Concerning their different Honours,
Ranks, and Qualities.
Among this People there are divers and sundry Casts or degrees of Quality, which is not according to their Riches or Places of Honour the King promotes them to, but according to their Descent and Blood. And whatsoever this Honour is, be it higher or lower, it remains Hereditary from Generation to Generation. They abhor to eat or drink, or intermarry with any of Inferior Quality to themselves. The signs of higher or meaner Ranks, are wearing of Doublets, or going bare-backed without them: the length of their Cloth below their knees; their sitting on Stools, or on Blocks or Mats spread on the Ground: and in their Caps.
They are especially careful in their Marriages, not to match with any inferior Cast, but always each within their own rank: Riches cannot prevail with them in the least to marry with those by whom they must eclipse and stain the Honour of their Family: on which they set an higher price than on their lives. And if any of the Females should be so deluded, as to commit folly with one beneath her self, if ever she should appear to the sight of her Friends, they would certainly kill her, there being no other way to wipe off the dishonour she hath done the Family, but by her own Blood.
Yet for the Men it is something different; it is not accounted any shame or fault for a Man of the highest sort to lay with a Woman far inferior to himself, nay of the very lowest degree; provided he neither eats nor drinks with her, nor takes her home to his House, as a Wife. But if he should, which I never knew done, he is punished by the Magistrate, either by Fine or Imprisonment, or both, and also he is utterly ecluded from his Family, and accounted thenceforward of the same rank and quality, that the Woman is of, whom he hath taken. If the Woman be married already, with whom the Man of better rank lies, and the Husband come and catch them together; how low soever the one be and high the other, he may kill him, and her too, if he please.
And thus by Marrying constantly each rank within it self, the Descent and Dignity thereof is preserved for ever; and whether the Family be high or low it never alters. But to proceed to the particular ranks and degrees of Men among them.
The highest, are their Noblemen, called Hondrews. Which I suppose comes from the word Homdrewné, a Title given to the King, signifying Majesty: these being honourable People. ’Tis out of this sort alone, that the King chooseth his great Officers and whom he imploys in his Court, and appoints for Governors over his Countrey. Riches are not here valued, nor make any the more Honourable. For many of the lower sorts do far exceed these Hondrews in Estates. But it is the Birth and Parentage that inobleth.
These are distinguished from others by their names, and the wearing of their cloth, which the Men wear down half their Legs, and the Women to their Heels: one end of which Cloth the Women fling over their Shoulders, and with the very end carelesly cover their Breasts; whereas the other sort of Women must go naked from the wast upwards, and their Cloaths not hang down much below their Knees: except it be for cold; for then either Women or Men may throw their Cloth over their Backs. But then they do excuse it to the Hondrews, when they meet them, saying, Excuse me, it is for warmth.
They are distinguished also by their own Countrey-Caps, which are of the fashion of Mitres: there are two flaps tied up over the top of the Crown. If they be Hondrews, their Caps are all of one Colour, either White or Blew: if of inferior quality, than the Cap and the flaps on each side be of different Colours, whereof the Flaps are always Red.
Of these Hondrews there be two sorts, the one somewhat Inferior to the other as touching Marriage; but not in other things. The greatest part of the Inhabitants of the Land are of the degree of Hondrews.
All Christians either White or Black are accounted equal with the Hondrews. The Whites are generally Honourable, only it is an abatement of their Honour that they eat Beef, and wash not after they have been at Stool; which things are reckoned with this People an Abomination.
Among the Noblemen may be mentioned an Honour, that the King confers, like unto Knighthood; it ceaseth in the Person’s death, and is not Hereditary. The King confers it by putting about their Heads a piece of Silk or Ribbond embroidered with Gold and Silver, and bestowing a Title upon them. They are stiled Mundianna. There are not above two or three of them now in the Realm living.
