Across India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 268 pages of information about Across India.

From the river a full view was obtained of the multitude of columns, belfries, and cupolas, as well as of the Government House, the Town Hall, and the line of magnificent houses beyond the esplanade.  Along the shore The Strand, as it is called the whole length of the city, the jetties, and the landing-stages were crowded with men; for, where labor is so cheap, work is not done by small forces of men.  There are several lines of steamers running between London, Southampton, and Liverpool to this port; and they were constantly arriving and departing.

“You don’t see such a variety of races here as you did in Bombay,” said Lord Tremlyn as he was pointing out the sights to be seen.  “You observe some Chinamen and Burmese; but most of the laborers are of the low class of natives, Bengalese, and they are very sorry specimens of the Hindus.”

“But what are the merchants and shopkeepers?” asked Captain Ringgold.

“They are Baboos, which is a name given to the Bengalese.  The better class of them, in contact with the English, realize that education is a power; and they have labored for years to improve their countrymen.  They have established schools and colleges, and when young natives applied for government situations the authorities felt obliged to admit them.  To-day you will find many natives acting as clerks in the post-office, railway, and telegraph-offices, as well as in the courts in minor capacities.

“In fact, there has been a social revolution in progress here for half a century or more, and its effects may be seen now.  The government has modified the lot of woman to some extent, as you have learned.  The Hindu law weighed terribly upon her.  When a woman lost her husband, custom required that she should be sent back to her own family.  Her relatives shaved off her hair, dressed her in the coarsest clothing, and compelled her to do the severest drudgery of the household.  She is forbidden to marry again, and is treated as though she was responsible for becoming a widow.  The reforming of this evil is in progress; but the people are baked into their prejudices and superstitions of forty centuries, and it is worse than pulling their teeth to interfere with them.

“One of the favorite divinities of the natives here is Kali, the wife of Siva, the goddess of murder.  Her worship is odious and disgusting; for her altars were formerly sprinkled with human blood, and the idols were surrounded with dead bodies and skulls.  Their great festival is the Churuk-Pooja, which is still celebrated, though the government has forbidden all its brutal features.  You have all seen a ‘merry-go-round’ machine in which children ride in a circle on wooden horses.

“An apparatus like this, but without the wooden steeds, was used by these fanatics.  At the end of the four arms hung ropes with sharp hooks at the end, on which were hung up the devotees, as the butcher does his meats in his shop; and the machine was revolved rapidly till the hooks pulled out, and the victim dropped upon the ground, fainting or dead.  At the present time the festival is attended by Baboos of the best class; but it amounts simply to an athletic exhibition with music.  The government and the reformers have brought about this change of performance.”

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Across India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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