Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/Scene in Katteawar—Travellers and Escort
SCENE IN KATTEAWAR,—TRAVELLERS AND ESCORT.
The unsettled state of the country, tenanted by wild tribes of a very lawless description, renders it necessary that those who undertake long journeys in Guzerat, should travel well protected. The scene in the plate represents a party just arriving at the halting ground, which, in the absence of better accommodation, has been chosen on a plain thickly scattered over with the remains of tombs. The sepulchres of India are so completely devoid of those revolting features which in other countries render them so distasteful to the living, that no person can possibly have any objection to take up an abode in them: wells are usually found in their vicinity, and they are generally erected in pleasant places; while during the greater portion of the year, the nights in India are so remarkably fine, that the shelter afforded by a pavilion, open, as the one in the plate, to all the winds of heaven, proves quite sufficient for comfort. Fires are speedily lighted in the evening bivouac, animals unloaded, and the baggage piled in a place offering the greatest chance of security. Each person is provided with food, the Hindoos contenting themselves with a simple meal of grain and vegetables, to which the richer portion add butter and spices. The Mohammedan travellers, though allowed a more generous diet, are well satisfied, when upon a march, with the same materials prepared somewhat differently. Water is the common beverage, which, with the
addition of sugar, and the juice of some of the abundant fruits, is easily converted into sherbet. A cloak or blanket, or at most a thin mat or mattrass, suffices for the bed, many sleeping as profoundly upon the bare earth, as if they were cradled on the couches of kings. Wealthy persons travel provided with tents; and the night encampment often boasts a great deal more of comfort, than persons unacquainted with the climate and manners of the people could possibly imagine.
The name of Katteawar is frequently applied by the natives to the whole of the peninsula of Guzerat, but in reality it only comprehends a portion of the interior. Accustomed to a predatory life, the natives of this district are very reluctantly compelled to relinquish old habits, to which they return upon every favourable occasion. They are a bold, warlike race, but not numerous; a circumstance partly owing to a practice very prevalent, that of female infanticide. It has been erroneously supposed that the efforts of the British political agents employed for the purpose, and the treaties which they have obtained, have occasioned the abolition of this frightful practice. According to the best-authenticated accounts, it still exists to a very great extent among the higher classes, who, in consequence of the difficulty of procuring suitable matches for their daughters, murder them as soon as they are born. It has been ascertained, that since the year 1820, in which many refractory chiefs were reduced to obedience, and obliged to conform outwardly with the stipulations made by the British Government, not more than one hundred females have been suffered to grow up to womanhood. Until the natives themselves can see the enormity of this crime, no enactments, or representations from persons professing another religion, can ever prevent its commission. Where no other means are employed, neglect will speedily secure the desired end; but in most instances the infant takes its first and last draught in this world, of opium; which sends it immediately to its eternal rest.
The people of Katteawar trouble themselves little about the distinctions of caste. Rajpoots by descent, and children of the sun, they worship that luminary, but, while equally superstitious with their Hindoo brethren, are not imbued with the same religious zeal. Katteawar is famous for a breed of horses which is esteemed throughout India; and its camels, which come from Marwar, a province in the north of Guzerat, are also considered the finest in India, being taller, more muscular, and believed to be of a more noble character, than any other.