“But I saw them!” exclaimed the surgeon. “I think I know a woman when I see one, though I am an old bachelor, and rather a tough one at that.”
“Not always, Doctor; for not one of those you call girls was a female. A woman on the Hindu stage is a thing unknown,” rallied the viscount.
“I suppose I must give it up, though I would not do so on any less authority than that of your lordship,” replied the surgeon good-naturedly.
All the rest of the party expressed their astonishment in terms hardly less strong; and the ladies were even more incredulous than the gentlemen.
“As Govind told me, all the female parts were taken by boys remarkable for their beauty and the sweetness of their voices,” added his lordship. “But this is understood to be our last day in Bombay, though the limitation of time does not come from any suggestion of mine; and we must make the best use of what remains. You have not half seen Bombay yet.”
“We should need ten years for our trip if we were to exhaust every place we visit,” replied Captain Ringgold. “All we expect is to get a fair idea of a city; and I think we have done that here, especially as we shall see the same things, as far as manners and customs are concerned, many times before we finally take our leave of the country at Colombo in Ceylon.”
“While we are quietly seated here, I should like to ask for some information in regard to Juggernaut,” said Uncle Moses. “I used to read the most horrible stories in my Sabbath-school books about that idol.”
“Those stories, as I have been informed by elderly Englishmen, were published in the United Kingdom, and all of them are inventions or gross exaggerations,” replied Sir Modava, with his pleasant smile. “Puri, or Juggernaut, is in the district of Orissa, on the western shore of the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the holiest places in India among the Hindus. It contains a temple of Juggernaut, in honor of Vishnu, in which is an idol of this Hindu god, called Jagannath, which is mentioned in history as far back as A.D. 318. Vishnu is the Preserver of the Hindu trinity, and therefore in an especial sense the god of the people; and sometimes 100,000 natives gather at this shrine, bringing offerings to the value of nearly L40,000.
“The town has a population of twenty-two thousand, and it contains six thousand lodging-houses for the pilgrims who visit it. The chief temple has a hundred and twenty others in an enclosure, with a tower one hundred and ninety-two feet high. Juggernaut’s car, of which you have read, Mr. Scarburn, is a sort of temple, thirty-five feet square, and forty-five feet high, with wheels seven feet high. The car-festival is the chief of twenty-four held every year, when the idol is dragged to the country house. Though the distance is less than a mile, the sand is so deep in the roadway that it requires several days to complete the journey.