Page images
PDF
EPUB

The son of a shoodru is often married as early as bis fith year ; the sons of a brumhun, after being invested with the poita, at seven, nine or eleven. Delays to a later period are not unfrequent : parents cannot always obtain a suitable match, or money is wanting ; marriages also must be regulated by the cast, and by complicated customs. Amongst the middling ranks, five hundred roopees are often expended, and amongst the rich many thousands, at the marriage of a son.

One of the Hindoo shastrus gives the following directions respecting the qualities of a wife :-“ She who is not descended from his paternal or maternal ancestors within the sixth degree, is eligible by a twice.born man for nuptials.

lo connecting himself with a wife, let him studiously avoid the following families, be they ever so great, or ever so rich in kine, goats, sheep, gold and grain : the family which bas omitted prescribed acts of religion ; that which has produced no male children ; that, in which the vedu has not been read ; that, wbich has thick hair on the body; and those, wbich bave been subject to -[here a number of diseases are mentioned.] Let a person choose for his wife a girl, whose form has no defect ; who has an agreeable name ; who walks gracefully like a young elephant ; whose hair and teeth are moderate respectively in quantity and in size ; whose body has exquisite softness."

The following account of the person of Sharuda, the daughter of Brumba, translated from the Shivu pooranu, may serve as a just description of a perfect Hindoo beauty; This girl was of a yellow colour: bad a nose like the flower of the sesamum ; her legs were taper like the plantain tree; her eyes large like the principal leaf of the lotus ; her eye-brows extended to her ears ; her lips were red like the young leaves of the mango tree; her face was like the full moon; her voice like the sound of the cuckow ; her arms reached to her knees ; her throat was like that of a pigeon ; her loins narrow like those of a lion; her hair hung in curls down to her feet; her teeth were like the seeds of the pomegranate ; and her gait like that of a drunken elephant or a goose.

Each cast has its own order of ghutukus, which profession may be embraced by any person qualified by cast and a knowledge of the ghutuku shastrus. They sometimes propose matches to parents before the parents themselves have begun to think of the marriage of their child. Many of these men are notorious flatterers and liars, and in making matrimonial alliances, endeavour to impose in the grossest manner upon the parents on both sides. If the qualities of a girl are to be commended, the ghutuku declares, that she is beautiful as the full moon, is a fine figure, of sweet speech, has excellent hair, walks gracefully, can cook and fetch water, &c. After the report of the ghuluku, a relation on each side is deputed to see the children, and if every thing respecting cast, person, &c. be agreeable, a written agreement is made between the two fathers; and in this way, persons are united in wedlock with as much indifference as cattle are yoked together ; matrimony becomes a mere matter of traffic, and children are disposed of according to the pride of parents, without the parties, who are to live together till death, having either choice or concern in the business.

These very early marriages are the sources of the most enormous evils; these pairs, brought together without previous attachment, or even their own consent, are seldom hapPy:

This leads men into unlawful connexions, so commun in Bengal, that three parts of the married population, I am informed, keep concubines. Many never visit, nor take their wives from the house of the father-in-law, but they remain there a burden and a disgrace to their parents : or, they abandon the paternal roof at the call of some paramour. Early marriages also give rise to another dreadful evil : almost all these girls after marriage remain at home, one, two, or three years ; and during this time numbers are left widows, without having enjoyed the company of their husbands a single day : these young widows, being forbidden to marry, almost without exception, become prostitutes. To these miserable victims of a barbarous custom are to be added, all the daughters of the kooleenus, who never leave the house of the father, either during the life, or aster the death of their husbands, and who invariably live an abandoned life. The consequences resulting from this state of things are universal prostitution, and the perpetration of unnatural crimes to a most shocking extent.

In the marriages of the rich, great preparations of music, fire works, illuminations, &c. are made, and vast multitudes are invited to the wedding. Some persons spend more than 100,000 roopees* in the marriage of a son or a daughter. At a fortunate hour in the night, the bridegroom, dressed in silk, and wearing many gold and silver ornaments, a gold chain round his neck, and a gilt crown upon his head, prepares to go to the house of the bride : he is seated in a gilt palanqueen, or in a tuktunama. It in the latter, there is room for

* About 55,000 dollars.

A roopee is 2s. 6d. sterling.

four servants to stand at the four corners, in the inside to fan him, or rather to wave over him a brush, made of the tail of the cow of Tartary. The procession at a magnificent wedding is very long : before the bridegroom's palanqueen, the servants of the father walk, carrying silver staves ; open carriages proceed slowly, containing dancing women and sing. ers; a flag is also carried, and a metal instrument like a dish is placed on an elephart, and beat at intervals. The streets are illuminated by the flambeaux and lights which the attendants carry in their hands; and fireworks, placed on both sides the streets, are discharged as the procession moves along. Horses, camels, and elephants, richly caparisoned, are placed in convenient situations in the procession, and musicians, playing on various instruments, are placed before and behind the bridegroom. Lately many of the rich natives have called in the assistance of English music at their weddings. At intervals guns are fired. All things for the procession being prepared before hand, the whole waits for the coming of the bridegroom.

