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The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil
Francois Pyrard de Laval
1611
translated into English in 1887 from the third French edition of 1619 by Albert Gray assisted by H.C.P. Bell

Vol. 1 Chapter 22

Various judgments passed for adultery, lewdness, and other crimes. - Amorous humour of the Indian women. - Of the Grand Fandiyaru; and the strange resolution of a Mulatto.

The Hindu Canarin from Cochin
I shall now relate various occurrences that happened during my time to particular inhabitants of the island; among others, to a Hindu Canarin of Cochin, a man of great means and position. For eight whole years he had come and gone about the islands, having everywhere houses, factors, and domestics, speaking the language quite well, and being, in fact, naturalised.

One day this man was surprised lying with a woman of the islands. He had kept her for six months, and she was but a poor servant girl. He was presently hauled with her before the Grand Fandiyaru, to whom he protested that he had done her no manner of harm; that he desired to become of their faith, and would marry the woman. This was done, and he became a moslem; and it appeared that he had for a long time desired this end, for that he owed much money at Cochin, as to which he became bankrupt. He espoused this woman and made a great lady of her: for there, strangers, both men and women, can wear whatever they please.

When he made the promise he was set free, but upon her judgment was passed according to the law: all her hair was shaved, then she was bathed in old and stinking oil, her head put in an old sack of sail-cloth, and then she was beaten at all the cross-roads and round the island. This is their manner of punishing all men and women taken in adultery or fornication. But there, as here in France, money does everything and saves from everything.

As for the conversion of the man, he was borne in triumph through the streets and round the island, accompanied by the greatest lords, and by the people of all sorts and conditions; he was presented with much money and raiment and a new name: for there, names are given at pleasure and by whomsoever, be it father, mother, kindred, or even the first comer; and also at any time, and not only at birth or circumcision, insomuch that it seemed to me they give names as we do here to dogs and horses: for the name first given by whomsoever is the one that sticks to a man. The king likewise granted dignities to the new convert, making him purveyor and distributor of all the rice and other provisions and merchandise wherein the king trafficked. It is a highly honourable office, and he had other men under him.

The Arabian Fandiyaru, Chief Judge
The Fandiyaru that passed the said judgment was a Sherif of Arabia, that is, one of a family the most respected and noble among these people, as being of the race of Muhammad. He was a very good man, and was greatly beloved of the king. He had great goodwill toward strangers, and blamed the king for, among other things, his evil treatment of us, seeing that we were their friends, and enemies of the Portuguese, and that the kings of Acheh, Java, and other countries gave a cordial reception to all Europeans, such as the French, English, and Dutch, as he had observed in those countries which he had visited.

To which the king replied that he was much displeased with him; that such counsel came not well from him, but from the lords and elders of the island. This Fandiyaru was returning to Arabia from Acheh, where he had been well received, and, loaded with much wealth, was returning with it; but on passing through the islands the king heard of it, and so besought him to remain, that he at length consented, and became so familiar with the king as to be permitted to eat with him, an honour never done to any other person.

Prosecution of women for sexual behaviour
While this Fandiyaru was in office I saw him one day do examplary justice on a large number of women. They were about twenty-five or thirty in number, some of the greatest ladies in the land, who were accused of a crime whereof I never heard tell before; it is practised only at the Maldives, and is called 'fui tallan'. Evidently they use a certain fruit, which grows there, called a 'kela' by them, 'banana' by us, which is roughly as long as the palm of a hand and as thick as the forearm of a ten year old boy, which they use in so repulsive, shameful and monstrous way that I am ashamed to say any more about it.

In truth, the women of all India are naturally much addicted to every kind of ordinary lewdness; but those of the Maldives in particular are so tainted with this vice that they have no other talk or occupation, and hold it a boast and a virtue one with another to have some bravo or gallant, upon whom they lavish all such favours and tokens of love as a man could wish of a woman.

Among other things, they never let them want for betel, prepared and served in some elaborate and extraordinary style, with some cloves put inside, or else a little black seed, the most tasty, odoriferous, and pleasant to the mouth that can be conceived. As for the men, they cull flowers and arrange them neatly in the manner of bouquets, and send them to the ladies out of gallantry. There are certain white flowers (probably 'temple flowers', michelia champaka) of a full scent on which they can write and grave what they will with the point of a knife, and thereon they write three or four verses on the subject of their passions.

Money and other valuable things they give not much to one another; and when these are given, it is more on the part of the women than of the men. To the women the men are exceedingly courteous and obliging. Many reasons may be assigned for the fact that the women are of a disposition so hot and amorous; but the principal seem to me to be that they are exceedingly lazy, and do nothing but ever lie rocked in daintiness.

