The Hindu Caste and Custom-Tūzuk-i-Jahāngīrī

Hindu Law

The Hindus are in four divisions, and each of these acts according to its own rules and ways.

Every year they(Hindus) keep a fixed day. The first is the caste of the Brahmans, that is those who know the Incomparable God. Their duties are of six kinds—(1) to acquire religious knowledge, (2) to give instructions to others, (3) to worship fire, (4) to lead men to the worship of fire, (5) giving something to the needy, (6) taking gifts. There is for this caste an appointed day, and that is the last day of the month of Sāwan, the second month of the rainy season. They consider this an auspicious day, and the worshippers go on that day to the banks of rivers and tanks, and recite enchantments, breathe upon cords and coloured threads; on another day, which is the first of the New Year, they fasten them on the hands of the Rajas and great men of the time, and look on them as (good) omens. They call this thread rākhī, that is, preservation (nigāh-dās͟ht). This day occurs in the month of Tīr, when the world-heating sun is in the constellation of Cancer.

The second caste is that of the Chhatrī, which is known as Khatrī. Their duty is to protect the oppressed from the evil of the oppressors. The customs of this caste are three things—(1) that they study religious science themselves but do not teach others; (2) that they worship fire, but do not teach others to do so; (3) that they give to the needy, but although they are needy take nothing themselves. The day of this caste is the Bijay dasamīn, ‘the victorious tenth.’12 On this day with them it is lucky to mount and go against one’s enemy with an army. Rām Chand, whom they worship as their god, leading his army on that day against his enemy won a victory, and they consider this a great day, and, decorating their elephants and horses, perform worship. This day falls in the month of S͟hahrīwar,13 when the Sun is in the mansion of Virgo, and on it they give presents to those who look after their horses and elephants.

The third caste is that of Bais͟h (Vais͟hya). Its custom is this, that they serve the other two castes of which mention has been made. They practise agriculture and buying and selling, and are employed in the business of profit and interest. This caste has also a fixed day which they call the Dewālī; this day occurs in the month of Mihr when the sun is in the constellation of Libra, the 28th day of the lunar month. On the night of that day they light lamps, and friends and those who are dear assemble in each other’s houses and pass their time busily in gambling. As the eyes of this caste are on profit and interest, they consider carrying over and opening new accounts on that day auspicious.

The fourth caste is the Sudras, who are the lowest caste of the Hindus. They are the servants of all, and derive no profit from those things which are the specialities of every (other) caste.

Thursday is the Holī, which in their belief is the last day of the year. This day occurs in the month of Isfandārmuẕ, when the sun is in the constellation of Pisces. On the night of this day they light fires at the head of the streets and ways, and when it becomes day they for one watch scatter the ashes on each other’s heads and faces, and make a wonderful noise and disturbance, and after this wash themselves, put on their apparel, and walk about in the gardens and on the plains. As it is an established custom of the Hindus to burn the dead, to light fires on this night, which is the last night of the year that has passed, signifies that they burn the last year, which has gone to the abode of the dead. In the time of my revered father the Hindu Amirs and others in imitation of them performed the ceremony of rakhi in adorning him, making strings of rubies and royal pearls and flowers jewelled with gems of great value and binding them on his auspicious arms. This custom was carried on for some years. As they carried this extravagance to excess, and he disliked it, he forbade it. The brahmans by way of auguries used to tie these strings and (pieces of) silk according to their custom. I also in this year carried out this laudable religious practice, and ordered that the Hindu Amirs and the heads of the caste should fasten rakhis on my arms. On the day of the rakhi, which was the 9th Amurdād, they performed the same rites, and other castes by way of imitation did not give up this bigotry; this year I agreed to it, and ordered that the brahmans should bind strings (of cotton) and silk after the ancient manner. On this day by chance fell the anniversary of the death of the late king. The commemoration of such an anniversary is one of the standing rules and customs in Hindustan. Every year on the day of the death of their fathers and those who are dear to them, each according to his circumstances and ability prepares food and all kinds of perfumes, and the learned men, the respectable and other men assemble, and these assemblies sometimes last a week. On this day I sent Bābā K͟hurram to the venerated tomb to arrange the assemblage, and 10,000 rupees were given to ten trustworthy servants to divide among fakirs and those who were in want.


