MAHRATTA DITCH, n.p. An excavation made in 1742, as described in the extract from Orme, on the landward sides of Calcutta, to protect the settlement from the Mahratta bands. Hence the term, or for shortness ‘The Ditch’ simply, as a disparaging name for Calcutta (see DITCHER). The line of the Ditch corresponded nearly with the outside of the existing Circular Road, except at the S.E. and S., where the work was never executed. [There is an excavation known by the same name at Madras excavated in 1780. (Murray, Handbook, 1859, p. 43).]

1742.—“In the year 1742 the Indian inhabitants of the Colony requested and obtained permission to dig a ditch at their own expense, round the Company’s bounds, from the northern parts of Sootanatty to the southern part of Govindpore. In six months three miles were finished: when the inhabitants…discontinued the work, which from the occasion was called the Morattoe ditch.”—Orme, ed. 1803, ii. 45.

1757.—“That the Bounds of Calcutta are to extend the whole Circle of Ditch dug upon the Invasion of the Marattes; also 600 yards without it, for an Esplanade.”—Articles of Agreement sent by Colonel Clive (previous to the Treaty with the Nabob of May 14). In Memoirs of the Revolution in Bengal, 1760, p. 89.

1782.—“To the Proprietors and Occupiers of Houses and other Tenements within the Mahratta Entrenchment.”—India Gazette, Aug. 10.

[1840.—“Less than a hundred years ago, it was thought necessary to fortify Calcutta against the horsemen of Berar, and the name of the Mahratta Ditch still preserves the memory of the danger.”—Macaulay, Essay on Clive.]

1872.—“The Calcutta cockney, who glories in the Mahratta Ditch. …”—Govinda Samanta, i. 25.

MAHSEER, MASEER, MASAL, &c. Hind. mahasir, mahaser, mahasaula, s. The name is applied to perhaps more than one of the larger species of Barbus (N.O. Cyprinidae), but especially to B. Mosul of Buchanan, B. Tor, Day, B. megalepis, McLelland, found in th e larger Himalayan rivers, and also in the greater perennial rivers of Madras and Bombay. It grows at its largest, to about the size of the biggest salmon, and more. It affords also the highest sport to Indian anglers; and from these circumstances has sometimes been called, misleadingly, the ‘Indian salmon.’ The origin of the name Mahseer, and its proper spelling, are very doubtful. It may be Skt. maha-siras, ‘big-head,’ or maha-salka, ‘large-scaled.’ The latter is most probable, for the scales are so large that Buchanan mentions that playing cards were made from them at Dacca. Mr. H.S. Thomas suggests maha-asya, ‘great mouth.’ [The word does not appear in the ordinary dicts.; on the whole, perhaps the derivation from maha-siras is most probable.]

c. 1809.—“The Masal of the Kosi is a very large fish, which many people think still better than the Rohu, and compare it to the salmon.”—Buchanan, Eastern India, iii. 194.

1822.—“Mahasaula and Tora, variously altered and corrupted, and with various additions may be considered as genuine appellations, amongst the natives for these fishes, all of which frequent large rivers.”—F. Buchanan Hamilton, Fishes of the Ganges, 304.

1873.—“In my own opinion and that of others whom I have met, the Mahseer shows more sport for its size than a salmon.”—H.S. Thomas, The Rod in India, p. 9.

MAINATO, s. Tam. Mal. Mainatta, a washerman or dhoby (q.v.).

1516.—“There is another sect of Gentiles which they call Mainatos, whose business it is to wash the clothes of the Kings, Bramins, and Naires; and by this they get their living; and neither they nor their sons can take up any other business.”—Barbosa, Lisbon ed., 334.

c. 1542.—“In this inclosure do likewise remain all the Landresses, by them called Maynates, which wash the linnen of the City (Pequin), who, as we were told, are above an hundred thousand.”—Pinto, in Cogan, p. 133. The original (cap. cv.) has todos os mainatos, whose sex Cogan has changed.

1554.—“And the farm (renda) of mainatos, which farm prohibits any one from washing clothes, which is the work of a mainato, except by arrangement with the farmer (Rendeiro). …”—Tombo, &c., 53.

[1598.—“There are some among them that do nothing els but wash cloathes:…they are called Maynattos.”—Linschoten, Hak. Soc. i. 260.

[c. 1610.—“These folk (the washermen) are called Menates.”—Pyrard de Laval, Hak. Soc. ii. 71.]

1644.—(Expenses of Daman) “For two maynatos, three water boys (bois de agoa), one sombreyro boy, and 4 torch bearers for the said Captain, at 1 xerafim each a month, comes in the year to 36,000 rés or xns. 00120.0.00.”—Bocarro, MS. f. 181.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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