“Of the vast population of India, three-fourths are Hindus in religion. The Buddhists are mostly in Burma, and there are over 57,000,000 Mohammedans. The number of Christians by the last census was 2,284,380; and I am sorry there are no more of them. The Sikhs and the Jains are Indian sects which flourish in certain localities; as there are nearly two millions of the former in the Punjab, and over half a million of the latter in Bombay, and approaching that number in Rajputana, with comparatively few elsewhere. The Parsees, or Parsis, who were driven from Persia by the Mohammedans, number 76,774 in Bombay,—not the city, but the presidency.
“In the small state of Travancore, where my friend Sir Modava was born, there are said to be four hundred and twenty different castes. The distinction is sometimes the result of occupation, branch of trade, or some accidental circumstance. Let me read a short extract from a book from your library:—
“’Among the lowest classes caste has degenerated into a fastidious tenacity of the rights and privileges of station. For example, the man who sweeps will not take an empty cup from your hand; your groom will not mow a little grass; a coolie will carry any load, however offensive, on his head, but even in a matter of life and death would refuse to carry a man, for that is the business of another caste.
“’When an English servant pleads that such a thing is not his place, his excuse is analogous to that of the Hindu servant when he pleads his caste. When an Englishman of birth or profession, which is held to confer gentility, refuses to associate with a tradesman or mechanic; or when members of a secret society exclude all others from their meetings; or when any other social distinction arises, it would present itself to the mind of the Hindu as a regulation of caste.’
“It is a barrier to the progress of Christianity in many ways. It is generally thought that a Christian convert cannot be restored to his caste if he should backslide; and the superstition of the low-class natives is a rhinoceros shield, which it is still difficult to penetrate; but in the end the Cross will come off conqueror, as it always has and always will.
“Caste does not now compel a native to pursue his father’s calling, except, perhaps, in the case of Brahmins. For that matter, Brahmins serve in the army, and even act as cooks and in similar occupations. Men of all castes have risen to exalted positions, just as poor men, with none of the advantages of high birth, have in England. The loss of caste has been regarded by the ignorant native here as the most terrible thing that could possibly happen to him; but it is not so in practice, for it has been accomplished by giving a very indifferent supper.
“When an outcast enters another caste, he is well and heartily received as a convert. As you proceed through India you will learn more about this stumbling-block of superstition and ignorance.