January 18, 1912, MIRI, AHMEDNAGAR DISTRICT. I have been constantly on the move since last mail. I joined Jim soon after I last wrote, and we dined in Poona. On Saturday morning we passed Ahmednagar, but did not get out till we reached a small station called Lakh, about twenty miles north. There we were met by Canon King. He is the head of the S.P.G. Ahmednagar Mission, which has half a dozen stations in this district.
From Lakh we drove in tongas five miles to the S. P.G. station of Karegao, a village of about fifteen hundred inhabitants. This north Deccan country is pretty thickly populated. Villages are about as frequent as they are at home, but more populous. Karegao is below the average size, and Sonai has five thousand inhabitants ; but of course there are no houses between the villages. Most of the soil is closely cultivated, though there are big bare spaces where the rock has come through, and one large tract of ” forest,” i.e., bush-veldt. The staple crop is a native grain in summer and millet in winter. Both depend on the monsoon, which is never very heavy here (under thirty inches). This year they were threatened with total famine, but a most unusual douse of six inches in November has saved the millet, which has come up, only three feet high instead of six feet, but with quite good heads. They are harvesting it now.
The agriculturists or kumbis form eighty per cent. of the population of the villages, and are Mahrattas. Till we came they were all freebooters, but under the Raj they have settled down to agriculture. They retain, however, the trait of improvidence and are always getting hopelessly into debt to village saukars (moneylenders). They are small-holders. All land belongs nominally to Government, but so long as the tenant pays his assessment he is to all intents and purposes owner of his fields, which pass from father to son. In fact, Government has recently passed an Act for these regions making the land inalienable for debt, to the great discomfiture of the saukars, who now refuse to lend except at exorbitant rates (seventy-five per cent. if there is no other good security), so that the kumbi is left worse off than before.
The remaining twenty per cent. of the villages is composed, first of Brahmans and Marwaris, secondly of the outcaste ” castes.” There are two or three families of Brahmans in each village, and they have (but are losing) the monopoly of learning. They only can marry people, and all law work is taken by them. Thus they have great power, and they use it to extort money from the Mahrattas shamelessly. Consequently they are much disliked (they are of course a different race, for the Mahrattas are Scythians) and their monopolies are being questioned and challenged. They attribute this to the Raj, and are consequently the most seditious class in India. But their caste aloofness, avarice, corruption, and unpopularity make them bad leaders of the masses ; they have only the religious lever to work, and Hinduism is a nebulous lever. The Brahmans have, however, the advantage (uniquely, I think) of being spread over every part of India, and understanding a common language (Sanskrit modernized) ; but their total number is very smallabout three millionsand their caste rules hinder them from increasing.
The Marwaris own all the village shops and stores. They came from Marwar, in Rajputana, but are now the shopkeepers throughout the North Deccan. They are very pale-skinned, and their women wear skirts.
Besides these, there are a few odd caste people about, such as the doctor-caste, the cobbler-caste, and so on most of these castes are racially distinct, but I don’t know anything about them.
Only the caste-people and those who are outside the caste-system, such as the few Mohammedans (relics of the Ahmednagar kingdom of the eighteenth century) and the Christian native clergy, may live in the village itself.
The out-caste tribes live outside the village wall in their respective quarters. There are three of these tribes hereabouts, the Mahars, Mangs, and Bhils. The Mahars and Mangs are both aboriginal tribes conquered by the Mahrattas and made to do their dirty work. The Mahars are the scavengers, and have to provide transport for any travellers who come to the village and escort them to the next. They also have to work in the fields for the kumbis. For their services they get a little pay, and in return they have seventy-two rights, but, of course, they can’t hold land or enter temples, or use caste wells, and so they are not exactly free. It is from these Mahars that the Christians here are almost exclusively drawn, though some Mangs are Christians too.
The Mangs are even lower caste than the Mahars. To the Mahratta all outcastes are equally despicable in theory but in practice out-caste castes have been formed. So the Mahars look down on the Mangs with the concentrated contempt of those who have no one else to despise. The Mangs are a distinct race of aborigines, originating in the Central Provinces. Their functions are to make ropes, hang criminals, act as sweepers (i.e., cleaners out of closets), and form the village band. They are also the only people who will eat pig ; and as the village pig’s staple diet is dung, human and otherwise, this fact shows the standard of Mang ideas of cleanliness. They are also the sole devotees of two indigenous goddesses, of child-killing and of cholera, and this makes them necessary as propitiators.
