A Hindoo village is as inflammable as touchwood. The houses are generally built of grass walls, connected with thin battens of bamboo. The roof is bamboo and thatch. Thatch fences surround all the little courtyards. Leaves, refuse, cowdung fuel, and wood are piled up round every hut. At each door is an open air fire, which smoulders all day. A stray puff of wind makes an inquisitive visit round the corner, and before one can half realise the catastrophe, the village is on fire. Then each only thinks of his own goods; there is no combined effort to stay the flames. In the hot west winds of March, April, and May, these fires are of very frequent occurrence. In Bhaugulpore, I have seen, from my verandah, three villages on fire at one and the same time. In some parts of Oudh, among the sal forests, village after village is burnt down annually, and I have seen the same catastrophe visit the same village several times in the course of one year. These fires arise from pure carelessness, sheer apathy, and laziness.
Sanitary precautions too are very insufficient; practically there are none. Huge unsightly water-holes, filled during the rains with the drainage of all the dung-heaps and mounds of offal and filth that abound in the village, swelter under the hot summer sun. They get covered with a rank green scum, and if their inky depths be stirred, the foulest and most fearful odours issue forth. In these filthy pools the villagers often perform their ablutions; they do not scruple to drink the putrid water, which is no doubt a hotbed and regular nursery for fevers, and choleraic and other disorders.
Many home readers are but little acquainted with the Indian village system, and I shall devote a chapter to the description of a Hindoo village, with its functionaries, its institutions, its inhabitants, and the more marked of their customs and avocations.
Description of a native village.—Village functionaries.—The barber. —Bathing habits.—The village well.—The school.—The children.—The village bazaar.—The landowner and his dwelling.—The ‘Putwarrie’ or village accountant.—The blacksmith.—The ‘Punchayiet’ or village jury system.—Our legal system in India.—Remarks on the administration of justice.
A typical village in Behar is a heterogeneous collection of thatched huts, apparently set down at random—as indeed it is, for every one erects his hut wherever whim or caprice leads him, or wherever he can get a piece of vacant land. Groves of feathery bamboos and broad-leaved plumy-looking plantains almost conceal the huts and buildings. Several small orchards of mango surround the village; the roads leading to and from it are merely well-worn cattle tracks,—in the rains a perfect quagmire, and in the hot weather dusty, and confined between straggling hedges of aloe or prickly pear. These hedges are festooned with