Next after the degree of Hondrews may be placed Goldsmiths, Blacksmiths, Carpenters and Painters. Who are all of one degree and quality. But the Hondrews will not eat with them: however in Apparel there is no difference; and they are also privileged to sit on Stools, which none of the Inferior ranks of People hereafter mentioned, may do. Heretofore they were accounted almost equal to the Inferior sort of Hondrewes, and they would eat in these Artificers Houses, but afterwards they were degraded upon this occasion. It chanced some Hondrews came to a Smith’s Shop to have their Tools mended, when it came to be Dinner time, the Smith leaves work, and goes in to his House to dine, leaving the Hondrewes in his Shop: who had waited there a great while to have their work done. Now whether the Smith fearing lest their hunger might move them to be so impudent or desperate as to partake with him of his Dinner, clapt to his Door after him: Which was taken so hainously by those hungry People in his Shop, that immediately they all went and declared abroad what an affront the Smith had put upon them. Whereupon it was decreed and confirmed, that for ever after all the People of that rank should be deposed, and deprived of the Honour of having the Hondrewes to eat in their Houses. Which Decree hath stood in force ever since.
Nevertheless these Smiths take much upon them, especially those who are the King’s Smiths; that is, such who live in the King’s Towns, and do his work. These have this Privilege, that each has a parcel of Towns belonging to them, whom none but they are to work for. The ordinary work they do for them is mending their Tools, for which every Man pays to his Smith a certain Rate of Corn in Harvest time according to ancient Custom. But if any hath work extraordinary, as making new Tools or the like, besides the aforesaid Rate of Corn, he must pay him for it. In order to this, they come in an humble manner to the Smith with a Present, being Rice, Hens, and other sorts of Provision, or a bottle of Rack, desiring him to appoint his time, when they shall come to have their work done. Which when he hath appointed them, they come at the set time, and bring both Coals and Iron with them. The Smith sits very gravely upon his Stool, his Anvil before him, with his left hand towards the Forge, and a little Hammer in his Right. They themselves who come with their work must blow the Bellows, and when the Iron is to be beaten with the great Maul, he holds it, still sitting upon his Stool, and they must hammer it themselves, he only with his little Hammer knocking it sometimes into fashion. And if it be any thing to be filed, he makes them go themselves and grind it upon a Stone, that his labour of fileing may be the less; and when they have done it as well as they can, he goes over it again with his file and finisheth it. That which makes these Smiths thus stately is, because the Towns People are compelled to go to their own Smith, and none else. And if they should, that Smith is liable to pay Dammages that should do work for any in another Smith’s Jurisdiction.
All that are of any Craft or Profession are accounted of an inferior degree, as Elephant Catchers, and Keepers, who are reckoned equal with the Smiths, &c. abovesaid, tho they neither eat nor marry together; and these may wear Apparel as do the Hondrews, and sit on Stools, but the Hondrews eat not with them. No Artificers ever change their Trade from Generation to Generation; but the Son is the same as was his Father, and the Daughter marries only to those of the same Craft: and her Portion is such Tools as are of use, and do belong unto the Trade: tho the Father may give over and above what he pleaseth
Next are are Barbars; both the Women and Men may wear Doublets, but not sit on Stools, neither will any eat with them.
Potters yet more Inferior, may not wear any Doublets, nor their Cloth much below the Knee, nor sit on Stools, neither will any eat with them. But they have this Privilege, because they make the Pots, that when they are athirst being at a Hondrew’s House, they may take his Pot, which hath a Pipe to it, and pour the Water into their mouths themselves: which none other of these inferior degrees may be admitted to do: but they must hold their hands to their mouths and gape, and the Hondrews themselves will pour the Water in. The Potters were at first denied this Honour, upon which they joyntly agreed to make Pots with Pipes only for themselves, and would sell none to the Hondrews that wanted; whereat being constrained, they condescended to grant them the Honour above other inferior People, that they should have the favour to drink out of these Pots with spouts at their Houses.
The next are the Ruddaughs, Washers. Of these there are great Numbers. They wash Cloths for all People to the degree of a Potter; but for none below that degree. Their usual Posture is to carry a Cloth on their Shoulder, both Men and Women: They use Lye in their washing, setting a Pot over the Fire holding seven or eight Gallons of Water, and lay the foul Cloths on the top; and the steam of the water goes into the Cloths and scalds them. Then they take them and carry them to a River side, and instead of rubbing them with their hands, slap them against the Rock, and they become very clean; nor doth this tear the Cloths at all, as they order it.
Another rank after these are the Hungrams, or Jaggory-Makers. Tho none will eat with them, yet it is lawful to buy and eat the Jaggory they make, (which is a kind of Sugar) but nothing else.
Another sort among them is the Poddah. These are of no Trade or Craft, but are Husbandmen and Soldiers, yet are inferior to all that have been named hitherto. For what reason neither I, nor, I think, themselves can tell: only thus it falls to them by Succession from their Predecessors, and so will ever remain.
After these are the Weavers. Who beside their Trade, which is Weaving Cloth, are Astrologers, and tell the People good Days and good Seasons: and at the Birth of a Child write for them an account of the day, time and Planet, it was born in and under. These accounts they keep with great Care all their Life-time: by which they know their Age, and what success or evil shall befall them.
These People also beat Drums, and play on Pipes, and dance in the Temples of their Gods, and at their Sacrifices; they eat and carry away all such Victuals as are offered to their Idols. Both which to do and take, is accounted to belong to People of a very low degree and quality. These also will eat dead Cows.
Next to the Weavers are the Kiddeas or Basket-Makers. Who make Fans to fan Corn, and Baskets of Canes, and Lace, Bedsteds and Stools.
Then follow the Kirinerahs. Whose Trade is to make fine Matts. These Men may not wear any thing on their Heads. The Women of none of these sorts ever do. Of these two last there are but few.
All below the Couratto or Elephant-Men, may not sit on Stools, nor wear Doublets, except the Barbar, nor wear the Cloth low down their Legs. Neither may any of these ranks of People, either Man or Woman, except the Potter and the Washer, wear the end of their Cloth to cover their Bodies, unless they be sick or cold. Neither may they presume to be called by the Names that the Hondrewsare called by; nor may they, where they are not known, change themselves by pretending or seeming to be higher than Nature hath made them: and I think they never do, but own themselves in the rank and quality wherein they were born, and demean themselves accordingly.
All Outlandish People are esteemed above the inferior ranks. The Names of the Hondrews always end in oppow, of others below the degree of the Elephant People in adgah.
The Slaves may make another rank. For whose maintenance, their Masters allow them Land and Cattle. Which many of them do so improve; that except in Dignity they are not far behind their Masters, only they are not permitted to have Slaves. Their Masters will not diminish or take away ought, that by their Diligence and Industry they have procured, but approve of it, as being Persons capable to repose Page 70trust in. And when they do buy or otherways get a new Slave, they presently provide him a Wife, and so put him forward to keep House, and settle, that he may not think of running away. Slaves that are born of Hondrew Parents, retain the Honour of their degree.
There is one sort of People more, and they are the Beggars: who for their Transgression, as hereafter shall be shewn, have by former Kings been made so low and base, that they can be no lower or baser. And they must and do give such titles and respects to all other People, as are due from other People to Kings and Princes.
The Predecessors of these People, from whom they sprang, were Dodda Vaddahs, which signifies Hunters: to whom it did belong to catch and bring Venison for the King’s Table. But instead of Venison they brought Man’s flesh, unknown; which the King liking so well, commanded to bring him more of the same sort of Venison. The king’s Barbar chanced to know what flesh it was, and discovered it to him. At which the King was so inraged, that he accounted death too good for them; and to punish only those Persons that had so offended, not a sufficient recompence for so great an Affront and Injury as he had sustained by them. Forthwith therefore he established a Decree, that all both great and small, that were of that Rank or Tribe, should be expelled from dwelling among the Inhabitants of the Land, and not be admitted to use or enjoy the benefit of any means, or ways, or callings whatsoever, to provide themselves sustinence; but that they should beg from Generation to Generation, from Door to Door, thro the Kingdom; and to be looked upon and esteemed by all People to be so base and odious, as not possibly to be more.
