Srikanta (Part 1)/Chapter 11

 

XI


I WROTE a letter to Piari just to tell her that I had kept my promise. I got her reply in a few days. One thing I had noticed all along: not only had Piari never urged me to come to her house at Patna, she had never even suggested it. Not even in her letter was there a hint of any such invitation.

There was however, at the end, a request that I have not yet forgotten. It was a request that I might remember her in my days of trouble, if not in those of happiness.

Days passed on and Piari's memory grew dim and almost faded away. But I noticed a strange thing at times: after my return from the shikar my mind was distracted and ill at ease; a sense of bereavement numbed me and weighed me down.

At last there came a night when I lay tired and listless on my bed. It was the night of the Holi[1] festival. I had just come home from it worn out and exhausted, and had not yet washed the red powder out of my hair. A window by my side was open, and I lay looking through the chinks in a pipal tree at the moonlight that flooded the heavens. That is all that I remember of that night. I do not remember why I went straight to the station, bought a ticket for Patna, and got into the train. The night passed, and when on the next day I woke up to the fact that we had arrived at Barh, quite close to Patna, I left the train at once. Putting my hand into my pocket I found that there was not the least cause for anxiety, for I had a two-anna piece and two pice.[2] Pleased with the discovery, I sallied forth in search of a shop. I found one and soon spent half of my funds in making an excellent meal of flattened rice, curds, and sugar. Nor did I grieve at my extravagance: one has sometimes to be extravagant in life, and it is cowardly to feel sorry for it.

I set out on a walk through the village. Within an hour I realized that, in spite of my sumptuous repast, I was as hungry as if I had fasted for a week or two. I had just vowed that no decent man could live in such an impossible place, when suddenly I noticed smoke issuing from a mango-grove not far from me. 'Where there is smoke, there is fire,' I reasoned; 'and where there is fire, there is a pot set on to boil', and I made for the grove.

Splendid! whoever could have thought it! It was a real sannyasi's ashram.[3] Water for tea was being heated in a big metal pot over a fire. The Baba[4] was sitting before it with half-closed eyes; around him lay the paraphernalia of ganja-smoking. A young sannyasi was milking a she-goat; the milk would be useful for the tea. A pair of camels, a couple of ponies, and a cow with her calf had been tethered to the branches of a tree. Close by was a small tent. Peeping inside, I saw a disciple of about my own age holding a stone mortar between his feet and preparing bhang[5] in it with a big pestle. The holy scene opened the flood-gates of my devotion, and in the twinkling of an eye I lay prostrate at the feet of the Baba. Taking the dust of his feet on my head, I thought, 'How infinite is Thy mercy, O God! To what a place hast Thou brought me! Let Piari go to perdition! If I ever leave this spot which is the very gate-way to salvation, may I never find a resting place even in everlasting hell!'

'Son,' asked the sadhu,' what has brought thee here?'

'I have left my home.' I said meekly, 'a child in ignorance, a wretch that seeks the path to salvation. Grant me the privilege of waiting on your august feet.'

The sadhu smiled, and nodded two or three times; then he said briefly in Hindi, 'Son, go back home: the Path is most difficult.'

'Baba,' I replied in a voice of supplication, 'in the Mahabharata[6] it is written that the great sinners, Jagai and Madhai, attained to heaven by holding the feet of Vashistha, the mighty ascetic; and should I not also get salvation through the virtue of your lotus-feet? A voice within me says I must.'

The sadhu was evidently pleased, and said, 'What thou sayest is true. Very well, my son, if God Rama so wills it, so let it be'. The disciple who had been milking the she-goat now prepared tea and offered it to the Baba. After he had had his tea, we took the holy leavings.[7]

The bhang was still in course of preparation for the evening. As it was yet daylight, the Baba bethought himself of bliss[8] of a different nature, and directed a second disciple's attention to the ganja-pipe, giving special instructions so that there might be no unnecessary delay.

Half an hour passed. The omniscient Baba was highly pleased with me and said, 'Yes, my son, I find many virtuous qualities in thy nature. Thou art fit to be my disciple.'

In the excess of my joy I conveyed the dust of his feet a second time to my head.

