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)

SECTION XXI. Of other strange and groundless, and very gross Opinions, proceeding from the blackness and darkness of Ignorance in that people.

ALl Errour in the World proceeds either from Ignorance (commonly joyned with Pride) or else from Wilfulness. This is most true as in natural, and moral, so in spiritual things: For as Knowledge softens and sweetens Men's manners, so it enricheth their Minds; which Knowledge is certainly a most divine, a very excellent thing, otherwise our first Parents would never have been so ambitious of it. This makes a Man here to live twice, or to injoy here a double Life in respect of him that wants it. But for this Knowledge, it certainly must be esteemed better, or worse, by how much the object of this Knowledge is worse, or better. Now the best object of this Knowledge is a right Understanding, and Knowledge of the true God, which that people wants.

Now touching this people, they are altogether ignorant of Page  439 God, as they ought to know him; and they have no learning amongst them, but as much as enables them to write and to read what they have written; and they having no insight into the reasons and causes of things (I mean the ruder sort, both of the Mahometans and Gentiles) when they observe things which are not very ordinary, as when they see any Eclipses, but especi∣ally of the Moon (haply some of them sacrificing to her, and calling her the Queen of Heaven, as those Idolaters did, Jer. 44.18.) they make a very great stir and noise, bemoaning her much, which helps (as they conceive) to free, and bring her out of it. Juvenal observing that custom (which appears to be very ancient among the Heathens) reproves a very braw∣ling clamorous Woman in his sixth Satyre thus,

Vna, laboranti poterit succurrere Lunae,
that she made noise enough to deliver the Moon out of an Eclipse.

Their ignorance in this, as in many-many other things, is much to be pitied: as the knowledg and learning of many others, which (by their not improving of it) is to them as the Letters which Vriah sometimes carried against himself; it con∣demns the bearer.

But though the Hindoos, or Heathens there, have no learn∣ing; yet they want not opinions: for their divided hearts are there distracted into four-score and four several Sects, each dif∣fering from others, very much in opinion about their irreligion; which might fill a man, even full of wonder, that doth not con∣sider, how that Satan, who is the author division, is the seducer of them all.

Those many Sects (as I conceive among them) consist of people there of several Trades, Occupations, and Conditions of Life; which several sorts of people (as before I observed) marry into their own Tribes; and so unite and keep together amongst themselves, that they have not much correspondency with any other people. These without doubt have several ways of worship within themselves, which makes them so separate from others, as that they will not eat with any, but those of their own Tribes.

The illiterate Priests of all that people for the generality of them are called Bramins, who derive themselves from Bramon, whom (they say) was one of the first men that inhabited the World; and, after the sin of that first World brought the Flood, the race of that Bramon (whose very name they highly reverence) was continued in Bremaw, who (as they say) out-lived that deluge, and is honoured by them likewise as one of their great Prophets and Law-givers.

Those Bramins (as I conceive) are they, which the ancient stories call Brachmans, but with this difference, that those Page  440Brachmanes were accounted learned men, for the learning of those times wherein they lived: But these Bramins are a very silly, sottish, and an ignorant sort of people; who are so incon∣stant in their Principles, as that they scarce know what the par∣ticulars are which they hold and maintain as truths.

As anciently amongst the Jews, their Priest-hood is heredi∣tary; for all those Bramins Sons are Priests, and they all take the Daughters of Bramins to be their Wives. (Of which somthing before.)

They have little Churches they call Pagods, standing near, or under their green Trees, built round; but as their ancient Brachmans were said not to endure, these, on the contrary, have Images in their Pagods made in monstrous shapes, but for what end they have them, I know not.

Now, from the manner of those Heathens, which I believe hath been for many-many years retained in their Idolatrous worships; I conceive that the Jews long ago borrowed that un∣warrantable custom of worshipping God in Groves, or under green Trees.

Both men and women before they go to their devotions (which are very frequently performed) wash their bodies, and keep off all their cloaths, but the covering of modesty, till they have done; led hereunto by a Precept (as they say) comman∣ded them to be perform'd by their Law-giver Bremaw, which requires them daily to observe their times of devotion expressed by their washings, and worshippings, and prayer to God; which must be all done with purity of hearts.

And it is the manner of this people before they take their food to wash their bodies; then (which I much observed while we lived in Tents) they make a little Circle upon the ground, which they seem to consecrate; after which they sit down with∣in that compass, and eat what they have provided; and if any come within that Circle before they have ended their meal, they presently quit the place, and leave their food behind them.

