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Following the Equator, Complete by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Part 7 out of 10

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progress: we no longer take pleasure in slaughtering or burning helpless
men. We have reached a little altitude where we may look down upon the
Indian Thugs with a complacent shudder; and we may even hope for a day,
many centuries hence, when our posterity will look down upon us in the
same way.

There are many indications that the Thug often hunted men for the mere
sport of it; that the fright and pain of the quarry were no more to him
than are the fright and pain of the rabbit or the stag to us; and that he
was no more ashamed of beguiling his game with deceits and abusing its
trust than are we when we have imitated a wild animal's call and shot it
when it honored us with its confidence and came to see what we wanted:

"Madara, son of Nihal, and I, Ramzam, set out from Kotdee in the
cold weather and followed the high road for about twenty days in
search of travelers, until we came to Selempore, where we met a very
old man going to the east. We won his confidence in this manner: he
carried a load which was too heavy for his old age; I said to him,
'You are an old man, I will aid you in carrying your load, as you
are from my part of the country.' He said, 'Very well, take me with
you.' So we took him with us to Selempore, where we slept that
night. We woke him next morning before dawn and set out, and at the
distance of three miles we seated him to rest while it was still
very dark. Madara was ready behind him, and strangled him. He
never spoke a word. He was about 60 or 70 years of age."

Another gang fell in with a couple of barbers and persuaded them to come
along in their company by promising them the job of shaving the whole
crew--30 Thugs. At the place appointed for the murder 15 got shaved, and
actually paid the barbers for their work. Then killed them and took back
the money.

A gang of forty-two Thugs came across two Brahmins and a shopkeeper on
the road, beguiled them into a grove and got up a concert for their
entertainment. While these poor fellows were listening to the music the
stranglers were standing behind them; and at the proper moment for
dramatic effect they applied the noose.

The most devoted fisherman must have a bite at least as often as once
a week or his passion will cool and he will put up his tackle. The
tiger-sportsman must find a tiger at least once a fortnight or he will get
tired and quit. The elephant-hunter's enthusiasm will waste away little
by little, and his zeal will perish at last if he plod around a month
without finding a member of that noble family to assassinate.

But when the lust in the hunter's heart is for the noblest of all
quarries, man, how different is the case! and how watery and poor is the
zeal and how childish the endurance of those other hunters by comparison.
Then, neither hunger, nor thirst, nor fatigue, nor deferred hope, nor
monotonous disappointment, nor leaden-footed lapse of time can conquer
the hunter's patience or weaken the joy of his quest or cool the splendid
rage of his desire. Of all the hunting-passions that burn in the breast
of man, there is none that can lift him superior to discouragements like
these but the one--the royal sport, the supreme sport, whose quarry is
his brother. By comparison, tiger-hunting is a colorless poor thing, for
all it has been so bragged about.

Why, the Thug was content to tramp patiently along, afoot, in the wasting
heat of India, week after week, at an average of nine or ten miles a day,
if he might but hope to find game some time or other and refresh his
longing soul with blood. Here is an instance:

"I (Ramzam) and Hyder set out, for the purpose of strangling
travelers, from Guddapore, and proceeded via the Fort of Julalabad,
Newulgunge, Bangermow, on the banks of the Ganges (upwards of 100
miles), from whence we returned by another route. Still no
travelers! till we reached Bowaneegunge, where we fell in with a
traveler, a boatman; we inveigled him and about two miles east of
there Hyder strangled him as he stood--for he was troubled and
afraid, and would not sit. We then made a long journey (about 130
miles) and reached Hussunpore Bundwa, where at the tank we fell in
with a traveler--he slept there that night; next morning we followed
him and tried to win his confidence; at the distance of two miles we
endeavored to induce him to sit down--but he would not, having
become aware of us. I attempted to strangle him as he walked along,
but did not succeed; both of us then fell upon him, he made a great
outcry, 'They are murdering me!' at length we strangled him and
flung his body into a well. After this we returned to our homes,
having been out a month and traveled about 260 miles. A total of
two men murdered on the expedition."

And here is another case-related by the terrible Futty Khan, a man with a
tremendous record, to be re-mentioned by and by:

"I, with three others, traveled for about 45 days a distance of
about 200 miles in search of victims along the highway to Bundwa and
returned by Davodpore (another 200 miles) during which journey we
had only one murder, which happened in this manner. Four miles to
the east of Noubustaghat we fell in with a traveler, an old man. I,
with Koshal and Hyder, inveigled him and accompanied him that day
within 3 miles of Rampoor, where, after dark, in a lonely place, we
got him to sit down and rest; and while I kept him in talk, seated
before him, Hyder behind strangled him: he made no resistance.
Koshal stabbed him under the arms and in the throat, and we flung
the body into a running stream. We got about 4 or 5 rupees each ($2
or $2.50). We then proceeded homewards. A total of one man
murdered on this expedition."

There. They tramped 400 miles, were gone about three months, and
harvested two dollars and a half apiece. But the mere pleasure of the
hunt was sufficient. That was pay enough. They did no grumbling.

Every now and then in this big book one comes across that pathetic
remark: "we tried to get him to sit down but he would not." It tells the
whole story. Some accident had awakened the suspicion in him that these
smooth friends who had been petting and coddling him and making him feel
so safe and so fortunate after his forlorn and lonely wanderings were the
dreaded Thugs; and now their ghastly invitation to "sit and rest" had
confirmed its truth. He knew there was no help for him, and that he was
looking his last upon earthly things, but "he would not sit." No, not
that--it was too awful to think of!

There are a number of instances which indicate that when a man had once
tasted the regal joys of man-hunting he could not be content with the
dull monotony of a crimeless life after ward. Example, from a Thug's

"We passed through to Kurnaul, where we found a former Thug named
Junooa, an old comrade of ours, who had turned religious mendicant
and become a disciple and holy. He came to us in the serai and
weeping with joy returned to his old trade."

Neither wealth nor honors nor dignities could satisfy a reformed Thug for
long. He would throw them all away, someday, and go back to the lurid
pleasures of hunting men, and being hunted himself by the British.

Ramzam was taken into a great native grandee's service and given
authority over five villages. "My authority extended over these people
to summons them to my presence, to make them stand or sit. I dressed
well, rode my pony, and had two sepoys, a scribe and a village guard to
attend me. During three years I used to pay each village a monthly
visit, and no one suspected that I was a Thug! The chief man used to
wait on me to transact business, and as I passed along, old and young
made their salaam to me."

And yet during that very three years he got leave of absence "to attend a
wedding," and instead went off on a Thugging lark with six other Thugs
and hunted the highway for fifteen days!--with satisfactory results.

Afterwards he held a great office under a Rajah. There he had ten miles
of country under his command and a military guard of fifteen men, with
authority to call out 2,000 more upon occasion. But the British got on
his track, and they crowded him so that he had to give himself up. See
what a figure he was when he was gotten up for style and had all his
things on: "I was fully armed--a sword, shield, pistols, a matchlock
musket and a flint gun, for I was fond of being thus arrayed, and when so
armed feared not though forty men stood before me."

He gave himself up and proudly proclaimed himself a Thug. Then by
request he agreed to betray his friend and pal, Buhram, a Thug with the
most tremendous record in India. "I went to the house where Buhram slept
(often has he led our gangs!) I woke him, he knew me well, and came
outside to me. It was a cold night, so under pretence of warming myself,
but in reality to have light for his seizure by the guards, I lighted
some straw and made a blaze. We were warming our hands. The guards drew
around us. I said to them, 'This is Buhram,' and he was seized just as a
cat seizes a mouse. Then Buhram said, 'I am a Thug! my father was a
Thug, my grandfather was a Thug, and I have thugged with many!'"

So spoke the mighty hunter, the mightiest of the mighty, the Gordon
Cumming of his day. Not much regret noticeable in it.--["Having planted
a bullet in the shoulder-bone of an elephant, and caused the agonized
creature to lean for support against a tree, I proceeded to brew some
coffee. Having refreshed myself, taking observations of the elephant's
spasms and writhings between the sips, I resolved to make experiments on
vulnerable points, and, approaching very near, I fired several bullets at
different parts of his enormous skull. He only acknowledged the shots by
a salaam-like movement of his trunk, with the point of which he gently
touched the wounds with a striking and peculiar action. Surprised and
shocked to find that I was only prolonging the suffering of the noble
beast, which bore its trials with such dignified composure, I resolved to
finish the proceeding with all possible despatch, and accordingly opened
fire upon him from the left side. Aiming at the shoulder, I fired six
shots with the two-grooved rifle, which must have eventually proved
mortal, after which I fired six shots at the same part with the Dutch
six-founder. Large tears now trickled down from his eyes, which he
slowly shut and opened, his colossal frame shivered convulsively, and
falling on his side he expired."--Gordon Cumming.]

So many many times this Official Report leaves one's curiosity
unsatisfied. For instance, here is a little paragraph out of the record
of a certain band of 193 Thugs, which has that defect:

"Fell in with Lall Sing Subahdar and his family, consisting of nine
persons. Traveled with them two days, and the third put them all to
death except the two children, little boys of one and a half years

There it stops. What did they do with those poor little fellows? What
was their subsequent history? Did they purpose training them up as
Thugs? How could they take care of such little creatures on a march
which stretched over several months? No one seems to have cared to ask
any questions about the babies. But I do wish I knew.

One would be apt to imagine that the Thugs were utterly callous, utterly
destitute of human feelings, heartless toward their own families as well
as toward other people's; but this was not so. Like all other Indians,
they had a passionate love for their kin. A shrewd British officer who
knew the Indian character, took that characteristic into account in
laying his plans for the capture of Eugene Sue's famous Feringhea. He
found out Feringhea's hiding-place, and sent a guard by night to seize
him, but the squad was awkward and he got away. However, they got the
rest of the family--the mother, wife, child, and brother--and brought
them to the officer, at Jubbulpore; the officer did not fret, but bided
his time: "I knew Feringhea would not go far while links so dear to him
were in my hands." He was right. Feringhea knew all the danger he was
running by staying in the neighborhood, still he could not tear himself
away. The officer found that he divided his time between five villages
where be had relatives and friends who could get news for him from his
family in Jubbulpore jail; and that he never slept two consecutive nights
in the same village. The officer traced out his several haunts, then
pounced upon all the five villages on the one night and at the same hour,
and got his man.

Another example of family affection. A little while previously to the
capture of Feringhea's family, the British officer had captured
Feringhea's foster-brother, leader of a gang of ten, and had tried the
eleven and condemned them to be hanged. Feringhea's captured family
arrived at the jail the day before the execution was to take place. The
foster-brother, Jhurhoo, entreated to be allowed to see the aged mother
and the others. The prayer was granted, and this is what took place--it
is the British officer who speaks:

"In the morning, just before going to the scaffold, the interview
took place before me. He fell at the old woman's feet and begged
that she would relieve him from the obligations of the milk with
which she had nourished him from infancy, as he was about to die
before he could fulfill any of them. She placed her hands on his
head, and he knelt, and she said she forgave him all, and bid him
die like a man."

