A fair had been held at Lucknow one afternoon, not immediately within our view, but the holiday folks passed our house on the road to and from the scene of action. This fair or mayllah is visited by all ranks and classes of Natives; but it is strictly a Hindoo festival annually kept up in remembrance of the celebrated Kornea, of Hindoo mythologic celebrity, who according to their tradition, when but a child, on a certain day killed with his slender arm a great tyrant, the giant Khaunce. Had there ever existed a suspicion that the Hindoos sprang from any of the tribes of Israel, I should have imagined the event they celebrate might have reference to the act of David, who with his single arm destroyed Goliath of Gath. This, however, can hardly be supposed, although the similarity is remarkably striking.
The figure of Khaunce is made up of bamboo and paper, representing a human being of gigantic stature, and bearing a most fierce countenance, with some certain appendages, as horns, tail, &c., to render the figure more disgusting. It is placed near the bank of the river Goomtie, in a conspicuous situation, for the wonder and admiration of some, the terror of the weak, and the satisfaction of the believers in the fabled story of Kornea and his supposed supernatural power.
Kornea is represented by a little boy, dressed in costly apparel, who is conveyed in grand procession, seated on an elephant, and surrounded by attendants on horseback, with bands of music and a multitude of followers, through the principal streets of the city to the chosen spot where Khaunce is placed to be attacked by the child.
When the farce is properly prepared for the attack, the child, I am told,—for I have never seen the ceremony,—takes aim from his well-ornamented bow, and with a single arrow sends the monstrous giant into the river, whilst the shouts of the multitude declare the victory of Kornea, and the destruction of the enemy to the repose of mankind. The figure, I should have remarked, is made up of parts merely placed on each other, so that the force of an arrow is sufficient to dislodge the lofty erection as readily as a pack of cards in a mimic castle may be levelled by a breath. The mayllah concludes when the floating members of the figure have glided with the stream out of sight.
A party of poor weak-minded mortals, pedestrians, but by their dress respectable people, returning from this day’s mayllah when the evening was well advanced, suddenly halted near my house; my attention was soon aroused by violent screams, and exclamations of ’Seize her! seize her! she is eating my heart!’ accompanied by all those indications of fear and pain, that did not fail to excite my sympathy; for I could not comprehend what was the matter and imagined the poor man had been wounded by the hand of an assassin.