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(67) Slavery, how far tolerated; summary punishment of adultery [[478-481]]

[[478]] The Mahomedan law barely recognizes actual slavery, but makes a great distinction in favour of those who purchase or thus adopt children that would otherwise, in all probability, perish from want. The latter are considered to be the property of the patron, till arrived at their [[479]] full growth, which is understood to be about the age of eighteen. This regulation, however, is capable of an easy evasion by such proprietors of taffahs as feel an interest in the detention of any particular girls under their authority. To say the truth, very little cause of complaint seems to exist on such occasions. The girls are usually well clothed and fed, and on the whole, experience as much comfort as their habits, and those envious traits ever to be seen among persons of the same profession, will admit.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((422)) Where these taffahs are found in the vicinity of our camps and stations, whether civil or military, it is common to see the dancers attach themselves to some particular European gentlemen, of whose friendship they make much boast: the profits of such a speculation cannot be wholly reserved by any one of the party ; they are supposed to be surrendered, without diminution, to the proprietor, for the general benefit of the set.

That full surrender is not, however, always made.

Some, however, contrive to redeem themselves from this species of demi-slavery, by means of sums accumulated for years, and concealed from the scrutinizing eye of the proprietor, with extreme solicitude. When such a redemption takes place, it is never done overtly, but by the pretended interference of some gentleman or opulent native, who, either from love or charity, feels disposed to pay the ransom. Were the possession of the property to be acknowledged by the anxious female, it would instantly be seized as a droit, and she would probably undergo that severest of Hindoostanee punishments, the loss of all her kase, or hair.

It is not uncommon for persons purchasing slaves, or rearing deserted children, to affix the badge of slavery immediately, and to cause it to be worn during life, by the unfortunate being thus devoted to tyrannical authority. This type of dependance consists simply of an iron ring, similar to those on light fetters, which is worn on either of the ankles, generally on the left. There it is rivetted in the usual manner, with the intention of being always seen. To remove the ring is considered highly criminal on the part of all concerned, and should the slave be thereby enabled to abscond, would subject the abettors to payment of his or her value.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((423)) In every part of India the profession of a prostitute is devoid of that stigma annexed to it in Europe: persons following it are protected by law in certain privileges, and their persons are far from being held in abomination, such as we should suppose must be generated towards so impure a character among the moralists of the ((424)) East. This is entirely owing to the profession being hereditary, the same as other sects, and not promiscuous, or arising from vicious propensities, as we see daily the case among us.

It is true the term kusbee is used as a reproach; but that seems rather to refer to such as, like our wantons, degenerate in consequence of their libidinous dispositions, and are not attached to the two great divisions, the meerasseens, and the puttareahs, both of which have claims on the bounty of princes, and to exemptions from certain taxes; though to make up for such indulgences, the cutwals, and other native officers, under whose authority they may reside, not only demand their attendance, whether to sing, dance, or what not, gratis, but impose upon them heavy assessments, in proportion to their repute and prosperity.

With the view to prevent the encrease of a certain disorder, which proceeds with rapid strides in that hot climate, it is customary to appoint a committee every month, at each great station, for the inspection of such dulcineas as may be resident within the bounds of the cantonments: such as appear to be diseased are instantly confined to a small hospital, appropriated to their reception: a salutary measure, which doubtless prevents much mischief, and is superior to our Lock Institution, which ((425)) only offers, but does not coerce to, a proper course of medicine.

Such women as, being married, or living under the protection of any person, are found to indulge in variety, are designated chinauls, and are held in far greater disrepute than the professed kusbee, or common prostitute. As pre-destinarians constantly contradict, by their evasions of danger, the main principle of their creed, so do the good folks of Hindostan deviate widely from their system of ethics on this head; for although adultery, under any circumstances whatever, is held up as a mortal sin, to be atoned for by death only; nevertheless, we find the males of all ages particularly bent on that kind of gallantry which comes within the letter of the law, and generally produces the contact of two persons whose casts are thereby respectively polluted.

In a former part, I explained more fully the deceptions practised by native women retained by European gentlemen ; it remains for me to add, that such is the spirit of intrigue prevalent among the people at large, that we may at least conclude the ladies in that quarter to keep pace with the most enlightened of our own population! 

