Travels in the Mogul Empire, A.D. 1656-1668
About this text
Travels in the Mogul Empire was published in 1891. It was written by Francois Bernier. Francois Bernier was born in 1620. A French doctor and traveller, he held an official role as a physician at the courts of Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb. He died in 1688. In Travels in the Mogul Empire one gets to know of the court proceedings and the state of the native inhabitants. Primary Reading Bernier, Francois, Travels in the Mogul Empire, Asian Educational Services. Seconadry Reading Tavernier, Jean Baptiste, Travels in India, Volume 1, Oxford University Press. Tavernier, Jean Baptiste, Travels in India, Volume 2, Oxford University Press.
TRAVELS IN THE MOGUL EMPIRE AD 1656-1668 BY FRANCOIS BERNIER M.D OF THE FACULTY OF MONTPELLIER A REVISED AND IMPROVED EDITION BASED UPON IRVlNG BROCK'S TRANSLATION BY ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE
WESTMINSTER ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND COMPANY 14 PARLIAMENT STREET S.W MDCCCXCI
TO THE KING
SIRE, The Indians maintain that the mind of a man cannot always be occupied with serious affairs, and that he remains forever a child in this respect: that, to develop what is good in him, almost as much care must be taken to amuse him as to cause him to study. This may be true with regard to the natives of Asia, but Judging by all the great things I hear said everywhere regarding FRANCE and her MONARCH, from the Ganges and the Indus, the Tigris, and the Euphrates, unto the Seine, I have some difficulty in believing this to be a saying capable of universal application. Nevertheless I will still venture to offer HIM this History, because it seems to me capable of affording some hours of amusement to a KING, who might wish to find occasional relaxation from weighty affairs of State; not only because it is a Tragedy which I have just seen acted in one of the largest Theatres in the World, but from the fact of its being varied by several great and extraordinary incidents, affecting one of the most illustrious of the Royal Families of Asia. I cannot, however, doubt that it is written in a style devoid of elegance, and somewhat badly arranged, but I hope that His MAJESTY will chiefly take into His consideration the subject, and that He will consider it nothing very extraordinary that during my long absence, whether wandering about the World, or attached to a Foreign Court, my language may have become semi-barbarous. Moreover, I am well pleased to return from such a distance, not quite empty handed before His MAJESTY, and lay claim by this means to voider HIM some account of so many years of my life, spent in absence from His Kingdom, for I have always remembered, no matter how far away I may have been, that I had a Master to whom I was accountable, being,
TO THE READER
I will not recount to you in a formal manner the Manners and Customs, the Learning and the Pursuits of the Mogols and the Indians, but will endeavour to make them known to you through Facts and actual Occurrences, by describing in the first place a Civil War and Revolution in which all the leading Statesmen of that nation took a part, adding thereto, that you may the better understand my narrative, a Map of the Country, which however I do not desire to put forth as absolutely correct, but merely as less incorrect than others that I have seen. Secondly, by relating some of the most important events which took place between the end of the War and my leaving the country; and thirdly, by means of Correspondence, which appears to me necessary to accomplish my purpose.
Should I be so fortunate as to succeed, I shall feel encouraged to publish other Letters concerning my Travels, and to translate from the Persian an Abridgment of an Ancient and Important History of the Kings of Kachmire, which was compiled by order of King Jehan-Guyre, the son of that great Ekbar who so skilfully contrived to possess himself of that Kingdom.
THE desire of seeing the world, which had induced me to visit Palestine and Egypt, still prompted me to extend my travels, and I formed the design of exploring the Red Sea from one end to the other. In pursuance of this plan, I quitted Grand Cairo, where I had resided more than a year, and in two-and-thirty hours (travelling at a Caravaw-rate) reached the town of Suez. Here I embarked in a galley, and was conveyed in seventeen days, always hugging the coast, from Sues to the port of Gidda, half a day's journey from Mecca. Contrary to my expectation, and in violation of a promise which I had received from the Beig of the Red Sea, I was constrained to land on this so-called holy territory of Mahomet, where no Christian, who is not a slave, dares set his foot. After a detention of nearly five weeks, I took my passage on board a small [Page 2] vessel, which, sailing along the shores of Arabia Felix, brought me in fifteen days to Moka, near the straits of Bab-el-mandel. It was now my intention to pass over to the island of Masowa, and Arkiko, on my way to Gonder the capital of Habech, or Kingdom of Ethiopia; but I was informed that Catholics were not safe in that country, since the period when, through the intrigues of the Queen Mother, the Portuguese were slaughtered, or expelled, with the Jesuit Patriarch whom they had brought thither from Goa; and that, in fact, an unhappy Capuchin had been recently beheaded at Stiaken, for having attempted to enter the kingdom. It seemed, indeed, that less risk would be incurred if I adopted the disguise of a Greek or an Armenian; and that when the King knew I could be of service to him, he would probably make me a grant of land, which might be cultivated by slaves, if I possessed the means of purchasing them ; but that I should, at the same time, be compelled to marry immediately, as a monk, who had assumed the character of a Greek physician, had already been obliged to do ; and that I could never hope to obtain permission to quit the country.
These considerations, among others which may be mentioned in the sequel, induced me to abandon my intention of visiting Gonder. I embarked, therefore, in [Page 3] an Indian vessel, passed the straits of Bab-el-mandel, and in two-and-twenty days arrived at Sourate, in Hindoustan, the empire of the Great Mogol. I found that the reigning prince was named Chah-Jehan, or King of the World.
According to the annals of the country, he was the son of Jehan-Guyre, or Conqueror of the World, and grandson of Ekbar, or the Great: so that in tracing Iris genealogy upwards to Homayon, or the Fortunate, the father of Ekbar, and to Houmayoris predecessors, Chah-Jehan was proved to be the tenth, in regular descent, from Timur Lengue, the Lame Lord or Prince, who we commonly, but corruptly, call Tamerlan.1. This Tamerlan, so celebrated for his conquests, married a kinswoman, the only daughter of the prince who then reigned over the people of Great Tartary called Mogols; a name which they have communicated to the foreigners who now govern Indonsian, the country of the Indous, or Indians. It must not, however, be inferred that offices of trust and dignity are exclusively held by those of the Mogol race, or that they alone obtain rank in the army. These situations are filled indifferently by them and strangers from all countries; the greater part by Persians, some by Arabs, and others by Turks. To be considered a Mogol, it is enough if a foreigner have a white face and profess Mahometanism ; in contradistinction to the Christians of Europe, who are called Franguis, and to the Indotis, whose complexion is brown, and who are Genitles.4 [Page 4] I learnt also on my arrival that this King of the World, Chah-Jehan} who was about seventy years of age, was the father of four sons and two daughters; that some years had elapsed since he elevated his sons to the vice-royalty of his four most considerable provinces or kingdoms ; and that he had been afflicted, for about the space of a twelvemonth, with a disorder which it was apprehended would terminate fatally. The situation of the father having inspired the sons with projects of ambition, each laid claim to the empire, and a war was kindled among them which continued about five years.
This war, as I witnessed some of the most important of its events, I shall endeavour to describe. During a period of eight years I was closely attached to the court; for the state of penury to which I had been reduced by various adventures with robbers, and by the heavy expenses incurred on a journey of nearly seven weeks, from Sourate to Agra and Dehli, the chief towns of the empire, had induced me to accept a salary from the Great Mogol, in the capacity of physician ; and soon afterwards, by chance, I procured another from Danechmend-Kcm,2, the most learned man of Asia, formerly Bakchis, or Grand Master of the Horse, and one of the most powerful and distinguished Omralis or Lords of the Court.
The eldest son of the Great Mogol was named Dara, or [Page 5] Darius : the second Sultan Sujah, or the Valiant Prince : the third was Aureng-Zebe, or the Throne's Ornament; and the name of the youngest was Morad-Bakche, or the Desire Accomplished. Of the two daughters, the elder was called Begum-Saheh, or the Chief Princess; and the younger Rauchenara-Begum, the Light of Princesses, or Princess of the Enlightened Mind.
The reason why such names are given to the great, instead of titles derived from domains and seigniories, as usual in Europe, is this : as the land throughout the whole empire is considered the property of the sovereign, there can be no earldoms, marquisates or duchies. The royal grants consist only of pensions, either in land or money, which the king gives, augments, retrenches or takes away at pleasure.
Dara was not deficient in good qualities: he was courteous in conversation, quick at repartee, polite, and extremely liberal: but he entertained too exalted an opinion of himself; believed he could accomplish everything by the powers of his own mind, and imagined that there existed no man from whose counsel he could derive benefit. He spoke disdainfully of those who ventured to advise him, and thus deterred his sincerest friends from disclosing the secret machinations of his brothers. He was also very irascible; apt to menace; abusive and insulting even to the greatest Omrahs; but his anger was seldom more than momentary. Born a Mahometan, he continued to join in the exercises of that religion; but although thus publicly professing his adherence to its faith, Dara was in private a Gentile with Gentiles, and a Christian with Christians.
He had, moreover, for some time lent a willing ear to the suggestions of the Reverend Father Buzee, a Jesuit, in the truth and propriety of which he began to acquiesce.
contrary, it will be found in the course of this narrative, that the reason assigned by Aureng-Zebe for causing him to be beheaded was, that he had turned Kafer, that is to say an infidel, without religion, an idolater. Sultan Sujah, the second son of the Great Mogol, resembled in many characteristic traits his brother Dara; but he was more discreet, firmer of purpose, and excelled him in conduct and address. He was sufficiently dexterous in the management of an intrigue; and by means of repeated largesses, bestowed secretly, knew how to acquire the friendship of the great Omrahs, and, in particular, of the most powerful Rajas, such as Jessomseingue and others. He was, nevertheless, too much a slave to his pleasures
He presented his favourites with rich robes, and increased or diminished their allowances as the passing fancy of the moment prompted. No courtier, who consulted his own interest, would atteinpt to detach him from this mode of life: the business of government therefore often languished, and the affections of his subjects were in a great measure alienated.
Sultan Sujah declared himself of the religion of the Persians, although his father and brothers professed that of the Turks.
Aureng-Zebe, the third brother, was devoid of that urbanity and engaging presence, so much admired in Dara : but he possessed a sounder judgment, and was more skilful in selecting for confidants such persons as were best qualified to serve him with faithfulness and ability. He distributed his presents with a liberal but discriminating hand among those whose goodwill it was essential to preserve or cultivate
Still his life had been one of undeviating intrigue and contrivance; conducted, however, with such admirable skill, that every person in the court, excepting only his brother, Dara, seemed to form an erroneous estimate of his character.
Morad-Bakche, the youngest of the Mogol's sons, was inferior to his three brothers in judgment and address. His constant thought was how he might enjoy himself.
the pleasures of the table and of the field engaged his undivided attention. He was, however, generous and polite. He used to boast that he had no secrets : he despised cabinet intrigues, and wished it to be known that he trusted only to his sword and to the strength of his arm. He was indeed full of courage; and if that courage had been under the guidance of a little more discretion, it is probable, as we shall see, that he would have prevailed over his three brothers, and remained the undisputed master of Hindoustan.
Begum-Saheb, the elder daughter of Chah-Jehan, was very handsome, of lively parts, and passionately beloved by her father.
This Princess accumulated great riches by means [Page 12] of her large allowances, and of the costly presents which flowed in from all quarters, in consideration of numberless negotiations intrusted to her sole management.
Ratichenara-Begum, the Mogol's younger daughter, was less beautiful than her sister, neither was she so remarkable for understanding; she was nevertheless possessed of the same vivacity, and equally the votary of pleasure. She became the ardent partisan of Aureng-Zebe, and made no secret of her enmity to Begum-Saheb and Dara. This might be the reason why she amassed but little wealth, and took but an inconsiderable part in public affairs. Still, as she was an inmate of the Seraglio, and not deficient in artifice, she succeeded in conveying, by means of spies, much valuable intelligence to Aureng-Zebe.
Some years previous to the war, the turbulent disposition of his four sons had filled Chah-Jehan with perplexity and alarm. They were all married and of adult age ; but, in utter disregard of the ties of consanguinity, each, animated by deadly hatred toward the others, had set up his pretensions to the crown, so that the court was divided into separate factions.
To save himself, therefore, from some impending and overwhelming calamity, Chah-Jehan resolved to bestow upon his sons the government of four distant provinces. Sultan Sijah was appointed to Bengale ; Aureng-Zebe to the Decan; Morad-Bakche to Guzarate; and Dara to Caboul and Moultan.
Dara, because he was the eldest son and expected to succeed to the crown, did not quit the court of his father. Chah-Jehan, appearing to encourage that expectation, authorised his son to issue orders, and permitted him to occupy an inferior throne, placed among the Omrahs, beneath his own; so that two kings seemed to reign with almost equal power ; but there is reason to believe that the Mogol practised much duplicity, and that, notwithstanding the respectful and affectionate [Page 16] demeanour of Dara, his father was never cordially attached to him. The old monarch lived in continual dread of being poisoned, and carried on, it is supposed, a secret correspondence with Aureng-Zebe, of whose talents for government he always entertained a high opinion During the time that Aureng-Zebe was intrusted with the government of the Decan the King of Golkonda had for his Vizier and general of his armies this Emir-Jemla, a Persian by birth,2 and celebrated throughout Hindoustan. The Vizier's lineage was not noble, but his talents were of the first order: he was an accomplished soldier, and deeply [Page 17] versed in business. His wealth, which was prodigious, he had acquired, not only by the opportunities afforded him as chief minister of an opulent kingdom, but likewise by means of his extensive commerce with various parts of the world, as well as by the diamond mines which he farmed under feigned names. These mines were worked with indefatigable industry, and it was usual to count his diamonds by the sacks-full.1 His political influence, it may readily be imagined, was also very great, commanding as he did not only the armies of the king, but keeping in his own pay a formidable body of troops, with a corps of artillery composed principally of Franks or Christians. It ought likewise to be mentioned that the Vizier having found a pretext for the invasion of the Karnatic, pillaged the whole of its ancient idol-temples, and thus increased his pecuniary resources to an incredible amount.3
The jealousy of the King of Golkonda was naturally awakened: and he eagerly, but silently, sought an opportunity to destroy, or remove from his presence, one whom he regarded as a dangerous rival rather than an obedient subject. Surrounded by persons devoted to the interest of the minister, he felt the prudence of concealing his intentions; but in an unguarded moment, when informed for the first time of the improper intimacy subsisting between Emir-Jemla and the queen-mother, who still retained much beauty, he gave utterance to the feelings by which he had so long been oppressed, and denounced vengeance against this powerful offender.
The Vizier was at this time in the Karnatic; but, every important office at court being filled by his own and his wife's relations and friends, he was soon made acquainted with the danger which awaited him.
Aureng-Zebe, ever intent upon projects of ambition ....He proceeded at once towards the territory of the King of Golkonda, and with such address was the plot conducted, that when the Prince reached Bagnagver, no one doubted that this formidable body of horse accompanied an embassy from the Great Mogol.
Although disappointed of his prey, Aureng-Zebe felt that that there was no occasion for alarm, and that he might securely prosecute his endeavours to obtain possession of the King's person. The entire spoliation of the palace was his next act. He stript it of all its costly contents, but sent the women to the King, according to a custom most scrupulously observed amongst Eastern despots. He then determined to besiege the King in his fortress, but as he was without a supply of the necessary munitions of war the siege was protracted, and Chah-Jehan, two months after its commencement, peremptorily commanded his son to relinquish his enterprise, and return without delay to the Decai; so that, although the fortress had been reduced to the last extremities from the want of provisions and war material, he was obliged to retire.
Aureng-Zebe was aware that in issuing these orders, the Mogol was influenced by Dara and Begum [Saheb] who foresaw that if permitted to pursue his designs against the King of Golkonda, he would become too powerful. The Prince, however, betrayed no resentment, but acknowledged the duty of implicit obedience to his father's commands. Before he retired he received ample identification for the expense of the armament, and stipulated that Emir-Jemla should have free permission to remove with his family, property, and troops, and that the silver coin of the realm should in future bear the arms of Chah Jehan. Moreover, he married his son Sultan Mahmoud to the King's eldest daughter, exacted a promise that the young Prince should be nominated successor to the throne of Golkonda, and received, as the Princess's [Page 22] dowry, the fortress of Ram-guyre with the whole of its appurtenances.
These two great men, Emir-Jemla and Aureng-Zebe, were not long together before they planned great enterprises, and while returning to the Decan, they besieged and captured Bider, one of the strongest places in Visapour. They then proceeded to Daulet-Abad, in which city they lived upon terms of the closest intimacy, forming gigantic plans of future aggrandizement. Their union may be remembered as an important epoch in the history of Hindoustan : it prepared the way for the greatness and renown of Aureng-Zebe.
Jemla, who had by his address contrived to obtain frequent invitations to the court of Chah-Jehan, repaired at length to Agra, and carried the most magnificent presents, in the hope of inducing the Mogol to declare war against the Kings of Golkonda and Visapour, and against the Portuguese. On this occasion it was that he presented Chah-Jehan with that celebrated diamond which has been generally deemed unparalleled in size and beauty.4
The diamonds may have produced their effect upon the mind of Chah-Jehan; but it is the more received opinion that he was glad of a pretext for raising an army which should restrain the growing insolence of his eldest son and that it was for this reason he entered into the views of Jemla. Whatever were his motives, he resolved to send an army towards the Decan under the Emir's command. Dara had incurred his father's displeasure by his recent and undisguised attempts to become paramount in power and authority : but there was one act of his which Chah Jehan regarded with peculiar horror and indignation, and which he was least disposed to forgive, the murder of Vizier Sadidlah-Kan, a nobleman whom the Mogol considered the most accomplished statesman of Asia, and for whom he felt a warmth of friendship that became quite proverbial.
It was evident to Dara that to send troops to the Decan was in effect to increase, by so many men, the strength of Aureng-Zebe. He opposed the measure, therefore, with many arguments and entreaties, and by every art he could devise. Such was the state of Hindoustan when the Mogol, who had passed his seventieth year, was seized with a disorder, the nature of which it were unbecoming to describe. Suffice it to state that it was disgraceful to a man of [Page 25] his age, who, instead of wasting, ought to have been careful to preserve the remaining vigour of his constitution. The Mogol's illness filled the whole extent of his dominions with agitation and alarm. Dara collected powerful armies in Dehli and Agra, the principal cities of the kingdom. In Bengale, Sidtan Sujah made the same vigorous preparations for war. Aureng-Zebe in the Decan, and Morad-Bakche in Guzarate, also levied such forces as evinced a determination to contend for empire. The four brothers gathered around them their friends and allies ; all wrote letters, made large promises, and entered into a variety of intrigues. Dara, having intercepted some of these letters, showed them to his father, inveighing bitterly against his brothers; and Begtim [Saheb], his sister, availed herself of so advantageous an opportunity to prejudice the Mogol against his three rebellious sons : but Chah-Jehan placed no confidence in Dara, and suspecting he had a design to poison him, swallowed no food without the utmost fear and caution. It is even thought that he corresponded at this time with Aureng-Zebe, and that Dara, being apprised of the circumstance, was transported with rage to such a degree as to threaten his father. Meanwhile, the King's distemper increased, and it was reported that he was dead : the whole court was in confusion; the population of Agra was panic-stricken; the shops were closed for many days, and the four Princes openly declared their settled purpose of making the sword the sole arbiter of their lofty pretensions. It was, in fact, too late to recede : not only was the crown to be gained by victory alone, but in case of defeat life was certain to be forfeited. There was now no choice between a kingdom and death : as Chah-Jehan had ascended the throne by imbruing his hands in the blood of his own brothers, so the unsuccessful candidates on the present [Page 26] occasion were sure to be sacrificed to the jealousy of the conqueror.
Sultan Sijah was the first who took the field. He had filled his coffers in the rich country of Bengale by utterly ruining some of the Rajas or Kinglets of that region, and by plundering others. He was therefore enabled to raise a numerous army: and confiding in the support of the Persian omrahs, whose religious views he had embraced, advanced rapidly on Agra.
Aureng-Zebe also published his proclamations, and put his forces in motion, much at the same time as Sultan Sujah. He, too, was meditating an advance on Agra when he received a similar prohibition, both from the King and from Dara; the latter of whom menaced him with punishment if he quitted the Decan. He dissembled, however, like his brother of Bengale, and returned a similar answer; but as his finances were not abundant, and his army was comparatively small, he endeavoured to obtain by fraud what he could not hope to gain by arms.
Chah-Jehan s situation was indeed distressing :—afflicted with disease, and almost a prisoner in the hands of Dara, who, guided by a furious resentment, breathed nothing but war, and was unwearied in preparations for conducting it with vigour;—while his other children, regardless of repeated injunctions, accelerated their march toward Agra. But what a sad alternative was left him in this extremity! his treasures, he saw, must be dissipated, abandoned to his sons, and squandered at their pleasure; he was compelled to summon around him his faithful and veteran captains, who were generally unfavourable to Dara, and whom nevertheless he must command to espouse his cause, and take the field against the other Princes, though in his heart the old monarch felt more affection for them than for Dara. The danger being most pressing on the side whence Sultan Sujah was advancing, an army was immediately sent against that prince, while another was assembled in order to encounter the combined forces of Aureng-Zebe and Morad-Bakche.
Jesseingue is at present one of the richest Rajas in Hindoustan, and perhaps the ablest man in the whole kingdom. The King gave him secret instructions to avoid, if possible, coming to an engagement, and to leave no method untried to induce Sujah to retrace his steps.
But all the efforts of Jesseingue to prevent a battle proved abortive. Soliman-Chekouh, on the one side, was full of military ardour, and ambitious of acquiring a great name; and, on the other Sultan Sujah apprehended that if he delayed his march, Aureng-Zebe might overcome Dara and gain possession of the two capital cities, Agra and Dehli. Thus the two armies were no sooner in sight, than a heavy cannonade commenced; but I need not detain my readers by detailing the particulars of this action, especially as I shall have to describe others of greater consequence : it is sufficient to state that the onset was impetuous on both sides, and that after a warm struggle Sultan Sujah was obliged to give way, and at length to fly in confusion.
It was summer, and the heat was intense ; the river therefore became fordable. Kasem-Kan and the Raja prepared for battle on perceiving, as they apprehended, a disposition on the part of Aureng-Zebe to force the river. But in point of fact, the whole of his army was not yet come up, and this was only a feint; for he feared that the enemy's troops might themselves cross the stream, cut him off from the water, attack him before the soldiers had recovered from their fatigue, and thus prevent him from taking up an advantageous position. It appears certain, indeed, that he was at this time totally incapable of opposing any effectual resistance, and that Kasem-Kan and the Raja might have obtained an easy victory. I was not present at this first encounter; but such was the opinion entertained by every spectator, especially by the French officers in Aureng-Zebe's artillery. The two commanders, however, were compelled by their secret orders quietly to take a position on the banks of the river, and to content themselves with disputing the passage.
His army having rested two or three days, Aureng-Zebe made the necessary dispositions for forcing the passage. Placing his artillery in a commanding position, he ordered the troops to move forward under cover of its fire. His progress was opposed by the cannon of the enemy, and the combat was at first maintained with great obstinacy. Jessomseingue displayed extraordinary valour, disputing every inch of ground with skill and pertinacity. With regard to Kasem-Kan, although it cannot be denied that he deserved the celebrity he had hitherto enjoyed, yet upon the present occasion he approved himself neither a dexterous general nor a courageous soldier: he was even suspected of treachery, and of having concealed in the sand, during the night that preceded the battle, the greater part of his ammunition, a few volleys having left the army without powder or ball. However this may be, [Page 39] the action was well supported, and the passage vigorously opposed. The assailants were much incommoded by rocks in the bed of the river ; and the uncommon height of its banks, in many parts, rendered it extremely difficult to gain a footing on the other side. The impetuosity of Morad-Bakche at length overcame every impediment; he reached the opposite bank with his corps, and was quickly followed by the remainder of the army. It was then that Kasem-Kan ingloriously fled from the field, leaving Jessomseingue exposed to the most imminent peril. That undaunted Raja was beset on all sides by an overwhelming force, and saved only by the affecting devotion of his Ragipous,' the greater part of whom died at his feet. Fewer than six hundred of these brave men, whose number at the commencement of the action amounted to nearly eight thousand, survived the carnage of that dreadful day. With this faithful remnant, the Raja retired to his own territory, not considering it prudent to return to Agra on account of the great loss he had sustained.
The word Ragipous signifies Sons of Rajas. These people are educated from one generation to another in the profession of arms. Parcels of land are assigned to them for their maintenance by the Rajas whose subjects they are, on condition that they shall appear in the field on the summons of their chieftain. They might be said to form a species of Gentile nobility, if the land were inalienable and descended to their children. From an early age they are accustomed to the use of opium, and I have sometimes been astonished to see the large quantity they swallow. On the day of battle they never fail to double the dose, and this drug so animates, or rather inebriates [Page 40] them, that they rush into the thickest of the combat insensible of danger. If the Raja be himself a brave man, he need never entertain an apprehension of being deserted by his followers : they only require to be well led, for their minds are made up to die in his presence rather than abandon him to his enemies. It is an interesting sight to see them on the eve of a battle, with the fumes of opium in their heads, embrace and bid adieu to one another, as if certain of death. Who then can wonder that the Great Mogol, though a Mahometan, and as such an enemy to the Gentiles, always keeps in his service a large retinue of Rajas, treating them with the same consideration as his other Omrahs, and appointing them to important commands in his armies ?1
Still more to increase the confidence of his troops, Aureng-Zebe vaunted aloud that in Dara's army there were thirty thousand Mogols devoted to his service; and that this was not entirely an empty boast will soon be made apparent. Morad-Bakche felt impatient of delay, and expressed his eagerness to push forward; but his brother repressed this ardour, representing the necessity of some repose on the banks of the beautiful river [Nerbudda], especially as it would afford an opportunity for corresponding with his friends, and ascertaining the situation of affairs.
If indeed Dara could have commanded fortune, and controlled events, his own reputation and peculiar interest might have been promoted by such a procedure. These were the considerations that actuated him, and which he could not altogether conceal:—he was master of the King's person; in possession of his treasure, and enjoying undivided authority over the royal armies. Sultan Sujah was already half ruined; his other brothers were come, with a weak and worn-out army, voluntarily, as it were, to throw themselves into his hands. Once defeated, they would have no way of escape ; he would then become absolute lord, attain the end of his labours, and ascend the throne without competition or difficulty.
