The strict seclusion which forms so conspicuous a feature in the female society of the Mussulmauns in India, renders the temporary migration of ladies from their domicile an event of great interest to each individual of the zeenahnah, whether the mistress or her many dependants be considered.
The superior classes seldom quit their habitation but on the most important occasions; they, therefore, make it a matter of necessity to move out in such style as is most likely to proclaim their exalted station in life. I cannot, perhaps, explain this part of my subject better than by giving a brief description of the suwaarree (travelling retinue) of the Paadshah Begum which passed my house at Lucknow on the occasion of her visit to the Durgah of Huzerut Abas Ali Kee, after several years strictly confining herself to the palace.
By Paadshah is meant ’King’;—Begum, ‘Lady.’ The first wife of the King is distinguished by this title from every other he may have married; it is equivalent to that of ‘Queen’ in other countries. With this title the Paadshah Begum enjoys also many other marks of royal distinction; as, for instance, the dunkah (kettle-drums) preceding her suwaarree; a privilege, I believe, never allowed by the King to any other female of his family. The embroidered chattah (umbrella); the afthaadah (embroidered sun); and chowries of the peacock’s feathers, are also out-of-door distinctions allowed only to this lady and the members of the royal family. But to my description:—
First, in the Paadshah Begum’s suwaarree I observed a guard of cavalry soldiers in full dress, with their colours unfurled; these were followed by two battalions of infantry, with their bands of music and colours. A company of spearmen on foot, in neat white dresses and turbans, their spears of silver, rich and massive. Thirty-six men in white dresses and turbans, each having a small triangular flag of crimson silk, on which were embroidered the royal arms (two fish and a dirk of a peculiar shape). The staffs of these flags are of silver, about three feet long; in the lower part of the handle a small bayonet is secreted, which can be produced at will by pressure on a secret spring. Next followed a full band of music, drums, fifes, &c.; then the important dunkah, which announces to the public the lady’s rank: she is enclosed within the elevated towering chundole, on each side of which the afthaadah and chowries are carried by well-dressed men, generally confidential servants, appointed to this service.
The chundole is a conveyance resembling a palankeen, but much larger and more lofty; it is, in fact, a small silver room, six feet long, five broad, and four feet high, supported by the aid of four silver poles on the shoulders of twenty bearers. These bearers are relieved every quarter of a mile by a second set in attendance: the two sets change alternately to the end of the journey. The bearers are dressed in a handsome royal livery of white calico