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was to pour hot lead into his ears. If a shoodru beat a magistrate, he was to have an iron spit run through him, and to be roasted alive; a bramhun, for such an offence, was to be fined. And, as though all these horrible punishments on earth had not sufficiently degraded the shoodru, the wrath of the bramhuns pursued him into the next world,-for, the same shastrus teach, that if a shoodru do not rise to receive a bramhun with due honour. he will become a tree after death; if he look angrily at a bramhun, his eyes will be put out by Yumu, the Hindoo Pluto.
The shastrus* teach, that a gift to a learned bramhun possesses infinite merit; feasts to bramhuns are considered as very meritorious a poor man entertains two or three at a time; a rich man invites hundreds. At all festivals, marriages, &c. one of the most important things to be done is to entertain the bramhuns, and to make presents to them at their dismission. If a shoodru wish to succeed in any project, he feasts two or three bramhuns. If a man has been entertaining a number of brambuns, a neighbour says to him, "Ah! you are a happy man! you can honour so many bramhuns!" A covetous man is sometimes thus reproached: "He is very rich, but he cannot bring his mind to part with a mite, no not to entertain bramhuns: he does not even invite a few bramhuns to his house, and wash their feet.” To present gifts to bramhuns at the hour of death, and bequeath to them lands, or cows, or houses, is extolled in the shastrus as a work of merit destroying all sin, and followed in the next world with imperishable, happiness.
To drink the water into which a bramhun's toe has been dipped, is considered a very great privilege. When inquiring into this circumstance, it was ascertained, that vast numbers of shoodrus, while fasting, thus purify themselves daily; that others make a vow to attend to this duty for a length of time, to remove some disease. Indeed, shoodrus may be frequently seen carrying water in a cup, and intreating the first bramhun they meet, to put his toe into it; after which they drink the water, and bow or prostrate themselves to the bramhun, who bestows his blessing on them; others preserve some of this holy water in their houses. Persons are found who endeavour to collect the dust from the feet of a lack of bram. huns; one mode of doing which is, by spreading a cloth be fore the door of a house where many are assembled at a feast; as each bramhun comes out, he shakes the dust from his feet
* Law governing the casts.
upon this cloth. Many miraculous cures are said to have been performed on persons swallowing this dust.
But, not only is the body of the shoodru laid prostrate before the bramhun, to lick the dust of his feet, but his soul also is to be sacrificed to his honour; the Hindoo laws enact, that, to serve a bramhun, falsehood is allowable! and that if a shoodru dare to listen to the salvation giving vedu, he is to be punished for his sacrilege. Even at present, if a bramhun happen to be repeating any part of the vedu aloud, a shoodru, if near, shuts his ears, and runs away.
From the preceding statements, it will be abundantly evident, that this whole fabric of superstition is the work of bramhuns. No person may teach the vedu but a bramhun; -a spiritual guide must be a bramhun ;--every priest (poorohitu) must be a bramhun; the offerings to the gods must be given to brambuns ;--no ceremony is meritorious without a fee to the officiating bramhun ;-numberless ceremonies have been invented to increase the wealth of the bramhuns: as soon as a child is conceived in the womb, a bramhun must be called to repeat certain formulas, when he receives a fee and is feasted; other levies are made before the birth; at the birth; when the child is a few days old; again when it is six months old; when two years old; again at eight or nine; and again at marriage; in sickness, the bramhun is paid for. repeating forms for the restoration of the patient ;-after death, his son must perform the shraddhu, the offerings and fees at which are given to the bramhuns, twelve times during the first year, and then annually ;-if a shoodru meet with a misfortune, he must pay a bramhun to read incantations for its removal ;-if his cow die, he must call a bramhun to make an atonement; if he lose a piece of gold, he must do the same; -if a vulture have settled on his house, he must pay a bramhun to purify his dwelling ;-if he go into a new house, he must pay a bramhun to purify it ;- if a shoodru die on an unlucky day, his son must employ a bramhun to remove the evil effects of this circumstance ;-if he cut a pool or a well, he must pay a bramhun to consecrate it ;-if he dedicate to public uses a temple, or trees, he must do the same ;-at the time of an eclipse, the bramhun is employed and paid ;—on certain lunar days, the shoodru must present gifts to bramhuns. During the year, about forty ceremonies are performed, called vrutus, when the bramhuns are feasted, and reeive fees;-when a person supposes himself to be under he influence of an evil planet, he must call four bramhuns to ffer a sacrifice; a number of vows are made, on all which
occasions, bramhuns are employed and paid ;-at the birth of child, the worship of Shustee is performed, when bramhuns are feasted;-at the time of the small pox, a ceremony is performed by the bramhuns ;-they are paid for assisting the people to fast ;-to remove cutaneous disorders, the bramhuns pray to one of the goddesses, and receive a fee ;-bramhuns are employed daily to offer worship to the family god of the shoodru;-the farmer dares not reap his harvest without paying a bramhun to perform some ceremony ;—a tradesman cannot begin business without a fee to a bramhun ;—a fisherman cannot build a new boat, nor begin to fish in a spot which he has farmed, without a ceremony and a fee; nearly a hundred different festivals are held during the year, at which bramhuns are entertained, and, in some villages, feasts are celebrated at a hundred houses at once. At the house of a raja, at particular festivals, sometimes as many as 20,000 bramhuns are feasted. Instances are mentioned of 100,000 bramhuns having been assembled at one feast.
