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coming from a distance with a great water skin slung across his back. He was hurried to the side of the wounded soldier, and would gladly have given him the cooling water. The suffering native officer, however, turned his face aside and refused the water because his caste prejudices would not allow him to take food or drink from the hands of a low caste man.
These caste distinctions are gradually disappearing, as the people become more familiar with European customs and civilization.
No city of India has more delightful suburbs than Bombay. One of the most beautiful is a promontory, just outside the city, known as Malabar Hill. The road leading to it winds along the shore of the Arabian Sea, and is very picturesque. It is lined with beautiful trees, through which may be seen the fine villas or bungalows of the governor and other high officials, as well as those of the rich English merchants. The views of the ocean from this point are most attractive, and the cool breezes in the evening, after the sultry heat of the day, are invigorating.
The wealthy native merchants also make their homes among the groves of cocoanut palms on Malabar Hill.
Of all the native peoples in Bombay, the most interesting are the Parsees. There are great numbers of them in and about this city. They are successful business men, and, through their enterprise and intelligence, they have done much to develop the manufacturing and commercial interests of Bombay. The larger part of the cotton trade and the management of the great cotton mills are under their control.
In every particular the Parsees differ from the other peoples of India, most of whom are indolent and careless of the future; and we are, therefore, not surprised to learn that they inherited their enterprise and ability from another nation.
The Parsees are the descendants of the old sun worshipers of Persia, who were driven from their native land by the Mohammedans centuries ago. They settled in western India, and there, unmolested by the Hindus, they continued the strange religious customs which have made them a notable people in their adopted land.
The Parsee temples contain no images, but the “sacred fire” is always kept burning upon the altars. They say their fathers brought this fire with them from Persia and it has never been allowed to die out. The Parsees also revere earth, air, and water as sacred.
One very strange result of their belief is the way in which they dispose of their dead. On the summit of Malabar Hill, in the midst of a beautiful garden, are several low structures called 6. The Towers of Silence." Near by are groves of palm trees in which great flocks of vultures make their nests. When a Parsee dies, the body is borne by their priests into one of these towers and left there exposed upon an iron grating. As soon as the priests retire the vultures swoop down upon the body and in a very short time it is devoured.
However revolting this custom may seem to us, it is to the Parsees the only natural course to pursue. The body cannot be buried, as that would dishonor the
earth; it cannot be burned, because fire is too sacred to be employed for such a purpose; and it cannot be consigned to the ocean, since water, the emblem of purity, cannot be so defiled.
Many of the Parsees are very wealthy, and their homes are beautiful villas surrounded by large gar
dens. They are a generous people, and have given large sums of money to build universities, schools, and hospitals.
One of the most curious places in Bombay is the Jain Hospital. The Jains are a sect of the Hindus who hold all animal life sacred, and for this reason they have built this hospital for aged and infirm animals.
Here are to be seen diseased cattle, blind cats, lame monkeys, — in fact, all manner of helpless beasts and birds.
There are but three of these hospitals in the whole country, and of these we read, “ They are not hospitals in the true sense, but simply refuges for halt, maimed, diseased, and blind creatures for whom nobody cares. Reverence for life, among the Hindus, does not include the performance of acts of mercy, It is enough to save the animal from immediate death, and to place food within its reach."
A good Jain never sits down till he has swept the place, lest he crush some tiny animal. He strains all the water he drinks, and wears a cloth over his mouth to prevent the destruction of any animal life.
The story is told of a Jain priest who looked through a microscope and offered his whole fortune for it. The owner made him a present of it, whereupon the priest immediately crushed it to atoms to prevent any of his friends being made as wretched as he had been by seeing the minute forms of animal life that must be destroyed in water and food. These are but a few of the strange religious customs to be found in India.
It is a land of idols. The more ignorant people still bow with reverence before these hideous idols, and offer many sacrifices to gain the favor of their gods.
The influence of Christianity and the spread of education among these peoples are gradually breaking down their trust in idols, and building up their faith in God.
As the Hindu temples and the Mohammedan mosques are more interesting in other cities we shall visit, we will not delay to view those in Bombay.
Across the harbor are the famous rock caves of Elephanta, which every visitor to Bombay will wish to explore. Elephanta is a small island, only six miles distant from Bombay, and was so named from the huge stone figure of an elephant which once stood on its shore. Not far from the boat landing we come to the
caves which were cut into the face of the solid rock centuries ago. We are surprised at the greatness of the works undertaken and completed by those early peoples. These caves were hollowed out for temples, and they yet contain many huge rock sculptures of the Hindu gods. The largest one of these caves is nearly one hundred and fifty feet square; and the