|THE GENERAL EAST INDIA GUIDE 1810|
(37) Domestic manners and customs of the natives, with details of the state of society among them ((346-408))-- PART ONE [from Williamson 1810, omitted by Gilchrist]
((346)) The following description of the private lives and customs of those native women that are secluded from the public eye, was furnished to me by a friend whose extensive researches have rendered him conspicuous as a Member of the Asiatic Society. I give it in his own words as a faithful detail, which cannot fail to prove interesting.
((347)) The very confined knowledge which Europeans have of the domestic manners and customs of the inhabitants of the Company's territories, and of their ally the Nabob Vizier, arising principally from the total want of familiar intercourse with the natives, and a consequent ignorance of the language, is a circumstance which, by the inquisitive European traveller, would scarcely be credited. There are few countries in which a year's residence would not give a more intimate knowledge of the language and manners of the inhabitants, than is generally to be acquired during a whole life spent in India; particularly in Bengal and the eastern provinces.
Europeans have little connection with the natives, of either religion, except what relates to business of a public, or of a private, nature: and though acquaintances which originate from such intercourse may continue after the causes which gave rise to them have ceased, yet seldom or never do they extend to domestic communication. A native will attend rather in a ceremonious way at a nautch,/1/ or other exhibition given by an European; but no Hindu, and very few Mussulmans, would eat in an European's house; at least at his table.
The native will, in his turn, invite his English friend to a nautch, to an exhibition of wild beasts, and so ((348)) forth, and sometimes an entertainment may be given (of which, however, the master rarely partakes); while his conduct and behaviour on such occasions can afford but a slight insight into the domestic manners of the people when free from that constraint which the eye of a stranger, who is generally treated, if not considered, as a superior, throws upon all their actions.
With the native women of any rank in society, the European has not the most distant communication. It will be observed, therefore, how impossible it is for an European to speak from his own personal knowledge of the familiar manners of the native of Hindustan. The following sketch is collected from the various accounts received from sensible and respectable people of different ranks in society. It will probably correct some prejudices respecting the fair sex in Eastern countries, or at least afford some reasonable explanation of the manner in which they are treated. Their confinement is in general solely ascribed to the jealousy of the husband, and to the number of wives allowed to one man, to which the voluptuousness of a warm climate is supposed to conduce.
But in speaking themselves of the confinement of their women, they offer the following reasons for the custom, viz., the variety of tribes, and intermixture of strange people; the instability of their ((349)) government, and consequent confusion in the country, requiring that their families should be placed in secure places; the tyranny of their former rulers and their favorites, with whom it was no unusual occurrence to seize by force the wives of others; and, lastly, because a passage in the Koran/2/ seems to recommend a reserved deportment in women. It says, 'You shall not shew your zeenut/3/ to any one except your husband, your own father, or your husband's [father] (the present custom in Bengal precludes him); your own son, or your husband's son; or your brother, or his son, or your sister's son; or your own female servants, being of your own faith; or your male servants of the following description: such as old men, eunuchs, debilitated men, or fools who think of nothing but eating, or little children -- unto such are you allowed to shew your zeenut'.
Such exceptions from so sacred an authority, which leaves little but the fingers and toes for general inspection, would seem to render the seclusion of a Mussulman lady a matter of necessity, not choice. Neither the husbands nor the wives will ((350)) by any means allow [=acknowledge] jealousy to be the cause; for they say, 'Were a woman viciously inclined, even encircled by walls of iron she would, by some contrivance or other, find means for accomplishing her purpose. It is not,' say they, 'against such their precautions are aimed: it is, that the minds of those who are really pure may not be contaminated through the force of bad example; and that women being naturally weak and easily led astray, as may be inferred from the story of poor Eve, it becomes the duty of the husbands to guard them from the flowery paths of temptation.'
Such, indeed, is the force of education, that a lady of Hindostan, of decent parentage, would rather suffer death than exposure to public view. In imprecating the greatest evils on the head of an enemy, a female could not conceive any term so severe as those which conveyed a wish that the veil of concealment might be rent asunder. However, notwithstanding [that] the seclusion of the ladies is so much talked of, and deemed so harsh, it will probably, on investigation, be found that the prohibition extends only to such as could have but a slight intercourse with them, even if the full influence of social communication obtained.