That outward washing (as this people think) avails very much to their cleansing from sin, not unlike the Pharisees, who were all for the out-side of Religion, and would not eat with un∣washen hands, Mark. 7.2. unless they washed themselves up to the Elbows (as Theophylact observes); hence those Hindoos ascribe a certain divinity unto Rivers, but above all to that famous Ri∣ver Ganges, whither they flock daily in troops, that there they may wash themselves; and the nearer they can come to the head of that River, the more virtue they believe is in the water. After they have thus washed, they throw pieces of Gold, or Silver (according to their devotion and ability) into that River, and so depart from it.

Thus Reader thou hast somewhat of the carriages of this people in life. Now after death some of them talk of Elyzian Page  441 fields (such as the Poets dream'd of) to which their souls must pass over at Styx, or Acheron, and there take new bodies. Others of them think that ere long the World will have an end, after which they shall live here again on a new earth. Some other wild conceivings of this people follow afterward.

Some Bramins have told me that they acknowledge one God, whom they describe with a thousand eyes, with a thousand hands, and as many feet, that thereby they may express his power, as be∣ing all eye to see, and all foot to follow, and all hand to smite of∣fenders. The consideration whereof makes that people very ex∣act in the performances of all moral duties, following close to the light of Nature in their dealings with men, most carefully observing that Royal Law, in doing nothing to others, but what they would be well contented to suffer from others.

Those Bramins talk of two books, which not long after the Creation, when the World began to be peopled (they say) were delivered by Almighty God to Bramon (before spoken of): one of which Books (they say) containing very high, and secret, and mysterious things was sealed up, and might not be opened; the other to be read, but only by the Bramins, or Priests. And this Book, thus to be read came, after (as they further say) into the hands of Bremaw (of whom likewise somthing before) and by him it was communicated unto Ram, and Permissar, two other fam'd Prophets amongst them, which those Heathens do like∣wise exceedingly magnifie; as they do some others, whose names I have not. Now that Book which they call the Shester, or the Book of their written word, hath been transcribed in all ages ever since by the Bramins, out of which they deliver Pre∣cepts unto the people.

They say that there are seven Orbs, above which is the seat of God; and that God knows not small and petty things, or if he do, regards them not.

They further believe that there are Devils, but so fettered and bound in chains, as that they cannot hurt them.

I observed before the tenderness and scruple, which is in very many of that people in taking the lives of any inferiour, and meerly sensible, yea and of hurtful creatures too. And those which are most tender-hearted in this case are called Banians, who are by far more numerous than any other of those Indian Sects; and these hold Pythagoras his Metempsychosis, as a prime Article of their Faith. Which that untaught people come up very near unto, thinking that all the souls, both of men and wo∣men after they leave their bodies make their repose in other Creatures, and those Souls (as they imagine) are best lodged hat go into Kine, which (in their opinion) are the best of all sensible creatures; and therefore (as before) they give yearly 〈◊〉 sums of money unto the Mogol to redeem them from ••••ghter. And this people further conceit, that the Souls of 〈◊〉 wicked go into vile Creatures, as the Souls of Gluttons Page  442 and Drunkards into Swine. So the Souls of the Voluptuous and incontinent into Monkies and Apes. Thus the Souls of the Furious, Revengeful, Cruel People, into Lions, Wolves, Tygres, other beasts of prey. So the Souls of the Envious into Serpents, and so into other Creatures according to peoples qualities and dispositions, while they lived successively from one to another of the same kind, ad infinitum for ever and ever, by conse∣quence they believing the immortality of the World. And upon that same mad and groundless phansie, probably they fur∣ther believe, that the Souls of Froward, Peevish, and Teachy Women go into Wasps; and that there is never a silly Fly, but (if they may be credited) carries about it some Souls (haply they think of light Women) and will not be perswaded out of their wild conceivings, so incorrigible are their sottish errours.

The day of rest which those Hindoos observe as a Sabbath is Thursday, as the Mahometans Friday. Many Festivals they have which they keep solemnly, and Pilgrimages, the most fa∣mous briefly spoken of before in those short descriptions of Na∣graiot, and Syba, observed in my first Section.

Now there are a race of other Heathens (I named before) living amongst those Hindoos, which in many things differ very much from them: they are called Persees, who (as they say) originally came out of Persia, about that time Mahomet and his followers gave Laws to the Persians, and imposed a new Religi∣on on them; which these Persees not enduring left their Coun∣try, and came and setled themselves in East-India, in the Pro∣vince of Guzarat, where the most part of them still continue (though there are some of them likewise in other parts of India) but where-ever they live they confine themselves strictly to their own Tribe, or Sect.

