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Of the London Missionary Society



The small but picturesque country of Travancore in South India, though little known in England and even in some distant parts of India, from which it is distinguished by its humid climate, perpetual verdure, and rich vegetable productions, its ancient Hindu Government, and a population of surprising variety, is full of deepest interest to those who have had occasion to reside there, or who have directed their regards closely to the subject.

The exhaustive study of the physical features of the country — its multifarious population, with their languages and literature, their strange customs and religions — its flourishing Christian missions and rising civilisation — would be the work of a lifetime, and could not fail, so far as it is prosecuted, to draw out the profoundest moral sympathy with the people of all classes and with those on whom devolves the duty of governing them.

Travancore abounds with attractions to the student of nature, of religion, and of mankind. The sportsman and the naturalist will find an endless variety in the fauna — elephants and tigers, for instance, so numerous in some parts that the hillmen are obliged to build their huts in the tops of trees — wild oxen and deer, monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, birds, fishes, and insects.

The botanist will find much to interest and delight in the flora : the frequent tropical rains make most of the country a sea of verdure and luxuriant vegetation; and gardening is a pastime uninterrupted by any dreary fall of the leaf or inclemency of winter. The land is crowded with graceful palms, and is one of the head-quarters of the ginger and pepper tribes. It was to procure these spices and other valuable products that the servants of King Solomon visited Malabar in the golden age of the Jewish nation; and it was these that, in the Providence of God, attracted Europeans first to the Western Coast of India, induced persevering efforts to open more direct communication with the Indies, led to the discovery of the Cape route as well as America and the West Indies, and ultimately to the establishment of the great Indian Empire of the British Crown.

Dense forests of teak, blackwood, and other useful timbers clothe the hill regions — fruit-trees, some of them bearing fruits of enormous size, or in extraordinary abundance, are grown in every garden — the medicinal plants deserve fuller investigation and trial— and economic products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and chinchona are now being largely introduced and developed by enterprising English planters.

The historian and the antiquarian have yet, it may be said, to begin their labours in Travancore, examining ancient but hitherto inaccessible temples, with their undeciphered inscriptions, and investigating records and usages which may throw light upon the origin of its strange laws.

The ethnologist will have a wide sphere for study in the varied and mutually contrasting manners and customs of the four hundred and twenty Hindu castes of the population, besides the mixed descendants of the Portuguese, Dutch, and other nations — quite a museum of races — and in the comparison of these with customs prevailing in other parts of the world. Some of these castes are, from their exclusive habits and insulation, inaccessible to the European, and nearly so to their own countrymen of other classes.

The merchant and the manufacturer may find here a market for their commodities as civilisation and comfort spread, and an opening for new and varied forms of industry; and the statesman will be interested in the social and political condition of a country where the great problem is to decide how far, and by what successive steps, the people shall be freed from barbarous and unequal laws, endowed with civil liberty, and ultimately entrusted with some share in the government of their country.

Above all, the Christian philanthropist cannot but mourn over the gross idolatry and demon worship, and the miserable superstitions which corrupt and darken all that is otherwise fair and pleasant — the dense popular ignorance, oppressions, and abject wretchedness of the lower castes, and the debasement of females amongst most classes of society; and he will rejoice over the incipient enlightenment, the spread of education, and the establishment of living and active Christian churches throughout the land.

The religions of Travancore are strangely diverse, comprising both popular Hinduism, and demon, ancestral, serpent, and sun worship — Muhammadanism of a low and imperfect type — Jews, the history of whose settlement in India dates back to, perhaps, the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, or even earlier — Roman Catholics of three centuries’ standing —the Malabar Syrian Church, very much resembling in rites and ecclesiastical government the Greek Church, and whose founders and ancestors came to Malabar fully fifteen hundred years ago — and last, but not least in importance for the future welfare of the country, Protestant Christians connected with the London Missionary Society in the South, and with the Church Mission in the North, brought under the influence of the Gospel within the last sixty or seventy years.

It is a remarkable fact that over one-fifth of the population are nominally Christian, while the Malayalam Sudras, who constitute the mass of the respectable population, the landowners and employers of labour, the agricultural and military classes, are quite outnumbered by the native Christians; and the Brahmans, who enjoy immense power and prestige in social and political matters, and almost divine honours as the representatives of the deity and the sole competent priestly celebrants of religious rites, number only forty thousand in a total population of nearly two millions and a half. Travancore is thus an Oriental microcosm, a representative land, a country of striking contrasts.

In its scenery, sea-coast and mountain range, wood and water, hill and dale, river and lake are all combined in comparatively small compass. The primeval forests, where the elephant, tiger, and wild ox roam unchecked, lie not many miles distant from the capital, with its public offices, English college, and museum; and the almost savage denizen of the woods and hills, clad in green leaves or fringes of long grass, is found not far from the Brahman official or Sudra noble, who lectures on modem science, and writes the English language as well as any of us.

To introduce and to illustrate particulars of the manners and customs, the social and civil condition of the people, some descriptive account of the country seems required. Let us enter it from the north, and travel right through by the main and most frequented route, parallel with the coast, to the southernmost extremity at Cape Comorin, observing the physical features which it presents to our notice as we pass along.

The nearest railway station on the way from Madras is at Shoranoor in the extreme north of Cochin, where we cross the Beypore river over a long bridge, which, it is hoped, will some day be utilized for the extension of the railroad to Cochin : thence we proceed by bullock cart southwards some twenty miles to Trichoor. The road passes in places through dense forest, and is in parts adorned and sheltered by avenues of magnificent over-arching trees, especially banyans, forming natural Gothic arches draped and festooned with epiphytal ferns and orchids, and gorgeous flowering creepers depending from the branches.

At Trichoor, “the key of Cochin,”we enter upon the “backwater”communication by lagoons, canals, and rivers to Trevandrum, separated generally by but a narrow strip of land from the sea — a very cheap and convenient mode of travelling, though rather slow. In stormy weather, when winds and waves rock the shallow canoe and threaten to overturn it, or beat hard upon the cabin-boat, this mode of travel is unpleasant or even unsafe; but nothing could be more delightful in favourable weather, in the rich glow of the golden sunset, in the bright moonlight, or the cool dawn of day.

