« PreviousContinue »
extremity of the vast esplanade that surrounds it on three sides, appears an army of carriages conveying masters, employees, merchants, and purchasers.
“All direct their course to The Fort; the streets fill, and in a few minutes the silence gives place to the noise and tumult of a great busy town.
“At four o'clock a fresh change is seen. lation retire from The Fort with greater haste than they used in entering it; the carriages are filled; horsemen ride away; and files of natives, armed with umbrellas and clad in white, pass along the esplanade.”
Near The Fort stand the mint, the banks, and the town hall.
As we go farther into the city we see, in the English quarter, broad streets; and here, too, are the buildings seen from the deck of our steamer, some of which on closer inspection we find to be noble works of architecture. Among these larger buildings are the post office, the university, and the government buildings. A splendid, white marble statue of the Empress of India, a gift to the city by one of the native princes, stands opposite the post office.
Strange as it may seem, we find in this far-away city of Bombay the largest and costliest railway station in the world. It is the terminus of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, which, with connecting lines, extends to nearly every part of India.
Among other evidences of modern civilization, we discover, to our surprise, that we can ride in the ordinary street cars tram cars they are called here — to alınost any section of the city. We learn later that
the credit for the introduction of the tramway system is due to an American, Mr. George Kittredge, a Boston
Notwithstanding all that has been done here by the English people, Bombay is still a Hindu city. On every hand we see crowds of dark-skinned natives, all wearing immense turbans and dressed in snowy white, but
with legs and feet bare.
The heat is so intense that laboring people go about their work wearing very little clothing. One article of dress, however, is sure to be worn. This is the turban. It often contains as many yards of cloth as would suffice for a whole American costume.
Among the wealthy classes the turban is often made of costly silk.
It is India we have traveled so many hundred miles to see, and so we soon turn aside from our survey of
the great buildings to visit the native quarter, where the many nationalities in this city can be seen to the best advantage. In a short time we find ourselves among the bazaars, as the shops are called. The streets are very narrow and are densely crowded.
The shopkeepers sit crosslegged among their goods, seeming never to be in a hurry about business; but let a customer appear, and they begin with great vigor to recommend their wares. Within these shops we see skilled workmen engaged in manufacturing various useful and ornamental articles. As everything is made by hand, the sight is very novel and interesting. These bazaars are like small rooms in the walls of the houses, and all are open in front. In them we find exposed for sale every sort of article used for food, clothing, household utensils, jewelry, sweetmeats, and a great variety of things new and strange to us.
We cannot go far in Bombay without asking the reason for many strange customs. For instance, we see tattooed upon the forehead of the turbaned Hindu a peculiar mark. This, we learn, is to indicate the particular god he worships, or the caste to which he belongs.
Every Hindu is born into a certain caste, from which he has no power to change. There are four principal castes, the Brahmins, the Warriors, the Merchants, and the Slaves. Below these castes are the Pariahs. These original or principal castes have been subdivided, until there are countless other and minor classes. The poor people do not all belong to the lower castes. The slaves, or Sudras, as they were originally called, often possess great wealth, while many Brahmins are very poor.
No matter how poor the Brahmin or how rich the
Sudra, the caste line is never forgotten. It would be impossible to enumerate the many rules and regulations which separate the different castes. A few of these rules may illustrate the strange caste distinctions of the people of India. It is not allowable for members of a higher caste to touch food cooked by one of an inferior caste. In all places the people of a lower caste must give precedence to those of a higher caste. When a low caste man is walking in the street he must be careful lest even his shadow should fall on a Brahmin, as that would defile the high caste man.
A good story, proving the rigid lines dividing the castes, is told of two men, both belonging to the same caste, but representing different sections of it. Their food was prepared by a Brahmin cook, who, being of a higher caste, could not eat after them ; while they, belonging to different sections of the same caste, could not eat together. The Brahmin cook therefore ate his dinner first, and then served up the remainder separately to the two friends, who sat at the table with a curtain hanging between them.
A woman who had been seriously hurt was left lying by the side of a street, as no one could be found immediately to aid her. Why should we take care of her?” the people said, “she does not belong to our caste. Someone had, it seems, offered her a drink of rice water, but she would not touch it because the person offering it belonged to a lower caste than her own. To have taken the water would have been to lose her caste, and her husband and children would then have deserted her.
A brave soldier of the Punjab, a native officer, had been severely wounded in one of the battles of India. He cried out for water, but there was none to be had on the battlefield. At length a water carrier was seen