(61) Tanks and jeels, eleemosynary alligators, seraies, gunjes, durgaws, Hill people, bunds, wells on great roads, hot-springs, sol-lunar influence on fevers, Hukeems, state of medicine, refrigerating principle, state of learning, Koits, Lalahs, useful books, Seek College [[387-420]]
[] Inland towns are usually built near some large jeel
or lake, or on some ravine which, during the rains, forms a rapid
Such as are near hills, are often for many days together impassable,
to torrents which, through their means, find a way to some expanse or
river. The jeel, or for want of one, the tank nearest to the
usually becomes the receptacle of every Hindoo corpse, and at the same
time supplies the inhabitants with water for every purpose. This
practice, and others equally offensive, may be thought sufficient to
men who pretend to the utmost delicacy and purity in all respects, from
drinking at so contaminated and corrupt a reservoir.
Tanks and jeels are, in almost every part of India, full of rushes, and of the conferva, which together with duck-weed, docks, &c., both cover the surface and fill up the deeps. They are, generally, full of small fishes of various descriptions; and if of any extent or depth, either harbour or invite alligators, which infest the running and stagnant waters in every part of the country. These voracious animals travel at night from one jeel or tank to another, often announcing their presence by snapping up some poor unsuspecting Hindoo, who wades up to his middle for the purpose of performing his ablutions, and offering up the prayers customary on such occasions.
In many tanks, alligators are known to be numerous; nay, in some places, they are subsisted by the eleemosynary donations of travellers, who disburse a small sum, or present some provision to a faqueer (or mendicant [] priest), to provide food for the alligators. These come forth from the waters, on hearing the well-known voice of their holy purveyor; from whom they seldom fail to receive each a small cake of meal, or some other provision. This liberality does not, however, occasion any qualmish scruples of gratitude; it being found that alligators thus handsomely treated are not a whit more reserved in the application of their teeth to bathers, &c., than those which have never been honoured by such liberal consideration.
The respiration and effluvia proceeding from an animal perhaps twenty or twenty-five feet long, and from six to twelve in circumference, must affect even a large body of water. Allowing that such a monster consumes air equal to ten men, which is no unfair calculation, and that twenty gallons of water contain one of air; as a man, on an average, consumes one gallon of air in a minute, the alligator must consume twelve hundred gallons, equal to near twenty hogsheads, in an hour. Thus in twenty-four hours, the quantity of water contaminated by one alligator would amount to four hundred and eighty hogsheads.
From this, we may conceive the effect produced by seven or eight alligators in a tank not exceeding two acres in measurement, and nowhere above twelve or fourteen feet in depth. We must also consider the abundance of fishes; for did not that abundance exist, the alligators would speedily decamp. To these two sufficient drawbacks, may be joined all that has been said of the impurities added by the inhabitants, and we shall form such a nauseating and unwholesome combination as must cause us to wonder how any one is left to tell the fate of his lost companions.
Amidst the mountains, the inundations cannot be of [] any duration, and the waters of every description are limited as to extent, the streams being very small, excepting a few hollows between two hills, or eventually a valley in which a pool may exist; yet alligators are there to be seen. They are generally small, but very savage, making up by their rapacity and activity for the want of that bulk which renders the alligator of the great rivers more apparently dangerous. By the term small, we must not conclude them to be diminutive, but that they rarely exceed twelve or fourteen feet in length.
Such will, however, seize a bullock when wading in a tank or jeel; stealing upon him with the utmost caution, so as not to disturb the fluid, and even keeping the dorsal spines depressed till the very moment of seizure. Then, fastening upon the unwary animal's leg, and throwing his whole weight backwards, at the same time swinging round forcibly, so as to raise the greater part of his disgusting frame above the surface, the alligator by one violent effort, which appears almost instantaneous, commonly succeeds to drag the poor animal into a sufficient depth.
Pain, surprise, and the unrelaxing bite of his devourer, combine to disable him from making any adequate resistance. Being also kept completely immersed by the subtle and experienced assailant, no more is seen, except that the waters appear for about a minute violently agitated by the efforts of both parties. The alligator is, however, compelled to raise his head above the surface when in the act of deglutition. This is seen daily, even when a fish becomes the victim.
On these occasions, the stupendous animal rears himself in the waters, exposed sometimes so far as the shoulders, and ordinarily biting the fish in two; when, with the utmost ease, he swallows what would make a hearty meal for thirty or forty men of keen appetite. An alligator has been frequently seen thus [] to swallow a rooee, or river carp, weighing from fifty to sixty pounds: a size by no means uncommon in the great rivers of Bengal.
The great demand for water by the natives, in every part of India, occasions the digging of an immense number of tanks and wells, chiefly by persons of property, under the pretence of aiding the poorer classes; but in fact, with a view of becoming popular, or transmitting their names to posterity by affixing them as designations to the tank or well in question. This is equally the case as to plantations, generally of mango trees; and in the building of seraies, for the accommodation of travellers.
These, Europeans generally understand to be caravan-seraies; but that term can only apply to those parts of Arabia, &c., furnishing caravans; which are not known in the great peninsula of India. There, from the extent of sea-coast, navigation absorbs the chief part of the trade. Seraies are usually known by the name or title of the founder. Thus, Maraud ka Seray implies that the public accommodation for travellers was founded by Maraud; respecting whom the people in attendance either have some traditional account, or supply a history invented for the occasion.
Seraies are now going fast to decay. The power of the native princes has been so abridged, and their influence so little felt, that generally speaking, were a rich or exalted character to found a seray, even on the most liberal footing, his expectation of immortal fame would scarcely be realized. The rage is now more for gunges, or grain markets; hauts, or villages holding periodical markets; maylahs, or annual fairs; and in fact, for such establishments as afford a profit, or which, from becoming notorious in the way of trade, are more likely to perpetuate the celebrity of the institution.