Dara was compelled to abandon his fortifications, and pursue Aureng-Zebe, who advanced by rapid strides towards the river Gemna, on the banks of which he had time to intrench himself, refresh his men, and in his turn, await composedly the approach of the [Page 47] enemy. The position chosen by him was five leagues distant from Agra; the name of the place which was formerly called Samonguerj is now Faleabad, that is to say the Place of Victory. Dara soon came up, and encamped also near the banks of the same river, between Agra and the army of Aureng-Zebe.
The two armies remained in sight of each other three or four days without coming to an engagement. During this interval, Chah-Jehan sent letter upon letter to Dara, apprising him of Soliman-Chekouh's near approach, and entreating him to do nothing rashly or prematurely; but to draw closer to Agra, and select advantageous ground whereon to intrench his army until the arrival of his son. The only answer returned by Dara to these letters was, that three days should not elapse ere he brought Aureng Zebe and Morad-Bakche, bound hands and feet, to his father, who might pass such judgment upon his rebellious sons as to him should seem meet. This answer despatched, he prepared for battle.
He placed the whole of his cannon in front, linked together by chains of iron, in order that no space might be left for the entrance of the enemy's cavalry. Immediately in the rear of the cannon, he ranged a line of light camels, on the forepart of whose bodies small pieces of ordinance, somewhat resembling swivels in our vessels, were fixed : these the rider could charge and discharge at pleasure, without being obliged to dismount. Behind these camels was posted the most considerable part of the musketeers. The rest of the army consisted principally of cavalry, armed either with sabres, and those kind of half-pikes used by the Ragipous; or with sabres and bowsand arrows; which latter weapon is generally used by the [Page 48] Mogols, that is (according to the present acceptation of the term Mogol) foreigners whose complexions are white, and who profess Mahometanism ; such as Persians, Turks, Arabs, and Usbeks.
The army was formed into three divisions. The command of the right wing, consisting of thirty thousand Mogols, was given to Calil-ullah-Kan, and the left wing was intrusted to Rustam-Kan Dakny, a brave and famous captain, conjointly with the Rajas Chairesale and Ramseingue Routle. Calil-ullah had been made Bakchis, or grand-master of the horse, in the stead of Danechmend-Khan (afterwards my Agah)who resigned that situation because he knew that he had incurred Dara's displeasure by his solicitude to uphold the sole and unshackled authority of Chah-Jehan. Aureng-Zebe and Morad-Bakche made a nearly similar disposition of their forces, excepting that among the troops of the Omrahs, stationed on either flank, a few pieces of field artillery were intermixed and concealed; a stratagem invented, it is said, by Emir-Jemla, and attended with some success.
It cannot be denied that the cavalry of this country manoeuvre with much ease, and discharge their arrows with astonishing quickness; a horseman shooting six times before a musketeer can fire twice. They also pre [Page 49] serve excellent order, and keep in a compact body, especially when charging the enemy. But, after all, I do not think very highly of their proficiency in the art of war as compared with our well-equipped armies, for reasons which I shall mention in another part of this work. The preparations I have described being completed, the artillery of both armies opened their fire, the invariable mode of commencing an engagement; and the arrows were already thick in the air, when suddenly there fell a shower of rain so violent as to interrupt the work of slaughter for a while. The weather had no sooner cleared than the sound of cannon was again heard, and Dara was at this time seen seated on a beautiful elephant of Ceylon, issuing his orders for a general onset; and, placing himself at the head of a numerous body of horse, advanced boldly toward the enemy's cannon. He was received with firmness, and soon surrounded by heaps of slain. And not only the body which he led to the attack, but those by which he was followed, were thrown into disorder. Still did he retain an admirable calmness, and evince his immoveable determination not to recede.
Aureng-Zebe, who was at no great distance, and mounted also on an elephant, endeavoured, but without success, to retrieve the disasters of the day. He attempted to make head against Dara with a strong body of his choicest cavalry; but it was likewise driven from the field in great confusion.
Dara all this time meditated an advance upon Aureng Zebe, but was retarded by the difficulty of the ground and by the enemy's cavalry, which, though in disorder, still covered the hills and plains that intervened between the two commanders. Certainly he ought to have felt that without the destruction or capture of his brother, victory would be incomplete; nor should he have suffered any consideration to move him from his purpose of attacking Aureng-Zebe, now that he was so clearly incapable of offering effectual resistance. He had an easy opportunity to crush this formidable rival; but the circumstance I am about to relate distracted his attention, and saved Aureng- Zebe from the impending danger, Dara perceived at this critical moment that his left wing was in disorder; and some one then brought him intelligence of the deaths of Rustum-Kan and Chatresale, and of the imminent peril into which Ramseingue Routle was placed in consequence of having valiantly burst through the enemy, by whom he was, however, entirely surrounded. Dara then abandoned the idea of pushing toward Aureng-Zebe, and determined to fly to the succour of the left wing. After a great deal of hard fighting, Dara's presence turned the tide of fortune, and the enemy was driven back at all points; but the rout was not so complete as to leave him without occupation.
It was not long before Dara was made acquainted with the serious loss he had sustained; and hearing also that Morad-Bakche was hemmed in by the Ragipous, rendered furious by the death of their master, he determined, notwithstanding every obstacle, to advance to the attack of that Prince; the only measure by which he could hope to repair the error committed in suffering Aureng-Zebe to escape : but even this step was rendered abortive by an act of treachery, which involved Dara in immediate and irretrievable ruin.
Some years prior to this period, Calil-ullah had suffered the indignity of having been shoebeaten at the hands of Dara, and he considered the hour arrived when he might gratify the resentment which had never ceased to rankle in his bosom.
He quitted his division, followed by a few persons, and riding with speed towards Dara precisely at the moment when that Prince was hastening to assist in the downfall of Morad-Bakche, he exclaimed, while yet at some distance, ‘Mohbarek-bad, Hazaret, Salamet, Elhamd-idellah : May you be happy ! May your Majesty enjoy health and reign in safety ! Praise be to Allah, the victory is your own ! But, my God ! why are you still mounted on this lofty elephant. Have you not been sufficiently exposed to danger ? If one of the numberless arrows, or balls, which have pierced your howda had [Page 54] touched your person, who can imagine the dreadful situation to which we should be reduced ? In God's name descend quickly and mount your horse; nothing now remains but to pursue the fugitives with vigour. I entreat your Majesty permit them not to escape.’ Had Dara considered the consequences of quitting the back of his elephant on which he had displayed so much valour, and served as a rallying-point to the army, he would have become master of the Empire; but the credulous Prince, duped by the artful obsequiousness of Calil-ullah, listened to his advice as though it had been sincere. He descended from the elephant, and mounted his horse; but a quarter of an hour had not elapsed when, suspecting the imposture, he inquired impatiently for Calil-ullah-Kan. The villain was not, however, within his reach: he inveighed vehemently against that officer, and threatened him with death ; but Dara's rage was now impotent, and his menace incapable of being executed. The troops having missed their Prince, a rumour quickly spread that he was killed, and the army betrayed ; an universal panic seized them ; every man thought only of his own safety, and how to escape from the resentment of Aureng-Zebe. In a few minutes the army seemed disbanded, and (strange and sudden reverse !) the conqueror became the vanquished. Aureng-Zebe remained during a quarter of an hour steadily on his elephant, and was rewarded with the crown of Hindoustan: Dara left his own elephant a few minutes too soon, and was hurled from the pinnacle of glory, to be numbered among the most miserable of Princes :—so shortsighted is man, and so mighty are the consequences which sometimes flow from the most trivial incident.
Notwithstanding this semblance of fealty to his younger brother, Aureng-Zebe was actively employed day and night in writing to the Omrahs, whom he brought over gradually to his party.
As for Dara, he was weighed down with dispondency and terror. He repaired with all diligence to Agra, but did not venture into his father's presence ; for his last stern injunction, "Remember, Dara, if thou art defeated, never return to me," still sounded in his ear. The good old man nevertheless sent a faithful eunuch in secret to condole with the unhappy Prince, to assure him of his unalterable affection, and of the grief into which he was plunged by the late disaster.
The Usbec Tartars were not ignorant of the occurrences which had taken place in Hindoustan, of the victories gained by Aureng-Zebe, and of the total discomfiture and death of the other competitors for the crown. They were aware that although Chah-Jehan still lived, yet his son was, in reality, the recognised and established King of the Indies. Whether, then, they dreaded his just resentment, or hoped, in their inbred avarice and sordidness, to obtain [Page 117] some considerable present, the two Kans sent ambassadors, with a proffer of their services, and with injunctions to perform the ceremony of the Mobarek: that is, to express in a solemn manner their wishes that his reign might be long and auspicious. Aureng-Zebe knew how to value an offer of service made at the conclusion of a war : he knew the fear of punishment, or the expectation of advantage, had induced the Kans to send their ambassadors. They were received, however, with due form and polite- ness.
The ambassadors, when at a distance, made the Salam, or Indian act of obeisance, placing the hand thrice upon the head, and as often dropping it down to the ground. They then approached so near that Aureng-Zebe might easily have taken the letters from their own hands; but this ceremony was performed by an Omrah : the letters [Page 118] were received and opened by him, and then presented to the King, who, after having perused the contents with a grave countenance, commanded that there should be given to each of the ambassadors a Ser-apah or vesture from head to foot; namely, a vest of brocade, a turban, and a sash or girdle, of embroidered silk. This done, the presents from the Kans were brought before the King, consisting of some boxes of Lapis-lazuli or the choicest Azure1; a few long-haired camels; several horses of great beauty, although the Tartar horses are generally something better than merely beautiful: some camel-loads of fresh fruit, such as apples, pears, grapes, and melons; Usbec being the country which principally supplies Dehli with these fruits, which are there eaten all the winter, and many loads of dry fruit, as Bokara prunes,1apricots, [Page 119] kichmiches or raisins, apparently without stones, and two other kinds of raisins, black and white, extremely large and delicious.
These people remained more than four months at Dehli, notwithstanding all their endeavours to obtain their conge. This long detention proved extremely injurious to their health ; they'and their suite sickened, and many of them died. It is doubtful whether they suffered more from the heat of Hindoustan, to which they are unaccustomed, or from the filthiness of their persons, and the insufficiency of their diet. There are probably no people more narrow-minded, sordid, or uncleanly, than the Usbec Tartars. The individuals who composed this embassy hoarded the money allowed them by Aureng-Zebe for their expenses, and lived on a miserable pittance, in a style quite unsuitable to their station. Yet they were dismissed with great form and parade. The King, in the presence of all his Omrahs, invested each of them with two rich Serapahs, and commanded that eight thousand roujnes should be carried to their respective houses. He also sent by them, as presents to the two Kans, their masters, very handsome Serapahs, a large number of the richest and most exquisitely wrought brocades, a quantity of fine linens, silk stuffs [Page 121] interwoven with gold and silver, a few carpets, and two daggers set with precious stones.
During their stay I paid them three visits, having been introduced as a physician by one of my friends, the son of an Usbec, who has amassed a fortune at this court. It was my design to collect such useful particulars concerning their country as they might be able to supply, but I found them ignorant beyond all conception. They were unacquainted even with the boundaries of Usbec, and could give no information respecting the Tartars who a few years ago subjugated China. In short, I could elicit by my conversation with the ambassadors scarcely one newfact. Once I was desirous of dining with them, and as they were persons of very little ceremony, I did not find it difficult to be admitted at their table. The meal appeared to me very strange; it consisted only of horseflesh. I contrived, however, to dine. There was a ragout which I thought eatable, and I should have considered myself guilty of a breach of good manners if I had not praised a dish so pleasing to their palate. Not a word was uttered during dinner; my elegant hosts were fully employed in cramming their mouths with as much pelau2as they could contain; for with the use of spoons these people are unacquainted. But when their [Page 122] stomachs were sated with the dainty repast, they recovered their speech, and would fain have persuaded me that the Usbecs surpass all other men in bodily strength, and that no nation equals them in the dexterous management of the bow. This observation was no sooner made than they called for bows and arrows, which were of a much larger size than those of Hindoustan, and offered to lay a wager that they would pierce an ox or a horse through and through. They proceeded to extol the strength and valour of their country-women, in comparison with whom the Amazons were soft and timorous. The tales they related of female feats were endless:
The ambassadors from Tartary were still in Dehli, when Aureng-Zebe was seized with a dangerous illness. He was frequently delirious from the violence of the fever, and his tongue became so palsied that he could scarcely articulate. The physicians despaired of his recovery, and it was generally believed he was dead, though the event was concealed by Rauchenara-Begum from interested motives.
The Hollanders would not be the last to present Aureng Zebe with the Mohbarec. They determined to send an ambassador to him, and made choice of Monsieur Adrican, chief of their factory at Sourate. This individual possesses integrity, abilities, and sound judgment ; and as he does not disdain the advice offered by the wise and experienced, it is not surprising that he acquitted himself to the satisfaction of his countrymen. Although in his general deportment Aureng-Zebe be remarkably high and unbending, affects the appearance of a zealous Mahometan, and consequently despises Franks or Christians, yet upon the occasion of this embassy, his behaviour was most courteous and condescending. He even expressed a desire that Monsieur Adrican, after that gentleman had performed the Indian ceremony of the Salaam, should approach and salute him a la Frank. The King, it is true, received the [Page 128] letters through the medium of an Omrah, but this could not be considered a mark of disrespect, since he had done the same thing in regard to the letters brought by the Usbec ambassadors.
The preliminary observances being over, Aureng-Zebe intimated that the ambassador might produce his presents ; at the same time investing him, and a few gentlemen in his suite, with a Ser-Apah of brocade. The presents consisted of a quantity of very fine broad cloths, scarlet and green ; some large looking-glasses ; and several articles of Chinese and Japan workmanship ; among which were a paleky and a Tack-ravanj or travelling throne, of exquisite beauty, and much admired.
The Great Mogol is in the habit of detaining all ambassadors as long as can reasonably be done, from an idea that it is becoming his grandeur and power, to receive the homage of foreigners, and to number them among the attendants of his court. Monsieur Adrican was not dismissed, therefore, so expeditiously as he wished, though much sooner than the ambassadors from Tartary. His secretary died, and the other individuals in his retinue were falling sick, when Aureng-Zebe granted him permission to depart. On taking leave the King again presented him with a Ser-Apah of brocade for his own use, and another very rich one for the governor of Batavia together with a dagger set with jewels; the whole accompanied by a very gracious letter.
The chief aim of the Hollanders in this embassy was to ingratiate themselves with the Mogol, and to impart to [Page 129] him some knowledge of their nation, in order that a beneficial influence might thus be produced upon the minds of the governors of sea-ports, and other places, where they have established factories.
They endeavoured also to impress the government with an opinion that their traffic with Hindoustan was most advantageous to that kingdom; exhibiting a long list of articles purchased by their countrymen, from which they showed that the gold and silver brought by them every year into the Indies amounted to a considerable sum : but they kept out of sight the amount of those precious metals extracted by their constant importations of copper, lead, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, pepper, aloes-wood, elephants, and other merchandise.
Some months after this occurrence five ambassadors arrived at Dehli, nearly at the same time. The first was from the Cherif of Meca, and the presents that accompanied this embassage consisted of a small number of Arabian horses and a besom which had been used for sweeping out the small chapel situated in the centre of the Great Mosque at Meca; a chapel held in great veneration by Mahometans, and called by them Beit-Allah, or the House of God. They believe this was the first temple dedicated to the true God, and that it was erected by Abraham.
The second ambassador was sent by the King of Hyeman, or Arabia Felix; and the third by the Prince of Bassora; both of whom also brought presents of Arabian horses.
The two other ambassadors came from the King of Ebeche, or Ethiopia.
Little or no respect was paid to the first three of these diplomatists. Their equipage was so miserable that every [Page 134] one suspected they came merely for the sake of obtaining money in return for their presents, and of gaining still more considerable sums by means of the numerous horses, and different articles of merchandise, which they introduced into the kingdom free of all duty, as property belonging to ambassadors. With the produce of these horses and merchandise, they purchased the manufactures of Hindoustan, which they also claimed the privilege of taking out of the kingdom without payment of the impost charged on all commodities exported.
The embassy from the King of Ethiopia may deserve a little more consideration. He was well informed on the subject of the revolution in the Indies, and determined to spread his fame throughout this vast region by despatching an embassy that should be worthy of his great power and magnificence. The whispers of slander, indeed, if not rather the voice of truth, will have it that in sending these ambassadors this Monarch had an eye only to the valuable presents which might be received from the liberal hand of Aureng-Zebe.
Now let us examine the personnel of this admirable Embassy. He chose as his Envoys two personages who doubtless enjoyed the greatest distinction at court, and were best qualified to attain the important ends he had in view. One of these was a Mahometan merchant, whom I met a few years before at Moka, when on my way from Egypt up the Red Sea. He had been sent thither by his august sovereign for the purpose of selling a large number of slaves, and of purchasing Indian goods with the money thus commendably obtained.
Such is the honourable traffic ot this Great Christian King of Africa The other ambassador was an Armenian and Christian merchant; born and married at Alep [Aleppo], and known in Ethiopia by the name of Murat. I saw him also at Moka, where he not only accommodated me with half his apart [Page 135] ment, but gave me such advice as deterred me from visiting Ethiopia, as was observed at the commencement of this history. Murat is likewise sent every year to Moka for the same object as the Mahometan merchant, and always takes with him the annual presents from his master to the English and Dutch East-India Companies, and conveys those which they give in return to Gonder.
The African Monarch, anxious that his ambassador should appear in a style suitable to the occasion, contributed liberally toward the expenses of the embassy. He presented them with thirty-two young slaves, boys and girls, to be sold at Moka; and the money raised by this happy expedient was to supply the expenses of the mission.
A noble largess indeed for let it be recollected that young slaves sell at Moka, one with another, at five and twenty or thirty crowns per head. Besides these, the Ethiopian King sent to the Great Mogol twenty-five choice slaves, nine or ten of whom were of a tender age and in a state to be made eunuchs. This was, to be sure, an appropriate donation from a Christian to a Prince but then the Christianity of the Ethiopians differs greatly from ours. The ambassadors also took charge of other presents for the Great Mogol; fifteen horses, esteemed equal to those ot Arabia, and a small species of mule, whose skin I have seen: no tiger is so beautifully marked, or striped silken stuff, is more finely and variously streaked; a couple of elephants teeth, of a size so prodigious that it required, it seems, the utmost exertion of a strong man to lift either of them from the ground ; and lastly, the horn of an ox, filled with civet, which was indeed enormously large, for I measured the [Page 136] mouth of it at Dehly, and found that it exceeded half a foot in diameter.
The ambassadors, thus royally and munificently provided, departed from Gonder, the capital city of Ethiopia, situated in the province of Dumbia. They traversed a desolate country, and were more than two months travelling to Beiloul, an out-of-the-way seaport, near Bab-el- Mandel and opposite to Moka. For reasons, which I shall perhaps disclose in the course of my narrative, they dared not take the usual and caravan road from Gonder to Arkiko, a journey easily performed in forty days. From Arkiko it is necessary to pass over to the island of Masouva, where the Grand Seigneur has a garrison.
While waiting at Beiloul for a Moka vessel to cross the Red Sea, the party were in want of many of the necessaries of life, and some of the slaves died.
On arriving at Moka, the ambassadors found that the market had been that year overstocked with slaves. The boys and girls, therefore, sold at a reduced price. As soon as their sale was effected, they pursued their voyage, embarking on board an Indian vessel bound to Sourate, where they arrived after a tolerable passage of five-and twenty days. Several slaves, however, and many horses died; probably from want of proper nourishment, the funds of this pompous embassy being evidently insufficient to supply all its wants. The mule also died, but the skin was preserved.
They had not been many hours on shore at Sourate when a certain rebel of Visapour, named Seva-Gi entered the [Page 137] town, which he pillaged and burnt. The house of the ambassadors did not escape the general conflagration; and all their effects that they succeeded in rescuing from the flames, or the ravages of the enemy, were their credentials ; a few slaves that Seva-Gi could not lay hold of, or whom he spared because they happened to be ill ; their Ethiopian apparel, which he did not covet; the mule's skin, for which, I expect, he had no particular fancy ; and the ox's horn that had already been emptied of its civet.
These exalted individuals spoke in exaggerated terms of their sad misfortunes; but it was insinuated by the malicious Indians, who witnessed their deplorable condition on landing—without decent clothing, destitute of money or bills of exchange, and half famished—that the two ambassadors were, in fact, lucky people, who ought to number the ransacking of Sourate among the happiest events of their lives, since it saved them from the mortification of conducting their wretched presents as far as Dehli. Seva-Gi, the Indians said, had furnished these worthy representatives of the Ethiopian King with an admirable pretext for appearing like a couple of mendicants, and for soliciting the governor of Sourate to supply them with the means of living, and with money and carts to enable them to proceed to the capital. The attack upon Sourate had also covered their misdeeds, in disposing, for their own benefit, of the civet, and many of the slaves.
The mule's skin, and the ox's horn, wherein was kept arrack, or brandy extracted from raw sugar, of which they are excessively fond, constituted the whole of their presents ; and the contempt which the absence of valuable presents would alone inspire was increased by their miserable appearance. They were seen about the streets without a paleky, clad in true Bedouin fashion, and followed by seven or eight bare-footed and bare-headed slaves, who had no raiment but a nasty strip of cloth passed between their buttocks, and the half of a ragged sheet over the left shoulder, which was carried under the right arm, in the manner of a summer cloak. Nor had the ambassadors any other carriage than a hired and brokendown cart; and they were without any horse except one belonging to our Missionary Father, and one of mine that they sometimes borrowed, and which they nearly killed.
In vain did I for a long time exert myself in behalf of these despised personages ; they were regarded as beggars, and could excite no interest. One day, however, when closeted with my Agah Danechmend-kan, who is minister for foreign affairs, I expatiated so successfully upon the grandeur of the Ethiopian Monarch, that Aureng-Zebe was induced to grant the ambassadors an audience, and to receive their letters. He presented both with a Ser-apah, or vest of brocade, a silken and embroidered girdle, and a [Page 139] turban of the same materials and workmanship; gave orders for their maintenance, and at an audience, when the Emperor gave them their conge, which soon took place, he invested each with another Ser-apah, and made them a present of six thousand roupies, equal at present to nearly three thousand crowns : but this money was unequally divided, the Mahometan receiving four thousand roupies, and Murat, because a Christian, only two thousand.
Aureng-Zebe sent by them, as presents to their royal master, an extremely rich Ser-apah; two large cornets, or trumpets, of silver gilt ; two silver kettle-drums; a poniard studded with rubies; and gold and silver roupies to the amount of about twenty thousand francs : hoping, as he kindly expressed it, that this last gift would be peculiarly acceptable, and considered a rarity ; the King of Ethiopia not having any coined money in his country. The Mogol was well aware that not one of these roupies would be taken out of Hindoustan, and that the ambassadors would employ them in the purchase of useful commodities. It turned out just as he foresaw. They bought spices, fine cotton cloths, for shirts for the King and Queen, and for the King's only legitimate son, who is to succeed to the throne, alachas or silken stuffs striped, some with gold and some with silver, for vests and summer trousers; English broadcloths, scarlet and green, for a couple of abbs, or Arabian vests, for their King; and lastly, quantities of cloth less fine in their texture for several ladies of the seraglio and their children. All [Page 140] these goods they were privileged, as ambassadors, to export without payment of duty.
I had, in the next place, ascertained that my friend, as well as his Mahometan companion, had solemnly promised Aureng-Zebe to urge his King to permit the repair of a mosque in Ethiopia, which had been in ruins since the time of the Portuguese. The Mogol gave the ambassadors two thousand roupies in anticipation of this service. The mosque, erected as the mausoleum of a certain Cheif, or derviche, who left Meca for the purpose of propagating Mahometanism in Ethiopia, and had made great progress there, was demolished by the Portuguese, when they entered the country with troops from Goa, as allies of the lawful sovereign, who had embraced Christianity, and been driven from the throne by a Mahometan prince.
During the stay of the ambassadors at Dehli, my Agah, ever eager in search of knowledge, invited them frequently to his house. He asked many questions concerning the condition of their country and the nature of its government; but his principal object was to obtain information respecting the source of the Nile, which they call Abbabile and concerning which they talked to us as-so well ascertained that no one need question it. Murat and a Mogol, who travelled with him from Ethiopia, have visited the source, and the particulars given by them both are substantially the same as those I had learnt at Moka. They informed us that the Nile has its origin in the country of the Agans, rising from two bubbling and contiguous springs, which form a small lake of about thirty or forty paces in length ; that the water running out of this lake is already a pretty considerable river; which continues, however, to increase in size by reason of the small tributary streams which, from here and there, flow into it. They added that the river went on in a circuitous course, forming, as it were, a large island; and that after falling from several steep rocks, it entered into a great lake wherein are several fertile islands, quantities of crocodiles, and, what would be much more remarkable, if true, [Page 142] numbers of sea-calves which have no other means of ejecting their excrement than the mouth. This lake is in the country of Dumbia, three short stages from Gonder, and four or five from the source of the Nile. The river, they continued, when it leaves the great lake, is much augmented by the numerous rivers and torrents which fall into that lake, especially in the rainy season; which is as periodical as in the Indies, commencing towards the end of July. This, by the way, is an important consideration, and accounts for the overflowing of the Nile. From the lake just mentioned the river runs by Sonnar, the capital city of the King of Fungi (tributary to the King ot Ethiopia), and continues its course until it reaches the plains of Mesra or Egypt.