[[480]] When a native, especially a Hindoo, of high cast, suspects that his wife is guilty of infidelity, he generally proceeds to repudiate her in the most public manner. It often happens that he is saved that trouble, either by the intervention of her father, brother, &c., who, under pretence of conducting her home, leads the offender to some lone spot, where with his tulwar he severs her head from her body, and deliberately leaves both to be devoured by jackals, &c. This office is likewise occasionally performed by the husband himself, who must, however, be careful not to betray his intention, lest a powerful dose, mixed among his takorry (vegetable curry), should prevent the completion of his design, or possibly cause him to fall a sacrifice to the lover's resentment.

A very curious instance of this occurred in 1789. A sepoy had long maintained a criminal connexion with the wife of a sonaar (goldsmith) then absent in another part of the country. The lady's father, who had no other child, on learning the particulars of the intrigue from one of her servants, remonstrated, but in vain. He then determined to sacrifice her, and ordered that she should quit her own home, for the purpose of being conducted to his house, which was in a village some miles distant.

Suspecting his intention, the adultress communicated the circumstance to her lover, who advised her to follow her father, and promised to prevent his doing her any injury. Accordingly she allowed her parent to precede her, as usual (for no woman ever walks before a man, especially if it be her husband, or any relative); they arrived at a small jungle, when, as he was about to draw his tulwar to sauf-kur (literally, to make clean, but in the accepted sense, to kill or destroy) her, the lover darted forth, and at one blow took off his head.

The lady and her lover were both apprehended, and [[481]]  tried before the zemindary court at Benares, within whose jurisdiction the crime was perpetrated. Against the woman nothing could be urged; she was therefore acquitted. The man was convicted, and condemned; but the woman being next of kin to the deceased, and having the right, according to the law, of pardoning his murderer, instantly gave him her absolution in open court, and to the great surprise and mortification of the whole court, returned homewards with her paramour, to persevere in the adulterous intercourse.

It was in vain that Marquis Cornwallis, on receipt of the intelligence, used every endeavour to obtain a revision of the proceedings. The Court were inflexible, and the parties could not legally be apprehended. His Lordship was, therefore, left without that redress he thought due to the public, and could only cause the sepoy to be dismissed from the Company's service, and banished from their dominions.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((428)) Where the law gives so absurd a power, it might be expected that scarce a husband would be safe; but that is not the case; for they, in general, act very decidedly, whenever they are made acquainted with the existence of offences against conjugal propriety. The caution used in conducting an amour is not always very great, but there is, in fact, only one difficulty to be overcome, viz. the obtaining admission to the interior while the husband is absent: that being effected, detection is not very easy, because the immured state in which women are kept, offers the best screen against the curiosity of prying neighbours.

What with the dark color of the mud walls, the sombre complexion of the people themselves, and the shade commonly cast by heavy foliages, standing in the vicinity of villages in general, as well as by the over-hanging thatches, &c., it is not very easy, even for a neighbour, to ascertain, after night-fall, whether a person, having a cloth on the head, entering the sacred enclosure, be male or female.

About the year 1786, a laughable story was current, regarding a young officer who had a very pretty Hindoo girl in keeping, but who, being of a very salacious disposition, always endeavored to prevail with such young women ((429)) as came to vend fruits, or to sell choories, &c., to be his inmate. One of these daily visitors held out against every temptation, which so roused the youth's passions, that he resolved to obtain that by force which money could not purchase. The struggle made a terrible discovery; the supposed damsel proving to be a young Portugueze drummer!!!

The ordinary mode of conveyance adopted by the generality of nautch-taffahs, is the common hackery, called a g'horry, which has two wheels, with a square body, as has been already described; in one of these, four or five crowd together, sitting almost back to back, and allowing their legs to hang down on every side. The generality are of very decent behavior, but when they get a little majoom (a sweet-meat prepared with bhang) into their noddles, at is not uncommon to see them proceed in high style,, singing away in full chorus, and, occasionally, exhibiting specimens of their profession, by attitudes corresponding with the words of songs purely Cyprian!

The baggage, if any, is commonly carried on some hired bullock, or in a hackery; some sets are, however, so opulent, as to be able to keep one or two camels, and to purchase a tolerably good Hindostanee tent, that is, without walls, and supported by two bamboo poles, each about eight or nine, feet long. 


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