[] Durgaws (commonly called mosques) appertain exclusively to those of the Mahomedan faith, and mhuts, which are, properly, places of Hindoo worship, also madressahs, or colleges, with endowments for faqueers, or Hindoo priests, seem to maintain their ground. These, like the abbeys of monkish times, are ever to be found in the best situations; especially with a command of excellent water.
The tanks in the hills, which have resulted from artificial means, are generally small, full of weeds, and rarely lined with masonry. Their banks are soft, and the waters, being accessible to cattle on every side, are foul and turbid. Sometimes during the hot months these become nearly dry, affording, if any, a most offensive and insalubrious beverage. Nevertheless, the indolent native will often drink this, rather than send half a mile to a purer spring.
The generality of these tanks have originally a regular supply from numberless springs, fed either by a natural syphonic process from higher lands, or by percolation of the profuse dews that, throughout the immense jungles on the higher soils, fall during the hottest months. From the want, however, of proper attention to preserve the tanks from the incursions of cattle, which, being very wild in their nature, often swim or wade over to the opposite sides, these springs are quickly choked; and in such open soils easily find other vents, and expose the inhabitants to great suffering from drought.
In many instances wells are dug in the tanks, and cause a great saving of labour; as when once a spring discharges into the tank, in such a situation, it is not necessary to dig the whole area to an equal depth. This is a cheap expedient adopted by such as have vanity enough to attract public notice, but not money enough to do the works completely, or to a great extent.
We are thus led to the consideration of those effects [] produced in hilly countries, by the waters in common use. Nor are we deceived in our expectation as to the results naturally arising from so forcible an agent. Throughout the hilly country, exclusive of the diminuative features attached, all over the world, to the various classes of mountaineers, there is obviously induced by the diet, and most especially by the waters in use, an additional diminution of bulk, on a comparison with that of the natives in the adjacent lowlands. In Tomar, the back part of Chittrah, and Ramghur, the immense extent of low woods almost debars population; and the hill people, known by the name of Dhangahs, subsist principally on rice, wild fruits, and occasionally a little game, and drink of water such as has just been described, collected either in small pools, or in artificial tanks.
Now, in those places the inhabitants are extremely stinted in their growth, squalid, troubled with wens, half devoured with a kind of scurvy, herpetic eruption; and appear even at a very early age to lose their vigour. They have, besides, a peculiar kind of ophthalmia, partly induced by an excessive passion for liquor, there distilled in large quantities, and by their exposure to a damp impregnated atmosphere; while in their huts, their whole happiness seems to consist of an intense fumigation, chiefly from green-wood, such as would wholly suffocate one not habituated to it from his birth.
The difference between these haggard objects, and the inhabitants of the plains from which the mountains take their rise, requires no comment. It most forcibly arrests the traveller's attention, causing him to doubt whether, within the short interval of perhaps six or seven miles, he may believe his senses, which represent a change from vigorous and personable manhood, to a state decrepit, hideous, and dwarfish, more resembling the Weird Sisters [] than our imaginations can conceive, or our best performers represent.
Some tanks, dug by the more charitable among the rich, are on a very extensive scale, covering ten or twelve acres. Many are of great antiquity, and have been very deep, perhaps thirty feet; but by the growth of vegetable matter, added to the heavy bodies of sand and dust that nearly darken the air in the dry season, of which much falls into the waters, their depth is considerably reduced. In some, various shoals appear, indicating the accumulation of rubbish, and in a manner reproaching those who use the element with indolence and ingratitude.
In such places fish abound, and grow to an astonishing size, sometimes affording excellent angling; but their flavour ill corresponds with their appearance, being for the most part intolerably muddy. The quantity of weeds, the shoals, and various posts sunk in different parts of the tank, armed with tenter-hooks, for the purpose of preventing poachers from robbing the stock, are insuperable bars to the use of nets.
Boats are not in use in such places; and there seems to be no attention to anything relating to such waters, except that the shecarries, or native sportsmen, exercise much ingenuity and skill in their depredations among the wild geese, wild ducks, teal, widgeons, &c., with which, during the winter months, all the waters of India are profusely stocked. Then every unfrequented puddle is covered with wild fowl, which often alight during the dark nights on waters situated in the very hearts of cities; in which sometimes tanks are seen of such size as to secure the birds, when collected near the centre, from the reach of small shot. This, though not to be classed with daily occurrences, is by no means singular.
By far the greater number of tanks, especially those by [] the road-side, or contiguous to cities and populous towns, are walled in with masonry. These have at one or more sides either a long slope, or a flight of excellent stone steps. Some indeed have both; the former being intended for the use of cattle, which come to drink there, or are brought laden with large leather bags to be filled with water for the use of the inhabitants. From the great periodical rains, and the swelling of the soil during the season of excessive moisture, the masonry is generally burst in various places, and, either sinks or is prostrated into the tank.
A due attention to the proper proportion of base, so as to give a substantial talus both within and without the walls, added to the precaution of leaving vents for the free discharge of the springs, or the superabundant fluid, into the tank, would most assuredly counteract so destructive a weakness as now generally exists. There is scarcely any very old masonry which has not succumbed thereto, except the great bund, or dyke, at Juanpore.
This, according to tradition, was built about fifteen hundred years ago, and having been made of a very obdurate kind of kimkur, found in those parts, blended with excellent lime, probably burnt from the same stones, appears now a complete mass of rock, capable of resisting the ravages of time. This bund, which bears all the venerable marks of antiquity, was originally thrown up to limit the Goomty; a fine river that rises in the Peelabeet country and, washing Lucknow, the capital of Oude, passes through the city of Juanpore under a very lofty bridge, built on strong piers, terminating in gothic arches.
