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.

13.  December, 1835.

14.  This theory is probably incorrect.  See ante, Chapter 14, note 7, on formation of black soil.

15.  Nilgai, or ‘blue-bull’, a huge, heavy antelope of bovine form, common in India, scientifically named Portax pictus.  By ‘antelope’ the author means the common antelope, or black buck, the Antilope bezoartica, or cervicapra of naturalists.  The spotted deer, or ‘chital’, a very handsome creature, is the Axis maculata of Gray, the Cervus axis of other zoologists.

CHAPTER 33

‘Bhumiawat.’

Though no doubt very familiar to our ancestors during the Middle Ages, this is a thing happily but little understood in Europe at the present day.  ‘Bhumiawat’, in Bundelkhand, signifies a war or fight for landed inheritance, from ‘bhum’, the land, earth, &c.; ‘bhumia’, a landed proprietor.

When a member of the landed aristocracy, no matter how small, has a dispute with his ruler, he collects his followers, and levies indiscriminate war upon his territories, plundering and burning his towns and villages, and murdering their inhabitants till he is invited back upon his own terms.  During this war it is a point of honour not to allow a single acre of land to be tilled upon the estate which he has deserted, or from which he has been driven; and he will murder any man who attempts to drive a plough in it, together with all his family, if he can.  The smallest member of this landed aristocracy of the Hindoo military class will often cause a terrible devastation during the interval that he is engaged in his bhumiawat; for there are always vast numbers of loose characters floating upon the surface of Indian society, ready to ‘gird up their loins’ and use their sharp swords in the service of marauders of this kind, when they cannot get employment in that of the constituted authorities of government.

Such a marauder has generally the sympathy of nearly all the members of his own class and clan, who are apt to think that his case may one day be their own.  He is thus looked upon as contending for the interests of all; and, if his chief happens to be on bad terms with other chiefs in the neighbourhood, the latter will clandestinely support the outlaw and his cause, by giving him and his followers shelter in the hills and jungles, and concealing their families and stolen property in their castles.  It is a maxim in India, and, in the less settled parts of it, a very true one, that ’one Pindhara or robber makes a hundred’; that is, where one robber, by a series of atrocious murders and robberies, frightens the people into non-resistance, a hundred loose characters from among the peasantry of the country will take advantage of the occasion, and adopt his name, in order to plunder with the smallest possible degree of personal risk to themselves.

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