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.

The towns and villages all stand upon high mounds formed of the debris of former towns and villages, that have been accumulating, most of them, for thousands of years.  They are for the most part mere collections of wretched hovels built of frail materials, and destined only for a brief period.

 Man wants but little here below,
 Nor wants that little long.[4]

And certainly there is no climate in the world where man wants less than in this of India generally, and Upper India particularly.  The peasant lives in the open air; and a house to him is merely a thing to eat and sleep in, and to give him shelter in the storm, which comes upon him but seldom, and never in a pitiless shape.  The society of his friends he enjoys in the open air, and he never furnishes his house for their reception or for display.  The peasantry of India, in consequence of living and talking so much in the open air, have all stentorian voices, which they find it exceedingly difficult to modulate to our taste when they come into our rooms.

Another thing in this part of India strikes a traveller from other parts—­the want of groves of fruit-trees around the villages and along the roads.  In every other part of India he can at every stage have his tents pitched in a grove of mango-trees, that defend his followers from the direct rays of the sun in the daytime, and from the cold dews at night; but in the district above Agra, he may go for ten marches without getting the shelter of a grove in one.[5] The Sikhs, the Marathas, the Jats, and the Pathans destroyed them all during the disorders attending the decline of the Muhammadan empire; and they have never been renewed, because no man could feel secure that they would be suffered to stand ten years.  A Hindoo believes that his soul in the next world is benefited by the blessings and grateful feelings of those of his fellow creatures who unmolested eat the fruit and enjoy the shade of the trees he has planted during his sojourn in this world; and, unless he can feel assured that the traveller and the public in general will be permitted to do so, he can have no hope of any permanent benefit from his good work.  It might as well be cut down as pass into the hands of another person who had no feeling of interest in the eternal repose of the soul of the planter.  That person would himself have no advantage in the next world from giving the fruit and the shade of the trees to the public, since the prayers of those who enjoyed them would be offered for the soul of the planter, and not for his—­he, therefore, takes all their advantage to himself in this world, and the planter and the public are defrauded.  Our Government thought they had done enough to encourage the renewal of these groves, when by a regulation they gave to the present lessees of villages the privilege of planting them themselves, or permitting others to plant them; but where they held their leases for a term of only five years, of course they would be unwilling to plant

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