Modern India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 495 pages of information about Modern India.

While we were waiting at a railway station one morning a solemn-looking old man, who, from appearances, might have been a contemporary of Mahomet, or the nineteenth incarnation of a mighty god, squatted down on the floor and gazed upon us with a broad and benevolent smile.  He touched his forehead respectfully and bowed several times, and then, having attracted attention and complied with the etiquette of his caste, drew from his breast a spry little sparrow that had been nestling between his cotton robe and his bare flesh.  Stroking the bird affectionately and talking to it in some mysterious language, the old man looked up at us for approval and placed it upon the pavement.  It greeted us cordially with several little chirps and hopped around over the stone to get the kinks out of its legs, while the old fakir drew from his breast a little package which he unfolded carefully and laid on the ground.  It contained an assortment of very fine beads of different colors and made of glass.  Taking a spool of thread from the folds of his robe, the old man broke off a piece about two feet long and, calling to the bird, began to whistle softly as his pet hopped over toward him.  There was evidently a perfect understanding between them.  The bird knew what was expected and proceeded immediately to business.  It grasped the lower end of the thread in its little claws as its trainer held it suspended in the air with the other end wound around his forefinger, and swung back and forth, chirruping cheerfully.  After swinging a little while it reached the top, and then stood proudly for a moment on the fakir’s finger and acknowledged our applause.  Then it climbed down again like a sailor or a monkey and dropped to the ground.  I had never seen an exhibition so simple and yet unusual, but something even better was yet to come, for, in obedience to instruction, the little chap picked up the tiny beads one after another with his bill and strung them upon the thread, which it held with its tiny toes.

XII

THE RAJPUTS AND THEIR COUNTRY

In India, as everywhere else, the climate and physical features of the country have exercised a sharp and lasting influence upon the race that lives therein.  The noblest characters, the brave, the strong, the enduring and the progressive come from the north, where the air is keen and encourages activity, while those who dwell in the south have hereditary physical and moral lassitude.  The geographical names are typical of the people.  They all mean something and have a poetical and oftentimes a political significance.  “The Mountains of Strength” encompass a plateau called “The Abode of Princes,” and beyond and behind them stretches a desert called the “Region of Death.”  This country is called the Rajputana—­pronounced Raashpootana—­and is composed of the most interesting of all the native states of India, twenty in number, with an area of 150,000 square miles and a population of more than

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Project Gutenberg
Modern India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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