[Last] [Home] [Next]



Concerning the Inhabitants of this Island.

Wee shall in this Part speak of the Inhabitants of this Countrey, with their Religion, and Customs, and other things belonging to them.

The several Inhabitants of this Island.Besides the Dutch who possess, as I judg, about one fourth of the Island, there are Malabars, that are free Denizons and pay duty to the King for the Land they enjoy, as the Kings natural Subjects do; there are also Moors, who are like Strangers, and hold no Land, but live by carrying goods to the Sea-Ports, which now are in the Hollanders hands. The Sea-Ports are inhabited by a mixt people, Malabars and Moors, and some that are black, who profess themselves Roman Catholicks, and wear Crosses, and use Beads. Some of these are under the Hollander; and pay toll and tribute to them.

But I am to speak only of the natural proper People of the Island, which they call Chingulays.

The Original of Chingulays.I have asked them, whence they derive themselves, but they could not tell. They say their Land was first inhabited by Devils, of which they have a long Fable. I have heard a tradition from some Portugueze here, which was; That an antient King of China had a Son, who during his Fathers Reign, proved so very harsh and cruel unto the people, that they being afraid he might prove a Tyrant if he came to the Crown, desired the King to banish him, and that he might never succeed. This that King, to please the people, granted. And so put him with certain Attendants into a ship, and turned them forth unto the Winds to seek their fortune. The first shore they were cast upon, was this Island. Which they seated themselves on, and peopled it. But to me nothing is more improbable than this Story. Because this people and the Chineses have no agreement nor similitude in their features nor language nor diet. It is more probable, they came from the Malabars, their Countrey lying next, tho they do resemble them little or nothing. I know no nation in the world do so exactly resemble the Chingulays as the people of Europe.

Wild-men.Of these Natives there be two sorts, Wild and Tame. I will begin with the former. For as in these Woods there are Wild Beasts so Wild Men also. The Land of Bintan is all covered with mighty Woods, filled with abundance of Deer. In this Land are many of these wild men; they call them Vaddahs, dwelling near no other Inhabitants. They speak the Chingulayes Language. They kill Deer, and dry the Flesh over the fire, and the people of the Countrey come and buy it of them. They never Till any ground for Corn their Food being only Flesh. They are very expert with their Bows. They have a little Ax, which they stick in by their sides, to cut hony out of hollow Trees. Some few, which are near Inhabitants, have commerce with other people. They have no Towns nor Houses, only live by the waters Page 62under a Tree, with some boughs cut and laid round about them, to give notice when any wild Beasts come near, which they may hear by their rustling and trampling upon them. Many of these habitations we saw when we fled through the Woods, but God be praised the Vaddahs were gone.

Pay an Acknowledgment to the King.Some of the tamer sort of these men are in a kind of Subjection to the King. For if they can be found, tho it must be with a great search in the Woods, they will acknowledg his Officers, and will bring to them Elephants-Teeth, and Honey, and Wax, and Deers Flesh: but the others in lieu thereof do give them near as much, in Arrows, Cloth &c. fearing lest they should otherwise appear no more.

How they bespeak Arrows to be made them.It hath been reported to me by many people, that the wilder sort of them, when they want Arrows, will carry their load of Flesh in the night, and hang it up in a Smith’s Shop, also a Leaf cut in the form they will have their Arrows made, and hang by it. Which if the Smith do make according to their Pattern they will requite, and bring him more Flesh: but if he make them not, they will do him a mischief one time or another by shooting him in the night. If the Smith make the Arrows, he leaves them in the same place, where the Vaddahs hung the Flesh.

They violently took away Carriers goods.Formerly, in this Kings Reign these wild men used to lye in wait, to catch Carriers people, that went down with Oxen to trade at the Sea-Ports, carrying down Betelnuts, and bringing up Cloth, and would make them to give them such things as they required, or else threatning to shoot them. They fearing their lives, and not being able to resist, were fain to give them what they asked; or else most certainly they would have had both life and goods too. At which this King sent many Commanders with their Soldiers to catch them, which at length they did: But had not some of themselves proved false to them, being incouraged by large promises, they could never have taken them. The chief being brought before the King, promising amendment, were pardoned: but sent into other Woods with a Command not to return thither any more, neitheir to use their former courses. But soon after their departure, they forsook those Woods they were put into, and came to their old haunt again, falling to their former course of Life. This the King hearing of, and how they had abused his Pardon, gave command either to bring them dead or alive. These Vaddahs knowing now there could be no hope of Pardon, would not be taken alive, but were shot by the Treachery of their own men. The heads of two of the chiefest were hanged on Trees by the City. And ever since they have not presumed to disturb the Countrey, nor the King them he only desiring their quiet, and not to be against him.

