Page images

some married woman, by several relations, and a Bramin skilled to explain omens. To meet a dealer in oil, a dog that shakes his ears, a crow flying over their heads, and a hundred other such things, are considered signs so unlucky, as to make it necessary to defer the visit. He generally carries the parian, a sum of money from four to six guineas, as the price of the girl. Such marriages are said to be by pariam. The bride's father returns the wisit with great ceremony and pomp, carrying presents to the bridegroom. After these formalities, the girl is considered as sold; but the match may be broken off, and the pariam returned, if it be determined by a general meeting of the relatives, and sometimes of the whole caste, that the bride's father has any justifiable reason for so doing. To avoid the expense of an entertainment which it is customary to give, the pariam is frequently paid on the wedding day; but some pay it a year beforehand. The bridegroom presents the bride with a piece of silk, which she wears on the wedding day. This garment is always silk, if the parties be ever so poor. If the pariam be in money, it is tied up in one corner of this robe; if it be a jewel, it is laid upon it. There is another kind of marriage where the pa'riam is dispensed with. This is called cannigadawam, which signifies the gift of a maiden. When the day is fixed for the wedding, the bride's father builds a bower of lattice-work in the courtyard of his house. The erection of this pendal, or marriage bower, is considered a publication of the

bans, and friends and relations immediately pay a ceremonious visit. The female friends, walking under a canopy, bring presents of betel to the young couple. In the midst of the court is set up a stone image of Polear, god of marriage. The Bramins make offerings of cocoas, bananas, and betel, praying that the god would be propitious to the marriage. As soon as the pendal is finished, the image is removed. The bridegroom, richly dressed, and accompanied by his friends in festal attire, is conducted to the house of the bride. Here a particular ceremony is performed, called taking away the looks; for the Hindoos believe the most deplorable consequences would ensue, if any person looked on the young man with envious or malicious eyes. To avert this disaster, they prepare a basin of water colored red, which they turn round three times before the face of the bridegroom, and then throw it into the street; sometimes they tear a strip of cloth before him, and throw the pieces different ways; and sometimes they fasten certain mystic rings on the heads of the couple. The bridegroom and bride, splendidly dressed, are carried about for several days in palanquins, accompanied by a long train of relations and friends, some riding on horses, and some on elephants, preceded by musicians and dancing girls. These processions are generally in the evening, attended by illuminations and fireworks. While these ceremonies continue, the dancing girls meet in the pendal morning and evening, and rub the young couple with maleng, the small green seed of a plant sacred to marriage. While the assembled guests are dining, the bride and bridegroom eat together from the same plate. This is the only time during her whole life that a Hindoo wife is allowed to eat with her husband. On the wedding day, the bride and bridegroom sit beside each other, at one end of the pendal, which is lighted with a great number of lamps. The Bramins, on a raised platform, surrounded with jars of water, offer prayers to their gods. They then kindle the sacrificial fire, with various kinds of sacred wood, and repeat prayers and invocations, while they throw into the flames incense, sandal-wood, oil, butter, rice, and other things. When the prayers are ended, the father of the bride puts her hand within that of the bridegroom, calls the god of fire to witness his words, and then repeats after the Bramin : “I, 3. the son of and grandson of , give my daughter to thee, son of and grandson of .” The Bramin breaks a cocoa-nut in two, blesses the tali, which all present are required to touch, and gives it to the bridegroom, who hangs it round the neck of the bride. The tali is a golden ornament for the neck, made in various forms, and is worn by all married women, in the same manner as the wedding-ring with us. The young couple walk three times round the fire, and the bridegroom swears in presence of the Bramin that he will take care of his wife. He then casts into the fire boiled rice and butter, and she casts in parched rice. The priest repeats prayers while he mixes a little saffron with raw rice. This he first sprinkles over the shoulders of the husband, and then of the wife; all who are present rise and perform the same ceremony, by way of benediction. In the marriages of princes, pearls are sometimes used instead of rice. The rest of the day is spent in diversions, and the last public procession takes place in the evening. Next day, they hasten to pull down the pendal; because it would be considered a very bad omen if it should happen to take fire. The bride is often so very young that she remains at her father's house for a considerable time after the wedding. When this is the case, she is afterward given to her husband with similar ceremonies and festivities, called “the second, or little, marriage.” The Hindoo brides wear a hymeneal crown, and the color of the nuptial robe is golden yellow. Until a wife becomes a mother, she is obliged to obey the commands of her mother-in-law, and sees her husband by stealth. The birth of a child is attended with many religious ceremonies. The husband, assisted by Bramins, sprinkles the house with holy water, and all the inmates anoint themselves with oil, and wash themselves. The mother is bathed, and drinks a certain beverage prescribed for such occasions. On the tenth day, friends and relations assemble to give a name to the infant; but the Bramin first consults the planets, endeavors by prayer to avert any evil influence, and ties a zinar, or amulet, about the neck of the child. Presents are then made to the priests, and the ceremony is concluded with a feast and rejoicings.

The Hindoo women make no use of a cradle. The babe, unshackled by any clothing or bandages, is laid on a large piece of cloth stretched on pieces of wood, something like a small quilting frame. This is suspended by strong cords from the ceiling, and two women swing it, by pushing it from one to the other. When the child has attained the age of six months, it is fed for the first time with rice prepared with milk and sugar. On this occasion a feast is made and all the relations invited. If a child dies, the mother sits at the door, or by the river's side, and utters loud lamentations, like the following: “Ah, my Huree-das, where has he gone Who has taken my golden image 2 I never saw a face like unto his He played"round me like a golden top ! Take me with thee!” If any female neighbor tries to console her, she answers: “Ah, mother, the heart takes no advice. Was this a child to be forgotten? He had a forehead like a king ! Since it was born the master never staid in the house; he was always walking about with the child in his arms I nourished and reared him—where is he gone?” While mourning in this way, they sometimes beat their foreheads, tear their hair, and roll about, as if in agony. Hindoo wives sever call their husbands by name, but always say, “the master.” Very singular customs prevail among the people called Garos. If a man's wife prove unfaithful, he cannot obtain divorce, unless he chooses to give her all the property and children. A woman, on the

« PreviousContinue »