He said that in Ethiopia there are few men who do not keep several wives; nor was he ashamed to confess that he himself had two, besides the wife to whom he was legally married, and who resided in Aleppo. The Ethiopian women, he observed, do not hide themselves as in the Indies among Mahometans and even the Genliles; and nothing is more common than to see females of the lower ranks, whether single or married, bond or free, mingled together, day and night, in the same apartment; the [Page 143] whole of them perfectly unacquainted with those feelings of jealousy so prevalent in other nations. The women, or wives of grandees, are at no great pains to conceal their attachment to any handsome cavalier, whose house they enter without fear or scruple
The Ethiopian embassy was still in Dehli, when Aureng Zebe assembled his privy-council, together with the learned men of his court, for the purpose of selecting a suitable preceptor for his third son. Sultan Ekbar, whom he designs for his successor. He evinced upon this occasion the utmost solicitude that this young Prince should receive such an education as might justify the hope of his becoming a great man. No person can be more alive than Aureng-Zebe to the necessity of storing the minds of Princes, destined to rule nations, with useful knowledge. As they surpass others in power and elevation, so ought they, he says, to be pre-eminent in wisdom and virtue. He is very sensible that the cause of the misery which afflicts the empires of Asia, ot their misrule, and consequent decay, should be sought, and will be found, in the deficient and pernicious mode of instructing the children of their Kings. Intrusted from infancy to the care of women and eunuchs, slaves from Russia, Circassia, Mingrelia, Gurgistan, or Ethiopia, whose minds are debased by the very nature of their occupation; servile and mean to superiors, proud and oppressive to dependants; these Princes, when called to the throne, leave the walls of the Seraglio quite ignorant of the duties imposed upon them by their new situation. They appear on the stage of life, as if they came from another world, or emerged, [Page 145] for the first time, from a subterraneous cavern, astonished, like simpletons, at all around them. Either, like children, they are credulous in everything, and in dread of everything ; or, with the obstinacy and heedlessness of folly, they are deaf to every sage counsel, and rash in every stupid enterprise. According to their natural temperament, or the first ideas impressed upon their minds, such Princes, on succeeding to a crown, affect to be dignified and grave, though it be easy to discern that gravity and dignity form no part of their character, that the appearance of those qualities is the effect of some ill-studied lesson, and that they are in fact only other names for savageness and vanity; or else they affect a childish politeness in their demeanour, childish because unnatural and constrained. Who, that is conversant with the history of Asia, can deny the faithfulness of this delineation ? Have not her Sovereigns been blindly and brutally cruel,—cruel without judgment or mercy ? Have they not been addicted to the mean and gross vice of drunkenness, and abandoned to an excessive and shameless luxury; ruining their bodily health, and impairing their understanding, in the society of concubines ? Or, instead of attending to the concerns of the kingdom, have not their days been consumed in the pleasures of the chase ? A pack of dogs will engage their thoughts and affection, although indifferent to the sufferings of so many poor people who, compelled to follow the unfeeling Monarch in the pursuit of game, are left to die of hunger, heat, cold, and fatigue. In a word, the Kings of Asia are constantly living in the indulgence of monstrous vices, those vices varying, indeed, as I said before, according to their natural propensities, or to the ideas early instilled into their minds. It is indeed a rare exception when the Sovereign is not profoundly ignorant of the domestic and political condition of his empire.
When Aureng-Zebe had received the different embassies.... news at length reached the court that one from Persia had arrived on the frontier.
The Bazars through which he passed were all newly decorated, and the cavalry lining both sides of the way extended beyond a league. Many Omrahs, accompanied with instruments of music, attended the procession, and a salute of artillery was fired upon his entering the gate of the fortress, or royal palace. Aureng-Zebe welcomed him with the greatest politeness ; manifested no displeasure at his making the salam in the Persian manner, and unhesitatingly received from his hands the letters of which he was the bearer; raising them, in token of peculiar respect, nearly to the crown of his head. An eunuch having assisted him to unseal the letters, the King perused the contents with a serious and solemn countenance, and then commanded that the ambassador should be clad, in his presence, with a vest of brocade, a turban, and a silken sash, embroidered with gold and silver, called a serapah, as I have before explained. This part of the ceremony over, the Persian was informed that the moment was come for the display of his presents; which consisted of five-and-twenty horses, as beautiful as I ever beheld, with housings of embroidered brocade; twenty highly bred camels, that might have been mistakee for small elephants, such was their size and strength; a considerable number of cases containing excellent rosewater, and another sort of distilled water called Beidmichk, a cordial held in the highest estimation and very scarce ; five or six carpets of extraordinary size and beauty; a few-pieces of brocade extremely rich, wrought in small flowers, [Page 148] in so fine and delicate a style that I doubt if anything so elegant was ever seen in Europe; four Damascus cutlasses, and the same number of poniards, the whole covered with precious stones; and lastly, five or six sets of horse-furniture, which were particularly admired. The last were indeed very handsome and of superior richness ; ornamented with superb embroidery and with small pearls, and very beautiful turquoises, of the old rock.1 It was remarked that Aureng-Zebe seemed unusually pleased with this splendid present; he examined every item minutely, noticed its elegance and rarity, and frequently extolled the munificence of the King of Persia. He assigned the ambassador a place among the principal Omrahs; and after speaking about his long and fatiguing journey, and several times expressing his desire to see him every day, he dismissed him.
He remained at Dehli four or five months, living sumptuously at Aureng-Zebe's expense, and partaking of [Page 149] the hospitality of the chief Omrahs, who invited him by turns to grand entertainments. When permitted to return to his country, the King again invested him with a rich Ser-apah, and put him in possession of other valuable gifts, reserving the presents intended for the Persian Monarch for the embassy that he determined to send, and which was very soon appointed.
Aureng-Zebe, during the stay of this embassy at Dehli, was careful to demean himself with strict propriety; unlike his father, Chah-Jehan, who, upon a similar occasion, either provoked the anger of the ambassador of the celebrated Chah-Abas, by an ill-timed haughtiness, or excited his contempt by an un-becoming familiarity.
A Persian, who wishes to indulge in any satirical merriment at the expense of the Indians, relates a few such anecdotes as the following. [Page 152] story is this:—Chah-Jehan, displeased with some rude and coarse answer made by the Persian ambassador, was provoked to say,‘Eh-bed-bakt! has then Chah-Abas no gentleman in his court that he sends me such a fool ? ' O, yes ! the court of my Sovereign abounds with men far more polite and accomplished than I am; but he adapts the Ambassador to the King.’ One day, Chah-Jehan having invited the ambassador to dine in his presence, and seeking, as usual, an occasion to discompose and vex him; while the Persian was busily employed in picking a great many bones, the King said coolly, ‘Eh Eltchy-Gy (Well, My Lord Ambassador), what shall the dogs eat ?’ ‘Kichery,’ was the prompt answer; a favourite dish with Chah-JehaTi, which he was then indulging in,—Kichery being a mess of vegetables, the general food of the common people.2 The Mogol inquiring what he thought of his new Dehli, then building, as compared to Ispahan; he answered aloud, [Page 153] and with an oath, ‘Billah ! billah !! Ispahan cannot be compared to the dust of your Dehli’ which reply the King took as a high encomium upon his favourite city, though the ambassador intended it in sportive derision, the dust being intolerable in Dehli.
Although Aureng-Zebe kept his father closely confined in the fortress of Agra and neglected no precaution to prevent his escape, yet the deposed monarch was otherwise treated with indulgence and respect. He was permitted to occupy his former apartments, and to enjoy the society of Begum-Saheb and the whole of liis female establishment, including the singing and dancing women, cooks, and others. In these respects no request was ever denied him; and as the old man became wondrously devout, certain Mullalis were allowed to enter his apartment and read the Koran. He possessed also the privilege of sending for all kinds of animals, horses of state, hawks of different kinds, and tame antelopes, which last were made to fight before him. Indeed, Aureng Zebe's behaviour was throughout kind and respectful, and he paid attention to his aged parent in every possible way. He loaded him with presents, consulted him as an oracle, and the frequent letters of the son to the father were expressive of duty and submission. By these means Chah-Jehan s anger and haughtiness were at length subdued, insomuch that he frequently wrote to Aureng-Zebe on political affairs, sent Dara's daughter to him, and begged his acceptance of some of those precious stones, which he had threatened to grind to powder if again importuned to resign them.i He even granted to his rebellious son the paternal yiardon and benediction which he had often with vehement importunity in vain solicited.
The progress of the invaders was checked by the rains which fell sooner than is customary, and which in this country are very heavy, inundating every spot of ground, with the exception of villages built on eminences. In the mean time, the Raja cleared the whole country, round the Emir's position, of cattle and every kind of provision, so that ere the rains ceased the army was reduced to great and urgent distress, notwithstanding the immense riches which it had accumulated. Jemla found it equally difficult to advance or to recede. The mountains in front presented impracticable barriers, while a retreat was prevented not only by the waters and deep mud, but also by the precaution taken by the Raja to break down the dike which forms the road to Chamdara. The Emir, therefore, was confined to his camp during the whole of the rainy season, and, on the return of dry weather, his men were so dispirited by their incessant fatigue and long privations, that he abandoned the idea of conquering [Page 173] Acham. Under a less able commander, the army could not have hoped to reach Bengale : the want of provisions was severely felt; the mud, being still thick, greatly impeded the motions of the troops, and the Raja was active and indefatigable in pursuit; but Jemla conducted the movements of his army with his usual skill, and by his admii-able retreat added greatly to his reputation. He returned laden with wealth.
The Emir, having improved the fortifications of Azo, left a strong garrison in that fortress, intending to renew, early in the following year, the invasion of Acham ; but how far is it possible for the body, worn out by old age, to withstand the effects of fatigue? He, as well as others under his command, was not made of brass, and this illustrious man fell a victim to the dysentery which attacked the army soon after their arrival in Bengale.
His death produced, as might be expected, a great sensation throughout the Indies. It is now, observed many intelligent persons, that Aureng-Zebe is king of Bengale. Though not insensible of his obligations of gratitude, the Mogol was perhaps not sorry to have lost a vicegerent whose power and mental resources had excited so much pain and uneasiness.
The Portuguese established themselves at Ogouli under the auspices of Jehan-Guyre, the grandfather of Aureng Zebe. That Prince was free from all prejudice against Christians, and hoped to reap great benefit from their commerce. The new settlers also engaged to keep the Gulf of Bengale clear of pirates.
Chah-Jehan, a more rigid Mahometan than his father, visited the Portuguese at Ogouli with a terrible punishment. They provoked his displeasure by the encouragement afforded to the depredators of Rakan, and by their refusal to release the numerous slaves in their service, who had all of them been subjects of the Mogol. He first [Page 177] exacted, by threats or persuasion, large sums of money from them, and when they refused to comply with his ultimate demands, he besieged and took possession of the town, and commanded that the whole population should be transferred as slaves to Agra.
The misery of these people is unparalleled in the history of modern times : it nearly resembled the grievous captivity of Babylon ; for even the children, priests, and monks shared the universal doom. The handsome women, as well married as single, became inmates of the seraglio; those of a more advanced age, or of inferior beauty, were distributed among the Omrahs; little children underwent the rite of circumcision, and were made pages ; and the men of adult age, allured, for the most part, by fair promises, or terrified by the daily threat of throwing them under the feet of elephants, renounced the Christian faith. Some of the monks, however, remained faithful to their creed, and were conveyed to Goa, and other Portuguese settlements, by the kind exertions of the Jesuits and missionaries at Agra, who, notwithstanding all this calamity, continued in their dwelling, and were enabled to accomplish their benevolent purpose by the powerful aid of money, and the warm intercession of their friends. Before the catastrophe at Ogouli, the missionaries had not escaped the resentment of Chah-Jehan: he ordered the large and handsome church at Agra, which, together with one at Lahor, had been erected during the reign of Jehan-Guyre, to be demolished. A high steeple stood upon this church, with a bell whose sound was heard in every part of the city.
I shall advert to five or six facts that prove the low state of degradation to which this wretched King is reduced. First.—When I was at Golkonda, in the year 1667, an ambassador extraordinary arrived from Aureng-Zebe, for the purpose of declaring war, unless the King supplied the Mogol with ten thousand cavalry to act against Visapour. This force was not indeed granted; but, what pleased Aureng-Zebe still better, as much money was given as is considered sufficient for the maintenance of such a body of cavalry. The King paid extravagant honours to this ambassador and loaded him with valuable presents, both for himself and the Mogol his master.
Second.—Aureng-Zebe's ordinary ambassador at the court of Golkonda issues his commands, grants passports, menaces and ill-treats the people, and in short, speaks and acts with the uncontrolled authority of an absolute sovereign. Third.—Emir-Jemla's son, Mahmet-Emir-Kan, although nothing more than one ot Aureng-Zebe's Omrahs, is so much respected in Golkonda, and chiefly in Maslipatam that the laplapa, his agent or broker, virtually acts as master of the port. He buys and sells, admits and clears out cargoes, free of every impost and without any person's intervention. So boundless was the father's influence formerly in this country, that it has descended to the son as a matter of right or necessity.
Fourth—Sometimes the Dutch presume to lay an embargo on all the Golkonda merchant-vessels in the port, nor will they suffer them to depart until the King comply with their demands. I have known them even protest [Page 196] against the King because the Governor of Maslipatam prevented them from taking forcible possession of an English ship in the port, by arming the whole population, threatening to burn the Dutch factory, and to put all these insolent foreigners to the sword.
Fifth.—Another symptom of decay in this kingdom is the debased state of the current coin ; which is extremely prejudicial to the commerce of the country. Sixth.—A sixth instance I would adduce of the fallen power of the King of Golkonda is, that the Portuguese, wretched, poor, and despised as they are become, scruple not to menace him with war, and with the capture and pillage of Maslipatam and other towns if he refuse to cede San Thome, a place which these same Portuguese, a few years ago, voluntarily resigned into his hands to avoid the disgrace of yielding it to the superior power of the Dutch.
MY LORD, In Asia, the great are never approached empty-handed. When I had the honour to kiss the garment of the great Mogol Aureng-Zebe (Ornament of the Throne), I presented him with eight roupies} as a mark of respect; and I offered a knife-case, a fork and a pen-knife mounted in amber to the illustrious Fazel-Kan (The Accomplished Knight), a Minister charged with the weightiest concerns of the empire, on whose decision depended the amount of my salary as physician.
The late revolution in Hindoustan, so full of extraordinary events, may be deemed worthy the attention of our great Monarch; and this letter, considering the importance of its matter, may not be unsuitable to the rank you bear in his Majesty's council. The maps of Asia point out the mighty extent of the Great Mogol's empire, known commonly by the name of the Indies, or Hindoustan. I have not measured it with mathematical exactness; but judging from the ordinary [Page 202] rate of travel, and considering that it is a journey of three months from the frontier of the kingdom of Golkonda to Kazni, or rather beyond it, near to Kandahar, which is the first town in Persia, the distance between those two extreme points cannot be less than five hundred French leagues, or five times as far as from Paris to Lyons. It is important to observe, that of this vast tract of country, a large portion is extremely fertile; the large kingdom of Bengale, for instance, surpassing Egypt itself, not only in the production of rice, corn, and other necessaries of life, but of innumerable articles of commerce which are not cultivated in Egypt; such as silks, cotton, and indigo. There are also many parts of the Indies, where the population is sufficiently abundant, and the land pretty well tilled; and where the artisan, although naturally indolent, is yet compelled by necessity or otherwise to employ himself in manufacturing carpets, brocades, embroideries, gold and silver cloths, and the various sorts of silk and cotton goods, which are used in the country or exported abroad. It should not escape notice that gold and silver, after circulating in every other quarter of the globe, come at length to be swallowed up, lost in some measure, in Hindoustan. Of the quantity drawn from America, and dispersed among the different European states, a part finds its way, through various channels, to Turkey, tor the payment of commodities imported from that country; and a part passes into Persia, by way of Smyrna, for the silks laden at that port. Turkey cannot dispense with the coffee, which she receives from Yemen, or Arabia Felix ; and the productions of the Indies are equally necessary to Turkey, Yemen, and Persia. Thus it happens that these countries are under the necessity of sending a portion of their gold and silver to Moka, on the Red Sea, near Babel-mandel; to Bassora, at the top of the Persian Gulf; and to Bander Abassi or Gomeron, near [Page 203] Ormus ; which gold and silver is exported to Hindoustan by the vessels that arrive every year, in the mausem, or the season of the winds, at those three celebrated ports, laden with goods from that country. Let it also be borne in mind that all the Indian vessels, whether they belong to the Indians themselves, or to the Dutch, or English, or Portuguese, which every year carry cargoes of merchandise from Hindoustan to Pegu, Tanasseri Siam, Ceylon, Achem, Macassar, the Maldives, to Mozambic, and other places, bring back to Hindoustan from those countries a large quantity of the precious metals, which share the fate of those brought from Moka, Bassora, and Bunder-Abassi. And in regard to the gold and silver which the Dutch draw from Japan, where there are mines, a part is, sooner or later, introduced into Hindoustan; and whatever is brought directly by sea, either from Portugal or from France, seldom leaves the country, returns being made in merchandise. I am aware it may be said, that Hindoustan is in want of copper, cloves, nutmegs, cinnamon, elephants, and other things, with which she is supplied by the Dutch from Japan, the Moluccas, Ceylon, and Europe;—that she obtains lead from abroad, in part from England; broadcloths and other articles from France;—that she is in need of a considerable number of foreign horses, receiving annually more than five-and-twenty thousand from Usbec, a great many from Persia by way of Kandahar, and several from Ethiopia, Arabia, and Persia, by sea, through the ports of Moka, Bassora, and Bander-Abassi. It may also be observed that Hindoustan consumes an immense quantity of fresh fruit from Samarkand, Bali; Bocara, and Persia; such as melons, apples, pears and grapes, eaten at Dehli and [Page 204] purchased at a very high price nearly the whole winter; —and likewise dried fruit, such as almonds, pistachio and various other small nuts, plums, apricots, and raisins, which may be procured the whole year round ;—that she imports a small sea-shell from the Maldives, used in Bengale, and other places, as a species of small money; ambergris from the Maldives and Mozambic ; rhinoceros' horns, elephants' teeth, and slaves from Ethiopia ; musk and porcelain from China, and pearls from Beharen,1 and Tutucoury, near Ceylon; and I know not what quantity of other similar wares, which she might well do without. The importation of all these articles into Hindoustan does not, however, occasion the export of gold and silver ; because the merchants who bring them find it advantageous to take back, in exchange, the productions of the country. Supplying itself with articles of foreign growth or manufacture, does not, therefore, prevent Hindoustan from absorbing a large portion of the gold and silver of the world, admitted through a variety of channels, while there is scarcely an opening for its return.
It should also be borne in mind, that the Great Mogol constitutes himself heir of all the Omrahs, or lords, and likewise of the Mansebdars, or inferior lords, who are in his pay ; and, what is of the utmost importance, that he is proprietor of every acre of land in the kingdom, excepting, perhaps, some houses and gardens which he sometimes permits his subjects to buy, sell, and otherwise dispose of, among themselves.
I think I have shown that the precious metals must abound in Hindoustan, although the country be destitute of mines ; and that the Great Mogol, lord and master of the greater part, must necessarily be in the receipt of an immense revenue, and possess incalculable wealth. But there are many circumstances to be considered, as forming a counterpoise to these riches. First. Of the vast tracts of country constituting the empire of Hindoustan, many are little more than sand, or barren mountains, badly cultivated, and thinly peopled ; and even a considerable portion of the good land remains untilled from want of labourers ; many of whom perish in consequence of the bad treatment they experience from the Governors. These poor people, when incapable of discharging the demands of their rapacious lords, are not only often deprived of the means of subsistence, but are bereft of their children, who are carried away as slaves. Thus it happens that many of the peasantry, driven to despair by so execrable a tyranny, abandon the country, and seek a more tolerable mode of existence, either in the towns, or camps; as bearers of burdens, carriers of water, or servants to horsemen. Sometimes they fly to the territories of a Raja, because there they find less oppression, and are allowed a greater degree of comfort. Second.The empire of the Great Mogol comprehends several nations, over which he is not absolute master. Most of them still retain their own peculiar chiefs or sovereigns, who obey the Mogol or pay him tribute only by compulsion. In many instances this tribute is of trifling amount; in others none is paid; and I shall adduce instances of nations which, instead of paying, receive tribute. The petty sovereignties bordering the Persian frontiers, for example, seldom pay tribute either to the Mogol or to the King of Persia. Nor can the former be said to receive anything considerable from the Balouches, Augans, and other mountaineers, who indeed seem to feel nearly independent of him, as was proved by their conduct when [Page 206] the Mogol marched from Aleck on the Indus to Kaboul; tor the purpose of besieging Kandahar. By stopping the supply of water from the mountains, and preventing its descent into the fields contiguous to the public road, they completely arrested the army on its march, until the mountaineers received from the Mogol the presents which they had solicited in the way of alms. The Patans also are an intractable race. They are Mahometans, who formerly inhabited a country in the vicinity of the Ganges, toward Bengale. Before the in- [Page 207] vasion of India by the Mogols, the Patans had rendered themselves formidable in several places. Their power was felt principally at Dehli, many of the neighbouring Rajas being their tributaries. Even the menials and carriers of water belonging to that nation are high-spirited and warlike. 'If it be not so, may I never ascend the throne of Dehli,' is the usual phraseology of a Patau, when wishing to enforce the truth of any assertion. They hold the Indians, both Gentiles and Mogols, in the utmost contempt ; and, recollecting the consideration in which they were formerly held in India, they mortally hate the Mogols, by whom their fathers were dispossessed of great principalities, and driven to the mountains far from Dehli and Agra. In these mountains some Patans established themselves as petty sovereigns or Rajas; but without any great power.
The King of Visapour, so far from paying tribute to the Mogol, is engaged in perpetual war with him, and contrives to defend his dominions. He owes his preservation less to the strength of his arms than to many peculiar circumstances. His kingdom is at a great distance from Agra and Dehli, the Mogol's usual places of residence ; the capital city, called also Visapour, is strong, and not easily accessible to an invading army, because of the bad water [Page 208] and scarcity of forage in the surrounding country ; and several Rajas for the sake of mutual security join him, when attacked, with their forces. The celebrated Seva-Gi not long ago made a seasonable diversion in his favour, by plundering and burning the rich seaport of Sourate. There is again the wealthy and powerful King of Golkonda, who secretly supplies the King of Visapour with money, and constantly keeps an army on the frontiers, with the double object of defending his own territories and aiding Visapour in the event of that country being closely pressed.
It is material to remark that the Great Mogol is a Mahometan, of the sect of the Sounuys, who, believing with the Turks that Osman was the true successor of Mahomet, are distinguished by the name of Osmanlys. The [Page 209] majority of his courtiers, however, being Persians, are of the party known by the appellation of Chias, believers in the real succession of Aly. Moreover, the Great Mogol is a foreigner in Hindoustan, a descendant of Tamerlan, chief of those Mogols from Tartary who, about the year 1401, overran and conquered the Indies. Consequently he finds himself in an hostile country, or nearly so ; a country containing hundreds of Gentiles to one Mogol, or even to one Mahometan. To maintain himself in such a country, in the midst of domestic and powerful enemies, and to be always prepared against any hostile movement on the side of Pensia or Usbec, he is under the necessity of keeping up numerous armies, even in the time of peace.
It should be added, however, that children of the third and fourth generation, who have the brown complexion, and the languid manner of this country of their nativity, are held in much less respect than new comers, and are seldom invested with official situations : they consider themselves happy, if permitted to serve as private soldiers in the infantry or cavalry.—But it is time to give your lordship some idea of the armies of the Great Mogol, in order that you may judge, by the vast expenditure to which they subject him, what are really his effective means and resources.
The Omrahs in the provinces, in the armies, and at court, are very numerous; but it was not in my power to ascertain their number, which is not fixed. I never saw less than five-and-twenty to thirty at court, all of whom were in the receipt of the large incomes already mentioned, dependent for the amount upon their number of horses, from one to twelve thousand.
It is these Omrahs who attain to the highest honours and situations of the State, at court, in the provinces, and in the armies; and who are, as they call themselves, the Pillars of the Empire. Tney maintain the splendour of the court, and are never seen out-of-doors but in the [Page 214] most superb apparel; mounted sometimes on an elephant, sometimes on horseback, and not unfrequently in a Paleky attended by many of their cavalry, and by a large body ot servants on foot, who take their station in front, and at either side, of their lord, not only to clear the way, but to flap the flies and brush off the dust with tails of peacocks; to carry the picquedeni or spitoon, water to allay the Omrah's thirst, and sometimes account-books, and other papers. Every Omrah at court is obliged, under a certain penalty, to repair twice a day to the assembly, for the purpose of paying his respects to the King, at ten or eleven o'clock in the morning, when he is there seated to dispense justice, and at six in the evening. An Omrah must also, in rotation, keep guard in the fortress once every week, during four-and-twenty hours. He sends thither his bed, carpet, and other furniture; the King supplying him with nothing but his meals. These are received with peculiar ceremony. Thrice the Omrah performs the taslim, or reverence, the face turned toward the royal apartment; first dropping the hand down to the ground, and then lifting it up to the head. Whenever the King takes an excursion in his Paleky, on an elephant, or in a Tact-Ravan (or travelling throne, carried upon the shoulders of eight men, who are cleverly relieved from time to time when on the march by eight others), all the Omrahs who are not prevented by illness, disabled by age, or exempted by a peculiar office, are bound to accompany him on horseback, exposed to the [Page 215] inclemency of the weather and to suffocating clouds of dust. On every occasion the King is completely sheltered, whether taking the diversion of hunting, marching at the head of his troops, or making his progresses from one city to another. When, however, he confines his hunting to the neighbourhood of the city, visits his country house or repairs to the mosque, he sometimes dispenses with so large a retinue, and prefers being attended by such Omrahs only as are that day on guard.
Mansebdars are horsemen with manseb pay, which is a peculiar pay, both honourable and considerable ; not equal to that of the Omrahs, but much greater than the common pay. Hence they are looked on as petty Omrahs, and as being of the rank from which the Omrahs are taken. Rouzindars are also cavaliers, who receive their pay daily, as the word imports ; but their pay is greater, in some instances, than that of many of the mansebdars [Page 217] The foot-soldiers receive the smallest pay; and, to be sure, the musketeers cut a sorry figure at the best of times, which may be said to be when squatting on the ground, and resting their muskets on a kind of wooden fork which hangs to them. Even then, they are terribly afraid of burning their eyes or their long beards, and above all lest some Dgen, or evil spirit, should cause the bursting of their musket. Some have twenty roupies a month, some fifteen, some ten ; but their artillerymen who receive great pay, particularly all the Franguis or Christians,Portuguese, English, Dutch, Germans, and French; fugitives from Goa, and from the Dutch and English companies. Formerly, when the Mogols were little skilled in the management of artillery, the pay of the Europeans was more liberal, and there are still some remaining who receive two hundred roupies a month : but now the King admits them with difficulty into the service, and limits their pay to thirty two roupies.
The artillery is of two sorts, the heavy and the light, or, as they call the latter, the artillery of the stirrup. With respect to the heavy artillery, I recollect that when the King, after his illness, went with his army to Lahor and Kachemire to pass the summer in that dear little paradise of the Indies, it consisted of seventy pieces of cannon, mostly of brass, without reckoning from two to three hundred light camels, each of which carried a small field-piece of the size of a double musket, attached on the back of the [Page 218] animal, much in the same manner as swivels are fixed in our barks. I shall relate elsewhere this expedition to Kachemire, and describe how the King, during that long journey, amused himself almost every day, with the sports of the field, sometimes letting his birds of prey loose against cranes ; sometimes hunting the nilsgaus, or grey oxen (a species of elk) ; another day hunting antelopes with tame leopards; and then indulging in the exclusively royal hunt of the lion.