From the want of due breadth in these arches, the waters rise during the rainy season to an immense height, creating a fall of which that at London Bridge, at its worst, is indeed but a poor epitome. The distance between the top [] of the bridge and the water below it, in the dry season, is not quite sixty feet; yet it is on record, and in the memory of many inhabitants of Juanpore, that the river has been so full as to run over the bridge, which is flat from one end to the other, lying level between two high banks, distant about three hundred and twenty yards.
Formerly, when the waters were high, they are said to have overflowed on the left bank; forming an immense inundation throughout the country lying east of Juanpore, and extending down towards the fertile plains of Gazypore. The hollow or low land, by which they penetrated, was about two miles in width; the bund was therefore built to a suitable extent. It is now about two miles and a half long; in most parts about thirty feet broad at the top, and double that width at the base. Its height varies from ten to twenty feet. The record states it to have proved effectual in resisting the inundation; which, however, on account of the bund being at right angles with the river, so as to occupy a favourable position, and cut off the torrent, continued to flow annually as far as its base.
In time the sediment deposited by the water, thus rendered stagnant, filled up the hollow, raising its surface as high as the other parts of the river's boundary, and creating a soil peculiarly valuable, now chiefly occupied by indigo planters. The insalubrity occasioned by the many swamps left by the inundation, was at the same time averted, and the dread removed that the Goomty would, in time, force a new channel for the entire body of its stream. Large tracts, before of little value, acquired a deep staple of soil, which yields sugar, indigo, wheat, barley, &c., in abundance and perfection.
The rage for digging tanks has, in a certain measure, subsided; and little of that very absurd ostentation is now prevalent which produced such immense works, rendered [] useless by their too great number, or carried to an excess as to their size. It would perhaps be difficult to ascribe it to any other motive than that of unparalleled vanity, for a man to have dug near seventy tanks, all nearly contiguous, on a plain not many miles distant from the military station of Burragong, in the district of Sircar Sarung, situated between the Gunduc and the Gogra.
The population did not require more than one tank, especially as a stream of tolerably good water passes within a few hundred yards of the site of these monuments of ostentation. The inhabitants tell various stories as to the person who lavished his money in this useless manner; and (which would, no doubt, vex the real prodigal to his very heart) the modern narrators differ widely even as to the name and rank of the individual.
With respect to seraies, we may at least praise the convenience they afford, without bestowing much admiration on the charity of their founders. Some seraies are very extensive, covering six or eight acres. They generally consist of a quadrangle, built across the road, which passes under two lofty gateways having battlements or turrets over them. The gates open to an extent sufficient to allow any laden elephant, however stupendous, to pass freely. They are made of strong wood, well bound with iron, and studded with iron spikes, of which the points are on the outside, for the purpose of preventing elephants from forcing them by pressure.
The surrounding walls of the quadrangle are generally about fourteen feet in height, and from two to four in thickness, according either to the antiquity of the building, or to the parsimony of the builder. They are lined all around with a shed, built on pillars and divided by mats, &c. into various apartments, all sheltered from the sun and rain by means of doors, &c. of bamboos, mats, grass, [] &c., as the country may afford; or eventually a part is built up with thin brick, or with mud.
In the central parts of the seray there are generally some shops, ranged on each side of the road, and one building appropriated to the Cutwal, or superintendant of the place, whose office is, properly, to regulate all matters, and to see that travellers are duly accommodated; that the bytearahs, or cooks, dress their victuals, and that the chuokeedars take due charge of the goods consigned to their care. All this, however, is done in a slovenly way; the greatest impositions are often practised; and the itinerant journeys on from one scene of thievish combination to another.
Although a seray may be built near a river, or to some sufficient stream, yet there is invariably in the area a well, ordinarily lined with circular tiles or masonry. The water is drawn from such wells, for the most part, by means of a truck-pulley suspended between the limbs of a forked bough cut for the purpose, and having a wooden pin through it as an axle. Each traveller draws water for himself, and for that purpose carries a line generally about twenty feet long. Few indeed travel even on foot without a lootah, or brass water-vessel, of which there are various sizes, from a pint to half a gallon; a tully, or flat brass plate, with a border about an inch high, nearly perpendicular; and a cuttorah, or metal cup.
Some even carry their daikchees, or metal boilers; though in general they purchase for a farthing, or at the utmost for a halfpenny, a new earthen pot, capable of holding perhaps three quarts, or a gallon, with a lid of the same; in which, if they do not intend to employ the people of the seray, they dress their own victuals; leaving the crockery, which no one else will use, it being considered as polluted. []
The water of wells in the seraies, or in populous towns, is certainly far fresher and better than is to be had, in general, from small rivers. But much will depend on the soil, the lining of the well, its depth, and indeed on its width. A quick draught necessarily insures a plentiful flow, and prevents corruption from any impurity that may casually fall in from above. At a certain depth there is usually found a stratum of sand; this is remarkably fine, and in some places retains such a large portion of fluid as to become a perfect quicksand. In many parts, and especially in the Ramghur district, which on an average may be a thousand feet or more above the level country, this sub-stratum presents a most serious difficulty in the sinking of wells.
The natives throughout India have a great respect for such as plant mango topes (or woods). These are, in general, managed with great care; the trees being set each way at regular distances, forming parallel vistas, both lengthwise and breadthwise; the width of which are equal each way, and varying from twenty to forty feet. When first planted, they are well inclosed with a ditch and bank, sufficient to prevent cattle from injuring the young trees, which are also watered at intervals during the dry season, generally from a well dug at the expense of the planter, on one side of the tope.
If the proprietor be rich, the well is usually large, lined with masonry, and furnished with cisterns of the same, or of hewn stone, so that cattle may be refreshed in numbers. Two pillars of masonry, or substantial wood, are erected, each supporting the end of a timber, stretching across the well at about five feet above the brink. On this timber a shieve of wood is fixed, with one or more grooves for the reception of the cord used in drawing water.
