Volume 9, Chapter 11, Section 7c -- Relation of a Voyage to India in 1616, with Observations respecting the Dominions of the Great Mogul, by Mr. Edward Terry, part 3
§3. Of the People of Hindoostan, and their Manners and Customs.
The whole inhabitants of Hindoostan were anciently Gentiles, or notorious idolaters, generally denominated Hindoos, but ever since the time of Tamerlane they have been mixed with Mahometans. There are, besides, many Persians, Tartars, Abyssinians, and Arminians, and some few of almost every nation in Asia, if not in Europe, that reside here. Among these are some Jews, but not esteemed, for their very name is proverbial as a term of reproach. In stature, the natives of Hindoostan are equal to ourselves, being in general very straight and well-made, for I never saw any deformed person in that country. They are of a dark tawny or olive colour, having their hair as black as a raven, but not curled.
They love not to see either a man or a woman very fair, as they say that is the colour of lepers, which are common among them. Most of the Mahometans, except their molahs or priests, or such as are old and retired, keep their chins shaved, but allow the hair on their upper-lips to grow long. They usually shave all the hair from their heads, leaving only one lock on their crowns for Mahomet to pull them by up to heaven. Both among the Gentiles and Mahometans they have excellent barbers. The people often bathe and wash their bodies, and anoint themselves with perfumed oils.
The dresses of the men and women differ very little from each other, and are mostly made of white cotton cloth. In fashion, they sit close to the shape to the middle, and from thence hang loose to below the knee. Under this they wear long close breeches down to their ankles, crumpled about the small of their legs like boots. Their feet are put bare into their shoes, which are made like slippers, that they may be readily put off on entering their houses, the floors of which are covered with excellent carpets of the country manufacture, as good as any made in Turkey or Persia. Instead of these carpets, some have other floor-cloths, according to the quality of the owner. On these they sit when conversing or eating, like tailors on the shop-board.
The men's heads are covered by turbans, being sashes, or long webs of thin cloth, white or coloured, wreathed many times about. They do not uncover their heads in making reverence; instead of which they bow their bodies, placing the right hand on the top of the head, after which they touch the earth with that hand, as if indicating that the party saluted may tread upon them if he please. Those who are equals take each other by the chin or beard, as Joab did Amasa; but salute in love, not in treachery.
The Mahometan women, except such as are poor or dishonest, never appear abroad. Though not fair, they are all well favoured, have their heads covered with veils, and their hair hanging down behind, twisted with silk. Those of quality are decorated with many jewels hung around their necks, and about their wrists and arms; and they have several holes round their ears in which they hang pendants; besides that every woman has a hole in her nostrils in which to wear a ring, which seems to have been an ancient ornament, being mentioned in the Old Testament. Their women are happy above all others I have ever heard of; in the ease with which they bear their children, being one day able to ride with their infants unborn, and to ride again the next with their child in their arms.
The language of the common people of this country, called Hindoostanee, is smooth and easily pronounced, and is written from left to right, as we do. The learned tongues are the Persian and Arabic, which are written backwards, from right to left, like the Hebrew. There is but little learning among them, which may be owing to the scarcity of books, which are all in manuscript, and therefore few and dear; but they are a people of good capacity, and were they to cultivate literature among them, would assuredly produce many excellent works.
They have heard of Aristotle, whom they name Aplis, and have some of his writings translated into Arabic. The noble physician, Avicenna, was a native of Samarcandia, the country of Tamerlane, and in this science they possess good skill. The most prevalent diseases of this country are dysenteries, hot fevers, and calentures, in all which they prescribe abstinence as a principal remedy. The filthy disease produced by incontinence is likewise common among them.
They delight much in music, having many instruments, both stringed and wind; but to my ears, their music seemed all discordant. They write many pretty poems, and compose histories and annals of their own country. They profess great skill in astrology, and the king places great confidence in men of that profession, so that he will not undertake a journey, nor do anything whatever of importance, unless after his wizard has indicated a prosperous hour for the undertaking.
The idolaters begin their year on the 1st of March, and the Mahometans at the instant when the sun enters Aries, as calculated by their astrologers. From which time the king keeps a festival called the norose, or nine days, for which time it continues, like that made by Ahasuerus in the third year of his reign. On this occasion, all his nobles assemble, bringing great gifts, which he repays with princely rewards. Being myself present on this occasion, I beheld most incredible riches, to my amazement, in gold, pearls, precious stones, and many brilliant vanities. I saw this festival celebrated at Mandoa, where the Mogul has a most spacious house or palace, larger than any I ever beheld, in which the many beautiful vaults and arches evince the exquisite skill of his artists in architecture. At Agra he has a palace in which are two large towers, at least ten feet square, covered with plates of pure gold.
