Hindosstan, all which are supposed to contain 14 millions of inhabitants. 762. Government, Army and Revenue. The government of the English possessions is vested in a governorgeneral and a council, who direct all affairs, civil and military. The judiciary consists of a chief justice, and three other judges, with jurisdiction over civil, criminal, naval and ecclesiastical affairs. The military force consists of a few British regiments, and a considerable body of Seapoys, who are Hindoo militia. The revenue is computed at about 19 millions of dollars, two thirds of which is required to support the civil and military establishments. 763. Chief Towns. Calcutta. The chief city of the British possessions in Hindoostan is Calcutta, in the 23d degree of north latitude, upon the western channel or outlet of the Ganges, called Hoogley, a hundred miles from the sea. This city has not a salubrious situation, having stagnant waters in its vicinity, but it has lately

been improved by draining. The streets of Calcutta, as of all the great towns in Hindoostan, are narrow and crooked, some of them paved with bricks, others not ;

, the houses are constructed of brick or mud, or of bam

boos and mats, except the English quarter, which is composed of elegant brick edifices. The city contains half a million of inhabitants. 764. Commerce and Improvements of Calcutta. The river is navigable to Calcutta for the largest India ships, and the commerce is great. The exports consist of salt, sugar, salt-peter, silks and muslins, opium, and various other articles. The English trade of India is enjoyed by a company, whose charter is from time to time renewed by parliament. The English have established a society for the promotion of literature in Calcutta, called the Asiatic Society, which enjoys a high reputation, while the publications from the press rival those of Europe. A college is founded in the same city, with professors of the English, Hindoo and Mallometan law, as well as of the usual sciences. The languages to be taught are Arabic, Persian, Sanscrit, Hindostanee, Bengal, Maratta, and other dialects of that country. 765. Patna and Benares. Patna, the capital of the province of Bahar, is on the Ganges, about 400 miles above Calcutta. Most of the salt-peter exported from Calcutta is from Bahar. Benares, a rich, populous city, 60 miles above Patna, on the north bank of the Ganges, is said to have been the first seat of Braminical knowledge. These are in the British dominions. Formerly Agra, upon the river Jumna, was the seat of the Mongul empire. The Mahometans, who conquered this part of Hindoostan, fixed the seat of empire at Delhi, as did the more recent conquerors. These cities are immensely large, but since the decline of the Mahometan and Mongul empires, are very much diminished. 766. Surat and Bombay. Surat, on the river Taptee, below the gulf of Cambay, is said to contain half a million of inhabitants, a great part of whom are Arabs, Persians, Monguls and Turks. It is a place of extensive trade, and the port whence the Mahometans set sail on their pilgrimage to Mecca. Bombay, on a small island,

[ocr errors]

is a large city, with a good harbor, and well fortified. It was ceded to England by the Portuguese, in 1662, as a part of the dower of the queen of Charles II. and is the seat of one of the English presidencies. 767. Other Cities. . In Mysore on the west and south is Scringapatam, a large town, on an island surrounded by the river Caveri. This is remarkable for being inclosed by a hedge of 30 or 40 feet wide, consisting of every kind of thorn to be found in the country. A Calicut, on the sea shore, is memorable for being the first port visit. ed by the Portuguese, who discovered India under Vasco de Gama, and for giving name to the calicoes, a species of muslins which are common./. On the eastern side of the promontory is Madras, in the Carnatic, containing 80,000 people, but it has no harbor, nor is there a harbor on the Coromandel coast, from Cape Comorin to the Ganges, a distance of 1000 miles. 768. General Remarks on the Hindoos of the South. The complexion of the Hindoos varies, in proceeding from north to south, from a brown or olive color to a deep black. In the Carnatic and Mysore, the Hindoos are of a mild, submissive character, rendered effeminate by the heat of the climate, and a total abstingnee from animal food. Most of them have little clothing, others wear long muslin dresses, with a turban, and large gold ear-rings, forming a striking contrast with their black faces. Their houses consist of walls covered with a fine stucco, with long colonnades, open porticoes, and flat roofs. No cielings are used, for none will resist the ravages of the white ants, which attack and destroy every kind of wood to which they can gain access. A common mode of travelling is in palankins, which are borne on the shoulders of four men, and covered with a canopy. -4ASIATIC ISLANDS. 769. Ceylon. East of Cape Comorin lies Ceylon, an island of 240 miles in length, and 150 inbredth. It was known to the ancients by the name of Taprobana; seized by the Portuguese in 1506, and taken by the Dutch in 1869, who subdued the natives in 1766. It has been

« PreviousContinue »