If a capable artist should make a picture of it, it would be full of
dignity and solemnity and pathos; and it could touch you. You would
imagine it to be anything but what it was. There is reverence there, and
tenderness, and gratefulness, and compassion, and resignation, and
fortitude, and self-respect--and no sense of disgrace, no thought of
dishonor. Everything is there that goes to make a noble parting, and
give it a moving grace and beauty and dignity. And yet one of these
people is a Thug and the other a mother of Thugs! The incongruities of
our human nature seem to reach their limit here.

I wish to make note of one curious thing while I think of it. One of the
very commonest remarks to be found in this bewildering array of Thug
confessions is this:

"Strangled him and threw him an a well!" In one case they threw sixteen
into a well--and they had thrown others in the same well before. It
makes a body thirsty to read about it.

And there is another very curious thing. The bands of Thugs had private
graveyards. They did not like to kill and bury at random, here and there
and everywhere. They preferred to wait, and toll the victims along, and
get to one of their regular burying-places ('bheels') if they could. In
the little kingdom of Oude, which was about half as big as Ireland and
about as big as the State of Maine, they had two hundred and seventy-four
'bheels'. They were scattered along fourteen hundred miles of road, at
an average of only five miles apart, and the British government traced
out and located each and every one of them and set them down on the map.

The Oude bands seldom went out of their own country, but they did a
thriving business within its borders. So did outside bands who came in
and helped. Some of the Thug leaders of Oude were noted for their
successful careers. Each of four of them confessed to above 300 murders;
another to nearly 400; our friend Ramzam to 604--he is the one who got
leave of absence to attend a wedding and went thugging instead; and he is
also the one who betrayed Buhram to the British.

But the biggest records of all were the murder-lists of Futty Khan and
Buhram. Futty Khan's number is smaller than Ramzam's, but he is placed
at the head because his average is the best in Oude-Thug history per year
of service. His slaughter was 508 men in twenty years, and he was still
a young man when the British stopped his industry. Buhram's list was 931
murders, but it took him forty years. His average was one man and nearly
all of another man per month for forty years, but Futty Khan's average
was two men and a little of another man per month during his twenty years
of usefulness.

There is one very striking thing which I wish to call attention to. You
have surmised from the listed callings followed by the victims of the
Thugs that nobody could travel the Indian roads unprotected and live to
get through; that the Thugs respected no quality, no vocation, no
religion, nobody; that they killed every unarmed man that came in their
way. That is wholly true--with one reservation. In all the long file of
Thug confessions an English traveler is mentioned but once--and this is
what the Thug says of the circumstance:

"He was on his way from Mhow to Bombay. We studiously avoided him.
He proceeded next morning with a number of travelers who had sought
his protection, and they took the road to Baroda."

We do not know who he was; he flits across the page of this rusty old
book and disappears in the obscurity beyond; but he is an impressive
figure, moving through that valley of death serene and unafraid, clothed
in the might of the English name.

We have now followed the big official book through, and we understand
what Thuggee was, what a bloody terror it was, what a desolating scourge
it was. In 1830 the English found this cancerous organization imbedded
in the vitals of the empire, doing its devastating work in secrecy, and
assisted, protected, sheltered, and hidden by innumerable confederates
--big and little native chiefs, customs officers, village officials, and
native police, all ready to lie for it, and the mass of the people,
through fear, persistently pretending to know nothing about its doings;
and this condition of things had existed for generations, and was
formidable with the sanctions of age and old custom. If ever there was
an unpromising task, if ever there was a hopeless task in the world,
surely it was offered here--the task of conquering Thuggee. But that
little handful of English officials in India set their sturdy and
confident grip upon it, and ripped it out, root and branch! How modest
do Captain Vallancey's words sound now, when we read them again, knowing
what we know:

"The day that sees this far-spread evil completely eradicated from
India, and known only in name, will greatly tend to immortalize
British rule in the East."

It would be hard to word a claim more modestly than that for this most
noble work.


Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you
must have somebody to divide it with.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

We left Bombay for Allahabad by a night train. It is the custom of the
country to avoid day travel when it can conveniently be done. But there
is one trouble: while you can seemingly "secure" the two lower berths by
making early application, there is no ticket as witness of it, and no
other producible evidence in case your proprietorship shall chance to be
challenged. The word "engaged" appears on the window, but it doesn't
state who the compartment is engaged, for. If your Satan and your Barney
arrive before somebody else's servants, and spread the bedding on the two
sofas and then stand guard till you come, all will be well; but if they
step aside on an errand, they may find the beds promoted to the two
shelves, and somebody else's demons standing guard over their master's
beds, which in the meantime have been spread upon your sofas.

You do not pay anything extra for your sleeping place; that is where the
trouble lies. If you buy a fare-ticket and fail to use it, there is room
thus made available for someone else; but if the place were secured to
you it would remain vacant, and yet your ticket would secure you another
place when you were presently ready to travel.

However, no explanation of such a system can make it seem quite rational
to a person who has been used to a more rational system. If our people
had the arranging of it, we should charge extra for securing the place,
and then the road would suffer no loss if the purchaser did not occupy

The present system encourages good manners--and also discourages them.
If a young girl has a lower berth and an elderly lady comes in, it is
usual for the girl to offer her place to this late comer; and it is usual
for the late comer to thank her courteously and take it. But the thing
happens differently sometimes. When we were ready to leave Bombay my
daughter's satchels were holding possession of her berth--a lower one.
At the last moment, a middle-aged American lady swarmed into the
compartment, followed by native porters laden with her baggage. She was
growling and snarling and scolding, and trying to make herself
phenomenally disagreeable; and succeeding. Without a word, she hoisted
the satchels into the hanging shelf, and took possession of that lower

On one of our trips Mr. Smythe and I got out at a station to walk up and
down, and when we came back Smythe's bed was in the hanging shelf and an
English cavalry officer was in bed on the sofa which he had lately been
occupying. It was mean to be glad about it, but it is the way we are
made; I could not have been gladder if it had been my enemy that had
suffered this misfortune. We all like to see people in trouble, if it
doesn't cost us anything. I was so happy over Mr. Smythe's chagrin that
I couldn't go to sleep for thinking of it and enjoying it. I knew he
supposed the officer had committed the robbery himself, whereas without a
doubt the officer's servant had done it without his knowledge. Mr.
Smythe kept this incident warm in his heart, and longed for a chance to
get even with somebody for it. Sometime afterward the opportunity came,
in Calcutta. We were leaving on a 24-hour journey to Darjeeling. Mr.
Barclay, the general superintendent, has made special provision for our
accommodation, Mr. Smythe said; so there was no need to hurry about
getting to the train; consequently, we were a little late.

When we arrived, the usual immense turmoil and confusion of a great
Indian station were in full blast. It was an immoderately long train,
for all the natives of India were going by it somewhither, and the native
officials were being pestered to frenzy by belated and anxious people.
They didn't know where our car was, and couldn't remember having received
any orders about it. It was a deep disappointment; moreover, it looked
as if our half of our party would be left behind altogether. Then Satan
came running and said he had found a compartment with one shelf and one
sofa unoccupied, and had made our beds and had stowed our baggage. We
rushed to the place, and just as the train was ready to pull out and the
porters were slamming the doors to, all down the line, an officer of the
Indian Civil Service, a good friend of ours, put his head in and said:--

"I have been hunting for you everywhere. What are you doing here? Don't
you know----"

The train started before he could finish. Mr. Smythe's opportunity was
come. His bedding, on the shelf, at once changed places with the
bedding--a stranger's--that was occupying the sofa that was opposite to
mine. About ten o'clock we stopped somewhere, and a large Englishman of
official military bearing stepped in. We pretended to be asleep. The
lamps were covered, but there was light enough for us to note his look of
surprise. He stood there, grand and fine, peering down at Smythe, and
wondering in silence at the situation. After a bit be said:--

"Well!" And that was all.

But that was enough. It was easy to understand. It meant: "This is
extraordinary. This is high-handed. I haven't had an experience like
this before."

He sat down on his baggage, and for twenty minutes we watched him through
our eyelashes, rocking and swaying there to the motion of the train.
Then we came to a station, and he got up and went out, muttering: "I must
find a lower berth, or wait over." His servant came presently and carried
away his things.

Mr. Smythe's sore place was healed, his hunger for revenge was satisfied.
But he couldn't sleep, and neither could I; for this was a venerable old.
car, and nothing about it was taut. The closet door slammed all night,
and defied every fastening we could invent. We got up very much jaded,
at dawn, and stepped out at a way station; and, while we were taking a
cup of coffee, that Englishman ranged up alongside, and somebody said to

"So you didn't stop off, after all?"

"No. The guard found a place for me that had been, engaged and not
occupied. I had a whole saloon car all to myself--oh, quite palatial!
I never had such luck in my life."

That was our car, you see. We moved into it, straight off, the family
and all. But I asked the English gentleman to remain, and he did. A
pleasant man, an infantry colonel; and doesn't know, yet, that Smythe
robbed him of his berth, but thinks it was done by Smythe's servant
without Smythe's knowledge. He was assisted in gathering this

The Indian trains are manned by natives exclusively. The Indian stations
except very large and important ones--are manned entirely by natives, and
so are the posts and telegraphs. The rank and file of the police are
natives. All these people are pleasant and accommodating. One day I
left an express train to lounge about in that perennially ravishing show,
the ebb and flow and whirl of gaudy natives, that is always surging up
and down the spacious platform of a great Indian station; and I lost
myself in the ecstasy of it, and when I turned, the train was moving
swiftly away. I was going to sit down and wait for another train, as I
would have done at home; I had no thought of any other course. But a
native official, who had a green flag in his hand, saw me, and said

"Don't you belong in the train, sir?"

"Yes." I said.

He waved his flag, and the train came back! And he put me aboard with as
much ceremony as if I had been the General Superintendent. They are
kindly people, the natives. The face and the bearing that indicate a
surly spirit and a bad heart seemed to me to be so rare among Indians--so
nearly non-existent, in fact--that I sometimes wondered if Thuggee wasn't
a dream, and not a reality. The bad hearts are there, but I believe that
they are in a small, poor minority. One thing is sure: They are much the
most interesting people in the world--and the nearest to being
incomprehensible. At any rate, the hardest to account for. Their
character and their history, their customs and their religion, confront
you with riddles at every turn-riddles which are a trifle more perplexing
after they are explained than they were before. You can get the facts of
a custom--like caste, and Suttee, and Thuggee, and so on--and with the
facts a theory which tries to explain, but never quite does it to your
satisfaction. You can never quite understand how so strange a thing
could have been born, nor why.

