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William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 897 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.
of these things are ordinarily procurable by private purchase in sufficient quantity, and in most cases could not be bought at all.  Officers commanding troops send in advance requisitions specifying the quantities of each article needed, and the indent is met by the civil authorities.  Everything so indented for, including wood and grass, is supposed to be paid for, but in practice it is often impossible, with the agency available, to ensure actual payment to the persons entitled.  Troops and the people in civil camps must live, and all that can be done is to check abuse, so far as possible, by vigilant administration.  The obligation of landholders to supply necessaries for troops and officials on the march is so well established that it forms one of the conditions of the contract with Government under which proprietors in the permanently settled province of Benares hold their lands.  The extreme abuses of which the system is capable under a lax and corrupt native Government are abundantly illustrated in the author’s Journey through the Kingdom of Oudh.  ’The System of Purveyance and Forced Labour’ is the subject of article xxv in the Hon. F, J, Shore’s curious book, Notes on Indian Affairs (London, 1837, 2 vols. 8vo).  Many of the abuses denounced by Mr. Shore have been suppressed, but some, unhappily, still exist, and are likely to continue for many years.

CHAPTER 8

Religious Sects—­Self-government of the Castes—­Chimney-sweepers—­ Washerwomen[1]—­Elephant Drivers.

Mir Salamat Ali, the head native collector of the district, a venerable old Musalman and most valuable public servant, who has been labouring in the same vineyard with me for the last fifteen years with great zeal, ability, and integrity, came to visit me after breakfast with two very pretty and interesting young sons.  While we were sitting together my wife’s under-woman[2] said to some one who was talking with her outside the tent-door, ’If that were really the case, should I not be degraded?’ ’You see, Mir Sahib’,[3] said I, ’that the very lowest members of society among these Hindoos still feel the pride of caste, and dread exclusion from their own, however low.’[4]

‘Yes’, said the Mir, ’they are a very strange kind of people, and I question whether they ever had a real prophet among them.’

’I question, Mir Sahib, whether they really ever had such a person.  They of course think the incarnations of their three great divinities were beings infinitely superior to prophets, being in all their attributes and prerogatives equal to the divinities themselves.[5] But we are disposed to think that these incarnations were nothing more than great men whom their flatterers and poets have exalted into gods—­this was the way in which men made their gods in ancient Greece and Egypt.  These great men were generally conquerors whose glory consisted in the destruction of their fellow creatures; and this is the glory which their flatterers are most prone to extol.  All that the poets have sung of the actions of men is now received as revelation from heaven; though nothing can be more monstrous than the actions attributed to the best incarnation, Krishna, of the best of their gods, Vishnu.[6]

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