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.

16.  These leases now carry with them a right of ownership, involving the power of alienation, subject to the lien of the land revenue as a first charge.  Conversely, the modern codes lay down the principle that the revenue settlement must be made with the proprietor.  The author’s rule of agricultural succession by primogeniture in the Nerbudda territories has survived only in certain districts (see post, Chapter 47).  The land-revenue law and the law concerning the relations between landlords and tenants have now been more or less successfully codified in each province.  Mr. B. H. Baden-Powell’s encyclopaedic work The Land Systems of British India (3 volumes:  Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1892) gives very full information concerning Indian tenures as now existing, and the law applicable to them at the date of publication.

CHAPTER 11

Witchcraft.

On leaving Jabera,[1] I saw an old acquaintance from the eastern part of the Jubbulpore district, Kehri Singh.

‘I understand, Kehri Singh’, said I, ’that certain men among the Gonds of the jungle, towards the source of the Nerbudda, eat human flesh.  Is it so?’

‘No, sir; the men never eat people, but the Gond women do.’

‘Where?’

’Everywhere, sir; there is not a parish, nay, a village, among the Gonds, in which you will not find one or more such women.’

‘And how do they eat people?’

‘They eat their livers, sir.’

‘Oh, I understand; you mean witches?’

‘Of course!  Who ever heard of other people eating human beings?’

’And you really still think, in spite of all that we have done and said, that there are such things as witches?’

’Of course we do—­do not we find instances of it every day?  European gentlemen are too apt to believe that things like this are not to be found here, because they are not to be found in their own country.  Major Wardlow, when in charge of the Seoni district, denied the existence of witchcraft for a long time, but he was at last convinced.’

‘How?’

’One of his troopers, one morning after a long march, took some milk for his master’s breakfast from an old woman without paying for it.  Before the major had got over his breakfast the poor trooper was down upon his back, screaming from the agony of internal pains.  We all knew immediately that he had been bewitched, and recommended the major to send for some one learned in these matters to find out the witch.  He did so, and, after hearing from the trooper the story about the milk, this person at once declared that the woman from whom he got it was the criminal.  She was searched for, found, and brought to the trooper, and commanded to cure him.  She flatly denied that she had herself conjured him; but admitted that her household gods might, unknown to her, have punished him for his wickedness.  This, however, would not do.  She was commanded to cure the man, and she set about collecting materials for the “puja” (worship); and before she could get quite through the ceremonies, all his pains had left him.  Had we not been resolute with her, the man must have died before evening, so violent were his torments.’

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