The artillery of the stirrup, which also accompanied the Mogol in the journey to Lahor and Kachemire, appeared to me extremely well appointed. It consisted of fifty or sixty small field-pieces, all of brass; each piece mounted on a wellmade and handsomely painted carriage, containing two ammunition chests, one behind and another in front, and ornamented with a variety of small red streamers.
I have said that the infantry was inconsiderable. I do not think that in the army immediately about the King, the number can exceed fifteen thousand, including musketeers, foot artillery, and generally, every person connected with that artillery. From this, an estimate may be formed of the number of infantry in the provinces. [Page 220] It is also important to remark the absolute necessity which exists of paying the whole of this army every two months, from the omrah to the private soldier; for the King's pay is their only means of sustenance. In France, when the exigencies of the times prevent the government from immediately discharging an arrear of debt, an officer, or even a private soldier, may contrive to live for some time by means of his own private income ; but in the Indies, any unusual delay in the payment of the troops is sure to be attended with fatal consequences; after selling whatever trifling articles they may possess, the soldiers disband and die of hunger. Toward the close of the late civil war, I discovered a growing disposition in the [Page 221] troopers to sell their horses, which they would, no doubt, soon have done if the war had been prolonged. And no wonder; for consider, My Lord, that it is difficult to find in the Mogol's army, a soldier who is not married, who has not wife, children, servants, and slaves, all depending upon him for support. I have known many persons lost in amazement while contemplating the number of persons, amounting to millions, who depend for support solely on the King's pay. Is it possible, they have asked, that any revenue can suffice for such incredible expenditure . seeming to forget the riches of the Great Mogol, and the peculiar manner in which Hindoustan is governed.
But I have not enumerated all the expenses incurred by the Great Mogol. He keeps in Dehly and Agra from two to three thousand fine horses, always at hand in case of emergency: eight or nine hundred elephants, and a large number of baggage horses, mules, and porters, intended to carry the numerous and capacious tents, with their fittings, his wives and women, furniture, kitchen apparatus, Ganges-water1 and all the other articles neces [Page 222] sary for the camp, which the Mogol has always about him, as in his capital, things which are not considered necessary in our kingdoms in Europe.
Add to this, if you will, the enormous expenses of the Seraglio, where the consumption of fine cloths of gold, and brocades, silks, embroideries, pearls, musk, amber and sweet essences, is greater than can be conceived. Thus, although the Great Mogol be in the receipt of an immense revenue, his expenditure being much in the same proportion, he cannot possess the vast surplus of wealth that most people seem to imagine. I admit that his income exceeds probably the joint revenues of the Grand Seignior and of the King of Persia ; but if I were to call him a wealthy monarch, it would be in the sense that a treasurer is to be considered wealthy who pays with one hand the large sums which he receives with the other. I should call that King effectively rich wlio, without oppressing or impoverishing his people, possessed revenues sufficient to support the expenses of a numerous and magnificent court—to erect grand and useful edifices—to indulge a liberal and kind disposition—to maintain a military force for the defence of his dominions—and, besides all this, to reserve an accumulating fund that would provide against any unforeseen rupture with his neighbours, although it should prove of some years' duration. The Sovereign of the Indies is doubtless possessed of many of these advantages, but not to the degree generally supposed. Wliat I have said on the subject of the great expenses to which he is unavoidably exposed, has perhaps inclined you to this opinion ; and the two facts I am about to relate, of which I had an opportunity to ascertain the correctness, will convince your lordship that the pecuniary resources of the Great Mogol himself may be exaggerated.
First.Toward the conclusion of the late war, Aureng Zebe was perplexed how to pay and supply his armies, notwithstanding that the war had continued but five [Page 223] years, that the pay of the troops was less than usual, that, with the exception of Bengale where Sultan Sujah still held out, a profound tranquillity reigned in every part of Hindoustan, and that he had so lately appropriated to himself a large portion of the treasures of his father Chah-Jehan. Second.Chah-Jehan, who was a great economist, and reigned more than forty years without being involved in any great wars, never amassed six kourours of roupies. But I do not include in this sum a great abundance of gold and silver articles, of various descriptions, cux-iously wrought, and covered with precious stones; or a prodigious quantity of pearls and gems of all kinds, of great size and value. I doubt whether any other Monarch possesses more of this species of wealth; a throne of the great Mogol, covered with pearls and diamonds, being alone valued, if my memory be correct, at three kourours of roupies. But all these precious stones, and valuable articles, are the spoils of ancient princes, Patans and Rajas, collected during a long course of years, and, increasing regularly under every reign, by presents which the Omrahs are compelled to make on certain annual festivals. The whole of this treasure is considered the property of the crown, which it is criminal to touch, and upon the security of which the King, in a time of pressing necessity, would find it extremely difficult to raise the smallest sum.
Before I conclude, I wish to explain how it happens that, although this Empire of the Mogol is such an abyss for gold and silver, as I said before, these precious metals are not in greater plenty here than elsewhere; on the contrary, the inhabitants have less the appearance of a moneyed people than those of many other parts of the globe. In the first place, a large quantity is melted, re-melted, and wasted, in fabricating women's bracelets, both for [Page 224] the hands and feet, chains, ear-rings, nose and finger rings, and a still larger quantity is consumed in manufacturing embroideries; alachas, or striped silken stuff's; louras or fringes of gold lace, worn on turbans; gold and silver cloths; scarfs, turbans, and brocades. The quantity of these articles made in India is incredible. All the troops, from the Omrah to the man in the ranks, will wear gilt ornaments; nor will a private soldier refuse them to his wife and children, though the whole family should die of hunger; which indeed is a common occurrence.
In the second place, the King, as proprietor of the land, makes over a certain quantity to military men, as an equivalent for their pay; and this grant is called jah-ghir, or, as in Turkey, timar; the word jah-ghir signifying the spot from which to draw, or the place of salary. Similar grants are made to governors, in lieu of their salary, and also for the support of their troops, on condition that they pay a certain sum annually to the King out of any surplus revenue that the land may yield. The lands not so granted are retained by the King as the peculiar domains of his house, and are seldom, if ever, given in the way of jah-ghir; and upon these domains he keeps contractors, who are also bound to pay him an annual rent.
The persons thus put in possession of the land, whether as timariots, governors, or contractors, have an authority almost absolute over the peasantry, and nearly as much over the artisans and merchants of the towns and villages within their district; and nothing can be imagined more cruel and oppressive than the manner in which it is exercised. There is no one before whom the injured peasant, artisan, or tradesman can pour out his just complaints; no great lords, parliaments, or judges of local courts, exist, as in France, to restrain the wickedness of those merciless oppressors, and the Kadis, or judges, are not invested with sufficient power to redress the wrongs of these unhappy people. This sad abuse of the royal authority may not be felt in the same degree near capital cities such as Dehly and Agra, or in the vicinity of large towns and seaports, because in those places acts of gross injustice cannot easily be concealed from the court. This debasing state of slavery obstructs the progress of trade and influences the manners and mode of life of every individual. There can be little encouragement to engage in commercial pursuits, when the success with which they may be attended, instead of adding to the enjoyments of life, provokes the cupidity of a neighbouring tyrant possessing both power and inclination to deprive any man of the fruits of his industry. When wealth is acquired, as must sometimes be the case, the possessor, so far from living with increased comfort and assuming an air of independence, studies the means by which he may appear indigent: his dress, lodging, and furniture, continue to be mean, and he is careful, above all things, never to indulge in the pleasures of the table. In the meantime, his gold and silver remain buried at a great depth in the ground ; agreeable to the general practice among the peasantry, artisans and merchants, whether Mahometans or Gentiles, but especially among the latter, who possess almost exclusively the trade and wealth of the country, and who believe that the money concealed during life [Page 226] will prove beneficial to them after death. A few individuals alone who derive their income from the King or from the Omrahs, or who are protected by a powerful patron, are at no pains to counterfeit poverty, but partake of the comforts and luxuries of life.
I have no doubt that this habit of secretly burying the precious metals, and thus withdrawing them from circulation, is the principal cause of their apparent scarcity in Hindoustan.
From what I have said, a question will naturally arise, whether it would not be more advantageous for the King as well as for the people, if the former ceased to be sole possessor of the land, and the right of private property were recognised in the Indies as it is with us. I have carefully compared the condition of European states, where that right is acknowledged, with the condition of those countries where it is not known, and am persuaded that the absence of it among the people is injurious to the best interests of the Sovereign himself. We have seen how in the Indies the gold and silver disappear in consequence of the tyranny of Timariots, Governors, and Revenue contractors—a tyranny which even the monarch, if so disposed, has no means of controlling in provinces not contiguous to his capital—a tyranny often so excessive as to deprive the peasant and artisan of the necessaries of life, and leave them to die of misery and exhaustion—a tyranny owing to which those wretched people either have no children at all, or have them only to endure the agonies of starvation, and to die at a tender age—a tyranny, in fine, that drives the cultivator of the soil from his wretched home to some neighbouring state, in hopes of finding milder treatment, or to the army, where he becomes the servant of some trooper. As the ground is seldom tilled otherwise than by compulsion, and as no person is found willing and able to repair the ditches and canals for the conveyance of water, it happens that [Page 227] the whole country is badly cultivated, and a great part rendered unproductive from the want of irrigation. The houses, too, are left in a dilapidated condition, there being few people who will either build new ones, or repair those which are tumbling down. The peasant cannot avoid asking himself this question : ‘Why should I toil for a tyrant who may come to-morrow and lay his rapacious hands upon all I possess and value, without leaving me, if such should be his humour, the means to drag on my miserable existence ?’—The Timariots, Governors, and Revenue contractors, on their part reason in this manner : ‘Why should the neglected state of this land create uneasiness in our minds ? and why should we expend our own money and time to render it fruitful. We may be deprived of it in a single moment, and our exertions would benefit neither ourselves nor our children. Let us draw from the soil all the money we can, though the peasant should starve or abscond, and we should leave it, when commanded to quit, a dreary wilderness.’ The facts I have mentioned are sufficient to account fory the rapid decline of the Asiatic states. It is owing to this miserable system of government that most towns in Hindoustan are made up of earth, mud, and other wretched materials ; that there is no city or town which, if it be not already ruined and deserted, does not bear evident marks of approaching decay. Without confining our remarks to so distant a kingdom, we may judge of the effects of despotic power unrelentingly exercised, by the present condition of Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Palestine, the once wonderful plains of Antioch, and so many other regions anciently well cultivated, fertile, and populous, but now desolate, and in many parts marshy, pestiferous, and unfit for human habitation. Egypt also exhibits a sad picture of an enslaved country. More than one-tenth part of that incomparable territory has been lost within the last eighty years, because no one will be at the expense of repairing the irrigation channels, and confining [Page 228] the Nile within its banks. The low lands are thus violently inundated, and covered with sand, which cannot be removed without much labour and expense. Can it excite wonder, that under these circumstances, the arts do not flourish here as they would do under a better government, or as they flourish in our happier France ? No artist can be expected to give his mind to his calling in the midst of a people who are either wretchedly poor, or who, if rich, assume an appearance of poverty, and who regard not the beauty and excellence, but the cheapness of an article : a people whose grandees pay for a work of art considerably under its value, and according to their own caprice, and who do not hesitate to punish an importunate artist, or tradesman, with the korrah, that long and terrible whip hanging at every Omrah's gate. Is it not enough also to damp the ardour of any artist, when he feels that he can never hope to attain to any distinction; that he shall not be permitted to purchase either office or land for the benefit of himself and family; that he must at no time make it appear he is the owner of the most trifling sum; and that he may never venture to indulge in good fare, or to dress in fine apparel, lest he should create a suspicion of his possessing money.? The arts in the Indies would long ago have lost their beauty and delicacy, if the Monarch and principal Omrahs did not keep in their pay a number of artists who work in their houses, teach the children, and are stimulated to exertion by the hope of reward and the fear of the korrah. The protection afforded by powerful patrons to rich merchants and tradesmen who pay the workmen rather higher wages, tends also to preserve the arts. I say rather [Page 229] higher wages, for it should not be inferred from the goodness of the manufactures, that the workman is held in esteem, or arrives at a state of independence. Nothing but sheer necessity or blows from a cudgel keeps him employed ; he never can become rich, and he feels it no trifling matter if he have the means of satisfying the cravings of hunger, and of covering his body with the coarsest raiment. If money be gained, it does not in any measure go into his pocket, but only serves to increase the wealth of the merchant who, in his turn, is not a little perplexed how to guard against some act of outrage and extortion on the part of his superiors.
A profound and universal ignorance is the natural con sequence of such a state of society as I have endeavoured to describe. Is it possible to establish in Hindoustan academies and colleges properly endowed ? Where shall we seek for founders or, should they be found, where are the scholars ? Where the individuals whose property is sufficient to support their children at college ? or, if such individuals exist, who would venture to display so clear a proof of wealth ? Lastly, if any persons should be tempted to commit this great imprudence, yet where are the benefices, the employments, the offices of trust and dignity, that require ability and science and are calculated to excite the emulation and the hopes of the young student. Nor can the commerce of a country so governed be conducted with the activity and success that we witness in Europe; few are the men who will voluntarily endure labour and anxiety, and incur danger, for another person's benefit,—for a governor who may appropriate to his own use the profit of any speculation. Let that profit be ever so great, the man by whom it has been made must still wear the garb of indigence, and fare no better, in regard to eating and drinking, than his poorer neighbours. In cases, indeed, where the merchant is protected by a military man of rank, he may be induced to embark in commercial enterprises ; but still he must be the slave of [Page 230] his patron, who will exact whatever terms he pleases as the price of his protection.
The Great Mogol cannot select for his service, princes, noblemen and gentlemen of opulent and ancient families; nor the sons of his citizens, merchants and manufacturers; men of education, possessing a high sense of propriety, affectionately attached to their Sovereign, ready to support, by acts of valour, the reputation of their family, and, as the occasion may arise, able and willing to maintain themselves, either at court or in the army, by means of their own patrimony; animated by the hope of better times, and satisfied with the approbation and smile of their Sovereign. Instead of men of this description, he is surrounded by slaves, ignorant and brutal; by parasites raised from the dregs of society; strangers to loyalty and patriotism; full of insufferable pride, and destitute of courage, of honour, and of decency.
The country is ruined by the necessity of defraying the enormous charges required to maintain the splendour of a numerous court, and to pay a large army maintained for the purpose of keeping the people in subjection. No adequate idea can be conveyed of the sufferings of that people. The cudgel and the whip compel them to incessant labour for the benefit of others; and driven to despair by every kind of cruel treatment, their revolt or their flight is only prevented by the presence of a military force.
The misery of this ill-fated country is increased by the practice which prevails too much at all times, but especially on the breaking out of an important war, of selling the different governments for immense sums in hard cash. Hence it naturally becomes the principal object of the individual thus appointed Governor, to obtain repayment of the purchase-money, which he borrowed as he could at a ruinous rate of interest. Indeed whether the government of a province has or has not been bought, the Governor, as well as the timariot and the farmer of the [Page 231] revenue, must find the means of making valuable presents, every year, to a Visir, a Eunuch, a lady of the Seraglio, and to any other person whose influence at court he considers indispensable. The Governor must also enforce the payment of the regular tribute to the King; and although he was originally a wretched slave, involved in debt, and without the smallest patrimony, he yet becomes a great and opulent lord.
Thus do ruin and desolation overspread the land. The provincial governors, as before observed, are so many petty tyrants, possessing a boundless authority; and as there is no one to whom the oppressed subject may appeal, he cannot hope for redress, let his injuries be ever so grievous or ever so frequently repeated.
It is true that the Great Mogol sends a Vakea-Nevis to the various provinces ; that is, persons whose business it is to communicate every event that takes place ; but there is generally a disgraceful collusion between these officers and the governor, so that their presence seldom restrains the tyranny exercised over the unhappy people.
Governments also are not so often and so openly sold in Hindoustan as in Turkey. I say ‘so openly’, because the costly presents, made occasionally by the governors, are nearly equivalent to purchase-money. The same persons, too, generally remain longer in their respective governments than in Turkey, and the people are gradually less oppressed by governors of some standing than when, indigent and greedy, they first take possession of their province. The tyranny of these men is also somewhat [Page 232] mitigated by the apprehension that the people, if used with excessive cruelty, may abandon the country, and seek an asylum in the territory of some Raja, as indeed happens very often.
In Persia likewise are governments neither so frequently nor so publicly sold as in Turkey; for it is not uncommon for the children of governors to succeed their fathers. The consequence of this better state of things is seen in the superior condition of the people, as compared to those of Turkey. The Persians also are more polite, and there are even instances of their devoting themselves to study. Those three countries, Turkey, Persia, and Hindoustan, have no idea of the principle of meum and luum, relatively to land or other real possessions; and having lost that respect for the right of property, which is the basis of all that is good and useful in the world, necessarily resemble each other in essential points : they fall into the same pernicious errors, and must, sooner or later, experience the natural consequences of those errors—tyranny, ruin, and misery.
Actuated by a blind and wicked ambition to be more absolute than is warranted by the laws of God and of nature, the Kings of Asia grasp at everything, until at length they lose everything; or, if they do not always find themselves without pecuniary resources, they are invariably disappointed in the expectation of acquiring the riches which they covet. If the same system of government [Page 233] existed with us, where, I must again ask, should we find Princes, Prelates, Nobles, opulent Citizens, and thriving Tradesmen, ingenious Artisans and Manufacturers ? Where should we look for such cities as Paris, Lyons, Toulouse, Roven, or, if you will, London, and so many others ? Where should we see that infinite number of towns and villages; all those beautiful country houses, those fine plains, hills and valleys, cultivated with so much care, art and labour ? and what would become of the ample revenues derived from so much industry, an industry beneficial alike to the sovereign and the subject.'' The reverse of this smiling picture would, alas! be exhibited. Our large towns would become uninhabitable in consequence of the unwholesome air, and fall into ruins without exciting in any person a thought of preventing or repairing the decay; our fertile hills would be abandoned, and the plains would be overrun with thorns and weeds, or covered with pestilential morasses. The excellent accommodation for travellers would disappear; the good inns, for example, between Paris and Lyons, would dwindle into ten or twelve wretched caravansaries, and travellers be reduced to the necessity of moving, like the Gyp.sies, with everything about them. The Eastern Karavan.s-Serrah resemble large barns, raised and paved all round, in the same manner as our Pont-neuf. Hundreds of human beings are seen in them, mingled with their horses, mules, and camels. In summer these buildings are hot and suffocating, and in winter nothing but the breath of so many animals prevents the inmates from dying of cold. But there are countries, I shall be told, such for instance as the Grand Seignior's dominions, which we know better than any without going as far as the Indies, where the principle of meum and tuum is unknown, which not only preserve their existence, but maintain a great and increasing power. An empire so prodigiously extensive as that of the Grand Seignior, comprising countries whose soil is so [Page 234] deep and excellent that even without due cultivation it will continue fertile for many years, cannot be otherwise than rich and powerful. Yet how insignificant is the wealth and strength of Turkey in comparison to its extent and natural advantages! Let us only suppose that country as populous and as carefully cultivated as it would become if the right of private property were recognised and acted upon, and we cannot doubt that it could raise and support armies as numerous and well-appointed as formerly : but even at Constantinople three months are now required to raise five or six thousand men. I have travelled through nearly every part of the empire, and witnessed how lamentably it is ruined and depopulated. Some support it undoubtedly derives from the Christian slaves brought from all quarters; but if that country continue many years under the present system of government, it must necessarily fall and perish from innate weakness, though, to all appearance, it is now preserved by that weakness itself; for there is no longer a governor, or any other person, possessed of pecuniary means to undertake the least enterprise, or who could find the men he would require to accomplish his purpose. Strange means of preservation ! Turkey seems to owe its transient existence to the seeds of destruction in its own bosom ! To remove the danger of commotion and put an end to all fears on that subject, nothing more appears necessary than the measure adopted by a Brama of Pegu, who actually [Page 235] caused the death of half the population by famine, converted the country into forests, and prevented for many years the tillage of the land. But all this did not suffice : even this plan was unsuccessful; a division of the kingdom took place, and Ava, the capital, was very lately on the point of being captured by a handful of fugitives from China. We must confess, however, that there seems little probability of the total ruin and destruction of the Turkish empire in our day—it will be happy if we see nothing worse !because the neighbouring states, so far from being able to attack it, are not in a condition to defend themselves effectually, without foreign aid, which remoteness and jealousy will always render tardy, inefficient, and liable to suspicion. [Page 236] If it be remarked that the lands which our Kings hold as domains are as well cultivated, and as thickly peopled as other lands, my answer is that there can be no analogy between a kingdom whose monarch is proprietor of a few domains, and a kingdom where the monarch possesses, in his own right, every acre of the soil. In France the laws are so reasonable, that the King is the first to obey them: his domains are held without the violation of any right; his farmers or stewards may be sued at law, and the aggrieved artisan or peasant is sure to find redress against injustice and oppression. ('But in eastern countries, the weak and the injured are without any refuge whatever;) and the only law that decides all controversies is the cane and the caprice of a governor.
In treating of the beauty of these towns, I must premise that I have sometimes been astonished to hear the contemptuous manner in which Europeans in the Indies speak of these and other places. They complain that the buildings are inferior in beauty to those of the Western world, forgetting that different climates require different styles of architecture ; that what is useful and proper at Paris, London, or Amsterdam, would be entirely out of place at Dehli; insomuch that if it were possible for any one of those great capitals to change place with the metropolis of the Indies, it would become necessary to throw down the greater part of the city, and to rebuild it on a totally different plan. Without doubt, the cities of Europe may boast great beauties ; these, however, are of an appropriate character, suited to a cold climate. Thus Dehli also may possess beauties adapted to a warm climate. The heat is so intense in Hindoustan, that no one, not even the King, wears stockings ; the only cover for the feet being babouches, or slippers, while the head is protected by a small turban, of the finest and most delicate materials. The other garments are proportionably light. During the summer season, it is scarcely possible to keep the hand on the wall of an apartment, or the head on a pillow. For more than six successive months, everybody lies in the open air without covering—the common people in the streets, the merchants and persons of condition sometimes in their courts or gardens, and sometimes on their terraces, which are first carefully watered. Now, only suppose the streets of S. Jaques or S. Denis transported hither, with their close houses and endless stories ; would they be habitable ? or would it be possible to sleep in them during the night, when the absence of wind [Page 241] increases the heat almost to suffocation ? Suppose one just returned on horseback, half dead with heat and dust, and drenched, as usual, in perspiration ; and then imagine the luxury of squeezing up a naiTow dark staircase to the fourth or fifth story, there to remain almost choked with heat. In the Indies, there is no such troublesome task to perform. You have only to swallow quickly a draught of fresh water, or lemonade ; to undress; wash face, hands, and feet, and then immediately drop upon a sofa in some shady place, where one or two servants fan you with their great panhas or fans. But I shall now endeavour to give you an accurate description of Dehli, that you may judge for yourselves how far it has a claim to the appellation of a beautiful city.
Dehli, then, is an entirely new city, situated in a flat country, on the banks of the Gemna, a river which may be compared to the Loire, and built on one bank only in such a manner that it terminates in this place very much in the form of a crescent, having but one bridge of boats to cross to the country. Excepting the side where it is defended by the river, the city is encompassed by walls of brick.
The fortifications, however, are very incomplete, as there are neither ditches nor any other kind of additional defence, if we except flanking towers of antique shape, at intervals of about one hundred paces, and a bank of earth forming a platform behind the walls, four or five feet in thickness. Although these works encompass not only the city but the citadel, yet their extent is less than is generally supposed.
The citadel, which contains the Mehalle or Seraglio, and the other royal apartments of which I shall have occasion to speak hereafter, is round, or rather semicircular. It commands a prospect of the river, from which it is separated by a sandy space of considerable length and width. On these sands are exhibited the combats of elephants, and there the corps belonging to the Omrahs or lords, and those of the Rajas or gentile princes, pass in review before the Sovereign, who witnesses the spectacle from the windows of the palace. The walls of the citadel, as to their antique and round towers, resemble those of the city, but being partly of brick, and partly of a red stone which resembles marble, they have a better appearance. The walls of the fortress likewise excel those of the town in height, strength, and thickness, being capable of admitting small field-pieces, which are pointed toward the city. Except on the side of the river, the citadel [Page 243] is defended by a deep ditch faced with hewn stone, filled with water, and stocked with fish. Considerable as these works may appear, their real strength is by no means great, and in my opinion a battery of moderate force would soon level them with the ground.
Adjoining the ditch is a large garden, filled at all times with flowers and green shrubs, which, contrasted with the stupendous red walls, produce a beautiful effect. Next to the garden is the great royal square, faced on one side by the gates of the fortress, and on the opposite side of which terminate the two most considerable streets of the city.
The tents of such Rajas as are in the King's pay, and whose weekly turn it is to mount guard, are pitched in this square ; those petty sovereigns having an insuperable objection to be enclosed within walls. The guard within the fortress is mounted by the Omrahs and Mansebdars. In this place also at break of day they exercise the royal horses, which are kept in a spacious stable not far distant; and here the Kobat-kan, or grand Muster-master of the cavalry, examines carefully the horses of those who have been received into the service.
Here too is held a bazar or market for an endless variety of things ; which like the Pont-neuf at Paris, is the rendezvous for all sorts of mountebanks and jugglers. Hither, likewise, the astrologers resort, both Mahometan and Gentile [Page 245] I am speaking only of the poor bazar-astrologers. Those who frequent the court of the grandees are considered by them eminent doctors, and become wealthy.
The whole of Asia is degraded by the same superstition. Kings and nobles grant large salaries to these crafty diviners, and never engage in the most trifling transaction without consulting them. They read whatever is written in heaven ; fix upon the Sahet, and solve every doubt by opening the Koran.
The two principal streets of the city, already mentioned as leading into the square, may be five-and-twenty or thirty ordinary paces in width. They run in a straight line nearly as far as the eye can reacli; but the one leading to the-LaAor gate is much the longer. In regard to houses the two streets are exactly alike. As in our Place Royale, there are arcades on both sides; with this difference, however, that they are only brick, and that the top serves for a terrace and has no additional building. They also differ from the Place Royale in not having an uninterrupted opening from one to the other, but are generally separated by partitions, in the spaces between which are open shops, where, during the day, artisans work, bankers sit for the despatch of their business, and merchants exhibit their wares. Within the arch is a small door, opening into a warehouse, in which these wares are deposited for the night. The houses of the merchants are built over these warehouses, at the back of the arcades : they look handsome enough from the street, and appear tolerably commodious within; they are airy, at a distance from the dust, and communicate with the terrace-roofs over the shops, on which the inhabitants sleep at night; the houses, however, are not continued the whole length of the streets. A few, and only a few, other parts of the city have good houses raised on terraces, the buildings over the shops being often too low to be seen from the street. The rich merchants have their dwellings elsewhere, to which they retire after the hours of business.
