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hibits a very diminished proportion. Even on such occasions, one can always tell from a distance that there is a feast at such a house from the noise it is invariably attended with.

Having described above the details connected with the funeral ceremony, I will now endeavour to give an account of one or two of the most celebrated Shrads that took place in Bengal after the battle of Plassey, premising that every thing which shall be said on the subject is derived chiefly from hearsay, as no authentic historical records have come down to us.

The first and most celebrated Shrad was that performed by Dewan Gunga Gobind Set, on the occasion of his mother's death. It was performed on so large a scale that he caused reservoirs to be made which were filled with ghee and oil, immense heaps of rice, flour and dhall were piled on the ground. Several large rooms were quite filled with sweetmeats of all sorts. Mountains of earthen pots and firewood were stacked on the Maidan. Hundreds of Brahmin cooks and confectioners were constantly at work to provide victuals for the enormous concourse of people. Silver and brass utensils of all kinds were arranged in pyramids. Hundreds of couches with bedding were placed before the Sabha, (assembly). Elephants richly caparisoned with silver trappings formed presents to Brahmins. Tens of thousands of silver coins bearing the stamp of Shah Allum were placed on massive silver plates. And to crown the whole, thousands of learned Pundits from all parts of the country congregated together to impart a religious solemnity to the spectacle. All these preparations lent a grandeur to the scene, which was in the highest degree imposing. Countless myriads of beggars from the most distant parts of the Province assembled together, and they were not only fed for weeks at the expense of the Dewan, but were dismissed with presents of money, clothes and food, with the most enthusiastic hosannas on their lips. For more than two months the distribution of alms and presents lasted, and what was the most praiseworthy feature in the affair was the Job-like patience of the Dewan, whose charity flowed like the rushing flood-tide of the holy Ganges on the banks of which he presented offerings to the manes of his ancestors. Some of the Adhapucks or Professors obtained as much as one thousand Rupees each in cash and gold and silver articles, or rather fragments of the same, to a considerable value. Besides these magnificent honorariums the whole of their travelling and lodging expenses were defrayed by the Dewan, who was reputed to be so rich that like Croesus of old he did not know how much he was worth ; hence there is still a current saying amongst the Bengalees, which runs thus: “If ever money were wanted, Gouri Set will pay.”

descend to take rice (vath), which is almost akin to one and the same clanship, whereas in a jalpán, not only the members of the same caste but even those of the inferior order are tacitly permitted to partake of the same entertainment without tarnishing the honor of the aristocratic classes.

The following anecdote will, I hope, prove interesting :

At the marriage procession of a washerman, confessedly very low in the category of caste, two Kayastas (writer caste) joined it on the road in the hope of getting a hearty Jalpán dinner ; but lo ! when, after the nuptial rites were over, rice and curries were brought out for the guests, the two Káyastas, who sat down with the rest of the company, tried to escape unnoticed, because if they ate rice at a washerman's they were sure to lose their caste, but the host would not let them go away without dinner. They at last spoke the truth, asked forgiveness and were then allowed to leave the house. To such disappointments unfortunate intruders are sometimes subjected.

Gouri Set was the son of Gunga Gobind Set. The expenses of the Shrad have been variously estimated at between ten and twelve lacks of Rupees. The result of this truly extravagant expenditure was wide-spread fame, and the name of the donor is still cherished with grateful remembrance. But as all human greatness is evanescent, the fame of the family for charity once unparalleled in the annals of Bengal has long since dwindled into insignificance.

The next Shrad of importance was that of Maharajah Nabkissen Bahadoor of Shobhabazar, Calcutta. His son Raja Rajkissen performed the Shrad, which, to this day, stands

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unrivalled in this city. Four sets of gold and sixty-four sets of silver utensils described before, amounting in value to near a lakh of Rupees, were given on the occasion. Such paraphernalia go by the name of dansagor or “gift like the sea.” Besides these presents in money to Brahmins upwards of two lakhs of Rupees were given to the poor.

If these immense sums of money had been invested for the permanent support of a Charitable Institution, it would have done incalculable good to society. But then there was no regularly organised system of Public Charity, nor had the people any idea of it. Such immense sums were spent mostly for religious purposes according to the prevailing notions of the age. Tanks, reservoirs, flights of steps on the banks of the river,* fine rows of trees, every three miles stone buildings or choultries for travellers, affording a grateful shelter throughout the country, were among the works of public utility constructed by the charitably disposed.

* In the sacred city of Benares vast sums of money have been sunk in building Ghauts with magnificent flights of steps stretching from the bank to the very edge of the water at ebb-tide, affording great convenience to the people both for religious and domestic purposes, but the strong current of the stream in the months of August, September and October, has played a sad havoc with the masonry works. Scarcely a single Ghaut exists in a complete state of preservation.


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FIFTY years ago, when the British Government was

endeavouring to consolidate its power in the East,

and when the religious prejudices of the Natives were alike tolerated and respected, there arose a great man in Bengal who was destined by Providence to work a mighty revolution in their social, moral and intellectual condition. That great man was Rammohun Roy, the pioneer of Hindoo enlightenment. Having early enriched his mind with European and Eastern erudition, he soon rose, by his energy, to a degree of eminence and usefulness which afterwards marked his career as a distinguished reformer and a benevolent philanthropist. He was emphatically an oasis in this sterile land—a solitary example of a highly cultivated mind among many millions of men grovelling in ignorance. To his indefatigable exertions we are indebted for the abolition of the inhuman practice of Suttee, the very name of which evokes a natural shrinking from the diabolical deed, which appallingly and suddenly expunged a tender life from the earth, and severed the dearest tie of humanity. It was the severest reflection on the satanic character of a religion that ignores the first principle of divine law. Women are of an impressionable nature, their enthusiasm is easily fanned into intensity, and superstition and priestcraft took advantage of it.

Not content with sending a sick man to the riverside to be suffocated and burnt to ashes, a narrow-minded hierarchy lent its sanction to the destruction of a living creature, by burning the Hindoo widow with the dead body of her husband, the fire being kindled perhaps by the hand of one whom she had nurtured and suckled in infancy. It is awful to contemplate how the finest sensibilities of our nature are sometimes blunted by a false faith.

My apology for dwelling on this painful subject now that the primary cause of complaint has long since been removed by a wise Legislature, is no other than that I had been an eye-witness of a melancholy scene of this nature, the dreadful atrocity of which it is impossible even at this distance of time to call to mind without horror and dismay. As the tale I am going to relate is founded in real life its truthfulness can be thoroughly relied upon,

When I was a little boy reading in a Patsálá at home, my attention was one morning roused by hearing from my mother that my aunt was "going a Suttee." The word was then scarcely intelligible to me. I pondered and thought over and over again in my mind what could the word "Suttee' mean. Being unable to solve the problem, I asked my mother for an explanation ; she, with tears in her eyes, told me that my aunt (living in the next house) "was going to eat fire.” Instantly I felt a strong curiosity to see the thing with my own eyes, still laboring under a misconception as to what the reality could be. I had then no distinct notion that life would be at once annihilated. I never thought for a moment that I was going to lose my dear aunt for ever. My mind was quite unsettled, and I felt an irresistible desire to look into the thing more minutely. I ran down to my aunt's room and what should I see there, but a group of sombre complexioned women with my aunt in the middle. I have yet after fifty years, a vivid recollection of what I then saw in the room. My aunt was dressed in a red silk sari with all the ornaments on her person, her forehead daubed with a very thick coat of sidoor or vermillion, her feet painted red with alta, she was chewing a mouthful of betel, and a bright lamp was burning before her. She was evidently wrapt in an ecstacy


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