The first-fruits of plantations are, with few exceptions, [] considered as appertaining to the tutelar deity of the planter, and are tendered to him as offerings on the part of the tope. The priests who officiate on these august occasions commonly find means to save the sacred character of their invisible patron from any suspicion of gluttony, by taking upon themselves the office of proxy, on this and every occasion wherein mastication is needful.
On many of the great roads, such as that leading from Benares to the upper stations, are very large wells, conveniently situated near some shelter, though perhaps distant from any town. Occasionally a hut or two may be in the vicinity, for the residence of a bunneah (or kind of chandler), or for a vendor of spirits. Some of these wells are furnished with various sets of pillars and shieves, very substantial in their construction, so as to bear the weight of a leathern bag, formed by stitching the edges of a whole hide, divested of its superfluous angles, &c., to an iron hoop of a foot and a half in diameter.
By means of two arched irons, rivetted at their crossing in the middle by a swivel and loop, the bag, or moot, is managed in the same way as a bucket in Europe. Many of these moots are .capable of containing at least half a hogshead. They retain the water more steadily in ascending than any vessel whose sides are fixed and firm; and as they are drawn into a cistern, or over a bed made hollow for their reception above the brink of the well, no great exertion is required to empty them, the waters discharging voluntarily when the moot is suffered, by the slackening of the rope, to touch the bottom of the bed or cistern.
It may reasonably be inferred that a weight of water contained in an ordinary ox or cow hide, though of small growth, must be more than manual strength could manage; especially as the pulley is extremely small, rarely more than six or seven inches in diameter, nearly [] as much in width, and moving on. a rude piece of wood for an axis. Of this, probably nearly half has been lost by the excessive friction a piece of machinery so unfinished and ill-proportioned must occasion. Not one in a thousand is ever lubricated, but the hole in the shieve is generally adequate to admit an axis treble the size of that in use; whence the pulley must jump from one inequality to another; creating, at every such transition, a check of some consequence to the power from which it derives its motion.
To draw water by means of the moot, two men and a pair of oxen are requisite: the size of the moot being proportioned to the bulk of the cattle, which are yoked in the ordinary manner, drawing by means of the rope fastened round the centre of the yoke, and passing between them. The strength of the oxen is aided very considerably by the declivity of the path they follow; so that, in proceeding from the well, as they draw up the moot, they descend a talus, or slope, of which the angle may vary from fifteen to twenty-five degrees. The driver frequently seats himself on the yoke, to increase the weight acting in opposition to the moot.
As the quantity of earth derived from the shaft of the well rarely suffices to give the talus sufficient slope, one half the length of the bullock's track (which is regulated by the length of the rope, and may usually measure about twenty-five yards) is sunk in the ground, and the height near the well raised with the proceeds of the excavation. This insures a sufficient addition to the energies of the cattle in descending, which they do with great effect when goaded by the driver. Arriving at the bottom of the slope, or when the moot is raised above the surface of the well, the cattle stop, and the man in attendance at the brink draws the moot over the bed, or [] cistern, which is made to project over about one third of the well.
Some of the wells seen at the sides of great roads measure fifteen or sixteen feet in diameter, and have slopes cut out of the soil, lined on each side with masonry. These lead to an opening in the well's circumference, near to the ordinary level of the water, which in the dry season, is generally within very narrow limits. Near the opening is sometimes an iron ladle, fastened by means of a chain. This convenience, for the most part, is held sacred; and he who would pilfer one from its place of security, would in those parts be considered as a consummate villain. But it appears from many obvious marks of violence, that there are men so depraved as to steal these chains and ladles, when necessity may urge them to take advantage of a fair opportunity.
Wells founded on such a principle, in a climate where excessive heats prevail for three months, may be deemed invaluable. Yet they are really little used, their surfaces in general being covered with duck weed, and they rarely are without an ample colony of frogs. Where huts are built near them, their waters, being rather less stagnant, are or course more wholesome, as well as more palatable. The encampment of a regiment in their neighbourhood soon sweetens them.
Some are rendered foul by their containing fish. It would be difficult to account for fish being there, unless they fall with the heavy showers attendant upon those violent squalls called north-westers, during the hot season, when multitudes of small fry have been occasionally found, even on the tops of houses, in various parts of the country. Some assert that many have been found alive: Captain Williamson had seen some lying dead; once, in particular, near Allahabad, after a very heavy [] shower of rain. It does not appear possible that even if sucked up by a water-spout, and immediately returned with the rain, they could survive the rapidity of the ascent, and the force with which they fall.
It is remarkable, that only three kinds of fish are ever seen in wells; viz. the sake, which in a great measure resembles our pike, and is equally ravenous; the gurrye, or mud-fish, very similar in form to our miller's thumb; and the singnee, or bayonet-fish, so called from its having three terrible spines in its dorsal and lateral fins, the wounds made by which are generally very severe. This fish has a purplish skin, without scales; is thin, like a substantial pork-knife; and has a broad flat head. Like the gurrye, it is found only among mud and slime, wherein it works very nimbly. Both species can live a long while in moist mud, as is proved by their being found in recent puddles, where water had formerly been dried up. It is remarkable that both the gurrye and the singnee taste very sweet, and are never muddy, the latter in particular.
If we except those small streams that come down from mountains containing ores, which must of course impregnate the waters in those parts, the number of mineral springs yet discovered in Bengal, and the subordinate stations under that presidency, is small indeed. Possibly numbers may exist, though not generally known; one having been accidentally discovered within a few yards of the road on the west bank of the Mahana, a small river which rises among the hills near the Catcumsandy-pass in the Ramghur district.
This would very probably have escaped notice, but for the nauseous smell, and black greasy appearance of the soil whence it issued. The flavour was soapy, but strongly sulphuric; and a slight scum, which appeared to rise with the spring, was [] peculiarly acrid. It was probably never analyzed, but might have proceeded from a bed composed of sulphur and bitumen, especially as coals are found within that district.