Next, that they are continually eating betel, a very heating herb; and in their ordinary fare use so many spices that sometimes I could hardly put the food to my mouth; also garlic, onions, and other such heating things. Add to this, that the climate is directly under the line, a condition which renders the men more sluggish and less capable; yet for all that, most have two or three wives apiece - I mean such as can afford to keep them. They are also lazy, idle fellows, more like women, their chiefest exercise being to lie abed with them, and then more often with desire than effect.

But to return to the justice done upon those women: two at first were taken in the act, one of whom was married to one of the king's chief officers, and he loved her dearly. Now, their law and custom obtains that when a king's officer or any of his family is a delinquent, before proceeding to justice the Grand Fandiyaru sends word to the king, asking if it be his pleasure that the process be according to the ordinary forms. This the king never refuses. So the Grand Fandiyaru, having informed the king of the conduct of the two women, the king replied that he willed justice to be done, not only upon these two, but upon many others, who, as he had heard, had for a long while been engaged in this business, and that a strict inquisition should be made.

Forthwith, too, he sent the husband of one of the women, with two of his most intimate advisers, to assist at the inquiry and trial, and bade them expressly tell the Fandiyaru to omit no part of his orders, for that if any remained unpunished, he would take the law into his own hands; insomuch that all the people incontinently assembled from all parts of the island, and even the highest grandees came, many of whom to prosecute their own wives.

During this procedure the king had all the doors of his palace closed, so that none should enter to beg the royal favour towards his wife: thus was equal justice done. The poor wretches all accused one another, and even the men who had personal or hearsay knowledge of it, brought them forward, and named aloud whose wives they were. About thirty of these women were publicly punished; first they had their hair cut - a mark of great infamy with them; then they were beaten with thick thonged whips of leather, in such wise that two or three died. Thereafter all were absolved, with a warning that if they returned to these practices they should be drowned. Subsequently, however, I saw certain of the same party who were again arrested, and were not drowned, but only beaten with those whips which are called 'gleau' (possibly 'chabooku', now known as 'dhurraa').

Homosexual behaviour among men
The sin of man and man is very common, and though the book of their law prescribes the penalty of death, yet they heed not that; and nowhere in the world are these enormities more common and less punished; wherein may be seen the curse and wrath of God upon these wretches, who are led by the falsity and unrighteousness of their law to fall into the abyss of these horrible vices.

Ethiopian/Maldivian criminal helps with his own amputations
About the same time, I saw justice done upon a youth of seventeen years of age. He was the son of an Ethiopian kafir and of a woman of the islands, such a one being called mulatto. He had the greatest resolution and courage that I was ever witness of, for alone he had the assurance to attack six or seven other men. He became so mischievous, that with a single companion he went about the islands in a boat, thieving and harrying whatever he could, and assaulting the poor folk in cruel fashion. But at length he was caught, and had his right-hand cut off.

While he was being punished, I saw no change upon his countenance, nor did he utter the slightest cry, no more than if he was feeling nothing. This punishment in no way changed his humour, for he was no sooner healed than he returned to his former courses, insomuch than when he was caught again they were constrained to cut off his left foot, whereof he made no more account than of his first: for his resolution was such that he himself taught the man that was cutting him how he ought to do it, without ever showing any trace of pain. He had by him a vessel full of boiling coconut oil, into which he himself thrust his leg, all as though it had been cold water. I think that such determined courage has never been seen in a boy.

Withal, his evil nature so led him to larceny that no sooner was his leg healed than he took to crawling out at night to commit robberies. He was also horribly addicted to sodomy; so at length the king was forced to send him into exile, and to put him to death.

Grand Fandiyaru leaves for Arabia
But to return to the Grand Fandiyaru who carried out so many executions. After remaining a short time longer at the island, he got leave to go to Arabia, with a ship laden with great riches; but his departure was not without much sorrow on the part of the king and all the people, who regretted him extremely, for he was there regarded as a saint. He made fair promises of returning, but for all that had no mind to. His successor in the office was one who had espoused the sister of the chief queen, and was a great noble and of good family: he died in Arabia, as I have said.

Such is what I have been able to note and remember of the most memorable events which took place at the Maldive islands during the time I was there; and before finishing this chapter I shall further say that during the five or six years I was at that king's court I saw nearly his whole government changed, and the greater part of the officers of his household and court come by their deaths in various ways. This often gave me a foreboding that the end and period of his government was drawing nigh.

Eclipse of the sun at Male', 1605
Also I must not forget to mention that I saw happen there a great eclipse of the sun at high noon (this was in the year 1605, on 12th October), which lasted three hours. All the people were greatly astonished, and cried and howled in strange fashion, saying that it was an evil omen, and signified that they should lose the greatest of them. And, indeed, in the same year, one of the king's wives died in childbed, and soon after the king himself was vanquished and slain, and all his estate was overthrown, as I shall relate in the chapter following. They all carefully observed the day, hour, and minute of the eclipse, and it was recorded in the public archives.




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