Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

experiment and found wanting. They tended to lay bare the radical—the suicidal evils involved in such an undertaking being conducted in contiguous districts, by the agents of two independent local jurisdictions, under the guidance of two independent Governments, such as those of Madras and Bengal. They conclusively demonstrated that isolated, occasional, desultory efforts, however congruous in themselves and vigorous in execution, must ever end in disappointment; and, consequently, that nothing could prove commensurate to the great design, short of a combined, sustained, continuous and systematic effort, based on the suggestions of past observation and experiment, and prosecuted, it might be, for years, with unrelaxed and untiring energy.

Impressed, at length, with such views and sentiments, or views and sentiments somewhat akin to these, and in order to pave the way for more effective measures, the Supreme Government resolved to depute an officer on a special mission into Khondistan -a special mission of preparatory inquiry, rather than of immediate action. The opening of routes and passes through the wild tracts—the encouraging of the commercial intercourse between the hills and the plains by all available means, and the establishing of fairs or marts for that purposethe raising of a semi-military police force from among the hill men, upon a footing similar to that of the Paik company of Cuttack :—these and other kindred objects of a general character were those to which his attention was to be chiefly and more immediately confined; while, in regard to the great ulterior purpose aimed at, viz. the abolition of the Meriah rite, the injunction was, that “ he should cautiously approach any inquisition into human sacrifices."*

The officer nominated for the prosecution of this important mission was Captain Macpherson. And we are bound to say, that never was there an appointment more honorable to the Government or to the object of its choice. It was altogether one of high disinterested principle, with which sinister favouritism had nothing to do. During the Goomsur war in 1836-7, Captain Macpherson, while on survey under orders of the Commissioner of Goomsur and Souradah, through his own indefatigable industry, obtained possession of copious materials which he carefully arranged and reduced into the form of an elaborate report. This report, which he was called on to submit for the consideration of Government, contained, as formerly indicated, † a full, clear, systematic, and authoritative

Macphe Goosobtained and thich hent, continoritat

* See No. XII. p. 79-80.

+ See No. IX. p. 24.

dissertation on the whole subject of the Khonds—shedding on every topic, whether primary or subordinate, a full and steady light which we look for in vain elsewhere. Such a document could not but recommend its author to a highminded Government-exclusively and disinterestedly bent, in this instance at least, on a notable philanthropic achievement. To the talent for original and recondite research displayed in this report, and to the courage and patience exhibited under the personal toil and fatigue voluntarily encountered in prosecuting it—and to these chiefly, if not alone, was Captain Macpherson indebted for the patronage of Government. In a word, he received the appointment simply and solely because, from the multiplied proofs of superior fitness which his own labours had afforded, he was honestly adjudged to be the best qualified for the successful accomplishment of its leading objects.

During the prosecution of preliminary enquiries, respecting the parts visited, their resources, the different classes of their population, and other topics of a general character, it was deemed proper that the Government of Madras should superintend the proceedings, and that their more immediate control should be in the hands of the local agent to that Government. In other words, the officer appointed, though his mission was a special one, was not to act directly, as an independent agent, under the orders of the higher authorities, either at Madras or Calcutta. He was only to be head assistant for Khond affairs to the Commissioner or Madras Governor's agent in the Ganjam province.

Since the parts, formerly visited and reported on by Captain Macpherson, lay to the north in the hilly regions of Goomsur and Boad, his purpose now was to ascend the Ghats to the south of Goomsur, and stretching westward between it and Chinna Kimedy. This, accordingly, he did in December 1841. In pursuit of the special objects of his mission, his route lay through the Khond district of Pondacole, with its six thousand inhabitants; and Bori with its twelve or fifteen thousand. At Guddapore and Sonapore in Bori, he was also visited by Khonds from the fertile and populous district of Guladye, with its seven or ten thousand souls; as also from the Hill parts of Bodoghoro; from Kimedy, both southward and westward, to the boundaries of the Jeypore and Kalahundy Zemindaries; and from the tracts which lie towards the west and north-west, as far as Shubernagherry.