For their Habits, they are clad like the other people of that Empire; but they shave not their hair close as the other do, but suffer their beards to grow long.

Their profession is for the generality all kinds of Husbandry, imploying themselves very much in Sowing and Setting of Herbs; in Planting and Dressing of Vines, and Palmeeto, or Toddy-Trees, as in Planting and Husbanding all other Trees bearing fruit; and indeed they are a very industrious people, and so are very many of the Hindoos (as before I observed) and they do all very well in doing so, and in this a due, and deserved commendation belongs unto them. For,

There is no condition whatsoever can priviledge a folded arm. Our first Parents before their fall were put into the Gar∣den of Eden to dress it. Certainly, if idleness had been better than labour, they had never been commanded to do work, but they must labour in their estate of innocency, because they were happy, and much more we in our sinful lost estate that we may be so. It was a law given before the Law, that man should eat bread by the sweat of his brows, and it is a Gospel-precept too Page  443that he, who will not work, should note. The sluggard desireth and hath nothing (saith Solomon) because he doth nothing but desire; and therefore his desires do him no good, because his hands re∣fuse to labour. That body therefore well deserves to pine and starve without pity, when two able Hands cannot feed one Mouth.

But further, for those Persees; they use their liberty in meats and drinks, to take of them what they please; but because they would not give offence, either to the Mahometans, or Ba∣nians, or other Hindoos amongst whom they live, they abstain from eating Beef, or Swines flesh.

It is their usual manner to eat alone, as for every one of them to drink in his own Cup; and this is a means (as they think) to keep themselves more pure, for if they should eat with others, they are afraid that they might participate of some uncleanness by them.

Alas poor Creatures, that do not at all understand them∣selves, and their most miserable condition: for to them that are defiled, and unbelieving is nothing pure.

Yet I observed before, the Mahometans and Gentiles there are very strict in this particular; so that they will not eat with any mixt company, and many of the Gentiles not eat with one another. And this hath been an ancient custom among Hea∣thens. It is said, Gen. 43.32. that the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that was an abomination to the Egyptians.

For those Persees; further they believe that there is but one God, who made all things, and hath a Soveraign power over all. They talk much of Lucifer, and of other evil spirits, but they say, that those and all Devils besides are kept so under, and in aw by two good Angels, that have power over them, as that they cannot hurt or do the least mischief, without their leave, and license.

As, many of the Hindoos ascribe to much unto water (as be∣fore) so these to fire: and the reason of it, is this, because they have had this tradition from many ages and generations past, that their great Law-giver, whom they call Zertoost was rapt up into Heaven, and there had fire delivered unto him, which he brought downthence; and he ever after commanded his fol∣lowers to worship it and so they do; and further, they love any thing that resembles fire, as the Sun and Moon; and therefore, when they pray in the day time they look towards the Sun, and so towards the Moon in their night-devotions, and from that so over-high esteem they have of fire, they keep fires continually burning in their Eggarees, or Temples in Lamps fed with Oyl, which are always attended by their Priests; and they talk of many of these which have burned without extingiushment from many foregoing generations.

And, by the way, that wild and mad phansie of theirs, that Page  444 their Zertoost did fetch fire from Heaven is as certainly true, as that ancient Fiction and Fable of Prometheus, that he did steal fire thence.

But to proceed: their Priests they call Daroos, or Harboods, above both which, they have a Chief, or High-Priest, they call the Destoor, who not often appears openly, but, when he doth, he meets with much Reverence and Respect given unto him by the common people, and so do those other Church-men which are his inferiours: unto all which they allow free maintenance for their more comfortable subsistance.

Those Church-men by their Law are commanded to dwell near, and to abide much in their Eggarees, or Temples, to give advice, or direction to any that shall repair unto them for it. They observe divers Feasts, and immediately after each of them a Fast follows.

That living sensible Creature, which they first behold every Morning (that is good and serviceable) is to them (as they say) a Remembrancer all the day after, to draw up their thoughts in Thanks-giving unto Almighty God, who hath made such good Creatures for mans use and service.

There are good things (as I have been informed) in that Book of their Religion delivered them in precepts, which their Law-giver hath left unto them for the direction of their Lives.

As first, To have shame and fear ever present with them, which will restrain, and keep them from the committing of many evils.

Secondly, When they undertake any thing, seriously to consider whether it be good or bad, commanded or forbidden them.

Thirdly, To keep their Hearts and Eyes from coveting any thing that is anothers, and their Hands from hurting any.