Next day, on my coming back to the ashram from my bath, I found that, through the grace of my guru,[9] I lacked nothing. The head disciple brought out a brand new suit of gerua[10] clothes, about a dozen rosaries, strings of rudraksha[11] beads, large and small, and a pair of brass armlets. After donning the spiritual garb, I took some ashes from the dhuni, the sacred fire which burnt night and day in our camp, and smeared my face and head with them. 'Babaji,' I asked this head disciple with a wink, 'is there any mirror? I am consumed with a longing to see what I look like now.' The Babaji was not dead to all sense of humour. With an air of profound gravity he replied, 'There is one.'

'Then bring it to me.'

I took the mirror and went behind a tree. It was a small mirror with a tin frame, the kind up-country barbers give their customers to hold while they shave them. Though small, it had been kept clean by constant use. I could scarcely restrain my laughter when I saw my transformed appearance. Who would ever imagine that I was the Srikanta who only a few days before had sat listening to the songs of the baiji in the company of princes and their satellites!

An hour later I was taken before the guru for my initiation into the monastic order. He expressed himself highly pleased with my make-up, and said, 'Son, wait for a month or so.'

'So be it,' I said to myself and, taking the dust of his feet, sat down beside him with folded hands, in an attitude of devotion.

In the course of the evening dissertation he gave me,many profound and precious words of advice in spiritual matters. He dwelt in turn on the difficulty of understanding them aright; the deep repugnance one must feel towards the world; the austerities that lead to spiritual realisation; the manifold ways in which the latter-day hypocrites and charlatans desecrate the path of spirituality; its elaborate history; the essentials for fixing the mind on the lotus-feet of God; the wonderful assistance rendered by inhaling the smoke of a certain dried plant. All these things he explained to me, and he also encouraged me by hinting that in the perfect performance of the last-named rite I showed myself an apt and promising pupil. Thus, after learning many a secret of the path to salvation, I became permanently attached to the Guru Maharaja's train as his third disciple.

In order to evoke in us deep repugnance to the world and to help us in our spiritual exercises, our guru made arrangements for us that were particularly austere. Tea, bread, clarified butter, milk, curds, flattened rice, sugar, and other similarly ascetic dishes were presented for our diet. Besides this, our vigilance was untiring to see that our minds never slipped from the contemplation of the lotus-feet of God. The result of all this was that, as we say, even my dried twigs blossomed: I began to develop a sleek and dignified rotundity quite different from the slimness of my sinful past.

One task we had, to go out begging. Though not the prime duty of sannyasis, it is always a very important duty, because it has an intimate connection with the spiritual dietary. Maharaj never did it himself; we, his disciples, did it for him by turns. In all the other duties of sannyasis I quickly outdistanced the other disciples; but in this alone I failed to shine. I never succeeded in making it natural or pleasant. But there was one advantage: the country was Bihar and not Bengal. I am not comparing the merits of the two. All I want to say is that there the women never advised me, as they would have done in Bengal, to seek the next house, on the ground that their hands were dirty or that they were otherwise engaged; nor did the men demand the reason why, being an able-bodied man, I went about begging. Everyone, whether rich or poor, gave us alms, and none turned us away. Thus passed some fifteen days in the shadow of the mango-grove. There was little trouble during the day, but at night mosquito-bites greatly weakened my desire for salvation, indeed sometimes made it disappear altogether. I realized that it would be impossible for me to persist in the course I had chosen unless my skin could be thickened. However superior a Bengali may be in other respects. one must admit that the up-country skin is more helpful than the Bengali skin in the attainment of salvation. One day, after returning from my bath, I was proceeding towards my spiritual breakfast, when the Guru Maharaj sang out,

'Saint Bharadwaj at Prayag hath his seat:
Most dear to him are Rama's sacred feet.'

In other words, 'Strike the tent: we are going to Prayag.' But it was no easy matter striking a sannyasi's tent. The whole morning was spent in finding the pony which had been roaming all over the place in search of food, loading him with a part of our belongings, fixing the Maharaj's saddle on the camel, collecting our cattle and goats, and tying up our bundles and arranging for their transport. After all this we started, and, after a journey of four miles, reached a huge banyan tree at one end of a village named Vithoura. As evening was coming on, we decided to camp under the tree. It was a beautiful place, and our Maharaj expressed his approval. It was satisfactory to know that he was pleased, but I could not imagine how many births it would take us to reach Bharadwaj Muni[12] at this rate of progress.