These were the limits of his enquiries, owing to severe sickness which soon disabled himself and nearly the whole of his attendants.

The insalubrity of the climate has repeatedly been referred to, as one of the chief difficulties in carrying out any designs with respect to the hill population. And never, any where, was the obstacle of climate found more formidable than on the present occasion. In the most favourable month of the year, under every precaution, the proportion of persons attacked by fever, of a large and mixed camp, after a residence of but twenty days in the Hills, was about ninety per cent. The party having been immediately withdrawn, few died; but nearly all who suffered, including Captain Macpherson himself, were invalids for months; and the dread with which the people of the low country of every class, regarded the region of the Ghats became extreme,

But, though the period of sojourn above the Ghats was thus untowardly shortened, it was improved to good purpose. A vast deal of new and valuable information was obtained, respecting the country and its inhabitants. The agent's success in this respect greatly redounded to his credit, and amply justified the decision of Government in selecting him for the arduous and delicate task. For arduous and delicate it was in every point of view. At the very outset, was the agent confronted by the most formidable difficulties. Without something like a confidential intercourse with the natives, it is clear that there could not be that free and unrestrained expression of sentiment, on both sides, which was essential to the main object of the mission. But how, in the face of opposing difficulties, was such intercourse to be established ? Let us hear Captain Macpherson on the subject :

“The impressions which existed amongst the Khond population respecting the Government which were derived from our operations in this quarter in 1836 and 1837, were deeply marked by fear and mistrust. And notwithstanding the use of every art calculated to dissipate apprehension and to give assurance that my intentions were purely friendly, all the villages were deserted before me. I therefore halted in the first valley within the hills, until I felt quite satisfied that different ideas were both established there, and had in some degree preceded me. The nearest hamlets soon gained confidence. Then a section of a tribe ventured to come out from the forest, not rushing into my camp in wild and fantastic procession, armed and dancing, with shouts and stunning music, as is the fashion of these Khonds, but approaching without arms, in extreme fear and requiring much encouragement to come to my tents, while spies from all the tribe around anxiously expected the result of the experiment. The alarm of the first comers having been dispelled, other parties by degrees, but very cautiously imitated their example; and I then moved on. Another considerable pause at the next stage brought all the tribes within a circuit of many miles to my tents, and thence forwards, roads were laboriously cut for my passage through the forest and I had to choose between those offered to me by the rival tribes, who daily crowded my camp: under these

circumstances I felt some degree of confidence that I should not materially misapprehend the obscure and difficult phenomena which I wished to observe, and that I could generally communicate the impressions which I desired."

In these and similar ways, by an admirable combination of prudence, conciliation, and firmness, were fear, mistrust, and jealousy supplanted by the opposite feelings of dawning hope and kindly confidence. The change which ensued was like that which follows the melting away of the icy accumulations of a long and severe winter. It had about it all the freshening glow and budding promise of a genial spring. It looked hopefully to a summer of glorious blossoms and an autumn of mellow fruit.

To the leading points of the copious information now received, we may now briefly allude. And first of all we may begin with the glance that is afforded us of the general features of the country :

" The chain of Ghats in this quarter is formed of a central ridge which runs nearly from North to South, and is spread into a broken table land of varying breadth, having a mean elevation of about 2,000 feet. This irregular plateau is supported to the Eastward by inferior ranges of hills which run parallel to it, and which are connected with it by buttresses. The vallies are deep, narrow, and complicated upon the great scale, confused upon the small; the drainage cutting its way through vast masses of detritus which encumber them : granitic gneiss, which is occasionally capped by laterite, is the only rock. In some tracts it decomposes in boulders, which present a manageable surface to the pioneer; in others its structure is uniformly massive. A rich and various forest, broken by occasional patches of bambu jungle, covers the whole surface, and extends, according to my information, supported by that obtained by Captain Hill, without a single break, through a space of two degrees to the Westward. In this forest are found all the valuable timber trees of the country, and these have been floated down from Souradah to the mouth of the Russagaila river at Ganjam, at very low rates. The dammer tree abounds in these tracts. It has been ascertained, (by the reference of specimens to Calcutta,) that it is not the saul. The vegetable products of economical value of this part of the Hill country, whether cultivated or wild, are indentical with those of Goomsur."