For instance--the Suttee. This is the explanation of it:

A woman who throws away her life when her husband dies is instantly
joined to him again, and is forever afterward happy with him in heaven;
her family will build a little monument to her, or a temple, and will
hold her in honor, and, indeed, worship her memory always; they will
themselves be held in honor by the public; the woman's self-sacrifice has
conferred a noble and lasting distinction upon her posterity. And,
besides, see what she has escaped: If she had elected to live, she would
be a disgraced person; she could not remarry; her family would despise
her and disown her; she would be a friendless outcast, and miserable all
her days.

Very well, you say, but the explanation is not complete yet. How did
people come to drift into such a strange custom? What was the origin of
the idea? "Well, nobody knows; it was probably a revelation sent down by
the gods." One more thing: Why was such a cruel death chosen--why
wouldn't a gentle one have answered? "Nobody knows; maybe that was a
revelation, too."

No--you can never understand it. It all seems impossible. You resolve
to believe that a widow never burnt herself willingly, but went to her
death because she was afraid to defy public opinion. But you are not
able to keep that position. History drives you from it. Major Sleeman
has a convincing case in one of his books. In his government on the
Nerbudda he made a brave attempt on the 28th of March, 1828, to put down
Suttee on his own hook and without warrant from the Supreme Government of
India. He could not foresee that the Government would put it down itself
eight months later. The only backing he had was a bold nature and a
compassionate heart. He issued his proclamation abolishing the Suttee in
his district. On the morning of Tuesday--note the day of the week--the
24th of the following November, Ummed Singh Upadhya, head of the most
respectable and most extensive Brahmin family in the district, died, and
presently came a deputation of his sons and grandsons to beg that his old
widow might be allowed to burn herself upon his pyre. Sleeman threatened
to enforce his order, and punish severely any man who assisted; and he
placed a police guard to see that no one did so. From the early morning
the old widow of sixty-five had been sitting on the bank of the sacred
river by her dead, waiting through the long hours for the permission; and
at last the refusal came instead. In one little sentence Sleeman gives
you a pathetic picture of this lonely old gray figure: all day and all
night "she remained sitting by the edge of the water without eating or
drinking." The next morning the body of the husband was burned to ashes
in a pit eight feet square and three or four feet deep, in the view of
several thousand spectators. Then the widow waded out to a bare rock in
the river, and everybody went away but her sons and other relations. All
day she sat there on her rock in the blazing sun without food or drink,
and with no clothing but a sheet over her shoulders.

The relatives remained with her and all tried to persuade her to desist
from her purpose, for they deeply loved her. She steadily refused. Then
a part of the family went to Sleeman's house, ten miles away, and tried
again to get him to let her burn herself. He refused, hoping to save her

All that day she scorched in her sheet on the rock, and all that night
she kept her vigil there in the bitter cold. Thursday morning, in the
sight of her relatives, she went through a ceremonial which said more to
them than any words could have done; she put on the dhaja (a coarse red
turban) and broke her bracelets in pieces. By these acts she became a
dead person in the eye of the law, and excluded from her caste forever.
By the iron rule of ancient custom, if she should now choose to live she
could never return to her family. Sleeman was in deep trouble. If she
starved herself to death her family would be disgraced; and, moreover,
starving would be a more lingering misery than the death by fire. He
went back in the evening thoroughly worried. The old woman remained on
her rock, and there in the morning he found her with her dhaja still on
her head. "She talked very collectedly, telling me that she had
determined to mix her ashes with those of her departed husband, and
should patiently wait my permission to do so, assured that God would
enable her to sustain life till that was given, though she dared not eat
or drink. Looking at the sun, then rising before her over a long and
beautiful reach of the river, she said calmly, 'My soul has been for five
days with my husband's near that sun; nothing but my earthly frame is
left; and this, I know, you will in time suffer to be mixed with his
ashes in yonder pit, because it is not in your nature or usage wantonly
to prolong the miseries of a poor old woman.'"

He assured her that it was his desire and duty to save her, and to urge
her to live, and to keep her family from the disgrace of being thought
her murderers. But she said she "was not afraid of their being thought
so; that they had all, like good children, done everything in their power
to induce her to live, and to abide with them; and if I should consent I
know they would love and honor me, but my duties to them have now ended.
I commit them all to your care, and I go to attend my husband, Ummed
Singh Upadhya, with whose ashes on the funeral pile mine have been
already three times mixed."

She believed that she and he had been upon the earth three several times
as wife and husband, and that she had burned herself to death three times
upon his pyre. That is why she said that strange thing. Since she had
broken her bracelets and put on the red turban she regarded herself as a
corpse; otherwise she would not have allowed herself to do her husband
the irreverence of pronouncing his name. "This was the first time in her
long life that she had ever uttered her husband's name, for in India no
woman, high or low, ever pronounces the name of her husband."

Major Sleeman still tried to shake her purpose. He promised to build her
a fine house among the temples of her ancestors upon the bank of the
river and make handsome provision for her out of rent-free lands if she
would consent to live; and if she wouldn't he would allow no stone or
brick to ever mark the place where she died. But she only smiled and
said, "My pulse has long ceased to beat, my spirit has departed; I shall
suffer nothing in the burning; and if you wish proof, order some fire and
you shall see this arm consumed without giving me any pain."

Sleeman was now satisfied that he could not alter her purpose. He sent
for all the chief members of the family and said he would suffer her to
burn herself if they would enter into a written engagement to abandon the
suttee in their family thenceforth. They agreed; the papers were drawn
out and signed, and at noon, Saturday, word was sent to the poor old
woman. She seemed greatly pleased. The ceremonies of bathing were gone
through with, and by three o'clock she was ready and the fire was briskly
burning in the pit. She had now gone without food or drink during more
than four days and a half. She came ashore from her rock, first wetting
her sheet in the waters of the sacred river, for without that safeguard
any shadow which might fall upon her would convey impurity to her; then
she walked to the pit, leaning upon one of her sons and a nephew--the
distance was a hundred and fifty yards.

"I had sentries placed all around, and no other person was allowed to
approach within five paces. She came on with a calm and cheerful
countenance, stopped once, and casting her eyes upwards, said, 'Why have
they kept me five days from thee, my husband?' On coming to the sentries
her supporters stopped and remained standing; she moved on, and walked
once around the pit, paused a moment, and while muttering a prayer, threw
some flowers into the fire. She then walked up deliberately and steadily
to the brink, stepped into the centre of the flame, sat down, and leaning
back in the midst as if reposing upon a couch, was consumed without
uttering a shriek or betraying one sign of agony."

It is fine and beautiful. It compels one's reverence and respect--no,
has it freely, and without compulsion. We see how the custom, once
started, could continue, for the soul of it is that stupendous power,
Faith; faith brought to the pitch of effectiveness by the cumulative
force of example and long use and custom; but we cannot understand how
the first widows came to take to it. That is a perplexing detail.

Sleeman says that it was usual to play music at the suttee, but that the
white man's notion that this was to drown the screams of the martyr is
not correct; that it had a quite different purpose. It was believed that
the martyr died prophecying; that the prophecies sometimes foretold
disaster, and it was considered a kindness to those upon whom it was to
fall to drown the voice and keep them in ignorance of the misfortune that
was to come.


He had had much experience of physicians, and said "the only way to keep
your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what; you don't like,
and do what you'd druther not."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

It was a long journey--two nights, one day, and part of another day, from
Bombay eastward to Allahabad; but it was always interesting, and it was
not fatiguing. At first the, night travel promised to be fatiguing, but
that was on account of pyjamas. This foolish night-dress consists of
jacket and drawers. Sometimes they are made of silk, sometimes of a
raspy, scratchy, slazy woolen material with a sandpaper surface. The
drawers are loose elephant-legged and elephant-waisted things, and
instead of buttoning around the body there is a drawstring to produce the
required shrinkage. The jacket is roomy, and one buttons it in front.
Pyjamas are hot on a hot night and cold on a cold night--defects which a
nightshirt is free from. I tried the pyjamas in order to be in the
fashion; but I was obliged to give them up, I couldn't stand them. There
was no sufficient change from day-gear to night-gear. I missed the
refreshing and luxurious sense, induced by the night-gown, of being
undressed, emancipated, set free from restraints and trammels. In place
of that, I had the worried, confined, oppressed, suffocated sense of
being abed with my clothes on. All through the warm half of the night
the coarse surfaces irritated my skin and made it feel baked and
feverish, and the dreams which came in the fitful flurries of slumber
were such as distress the sleep of the damned, or ought to; and all
through the cold other half of the night I could get no time for sleep
because I had to employ it all in stealing blankets. But blankets are of
no value at such a time; the higher they are piled the more effectively
they cork the cold in and keep it from getting out. The result is that
your legs are ice, and you know how you will feel by and by when you are
buried. In a sane interval I discarded the pyjamas, and led a rational
and comfortable life thenceforth.

Out in the country in India, the day begins early. One sees a plain,
perfectly flat, dust-colored and brick-yardy, stretching limitlessly away
on every side in the dim gray light, striped everywhere with hard-beaten
narrow paths, the vast flatness broken at wide intervals by bunches of
spectral trees that mark where villages are; and along all the paths are
slender women and the black forms of lanky naked men moving, to their
work, the women with brass water-jars on their heads, the men carrying
hoes. The man is not entirely naked; always there is a bit of white rag,
a loin-cloth; it amounts to a bandage, and is a white accent on his black
person, like the silver band around the middle of a pipe-stem. Sometimes
he also wears a fluffy and voluminous white turban, and this adds a
second accent. He then answers properly to Miss Gordon Cumming's
flash-light picture of him--as a person who is dressed in "a turban
and a pocket handkerchief."

All day long one has this monotony of dust-colored dead levels and
scattering bunches of trees and mud villages. You soon realize that
India is not beautiful; still there is an enchantment about it that is
beguiling, and which does not pall. You cannot tell just what it is that
makes the spell, perhaps, but you feel it and confess it, nevertheless.
Of course, at bottom, you know in a vague way that it is history; it is
that that affects you, a haunting sense of the myriads of human lives
that have blossomed, and withered, and perished here, repeating and
repeating and repeating, century after century, and age after age, the
barren and meaningless process; it is this sense that gives to this
forlorn, uncomely land power to speak to the spirit and make friends with
it; to, speak to it with a voice bitter with satire, but eloquent with
melancholy. The deserts of Australia and the ice-barrens of Greenland
have no speech, for they have no venerable history; with nothing to tell
of man and his vanities, his fleeting glories and his miseries, they have
nothing wherewith to spiritualize their ugliness and veil it with a

There is nothing pretty about an Indian village--a mud one--and I do not
remember that we saw any but mud ones on that long flight to Allahabad.
It is a little bunch of dirt-colored mud hovels jammed together within a
mud wall. As a rule, the rains had beaten down parts of some of the
houses, and this gave the village the aspect of a mouldering and hoary
ruin. I believe the cattle and the vermin live inside the wall; for I
saw cattle coming out and cattle going in; and whenever I saw a villager,
he was scratching. This last is only circumstantial evidence, but I
think it has value. The village has a battered little temple or two, big
enough to hold an idol, and with custom enough to fat-up a priest and
keep him comfortable. Where there are Mohammedans there are generally a
few sorry tombs outside the village that have a decayed and neglected
look. The villages interested me because of things which Major Sleeman
says about them in his books--particularly what he says about the
division of labor in them. He says that the whole face of India is
parceled out into estates of villages; that nine-tenths of the vast
population of the land consist of cultivators of the soil; that it is
these cultivators who inhabit the villages; that there are certain
"established" village servants--mechanics and others who are apparently
paid a wage by the village at large, and whose callings remain in certain
families and are handed down from father to son, like an estate. He
gives a list of these established servants: Priest, blacksmith,
carpenter, accountant, washerman, basketmaker, potter, watchman, barber,
shoemaker, brazier, confectioner, weaver, dyer, etc. In his day witches
abounded, and it was not thought good business wisdom for a man to marry
his daughter into a family that hadn't a witch in it, for she would need
a witch on the premises to protect her children from the evil spells
which would certainly be cast upon them by the witches connected with the
neighboring families.

