Slike stranica

horses, bearers of silver sticks (called chobdars) and other bearers richly dressed, with trays of presents and sweetmeats of all kinds

all these, and crowds of thousands of citizens, formed a scene, when brilliantly lit up by torchlight, like that of the court of Indra and the Palace of the Peris.

This marriage procession, called the barrath, goes at night to conduct the bride to the house of the bridegroom. It usually started from the palace about eight or nine o'clock, and concluded about midnight. However near the houses might be to each other, the time consumed was the same, the procession going by a circuit when the houses were near, to lengthen out the ceremony. So with cannons firing, and fireworks blazing away, and torches flashing, so that night was turned into day, it stood before the door, awaiting the bride, whom the bridegroom had not yet seen. Nor did he see her till the ceremony was concluded.

The marriage ceremony-the nikha—is almost entirely religious. The parents answer for the girl, and the bridegroom engages to

take her, to love her, to cherish her for ever, whether she be lovely and young, or old and blind and decrepit; whether black and ugly, or fair and handsome. The bridegroom gives the nose-ring to the bride as the sign of marriage, but in the court a ring for the finger and a garland for the head were usually added.

At the close of the religious ceremony a muslin veil was thrown over the heads of both, and a mirror laid between them, in which the bridegroom, for the first time, saw the face of his bride. It was not difficult to judge, from the countenance of the youth when the veil was removed, whether he was pleased or disappointed. The bride was usually conducted to her own home again, that is, to the house of her father and mother, the following day, and lived with them a month or so, the bridegroom visiting her occasionally or regularly every day, remaining during the night and departing in the morning, according to his pleasure. From the devotion he exhibited during this first month, or from his indifference, the future well-being

or unhappiness of the bride might be safely augured.

At the end of this month or so of probation the bride went finally to her husband's house to take her place in it as his wife. But it was not till after the birth of a son that she ruled as supreme in the household, and obtained full liberty of action. Till the birth of a son, for instance, she was not permitted to sit, converse, or eat with her husband, except in the privacy of her own apartment, if he chose to come there for that purpose. But the mother of a son, married by nikha, was female head of the household, and had in it almost absolute power. She could then visit her husband in his usual sitting-room, could join him at meals, and, in fact, act more like a wife according to the ideas of English sahibs.

One of the king's sons, who was afterwards killed in the streets of Lucknow during the mutiny, was little better than a fool, and offended his father so much by his wild silly behaviour, that he was usually under confinement. He was betrothed and married,


however, according to custom, and the girl chosen for him was a nice quiet modest well-looking bride, the daughter of one of the inferior officers of the court. Everything went on as usual until the muslin sheet was thrown over them, and the mirror placed for him to see her face. When this was done, the band playing without in the courtyard, all the assembled company was startled by a piercing shriek from the bride, who fell down insensible, having fainted from pain and terror. The madman had torn her nosering off, and bit her severely, whilst they were concealed from view by the sheet. She was rescued by her friends, was happily not compelled to live with him, but lived and died a virgin widow.

In the inferior left-handed muta marriages so frequently contracted by the members of the royal family, the bridegroom did not appear in person. His sword and belt, or his head-dress, or even some ornament of his person, represented him on the occasion. The usual form of words was gone through, but no one regarded the ceremony as very bind

ing or sacred. Binding it was on the part of the woman, who was liable to suffer death if false to her duty; but such marriages were easily dissolved by the king or his male relations, when they felt so disposed. On the birth of a son the muta wife usually, but not always, became nikha, and the nikha ceremony was gone through between her and her lord. This occurred several times in

the reign of the ex-king Wajid Aly.

One of the muta wives of the king, who had been betrothed to a fellow villager, a playmate of hers, in infancy, escaped once in disguise from the palace. Direful was the commotion in consequence. Guards and attendants were flogged, and the shrieks resounded throughthe courtyards and corridors, Messengers were despatched in various directions to bring back the fugitive. She was found and brought back on the third day. I saw her after that for the first time. She had large black eyes, an oval face, and a fair complexion. Her features were regular, but wanted expression—all except the eyes, which seemed to look through one, so piercing and

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