The most startling feats and tricks in the world are those performed by the numerous professional jugglers of India; and these have been unvaried since the days of Baber, the descendent of Timour, in the sixteenth century. “I was frequently amused at the public wells and halting places,” says Forbes, “by the vanjarrahs and their families, and especially by the jugglers, who generally found out the encampments of these travelling merchants. There they spread their carpets, and performed feats of legerdemain superior to any I have seen in England; the most conspicuous was generally one of the women mentioned by Dr Fryer, who hold nine gilded ball in play with their hands and feet, and the muscles of their arms and legs, for a long time together without letting them fall. The well known sword feat is described at great length by Forbes. Seating himself, the juggler took the sword, which had a straight blade, about twenty inches in length and one in breadth, with edges and point blunted, and after oiling, he it introduced the point into his mouth, and pushed it gently down his throat until the hand of Forbes who held the hilt came into contact with his lips. “He then made a sign to me,” says the narrator, “with one of his hands, to feel the point of the instrument between his breast and navel, which I could plainly do by bending him a little more backwards, and pressing my fingers to his stomach, he being a very thin and lean fellow.” On taking his hand from the hilt, the juggler fixed to it a little machine, from which a firework that emitted blue flames encircled his head, and imparted a diabolical aspect to his brown face; and on withdrawing the blade, blood was seen on some parts of it, showing that its introduction was not effected without violence. To this feat he had been accustomed since his earliest years, having from the first been taught to introduce elastic instruments, till he came at last to swallow the iron sword in question. Forbes considers that “the great flexibility of their joints, the laxness of their fibres, and their temperate mode of life, render them capable of having considerable violence done to the fleshy parts of their bodies without any danger of the inflammation and other bad effects which would be produced in the irritable bodies of Europeans; witness their being whirled around on the point of a pole, suspended by a hook thrust into the fleshy part of their backs, without experiencing any fatal consequences. There is, therefore, no great wonder if, by long habit in stretching up their necks, they are able to bring the windings of the stomach into a straight line, or nearly so, and thereby slide the sword down into the latter organ without so much difficulty. – From Cassell’s Illustrated History of India for October.
Archive for the ‘1890’ Category
It’s a public holiday in England today, so here’s a bonus article from the Northern Echo published on October 10 1890 to celebrate: