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A RESIDENCE IN INDIA,
THIS is the only work in our language which contains such
a popular and comprehensive view of the scenery of India, and the manners of the inhabitants, as result from the first impressions, while the interest of novelty is alive. The writer went to India in 1809. She visited, Bombay, Poonah, Ceylon, Madras, and Calcutta, and returned to England in 1811. Her journal has been favourably received by the public.
• AFTER a voyage from England,' says our authoress, of 20 weeks, we landed at Bombay, on the 26th of May, 1809, in a thick fog, which presaged the coming on of the rainy-season in this part of India. On the new bunder, or pier, we found palanquins waiting to convey us from the shore. These palanquins are litters, in which one may either lie down or sit upright, with windows and sliding doors: the modern ones are little carriages, without wheels; those anciently used were of a different form, and consisted of a bed or sofa, over which was an arch just high enough to admit of sitting upright; it was decorated with gold and silver bells and fringes, and had a curtain to draw occasionally over the whole. The palanquin-bearers are here called hamauls (a word signifying
carrier); they for the most part wear nothing but a turban, and a cloth wrapped round the loins, a degree of nakedness which does not shock one, owing to the dark colour of the skin, which, as it is unusual to European eyes, has the effect of dress.
* Leaving the bunder we crossed the esplanade, which presented a gay and interesting scene, being crowded with people in carriages, on horseback, and on foot. A painter might have studied all the varieties of attitude and motion in the picturesque figures of the koolies (porters) employed in washing at their appropriate tanks, or wells, which are numerous on the esplanade, each tank being surrounded by broad stones, where groups of men and women are continually employed in beating the linen, while the better sort of native women, in their graceful costume, reminding one of antique sculptures, are employed in drawing, filling, or carrying water from the neighbouring wells. The Hindoo women wear a short boddice with half sleeves, wbich fastens behind, and is generally made of coloured brocade. The shalie or sarie, a long piece of coloured silk or cotton, is wrapped round the waist in form of a petticoat, which leaves part of one leg bare, while the other is covered to the ankle with long and graceful folds, gathered up in front, so as to leave one end of the shalie to cross the breast, and form a drapery, which is sometimes thrown over the bead as a veil. The mussulman and Parsee women have nearly the same clothing, in addition to which they wear long loose trowsers. The hair is drawn back from the face, where the roots are often stained red, and fastened in a knot behind. The hands and feet of the native women are in general delicately shaped, and are covered with rings and bangles, or bracelets, which sometimes conceal the arm as far as the elbow, and the leg as far as the calf. As the food, lodging, and dress of the lower class of natives cost very little, it is common to see both the men and women adorned with massy rings and chains of gold and silver, round the necks, arms, waists, and legs, and the toes and fingers decked with fine filigree rings, while the ears and nose are
hung with pearls or precious stones. The vanity of parents sometimes leads them to dress their children, even while infants, in this manner, which affords a temptation, not always resisted, to murder these helpless creatures for the sake of their ornaments or joys.
On entering the Black Town, which is built in a cocoa nut wood, I could not help remarking the amazing populousness of this small island; the streets appear so crowded with men, women, and children, that it seems impossible for the quiet bullock hackrays, or native carriages, to get along without doing mischief; much less the furiously driving coaches of the rich natives, who pride themselves upon the speed of their horses, which are more remarkable for beauty and for swiftness than for strength. I was informed that Bombay contains upwards of 200,000 inhabitants. The Europeans are as nothing in this number, the Parsees from 6 to 8,000, the mussulmans nearly the same number, and the remainder are Portuguese and Hindoos, with the exception of about 3 or 4,000 Jews, who long passed in Bombay for a sect of Mahometans, governed by a magistrate called the cazy of Israel; they willingly eat and converse with the mussulmans. A number of them are embodied among the marine sepoys, but most of them are low traders. The dwellings of the rich natives are surrounded by virandas, equally necessary to guard against the intemperate heat of the sun and the monsoon rains; they are generally painted in flowers and leaves of a green or red colour; those of the Hindoos have usually some of the fables of their mythology represented on their walls. The houses are necessarily of great extent, because, if a man has 20 sons, they all continue to live under the same roof even when married : and uncles, brothers, sons, and grandsons, remain together till the increase of numbers actually forces a part of the family to seek a new dwelling. The lower classes content themselves with small huts, mostly of clay, and roofed with cadjan, a mat made of the leaves of the Palmyra, or cocoa nut tree, plaited together. Some of these huts are so small, that they only admit of a man's sitting upright in them,
and barely shelter his feet when he lies down. There is usually a small garden round each house, containing a few herbs and vegetables, a plantain tree, and a cocoa nut or two.
