Western India

There is so much of interest in India that I find it difficult to con-dense all that I desire to say into the space which it seems proper to devote to this country. In speaking of the various cities, I have been compelled to omit reference to the numerous industries for which India is famed. Long before the European set foot upon the soil the artisans had won renown in weaving, in carving and in brass. It was, in fact, the very wealth of Indus that attracted the attention of the western world’ and turned the prows of merchant vessels toward the Orient. While India can complain that some of her arts have been lost since she has been under the tutelage of foreigners, enough re-mains to make every tourist a collector, to a greater or less extent, of attractive souvenirs.

Benares is the center of the plain brass manufacture, and her bazaars are full of vases, trays, candlesticks, bowls, etc. Lucknow is noted for her silversmiths,, but her products do not command so high a price as those of southern India. Delhi leads in ivory and wood carving, and one can find here the best specimens of this kind of work. Several of the addresses presented to the Prince of Wales upon his recent visit were encased in ivory caskets richly carved and studded with gems. Painting on ivory is also carried to a high state of perfection here, and sandalwood boxes can be found in all the stores.

At Agra one finds rugs woven in Turkish and Persian, as well as in original, designs. Agra is also renowned for its inlaid work, many of the designs of the Taj being copied. The Taj itself is reproduced in miniatures at prices ranging from one dollar up into the hundreds.

In all the cities of upper India., Kashmir shawls may be secured, Kashmir itself being far north of the line of travel. These shawls are of goat’s hair, and some of them are so delicate that though two yards square, they can be drawn through a finger ring.

At Jaipore the chief industries which attract the attention of foreigners are enameling on gold and brass, the latter being the best known.

Few who visit the bazaars can resist the temptation to carry away some samples of this ware, so graceful are the vessels and so skillful is the workmanship.

Jaipore, the first of the western cities, and the only one of the native states that we visited, is deserving of some notice, partly because it gives evidence of considerable advancement and partly because the govern-ment is administered entirely by native officials. The Maharaja is one of the most distinguished of native princes and a descendant of the famous Rajput line of kings. He lives in oriental style, has a number of wives, and elephants, camels and horses galore. He is an orthodox Hindu of the strictest type and drinks no water but the water of the Ganges. When he went to England to attend the coronation, he chartered a ship, took his retinue with him and carried Ganges water enough to last until his return. He is very loyal to the British government and in return he is permitted to exercise over his subjects a power as absolute as the czar ever claimed. There is an English resident at his capital, but his council is composed of Indians, his judges are Indians, his collectors are Indians, his school teachers are Indians, and he has an Indian army. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the council and the head of the school system of the state, and found them men of fine appearance and high culture. The illiteracy in his state compares favorably with that in the states under British administration, and the graduates from the Maharaja’s college compete successfully in the examinations with the graduates from other colleges. They have at Jaipore an art school in which all kinds of manual training are taught, and the sale-room of this school gives accurate information as to the capacity of the natives for industrial development. We found here the only native pottery of merit that we noticed in the country.

The city of Jaipore was laid out in 1728 and is one of the most attractive cities in India. The main streets are a hundred and ten feet wide, the buildings are Oriental in style, most of them two stories in height—some three—and all are painted the same shade of pink, with white trimmings and green shutters. The entire city is supplied with water and the streets are lighted by gas. All in all, Jaipore makes a favorable impression upon the visitor.

Some six miles away is the ancient city of Amber, the capital of the state until Jaipore was established. It is reached by a ride on elephant back, the only ride of this kind that we have yet had. There is a beautiful palace at Amber which gives some idea of the luxury in which the Indian rulers lived. We returned from this trip late in the evening when the peacocks were going to roost, and nearly every tree contained one or more of these gaudy-plumaged fowls. These were apparently wild, and their numbers and beauty recalled the fact that the peacock is India’s royal bird; and it is not an inappropriate symbol of the pomp and magnificence of the Oriental kings. I might digress here to say that the respect for life taught in the Hindu scriptures has filled India to excess with useless birds and ‘animals. The crows and kites are a nuisance. It is rib uncommon thing to see a vendor of cakes and sweet-meats bearing his basket on his head and waving a stick above it to scare off the birds. Sometimes an attendant follows the vendor and protects him. from the birds, but in spite of all precautions they get their toll. The crows often come to the doors and windows of the hotels and inquire whether you have any food to spare, and sparrows and other small birds occasionally glean crumbs from the table. At Jaipore we saw myriads of pigeons being fed in the streets, and monkeys—they are everywhere. The jungles of the tropical countries are not more thronged with them than the road sides of some parts of India. About half way between Jaipore and Bombay they were especially numerous, and as we rode along on the train we saw them singly, in groups and in mass meetings. Here, too, we saw herds of antelope, scarcely frightened by the train. Attention has frequently been called to the fact that the Hindu’s aversion to meat has a bearing upon the famine question, mil-lions of cattle dying of starvation which, if killed earlier, might have saved thousands of human beings from starving.

A night’s ride from Jaipore brought us to Abu Road, from which by pony carts, called tongas, we ascended to Mt. Abu, sixteen miles away. The journey is made over a well kept mountain road which climbs to a height of about five thousand feet. While this mountain resort draws many Europeans because of its altitude, two famous Jain temples are the lodestone that attracts tourists. These temples were built by merchant princes in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the fact that one of them cost more than five millions of dollars, shows that trade had reached a commanding position in those days. One of the temples was built by two brothers and the guide tells of a tradition that these brothers, tiring of their money, decided to bury it, but on digging in the earth they found more, and considering it a gift from the gods, built this temple. The buildings are not large, and seen from the outside are disappointing, but once within one marvels at the richness of the carving. The pillars and vaulted ceilings are of the purest white marble, brought from no one knows where, and every inch of the surface is covered with figures of gods, human beings, animals, fowls and flowers.

The artists utilized the things with which the people were most familiar. Here a frieze of elephant heads, the trunks joined, there a frieze of geese, another of tigers or monkeys. In one dome maidens danced; in another warriors fought; in a third flowers bloomed. The variety is endless and the workmanship perfect. While the panels and friezes and ceilings differ so much from each other, the arrangement is such that they do not seem incongruous, but form a harmonious whole. The Mohammedan conquerors mutilated some of the figures because ,of their hatred of idolatry, and when, under Lord Curzon’s administration, the work of restoration was begun, it was impossible to find marble like the original.

Around these temples are numerous shrines, each containing a seated figure very much resembling Buddha. The Jains are a sect of the Hindus, and their temples are renowned for their beauty. This temple is visited by a large number of pilgrims every year, some of whom were chanting their prayers while we were there.

Another night’s ride and we were in Bombay, and what a luxury to find a hotel constructed upon the American plan. The Taj Mahal is the finest hotel in the Orient and would be a credit to any city in our country. It was built by Mr. Tata, a rich Parsee, who planned it more from public than from private considerations.

We found the plague increasing in virulence, three hundred having died in the city the day before we arrived. Bombay has suffered terribly from this scourge, twenty-four per cent having perished from it in the last few days. Two years ago the American consul, Hon. William T. Fee, lost his daughter and came near losing his wife by this dread disease, and two of the European consuls have recently had to leave their homes because of deaths among their native servants. With so many dying in a single city (and ten thousand a week in the entire country), India would seem an unsafe place to visit, and yet one would not know except for the newspapers that an epidemic was raging, so little does it affect business or social life. There is now in use a system of inoculation which promises to materially lessen the mortality from this disease. A serum is prepared in which the venom of serpents is the chief ingredient, and this hypodermically administered has been found almost a sure preventive. While the physicians are employing this remedy, the rat-catchers are also busy, and about a thousand rodents are captured per day, it having been demonstrated that the rat not only spreads the disease, but carries a flea that imparts it by its bite.

Bombay is the Manchester of India, and the smokestacks of its many cotton factories give to the city a very business like appearance. These mills are largely owned by Indians and operated by Indian capital.

On an island near Bombay is one of the most frequented of the rock-hewn temples, called the Elephanta Caves. This temple is chiseled out of the solid rock, great pillars being left to support the roof. It is about one hundred and thirty feet square by seven-teen in height and contains a number of figures of heroic size. These figures are carved from the walls and represent various gods and demons. The Portuguese Christians, several centuries ago, showed their contempt for these gods of stone by firing their can-non into the temple. While some of the pillars were battered down and some of the carvings mutilated, enough now remains to show the impressiveness of this ancient place of worship.