The walls of his houses have no hangings, on account of the heat, but are either painted or beautified with a white lime, purer even than that we term Spanish. The floors are either paved with stone or are made of lime and sand like our Paris plaster, and are spread with rich carpets. None lodge within the King's house but his women and eunuchs; and some little boys, whom he always keeps about him for a wicked use. He always eats in private among his women, being served with a great variety of exquisitely dressed meats, which being proved by his taster, are put into golden vessels, as they say, covered and sealed up, and brought in by the eunuchs. He has meats made ready at all hours, and calls for them at pleasure.
These people do not feed freely, as we do, on full dishes of beef or mutton, but use much rice, boiled up along with pieces of flesh, or dressed in a variety of ways. They have not many roasted or baked meats, but stew most of their meat. Among their many dishes, I shall only notice one, called by them deupario. This is made of venison cut into slices, to which are put onions and sweet herbs, with some roots, and a little spice and butter, forming the most savoury dish I ever tasted; and I almost think it is the same dish that Jacob made ready for his father Isaac when he got his blessing.
In this kingdom there are no inns or houses of entertainment for travellers and strangers. But in the cities and large towns, there are handsome buildings for their reception, called serais, which are not inhabited, in which any passengers may have rooms freely, but must bring with them their bedding, cooks, and all other necessaries for dressing their victuals. These things are usually carried by travellers on camels, or in carts drawn by oxen; taking likewise tents along with them, to use when they do not find serais.
The inferior people ride on oxen, horses, mules, camels, or dromedaries, the women riding in the same manner as the men; or else they use a kind of slight coaches on two wheels, covered at top, and close behind, but open before and at the sides, unless when they contain women, in which case they are close[d] all round. These coaches will conveniently hold two persons, besides the driver, and are drawn by a pair of oxen, matched in colour, many of them being white, and not large. The oxen are guided by cords which go through the middle cartilage of the nose, and so between the horns into the hand of the driver. The oxen are dressed and harnessed like horses, and being naturally nimble, use makes them so expert that they will go twenty miles a day or more, at a good pace.
The better sort ride on elephants, or are carried singly on men's shoulders, in a slight thing called a palanquin, like a couch, but covered by a canopy. This would appear to have been an ancient effeminacy used in Rome, as Juvenal describes a fat lawyer who filled one of them: Causidici nova, cam venial lectica Mathonis; plena ipso-- .
They delight much in hawking, and in hunting hares, deer, and other wild animals. Their dogs of chase somewhat resemble our greyhounds, but are much less, and do not open when in pursuit of their game. They use leopards also in hunting, which attain the game they pursue by leaping. They have a very cunning device for catching wild-fowl, in the following manner: --A fellow goes into the water, having the skin of any kind of fowl he wishes to catch, so artificially [[=artfully]] stuffed, that it seems alive. Keeping his whole body under water except his face, which is covered by this counterfeit, he goes among the wild-fowl which swim in the water, and pulls them under by the legs.
They shoot much for their amusement with bows, which are curiously made of buffaloe's horn, glued together, their arrows being made of small canes, excellently headed and feathered, and are so expert in archery that they will kill birds flying. Others take great delight in managing their horses. Though they have not a quarter of a mile to go, they will either ride on horseback or be carried, as men of any quality hold it dishonourable to go on foot any where.
In their houses, they play much at that most ingenious game which we call chess, or else at draughts. They have likewise cards, but quite different from ours. Sometimes they are amused by cunning jugglers, or mountebanks, who allow themselves to be bitten by snakes which they carry about in baskets, immediately curing themselves by means of certain powders which they smell to. They are likewise often amused by the tricks of apes and monkeys.
In the southern parts of Hindoostan, there are great numbers of large white apes, some of which are as tall as our largest greyhounds. Some of those birds which make their nests on trees are much afraid of the apes, and nature has instructed them in a subtle device to secure themselves, by building their nests on the most extreme twigs, and hanging them there like purse-nets, so that the apes cannot possibly come to them.
Every city or great town in India has markets twice aday, in the cool of the morning just after sun-rise, and again in the evening a little before it sets; and in these they sell almost every thing by weight. In the heat of the day, every one keeps within doors, where those of any rank lie on couches, or sit cross-legged on carpets, having servants about them, who beat the air with fans of stiffened leather, or the like, to cool them. While thus taking their ease, they often call their barbers, who tenderly grip and beat upon their arms and other parts of their bodies, instead of exercise, to stir the blood. This is a most gratifying thing, and is much used in this hot climate.
