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does not appear to have been limited by a single precept or command. The cells of the harem are to be augmented, and inmates supplied, according to the fancy, the caprice, or the means of the husband. He who was taught to consider himself as of a superior nature, was to rule over a number of beings whom he regarded as of a subordinate class; the inferior many were to depend for happiness on the will of the superior one ; and the connexion which was thus formed, a connexion always of doubtful love and certain tyranny, was calculated rather to ensure on one side the obedience of fear, and to confirm on the other the authority of command, than to promote the felicity of domestic union, by exciting a mutuality of affection and of esteem.

The Hindu wife can scarcely be said to be the companion of her husband, the solace of his cares, or the object of his regard. She

She is not expected to please by qualities of mind, but by servility of obedience. She has nothing to do but to give children to her master, and to conform to his will; and she might be estranged from the essential duties of the wife and mother, if she were permitted to direct her, attention to intellectual accomplishments. In early life, accordingly, she is carefully immured in the dwelling of her parents; and, when married, she is, with similar caution, secluded in the apartments of the harem. After having passed eight or ten years beneath the rigid inspection of parental vigilance, she is, for the rest of her days, to submit to the suspicious superintendence of conjugal jealousy. No means of improvement are afforded to her youth. In general she can neither read nor write. To her, the acquirements which enhance the charm of beauty and of virtue, are of little value. It is enough

if she possess the habits of docility, and learn to obey.

She is not doomed by marriage merely to a rigorous seclusion from the world. She is charged, as was the lady of ancient Greece, with the cares and anxieties of household management. Labours little adapted to the delicacy of her sex, are to be patiently endured. Every neglect of her domestic offices is a high and a penal offence against the legitimate but despotic authority of her husband ; and so earnest is the law to enforce the industry of the Hindu wife, that she is expressly required not merely to occupy the hours of the day in her family arrangements, but "to rise while it is yet night” in order to resume the drudgery which the servitude of marriage may prescribe *

The injustice which thus depresses the sex, extends to the actions and the will of the widow. The despotism of the departed husband claims, even from the grave, the devotion of the wives whom he has left behind him. One of them, at least, is required, as we have seen, to ascend the pile on which his body is to be consumed, in order that he may not be deprived of the future attendance of the slave, from whom he has been accustomed to receive a prescribed and heartless obedience; and female life is daily to be sacrificed in compliance with an institution utterly

* Ch. xx. Code of Gentoo Laws and the Ordinances of the Pundits. This code was collected from numerous volumes by Bramins, whom Mr. Hastings invited from all parts of Hindostan to Calcutta for. the purpose of completing the compilation under his immediate inspection. The laws are evidences of that characteristic despotism of the Hindu husband, which seems to have been coeval with the Hindu religion.


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opposed to every principle of utility, of humanity and of justice, and utterly adverse to the order, the welfare, and the happiness of society.

One class of women, indeed, among the Hindus, is set apart for a different lot. The girl, selected by the priest for her symmetry and her beauty, and destined by his authority for the impure service of the pagoda, is instructed with skilful assiduity in all the accomplishments necessary to the purposes of her future vocation. She is taught to display her slender ankles in the mazes of the dance, to heighten the loveliness of her form and features by graceful decorations, to braid her hair in perfumed knots, and to allure and fascinate attention by the charm of music. No voice of a buried husband is to command her to ascend the lighted pile. No seclusion in the harem is to subdue her spirit, or wither her beauties. She is to be the servant only of her gods, to exercise her wantonness in their worship, to augment by her seductions the number of their votaries, and to engage their favour by the oblations of her impurity. The Grecian courtezan was but her image; and the Hindu, like the Athenian of old, was to seek compensation for the dulness and inelegance of domestic life, in the sprightliness and the accomplishments of consecrated but meretricious beauty.

The Hindu women who are reserved for the honours of the wife and the mother, experience, during their lives, few cares but those of vigilance and restraint. After having completed their novitiate of seclusion in the parental dwelling, they are to be united to a husband with whom they had never conversed, to whom it would be an unprecedented crime to object, and for whose precarious affections


6 Women are

they are to contend, in doubtful and hostile competition, with each other. They bring with them no dowry but money and submission ; they are wedded to authority and despotism in the person of their masters; and they are at once the creatures and the victims of institutions directly at variance with all those reciprocal duties and affections which, in their proper exercise, constitute the dignity and the felicity of married life.

The law of the magistrate and the force of custom co-operate with religion to confirm and perpetuate this degraded condition of the sex. " in general to have no property.” They are declared to be perpetually in a state of tutelage, and to be unfit for any other.

“ Their fathers govern " them in their childhood, their husbands in their “ youth, and their sons in their old age.” They are not even permitted to open one of their sacred volumes. Whether from contempt of their understanding or of their levity, they are said “ to have " nothing to do with the wisdom of the Vedas”; and it is cruelly and contemptuously added, that,

as they can have no evidence of the law, and no

knowledge of expiation, they must continue with" out hope or ransom in their sins.” They are subjected, at the same time, and with similar injustice, to all the capriciousness of divorce.

" The wife, if barren, may be superseded in the eighth

year; if her children have died, in the eleventh; “ if she speak unkindly, without delay.” But it is no where said, that, if the husband be cruel or unfaithful, he also shall be liable to divorce; and legislators and priests seem to have considered it as an impossible thing that the wife should be presumptuous enough to complain of the unequal lot


to which she has been subjected by the conspiring tyranny of custom and of the laws*.

In every page of the Vedas we find some precept, or some command, favourable to this unrelenting and barbarous policy. To man is assigned, by reiterated declarations, unlimited authority over his household. He may indulge in wide and varied licence; and he may retain or dismiss his wives at his good plea

“ But by a girl, or by a young woman, or a woman advanced in years, nothing must be “ done for her mere pleasure.” She, when married, “ must revere her husband as a god, though he be “ unobservant of approved usages, devoid of good “ qualities, and even enamoured of another woman.” She must “never resist, never complain, never “ indulge in sacrifices to the gods apart from her

lord, and never, but in proportion as she honours “ him by obedience, expect to be exalted in heaven.” If she violate the duties thus prescribed, “she shall “ be in this world infamous, and in the next shall “ enter into the body of a shekel, or be afflicted “ with diseases which punish crimes.” Her husband, on her death, may again“ light up the nuptial

fires ;” but, from the decease of her husband, “ she must never even name the name of another

man,” and, if it be not her lot to ascend his

* Laws of Menu, by Sir William Jones, ch. ix. p. 1, 2, 4, 19, &c. Doctor Robertson seems to have supposed that the custom of secluding women among the Hindus was adopted from the Maho. metans; and he grounds his opinion on a passage in the drama of Sacontala. But he at the same time admits, and quotes Strabo to prove, that women in India were guarded in the time of Alexander with the utmost vigilance and jealousy. Roberts. India. Appendix. He miglit have quoted the oldest writings of the Hindus to the same purposc.

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