An incident that occurred here is perhaps responsible for my remembering the name of the village to this day. It was a 'full-moon' day.[13] All three of us, by our guru's orders, had gone out to beg, each one in a different direction. If I had been the only one out begging I should probably have made greater efforts than I did, but as our meal was not dependent on my unaided efforts I merely did a great deal of aimless wandering. Suddenly I caught a glimpse, through the open door of a house, of the figure of a Bengali girl. Though the cloth she was wearing was evidently from an Indian loom[14] and very coarse in texture, the way she had draped it[15] excited my special interest. We had been five or six days in the village and I had been to most of the houses, but as yet I had seen no Bengali, male or female. Sannyasis have the right of free entry everywhere. As soon as I entered the house, the girl began to look intently at me. I can remember her face even to-day: for I do not remember to have seen so piteous, so sad and despairing a look on the face of any other girl of ten or eleven. Hopeless grief and despair were expressed in her dark eyes and in every line of her little figure. I asked straightaway in Bengali, 'Won't you give me some alms, little mother?' She said nothing at first: then her lips trembled and twitched several times, and she burst into tears.

I felt a little abashed. Though there was no one near us, I could hear voices of Bihari women from the adjoining room. If one of them should come out, what would she think of the scene? Before I could decide whether I should go or stay, the sobbing girl asked me a thousand questions in one breath, 'Where do you come from? Where do you live? Do you live in Burdwan district? When are you going back? Do you know Rajpur? Do you know Gauri Tewari of that village?'

I asked, 'Is your home at Rajpur in Burdwan district?' She wiped her tears with her hand as she answered, 'Yes, my father is Gauri Tewari and my brother's name is Ramlal Tewari. Do you know them? I have been here in my husband's house for three months now, and I have never had a word from them. Oh, how I long to know how they all are, father and mother, and my brother, and Giribala, and Khoka.[16] You see that pipal tree; my sister's husband's house is just there. She hanged herself last Monday, and the people say, "No, she died of cholera."'

I was dumbfounded. What was the matter? The people with whom the girl was living were natives of Bihar, while she was pure Bengali. How could this be her husband's house, so far out of Bengal? 'Why did your sister commit suicide?' I asked her. 'She used to cry night and day to go back to Rajpur,' she said; 'she neither ate nor slept. To punish her they kept her standing day and night by tying her hair to a beam in the ceiling. So she hanged herself.'

'Are your husband’s people Biharis?' I asked.

'Yes,' she said, bursting into tears again, 'I can't understand their speech and can't eat their food, and I cry day and night. But Father never writes to me, and he doesn't take me away from here.'

'Why did your father marry you into a family which lived so far away and whose language you do not know?'

'We are Tewaris,[17] you know,' she explained. 'We can't find anybody to marry us in Bengal.'

'Do these people beat you?'

'Don't they? Look at this.' Sobbing convulsively, she showed me welts on her arms, her back, and her cheeks. I shall kill myself like my sister.'

My eyes too had grown wet. I went out without asking further questions and without waiting for my alms. The girl however followed me, saying, 'Won't you tell my father? Tell him to take me away or I shall—' I nodded assent and strode rapidly away. Her heart-rending appeal continued to ring in my ears.

At the turning of the road I saw a grocer's shop. Seeing me enter, the grocer stood up to do me honour. Though he was surprised to hear me ask for paper, pen, and ink, instead of alms, he supplied them. I wrote a letter to Gauri Tewari, describing all that I had learned, not omitting to mention the news that his elder daughter had committed suicide and that the brutal oppression that the younger girl had been subjected to had made her resolve to put an end to her life in a similar manner. Unless he came, I wrote, and did something to relieve her sufferings, nobody could say what kind of fate was in store for her. I added that it was most likely that her husband's people here did not allow his letters to reach her. I addressed the letter to Rajpur, district Burdwan. I do not know whether it ever reached Gauri Tewari, or, if it reached him, what he did afterwards. But the whole event was so vividly impressed on my mind, that I still remember every detail of it; and I have not yet got over a feeling of revolt against the caste system, with its fine elaborations, which our model Hindu society harbours in its bosom, and which is the cause of horrors like this.