The Mahometans and Hindoos are much to be commended for their truthfulness as servants; for a stranger may safely travel alone among them with a great charge of money or goods, all through the country, having them for his guard, and will never be neglected or injured by them. They follow their masters on foot, carrying swords and bucklers, or bows and arrows, for their defence; and so plentiful are provisions in this country, that one may hire them on very easy terms, as they do not desire more than five shillings each moon, paid the day after the change, to provide themselves in all necessaries; and for this small pittance give diligent and faithful service. Such is their filial piety that they will often give the half of these pitiful wages to their parents, to relieve their necessities, preferring almost to famish themselves rather than see them want.
Both among the Mahometans and Hindoos there are many men of most undaunted courage. The Baloches are of great note on this account among the Mahometans, being the inhabitants of Hjykan, adjoining to the kingdom of Persia; as also the Patans, taking their denomination from a province in the kingdom of Bengal. These tribes dare look their enemies in the face, and maintain the reputation of valour at the hazard of their lives. Among the many sects of the Hindoos, there is but one race of warriors, called Rashbootes, or Rajaputs, many of whom subsist by plunder, laying in wait in great troops to surprise poor passengers, and butchering all who have the misfortune to fall into their hands. These excepted, all the rest of the natives are in general pusillanimous, and had rather quarrel than fight, being so poor in spirit, in comparison with Europeans, that the Mogul often says, proverbially, That one Portuguese will beat three of them, and one Englishman three Portuguese.
In regard to arms for war, they have good ordnance, which, so far as I could learn, were very anciently used in this country. I have already described the iron pieces carried on elephants. They have smaller guns for the use of their foot-soldiers, who are somewhat long in taking aim, but come as near the mark as any I ever saw. All their pieces are fired with match, and they make excellent gun-powder. They use also lances, swords, and targets, and bows and arrows. Their swords are made crooked like faulchions, and very sharp; but for want of skill in tempering, will break rather than bend; wherefore our sword-blades, which will bend and become straight again, are often sold at high prices.
I have seen horsemen in this country, thus accoutered, carrying as it were a whole armory at once; a good sword by their sides, under which a sheaf of arrows; on their back a gun fastened with belts, a buckler on their shoulders; a bow in a case hanging on their left side, and a good lance in their hand, two yards and a half long, with an excellent steel head. Yet for all these weapons, dare he not resist a man of true courage, armed only with the worst of all these.
The armies in these eastern wars often consist of incredible multitudes, and they talk of some which have exceeded that we read of in the Bible, which Zerah, king of Ethiopia, brought against Asia. Their martial music consists of kettle-drums and long wind-instruments. In their battles, both sides usually begin with most furious onsets; but in a short time, for want of good discipline, they fall into disorder, and one side is routed with much slaughter.
[India, the Brachmans, by the power of magic, raised a cloud of smoke around the walls, whence broke frequent flashes of lightning, with thunder, and the thunderbolts slew many of his soldiers." This would infer the very ancient use of fire-arms of some kind in India.--E.]
The Mahometans have fair places of worship, which they call mesquits, well built of stone. That side which looks to the westwards is a close-built wall, while that towards the east is erected on pillars, the length being from north to south. At the corners of their great mosques, in the cities, there are high turrets or pinnacles, called minarets, to the tops of which their molahs or priests resort at certain times of day, proclaiming their prophet in Arabic, in these words, --Alla illa Alla, Mahomet resul Alla; that is, There is no God but God, and Mahomet is the ambassador of God. This is used instead of bells, which they cannot endure in their temples, to put religious persons in mind of their duty.
On one occasion, while Mr. Coryat was residing in Agra, he got up into a turret over against the priest, and on hearing these words, he contradicted him, calling out, in a loud voice, --La Alla illa Alla, Hazaret Esa Ebn-Alla; there is no God but God, and Christ, the Son of God, is his prophet. He farther added, that Mahomet was an impostor. In any other country of Asia in which Mahomet is zealously followed, this bold attempt had surely forfeited his life, with all the tortures which cruelty could invent, or tyranny inflict; but in this country everyone is permitted to follow his own religion, and may even dispute against theirs with impunity.
