Billeder på siden





IN perusing the historical books of the Old Testament, it is impossible for a reader acquainted with the East to be otherwise than powerfully interested and impressed with the numerous points of resemblance between the detailed facts given in the sacred writings, and his own experiences of the manners and usages of the people among whom he has journeyed or sojourned; and in some instances the descriptions, so earnestly yet so simply and truthfully given by the inspired penmen, seem but as graphic portraitures of scenes of which the reader has been himself an eyewitness, so fresh are they, and so unchanged is the aspect of Eastern manners.

This observation will particularly apply to the second chapter of the Book of Joshua, where we read of the concealment of the spies by the woman Rahab, whose house was on the walls of Jericho, having a flat roof, on which she dried the stalks of flax, beneath which were hid the men of Joshua. In every walled town of India may such a house be seen with its small window looking over the open country, and every fact in the narrative given, the 'shutting of the gate,' when it was dark, a precaution always observed in Eastern cities; the visit of Rahab to the spies, when 'she came up unto them upon the roof,' by means of stairs always communicating from the lower rooms of Eastern houses with the flat roofs, on which the inhabitants lay cattle forage to dry in the hot sunshine; the letting the men down by a cord through the window,' the one used being probably the cord with which Rahab let down her water-vessels morning and evening into the neighbouring well, until she bound the scarlet line in the window (scarlet in the East being a symbol of triumph and rejoicing), affords a graphic portraiture of a scene, which, if re-enacted in our time, would in every particular be in strict accordance with the manners of the day.

While alluding to the symbolic colour of the line directed to be placed in the window of Rahab by the spies, we may observe that this same scarlet is always used in India, both as flags to the temples and as personal exhibitions of security and joy, as


[ocr errors]



seen in the habit of the people to scatter cinnabar, during the Feast of the Hooli, and to wear necklaces of scarlet silk or worsted thread on all great Hindoo festivals, so that a scarlet thread would be very speedily procurable, even, as we see it was, with these spies; and I would also draw remark to the comparison that may be made, as concerns the colour blue. In Num. xv. 38, Moses is commanded to direct the children of Israel, that they put upon the fringe of the borders a riband of blue' as a memorial: upon the golden altar of the tabernacle 'they shall spread a cloth of blue,' we read in Num. iv. 11; and the cloth covering of the tabernacle was wholly of blue,' as we see in v. 4. With the natives of the East blue is the colour of protection. On first visiting Sindh, I enquired why the favourite mares of the Belooche chiefs had necklaces of blue beads; I was told, to protect them from 'the evil eye.' My water-drawer always saw that the one blue ball was securely tied round the throat of his little bullock, and a Hummall in my service, in India, who had been a sufferer from a stroke of the land-wind, at once tied a blue cotton thread round his ancle, on which he said the evil spirit that tormented him would be obliged to fly. The turquoise stone is often worn, in consequence of its colour, as a protection to the wearer against disease and evil influences.

In Josh. xxi. we read of the eight-and-forty cities given by lot unto the Levites, and with all we see the mention of their 'suburbs.' The suburbs of Eastern cities form one of their most remarkable characteristics. It is not only that they are collections or extensions of buildings beyond the walls, but that persons very important for number and utility reside there, who could not by reason of uncleanness be admitted to the city. The suburbs of the city of Jooneer, in Western India, probably resembled the suburbs of these cities of the Levites. Families of 'Mars' were there, in little huts formed of bamboos, over which were cast garments, turban cloths, and waistbands; these 'Mars' eat of things unclean, and of offal such as was commanded by Moses to be burned by the children of Israel without the camp, as we read in Lev. viii. 17. Lepers were in the suburbs of Jooneer, in separation from their fellows, as we read in Lev. xiii. 46, he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.' There were also Dairs, outcast Hindoos, whose office it was to remove the carcases of beasts, an office rendering them unclean, as we read was so with the Levites in Lev. xi. 39, And if any beast of which ye may eat die, he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even.' And we know, that with the Jewish cities of old, as with the Hindoo of the present, cattle, bullocks, goats, asses, and camels abounded, people doubtless were set

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


apart, as these Dairs are to remove the carcases of those that died, that uncleanness should not fall upon the people. The hide of an animal was unclean to the Jews, as it also is to the Hindoos, who, to avoid its contact, use silken reins and slippers of cloth : those who slay beasts allowed to be eaten by Moslems, also live in the suburbs, as well as dancing girls, Kalatnees, or gipsies of the East, and, in short, all persons, whose indiscriminate intercourse with others renders them unclean. When the character of an eastern city is considered, its crowded houses, narrow streets, and extreme heat, these rules, as sanitary measures, seem remarkably proper, and from what I have said of the suburbs of Jooneer, the reader will consider it probable, that without the walls of the forty-eight cities of the Levites, a similar population was gathered.


[ocr errors]

In Ruth iii. 4 we read of Naomi's instruction to Ruth, touching her behaviour to her kinsman, so that when Boaz laid down on the threshing-floor, Ruth should go in and uncover his feet.' Natives of the East care little for sleeping accommodation, but rest, where weariness overcomes them, lying on the ground. They are, however, careful to cover their feet, and to do this have a chudda or sheet of coarse cloth, that they tuck under the feet, and drawing it up over the body suffer it to cover the face and head. An Oriental seldom changes his position, and we are told Boaz did so because he was afraid;' the covering of the feet in ordinary cases is consequently not disturbed. I have frequently marked the singular effect of this custom of sleeping when I have been riding out of a native city before dawn; figures with their feet so covered lying like monumental effigies on the pathway, and in the open verandahs of the houses, a practice at once showing the necessity of closing the city gates when it is dark, as we read was the case at Jericho in Josh. ii., where probably the same habit obtained. Neither men nor women alter their dress at night, and the labouring classes or travellers, in a serai, where there are men, women and children, rest together, the men with their feet covered, the women, wrapped in their veils or sarees.

