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The supreme authorities are the Dhurma and Deb Rajahs; the latter representing the temporal government in its strictest sense, as his reign is generally short; the former the spiritual in as strict a sense, for he is, although infinitely divisible, quite eternal. The immortality of the Dhurma is not so well known as that of the Lama of Thibet, it is nevertheless equally true; both appear to have been firmly believed by Captain Turner, whose account of the behaviour and intelligence of the Grand Lama, an infant of some months old, is very amusing and characteristic. The present Dhurma is, as I have mentioned, the son of Tongsa Pillo, a curious coincidence.
The chief test of the authenticity of the infant in whom the Dhurma condescends to leave the regions of æther for those of gross spirits, consists in his recognising his former articles of wearing apparel, &c.; and to avoid any supposition that might arise from the probability of any mortal child being struck with shewy gew-gaws, this child is bound to assert that they are actually his own; if it does so, surely it is satisfactory evidence. The infant Dhurma may as well be found in the hut of the poorest peasant as in the residence of an officer of high rank, but I dare say, if the truth were known, he is usually made for the occasion.
When he has been completely tested he is removed to the palace, and his life thenceforward becomes one of almost absolute seclusion. Surrounded by hosts of priests, and in 'the apparent enjoyment of most things deemed desirable by a Bootea, he is nothing but a state prisoner, virtually sacrificed to state ordinances. Neither is it probable that he enjoys any power sufficient to recompense him for being cut off from the merry side of life, for if his teachers have been wise teachers, they probably rule him throughout. But all this holds good only on the supposition that his life is as really monastically rigid as those of some orders of Christian monks were not. We heard strange accounts, especially at Punukka, sufficient to suggest that a priest is not necessarily virtuous in Bootan more than any where else.
His revenues are, I believe, derived from certain lands in the plains, and above all from offerings. He is also said to trade, but none of them can derive much profit from commercial speculations.
It is in the Deb that the supreme authority as regards the internal economy of the country is vested. But supreme though he be called, as he can do nothing without consulting all the counsellors, including the Pillos, who have no cause to dread his displeasure, his power must be extremely limited, and very often disputed; and, if it is remembered that he is always checked by those counsellors who are actually present with him, and that he holds no, or at least very little, territory
on the plains; and that a Pillo has no check on himself, that his province is perhaps remote from the capital, and that he has filled up all his offices with his own relations and friends, it is evident, I think,that the change from governor of a province to that of supreme ruler of the country must be attended with loss of power. Besides, the Deb is only expected to retain office for three years, at the end of which he is expected to retire, provided he be weak enough.
The present Deb, if indeed he now exists, has no authority out of Punukka, and not too much even in his own palace. He was formerly Tacca Pillo, and this seemed to be the grand source of complaint against him.
The chief object of the Deb, as is that of all his officers, is to accumulate money. The sources of this are plunder, fines, reversion of property to him by death of the owners (and this seems to be carried to a frightful extent), tributes from the Pillos, offerings on accepting office, trading, and the proceeds of lands in the plains; but this last source cannot yield much, since the occupation of the best part by Herr Govindh. Our Deb, in addition to his usual sources, added another during our visit, by robbing the Dhurma of all his presents. The revenues of the Pillos are derived principally from their Dooars, or territories in the plains, by plunder either of their own subjects, or those of the British government, fires, in short by every possible method.
Nothing can be said in favour of this many-headed government; each Deb, each Pillo, each Soobah, each officer in fact of high or low degree, is obstinately bent on enriching himself at the expense of his subjects or his inferiors; and their object is to do this as rapidly as possible, as removals are always probable, and are almost sure to depend upon a change of the Deb. There is no security for property, and not much for life, but fines are fortunately deemed more profitable than bloodshed, and, in short, the only safety of the lower orders consists in their extreme poverty. The whole proceedings of this government with the Mission were characterised by utter want of faith, honesty, and consideration. The trickery, intrigue, and falsehood could only be equalled by the supreme ignorance, presumption, and folly exhibited upon every occasion. Procrastination was a trump card in the game they played, mildness of deportment was pretty sure of inducing insolence, and they were only kept in decent order by perceiving that you were determined not to be trifled with.
I am not disposed to assign their behaviour to the nature of the present temporary government; it was only natural in an ignorant, very conceited people, who find that they are treated with distinguished consideration by the only power that admits them to an equality. The
preceding Deb, from convictions of interest, and from having tasted more than once of British liberality, might have treated the Mission with some consideration, but the issue as to business would doubtless have been the same. I regret much not being able to state more about the government of the country, and more especially its internal economy. The usual punishment for crimes is in fines, a method always resorted to wherever money is considered as the grand object. In Bootan I have little doubt but that the commission of grievous crimes would be encouraged, were the lower orders in condition to pay the fines.