In the daytime we meet or pass numerous freight and passenger-boats, large and small, going in various directions; and stop for a short time at convenient places of call to procure provisions, or to allow the boatmen to cook their food. Pretty little mullet fish, silvery and glistening, may be seen leaping out of the water, sometimes in shoals; and occasional specimens leap into the boat.

At night all is calm and still, except the conversation of passengers in boats gliding past, or the salutations of boatmen one to another, the sound of drumming and play in distant villages, the croaking of great frogs close by, not unlike the cawing of crows, and the shrill ceaseless stridulation of the Cicada in the trees.

Passing the ruins of the fort of Cranganore, once the scene of European warfare and diplomacy, and a settlement of the Jews and Syrian Christians, but now desolate, except for a noted temple, which is the annual resort of multitudes to offer sacrifices of cocks to the goddess Bhagavathi, we enjoy a pretty view of the backwater, studded with low islands covered with grass and sedges, the banks carefully cultivated, or over-grown with fine jungle containing handsome convolvulus or other creepers, rattans, and flowering shrubs, and the mountains in the distance.

On the other side of the backwater we see the Travancore military “lines” or defensive hedge running inland, which was some obstacle to the Mysore forces on the invasion of Tippu Saib about a century ago, but now presents the appearance simply of a raised roadway with a few small bambus growing upon it. The Travancore territory extends to about this parallel of latitude, some dozen miles north of the town of Cochin; but a narrow strip along the coast belonging to the Cochin Rajah runs into the Travancore State.

Boats and boatmen can readily be changed or procured at the busy and flourishing port and commercial emporium of British Cochin, the history of whose vicissitudes and conflicts under native rule and under the Portuguese and the Dutch, is full of interest. Here European vessels lie in the roads, or in the harbour formed by the estuary where the inland waters meet the sea. Coasting steamers call weekly, and crowds of native craft lie at anchor in the backwater, which is here about two miles in width, the banks very low and covered with palms and other vegetation. Were the shores higher, this sheet of water would be a magnificent sight.

The Cochin Rajah’s public offices and schoolhouse, and several Roman Catholic churches show well at Ernaculam on the eastern bank of the backwater. Native huts and villages nestle under the shade of the trees; mangroves send their curious arched roots into the mud : overhead, flocks of green parrokeets scream as they fly across; and gorgeous kingfishers sit perched on the branches, attentively watching for fish in the water beneath. Great flocks of cranes settle in the rice-fields around. The native town of Cochin extends southwards for a mile or two to the remarkable settlements of white and black Jews, to which most travellers endeavour to pay a visit in passing.

South of Cochin, the water communication varies in width, but, on the whole, gradually expands into a considerable lake, called the Vembanad backwater, on the eastern side of which lies the important mission station of Cottayam, with its English college and vernacular Seminary, its numerous congregations and Protestant bishop — the head-quarters also of the Syrian Christian church; and on the western side the busy town of Alleppy with its fine lighthouse, coir factories, shipping, and population of 30,000, largely Muhammadan. This sheet of water is about thirteen miles long and nine in breadth, almost an inland sea. Here, and in other waters of sufficient expanse, sails may be set when the wind is favourable, and a speed of some six or eight miles an hour may be attained.

Along the banks of the lake, and on the sea-beach, the dense forest of cocoanut trees is surprising, in some places not a spot of earth to be seen unoccupied, nor scarcely a house visible through the crowded plantations. There seems no end of cocoanut palms, until ultimately one gets rather tired of the monotony, valuable as are the trees to the inhabitants. In the monsoon floods, some of these places look like large sheets of water studded with small islands full of cocoanut trees and human habitations.

Rice-fields are formed by reclaiming the swamps by the side of the backwater, so that a season of unusual drought, which injuriously affects the crops in the south, is helpful in drying up the low-lying lands in the north of Travancore, which are covered with several feet deep of water in the rainy season.

In some places these are a couple of feet lower than the level of the canal, the water being kept out by mud banks, and irrigation wheels, turned by the feet of men sitting on the frames, are at work in many places. Where necessary, the water is carried up through a sloping trough, half the distance by one wheel, and the other half by a second. The field serfs are often seen working up to the neck in water deepening the canals, or lifting up mud from the bottom to repair the banks at the sides.

Here and there vicious looking crocodiles lie on the low banks in the sun, with the mouth wide open, “to catch flies,” say the natives. They are rarely over ten feet in length, not being permitted now-a-days to live so long as in former times when these formidable reptiles were used in ordeals, and human life was less valued.

The distance from Cochin to Quilon, ninety miles, is done at a stretch in twenty-four hours, or less, by cabin boat, and in a couple of days by canoe. On the way we pass near to various populous towns — which might be visited if time permits — many hamlets, farm-houses, and shops where betel-leaf, tobacco, arrack, fruits, and cooked rice are purchased by the boatmen and passengers who are not of high caste; and after some miles of narrow canal, uniting the Kayenkulam Lake with that at Quilon, we enter this beautiful piece of water, with arms reaching in various directions, high red cliffs of laterite; and near Quilon, several handsome houses belonging to the native gentry and English officers.

From the landing-place at Quilon an avenue of pretty feathery-foliaged casuarina trees leads to the British Cantonment, a wide sandy plain intersected by roads and surrounded by the bungalows of the sepoy officers, the barracks, English church, hospital, mosque, &c. The market is held in an open square in the town, adorned and sheltered by several noble banyan trees in the centre. Crowds of large bats hang on these trees, fighting for the best places, and incessantly squeaking towards evening.

At night they take flight in search of fruits and other food. Thence three or four streets branch off, one leading down through long rows of shops to the native town. Here and there are little pyramids of clay for demon-worship, and temples of Ganesha and other Hindoo deities, to which the British sepoys stationed here, or the inhabitants make their offerings. Tall, military-looking men strut about, and a sepoy guard is stationed in the principal street. The native town proper contains a palace, public offices, and temple, with a population of some fifteen thousand.

Leaving Quilon by a narrow canal with high sandy banks near the town, on the inland side of which are situated several large bungalows, we proceed parallel with the sea-coast, and after two or three miles come again into an open lake, separated from the sea by a narrow strip of beach covered with cocoanut plantations. At Paravur there is another outlet for the backwater into the turbulent sea, and the lake is very deep, so that the poles used to push along the canoes do not reach to the bottom. At such places boats are sometimes overturned by the irresistible current when the waters are swollen by the rush of torrents from the hills during the long-continued rains of the monsoon. Here again we have a fine display of tropical vegetation of diverse foliage and hue, the beautiful green flowing foliage of the cocoanut intermingling with the glossy laurel nut {Calophylluni) and mango, the cerbera and pandanus, with lilies, great acrostichum ferns and masses of sedge (Cyperus) at the edge of the water and within it — a lovely country, to which Nature has been bountiful; would that it were filled with a truly Christian people !

Up to 1881, a hilly barrier of four miles existed at Wurkally to the water navigation, that seemed to be insurmountable; and it has in fact been overcome only by a heavy expenditure of over sixteen lacs of rupees by the State. Passengers and goods had to be carried across the portage and transhipped. After many years of surveying, consultation, criticism, and labour, the canal has been taken for two or three miles by a circuitous route through the valleys at either end, and two portions of hill intervening have been pierced with tunnels, one over a thousand feet, and the other over two thousand feet in length, furnishing a clear water way five feet deep and sixteen broad.

The open cuttings through the laterite are in some parts no less than sixty or seventy feet in depth. A curious deposit of lignite or primeval forest was found here under thirty feet of earth and below the present sea-level, some of it only of the consistence of clay, but a few stumps of huge trees in fair preservation and capable of being worked into furniture. This tunnel is the first of the kind that has been attempted in India, and its cost has been thought to be disproportionate, but certainly the relief to commerce and travel, and the admission of better boats from the north into the Trevandrum Canal has been a benefit impossible to estimate in money value.

By this tunnel the line of water communication is completed from Trevandrum northwards to the ports of Alleppey and Cochin, and the whole of the northern districts of Travancore and the railway station at Tiroor, a distance of 228 miles. Small steamboats of light draught are also running on the backwater between Cochin and Alleppy.

A few miles beyond the tunnel we pass close to the old British fort and town of Anjengo, now quite decayed, but still owned by the British Government. The first political and commercial relation of Travancore with the East India Company was in 1673, when the Company established a factory at Anjengo. The old tombs of former English officials and their families. are interesting, and were repaired and enclosed through the efforts of Mr. G. A. Ballard when Resident.

Further on, quantities of cocoanut husks may be seen steeping in the water, enclosed in nets— or rather they may be smelt, giving forth a horrible stench. Poor people sit under the shade of the trees beating out the coir fibre, or twist it into yarn.

The last ten miles of the journey to Trevandrum are through a canal, the sandy banks of which are prettily covered with the pandanus or screw-pine, with masses of odorous flowers and large scarlet fruit, exactly resembling the pineapple, but utterly useless; the Cerbera odallam with its long leaves, large white fragrant flowers and green fruit, just like the mango, but poisonous; the Barringtonia, with pendulous strings of pink tassel-like flowers; the cashew, with its fragrant blossoms and nuts growing on the outside’ of the apple, and other trees, often covered with convolvulus and other creepers, and with climbing ferns as the Drymoglossum and Stenochlaenum, and the long grass-like Vittaria fern.

The white-flowered crinum and the water-lily abound along with various aquatic and floating plants, and a pretty fine-leaved fern, Ceratopteris thalictroides perhaps the only fern which grows in the water.

To give some idea of the external aspect of Trevandrum and its people, we cannot do better than quote freely from a vivid description, evidently written by a lady, in “India’s Women,” July, 1881 : —

“The first thing that strikes a new-comer is that the streets are shut in on each side by walls. Now these walls are very varied, the better kind being made of red brick with a white stone coping at the top; the next in grade, of laterite from our quarries, plastered, whitewashed, and generally thatched with plaited palm leaves to protect them from the rain; while the third are simply made of lumps of the reddishbrown soil for which Travancore, like Devonshire, is famous, and are also thatched at the top.

These latter, though not very durable in monsoon time, are to my mind much more picturesque than either of the others, especially when contrasted with the strip of bright green grass bordering the roads during the rains, or adorned, as they often are, by tiny ferns and moss. Not only have we no pavements, but there is no visible line between the carriage road and that for foot passengers; this appears, however, to cause them no anxiety; they move leisurely along, apparently quite indifferent whether they are run over or not.

The houses behind these walls are built in very irregular fashion. Some are pretentious-looking two-storied buildings with balconies and verandahs, tiled roofs and brilliant whitewashed fronts, while near them may be seen an old-fashioned hut, with its deep roof of palmleaf, one small window and door, and surrounded by the inevitable plantain tree. Next we may come to a large compound with no house visible, though there probably is one buried among the trees, but screened from view by a thick plantation of coffee bushes, their branches laden with snow-white blossom in the early part of the year. A little further on are some shops; in one, sacks of grain of different kinds, rice, grain for horses, and cotton seed for bullocks.

The sacks are arranged in a row at the edge of the narrow verandah, upright and open-mouthed to show their contents, while their owner generally reclines among them waiting for customers, with no great anxiety to secure them. The vegetable shops with their large bunches of red, green, or golden plantains, their mounds of bright scarlet or green chillies, their huge pumpkins, yams, gourds, and brinjals, are worth more than a passing glance, and they are commonly surrounded by a crowd of eager buyers, bargaining in loud voices to effect as cheap a sale as possible. Some vendors of English tinned meats, wines, &c., make no show, but are content to hang a black board with the word Shop printed on it, outside what looks like a private house with the front door open.

Now a break in the street will occur, and we come to a large compound shut in by handsome iron-railings, containing a fine block of buildings designed by an English engineer, and used as Government offices. Opposite, at some little distance from the road, is the telegraphoffice, and a little higher up a small whitewashed building with ‘Post- Office’ in large letters on the front. In between the houses are groups of palms, the feathery cocoanut, the slender areca with its small graceful head, and the broad-leaved fan palm tamarind trees, which are both ornamental and useful, the scarlet flowering Poinsettia, the Bougainvillea, and other gay shrubs adorn our streets; while some of them are hedged in, instead of being walled, by the orange lantana, and bordered by rows of casuarina and other trees, affording grateful shade to all, but especially prized by the poor cooly toiling at noon under his heavy load.

For his convenience, too, rests are erected, consisting of a horizontal slab of granite, supported by two upright blocks; on the top his burden is often to be seen, while he sits placidly down in the shade close at hand.

Sacred trees, remnants of the most ancient worship known in this land, are to be met with in the roads here and there. They are generally large banyans (Ficus Bengalensis or F.religiosa) and have a platform, often raised from the ground by several steps built of stone and carefully whitewashed, at their roots.

On festival nights, at the four corners lights are placed, and a crowd of poor deluded worshippers gather there. Great daubs of red ochre are put on the tree, and the spirit further propitiated with fireworks. Besides these trees, there are roadside temples, mere sheds with pictures of gods drawn in red and blue by the most primitive of artists on their outer walls, and two or three pointed stones with red ochre on the top inside.

The most interesting of all our streets are those within the walls of the fort, where reside Brahman and other high-caste families. You enter by a gate, wide open, though guarded by a sepoy with fixed bayonet, and pass into a road swept every morning as carefully as a drawing-room. To your right and left are the quaint dwellings of the Brahmans, with a row of small windows above, just large enough for one head to peep out, but so high as to ensure that no passer-by can look in.

Tiny verandahs raised to some height above the road are painted in stripes of red and white, while before each door on the passengers’ foot-way is a square of black, which has been rubbed with a mixture of cow-dung and charcoal, and when dry adorned with a neat geometrical pattern in white; the appearance is that of a drawing on a slate, and very even and straight the lines usually are. On festival days these ornaments are most elaborate, and a little red is often added to improve the effect.

There seems to be a pleasant rivalry amongst the women of the neighbourhood as to who shall produce the best and most studied designs. They are rubbed away by night, but are carefully renewed every morning.

The verandah is always occupied by men in various attitudes, one muttering prayers from a book, but ready to look off every minute at what is going forward, another cleaning his teeth most vigorously, or perhaps a bright-faced schoolboy learning his lesson aloud. In and out among the grown people, looking as happy as any bird, are boys and girls unencumbered by any clothing, except a string or perhaps a chain round their fat little bodies.

We go a little further and see the street well, with a group of graceful women, dressed in clothes of shaded brown and yellow jewels red, or plain dark blue, and amongst them, we can always distinguish the widow by her having one end of her cloth drawn round her shaven head, as a kind of veil. They have but one meal a day, and are despised for having brought disgrace into their families by some sin committed in a former state of being. Now we meet a group of women of all ages, followed by an attendant with towels, dry cloths, &c., evidently on their way to the large tank, where they will enjoy their morning bath in a corner by themselves, but quite in sight of men performing their ablutions.

They are slightly clothed when in the water, and appear quite unconscious of any impropriety in choosing so public a place. It is sacred, near the great pagoda, and close to the holy stones, before which lights are burned every night. What place then could be better for holy women, they would argue. At the tank during the bathing hour incessant noise is heard, talking, laughing, muttering of mantrams or prayers, and the monotonous sound of beating their clothes against stones for the purpose of washing them, for the Brahman could not wear a garment washed by a man of lower caste than himself; he, therefore, goes through the performance every morning while bathing.

Passing on from the tank we come to a large walled-in garden, with grand bunches of plantains hanging over the road, and a bread-fruit tree with its large handsome leaves and solid looking green fruit; and are made aware by a heap of white stars on the road of the presence of jessamine, so largely cultivated for garlands.

The guard-house for sepoys, opposite to the Dewan’s residence, is open, and about a dozen men of the Nayar Brigade, in red coats and black trousers, but no boots, are lounging about They do not look very warlike, but doubtless, if occasion offered, would fight bravely to defend their fields and homes.

Now a mendicant Brahman passes by, and we note the copper vessel slung round his neck to contain the rice he is sure to get from house to house. He carries two little brass cups in his hands, which he strikes together to give notice of his approach, that the people may get their offerings ready. Street vendors there are, too, hawking their wares-a woman with a large pot of buttermilk, which she ladles out to all who call her to their doors; a boy with Iucifer matches; and a man with a round basket on his shoulder containing bread, which he announces by lusty cries.

The streets of the fort are delightful in the early morning; the sky is blue, but not cloudless; the merry grey palm-squirrels (Sciurus palmarum), favoured by Raman, and bearing the impress of his fingers in the black stripes on their backs, chase one another over the tiled roofs of the houses, and play at hide-and-seek in their curiously-carved gables; the black and white robin stops in his search for food to trill forth a note of gladness and praise; and contented-looking cows and calves walk about where they please, with an air of proprietorship which only a cow in an Oriental city knows how to assume.”

Proceeding from Trevandrum southwards by bullock cart, we cross the strong and handsome bridge over the Karamana river, built by a native architect, the view from which up the river and downwards is very agreeable. The banks are well-wooded, people wash clothes in the stream far beneath us, and many Brahmans are bathing at the flight of stone steps connected with the Temple, the buildings of which peep out above the luxuriant vegetation by which they are surrounded.

Avenues of umbrageous trees planted on either side shade the road, among which the most common and conspicuous are banyans, with their rootlets hanging from the branches and stems, often covered with Vanda, Cymbidium, and other epiphytal orchids and clumps of the Drynaria fern, the Thespesia or puvarasu tree, covered with beautiful yellow tulip-like flowers, tamarinds, mangoes, terminalia, &c. Some single specimens are remarkable for size. Here is a noble mango-tree for instance, some fifty feet in height, straight and symmetrical, with long lance-shaped leaves, quite covered with greenish flowers, sweetly fragrant in the blossoming season. Tamarinds also occur, with trunks from twelve to fifteen feet in circumference.

One curious tree, Holigarna longifolia, is greatly dreaded by the people, as it causes the skin and flesh to swell when incautiously handled. In August and September the beautiful Gloriosa superba creeper abounds amongst the smaller jungle by the roadside, displaying its orange lilies in the bright sunshine. Another beautiful creeper, Ipomoea vitifolia, with bright sulphur-coloured flowers, twines through the hedgerows.