The third outcaste caste is the Bhils. They are a nomad, thieving gipsy tribe, great shikaris, and rather respected. Their home is in Rajputana, and there are not many here. But being the thief-caste, English people use them for night-watchmen, and we had one on guard at Karegaoa condemned murderer, who had done seven years in the Andamans for killing a moneylender. He was very picturesque, with a bamboo bow and a most formidable arrow, like an assagai.
Jim was received with great ceremony and escorted in procession with cross and acolytes to the mission bungalow. In the afternoon the mission school-children gave an entertainment of songs, and we were all garlanded, after which Jim held a confirmation.
On Sunday at half-past seven I attended a Eucharist in Mahrathi. There are no chairs in the churches, and the people squat, men one side, women the other. Karegao church is shabby and jerry-built, and about the size of a small college chapel but there were 300 people present, a great squash, and 105 communicants. As the total number of Christians in the village is only 150, besides 130 boys and girls in the schools, there must have been a good many come in from other villages. There is no difficulty in making Christians come to church in this country. The hard part is to keep them straight in between. They used the Mass chants for the Creed, etc., and sang a lot of hymns in attractive sing-songy ways.
We started at seven on Monday morning for the next place, called Sonai, fourteen miles off. It is quite cold, about 470 at sunrise, and warms up to about 82 at tiffin-time, but there is always a good breeze and the climate is never troublesome the evenings are much warmer than at Delhi.
At Sonai we only stopped one day, for confirmation and pan-supari, an entertainment which consists of garlanding and giving us betel-nut to chew. Sonai is a large village of 5,000 inhabitants crowded into a remarkably small area, of the usual square mud-houses, looking like ruins, because they have no roof visible, nor ornament, and the mud makes a shaky outline. They have no windows or, chimneys, but some of the doors are Well carved. Just a few have covered balconies.
Sonai is in charge of a native priest. There are, I think, seven native priests on this mission and five English. In the whole diocese there are twenty-five native clergy and forty-five English. Of course they hope ultimately to raise a completely native ministry for India, but at present it is very difficult to get them to work satisfactorily here. The trouble is this. Throughout these, Deccan villages the heads of the Mahar caste became Christians, and in all about half of the total number of Mahars (i.e., about 30,000 out of 60,000). Consequently the Mahars who became Christian never had to break with their caste, and have carried their caste feeling into their life as Christians. I used to think caste had its advantages, but at close quarters one sees it is the invention of the devil himself. It is quite diametrically opposed to the Christian spirit. But the Mahars have retained it, owing to their too quick conversion.
This reflection gives one pause when one chafes at the slowness of Christian progress in India ; I almost believe the danger is it will be too quick. The last census reveals an increase of twenty-five per cent. in the last ten years, three millions growing to four millions, and the forces are all in our favour at this moment.
The consequence of this caste feeling is that most native clergy, being Mahars, are unwilling to evangelize the Mangs, whom they have immemorially hated and despiseddon’t like sharing a church with them, and so on. I gather that the English clergy are slowly killing it, but until it is dead there will be grave defects in the native ministry. Similarly the native clergy, being Mahars, have no chance of a hearing from Mahrattas, even if they wished to convert them, which they don’t always. Hardly any Mahrattas are Christians yet, but they are beginning to stir. At Karegao Jim had three Mahrattas coming to inquire what exactly their adoption of Christianity would involve to thema thing unheard of ten years ago. Since the Mahrattas are eighty per cent. of the population, clearly the Christianity of the Deccan will only really begin when a breach is made in their caste-case.
It is quite natural that they should be slow to come conversion means a real sacrifice for them expulsion from their caste, loss of rights, and organized ostracism. But proportionately, those who face it will be worth their salt, and once the breach is made the Church’s advance will, I think, be speedy. Hinduism is in practice such a de-grading, cruel, and stagnant system, that once the Mahrattas have faced Christianity they can’t (I believe most strongly) reject it. But as presented by a Mahar, they would never look at it ; so the days of a native ministry can’t come till there are Mahrattas to take part in it. Above all things we ought to avoid the creation of a Christian caste, as the Mahars might easily become if they were left to themselves.
