The Terrors of the Moghal Helmet.

(PAGE 276).

The reader of the history of the Crusades will recognize a similar anecdote, relating to a hero more familiar to him than Daryá Khán. The chivalrous Sire de Joinville tells us, that Richard's name acted as a powerful sedative upon the children of the Saracens, and that even their very horses were presumed to start at his shadow:—

“Le roy Richard fist tant d'armes outremer a celle foys que il y fu, que quant les chevaus aus Sarrasins avoient pouour d'aucun bisson, leur mestres leur disoient:—‘Cuides tu,’ fesoient ils à leurs chevaus, ‘que se soit le roy Richart d'Angleterre?’ Et quant les enfans aus Sarrasins bréoient, elles leur disoient:—‘Tay-toy! tay-toy! ou je irai querre le roy Richart qui te tuera.’”*

It is curious that we should learn this from a Frenchman only. Our English chroniclers, who exhaust the language of panegyric in speaking of Richard, omit this anecdote, which appears to be de­rived from a mere eastern mode of expressing terror.

In the passage taken from the Táríkh-i Táhirí we have not only chil­dren taking fright, but women even bringing forth prematurely, at the name of Daryá Khán. The same effect is ascribed in that work (pp. 48, 52) to the Moghal cap:—“Such fear of the Moghals fell upon both men and women, that the men lost all courage, and the women miscarried at the very sight of the Moghals with their terrific head-pieces.” But the shape and feature of this alarming helmet, or Tákí, are not described. The Tuhfatu-l Kirám (p. 42) tells us that even horses started at it, as those of the Saracens at Richard of England.

We might, from the expressions used, conceive that their helmets, like those of Ulysses and some of the barbarous nations of antiquity, were covered with alarming devices of open jaws and fiery dragons, and that the Moghals in Sind stalked about,—

—— tegmen torquens immane leonis,
Terribili impexum setâ, cum dentibus albis,

but had this been the case, we should have most probably had more frequent mention of the circumstance, especially by Khusrú, who was their prisoner, and delighted to record their hideous faces and fashions.

But neither in Khusrú, nor in any other author, do we find notice of such an helmet, or chapelle de fer, as would give rise to the fears here depicted. A good European observer of their manners merely remarks that the upper part of their casque was of iron or steel.* The tail of hair, if it was worn according to its present dimensions, might, notwithstanding its being honoured as a royalty,* have excited surprise, and perhaps ridicule, but no alarm. From an early period, ever since the Moghal tribes were known to Europe, this appendage has naturally excited observation, just as it does now, where they border on European nations.* Procopius* and Priscus* remark upon it as a peculiarity of the Huns.

It is probable that these Moghals in Sind may, in their day, have worn a head-dress, such as Rubruquis, more than two centuries before, had attributed to their women. Even at present, the Turk-man female cap is no pigmy, being higher than a military chako, over which a scarf is thrown, reaching down to the waist. But this is nothing to what it was in the time of our adventurous traveller. That was indeed calculated to inspire terror, and produce the results attributed to the Tákí. It must have been more formidable than European courts ever produced, even in the horned and steeple coiffure of the fifteenth century.

“Their women have an ornament for their heads, which they call Botta, being made of the barke of a tree. * * * It hath a square sharp spire rising from the toppe thereof, being more than a cubite in length, and fashioned like unto a pinacle. * * * * Upon the midst of the sayd spire, or square toppe, they put a bunch of quills or of slender canes, another cubite long, or more. * * * Hereupon, when such gentlewomen ride together, and are beheld afar off, they seem to be souldiers with helmets on their heads, carrying their lances upright; for the sayd Botta appeareth like a helmet with a lance over it.”*

This is like the fantastic fontange of Europe, raised an ell above the head, and pointed like steeples, which caused our pious preachers infinite trouble, as well as missionary perambulations, for its sup­pression. So like, indeed, that it would really seem to be derived direct from the eastern model, but that these comical fashions are the product of no particular age or country; for even before the decline of the Empire, the Roman lady—

“Tot premit ordinibus, tot adhuc compagibus altum
Ædificat caput; Andromachen a fronte videbis.”*

Nevertheless, when we consider that, about the time of the capture of Constantinople, Turkish turbans were all the rage in Western Europe, we may perhaps admit, that, had we not become acquainted with Tartar costume, the marvellous absurdity of the steeple-cap never could have been introduced amongst us. Paradin describes it as—“Made of certain rolls of linen pointed like steeples, about an ell in height. These were called by some, great butterflies, from having two large wings on each side, resembling those of that insect. The high cap was covered with a fine piece of lawn, hanging down to the ground, the greater part of which was tucked under the arm.”*

This must evidently be the same as the Tartar Botta, and the illuminations of that period make the dimensions still more por­tentous, and the resemblance to the eastern original still more striking. The paysannes of Normandy have to this day preserved this monstrous extravagance for the gratification of modern eyes.*

If this was not the Alpine chapeau which spread such dismay in Sind, it may have been the lofty dark sheepskin Tilpak,* which the Turkmans now wear, about a foot high. An exaggerated form of this would have been alarming enough to produce the effect described.