Page images
PDF
EPUB

according to rank. Where there is no Dullopatty, the garland is put round the neck of a boy, at which no one can take any offence, and afterwards they are distributed indiscriminately.

Meantime the son is engaged in the performance of the ceremony, while the bands of songsters quarrel with one another for the privilege of entertaining the audience with their songs, which renders confusion worse confounded. Female songsters of questionable virtue are now more in favor than their male rivals, which is an unerring proof of the degeneracy of the age. Only one band is formally engaged, but thirty bands may come of their own accord, quite uninvited. The disappointed ones generally get from two to four Rupees each, but the party retained gets much more, the rich guests coming in making them presents, besides what they obtain from the family retaining them.

About one in the afternoon, the ceremony is brought to a close, and the assembled multitudes begin to disperse. Those who have to attend their offices return earlier, but not without offering the compliments suited to the gravity of the occasion. Some of the Brahmins remain behind to receive their customary bidhay or gift. According to their reputation for learning they obtain their rewards. The first in the list gets, in ordinary cases, about five Rupees in

[ocr errors]

utensils for presents to Brahmins, exclusive of large sums of money, Cashmere shawls, broadcloth, &c. After the performance of the ceremony, as is usual on such occasions, the distribution of garlands and sandal paste had to be gone through ; the whole of the splendid assemblage had been watching with intense anxiety as to who should get the first garland—the highest respect shewn, according to precedence of rank, to the first Koolin present. This is a very knotty point in a large assemblage to which all orders of Koolins had been brought together. The honor was eagerly contested and coveted by many, but at length a voice from a corner loudy proclaimed to the following efteet : “Put the garland on my gole,” (elephantiasis) laying bare and stretching his right leg at the same time and thus suiting the action to his words. The attention of the assembled multitude was immediately directed in that direction, and to the amazement of all, the garland had to be put round the neck of the very man who shouted from a corner, because by a general consensus he was pronouced to be the first Koolin then present. But such artificial and demoralising distinctions, built on the baseless fabric of quicksand, having no foundation in solid, sterling merit, are fast falling, as they should, into disrepute.

cash, and one brass pot valued, at four or five Rupees, the second and third in proportion, and the rest, say, from one to two Rupees each, in addition to a brass utensil. The silver utensils of which the soroshes are made are afterwards cut and allotted to the Brahmins according to their worth or status in the republic of letters. The Gooroo or spiritual guide, and the Purrohit or officiating priest, being the most interested parties, generally carry off the lion's share. So great is their cupidity that the one disputes the right of the other as to the amount of reward they are respectively entitled to. As a matter of course, the Gooroo, from his spiritual ascendency, manages to carry off the highest prize. The distribution of rewards among the Brahmins and Pundits of different degrees of scholarly attainments, is a rather thankless task. In common with other human beings, they are seldom satisfied, especially when the question is one of Rupees. Each sets a higher value on his own descent and learning, undervaluing the worth of his compeers. The voice of the President, who has many a knotty question to solve, decides their fate, but it is seldom that a classification of this nature results in producing general satisfaction. As these Pundits, or rather professors, called Adhaypucks, do not eat in the house of Soodras, in addition to their reward in money and kind, they, each of them, receive a small quantity of sweetmeats and sugar, say about two pounds in all in lieu of achmany jalpan or fried and prepared food. On a Shrad day in the afternoon one can see numbers of such Brahmins walk through the native part of the city, with an earthen plate of sweetmeats in one hand and a brass pot in the other, the fruits of their day's labor. Such gains being quite precarious, and the prospect looming before them quite discouraging, the annual sum total they derive from this source is quite inadequate to their support, and that of the chottoospattee or school they keep. Hence many such institutions

KK

for the cultivation of Sanskrit have been abandoned for want of sufficient encouragement, and as a necessary consequence the sons and grandsons of these Brahmins have taken to secular occupations, quite incompatible with the spirit of the Shastra. In the halcyon days of Hindoo sovereignty, when Brahminical learning was in the ascendant and rich religious endowments were freely made for the support of the hierarchy,* as well from the influence of vanity as from the compunctions of a death-bed repentance, such chottoospattees annually sent forth many a brilliant scholar,—the pride of his professor and the ornament of his country. But the advancement of English education—the only passport to honor and emoluments—has necessarily laid, as it were, an embargo on the extensive culture of Brahminical erudition. The University curriculum, however, under the present Government, embraces a system well calculated to remove the reproach.

