« ÖncekiDevam »
The following Notes on ARRACAN were written by the late Rev. G. S. Comstock, of the Arracan Mission, and have been placed at our disposal. They have also appeared, in a more extended form, in the third number of the Journal of the American Oriental Society. We publish them here on account of their authentic character, as well as in remembrance of the faithful missionary by whom they were compiled.
General Description of the Country. The name of Arracan is derived from Rakaing, the native appellation of the country, of which Mug authors give several different derivations. Of these, the most probable is one which makes it to be a euphonic change from Rakak, sometimes also written Rukaik, the name of a fabulous eater of human flesh, supposed to have been applied to the country on account of the reported cannibalism of the savage tribes who inhabit the mountains of the interior. The province extends from 15° 53' to 21° 30' north latitude, and from 92° 15' to 94° 45' east longitude, and is bounded on the north by the river Naf, and a range of mountains which divide it from Chittagong; on the east by the Yomadoong, or Yoma mountains, which separate Arracan from Burmah; on the south the province comes to a point, called Pagoda Point; and the western boundary is the Bay of Bengal. Its greatest breadth, at its northern extremity, is about ninety miles, and the average breadth is usually estimated at about fifty or sixty miles. Its area is about sixteen thousand five hundred square geographical miles. The general appearance of the country is hilly, and that of the coast decidedly bold. In many places, however, extensive flats intervene between the hills and the sea-shore, which are generally marshy, and near the sea covered with mangrove trees. Similar flats, but not so low, are found on the banks of the rivers and smaller streams, which intersect the province in every direction. The islands of Ramree and Cheduba are more elevated than the main land; and those inundations, which elsewhere during the height of the rains submerge the flats near the large streams, ten or fifteen feet, are scarcely known there.
From the Yoma range of mountains enormous spurs shoot out in every direction, which render the western portion of the province a confused mass of lofty mountains and deep valleys. The highest peaks of the Yoma range, at the northern extremity of Arracan, are five thousand, or more, feet above the level of the sea. They gradually decrease in height till they reach the sea at Pagoda Point, where they are only one or two hundred feet high. The princi
pal mountain ranges run north and south, and their sides are generally steep, and covered with immense trees. Still the Kyens, and other wild tribes, find suitable places upon them for cultivation, and for the erection of their small and rude villages.
The whole coast from Akyab to Sandoway is studded with islands, some of which are large and inhabited, while others are small and only serve to give variety and beauty to the scenery. Besides the Mayu, the Koladon, and the Leymroo rivers in the Akyab district, which are navigable thirty or forty miles for vessels of two or three hundred tons, there are the Talak or Dalet, the Aing, and the Sandoway, which are navigable to any considerable distance by native boats alone. Smaller streams abound in the province, and furnish nearly the only means of communication between the different villages.
The soil near the sea-shore is sandy; but on the numerous alluvial flats, intersected by creeks, lying between the coast or the rivers and the hills, it is dark clayey mould; and on the higher lands in the interior, it is red and much mixed with stones. The most productive land yields to the cultivator more than a hundred fold, while much that is cultivated is not half so productive.
Number of the Inhabitants, and their Races. The population of Arracan at the present time (1842) is estimated at about 250,000. Of these, about 167,000 are Mugs, 40,000 are Burmese, 20,000 are Mussulmans, 10,000 are Kyens, 5,000 are Bengalese, 3,000 are Toungmroos, 2,000 are Kemees, 1,250 are Karens, and the remainder are of various races, in smaller numbers. The Mugs are the earliest inhabitants of the country, at least of the plains, of which we have any knowledge. The name of Mugs, as applied to inhabitants of this country, originated with foreigners, and I never found an Arracanese who could give any account of it. The people call themselves“ Rukaingthas,” that is, “ sons of Arracan.” They are evidently a part of the Myonma family, to which belong also the present inhabitants of Burmah, including the Shans, etc., and the Karens, Kyens, and other numerous bill tribes of Arracan. The traditions of all the branches of this family refer to " the far north” as the original seat of their ancestors; and the structure of their languages, together with the Mongolian cast of their physiognomy, confirms these traditions, and indicates the Mongolian origin of the family.
