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band; and a willingness to make this sacrifice is said to be still more a point of honor with mistresses than with wives. When the chief Rao Lacka died, fifteen mistresses perished with him, but not one of his wives offered to sacrifice herself. A Koolin Bramin of Bagnuparu had more than a hundred wives, twenty-two of whom were consumed with his corpse. The fire was kept kindled for three days, waiting the arrival of the numerous victims. Some of them were forty years old, and others no more than sixteen. Nineteen of them had seldom even seen the husband with whom they consented to perish. It is said the widows of Bramins less frequently immolate themselves than women of the other superior castes, because the Bramins often take wives without any inclination for the union on either side. In 1819, a girl of fifteen determined to become a suttee.* The person to whom she had been betrothed died when she was six years old, and, according to custom, she had ever after remained unmarried. . No entreaties could prevail on her to consent to live. She asked for a fiddle which had belonged to her betrothed, and jumped into the flames. Among the Mahrattas, and some other tribes, whose custom it is to bury their dead, the sacrifice is made in a different manner. The widow is escorted to the grave by a solemn procession; having listened to the exhortations of the Bramins, and parted her jewels among friends, she places upon her head a pot filled with rice, plantain, betel, and water; then with clasped hands she bids farewell to the spectators, and descends into the grave by means of a bamboo ladder; she seats herself by the body of her husband, the ladder is drawn up, and the music resounds, while the relatives throw in a quantity of earth to suffocate the poor creature. # The Shaster, or Hindoo Bible, forbids a woman to see dancing, hear music, wear jewels, blacken her eyebrows, eat dainty food, sit at a window, or view herself in a mirror, during the absence of her husband; and it allows him to divorce her if she has no sons, injures his property, scolds him, quarrels with another, or presumes to eat before he has finished his meal. Truly, in no part of the world does the condition of women appear more dreary than in Hindostan. The arbitrary power of a father disposes of them in childhood; if the boy to whom they are betrothed dies before the completion of the marriage, they are condemned forever after to perpetual celibacy; under these restraints, if their affections become interested and lead them into any imprudence, they are punished with irretrievable disgrace, and in many districts with death; if married, their husbands have despotic control over them; if unable to support them, they can lend or sell them to a neighbor; and in the Hindoo rage for gambling, wives and children are frequently staked and lost; if they survive their husbands, they must pay implicit obedience to the oldest son; if they have no sons, the nearest male relative holds them in subjection; and if there happen to be no kinsmen, they must be dependent on the chief of the tribe. Having spent life with scanty opportunities to partake of its enjoyments, they become objects of contempt if they refuse to depart from it, in compliance with a most cruel custom. The self-immolation of widows is of great antiquity. The natives have a tradition that women many centuries ago frequently murdered their husbands; and the Bramins, finding the severest punishments of no avail, put an effectual check to it, by saying it was the will of the gods, that widows should be burned on the funeral pile of their husbands. The English government have made great exertions to abolish this abominable practice, and it is now prohibited by law in every part of British India. The Hindoo character is proverbial for patient mildness; yet their religious superstitions continually lead them to the most ferocious deeds. Fond as the women are of their children, they make a great merit of throwing them to the sacred crocodiles, and not unfrequently cast them from steep rocks, in fulfilment of some superstitious vow. They themselves undergo the most frightful penances, and willingly lie down to be devoured by crocodiles, or crushed beneath the car of Juggernaut. Among the lighter penances, is that of conveying a great quantity of water from the sacred Ganges to a temple at some distance. Women of the higher castes, being unwilling to appear in the streets, hire others to perform this expiatory duty for them. The Rev. Dr. Buchanan, in his description of the sacrifices at the temple of Juggernaut, says: “At
* A widow who voluntarily immolates herself.
the place of skulls, I beheld a poor woman lying dead, or nearly dead, with her two children by her, looking at the dogs and vultures which were near. The people passed by without noticing the children. I asked them where was their home. They said they had no home but where their mother was.” This bigoted attachment to customs so horrid and unnatural, is remarkable in a people who are so tolerant of the opinions of others. It is a singular fact that the Hindoos reverence the objects held sacred by other nations; hence their women and children are frequently seen bringing offerings of fruit and flowers to the mosque of the Mohammedan, and the chapel of the Catholic. They say, “Heaven is like a palace with many doors, and every one may enter in his own way.” The custom of murdering female infants, which formerly prevailed throughout several districts in India, is so unnatural that it could not be believed, if it were not proved beyond all possibility of doubt. The horrid act was generally done by the mothers themselves, either by administering opium as soon as a child was born, smothering it, or neglecting the precautions necessary to preserve life. Now and then a wealthy man saved one daughter, especially if he had no sons; but the practice of infanticide was so general, that when the young men wanted wives, they were obliged to seek them in such neighboring tribes as their laws permitted them to marry. The marquis of Wellesley, during his government in India, made great exertions to have
this abominable custom abolished; but the natives were very stubborn in their prejudices. They urged." the natural inferiority of females, the great responsibility which attended their bringing up, and the expense incident upon their marriages. The arguments of the English, aided by the influence of certain solemn sentences from some of their sacred books, did, however, at last persuade them to abolish the barbarous practice. Colonel Walker was the British officer who, after much difficulty, prevailed on the Jarejah tribe to relinquish the custom. A year or two after, many of the Jarejah fathers and mothers brought their infant daughters to his tent, and exhibited them with the utmost pride and fondness. Grateful for the change produced in their habits, the mothers placed their children in colonel Walker's hands, called them his children, and begged him to protect those whom he had preserved. •
The gentle and inoffensive character of the Hindoos is not without exceptions. Bands of robbers infest the more northern parts; and some of them make use of a singular stratagem to decoy travellers. They send out a beautiful woman, who with many tears complains of some misfortune that has befallen her, and implores their protection. No sooner has the unwary traveller taken her behind him on horseback, than she strangles him with a noose, or stuns him with a blow on the head, until the robbers come from their hiding-place, and complete his destruction. It is generally supposed that these murderers came into India with the Mohammedan conquerors.