There is a very remarkable hot-spring at a place called Seetah-Coon, within three miles of the fort of Monghyr. This, it appears, has been known for ages. It is about twelve or fourteen feet square, and may be from seven to eight feet deep in the middle. That, however, must be a conjecture; the sides being of masonry, shelving in greatly, and the bottom not remarkably clear of weeds, &c. The water is very hot, so that an egg has been moderately poached at this spring; and it is said that one was boiled in it, but probably not to any degree of firmness. The most complete proof of a large portion of caloric contained in this spring, is the melancholy fact that an artillery soldier, in the year 1777, attempting to swim across, was scalded in such a manner as to expire shortly after being taken out.
The natives, who judge by appearances, and especially by the quantity of vapour that is found during the winter to rise from the spring, affirm that the water is then considerably hotter than at any other season. The fallacy of such an opinion is easily detected, and has indeed been proved. Several gentlemen have been at the trouble of keeping a register of its daily variations, which were found to be extremely small, probably between 140° and 160° of Fahrenheit.
This well, of which the waters are considered remarkably wholesome, stands on the borders of a small plantation of mango-trees; near three or four other wells, of which the waters are cold, and have not any distinguishing quality. The redundant water from the hot well affords a stream, whose section may be equal to thirty [] square inches. It passes into a large marsh, of at least twenty acres, close to the plantation, where it nourishes a great variety of aquatic plants that appear to grow with more than ordinary vigour.
The same negligence in regard to botany and natural history, which appears to operate throughout India (if we except the labours of some zealous individuals), seems to operate against enquiry into various important matters relating to the mineral waters. These would doubtless be found in abundance, were either the cost of research so moderate as to permit active individuals to explore the vast regions, whose very boundaries are as yet scarcely known; or were the Government of India to defray the expense of a few capable men, whose time should be wholly devoted to an enquiry into whatever might appertain to botany, mineralogy, natural history, and the various branches of knowledge on which chemistry and physic depend.
An extraordinary negligence has been shown respecting the hot well at Monghyr, standing within two miles of the Ganges, not more than three miles from the Fort of Monghyr (a grand depot for stores, garrisoned by upwards of two thousand invalids), and in the direct tract from Calcutta to the upper provinces. Though the waters of this well are sent for from all parts of the country, and it is bottled in large quantities for persons, especially ladies, going to sea; yet, strange to tell, its properties have never been duly analyzed. Various medical men have differed as to its basis; some asserting it to be chalybeate; others, impregnated with soda; while some declared it to possess no particular impregnation, nor any active principle.
It must be evident that in a country whose soil is subject to be parched during so many months in the year, [] heavy fogs and miasma must abound. Consequently, during the four months following the cessation of the annual rains, it frequently happens that the atmosphere is laden, till a very late hour in the day, with mists and vapours. In great cities, the bad effects of these are not so perceptible, on account of the general fumigation which takes place during the evenings. Then the bulk of the inhabitants, as if by general consent, kindle fires to cook their victuals, of which they rarely eat till six or seven o'clock, the cold remains of the repast being reserved for the morning. This fortuitous circumstance tends to purify the air, and thus to obviate a large portion of those evils to which villages, which stand more exposed in the midst of the marshy tracts, are imminently subject.
In such, it is common to find a very large portion of the inhabitants annually laid up with obstinate intermittents, from which they are rescued by their moderation as to diet, and a few medicinal simples everywhere common, and whose application is sufficiently understood. Great numbers are, however, cut off by the disease itself, or by the obstructions it generally creates. Those are ever to be dreaded, even though a perfect cure should apparently have taken place. It is by no means uncommon to see persons, especially Europeans, who have to appearance been cured of Jungle- or Hill-fevers, as they are locally designated, and which correspond exactly with our Marsh-fever, laid up at either the full or change of the moon, or possibly at both, for years after.
"Many have affected," says Captain Williamson, "to doubt the planetary influence on the human constitution; but to me there appears every reason to accredit the opinion, as I have seen so many instances among my own intimate friends, as well as a thousand ordinary cases [] among soldiers, camp-followers, villagers, &c." Captain W. adds the following extracts from the treatise of Dr. Francis Balfour, of the Bengal Medical Establishment.
"OF THE PAROXYSMS OF FEVERS.
"OF PERFECT TYPES.
"OF IMPERFECT TYPES.
Doctor Balfour states, in a note, that "In several cases of the plague, recorded by Dr. Patrick Russel, the febrile paroxysms returned obviously every four hours, in coincidence with the periods of the tides; and his predecessor and relation, the author of The Natural History of Aleppo, asserts positively, that the generality of the fevers there, and indeed in almost all acute cases, are subject to exacerbations once or twice in twenty-four hours."
From Cordiner's Description of Ceylon, Captain W. quotes the following passage: "Medical men have discovered this swelling (viz. the elephantiasis) to be an effect of fever, which returns on the patient monthly.''
The natives generally, in the first instance, have recourse to the bit-noben or kala-neemuk (black-salt), a solution, of which, though certainly very disgusting on account of its taste, strongly reminding us of the scent of gun-washings, or of rotten eggs, proves an excellent cathartic, and if duly persisted in, rarely fails to rid the patient of an immense quantity of bile. That being effected, a strong decoction of cherrettah, a root about the size of slender birch twigs, but of a redder colour, and possessing some of the properties of Permian bark, is frequently taken.
But certainly the best medicine in the catalogue of Indian simples is the lotah, or kaut-kullaigee, which is the kernel taken from the pod of a creeping kind of cow-itch. This kernel is extremely bitter, and possesses all the virtues of the bark; but with this advantage, that in lieu of binding, it commonly proves very mildly aperient when taken to the amount of two or three nuts daily. It has been often given, with great success, during the paroxysms of an ague; the stomach and intestines [] being previously cleared by suitable medicines, such as ipecacuanha and calomel.