Intermixed with these different houses is an immense number of small ones, built of mud and thatched with straw, in which lodge the common troopers, and all that vast multitude of servants and camp-followers who follow the court and the army.
It is owing to these thatched cottages that Dehli is subject to such frequent conflagrations. More than sixty thousand roofs were consumed this last year by three fires, during the prevalence of certain impetuous winds which blow generally in summer. So rapid were the flames that several camels and horses were burnt. Many of the inmates of the seraglio also fell victims to the devouring element; for these poor women are so bashful and helpless that they can do nothing but hide their faces at the sight of strangers, and those who perished possessed not sufficient energy to fly from the danger.
It is because of these wretched mud and thatch houses that I always represent to myself Dehli as a collection of many villages, or as a military encampment with a few more conveniences than are usually found in such [Page 247] places. The dwellings of the Omrahs, though mostly situated on the banks of the river and in the suburbs, are yet scattered in every direction. In these hot countries a house is considered beautiful if it be capacious, and if the situation be airy and exposed on all sides to the wind, especially to the northern breezes. A good house has its courtyards, gardens, trees, basins of water, small jets d'eau in the hall or at the entrance, and handsome subterraneous apartments which are furnished with large fans, and on account of their coolness are fit places for repose from noon until four or five o'clock, when the air becomes suffocatingly warm. Instead of these cellars many persons prefer Kas-kanays, that is, small and neat houses made of straw or odoriferous roots placed commonly in the middle of a parterre, so near to a reservoir of water that the servants may easily moisten the outside by means of water brought in skins. They consider that a house to be greatly admired ought to be situated in the middle of a large flower-garden, and should have four large divan-apartments raised the height of a man from the ground, and exposed to the four winds, so that the coolness may be felt from any quarter. Indeed, no handsome dwelling is ever seen without terraces on which the family may sleep during the night. They always open into a large chamber into which the bedstead is easily moved in case of rain, when thick clouds of dust arise, when the cold air is felt at break of day, or when it is found necessary to guard against those light but penetrating dews which frequently cause a numbness in the limbs and induce a species of paralysis.
The interior of a good house has the whole floor covered [Page 248] with a cotton mattress four inches in thickness, over which a fine white cloth is spread during the summer, and a silk carpet in the winter. At the most conspicuous side of the chamber are one or two mattresses, with fine coverings quilted in the form of flowers and ornamented with delicate silk embroidery, interspersed with gold and silver. These are intended for the master of the house, or any person of quality who may happen to call. Each mattress has a large cushion of brocade to lean upon, and there are other cushions placed round the room, covered with brocade, velvet or flowered satin, for the rest of the company. Five or six feet from the floor, the sides of the room are full of niches, cut in a variety of shapes, tasteful and well proportioned, in which are seen porcelain vases and flower-pots. The ceiling is gilt and painted, but without pictures of man or beast, such representations being forbidden by the religion of the country.
Here the costly merchandise is generally kept in warehouses, and the shops are seldom decked with rich or showy articles. For one that makes a display of beautiful and fine cloths, silk, and other stuffs striped with gold and silver, turbans embroidered with gold, and brocades, there are at least five-and-twenty where nothing is seen but pots of oil or [Page 249] butter, piles of baskets filled with rice, barley, chick-peas, wheat, and an endless variety of other grain and pulse, the ordinary aliment not only of the Gentiles, who never eat meat, but of the lower class of Mahometans, and a considerable portion of the military.
There is, indeed, a fruit-market that makes some show. It contains many shops which during the summer are well supplied with dry fruit from Persia, Balk, Bokara, and Samarkande; such as almonds, pistachios, and walnuts, raisins, prunes, and apricots; and in winter with excellent fresh grapes, black and white, brought from the same countries, wrapped in cotton ; pears and apples of three or four sorts, and those admirable melons which last the whole winter. These fruits are, however, very dear; a single melon selling for a crown and a half. But nothing is considered so great a treat : it forms the chief expense of the Omrahs, and I have frequently known my Agah spend twenty crowns on fruit for his breakfast. In summer the melons of the country are cheap, but they are of an inferior kind : there are no means of procuring good ones but by sending to Persia for seed, and sowing it in ground prepared with extraordinary care, in the manner practised by the grandees. Good melons, however, are scarce, the soil being so little congenial that the seed degenerates after the first year.
Ambas2or Mangues, are in season during two months in summer, and are plentiful and cheap; but those grown at Dehli are indifferent. The best come from Bengale, Golkonda, and Goa, and these are indeed excellent. I do not know any sweetmeat more agreeable.
Pateques, or water-melons, are in great abundance nearly the whole year round ; but those of Dehli are soft, without colour or sweetness. If this fruit be ever found good, it is among the wealthy people, who import the seed and cultivate it with much care and expense.
There are many confectioners' shops in the town, but the sweatmeats are badly made, and full of dust and flies. Bakers also are numerous, but the ovens are unlike our own, and very defective. The bread, therefore, is neither well made nor properly baked. That sold in the Fort is tolerably good, and the Omrahs bake at home, so that their bread is much superior. In its composition they are not sparing of fresh butter, milk, and eggs; but though it be raised, it has a burnt taste, and is too much like cake, and never to be compared to the Pain de Gonesse, and other delicious kinds, to be met with in Paris. I n the bazars there are shops where meat is sold roasted and dressed in a variety of ways. But there is no trusting to their dishes, composed, for aught I know, of the flesh of camels, horses, or perhaps oxen which have died of disease. Indeed no food can be considered wholesome which is not dressed at home.
Meat is sold in every part of the city ; but instead of goats flesh that of mutton is often palmed upon the buyer; an imposition which ought to be guarded against, because mutton and beef, but particularly the former, though not unpleasant to the taste, are heating, flatulent, and difficult of digestion. Kid is the best food, but being [Page 251] rarely sold in quarters, it must be purchased alive, which is very inconvenient, as the meat will not keep from morning to night, and is generally lean and without flavour. The goats' flesh found in quarters at the butchers' shops is frequently that of the she-goat, which is lean and tough.
But it would be unreasonable in me to complain; because since I have been familiarised with the manners of the people, it seldom happens that I find fault either with my meat or my bread. I send my servant to the King's purveyors in the Fort, who are glad to sell wholesome food, which costs them very little, at the high price I am willing to pay. My Agah smiled when I remarked that I had been for years in the habit of living by stealth and artifice, and that the one hundred and fifty crowns which he gave me monthly would not otherwise keep me from starving, although in France I could for half a roupie eat every day as good meat as the King.
As to capons, there are none to be had ; the people being tender-hearted toward animals of every description, men only excepted; these being wanted for their Seraglios. The markets, however, are amply supplied with fowls, tolerably good and cheap. Among others, there is a small hen, delicate and tender, which I call Ethiopian, the skin being quite black.
Pigeons are exposed for sale, but not young ones, the Indians considering them too small, and saying that it would be cruel to deprive them of life at so tender an age. [Page 252] There are partridges, which are smaller than ours, but being caught with nets, and brought alive from a distance, are not so good as fowls. The same thing may be remarked of ducks and hares, which are brought alive in crowded cages.
The people of this neighbourhood are indifferent fisher-men ; yet good fish may sometimes be bought, particularly two sorts, called sing-ala and ran. The former resembles our pike ; the latter our carp. When the weather is cold, the people will not fish at all if they can avoid it; for they have a much greater dread of cold than Europeans have of heat. Should any fish then happen to be seen in the market, it is immediately bought up by the eunuchs, who are particularly fond of it ; why, I cannot tell. The Omrahs alone contrive to force the fishermen out at all times by means of the korrah, the long whip always suspended at their door.
In Dehli there is no middle state. A man must either be of the highest rank or live miserably. My pay is considerable, nor am I sparing of money; yet does it often happen that I have not wherewithal to satisfy the cravings of hunger, the bazars being so ill supplied, and frequently containing nothing but the refuse of the grandees. Wine, that essential part of every entertainment, can be obtained in none of the shops at Dehli, although it might be made from the native grape, were not the use of that liquor prohibited equally by the Gentile and Mahometan law. I drank some at Amed-abad and Golkonda, in Dutch and English houses, which was not ill-tasted. If wine be [Page 253] sometimes found in the Mogol empire, it is either Chiraz or Canary. The former is sent by land from Persia to Bander Abasy, where it is embarked for Sourate, from which port it reaches Dehli in forty-six days. The Canary wine is brought by the Dutch to Sourate; but both these wines are so dear that, as we say at home, the taste is destroyed by the cost. A bottle containing about three Paris pints cannot be purchased under six or seven crowns. The liquor peculiar to this country is Arac, a spirit drawn by distillation from unrefined sugar; the sale of which is also strictly forbidden, and none but Christians dare openly to drink it. Arac is a spirit as harsh and burning as that made from corn in Poland, and the use of it to the least excess occasions nervous and incurable disorders. A wise man will here accustom himself to the pure and fine water, or to the excellent lemonade which costs little and may be drunk without injury. To say the truth, few persons in these hot climates feel a strong desire for wine, and I have no doubt that the happy ignorance which prevails of many distempers is fairly ascribable to the general habits of sobriety among the people, and to the profuse perspiration to which they are perpetually subject. The gout, the [Page 254] stone, complaints in the kidneys, catarrhs and quartan agues are nearly unknown; and persons who arrive in the country afflicted with any of these disorders, as was the case with me, soon experience a complete cure. Even the venereal disease, common as it is in Hindoustan, is not of so virulent a character, or attended with such injurious consequences, as in other parts of the world. But although there is a greater enjoyment of health, yet there is less vigour among the people than in our colder climates; and the feebleness and languor both of body and mind, consequent upon excessive heat, may be considered a species of unremitting malady, which attacks all persons indiscriminately, and among the rest Europeans not yet inured to the heat. Among other things, the Indians make excellent muskets, and fowling-pieces, and such beautiful gold ornaments that it may be doubted if the exquisite workmanship of those articles can be exceeded by any European goldsmith. I have often admired the beauty, softness, and delicacy of their paintings and miniatures, and was particularly struck with the exploits of Ekbar, painted on a shield by a celebrated artist, who [Page 255] is said to have been seven years in completing the picture. I thought it a wonderful performance. The Indian painters are chiefly deficient in just proportions, and in the expression of the face; but these defects would soon be corrected if they possessed good masters, and were instructed in the rules of art.
The rich will have every [Page 256] article at a cheap rate. When an Omrah or Mansebdar requires the services of an artisan, lie sends to the bazar for him, employing force, if necessary, to make the poor man work; and after the task is finished, the unfeeling lord pays, not according to the value of the labour, but agreeably to his own standard of fair remuneration; the artisan having reason to congratulate himself if the korrah has not been given in part payment. How then can it be expected that any spirit of emulation should animate the artist or manufacturer ? Instead of contending for a superiority of reputation, his only anxiety is to finish his work, and to earn the pittance that shall supply him with a piece of bread. The artists, therefore, who arrive at any eminence in their art are those only who are in the service of the King or of some powerful Omrah, and who work exclusively for their patron [Page 259] The artisans repair every morning to their respective Kar-kanays, where they remain employed the whole day ; and in the evening return to their homes. In this quiet and regular manner their time glides away ; no one aspiring after any improvement in the condition of life wherein he happens to be born. The embroiderer brings up his son as an embroiderer, the son of a goldsmith becomes a goldsmith, and a physician of the city educates his son for a physician. No one marries but in his own trade or profession ; and this custom is observed almost as rigidly by Mahometans as by the Genliles, to whom it is expressly enjoined by their law. Many are the beautiful girls thus doomed to live singly, girls who might marry advantageously if their parents would connect them with a family less noble than their own [Page 262] Other animals are next introduced;—tame antelopes, kept for the purpose of fighting with each other; Nilgaux or grey oxen, that appear to me to be a species of elk; rhinoceroses ; large Bengale buffaloes with prodigious horns which enable them to contend against lions and tigers; tame leopards, or panthers, employed in hunting antelopes ; some of the fine sporting dogs from Usbec, of every kind, and each dog with a small red covering; lastly, every species of the birds of prey used in field sports for catching patridges, cranes, hares, and even, it is said, for hunting antelopes, on which they pounce with violence, beating their heads and blinding them with their wings and claws.
Besides this procession of animals, the cavalry of one or two Omrahs frequently pass in review before the King; the horsemen being better dressed than usual, the horses furnished with iron armour, and decorated with an endless variety of fantastic trappings.
The King takes pleasure also in having the blades of cutlasses tried on dead sheep, brought before him without [Page 263] the entrails and neatly bound up. Young Omrahs, Mansebdars, and Gourze-berdars, or mace-bearers, exercise their skill, and put forth all their strength to cut through the four feet, which are fastened together, and the body of the sheep at one blow.
But all these things are so many interludes to more serious matters. The King not only reviews his cavalry with peculiar attention, but there is not, since the war has been ended, a single trooper or other soldier whom he has not inspected, and made himself personally acquainted with, increasing or reducing the pay of some, and dismissing others from the service. All the petitions held up in the crowd assembled in the Am-Kas are brought to the King and read in his hearing; and the persons concerned being ordered to approach are examined by the Monarch himself, who often redresses on the spot the wrongs of the aggrieved party. On another day of the week he devotes two hours to hear in private the petitions of ten persons selected from the lower orders, and presented to the King by a good and rich old man. Nor does he fail to attend the justice-chamber, called Adalet-Kanay, on another day of the week, attended by the two principal Kadis, or chief justices. It is evident, therefore, that barbarous as we are apt to consider the sovereigns of Asia, they are not always unmindful of the justice that is due to their subjects.
The King appeared seated upon his throne, at the end of the great hall, in the most magnificent attire. His vest was of white and delicately flowered satin, with a silk and gold embroidery of the finest texture. The turban, of gold cloth, had an aigrette whose base was composed of diamonds of an extraordinary size and value, besides an Oriental topaz, which may be pronounced unparalleled, exhibiting a lustre like the sun. A necklace of immense pearls, suspended from his neck, reached to the stomach, in the same manner as many of the Gentiles wear their strings of beads. The throne was supported by six massy feet, said to be of solid gold, sprinkled over with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. I cannot tell you with accuracy the number or value of this vast collection of precious stones, because no person may approach sufficiently near to reckon them, or judge of their water and clearness; but I can assure you that there is a confusion of diamonds, as well as other jewels, and that the throne, to the best of my recollection, is valued at four Kourours ot Roupies. I observed elsewhere that a Lecque is one hundred thousand [Page 269] roupies, and that a Kourour is a hundred Lecques; so that the throne is estimated at forty millions of roupies, worth sixty millions of pounds [livres] or thereabouts. It was constructed by Chah-Jehan, the father of Aureng-Zebe, for the purpose of displaying the immense quantity of precious stones accumulated successively in the treasury from the spoils of ancient Rajas and Patans, and the annual presents to the Monarch, which every Omrah is bound to make on certain festivals. The construction and workmanship of the throne are not worthy of the materials; but two peacocks, covered with jewels and pearls, are well conceived and executed. They were made by a workman of astonishing powers, a Frenchman by birth, named who, after defrauding several of the Princes of Europe, by means of false gems, which he fabricated with peculiar skill, sought refuge in the Great Mogol's court, where he made his fortune.
At the foot of the throne were assembled all the Omralis, in splendid apparel, upon a platform surrounded by a silver railing, and covered by a spacious canopy of brocade with deep fringes of gold. The pillars of the hall were hung with brocades of a gold ground, and flowered satin canopies were raised over the whole expanse of the extensive apartment fastened with red silken cords, from which were suspended large tassels of silk and gold. The [Page 270] floor was covered entirely with carpets of the richest silk, of immense length and breadth. A tent, called the aspek, was pitched outside, larger than the hall, to which it joined by the top. It spread over half the court, and was completely enclosed by a great balustrade, covered with plates of silver. Its supporters were pillars overlaid with silver, three of which were as thick and as high as the mast of a bai-que, the others smaller. The outside of this magnificent tent was red, and the inside lined with elegant Maslipatam chintzes, figured expressly for that very purpose with flowers so natural and colours so vivid, that the tent seemed to be encompassed with real parterres.
An ancient custom attends these anniversary days of rejoicing, not at all agreeable to the Omrahs. They are expected to make a handsome present to the King, more or less valuable according to the amount of their pay. Some of them, indeed, take that opportunity of presenting gifts of extraordinary magnificence, sometimes for the sake of an ostentatious display, sometimes to divert the King from instituting an inquiry into the exactions committed in their official situations or governments, and sometimes to gain the favour of the King, and by that means obtain an increase of salary. Some present fine pearls, diamonds, emeralds, or rubies; others offer vessels of gold set with precious stones ; others again give a quantity of gold coins, each worth about a pistole and a lialf.
A whimsical kind of fair3 is sometimes held during these festivities in the Mehale, or royal seraglio : it is conducted by the handsomest and most engaging of the wives of the Omrahs and principal Mansebdars. The articles exhibited are beautiful brocades, rich embroideries of the newest fashion, turbans elegantly worked on cloth of gold, fine muslins worn by women of quality, and other articles of high price. These bewitching females act the part of traders, while the purchasers are the King, the Begums or Princesses, and other distinguished ladies of the Seraglio. If any Omrah's wife happens to have a handsome daughter, she never fails to accompany her mother, that she may be seen by the King and become known to the Begums. The charm of this fair is the most ludicrous manner in which the King makes his bargains, frequently disputing for the value of a penny. He pretends that the good lady cannot possibly be in earnest, that the article is much too dear, that it is not equal to that he can find elsewhere, and that positively he will give no more than such a price. The woman, on the other hand, endeavours to sell to the [Page 273] best advantage, and when the King perseveres in offering what she considers too little money, high words frequently ensue, and she fearlessly tells him that he is a worthless trader, a person ignorant of the value of merchandise; that her articles are too good for him, and that he had better go where he can suit himself better, and similar jocular expressions. The Begums betray, if possible, a still greater anxiety to be served cheaply; high words are heard on every side, and the loud and scurrilous quarrels of the sellers and buyers create a complete farce. But sooner or later they agree upon the price, the Princesses, as well as the King.... pay in ready money, and often slip out of their hands, as if by accident, a few gold instead of silver roupies, intended as a compliment to the fair merchant or her pretty daughter. The present is received in the same unconscious manner, and the whole ends amidst witty jests and good-humour.
The festivals generally conclude with an amusement unknown in Europe—a combat between two elephants; which takes place in the presence of all the people on the sandy space near the river : the King, the principal ladies of the court, and the Omrahs viewing the spectacle from different apartments in the fortress.
A wall of earth is raised three or four feet wide and five or six high. The two ponderous beasts meet one another face to face, on opposite sides of the wall, each having a couple of riders, that the place of the man who sits on the shoulders, for the purpose of guiding the elephant with a large iron hook, may immediately be supplied if he should be thrown down. The riders animate [Page 277] the elephants either by soothing words, or by chiding them as cowards, and urge them on with their heels, until the poor creatures approach the wall and are brought to the attack. The shock is tremendous, and it appears surprising that they ever survive the dreadful wounds and blows inflicted with their teeth, their liead's, and their trunks. There are frequent pauses during the fight; it is suspended and renewed; and the mud wall being at length thrown down, the stronger or more courageous elephant passes on and attacks his opponent, and, putting him to flight, pursues and fastens upon him with so much obstinacy, that the animals can be separated only by means of cherkys or fireworks, which are made to explode between them; for they are naturally timid, and have a particular dread of fire, which is the reason why elephants have been used with so very little advantage in armies since the use of fire-arms. The boldest come from Ceylon, but none are employed in war which have not been regularly trained, and accustomed for years to the discharge of muskets close to their heads, and the bursting of crackers between their legs.
The fight of these noble creatures is attended with much cruelty. It frequently happens that some of the riders are trodden underfoot, and killed on the spot, the elephant having always cunning enough to feel the importance of dismounting the rider of his adversary, whom he therefore endeavours to strike down with his trunk. So imminent is the danger considered, that on the day of combat the unhappy men take the same formal leave of their wives and children as if condemned to death.
if we take a review of this metropolis of the Indies, and observe its vast extent and its numberless shops; if we recollect that, besides the Omrahs, the city never contains less than thirty-five thousand troopers, nearly all of whom have wives, children, and a great number of servants, who, as well as their masters, reside in separate houses; that there is no house, by whomsoever inhabited, which does not swarm with women and children; that during the hours when the abatement of the heat permits the inhabitants to walk abroad, the streets are crowded with people, although many of those streets are very wide, and, excepting a few carts, unincumbered with wheel carriages; if we take all these circumstances into consideration, we shall hesitate before we give a positive opinion in regard to the comparative population of Paris and Dehli; and I conclude, that if the number of souls be not as large in the latter city as in our own capital, it cannot be greatly less. As respects the better sort of people, there is a striking difference in favour of Paris, where seven or eight out of ten individuals seen in the streets are tolerably well clad, and have a certain air of respectability; but in Dehli, for two or three who wear decent apparel, there may always be reckoned seven or eight poor, ragged, and miserable beings, attracted to the capital by the army. I cannot deny, however, that I continually meet with persons neat and elegant in their dress, finely formed, well mounted, and properly attended. Nothing, for instance, can be conceived much more brilliant than the great square in front of the fortress at the hours when the Omrahs, Rajas, and Mansebdars repair to the citadel to mount guard, or attend the assembly of the Am-Kas. The Mansebdars flock thither from all parts, well mounted and equipped, and splendidly accompanied by four servants, two behind and two before, to clear the street for their masters. Omrahs and Rajas ride thither, some on horseback, some on majestic elephants ; but the greater part are conveyed on the shoulders of six men, in [Page 283] rich Palekys, leaning against a thick cushion of brocade, and chewing their bet-le, tor the double purpose of sweetening their breath and reddening their lips. On one side of every paleky is seen a servant bearing the piquedans, or spitoon of porcelain or silver; on the other side, two more servants fan the luxurious lord, and flap away the flies, or brush off the dust with a peacock's-tail fan; three or four footmen march in front to clear the way, and a chosen number of the best formed and best mounted horsemen follow in the rear.
The country in the neighbourhood of Dehli is extremely fertile. It produces corn, sugar, anil or Indigo, rice, millet, and three or four other kinds of pulse, the food of the common people, in great abundance. Two leagues from the city, on the Agra road, in a place which the Mahometans call Koia Kotub-eddine, is a veiy old edifice, formerly a Deura, or Temple of idols, containing inscriptions written in characters different from those of any language spoken in the Indies, and so ancient that no one understands them. [Page 284] Between Dehli and Agra, a distance of fifty or sixty leagues, there are no fine towns such as travellers pass through in France; the whole road is cheerless and uninteresting ; nothing is worthy observation but Maluras where an ancient and magnificent temple of idols is still to be seen; a few tolerably handsome caravansaries, a day's journey from each other; and a double row of trees planted by order ot Jehan-Guyre, and continued for one hundred and fifty leagues, with small pyramids or turrets, erected from kosse to kosse, for the purpose of pointing out the different roads. Wells are also frequently met with, affording drink to travellers, and serving to water the young trees. What I have said of Dehli may convey a correct idea of Agra, in regard at least to its situation on the Gemna, to the fortress or royal residence, and to most of its public buildings. But Agra having been a favourite and more frequent abode of the Kings of Hindoustan since the days of Ekbar, by whom it was built and named Akber-abad, it surpasses Dehli in extent, in the multitude of residences belonging to Omrahs and Rajas, and of the good stone or brick houses inhabited by private individuals, and in the number and conveniency of its Karuans-Serrahs. Agra has also to boast of two celebrated mausoleums, of which I shall speak by-and-by : it is, however, without walls, and inferior in some respects to the other capital; for not having been [Page 285] constructed after any settled design, it wants the uniform and wide streets that so eminently distinguish Dehli. Four or five of the streets, where trade is the principal occupation, are of great length and the houses tolei-ably good; nearly all the others are short, narrow, and irregular, and full of windings and corners : the consequence is that when the court is at Agra there is often a strange confusion. I believe I have stated the chief particulars wherein the two capitals differ; but I may add that Agra has more the appearance of a country town, especially when viewed from an eminence. The prospect it presents is rural, varied, and agreeable; for the grandees having always made it a point to plant trees in their gardens and courts for the sake of shade, the mansions of Omrahs, Rajas, and others are all interspersed with luxuriant and green foliage, in the midst of which the lofty stone houses of Banyanes or Gentile merchants have the appearance of old castles buried in forests. Such a landscape yields peculiar pleasure in a hot and parched countiy, where the eye seeks in verdure for refreshment and repose.
The Jesuits have a church in Agra, and a building which they call a college, where they privately instruct in the doctrines of our religion the children of five-and-twenty or thirty Christian families, collected, I know not how, in Agra, and induced to settle there by the kind and charitable aid which they receive from the Jesuits. This religious order was invited hither by Ekbar at the period when the power of the Portuguese in the Indies was at the highest; and that Prince not only gave them an annual income for [Page 287] their maintenance, but permitted them to build churches in the capital cities of Agra and Lahor. The Jesuits found a still warmer patron in Jehan-Guyre, the son and successor of Ekbar; but they were sorely oppressed by Chah-Jehan the son of Jehan-Guyre, and father of the present King Aureng-Zebe. That Monarch deprived them of their pension, and destroyed the church at Lahor and the greater part of that of Agra, totally demolishing the steeple, which contained a clock heard in every part of the city. The good Fathers during the reign of Jehan-Guyre were sanguine in their expectation of the progress of Christianity in Hindoustan. It is certain that this Prince evinced the utmost contempt for the laws of the Koran, and expressed his admiration of the doctrines of our creed. He permitted two of his nephews to embrace the Christian faith, and extended the same indulgence to Mirza-Zulkai-min, who had undergone the rite of circumcision and been brought up in the Seraglio. The pretext was that Mirza was born of Christian parents, his mother having been wife of a rich Armenian, and having been brought to the Seraglio by Jehan-Guyre's desire.
The Jesuits say that this King was so determined to countenance the Christian religion that he formed the bold project of clothing the whole court in European costume. The dresses were all prepared, when the King, having privately arrayed himself in his new attire, sent for one of his principal Omrahs whose opinion he required concerning the meditated change. The answer, however, was so [Page 288] appalling that Jehan-Guyre abandoned his design and affected to pass the whole affair as a joke. They also maintain that when on his death-bed he expressed a wish to die a Christian, and sent for those holy men, but that the message was never delivered. Many, however, deny this to have been the case, and affii-m that Jehan-Guyre died, as he had lived, destitute of all religion, and that he nourished to the last a scheme which he had formed, after the example of his father Ekbar, of declaring himself a prophet, and the founder of a new religion.
Whatever credit this story may deserve, it is indisputable that the Jesuits during the whole of Jehan-Guyre's reign were honoured and respected at this court, and that they entertained what appeared a well-grounded hope of the progress of the Gospel in Hindoustan.
Having visited nearly all the missionary stations in the East, I speak the language of experience when I say, that whatever progress may be made among Gentiles by the instruction and alms of the missionaries, you will be disappointed if you suppose that in ten years one Mahometan will be converted to Christianity. True it is that Mahometans respect the religion of the New Testament: they never speak of Jesus Christ but with great veneration, or pronounce the word Aysa, which means Jesus, without adding Azeret, or majesty. They even believe with us that he was miraculously begotten and [Page 291] born of a virgin mother, and that he is the Kelum-Allah and the Rouh-Allah, the Word of God and the Spirit of God. It is in vain to hope, however, that they will renounce the religion wherein they were born, or be persuaded that Mahomet was a false prophet. The Christians of Europe ought nevertheless to assist the missionaries by every possible means : their prayers, power and wealth, ought to be employed in promoting the glory of their REDEEMER ; but the expense of the missions should be borne by Europeans, for it would be impolitic to lay burthens on the people abroad; and much care should be had that want may not drive any missionary to acts of meanness. Missions ought not only to be liberally pro vided, but should be composed of persons of sufficient integrity, energy, and intelligence always to bear testimony to the truth, to seek with eagerness opportunities of doing good, in a word, to labour with unwearied activity and unabated zeal in their Lord's vineyard whenever and wherever He may be pleased to give them an opening. But although it be the duty of every Christian State to act in this manner, yet there ought to be no delusion; credence ought not to be given to every idle tale, and the work of conversion, which in fact is full of difficulty, should not be represented as a matter of easy accomplishment. We do not adequately estimate the strong hold which the Mahometan superstition has over the minds of its votaries, to whom it permits the unrestrained indulgence of passions which the religion we require them to substitute in its stead declares must be subdued or regulated. Mahometanism is a pernicious code, established by force of arms, and still imposed upon mankind by the same brutal violence. To counteract its baneful progress, Christians must display the zeal, and use the means I have suggested, however clear it may be that this abominable imposture can be effectually destroyed only by the special and merciful interposition of Divine Providence. We may derive encourage [Page 292] ment from the promising appearances lately witnessed in China, in Japan, and in the case of Jehan-Guyre. Missionaries have to contend, however, with another sad impediment the irreverent behaviour of Christians in their churches, so dissonant from their belief of the peculiar presence of God upon their altars, and so different from the conduct of Mahometans, who never venture when engaged in the service of their mosques even to turn the head, much less to utter a monosyllable one to the other, but seem to have the mind impressed with profound and awful veneration. The Dutch have a factory in Agra, in which they generally keep four or five persons. Formerly they carried on a good trade in that city by the sale of broadcloths, large and small looking-glasses, plain laces, gold and silver laces, and iron wares ; likewise by the purchase of anil! or Indigo, gathered in the neighbourhood of Agra, particularly at Bianes two days' journey from the city, whither they go once every year, having a house in the place. The Dutch used also to make extensive purchases of cloths not only at Jelapour, but at Laknau, a seven or eight days' journey from Agra, where they also have a house, and despatch a few factors every season. It seems, however, that the trade of this people is not now very lucrative, owing probably to the competition of the Armenians, or to the great distance between Agra and Sourate. Accidents continually befall their caravans, which, to avoid the bad roads and mountains in the direct road through Goiialeor and Brampour, travel by [Page 293] way of Ahmed-abad, over the territories of different Rajas. But whatever may be the discouragements, I do not believe the Dutch will follow the example of the English, and abandon their factory at Agra; because they still dispose of their spices to great advantage, and find it useful to have confidential persons near the court always ready to prefer a complaint against any governor, or other officer, who may have committed an act of injustice or tyranny in any of the Dutch establishments in Bengale, or at Patna, Sourate, or Ahmed-abad.
did I observe from the roof of my house the solemnisation of the grand eclipse-festival, a festival which was kept with the same external observances in the Indus, in the Ganges, and in the other rivers and Talabs (or tanks of the Indies), but above all in that one at Tanaiser, which contained on that occasion more than one [Page 303] hundred and fifty thousand persons, assembled from all parts of the empire; its waters being considered on the day of an eclipse more holy and meritorious than those of any other.
What has been said concerning women burning themselves will be confirmed by so many travellers that I suppose people will cease to be sceptical upon this melancholy fact. ....the governor of the province in which she resides, and he never grants it until he shall have ascertained that she is not to be turned aside from her purpose: to accomplish this desirable end the governor reasons with the widow and makes her enticing promises; after which, if these methods fail, he sometimes sends her [Page 307] among his women, that the effect of their remonstrances may be tried. Notwithstanding these obstacles, the number of self-immolations is still very considerable, particularly in the territories of the Rajas, where no Mahometan governors are appointed. But not to tire you with the history of every woman whom I have seen perish on the funeral pile, I shall advert to only two or three of those shocking spectacles at which I have been present; and first I shall give you some details concerning a female to whom I was sent for the purpose of diverting her from persevering in her dreadful intention.
In regard to the women who actually burn themselves, I was present at so many of those shocking exhibitions that I could not persuade myself to attend any more, nor is it without a feeling of horror that I revert to the subject. I shall endeavour, nevertheless, to describe what passed before my eyes; but I cannot hope to give you an adequate conception of the fortitude displayed by these infatuated victims during the whole of the frightful tragedy : it must be seen to be believed.
I have not yet mentioned all the barbarity and atrocity of these monsters. In some parts of the Indies, instead of burning the women who determine not to survive their husbands, the Brahmens bury them alive, by slow degrees, up to the throat ; then two or three of them fall suddenly upon the victim, wring her neck, and when she has been effectually and completely choked, cover over the body with earth thrown upon it from successive baskets, and tread upon the head.
Most of the Gentiles burn their dead ; but some partially broil the bodies with stubble, near the side of a river, and then precipitate them into the water from a high and steep bank. I have attended these funeral rites on the Ganges several times, and observed flights of crows fluttering about the carcass, which becomes as much the prey of those birds as of the fish and crocodiles.
Among the vast number, and endless variety of Fakires, or Derviches, and Holy Men, or Gentile hypocrites of the Indies, many live in a sort of convent, governed by superiors, where vows of chastity, poverty, and submission are made. So strange is the life led by these votaries that I doubt whether my description of it will be credited. I allude particularly to the people called Jauguis a name which signifies united to God. Numbers are seen, day and night, seated or lying on ashes, entirely naked; frequently under the large trees near talabs, or tanks of water, or in the galleries round the Deilras, or idol temples. Some have hair hanging down to the calf of the leg, twisted and entangled into knots, like the coat of our shaggy dogs, or rather like the hair of those afflicted with that Polish disease, which we call la Plie. I have seen several who hold one, and some who hold both arms, perpetually lifted up above the head; the nails of their hands being twisted, and longer than half my little finger, with which I measured them. Their arms are as small and thin as the arms of persons who die in a decline, because in so forced and unnatural a position they receive not sufficient nourishment; nor can they be lowered so as to supply the mouth with food, the muscles having become contracted, and the articulations dry and stiff. Novices wait upon these fanatics, and pay them the utmost respect, as persons endowed with extraordinary sanctity. No Fury in the infernal regions can be conceived more [Page 317] horrible than the Jauguis, with their naked and black skin, long hair, spindle arms, long twisted nails, and fixed in the posture which I have mentioned.
I have often met, generally in the territory of some Raja, bands of these naked Fakires, hideous to behold. Some had their arms lifted up in the manner just described ; the frightful hair of others either hung loosely or was tied and twisted round their heads; some carried a club like to Hercules; others had a dry and rough tiger skin thrown over their shoulders. In this trim I have seen them shamelessly walk, stark naked, through a large town, men, women, and girls looking at them without any more emotion than may be created when a hermit passes through our streets. Females would often bring them alms with much devotion, doubtless believing that they were holy personages, more chaste and discreet than other men. I was for a long time disgusted with a celebrated Fakire, named Sarmet, who paraded the streets of Dehli as naked as when he came into the world. He despised equally the promises and the threats of Aureng-Zebe, and underwent at length the punishment of decapitation from his obstinate refusal to put on wearing apparel.
Several of these Fakires undertake long pilgrimages, not only naked, but laden with heavy iron chains, such as are put about the legs of elephants. I have seen others who in consequence of a particular vow stood upright, during seven or eight days, without once sitting or lying down, and without any other support than might be afforded by leaning forward against a cord for a few hours in the night; their legs in the meantime were swollen to the size of their thighs. Others again I have observed standing steadily, whole hours together, upon their hands, the head down, and the feet in the air. I might proceed to enumerate various other positions in which these unhappy men place their body, many of them so difficult and painful that they could not be imitated by our tumblers ; and all this, let it be recollected, is performed from an [Page 318] assumed feeling of piety, of which there is not so much as the shadow in any part of the Indies.
I confess that this gross superstition filled me, on my first arrival in Hindoustan, with amazement. I knew not what to think of it. Sometimes I should have been disposed to consider the Fakires as remnants, if not as the founders, of the ancient and infamous sect of Cynics, could I have discovered anything in them but brutality and ignorance, and if they had not appeared to me vegetative rather than rational beings. At another time, I thought they might be honest though deluded enthusiasts, until I found that, in fact they were, in the widest sense of the word, destitute of piety. Again, I reflected that a life of vagrancy, idleness, and independence may have a powerful and attractive charm; or that the vanity which intermingles itself with every motive of human action, and which may be discovered as clearly through the tattered mantle of a Diogenes as under the comely garb of a Plato, was probably the secret spring that set so many strange engines in motion.
The Fakires, it is said, exercise painful austerities in the confident hope that they will be Rajas in their renascent state; or, if they do not become Rajas, that they shall be placed in a condition of life capable of more exquisite enjoyment than is experienced by those sovereign princes : but, as I have frequently observed to them, how can it be believed that men submit to a life of so much misery for the sake of a second state of existence, as short and uncertain as the first, and which cannot be expected to yield a much greater degree of happiness even to him who may be invested with the high dignity of Rana, or who may resemble Jesseingue or Jessomseingue, the two most powerful Rajas of the Indies I am not to be so easily deceived, said I to them; either you are egregious fools, or you are actuated by some sinister views which you carefully hide from the world.
Some of the Fakires enjoy the reputation of being [Page 319] peculiarly enlightened saints, perfect Jauguis, and really united to God. These are supposed to have entirely renounced the world, and like our hermits they live a secluded life in a remote garden, without ever visiting a town. When food is brought to them, they receive it : if none be offered to them it is concluded that the holy men can live without food, that they subsist by the favour of God, vouchsafed on account of previous long fasts and other religious mortifications. Frequently these pious Jauguis are absorbed in profound meditation. It is pretended, and one of the favoured saints himself assured me, that their souls are often rapt in an ecstasy of several hours' duration; that their external senses lose their functions; that the Jauguis are blessed with a sight of God, who appears as a light ineffably white and vivid, and that they experience transports of holy joy, and a contempt of temporal concerns which defy every power of description. My saintly informant added that he could at pleasure fall into such a trance as he described, and not one of the individuals who are in the habit of visiting the Jauguis doubts the reality of these vaunted ecstasies. It is possible that the imagination, distempered by continued fasts and uninterrupted solitude, may be brought into these illusions, or that the rapturous dreams of the Fakires may resemble the natural ecstasies into which Cardan! tells us he could fall whenever he pleased, especially as the Fakires practise some art in what they do, prescribing to themselves certain rules for the binding up of their senses by slow degrees. For example, they say that after having fasted several days upon bread and water, it is necessary to be alone in a sequestered spot, to fix the eyes most steadily toward heaven, and when they have been so riveted for some [Page 320] time, to lower them gradually, and then point them both in such a manner that they shall look at one and the same time upon the tip of the nose, both sides of that feature being equally seen; and in this posture the saint must continue firm, the two sides of the nose in even proportions remaining constantly within sight until the bright luminary makes its appearance.
I believe that extreme poverty, long fasts, and perpetual austerities count for something in the condition at which these men arrive. Our Friars and Hermits must not suppose that on these points they surpass the Jauguis or other Asiatic religionists. I can, for instances, appeal to [Page 321] the lives and fasts of the Armenians, Copts, Greeks, Neslorians, Jacobins, and Maronites; compared to these people our European devotees are mere novices, though it must be confessed, from what I have myself experienced, that the pains of hunger are not so sensibly felt in the Indies as in our colder climates.
I have now to give an account of certain Fakires totally different from the Saints just described, but who also are extraordinary personages. They almost continually perambulate the country, make light of everything, affect to live without care, and to be possessed of most important secrets. The people imagine that these favoured beings are well acquainted with the art of making gold, and that they can prepare mercury in so admirable a manner that a grain or two swallowed every morning must restore a diseased body to vigorous health, and so strengthen the stomach that it may feed with avidity, and digest with ease. This is not all: when two of these good Jauguis meet, and can be excited to a spirit of emulation, they make such a display of the power of Janguisism, that it may well be doubted if Simon Magus, with all his sorceries, ever performed more surprising feats. They tell any person his thoughts, cause the branch of a tree to blossom and to bear fruit within an hour, hatch an egg in their bosom in less than fifteen minutes, producing whatever bird may be demanded, and make it fly about the room, and execute many other prodigies that need not be enumerated. [Page 322] there are Fakires of a much more comely appearance than those whom we have been considering, and their lives and devotion seem less extravagant. They walk the streets barefooted and bareheaded, girt with a scarf which hangs down to the knee, and wearing a white cloth which passes under the right arm and goes over the left shoulder in the form of a mantle, but they are without any under garment: their persons, however, are always well washed, and they appear cleanly in every respect. In general they walk two and two with a very modest demeanour, holding in one hand a small and fair threefooted earthen pot with two handles : they do not beg from shop to shop like many other Fakires, but enter freely into the houses of the Gentiles, where they meet with a hearty welcome and an hospitable reception, their presence being esteemed a blessing to the family. Heaven defend him who accuses them of any offence, although everybody knows what takes place between the sanctified visitors and the women of the house : this, however, is considered the custom of the country, and their sanctity is not the less on that account. I do not indeed attach much importance to their transactions with the females of the house: such practices we know are not [Page 323] confined to the Great Mogol's dominions; but what appears truly ridiculous is their impertinent comparison of themselves with our own clergy in the Indies.
The town of Benares, seated on the Ganges, in a beautiful situation, and in the midst of an extremely fine and rich country, may be considered the general school of the Gentiles. It is the Athens of India, whither resort the Brahmens and other devotees ; who are the only persons who apply their minds to study. The town contains no colleges or regular classes, as in our universities, but resembles rather the schools of the ancients; the masters being dispersed over different parts of the town in private houses, and principally in the gardens of the suburbs, which the rich merchants permit them to occupy. Some of these masters have four disciples, others six or seven, and the most eminent may have twelve or fifteen; but this is the largest number. It is usual for the pupils to remain ten or twelve years under their respective preceptors, during which time the work of instruction proceeds but slowly; for the gene [Page 335] rality of them are of an indolent disposition, owing, in a great measure, to their diet and the heat of the country. Feeling no spirit of emulation, and entertaining no hope that honours or emolument may be the reward of extraordinary attainments, as with us, the scholars pursue the studies slowly, and without much to distract their attention, while eating their kichery, a mingled mess of vegetables supplied to them by the care of rich merchants of the place.
The first thing taught is the Sanscrit, a language known only to the Pendets, and totally different from that which is ordinarily spoken in Hindoustan. It is of the Sanscrit that Father Kirker has published an alphabet, which he received from Father Roa. The name signifies pure language; and because the Genliles believe that the four sacred books given to them by God, through the medium of Brahma, were originally published in Sanscrit, they call it the holy and divine language. They pretend that it is as ancient as Brahma himself, whose age they reckon by lecques, or hundreds of thousands of years, but I could not rely upon this marvellous age. That it is extremely old, however, it is impossible to deny, the books of their religion, which are of unquestionable antiquity, being all written in Sanscrit. It has also its authors on philosophy, works on medicine written in verse, and many other kinds of books, with which a large hall at Benares is entirely filled.
When they have acquired a knowledge of Sanscrit, which to them is difficult, because without a really good grammar, they generally study the Piiranef which is an abridgment and interpretation of the Beths; those books being of great bulk, at least if they were the Beths which were shown to me at Benares. They are so scarce [Page 336] that my Agah, not-withstanding all his diligence, has not succeeded in purchasing a copy. The Gentiles indeed conceal them with much care, lest they should fall into the hands of the Mahometans, and be burnt, as frequently has happened.
When going down the river Ganges, I passed through Benares, and called upon the chief of the Pendets, who resides in that celebrated seat of learning. He is a Fakire or Devotee so eminent for knowledge that Chah Jehan, partly for that consideration, and partly to gratify the Rajas, granted him a pension of two thousand roupies, which is about one thousand crowns
Whatever may be the destination of this formidable force, every person connected therewith must hasten to quit Dehli, however the urgency of his affairs may require his stay; and were I to delay my own departure I should find it difficult to overtake the army. Besides, my Navaab, or Agah, Danech-mend-kan, expects my arrival with much impatience. He can no more dispense with his philo [Page 353] sophical studies in the afternoon than avoid devoting the morning to his weighty duties as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Grand Master of the Horse. Astronomy, geography, and anatomy are his favourite pursuits, and he reads with avidity the works of Gassendy and Descartes. I shall commence my journey this very night, after having finally arranged all my affairs, and supplied myself with much the same necessaries as if I were a cavalry officer of rank. As my pay is one hundred and fifty crowns per month, I am expected to keep two good Turkoman horses, and I also take with me a powerful Persian camel and driver, a groom for my horses, a cook and a servant to go before my horse with a flagon of water in his hand, according to the custom of the country. I am also provided with every useful article, such as a tent of moderate size, a carpet, a portable bed made of four very strong but light canes, a pillow, a couple of coverlets, one of which, twice doubled, serves for a mattress, a sonfraf or round leathern table-cloth used at meals, some few napkins of dyed cloth, three small bags with culinary utensils which are all placed in a large bag, and this bag is again carried in a very capacious and strong double sack or net made of leathern thongs. This double sack likewise contains the provisions, linen, and wearing apparel, both of master and servants. I have taken care to lay in a stock of excellent rice for five or six days' consumption, of sweet biscuits flavoured with anise, of limes and sugar. Nor have I forgotten a linen bag with its small iron hook for the purpose of suspending and draining days, or curds; nothing being considered so refreshing in this country as [Page 354] lemonade and days. All these things, as I said before, are packed in one large sack, which becomes so unwieldy that three or four men can with difficulty place it on the camel, although the animal kneels down close to it, and all that is required is to turn one of the sides of the sack over its back.
Not a single article which I have mentioned could conveniently be spared during so extended an excursion as the one in prospect. Flere we cannot expect the comfortable lodgings and accommodations of our own country; a tent will be our only inn, and we must make up our minds to encamp and live after the fashion of Arabs and Tartars. Nor can we hope to supply our wants by pillage: in Hindoustan every acre of land is considered the property of the King, and the spoliation of a peasant would be a robbery committed upon the King's domain. In undertaking this long march it is consoling to reflect that we shall move in a northern direction, that it is the commencement of winter, and that the periodical rains have fallen. This is, indeed, the proper season for travelling in the Indies, the rains having ceased, and the heat and dust being no longer intolerable. I am also happy at the idea of not being any longer exposed to the danger of eating the bazar bread of Dehli, which is often badly baked and full of sand and dust. I may hope, too, [Page 355] for better water than that of the capital, the impurities of which exceed my power of description ; as it is accessible to all persons and animals, and the receptacle of every kind of filth. Fevers most difficult to cure are engendered by it, and worms are bred in the legs which produce violent inflammation, attended with much danger. If the patient leave Dehli, the worm is generally soon expelled, although there have been instances where it has continued in the system for a year or more. They are commonly of the size and length of the treble string of a violin, and might be easily mistaken for a sinew. In extracting them great caution should be used lest they break ; the best way is to draw them out little by little, from day to day, gently winding t h em round a small twig of the size of a pin.
It is a matter of considerable satisfaction to me to think that I shall not be exposed to any of these inconveniences and dangers, as my Navaab has with marked kindness ordered that a new loaf of his own household [Page 356] bread, and a sourai of Ganges water (with which, like every person attached to the court, he has laden several camels should be presented to me every morning. A sourai is that tin flagon of water, covered with red cloth, which a servant carries before his master's horse. It commonly holds a quart, but mine is purposely made to contain two, a device which I hope may succeed. This flagon keeps the water very cool, provided the cloth which covers it be always moist. The servant who bears it in his hand should also continue in motion and agitate the air; or it should be exposed to the wind, which is usually done by putting the flagon on three neat little sticks arranged so that it may not touch the ground. The moisture of the cloth, the agitation of the air, or exposure to the wind, is absolutely necessary to keep the water fresh, as if this moisture, or rather the water which has been imbibed by the cloth, arrested the little bodies, or fiery particles, existing in the air at the same time that it affords a passage to the nitrous or other particles which impede motion in the water and produce cold, in the same manner as glass arrests water, and allows light to pass through it, in consequence of the contexture and particular disposition of the particles of glass, and the difference which exists between the minute particles of water and those of light. It is only in the field that this tin flagon is used. When at home, we put the water into jars made of a certain porous earth, which are covered with a wet cloth; and, if exposed to the wind, these jars keep the water much cooler than the flagon. The higher sort of people make use of saltpetre, whether in town or with the army. They pour the water, or any other liquid they may wish to cool, into a tin flagon, round and long-necked, as I have seen English glass bottles. The flagon is then stirred, for the space of seven or eight minutes, in water into which three or four bandfuls of saltpetre have been thrown. The liquid thus [Page 357] becomes very cold and is by no means unwholesome, as I apprehended, though at first it sometimes affects the bowels.
But to what purpose am I indulging in scientific disquisitions when on the eve of departure, when my thoughts should be occupied with the burning sun to which I am about to be exposed, and which in the Indies it is sufficiently painful to endure at any season; with the daily packing, loading and unloading; with the neverceasing instructions to servants; with the pitching and striking of my tent; with marches by day, and marches by night; in short, with the precarious and wandering life which for the ensuing eighteen months I am doomed to experience Adieu, my Friend ; I shall not fail to perform my promise, and to impart to you from time to time all our adventures. The army on this occasion will advance by easy marches : it will not be disquieted with the apprehension of an enemy, but move with the gorgeous magnificence peculiar to the Kings of Hindoustan. I shall therefore endeavour to note every interesting occurrence in order that I may communicate it as soon as we arrive at Lahor.
M O N S I E U R, THIS is indeed slow and solemn marching, what we here call a la Mogole. Lahor is little more than one hundred and twenty leagues or about fifteen days journey from Dehli, and we have been nearly two months on the road. The King, it is true, together with the greater part of the army, diverged from the highway, in search [Page 359] of better ground for the sports of the field, and for the convenience of obtaining the water of the Gemna, which we had gone in search of to the right; and we leisurely skirted its bank, hunting and shooting amid grass so high as almost to conceal our horsemen, but abounding in every kind of game. We are now in a good town, enjoying repose; and I cannot better employ my time than in committing to paper the various particulars which have engaged my mind since I quitted Dehli. Soon I hope to conduct you to Kachemire, and to show you one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Whenever the King travels in military pomp he has always two private camps ; that is to say, two separate bodies of tents. One of these camps being constantly a day in advance of the other, the King is sure to find at the end of every journey a camp fully prepared for his reception. It is for this reason that these separate bodies of tents are called Peiche-kanes or houses which precede.
The first and largest tent erected in the royal camp is named Am-kas; being the place where the King and all the nobility keep the mokam; that is, where they assemble at nine o'clock in the morning for the purpose of deliberating on affairs of state and of administering justice. The Kings of Hindoustan seldom fail, even when in the field, to hold this assembly twice during the twenty-four hours, the same as when in the capital. The custom is regarded as a matter of law and duty, and the observance of it is rarely neglected.
The second tent, little inferior in size and somewhat [Page 361] further within the enclosure, is called the gosle-kane or the place for bathing. It is here that all the nobility meet every evening to pay their obeisance to the King, in the same manner as when the court is at Dehli. This evening assembly subjects the Omrahs to much inconvenience; but it is a grand and imposing spectacle in a dark night to behold, when standing at some distance, long rows of torches lighting these Nobles, through extended lanes of tents, to the gosle-kane, and attending them back again to their own quarters. These flambeaux, although not made of wax, like ours in France, burn a long time. They merely consist of a piece of iron hafted in a stick, and surrounded at the extremity with linen rags steeped in oil, which are renewed, as occasion requires, by the masalchis, or link boys, who carry the oil in long narrow-necked vessels of iron or brass.
Still deeper in the square is the third tent, smaller than those I have spoken of, called Kaluet-kane, the retired spot, or the place of the privy council. To this tent none but the principal ministers of state have access, and it is here that all the important concerns of the kingdom are transacted. Adjoining the royal tents are those of the Begums, or Princesses, and of the great ladies and principal female attendants of the Seraglio. These tents are also enclosed on every side by rich kanates; and in the midst of them are the tents of the inferior female domestics and other women connected with the Seraglio, placed generally in much the same order, according to the offices of the respective occupants.
