Page images
PDF
EPUB

doing they may partake of their sins. The hare, dog, vulture, and some other birds and beasts of prey are forbidden food, though dogs and cocks have a sacred character attached to them. All poisonous reptiles they instantly deprive of life, as creatures which Ahriman delights to send forth as messengers of his evil intentions towards man. We followed Merwanjee through a series of other rooms, and up another flight of stairs out on to the flat roof, where we enjoyed a most splendid view of the whole island of Bombay. Seats were placed on the leads for the accommodation of the ladies, who retire hither morning and evening to pray, and to read over their book of Zendavista, and study the Dabistan, and the Dassateer, as the two latter contain a history of various superstitions commonly practised among them, and a sketch of the life of one Hoshung, who, they say, first worshipped the true fire. Upon our return, Merwanjee, at our request, introduced us to a part of Sir Jamsetjee's family. Upon entering their private room we found an old lady and three young looking girls sitting close together, upon low chairs, with their feet tucked under them ; but we could not discover that they had been engaged in any employment, for Eastern ladies have no resources within themselves. The rich, generally speaking are taught nothing, and are kept in a sad state of ignorance; all they know of the world is principally gleaned from story-tellers, or from the foolish traditions handed down by the Dustoors, Mobads, and Herboods--orders of the priesthood among the Parsees.

Sir Jamsetjee's family are certainly an exception to this rule, for both his sons and daughters have been well educated. The burra-babee or old lady, appeared delighted to find that one of our party (a lady) could converse freely with her in Hindostanee.

She wore a crimson sarree, that had been put on gracefully over her head, and hid everything in its folds, save two small hands, that were loaded with beautiful rings ; for truly “rich and rare were the gems she wore," and which sparkled and glittered all over her person. Her nose ornament had a very large pearl on it, but sadly disfigured that prominent feature on one side. She appeared a little anxious I thought to display her ornaments, baubles which are cast aside by the Anglo-Indian lady in this country as being too common, or too much like the natives, and seeing that we admired a fine emerald on her finger, she unfastened from under her sarree, at Merwanjee's suggestion, a sort of hoop-necklace set with the largest diamonds I ever remember seeing; and the splendid string of jewels was handed about for us all to examine. The ladies were particularly in love with the beauty of the brilliants, and upon returning the necklace, said it must have cost a very large sum of money. The burrababee smiled as she clasped it round her wrinkled neck, and remarked, that it was only her every day necklace ; and that she did not wear her very good ones except on festive occasions. Her companions were very shy, and not at all disposed to enter into conversationone of them, who was attired in a white sarree, and

had a very melancholy cast of countenance, had retired to a recess near the window soon after we had entered the room ; upon inquiry, we learned that she was the daughter-in-law of the chatty old dame, and had just lost her second boy; who a few days before had been placed by the side of his little brother in the Temple of Silence, belonging to the family. We could scarcely believe that so young a creature had already been the mother of two children. “She is mourning over them very bad,” said Merwanjee; and fearing that by prolonging our stay we might be intruding upon this sorrowing one, we made our low salaams to the burra babee ; and thus ended an agreeable visit to the house of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy.

CHAPTER XI.

"I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, or pray with you."

MERCHANT OF VENICE, Scene 3d, Act 1,

Bombay Jews, are they true Israelites ? Arabian and White Jews. My

opposite neighbours. Stolen peeps across the street. Their habits, dress, and mode of spending their time. My favourite boy. His dress and ayeh. Scene changes, Few words about a cat and a dog. Tasso deserts me. Hospital for animals, and belief in the transmigration of souls. Tasso's unfaithfulness. Little dogs have queer fancies. Six o'clock at the Jewish family's house, Prayers and songs and sweet music. My last look at the window. Sorrow at separation from the Jewish child. Their innocent and happy life, &c., &c.

The Jews in Bombay constitute rather a large item in the population.* Five or six thousand have settled

* The results of the census taken in May, 1819, have been published ; and it appears, that in the Island of Bombay, comprising in all twenty square miles of ground-four-fifths, at least, of which are uniphabitable swamp or rock-there are in all no fewer than 566,119 inhabitants, of whom 354,090 are males, and 212,029 females. Of these, 6,936 are Brahmins, ?89,995 are of other castes of Hindoos; 1,902 are Jains ; 124,155 are Mohammedans; 114,698 Parsees ; 1,132 Jews; 7,456 native Christians; 1,333 Indo-Britons; 5,417 Indo-Portuguese; 5,088 pure

down in the city and neighbourhood, and obtain for the most part an honest livelihood, as house-builders, carpenters, and cultivators of the soil. That a Jew should be thus employed may appear singular to many who are familiar with their history, and their known dislike to anything like manual labour ; for who ever heard, among ourselves, of a Jewish farmer, or a Jewish carpenter? We are tempted, however, to doubt the purity of the race met with in all the commercial towns in India ; and to suppose that they, like the Parsees, Mohammedans, and other interlopers, have degenerated, from long association with a people at total variance with anything like Christianity. The following brief account given of the Jews in Bombay, may, perhaps, throw some light on this interesting subject, and bear us out in the idea, that they are a mixed people, and not the pure race of Hebrews met with in Poland, Germany, or in the corners of the dingy second-hand shops of Holywell Street, London, where these exiles from “ Vaderland" buy, sell, and get gain, and do not, so far as we are able to learn, trouble themselves much about the realization of the prophecy that will one day certainly restore them to Palestine. Let us, however, remember that our own sacred Scriptures pointedly make known to us that kindness and respect towards this ancient and peculiar people is most acceptable

Europeans; 889 Siddees, Negroes, and Africans; and 7,118 of other castes unspecified. From this census we learn, that the Europeans are less than one in a hundred of the whole population.

« PreviousContinue »