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.
through life with so much pride and pleasure as the cost of their marriage, if it happen to be large for their condition of life; it is their amoka, their title of nobility;[3] and their parents consider it their duty to make it as large as they can.  A man would hardly feel secure of the sympathy of his family, tribe, circle of society, or rulers, for the loss of ’his ox, or his ass, or anything that is his’, if it should happen to have cost him nothing; and, till he could feel secure of their sympathy for the loss, he would not feel very secure in the possession.  He, therefore, or those who are interested in his welfare, strengthen his security by an outlay which invests his wife with a tangible value in cost, well understood by his circle and rulers.  His family, tribe, and circle have received the purchase money, and feel bound to secure to him the commodity purchased; and, as they are in all such matters commonly much stronger than the rulers themselves, the money spent among them is more efficacious in securing the exclusive enjoyment of the wife than if it had been paid in taxes or fees to them for a marriage licence.[4] The pride of families and tribes, and the desire of the multitude to participate in the enjoyment of such ceremonies, tend to keep up this usage after the cause in which it originated may have ceased to operate; but it will, it is to be hoped, gradually decline with the increased feeling of security to person, property, and character under our rule.  Nothing is now more common than to see an individual in the humblest rank spending all that he has, or can borrow, in the marriage of one of many daughters, and trusting to Providence for the means of marrying the others; nor in the higher, to find a young man, whose estates have, during a long minority, under the careful management of Government officers, been freed from very heavy debts, with which an improvident father had left them encumbered, the moment he attains his majority and enters upon the management, borrowing three times their annual rent, at an exorbitant interest, to marry a couple of sisters, at the same rate of outlay in feasts and fireworks that his grandmother was married with.[5]

Notes: 

1.  The author’s figure of ‘eighty millions’ was a mere guess, and
probably, even in his time, was much below the mark.  The figures of
the census of 1911 are: 
 Total population of India, excluding
  Burma . . . . 301,432,623
  Hindus . . . . 217,197,213
The proportions in different provinces vary enormously.

2.  See ante.  Chapter 1, note 3.

3.  The word amoka is corrupt, and even Sir George Grierson cannot suggest a plausible explanation.  Can it be a misprint for anka, in the sense of ‘stamp’?

4.  Akbar levied a tax on marriages, ranging from a single copper coin (dam = 1/40th of rupee) for poor people to 10 gold mohurs, or about 150 rupees, for high officials.  Abul Fazl declares that ’the payment of this tax is looked upon as auspicious’, a statement open to doubt (Blochmann, transl. Ain, vol. i, p. 278).  In 1772 Warren Hastings abolished the marriage fees levied up to that time in Bengal by the Muhammadan law-officers.  But I am disposed to think that a modern finance minister might reconsider the propriety of imposing a moderate tax, carefully graduated.

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