From Sonai we trekked next morning in our tongas (which are two-wheeled back-to-back pony carts, with a Cape-cart hood) to Bhanas Hiware (rhyming with ” livery “), another village fourteen miles on. There are Christians in practically every village, and in all big ones a mission ; but in many there is not an S.P.G. mission, because the Romans and American Congregationalists have missions in this district and we avoid competing.
At Bhanas Hiware Jim had the usual functions, and I tried to shoot black-buck, but without success. There is no.. church there, only a school chapel-house, i.e., a mud-house twenty-five feet by twelve, with an altar in it.
The priest here was also a native. He is trying to break them of their caste habits, and has begun by refusing to admit to communion those who eat dead meat. This sounds autocratic and unjustifiable, but Jim does not interfere, because dead-meat-eating is a sign of the Mahar caste and very degrading in itself. It arises from their poverty and their duties. The Mahars as village scavengers have to dispose of all cattle, dogs, etc., that die in the village or near it. They do so generally by eating them, a cheap and easy way ; but those who have seen it say that the sight of the Mahars scrambling with the vultures, kites, crows, dogs, and jackals for the carcass of a bullock that has died of disease is most nauseating, and is the chief excuse for the contempt in which the Mahrattas hold them.
From Bhanas Hiware we started this morning at 7.45 to come here, about sixteen miles. Hill and I tried to shoot black-buck en route, but again unsuccessfully. Incidentally our tonga-driver was so keen to find the black-buck that he failed to look where he was going, and drove our left wheel over a nine-inch stump at the same time as our right wheel was in a more than usually deep rut, with the result that the tonga was clean upset, and sent me somersaulting from the back seat on to the Deccan plateau, which I fortunately struck with my topi, and rolled over unscathed. I got up and found Hill in the seat I had so lately vacated, but the wrong way up. However, he crawled out, also unhurt. The driver, ponies, guns, and other chattels similarly escaped injury, so we just heaved the tong-a on to its wheels again and proceeded on our way.
We are going to stop here six days. After that I start on my southern journey by myself. I enclose one of Jim’s Christmas letters, which is more than averagely entertaining. Here it is “With homage, tribute, and salute, I, like one of the indulgent, venerable and genuine sons of London dedicate.
” That I heartily wish the gracious lady, the venerable children and your noble lordship A merry Christmas and A Happy New Year and fervently pray to God the Almighty to give one and all long life, prosperity, health, wealth, strength, wisdom, eternal bliss and everlasting happiness.
” I hope that your sublime Lordship will with pleasure send in the blessing letter of the season to satisfy the heart of the Royal, legal and rightful heir to the throne of-
” With infinite thanks to all,
Your just Lordship’s loyal child.”
January 20th, MIRI.The whole subject of these missions is full of excitement : all sorts of considerations emerge one never hears of in England : but I haven’t time to write about it now : I must try to next week.
I have not yet shot much, only a partridge and some pigeons. I have missed two black-buck through breathlessness, but hope to get one here. It rained for a few minutes this afternoon, the first I have seen since I landed.
The advantage of trekking is that one sees the villages. One never hears of them in the towns, unless one can get a civil servant to talk : but here we camp by one every night, and one sees the ” real India “; for the villages hold four-fifths of the population.
Each village is surrounded by a mud wall, fortified with prickly pear : under the British Raj the walls are significantly out of repair. There is a gate at either end. Outside the main gate is the village well and the shrine of Hanuman, the monkey-god. Inside, the houses are of mud, cube-shaped and windowless. Sometimes there is a brick temple to Witthoba or some other ” popular ” deity in the main street.
The village is administered by the patil or headman. He is linked on to the Raj in this way. The Presidency is divided into about twenty collectorates. The collector is the staple British administrator. He is responsible for the collection of taxes and the maintenance of order : he receives all petitions and hears all grievances, and with his assistants goes round all the villages every cold weather, checking the registers, auditing the finances, and trying petty cases.
But he clearly can’t be everywhere at once, as a collectorate may be the size of Wales. So it is divided into six or eight talukas or districts, over which the collector appoints a native mamlatdar, responsible to him. The mamlatdar carries on the ordinary administration of his taluka, subject always to the collector’s revision and supervision. Under the mamlatdar are the pails in each village. The mamlatdar is nearly always a Brahman, because he must be educated : but the patil is (here) always a Mahratta, and so there is no love lost between them. The patil’s lieutenant is the village clerk, called kulkurni, who keeps the registers and accounts : he, again, is a Brahman.
