The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)
Page  427

SECTION XVI. Of their Votaries; where, of the voluntary and sharp Pe∣nances, that people undergo. Of their Lent; and of their Fasts, and Feasts, &c.

AMong the Mahometans there are many Votaries they call Derveeses who relinquish the world, and spend all their days following in solitude and retiredness, expecting a recom∣pence (as they say, and are very well content to suffer and wait for it) in that better life. Those very sharp and very strict Penances which many of this people for the present volun∣tarily undergo, far exceed all those the Romanists boast of; for instance, there are some who live alone upon the tops of Hills (which are clothed or covered with trees, and stand remote from any Company) and there spend the whole time of their following lives in Contemplation, stirring not at all from the places they first fix on, but ad requisita naturae, crying out con∣tinually in these or the like expressions, Alla Achabar, &c. that is, God Almighty look upon me, I love thee, I love not the world; but I love thee, and I do all this for thy sake; look up∣on me, God Almighty.

These, after they thus retire, never suffer the Razer or Scis∣sers to come again upon their heads, and they let their Nails grow like unto Birds Claws, As it was written of Nebuchadnez∣zar, Dan. 4. when he was driven out from the society of men.

This people after their retirement, will chuse rather to famish then to stir from their Cells: and therefore they are relieved by the Charity of others, who take care to send them some very mean covering for their bodies (for it must be such, otherwise they will not accept of it) when they stand in need thereof, and something for their bodily sustenance, which must be of their coarser food, otherwise they will not take it, and no more of that at one time then what is sufficient for the present support of nature.

Some again impose long times of Fasting upon themselves, and will take no food at all, till the strength of Nature in them be almost quite spent.

And others there are amongst them they call Religious men, who wear nothing about them but to hide their shame; and these (like the mendicant Friars) beg for all they eat. They usually live in the skirts or out-sides of great Cities, or Towns, and are like the man our blessed Saviour mentions, Luk. 8.27. about the City of the Gadarens, which had Devils, and wore no clothes, neither abode in any house but in the Tombs. And so do these, making little fires in the day, sleeping at nights in the warm ashes thereof, with which they besmear and discolour their bo∣dies. Page  428 These Ash-men will sometimes take intoxicating things which make them to talk wildly, and strangely (as some of our Quakers do in their strange distempers) and then the foolish common people will flock about them, and (believing they then Prophesie) hearken unto them with all attention.

A very great difference 'twixt that people and ours; for there they call mad-men Prophets, and amongst us there are many Prophets which are accounted but mad-men.

There are another sort among them called Mendee, carried on likewise meerly by miss-takes and mis-conceivings in Religi∣on; who like the Priests of Baal, mentioned 1 King. 18. often cut their flesh with knives and launcers.

Others again I have there seen, who meerly out of Devotion put such massie Fetters of Iron upon their legs as that they can scarce stir with them, and then covered with blew mantles (the colour of mourners in those parts) as fast as they are able, go many miles in Pilgrimage bare-foot upon the hot parching ground, to visit the sepulchres of their deluding Saints; thus, putting themselves upon very great Hardships, and submitting unto extreme sharp penances, and all to no purpose.

But to return again to those Indian Votaries who undergo such hard things and out of this mistake that they do God good service in the things they do. Concerning which actings, Lu∣cretius (though accounted an Epicurean and an Atheist) in his first book, speaks to purpose about the Error of Religion.

—Saepius olim
Religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.
oft of old,
Religion bred acts impiously bold.

The Mahometans keep a solemn Lent, they call the Ramjan or Ramdam, which begins the first New-moon, which happens in September, and so continues during that whole Moon. And all that time, those that are strict in their Religion, forbear their Women, and will not take either Meat or Drink any day during that time, so long as the Sun is above their Horizon, but after the Sun is set they eat at pleasure. The last day of their Ram∣jan, they consecrate as a day of mourning to the memory of their deceased friends, when I have observed many of the mean∣ner sort, seem to make most bitter lamentation. But when that day of their general mourning is ended, and begins to die into night, they fire an innumerable company of lamps and other lights; which they hang or fix very thick, and set upon the tops of their houses, and all other most conspicuous places near their great Tanks, that are surrounded with buildings, where those lights are doubled by their Reflection upon the water, and when they are all burnt out; the ceremony is done, and the people take food.

Page  429The day after this Ram-jan is fully ended, the most devout Mahometans in a solemn manner assemble to their Mosquits, where by their Moolaas some selected parts of the Alcoran, are publickly read unto them, which book the Moolaas never touch without an expression of much outward reverence.

For their works of charity, there are some rich men that build Sarraes in great Cities and Towns (spoken of before) where passengers may find house-room and that freely, with∣out a return of any recompence, wherein themselves and goods may be in safety.

Others make Wells and Tanks for the publick benefit; Or maintain servants, which continually attend upon road-ways that are much travelled, and there offer unto Passengers water for themselves and beasts, which water they bring thither in great skins hanging upon the back of their Buttelos; which as it is freely given, so it must be freely taken by all those, who desire to refresh themselves by it.

There are some which build rich Monuments to preserve the memories of those whom they have esteemed eminent for their austerity and holiness: these they call Paeres or Saints, amongst whom some of those (before-mentioned) help to fill their Number, who sequester themselves from the world (as they think) and spend their life alone upon the tops of Hills, or in other obscure corners.