That we are absolutely ignorant respecting the medical properties of various plants highly appreciated by the natives, cannot be denied. We must not, however, yield an implicit belief to the many marvellous stories, related throughout Hindoostan, of the extraordinary cures performed by their aid. Many exposures of such fables are publicly extant, and teach us to view the objects so highly extolled through the medium of a minifying glass, thereby fairly to estimate their virtues.
Yet so fully was that learned and zealous president of the Asiatic Society, Sir William Jones, impressed with an opinion of our overlooking many of the most valuable of Nature's vegetable productions, that shortly after the formation of that excellent institution, he expressed a wish, an earnest one indeed, for early framing a code of the botany of Hindoostan in particular; and in a short address to the society, urged that a treatise on the plants of India should be diligently and carefully drawn up. In that address Sir William says, "Some hundreds of plants which are yet imperfectly known to European botanists, and with the virtues of which we are wholly unacquainted, grow wild on the plains and in the forests of India. The Amarkosh, an excellent vocabulary of the Sanscrit language, contains, in one chapter, the names of about three hundred medicinal vegetables; the Medini may comprise as many more; and the Dravyabidana, or 'Dictionary of Natural Productions', includes, I believe, a far greater number; the properties of which are distinctly related in medical tracts of approved authority."
What these books would supply to our medical repositories is, however, uncertain. The natives may be sufficiently [] acquainted with some properties of certain plants; yet owing to a total ignorance of pathology, physiology, nosology, and especially of the circulation of the blood, and of chemistry as applicable to analysis and synthesis, it is utterly impossible they should be able to act, except by rote, and according to their ideas of specifics; whereby the virtues of the medicines in question are supposed to be applicable to all the stages, not only of the same, but of various diseases, totally opposite in their natures. It surely need not be pointed out, how uncertain must be the results under such circumstances, even when each simple is administered separately, and with a patient attention to its operation.
When, however, it is considered that on most occasions where the native Huckeems, or Hakeems, prescribe, they rely greatly upon compounds of herbs and minerals, each having its virtues recorded in some popular distich, to dispute which would be considered an open avowal of consummate ignorance, we may fairly hesitate to receive information from so impure a source. Without depreciating the merits of many simples in use among the natives, their competency to estimate them may be justly disputed; but, at the same time, no doubt could be entertained that their several books may afford great advantage by giving hints, which, being properly but guardedly followed up, may enrich our catalogue of valuable remedies.
This cannot be done in a few days, nor even in a few years: whenever it be effected, the memory of that president, whose life was devoted to the service, not only of his existing fellow-creatures, but of posterity also, will doubtless be duly venerated. The Botanic Gardens established at the several Presidencies, under the care of medical gentlemen duly qualified, offer the means of verifying the tests of chemistry and time; the former have not as yet been [] properly investigated; and the latter has not run its due course, to enable the philosophical world to decide with precision.
In the first volume of the Asiatic Researches, the late Matthew Leslie, Esq. very sensibly observed that "there are in our Indian provinces many animals, and many hundreds of medicinal plants, which have either not been described at all, or, what is worse, ill described by the naturalists of Europe." In this remark there is much truth; but a certain portion of the very extensive meaning of Mr. Leslie, who was assuredly a man of considerable abilities, and who had much opportunity for research, will be received with caution, from the consideration of his avowed partiality towards native physicians; who, as just stated, are by no means competent to guide us through the mazes of botanical research.
The state of medicine among the natives throughout India, is not such as to induce the belief that we shall obtain any valuable information among the Huckeems, of whom full ninety-nine in the hundred are self-taught, as well as self-sufficient. What, then, is to be expected among persons thus practising a profession, to which the old adage of art longa, vita brevis so admirably applies, when we see not even one didactic page to which they can resort; no public institution where knowledge is either bestowed or received; no liberal, enlightened patron, under whose auspices genius may be enabled to penetrate into the mines of science? Can we refrain then from smiling at our countrymen who, quitting the aid and guidance of their well-informed medical friends, resort to such quacks, whose reputation they thus unjustly raise among the gaping crowd, and who have the art to propagate the most unbounded reliance on their nostrums?
That here and there a simple of peculiar efficacy may be in use [] among such persons, is not denied; but an appeal may be safely made to our more enlightened medical societies, whether to an ignorant man, brought up in vanity, and regardless of the minutiae of physical causes and effects, even the most simple medicine can be safely intrusted? The greatest part of the burlesque is, that these highly-renowned physicians, to a man, rely upon proper conjunctions of the planets, lucky hours, &c., not only for the culling, but for the mixing and administering, of their medicines; without regard to those critical moments of which our silly disciples of Hippocrates and Galen are so very watchful.
We must, however, do the natives the justice to allow that the refrigerating principle lately adopted by some leading English physicians, owes its origin solely to the ancient practice of the Brahmans, or Hindoo priests, of whom the generality affect to be deeply versed in pharmacy. "I believe," says Captain Williamson, "that, if taken in time, few fevers would be found to degenerate into typhus, and that very seldom any determination towards the liver from acute cases would occur, were the refrigerating course to be adopted. Often have I known my servants, when attacked with fever, to drink cold water in abundance, and to apply wet cloths to their heads, with great success; the former has generally lowered the pulse considerably, by throwing out a strong perspiration, while the latter has given immediate local relief."
Were it not that cast (sect) opposes a formidable barrier to the more extensive practice of European physicians among the natives in general, the native doctors would speedily be consigned to their merited contempt. Such, however, are the prejudices arising from religious tenets, among the Hindoos in particular, that, even when at the last extremity, many would rather die than suffer [] any medicine to enter their mouths, if prepared, or of which the liquid part had been barely touched, by one not of their own cast.