Their rules respecting muhrem and na-muhrem, words implying forbidden and not forbidden, are, in their principle, simple enough, viz. 'That a woman may be seen by any man whose relationship ((351)) to her precludes marriage; though custom has established many deviations from this rule, all which seem to have arisen not from jealousy, but from a mistaken sense of modesty.
In the upper provinces, all the brothers visit each other's wives without distinction; but, in Bengal, only those junior to the husband. Indeed, in Bengal, the distinctions of muhrem and na-muhrem, are so whimsical, and amount to such a mixture of Hindu superstition and Mahomedan prejudice, as would render a detailed account of them disgusting to the reader. I shall therefore comprize what I have to say on the subject in as few words as possible.
'A wife, even in Bengal, may enjoy the society of all her own male relations. In this light are considered chellas, children brought up in the family, and the relations of the nurse; the nurse being considered as standing in the same relationship as the natural parents; and often, among the great in the upper provinces, where two females are solicitous to form an intimate connection, it is accomplished as completely as marriage could do it, by obtaining a female of one family to suckle a child belonging to the other. Male friends of the respectable class, though never permitted to see each other's wives, make enquiries after the ladies' healths, send and receive compliments, "and are sometimes permitted (with the precaution of the curtain) ((352)) to free and unrestrained conversation.
It may be seen from the above that the circle of a lady's male acquaintance may be much more extensive than Europeans would in general suppose; for taking advantage of the spirit of the regulations, and waiving the more preposterous, half a dozen sisters might enjoy the society of a number of men, little less limitted than falls to the lot of most ladies of the middle ranks in colder climates; and it must be remembered that what is said here generally applies to the middle ranks, including the lesser Ameers./4/
In the upper provinces the ladies and gentlemen, at least among the Sheeaus,/5/ generally eat together; but in Bengal this is not the case; there the wife does not even presume to eat in the husband's presence, and never partakes of any of his amusements. In the upper provinces the social qualities are better understood; for when the company consists of persons admissible into the zenanah, they all go in; the men and women dine together, and in general sit on opposite sides. The ladies, like ours, indulge in tiffings (slight repasts), it being delicate to eat but little before company.
When there is an assemblage of fair visitors, ((353)) the husband seldom enters the zenanah, that he may not disturb their amusements; which, when unobserved by men, take a free range. The wife never mentions her husband by name. This respect, as it is termed, is reciprocal. Indeed, people in general avoid addressing each other by name, substituting some title; as 'your ladyship'; or by the name of a favorite child, as 'William's mother'; or by a periphrasis. It is so strictly observed by some wives, that they would not mention an indifferent matter by the same name as their husband is called by. Should, for instance, the husband's name be 'Year,' the wife would say, 'I am sixteen twelvemonths old,' rather than sixteen 'years.' However, this excessive nicety will only be found among villagers.
Some ladies pride themselves much in the arts of needle-work and cookery; excellence in the former being deemed a good criterion to form a judgment of a lady's education: a wife, therefore, who did not take upon herself the whole internal management of the household would be held in great disrepute. They are, in general, allowed a certain sum yearly for clothes, and all expences of the house within doors, from which, by good management, they often save considerable sums of money; and in times of distress, when the inconsiderate husband thinks his all is ((354)) gone, often does his wife relieve his distresses from her little treasury.
In addition to the established allowance, there are other fixed sums appropriated. In their holidays, which frequently occur, dinner is always dressed within the zenanah, except upon occasions of great feasts and entertainments, when of course the arrangement must be made by men. When only a few friends are expected, the wife, being informed of their number and rank, issues her orders accordingly, through her female attendants, to the male servants of the house. The education of the daughters, and sons also whilst young, is entirely entrusted to the mother. Should one of the former forget those lessons of chastity and of correctness of behaviour, which it is her mother's constant solicitude to impress on her mind; nay, should her conduct even be such as to create suspicion; immediate death from the hand of the parent would be the consequence.
I am speaking here of rather the higher orders; for people in the middle ranks of life are more restrained in their conduct, more within the reach of the law, and besides, the point of honor which acts with such force in high-minded families, loses its impetus with them. Such is the influence the women possess in Hindustan that whenever Soonees and ((355)) and Sheeaus/6/ intermarry (a circumstance not unusual), the children are always instructed in the tenets of the mother, and often their first prattle consists in a ridicule of their father's faith.