Hourly Vadahs trade with the people.About Hourly the remotest of the Kings Dominions there are many trade with the of them, that are pretty tame, and come and buy and sell among the people. The King once having occasion of an hasty Expedition against the Dutch, the Governour summoned them all in to go with him, which they did. Once made to serve the King.And with their Bows and Arrows did as good service as any of the rest but afterwards when they returned home again they removed farther in the Woods, and would be seen no more, for fear of being afterwards prest again to serve the King.

Their habit and Religion.They never cut their hair but tye it up on their Crowns in a bunch. The cloth they use, is not broad nor large, scarcely enough to cover Page 63their Buttocks. The wilder and tamer sort of them do observe a Religion. They have a God peculiar to themselves. The tamer do build Temples, the wild only bring their sacrifice under Trees, and while it is offering, dance round it, both men and women.

A Skirmish about their bounds.They have their bounds in the Woods among themselves, and one company of them is not to shoot nor gather hony or fruit beyond those bounds. Neer the borders stood a Jack-Tree; one Vaddah being gathering some fruit from this Tree, another Vaddah of the next division saw him, and told him he had nothing to do to gather Jacks from that Tree, for that belonged to them. They fell to words and from words to blows, and one of them shot the other. At which more of them met and fell to skirmishing so briskly with their Bows and Arrows, that twenty or thirty were left dead upon the spot.

Curious in their Arrows.They are so curious of their Arrows that no Smith can please them; The King once to gratifie them for a great Present they brought him, gave all of them of his best made Arrow-blades: which nevertheless would not please their humour. For they went all of them to a Rock by a River and ground them into another form. The Arrows they use are of a different fashion from all other, and the Chingulays will not use them.

Now they preserve their flesh.They have a peculiar way by themselves of preserving Flesh. They cut a hollow Tree and put honey in it, and then fill it up with flesh, and stop it up with clay. Which lyes for a reserve to eat in time of want.

How they take Elephants.It has usually been told me that their way of catching Elephants is, that when the Elephant lyes asleep they strike their ax into the sole of his foot, and so laming him he is in their power to take him. But I take this for a fable, because I know the sole of the Elephants foot is so hard, that no ax can pierce it at a blow; and he is so wakeful that they can have no opportunity to do it.

The dowries they give. Their disposition.For portions with their Daughters in marriage they give hunting Dogs. They are reported to be courteous. Some of the Chingulays in discontent will leave their houses and friends, and go and live among them, where they are civilly entertained. The tamer sort of them, as hath been said, will sometimes appear, and hold some kind of trade with the tame Inabitants, but the wilder called Ramba-Vaddahs never shew themselves.

A description of a Chingulay.But to come to the civilized Inhabitants, whom I am chiefly to treat of. They are a people proper and very well favoured, beyond all people that I have seen in India, wearing a cloth about their Loyns, and a doublet after the English fashion, with little skirts buttoned at the wrists, and gathered at the shoulders like a shirt, on their heads a red Tunnis Cap, or if they have none, another Cap with flaps of the fashion of their Countrey, described in the next Chapter , with a handsom short hanger by their side, and a knife sticking in their bosom on the right side.

Their disposition.They are very active and nimble in their Limbs: and very ingenious: for, except Iron-work, all other things they have need of, they make and do themselves: insomuch that they all build their own houses. They are crafty and treacherous, not to be trusted upon any protestations: for their manner of speaking is very smooth and courteous, insomuch that they who are unacquainted with their dispositions Page 64and manners, may easily be deceived by them. For they make no account nor conscience of lying, neither is it any shame or disgrace to them, if they be catched in telling lyes: it is so customary. They are very vigilant and wakeful, sufficed with very little sleep: very hardy both for diet and weather, very proud and self conceited. They take something after the Bramines, with whom they scruple not both to marry and eat. In both which otherwise they are exceeding shy and cautious. For there being many Ranks or Casts among them, they will not match with any Inferiour to themselves; nor eat meat dressed in any house, but in those only that are of as good a Cast or Race as themselves: and that which any one hath left, none but those that are near of kin will eat.

