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Then am I to leave thee! and must we soon part?
A canter over the sands. Government house at Malabar Point and Parell,
Unhealthy situation. Island of Salsette, its Antiquities not a part of the Infanta's dowry. Village of Walka-es-Warree. Tanks, priests and people there. Infatuated mendicants. A few words on Ablutions. Palma Christi, or Castor Oil Tree. Bundarres. My visit to the Toddy Drawers. Silence in the woods. Hour and mode of collecting toddy, or Palm-wine. The Cathedral of Bombay. Punkahs, and short and long services. The dead quickly buried. Jackal resurrectionists. Sadden deaths. A night visit from a Ramoosey Borah. Bores and pedlars. My robbery and Pedro's escape. The cook's Portuguese blessings. Bombay police, & useless body, Public suspicions and opinions. Investigation and awful revelations, &c. Conclusion, &c., &c., &c.
A DELIGHTFUL canter over the fine smooth sands carries you, in about an hour, from Fort George to a picturesque road that winds among broken rocks, ornamental bungalows, and dense woods, up to Malabar Hill. This very elevated promontory runs out in a south-westerly direction, like its opposite neighbour, Colabah, but does not extend so far into the ocean.
It forms the western boundary of Back Bay. On its extreme point, and exposed to every breeze that steals over the island, a pretty-looking house rather in the cottage style, had been built for the governor of Bombay to reside in, during the hot season of the year ; a telegraphic communication being kept up between the cottage, and the castle in the Fort. The principal residence of the governor is at Parell, and is situated in a more central part of the island. This residence is a handsome-looking building, and contains some noble reception-rooms. It was originally a church belonging to the order of Jesuits, and was purchased by the East India Company for its present purpose. Its low and swampy park, however, and the uphealthy character of its neighbourhood during the monsoons, rendered it not so desirable a situation as had been anticipated. A good road of a few miles in extent takes you from Parell to the causeway that connects Bombay with Salsette. This latter island has some hills of considerable elevation clothed with brushwood to their summits. Tanna and Gorabunda are the principal towns; and are peopled by the descendants of Portuguese families. One of the hills is perforated by excavations cut into the rock, known as the temple-caves of Kennery, and well worth a visit of inspection. The most remarkable is a Bhuddist temple fifty feet long by twenty wide, where a colossal statue of Bhudda, with his hands raised in supplication, is on the east side of a lofty portico, It does not appear that this island was included in the
marriage contract already mentioned, for after the surrender of Bombay, the Portuguese still persisted in retaining it, until 1773 when, during the confusion of a civil war which followed the assassination of Narrain Row, the principal fort was stormed by the English, who have ever since retained it undisturbed. This island supplies Bombay with rice, sugar, fruit, sheep, and many other very valuable commodities, and is about twenty miles in length. The views from Malabar Hill and point are truly enchanting. Looking down the rugged sides of this rock, where the Tara and other palms grow spontaneously, the eye rests for a moment upon the deep blue waters which gently lave its base, and which are dotted here and there by odd-shaped coasting-vessels, tacking about the bay, or running ashore on the opposite banks, to discharge their timber cargoes. The view from the point comprehends a vast extent of the Indian ocean and numerous lovely looking-islands; but distant hills that overtop one another shut in the prospect towards the north-east, and form a grand and noble range. We pass on our road a large native village called Walka-es-warre, that is said to contain a population of some three thousand souls. This village has but little to recommend it, for the streets are close and offensive, from the dirty character of the inhabitants ; though I have often been amused in passing through it of an evening, by watching the Banian merchants sitting in front of their shops, the business of the day being over, intently engaged in the intricacies of a
game of chess; each player had a little crowd around him, who were watching the moves as if each had a large stake set upon the result. Chess is a favourite game with the Hindoos and Mussulmans, and I believe we have to thank the former for its introduction into England. A work explanatory of this Indian amusement, published some years ago in Bombay by a native, lays down rules, which vary but little from those in use among ourselves. The village of Walka-es-warre is rather celebrated for its old Temple, and for the traditional sanctity attached to it by the idle Brahmins, who reap at certain festive seasons of the year their accustomed rich harvest. This temple stands at the head of a fine sheet of water, near to which is a commodious durrum Saulah, for the shelter of the pilgrims and travellers, who, during the rains and at their termination, resort hither to bathe in this pool of Bethesda. On such days the steps leading down to it are thronged with the lame, the halt, and the blind, waiting, not for the moving of the waters, but for some kind friend to push them in and give them a good washing ; for the filthy and wretched appearance of some of these infatuated mendicants makes this quite an act of charity.
I may here observe to my younger readers, that ablutions occupy an important part in all Brahminical ceremonials. The poor Hindoo, whose bodily infirmities forbid his crawling across the country, or whose limited means will not afford him a conveyance that
might carry him to that holy stream which, as he is taught to believe can wash away all sins, is permitted by the rules of his religion, to bathe in the nearest sacred river to his own residence, and it shall be accounted unto him for righteousness. In so doing, however, he must earnestly entreat the Ganges to make this ablution as effective as it would have been, if performed in its own waters, so that he may be freed from all impurities of flesh and spirit. The Mohammedans are even more particular about these observances than the Hindoos : for if really orthodox, they wash after every little work which they perform. They are, however, a very mixed sect in India, and it would be a difficult matter to discover what creed some of them profess.
I saw outside the walls of this village some luxuriant specimens of the tree whose seeds produce our castor-oil (Palma Christi). This showy and beautiful annual, as I need scarcely remark, is indigenous to the soil of Hindostan. The leaves, which bear a striking resemblance to those of the vine, are of a fine bluish green, and the flowers have long stamens of a purplish hue. The capsule, or seed vessel, as it approaches maturity, puts on a brilliant crimson tinge, and is covered with an armour of short spines, like the horsechesnut. The seeds, the most useful part of the treo, are quite black; and each has a little cell of its own, whence, when fully ripe, it is shot out by the sudden expansion of its case. These trees seldom attain a height beyond twelve feet; and as they are so orna