At all marriages, (the ceremonies of which will be hereafter detailed), or on the occurrence of much-wished-for events, such as the return of a son safely from the wars, the recovery of a lost child, &c., or when a lady wishes to be enrolled among the naik zuns, or pure matrons, a feast is given in honor of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, which is termed kundooree, a word implying off-falls. No woman can partake of this feast unless she be of the purest morals; and it is generally imagined that an impure person, even tasting the sacred food prepared on that occasion, would surely die.
The lady who gives the feast performs menial offices to the guests, such as washing their feet, &c. The victuals served up consists of such articles as Fatima is supposed to have preferred, viz. rice, ghee, sugar, pulse, and vegetables. A share is sent to the men; but not of that set apart for the offering; of which the pure matrons may alone partake. To be considered as such, a woman must have regularly kept all the annual feasts, and be married; or, if a virgin, she must then at least disclaim all intentions of ((356)) changing her condition.
No woman contracted in marriage only for a time, such as the moota/7/ of the Sheeaus, and the nekaw/7/ of the Soonees, can be admitted. The word nekaw, among the vulgar, implies, but improperly, the secondary kind of marriage. No woman who has married a second time, though she may not have conversed with the first husband, can partake of the kundooree.
The females are seldom married before the age of fifteen (I wish it to be understood, when I speak indefinitely of the Mussulmans, that I allude to those of the upper provinces; for the manners of the Bengal Mussulman partake so much of the Hindu, as to leave but few traces of their original character perceptible). An earlier period is frequently fixed on, where purposes of interest and policy may be answered. Old maids, at least among the great, are not at all uncommon; caused by a kind of false pride, or I know not what to term it, of the parents, who cannot bear that their daughters' nakedness should be known to any one.
Nadir Shah, it is said, either from a prejudice of this nature, or more probably from a jealousy of too highly honoring any of his subjects, destroyed all his female children, which were extremely numerous, ((357)) immediately on their birth, except one, who was concealed from him till she had attained her thirteenth year. It was then contrived that she should be brought into his presence. She is said to have been all that was beautiful in nature! She flew to his embrace, which he fondly returned, ignorant that he clasped his own daughter. But when this devoted child addressed him as her father, the hardened monster seized the innocent victim by the legs, and kept her head immersed in a fountain till she expired! Such an account, even of the unfeeling Nadir Shah, is scarcely to be credited; but the story may shew the name he has left behind him in Hindostan.
The late vizier, Asoph ul Dowlah, left about thirty sisters unmarried; not that I believe his delicacy would have suffered from any such fastidious notions as above alluded to; their celibacy was owing to the difficulty of obtaining suitable matches for women of their rank; which, in the present state of the country, must be almost impracticable.
Reading and writing are not usual accomplishments with the ladies of Hindostan. Among the great there are, however, some who read such books as the Koran, &c., and some few who write; but of all delightful intercourse by letter they are entirely debarred; it being deemed indecent even for a wife directly to address ((358)) her husband; therefore, whether she employ an amanuensis to pen a letter, or be capable of transcribing it herself, it must be written as from a third person, such as a son, or near relation. Among the better order, about ten in a hundred can read the Koran; but it must not be understood by reading, that they thence comprehend one single word of it; that book being to them what our Bible, in a Latin version, must formerly have been to our common people.
The mode of passing their time, though apparently not affording till that variety which an European lady enjoys, is not devoid of amusement. They generally rise, or should do so, at day-break, that they may have time to purify themselves before the rising of the sun, at which time the first prayer is repeated. After prayers, the important business at the toilette commences, in which, as is usual among ladies, two or three hours at least are profitably spent. The missee is applied to the feet and sweet-smelling oils, &c. to the body, while their flowing ringlets (those nets which entangle unhappy lovers, and which their poets are so fond of describing) are now nicely adjusted. In short, the toilette is become with them a perfect art, and much of a young lady's time is engrossed in attending to instructions on this head.
After the toilette comes the breakfast; which does not, like ours, consist of fixed articles, ((359)) but varies agreeably to the taste of the parties, and to the management of the mistress. It will not appear unnecessary to observe that they never use knives or spoons; and indeed, they seem to think that we lose much of the relish of the food by the artificial aids we employ on such occasions.