Where such infatuation prevails, ignorance will maintain her
till, by the gradual abolition of vulgar errors, the light of science
reason begins to glimmer among the people at large. It will not suffice
that a few skilful European professors are seen and admired by a
few: that has already happened; but the dread of religious anathema,
of domestic excommunication, is too forcibly opposed to such weak
It has been said "that the natives have no disposition for the sciences." This is a severe charge on a hundred millions of people. Allow it to be true; and look back to the state of Britain, while under the control of the Druids, who are now well ascertained to have been the same in their days, as the Brahmans of Bengal, &c., are at this time: who can fail to admire the change? Who could suppose it possible that such a change could have been effected among a people who, if we are to give credit to Caesar and to other authorities, were completely barbarous, and "who showed no disposition for the sciences?"
In opposition to so absurd and so malicious an assertion, it may be stated that when Mr. Reuben Burrow was in India, as head of the mathematical department, he was solicited by several of the natives to instruct them in astronomy, algebra, &c. Unhappily, although possessing pre-eminent talents, Mr. Burrow was not exactly calculated to conciliate the good will, nor to excite the admiration, of persons who did not, like himself, blaze at the spark of science.
This important deficiency in suavity of manners caused the natives to quit him; indeed, it tended to disgust those of his countrymen who, being compelled by their [] avocations to attend his lectures, were subjected to his caprices. One native, however, of moderate opulence, was not to be scared by what appeared a trifle, when compared with the acquirements he hoped to possess. He bent to the storm, and by unremitting application, speedily rendered himself competent to converse with Mr. Burrow on his usual topic.
In time, the student became a favourite, and was allowed to
preceptor when the latter was deputed on a survey of considerable
and to measure a degree of latitude in the western districts. Such was
the progress made by this native under the auspices of Mr. Burrow, that
in a few years he qualified himself to instruct others in the ordinary
courses of the higher mathematics.
It is self-evident, that to whatever extent we instruct the natives of India to analyze the produce of their soil, and to present it to us in a marketable shape, so much must Britain be benefited by the extension of her commerce, and by the possession of a territory whose value would thus be proportionally raised. Under the present very limited establishment of physicians and surgeons, as well as from the scanty benefits derived from the Botanical Garden, when seen in this point of view, no very sanguine hopes can be indulged of any important advantages in that direction. While the Company can barely afford a surgeon and two assistants to a regiment of 2000 men, it is not to be supposed they could form such establishments as might give us a thorough command over the mineral and vegetable productions of their territory, or tend to create a. spirit of enquiry among the natives.
The want of printed books, in every country an evil, in India is a drawback of great moment. There all books, all proclamations (except such as we print at [] Calcutta, &c.) all newspapers, &c., &c., are manuscripts. It is not to be imagined how few volumes are to be seen even of this kind. We might have supposed that where provisions, lodging, clothing, fuel, &c., are so remarkably cheap, learning would become general. The reverse is however the case; not one in five hundred can read or write, even indifferently. There are abundance of small day-schools to which children may be sent at a very trifling expense, but there they learn very little.
Generally a bed of sand serves for paper, and a finger, or a piece of stick, for pen and ink; consequently, no traces of any instruction remain for the future consideration of the pupil. The more affluent and zealous commonly provide for their children a board about a foot long, and nine or ten inches wide. This being painted black, and varnished, becomes an admirable tablet, whereon the young folks are enabled to write their lessons with a reed pen, the ink being generally chalk and water.
To these, though certainly more perfect than the former mode, the same objections exist. They want stability; and the lesson is no sooner repeated by rote, and written much in the same manner, than it is forgotten, at least it never again obtrudes on the eye; since, in order to make way for further instruction, it is necessarily expunged.
The koits, or scribes, and the lalahs, or accountants (though the latter often confine their occupations to mere reading or transcribing), are nearly the same among the lower classes, especially where the Naugry character is in question, that the moonshees are among the superior orders. These almost invariably use the Persian language and character, in all public as well as private matters. So far, indeed, is this carried, that Persian is held to be both the language of the Court and of the Law.
As those who study the Persian are aided by moonshees, [] so are such persons as would acquire the Naugry character necessitated to employ for that purpose koits or lalahs. The wages of these are from two to five rupees per month; but in some families the servants contribute to the extent of a few annas, or even as far as a rupee; in consideration of which douceur, the lalah commonly writes letters for them to their friends, and explains the answers, &c. Such servants as have the charge of money to be disbursed on their master's account, commonly take care to be on good terms with this cullum-burdar (quill-driver); who, as has been said of compadores, generally taxes all items he knows to be over-charged, by a small deduction :in his own favour.
Persons of this class often keep little schools, such as have been described, and then are designated Gooroos; a term implying that kind of respect entertained for pastors in general.
If we contemplate the extreme inattention to literary attainments throughout Hindoostan, the great cunning of the priesthood, and their sedulous endeavours to prevent the natives from receiving the least information respecting philosophy in general, it must appear surprising that so much has been done by the artisans of Bengal towards the adaptation of their labours to the convenience of British residents. Our admiration of these people cannot but be heightened, from the circumstance of particular trades being confined to particular casts, or sects; for though we may possibly at first view consider that to be an advantage, inasmuch as it should seem to perpetuate knowledge in an hereditary line, those who have resided in the East fully know that no such heirloom ability is to be found.
On the other hand, we immediately recognise the bar raised against genius; which, when to be found within the cast, may struggle for ever [] under some base, forbidding, and loathsome degradation; or, if it should start in another sect, cannot adopt its native intention, but must resign in favour of some other pursuit, perhaps requiring no genius; or, eventually, one of a very different bent.
