« AnteriorContinua »
I have frequently visited this place since, and upon each visit, I have perceived wonderful improvement throughout its extent, though the public buildings are yet very insignificant. But, I believe, the Mharattas were never much famed for elegance of taste, or yet for the cultivation of the fine arts; and when we consider their general character, and their declining state, it is scarcely probable that they will ever arrive at any distinguished eminence in arts or science. It was upon my third visit to Poonah, when the beloved Mhadarow, a most promising young Peshwa, died, and left the sovereignty of his kingdom to his weak, and despicable brother, Narran-Row.
And at that memorable period, I saw their uncle, the unfortunate Ragobah, released from his imprisonment, at the dying request of Mhadarow; but he was, alas, too soon re-conducted to the same miserable abode, by the young sovereign. Though, perhaps, I ought not to lament this treachery and ingratitude of Narran. Row, 'as it led to the loss of his kingdom and life; for the English espousing the cause of Ragobah, produced such important revolutions at the Mharatta court, that finally put them in possession of those valuable and fertile provinces, and they have ever since remained in the possession of the British.
I deem that same visit to Poonah, one of the most fortunate events of my life, for I had there an opportunity of witnessing one of those dread. ful customs, so celebrated, and so frequent, among the Hindoos. I mean the ceremony of a widow burning herself upon the funeral pile of her deceased lord.
The beautiful and all-accomplished princess, and widow of the departed Mhadarow, was firmly resolved upon this melancholy and shocking sacrifice. Not all the prayers, the intreaties, and tears of her dearest friends, and most beloved relations were of any avail, in disuading the devoted fair one, from the gratification of so exemplary a mark of love and veneration for him who had possessed all her heart, and all her worth.
I have, since during my travels, seen many of these affecting ceremonies, but I was never witness to any so solemn as the sacrifice of this ex. quisitely beautiful, and young widow, of one of the most powerful sovereigns in the world,
Notwithstanding the various reasons that are
alleged, in support of this extraordinary custom, it is certain that the Hindoo ladies of high rank, submit to it, and even ardently engage in it, from what they conceive to be a nice sense of honour, and convincing proof of conjugal affection.
They are, moreover, taught by the devout Brahmins, to believe, that they shall immediately be united to their departed husbands, in the mansions of eternal joy and rest, there to dwell in everlasting bliss.
While the amiable Mhadarow was yet languishing upon the bed of sickness, he foresaw the danger of his lovely consort sacrificing herself upon his funeral shrine; and in order, as much as possible, to prevent her from taking so fatal a resolution, he not only conjured her, in the most pathetic manner, to prolong a life that would be of such value to his people; but, in order to induce her to live, and to dispense happiness to her fellow.creatures, he bequeathed to her an immense fortune, consisting in money and jewels, and also gave her the supreme command of a very rich and populous tract of country.
But all these riches and accumulation of arbitrary power, but ill compensated the lovely tained in the death of her amiable and much loved husband. To those whose feelings have been tenderly fostered and finely attuned, and who have experienced the strength of those ties that bind an attachment founded upon true affection, all outward considerations or attractions do not even for one moment draw the attention of the soul when fixed upon the distruction of its dearest objects. When the heart is torn asunder by the loss of some tenderly beloved object, who has perhaps constituted all the earthly happiness of that being. No cool reasoning, nor trifling charm, or consideration can avert the impervious gloom of melancholy that shrouds every remaining view of life. Those are the moments, perhaps, of all others, when the desponding mind can be most benefited by the salient balm and comforts of true religion.
But even here the influence operates very differently upon different minds. The eternal Truths of Christianity teach the humble followers of Jesus, to submit to the wise dispensation of their Almighty God, without regret, and to bear up against their temporary sorrow in cheerful obedience 10 His will. But the more ignorant Hindoos are taught by their religious instructors
immediately and voluntarily to follow the spirit of the deceased mortal to the mansions of eternal rest under the idea that it is not only pleasing to the great Allah, but also that they shall be instantly re-united to part no more.
When we consider that this belief is so carefully instilled into their minds while very young, and that the conduct of thousands, as well as every religious form and ceremony, that can enforce it, is perpetually occurring to their view and consideration, during their growth to maturity, and moreover that they are never taught one religious tenet that can at all contribute towards rendering their mental vision more clear; we shall not be so much surprised at these dreadful sacrifices,
No considerations now contributed to support the drooping spirits of the beauteous princess, but the firm resolution she had taken to quit her lovely tenement of clay, in order to fly on the wings of immortality to the presence of her dear departed lord,
She divided her vast wealth amongst her nu., merous and afflicted relations, and distributed her costly ornaments amongst her female friends;