The highway or “king’s path,”southward from Trevandrum, being of a fair width and kept in good condition, with the exception of some annoying bits in long-continued rainy weather, our bullock cart goes along pleasantly and makes steady, if slow, progress. In wet weather, however, when the mat covering of the cart is leaking, or in the height of the hot season, when the red dust of the roads comes pouring in, bandy travelling is far from pleasant.

Telegraph posts by the road-side mark the advance of civilization, and most of the land on either hand is reclaimed from waste and cultivated with tapioca roots, yams, and other vegetables, plantains, fruit-trees, and other products of domestic utility. The country, generally, is undulating, and in the valleys the road runs on a raisedbank through rice fields, which look like lakes of lovely verdure.

On our left, a conical hill called Nemam Hill, perhaps a thousand feet in height, is noted as a landmark for passing vessels. From it, a low range of knolls, partly cleared and cultivated, runs along for a few miles parallel with the main road. We pass through various straggling villages with their little shops and dwellings; and notice here and there idol shrines and temples, as well as open ambalams, or resthouses and shelters for travellers, and wells with an attendant to dispense the cooling and refreshing liquid to all applicants.

About nine miles from Trevandrum, the view is exceedingly beautiful, a wide prospect of the whole south country being visible from a high part of the road, beyond which the land seems to sink, and is spread out before us covered with rich groves of palms, verdant rice-fields, and productive gardens. The extreme south of Travancore is nearly level, drier in climate, and in several respects bearing a closer likeness to the eastern coast.

Here it may be instructive, and amusing as well, to notice the stream of passengers of various castes and classes whom we meet going to the capital. Bullock carts travel in company, if possible, in long strings, laden with provisions, cloth, and other commodities, some of them with broad green plantain leaves to be used as plates for the high castes when eating : the drivers are singing, abusing their bullocks, or perhaps half asleep.

Coolies carry loads of pottery, cocoa nuts, rice, oil-jars, fowls, firewood, and other necessaries for the city. Women are returning from market with piles of baskets on their heads, balanced with wonderful nicety. Girls bring water from the nearest well. Farmers are driving their cattle homewards.

Brahman families in bright dresses, except some one unfortunate enough to be a widow, and who is, therefore, deprived of every ornament, clothed in white, and her hair shaven off, go to enjoy the feasting at Trevandrum; and travellers, young and aged, men, women, and children, with their umbrellas and fans of palm-leaf, brass drinking vessels, and bundles of clothing, arrayed in various styles of dress or undress, trudge along. Notice how useful one’s toes are, if people did but make use of them.

There is a woman who has dropped her cloth and picks it up with her toes without the labour of stooping to lift it. Practice, indeed, makes perfect I And here and there, to remind us of the suffering masses, a wretched Pulayan man or woman, skulks along the road, afraid of approaching too near the high caste man, or of being so unmannerly as to come “betwixt the wind and his nobility.”

Just beyond the Nayar town of Neyattankara, with its palace, magistrate’s cutcherry, school-house and temple, the “Butter River”is crossed by a bridge of three arches and embankment, like that at Karamana, and by the same architect, erected about twenty-five years ago. We may be said to cross at the same time, the boundary of the Malayalam language, Tamil being the vernacular of South Travancore; and here we usually change from the one tongue to the other.

Farther on, a neat Mission Church stands by the roadside, with a little rest-house at the gate for travellers. Throughout Travancore, these Christian churches, emblems of true religion and instruments of vast moral and social improvement, frequently occur. Formerly we were not allowed to erect them close to the road, lest the Brahmans should be polluted by the near approach of Christians of humble birth.

A curious little temple of Ganesha, a deity more worshipped in the Tamil than in the Malayalam country, stands near the road, quite circular in form, with conical roof, an unusual model in Travancore.

Kaliakavilei may be taken as an average specimen of a village in the south. A row of small houses, including a number of shops for retail of provisions, runs along the road on either side; and in the centre of the village is an open square, where the market is held. The public buildings, such as they are, comprise a police-station, a stone ambalam or travellers’ rest- house, a small temple of the demon Kali, just like a cage with wooden bars, a Roman Catholic Church for the fisher people, and the Protestant Mission Church at the far end of the village.

In front of the shops tobacco, cocoa-nut kernel, and rice, are spread out on mats to dry. The inhabitants are chiefly Muhammadan and Christian, and low caste Hindus, the Brahmans always residing in separate and secluded hamlets called Agraharams.

The market, or fair as we might call it, is held twice a week, as in many other parts of the country, when crowds of people, especially women, troop in from the surrounding neighbourhood to sell their produce and lay in a small store of provisions. The hubbub and gabble of tongues is heard afar off. The people fill the open area, while a few low sheds are occupied by the cloth dealers.

The supplies are various, and sufficient for the ordinary demand, comprising rice and other grain, peas, vegetables, fruits, spices, oil, salt, palm-sugar, sweetmeats, fish, cheap ornaments, and cloth. Formerly, and still in some parts of the south, and in the whole of North Travancore, Pulayars and Pariahs were obliged to stand at a distance apart from the crowd, but in some places they mix with other common people.

Brahmans never attend these markets. When this liberty was given to the low castes, Sudra women and others refrained for a while from attending market, but they are now getting accustomed to the new state of things, though they hotly declare their dislike to it. “Since the Bible came here,”said one, “the slaves, and low-castes are allowed to walk near us on roads, and to approach us in the markets, and so pollute us. Better had a pestilence prevailed and swept those abominable people away.”

Children perfectly naked are playing about in the blazing sun, and from hence southward one sees great numbers of women going about in nature’s garb from the waist upwards. Indeed, one of the first signs of having entered Travancore territory is the sight of half-nude Chogan females watering trees, or otherwise engaged on the banks of the backwaters. Muhammadan women, on the contrary, seem rather cumbered with clothing, wearing both jacket and upper-cloth, often black with filth, or the greater portion dirty, then partly covered with one clean white cloth, making the others appear but the worse by contrast. The Brahman women are always nicely dressed.