The evil effects on the useful arts in general from such a system, are certainly great, but by no means to be compared with the degradations, and consequent imbecility, inseparable from the total suppression of everything tending to excite emulation.When we see a numerous hereditary priesthood, we cannot but picture to ourselves the arrogance thus privileged in the whole of that tribe, and the humiliation which marks the actions, as well as the sentiments, of all who do not stand within the hallowed pale. Such a contrast can exist only while one party can deceive, and while the other deems accusation to be nothing less than blasphemy.
We cannot, therefore, be mistaken respecting the only means of
a knowledge of the world and of its inhabitants; or what we, in other
call learning. Pour but a little of this into the minds of a certain
satisfy them that morality in Europe and morality in Asia are the same
thing; that whether we do our duties in a black or a white skin matters
not; that men were born to aid each other, and not to become the slaves
of party, sect, or colour; and that he who knows most respecting the
of the Creator, is most likely to have a proper sense of his bounty:
the native of India, or of any other nation, that such is the truth,
that you practise, while you teach, the doctrines of Christianity, and
nothing will, in the end, be able to stand against so formidable an
Those intent upon acquiring a knowledge of the language (not only the Bengallee and the Hindoo, both of [] which may be considered vernacular, but the Persian also) may purchase such translations as are extant of the works of Indian authors. By means of such translations, the originals will be more readily understood, and the study rendered both brief and pleasing, if proper attention be paid to all material points, and in reading the translation the student does not indulge in the erroneous opinion that he is making himself master of the original.
Almost every book written in the East is the production of some court sycophant. A few have resulted from the labours of men who, being disposed to meditation, have committed their reveries to paper; and a very small portion have displayed such marks of ability as leave us to regret they were either not better educated, so as to enlighten their countrymen; or that they were not born in those parts of the world where their talents might have been fostered and duly appreciated.
With regard to ethics, numbers have amused themselves, to all appearance, more from ostentation than from "being virtuous over-much." The facility with which scraps from the Koran (the Bible of the Mahomedans) may be set forth in glowing terms, in a language rich in expression, has no doubt induced many a very tolerable layman to annoy his neighbours by the repetition, page after page, of the most tiresome tautologies, whereon his fame has been built: of this description abundance exist, all alike unworthy of review.
"I have always thought," says Captain Williamson, "the poets of India to be particularly happy in those little tales which convey a moral, though a very worldly one, under some alluring allegory. From this, however, I exempt the celebrated Heetopades, translated by Mr. Wilkins. This, by general consent, is allowed to be the store from whence Pilpay's Fables have been taken; [] but the original can never appear in competition with their offspring; for while the latter are interesting, and afford a very rich treat by their apt application to the affairs of life, the former are heavy, dull, tedious, and of a most motley character; the subject is generally forced, and spun out into all the varieties garrulity could invent.
"The Asiatic student," he adds, "may find in the several works of Gilchrist, Baillie, F. Gladwin, Sir W. Jones, Sir William Ousely, Richardson, and Wilkins, abundance of instruction in the several languages most current in Hindoostan. The Asiatic Researches will give him a considerable insight into a number of interesting and important matters relating to the natural history of the East, the manners, and the climate under consideration: while by means of Colebrooke's Digest of the Hindoo Laws, and Rousseau's Dictionary of Mahomedan Law, he may become very generally acquainted with that important branch of knowledge."
In almost every country where the inhabitants are either considered by their neighbours, or deem themselves, to be civilized, the records of the state, the several libraries, whether scholastic, traditionary, scientific, or amusing only, are open to the inspection of persons of all nations; and, above all, the sacred institutions are subject to visitation, and even to research. In India, no such recreation or benefit is ever afforded to the inquisitive traveller. He may remain for years within a stone's-throw of what, to him, would appear an invaluable treasure, without being able to obtain the smallest indulgence in aid of his pursuits. When application, however, has been made for information on particular points, it must be allowed, that, in a few instances, information has been furnished, more explicit, on particular [] topics, which to the inquirer has proved extremely interesting.
In truth, we have no exclusive right of complaint; for all nations and all sects, except their own, have been equally subject to denial; or, when indulged, have been compelled to perform some ceremonies obnoxious to their faith or to their persons. Whether this be absolutely necessary, or has been devised solely with the intention of deterring the curious, may not be difficult to determine. So far we know that in order to obtain admission to a knowledge of certain forms, or to the perusal of certain records, various operations, amounting nearly to apostasy, though no recantation be made, must be performed.
There is room to doubt whether any true accounts of the antiquity of the Seek College at Benares, and of the migrations of the Hindoos from the countries bordering on Palestine, actually exist. Many persons of considerable talents, and of great erudition, are disposed to treat the whole of what has been delivered to us with so much solemnity by the Pundits, or learned Brahmans, as a deception, intended to ridicule our curiosity and torepress, or at least to divert it from, the true course. Circumstances may be adduced in support of this hypthesis; and we cannot but regard the manner in which the Pundits arrogate to themselves the whole knowledge of their history, which is carefully concealed from a large portion even of the Brahmans, as a circumstantial proof of our having been designedly led astray, both by a fictitious record, and by a well-concerted fable, invented for the occasion: this may be aptly compared to the whale and the tub.
Fortunately, no material point appears to rest on the antiquity or otherwise of the Hindoo mythology, or the records of the Seeks regarding [] the origin of that people; though it would, perhaps, be found that their true exposition might tend to afford many proofs in favour of the mission of our Saviour.
When the immense extent of territory we hold in India is
and that perhaps no country in the world offers greater facilities, not
only for literary correspondence, but for the researches of
the conveyance of gross articles, and the manufacture of raw materials,
which everywhere abound, we cannot but lament the want of such
as might enable us to turn such important advantages to the immediate
of Great Britain, on the most unbounded scale. We are absolutely
of a million of facts now included, either directly or by affinity, in
our endless catalogue of desiderata, which need not remain in
disgraceful list, provided due means were taken to correct our errors
to extend our resources.