The day following the funeral ceremony is spent in giving an entertainment to the Brahmins, without which a Hindoo cannot regain his former purity. About twelve, they begin to assemble, and when the number reaches two or three hundred, Koosasan or grass seats in long straight rows are arranged for them in the spacious court-yard, and as Hindoos use nothing but green plantain leaves for plates on such grand occasions, each guest is provided with a cut piece on which are placed the fruits of the season, ghee-fried loochees and kachoories, and several sorts of sweetmeats in earthen plates for which there are no English names. In spite of the utmost vigilance of door-keepers and others, intruders in rather decent dress enter the premises and sit down to eat with the respectable Brahmins, but should such à character be found out, steps are instantly taken to oust him. On a grand occasion, some such unpleasant cases are sure to occur. There are loafers among Hindoos as there are among Europeans. These men, whom misfortune or crime has reduced to the last state of poverty, are prepared to put up with any amount of insult so long as they have their fill. When a Hindoo makes a calculation about the expenses of an entertainment at a Shrad or marriage (both grand occasions), he is constrained to double or treble his quantum of supply that he may be enabled to meet such a contingency without any inconvenience. The practice referred to is a most disreputable one, and beseems a people not far above the level of a Nomad tribe. Even some of the Brahmins* who are invited do not scruple to take a portion home, regardless of the contaminated touch of a person of the lowest order, simply because the temptation is too strong to be resisted. Before departure, each and every one of the Brahmins obtains one or two annas as dakhinah, a concession which is not accorded to any other caste.

* Manu commands, “Should the king be near his end, through some incurable disease, he must bestow on the priests all his riches accumulated from legal fines.”

The next day, a similar entertainment is given to the Káyastas and other classes, which is accompanied by the same noise, confusion and tumult that characterised the entertainment given on the previous day. The sober and quiet enjoyments of life which have a tendency to enliven the mind can seldom be expected in a Hindoo house of Shrad, where all is golemal, confusion and disorder. When a dinner is announced, a regular scramble takes place, the rude and the uninvited occupy the first seats to the exclusion of the genteel and respectable, and when the eatables are

*

Το preserve order and avoid such unseemly practices, a wealthy Baboothe late Doorgaram Cor—when he invited a number of Brahmins allotted to each two separate rations, one on the plantain leaf for eating on the spot, and another in an earthen handy or pot for carrying home for the absent members of the family. Even this excellent arrangement failed to satisfy the greedy cravings of the voracious Brahmins. As a dernier ressort, he at last substituted cash for eatables, which was certainly a queer mode of satisfying the inner man.

beginning to be served, the indecent cries of “bring loochee, bring kachoorie, bring tarkari," and so on, are heard every now and again, much to the disturbance of the polite and the discreet.

The day following is called the neeumbhanga, or the day on which the son is allowed to break the rules of mourning after one month. In the morning the band of songsters previously retained come and treat the family to songs of Krishna, taking care to select pieces which are most pathetic and heart-rending, befitting the mournful occasion of a very heavy domestic bereavement. The singing continues till twelve or one o'clock, and some people seem to be so deeply affected that they actually shed tears, and forget for a while their worldly cares and anxieties. When the songs are finished, the son and his nearest relatives, rubbing their bodies with oil and turmeric, remove the brisakát on their shoulders from the house to a place near it. A hole is made, and the brisakat (a painted log of wood about six feet high) with an ox on the top, &c., is put into it; after this they all bathe and return home. The songsters are dismissed with presents of money, clothes and food.

The son then sits down to a dinner with his nearest blood relation, and this is the first day that he leaves his habishee diet after a month's mourning, and takes to the use of fish and other Hindoo dishes. He is also allowed to change his mourning dress and put on shoes, after having made a present of a pair to a Brahmin ; he, moreover, sleeps with his wife from this day as before, in fact he reverts to his former mode of living in every respect.

As the entertainment this time consists of vojan, made up of rice and curries, and not jalpan, made up of loochees and sweetmeats, comparatively a smaller number of guests assemble on the occasion* and that of loafers and intruders ex

* There is a vast difference between a vojun and a jalpán dinner. If there be a thousand guests at the latter, at the most there would be only three hundred at the former, as none but the nearest relatives and friends will con

« PreviousContinue »