The inelegant but decent dress of the Roman Catholic fisher-women appears to be the result of a curious compromise between barbarous laws and female modesty-they cover the bosom straight across with a cloth which runs under each arm. But we are struck with the fact that the Christian jacket seems to occur but too rarely in proportion to the number of converts, and are obliged to hope that this mark of propriety and refinement is not getting forgotten in these days of peace and prosperity. The Christians seem to prefer the respectable “upper cloth,” but it is insufficient as a garment for females.

Here and there barren rocky eminences occur, and the road at times passes over high ground strewn with huge blocks of granite. Towards Nagercoil these form considerable hills of some- what conical form, as if a great heap of black granite, rounded rocks, and stones had been poured upon the plain. At Vannur, near Pareychaley, a Brahman temple is picturesquely perched on a solid rock, such as Hindus like to build upon.

This is also the region of diminished rainfall, and some corresponding change in the vegetation appears. The hedges are formed of aloe and prickly pear; and euphorbias and palmyra palms increase in numbers on to Cape Comorin. A curious sight is a grove of palmyras, with their black stems and their round tops many feet high in the air. As there are no branches, it looks strange to see the distant background in some places clearly through the forest of mast-like stems.

At Kulitory, twenty-one miles from Trevandrum, we come to another Sudra town, with its palace, temple, and other buildings, and a magnificent iron-girder bridge-by far the finest in Travancore-which cost some thirteen lacs of rupees. It stands thirty feet high over the bed of the river, and is protected by iron railings, and lighted by lamps on either side.

The total length is nearly 700 feet in eleven spans of sixty feet each; the abutments and piers of admirable granite work, and the approaches level and well metalled. In the dry season a scanty stream wanders over a broad expanse of sand in the bed of the river; but in the monsoon the flood from the hills formerly rose over the neighbouring country to a great width, and the irresistible current was impassable by the flat-bottomed canoes of the country.

As we go southwards, and the distance between the coast and the hills diminishes, the mighty wall of the Ghauts, nearly parallel with the coast, becomes more distinctly visible, and one spur, Vely Malei, comes close to the high road. From here the prospect includes the termination of the Ghauts, and several isolated hills near Cape Comorin. Up in the hills a new Sanitarium, for Europeans and others, has recently been opened by the Maharajah, from the pleasant climate and delightful scenery of which, almost vying with Coonoor, much benefit may be anticipated by visitors from South Travancore and Tinnevelly in search of health.

A fine elevated plateau, several miles in extent, situated at some distance north of Asambu, within thirty miles of Nagercoil and fifty of Trevandrum, was discovered here a few years ago, and is occasionally visited by sportsmen. It is called Muttu-kuli-vayal, “pearl pit field,’’ from a tradition of some bright shining pebbles having been formerly dug there. Several excavations like diamond pits are observable.

A stream of firstrate water runs through the plateau, surrounded by undulating knolls covered with grass and scrub. The stream has been traced descending into Travancore, to which State the land is now adjudged to belong, as the water-shed of the hills is the fixed boundary between Travancore and Tinnevelly territory.

The height is about 4,000 feet above the sea level, and the view magnificent: some of the planters’ bungalows and estates appear to be far beneath, and the whole country is visible as far as the Cape. “The scenery is a combination of grandeur and beauty, with its lofty adjacent peaks and magnificent valleys, open and undulating grassy slopes, from which may be seen, on the one hand, vast stretches of forest-clad hills, and, on the other, at various points, a long unbroken line of sea-shore.”

Nowhere south of the Peermade Hills does there seem to be anything equal to this place. In the hottest season the air is deliciously cool, the temperature ranging from 64 to 71 degrees Fahr.; in October the average is 570 to 600 Being open all round and high, there seems no reason to dread the malarious fevers so common on the lower hills. The ascent is made by an easy zigzag road, and roads are being made all about, so that every facility will be afforded for pedestrian exercise.

Bison and other game abound in the neighbourhood, and the magnificent evergreen forests and splendid waterfalls of Papanasam at the head of the Tambraparni river are within easy reach. Already several houses have been built and occupied.

About thirty miles south of Trevandrum a group of three places close together and near to the road, and interesting in the history of Travancore, seem worthy of a visit. The first is Palpanabhapuram fort and town, an ancient residence of the Rajahs, now containing about 4.000 inhabitants. It lies about a mile from the main road. The walls are high, not unlike those of Trevandrum fort The old palace is a good specimen of the Malabar style, a very extensive gallery-like building, two stories high, and with tiled roof; the Durbar Hall somewhat resembling the old one at the capital, with fine polished chunam pillars, and ground floor open to the courtyard on the inside.

Some of the corridors are very narrow and low-roofed, built without any regard to ventilation, the windows long and low, nearly closed with beautiful panels of carved lattice work; some bow windows are supported without on sloping brackets finely carved with grotesque figures, and are furnished inside with seats, so as to afford a convenient view to the female inmates of all public processions and visitors.

The uppermost rooms are more cool and airy for sleeping in, having no walls, but open lattice work all round. There is much good solid stone-work of carved or polished granite-baths, pillars square and round, magnificent slabs of black granite, &c. In this fort there are various temples, a large tank, and houses of entertainment for Brahmans. The accompanying engraving of buildings at Mavelikara, between Alleppy and Quilon, will give a good idea of the usual style of native architecture.

Oodayagerry is a large irregular fort nearly three miles in circumference, with a hill in the centre. The bare walls only remain, and ruins of the barracks, gunfoundry, magazine, and church. The enclosure is now grown over with jungle and palmyra trees. The monuments in the old church are deeply interesting, and should be carefully preserved.

Here lie the remains of D’Lanoy, with his wife and son, who was the architect of the fort, and greatly enlarged the kingdom of Travancore for Rajah Vanji Martanda Vurmah by his courage and arms, and skilful conduct of the native troops. This fort must have cost an immense sum, and much forced labour from the poor, yet proved of no value when the British forces entered Travancore in 1809, and both Oodayagerry and Palpanabhapuram forts were at once abandoned by the Travancoreans.

