In my last I alluded to the ‘third watch’; it will now, perhaps, be necessary to explain the divisions of time, as observed by the Mussulmauns of Hindoostaun.
The day is divided into four equal parts, or watches, denominated purrhs; as, first purrh, second purrh, &c. The night is also divided into four purrhs, each of which is subdivided into ghurries (hours), varying in number with the changes of season; the longest days require eight ghurries to one purrh; the shortest, only six. The same division is observed for the night. The day is reckoned from the earliest dawn to the last decline of light:—there is very little twilight in the Upper Provinces of India.
By this method of calculating time, you will understand that they have no occasion for those useful, correct, mechanical time-keepers, in general use in Europe; but they have a simple method of measuring the hour, by means of a brass vessel, with a small aperture at the bottom, which, being floated on a tank or large pan of water, one drop to a second of time forces its way through the aperture into the floating vessel, on which marks are made outside and in, to direct the number of ghurries by the depth of water drawn into it; and in some places, a certain division of time is marked by the sinking of the vessel. Each hour, as it passes, is struck by the man on duty with a hammer on a broad plate of bell-metal, suspended to the branch of a tree, or to a rail;—the gong of an English showman at the country fairs is the exact resemblance of the metal plates used in India for striking the hours on, and must, I think, have been introduced into England from the East.
The durwaun (gate-keeper), or the chokeedhars (watchmen), keep the time. In most establishments the watchmen are on guard two at a time, and are relieved at every watch, day and night. On these men devolves the care of observing the advance of time by the floating vessel, and striking the hour, in which duty they are required to be punctual, as many of the Mussulmauns’ services of prayer are scrupulously performed at the appointed hours, which will be more particularly explained when their creed is brought forward in a future Letter; and now, after this digression, I will pursue my subject.
When a member of the Mussulmaun family dies, the master of the house mourns forty days, during which period the razor is laid aside. In the same manner the devout Mussulmaun mourns every year for his martyred Emaums; this, however, is confined to the most religious men; the general practice of the many is to throw off their mourning garb and restore the razor to its duties on the third day after the observances of Mahurrum have terminated.
It is stated, on the authority of ancient Arabian writers, on whose veracity all Mussulmauns rely, that the head of Hosein being taken to Yuzeed, one of his many wives solicited and received the head, which she gave to the family of the martyred leader, who were prisoners to the King, and that they contrived to have it conveyed to Kraabaallah, where it was deposited in the same grave with his body on the fortieth day after the battle.