Travel: India – Delhi To Bombay

To Delhi the traveler is nine hundred and fifty-four miles from Calcutta and eight hundred and ninety miles from Bombay, the great western metropolis. If he be short of time, he will at this point turn from his northwestern course to the southwestern tack for the latter city. That is, in case he starts at Calcutta and leaves at Bombay. But by far the greater number of people who go the port of over this route go the other way, Bombay being entrance for nine tenths of those who go to India.

Leaving Delhi early in the evening, a comfortable night’s ride brings us to Jeypore, a city of more than average interest. The maharajah of this province is a young, progressive prince of good English education, who has had a taste of Western civilization. This does not prevent his being a devoted Hindu, but it has inspired him to beautify and improve his capital city to such a degree that it is to Europeans and Americans the most congenial city in interior India.

Six miles from the modern capital is the ancient and deserted Palace of Umber. The name of this place is generally spelled ” Amber,” a having two sounds in Indian languages, the broad sound, and the short sound of u. For four miles the journey is by carriage, then, at the foot of the hills, we leave the carriage, and having on the previous day applied through the English resident for permission to visit the place, we find at this point an elephant with servants waiting to take us over the hill to the palace of by-gone days.

This elephant ride was to me an entirely new proceeding. The giant animal is attended by two men. The mahout, or driver, sits astride the neck holding in his hand a sharp iron pin about a foot long, resembling a. marlinespike. His method of infusing enthusiasm or obedience consists in punching the beast in the back of his head with the iron pin. He does it in a way that produces the desired effect after three or four blows, but it would be well to say that the thickness of the elephant’s hide would withstand a much harder punch without being pierced than the mahout gives him, so the operation is not so cruel as it seems.

For a while I stood looking upward, wondering how a man that could not fly could possibly get up there. The driver began pegging away at the giant’s head, there was a backward and forward swaying of the mass of flesh, followed by a dropping upon his knees, next an awkward spreading out of the hind legs, and then the elephant had done a11 that he could do to accommodate us, for he lay on the ground. But still the seat was above my head, therefore an attendant brought a step-ladder which he planted against the broad side of the beast, we climbed up and pulled the ladder after us. Then there was a quaking, for the mahout applied his punch. By clinging to the rude frame that formed our seat we managed to retain our hold. Up came the hind end of our conveyance, next with sundry heavings, up came the other end. The animal being again on his feet, forward we went with a jerking, shaking gait that was perhaps better than not going at all, but was several degrees worse than walking. After having climbed the hill, our course lay along a beautiful artificial lake, shown in the illustration, thence up another steep hillside, to the gorgeous but forsaken palace.

Modern Jeypore has gas and water-works, a fine museum, and botanical and zoological gardens, the latter containing a den of the fiercest man-eating Bengal tigers, who sprung at the bars with a fearful roar as we approached. There is also a large lagoon in which are a great number of voracious alligators which the guide tantalized with pieces of meat tied to a rope. The stables of the king contain over one hundred elephants. These animals are much more rare in India than is generally supposed. They are costly to procure and expensive to keep.

The building which contains the museum cost six lakhs of rupees, and is named Albert Hall in honor of then Prince of Wales, by whom the corner stone was laid in 1876. The frieze of the building is adorned with mottoes taken from the Vedas, or Hindu sacred books. Among them are these : ” High-minded men do good without thought of their own interests.” ” He hath all wealth who hath a mind contented, to him whose feet are covered with shoes, the whole earth is covered with leather.” ” Do naught to others which if done to thee would give thee pain.”

While in this city of sixty thousand people I saw no white man, though I believe that there were three or four in the city. There is no more occasion for fear in thus mingling with these people than there would be in one of our own cities, or among our own kindred. Indeed, when we call the people of India heathen, it would be well to pause a moment to consider upon what ground we do so. I do not say that there are no grounds. But if we travel from one end of the country to the other, we shall see no drunkenness and no saloons for the natives, we shall hear no profanity, we shall hear of no violent robberies and of but very few murders. As we ride on the railway, it is no uncommon sight to see wild deer feeding with cattle in the same field where men are at work and even within a very few rods of the train. They do not run away.

Jackals follow the ditches into the very cities for food. Beautiful storks and cranes gaze at us as we pass their muddy haunts, but they do not appear to be alarmed. As we walk the streets, the birds will scarcely get out of our way, and in the cities where monkeys abound they are sometimes too famil iar to be agreeable. This friendliness between men and animals speaks volumes for the kindliness of the people, and we all know that things are not this way in “Christian” countries.