• As there is but one tavern in Bombay, and as that is by no means fit for the reception of ladies, the hospitality of the British inhabitants is always exercised towards new-comers, till they can provide a place of residence for themselves. We have the good fortune to be under the hospitable roof of sir James and lady Mackintosh, at Tarala, about three miles from the fort and town of Bombay. Sir James possesses the best library that ever doubled the cape. It is arranged in a large room like the cell of a temple, surrounded with a viranda inclosed by Venetian shutters, which admit and exclude the light and air at pleasure. As the apartment is at the top of the house, which is built on an eminence, it commands on all sides charming views; in short, it combines all the agremens that one can look for in a place of studious retirement, and ve feel its value doubly from having been so long confined to the cabin of a frigate.
August 10th.--The rainy season, which began in the middle of May, still continues, but we have sometimes intervals of several days of dry fine weather, so that we have been able to visit most of the villages within the island of Bombay. The first walk we took was to Mazagong, a dirty Portuguese village, putting in its claim to Christianity chiefly from the immense numbers of pigs kept there. It is beautifully situated on the shore between two hills, on one of which is Mazagong house, a leading mark into the harbour. It is interesting to the admirers of sentimental writings, as the house from which Sterne's Eliza eloped, and perhaps may call forth the raptures of some future pensive travellers, as the sight of Anjengo does that of the abbé Raynal, when he remembers “ that it is the birth-place of Eliza.” Mazagong has, however, more solid claims to attention; it has an excellent dock for small ships, and is adorned with two tolerably handsome Romish churches; but its celebrity in the east is owing to its mangoes, which are certainly the best fruit I ever tasted. Vol. IV.
Our next excursion was to Sion, nine miles from the fort of Bombay, and at the opposite extremity of the island. We drove through a country like an English park, where I first saw the banian, or Indian fig tree. It'is a large spreading tree, from the branches of which long fibres descend to the ground, and there taking root become new trunks, and thus spread over a very great space. The banian is sacred, and is usually to be found near the pagodas, as the Europeans call the Hindoo temples. I have seen the natives walk round it in token of respect, with their hands joined, and their eyes fixed on the ground; they also sprinkle it with red and yellow dust, and strew flowers before it; and it is common to see at its root stones sculptured with the figures of some of the minor Hindoo gods.
• The fort of Bombay is said to be too large to be defended, if ever an European enemy should effect a landing on the island, and no part of it is bomb proof'; besides which, the native houses within the walls are closely crowded together, very high, and mostly built of wood. The fort is dirty, hot, and disagreeable. The most important and interesting object in the fort is the dock yard, where a new dock is nearly finished, consisting of two basins, in the inner one of which there is already a 74 gun ship on the stocks. The old dock is still serviceable, though much out of repair, and too small to admit a large ship; it was found a few inches too short to receive the Blenheim, so that she could not receive the repairs she required previous to her leaving India. The new dock is said to be complete and excellent in its kind; it is the work of captain Cooper of the company's engineers. There is a steam engine for pumping it dry, the only one on the island. Bombay is the only place in the east where the rise of tide is sufficient to construct docks on a large scale, the highest springtides having never been known to be above 17 feet, and rarely more than 14. The harbour is filled with vessels from all nations, and of all shapes, but the largest and finest of the foreigners are the Arabs. Our trade with them consists in horses, pearls, coffee, gums of various kinds, honey, and ghee, which is butter clarified and put into leathern jars.