Source: The Hindu Caste and Custom-Tūzuk-i-Jahāngīrī


The Brahmin

The learned of India has established four modes of life for the caste of brahmins, which is the most honoured of the castes of Hindus, and have divided their lives into four periods.

These four periods they call the four Asram. The boy who is born in a brahmin’s house they do not call brahmin till he is 7 years old, and take no trouble on the subject. After he has arrived at the age of 8 years, they have a meeting and collect the brahmins together. They make a cord of mūnj grass, which they call mūnjī, in length 2¼ gaz, and having caused prayers and incantations to be repeated over it, and having had it made into three strands, which they call sih tan, by one in whom they have confidence, they fasten it on his waist. Having woven a zunnār (girdle or thread) out of the loose threads, they hang it over his right shoulder. Having given into his hand a stick of the length of a little over 1 gaz to defend himself with from hurtful things and a copper vessel for drinking-water, they hand him over to a learned brahmin that he may remain in his house for twelve years, and employ himself in reading the Vedas, which they believe in as God’s book. From this day forward they call him a brahmin.

During this time it is necessary that he should altogether abstain from bodily pleasures. When midday is passed he goes as a beggar to the houses of other brahmins, and bringing what is given him to his preceptor, eats it with his permission. For clothing, with the exception of a loin cloth (lungī) of cotton to cover his private parts, and 2 or 3 more gaz of cotton which he throws over his back, he has nothing else. This state is called brahmacharya, that is, being busied with the Divine books. After this period has passed, with the leave of his preceptor and his father, he marries, and is allowed to enjoy all the pleasures of his five senses until the time when he has a son who shall have attained the age of 16 years. If he does not have a son, he passes his days till he is 48 in the social life. During this time they call him a grihast, that is, householder. After that time, separating himself from relatives, connections, strangers, and friends, and giving up all things of enjoyment and pleasure, he retires to a place of solitude from the place of attachment to sociality (taʿalluq-i-ābād-i-kas̤rat), and passes his days in the jungle. They call this condition bānprasta, that is, abode in the jungle. As it is a maxim of the Hindus that no good deed can be thoroughly performed by men in the social state without the partnership of the presence of a wife, whom they have styled the half of a man, and as a portion of the ceremonies and worshippings is yet before him (has to be accomplished), he takes his wife with him into the jungle. If she should be pregnant, he puts off his going until she bear a child and it arrive at the age of 5 years. Then he entrusts the child to his eldest son or other relation, and carries out his intention. In the same way, if his wife be menstruous, he puts off going until she is purified. After this he has no connection with her, and does not defile himself with communication with her, and at night he sleeps apart. He passes twelve years in this place, and lives on vegetables which may have sprung up of themselves in the desert and jungle. He keeps his zunnar by him and worships fire. He does not waste his time in looking after his nails or the hair of his head, or in trimming his beard and moustaches. When he completes this period in the manner related, he returns to his own house, and having commended his wife to his children and brothers and sons-in-law, goes to pay his respects to his spiritual guide, and burns by throwing into the fire in his presence whatever he has in the way of a zunnar, the hair of his head, etc., and says to him: “Whatever attachment (taʿalluq) I may have had, even to abstinence and worshipping and will, I have rooted up out of my heart.” Then he closes the road to his heart and to his desires and is always employed in contemplation of God, and knows no one except the True Cause of Being (God).

If he speak of science it is the science of Vedānta, the purport of which Bābā Fig͟hānī has versified in this couplet—

“There’s one lamp in this house, by whose rays

Wherever I look there is an assembly.”

They call this state sarvabiyās, that is, giving up all. They call him who possesses it sarvabiyāsī


Source: The Hindu Caste and Custom-Tūzuk-i-Jahāngīrī