It is a sad fact that the Indian officials, mamlatdar, patil, and kulkurni, and police, are almost without exception hopelessly corrupt and oppressively avaricious. (Some civilians say the *mamlatdars are no longer corrupt themselves, but their clerks are.) When the English civil servants can get at facts, they can remedy the particular injustice and punish the official : but this is very rarely possible, as the victims will never give evidence if they can help it. We had a case only two days ago, as follows : It is the duty of the Mahar caste to provide bullock-carts for travellers these are obtained through the patil. So when Jim reached Karegao village, he applied to the patil for the bailgharris to take him on to Sonai, and they were forthcoming. They travelled by night, and it so. happened that one of the drivers was jolted off his seat and, falling, broke his arm. This accident brought him to our notice, and we found that he was no Mahar, but an unoffending Mohammedan who was passing through Karegao on the way to. join his wife and family in another village. The patil had seized him and tried to blackmail him, demanding a bribe under threat of sending him and his cart on Mahar’s work for Jim. The unfortunate man couldn’t or wouldn’t pay, so he was sent, and his journey interrupted for three days quite illegally. But he made no complaint, and never suggested he was badly used : he merely ascribed the whole adventure to his line of fate. This is a typical instance of petty oppression : many are far more serious. Even the missionaries can get no legal business done unless they bribe the mamlatdar’s clerk, and no village conceives of a lawsuit as anything but a bribing-match.
It is gloomy to think that all this goes on under our Raj. Indeed, in one respect the villagers are worse off than before we came. In old days, when an official or moneylender became intolerably oppressive, the villagers would rise and murder him or burn his house : but if they do so now they are punished, and so there is no such limit to official oppression.
But of course they have the remedy in their own hands if only they would use it ; but they can’t imbibe the idea that Government is their friend and will punish its own officers for their benefit.
Looked at from another point of view, the situation suggests speculation as to the future of Christianity. Here are the best and most responsible of the minor administrative posts in the hands of Brahmans who have proved themselves corrupt, oppressive, and moreover disloyal. Now there is arising another educated class, namely, the Christians, taught in mission schools and colleges under English supervisiona more practical kind of education than the Brahmanical. These are the most numerous challengers of the Brahmans’ monopoly. Moreover, their religionalone of all Indian religions strictly inculcates honesty and mercy. One can’t pretend that Indian Christians are yet anything like so honest and merciful as the average Englishman : but their superiority to the Hindu in honesty is already sufficiently marked to be a commercial asset. The railways and big commercial firms often prefer a Christian, and they can always find employment.
Thus you have a rapidly growing class of nearly equal ability and superior honesty to the Brahmans, ready to supplant the disloyal Brahmans in administrative posts. But hitherto the barrier of caste has been upheld by Government. The Christians being outcaste Mahars, the caste-people strongly object to being under their authority, and hitherto Government has refused to appoint them in proportion to their deserts, and has appointed Mahrattas or Mohammedans of inferior abilities. This conflict between caste and efficiency is of momentous importance and very complex. For instance, if Government persists in excluding Christians from their due, they may become disloyal, not unnaturally (there are signs of it already), and there will be a growing seditious force to deal with, with the risk that the two ablest and most educated native communities may unite in disloyalty at some future date. On the other hand, if Government opens the door to Christians (e.g., in many Government schools, I’m told, the Hindus threatened to with-draw in a body if Mahar Christians were admitted but in the few cases where Christians have been admitted, the Hindus have climbed down), the result will be to give a great rise in status to Christianity and a great blow to caste, but very likely a great danger to the purity of Christianity. However, these questions are so large that I mustn’t go on about them, as it is past bedtime and I want to go out early after buck tomorrow.
January 23rd, this trek I have been up against the rather crude form of the caste question presented here, and more and more its great danger is borne in on one. It seems to me that the trouble before the Church is not, in the long run, that the caste-people will reject Christianity, but that they will try to incorporate caste in it.
This I believe. has actually happened in the south with the oldest Indian Christiansthe so-called Church of St. Thomas, which dates traditionally from the Apostle. Here you find Christian communities with regular caste distinctions ; and each caste has a separate Communion service, etc. The result, as you could guess, has been to deaden and de-Christianize the whole religion of the Church.
