Religious Sects—Self-government of the Castes—Chimney-sweepers— Washerwomen—Elephant Drivers.
Mir Salamat Ali, the head native collector of the district, a venerable old Musalman and most valuable public servant, who has been labouring in the same vineyard with me for the last fifteen years with great zeal, ability, and integrity, came to visit me after breakfast with two very pretty and interesting young sons. While we were sitting together my wife’s under-woman said to some one who was talking with her outside the tent-door, ’If that were really the case, should I not be degraded?’ ’You see, Mir Sahib’, said I, ’that the very lowest members of society among these Hindoos still feel the pride of caste, and dread exclusion from their own, however low.’
‘Yes’, said the Mir, ’they are a very strange kind of people, and I question whether they ever had a real prophet among them.’
’I question, Mir Sahib, whether they really ever had such a person. They of course think the incarnations of their three great divinities were beings infinitely superior to prophets, being in all their attributes and prerogatives equal to the divinities themselves. But we are disposed to think that these incarnations were nothing more than great men whom their flatterers and poets have exalted into gods—this was the way in which men made their gods in ancient Greece and Egypt. These great men were generally conquerors whose glory consisted in the destruction of their fellow creatures; and this is the glory which their flatterers are most prone to extol. All that the poets have sung of the actions of men is now received as revelation from heaven; though nothing can be more monstrous than the actions attributed to the best incarnation, Krishna, of the best of their gods, Vishnu.