The caste system may be a good thing. There is no doubt that it is responsible for the fact that Hindu society has managed to exist almost unchanged through centuries. No one can doubt its efficacy in keeping our social system alive and intact to this day. It would certainly be madness to think of slackening its rigour simply because two wretched girls, unable to bear their sufferings, chose to commit suicide. But no one who had heard that girl's despairing sobs could resist the question, 'Is mere survival—the preserving intact of a race or system from generation to generation, whatever the cost—the noblest ideal of life?' Many races, tribes, and systems have succeeded in perpetuating themselves, for instance semi-barbaric people like the Kukis, the Kols, the Bhils, and the Sonthals in India; while in the great oceans, on many a small island, small tribes have been living since the dawn of history. There are ancient tribes in Africa and America who have such strict social laws that the mere mention of them would make our blood run cold. In point of age they are older than the oldest ancestors of many European people, they are older than ourselves. But nobody would dream of raising the question whether their social systems on that account are superior to ours. Social problems do not appear in the mass; they become apparent in isolated cases, in individual lives. Perhaps such a social problem had perplexed the mind of Gauri Tewari when he had to marry his eleven or twelve years old girls to Bihari bridegrooms. But evidently he had found no solution, and had at length been obliged to sacrifice his two little daughters on the altar of society. I could not feel the slightest pride in a society that could find no room for those two helpless girls. the stiff, paralysed society which had lost its power of extending itself beyond its rigid limits. I once read somewhere the words of a great author to the effect that in the caste system our society offered to the world a solution of a great social problem that had so far been found insoluble outside our country. Such irrational effusions evoke in me repugnance too deep for words: the louder such people proclaim their solutions of 'universal' problems which are products of their own imagination, the more difficult it is for me to answer.

I left the shop. When I returned to our camp after posting my stampless letter at the post-office, my companions had not yet returned from their rounds. I found our Sadhu Baba somewhat out of humour. 'This village is rather cold towards sadhus and sannyasis,' he complained; 'the arrangements they make for us are anything but satisfactory. We must leave to-morrow.' 'Yes, master,' I said approvingly: I could no longer conceal from myself the strong desire to see Patna which lurked in my heart.

Besides, there was no attraction in these villages of Bihar. I had wandered about in many villages in Bengal, but they bore no resemblance to these places. The people, the trees and vegetation, the climate—everything appeared alien to me. My whole nature longed day and night to flee from the oppressive exile which had become my portion.

Nowhere could I hear at even-fall the sound of the religious songs and music that can be heard in any village in Bengal; the music of the gongs and bells at the evening service in the temples was not as solemn and melodious as ours; and the blowing of conches in the twilight by the women of these parts was not half so pleasing as in my native land. What attraction, I asked myself, led people to live here? If I had not seen these villages, I often thought, I should perhaps never have appreciated the sweetness and the romance of our village life in Bengal. Our drinking-water was foul, our climate malarious, our systems ruined by disease, our wealth and substance wasted by litigation, our villages teeming with faction; and yet there was in it all a charm, a satisfying quality, which I began to be dimly conscious of, without being aware in what exactly the quality consisted.

Next day we struck our tent and started on our journey. Our Sadhu Baba and his retinue began to advance as quickly as possible towards the seat of Bharadwaj Muni's penances. But either because the Baba wanted an easy journey or because the holy ascetic had divined my inner longings, we did not camp within twenty miles of Patna. That my mind did harbour secret desires I cannot deny. 'No harm will be done,' I thought. 'I am an old sinner: a few days' association with holy people will purify my heart.' We camped this time towards twilight at a village called Chhota Baghia, a place some sixteen miles from the nearest railway-station. At this village I made the acquaintance of a high-souled Bengali gentleman. It would be better for me not to reveal his actual name, for he is still alive and I know that he would feel embarrassed if I were to publish the many good acts which he has done in secret. So, for this narrative, he will be Ram Babu.[18] I cannot say what had led him to come and settle at this village and how he had come to acquire lands there and to live like a gentleman-farmer. All I know definitely is that he was living in peace and contentment with a second wife and three or four children.

We heard in the morning that smallpox had broken out at Chhota and Bada Baghia,[19] as well as in five or six neighbouring villages. It has often been noticed that it is during such periods of calamity that sannyasis are well served by village-folk. So our Sadhu Baba made up his mind to remain for some time at this village.

In passing I should like to note one or two things that I have observed about sannyasis. I have seen many of them, and mixed intimately with them several times in my life. I am not going to extenuate their faults, which are well-known to everybody. I will speak of their merits. We all know the type who becomes a sannyasi purely as a means of livelihood; well, even amongst this class I have always noticed two good qualities. In the first place, their self-restraint, or want of susceptibility, if you will, in all matters relating to the other sex, is surprisingly great; and secondly, their fear of death is as surprisingly small. Many of them no doubt adopt as their motto the maxim, 'While you live, live in happiness',[20] but they give no thought to the question how to live long. Our Sadhu Baba was no exception to this rule: he was content to live happily, without worrying about the risks of life.

Numerous articles began to flow in thick and fast as presents in exchange for a few ashes from our dhuni and a few drops of water out of our sadhu's water-pot. They were very welcome.

Ram Babu came with his wife, weeping. His eldest son had been suffering from fever for four days and that morning smallpox had broken out on his body; a younger son too had been feverish and unconscious all day. Seeing that he was a Bengali, I introduced myself to them, and the acquaintance thus started soon ripened into intimacy.

After we had been in the village for about fifteen days, the sadhuji proposed to shift elsewhere. The epidemic was then at its height and Ram Babu's wife came weeping to me. 'Sannyasi-dada,’ she cried, 'you are not really a sannyasi. You have a heart to pity and love. My Nabin and Jiten will die if you leave them now. You cannot go away and leave us here?' and she caught hold of my feet in respectful entreaty. My eyes too had filled with tears. Ram Babu joined his wife in her prayers and entreaties, and I could not go. I told our guru, 'My master, do you go ahead. If I cannot catch you up on your road, I have no doubt that I shall be able to take the dust of your feet at Prayag.' Our guru did not view the proposal with favour, but at length, after repeatedly warning me against unnecessary delays on the way, he started with his retinue, and I went to Ram Babu's house. I had won my guru's favour so successfully that had I stuck to him, I am sure I should have inherited his pony and his camel after his death. But it is now little use regretting my folly in having spurned the proferred gift of fortune.

The two boys recovered from their illness. The epidemic now appeared in its most terrible form. He who has not seen with his own eyes what this means can never be made to understand it. People began to flee, young and old, man, woman, child, all without distinction. In those houses in which one saw any traces of human habitation one would find only helpless mothers sitting by their stricken children.

Ram Babu also put all his belongings into bullock-carts, a thing he would have done much earlier if his children had not fallen ill. For the past five or six days I had noticed an overpowering lethargy creeping over my limbs and an uncontrollable depression of spirits. This was due, I thought, to the strain on my system caused by my having kept awake so many successive nights. One morning my head began to ache; I could eat nothing all day, and in the evening I realised that I had got fever. That night the family was occupied in packing up, so there was no sleep for anyone. Rather late at night Ram Babu's wife came to me and said, 'Sannyasi-dada, why don't you too come with us as far as Arrah?'

'Yes, I'll come,' I said. 'But you will have to give me room in your carts.'

'But why, sannyasi-dada? You know we could not get more than two carts,' said this sister of mine; 'there is not even room for all of us.'

'I shan't be able to walk, my sister,' I said; 'I've had fever all day.'

'Fever? You don't say so!' she exclaimed horror-stricken, and without waiting for an answer hurriedly left the room.

I cannot say how long I slept. When I awoke it was day. All the other rooms were locked: there was not another soul in the house.

In front of my room passed the rough road that led to Arrah station. At least five or six carts passed by every day, laden with panic-stricken men and women. Late in the afternoon, after many attempts, I succeeded in getting room in one of them. The old Bihari gentleman who kindly took me into his cart let me down early next morning under a tree near the railway-station. As I could not even sit up, I lay under the tree. A short distance away from me there was an empty tin shed which had formerly been used as a travellers' waiting-room but which was then of little use except as a place of shelter for cattle on a rainy day. The old gentleman brought a young Bengali from the station. With this young man's assistance and the help of some porters I managed to get into the shed.

I count it a great misfortune that I am unable to give further details about this young man. At the time I was not in a position to ask questions. When, about five or six months later, I had the strength and the opportunity to make enquiries, I learnt that he had died of smallpox. I did however learn from him that he came from East Bengal and was a railway-servant on a pay of fifteen rupees a month. When he had helped to put me in the shed he went away and returned presently with a tattered mattress, and at mid-day he brought me a cup of warm milk and made me drink it, saying, 'There is nothing to be afraid of, you will be all right.' He further said that if I wanted to inform any friend or relation of my illness he would send a telegram for me.

I was then in full possession of my faculties, but I felt that I should not retain them much longer. I felt that I should lose consciousness if the fever lasted five or six hours more. I had therefore to make up my mind quickly if I wanted to get anything done.

After dusk he appeared in an interval in his duty with a pot of water and a kerosene-burner. My brain was growing confused on account of the fever. I called him to me and said, 'Please look after me now and then so long as I don't lose consciousness; after that, I don't mind what happens, and please don't you bother either.'