It is interesting to try and discover exactly where the attraction of caste liesit clearly has enormous attractionsand where its paralysing effects are rooted. Its chief, attraction seems to be that it organizes society independently of Government. Each individual falls into his allotted niche automatically at birth, and the lines of his life are laid down for him. He learns his father’s trade, for which he has a long-inherited aptitude. If he is disabled from any cause, his family, and, failing them, his caste, are bound to support him. Consequently, the social problem is automatically solved without Government intervention.
In fact, it is a kind of unofficial Socialismthe corner-stone of it is the joint family system. Each piece of land belongs to a Hindu householder and his family jointly. They work it in common, and each member has a legal right to an equal share of the produce.
The result of the system is that a man’s individuality is lost in that of the family and the caste. The most obvious defect of the caste system is its hopeless unprogressiveness, since its essence is that every one should die in the niche in which he was born but this loss of individuality seems to me to be morally much worse. A man is taught to consider himself not a unit, but a mere limb or member of his family and caste. The result of this is, first, to narrow the range of all his moral energies. He could never play the good Samaritan to any one outside his caste, because he is no more connected with or responsible for his next-door neighbour of another caste than he is for a foreigner or a vegetable. Similarly, as Jim said in his first letter, I think, there is no Mahrathi word for “friend” which does not also mean kinsman. Caste, in fact, enforces a duty towards your neighbour based, not on the inclusive principle of charity, but on the exclusive principle of a corporation. Again, the individual loses moral responsibility he exchanges for his own conscience the customs of the caste, and this has produced a constant tendency for the standard to lower itself, since a corporate conscience can deceive itself so much more easily than an individual’s. Consequently, Hinduism is saddled with a number of degrading customs which it has no motive-power to throw off.
Finally, it undermines moral stamina, because nobody has the feeling that he stands or falls by his own efforts. There is no penalty for laziness and no stimulus to keep a man up to the mark.
The net result is that Hindu society is not only unprogressive, but thoroughly rotten, both from a Christian and from an ordinarily decent point of view. The lesson to be learnt is that caste, in spite of its plausibility, is the invention of the devil and must be broken up if India is to rise to a tolerable Christian ideal.
But it will die very hard, because its victims are necessarily blinded to its viciousness. It can be done, however, because the Mohammedans have one it.
January 23rd, MIRI.-. . This trek has given me a first glimpse of the villages. They are all laid out on much the same plan. The first thing one comes to is the Mang-wadi, or Mangs’ quarter, well outside the walls. The Mangs are rope-makers, hangmen, and scavengers, but sadly neglect the last office in their own quarters. It is advisable to hurry through this ; and a little farther on one finds the Mahar-wadi, which is a little less trying. Then comes the village wall, about fifteen feet high, of mud, encircling the village proper. No outcastes may live within it. Inside the gate one finds a long main street and many crooked little side-streets. All the houses are cubes of mud with practically no windows, which is perhaps as well, as the family store of manure is heaped up against the wall outside. Some houses have quite fine doors, and the shop-fronts are nicely carved. All the shops are run by Marwaris (who come from Rajputana).
I forgot to mention the well, which is generally close outside the gate. It is the women’s club or pub, and the drink it provides looks far deadlier than any gin-palace’s liquids. The one at Karegao, for instance, was a baolia big well with steps leading down to it. The women stood in the water on the steps and just washed their dusty pitchers and then filled them. What percentage of the village slops drains into it I don’t know, but it must be a sporting chance whether a drink gives one cholera, typhoid, dysentery, or worms. Fortunately, the Christians, being outcastes, are not allowed to use it. I wonder whether the Christians will learn elementary sanitation and so increase faster than the Hindus. Already they are visibly cleaner ; indeed, that is one of the most obvious improvements the change of religion makes. It is also generally allowed that they are more truthful and more able to control their passions, and I think their faces, especially the women’s, are decidedly gentler. But everything goes by comparison.
One of the padre’s boys last Lent resolved to give up lying. He got it down to sixteen lies the first day and twenty-five the second, but then broke down. In fact, the padre said the chief difference in morals generally was that the Hindu sins and isn’t ashamed, whereas the Christian sins and is. Which is a great advance, after allsomewhat in the ratio of mediaeval Christendom to paganism. And the Christians here are the dregs of the ages.
