The black Christians, like the whites, may be subdivided into two orders; first, the converted Hindoos; secondly, the mixed breed of European and Indian blood. Moreover, these latter have another distinction, being either Brahman Christians, as they ridiculously term themselves, on account of their descent from the Hindoo pontifical caste, or common ones. The only perceptible difference between them is, we believe, a moral one; the former are justly renowned for extraordinary deceitfulness and treachery. They consider themselves superior to the latter in point of dignity, and anciently enjoyed some peculiar privileges, such as the right of belonging to the orders of the Theatins, or regular clerks, and Saint Philip Nerius. (36) But in manners, appearance, customs, and education, they exactly resemble the mass of the community.
The Mestici, or mixed breed, composes the great mass of society at Goa; it includes all classes, from the cook to the government official. In 1835 one of them rose to the highest post of dignity, but his political career was curt and remarkably unsuccessful. Some half-castes travel in Europe, a great many migrate to Bombay for service and commerce, but the major part stays at Goa to stock professions, and support the honor of the family. It would be, we believe, difficult to find in Asia an uglier or more degraded looking race than that which we are now describing. The forehead is low and flat, the eyes small, quick, and restless; there is a mixture of sensuality and cunning about the region of the mouth, and a development of the lower part of the face which are truly unprepossessing, not to say revolting. Their figures are short and small, with concave chests, the usual calfless Indian leg, and a remarkable want of muscularity. In personal attractions the fair sex is little superior to the other. During the whole period of our stay at Goa we scarcely ever saw a pretty half-caste girl. At the same time we must confess that it is difficult to pronounce judgement upon this point, as women of good mixed family do not appear before casual visitors. And this is of course deemed a sign of superior modesty and chastity, for the black Christians, Asiatically enough, believe it impossible for a female to converse with a strange man and yet be virtuous. The dark ladies affect the old Portuguese costume, described in the preceding chapter; a few of the wealthiest dress like Europeans. Their education is purposely neglected - a little reading of their vernacular tongue, with the Ave and other prayers in general use, dancing, embroidery, and making sweetmeats, (37) are considered satis superque in the way of accomplishments. Of late years, a girls' school has been established by order of government at Panjim, but a single place of this kind is scarcely likely to affect the mass of the community. The life led by the fair sex at Goa must be, one would think, a dull one. Domestic occupations, smoking, a little visiting, and going to church, especially on the ferie, or festivals, lying in bed, sitting en deshabille, riding about in a mancheel, and an occasional dance - such are blunt weapons with which they attack Time. They marry early, begin to have a family probably at thirteen, are old women at twenty-two, and decrepit at thirty-five. Like Indians generally, they appear to be defective in amativeness, abundant in philoprogenitiveness, and therefore not much addicted to intrigues. At the same time we must record the fact, that the present archbishop has been obliged to issue an order forbidding nocturnal processions, which, as they were always crowded with lady devotees, gave rise to certain obstinate scandals.
The mongrel men dress as Europeans, but the quantity of clothing diminishes with the wearer's rank. Some of the lower orders, especially in the country, affect a full-dress costume, consisting in toto, of a cloth jacket and a black silk knee breeches. Even the highest almost always wear coloured clothes, as, by so doing, the washerman is less required. They are intolerably dirty and disagreeable:--verily cleanliness ought to be made an article of faith in the East. They are fond of spirituous liquors, and seldom drink, except honestly for the purpose of intoxication. As regards living, they follow the example of their white fellow-subjects in all points, except that they eat more rice and less meat. Their characters may be briefly described as passionate and cowardly, jealous and revengeful, with more of the vices than the virtues belonging to the two races from which they are descended. In early youth, especially before arriving at years of puberty, they evince a remarkable acuteness of mind, and facility in acquiring knowledge. They are equally quick at learning languages, and the lower branches of mathematical study, but they seem unable to obtain any results from their acquirements. Goa cannot boast of ever having produced a single eminent literato, or even a second-rate poet. To sum up in a few words, the mental and bodily development of this class are remarkable only as being a strange mélange of European and Asiatic peculiarities, of antiquated civilization and modern barbarism.
We before alluded to the deep-rooted antipathy between the black and the white population: the feeling of the former towards an Englishman is one of dislike not unmingled with fear. Should Portugal ever doom her now worse than useless colony to form part payment of her debts, their fate would be rather a hard one. Considering the wide spread of perhaps too liberal opinions concerning the race quaintly designated as "God's images carved in ebony," they might fare respectably as regards public estimation, but scarcely well enough to satisfy their inordinate ambition. It is sufficiently amusing to hear a young gentleman, whose appearance, manners, and colour fit him admirably to become band-boy to some Sepoy corps, talk of visiting Bombay, with letters of introduction to the Governor and Commander-in-chief. Still more diverting it is when you know that the same character would invariably deduct a perquisite from the rent of any house he may have procured, or boat hired for a stranger. Yet at the same time it is hard for a man who speaks a little English, French, Latin, and Portuguese to become the lower clerk of some office on the paltry pay of 70l per annum; nor is it agreeable for an individual who has just finished his course of mathematics, medicine, and philosophy to sink into the lowly position of an assistant apothecary in the hospital of a native regiment. No wonder that the black Indo-Portuguese-Portuguese is an utter radical; he has gained much by Constitution, the "dwarfish demon" which sets everybody by the ears at Goa. Hence it is that he will take the first opportunity in conversation with a foreigner to extol Lusitanian liberty to the skies, abuse English tyranny over, and insolence to, their unhappy Indian subjects, and descant delightedly upon the probability of an immediate crash in our Eastern empire. And, as might be expected, although poverty sends forth thousands of black Portuguese to earn money in foreign lands, they prefer the smallest competence at home, where equality allows them to indulge in a favourite independence of manner utterly at variance with our Anglo-Indian notions concerning the proper demeanour of a native towards a European.
The native Christian is originally a converted Hindoo, usually of the lowest castes; (38) and though he has changed for centuries his manners, dress, and religion, he retains to a wonderful extent the ideas, prejudices, and superstitions of his ancient state. The learned griff, Bishop Heber, in theorizing upon the probable complexion of our First Father, makes a remark about these people, so curiously erroneous, that it deserves to be mentioned. "The Portuguese have, during a three hundred years' residence in India, become as black as Caffres; surely this goes far to disprove the assertion which is sometimes made, that climate alone is insufficient to account for the difference between the Negro and the European." Climate in this case had nothing whatever to do with the change of colour. And if it had, we might instance as an argument against the universality of such atmospheric action, the Parsee, who, though he has been settled in the tropical lands of India for more than double three hundred years, is still, in appearance, complexion, voice, and manners, as complete an Iranian as when he first fled from his native mountains. But this is par parenthése.
The native Christians of Goa always shave the head; they cultivate an apology for a whisker, but never allow the beard or mustachios to grow. Their dress is scanty in the extreme, often consisting only of a dirty rag, worn about the waist, and their ornaments, a string of beads round the neck. The women are equally badly clothed: the single long piece of cotton, called in India a saree, is their whole attire, (39) consequently the bosom is unsupported and uncovered. This race is decidedly the lowest in the scale of civilized humanity we have yet seen. In appearance they are short, heavy, meagre, and very dark; their features are uncomely in the extreme; they are dirtier than Pariahs, and abound in cutaneous diseases. They live principally on fish and rice, with pork and fruit when they can afford such luxuries. Meat as well as bread (40) is holiday diet; clarified butter, rice, water, curry, and cocoa-nut milk are every-day food.
These people are said to be short lived, the result of hard labour, early marriages, and innutritious food. We scarcely ever saw a man that looked fifty. In disposition they resemble the half-castes, but they are even more deficient in spirit, and quarrelsome withal, than their "whitey-brown" brethren. All their knowledge is religious, and consists only of a few prayers in corrupt Maharatta, taught them by their parents or the priest; these they carefully repeat three times per diem - at dawn, in the afternoon, and before retiring to rest. Loudness of voice and very Puritanical snuffle being sine qua nons in their devotional exercises, the neighbourhood of a pious family is anything but pleasant. Their superiority to the heathen around them consists in eating pork, drinking toddy to excess, shaving the face, never washing, and a conviction that they are going to paradise, whereas all other religionists are emphatically not. They are employed as sepoys, porters, fishermen, seamen, labourers, mancheel bearers, workmen and servants, and their improvident indolence renders the necessity of hard labour at times imperative. The carpenters, farriers, and other trades, not only ask an exorbitant sum for working, but also, instead of waiting on the employer, scarcely ever fail to keep him waiting for them. For instance, on Monday you wanted a farrier, and sent for him. He politely replied that he was occupied at the moment, but would call at his earliest convenience. This, if you keep up a running fire of messages, will probably be about next Saturday.
The visitor will not find at Goa that number and variety of heathen castes which bewilder his mind at Bombay. The capital of Portuguese India now stands so low amongst the cities of Asia that few or no inducements are offered to the merchant and the trader, who formerly crowded her ports. The Turk, the Arab, and the Persian have left them for a wealthier mart, and the only strangers are a few Englishmen, who pass through the place to visit its monuments of antiquity.
The Moslem population at Panjim scarcely amounts to a thousand. They have no place of worship, although their religion is now, like all others, tolerated. (41) The distinctive mark of the Faithful is the long beard. They appear superior beings by the side of the degenerate native Christians.
Next to the Christians, the Hindoos are the most numerous portion of the community. They are held in the highest possible esteem and consideration, and no office unconnected with religion is closed to them. This fact may account for the admirable ease and freedom of manner prevalent amongst them. The Gentoo will enter your room with his slippers on, sit down after shaking hands as if the action were a matter of course, chew his betel, and squirt the scarlet juice all over the floor, in a word, make himself as offensive as you can conceive. But at Goa all men are equal. Moreover, the heathens may be seen in Christian churches, (42) with covered feet, pointing at, putting questions concerning, and criticising the images with the same quite-at-home nonchalance with which they would wander through the porticoes of Dwarka or the pagodas of Aboo. And these men's fathers, in the good old times of Goa, were not allowed even to burn their dead (43) in the land.'
In appearance the Hindoos are of a fair, or rather a light yellow complexion. Some of the women are by no means deficient in personal charms, and the men generally surpass in size and strength the present descendants of the Portuguese heroes. They wear the mustachio, but not the beard, and dress in the long cotton coat, with the cloth wound round the waist, very much the same as in Bombay. The head, however, is usually covered with a small red velvet skullcap, instead of a turban. The female attire is the saree, with the long-armed bodice beneath it; their ornaments are numerous; and their caste is denoted by a round spot of kunkun, vermilion, upon the forehead between the eyebrows.
As usual among Hindoos, the pagans at Goa are divided into a number of sub-castes. In the Brahman we find two great subdivisions, the Sashteekar, or inhabitants of Salsette, and the Bardeskar, or people of Bardes. The former is confessedly superior to the latter. Both families will eat together, but they do not intermarry. Besides these two, there are a few of the Chitpawan, Sinart, Kararee and Waishnau castes of the pontifical order.
The Brahmans always wear the tika, or sectarian mark, perpendicularly, to distinguish them from the Sonars, or Goldsmiths, who place it horizontally on the forehead. They are but superficially educated, as few of them know Sanscrit, and these few not well. All read and write Maharatta fluently, but they speak the inharmonious Concancee dialect.
Next to the Brahmans, and resembling them in personal appearance, are the Banyans, or traders. They seem to be a very thriving portion of the population, and live in great comfort, if not luxury.
The Shudra, or servile class of Hindoos, is, of course, by far the most numerous; it contains many varieties, such as Bhandan (toddy-makers), Koonbee (potters), Hajjam (barbers), &c.
Of mixed castes we find the goldsmith, who is descended from a Brahman father and servile mother, and the Kunchanee, or <Greek>, whose maternal parent is always a Maharatta woman, whatever the other progenitor may chance to be. The outcasts are principally Chamars, or tanners, and Parwars (Pariahs).
These Hindoos very rarely become Christians, now that fire and steel, the dungeon and the rack, the rice-pot and the rupee, are not allowed to play the persuasive part in the good work formerly assigned to them. Indeed, we think that conversion of the heathen is almost more common in British than in Portuguese India, the natural result of our being able to pay the proselytes more liberally. When such an event does occur at Goa, it is celebrated at a church in the north side of the creek, opposite Panjim, with all the pomp and ceremony due to the importance of spoiling a good Gentoo by making a bad Christian of him.
We were amused to witness on one occasion a proof of the high importance attached to Hindoo opinion in this part of the world. Outside the church of St. Agnes, in a little chapel, stood one of the lowest orders of black priests, lecturing a host of naked, squatting, smoking, and chattering auditors. Curiosity induced us to venture nearer, and we then discovered that the theme was a rather imaginative account of the birth and life of the Redeemer. Presently a group of loitering Gentoos, who had been strolling about the church, came up and stood by our side.
The effect of their appearance upon his Reverence's discourse was remarkable, as may be judged from the peroration, which was very much in these words:--
"You must remember, sons, that the avatár, or incarnation of your blessed Lord, was in the form of a rajah, who ruled millions of men. He was truly great and powerful; he rode the largest elephant ever trapped; he smoked a hookah of gold, and when he went to war he led an army the like of which for courage, numbers, and weapons was never seen before. He would have conquered the whole world, from Portugal to China, had he not been restrained by humility. But, on the last day, when he shall appear even in greater state than before, he will lead his people to most glorious and universal victory."
When the sermon concluded, and the listeners had wandered away in different directions, we walked up to his Reverence and asked him if he had ever read the Gospel.
"Then Where did you find the historical picture you so graphically drew just now about the rajahship?"