Among the bramhun casts, there are several degrees or orders. That called kooleenu is one indicating the highest merit, None could enter this order unless he was distinguished by meekness, learning, good report, &c. At the present time, the highest seat of honour is yielded to a kooleenu on all occasions, yet the supposed superiority of this order in natural or acquired talents, no where exists. The name of the order, however, still gives the bramhuns belonging to it great superiority among the lower orders of this cast.Thus, each kooleenu marries at least two wives :-one the daughter of a bramhun of his own order, and the other of a shrotriyu ;* the former he generally leaves at her father's, the other he takes to his own house. It is essential to the honour of a kooleenu, that he have one daughter, but by the birth of many daughters, he sinks in respect; hence he dreads more than other Hindoos the birth of daughters. Some inferior kooleenus marry many wives; it is said that some persons have a hundred and twenty; many have fifteen or twenty, and others forty or fifty each. Numbers procure a subsistence by this excessive polygamy: at their marriages they obtain large presents, and as often as they visit these wives, they receive presents from the father; and thus, having married into forty or fifty families, a kooleenu goes from house to house, and is fed, clothed, &c. Some old men, after the wedding, never see the female; others visit her once in three or four years. A respectable kooleenu never
* Lower order of bramhuns.
lives with the wife, who remains in the house of her parents; he sees her occasionally, as a friend rather than as a husband, and dreads to have offspring by her, as he thereby sinks in honour. Children born in the houses of their fathers in law, are never owned by the father. In consequence of this state of things, both the married and unmarried daughters of the kooleenus are plunged into an abyss of misery; and the inferior orders are now afraid of giving their daughters to these nobles among the bramhuns.
These customs are the cause of infinite evils; kooleenu married women, abandoned by their husbands, in hundreds of instances, live in adultery; in some cases, with the knowledge of their parents.* The houses of ill fame, at Calcutta, and other large towns, are filled with the daughters of kooleenu bramhuns and the husbands of these women have lately been found, to a most extraordinary extent, among the most notorious and dangerous dakaits.†
*Innumerable instances of the foetus in the womb being destroyed by these women, are well known among all the Hindoos. A kooleenu brambun assured me, that he had heard more than fifty women, daughters of kooleenus, confess these murders!! To remove my doubts, he referred me to an instance which took place in the village where he was born, when the woman was removed in the night to an adjoining village, till she had taken medicines, and destroyed the foetus. Her paramour and his friends were about to be seized, on a charge of murder, when the woman returned home, having recovered from the indisposition occasioned by the medicines she had taken. On making further inquiry into this subject, a friend, upon whose authority I can implicitly rely, assured me, that a very respectable and learned bramhun, who certainly was not willing to charge his countrymen with more vices than they possessed, told him, it was supposed, that a thousand of these abortions took place in Calcutta every month! This statement is doubtless exaggerated, but what an unutterably shocking idea does it give of the moral condition of the heathen part of Calcutta. The same brambun affirmed, that he did not believe there was a single Hindoo, male or female, in the large cities of Bengal, who did not violate the laws of chastity!-Many kooleenus retain Mussulman mistresses, without suffering in cast, although these irregularities are known to all the neighbours. The practice of keeping women of other casts, and of eating with women of ill-fame, is become very general among the bramhuns. A great proportion of the chief dakaits, (plunderers,) are bramhuns. I am informed, that in one day ten brambuns were once hanged at Dinagepore, as robbers, and I doubt not, the well known remark of Governor Holwell is, in substance, true: "During almost five years that we presided in the judicial cutchery court of Calcutta, never any murder or other atrocious crime came before us, but it was proved in the end a bramhun was at the bottom of it." Holwell's Hist. Events, vol. 2.
Formerly the bramhuns were employed in austere devotion and abstinence, their business being the worship of the gods-then they were supported by kings and princes, and it seems did not employ their hands in worldly labour. At the present time only a few are supported in this way, most of them being obliged to enter into all kinds of worldly employment for support; many of them are beggars, some steal, &c.
The cast called kshutriyu is said to have been created to protect the cattle, the earth, and the Bramhuns. This cast, as well as the third, called Voishyu has nearly disappeared, having sunk into the fourth order.
The fourth cast, shoodrus, is chiefly composed of the vilest and most degraded of the human race. They are not only by civil law rendered unfit to associate with other human beings in this world, but are denied the benefit of those means which are considered necessary to insure happiness in that which is to come. By the rules of the shastrus, or civil law, bramhuns are prohibited from giving spiritual counsel to a shoodru, or to inform of the legal expiation for his sins.
There are many sub-divisions among the shoodrus, some of which are as effectual barriers to mutual intercourse, as the distinctions between the bramhuns and shoodrus. Each of these classes follow distinct employments.
1st class. The first class voidyus, are the professed, though not the exclusive medical men among the Bengalees. Some of them can read.
2d class. The second is called the writer cast. Some of this class also understand medicine, and can read.
3d class are druggists. This is a respectable class. Some of them are visited by the bramhuns.
4th class, or brass founders. More than fifty different articles are made for sale by this class.
5th class. This class are shell-ornament makers. They make and sell the ornaments worn by the ladies on their wrists, &c.
6th class. Husbandmen. In general the farmers obtain a bare maintenance; frequently it takes the whole crop to pay their rent, in which families are left with no subsistence, and are turned out to beg or perish.
7th class. Barbers. The Hindoos, even the poorest, never shave themselves, or cut their own nails. Shaving is never done in the house, or shop, but sometimes under a small shed, or tree, very often in the street, or road.