The office of midwife was hereditary in the family of the basket-maker.
It belonged to his wife. She might not be competent, but the office was
hers, anyway. Her pay was not high--25 cents for a boy, and half as much
for a girl. The girl was not desired, because she would be a disastrous
expense by and by. As soon as she should be old enough to begin to wear
clothes for propriety's sake, it would be a disgrace to the family if she
were not married; and to marry her meant financial ruin; for by custom
the father must spend upon feasting and wedding-display everything he had
and all he could borrow--in fact, reduce himself to a condition of
poverty which he might never more recover from.

It was the dread of this prospective ruin which made the killing of
girl-babies so prevalent in India in the old days before England laid the
iron hand of her prohibitions upon the piteous slaughter. One may judge
of how prevalent the custom was, by one of Sleeman's casual electrical
remarks, when he speaks of children at play in villages--where
girl-voices were never heard!

The wedding-display folly is still in full force in India, and by
consequence the destruction of girl-babies is still furtively practiced;
but not largely, because of the vigilance of the government and the
sternness of the penalties it levies.

In some parts of India the village keeps in its pay three other servants:
an astrologer to tell the villager when he may plant his crop, or make a
journey, or marry a wife, or strangle a child, or borrow a dog, or climb
a tree, or catch a rat, or swindle a neighbor, without offending the
alert and solicitous heavens; and what his dream means, if he has had one
and was not bright enough to interpret it himself by the details of his
dinner; the two other established servants were the tiger-persuader and
the hailstorm discourager. The one kept away the tigers if he could, and
collected the wages anyway, and the other kept off the hailstorms, or
explained why he failed. He charged the same for explaining a failure
that he did for scoring a success. A man is an idiot who can't earn a
living in India.

Major Sleeman reveals the fact that the trade union and the boycott are
antiquities in India. India seems to have originated everything. The
"sweeper" belongs to the bottom caste; he is the lowest of the low--all
other castes despise him and scorn his office. But that does not trouble
him. His caste is a caste, and that is sufficient for him, and so he is
proud of it, not ashamed. Sleeman says:

"It is perhaps not known to many of my countrymen, even in India,
that in every town and city in the country the right of sweeping the
houses and streets is a monopoly, and is supported entirely by the
pride of castes among the scavengers, who are all of the lowest
class. The right of sweeping within a certain range is recognized
by the caste to belong to a certain member; and if any other member
presumes to sweep within that range, he is excommunicated--no other
member will smoke out of his pipe or drink out of his jug; and he
can get restored to caste only by a feast to the whole body of
sweepers. If any housekeeper within a particular circle happens to
offend the sweeper of that range, none of his filth will be removed
till he pacifies him, because no other sweeper will dare to touch
it; and the people of a town are often more tyrannized over by these
people than by any other."

A footnote by Major Sleeman's editor, Mr. Vincent Arthur Smith, says that
in our day this tyranny of the sweepers' guild is one of the many
difficulties which bar the progress of Indian sanitary reform. Think of

"The sweepers cannot be readily coerced, because no Hindoo or
Mussulman would do their work to save his life, nor will he pollute
himself by beating the refractory scavenger."

They certainly do seem to have the whip-hand; it would be difficult to
imagine a more impregnable position. "The vested rights described in the
text are so fully recognized in practice that they are frequently the
subject of sale or mortgage."

Just like a milk-route; or like a London crossing-sweepership. It is
said that the London crossing-sweeper's right to his crossing is
recognized by the rest of the guild; that they protect him in its
possession; that certain choice crossings are valuable property, and are
saleable at high figures. I have noticed that the man who sweeps in
front of the Army and Navy Stores has a wealthy South African
aristocratic style about him; and when he is off his guard, he has
exactly that look on his face which you always see in the face of a man
who has is saving up his daughter to marry her to a duke.

It appears from Sleeman that in India the occupation of elephant-driver
is confined to Mohammedans. I wonder why that is. The water-carrier
('bheestie') is a Mohammedan, but it is said that the reason of that is,
that the Hindoo's religion does not allow him to touch the skin of dead
kine, and that is what the water-sack is made of; it would defile him.
And it doesn't allow him to eat meat; the animal that furnished the meat
was murdered, and to take any creature's life is a sin. It is a good and
gentle religion, but inconvenient.

A great Indian river, at low water, suggests the familiar anatomical
picture of a skinned human body, the intricate mesh of interwoven muscles
and tendons to stand for water-channels, and the archipelagoes of fat and
flesh inclosed by them to stand for the sandbars. Somewhere on this
journey we passed such a river, and on a later journey we saw in the
Sutlej the duplicate of that river. Curious rivers they are; low shores
a dizzy distance apart, with nothing between but an enormous acreage of
sand-flats with sluggish little veins of water dribbling around amongst
them; Saharas of sand, smallpox-pitted with footprints punctured in belts
as straight as the equator clear from the one shore to the other (barring
the channel-interruptions)--a dry-shod ferry, you see. Long railway
bridges are required for this sort of rivers, and India has them. You
approach Allahabad by a very long one. It was now carrying us across the
bed of the Jumna, a bed which did not seem to have been slept in for one
while or more. It wasn't all river-bed--most of it was overflow ground.

Allahabad means "City of God." I get this from the books. From a printed
curiosity--a letter written by one of those brave and confident Hindoo
strugglers with the English tongue, called a "babu"--I got a more
compressed translation: "Godville." It is perfectly correct, but that is
the most that can be said for it.

We arrived in the forenoon, and short-handed; for Satan got left behind
somewhere that morning, and did not overtake us until after nightfall.
It seemed very peaceful without him. The world seemed asleep and

I did not see the native town, I think. I do not remember why; for an
incident connects it with the Great Mutiny, and that is enough to make
any place interesting. But I saw the English part of the city. It is a
town of wide avenues and noble distances, and is comely and alluring, and
full of suggestions of comfort and leisure, and of the serenity which a
good conscience buttressed by a sufficient bank account gives. The
bungalows (dwellings) stand well back in the seclusion and privacy of
large enclosed compounds (private grounds, as we should say) and in the
shade and shelter of trees. Even the photographer and the prosperous
merchant ply their industries in the elegant reserve of big compounds,
and the citizens drive in thereupon their business occasions. And not in
cabs--no; in the Indian cities cabs are for the drifting stranger; all
the white citizens have private carriages; and each carriage has a flock
of white-turbaned black footmen and drivers all over it. The vicinity of
a lecture-hall looks like a snowstorm,--and makes the lecturer feel like
an opera. India has many names, and they are correctly descriptive. It
is the Land of Contradictions, the Land of Subtlety and Superstition, the
Land of Wealth and Poverty, the Land of Splendor and Desolation, the Land
of Plague and Famine, the Land of the Thug and the Poisoner, and of the
Meek and the Patient, the Land of the Suttee, the Land of the
Unreinstatable Widow, the Land where All Life is Holy, the Land of
Cremation, the Land where the Vulture is a Grave and a Monument, the Land
of the Multitudinous Gods; and if signs go for anything, it is the Land
of the Private Carriage.

In Bombay the forewoman of a millinery shop came to the hotel in her
private carriage to take the measure for a gown--not for me, but for
another. She had come out to India to make a temporary stay, but was
extending it indefinitely; indeed, she was purposing to end her days
there. In London, she said, her work had been hard, her hours long; for
economy's sake she had had to live in shabby rooms and far away from the
shop, watch the pennies, deny herself many of the common comforts of
life, restrict herself in effect to its bare necessities, eschew cabs,
travel third-class by underground train to and from her work, swallowing
coal-smoke and cinders all the way, and sometimes troubled with the
society of men and women who were less desirable than the smoke and the
cinders. But in Bombay, on almost any kind of wages, she could live in
comfort, and keep her carriage, and have six servants in place of the
woman-of-all-work she had had in her English home. Later, in Calcutta, I
found that the Standard Oil clerks had small one-horse vehicles, and did
no walking; and I was told that the clerks of the other large concerns
there had the like equipment. But to return to Allahabad.

I was up at dawn, the next morning. In India the tourist's servant does
not sleep in a room in the hotel, but rolls himself up head and ears in
his blanket and stretches himself on the veranda, across the front of his
master's door, and spends the night there. I don't believe anybody's
servant occupies a room. Apparently, the bungalow servants sleep on the
veranda; it is roomy, and goes all around the house. I speak of
menservants; I saw none of the other sex. I think there are none, except
child-nurses. I was up at dawn, and walked around the veranda, past the
rows of sleepers. In front of one door a Hindoo servant was squatting,
waiting for his master to call him. He had polished the yellow shoes and
placed them by the door, and now he had nothing to do but wait. It was
freezing cold, but there he was, as motionless as a sculptured image, and
as patient. It troubled me. I wanted to say to him, "Don't crouch there
like that and freeze; nobody requires it of you; stir around and get
warm." But I hadn't the words. I thought of saying 'jeldy jow', but I
couldn't remember what it meant, so I didn't say it. I knew another
phrase, but it wouldn't come to my mind. I moved on, purposing to
dismiss him from my thoughts, but his bare legs and bare feet kept him
there. They kept drawing me back from the sunny side to a point whence I
could see him. At the end of an hour he had not changed his attitude in
the least degree. It was a curious and impressive exhibition of meekness
and patience, or fortitude or indifference, I did not know which. But it
worried me, and it was spoiling my morning. In fact, it spoiled two
hours of it quite thoroughly. I quitted this vicinity, then, and left
him to punish himself as much as he might want to. But up to that time
the man had not changed his attitude a hair. He will always remain with
me, I suppose; his figure never grows vague in my memory. Whenever I
read of Indian resignation, Indian patience under wrongs, hardships, and
misfortunes, he comes before me. He becomes a personification, and
stands for India in trouble. And for untold ages India in trouble has
been pursued with the very remark which I was going to utter but didn't,
because its meaning had slipped me: "Jeddy jow!" ("Come, shove along!")