But while they respect animal life as being but another form of human life, they are not always thoughtful of the comfort of their beasts of burden. And although they throw of their grain to feed the birds, they reject with disdain the plea of the beggar who craves a morsel of food.

In regard to marriages one universal and deep impression prevails,-every girl must be married. Unless she is married and the mother of at least one son, she is regarded as not only a failure, but a curse, and she is made to feel it. A daughter must not be married into a caste lower than that of her father. Upon the unfortunate fathers of the girls rests the duty of providing for their daughters marriage. To secure this, if one be a poor man, he may have to hire a bridegroom, indeed, some men follow the business of marrying poor girls for a few rupees each. Then a feast must be provided, so that the expense and burden of getting a family of girls married off is one that renders domestic life in many cases a grief. It causes female children to be unwelcome.

In order that the task may be done without fail, it is begun very early. Girls are frequently married in infancy, or at least so far as to be formally betrothed, which satisfies custom’s demands. This is the method employed by the men mentioned above, who follow the business, they become only betrothed to the girls, who are henceforth considered married, though they never see their husbands after that time. They can then be saved, and the father has redeemed his character.

Of course, in most cases, the marriage is in good faith, and at ten to twelve years of age the bride is claimed, and becomes the property of the mother-in-law. But should the bridegroom die at any time after the engagement, the child., or woman, is plunged into the dreadful state of widowhood. She may be the petted and loved child of her mother’s house, the joy of the home, as such she is dressed in finery, and receives many privileges, which make life a joy to her mother. But some day word comes that her betrothed is dead. . The finery, jewelry, and all marks of favor are at once stripped off, she is clothed in rags, and becomes a slave, a curse, an object of loathing, even in her own mother’s ayes.

Henceforth her life is brightened by no joy. There is no rift in the cloud of darkness in this world, and beyond only the blackness of despair. Millions of innocent, happy lives have thus been smothered beneath a horrible custom_ Thousands have sought beneath the river’s surface the only possible escape from an unendurable weight of woo. With such a fate the dreadful suttee became not only possible, but desirable, because it provided an escape from the ills of this state, and formed the only avenue to future joy. The horrible sacrifice of the suttee, or sati, has been repressed by law, though we have every reason to believe that it was formerly very common in India. It was a voluntary act on the part of a widow, who allowed the priests to bind and burn her upon the fire that consumed the body of the husband. The sufferings of widowhood were so great, with no possible escape, and the future happiness of the wife who thus suffered was painted in such glowing terms, that many were thus induced to suffer. The many ” suttee posts ” throughout the land bear witness to their frequency. Often women would change their minds and desire to escape at the last moment, but having taken the vow, they were not permitted to change their purpose.

The justification offered for such inhuman conduct toward widows and even helpless and unoffending children, is the superstition that the death of the husband is the result of some dreadful sin committed by the wife in a former existence, and justice has designed for her this fate as a punishment.

But a woman who becomes a mother of sons is honored, especially when they are grown to manhood. A person desiring to wish a girl great happiness says, “May you become the mother of eight sons, and may your husband survive you.” But the cruel goddess of fashion, under whose rule the women of Christendom suffer such mental and physical anxiety and pain, does not thus rule our sisters in India. It is true they are fond of finery. They wear all they can procure of chains, nose-rings, anklets, and toe-bells. But their dresses are made when the cloth is woven and hemmed. The men do the sewing, weaving, embroidery, and the women have but little to worry about, except the principal care of the children, the simple cooking, and for a pastime the unsavory employment of gathering cow dung and making it into cakes for- fuel.

I hesitate to write the last words, because of our disgust for such a practice, but we are speaking now of India, and this species of offal possesses nothing offensive to the Hindu. Indeed, it is used in many sacred rites, and a devout Brahman has his doorway washed with it each morning before he ventures out. Among the poor it forms an almost universal fuel, and to be relieved from its disagreeable fumes is one of the pleasures of getting out of the country. The avidity with which Christians eat the sacred cow is to them far more repugnant than their admiration of the animal is to us.

But after all, we read that God hath made of one blood all nations for to dwell on the face of the whole earth, hence our differences are caused by education and surrounding influ ences. They are not created in us. Human nature is the same all the world over, poor, weak, defective. But all men are made complete in Christ. No doubt Christ will do as much for India as for other countries.