"Where?" said the fellow, grinning and pointing to his forehead: "here, to be sure. Didn't you see those Gentoos standing by and listening to every word I was saying? A pretty thing it would have been to see the pagans laughing and sneering at us Christians because the Founder of our Blessed Faith was the son of a Burhaee." (44)
Such reasoning was conclusive.
If our memory serve us aright, there is a story somewhat like the preceding in the pages of the Abbé Dubois. Such things we presume must constantly be taking place in different parts of India. On one occasion we saw an unmistakable Lakhshmi (45) borne in procession amongst Christian images, and, if history be trusted, formerly it was common to carry as many Hindoo deities as European saints in the palanquins. On the other hand, many a Gentoo has worn a crucifix for years, with firm faith in the religious efficacy of the act, yet utterly ignorant of the nature of the symbol he was bearing, and we have ourselves written many and many a charm for ladies desirous of becoming prolific, or matrons fearful of the evil eye being cast upon their offspring.
On our return from old Goa to Panjim we visited an establishment, which may be considered rather a peculiar one. It is called the Caza de Misericordia, and contains some forty or fifty young ladies, for the most part orphans, of all colours, classes, and ages. They are educated by nuns, under the direction of a superior and a committee, and when grown up, remain in the house till they receive and accept suitable offers of marriage.
Hearing that it was not unusual to propose oneself as a suitor; with a view of inspecting the curiosities of the establishment, we repaired to the Caza, and were politely received by the old lady at the gate. After showing us over the chapel and other public portions of the edifice, she perceived that we had some other object, and presently discovered that we were desirous of playing the part of Coelebs in search of a wife. Thereupon she referred us to another and more dignified relic of antiquity, who, after a long and narrow look at our outward man, proceeded to catechise us in the following manner.
"You say, señor, that you want a wife; what may be your name?"
"The Christian, señora."
"An ensign in H. E. I. Company's Navy."
Not satisfied with such authentic details, the inquisitive old lady began a regular system of cross-questioning, and so diligently did she pursue it, that we had some difficulty to prevent contradicting ourselves. At length, when she had, as she supposed, thoroughly mastered the subject, she requested us to step into a corridor, and to dispose of ourselves upon a three-legged stool. This we did, leaning gracefully against the whitewashed wall, and looking steadfastly at the open grating. Presently, a wrinkled old countenance, with a skin more like a walnut's than a woman's peered through the bars, grinned at us, and disappeared. Then came half-a-dozen juveniles, at the very least, tittering and whispering most diligently, all of which we endured with stoical firmness, feeling that the end of such things was approaching.
At last, a sixteen-year old face gradually drew within sight from behind the bars. That was clearly one of the young ladies. Now for it.--
"Good day, and my respects to you, senorita!"
"The same to you, sir."
Hem! It is rather a terrible thing to make love under such circumstances. The draw upon one's imagination in order to open the dialogue, is alone sufficient to frighten Cupid out of the field. It was impossible to talk of the weather, in that country where it burns, deluges, and chills with the regularity of clock-work. So we plunged at once in medias res.
"Should you like to be married, senorita?"
"Yes, very much, señor."
"And why, if you would satisfy my curiosity?"
"I don't know."
Equally unsatisfactory was the rest of the conversation. So we bowed politely, rose from our three-legged stool, and determined to seek an interview with the Superior. Our request was at last granted, and we found a personage admirably adapted, in point of appearance, to play dragon over the treasures committed to her charge. She had a face which reminded us exactly of a white horse, a body answerable, and manners decidedly repulsive. However, she did not spare her tongue. She informed us that there were twelve marriageable young ladies then in the establishment, named them, and minutely described their birth, parentage, education, mental and physiological development. She also informed us that they would receive a dowry from the funds of the house, which, on further inquiry, proved to be the sum of ten pounds.
At length we thought there was an opportunity to put in a few words about our grievance--how we had been placed on a three-legged stool before a grating--exposed to the inquisitiveness of the seniors, and subjected to the ridicule of the junior part of the community. We concluded with a modest hint that we should like to be admitted within, and be allowed a little conversation with the twelve marriageable young ladies to whom she had alluded.
The old lady suddenly became majestic.
"Before you are admitted to such a privilege, señor, you mus be kind enough to address an official letter to the mesa, or board, explaining your intentions, and requesting the desired permission. We are people under government, and do not keep a naughty house. Do you understand me señor?"
Upon which we arose, scraped the ground thrice, with all the laboriousness of Indo-Portuguese politeness, promised compliance in our best phraseology, and rapidly disappeared, resolving never to near the Caza de Misericordia again.