Why, it was the very thing.

In the early brightness we made a long drive out to the Fort. Part of
the way was beautiful. It led under stately trees and through groups of
native houses and by the usual village well, where the picturesque gangs
are always flocking to and fro and laughing and chattering; and this time
brawny men were deluging their bronze bodies with the limpid water, and
making a refreshing and enticing show of it; enticing, for the sun was
already transacting business, firing India up for the day. There was
plenty of this early bathing going on, for it was getting toward
breakfast time, and with an unpurified body the Hindoo must not eat.

Then we struck into the hot plain, and found the roads crowded with
pilgrims of both sexes, for one of the great religious fairs of India was
being held, just beyond the Fort, at the junction of the sacred rivers,
the Ganges and the Jumna. Three sacred rivers, I should have said, for
there is a subterranean one. Nobody has seen it, but that doesn't
signify. The fact that it is there is enough. These pilgrims had come
from all over India; some of them had been months on the way, plodding
patiently along in the heat and dust, worn, poor, hungry, but supported
and sustained by an unwavering faith and belief; they were supremely
happy and content, now; their full and sufficient reward was at hand;
they were going to be cleansed from every vestige of sin and corruption
by these holy waters which make utterly pure whatsoever thing they touch,
even the dead and rotten. It is wonderful, the power of a faith like
that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and
the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such
incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining.
It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is.
No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination
marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites. There are choice great
natures among us that could exhibit the equivalent of this prodigious
self-sacrifice, but the rest of us know that we should not be equal to
anything approaching it. Still, we all talk self-sacrifice, and this
makes me hope that we are large enough to honor it in the Hindoo.

Two millions of natives arrive at this fair every year. How many start,
and die on the road, from age and fatigue and disease and scanty
nourishment, and how many die on the return, from the same causes, no one
knows; but the tale is great, one may say enormous. Every twelfth year
is held to be a year of peculiar grace; a greatly augmented volume of
pilgrims results then. The twelfth year has held this distinction since
the remotest times, it is said. It is said also that there is to be but
one more twelfth year--for the Ganges. After that, that holiest of all
sacred rivers will cease to be holy, and will be abandoned by the pilgrim
for many centuries; how many, the wise men have not stated. At the end
of that interval it will become holy again. Meantime, the data will be
arranged by those people who have charge of all such matters, the great
chief Brahmins. It will be like shutting down a mint. At a first glance
it looks most unbrahminically uncommercial, but I am not disturbed, being
soothed and tranquilized by their reputation. "Brer fox he lay low," as
Uncle Remus says; and at the judicious time he will spring something on
the Indian public which will show that he was not financially asleep when
he took the Ganges out of the market.

Great numbers of the natives along the roads were bringing away holy
water from the rivers. They would carry it far and wide in India and
sell it. Tavernier, the French traveler (17th century), notes that
Ganges water is often given at weddings, "each guest receiving a cup or
two, according to the liberality of the host; sometimes 2,000 or 3,000
rupees' worth of it is consumed at a wedding."

The Fort is a huge old structure, and has had a large experience in
religions. In its great court stands a monolith which was placed there
more than 2,000 years ago to preach (Budhism) by its pious inscription;
the Fort was built three centuries ago by a Mohammedan Emperor--a
resanctification of the place in the interest of that religion. There is
a Hindoo temple, too, with subterranean ramifications stocked with
shrines and idols; and now the Fort belongs to the English, it contains a
Christian Church. Insured in all the companies.

From the lofty ramparts one has a fine view of the sacred rivers. They
join at that point--the pale blue Jumna, apparently clean and clear, and
the muddy Ganges, dull yellow and not clean. On a long curved spit
between the rivers, towns of tents were visible, with a multitude of
fluttering pennons, and a mighty swarm of pilgrims. It was a troublesome
place to get down to, and not a quiet place when you arrived; but it was
interesting. There was a world of activity and turmoil and noise, partly
religious, partly commercial; for the Mohammedans were there to curse and
sell, and the Hindoos to buy and pray. It is a fair as well as a
religious festival. Crowds were bathing, praying, and drinking the
purifying waters, and many sick pilgrims had come long journeys in
palanquins to be healed of their maladies by a bath; or if that might not
be, then to die on the blessed banks and so make sure of heaven. There
were fakeers in plenty, with their bodies dusted over with ashes and
their long hair caked together with cow-dung; for the cow is holy and so
is the rest of it; so holy that the good Hindoo peasant frescoes the
walls of his hut with this refuse, and also constructs ornamental figures
out of it for the gracing of his dirt floor. There were seated families,
fearfully and wonderfully painted, who by attitude and grouping
represented the families of certain great gods. There was a holy man who
sat naked by the day and by the week on a cluster of iron spikes, and did
not seem to mind it; and another holy man, who stood all day holding his
withered arms motionless aloft, and was said to have been doing it for
years. All of these performers have a cloth on the ground beside them
for the reception of contributions, and even the poorest of the people
give a trifle and hope that the sacrifice will be blessed to him. At
last came a procession of naked holy people marching by and chanting, and
I wrenched myself away.


The man who is ostentatious of his modesty is twin to the statue that
wears a fig-leaf.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

The journey to Benares was all in daylight, and occupied but a few hours.
It was admirably dusty. The dust settled upon you in a thick ashy layer
and turned you into a fakeer, with nothing lacking to the role but the
cow manure and the sense of holiness. There was a change of cars about
mid-afternoon at Moghul-serai--if that was the name--and a wait of two
hours there for the Benares train. We could have found a carriage and
driven to the sacred city, but we should have lost the wait. In other
countries a long wait at a station is a dull thing and tedious, but one
has no right to have that feeling in India. You have the monster crowd
of bejeweled natives, the stir, the bustle, the confusion, the shifting
splendors of the costumes--dear me, the delight of it, the charm of it
are beyond speech. The two-hour wait was over too soon. Among other
satisfying things to look at was a minor native prince from the backwoods
somewhere, with his guard of honor, a ragged but wonderfully gaudy gang
of fifty dark barbarians armed with rusty flint-lock muskets. The
general show came so near to exhausting variety that one would have said
that no addition to it could be conspicuous, but when this Falstaff and
his motleys marched through it one saw that that seeming impossibility
had happened.

We got away by and by, and soon reached the outer edge of Benares; then
there was another wait; but, as usual, with something to look at. This
was a cluster of little canvas-boxes--palanquins. A canvas-box is not much
of a sight--when empty; but when there is a lady in it, it is an object
of interest. These boxes were grouped apart, in the full blaze of the
terrible sun during the three-quarters of an hour that we tarried there.
They contained zenana ladies. They had to sit up; there was not room
enough to stretch out. They probably did not mind it. They are used to
the close captivity of the dwellings all their lives; when they go a
journey they are carried to the train in these boxes; in the train they
have to be secluded from inspection. Many people pity them, and I always
did it myself and never charged anything; but it is doubtful if this
compassion is valued. While we were in India some good-hearted Europeans
in one of the cities proposed to restrict a large park to the use of
zenana ladies, so that they could go there and in assured privacy go
about unveiled and enjoy the sunshine and air as they had never enjoyed
them before. The good intentions back of the proposition were
recognized, and sincere thanks returned for it, but the proposition
itself met with a prompt declination at the hands of those who were
authorized to speak for the zenana ladies. Apparently, the idea was
shocking to the ladies--indeed, it was quite manifestly shocking. Was
that proposition the equivalent of inviting European ladies to assemble
scantily and scandalously clothed in the seclusion of a private park? It
seemed to be about that.

Without doubt modesty is nothing less than a holy feeling; and without
doubt the person whose rule of modesty has been transgressed feels the
same sort of wound that he would feel if something made holy to him by
his religion had suffered a desecration. I say "rule of modesty" because
there are about a million rules in the world, and this makes a million
standards to be looked out for. Major Sleeman mentions the case of some
high-caste veiled ladies who were profoundly scandalized when some
English young ladies passed by with faces bare to the world; so
scandalized that they spoke out with strong indignation and wondered that
people could be so shameless as to expose their persons like that. And
yet "the legs of the objectors were naked to mid-thigh." Both parties
were clean-minded and irreproachably modest, while abiding by their
separate rules, but they couldn't have traded rules for a change without
suffering considerable discomfort. All human rules are more or less
idiotic, I suppose. It is best so, no doubt. The way it is now, the
asylums can hold the sane people, but if we tried to shut up the insane
we should run out of building materials.

You have a long drive through the outskirts of Benares before you get to
the hotel. And all the aspects are melancholy. It is a vision of dusty
sterility, decaying temples, crumbling tombs, broken mud walls, shabby
huts. The whole region seems to ache with age and penury. It must take
ten thousand years of want to produce such an aspect. We were still
outside of the great native city when we reached the hotel. It was a
quiet and homelike house, inviting, and manifestly comfortable. But we
liked its annex better, and went thither. It was a mile away, perhaps,
and stood in the midst of a large compound, and was built bungalow
fashion, everything on the ground floor, and a veranda all around. They
have doors in India, but I don't know why. They don't fasten, and they
stand open, as a rule, with a curtain hanging in the doorspace to keep
out the glare of the sun. Still, there is plenty of privacy, for no
white person will come in without notice, of course. The native men
servants will, but they don't seem to count. They glide in, barefoot and
noiseless, and are in the midst before one knows it. At first this is a
shock, and sometimes it is an embarrassment; but one has to get used to
it, and does.

There was one tree in the compound, and a monkey lived in it. At first I
was strongly interested in the tree, for I was told that it was the
renowned peepul--the tree in whose shadow you cannot tell a lie. This
one failed to stand the test, and I went away from it disappointed.
There was a softly creaking well close by, and a couple of oxen drew
water from it by the hour, superintended by two natives dressed in the
usual "turban and pocket-handkerchief." The tree and the well were the
only scenery, and so the compound was a soothing and lonesome and
satisfying place; and very restful after so many activities. There was
nobody in our bungalow but ourselves; the other guests were in the next
one, where the table d'hote was furnished. A body could not be more
pleasantly situated. Each room had the customary bath attached--a room
ten or twelve feet square, with a roomy stone-paved pit in it and
abundance of water. One could not easily improve upon this arrangement,
except by furnishing it with cold water and excluding the hot, in
deference to the fervency of the climate; but that is forbidden. It
would damage the bather's health. The stranger is warned against taking
cold baths in India, but even the most intelligent strangers are fools,
and they do not obey, and so they presently get laid up. I was the most
intelligent fool that passed through, that year. But I am still more
intelligent now. Now that it is too late.