After breakfast, and having issued the necessary orders for dinner, the lady of the house, attended by her daughters and slave-girls, sits down to needle-work; an excellence on which, as well as all kinds of embroidery, they greatly pride themselves. Among the middle ranks, such as can write often employ themselves in copying the Koran, which, when compleated, is either sold for, or given to, some poor person, to be converted into property more needful to him.
The sound of the cherky, or spinning wheel, is always considered indicative of poverty, and is therefore seldom heard in the houses of the great; but women of a middling class often spin large quantities of cotton-wool into fine thread intended to be wove into mulmuls, &c,. for their own apparel; the coarser skeans being allotted to their baundees, or female slaves. Between twelve and one they generally dine, every person washing the face and hands before the company sits down at table, or rather table-cloth, which is spread on the ground, and ((360)) around which all the party arrange themselves; except it be among the Bengal Mussulmans, or among such as have adopted the Hindu manners, by whom a wife is not permitted to eat in the presence of her husband.
This meal generally consists of boiled rice, or of wheaten cakes, stewed or curried vegetables. Curry is made of fowls, kid, and goats' flesh. Beef is seldom sought after, except in cities; and mutton is by most considered as an inflating, unwholesome food. The head, heart, lights, feet, &c. of animals are rejected. The dinner is usually divided into as many shares as the company consists of, and brought in that way from the cook-room; except on great occasions, when the servant serves it out. They have no change of plates until the sweetmeats are brought in. Tooth-picks and the wash-hand basin are presented to each, except there shonld be a large company; in that case, they perform the ablution apart.
They have not the custom of any particular person saying grace before or after meals; each repeating in a low voice the name of God. After meals, thanks are returned by the male part, but not by the female, a curious distinction! -- the reason for which, my Mussalman narrator ungallantly alleges to spring from the nature of woman in general. Immediately after dinner the parties retire to take their afternoon nap; on ((361)) arising from which the toilette again engages the ladies' attention. Disengaged from it, they walk round their gardens (which are enclosed) to enjoy the evening air. After sun-set, when the evening prayers are over, the relations and friends visit each other; and this is the hour in which the husband withdraws himself from general intrusion, and retires to the zenanah.
Here, surrounded by his wife and children, he enjoys the pleasing converse of the one, and the innocent diversions of the other. The young folks of both sexes play at blind-man's buff and such-like sports, which are generally succeeded by the proposing of enigmas, the narration of enchanting tales, unpremeditated rhymes, and other various, and not unuseful, exhibitions of wit. In such disports, [a] great part of the night glides away unnoticed, as the female visitors do not return home till the next morning. Games are not much encouraged among them. Patchees, a game in high vogue among the ladies, is, I believe, the only one allowed. The word means twenty-five. The game is played with cowries, which answer for dice.
It is a well known circumstance that no Mussulman, or Mussulmanee, ever thinks of dancing for the pleasure of the thing. The meerassen (a set of women whose province it is) are called in on particular occasions: but ((362)) among people of high rank, it is usual to have a number of slave-girls, termed gaeen,/8/ taught music and dancing, who are always ready to amuse the family.
Europeans may, on such a subject, be surprized with the singular sound of 'the wife' so often repeated, so impressed as they generally are with the idea of a Mussulman and his seraglio of 'wives.' However, it will be found, by such as will take the trouble of investigation, that those travellers whose relations have given rise to such erroneous ideas, have deceived themselves, by mistaking individual instances for general traits; thus holding up the picture of one man as the exact portraiture of a nation.
We are not to suppose that it is common for men to avail themselves of the example of their prophet, or the option he has allowed to others of having four wives. In fact, not one man in twenty, of the class now under consideration, has more than one wife, nor one in five hundred more than two. Even the permission given by Mahomed is not free from restriction, for his words are, 'Marry, O ye people, whomsoever pleases you among women, even to two, three, or four: but if ye apprend that you cannot do them justice, be content with one.'
This considerate advice of the prophet however would ((363)) probably carry but small weight, if there did not exist other obstacles, not so easily surmounted; for it frequently forms a clause in the quballa,/9/ (or cabooleat) in a marriage contract, that the husband shall not take a second wife: besides, no parent possessed of a proper regard for his child would willingly place her in that degraded situation [in which] a second wife is always considered to be; and subjected, as she is, to the entire control of the first; who, it may be supposed, must from various motives in general prove a harsh and unpleasant mistress.