At a marriage, the procession of which I saw some years ago, the bridegroom came from a distance, and the bride lived in Serampore; to which place the bridegroom was to come by water. After waiting 2 or 3 hours, at length near midnight, it was announced, as if in the very words of scripture, “ Behold, the bridegroom cometh ; go ye out to meet him.”—All the persons employed, now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands to fill up their stations in the processions ; some of them had lost their lights, and were unprepared : but was then too late to seek them, and the cavalcade, something like the above, moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly illuminated area, before the house, covered with an awning, where a great multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of a friend, and placed on a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house--the door of which immediately shut, and guarded by seapoys.--I and others expostulated with the door keepers, but in vain. Never was

I so struck with our Lord's beautiful parable as at this moment ; “ And the door was shut !"--I was exceedingly anxious to ·be present while the marriage formulas were repeated, but was obliged to depart in disappointment.

From time immemorial, the Hindoo young men have con

was

sidered a wedding procession, as it passes through the er, which to the house of the bride, as fair game ;--groups of the arms, boys and young men, therefore, attack the wedding com wice ; in all those ways by which they can most annoy them, and rewhich they are greatly assisted by the darkness of the nigłyou Serious disputes, attended with the loss of lives, have some e time occurred amidst this rough and dangerous mirth.

After entering the house the bridegroom is led to the place where the marriage rites are to be performed, and where the father in law, taking off the old garments of the boy, arrays him in new clothes, and takes him into an inner apartment, where they make bim stand on a stool placed on a cow's head and certain other things buried in the earth.

Next they bring the bride on a stool covered with the bride#groom's old garments, and carry the girl round the bridegroom

seven times : they then permit the pair fairly to look at each other, perhaps for the first time. After some few other ceremonies, the officiating bramhun directs the boy to put his hand on a pan of water, and places the hand of the girl on his, he then ties them together with a garland of flowers. Then the father in law repeating the genealogy of the girl from the great grand father downward, and describing her as wearing such and such jewels, gives her to the boy, repeating also his name and genealogy, the bridegroom answers

I have received her.” This being concluded, the father of the bride invites the company to sup at his house. After this a number of ceremonies are performed by the friends, which continue a week or more, when the bride goes to her father's house and the bridegroom to his.

At the end of a year, the bridegroom takes home his wife ; or, if she be very young, she remains at her father's (visits excepted) till the proper time for their ultimate union, when her husband proceeds to the house of his fatherin-law, if a poor man, on foot, and if rich, in a palanqueen, with a few friends. When the married pair return to the house of the boy's father, most of those ceremonies are repeated which took place there on the day after marriage, A Hindoo, on his marriage, does not become a house-keeper, as in England, but continues to live with his father; and in this way, if they can agree, many generations live together. At present, however, separations into distinct families are becoming more and more common.

Few men continue in a single state to old age : those who do, cohabit with concubines : few females remain unmarried : none who can obtain husbands. Yet the cast presents such

C

24

four servi

fan him, bstacles to union, and there are so many gradations tail of by which marriages are regulated, that cases do exwedi which men cannot obtain wives, nor women husbands. thúl, so great a disgrace is incurred by remaining unmarried, cart on one occasion a number of old maids were married to an aged kooleenu bramhun, as his friends were carrying him to the Ganges to die.

The Hindoos are seldom happy in their marriages ; nor can domestic happiness be expected where females are reduced to a state of complete servitude, and are neither qualified nor permitted to be the companions of their husbands. A inan, except he is of low cast, never enters into conversation with his wife, during the day, nor is she ever permitted to eat in the presence of her husband, or to sit in the company even of near friends. An elder brother never looks at his younger brother's wife.

Manners and Custoins.—The Hindoos are generally loquacious, and the common people very noisy in conversation. Their youth are lively, inquisitive, and of quick perception. They appear to be capable of great improvement, and of imitating most of the European arts, and carrying them to the greatest perfection : either they are incapable of bold and original designs, or their long slavery to ancient patterns and usages has, like the Chinese shoe, made the whole race cripples. * In the forms of address, and behaviour in

company, Hindoos must be ranked amongst the politest nations. It is true, there is a mixture of Aattery, and of fulsome panegyric in their address, but this is given and received rather as the requirement of custom than the language of the heart. It is a polish always understood to lie on the surface; it pleases without deceiving any body.

When he enters the presence of a spiritual guide, the Hindoo prostrates himself, and, laying hold of his feet, looks up to him, and says, ' You are my saviour ;'-to a benefactor, he says, and mother ;'-to a man whum he wishes to praise, . You are religion incarnate ;' or, .0! Sir, you fame is gone all over the country ; yes, from country to country.' • As a Benefactor, you are equal to Kurnnu.' • You are equal to Yoodhisthiru in your regard to truth. You have overcome all your passions.' * You shew due respect to all.'

You are a sea of excellent qualities? You are devoted to the service of your guardian deity.' You are the father and mother of branhuns, cows and women.'

When two Hindoos, after a short absence, meet, the infe

the

6 You are my

father

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »