« AnteriorContinuar »
by the Arabs; Capt. Holford, therefore, by the help of a map, which our Author had drawn up when he navigated the Arabian gulph, was the first who arrived at Suez, without touching at any Arabian port.
The account of the Hindoos and their religion is of some confequence; but the description of the ruins of the Pagoda, on the ifland Elephanta, is very long and dry. Except their antiquity, and the Indian architecture, there is nothing remarkable in these remains. We wondered at the patience of Mr. Niebuhr in copying fo many infignificant and monftrous figures, but we fee in them nothing pleasing nor inftructive. We are of opinion that by far the greater part of them are rather offsprings of the irregular fancy of a sculptor, than religious reprefentations. It is, therefore, a queftion with us, whether these figures were altogether understood, or could be explained, even at that diftant time when this Pagoda was built.
What is faid about the Parfi will be read with pleasure by thofe who have no opportunity of confulting larger works on this fubject. In reading one paffage, we could not help reflecting on the whims which different people adopt about death, and the fate of the body, after the flame of life is extinguished. Moft European nations wish for a decent burial, but the Parfi have different notions. 66 They have, fays Mr. Niebuhr, in Bombay, a kind of round tower, on a hill, at some distance from the town, which is floored on the top with boards. Here they expofe their dead, and after the birds of prey have picked the flesh from the bones, they gather them to be depofited within the tower; the bones of men and women in different apartments,"
Mr. Niebuhr, through the complaifance of Father Medard, a Capuchin, who was intimately acquainted with the chief of the priests among the Parfi at Bombay, got a copy of their alphabets, which are given here on a copper-plate. One is the alphabet Pelwi, in which their holy books are written; the other is the alphabet Dsjan chân, or that which they use in common. We have compared them with the alphabets of the Shanfcrit and Bengal language, publifhed lately in the code of Gentoolaws, but we cannot difcover any fimilarity. The names of fome letters in the common alphabet of the Parfi are, as it ap pears to us, much like fome in the Hebrew.
At Bombay Mr. Cramer, the phyfician, who was one of this travelling fociety, died. Mr. Niebuhr was now the only perfon left. He went, in an English fhip, to Surat, where, according to his account, our Eaft-India Company enjoy, at prefent, the preference before all European nations, being even in poffeffion of the caftle, which the Company hold under the
authority of the Great Mogul. The Mohammedans at Surat are not, by far, fo ftrict as they are in Arabia, or in other Turkish countries; nor are the distinctions of the tribes among the Indians who refide here, ftrictly obferved. Thefe Indians are a fet of very induftrious, fober people, and of a most furprifing honefty. Mr. Niebuhr is, accordingly, lavish in their praises. He tells us, further, that the Indian women at Surat affift their husbands in earning their bread, and keep themselves fo clean, that the European women, who come to India, are obliged to follow their example, or run the risk of lofing their husband's affections. As to the religious ceremonies of these Indians, we shall tranflate the following paffage: "When a child is-born, a Bramin is to declare, by aftrological rules, whether the child is come into the world in a lucky hour or not. This done, he hangs a thin ftring over the fhoulder of a boy, who wears this diftinctive mark of his nation all his life-time. If a Banian, or common Indian, intends to give his child in marriage, which is done when the child is about fix or eight years old, a Bramin is likewife to fix the times when the father is to ask for the bride, and when the wedding is to be celebrated. In the mean while the children remain in the houses of their parents till they arrive at the age of maturity. The Bramins order and announce alfo the holy-days. Every Banian is obliged, every morning, after washing and bathing himself, to have a kind of feal imprefled on his forehead, by a Bramin; though this is the office of inferior Bramins only. I faw one morning a great number of them fit on the river fide, under the caftle, where a number of girls and women reforted to bathe, and to say their morning prayers. Every one of them gave the clean cloaths, which they intended to wear for that day, to one of these priests, and then went into the river. They afterwards exchanged their wet cloaths for the dry ones, publicly on fhore, but with fuch a dexterity, that the most curious obferver could fee nothing inconfiftent with decency. The Bramin, afterwards, dipped his thumb into fome red colour, and impreffed it on the forehead of the women, who reciprocally marked the priest again, though flightly, left the face of the priest should be daubed all over, by the great number of markers. Laftly, the perfon that is figned, and in this manner confecrated for the day, keeps the colour-box in one hand, fays a short prayer, gives the Bramin one or two handfuls of rice, and then, with her wet cloaths in the other hand, returns home.”
From Surat our Author went, in another Englifh fhip, to Mafkât, an Arabian town, in the province of Omân, at the entrance of the Perfian gulph. The inhabitants of this province are Mohammedans, but of a sect not sufficiently known. They
are a good fort of people; we should call them MohammedanQuakers." Thefe Mohammedans, fays Mr. Niebuhr, acknowledge the Koran to be their principal code of laws; but they are of a fect called Abâdi or Bejâsi, which is well known among Arabian writers; but, as far as I know, not noticed by European travellers. The Sonnites, as well as Shiites, call them Chawaredsji. But this is a nickname, which is as odious in Omân, as the name of Râfedi in Perfia, or the word heretic among the Chriftians. Abulfaragius mentions thefe Chawaredsji, and I do not doubt that they are the fame who are called by Salet, and other writers, Kharejites. Their tenets are much the fame with those which are attributed to the Kharejites: the principal of them is, that the posterity of Mohammed or Ali have no prerogatives above other ancient Arabian families. I do not know any Mohammedans, who live with fo little fplendor and with fo much fobriety as thefe Bejafi. They do not fmoak tobacco, they even do not drink coffee, much less strong liquors. The man of fortune has no diftinction of drefs, except that, perhaps, his turban, his fabre, or bis knife, is fomething finer. They are very feldom overcome by paffion; they are civil to ftrangers, and permit them to live at Mafkât undisturbed, according to their own laws. In Yemen the Banians are forced to bury their dead, but here they are at liberty to burn them, according to their own cuftom. The Jews in other Mohammedan countries are obliged to dif tinguish themselves in their drefs from other nations, but here they may drefs like Arabs. If in those countries, where the Sonnites prevail, a Banian, a Jew, or a Chriftian, is discovered in an intrigue with a Mohammedan woman, he is obliged either to turn Mohammedan, or to pay a large fine. The Bejalites and their government at Mafkat do not trouble themselves about fuch matters, if ftrangers make their addrefles to women that are known to prostitute themselves for money to Mohammedans. The police of this town is in general fo excellent that no theft is heard of, notwithstanding the goods of merchants lie oftentimes, for weeks together, before the houses. Nobody is to walk in the ftreet at night without a lanthorn; and, left the government fhould be defrauded of the duty, no boat is permitted, after fun-fet, to come afhore, or even to go from one fhip to another."
From Mafkat Mr. Niebuhr went to Shiras in Perfia, to see the ruins of Perfepolis, and other remains of antiquity in this part of the world. During this voyage he made feveral inte
S. Pocockii Specimen Hiftor. Arabum, p. 26. 269.
+ Sale's Preliminary Difcourfe, p. 173. Ricaut's Kiftory of the Ottoman Empire, p. 227.
resting observations relating to the Kurds and Turkomans, which are nations that have no fixed fettlements, but go from one place to another where they can beft fubfift with their cattle. He met a Perfian army which defolated the country'; and the account he gives of the war in Perfia, which is carried on between the different pretenders to the crown, is melancholy enough. The defcription of Shiras, and particularly of the ruins of Persepolis, take up a great part of the book. We cannot see any thing very interefting in the long detail given here of these remains of antiquity. The plates annexed to this description are by far too numerous, and must of course enhance the price of the book, without much neceffity. The meaning of thofe figures which are copied from the walls, and fill many of the plates, will, perhaps, never be explained; and if it should happen that fomething could be made out, we think the pains taken about it would never be fufficiently rewarded. We have, however, discovered from thefe, as it feems, hieroglyphical figures, that wigs are a very ancient part of drefs; for thofe an cient Perfians who are here reprefented, appear to have worn a kind of bobwigs, resembling those which were in fashion among us, about twenty years ago, and are ftill very common among feafaring people. We must leave it to the gentlemen of the Antiquarian Society to decide upon that important question, whether these wigs were conftructed upon the plan of our modern wigs, or whether they are only a kind of cap, made of lambskin, with the wool on the outfide?
The reprefentations and figures on the fepulchral monu ments of Nakshi Radsjab and Nakshi Ruftâm, are, perhaps, the only ones that might be explained, if the lamp of Eastern hif tory fhould dart fome rays of light upon these obscure walls; but we think it impoffible, from the famenefs of the letters (if they are intended for fuch) for a decypherer to make any thing of that infcription which we find upon the 31ft plate.
In the neighbourhood of Shiras Mr. Niebuhr found several monuments, worthy the infpection of a curious traveller. Among others he saw the monument of Shech Sade (a famous man of learning among the Perfians) in a mosk, which is in a ruinous condition. The infcriptions here were in the modern way of the Perfians, viz. of letters, made of potter's earth, burnt like bricks, and glazed over with various colours. These are put together in mortar, on a wall, fo as to form an infcription. They look better than those that are cut out in marble at Perfe polis; but, the mortar being very liable to drop off, thefe infcriptions are not very durable.
After a ftay of about four months in Perfia, Mr. Niebuhr went to the island of Chared/h in the Perfian gulph, which was at that time in the poffeffion of the Dutch. The account given
of this ifland may ferve as a fupplement to what we have read in Mr. Ives's voyage to India.
The Author is exceedingly prolix in his account of a little trifling war which was carried on between two Arabian Shechs, in the gulph, whilft he was at Charedfh. One of thefe Shechs made himself afterwards mafter of this island, and the Dutch did not think it worth their while to be at the expence of recovering it. Our Eaft India Company, a few years ago, made an attempt to fubdue it, but in vain. The Arabian Shech, Mir Mahenna, who took it from the Dutch, was an old cruel tyrant, and was afterwards flain by the Perfians, who are at prefent mafters of Charedfh.
Some travellers have told us that the Beduins, or Indian Heathens, on their travels through the defart, make use of the compass; but Mr. Niebuhr found that this inftrument was entirely unknown to them. They are, indeed, fo well acquainted with the defarts that they are not in want of this help, and at night they are probably directed by the ftars. The Arabs, who. have not been at fea, are, likewife, ftrangers to the compaís, except fome of their learned men, who want it for pointing out the place where the Kebla* in their mofks is to be built. At Cairo Mr. Niebuhr faw a compafs at the house of a learned Mohammedan, who called it El Magnatis, from which he thinks it might be inferred that the compass came from Europe into this part of the globe.
The obfervations on Bafra, and all the country up to Bag dad, on the fides of the Euphrates and Tiger, fhow at once the wretchedness of the Turkish government, and the happy climate, and the fertility of the foil in these countries. The populoufnefs and Rourishing condition of thefe extenfive provinces, in ancient times, though now abounding in defarts, appears from Mr. Niebuhr's account, and from a paffage quoted from Arrian, relating to thefe countries.
That polygamy is not altogether consistent with human happinefs, may be teen from the following converfation which Mr. Niebuhr had with a Molla, or Turkish prieft, at Rumabie, a town in the road to Bagdad. This Molla had four wives. Every one of them had a house and a garden of her own, though he himicit had none, being always, as he faid, with either one or other of them. Mr. Niebuhr was fitting, in the evening, before the door of the houte, and among other things
* The Kebla is an opening built with great exactnefs in the wall of a mofk, to which the Mohammedans dire&t their faces when they pray, that they may look in a draight line towards the Kaba, of tomb of Mohammed, at Mecca. Taus the Jews turned their faces to the temple of Jerufalem, which was their Arla, 1 Kings viii. 44. Dan. vi. 10,