Most of the Burmese, probably, came into the country while it was a dependency of Ava, although many have immigrated since. The Mussulmans are supposed to be the descendants of Bengalee slaves, imported when the kings of Ava held Chittagong and Tippera. They have retained, for the most part, the language and customs of their forefathers; but have partially adopted the dress of the country. Within a few years past, many Bengalee Mussulmans have immigrated to Arracan, to get higher wages and better living than they could procure in Chittagong: these constitute the five thousand Bengalees mentioned in enumerating the population of the province. A part of the Mussulman population, one thousand or more, residing principally in Ramree, are the descendants of some people who came from Delhi in company with one of the Mogul princes, who, having failed in an attempt upon the throne, fled for refuge to the court of Arracan. They were bis guard, and as their weapon was a bow, were called Kamonthas, or bowmen, which name their descendants still retain. They have adopted the language and dress of the Mugs, and a part of them have become Boodhists.
“ The Kyens have a tradition that they are direct descendants of soine Burmese refugees, or of the remnants of an army that was lost in the mountains, when attempting to penetrate to the westward;" and they are found in large numbers throughout the whole Yoma range, only a small portion of thein being within British jurisdiction. They are evidently of the Myonına family, and it is probable that their forefathers left their original seat earlier than those of the Mugs.
The Toungmroos, who are also mountaineers, are found only in the northern part of the province. They are very slightly affected by the civilization around them, and are said to be revengeful and barbarous. They are descendants of people brought in former times from Tippera, and call themselves Tripura. Their language appears to be not at all allied to the Burmese.
The Kemees are hill-people, and appear much like Mugs, only in a ruder state. They give no account of their origin, but the traditions of the Mugs refer to them as already in the country when their ancestors entered it. They undoubtedly belong to the same great family of the human race of which the Mugs, the Burmese and other kindred people are also branches; and their ancestors probably settled in the mountains of Arracan before its plains were inhabited.
The Karens are a part of the race of that name so widely spread throughout the Burmese empire.
A few hundred Hindoos and Munnipoorees are also found in Arracan, and a small number of Chinese, Shans, etc.
What the population of the kingdom was in its palmy days, we have no means of knowing; but in many places, especially in the Akyab district, are traces of a far more numerous population than it now contains. 66 The ruins of the ancient temple of Mahâmuni, built entirely of stone,—the sites of former cities, shown by the remains of tanks and ruined pagodas,—and the extensive stone walls at the old capital, certainly tell of a more flourishing kingdom than what the British found it” (in 1825). It was then said to contain only one hundred thousand inhabitants.
The year may be divided into two seasons, the wet and the dry; but it is more usual to divide it into three, the rainy, the cold, and the hot seasons. The rains usually set in about the first of May, though the showers for a month after that are seldom severe, and are only occasional. During the months of June and July, especially the latter, it often rains for many days together, and at times literally pours down. The greatest fall during twenty-four hours, that I have measured, was about eight inches, but in one month, July 1841, it was ninetyfive inches. In August and September the rains moderate, during the latter month very considerably; and in October showers are few and gentle. There are occasionally very slight showers out of the months above named. The average annual fall of rain is about two hundred inches. The thermometer during the rainy season seldom varies much from 80°; while the rains are breaking up in October, and during the first half of November, it rises three or four degrees. The latter part of November and the months of December and January, and a part of February, are delightfully cool, particularly in the morning and evening. On some of the coolest mornings the thermometer sinks below 50°; but it usually ranges, at the coolest, betwen 50° and 60°; during the day it rises to 80°, and frequently from four to six degrees higher. Early in February the heat begins to increase, and continues to do so until the rains fairly set in, At this season of the year the thermometer often rises to 95°, and occasionally higher, especially during the month preceding the rains, and the average heat for that month is about 91°. At the same time nearly all vegetation perishes, and the whole country presents a desolate and saddening appearance. The thermometrical observations here recorded were made at Ramree, where refreshing breezes from the Bay of Bengal, springing up after noon and continuing most of the night, moderate the heat very considerably, as they do every where near the sea-shore; farther in the interior the heat is doubtless more intense.
A few words as to the health of the province have their most appropriate place in this connection. Changes of temperature are frequent and sudden; and as the natives are thinly clad, much exposed both to the sun and rain, poorly housed, and indulge freely in eating crude vegetables and other indigestible and unwholesome food, their health suffers not a little. The most prevalent diseases are fevers, remittent and intermittent, especially the latter, bowel affections of severe character, enlargement of the spleen, pulmonary diseases, small-pox, and, of late years, cholera of a fatal sort.