In regard to their burials, every Mahometan of quality provides a fair sepulchre for himself and his family, in his life-time, surrounding a considerable space of ground with a high wall, and generally in the neighbourhood of some tank, or else near springs of water, that they may make pleasant fountains. Within the enclosure, he erects a round or square tomb, either on pillars or of closed walls, with a door for entrance. The rest of the enclosure is planted with trees and flowers, as if they would make the Elysian Fields of the poets, in which their souls may repose in delight.
They have many such goodly monuments built in memory of those they esteem as saints, of whom they have an ample calendar; in these there are lamps continually burning, and thither many resort in blind devotion, to contemplate the happiness enjoyed by these peires, as they call the holy men. Among many sumptuous piles dedicated to this use, the most splendid of them all is to be seen at Secundra, a village three miles from Agra. This was begun by Akbar Shah, the father of the present king, and finished by his son, the reigning Mogul. Akbar lies here interred, and Jehanguire Shah means to be here buried when he dies.
The molahs, or priests of the Mahometans, employ much of their time as scribes, doing business for other men, having liberty to marry as well as the laity, from whom they are no way distinguished by their dress. Some live retiredly, spending their time in meditation, or in delivering precepts of morality to the people. They are in much esteem, as are another set called Seids, who derive their pedigree from Mahomet. The priests neither read nor preach in the mosques; yet there is a set form of prayers in Arabic, not understood by most of the people, but which they repeat as fluently as the molahs. They likewise repeat the name of God, and that of Mahomet, a certain number of times every day, telling over their beads like the misled papists, who seem to regard the number of prayers more than their sincerity.
Before going into their mosques, they wash their feet; and in entering, put off their shoes. On beginning their devotions, they stop their ears, and fix their eyes, that no extraneous circumstances may divert their thoughts, and then utter their prayers in a soft and still voice, using many words significantly expressive of the omnipotence, goodness, eternity, and other attributes of God. Likewise many words full of humility, confessing their unworthiness with many submissive gestures. While praying, they frequently prostrate themselves on their faces, acknowledging that they are burdens upon the earth, poisonous to the air, and the like, and therefore dare not look up to heaven, but comfort themselves in the mercy of God, through the intercession of their false prophet. Many among them, to the shame of us Christians, pray five times a-day, whatever may happen to be their interruptions of pleasure or profit. Their set times are at the hours of six, nine, twelve, three, and six, respectively.
The manner in which they divide the day is quite different from us; as they divide the day and the night each into four equal parts, which they denominate pores, and these again are each subdivided into eight smaller parts, called grees. (Hence each pore contains three of our hours, and each gree is equal to 22-1/2 of our minutes.) These are measured, according to an ancient custom, by means of water dropping from one small vessel into another, beside which there always stand servants appointed for the purpose, who strike with a hammer upon a concave plate of metal, like the inner portion of a plate, hung by a wire, thus denoting the pores and grees successively as they pass.
Like the mother and her seven sons mentioned in the Maccabees, such is the temperance of many, both among the Mahometans and Gentiles, that they will rather die than eat or drink of anything forbidden by their law. Such meats and drinks as their law allows, they use only in moderation, to satisfy nature, not to please their appetites; hating gluttony, and esteeming drunkenness a sin, as it really is, or a second madness; and indeed their language has only one word, mest, for a drunkard and a madman.
They keep yearly a solemn feast, or Lent, which they call Ram jan (Ramadan), about the month of August, which continues a whole moon; during which time those who are strict in their religious observances avoid the embraces of their women, and abstain from meat or drink so long as the sun is above the horizon, but eat after it sets, at their pleasure. Towards the close of this Lent, or Ramadan, they consecrate one day of mourning, in memory of their departed friends; on which occasions I have seen many of the meaner people making bitter lamentations. Besides this ordinary and stated time of sadness, many foolish women are in use, oft times in the year, so long as they survive, to water the graves of their husbands or children with the tears of affectionate regret.
On the night succeeding the day of general mourning, they light up innumerable lamps, and other lights, which they set on the sides and tops of their houses, and all other most conspicuous places, taking no food till these are burnt out. When the Ramadan is entirely ended, the most devout Mahometans assemble at some noted mosque, where some portion of the Alcoran is publicly read; this being their holy book, like our Bible, which they never touch without some mark of reverence. They keep a festival in November, which they call Buccaree, signifying the ram-feast; on which occasion they kill and roast a ram, in memory, as they say, of the ram which redeemed Ishmael, when about to be sacrificed by his father Abraham. They have many other feasts or holidays consecrated to Mahomet, and their pieres, or pretended saints.
