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with mud walls, and the roofs are made of a few bamboo poles covered with thatch. In these mud houses, in which millions of the natives live, there is little that can be called furniture. There are no chairs, for the Hindu sits on the floor; no table, for he eats his simple food from plantain leaves laid on the floor; no bed, but in its place a mat woven of palm leaves, which is spread on the floor at night and rolled in a corner during the day.
Each village resembles a large family. There is a headman, or chief, to whom all matters of importance are referred. He settles all disputes. In every village is to be found a Brahmin astrologer, a schoolmaster, a physician, a carpenter, a blacksmith, a washerman, and a potter, each of whom is employed at his trade by the whole village. The Brahmin is held in great respect, and no villager thinks of sowing or reaping, buying a bullock, building a house, or undertaking any other important work, without first consulting him.
Vast numbers of the lowest caste in India, so great is their faith in the Brahmins, believe every word of their Hindu scriptures, which say, —
Before the Brahmins bow with awe,
“Yea, though they servile tasks
pursue, To Brahmins high esteem is due. For be he stolid as a clod A Brahmin is a mighty god.”
The schoolmaster is also highly esteemed. Only boys attend the native schools.
A Hindu boy goes to school before six o'clock, returns to his home at nine for breakfast, goes to school again at ten, and remains until two; at three he must be in school again, and remain until dark. If you were to visit one of these schools, you would find the boys sitting on the floor, not in classes, but each one by himself, either studying aloud or reciting. The teacher's care of the boys does not end when school is over, but extends even into his home. For instance, if a boy is ill and refuses to take bitter medicine, the schoolmaster is sent for to give it to him.
There are thousands of villages all over southern India. They never change in size, for, like bees in a hive, as soon as the village increases beyond the customary number, the people separate and start a new village.
Southern India is the place to see real Hindu life. The people live as their ancestors have lived for centuries. Their ancient temples and religious customs remain the same from
age. If you ask a Hindu boy why he does a certain thing, he will be quite sure to answer that his father did the same, and it is the custom among his people.
A tour through this country, at some distance from the railroads, makes us familiar with customs so different from any we have seen in other lands that it is easy to imagine ourselves to be living in the far-distant past.
Northern India has been much changed by Mohammedan influences. The ancient temples have been
destroyed, and mosques have been built in their place. The people who live in sight of the great mountains on the north are more hardy than the natives of the hotter regions of the south. The Punjab was the last great Indian province to come under British control.
If England was to maintain her power in India, the conquest of the Punjab was of the first importance, for here is the western gate to be guarded against invasion. There were many hard-fought battles before these fierce fighters of the north were conquered.
It was through this part of India that the conquerors of earlier days had come on their way to the rich plains of the south. It has been a battle ground since the days of the Aryans. Here Alexander the Great came with his Grecian forces; and here, too, centuries later, the conquerors of India came and established their splendid empire.
Among these hardy tribes of northern Hindustan are the famed Sikhs of the Punjab, who make the best soldiers of the native army in India. The military spirit of these men has been described by the poet, who represents one of these Sikhs saying,
“My father was an Afghan, he came from Kandahar,
The northwest portion of the Punjab is crossed by high mountain spurs from the Himalayas. Between the mountain ranges are deep valleys.
To the south, the country is quite level.
The five great rivers which give to the province its name furnish an abundant supply for the irrigation of the sandy plains, so that large crops of wheat, sugar. indigo, and cotton, together with fruits and vegetables of many kinds, are raised.
Lahore is the capital of this province. It is a very old city, and was at one time a much larger city than it is to-day. There have been many cities on the site of the present one, and the ruins to be seen in some places show a little of the former magnificence of its buildings.
Not far to the south of Lahore is Amritsar, one of the richest cities of northern India.
It is the great religious center of the Sikhs, and is especially noted for its beautiful temple. In the middle of a small, artificial lake stands the Temple of Gold. It is built of marble, and is richly carved. The central roof is covered with purest gold, which reflects the sunlight, making the scene one of dazzling brightness. All around the lake runs a marble walk, and facing it are the homes of many faithful Sikhs who deem it a rare blessing to live in sight of their sacred temple. (See page 95.)
Among the notable cities to be seen in this part of India is Jeypore. We are surprised at the magnificence of the city, and interested in the people who crowd the streets. In the great squares, formed where the main avenues cross each other at right angles, are beautiful fountains and tanks. Temples and palaces are built in an imposing array around these squares. Just before sunset, these avenues are crowded with all classes of people, — merchants, nobles, and idlers; and patient
camels laden with goods, and great elephants bearing richly decorated howdahs, pass slowly through the crowded streets.
Vast numbers of pigeons are here maintained at the public expense, and are fed daily by the fakirs in the
squares. It is a sight worth going a long distance to see.
The streets of Jeypore afford us a picture of life such as we have seen in no other country, and it prepares us for the many strange scenes we are to witness in th land that lies before us.