No one can visit Bombay without becoming interested in a religious sect, the members of which are known as Parsees. They are few in number, probably not exceeding a hundred thousand in the world, more than half of whom live in or near Bombay. Theirs is the religion of Zoroaster, and they contest with the Hebrews the honor of being the first believers in one God. Their sacred books, the Zend-Avesta, are very ancient, and the origin of their religion is placed anywhere from seven hundred B. C. to three thousand B. C. They not only believe in one God, but they believe in immortality and claim to have impressed their ideas upon the Israelites when the latter were in bondage in Babylon. The Parsees see in the world, as well as in the human being, a continuing conflict between right and wrong, and they regulate their conduct by a high ethical system. When the Moslems swept over Persia and made it one of the stars in Islam’s crown, a band of Parsees preferred migration to conversion, ‘and, like our pilgrim fathers, sought a home in a new country. In Bombay they have preserved their identity for some nine centuries and have made themselves a potent influence in every department of the city’s activity. They have their marriage ceremony, their fire temples and their funeral rites. They have sometimes been called fire worshipers and sun worshipers, but they simply regard fire as the purest thing known and therefore accept it as a symbol of the in-visible god. Fire is kept burning in their temples, and when a new temple is to be dedicated, fire is collected from the homes of persons engaged in the principal industries and occupations, and this mingled fire is used to kindle another fire and this new fire another until the ninth fire is lighted, and this becomes the altar fire. Each fire is kindled without coming in contact with the former one.

The Parsees have a peculiar form of burial, which has come down from pre-historic times. On Malabar Hill in the suburbs of Bombay, overlooking the sea, in the midst of a beautiful garden, are their Towers of Silence. These’ are large circular buildings twenty-five or thirty feet high and without a roof. Within the wall is a circular platform sloping downward to a well in the center. `When a Parsee dies he is prepared for burial and borne to this garden. After the last rites have been performed and the relatives and friends have taken their farewell, the body is carried within the tower by men appointed for the. purpose and placed naked upon this platform. As soon as the corpse bearers depart, the waiting vultures (of which several hundred make their home in the garden) swoop down upon it and do not rise until the bones are bare. The skeletons, sun-bleached, are washed by the rains into the pit in the center, where rich and poor, conspicuous and obscure, mingle their dust together. Every sanitary precaution is taken and a fixed rate of five rupees is charged to all alike, the money being advanced from a burial fund where the family can not afford to bear the expense.

The Parsees of Bombay, ‘though they wear a dress peculiar to them-selves, are of all the Indians most like the Europeans and Americans. We were in one Parsee home, and the furniture, the pictures and the library were such as would be found in the average home in our country. Statistics show that the percentage of education among the Par-sees is very much higher than among any other class of inhabitants, and the women share the educational advantages with the men.

The well-to-do Parsees have been conspicuous in philanthropy, endowing colleges, hospitals and other charities. While they are counted among the staunchest friends of British rule, they are also among the most intelligent critics of the government’s faults. Sir Pherosha M. Mehta, the leading Parsee orator, is prominent in the national congress movement. At a reception given at the hotel, and on other occasions, we had an opportunity to meet a number of the Parsees, men and women, priests and laymen, and found them abreast with the times and alive to the problems with which the world is wrestling to-day.

I cannot close this article without mentioning the increasing presence of American influence in Bombay. An American minister, Dr. Mell, is pastor of the principal Methodist church, and the American Congregationalists have a largely attended school for boys and girls in the city. Many of the students were taken from famine-stricken homes and are being educated with American money. There is also here a school for the blind under American management, where the students are not only taught to read and write, but trained in the industries for which they are fitted.

I do not apologize for mentioning from time to time the institutions which altruistic Americans have scattered over the Orient. If we can not boast that the sun never sets on American territory, we can find satisfaction in the fact that the sun never sets on American philanthropy; if the boom of our cannon does not follow the Orb of Day in his daily round, the grateful thanks of those who have been the beneficiaries of American generosity form a chorus that encircles the globe.