Sivut kuvina

say that no inhuman practices in New Zealand, or in any other newly discovered land of savages, are more offensive to natural feeling, than some of those which are committed by the Hindoo people.

It surely has never been asserted that these enormities cannot be suppressed. One or two instances may be mentioned, which will shew that the Hindoo super. stitions are not impregnable.

2. It had been the custom from time immemorial, to immolate at the Island of Saugor, and at other places re puted holy on the banks of the Ganges, human victims, by drowning, or destruction by sharks. Another horrid practice accompanied it, which was the sacrifice of the first born child of a woman, who had been long barren.*

The Pundits and chief Brahmins of the college of Fort-William were called upon to declare, by what sanction in their Shasters, these unnatural cruelties were committed. They alleged no sanction but custom, and what they termed " the barbarous ignorance of the low " casts." On the first intimation of the practice to the Governor General Marquis Wellesley, it was abolished.t Not & murmur followed ; nor has any attempt of the kind since been heard of.

3. A similar investigation will probably soon take place respecting the custom of women burning themselves alive on the death of their husbands. I The Pun. dits have already been called upon to produce the sanction of their Shasters. The passages exhibited are vague and general in their meaning ; and differently interpreted by the same casts. * Some sacred verses commend the practice, but none command it ; and the Pundits refer once more to custoin. They have however intimated, that if government will pass a regulation, amercing by fine every Brahmin who attends a

* At the Hindoo festival in 1801, twenty-three persons sacrificed themselves or were sacrificed by others, at the island of Saugor.

+ See Regulation. Appendix C.

# From a late investigation it appears that the number of women who sacrificed themselves within thirty miles round Calcutta every year is, on an average, upwards of two hundred. See Apa pendix D.

* See Appendix A.

burning, or every Zemindar who permits him to attend it, the practice cannot possibly long continue ; for that the ceremony, unsanctified by the presence of the priests, will lose its dignity and consequence in the eyes of the people.

The civilized world may expect soon to hear of the abolition of this opprobrium of a Christian administration, the female sacrifice ; which has subsisted, to our certain knowledge, since the time of Alexander the Great.

4. An event has just occurred, which seems, with others, to mark the present time, as favorable to our endeavor to qualify the rigor of the Hindoo supersti. tion.

In the course of the Mahratta war, the great temple of Juggernaut in Orissa has fallen into our hands. This temple is to the Hindoos what Mecca is to the Mahometans. It is resorted to by pilgrims from every quarter of India. It is the chief seat of Brahminical power, and a strong-hold of their superstition. At the annual festival of the Rutt Jattra, seven hundred thousand persons (as has been computed by the Pundits in college) assembie at this place. The voluntary deaths in a single year, caused by voluntary devotement,* by imprisonment for non-payment of the demands of the Brahmins, or by scarcity of provisions for such a multitude, is incredible. The precincts of the place are covered with bones. Four cross square (about sixtyfour square miles) are accounted sacred to Juggernaut. Within the walls the priests exercised a dominion without control. From them there was no appeal to civil law or natural justice, for protection of life or property. But these enormities will not be perinitted under the British Government. At the same time that we use no coercion to prevent the superstitions of the natives, we permit a constant appeal to the civil power against injustice, oppression, and inhumanity ; and it must have a beneficial influence on the whole

* By falling, under the wheels of the rutt or car.

Hindoo system, if we chastise the enormity of theit superstition at the fountain head.*

[ocr errors][merged small]

The numerous holydays of the natives an impediment

to their civilization.

1. ANOTHER obstacle to the improvement of the natives is the great number of their holydays. These hoJydays embody their superstition. On such days its spirit is revived, and its inhuman practices are made familiar: and thus it acquires strength and perpetuity. The malignity of any superstition may be calculated: almost exactly by the number of its holydays, for the more the mind is enslaved by it, the more voluminous will be its ritual, and more frequent its ceremonial of observances

2. In the Hindoo calendar there are upwards of one hundred holydays ;t and of these government recogni. ses officially a certain number. In addition to the native holydays, the fifty-two Christian holydays, or fiftytwo sundays in the year, are (on Christian principles) generally allowed to natives employed in the public service. During those Hindoo holydays which are officially recognised, the public offices are shut up, on account of the festival ( as it is termed) of Doora Pu

* The Brahmins observe two hundred and upwards:

+ The rigor of the Mahometan faith coerced the Hindoo superstition; and was, so far, friendly to humanity. The Hindoos were prohibited from burning their women without official permission. Our toleration is celebrated by some; as being boundless. It is just to tolerate speculative religions ; but it is doubtful whether there ought to be any toleration of practical vice, or of the shedding of hu. man blood.

« All religion,” says Colonel Dow, “must be tolerated in Bengal, except in the practice of some inhuman customs, which the Mahometans already have in a great measure destroyed. We must not permit young widows, in their virtuous enthusiasm, to throw them. selves on the funeral pile with their dead husbands, nor the sick and aged to be drowned, when their friends despair of their lives.” Dow's History, Vol. VII. p. 128.

This passage was written by Colonel Dow upwards of thirty years ago. How many thousands of our subjects within the province of Bengal alone, have perished in the flames and in the river, since that period !

ja, of Churruck Puja, of Rutt Jattra,t or of some other. But great detriment to the public service arising from the frequent recurrence of these Saturnalia, government resolved some years ago to reduce the number, which was done accordingly. It now appears that on the same principle that a few of them were cut off; we might have refused our official recognition of any ; the Pundits having unanimously declared that these holy days are not enjoined by their sacred books.

3. It may be proper to permit the people in general to be as idle as the circumstances of individuals will permit: but their religious law does not require us to recognise one of their holydays officially. To those natives employed in the public service, the fifty-two Sundays are sufficient for rest from bodily labour. To give them more holidays is to nurse their supersti. tions, and to promote the influx of religious mendicants into industrious communities. In what other country would it be considered a means of promoting the happiness of the common people, to grant them so great a portion of the year to spend in idleness and dissipation ? The indulgence operates here as it would in any other country ; it encourages extravagance, licentious habits, and neglect of business among themselves ; and it very seriously impedes the business of the state, and deranges commercial negotiation.

† An Englishman will be of opinion that the Rutt Jattra cannot well be styled a festival. “The rutt or car containing the Hindoo gods is drawn along by the multitude, and the infatuated Hindoo throws himself down before it, that he may be crushed to death by the wheels.” This sacrifice is annually exhibited at Juggernaut. 'Neither will the Churruck Puja be considered a festive occasion. At this Pujah, " men are suspended in the air by iron hooks passed through the integuments of the back.” This is an annual exhibition at Calcutta. (See Appendix B.]

# No people require fewer days of rest than the Hindoos ; for they know nothing of that corporal exertion and fatigue from labour, which in other countries render regular repose so grateful to the body and spirits.

$ Sec Appendix E.

« EdellinenJatka »