I wonder if the 'dorian', if that is the name of it, is another
superstition, like the peepul tree. There was a great abundance and
variety of tropical fruits, but the dorian was never in evidence. It was
never the season for the dorian. It was always going to arrive from
Burma sometime or other, but it never did. By all accounts it was a most
strange fruit, and incomparably delicious to the taste, but not to the
smell. Its rind was said to exude a stench of so atrocious a nature that
when a dorian was in the room even the presence of a polecat was a
refreshment. We found many who had eaten the dorian, and they all spoke
of it with a sort of rapture. They said that if you could hold your nose
until the fruit was in your mouth a sacred joy would suffuse you from
head to foot that would make you oblivious to the smell of the rind, but
that if your grip slipped and you caught the smell of the rind before the
fruit was in your mouth, you would faint. There is a fortune in that
rind. Some day somebody will import it into Europe and sell it for

Benares was not a disappointment. It justified its reputation as a
curiosity. It is on high ground, and overhangs a grand curve of the
Ganges. It is a vast mass of building, compactly crusting a hill, and is
cloven in all directions by an intricate confusion of cracks which stand
for streets. Tall, slim minarets and beflagged temple-spires rise out of
it and give it picturesqueness, viewed from the river. The city is as
busy as an ant-hill, and the hurly-burly of human life swarming along the
web of narrow streets reminds one of the ants. The sacred cow swarms
along, too, and goes whither she pleases, and takes toll of the
grain-shops, and is very much in the way, and is a good deal of a
nuisance, since she must not be molested.

Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than
legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together. From a
Hindoo statement quoted in Rev. Mr. Parker's compact and lucid Guide to
Benares, I find that the site of the town was the beginning-place of the
Creation. It was merely an upright "lingam," at first, no larger than a
stove-pipe, and stood in the midst of a shoreless ocean. This was the
work of the God Vishnu. Later he spread the lingam out till its surface
was ten miles across. Still it was not large enough for the business;
therefore he presently built the globe around it. Benares is thus the
center of the earth. This is considered an advantage.

It has had a tumultuous history, both materially and spiritually. It
started Brahminically, many ages ago; then by and by Buddha came in
recent times 2,500 years ago, and after that it was Buddhist during many
centuries--twelve, perhaps--but the Brahmins got the upper hand again,
then, and have held it ever since. It is unspeakably sacred in Hindoo
eyes, and is as unsanitary as it is sacred, and smells like the rind of
the dorian. It is the headquarters of the Brahmin faith, and one-eighth
of the population are priests of that church. But it is not an
overstock, for they have all India as a prey. All India flocks thither
on pilgrimage, and pours its savings into the pockets of the priests in a
generous stream, which never fails. A priest with a good stand on the
shore of the Ganges is much better off than the sweeper of the best
crossing in London. A good stand is worth a world of money. The holy
proprietor of it sits under his grand spectacular umbrella and blesses
people all his life, and collects his commission, and grows fat and rich;
and the stand passes from father to son, down and down and down through
the ages, and remains a permanent and lucrative estate in the family. As
Mr. Parker suggests, it can become a subject of dispute, at one time or
another, and then the matter will be settled, not by prayer and fasting
and consultations with Vishnu, but by the intervention of a much more
puissant power--an English court. In Bombay I was told by an American
missionary that in India there are 640 Protestant missionaries at work.
At first it seemed an immense force, but of course that was a thoughtless
idea. One missionary to 500,000 natives--no, that is not a force; it is
the reverse of it; 640 marching against an intrenched camp of
300,000,000--the odds are too great. A force of 640 in Benares alone
would have its hands over-full with 8,000 Brahmin priests for adversary.
Missionaries need to be well equipped with hope and confidence, and this
equipment they seem to have always had in all parts of the world. Mr.
Parker has it. It enables him to get a favorable outlook out of
statistics which might add up differently with other mathematicians. For

"During the past few years competent observers declare that the number of
pilgrims to Benares has increased."

And then he adds up this fact and gets this conclusion:

"But the revival, if so it may be called, has in it the marks of death.
It is a spasmodic struggle before dissolution."

In this world we have seen the Roman Catholic power dying, upon these
same terms, for many centuries. Many a time we have gotten all ready for
the funeral and found it postponed again, on account of the weather or
something. Taught by experience, we ought not to put on our things for
this Brahminical one till we see the procession move. Apparently one of
the most uncertain things in the world is the funeral of a religion.

I should have been glad to acquire some sort of idea of Hindoo theology,
but the difficulties were too great, the matter was too intricate. Even
the mere A, B, C of it is baffling.

There is a trinity--Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu--independent powers,
apparently, though one cannot feel quite sure of that, because in one of
the temples there is an image where an attempt has been made to
concentrate the three in one person. The three have other names and
plenty of them, and this makes confusion in one's mind. The three have
wives and the wives have several names, and this increases the confusion.
There are children, the children have many names, and thus the confusion
goes on and on. It is not worth while to try to get any grip upon the
cloud of minor gods, there are too many of them.

It is even a justifiable economy to leave Brahma, the chiefest god of
all, out of your studies, for he seems to cut no great figure in India.
The vast bulk of the national worship is lavished upon Shiva and Vishnu
and their families. Shiva's symbol--the "lingam" with which Vishnu began
the Creation--is worshiped by everybody, apparently. It is the commonest
object in Benares. It is on view everywhere, it is garlanded with
flowers, offerings are made to it, it suffers no neglect. Commonly it is
an upright stone, shaped like a thimble-sometimes like an elongated
thimble. This priapus-worship, then, is older than history. Mr. Parker
says that the lingams in Benares "outnumber the inhabitants."

In Benares there are many Mohammedan mosques. There are Hindoo temples
without number--these quaintly shaped and elaborately sculptured little
stone jugs crowd all the lanes. The Ganges itself and every individual
drop of water in it are temples. Religion, then, is the business of
Benares, just as gold-production is the business of Johannesburg. Other
industries count for nothing as compared with the vast and all-absorbing
rush and drive and boom of the town's specialty. Benares is the
sacredest of sacred cities. The moment you step across the
sharply-defined line which separates it from the rest of the globe, you
stand upon ineffably and unspeakably holy ground. Mr. Parker says: "It
is impossible to convey any adequate idea of the intense feelings of
veneration and affection with which the pious Hindoo regards 'Holy Kashi'
(Benares)." And then he gives you this vivid and moving picture:

"Let a Hindoo regiment be marched through the district, and as soon
as they cross the line and enter the limits of the holy place they
rend the air with cries of 'Kashi ji ki jai--jai--jai! (Holy
Kashi! Hail to thee! Hail! Hail! Hail)'. The weary pilgrim
scarcely able to stand, with age and weakness, blinded by the dust
and heat, and almost dead with fatigue, crawls out of the oven-like
railway carriage and as soon as his feet touch the ground he lifts
up his withered hands and utters the same pious exclamation. Let a
European in some distant city in casual talk in the bazar mention
the fact that he has lived at Benares, and at once voices will be
raised to call down blessings on his head, for a dweller in Benares
is of all men most blessed."

It makes our own religious enthusiasm seem pale and cold. Inasmuch as
the life of religion is in the heart, not the head, Mr. Parker's touching
picture seems to promise a sort of indefinite postponement of that


Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its
laws or its songs either.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

Yes, the city of Benares is in effect just a big church, a religious
hive, whose every cell is a temple, a shrine or a mosque, and whose every
conceivable earthly and heavenly good is procurable under one roof, so to
speak--a sort of Army and Navy Stores, theologically stocked.

I will make out a little itinerary for the pilgrim; then you will see how
handy the system is, how convenient, how comprehensive. If you go to
Benares with a serious desire to spiritually benefit yourself, you will
find it valuable. I got some of the facts from conversations with the
Rev. Mr. Parker and the others from his Guide to Benares; they are
therefore trustworthy.

1. Purification. At sunrise you must go down to the Ganges and bathe,
pray, and drink some of the water. This is for your general

2. Protection against Hunger. Next, you must fortify yourself against
the sorrowful earthly ill just named. This you will do by worshiping for
a moment in the Cow Temple. By the door of it you will find an image of
Ganesh, son of Shiva; it has the head of an elephant on a human body; its
face and hands are of silver. You will worship it a little, and pass on,
into a covered veranda, where you will find devotees reciting from the
sacred books, with the help of instructors. In this place are groups of
rude and dismal idols. You may contribute something for their support;
then pass into the temple, a grim and stenchy place, for it is populous
with sacred cows and with beggars. You will give something to the
beggars, and "reverently kiss the tails" of such cows as pass along, for
these cows are peculiarly holy, and this act of worship will secure you
from hunger for the day.

3. "The Poor Man's Friend." You will next worship this god. He is at
the bottom of a stone cistern in the temple of Dalbhyeswar, under the
shade of a noble peepul tree on the bluff overlooking the Ganges, so you
must go back to the river. The Poor Man's Friend is the god of material
prosperity in general, and the god of the rain in particular. You will
secure material prosperity, or both, by worshiping him. He is Shiva,
under a new alias, and he abides in the bottom of that cistern, in the
form of a stone lingam. You pour Ganges water over him, and in return
for this homage you get the promised benefits. If there is any delay
about the rain, you must pour water in until the cistern is full; the
rain will then be sure to come.

4. Fever. At the Kedar Ghat you will find a long flight of stone steps
leading down to the river. Half way down is a tank filled with sewage.
Drink as much of it as you want. It is for fever.

5. Smallpox. Go straight from there to the central Ghat. At its
upstream end you will find a small whitewashed building, which is a
temple sacred to Sitala, goddess of smallpox. Her under-study is there
--a rude human figure behind a brass screen. You will worship this for
reasons to be furnished presently.