They are not very malitious one towards another; and their anger doth not last long; seldom or never any blood shed among them in their quarrels. It is not customary to strike; and it is very rare that they give a blow so much as to their Slaves; who may very familiarly talk and discourse with their Masters. They are very near and covetous, and will pinch their own bellies for profit; very few spend-thrifts or bad husbands are to be met with here.

The Inhabitants of the Mountains differ from those of the Low-Lands.The Natures of the Inhabitants of the Mountains and Low-lands are very different. They of the Low-lands are kind, pittiful, helpful, honest and plain, compassionating Strangers, which we found by our own experience among them. They of the Up-lands are ill-natured, false, unkind, though outwardly fair and seemingly courteous, and of more complaisant carriage, speech and better behaviour, than the Low-landers.

Their good opinion of Virtue, though they practice it not.Of all Vices they are least addicted to stealing, the which they do exceedingly hate and abhor, so that there are but few Robberies committed among them. They do much extol and commend Chastity, Temperance, and Truth in words and actions; and confess that it is out of weakness and infirmity, that they cannot practice the same, acknowledging that the contrary Vices are to be abhorred, being abomination both in the sight of God and Man. They do love and delight in those Men that are most Devout and Precise in their Matters. As for bearing Witness for Confirmation in any matters of doubt, a Christians word will be believed and credited far beyond their own: because, they think, they make more Conscience of their words.

Superstitious.They are very superstitious in making Observations of any little Accidents, as Omens portending good to them or evil. Sneezing they reckon to import evil. So that if any chance to sneeze when he is going about his Business, he will stop, accounting he shall have ill success if he proceeds. And none may Sneeze, Cough, nor Spit in the King’s Presence, either because of the ill boding of those actions, or the rudeness of them or both. There is a little Creature much like a Lizzard, which they look upon altogether as a Prophet, whatsoever work or business they are going about; if he crys, they will cease for a space, reckoning that he tells them there is a bad Planet rules at that instant. They take great notice in a Morning at their first going out, who first appears in their sight: and if they see a White Man, or a big-bellied Woman, they hold it fortunate: and to see any decrepit or deformed People, as unfortunate.

How they travail.When they travel together a great many of them, the Roads are so Page 65narrow, that but one can go abreast, and if there be Twenty of them, there is but one Argument or Matter discoursed of among them all from the first to the last. And so they go talking along all together, and every one carrieth his Provisions on his back for his whole Journey.

A brief Character of them.In short, in Carriage and Behaviour they are very grave and stately like unto the Portugals, in understanding quick and apprehensive, in design subtil and crafty, in discourse courteous but full of Flatteries, naturally inclined to temperance both in meat and drink, but not to Chastity, near and Provident in their Families, commending good Husbandry. In their dispositions not passionate, neither hard to be reconciled again when angry. In their Promises very unfaithful, approving lying in themselves, but misliking it in others; delighting in sloath, deferring labour till urgent necessity constrain them, neat in apparel, nice in eating; and not given to much sleep.

The Women their Habit and Nature.As for the Women, their Habit is a Wastcoat of white Callico covering their Bodies, wrought into flourishes with Blew and Red; their Cloath hanging longer or shorter below their Knees, according to their quality; a piece of Silk flung over their heads; Jewels in their Ears, Ornaments about their Necks, and Arms, and Middles. They are in their gate and behaviour very high, stately in their carriage after the Portugal manner, of whom I think they have learned: yet they hold it no scorn to admit the meanest to come to speech of them. They are very thrifty, and it is a disgrace to them to be prodigal, and their Pride & Glory to be accounted near & saving. And to praise themselves they will sometimes say, That scraps and parings will serve them; but that the best is for their Husbands. The Men are not jealous of their Wives, for the greatest Ladies in the Land will frequently talk and discourse with any Men they please, altho their Husbands be in presence. And altho they be so stately, they will lay their hand to such work as is necessary to be done in the House, notwithstanding they have Slaves and Servants enough to do it. Let this suffice concerning the Nature and Manners of the People in general: The ensuing Chapters will be spent in more particular accounts of them. And because they stand much upon their Birth and Gentility, and much of what is afterwards to be related hath reference unto it: I shall first speak of the various ranks and degrees of Men among them.

[Last] [Top] [Next]