Agriculture, Commerce, Mechanic Arts, and Professions. Nearly all the Mugs, and a considerable portion of the Burmese and Mussulmans, are engaged in agricultural pursuits. All the land in Arracan belongs to the East India Company; but cultivators procure as much as they wish at a fixed annual rent, and retain the land which they have once leased, as long as they cultivate it and regularly pay the stipulated rent to government. “The cultivated rice lands are divided into three classes, which pay at the rate of twelve, ten, and eight rupees per doon. One man, with a pair of buffaloes, will cultivate a doon of land with ease. Buffaloes are used almost exclusively in cultivating the soil; they cost from forty to sixty rupees a pair ; about ninety thousand are found in the whole country. Oxen, which cost from forty to fifty rupees a pair, are used in carts, of which there are one thousand in the province, and sometimes for ploughing, etc. The whole number of cows and oxen in Arracan is about eighteen thousand. The agricultural implements of the Mugs are of the rudest construction, and cost but a trifle : a cart costs but ten rupees, yet few farmers prize them enough to purchase one; a plough and drag, both entirely wood, cost but one rupee, which is also the price of a sickle; these, together with the dah, or knife, which every native has, are all the implements of agriculture, except a hoe about two inches wide and a sort of spade equally narrow, which are used in gardens and tobacco-fields, worth both together about one rupee.
The staple product of the province is rice, of which only one crop is raised in year. The seed, which is sown broadcast, usually in the latter part of June, or in July, springs up in a few days, and rapidly arrives at maturity. The harvesting commences in October and continues through November and into December, the crop being ready for the sickle earlier in some parts of the province than in others. As soon as the harvest is gathered, the grain is threshed out by buffaloes or oxen, and the dahn, or paddy, either removed to the granary for home consumption, or taken to the numerous vessels, which are waiting to receive it, for exportation. What quantity of rice is annually raised in Arracan, I have had no means of accurately determining; but some idea of it may be form
* The value of a rupee is about 45} cents, and a doon is equal to 64 acres.
ed from the fact, that the value of rice exported from the Akyab district alone is nearly one million one hundred and fifty thousand rupees per annum. It should be noted here, however, that not more than eight or ten vessels load with rice in any other district.
When the rice crop is gathered in, those who cultivate tobacco prepare the ground for this plant, the alluvial flats near streams being selected for the purpose. The seed is usually sown in November, and as soon as the plants are eight or ten inches high, they are transplanted. In March the most forward leaves are cut, and in April or May those remaining are gathered, when the whole crop is cured and made fit for use in a short time. How much tobacco is raised in Arracan annually, I have not been able to ascertain; but as nearly every man, woman and child in the province smokes immoderately, the home consumption must be large; and several thousand pounds are exported, principally to Calcutta, where Arracan tobacco is highly prized.
Hemp is cultivated, but only for home use; which is rendered considerable by the demand for twine to make fish nets, and the quantity of cord and
rope of different sizes required for boats, etc. The seed is sown in November or December, and the hemp is usually pulled in March. Small patches of ground, here and there, are devoted to sugar cane, indigo, cotton, red and black pepper, ginger, turmeric, etc., all of good quality except the cotton, which is coarse and short. Arrow root grows wild at Cheduba, as does the black pepper in the southern part of the province. A little wheat has been raised; and, it is believed, the soil is capable of yielding in great perfection all that can be expected in a moist and tropical climate. To gardening the natives pay but little attention; nothing can be raised of any value, except in the rains, without a great deal of care and labor, of which the people of Arracan are very sparing ; beside that garden land is charged with an annual rent of sixteen rupees per doon. Pumpkins, squashes of different kinds, cucumbers, brinjals, a few melons, sweet potatoes, yams and onions, are the principal vegetables cultivated; the three last are raised only to a very limited extent. A few flowers are also raised, some of which are worn by the men in their ears, some by the women in their hair, and others are offered to the gods. The principal fruits to wbich the Mugs pay attention, are the mango, jack, guava, plantains of various kinds, papaia, sweet lime, cocoa-nut, pine-apple, tamarind, anıl a few others not very abundant. Most of those named are of good quality, and in abundance in their
Commerce is carried on principally from the port of Akyab, where sometimes one or two hundred vessels are taking in their cargoes of rice, together. The whole number of arrivals and clearances in the course of a year has of late varied but little from seven hundred. The vessels are principally from the Madras coast, and vary in size from forty or fifty tons to two or three hundred.
The rice is all sold for cash, the only article brought by most of the vessels, though a few import ghee, cocoa-nut oil and mustard oil, cloth and sugar, beside some other articles of no great value, all which are sold to merchants in the town of Akyab, and by them retailed there, or sold to traders from other parts of the province. A few vessels take in cargoes of rice at Cheduba and other places in the Ramree district. Akyab, however, is, and must continue to be, the great mart for the trade of Arracan, especially in rice. This trade, it is believed, is capable of almost indefinite extension.
After rice, the most important article of commerce is salt, of which large quantities are manufactured on the islands near Kyouk Phyoo, and on Ram