Fourthly, To have a care alwayes to speak the Truth.

Fifthly, To be known onely in their own businesses, and not to en∣quire into, and to busie themselves in other mens matters.

All which are good moral precepts: but they have another which marrs and spoils all the rest, and that is, upon the greatest penalties they can be threatned withall,

Sixthly, Not to entertain, or believe any other Law besides that which was delivered unto them by their Law-giver.

This people take but one Wife; which hath liberty, as the Wives of the Hindoos, to go abroad. They never resolve to take Wives, or Husbands without the advice of their Church-men: and when they come to be married, they stand some distance one from the other, there being two Church-men present, one in the behalf of the Man, and in behalf of the Woman the other. The first of these asks the Woman, whether or no she will have that Man to be her Husband; and the other asks the Man, whe∣ther or no he will have that Woman to be his Wife: and they both consenting, the Priests bring them together and joyn their Hands, praying that they may live in Unity and Love together; Page  445 and then both those Church-men scatter Rice upon the Married Couple, intreating God to make them fruitful in sending them many Sons and Daughters, that they may multiply as much as that seed doth in the ears that bear it. And so, the Ceremony being thus performed, which is about the time of mid-night, the whole Company depart, leaving the Marryed Couple to∣gether.

At the Birth of every Child, they immediately send for the Daroo, or Church-man, who comes to the parties House, and there being certainly enform'd of the exact time of the Childs birth, first, undertakes to calculate its Nativity, and to speak something of it by way of prediction; after which he conferrs with the Parents about a Name whereby it shall be called; which when they have agreed upon, the Mother, in the pre∣sence of the Company there assembled, gives it that Name.

And now lastly, touching the Burials of that People, they incircle pieces of ground with a round Wall, that is of a good height, set a part for that purpose. These burying places stand remote from Houses and Road-wayes, the ground within them is made smooth, or else paved on the bottom, in the midst where∣of they have a round pit, made deep like a draw-Well. The Bodies of their Dead, both Men, Women, and Children, are carryed to those places, upon a Beer made of sleight round Iron Bars, (for they will not have dead bodies touch any wood, lest they should defile it, because that is fewel for their adored Fire) and thus brought thither, are laid round about near the inside of that Wall upon the ground, or pavements, covered with a thin white Cloth; the Daroo, or Harboode, accompanies the dead body near unto the door which enters that place (al∣wayes kept fast shut, but when it is opened upon this occasion to let in their dead); and, comn thither, speaks these words in the audience of all those which are thither assembled, That whereas the party deceased consisted of all the Four Elements, he desires that every one of them may now take his part. And this is the form they use, when they there thus dispose of the bodies of their dead. Which being there so left in that open place, are present∣ly laid bare by the Fowls of the Air, who in short time after pick all their flesh clear from their bones, by consequence their fleshly part having no other Sepulchres, Graves, or Tombs, but the Craws and Gorges of those ravenous Fowls. And when upon this occasion they enter that round stage of Mortality, the bare Skeletons they there find, which have parted with all their flesh, are by those bearers of the dead cast into that deep round pit, where they mix promiscuouslly together, and so make room for other dead bodies.

But now that my Reader may not conceive that I have en∣deavoured in some of these strange Relations to write a new Romance, I would have him to think, that for my part I do believe that there is very much of truth in the particulars I have insert∣ed, Page  446 if there be any credit to be given to some men of much inte∣grity that lived amongst them, who made it a great part of their business to be satisfied in many of the particulars here spoken of, or if I might trust mine own Eyes and Ears that saw and heard much of it, which could have enabled me to have written a great deal more concerning the Rites, Ceremonies, Customs, wild con∣ceivings, and mad Idolatries of this people, as of the Hindoos spoken of before, if I durst have thrown away more time upon them; all which would have made my Judicious Reader thus to have concluded with me, that those Mahometans and Heathens ground very many of their Opinions upon Custom, Tradition, and Phantsie, not Reason, much less upon safe Rules that might lead them into, and after keep them in, the way of Truth. They esteeming it a very great boldness, a very high Presumption, to be wiser in their Religion then their Fore-fathers were (as many of the more ignorant sort of Papists will often say, though it be directly against themselves) and therefore are desirous to do, and to believe as their Ancestors have before them; to fare as they have fared, and as they have sped to speed; though they perish everlastingly with them, never considering of, or ruminating on those things which they hold and maintain for truths; being like unto unclean Beasts, which chew not the Cudd.

So much of that people in general: I come now more particu∣larly to speak