The quarters of the Monarch are understood to compre [Page 365] hend not only the great square, but the numerous tents situated without the square, to which I have just drawn your attention. Their position is always in the centre of the army, or as much so as the nature of the ground will admit. You will easily conceive that there is something very striking and magnificent in these royal quarters, and that this vast assemblage of red tents, placed in the centre of a numerous army, produces a brilliant effect when seen from some neighbouring eminence ; especially if the country be open, and offer no obstruction to the usual and regular distribution of the troops. [Page 367] Sometimes, indeed, notwithstanding all these precautions, there will be uncertainty and disorder, particularly on the arrival of the army at the place of encampment in the morning, when every one is actively employed in finding and establishing his own quarters. The dust that arises often obscures the marks I have mentioned, and it becomes impossible to distinguish the King's quarter, [Page 368] the different bazars, or the tents of the several Omrahs. Your progress is besides liable to be impeded by the tents then pitching, and by the cords extended by inferior Omrahs, who have no peiche-kanes, and by Mansebdars to mark their respective boundaries, and to prevent not only the public path from passing through, but the fixing of any strange tent near their own, where their wives, if accompanying them, reside. A horde of their lusty varlets, with cudgels! in their hands, will not suffer these cords to be removed or lowered; you then naturally retrace your steps, and find that while you have been employed in unavailing efforts to pass at one end, your retreat has been cut off at the other. There is now no means of extricating your laden camels but by menace and entreaty; outrageous passion, and calm remonstrance; seeming as if you would proceed to blows, yet carefully abstaining from touching any one ; promoting a violent quarrel between the servants of both parties, and afterward reconciling them for fear of the consequences, and in this way taking advantage of a favourable moment to pass your camels. But the greatest annoyance is perhaps in the evening when business calls you to any distance. This is the time when the common people cook their victuals with a fire made of cow and camel dung and green wood. The smoke of so many fires of this kind, when there is little wind, is highly offensive, and involves the atmosphere in total darkness. It was my fate to be overtaken three or four times by this wide-spreading vapour. I inquired, but could not find my way: I turned and roamed about, ignorant whither I went. Once I was obliged to stop until the smoke dispersed, and the moon arose; and at another time I with difficulty reached the aguacy-die, at the foot of which I passed the night with my horse and [Page 369] servant. The agvacy-die resembles a lofty mast of a ship, but is very slender, and takes down in three pieces. It is fixed toward the King's quarters, near the tent called nagar-kane, and during the night has a lighted lantern suspended from the top. This light is very useful, for it may be seen when every object is enveloped in impenetrable darkness. To this spot persons who lose their way resort, either to pass the night secure from all danger of robbers, or to resume their search after their own lodgings. The name agvacy-die may be translated Light of Heaven, the lantern when at a distance appearing like a star. To prevent robberies every Omrah provides watchmen, who continually perambulate his particular quarters during the night, crying out Kaber-dar or Have a care and there are guards posted round the whole army at every five hundred paces, who kindle fires, and also cry out Kaber-dar Besides these precautions, the Cotoiial, or Grand Provost, sends soldiers in every direction, who especially pervade the bazars, crying out and sounding a trumpet. Notwithstanding all these measures, robberies are often committed, and it is prudent to be always on the alert ; not to rely too much on the vigilance of servants; and to repose at an early hour, so as to watch during the remainder of the night.
In the neighbourhoods of Agra and Dehli, along the course of the Gemna, reaching to the mountains, and even on both sides of the road leading to Lahor, there is a large quantity of uncultivated land, covered either with copse wood or with grasses six feet high. All this land is guarded with the utmost vigilance ; and excepting partridges, quails, and hares, which the natives catch with nets, no person, be he who he may, is permitted to disturb the game, which is consequently very abundant.
There is nothing very interesting in the mode of hunting the nil-ghaux, or grey oxen ; which, as I before stated, are a species of elk. They enclose them in great nets, which are drawn closer by degrees; and, when the space is reduced to a small compass, the King enters with his Omrahs and huntsmen, and the animal is killed with arrows, short spikes, swords, and musketoons. Sometimes these animals are slaughtered in such numbers that the King sends quarters of them as presents to all the Omrahs. It is curious enough to observe the manner in which cranes are caught. Their courageous defence in the air against the birds of prey affords much sport. Sometimes they kill their assailants; but from the slowness of their movements in wheeling round they are overcome as the number of their enemies increases.
But of all the diversions of the field the hunting of the lion is not only the most perilous, but is peculiarly royal; for, except by special permission, the King and Princes are the only persons who engage in the sport. As a preliminary step, an ass is tied near the spot where the game-keepers have ascertained the lion retires. The wretched animal is soon devoured, and after so ample a meal the lion never seeks for other prey, but without molesting either oxen, sheep, or shepherds, goes in quest of water, and after quenching his thirst, returns to his former place of retirement. He sleeps until the next morning, when he finds and devours another ass, which the gamekeepers have brought to the same spot. In this way they contrive, during several days, to allure the lion and to attach him to one place; and when information is received of the King's approach, they fasten at the spot an ass where so many others have been sacrificed, down whose throat a large quantity of opium has been forced. This last meal is of course intended to produce a soporific effect upon the lion. The next operation is to spread, by means of the peasantry of the adjacent villages, large nets, made on purpose, which are gradually drawn closer, in the manner practised in hunting the nil-ghaux. Everything being in this state of preparation, the King appears on an elephant protected in places with thin plates of iron, and attended by the Grand Master of the Hunt, some Omrahs mounted on elephants, and a great number both of gourzeberdars on horseback and of gamekeepers on foot, armed with half-pikes. He immediately approaches the net on the outside, and fires at the lion with a large musketoon. The wounded animal makes a spring at the elephant, according to the invariable practice of lions, but is arrested by the net; and the King continues to discharge his musketoon, until the lion is at length killed.
I observed that the great rivers are commonly without bridges. The army crossed them by means of two bridges of boats, constructed with tolerable skill, and placed between two or three hundred paces apart. Earth and straw mingled together are thrown upon the planking forming the footway, to prevent the cattle from slipping. The greatest confusion and danger occur at the extremities; for not only does the crowd and pressure occur most there, but when the approaches to the bridge are composed of soft moving earth, they become so broken up and so full of pits, that horses and laden oxen tumble upon one another into them, and the people pass over the struggling animals in the utmost disorder. The evil would be much increased if the army were under the necessity of crossing in one day ; but the King generally fixes his camp about half a league from the bridges of boats, and suffers a day or two to elapse ere he passes to the opposite side of the river; when, pitching his tents within half a league from the bank, he again delays his departure so as to allow the army three days and nights at least to effect the passage.
As to the number of people, whether soldiers or others, which the camp contains, it is not easy to determine this accurately; so various are the opinions on this point. I may venture, however, to state generally that in this march there are at least one hundred thousand horsemen, and more than one hundred and fifty thousand animals, comprising horses, mules, and elephants; that besides these, there cannot be much less than fifty thousand camels, and nearly as many oxen or horses employed to carry the wives and children, the grain and other provisions belonging to the poor people connected with the bazars, who when they travel take with them, like our gipsies, the whole of their families, goods, and chattels. The servants in the army must be indeed numerous, since nothing is done without their assistance. I [Page 381] rank only with a two-horse cavalier, and yet I cannot possibly contrive with less than three men. Many are of opinion that the camp contains between three and four hundred thousand persons; some believe this estimate to be too small, while others consider it rather exaggerated. Accurately to determine the question, the people should be numbered. All I can confidently assert is that the multitude is prodigious and almost incredible. The whole population of Dehli, the capital city, is in fact collected in the camp, because deriving its employment and maintenance from the court and army, it has no alternative but to follow them in their march or to perish from want during their absence.
You are no doubt at a loss to conceive how so vast a number both of men and animals can be maintained in the field. The best solution of the difficulty will be found in the temperance of the Indians and simple nature of their diet. Of the five-score thousand troopers not a tenth, no not a twentieth part, eat animal food; they are satisfied with their kichery, a mess of rice and other vegetables, over which, when cooked, they pour boiled butter. It should be considered too that camels endure fatigue, hunger, and tliirst in a surprising degree, live upon little, and eat any kind of food. At the end of every march, they are left to browse in the fields, where everything serves for fodder. It is important likewise to observe that the same tradesmen who supply the bazars in Dehli are compelled to furnish them in the camp ; the shops of which they are composed being kept by the same persons whether in the capital or in the field.
These poor people are at great pains to procure forage: they rove about froin village to village, and what they succeed in purchasing, they endeavour to sell in the army at an advanced price. It is a common practice with them to clear, with a sort of trowel, whole fields of a peculiar kind of grass, which having beaten and washed, [Page 382] they dispose of in the camp at a price sometimes very high and sometimes inadequately low.
There is a curious fact respecting the King which I had almost forgotten to relate. He enters the camp sometimes on one side, sometimes on another; that is, he will to-day pass near the tents of certain Omrahs and to-morrow near the tents of others. This variation of route is not, as you might suppose, accidental: the Omrahs, whom the Monarch honours by his vicinity, must leave their quarters to meet him, and must present His Majesty with a purse of more or less value; from twenty to fifty golden roiqnes, twenty being equal to about thirty pistoles, according to their liberality and the amount of their pay.
I shall say nothing of the towns and villages between Dehli and Lahor: I have in fact scarcely seen any of them. My Agah's station not being in the centre of the army, which often kept to the highroad, but in the front of the right wing, it was our custom to traverse fields and byepaths during the night, guided by the stars; frequently mistaking our way, and marching five or six leagues, instead of three or four, the usual distance between two encampments, till daylight again set us right
M O N S I E U R, IT is not without reason that the kingdom of which Lahor is the capital is named the Penje-ab, or the Region of the Five Waters; because five rivers do really descend from the great mountains which enclose the kingdom of Kachemire, and, taking their course through this country, fall into the Indus, which empties itself into the ocean at Scymdi} near the mouth of the Persian Gulf Whether Lahor be the ancient Bucefalos, I do not pretend to determine. Alexander is here well known by the name of Sekander Filifous, or Alexander the son of Philip : concerning his horse, however, they know nothing. The river on which the city was built, one of the five, is as considerable as our Loire, and is much in want of a similar embankment as that on which the road is carried on the banks of the French river; for it is subject to inundations, which cause great injury and frequently change its bed: indeed within a few years t h e river has receded a full quarter of a league from Lahor, to the great inconvenience of the [Page 384] inhabitants. Unlike the buildings of Dehli and Agra, the houses here are very lofty; but, the court having resided during the last twenty years or more in one of those two cities, most of the houses in Lahor are in a runious state. Indeed, many have been totally destroyed and have buried many of the inhabitants under their ruins, in consequence of the heavy rains which have prevailed of late years. There are still five or six considerable streets, two or three of which exceed a league in length ; but not a few of the houses in them are tumbling to the ground. The river having changed its bed, the King's palace is no longer seated on its banks. This is a high and noble edifice, though very inferior to the palaces of Dehli or Agra. It is more than two months since we arrived in this city : we have waited for the melting of the snow on the mountains of Kachemire in order to obtain an easier passage into that country; our departure is finally fixed, however, for tomorrow, as the King quitted Lahor two days ago. I have provided myself with a nice small Kachemire tent, which I purchased yesterday, as I was advised to do the same as others, and to proceed no further with my old tent, which is rather large and heavy. It will be difficult, they tell me, to find room for all our tents among the mountains of Kachemire, which besides are impassable to camels; so that requiring porters for our baggage, the carriage of my old tent would be too expensive. Farewell!
M O N S I E U R, I HOPED that, as I had survived the heat of Moka near the Straits of Bab-el-mandel, I should have nothing to fear from the burning rays of the sun in any part of the earth ; but that hope has abandoned me since the army left Lahor four days ago. I am indeed no longer surprised that even the Indians themselves expressed much apprehension of the misery which awaited them during the eleven or twelve days march of the army from Lahor to Bember which is situated at the entrance of the Kachemire mountains. I declare, without the least exaggeration, that I have been reduced by the inteiiseness of the heat to the last extremity; scarcely believing when I rose in the morning that I should outlive the day. This extraordinary heat is occasioned by the high mountains of Kachemire; for being to the north of our road, they intercept the cool breezes which would refresh us from that quarter, at the same time that they reflect the scorching sunbeams, and leave the whole country arid and suffocating. But why should I attempt to account philosophically for that which may kill me to-morrow ?
M O N S I E U R, I YESTERDAY crossed one of the great rivers of India, called the Tchenau.1 Its excellent water, with which the principal Omrahs are providing themselves, instead of the Ganges water that has hitherto supplied their wants, induces me to hope that the ascent of this river does not lead to the infernal regions, but that it may really conduct us to the kingdom of Kachemire, where they would make me believe we should be gladdened with the sight of ice and snow. Every day is found more insupportable than the preceding, and the further we advance the more does the heat increase. It is true that I crossed the bridge of boats at broad noonday, but I am not sure that my sufferings would have been less if I had remained stifling in my tent. My object was at least attained: I passed over this bridge quietly, while everybody else was resting and waiting to cross toward the close of the day, when the heat is less oppressive. Perhaps I owe my escape from some fatal accident to my prudence and foresight, for no passage of a river, since the army quitted Dehli, has been attended [Page 387] with such dreadful confusion. The entrance at one extremity of the bridge into the first boat, and the going out from the last boat at the other extremity were rendered extremely difficult and dangerous on account of the loose moving sand which it was necessary to pass, and which giving way under the feet of such crowds of animals, was carried off by the current, and left considerable cavities, into which numbers of camels, oxen, and horses were thrown down, and trodden underfoot, while blows were dealt about without intermission. There are generally upon these occasions officers and troopers attached to Omrahs, who to clear the way for their masters and their baggage make an active use of their canes. My Navaab has lost one of his camels, with the iron oven it carried so that I fear I shall be reduced to the necessity of eating the bazar bread. Farewell!
M O N S I E U R , ALAS, my dear Sir ! what can induce an European to expose himself to such terrible heat, and to these harassing and perilous marches ? It is too much curiosity ; or rather it is gross folly and inconsiderate rashness. My life is placed in continual jeopardy. Out of evil, however, may arise some good. When at Lahor I was seized with a flux, accompanied by acute pains in my limbs, in consequence of having passed whole nights on a terrace in the open air, as is commonly done in Dehli without danger. My health was suffering; but since we have been on the march the violent perspirations, continued for eight or nine days, have dissipated my bad humours, and my parched and withered body is become a mere sieve, the quart of water, which I swallow at a draught, passing at the same moment through every one of my pores, even to my fingers' ends. I am sure that to-day I have drunk more than ten pints. Amid all our sufferings, it is a great consolation to be able to drink as much water as we please with impunity, provided it be of a good quality.
M O N S I E U R, THE sun is just but rising, yet the heat is insupportable. There is not a cloud to be seen nor a breath of air to be felt. My horses are exhausted; they have not seen a blade of green grass since we quitted Lahor. My Indian servants, notwithstanding their black, dry, and hard skin, are incapable of further exertion. The whole of my face, my feet, and my hands are flayed. My body too is entirely covered with small red blisters, which prick like needles. Yesterday one of our poor troopers, who was without a tent, was found dead at the foot of a tree, whither he had crept for shelter. I feel as if I should myself expire before night. All my hopes are in four or five limes still remaining for lemonade, and in a little dry curd which I am about to drink diluted with water and with sugar. Heaven bless you! the ink dries at the end of my pen, and the pen itself drops from my hand.
M O N S I E U R, AT length we have reached Bember, situated at the foot of a steep, black, and scorched mountain. We are encamped in the dry bed of a considerable torrent, upon pebbles and burning sands, a very furnace; and if a heavy shower had not fallen opportunely this morning, and I had not received from the mountains a seasonable supply of curdled milk, limes, and a fowl, I know not what would have become of your poor correspondent. But God be praised ! the atmosphere is evidently cooler, my appetite is restored, my strength improved; and the first use I make of returning health is to resume my pen. You must [Page 391] now be made acquainted with new marches and fresh troubles.
Yesterday, at night, the King left these suffocating quarters. He was accompanied by Rauchenara-Begum and the other women of the Seraglio, the Raja Ragnat who acts as Vizier, and. FazeUkan, the High Steward : and last night the grand master of the hunt also left the camp, with some principal officers of the royal household, and several ladies of distinction. To-night it will be our turn to depart: besides my Navaab Danechmend-kan's family, the party will consist of Mahmet-Emir-kan, son of the celebrated Emir Jemla, ot whom I have already spoken so much; of my excellent friend Dianet-kan and his two sons, and of several other Omrahs, Rajas, and Mansebdars. The other Nobles who are to visit Kachemire will depart each in his turn, to lessen the inconvenience and confusion that must attend the five days journey between this place and Kachemire, through difficult and mountainous paths. The remainder of the court, such as Feday-kan, the Grand Master of the Artillery, three or four principal Rajas, and a large number of Omrahs, will continue stationed as guards, in this town and neighbourhood, during three or four months, until the great heat be over, when the King will return. Some will pitch their tents on the banks of the Tchenauf others will repair to the adjacent towns and villages, and the rest will be under the necessity of encamping in this burning Bember.
That a scarcity of provisions may not be produced in the small kingdom of Kachemire, the King will be followed by a very limited number of individuals. Of females he takes only ladies of the first rank, the intimate friends of Rauchenara-Begum, and those women whose services cannot easily be dispensed with. The Omrahs and military will also be as few as possible; and those Lords who have per [Page 392] mission to attend the Monarch will be accompanied by no more than twenty-five troopers out of every hundred; not, however, to the exclusion of the immediate officers of their household. These regulations cannot be evaded, an Omrah being stationed at the pass of the mountains, who reckons every person one by one, and effectually prevents the ingress of that multitude of Mansebdars and other cavaliers who are eager to inhale the pure and refreshing air of Kachemire, as well as of all those petty tradesmen and inmates of the bazars, whose only object is to gain a livelihood.
The King has a few of the choicest elephants for his baggage and the women of the Seraglio. Though heavy and unwieldy, these animals are yet very sure-footed, feeling their way when the road is difficult and dangerous, and assuring themselves of the firm hold of one foot before they move another. The King has also a few mules ; but his camels, which would be more useful, are all left behind, the mountains being too steep and craggy for their long stiff legs. Porters supply the place of camels; and you may judge of the immense number that will be employed if what they tell me be true, that the King alone has no fewer than six thousand. I must myself have three, although I left my large tent and a considerable quantity of luggage at Lahor: every person did the same, not excepting the Omrahs and the King himself; and yet it is calculated that there are at least fifteen thousand porters already collected in Bember; some sent by the Governor of Kachemire and by the neighbouring Rajas, and others who are come voluntarily in the expectation of earning a little money. A royal ordinance fixes their pay at ten crowns for every hundred pounds weight. It is computed that thirty thousand will be employed; an enormous number, when it is considered that the King and Omrahs have been sending forward baggage, and the tradespeople articles of every sort, for the last month.
M O N S I E U R, THE histories of the ancient Kings of Kachemire maintain that the whole of this country was in former times one vast lake, and that an outlet for the waters was opened by a certain pire, or aged saint, named Kacheb} who miraculously cut the mountain of Baramoule. This account is to be met with in the abridgment of the above-mentioned histories, [Page 394] made by order of Jehan-Guyre, which I am now translating from the Persian. I am certainly not disposed to deny that this region was once covered with water: the same thing is reported of Thessaly and of other countries ; but I cannot easily persuade myself that the opening in question was the work of man, for the mountain is very extensive and very lofty. I rather imagine that the mountain sank into some subterraneous cavern, which was disclosed by a [Page 395] violent earthquake, not uncommon in these countries.1 If we are to believe the Arabs of those parts, t h e opening of Bab-el-mande was effected in the same manner; and it is thus that entire towns and mountains have been engulphed in great lakes.
Kachemire, however, is no longer a lake, but a beautiful country, diversified with a great many low hills: about thirty leagues in length, and from ten to twelve in breadth. It is situated at the extremity ot Hindoustan, to the north of Lahor; enclosed by the mountains at the foot of Caucasus those of the Kings of Great Tibet and Little Tibet and of the Raja Gamon who are its most immediate neighbours.
The first mountains which surround it, I mean those nearest to the plains, are of moderate height, of the freshest verdure, decked with trees and covered with pasture land, on which cows, sheeps, goats, horses, and every kind of cattle is seen to graze. Game of various species is in great plenty, partridges, hares, antelopes, and tliose animals which yield musk. Bees are also in vast abundance ; and what may be considered veiy extraordinary in the Indies, there are, with few or no exceptions, neither serpents, tigers, bears, nor lions. These mountains may indeed be characterised not only as innocuous, but as flowing in rich exuberance with milk and honey.
From the sides of all these mountains gush forth innumerable springs and streams of water, which are conducted by means of embanked earthen channels even to the top of the numerous hillocks in the valley; thereby enabling the inhabitants to irrigate their flelds of rice. These waters, after separating into a thousand rivulets and producing a thousand cascades through this charming country, at length collect and form a beautiful river, navigable for vessels as large as are borne on our Seine. It winds gently around the kingdom, and passing through the capital, bends its peaceful course toward Baramoule, where it finds an outlet between two steep rocks, being then joined by several smaller rivers from the mountains
The numberless streams which issue from the mountains maintain the valley and the hillocks in the most delightful verdure. The whole kingdom wears the appearance of a fertile and highly cultivated garden. Villages and hamlets are frequently seen through the luxuriant foliage. Meadows and vineyards, fields of rice, wheat, hemp, saffron, and many sorts of vegetables, among which are intermingled trenches filled with water, rivulets, canals, and several small lakes, vary the enchanting scene. The whole ground is enamelled with our European flowers and plants, and covered with our apple, pear, plum, apricot, and walnut trees, all bearing fruit in great abundance. The private gardens are full of melons, pateques or water melons, water parsnips, red beet, radishes, most of our potherbs, and others with which we are unacquainted.
The fruit is certainly inferior to our own, nor is it in such variety; but this I am satisfied is not attributable to the soil, but merely to the comparative ignorance of the gardeners, for they do not understand the culture and the grafting of trees as we do in France. I have eaten, however, a great deal of very excellent fruit during my residence in Kachemire, and should entertain no doubt of its arriving at the same degree of perfection as that of Europe if the people were more attentive to the planting and soil of the trees and introduced grafts from foreign countries. The capital of Kachemire bears the same name as the kingdom. It is without walls and is not less than three [Page 398] quarters of a league in length, and half a league in breadth. It is situated in a plain, distant about two leagues from the mountains, which seem to describe a semicircle, and is built on the banks of a fresh-water lake, whose circumference is from four to five leagues. This lake is formed of live springs and of streams descending from the mountains, and communicates with the river, which runs through the town, by means of a canal sufficiently large to admit boats. In the town there are two wooden bridges thrown over the river; and the houses, although for the most part of wood, are well built and consist of two or three stories. There is, however, plenty of very fine freestone in the country; some old buildings, and a great number of ancient idol-temples in ruins, are of stone; but wood is preferred on account of its cheapness, and the facility with which it is brought from the mountains by means of so many small rivers. Most of the houses along the banks of the river have little gardens, which produce a very pretty effect, especially in the spring and summer, when many parties of pleasure take place on the water. Indeed most houses in the city have also their gardens; and many have a canal, on which the owner keeps a pleasure-boat, thus communicating with the lake.
At one end of the town appears an isolated hill, with handsome houses on its declivity, each having a garden. Toward the summit are a Mosque and Hermitage, both good buildings; and the hill is crowned with a large quantity of fine trees. It forms altogether an agreeable object, and from its trees and gardens it is called, in the language of the country, Harypierbet or the Verdant Mountain.
Opposite to this hill is seen another, on which is also [Page 399] erected a small Mosque with a garden and an extremely ancient building, which bears evident marks of having been a temple for idols, although named Tac-Souliman the Throne of Solomon. The Mahometans pretend it was raised by that celebrated King when he visited Kachemire; but I doubt whether they could prove that this countiy was ever honoured with his presence. The lake is full of islands, which are so many pleasure-grounds. They look beautiful and green in the midst of the water, being covered with fruit trees, and laid out with regular trellised walks. In general they are surrounded by the large-leafed aspen, planted at intervals of two feet. The largest of these trees may be clasped in a man's arms, but they are as high as the mast of a ship, and have only a tuft of branches at the top, like the palmtrees. The declivities of the mountains beyond the lake are crowded with houses and flower-gardens. The air is healthful, and the situation considered most desirable : they abound with springs and streams of water, and command a delightful view of the lake, the islands, and the town.
The most beautiful of all these gardens is one belonging to the King, called Chah-limar. The entrance from the lake is through a spacious canal, bordered with green turf, and running between two rows of poplars. Its length is about five hundred paces, and it leads to a large summerhouse placed in the middle of the garden. A second [Page 400] canal, still finer than the first, then conducts you to another summer-house, at the end of the garden. This canal is paved with large blocks of freestone, and its sloping sides are covered with the same. In the middle is a long row of fountains, fifteen paces asunder; besides which there are here and there large circular basins, or reservoirs, out of which arise other fountains, formed into a variety of shapes and figures.
The summer-houses are placed in the midst of the canal, consequently surrounded by water, and between the two rows of large poplars planted on either side. They are built in the form of a dome, and encircled by a gallery, into which four doors open; two looking up, or down, the canal, and two leading to bridges that connect the buildings with both banks. The houses consist of a large room in the centre, and of four smaller apartments, one at each corner. The whole of the interior is painted and gilt, and on the walls of all the chambers are inscribed certain sentences, written in large and beautiful Persian characters. The four doors are extremely valuable ; being composed of large stones, and supported by two beautiful pillars. The doors and pillars were found in some of the idol temples demolished by Chah-Jehan, and it is impossible to estimate their value. I cannot describe the nature of the stone, but it is far superior to porphyry, or any species of marble.
The people of Kachemire are proverbial for their clear complexions and fine forms. They are ,as well made as Europeans, and their faces have neither the Tartar flat nose nor the small pig-eyes that distinguish the natives of Kacheguer, and which generally mark those of Great Tibet [Page 405] In respect then to the route from Bember I was surprised to find myself on the very first night transported on a sudden from a torrid to a temperate zone : for we had no sooner scaled that frightful wall of the world, I mean the lofty, steep, black, and bare mountain of Bember, and begun the descent on the other side, than we breathed a pure, mild, and refreshing air. What surprised me still more was to find myself, as it were, transferred from the Indies to Europe ; the mountains we were traversing being covered with every one of our plants and shrubs, save the hyssop, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary. I almost imagined [Page 406] myself in the mountains ot Auvergne, in a forest of fir, oak, elm, and plane trees, and could not avoid feeling strongly the contrast between this scene and the burning fields of Hindoustan, which I had just quitted and where nothing of the kind is seen.
I could not avoid admiring, in the course of our march, the successive generation and decay of trees. I saw hundreds plunged and plunging into abysses, down which man never ventured, piled dead one upon another and mouldering with time ; while others were shooting out of the ground, and supplying the places of those that were no more. I observed also trees consumed by fire ; but I am unable to say whether they were struck by lightning, or ignited by friction, when hot and impetuous winds agitate the trees against each other, or whether, as the natives pretend, trees when grown old and dry may ignite spontaneously. The magnificent cascades between the rocks increase the beauty of the scene. There is one especially which I conceive has not its parallel. I observed it at a distance [Page 407] from the side of a high mountain. A torrent of water rolling impetuously through a long and gloomy channel, covered with trees, precipitates itself suddenly down a perpendicular rock of prodigious height, and the ear is stunned with the noise occasioned by the falling of these mighty waters. Jehan-Guyre erected on an adjacent rock, which was smoothed for the purpose, a large building from which the court might leisurely contemplate this stupendous work of Nature, which, as well as the trees before mentioned, bears marks of the highest antiquity, and is perhaps coeval with the creation of the world [Page 408] While traversing this same mountain of Pire-penjale, where the elephants tumbled down, three things recalled my old philosophical speculations. The first was that we ex [Page 409] perienced the opposite seasons of summer and winter within the same hour. In ascending we were exposed to the intense heat of the sun, and perspired most profusely; but when we reached the summit, we found ourselves in the midst of frozen snow, through which a passage for the army had been recently cut ; a small and congealed rain was falling, and the wind blew piercingly cold. The poor Indians, most of whom had never felt the severity of winter, and saw for the first time ice and snow, were in a state of great suffering and astonishment and fled with precipitation. The third extraordinary appearance was an aged hermit, who had resided on the top of this mountain ever since the time of Jehan-Guyre. Of his religion everybody was ignorant; but it was said that he wrought miracles, caused strange thunders, and raised storms of wind, hail, snow, and rain. His white and uncombed beard was extremely long [Page 410] and bushy; he had somewhat of the savage in his aspect, and was haughty in his manner of asking alms. He permitted the people to drink water out of some earthen cups placed in rows on a large stone, making signs with his hand that they should not stop, but hastily leave the summit of the mountain.
I was accompanied by a native, and escorted by one of my Navaab's troopers. The wonders consist in this : in the month of May, when the melting of the snows has just taken place, this fountain, during the space of fifteen days, regularly flows and ebbs three times a day, when the morning dawns, at noon, and at night. Its flow generally continues three quarters of an hour, and is sufficiently abundant to fill a square reservoir ten or twelve feet deep, and as many in length and breadth. After a lapse of fifteen days, the supply of water becomes less copious and regular, and at the expiration of a month the spring ceases to run, unless in the time of heavy and incessant rains, when it runs with the ebb and flow of other fountains. The Genliles have a small temple on the side of the reservoir dedicated to Brare, one of their deities; and hence this spring is called Send-brary, or water of Brare. Pilgrims flock from all parts to this temple, for the purpose of bathing and purifying themselves in the sacred and miraculous water. Numberless fables are founded on the origin of this fountain, which, not having a shadow of truth, would be little entertaining in the recital. The five or six days that I remained in the vicinity of Send-brary were employed in endeavours to trace the cause of the 'wonder.' I paid considerable attention to the situation of the mountain, at whose foot is found this supernatural spring.
With much labour and difficulty I reached the top, leaving no part unexplored, searching and prying at every step. I remarked that its length extends from north to south, and that though very near to other mountains, yet it is completely detached from any. Its form resembles an ass's back; the summit is of extreme length, but the greatest breadth is scarcely one hundred paces. One side of the mountain, which is covered with nothing but green grass, has au eastern aspect; but the sun, being intercepted by the opposite mountains, does not shine upon it before [Page 412] eight o'clock in the morning. The western side is covered with trees and bushes.
I supposed that the frozen waters, which during the winter, when the whole ground is covered with snow, had penetrated into the inner parts of that portion of the mountain exposed to the morning sun, became partially melted, that these waters running down, little by little, into certain beds of live rock, and being thence conveyed toward the spring, produced the flow at noon; that the sun quitting this part of the mountain (which then becomes cool) darts its vertical beams upon the summit, melting the congealed waters, wliich descend also by slow degrees, but through different channels, into the same beds of live rock, and are the cause of the flow at night; and finally, that the sun heating the western side of the mountain, similar effects are occasioned, and the morning flow is the consequence. That this last is slower than the others may be accounted for by the remoteness of the western side from the spring, by its being covered with wood, and therefore more sheltered from the sun, or simply by the coldness of the night. My reasoning may derive support from the fact of the water flowing most copiously during the first days, and that having gradually diminished in quantity it ceases to run altogether : as if the waters which had remained frozen in the earth were [Page 413] in greater plenty at the commencement than afterwards. It may be observed too, that even at the beginning the supply of water as to the quantity is very uncertain, and that the flow is sometimes greater at noon than at night or in the morning, or in the morning greater than at noon ; because, as I conceive, some days are hotter than others, and because clouds, sometimes rendering the heat unequal, thus become the cause of inequality in the flow of water. Returning from Send-brary, I turned a little from the high road for the sake of visiting Achiavel a countiy house formerly of the Kings of Kachemire and now of the Great Mogol. What principally constitutes the beauty of this place is a fountain, whose waters disperse themselves into a hundred canals round the house, which is no means unseemly, and throughout the gardens. The spring gushes out of the earth with violence, as if it issued from the bottom of some well, and the water is so abundant that it ought rather to be called a river than a fountain. It is excellent water, and cold as ice. The garden is very handsome, laid out in regular walks, and full of fruit-trees,—apple, pear, plum, apricot, and cherry. Jets-d'eau in various forms and fish-ponds are in great number, and there is a lofty cascade which in its fall takes the form and colour of a large sheet, thirty or forty paces in length, producing the finest effect imaginable ; especially at night, when innumerable lamps, fixed in parts of the wall adapted for that purpose, are lighted under this sheet of water.
From Achiavel I proceeded to another royal garden, [Page 414] embellished much in the same manner. One of its ponds contains fish so tame that they approach upon being called, or when pieces of bread are thrown into the water. The largest have gold rings, with inscriptions, through the gills, placed there, it is said, by the celebrated Nour-Mehalle, the wife ot Jehan-Guyre, grandfather to Aureng-Zebe. Danechmend-kan seemed well satisfied with the account I brought of Send-brary, and wished me to undertake another journey, that I might bear my testimony to what he called a real miracle [miracle assure], such a miracle as would induce me to renounce my religion and become a Musulman. Hasten to Baramoiday said he ; the distance is not greater than to Send-brary: there you will see a Mosque which contains the tomb of a celebrated Pire or Holy Derviche, who though dead yet miraculously cures the sick and infirm. Perhaps you may deny the reality either of the disease or of the cure; but another miracle is wrought by the power of this holy man, which no person can see without acknowledging. There is a large round stone that the strongest man can scarcely raise from the ground, but which eleven men, after a prayer made to the saint, lift up with the tips of their eleven fingers with the same ease as they would move a piece of straw. I was not sorry for another little excursion, and set out with both my former companions, the trooper and the native of the country. I found Baramoiday a rather pleasant place; the Mosque is a tolerable building and the Saint's tomb is richly adorned. It was surrounded with a great number of people, engaged [Page 415] in acts of devotion, who said they were ill. Adjoining the Mosque is a kitchen, wherein I observed large boilers filled with meat and rice, which I conceived at once to be the magnet that draws the sick, and the miracle that cures them. On the other side of the mosque are the apartments and garden of the Mullahs, who pursue the even tenor of their way under the shadow of the Pire's miraculous sanctity. They are sufficiently zealous in celebrating his praises, but as I am always unhappy on similar occasions, he performed no miracle upon the sick while I remained there. As to the round and heavy stone that was to convert me, I noticed that eleven Mullahs formed themselves into a circle round it, but what with their long cabayes or vests, and the studied compactness of the circle, I had great difficulty to see the mode in which they held the stone. I watched narrowly, however, the whole of this cheating process, and although the Mullahs stoutly maintained that each person used only the tip of one finger, and that the stone felt as light as a feather, yet I could clearly discover that it was not raised from the ground without a great effort, and it seemed to me that the Mullahs made use of the thumb as well as of the forefinger. Still I mixed my voice with the cries of these impostors and bystanders, exclaiming Karamet ! Karamet ! a miracle ! a miracle ! I then presented them with a roupie, and assuming a look of the deepest devotion, entreated that I might have for once the distinguished honour of being among the eleven who lifted the stone. The Mullalis were reluctant to comply with my request, but having presented them with a second roupie, and expressed my belief in the truth of the miracle, one of them gave up his place to me. No doubt they hoped that ten would be able, by an extraordinary effort, to lift the stone, although I contributed no other aid than the tip of my finger, and they expected to manage so adroitly that I should not discover the imposture. But they were much mortified to [Page 416] find that the stone, to which I persevered in applying the end of my finger only, was constantly inclining and falling towards me. I considered it prudent at last to hold it firmly with both my finger and thumb, when we succeeded, but with great difficulty, in raising it to the usual height. Observing that every person looked at me with an evil eye, not knowing what to think of me, and that I incuited the danger of being stoned, I continued to join in the cry of Karamet and throwing down a third roupie, stole away from the crowd. Though I had taken no refreshment since my arrival, I did not hesitate to mount my horse directly, and to quit for ever the Derviche and his miracles. I availed myself of this opportunity to visit those celebrated rocks that form the outlet of all the waters of the kingdom, and to which I alluded at t h e commencement of this letter. I was induced to quit the high road for the sake of approaching a large lake that I saw at some distance. It is well stocked with fish, particularly eels, and covered with ducks, wild geese, and many other water-birds. The Governor comes hither in the winter, when these birds are in greatest plenty, to enjoy the sport of fowling. Leaving this lake, I went in search of a spring, con [Page 417] sidered an object of curiosity. It bubbles gently and rises with some force, bringing with it a certain quantity of very fine sand, which returns the way it came; after which the water becomes still a moment or two without ebullition and without bringing up sand, and then bubbles as before [Page 418] and with the same effect; thus continuing its motion at irregular intervals.
When we had sufficiently examined this fountain, we ascended the mountains, for the purpose of seeing an extensive lake, in which there is ice, even in summer, which the winds heap up and disperse, as in a frozen sea.
I regret that I can give you only imperfect and scanty information concerning the surrounding mountains. The subject has much occupied my thoughts since my arrival in this country; but I can meet with no congenial mind, with no person of observation and research, who possesses much knowledge of the matters about which I wish to be informed. What I have learnt I shall, however, communicate. The merchants who every year travel from mountain to mountain to collect the fine wool with which shawls are manufactured, all agree in saying that between all the mountains still dependent upon Kachemire there are many fine stretches of country. Among these tracts there is one whose annual tribute is paid in leather and wool, and whose women are proverbial for beauty, chastity, and industry. Beyond this tract is another whose valleys are [Page 420] delightful and plains fertile, abounding in corn, rice, apples, pears, apricots, excellent melons, and even grapes, with which good wine is made. The tribute of this tract is likewise paid in wool and leather, and it sometimes happens that the inhabitants, trusting to the inaccessible nature of the country, refuse payment; but troops always contrive to penetrate, and reduce the people to submission. I learn also from the merchants, that in the more distant mountains, which have ceased to be tributary to Kachemire, there are other beautiful tracts and countries, where the inhabitants are white and well-formed, and remarkable for their attachment to their native land, which they seldom quit. Some of these people have no King, nor even, as far as can be discovered, any religion; though certain tribes abstain from fish, and consider it unclean. [Page 421] My Naimab invited this personage to dinner, hoping to obtain some information concerning those mountainous regions. He informed us that his kingdom was bounded on the east by Great Tibet; that it was thirty or forty leagues in breadth ; that he was very poor, notwithstanding the crystal, musk, and wool, which he had in small quantities; and that the opinion generally entertained of his possessing gold mines was quite erroneous.
The country, in certain parts, he added, produces excellent fruit, particularly melons, but the winters are most severe, because of the deep snows. The inhabitants heretofore were Gentiles, but the great majority have become Mahometan, as well as himself; of the sect of the Chias, which is that of all Persia.
The embassy was accompanied by various presents, the productions of the countiy; such as crystal, musk, a piece of jade, and those valuable white tails taken from a species of cow peculiar to Great Tibet, which are attached by way of ornament to the ears of elephants. The jade stone presented upon this occasion was of an extraordinary size, and therefore very precious.
There was in the suite of the ambassador a physician, said to be from the kingdom of Kassa and of the Lamy or Lama tribe; a tribe which is the depositary of the law in Lassa as that of the Brehmens is iu the Indies, with this difference, that the Brehmens of the Indies have no Calife or Pontiff, which these people have, who is not only recognised as such in the kingdom of Lassa, but throughout all Tartary, and is honoured and reverenced as a divine personage. The physician had a book of receipts which I could not persuade him to sell; the writing at a distance looked something like ours. We induced him to write down the alphabet, but he did this with so much difficulty, and his writing was so wretchedly bad in comparison with that in his book, that we pronounced him an ignoramus. He was an ardent believer in metempsychosis, and entertained us with wonderful tales.
I would be as much pleased as Monsieur Thevenot himself if Jews were found in these mountainous regions; I mean such Jews as he would no doubt desire to find, Jews descended from t h e tribes transported by Shalmaneser : but you may assure that gentleman that although there seems ground for believing that some of them were formerly settled in these countries, yet the whole population is at present either Gentile or Mahometan. In China, indeed, there are probably people of that nation [Page 430] There are, however, many signs of Judaism, to be found in this country. On entering the kingdom after crossing the Pire-penjale mountains, the inhabitants in the frontier villages struck me as resembling Jews.
The sun is so strong and oppressive in the Indies during the whole year, particularly during eight months, that the ground would be completely burnt, and rendered sterile and uninhabitable, if Providence did not kindly provide a remedy, and wisely ordain that in the month of July, when the heat is most intense, rains begin to fall, which continue three successive months. The temperature of [Page 432] the air thus becomes supportable, and the earth is rendered fruitful. These rains are not, however, so exactly regular as to descend undeviatingly on the same day or week. According to the observations I have made in various places, particularly in Dehli, where I resided a long time, they are never the same two years together. Sometimes they commence or terminate a fortnight or three weeks sooner or later, and one year they may be more abundant than another. I have even known two entire years pass without scarcely a drop of rain, and the consequences of that extraordinary drought were wide-spreading sickness and famine. It should be observed too that the rainy season is earlier or later, and more or less plentiful, in different countries, in proportion to their proximity or remoteness from one another. In Bengale, for instance, and along the coast of Koromandel, as far as the Island of Ceylon, the rains begin and end a month sooner than toward the coast of Malabar; and in Bengale they fall very violently for four months, in the course of which it sometimes pours during eight days and nights without the least intermission. In Dehli and Agra, however, the rains are neither so abundant nor of such long continuance; two or three days often elapsing without the slightest shower; and from dawn of day to nine or ten o'clock in the morning, it commonly rains very little, and sometimes not at all. It struck me very particularly that the rains come from different quarters in different countries. In the neighbourhood of Dehli they come from the east, where Bengale is situated; in the province of Bengale and on the coast of Koromandel, from the south; and on the coast of Malabar almost invariably from the west.
I have also remarked one thing, about which, indeed, there is a perfect agreement of opinion in these parts, that accordingly as the heat of summer comes earlier or later, is more or less violent, or lasts a longer or shorter time, so the rains come sooner or later, are more or less abundant, and continue a longer or a shorter period
From these observations I have been led to believe that the heat of the earth and the rarefaction of the air are the principal causes of these rains which they attract. The atmosphere of the circumjacent seas being colder, more condensed, and thicker, is filled with clouds drawn from the water by the great heat of the summer, and which, driven and agitated by the winds, discharge themselves naturally upon land, where the atmosphere is hotter, more rarefied, lighter, and less resisting than on the sea; and thus this discharge is more or less tardy and plentiful, according as the heat comes early or late, and is more or less intense.
It is also in accord with the observations contained in this dissertation to suppose that if the rains commence sooner on the coast of Koromandel than on the coast of Malabar, it is only because the summer is earlier; and that it is earlier may be owing to particular causes which it would not perhaps be difficult to ascertain if the country were properly examined. We know that according to the different situations of lands, in respect of seas or mountains, and in proportion as they are sandy, hilly, or covered with wood, summer is felt more or less early, and with greater or less violence.
Nor is it surprising that the rains come from different quarters; that on the coast of Koromandel, for example, they come from the south, and on the Malabar coast from the west; because it is apparently the nearest sea which sends the rain; and the sea nearest the Koromandel coast, and to which it is more immediately exposed, lies to the south; as the sea which washes the coast of Malabar is to the west, extending itself towards Bab-el-mandel, Arabia, and the Persian Gulf.
I have imagined, in fine, that although we see at Dehli the rainy clouds come from the east, yet their origin may be in the seas which lie to the south of that city: and being intercepted by some mountains or lands whose atmosphere is colder, more condensed and resisting, they [Page 434] are forced to turn aside and discharge themselves in a country where the air is more rarefied, and which consequently offers less resistance.
I had almost forgotten to notice another fact which fell under my observation while living in Dehli. There never falls any heavy rain until a great quantity of clouds have passed, during several days, to the westward ; as if it were necessary that the expanse of atmosphere to the west of Dehli should be first filled with clouds, and that those clouds finding some impediment, such as air less hot and less rarefied, and therefore more condensed and more capable of resistance; or encountering other clouds and contrary winds, they become so thick, overcharged and heavy, as to burst and descend in rain; in the same manner as it happens when clouds are driven by the wind against some lofty mountain.
Egypt has been represented in every age as the finest and most fruitful country in the world, and even our modern writers deny that there is any other land so peculiarly favoured by nature : but the knowledge I have acquired of Bengale, during two visits paid to that kingdom, inclines me to believe that the pre-eminence ascribed to Egypt is rather due to Bengale. The latter countiy produces rice in such abundance that it supplies not only the neighbouring but remote states. It is carried up the Ganges as far as Patna, and exported by sea to Maslipatam and many other ports on the coast of Koromandel. It is also sent to foreign kingdoms, principally to the island of Ceylon and the Maldives. Bengale abounds likewise in sugar, with which it supplies the kingdoms of Golkonda and the Karnatic, where very little is grown, Arabia and Mesopotamia, through the towns of Moka and Bassora, and even Persia, by way of Bender-Abbasi. Bengale likewise is celebrated for its sweetmeats, especially in places inhabited by Portuguese, who are skilful in the art of preparing [Page 438] them, and with whom they are an article of considerable trade. Among other fruits, they preserve large citrons, such as we have in Europe, a certain delicate root about the length of sarsaparilla, that common fruit of the Indies called amba another called ananas small mirobolans which are excellent, limes, and ginger.
Bengale, it is true, yields not so much wheat as Egypt; but if this be a defect, it is attributable to the inhabitants, who live a great deal more upon rice than the Egyptians, and seldom taste bread. Nevertheless, wheat is cultivated in sufficient quantity for the consumption of the country, and for the making of excellent and cheap sea-biscuits, with which the crews of European ships, English, Dutch and Portuguese, are supplied. The three or four sorts of vegetables which, together with rice and butter,form the chief food of the common people, are purchased for the merest trifle, and for a single roupie twenty or more good fowls may be bought. Geese and ducks are proportionably cheap. There are also goats and sheep in abundance ; and pigs are obtained at so low a price that the Portuguese, settled in the country, live almost entirely upon pork. This meat is salted at a cheap rate by the Dutch and English, for the supply of their vessels. Fish of every species, whether fresh or salt, is in the same profusion. In a word, Bengale abounds with every [Page 439] necessary of life; and it is this abundance that has induced so many Portuguese, Half-castes and other Christians, driven from their different settlements by the Dutch, to seek an asylum in this fertile kingdom. The Jesuits and Augustins, who have large churches and are permitted the free and unmolested exercise of their religion, assiu-ed me that Ogouli alone contains from eight to nine thousand Christians, and that in other parts of the kingdom their number exceeded five-and-twenty thousand. The rich exuberance of the countiy, together with the beauty and amiable disposition of the native women, has given rise to a proverb in common use among the Portuguese, English, and Dutch, that the Kingdom of Bengale has a hundred gates open for entrance, but not one for departure.
In regard to valuable commodities of a nature to attract foreign merchants, I am acquainted with no country where so great a variety is found. Besides the sugar I have spoken of, and which may be placed in the list of valuable commodities, there is in Bengale such a quantity of cotton and silks, that the kingdom may be called the common storehouse for those two kinds of merchandise, not of Hindoustan or the Empire of the Great Mogol only, but of all the neighbouring kingdoms, and even of Europe. have been sometimes amazed at the vast quantity of cotton cloths, of eveiy sort, fine and coarse, white and coloured, which the Hollanders alone export to different places, especially to Japan and Europe. The English, the Portuguese, and the native merchants deal also in these articles to a considerable extent. The same may be said of the silks and silk stuffs of all sorts. It is not possible to conceive the quantity drawn every year from Bengale for the supply of the whole of the Mogol Empire, as far as Lahor and Cabot, and generally of all those foreign nations to which the cotton cloths are sent. The silks are not certainly so fine as those of Persia, Syria, Sayd, [Page 440] and Barut but they are of a much lower price; and I know from indisputable authority that, if they were well selected and wrought with care, they might be manufactured into most beautiful stuffs. The Dutch have sometimes seven or eight hundred natives employed in their silk factory at Kassem-Bazar, where, in like manner, the English and other merchants employ a proportionate number. Bengale is also the principal emporium for saltpetre. A prodigious quantity is imported from Patna. It is carried down the Ganges with great facility, and the Dutch and English send large cargoes to many parts of the Indies, and to Europe.
Lastly, it is from this fruitful kingdom, that the best lac, opium, wax, civet, long pepper, and various drugs are obtained; and butter which may appear to you an inconsiderable article, is in such plenty, that although it be a bulky article to export, yet it is sent by sea to numberless places. [Page 441] It is fair to acknowledge, however, that strangers seldom find the air salubrious, particularly near the sea. There was a great mortality among the Dutch and English when they first settled in Bengale; and I saw in Balasor two very fine English vessels, which had remained in that port a twelvemonth in consequence of the war with Holland, and at the expiration of that period, were unable to put to sea, because the greater part of the crews had died. Both the English and Dutch now live with more caution and the mortality is diminished. The masters of vessels take care that their crews drink less punch; nor do they permit them so frequently to visit the Indian women, or the dealers in arac and tobacco.
In describing the beauty of Bengale, it should be remarked that throughout a country extending nearly an hundred leagues in length, on both banks of the Ganges, [Page 442] from Raje-Mehale to the sea, is an endless number of channels, cut, in bygone ages, from that river with immense labour, for the conveyance of merchandise and of the water itself, which is reputed by the Indians to be superior to any in the world. These channels are lined on both sides with towns and villages, thickly peopled with Gentiles; and with extensive fields of rice, sugar, com, three or four sorts of vegetables, mustard, sesame tor oil, and small mulberry-trees, two or three feet in height, for the food of silk-worms. But the most striking and peculiar beauty ot Bengale is the innumerable islands filling the vast space between the two banks of the Ganges, in some places six or seven days' journey asunder. These islands vary in size, but are all extremely fertile, surrounded with wood, and abounding in fruit-trees, and pine-apples, and covered with verdure; a thousand water-channels run through them, stretching beyond the sight, and resembling long walks arched with trees. Several of the islands, nearest to the sea, are now abandoned by the inhabitants, who were exposed to the attacks and ravages of the Arracan pirates, spoken of in another place. At present they are a dreary waste, wherein no living creature is seen except antelopes, hogs, and wild fowls, that attract tigers, [Page 443] which sometimes swim from one island to another. In traversing the Ganges in small rowing boats, the usual mode of conveyance among these islands, it is in many places dangerous to land, and great care must be had that the boat, which during the night is fastened to a tree, be kept at some distance from the shore, for it constantly happens that some person or another falls a prey to tigers. These ferocious animals are very apt, it is said, to enter into the boat itself, while the people are asleep, and to carry away some victim, who, if we are to believe the boatmen of the country, generally happens to be the stoutest and fattest of the party.
The day following we arrived, at rather a late hour, among the islands; and having chosen a spot that appeared free from tigers, we landed and lighted a fire. I ordered a couple of fowls and some of the fish to be dressed, and we made an excellent supper. The fish was delicious While keeping watch, I witnessed a Phenomenon of Nature such as I had twice observed at Dehli. I beheld a lunar rainbow, and awoke the whole of my company, who all expressed much surprise, especially two Portuguese pilots, whom I had received into the boat at the request of a friend. They declared that they had neither seen nor heard of such a rainbow.
During the rainy season at Dehli, there is scarcely a month in which a halo is not frequently seen round the moon. But they appear only when that luminary is very high above the horizon: I have observed them three and four nights successively, and sometimes I have seen them doubled. The iris of which I speak was not a circle about the moon, but was placed in an opposite direction, in the same relative position as a solar rainbow. Whenever I have seen a night iris, the moon has been at the west and the iris at the east. The moon was also nearly complete in its orb, because otherwise the beams of light would not, I conceive, be sufficiently powerful to form the rainbow; nor was the iris so white as the halo, but more strongly marked, and a variety of colours was even discernible. Thus you see that I am more happy than the ancients, who, according to Aristotle, had observed no lunar rainbows before his time.
In the evening of the fourth day we withdrew, as usual, out of the main channel to a place of security, and passed a most extraordinary night. Not a breath of wind was felt, and the air became so hot and suffocating that we could scarcely breathe. The bushes around us were so full of glow-worms that they seemed ignited; and fires resembling flames arose every moment to the great alarm of our sailors, who did not doubt that they were so many devils. Two of these luminous appearances were very remarkable. One was a great globe of fire, which continued longer than the time necessary to repeat a Pater, the other looked like a small tree all in flames, and lasted above a quarter of an hour.
The night of the fifth day was altogether dreadful and perilous. A storm arose so violent, that although we were, as we thought, in excellent shelter under trees, and our [Page 446] boat carefully fastened, yet our cable was broken, and we should have been driven into the main channel, there inevitably to perish, if I and my two Portuguese had not, by a sudden and spontaneous movement, entwined our arms round the branches of trees, which we held tightly for the space of two hours, while the tempest was raging with unabated force. No assistance was to be expected from my Indian boatmen, whose fears completely overcame them. Our situation while clinging for our lives to the trees was indeed most painful; the rain fell as if poured into the boat from buckets, and the lightning and thunder were so vivid and loud, and so near our heads, that we despaired of surviving this horrible night. Nothing, however, could be more pleasant than the remainder of the voyage. We arrived at Ogouly on the ninth day, and my eyes seemed never sated with gazing on the delightful country through which we passed. My trunk, however, and all my wearing-apparel were wet, the poultry dead, the fish spoilt, and the whole of my biscuits soaked with rain.