[ocr errors]

In ver. 15 we read, that Boaz said to Ruth, after she had risen up, before 'one could know another' (a very usual habit in the East, where, before dawn, from every house in a native city, the song of the grinders may be heard, the women being engaged in grinding the corn to make cakes upon the hearth), Bring the veil thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her.' The veil of the women of the East is a piece of brightly coloured linen or silk, many yards in length, with borders at either side, and embroidery at each end. The end of this veil is secured upon


the waist, and then wound many times round the body, until perhaps six yards in length only remains; part of this is ingeniously folded into a number of full plaits that fall gracefully from the waist to the feet, and the rest cast over the head, where it forms a partial veil, and is regulated at the wearer's pleasure. The women usually carry grain from one apartment to another in this part of the saree, uncovering the head to do so, and I have very frequently seen them apply it to the same purpose as a winnowing basket; so that the using it to convey the measures of barley' to her mother-in-law by Ruth, is exactly the same use that the woman of India, did she require it, would apply her veil to in our times.

[ocr errors]

In 1 Sam. x. 27, we read, 'But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? and they despised him and brought him no presents.' The bringing presents in the East is ever a token of respect. It has occurred to me, when associated with the representatives of the British Government in India, to observe this, under many varieties. When I arrived, as a visitor to the court of the Nuwaub of Junagarh, the chelah, or favourite servant of the Prince, fully armed in Rajpoot fashion came to the serai, in which we lodged, accompanied by a train of servants bearing salvers, on each of which folded in a square of linen cloth, was a boddice, a saree, and a piece of fine muslin, sent by each of the ladies of the hareem. Meer Alli Moorad of Khyrpoor, in Upper Sindh, when I arrived in his dominions, sent me a horse fully caparisoned in Belooche fashion, which, according to courtly etiquette, was placed for a day in our stables and then returned. Princes usually offer a pair of Cashmere shawls as 'presents,' a Rajpoot offers a hookah, and a Belooche a sword. The ordinary merchants of the city of Shikarpoor came to the British agency, followed by a servant bearing a salver, with kismus (raisins), almonds, and sugar-candy, the whole covered with a handkerchief of English printed cotton; and on leaving Goozerat, the Nuwaub of Cambay sent me a tray, covered with sweetmeats, bottles of rose-water and attar, and in the centre a square of rich kinkaub, the produce of the looms of Aurungabad. It will be seen, therefore, that the sending presents to those who are the objects of respect is universal among the higher classes, and it is equally so among the poor. We read in 1 Sam. xvi. 20, that Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul.' Thus did the Shepherd of Bethlehem bring presents to the king of Israel. In travelling in India, our tents pitched in the vicinity of a small village inhabited entirely by cultivators, the halting place being selected by the servants for the convenience of procuring water, butter, milk, and firewood,




firewood, the patell or head man of the place scarcely allowed us to dismount from our horses before he appeared, followed by his servant, bearing under his arm a young kid of the goats as a present to us as strangers, this being considered necessary before he could offer his services to procure that which was required.

[ocr errors]

In ver. 18 we read of the varied accomplishments of David, the young shepherd of Bethlehem; he was cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war.' While on the borders of Beloochistan I had frequent occasion to remark this somewhat singular combination of character. The Belooches, armed to the teeth with sword, shield, and matchlock, will bring their flocks from pasture to pasture, tending them as shepherds; they will again form into bodies, and make fierce attacks on towns and villages, or join the armies of independent chiefs, each Belooche 'a mighty valiant man, and a man of war.' And at midnight, by their fires of crackling thorns upon the desert, while the moon shines brightly in the canopy of heaven, these wild Belooches, each man with his sitarr, formed of a gourd strung with wires, will play with a 'cunning' hand, strains of peculiar melody, singing to them traditions of their land, and histories of the mountain chiefs. During the Caubool campaign, and the excitement of the lower country, not an attack was made, not a body of men cut up, not a European officer slain, but the incident was chronicled by Belooche bards, and sung over their watch-fires, so that we see the accomplishments of David were such as might be found to exist in a shepherd's son of the present day in the East, and would be equally likely to attract the attention of the courtiers of a prince, who were anxious to soothe his distempered mind.

In 1 Sam. xvii. 45, we read that David said to the Philistines, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield.' These are the arms common in the East. I have seen an Affghan not unlike what we may suppose the defier of the hosts of Israel to have been, a warrior six feet two in height, with masses of curling hair falling on his shoulders, and a turban of enormous size, heavy enough to resist any sabre cut. His arms,

a stone.'

a spear with a long and tough bamboo handle, a Damascus blade cased in green Caubool leather, embroidered with verses of the Koran, and a shield of rhinoceros hide, bossed with gold; and thus armed did Goliah boast; but in 1 Sam. xvii. 50, we read, that David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling, and with The shepherd and cultivating class in India are particularly expert in the use of the sling and stone. The shepherds use them to scare away dogs that would worry the young kids, and the cultivators to ward off the devastations of birds on their ripe grain. Immediately before the time of harvest, in each field, a temporary

« ForrigeFortsæt »