The traffic carried on between the hill people now visited, and those of the lowland districts, in spite of the fearfully rugged mountain pathways, was found to be vastly greater than had been previously supposed. From the hills there were annually sent down to the low country about ten thousand bullock loads of turmeric alone, and about four thousand bullock loads of other articles, such as tamarind, mustard, arrowroot, sweet oil, ginger, cotton, wax, honey, red and yellow dye; red pepper, plaintains, sweet potatoes, vetch, &c. The articles

pathana sup low na ab

of trade taken to the Khond country, were salt, salt-fish, iron, cattle, brass vessels and ornaments, tobacco, woollen cloth, coarse red cotton cloth, coarse white cloth, with flowered edges, coarse white cotton cloth, cheap chintzes, silk, beads, &c. Of the eight routes by which this extensive traffic was conducted, in the country between the Goomsur Maliahs on the north, and those of Chinna Kimedy on the south, the agent was enabled to ascertain that, which, though far from promising, was decidedly the best, with a view to future improvement and enlarged commercial and military objects.

He found the population to consist chiefly of Khonds, both Benniah and Maliah ;* also of Hindus, including the petty chiefs of districts subordinate to zemindaries, with their connections and followers, the few resident hill merchants, and the paiks ; † and of certain classes, who are neither Khonds

* For the distinction between these, see No. IX. page 27.

trument 11

+ In his unpublished Report Captain Macpherson supplies the following farther particulars :-

" The only two district chiefs are the military or “Tat" Rajah, cf Cattinga in Bodoghoro, and Guddapore in Chinna Kimedy. The former is an old man who has some reputation for shrewdness, and for influence with the Khonds. The latter is a boy of fourteen, whom I observed, with a view to his being turned to account as an instrum

future measures towards the Khonds; but he appeared of little promise, growing up in seclusion and in ignorance ; the Brahman teachers who have been procured for him having all died in the pestilential climate of Guddapore. I made his people promise to find another instructor for him. His affairs are managed by his mother, a grasping old dealer in turmeric.

These Tat Rajahs respectively acknowledge the superiority of Bodoghoro and of Chinna Kimedy by the payment of nominal tribute, and by other forms ; they enjoy small tracts of corn land which were originally ceded to them by the Khond's for their support, and they levy certain imposts upon the hill trade. The tribe attached to them, besides, make them annual offerings of good will which are collectively of value. They possess considerable influence, but no manner of authority over the Khonds; the first condition of that influence is their sanction and countenance of every Khond usage whatever It would immediately cease were they to presume to oppose or to condemn any point of their religion or of the manners of the ancient masters of the soil. They accordingly remain perfectly neuter betwixt the sacri. ficing and the non-sacrificing tribes. Far from affecting disapproval of the worship of the latter, the Guddapore Rajah for example, sends his paiks in a body, at the request of the presiding patriarchs, to fire salutes in honor of the great rite upon every occasion of its performance.

The Hill Paiks are the descendants of Hindus who are anciently placed in the Khond country to maintain the influence of the Rajah, and to keep the frontier. They have nearly all mixed their blood with that of the Khonds, and have in a considerable degree acquired their manners, habits and feelings. They are distri. buted over the country in small stockades or “Ghorriah," or in frontier posts called “ Gumah." They have adopted to a great extent the Khond superstition, but without forgetting the names of their Hindu Gods, or all the ideas connected

by the Khonds. "They take a leading part in the riot and festivity which accompany the ceremony of human sacrifice, but take no share of the flesh.

These two petty chiefs, and all the other Hill Rajahs of Orissa, worship, almost exclusively, under names and forms endlessly varied, the goddess Durga. It is acknowledged, that they nearly all offered human victims at her shrines, one, or at the farthest two, generations ago; and it is difficult to determine when those

« AnteriorContinuar »