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persons that do not heartily engage in it are converts to Christianity, to whom we may add many of the young men educated at the public colleges and schools, who either abandon it, or, while mechanically performing, out of deference to their parents and friends, the prescribed religious duties, have already perceived the hollowness and absurdity of Hinduism, and do not scruple occasionally to betray their sentiments, and even to scoff at their own religion. To this class, which is constantly increasing, should be added those persons,the number of whom may be large, but which it is impossible to calculate, who have paid serious attention to the exposition of Christian truth by missionaries, and who, although not outwardly accepting Christianity, are yet to some extent convinced of the falsity of Hinduism.
Since the country has come into our hands, a great impetus has been given to the erection of temples, and to the manufacture of idols, in Northern India. In Benares, temples have multiplied at a prodigious rate; and this rate, at the present moment, is, I believe, rather increasing than diminishing. Judged merely by its exlernal appearances, Hinduism was never so flourishing as it is now. With general prosperity and universal peace, and with a Government based on neutral principles, and largely tolerant of the national religious systems, Hinduism, under the leadership of men of the old school, -princes, pandits, banyas (tradespeople), and priests,— is making extraordinary efforts to maintain its position against the new doctrines of European civilization and religion, which they now begin to recognize as formidablo opponents. The remarks of the Rev. Dr. Mullens, on the extension of Hinduism, materially and outwardly, in “Christian Work” for July, 1864, strongly bear out the preceding observations :
“There can be little doubt,” he says, “that a hundred years ago, the temples, mosques, and shrines of India, belonging to all the native religions, were by no means in a flourishing condition. Large numbers, indeed, must have been in a state of decay. The anarchy that prevailed throughout the Mogul empire after the death of Aurungzeb, the constant wars, the terrible visits of foreign armies, the civil contests, the struggles of petty landholders, all tended to produce a state of insecurity which paralysed trade, which even hindered agriculture, and involved all classes in a poverty which the empire had not suffered for many years. Never were invasions more fierce; never were famines more cruel. Though freed from the persecutions of the bigoted emperor, the temples suffered grievously from the general want; and it was, probably, only in the Mahratta provinces that Hinduism flourished ; in them realizing its prosperity from the plunder of successful Mahratta armies, whose piety rewarded the shrines of their protecting divinities with a shower of endowments and offerings which remain in measure to the present day. Hinduism now is, externally, in a much more flourishing condition than it was then. All over North India especially, the native merchants and bankers who have prospered by English protection, by contracts with English armies, by the security given by English law to their extensive trade, have filled Benares and other cities with new and costly shrines; and many a Raja, and many a banker, when visiting in state the holy city, has poured into the lap of the attendant priests unheard-of sums, which must have satisfied even their covetous and grasping souls. Thus strangely has the revival of prosperity under English rule added something of external strength to the ancient idolatry, the resources of which had, in so many places, begun to fail. The new school, enlightened and doubting, ceases to build new temples, or endow the old ones. The old schcol, prospering in trade, growing in wealth, still trusting to the ancient superstitions, and anxious to earn merit for themselves, build new temples and present new gifts; though feeling that the days of their faith are numbered, and that other views are gradually pressing their own into oblivion."
This temple-building movement, singular as it is, is really no ground for discouragement whatever, and must not be permitted to blind our eyes to the great transforming work which is being accomplished in Benares and in Northern India generally. I regard it as a movement, to a large extent spasmodic, intended to counteract the Christian influences which, in so many ways and in so many places, are operating upon the community. Undoubtedly, it is quite true that the religious sentiments of a Hindu would prompt him to devote a considerable portion of his wealth, acquired in times of tranquillity and national prosperity, to sacred purposes. At the same time, he is quickened and stimulated in this desire, at the present day, by a strong and painful conviction that his religion is in danger, that his children are growing up unsound in the Ilindu faith, and that a new creed, to which the foreign rulers and governors of his country are attached, is moving the hearts of multitudes of his own race and tongue, which he must resist with all his might, and must do so now or never. Notwithstanding, therefore, all that is being done by Brahmans, Hindu priests, and other determined idolaters, to sustain Hinduism, and to thwart Christianity, it is a fact, admitting of distinct proof, that the one is on the decline and the other is in the ascendant, the one is decaying and crumbling to pieces, while the other is daily becoming stronger and more influential.
It remains to be seen whether the now religion or tho
old-Christianity or Hinduism—is the more powerful. The contest between them has already commenced. It is felt throughout all the divisions of native society. It is filling with anxiety the higher castes, and is calling forth all the subtlety of the Brahmans, all their intellect, and all their mysterious authority. We must expect the opposition to Christianity to be, in many places, organized and systematic, determined and dogged. But, if Christians in India be faithful to themselves and to their Divir Master, the triumph of their cause is certain.
Upwards of thirty years ago, Mr. James Prinsep, then stationed at Benares, took a census of the city, and also made a computation of the number of temples and mosques existing in it. From his calculation, which was made with considerable care, there were, at that time, in the city proper, exclusive of the suburbs, 1,000 Hindu temples and 333 Mohammedan mosques.
But this number of temples, which has since been much increased, did not include, I imagine, the small shrines, the niches in the walls, the cavities inside and outside many of the houses, and the spaces on the gháts, in which images in immense multitudes were and are still deposited. These secondary shrines, if they be worthy of this designation, each occupied by one or more idols, are, in some parts of the city, exceedingly numerous. Figures of all forms, from a plain stone to the most fantastic shape, whole and mutilated, painted and unpainted, some without adornment, others decorated with garlands, or wet with sacred water, meet the eye in every direction. These remarks especially refer to the neighbourhood of the bathing gháts and of the principal temples. But the abundance of idols and fanes all over the city gives it a strange and repellent appearance.
By a more recent estimate than that made by Mr. Prinsep, the following results have been arrived at, the accuracy of which, however, I am unable to vouch for, though I dare say they may be taken as approximately correct: Distrets of the city.
... 19 Kál Bhairo
54 Jaitpura ...... 30
... 97 Chetganj
... 32 Bhelápura
272 The Hindus have a strange fancy for accumulating idols in certain spots. Not content with depositing an image in a temple, they ornament its portico and walls with deities, or arrange them in rows in the temple enclosure. You may sometimes seo twenty, fifty, and even a hundred of these idols in one place, many of which will perhaps receive as much homage as the god who is exalted to the chief scat within the temple itsell. If it would be difficult to count the small shrines and sacred niches abounding in the city, it would be incomparably more so to enumerate the idols actually worshipped by the people. These inferior shrines were, on one occasion, by a curious contrivance, immensely increased; and yet the increase could hardly have been generally perceived. Raja Mán Sinh, of Jeypore, wishing to present one