Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official eBook

William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 897 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.

CHAPTER 30

Haunted Villages.

On the 16th[1] we came on nine miles to Amabai, the frontier village of the Jhansi territory, bordering upon Datiya,[2] where I had to receive the farewell visits of many members of the Jhansi parties, who came on to have a quiet opportunity to assure me that, whatever may be the final order of the Supreme Government, they will do their best for the good of the people and the state; for I have always considered Jhansi among the native states of Bundelkhand as a kind of oasis in the desert, the only one in which a man can accumulate property with the confidence of being permitted by its rulers freely to display and enjoy it.  I had also to receive the visit of messengers from the Raja of Datiya, at whose capital we were to encamp the next day, and, finally, to take leave of my amiable little friend the Sarimant, who here left me on his return to Sagar, with a heavy heart I really believe.

We talked of the common belief among the agricultural classes of villages being haunted by the spirits of ancient proprietors whom it was thought necessary to propitiate.  ‘He knew’, he said, ’many instances where these spirits were so very froward that the present heads of villages which they haunted, and the members of their little communities, found it almost impossible to keep them in good humour; and their cattle and children were, in consequence, always liable to serious accidents of one kind or another.  Sometimes they were bitten by snakes, sometimes became possessed by devils, and, at others, were thrown down and beaten most unmercifully.  Any person who falls down in an epileptic fit is supposed to be thrown down by a ghost, or possessed by a devil.[3] They feel little of our mysterious dread of ghosts; a sound drubbing is what they dread from them, and he who hurts himself in one of the fits is considered to have got it.  ’As for himself, whenever he found any one of the villages upon his estate haunted by the spirit of an old “patel” (village proprietor), he always made a point of giving him a neat little shrine, and having it well endowed and attended, to keep him in good humour; this he thought was a duty that every landlord owed to his tenants.’  Ramchand, the pundit, said that ’villages which had been held by old Gond (mountaineer) proprietors were more liable than any other to those kinds of visitations; that it was easy to say what village was and was not haunted, but often exceedingly difficult to discover to whom the ghost belonged.  This once discovered, his nearest surviving relation was, of course, expected to take steps to put him to rest; but’, said he, ’it is wrong to suppose that the ghost of an old proprietor must be always doing mischief—­he is often the best friend of the cultivators, and of the present proprietor too, if he treats him with proper respect; for he will not allow the people of any other village to encroach upon their boundaries with impunity, and they will be saved all the expense and annoyance of a reference to the “adalat” (judicial tribunals) for the settlement of boundary disputes.  It will not cost much to conciliate these spirits, and the money is generally well laid out.’

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Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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