A native village continued.—The watchman or ’chowkeydar.’—The temple.—Brahmins.—Idols.—Religion.—Humility of the poorer classes. —Their low condition.—Their apathy.—The police.—Their extortions and knavery.—An instance of police rascality.—Corruption of native officials.—The Hindoo unfit for self-government.
One more important functionary we have yet to notice, the watchman or chowkeydar. He is generally a Doosadh, or other low caste man, and perambulates the village at night, at intervals uttering a loud cry or a fierce howl, which is caught up and echoed by all the chowkeydars of the neighbouring villages. It is a weird, strange sound, cry after cry echoing far away, distance beyond distance, till it fades into faintness. At times it is not an unmusical cry, but when he howls out close to your tent, waking you from your first dreamless sleep, you do not feel it to be so. The chowkeydar has to see that no thieves enter the village by night. He protects the herds and property of the villagers. If a theft or crime occurs, he must at once report it to the nearest police station. If you lose your way by night, you shout out for the nearest chowkeydar, and he is bound to pass you on to the next village. These men get a small gratuity from government, but the villagers also pay them a small sum, which they assess according to individual means. The chowkeydar is generally a ragged, swarthy fellow with long matted hair, a huge iron-bound staff, and always a blue puggra. The blue is his official badge. Sometimes he has a brass badge, and carries a sword, a curved, blunt weapon, the handle of which is so small that scarcely an Englishman’s hand would be found to fit it. It is more for show than use, and in thousands of cases, it has become so fixed in the scabbard that it cannot be drawn.