Mt. Aboo, the great headquarters for Jain worship, is on the road from Jeypore to Bombay, and also the city of Ahmedabad, noted for its curious manufactures, but these must be passed by this time.

Bombay is probably at present equal to if not greater than Calcutta in size. At the last census it was but little behind, and is gaining on its eastern and more ancient competitor. It is built upon a narrow neck of land, the extreme point of which was once an island but is now joined to the mainland. This peninsula forms the protection of the harbor, which is safe and capacious. And once out of the harbor, the sailor is directly upon the broad waters of the Arabian Sea instead of having to follow the shifting and uncertain course of a river channel for many miles. Bombay is a modern city. Within the precincts of what is called ” The Fort,” which embraces the extremity of the peninsula, the streets are wide and the buildings are creditable. There are European merchants and offices of various kinds, but the principal portion of the business of the city seems to be in the hands of the Parsees, who constitute a very influential part of the community. As before remarked, a great majority – seventy-five thousand out of a total of eighty-five thousand – of these people live here. They may be known by their peculiar dress and manners. Both men and women are thus distinguished. At and before sunrise they repair in large numbers to the sea-shore to engage in worship which is directed to the rising king of day and to the ocean. Their prayers are long and pharisaical, consisting, to every appearance, of mere form. At least, they are not discommoded if interrupted in the midst of their ceremony by a passing acquaintance speaking to them, especially if it be or matter of business. After this has been attended to, they proceed with their devotions as if nothing had occurred. This class are descendants of the followers of Zoroaster and of the fire-worshipers of Persia. They have their fire temples in Bombay, where the sacred flame is not allowed to go out. They deny that they worship any other deity than God, but claim that they worship him through the elements of nature,fire, water, and earth.

In order to avoid defiling either, they neither bury nor burn their dead, nor cast them into the sea. They expose them upon the top of circular towers, called Towers of Silence, to vultures which live about the towers in flocks. No sooner is the corpse laid down than these voracious creatures pounce upon it, and within a few minutes nothing but the bones remains. As these accumulate, they are thrown into a well in the middle of the tower. These birds being held in high regard by the Parsees, it would go hard with any one who was to harm one of them and be found out.

Among the finest modern buildings of Bombay and India, it may be said, one of the finest of its class in the world, is the station of the G.I.P. railway, an illustration of which is given on page 268. The native quarters of this city are crowded, as is everywhere the case. The botanical and zoological gardens are inferior, but the central market is well worth a visit.

Within the harbor are several islands, one of which contains the celebrated Elephanta Caves. A view of these caves forms the particular attraction of a visit to Bombay. Pleasure boats run at short intervals, and the distance is perhaps three miles from the wharf. Landing, we climb stairs and a comfortable path to the summit of the island where the caves are located. They are not of natural origin but were excavated, it is supposed, thirteen hundred years ago, for Hindu temples. In the process, pillars of rock were left standing, and these were sculptured with images of gods of massive proportions, Various shrines were cut out of solid rock many of which remain intact. When the country fell into the hands of the Portuguese, those over-zealous bigots thought to destroy heathenism by battering down this wonderful monument of skill and labor. They fired cannon balls at the supporting pillars and succeeded in breaking down some of them, but not in demolishing the caves entirely. The main apartment is one hundred and thirty feet square, and is supported by thirty-six pillars. In one place the triad of Hindu gods is together. The figure is eighteen feet in height and of proportionate size.

Seventy-five miles from Bombay is the city of Poonah, celebrated as the home of many learned Brahmans. Here is located the school of Pundita Ramabai, who has espoused the cause of the Hindu widows. A Hindu and a stranger, she left her country for England where she learned the language and found her Saviour. From there she crossed the Atlantic and traversed the United States, lecturing and collecting funds with which to establish a home and a school for these poor outcasts. It was a great privilege to spend a few hours at this home to witness the laudable efforts which this noble woman and her associates are putting forth, and the apparent success which is attending their efforts. No particular constraint in religious matters is brought to bear upon the inmates, but a healthful Christian atmosphere pervades the place, which exercises a silent but powerful influence. It was a joy to see the happiness of these girls who had been rescued from a life worse than death. Poonah is a beautiful city, the most beautiful spot in which is that happy home where life and light beam brightly for those who have been rescued from hopeless despair.