Modern India eBook

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

The road to Amber passes through an interesting part of the city of Jeypore and beyond the walls the broad highway is crowded with carts loaded with vegetables and other country produce coming into town and quite as many loaded with merchandise going the other way.  Some of them are drawn by bullocks and some by camels; there are long caravans of camels with packs and paniers upon their backs.  As you meet hundreds of pedestrians you will notice that the women all have baskets or packages upon their heads.  The men never carry anything.  On either side of the broad highway are cultivated gardens and gloomy looking houses and acres covered with ruins and crumbling tombs.  The city of Amber, which, as I have already told you, was once the capital of the province and the scene of great splendor, as well as frequent strife, is now quite deserted.  It once had 50,000 inhabitants, but now every house is vacant.  Few of them even have caretakers.  The beautiful palace with its marble coverings, mosaics and luxuriant gardens is occupied only by a number of priests and fakirs, who are supposed to spend their time in meditation upon heavenly things, and in obedience to an ancient custom they sacrifice a sheep or a goat in one of the temples every morning.  Formerly human beings were slain daily upon this altar—­children, young girls, women and peasants, who either offered themselves for the sake of securing advancement in reincarnation or were seized by the savage priests in the absence of volunteers.  This was stopped by the British a century ago, and since then the blood of rams and goats has atoned for the sins of Jeypore.

XI

ABOUT SNAKES AND TIGERS

A gentleman in Bombay told me that 50,000 people are killed in India every year by snakes and tigers, and his extraordinary statement was confirmed by several officials and others to whom I applied for information.  They declared that only about one-half of the deaths from such causes were ever reported; that the government was endeavoring to secure more complete and exact returns, and was offering rewards for the destruction of reptiles and wild animals.  Under instructions from Lord Curzon the authorities of the central government at Calcutta gave me the returns for British India for the ten years from 1892 to 1902, showing a total of 26,461 human beings and 88,019 cattle killed by snakes and wild animals during the fiscal year 1901-2.  This does not include the mortality from these causes in the eighty-two native states which have one-third of the area and one fourth of the population of the empire.  Nor does it include thousands of cases in the more remote portions of the country, which are never reported to the authorities.  In these remote sections, vast areas of mountains, jungles and swamps, the danger from such causes is much greater and deaths are more frequent than in the thickly settled portions; so that my friend’s estimate was not far out of the way.

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Modern India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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