I think the difference is more noticeable in the women than in the men, partly because the missionaries are the only people who make any effort to teach the women even the elements of decency and partly because the Christian women aren’t so prematurely aged by early marriages. The child-marriage system, by the way, has produced rather a crux to the working of the mission among the women. The girls are much keener to come to the mission schools than the boys are and their parents are readier to send them, so the mission has twice as many girls as boys in its schools. Consequently only half the girls can marry Christian boys. One might wish the other half to marry Hindus and convert them, but no Hindu will marry a girl who is older than thirteen, and not often over ten. The Church forbids marriage under fourteen. So there is a deadlock, and many girls remain unmarried, and spinsters are wholly unprovided for in the village social system.
An almost equal difficulty is caused by the widows. No one will marry a widow. Even Christians can’t be induced to. Indian custom leaves only three courses open to a widow : (1) to become sati, now forbidden by law ; (2) to become her mother-in-law’s drudge, and this may mean the worst kind of slavery, since every one regards it as the direct result of sin in a past life that she has become a widow, and so the mother-in-law is entitled to rub it in for all she is worth and make her do the whole dirty work of the house ; (3) she can become a prostitutea cheerful choice, which has to be made by about twenty-two million women, five million of them childrenchild widows. ” By their fruits . . .” And yet there are plenty of theosophists and other good people who gravely explain that Hinduism is as good a fig-tree as Christianity. I can only say that if they can swallow a thistle like the status of widows there is but one conclusion to be drawn!
We went to tea yesterday with the son of the leading landowner here. He croaked over the growth of luxury among the kumbis in quite a homely way. In the good old days they only wore a loin-cloth ; now the extravagant young dogs nearly all wear a shirt. Also wages have risen in the last fifteen years from two or three rupees a month to six or eight.
I hear the same general abuse of the police here as in Gujerat. The most surprising story I have heard comes from Dharwar, south of this. Three policemen were taking a prisoner across country when they stopped at a river to perform their morning ablutions. While they were washing the prisoner ” bunked ” (such an expressive word !). They were much annoyed, as they knew it was their fault. However, they concocted a story of a rescue and a scuffle in which the prisoner escaped. But feeling that their narrative was a little bald and unconvincing, they looked round for some corroborative detail calculated to give it verisimilitude. The most promising detail they could see was a stray villager doing his ablutions on the opposite bank of the river, so they shot him and carried off the corpse to headquarters, where they triumphantly produced it, and their story passed current till one of the three quarrelled with the others and turned informer.
I’ve no reason to believe this story isn’t true ; but I think most of these yarns should be taken cum grano. Even I discovered one of them to be a distortion of the facts only yesterday. I heard the Ahmedabad bomb case quoted against the police. The truth was this, as I heard on the best authority at Ahmedabad. The police were looking for the man who threw a bomb at Lord Minto. A man reported he had discovered a bomb-factory. So the police raided the place indicated, a detached shed, and caught two men actually making bombs. But the trial revealed that the two men had no notion what they were doing, and had only been hired for the day by the informer, who, in order to get the police reward, had filled a shed with the various ingredients of bombs and hired two innocent coolies to start packing them into shells. He got seven years. That is what is so confusing. One never knows whether the police are faking the evidence, or the witnesses blackmailing the police, or some outside party doing both.
The police are by no means the only offenders. The patils are everywhere accused of zulam, i.e., extortion and oppression. This is the sort of thing. One of the S.P.G. padres, on coming to a village, asked the patil to procure him a sheep (travellers always procure supplies through the headman). The patil told him he could not get one for less than five rupees, as they were scarce. The market price is two rupees eight annas : so the padre said he would do without.
After dinner a poor woman appeared and asked to speak to him. In fear and trembling she said she was anxious to sell her sheep to the padre-sahib, since she needed money : but as the sahib would only offer eight annas, she really couldn’t do it. ” Who said I only offered eight annas ? ” asked the padre. ” The patil told me so, sahib, and with many threats he tried to force me to sell.”
This constant stream of evidence that Indians use the authority committed to them to chivy and oppress the weak, and take bribes from the rich, seems to me to show the big fact which the Nationalists must alter before they can justly claim self-government.