They have the books of Moses, whom they name Moosa curym Alla, the righteous of God. Abraham they call Ibrahim calim Alla, the faithful of God. Thus Ishmael is called the true sacrifice of God; David is named Dahoode, the prophet of God; Solomon is Seliman, the wisdom of God, and so forth; all neatly expressed, as the former instances, in short Arabic epithets. In honour of these our scripture worthies, they frequently sing songs or ditties of praise; and, besides, all of them, except those of the ruder sort, when at any time they happen to mention our Saviour, always call him Hazaret Eesa, the Lord Jesus; and ever speak of him with respect and reverence, saying that he was a good and just man, who lived without sin, and did greater miracles than were ever performed before or since. They even call him Rhahew Alla, which signifies the breath of God, but cannot conceive how he could be the Son of God, and therefore deny that. Yet the Mahometans look upon us as unclean, and will neither eat with us, nor of any thing that is cooked in our vessels.
There are many men among the Mahometans called Dervises, who relinquish the world, and spend their days in solitude, expecting a recompense in a better life. The strict and severe penances these men voluntarily endure, far exceed all those so much boasted of by the Romanist monks. Some of these live alone on the tops of hills, remote from all society, spending their lives in contemplation, and will rather die of famine than move from their cells, being relieved, from devotion, by those who dwell nearest them. Some again impose long fasts upon themselves, till nature be almost exhausted. Many of those whom they call religious men wear no garments beyond a mere clout to cover their shame, and beg for all their provisions, like the mendicant friars of Europe.
These men usually dwell about the outskirts of the cities and towns, like the man mentioned by our blessed Saviour at the city of the Gadarens, who had devils, and wore no clothes, neither abode in any house, but dwelt among the tombs. They make little fires during the day, sleeping at night among the warm ashes, with which they besmear their bodies. These men never suffer a razor to come upon their heads, and some of them let their nails grow like to bird's claws, as it is written of Nebuchadnezzar, when driven out from among the society of men. There is also a sort of men among them called mendee, who often cut and slash their flesh with knives, like the priests of Baal.
I have seen others, who, from supposed devotion, put such massy fetters of iron on their legs, that they are hardly able to move, yet walk in that manner many miles upon pilgrimages, barefooted, upon the parching ground, to visit the sepulchres of their deluding saints; thus, tantum religio potuit suadere malorum, taking more pains to go to hell than any Christian that I know does to attain heaven. These do not marry. Such Mahometans as choose to marry, are allowed four wives by the law of Mahomet, but they keep as many concubines as they can maintain. The priests content themselves with one wife.
Notwithstanding their polygamy, such is the violent jealousy of these lustful Mahometans that they will scarcely allow even the fathers and brothers of their beloved wives or concubines to converse with them, except in their own presence. Owing to this restraint, it has become odious for such women as have the reputation of virtue, to be seen at any time by strangers. If any of them dishonour their husbands' beds; or, being unmarried, are found incontinent, even their own brothers will put them to death rather than they should escape punishment; and for such unnatural actions they shall be commended, rather than called in question. Yet is there full toleration for harlots, who are as little ashamed of receiving visits as the men are of frequenting their houses.
The women of any fashion are waited upon by eunuchs instead of women-servants; and these eunuchs are deprived in their youth of everything that can provoke jealousy. Their marriages are solemnised in great pomp. After the molah has joined their hands, with certain ceremonies and words of benediction, they begin their revels at the first watch of the night. Whether the man be poor or rich, he mounts on horseback, attended by his friends, having many oressets, or great lights, carried before him, and accompanied by drums, and wind-instruments of music, and various pageantry. The woman follows with her friends, in covered coaches. And having thus paraded through the principal places of the city or town, they return home and partake of a banquet, the men and women being in separate apartments. They are mostly married at the age of twelve or thirteen, the matches being made by their mothers.
[Footnote 235: The Mahomedans made extensive conquests in India long before the era of Timor.--E.]
[Footnote 236: This is a strange mistake, confounding the city of Patna, in Bengal, in the east of Hindoostan, with the Patans, a race of mountaineers between Cabul and Candahar, far to the west of India, called likewise Afgans, and their country Afghanistan.--E.]
[Footnote 237: Vertoman says the Portuguese who deserted at the first discovery of India, and entered into the service of the native princes, taught them this art.--Purch.
[Footnote 238: This device for measuring time is the same with the clepsydra, or water-clocks, of the ancients.--Purch.]
-- *Index of Part Two, Book Three* -- *Glossary*-- *Robert Kerr index page* -- *FWP's main page* --