He was an extremely tongue-tied young man; he had not the power of adequately expressing his thoughts. In reply he could merely say, 'No, no', and then stood silent.

'You wanted to send news for me,' I said. 'I am a sannyasi and have no one to call my own. But if you will be so good as to send a postcard to Piari Baiji at Patna, saying that Srikanta is lying dangerously ill in the tin shed near the Arrah station,—'

The young man was visibly embarrassed. 'I will write at once,' he said. 'I will send both the letter and the telegram', and he left me hurriedly. 'Oh God,' I murmured, 'may the news reach her.'


When I regained consciousness, I could not make out where I was. Raising my hand to my head I perceived that it lay on an ice-bag. On opening my eyes, I found that I was lying on a cot in a scantily furnished room. Near me was a stool on which stood a lamp and two or three bottles of medicine; and close by somebody wrapped in a red-checked cloth was asleep on a rude cot. For a long time I could remember nothing. Then memories began to dawn, memories as of dreams in some fitful sleep: the coming and going of many people, their lifting me into a litter, my head being shaved, my being given medicines, and many other things.

When after some time my companion roused himself, I saw that he was a young Bengali of good breeding, not more than eighteen or nineteen years of age. Just then some one spoke to him from her seat at the head of my bed, and I recognised the voice.

'Banku,' said Piari in a low voice, 'why don't you change the ice, my son?'

'I am changing it,' said the young man. 'Can't you get to sleep? When the doctor has said it isn't smallpox, there is nothing to be alarmed about.'

'Don't imagine, my child,' said Piari, 'that a woman's fears are allayed by a doctor's words! Don't worry about me, Banku. Just change the ice and go to sleep: don't stay awake any longer.'

Banku came, changed the ice, and went back to his cot. Soon I could tell by his heavy, regular breathing that he was asleep.

I called out softly, 'Piari'.

In an instant she bent over me and wiped the drops of perspiration from my brow with the skirt of her sari. 'Can you recognise me?' she asked anxiously. 'How do you feel now?'

'I feel all right. When did you come? Is this Arrah?'

'Yes, we shall go home to-morrow.'

'Where to?'

'To Patna. I can't leave you now anywhere outside my house.'

'Who is this boy, Rajlakshmi?'

'He is Banku, my co-wife's son. But he is just like my own son to me. He stays with me and studies at Patna College. Don't talk any more to-night; sleep. I will tell you everything to-morrow', and she put her hand over my mouth to stop my talk. I seized it, and, taking it in mine, turned on my side and lay still.

 

  1. Holi: this is the spring festival during which people throw red powder on each other.
  2. One anna is, roughly speaking, equivalent to a penny, and a pice to one farthing.
  3. Ashram: a mendicant ascetic's 'asylum' or temporary camp. The sannyasi was of course a charlatan, as so many of the wandering mendicants in India are.
  4. Baba: a sannyasi is often called this in Northern India; it means 'father'.
  5. Bhang is another intoxicant.
  6. Mahabharata: there is no such story in the Mahabharata. It was Chaitanya, the religious reformer of mediæval Bengal, that converted two scoundrels named Jagai and Madhai. The fact that the sadhu swallowed this story as true shows the extent of his knowledge.
  7. Holy leavings: called prasad, or grace; it is the privilege of a disciple to get his master's leavings which are considered sacred.
  8. Bliss (Ananda) is a word that bulks largely in the vocabulary of the sannyasis; and their disciples often use euphemistic words of this nature to cover the vices of their masters. It is a word borrowed from the Vedanta philosophy.
  9. Guru: the appellation applied by disciples to their spiritual masters.
  10. Gerua: coloured with red ochre.
  11. Rudraksha: a kind of dried berry.
  12. A sage or saint.
  13. Full-moon day: a day on the evening of which the full-moon would rise; a day of peculiar sanctity to Hindus, when the alms collected would be expected to exceed in quantity those collected on other days.
  14. Indian loom: most Bengalis wear cloth imported from Lancashire, especially the poorer people.
  15. In different parts of India women drape their saris differently.
  16. 'Baby'.
  17. A Brahmin sect, whose home is up-country and not in the Ganges plain.
  18. Ram Babu: in Bengali it is usual to call a gentleman by his 'Christian' name, with the suffix of 'Babu'.
  19. Chhota means little and Bada, big. Little Baghia and Big Baghia must be two neighbouring villages.
  20. 'Live in happiness': a Sanskrit epicurean maxim.