“Poor people get married with one priest,” he added, “but rich people have to have many. It costs a lot of money to get married.”
Every now and then parcels were brought in by servants, and handed to the bride, who opened them with the same eagerness that American girls show about their wedding presents, but before she had been given half a chance to examine them they were snatched away from her and passed around. There were enough jewels to set the groom up in business, for all the relatives on both sides are rich, several beautifully embroidered shawls, a copy of Tennyson’s poems, a full set of Ruskin’s works, a flexible covered Bible from the bride’s school teacher, and other gifts too numerous to mention. The ceremony soon became tedious and the crowded room was hot and stuffy. It was an ordeal for us to stay as long as we did, and we endured it for a couple of hours, but it was ten times worse for the bride and groom, for they had to sit on the floor over the fire, and couldn’t even stretch their legs. They told us that it would take four hours more to finish the ritual. So we asked our hosts to excuse us, offered our sympathy and congratulations to the happy couple, who laughed and joked with us in English, while the priests continued to sing and pray.
THE RELIGIONS OF INDIA
The most interesting of all the many religious sects in India are the Parsees, the residue of one of the world’s greatest creeds, descendants of the disciples of Zoroaster, and the Persian fire worshipers, who sought refuge in India from the persecution of the all-conquering Mohammedans about the seventh century. They have not increased and probably have diminished in numbers, but have retained the faith of their fathers undefiled, which has been described as “the most sublime expression of religious purity and thought except the teachings of Christ.” It is a curious fact, however, that although the Parsees are commercially the most enterprising people in India, and the most highly educated, they have never attempted to propagate or even to make known their faith to the world. It remained for Anquetil Duperron, a young Frenchman, a Persian scholar, to translate the Zend Avesta, which contains the teachings of Zoroaster, and may be called the Parsee bible. And even now the highest authority in Parsee theology and literature is Professor Jackson, who holds the chair of oriental languages in Columbia University, New York. At this writing Professor Jackson is in Persia engaged upon investigations of direct interest to the Parsees, who have the highest regard and affection for him, and perfect confidence in the accuracy of his treatment of their theology in which they permit him to instruct them.
The Parsees have undoubtedly made more stir in the world in proportion to their population than any other race. They are a small community, and number only 94,000 altogether, of whom 76,000 reside in Bombay. They are almost without exception industrious and prosperous, nearly all being engaged in trade and manufacturing, and to them the city of Bombay owes the greatest part of its wealth and commercial influence.