Outside the fort we see the rock in which a Christian martyr of the last century is now pretended to have opened a spring of water by striking the rock with his elbow. A memorial church has been erected by the Roman Catholics over the small spring (if it is a spring), and it is now being made the source of a new superstition, discrediting the cause of Christian truth just where it should be presented in its clearest and purest form. It is visited by pilgrims from various parts, who make contributions to the shrine and drink the sacred water as a cure for disease; the water is carried to various parts of South India.

Kottar is a very ancient town forty-two miles south of Trevandrum, situated in the centre of the level tract of country called the Nanjinad or”district of Nanji.”The population of Kottar is about 7,000, to which should be added another 7,000 for Nagercoil, which may be regarded as virtually one with it. The bazaar is extensive, and trade with Tinnevelly and Travancore considerable : silk cloths and cotton checks are manufactured here and at the neighbouring Chaliyar village of Vadaseri. Temples of Pilleiyar or Ganesha abound as in the Tamil country, usually small buildings, but of solid stone work : these are the commonest places of worship, except demon altars.

There is a handsome cathedral-like church of St. Xavier, with good stone porch, which is visited annually in December in commemoration of the saint by many thousands, and where Hindus also sometimes offer vows and supplications. The London Mission has here a readingroom, visited by thousands of readers yearly, and a neat chapel erected at the sole cost of a remarkable convert, a manufacturer of silk cloth, which the family supplied to the palace till their conversion to Christianity, when the trade was taken from them.

Nagercoil was not long since the merest hamlet, connected with the “Snake Temple,” which gives its name to the place; but having been adopted as the head-quarters of the London Mission in these parts, it is now a clean, well-built, and increasing Christian town. By their intelligence and industry in various ways, and especially of late years in the coffee-planting enterprise, the native Christians are becoming wealthy, and a wonderful change has taken place. When Mr. Mault went out he “could not find four Shanars able to read;”now the Christians themselves own and edit a newspaper in Tamil and English, and publish vernacular books.

Some twenty years ago, when Mr. P. D. Dewasagaim built his neat two-story house, it was a wonder in these parts; but now there are many such, some even larger, with good rooms, upper story, and reception hall. Christian women, once forbidden by caste law to cover the person, now dress handsomely and well, and manufacture valuable pillow-lace. There are two English missionaries, one in charge of the English Seminary, a busy Press, several schools, including some for female education, which receives devoted attention and is the foundation of all the good visible, and one of the largest churches in South India, “the Exeter Hall of Travancore,”in which many a noble speech and sermon have been delivered.

The native congregation worshipping here is entirely self-supporting, chooses and provides for its own pastor, has not for twenty years received any pecuniary aid from the Society, and now aids a native preacher at the capital. This church was lately presided over by a remarkable and devoted Brahman pastor, and now by an eloquent Tamil preacher and writer-Rev. J. Joshua. It has long been a custom in native partnerships to insert in the deed as one of the conditions the devotal of one-tenth of the profits to religious and charitable purposes. In this and similar ways funds are freely provided for self-support and the extension of Christian truth.

Here we are in the centre of the Nanjinad-a tract of flat country, comprising about 218 square miles, shut in by hills on nearly all sides excepting the seacoast on the south, occupying the southernmost corner of Travancore, and presenting distinctive characteristics of its own. Very little rain falls at Cape Comorin, but a small river from the hills, and several large irrigation tanks and channels supply water for numerous rice-fields.

The most densely peopled and richest part of the State, and purely Tamil in language and population, it is dotted over with villages quite of the style of those on the Eastern Coast, often badly thatched or repaired, as the drier climate allows of greater carelessness in this respect. Strong winds and tracts of dry barren sand eastwards form obstacles to profitable cultivation, yet the people seem larger and better fed than those further north.

The flora naturally differs from that of the more humid Western Coast. The Ixora, Mussenda, and other shrubs are absent, except on the banks of canals, abundance of Barleria and other plants filling their place. The Colocynth spreads over the sandy wastes, and the Aloe and Sanseviera abound on the shore. Amongst trees, the acacia, margosa, laurel-nut, terminalia and umbrella tree abound.

Extraordinary legends are told of some ancient ruler of Nanjinad of the Kuravan caste, they say, called Pandi Kuravan-how he got this territory as a present for piercing the ears of the Pandian Rajah’s daughter; or according to the more common story, how this caste obtained power by the discovery of an oil-well which possessed virtue to transmute iron into gold; how they only asked as tax the shares of the old ploughs, which they at once converted into gold; how a king of this tribe desired a daughter of one of the neighbouring Vellala Muthaliars as his wife, but was got rid of by being crushed under a stone pandal for the marriage ceremony, so contrived as to be capable of being thrown down in an instant, and so forth.

It does appear that the Kuravars held power at times, and there may be some basis of fact on which these traditions are founded. W. Taylor considers that they were superseded by the Vellalars, and these by the English or Travancore authorities.

From Kottar the road to the Cape passes along a high embankment of earth, which protects the rice-fields from the small backwater at Managoody, and through Suchindram, an ancient and sacred town. Near Suchindram are several magnificent trees of terminalia, some six or seven feet in diameter. The town is surrounded by rice-fields and groves of cocoanut trees and palmyras. The “Paraya Aur,”or “old river,” is crossed by a curious ancient stone bridge, formed of large granite slabs, which appears to have stood long, and to be very solid work.

When was it built ? There are about twenty piers of long heavy stones laid on one another in the direction of the current: these are crossed by similar stones in a line with the road. A somewhat similar stone bridge, but with the centre piers higher than those at the side, crosses the river at one place between Kayenkulam and Mavelikara, and is in good condition. Several others are found in various parts of the country. The Post Bridge at Dartmoor is very similar in style.

The temple of Suchindram is of prime importance, the Maharajah being expected to fast on the day of the idol car-drawing in December till the operation is completed. A good tank, and the usual Brahman feeding-house and subsidiary buildings are attached to the temple, and it is adorned with sculptures of the ten avatars. The town has recently been rebuilt by the Sirkar at the cost of nearly a lac of rupees. The god is almost hidden under the mass of golden ornaments presented by his votaries, but these offer too great a temptation to the cupidity of the priests and attendants.