Neither ought we to be led away by the idea that any influence of the husband will prevent such consequences; for the wives of Hindustan, however problematical it may sound, will be found to have, in reality, even more power than those of Europe. It is true, a husband is allowed by law the privilege of divorcing his wife whenever displeased with her conduct; and this, on the first glance, appears to leave no alternative but implicit obedience in the woman; but it will be found otherwise, in fact; for the relations of the bride take care, in the marriage-settlement, that the mahir, or marriage-portion, payable in case of separation, shall be levied at an amount far exceeding the circumstauces of the husband to pay; which of course proves an effectual check to a divorcement. ((364)) In addition to this, general opinion strongly opposes a separation, though not a second marriage, where there exists no sufficient cause to justify the step; such as barrenness, chronic disease, &c., in the woman.
Wherever there are two or more wives, an equal distribution of favors is rigidly insisted on (unless the secondary one happens to be of inferior rank); yet let it not be inferred that any lady could be so lost to delicacy as to urge her claims in direct terms. The sex have always the command of general signs, whereby to intimate their expectations in the most delicate manner. But though jealous of her rights, a wife of rank and education would, during the whole period of her existence, deem it highly indelicate to neglect, in the most secluded moments, a modest reluctance to comply with the solicitations of her husband.
Among the slave-girls, there are always two or three who are considered as the handmaids of the husband, and with whom, even by the religion, an intercourse is permitted; however, this must be conducted in a concealed manner. They too, aping the manners of their mistresses, are not always at the command of the master; and I have been assured, by men of eminence and affluence among them, that even in the midst of plenty, they have suffered all the tantalization of want.
((365)) It is said that Soojah Dowlah, whenever he paid a visit to any other lady, always imposed on himself a fine of two thousand rupees, which he sent to his wife. The prophet himself had only five wives, one of whom he preferred to all the rest; yet though much inclined, he durst not visit her oftener than the others; two of whom, however, he ventured to divorce, that the period of his enjoyment might more quickly revolve.
A wife may, in certain cases, insist on a divorce: such as inefficacy in the husband, &c., under which circumstances she receives the marriage-portion. It must be remarked that although the mahir is always fixed in the marriage articles, yet that there does not exist any method of settling it on the wife independently, as among us; therefore this settlement consists only of terms, except in cases of divorce. The word mahir means, literally, the price paid for any thing.
A wife never brings a dowry to her husband, except [=unless] her plentiful stock may be so considered, such as clothes, jewels, &c., which her parents send with her, sometimes to so great an extent, as to preclude for years the necessity of any supply from the husband.
When a divorce occurs, even on the demand of the wife, the husband is obliged to support her as long as any possibility remains of her affording ((366)) nourishment to his offspring; and should she then be pregnant, the allowance must be continued to her, agreeably to her rank in life, until the period of her delivery, when the child is taken from her; unless she chooses to support it at her own expence, and is allowed to do so by the father.
Should a man catch his wife in the act of adultery, and revenge himself by the death of both parties, the Mahomedan law would acquit him of murder; but should he take the life of only one of the offenders, they would sentence him to death. The laws of the Koran, relative to trials for adultery, one would almost think were framed with the sole view of prohibiting such suits; for whereas in common cases two respectable male witnesses are deemed competent to establish a fact, in cases of adultery four male witnesses must be produced. The testimony of a thousand women would be of no avail, and that of the men must be clear and circumstantial. The smallest disagreement would invalidate the depositions of the whole.
In short, such are the difficulties, or rather impossibilities, the law throws in the way of substantiating the charge, that causes of the [scored-out word] or adultery, or of fornication, are seldom heard of. They seem not to have distinguished these two crimes by different appellations, though the punishment is different. For the first, the criminal ((367)) is stoned to death; for the second, a hundred lashes are deemed an adequate punishment. So the award to a married man and unmarried woman convicted of zinnah (a general term for unlawful co-habitation) would be death to the man, and flagellation to the woman. Such is the law; but custom has left the injured parties to pursue private measures of revenge, in which the courts never interfere.
Mutual intercourse among female friends and relations is kept up by visits; for which, however, previous permission from the husbands must be obtained, except when the wife intends a visit to her parents. In such a case she intimates her intention; and though he may dissuade, he has not the power to restrain. When first informed of this privilege, so contrary to received opinion, it excited my surprize, which I evinced by minute enquiry.