And they are to this day so detestable to the People, that they are not permitted to fetch water out of their Wells; but do take their water out of Holes or Rivers. Neither will any touch them, lest they should be defiled.
And thus they go a begging in whole Troops, both Men, Women, and Children, carrying both Pots and Pans, Hens and Chickens, and whatsoever they have, in Baskets hanging on a Pole, at each end one, upon their Shoulders. The Women never carry any thing, but when they come to any House to beg, they Dance and shew Tricks, while the Men beat Drums. They will turn Brass Basons on one of their fingers, twirling it round very swift, and wonderfully strange. And they will toss up Balls into the Air one after another to the number of Nine, and catch them as they fall, and as fast as they do catch them, still they toss them up again; so that there are always Seven up in the Air. Also they will take Beads of several Colours, and of one size, and put them in their mouths, and then take them one by one out of their mouths again each Colour by themselves. And with this Behaviour, and the high and honourable Titles which they give, as to Men, Your Honour, and Your Majesty; and to Women, Queens, Countesses; and to white Men, White of the Royal Blood, &c. They do beg for their living; and that with so much importunity, as if they had a Patent for it from the King, and will not be denied; pretending that it was so ordered and decreed, that by this very means they should be maintained, and unless they mean to perish with hunger they cannot accept of a denyal. The People on the other hand cannot without horrible shame, lift up their hand against them to strike or thrust them Page 71away; so rather than to be troubled with their importunity, they will relieve them.
And thus they live, building small Hovels in remote Places, Highways, under Trees. And all the Land being, as it were of Necessity, Contributers towards their maintenance, these Beggars live without labour, as well or better, than the other sorts of People; being free from all sorts of Service and Duties, which all other are compelled to perform for the King. Of them it is only required to make Ropes of such Cow-hides, as die of themselves, to catch and tie Elephants with: By which they have another Privilege, to claim the flesh there of for themselves, from the Weavers. Who when they meet with any dead Cows, use to cut them up and eat them. But if any of these Roudeahs, Beggars, see them, they will run to them and drive them away, offering to beat them with the Poles, whereon they carry their Baskets, saying to them, How can we perform the King’s Service to make Ropes of the Hide, if the Weavers hack and spoil it? telling them also, That it is beneath such honourable People as they, to eat such Unclean and Polluted flesh. By these words, and the fear the Weavers are in to be touched by that base People, than which nothing could be more infamous, they are glad to get them away as fast as they can.
These Men being so low that nothing they can do, can make them lower, it is not unusual with them to lay with their Daughters, or for the Son to lay with his Mother, as if there were no Consanguinity among them.
Many times when the King cuts off Great and Noble Men, against whom he is highly incensed, he will deliver their Daughters and Wives unto this sort of People, reckoning it, as they also account it, to be far worse Punishment than any kind of Death. This kind of Punishment being accounted such horrible Cruelty, the King doth usually of his Clemency shew them some kind of Mercy, and pittying their Distress, Commands to carry them to a River side, and there to deliver them into the hands of those, who are far worse than the Executioners of Death: from whom, if these Ladies please to free themselves, they are permitted to leap into the River and be drowned; the which some sometimes will choose to do, rather than to consort with them.
There are some of this sort of People which dwell in remote Parts, distant from any Towns, and keep Cattle, and sell them to the Chingulayes, also shoot Deer and sell them where they fall in the Woods; for if they should but touch them, none would buy them.
The Barbar’s Information having been the occasion of all this misery upon this People, they in revenge there of abhor to eat what is dressed in the Barbar’s House even to this day.