6. The Well of Fate. For certain reasons you will next go and do homage
at this well. You will find it in the Dandpan Temple, in the city. The
sunlight falls into it from a square hole in the masonry above. You will
approach it with awe, for your life is now at stake. You will bend over
and look. If the fates are propitious, you will see your face pictured
in the water far down in the well. If matters have been otherwise
ordered, a sudden cloud will mask the sun and you will see nothing. This
means that you have not six months to live. If you are already at the
point of death, your circumstances are now serious. There is no time to
lose. Let this world go, arrange for the next one. Handily situated, at
your very elbow, is opportunity for this. You turn and worship the image
of Maha Kal, the Great Fate, and happiness in the life to come is
secured. If there is breath in your body yet, you should now make an
effort to get a further lease of the present life. You have a chance.
There is a chance for everything in this admirably stocked and
wonderfully systemized Spiritual and Temporal Army and Navy Store. You
must get yourself carried to the

7. Well of Long Life. This is within the precincts of the mouldering and
venerable Briddhkal Temple, which is one of the oldest in Benares. You
pass in by a stone image of the monkey god, Hanuman, and there, among the
ruined courtyards, you will find a shallow pool of stagnant sewage. It
smells like the best limburger cheese, and is filthy with the washings of
rotting lepers, but that is nothing, bathe in it; bathe in it gratefully
and worshipfully, for this is the Fountain of Youth; these are the Waters
of Long Life. Your gray hairs will disappear, and with them your
wrinkles and your rheumatism, the burdens of care and the weariness of
age, and you will come out young, fresh, elastic, and full of eagerness
for the new race of life. Now will come flooding upon you the manifold
desires that haunt the dear dreams of the morning of life. You will go
whither you will find

8. Fulfillment of Desire. To wit, to the Kameshwar Temple, sacred to
Shiva as the Lord of Desires. Arrange for yours there. And if you like
to look at idols among the pack and jam of temples, there you will find
enough to stock a museum. You will begin to commit sins now with a
fresh, new vivacity; therefore, it will be well to go frequently to a
place where you can get

9. Temporary Cleansing from Sin. To wit, to the Well of the Earring.
You must approach this with the profoundest reverence, for it is
unutterably sacred. It is, indeed, the most sacred place in Benares, the
very Holy of Holies, in the estimation of the people. It is a railed
tank, with stone stairways leading down to the water. The water is not
clean. Of course it could not be, for people are always bathing in it.
As long as you choose to stand and look, you will see the files of
sinners descending and ascending--descending soiled with sin, ascending
purged from it. "The liar, the thief, the murderer, and the adulterer
may here wash and be clean," says the Rev. Mr. Parker, in his book. Very
well. I know Mr. Parker, and I believe it; but if anybody else had said
it, I should consider him a person who had better go down in the tank and
take another wash. The god Vishnu dug this tank. He had nothing to dig
with but his "discus." I do not know what a discus is, but I know it is a
poor thing to dig tanks with, because, by the time this one was finished,
it was full of sweat--Vishnu's sweat. He constructed the site that
Benares stands on, and afterward built the globe around it, and thought
nothing of it, yet sweated like that over a little thing like this tank.
One of these statements is doubtful. I do not know which one it is, but
I think it difficult not to believe that a god who could build a world
around Benares would not be intelligent enough to build it around the
tank too, and not have to dig it. Youth, long life, temporary
purification from sin, salvation through propitiation of the Great Fate
--these are all good. But you must do something more. You must

10. Make Salvation Sure. There are several ways. To get drowned in
the Ganges is one, but that is not pleasant. To die within the limits of
Benares is another; but that is a risky one, because you might be out of
town when your time came. The best one of all is the Pilgrimage Around
the City. You must walk; also, you must go barefoot. The tramp is
forty-four miles, for the road winds out into the country a piece, and
you will be marching five or six days. But you will have plenty of
company. You will move with throngs and hosts of happy pilgrims whose
radiant costumes will make the spectacle beautiful and whose glad songs
and holy pans of triumph will banish your fatigues and cheer your spirit;
and at intervals there will be temples where you may sleep and be
refreshed with food. The pilgrimage completed, you have purchased
salvation, and paid for it. But you may not get it unless you

11. Get Your Redemption Recorded. You can get this done at the Sakhi
Binayak Temple, and it is best to do it, for otherwise you might not be
able to prove that you had made the pilgrimage in case the matter should
some day come to be disputed. That temple is in a lane back of the Cow
Temple. Over the door is a red image of Ganesh of the elephant head, son
and heir of Shiva, and Prince of Wales to the Theological Monarchy, so to
speak. Within is a god whose office it is to record your pilgrimage and
be responsible for you. You will not see him, but you will see a Brahmin
who will attend to the matter and take the money. If he should forget to
collect the money, you can remind him. He knows that your salvation is
now secure, but of course you would like to know it yourself. You have
nothing to do but go and pray, and pay at the

12. Well of the Knowledge of Salvation. It is close to the Golden
Temple. There you will see, sculptured out of a single piece of black
marble, a bull which is much larger than any living bull you have ever
seen, and yet is not a good likeness after all. And there also you will
see a very uncommon thing--an image of Shiva. You have seen his lingam
fifty thousand times already, but this is Shiva himself, and said to be a
good likeness. It has three eyes. He is the only god in the firm that
has three. "The well is covered by a fine canopy of stone supported by
forty pillars," and around it you will find what you have already seen at
almost every shrine you have visited in Benares, a mob of devout and
eager pilgrims. The sacred water is being ladled out to them; with it
comes to them the knowledge, clear, thrilling, absolute, that they are
saved; and you can see by their faces that there is one happiness in this
world which is supreme, and to which no other joy is comparable. You
receive your water, you make your deposit, and now what more would you
have? Gold, diamonds, power, fame? All in a single moment these things
have withered to dirt, dust, ashes. The world has nothing to give you
now. For you it is bankrupt.

I do not claim that the pilgrims do their acts of worship in the order
and sequence above charted out in this Itinerary of mine, but I think
logic suggests that they ought to do so. Instead of a helter-skelter
worship, we then have a definite starting-place, and a march which
carries the pilgrim steadily forward by reasoned and logical progression
to a definite goal. Thus, his Ganges bath in the early morning gives him
an appetite; he kisses the cow-tails, and that removes it. It is now
business hours, and longings for material prosperity rise in his mind,
and be goes and pours water over Shiva's symbol; this insures the
prosperity, but also brings on a rain, which gives him a fever. Then he
drinks the sewage at the Kedar Ghat to cure the fever; it cures the fever
but gives him the smallpox. He wishes to know how it is going to turn
out; he goes to the Dandpan Temple and looks down the well. A clouded
sun shows him that death is near. Logically his best course for the
present, since he cannot tell at what moment he may die, is to secure a
happy hereafter; this he does, through the agency of the Great Fate. He
is safe, now, for heaven; his next move will naturally be to keep out of
it as long as he can. Therefore he goes to the Briddhkal Temple and
secures Youth and long life by bathing in a puddle of leper-pus which
would kill a microbe. Logically, Youth has re-equipped him for sin and
with the disposition to commit it; he will naturally go to the fane which
is consecrated to the Fulfillment of Desires, and make arrangements.
Logically, he will now go to the Well of the Earring from time to time to
unload and freshen up for further banned enjoyments. But first and last
and all the time he is human, and therefore in his reflective intervals
he will always be speculating in "futures." He will make the Great
Pilgrimage around the city and so make his salvation absolutely sure; he
will also have record made of it, so that it may remain absolutely sure
and not be forgotten or repudiated in the confusion of the Final
Settlement. Logically, also, he will wish to have satisfying and
tranquilizing personal knowledge that that salvation is secure; therefore
he goes to the Well of the Knowledge of Salvation, adds that completing
detail, and then goes about his affairs serene and content; serene and
content, for he is now royally endowed with an advantage which no
religion in this world could give him but his own; for henceforth he may
commit as many million sins as he wants to and nothing can come of it.

Thus the system, properly and logically ordered, is neat, compact,
clearly defined, and covers the whole ground. I desire to recommend it
to such as find the other systems too difficult, exacting, and irksome
for the uses of this fretful brief life of ours.

However, let me not deceive any one. My Itinerary lacks a detail. I
must put it in. The truth is, that after the pilgrim has faithfully
followed the requirements of the Itinerary through to the end and has
secured his salvation and also the personal knowledge of that fact, there
is still an accident possible to him which can annul the whole thing. If
he should ever cross to the other side of the Ganges and get caught out
and die there he would at once come to life again in the form of an ass.
Think of that, after all this trouble and expense. You see how
capricious and uncertain salvation is there. The Hindoo has a childish
and unreasoning aversion to being turned into an ass. It is hard to tell
why. One could properly expect an ass to have an aversion to being
turned into a Hindoo. One could understand that he could lose dignity by
it; also self-respect, and nine-tenths of his intelligence. But the
Hindoo changed into an ass wouldn't lose anything, unless you count his
religion. And he would gain much--release from his slavery to two
million gods and twenty million priests, fakeers, holy mendicants, and
other sacred bacilli; he would escape the Hindoo hell; he would also
escape the Hindoo heaven. These are advantages which the Hindoo ought to
consider; then he would go over and die on the other side.

Benares is a religious Vesuvius. In its bowels the theological forces
have been heaving and tossing, rumbling, thundering and quaking, boiling,
and weltering and flaming and smoking for ages. But a little group of
missionaries have taken post at its base, and they have hopes. There are
the Baptist Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society, the London
Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, and the Zenana Bible
and Medical Mission. They have schools, and the principal work seems to
be among the children. And no doubt that part of the work prospers best,
for grown people everywhere are always likely to cling to the religion
they were brought up in.


Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

In one of those Benares temples we saw a devotee working for salvation in
a curious way. He had a huge wad of clay beside him and was making it up
into little wee gods no bigger than carpet tacks. He stuck a grain of
rice into each--to represent the lingam, I think. He turned them out
nimbly, for he had had long practice and had acquired great facility.
Every day he made 2,000 gods, then threw them into the holy Ganges. This
act of homage brought him the profound homage of the pious--also their
coppers. He had a sure living here, and was earning a high place in the

The Ganges front is the supreme show-place of Benares. Its tall bluffs
are solidly caked from water to summit, along a stretch of three miles,
with a splendid jumble of massive and picturesque masonry, a bewildering
and beautiful confusion of stone platforms, temples, stair-flights, rich
and stately palaces--nowhere a break, nowhere a glimpse of the bluff
itself; all the long face of it is compactly walled from sight by this
crammed perspective of platforms, soaring stairways, sculptured temples,
majestic palaces, softening away into the distances; and there is
movement, motion, human life everywhere, and brilliantly costumed
--streaming in rainbows up and down the lofty stairways, and massed in
metaphorical flower-gardens on the miles of great platforms at the
river's edge.

All this masonry, all this architecture represents piety. The palaces
were built by native princes whose homes, as a rule, are far from
Benares, but who go there from time to time to refresh their souls with
the sight and touch of the Ganges, the river of their idolatry. The
stairways are records of acts of piety; the crowd of costly little
temples are tokens of money spent by rich men for present credit and hope
of future reward. Apparently, the rich Christian who spends large sums
upon his religion is conspicuous with us, by his rarity, but the rich
Hindoo who doesn't spend large sums upon his religion is seemingly
non-existent. With us the poor spend money on their religion, but they
keep back some to live on. Apparently, in India, the poor bankrupt
themselves daily for their religion. The rich Hindoo can afford his
pious outlays; he gets much glory for his spendings, yet keeps back a
sufficiency of his income for temporal purposes; but the poor Hindoo is
entitled to compassion, for his spendings keep him poor, yet get him no

We made the usual trip up and down the river, seated in chairs under an
awning on the deck of the usual commodious hand-propelled ark; made it
two or three times, and could have made it with increasing interest and
enjoyment many times more; for, of course, the palaces and temples would
grow more and more beautiful every time one saw them, for that happens
with all such things; also, I think one would not get tired of the
bathers, nor their costumes, nor of their ingenuities in getting out of
them and into them again without exposing too much bronze, nor of their
devotional gesticulations and absorbed bead-tellings.