The following is the answer I received from a person of rank and character: 'A wife' (said he) 'is not a slave to a husband. He is her guardian, it is true; and when she pursues a path that would lead to disgrace, it is his duty to control her, on common occasions, by advice: should that prove ineffectual, her relatives are informed of her refractoriness, and they lend their aid. If still untractable, she may be confined to her room. He may abstain from her bed; but where is the Mussulman of character that would lift his hand to the ((368)) wife of his bosom? Is he devoid of all regard to his own honor, that he should treat the mother of his children with disgrace? or has he become regardless of the good opinion of his brethren? or could he for a moment forget that her relations, to a man, would start forward to resent an insult offered to their family? No man' (continued he) 'can, with impunity, oppose that general opinion which has for its foundation both propriety and justice. A wife must, therefore, be permitted to visit her parents whenever she is inclined to do so.'
It must appear curious, however, that custom has made it indecent for her to return, without an invitation from her husband! This may produce considerable effect, when a mutual regard, or children, attach them to each other; but, while the lady continues young, if she be any way coquettish and takes a pleasure, as is sometimes the case, to tease her husband, she will, under various pretexts, continue obdurate for months, until his patience, and his ample stock of promises of future kindness, are expended. In short, the Hindostanee ladies are possessed of a thousand arts whereby to secure their influence, and to domineer over the lords of creation.
In the absence of her husband, a wife, though she may receive, pays no visits. When the women travel, or move from one house to another, they are concealed with all the precaution ((369)) generally attributed to an Eastern journey; their palanquins are carefully shut up, and attended, when the rank of the person demands it, by guards composed of eunuchs, and sometimes by armed women, who are called, from their countries, Toorknees, Zillmaknees, Oorda-Big-nees, &c. This jealous care, however, is not taken by all classes. The Rohillas, for instance, are less scrupulous: among themselves, their women travel unveiled and without ceremony. Indeed, among the northern nations, we can trace but little of that guarded precaution so conspicuous in the cities of Hindostan.
No ceremony is observed at the naming of a child. The parents choose a name, which habit soon confirms. The great are credulous, and often call in an astrologer, who is mostly a Bramin, to cast the child's nativity, and to fix on, or to approve of, a name; but this is not usual, nor is feasting, nor merry-making, as at our christenings.
A son is at no age debarred from freely entering the zenanah, though it may contain numbers of women not at all related to him; and should the encreased bulk of any of the slave-girls shew symptoms of his attention, it will hardly be deemed a crime in either party, However, as the parents are solicitous to prevent such an intercourse, they rarely fail to ((370)) provide the young gentleman with a wife, so early as circumstances will admit. Should this be delayed, a slave-girl would be allowed him, but the intercourse must proceed in such a manner, as if the parents were ignorant of the affair; the progeny from this connection would be received into the family on equal terms with those born in wedlock; being once acknowledged, they are entitled to every privilege of inheritance. Primogeniture, among the Mahomedans, gives no superior claims to their real, or personal property: the division of the estate is easy, for a son gets double the share of a daughter.
The evidence of women of rank is taken by male relations, or by women properly authorized by the Cazee/10/ for that purpose; but female testimony is inadmissible in cases of life and death. A woman of rank never suffers public punishment, for the parents or husbands, to prevent her disgrace, would themselves cause her death; the only kind of punishment, indeed, that a woman of this description seems liable to undergo.
When they are indisposed, application is made to the doctor, who upon enquiring into the symptoms, and examining certain quackish tokens, prescribes accordingly, but if the disorder ((371)) be obstinate, the doctor is permitted to approach the purdah (i.e. curtain; or screen) and to put his hand through a small aperture, purposely made, in order to feel the patient's pulse. The lady's hand or arm is never exposed to view, at least not to any male: on this occasion, the doctor's hand is guided to the pulse by a female attendant.
Widows seldom take a second husband, though allowed to do so. Young widows are sometimes married to the husband's brother, but even this is not frequent. Women of rank sometimes suckle their own children. In the choice of a wet-nurse they are extremely particular, as all her family are by that means considered in the light of relations; a custom so far adhered to, as to preclude the possibility of intermarriage between the child thus suckled, and the children of its nurse.