I have before adverted to an instance of black treachery: that instance was furnished by a Mahomedan, Nuzeeb-ood Deen, a native of Calcutta; who having accompanied a trader into Bootan had been detained and placed in a state of captivity for twelve years. By some fortunate neglect on the part of the Booteas in the palace, he contrived to gain admission to Capt. Pemberton; and his tale was so consistent, and bore such evidences of truth, that Capt. Pemberton claimed him as a British subject; and the justice of the claim was very strongly urged by the prevarication of the Booteas, who indeed finally admitted it. Nuzeeb-ood Deen returned to the palace, but very luckily for him, Capt. Pemberton, who suspected that the Booteas might dispose of him privily, insisted much that he should be forthcoming when he called for him, and wrote to the Deb to the same purpose; yet even under these circumstances, it was unanimously agreed that he should be cut to pieces and thrown into the river, but they refrained from doing so from fear of the consequences. As soon as he was given up, which happened a day or two before our departure, he placed himself under Captain Pemberton, who advised him not to associate with Booteas, and above all to eat or drink nothing from their hands. Nuzeeb-ood Deen however was not proof against a cup presented to him by a boy with whom he had been very intimate during his captivity. The consequences were every symptom of having partaken of some narcotic poison; he was saved by the action of powerful emetics, but did not recover for some time afterwards; he was carried through the palace and throughout the first march on a Bootea's back.
The population of the country is certainly scanty, and indeed could not be otherwise under existing circumstances. Villages are very generally "few and far between," in addition to their being small. The only decently populated bits of country we saw about Santagong and Tamashoo. The valley of the Teemboo as far as Panga was also tolerably populous, but it must be remembered that this is the principal part of the great thoroughfare of the country. The palaces and
castles are the only places well inhabited, but the inmates might very advantageously be dispensed with, as they consist of idle priests in excess, and bullying followers; both too happy to live at the expense of the poor cultivators.
The causes of this scantiness of the population exist in polyandry, and one of its opposites agyny, in the bad government, and the filthy and licentious habits of the people. The great rarity of aged people struck us all very forcibly, and is a proof that whatever may be the proportion of births, the proportion of life is below average. bad influence of polyandry is supposed to be counteracted by the idea, that the spouse of many will be faithful to the eldest so long as he may be present, and after him to the second, and so on ;-such an idea is at best absurd, and as regards Bootan women, is positively ridiculous, their chastity not being of such a quality as to induce them to be particular as to relationship, or even acquaintance.
The expected celibacy of so large a portion of the inhabitants, although probably assumed in some degree, and which depends either on acceptance of office or on the course of education, must be very pernicious. The large number thus withdrawn from propagating-the only good in their power-would lead us to suppose that polygamy would be of much more likely occurrence than polyandry; and the custom is rendered still more paradoxical by the contrariety of custom observed amongst most other Asiatic people, who make polygamy almost an invariable consequence of worldly prosperity.
In very many places there is obviously an extreme disproportion of females to males, yet it would be too much to assume that there is a general disproportion, although the two causes above adverted to be would sanction such a belief, unnatural as it may supposed to be. We could not ascertain that the apparent disproportion of females was the result of unnatural conduct on the part of the Booteas, although in my opinion they are sufficiently capable of destroying either male or female offspring, did they consider it expedient to their interests. Of the diseases, which in all countries form so essential a part of the causes tending to diminish population, I know nothing. The few patients I had at Punukka were all suffering from venereal, frequently in its worst form. Chillong Soobah assured me that such cases occur in the proportion of one in five.
The number of half-ruined villages would suggest the idea that the population was formerly more extensive than it now is. But it must be remembered that, in this as well as most other hilly parts of India, the population is partly migratory. In a country where agriculture is not understood, where no natural means exist for renovating the soil,
and no artificial ones are employed, the population must vary their abodes in accordance with means of subsistence. The only cause for surprise is that they should build such substantial houses; they may do so with a view of returning to them after the ground has been sufficiently fallowed.
Education. Of the course of this essence of the growth of the mind I can state nothing. If the assumption of the habits of priesthood be considered as the first step of education, it is rather extensive; but I doubt whether a Bootea boy may not wear these robes for years and then throw them off improved in no good, but in all vice. There is scarcely a village in Bootan in which some exterior decorations, as well as the whole air of the house, do not indicate it to be the favoured residence of a priest; yet I never heard the hum of scholars in any other place than Dewangiri, in which, and it is a curious coincidence, priests were comparatively uncommon.
The Booteas appear to have no caste; they are divided, however, into several sects, and in the account of the Persian sent into Bootan by Mr. Scott, whose account may be found in the fifteenth volume of the Asiatic Researches, as many as fifteen are enumerated. It does not appear, however, that the possession of the higher offices is confined to the higher sects; for Tongsa Pillo is known to be a man of a low sect, although he may be considered, from his station and connexions, the most powerful man in the country.
Most Booteas have much of the same appearance; to this however the people about Bhoomlungtung, Byagur, and Jaisa, as well as those about Rydang are marked exceptions, and have much more of what I imagine to be the Tartar appearance.*
If we look at those sects which do not depend upon blood, but upon education or circumstances, we may divide the inhabitants into labourers, priests, idle retainers, and great men, which is in many places another word for tyrants. The labourers are better acquainted with poverty than any thing else, and are lucky in being allowed to have such a safeguard.
Perhaps the most numerous, and certainly the most pernicious class, is that of the Priests or Gylongs. Their number is really astonishing, particularly when compared with the population in general. Not only do they swarm in the castles and palaces, of which they occupy the best and most exalted parts, but they inhabit whole villages, which may be always recognised by the houses being somewhat white-washed, of a better than ordinary description, and always in the best and
*The people again towards Buxa are of very distinct appearance, but this results from a tolerably free admixture of Bengalee blood.