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Source of the great wealth of Benares—Its chief articles of Commerce
Its native Bankers-Its Poor.—Increased desire for Education. The
– The Normal School. - The Church of England Mission.—The
BENARES is a city of great wealth, yet not of great trade. Just as there are fashionable places of resort in more civilized countries, to which multitudes of persons are drawn at certain seasons of the year, so, in India, there are places that are annually visited by crowds of people, but with this difference, that they are of nearly all ranks and conditions, and their object is, mainly, of a religious character. Of this type is Benares. Myriads of Hindus come on pilgrimage, every year, to the sacred city, not a few of whom are merchants, landed proprietors, and princes. Some of these latter classes are casual visitors; others, however, possess residences of their own in the city, where trusty servants, and, perhaps, one or two members of their families, habitually dwell. Rajas and men of high social position, in all parts of India, pride themselves on having a house in Holy Káśí.
For these reasons,
lessly into debt, are lamentably prevalent in India. As multitudes are ready to borrow, it is a natural consequence that there should be many ready to lend, especially as the rate of interest is enormously high. This pernicious custom of society enriches a few, but impoverishes many, and greatly interferes with the comfort and happiness of the Hindu community generally.
While the number of persons with very small incomes in Benares is, undoubtedly, extremely large, yet, for a city of its size, I believe the number of abject poor is remarkably small. The sum needed for the support of a family there, would, in England, be regarded almost with incredulity. As labour, for the most part, is sufficiently abundant, there is no reason, therefore, why any family, the leading member of which is in health, should be in distress; yet, should he fall ill, unless other members of the family are able to work, it will, probably, be brought into difficulties, though not, at first, into misery. The friendly banker is then applied to, who, for a time at least, is usually willing to lend the family money, at high interest, expecting to be repaid when the sick person is restored to health ; but, at the same time, an incubus of debt will rest upon the household for many long months, and, it may be, for years.
The desire for education, above all in the English language, is rapidly increasing, from year to year, amongst nearly all classes of natives in Benares. At one time it was a hard matter to induce parents to send their sons to the Government and Mission schools, to receive a gratuitous education; now they are eager to send them, and are also willing to pay the fees imposed in every such school. Indeed, so keenly are the natives beginning to appreciate the advantages of European knowledge, that it is found not only practicable, but even desirable, occasionally to increase the scale of fees.
The Government College in Benares, or, as it is now termed, the Queen's College, is a noble Gothic structure, of the perpendicular style, faced with Chunar free-stone. It was completed in the year 1853, at a cost of £12,690. Some have regarded it as the most imposing building yet erected by the British in India. Its architect was the late Major Kittoe, R.E., the Government Archæologist. The centre tower is seventy-five feet high; the nave, sixty feet long, thirty feet wide, and thirty-two feet high; and the transept, forty feet long, twenty feet wide, and thirty-two feet high. At each corner are smaller towers, connected by open arcades. The names of those persons who subscribed to defray the expense of certain portions of this edifice have been recorded, by the architect, on such portions, which are designated as their special gifts.
The College has had the advantage of distinguished scholars as Principals and Professors. Its late principal was Dr. Ballantyne, a gentleman of wide reputation for his acquaintance with Sanskrit literature and philosophy; and its present is R. T. H. Griffith, Esq., M.A., Boden Sanskrit Scholar, Oxford, well known for his exquisite poetical translations of Sanskrit legendary verse. Dr. Fitzedward Hall, Librarian of the India Office, and, formerly, Inspector of Schools in the Central Provinces of India, whose erudition and researches have placed him in the front rank of living Sanskrit scholars; and, also, Dr. Kern, Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Leyden, once shed a lustre on the College, as Anglo-Sanskrit Professors. Seven hundred youths receive instruction, the number having considerably increased under the able management of its present Principal. There are two distinct and separate departments in the College, namely, Sanskrit and English. The Sanskrit College was founded by the Government of India, in the year 1791, and is regarded as the Oxford of India, in respect of the cultivation of Hindu learning. The number of students in the English department has more than doubled of late years.
Within the surrounding grounds, and lying to the north of the College, is a monolith, thirty-one and a half feet high, which was discovered near Ghazeepore, and was placed there by order, and at the expense, of Mr. Thomason, late Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces. It bears an inscription, somewhat defaced, in the Gupta character.
A short distance from Queen's College is the Normal School, established, by the Government, for the training of village schoolmasters. It is under the superintendence of D. Tresham, Esq., a gentleman of great ability and perseverance as a teacher, who has been, for many years, a faithful and very efficient servant of the Government. Every year about one hundred and twenty young men become qualified for appointments as teachers.
In Benares there are three Missions,—belonging to