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“Of the modes adopted by the Hindoos of sacrificing themselves to the divine powers, none however has more excited the attention of the Europeans, than the burning of the wives on the funeral piles of their husbands. To this cruel sacrifice the highest virtues are ascribed. “The wife who commits herself to the flames with her husband's corpse, sball equal Arundhati, and reside in Swarga; accompanying her husband, she shall reside so long in Swarga as are the thirty-five millions of hairs on the human body. As the snakecatcher forcibly drags the serpent from his earth, so, bearing her husband from hell, with him she shall enjoy the delights of heaven while fourteen Indras reign. If her husband had killed a Brahmana, broken the ties of gratitude, or murdered his friend, she expiates the crime.' Though a widow has the alternative of leading a life of chastity, of mortification, denied to the pleasures of dress, never sleeping on a bed, never exceeding one meal a day, nor eating any other than simple food, it is held her duty to burn herself along with her husband : and · the Hindoo legislators,' says Mr. Colebrooke, have shewn themselves disposed to encourage this barbarous sacrifice.'”—Mill's India, vol. 1. 274, 275. Quarto Edition.
“ The widow'd Indian, when her lord expires,
Children of Brama! then was mercy nigh
Come, heavenly power! primeval peace restore,
THE VICTIM OF DELUSION:
A HINDOO WIDOW.
June 9, 1826.
This night I witnessed what surely may deeply impress any right-thinking and well-directed mind; and could I utter the language of my feelings to every human creature, and justly describe the odious colours of the transaction to every rational community, I should consider myself enjoined by the first principles of religion, to appeal to every honourable sympathy, and to excite every vigorous energy, the influence and application of which ought not to cease till such deeds should become only the subject of a record, and History herself be almost tempted to draw the veil of oblivion over the sad tale of sorrow and sin, as an ignominious stain upon the character of humanity.
In a country conquered by British arms, and defended by British troops-on ground called British possession, or at least within a few yards of British territory-within sight of a Protestant garrison church -with the sanction (so on the spot it was understood) of a British officer high in rank—in the presence of two of his staff-officers, three professed teachers of the religion of Jesus come from a far land, several native Christians, the highest native authorities, and thousands of the surrounding inhabitants,--I stood by the funeral pile of an aged, decrepid, dead brahmin, and saw his widow, the mother of his children, in the presence of her heart-broken mother, her appalled sister, and her poor destitute and bereaved infant, mingle her vital with the dead remains of her husband, embrace his cold emaciated form, and express her deliberate desire that the immolation might be perfected by the application of the sacrificial torch. Had she with the murderous steel, in oppositior to every counsel, and in contradiction to every sentiment of anxious bleeding friendship and affection, drawn forth her life's blood to appease a supposed divinil , it would ha 3 exhibited a fit occasion for the disapprobation of heaven, and of lamentation to earth; and many a mother might have said, and many a daughter have repeated, why were not the wretched and infatuated maniac's hands restrained. One such instance would be enough, not merely for the annals of a world, but for the records of eternity!
But how can humanity listen to it? How can Christians longer endure it? How shall the perpetrators answer for it at the judgment-day? Not only the permission, but also the presence of the supreme native magistrate of the district, with all his official native attendants, are obtained as a sanction; and in addition
to the probable acquiescence of British authorities, British officers are made observant spectators; whilst numbers of fellow-creatures are beheld busily employed in conveying and heaping together the fagot and the combustible materials, and others constructing the pile thereof with much wood, strewing with studious care the insidiously destructive fuel, and joyously active, as if they built a temple for their god, or a palace for their king; whilst the directions of the magistrate are given, and the servants of his government employed to advance with speed, and to arrange in order, the diabolical preparations. Oh! it is awful indeed! and the spectators are ready, looking around with apprehension, to inquire, is this the doing of fellowimmortals, and is this a place on earth we occupy?
But the victim! where is she, and how employed ? There-garlanded, decked with her jewels, clothed in her sacred garments ; her face and feet, legs and arms, bedaubed with saffron and other ingredients; appearing about thirty years of age; exhibiting a smile of apathetic complacency, but bending in her form, evidently as if she would live the years of age in a few hours; surrounded by deceivers in the garb of brahmins, the greater number of these old, haggard, and worn down in the service; grey haired, but not for a crown of glory; their words not the accents of mercy or of wisdom; their countenance stern, but not for virtue, showing dispositions not congenial with earth or heaven. If their hands had reeked thick with a brother's blood, and its voice had been uttering vengeance
in their ears—if the stamp of Cain bad already distinguished their foreheads, you could not have had more to deprecate or to contemn. Thus was the poor creature surrounded, in company with a few women, who aided the delusions of infatuation, who placed a value upon the distinguishing tokens of her favour, who bowed their head to the touch of her sacred hand, who pleaded for her presents, and almost scrambled for her gifts. The influential guide too of her last moments was an old brahmin, not far from the grave; he directed her to the distribution of fruits, cocoa-nut, and pounded seeds, clothes and small sums of money, and contended with other brahmins regarding the appropriation of the residue of her property.
Her husband lay at her feet bound to his bier, retaining the marks of old age, having reached nearly to the years of threescore and ten. The bier was placed upon the pile and under a canopy, heaped with fuel, suspended by ropes, and upheld by four rough poles fixed in the ground, and forming a square.
Then proceeded the ceremony of execrable murder, with as much regularity as if orders had been issued by him who was a murderer from the beginning. The victim was led to the place of sacrifice: round this she slowly paced, still conferring her favours, and bestowing her unsubstantial gifts. Once did she thus walk accompanied, and twice alone; she then kneeled by the right side of the deceased, and assumed the posture of supplication ; when arisen, she was guided to the left side, where the pyre should be ascended. I saw