A large amount of the jewels disappeared recently, when a Hindu quaintly remarked : “The Christian preachers have taken away from the hearts of the people the fear of their native gods. People now rob the gods of their gold and silver jewellery, and the gods are afraid of being stolen themselves !

“ Nearer the Cape lies another remarkable village, Agasteeswaram, one of the head-quarters of demon worship in these parts, and where the Shanar caste had once a nominal chieftain or headman. The soil is sandy and barren, the hedges are of Euphorbia; the principal produce the Acacia latronum or umbrella tree, curiously like an umbrella in its growth, with terrible thorns two inches in length; goats, it is said, eat the young shoots. The water here is very bad.

Before reaching the Cape we pass through the Travancore “lines“ or fortified wall similar to that on the northern frontier. All is now in ruins — a mere bank of earth thinly grown over with acacia, margosa, banyan, and other trees — with, here and there, portions of walls and ruins of gates and bastions. These southern lines were described when in their best condition, in the following terms by Colonel Welsh, who took them in 1809: —

“The lines by which the entrance into Travancore through the pass was defended, were about two miles in length, stretching across the gap from one range of mountains to another. They included a rugged hill to the southward, strongly fortified, and a strong rock about halfway, called the northern redoubt. The works consisted of small well-built bastions for two or three guns, joined at intervals by strong curtains, the whole cannon-proof, and protected by a thick hedge of thorn-bushes, the approach to which was difficult from the wildness of the country.”

The last isolated mountain in Travancore is called by the people “Medicine Hill,” being supposed to be the very hill which the monkey god Hanuman brought, as related in the Ramayana, from a distance of fifteen hundred miles further north, and threw down here. He had been sent to it for medicinal herbs to restore the dead and wounded of Rama’s army, and not being able, in his haste, to recognize and gather the particular plants, he pulled up the mountain itself, and brought it on his shoulders. It seems, however, that in hurriedly depositing his burden he turned it upside down !

Cape Comorin being low and not discernible a great way off, this isolated hill is better visible to navigators, and is therefore sometimes called Comorin by them. The southern termination of the range of the Western Ghauts, a bold conspicuous summit and magnificent mass of solid rock, with a clear fall of many hundred feet towards the Tinnevelly side, has also been erroneously taken for the Cape, though several miles distant from it.

The road to the Cape is broad, and pleasantly shaded for some miles with banyan trees, which in many parts stretch quite across the road. Cape Comorin is supposed, along with several other noted places in India, to be very sacred, and is visited by pilgrims from all parts, though those residing near it do not share in the enchantment. In the immediate neighbourhood the whole country is a mass of palmyras, as the coast is of cocoanut palms. The land is not high, and slopes gently down into the sea.

At the north end of the village stands a large Roman Catholic Church, and a village of fisher people, just such as Xavier laboured amongst so successfully three centuries ago. Several low enclosures with pyramidal stones, or demon altars, may be noticed in the vicinity.

A street of Brahman houses leads down to the travellers’ rest-house, where Gosamis and other religious mendicants and pilgrims from Northern India abide, and may be heard chanting their orisons, and to the Pagoda and the bathingplaces on the shore. The total population is about 2,300. Various buildings are scattered about, and minor shrines of Pilleiyar and other deities. The great temple is dedicated to Bhagavathi, or Durga, the patron goddess of the place, which is named after her Kumari, “the virgin;” and who appears to have been worshipped here as early as the time of Pliny, for he mentions the place by this name.

The monthly bathing in honour of the goddess is still continued, but is not practised to the same extent as in former times. The annual expenditure of the temple is about Rs. 11,000. From without, little of it is visible except the high walls adorned with perpendicular streaks of red, and the flat terraced roofs; of course, it cannot be entered by strangers or low caste people for close inspection.

In front are four remarkable stone monoliths rising into the air to the height of twenty feet, as if intended to support a portico, but left unfinished, as in Madura and Tanjore, which, it is said, is always done to neutralise the “evil eye.” The festival is held for five days in the year, when the place is “wholly given to idolatry.”

The passage between the Brahman Street and the Temple and Choultry has once been paved with large stones, and the pillars at the sides well carved, but these have now mostly fallen in the dust. The great stone Choultry is more accessible, and a really artistic production. It consists of a corniced roof, say eighteen feet in height, resting upon twelve carved pillars. The sides are closed in with walls, and the front partly closed with cross bars or beams of stone, leaving but a small opening for entrance.

Within are two rows of dark granite pillars on each side, with good sculptures, some of them large and spirited representations of Vishnu, Brahma, Hanuman, Krishna, and other Hindu gods; figures holding a lamp in outstretched hands — a good design for an ornamental lamp — and the pillars covered on all sides with scrolls and figures.

Two striking grotesque sculptures represent the fabulous Yali, with face and body of a lion, and trunk of an elephant; underneath a smaller elephant raises his trunk, which intertwines with the proboscis of the upper one; and this elephant itself rests upon a human figure. In the mouths of the yalis are stone balls which will turn round, but not come out, the whole being cleverly carved out of the solid block.

On the shore are several small bathing-places for the use of the Maharajah and Brahmans bathing in the sacred waters in honour of the goddess — small, square buildings like the ordinary roadside rest-houses, supported on stone pillars. Here may be gathered specimens of remarkable sands, one bright reddish in colour formed of rolled fragments of garnet and ruby, such as are found in larger pieces in Ceylon — another black sand formed from titaniferous iron-ore, not magnetic — and the celebrated “rice sand“ with strangely worn grains of chalcedonic quartz, partly tinted with a little oxide of iron and bearing a close resemblance to rice, respecting which the priests relate some foolish legends.

One version has already been recorded. (Land of Charity, p. 178.) Another is to the effect that when the god Siva was going on a certain night privately to marry the goddess, the morning unexpectedly broke, its dawn being heralded by the crowing of a cock, which compelled him to retrace his steps; and all the rice which had been prepared for the wedding was petrified and thrown on the shore. A couple of low, black rocky islets a little way out in the sea, in the centre of one of which a fresh water well is said to exist, with one or two smaller rocks, on which the sea breaks, form the last points of solid land in India.

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