Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/159

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prince, who also readily undertook the benevolent mission, appearing with a large retinue at the door; and when his representations failed to produce the desired effect, he surrounded the avenues with his attendants, in order to prevent the unhappy woman from flying to persons who would encourage her in her design. Aware that the abject state of poverty to which a Hindoo widow, who can inherit nothing, must be reduced upon the death of her husband, is often the true cause of her sacrifice, the prince generously offered the means of future subsistence, urging at the same time the duties which she owed to her family, whom she would leave unprotected; and the uncertainty of the loss which she deplored. The widow remained unmoved and unconvinced, and, on being assured that she would not be permitted to ascend the fatal pile, drew a dagger from her side, and, with all the vehemence which passion could lend, declared, that her blood, the blood of a Brahmin woman, should be upon the head of him who offered to prevent the sacrifice. Few Indians are proof against fear of the consequences of driving an enthusiast to this act of desperation. The curse is supposed to be almost immitigable; and, perceiving her determination, the prince withdrew.

Self-sacrifice is considered so honourable among every class of Hindoos, that the widow, although rushing almost companionless to the ghaut, was soon surrounded by thronging multitudes of kindred, friends, and spectators. She formed a small image of rice, to represent the body of her husband; the pile was prepared; and, having gone through the usual ceremonies and ablutions, she repaired to the fatal place, immediately in front of the arch, in the centre of the plate, and resigned herself to the devouring flame. In the course of three weeks the tidings arrived of the death of the husband, which, strange to say, corresponded with the date of the dream.


The name of Rajpoot is connected with military enterprise, every man, so calling himself, feeling compelled to support his claim to the proud title by wielding a sword. In consequence of the warlike disposition of the inhabitants, and the difficult nature of the country, Rajpootana never was thoroughly subdued by those victorious Moguls, who carried their conquests throughout many well-defended provinces, down to the more easy acquisition of Bengal. At feud with each other when not engaged in combating an invading stranger, the chieftains fortified themselves upon heights which they deemed inaccessible to a hostile force. The native idea, founded upon a code of military tactics now exploded, that safety was best to be found at great elevations, has much improved the appearance of the country in all hilly districts. Whatever modern fortifications may have gained in strength, they have lost in picturesque effect; and most persons who have had any opportunity of contemplating the bastions and towers of feudal times, will sympathize with the disappointment experienced by Sir Walter Scott when he first beheld a modern citadel.

Ruined villages, of which there are abundance in India, are not more plentiful than the fortresses to be met with immediately as the upper provinces are gained, and we approach a country capable of being defended from a height. Every little rajah, or petty chief, climbs an eminence, and entrenches himself within walls of mud or stone, according as his means will afford: these eagles' nests are garrisoned by troops of retainers armed with spears, and bows, and rusty matchlocks, and bearing the defensive weapon so long out of use in Europe, namely, the shield. The country comprehended under the