Travels of Deen Muhammad: 18th-century India, a village with seven wells
It was the time of the East India Company in India in the 18th century when Din Muhammad, born in Patna, joined the East India Company‘s army at an early age of 11 years.
His job here was not to fight a war but to serve in the military camp as per his profession. It was here that he received Major Baker of the British Raj’s army, who took Din Muhammad under his care and then had the opportunity to travel to India where Major Baker’s posting took place.
Not only that, but Din Muhammad accompanied Major Baker from India to Britain and initially settled in Ireland.
People here used to ask him questions about India and he answered in the form of ‘Travels of Din’. The ‘Travels of Din’ was published in Ireland in 1794 and was the first book written by any South Asian in English.
Nawab of Murshidabad
The first scene that my eyes saw upon arriving at Morshad Abad was the Nawab ride of thousands of servants who were going from temple to temple. This beautiful scene was very shocking.
The Nawab’s procession consisted of three thousand people, who were very eagerly heading towards the temple. In terms of the beauty and elegance of the dresses, I had never seen such a scene before.
In the midst of the procession was the Nawab’s very bright palanquin which was dressed in red uniform by 16 people on the shoulders. The palanquin roof was supported by four heavy pillars of silver
The ceiling was made of tissue cloth, with a strip of bronze embroidered velvet on its edges, and silver wires on the edges of the strip.
The nawab was a brawman, with the armrest of gold wings in the palanquin, like a armchair chair.
On either side of the Nawab’s palanquin were two servants, who were careful to fly flies for silver-clad fans with the tail of an unknown animal in their hands.
Speaking of his preparation for the Nawab, he had a seemingly small turban made of silk on his head that actually used 44 yards of silk. Assess the sophistication of the silk by saying that its total weight was no more than a pound and a half. On the turban was a band of silk with a silver bandage hanging over the nawab’s right eye. On the turban, a very transparent diamond, star-shaped, was shining.
The nawab’s dress was also silk and had cream satin layers on it and silver pajamas and buttons were attached to his pajamas. A shawl made of camel’s hair was carelessly placed over his shoulder while a similar shawl was also tied around the waist.
At the waist of the nawab was a dagger peeking from beneath the shawl, a pattern of workmanship in itself. The dagger was of pure gold on which diamonds were attached, and not only that, there were small pieces of gold hanging from the dagger. The Nawab’s shoes were made of red velvet adorned with pearls and silver work was also done on them.
There was a special assistant on horseback on both sides of the palki. The only difference between his and Nawab’s costume was that of diamonds embedded in the turban of the Nawab, and the rest of them were identical.
The saddles of the horses of the Nawab’s auxiliaries were also decorated with traps and were the highest embroidery pattern. The nawabs were pedestrians back and forth, and the nearest of the palanquins were on horseback.
An example cannot be given of the people involved in the Nawab’s riding. It was as if the earth had opened its breasts and poured treasures to decorate them, and then the artisans here, with their skill, gave these treasures the shape that would make them proud.
The nawab’s right was passed from his hands to the right, which was in the hands of a servant in his procession. Tobacco was mixed with rosemary and musk for the truth. Haqqa and his chawl were of silver and gold was placed on both ends of the drainage, and diamonds were also attached to the portion which was in the hands of the nawab. The right hollow was made of wires between layers of silk, satin and muslin. On this part of the right where the water was filled, gold was worked fine.
Before the Nawab’s rides, the instrumentalists were playing the local tune, and they also included a huge drum placed on a camel whose echo was heard far and wide. At the forefront of the ride was everyone who was warning everyone about the arrival of the Nawab, which paved the way for them to proceed.
People from far away came to see this view. I stayed there until I entered the Nawab’s temple and saw that everyone had taken off his shoes before going in. After watching this scene I decided to stay in Murshidabad for a while.
The ritual of circumcision
After watching the Nawab procession in Murshadabad, Din Mohammad also had the opportunity to attend a ceremony held by an ordinary citizen.
Here’s how they describe the scene. “Shortly after watching the Nawab ride, I met a relative of mine who invited me to attend my son’s circumcision ritual.
The circumcision ritual waits for the child to be seven years of age, so that before the ritual, the child is aware of the basic beliefs of his religion.
People start saving for the circumcision ritual so that they can complete it with as much dhoom dham. When the time of circumcision arrives, all the Muslims from the boy’s family take the nutmeg to invite them to their homes in the city. Taking nutmeg is like sending a card to someone’s house in Ireland.
As a Muslim, the Muslims participate in this event and enhance it. These rich men, dressed in fine clothing, arrive on beautifully decorated horses, and the camels also join their caravans.
On the day of circumcision, sham shayans are performed in large areas, with a capacity for seating of at least 2,000 people and only Muslims can participate. The arrival of Maulvi is announced by bandwagon. Maulvi takes her place under a beautiful umbrella of silk made with a baby.
‘The baby was dressed in burgundy and was also wearing jewelry. He sits on a chair in a velvet pillow waiting for time to pass. Before circumcision, the baby is taken on a horse and circled around the court. He takes her four swordsmen and rides them on a mare. The child and his relatives have the same clothing.
When the child is taken to a court, he prostrates there and recites the prayers recited by his parents so that the circumcision can be completed without loss. After this prayer tour, the child is brought back under the sham.
Throughout the process, the band musicians were on hand, but they were silent on entering Maulvi’s reunion. In Maulvi’s hand was a pot full of water. He splashed water on his baby while he was fasting. At the same time the whole crowd stood on one leg and all raised their hands to heaven and prayed for the baby’s health. Once again the noise of the music erupted in an atmosphere in which the instruments of joy played. The baby was taken away from home and the attention of gamers turned.
The barber washed his hands with the attendants’ water and offered them towels. He then took off his shoes and sat down on a beautiful carpet, where he was served with a meat dish for his favorite dish in the area. The flames were bright on all sides, with the light of the guests’ precious clothing and everything looking even more beautiful.
English officers joke in India
In his travelogue, Din Muhammad also mentioned the nobility of the Nawabs and kings in the British Raj’s officers in India.
Echoing the invitations of European officers at the Raja Satp Rai palace in Patna, he says that Raja Satp Rai used to arrange various banquets for the European officers at the magnificent palace. These banquets cost a lot. My mother’s house was not far from the king’s palace, and my attention was always directed towards the passing European officers.
There were guards at the gate of the palace, but I got admission because of my father’s fame (Din Muhammad’s father was a servant in the Raja’s army). European officers visited the palace between seven and eight o’clock in the evening. First of all, they were treated with tea and coffee.
They also enjoyed dancing together. Then the heat would force them to go down the hall where they would be sewn under a double layer of beautiful silk. These shamans stood on eight bamboo bases. There was a beautiful carpet on the floor.
‘The king occupies his seat among the guests. The personal assistants of the king kept watch for special and ministerial service. Then came the dancers who, with the help of the musicians, not only recited the most melodious and melodious songs, but also performed acts of humor that would warm the heart of any monk.
‘Meanwhile, the king’s servants continued the marvelous display of fireworks, in which birds and animals were made. I have not seen such a demonstration in Europe. There were bright branches on each side and there was a light atmosphere.
“After all this, European guests would go to the hostel for the sake of it. The food was prepared by the king’s special employee. Guests are treated to ice cream, various types of bird meat and the world’s finest fruits. The king’s happiness was that he accepted the fruits even from the non-Muslims, though his religion did not allow it.
‘The ceremony would have been canceled at midnight. The king visited his palace and the European officers visited his quarters. ‘
In his itinerary, Din Muhammad also describes the scene of the British army’s shadow where he had the opportunity to stay.
‘Bankipur is a few kilometers from Patna and we encamped in a vast field on the banks of the Ganges. This is a matter of 1769. This place could have a beautiful view of the surrounding area. Our camp consisted of four regiments, one European regiment, two horse-drawn companies and a European artillery company. Colonel Leslie was our Commander in Chief.
‘The camp was spread out in two straight rows. On one side were the bungalows of European officers stretching along the river to Patna. About 200 yards in the parallel line, there were barracks of officers in front of them and the generals behind them. The space between them was specific to exercises that take place every morning. The soldiers’ cantonments were about a mile away, and at some distance they were surrounded by horses.
‘The officers’ bungalows were built on local style. The bungalows were almost square, with roofs made of bamboo and straw like the roofs of local farmers’ houses. The matwork was taken from the mat and there were pillars for the roof. Colonel and Major’s bungalows were larger than the other officers. Along with these bungalows were the servants’ rooms and stables. On the left side of the front was the Colonel’s guard house. Among the officers’ bungalows was an evergreen forest of trees. There were also beautiful buildings built by the nawabs. Among them were Mr. Herbert and the residence and municipality of the Bank of Helmsbury, Mr. Barry, and the contract agent.
There were few government buildings in Bankepur. The most notable of them was Mr. Golden’s house, about a mile from the camp. It was a towering English style building. Its magnificent dome was dominated by decorative plains and flags of spices below. From this building there was a beautiful view of the blooming Ganges flowers and the surrounding fertile area.
Mr. Golden, the owner of the house, was highly regarded by other officers. He was a very polite and hospitable man. Not far from Mr. Golden was Mr. Rumble’s residence, which had a contract to supply boats and other supplies for the company.
In his itinerary, Deen Mohammad has talked about the difficulties of people’s lives in the places where he has shown glimpses of beauty and beauty. They described the situation as they saw the eyes of a famine.
‘I remember seeing a large number of people dying this year. The land was wiped out by the lack of rain and heat. All the blessings from the earth died from starvation. A large number of people had fallen into the streets and highways.
‘Only those whose lands were irrigated by the wells. Some such young men and European officers distributed rice and other food items to the crowds gathered in their courtyards and houses, to the extent possible, but on the ground in the presence of poor people who were hungry. Were falling unconscious.
‘Some would try to get out of the ring and die in front of everyone. On this occasion the treasures of this country did not work for them. At that time, timely supply of rice was more important than gold and silver for these people.
The value of water
Din Mohammad traveled from Floria to Charmansa. There was a river on the way which took three days to cross, but what is noteworthy is the experience of traveling in the summer season which he describes.
Din Mohammed writes: “The journey was pleasant because of the shade of the fruit trees along the road. The branches of bananas, mango and tamarind were covered with fruit loads. Along with these trees, there were many wells and rivers whose examples of water are not found throughout the universe.
‘Such wells and rivers were spread all over India. It was the kindness of nature that made such arrangements for the weary travelers to withstand the heat of the area. ‘
Addressing his English readers, Din Muhammad wrote that ‘the old people here have created such sanctity of wells in the hearts of the people to protect the water reservoir that no evil person can think of mixing them. That is why this water is clean and pure till date.
‘Whenever the wells came along the way, we gave the soldiers an opportunity to refresh and fill the leather bags with water on the bullock cart. Some servants even carried muskets on their shoulders. ‘
A village with seven wells
Din Mohammad with his company reached Sitakund in 1772 with seven wells around it.
He writes, ‘Two wells are specific to Brahmins only. They do not allow any non-Brahmin to come near the water there. Yes, people who are ill are allowed and come there with the belief that using this water will cure them. The remaining five wells could be used by anyone.
‘Both wells of Brahmin are well, but the quality of water from both is very different from one another. One gets transparent and cold water, while the other is watery, dark and boiling all the time.
‘The water of the wells of Brahmans was carried far and wide in the pottery. The blind faith of the people was very beneficial to them. The water of these wells was also diverted from Calcutta and other districts of Bengal to the north of the Ganges, where the Hindus considered this water to be very holy. ‘
Beliefs and daily life
Din Mohammad’s itinerary tells his readers about the daily lives of the Indians as well as their beliefs.
Loin for Security purpose
’12 miles from Mong Herr was the hill of Pipahara on which is a famous historic building. Interest in our history drew us to this.
‘It was the shrine of an elder who stood on a stone pillar on a stone marble and had a stone carved on it, but what is noteworthy is that every Monday and Wednesday at the foot of the hill. From a cave a lion would come here and clean his stairs with his tail.
‘He had never harmed anyone but the children and women who came in his way were safe. To the locals, the shrine was a sacred place, but after what has happened to one of our artillery officers, the faith of the people here must have increased. Curiosity had drawn this officer to the shrine. He described the local people’s beliefs about the shrine and the elderly buried in it with fanaticism and even made fun of them.
“The captain urinated on the stairs of the shrine without anyone noticing. He was just riding his horse to return so that some unseen force grabbed him and he landed on the ground where he had been lying motionless for some time. He was transported to Palanquin to Mong Herr, but he did not stay up long and lost his life.
“In this case, there is a lesson for those who, because of their narrow ideology, make fun of the beliefs of human beings like themselves just because their way of worship is different.”
The house and feast of the poor in the middle of the river
Din Muhammad writes, ‘This is the year 1771. We were 30 miles from Mong Herr when we saw a house built on a large rock in the middle of the Ganges. We camped some distance from this place in the evening.
The next day we all went hunting. After lunch, we went to the river bank to see the house in the middle of the Ganges and decided to get there by boat. Handing over the horsemen, we started on the boat to the ditch in the middle of the river.
The house on the cliff was the house of a poor man who, upon seeing us, proceeded to welcome. He was wearing a long orange robe and a white cloth on his head. Due to his beard growing up to the chest, he had the impression of being elderly. Silver was shining with long hair up to her shoulders. He was a healthy and cheerful man with a calm and relaxed appearance.
In her little house she had what she had for dinner at this time. As he spoke, he was constantly turning the beads of long beads hanging from his wrists, and his eyes rose to the sky every once in a while.
I rarely saw so many neat houses. It was no more than five square yards in size. The roof was high and smooth and there was also a ladder to go up. There was also an animal skull lying on which he would study. Three brick stoves were burning in one corner of the house. His diet consisted mostly of rice and the fruits of his own garden.
For the guests, he prepared a meal on a large fire outside. We inspected his house thoroughly so he offered us mangoes and other fruits. On the way, we gave her a small present and admired her home and garden. We used this poor boat to return.
Nose and ear cutting justice
In this itinerary Din Muhammad also mentioned the difficulties encountered during the journey. Describing an incident, he writes: ‘We had just spent a night in Flavia, where some people from nearby villages looted our tents. They stole all the valuables of our officers and soldiers.
Incidentally, when he entered the store next to Major Baker’s Market, I was sleeping on the couch. The invading villagers entered my tent and took my spinach along with me and walked about a mile and a half. They quickly unloaded the luggage and took the money out of my pocket.
They were so cruel that once they even planned to kill me so that they would not get caught because of me, but then some of their soft-hearted people allowed me to go because of my age. I got back on the wind horse and headed straight to Major Baker’s tent. They were very worried about me and when I told them how I had been killed they were also surprised.
The guards spotted some looters who were left behind by their comrades, and after chasing them they caught them. After that some of his other associates were also caught. They received their punishment for what they were entitled to. They were flogged to the camp and nose and ear were cut off. Because of this incident, we had to stay out of the program in Flavia.
Attack of the asses
We were relieved that the night raids destroyed our peace, which is found in large numbers in the area. These donkeys are very bloody animals unlike European foxes.
The donkeys quietly entered our camp at midnight and took away the large number of chickens, as well as the little ones they could carry. It was useless to chase them. We had no choice but to be patient.
Din Mohammad’s convoy was also targeted by looters in the hill area during a journey from Bhagalpur to Skull Gree.
‘Our caravan was huge and, taking advantage of this, the mountain looters succeeded in attacking the traders. In addition to looting, many traders were injured with spears and arrows.
Many of the attackers were targeted by security forces while thirty, forty were arrested. The next day, when some of the mowers and bazars in our caravan went to the mountains to take elephant and horse fodder and fuel for the camp, they were hit and seven of the eight people were brutally killed. The attackers managed to escape with several elephants, horses and other animals.
Upon receiving a complaint about the attack, our commanding officer dispatched two companies to arrest the attackers. We were fortunate to find some invaders plowing through the fields while others were gathering on the hill to help them. Our soldiers assumed positions and opened fire on them. Some woods lay there and some were injured.
Most of them resisted swords, spears, and arrows for some time, but were forced to flee into the mountains, helpless in front of our weapons. They fled from place to place to prevent us from pursuing, but still 200 of them were arrested.
Those caught were punished severely for their crimes. Some had their noses and ears cut off and some had the hang of hanging on a couch. Later the parade of victory was shown with weapons seized from them, including arrows and spears, along with fifteen pounds of swords.
After a while we found our two companions in a very bad condition that we thought had been killed. Their wounds were bleeding. They were trying to reach the camp by crawling in the worst possible condition.
Many of our animals were found in our own blood baths. There were nails in the feet of horses and elephants. The injured animals were brought to the camp with great difficulty, but few survived.