Almost as wonderful as these juggler’s tricks are the performances of the snake charmers. They carry the dreaded, poisonous cobras around in baskets and handle them, playing at the same time on their little flutes, quite as if the creatures were entirely harmless.
The Hindus love amusements. They are fond of music and have many curious instruments. Dancing girls dance for the amusement of guests at feasts given in the homes of the wealthy. They usually take their own musicians with them; one of these plays upon a little drum, the other on a kind of guitar. Street exhibitions are frequent.
In the “hill country” of India live many curious brown peoples whose languages are different from the Aryan tongue of the Hindus. These peoples, called Dravidians, are considered the earliest occupiers of India. Among them no tribe is more curious than the Todas. In some ways they are like the Ainu. Though brown, they are probably really white or Caucasic. They have the features, strong beards, and hairy bodies of whites, and in these respects are like the Ainu.
The Todas live on a tableland whose surface is covered with hills and rolling prairies. The hills are clad with coarse grass, and in some of the valleys are deep forests. The sunshine is bright and warm, and the dry season is long.
The Todas think only of their cattle. They 108do not hunt—in fact, they have no weapons; they do not cultivate any fields, getting what plant food they use from the Badagas and other neighboring tribes. But they do raise cattle—buffalo. Their villages are located in the midst of pasture land. No village is occupied for a whole year, but the people have always at least two villages and live first in one, then in the other. This is to have fresh pasture for their cattle and to be secure in the wet season.
The vina is undoubtedly of high antiquity. It has seven wire strings, and movable frets which are generally fastened with wax. Two hollowed gourds, often tastefully ornamented, are affixed to it for the purpose of increasing the sonorousness. There are several kinds of the vina in different districts; but that represented in the illustration is regarded as the oldest. The performer shown is Jeewan Shah, a celebrated virtuoso on the vina, who lived about a hundred years ago. The Hindus divided their musical scale into several intervals smaller than our modern semitones. They adopted twenty-two intervals called sruti in the compass of an octave, which may therefore be compared to our chromatic intervals. As the frets of the vina are movable the performer can easily regulate them according to the scale, or mode, which he requires for his music.
The Nautch Girls are the singing and dancing girls of the East. They are gorgeously attired in robes of embroidered silk and muslin, and covered with jewels. They attend the public and private festivals and entertain the company bu their soft and voluptuous songs, and graceful attitudes.
The dances of the Nautch Girls consist in sudden transitions. The movement is sometimes slow and graceful; then by a change of the music it becomes all life, and exhibits the most rapid succession of violent actions, the performers twirling round with the velocity of a spinning top, and for such a length of time that it almost makes a person giddy to look at them.
The Nautch girl in the picture was considered one of the most celebrated singers in Bengal. Her voice was extremely sweet, but sung in so low a tone, that it would have been impossible to hear a note unless within a few yards of her; but a powerful voice is not esteemed an excellence in an Indian singer.
Each Nautch Girl is attended by her own musicians, who form themselves in a circle behind her, accompanying her voice with their instruments.
Comparative Maps of Asia
(a) as part of hemisphere
(b) on Mercators projection to show relative sizes of Asiatic Russia and India in the two cases.
Chief Foreign Settlements in India, 17th Century
The kingdom of Gandhara on the northwest frontier near Peshawar, which flourished in the third century B.C., was a typical meeting-place of the Hellenic and Indian worlds. Here are to be found the earliest Buddhist sculptures, and interwoven with them are figures which are recognizably the figures of Serapis and Isis and Horus already worked into the legendary net that gathered about Buddha. No doubt the Greek artists who came to Gandhara were loath to relinquish a familiar theme. But Isis, we are told, is no longer Isis but Hariti, a pestilence goddess whom Buddha converted and made benevolent.
In many parts of India iron is made in a very simple way, which has probably been followed for centuries without much change. The iron-worker builds a little furnace of clay, in the form of a tower which is narrower at the top than at the bottom. This tower is only four or five feet high, so that it is after all no bigger than the towers and castles which children build in the sand; but its builder makes good use of it, small though it is. The top of it is open, and at the bottom there are one or two openings in the side, through which the iron-maker can blow the air of a pair of bellows. These bellows are goat-skin bags, which have been made by sewing up whole skins. A hollow bamboo is fitted into the end of each bag, in order to form the pipes of the bellows and there is also another opening in each bag which may be closed very quickly by the man who blows the bellows. He works the bellows by pressing upon the goat-skin bags with his feet, so as to drive out the air through the pipe which is fixed in the end of each bag. He works two bags at one time, pressing first upon one and then upon the other. While he is pressing one bag, he raises the other, which is empty, and allows it to fill again through the hole which has been left in it for that purpose. In this way he contrives to have one bag filling with air, while he is squeezing the air out of the other.
Another favourite instrument is the 'kimmori.' This also derives its sounding powers from gourds, of which three are usually slung from the tube forming the body. It is said by the natives to have been invented by one of the singers of the 'Brahma Loka,' or heaven of the Brahmins. The 'kimmori' is made of a pipe of bamboo or blackwood, with frets or screws, which should be fashioned of the scales of the pangolin, or scaly ant-eater, though more often they are made of bone or metal. It has only two strings, one touching the frets, the other carried above them. The tail-piece is always carved like the breast of a kite, and the instrument is frequently found sculptured on ancient temples and shrines, especially in Mysore, in the south of Hindustan.
The 'bin,' or 'vina,' may be regarded as the national instrument of India.
The 'bin' is made of wood, and has seven strings, two of steel, the rest of silver, and these are plucked by the two first fingers of the performer, who wears little metal shields made for the purpose. It is tuned by pegs, and has two gourds suspended below, each usually measuring about fourteen inches across. These, being of irregular shape and gaily coloured, give a very picturesque look to the instrument.
One of the largest cannon now existing is a brass one at Bejapoor, called “Moolik-i-Meidan,” or “The Lord of the Plain.” It was cast in commemoration of the capture of that place by the Emperor Alum Geer, in 1685. Its length is 14ft. 1in., diameter about 5ft. 8in., diameter of bore, 2ft. 4in., interior length of bore, 10ft.; length of chamber unknown; shape of gun nearly “cylindrical;” description of shot, stone. An iron shot for this gun, of proper size, would weigh 1600lbs. It is now lying in a dilapidated circular bastion on the left of the principal gateway of the city. The trunnions are broken off, and there is a ring on each side of it, as well as two Persian inscriptions on the top. It is placed on three heavy beams of wood, packed round with large stones. A number of stone shot, of 2ft. 2in. in diameter, are scattered about. This gun is said to be the heaviest piece of ordnance in the world. It weighs about forty-two tons.