Women in India never go to public baths. Each house in general is furnished with hot and cold baths. Where the former cannot be afforded, a boiler is ways in readiness. Bathing is commanded as a necessary purification after most of the common occurrences of life. So much so that most married ladies, under certain circumstances, are obliged to perform the ablution even in the middle of the night; and as in these ceremonies if the parties are at all particular ((372)) it requires the hair to be wet, it affords occasion the next morning for their female friends to exercise their wit on the occasion.
The dresses of the single and of the married ladies differ but little. The former never wear ornaments at the nose, ungeeas, or supporters to the breast, nor black ointment/11/ to fill up the interstices of the teeth, nor antimony to the eyelids. It has been erroneously supposed that a turban was peculiar to a spinster, from the similarity of the words cheerna and cheera; the latter meaning a colored turban, which would be disgraceful for any modest woman to wear. The word cheerna has a very different etymology, which will be sufficiently evident to any one acquainted with the Hindostanee./12/
The present fashionable dress of our fair country-women having had for its object the imitation of the Hindostanee, might be supposed to preclude the necessity of a particular description, did not the same inconstancy equally pervade their taste. Within these few years, the shoes with the long-turned-up tops have been introduced and abolished, in consequence (as the story goes) of a lady in Asoph ud Doulah's haram being thrown down by the entanglement of the string of a kite round the curvature ((373)) of her shoe. The n'hut, or large ring worn at the nose, is also going out of fashion: indeed, considering the inconvenience that must have been experienced from this ornament, it is strange it should so long have continued in use.
The disuse of it is accounted for in the following manner. On the death of a married woman, or of her husband (for no widows wear it), this ornament, according to long established usage, becomes the property of the meeraseens, a particular kind of nautch women. A lady of Oude, of a delicate way of thinking, being in possession of a n'hut of great value and elegance, thought she observed the longing eye of the meeraseens continually fixed on this jewel; and dreading the effects of their envy on her own life, or on that of her husband, took off the n'hut and threw it away; a circumstance that created much consternation in the family, and astonishment in the husband, as it had hitherto been deemed a necessary part of a married woman's dress, and was guarded with as much superstitious care as the marriage-ring among us. However, the explanation of her motives set all to rights again; the husband applauded her prudence, and the neighbouring families taking up the sane idea, the long-established rights of the meerraseens in that part of the country suffered almost total abolishment.
The dress of the ladies of rank has become ((374)) comparatively simple, and seems to evince a considerable improvement in the national taste. Instead of both ears being weighed down, as was formerly the case, they now only wear a slight ornamented ring in the left car, in general. The having both ears ornamented they consider as the height of vulgarity. A pearl necklace, slight golden rings at the wrists and ankles, termed zewaree ichanjeeree, include all the ornaments worn by a lady of fashion. For the wrists they prefer silken bracelets, decorated with jewels. The hair, which was brought down over the brow in two semi-circles, so as almost to bear on the eye, is divided as before, but not permitted to conceal any part of the forehead.
The pyjama, or drawers, were, formerly worn so tight as to render it a work of some labor to get them on. Indeed, to such a length did this taste go at one time, that many of the famous courtezans had themselves painted in imitation of keemkab/13/ from the waist downwards. In the upper provinces, they are now made to fit exactly above the knee, but from thence downwards quite loose, and so long as to press on the shoe. In the lower provinces, the exact reverse takes place. In Bengal, it is ((375)) deemed immodest to wear the ungeeas, or supporters to the breast. In the upper provinces, a woman would be ashamed to be seen without them.
The coortee, or kind of banian, must be of the thinnest muslin, so that the tapering waist, which they so much admire, and of which our ladies now deny us the view, may be distinctly seen. The sleeves short, and the coortee itself so much so, that the nicfa, a different colored cloth at the top of the pyjama, may not be concealed, the doo-puttah, or two breadths of muslin, formed into the shape of a scotch plaid, and worn nearly in the same manner, is thrown over the whole.
The paishwaz, meaning open in front, is not now in fashion. This is the robe from which our ladies have taken their present dress, but which they have modestly closed before, having no painted keemkabs to shew. Petticoats (called bandanas) are sometimes worn by Mahomedan ladies, especially in the rainy season, when the diversion of swinging commences, but never without drawers under them. Widows should not wear clothes stained with any but what are termed pukka, or lasting, colors; nor should these be of the glaring kind. Their pyjamas must always be white, which [a] married lady never wears.
= = = = = = = = = = =