But I should get tired of seeing them wash their mouths with that
dreadful water and drink it. In fact, I did get tired of it, and very
early, too. At one place where we halted for a while, the foul gush from
a sewer was making the water turbid and murky all around, and there was a
random corpse slopping around in it that had floated down from up
country. Ten steps below that place stood a crowd of men, women, and
comely young maidens waist deep in the water-and they were scooping it up
in their hands and drinking it. Faith can certainly do wonders, and this
is an instance of it. Those people were not drinking that fearful stuff
to assuage thirst, but in order to purify their souls and the interior of
their bodies. According to their creed, the Ganges water makes
everything pure that it touches--instantly and utterly pure. The sewer
water was not an offence to them, the corpse did not revolt them; the
sacred water had touched both, and both were now snow-pure, and could
defile no one. The memory of that sight will always stay by me; but not
by request.

A word further concerning the nasty but all-purifying Ganges water. When
we went to Agra, by and by, we happened there just in time to be in at
the birth of a marvel--a memorable scientific discovery--the discovery
that in certain ways the foul and derided Ganges water is the most
puissant purifier in the world! This curious fact, as I have said, had
just been added to the treasury of modern science. It had long been
noted as a strange thing that while Benares is often afflicted with the
cholera she does not spread it beyond her borders. This could not be
accounted for. Mr. Henkin, the scientist in the employ of the government
of Agra, concluded to examine the water. He went to Benares and made his
tests. He got water at the mouths of the sewers where they empty into
the river at the bathing ghats; a cubic centimetre of it contained
millions of germs; at the end of six hours they were all dead. He caught
a floating corpse, towed it to the shore, and from beside it he dipped up
water that was swarming with cholera germs; at the end of six hours they
were all dead. He added swarm after swarm of cholera germs to this
water; within the six hours they always died, to the last sample.
Repeatedly, he took pure well water which was bare of animal life, and
put into it a few cholera germs; they always began to propagate at once,
and always within six hours they swarmed--and were numberable by millions
upon millions.

For ages and ages the Hindoos have had absolute faith that the water of
the Ganges was absolutely pure, could not be defiled by any contact
whatsoever, and infallibly made pure and clean whatsoever thing touched
it. They still believe it, and that is why they bathe in it and drink
it, caring nothing for its seeming filthiness and the floating corpses.
The Hindoos have been laughed at, these many generations, but the
laughter will need to modify itself a little from now on. How did
they find out the water's secret in those ancient ages? Had they
germ-scientists then? We do not know. We only know that they had a
civilization long before we emerged from savagery. But to return to
where I was before; I was about to speak of the burning-ghat.

They do not burn fakeers--those revered mendicants. They are so holy
that they can get to their place without that sacrament, provided they be
consigned to the consecrating river. We saw one carried to mid-stream
and thrown overboard. He was sandwiched between two great slabs of

We lay off the cremation-ghat half an hour and saw nine corpses burned.
I should not wish to see any more of it, unless I might select the
parties. The mourners follow the bier through the town and down to the
ghat; then the bier-bearers deliver the body to some low-caste natives
--Doms--and the mourners turn about and go back home. I heard no crying
and saw no tears, there was no ceremony of parting. Apparently, these
expressions of grief and affection are reserved for the privacy of the
home. The dead women came draped in red, the men in white. They are
laid in the water at the river's edge while the pyre is being prepared.

The first subject was a man. When the Doms unswathed him to wash him, he
proved to be a sturdily built, well-nourished and handsome old gentleman,
with not a sign about him to suggest that he had ever been ill. Dry wood
was brought and built up into a loose pile; the corpse was laid upon it
and covered over with fuel. Then a naked holy man who was sitting on
high ground a little distance away began to talk and shout with great
energy, and he kept up this noise right along. It may have been the
funeral sermon, and probably was. I forgot to say that one of the
mourners remained behind when the others went away. This was the dead
man's son, a boy of ten or twelve, brown and handsome, grave and
self-possessed, and clothed in flowing white. He was there to burn his
father. He was given a torch, and while he slowly walked seven times
around the pyre the naked black man on the high ground poured out his
sermon more clamorously than ever. The seventh circuit completed, the
boy applied the torch at his father's head, then at his feet; the flames
sprang briskly up with a sharp crackling noise, and the lad went away.
Hindoos do not want daughters, because their weddings make such a ruinous
expense; but they want sons, so that at death they may have honorable
exit from the world; and there is no honor equal to the honor of having
one's pyre lighted by one's son. The father who dies sonless is in a
grievous situation indeed, and is pitied. Life being uncertain, the
Hindoo marries while he is still a boy, in the hope that he will have a
son ready when the day of his need shall come. But if he have no son, he
will adopt one. This answers every purpose.

Meantime the corpse is burning, also several others. It is a dismal
business. The stokers did not sit down in idleness, but moved briskly
about, punching up the fires with long poles, and now and then adding
fuel. Sometimes they hoisted the half of a skeleton into the air, then
slammed it down and beat it with the pole, breaking it up so that it
would burn better. They hoisted skulls up in the same way and banged and
battered them. The sight was hard to bear; it would have been harder if
the mourners had stayed to witness it. I had but a moderate desire to
see a cremation, so it was soon satisfied. For sanitary reasons it would
be well if cremation were universal; but this form is revolting, and not
to be recommended.

The fire used is sacred, of course--for there is money in it. Ordinary
fire is forbidden; there is no money in it. I was told that this sacred
fire is all furnished by one person, and that he has a monopoly of it and
charges a good price for it. Sometimes a rich mourner pays a thousand
rupees for it. To get to paradise from India is an expensive thing.
Every detail connected with the matter costs something, and helps to
fatten a priest. I suppose it is quite safe to conclude that that
fire-bug is in holy orders.

Close to the cremation-ground stand a few time-worn stones which are
remembrances of the suttee. Each has a rough carving upon it,
representing a man and a woman standing or walking hand in hand, and
marks the spot where a widow went to her death by fire in the days when
the suttee flourished. Mr. Parker said that widows would burn themselves
now if the government would allow it. The family that can point to one
of these little memorials and say: "She who burned herself there was an
ancestress of ours," is envied.

It is a curious people. With them, all life seems to be sacred except
human life. Even the life of vermin is sacred, and must not be taken.
The good Jain wipes off a seat before using it, lest he cause the death
of-some valueless insect by sitting down on it. It grieves him to have
to drink water, because the provisions in his stomach may not agree with
the microbes. Yet India invented Thuggery and the Suttee. India is a
hard country to understand. We went to the temple of the Thug goddess,
Bhowanee, or Kali, or Durga. She has these names and others. She is the
only god to whom living sacrifices are made. Goats are sacrificed to
her. Monkeys would be cheaper. There are plenty of them about the
place. Being sacred, they make themselves very free, and scramble around
wherever they please. The temple and its porch are beautifully carved,
but this is not the case with the idol. Bhowanee is not pleasant to look
at. She has a silver face, and a projecting swollen tongue painted a
deep red. She wears a necklace of skulls.

In fact, none of the idols in Benares are handsome or attractive. And
what a swarm of them there is! The town is a vast museum of idols--and
all of them crude, misshapen, and ugly. They flock through one's dreams
at night, a wild mob of nightmares. When you get tired of them in the
temples and take a trip on the river, you find idol giants, flashily
painted, stretched out side by side on the shore. And apparently
wherever there is room for one more lingam, a lingam is there. If Vishnu
had foreseen what his town was going to be, he would have called it
Idolville or Lingamburg.

The most conspicuous feature of Benares is the pair of slender white
minarets which tower like masts from the great Mosque of Aurangzeb. They
seem to be always in sight, from everywhere, those airy, graceful,
inspiring things. But masts is not the right word, for masts have a
perceptible taper, while these minarets have not. They are 142 feet
high, and only 8 1/2 feet in diameter at the base, and 7 1/2 at the
summit--scarcely any taper at all. These are the proportions of a
candle; and fair and fairylike candles these are. Will be, anyway, some
day, when the Christians inherit them and top them with the electric
light. There is a great view from up there--a wonderful view. A large
gray monkey was part of it, and damaged it. A monkey has no judgment.
This one was skipping about the upper great heights of the mosque
--skipping across empty yawning intervals which were almost too wide for
him, and which he only just barely cleared, each time, by the skin of his
teeth. He got me so nervous that I couldn't look at the view. I
couldn't look at anything but him. Every time he went sailing over one
of those abysses my breath stood still, and when he grabbed for the perch
he was going for, I grabbed too, in sympathy. And he was perfectly
indifferent, perfectly unconcerned, and I did all the panting myself.
He came within an ace of losing his life a dozen times, and I was so
troubled about him that I would have shot him if I had had anything to do
it with. But I strongly recommend the view. There is more monkey than
view, and there is always going to be more monkey while that idiot
survives, but what view you get is superb. All Benares, the river, and
the region round about are spread before you. Take a gun, and look at
the view.

The next thing I saw was more reposeful. It was a new kind of art. It
was a picture painted on water. It was done by a native. He sprinkled
fine dust of various colors on the still surface of a basin of water, and
out of these sprinklings a dainty and pretty picture gradually grew, a
picture which a breath could destroy. Somehow it was impressive, after
so much browsing among massive and battered and decaying fanes that rest
upon ruins, and those ruins upon still other ruins, and those upon still
others again. It was a sermon, an allegory, a symbol of Instability.
Those creations in stone were only a kind of water pictures, after all.

A prominent episode in the Indian career of Warren Hastings had Benares
for its theater. Wherever that extraordinary man set his foot, he left
his mark. He came to Benares in 1781 to collect a fine of L500,000 which
he had levied upon its Rajah, Cheit Singly on behalf of the East India
Company. Hastings was a long way from home and help. There were,
probably, not a dozen Englishmen within reach; the Rajah was in his fort
with his myriads around him. But no matter. From his little camp in a
neighboring garden, Hastings sent a party to arrest the sovereign. He
sent on this daring mission a couple of hundred native soldiers sepoys
--under command of three young English lieutenants. The Rajah submitted
without a word. The incident lights up the Indian situation
electrically, and gives one a vivid sense of the strides which the
English had made and the mastership they had acquired in the land since
the date of Clive's great victory. In a quarter of a century, from being
nobodies, and feared by none, they were become confessed lords and
masters, feared by all, sovereigns included, and served by all,
sovereigns included. It makes the fairy tales sound true. The English
had not been afraid to enlist native soldiers to fight against their own
people and keep them obedient. And now Hastings was not afraid to come
away out to this remote place with a handful of such soldiers and send
them to arrest a native sovereign.

The lieutenants imprisoned the Rajah in his own fort. It was beautiful,
the pluckiness of it, the impudence of it. The arrest enraged the
Rajah's people, and all Benares came storming about the place and
threatening vengeance. And yet, but for an accident, nothing important
would have resulted, perhaps. The mob found out a most strange thing, an
almost incredible thing--that this handful of soldiers had come on this
hardy errand with empty guns and no ammunition. This has been attributed
to thoughtlessness, but it could hardly have been that, for in such large
emergencies as this, intelligent people do think. It must have been
indifference, an over-confidence born of the proved submissiveness of the
native character, when confronted by even one or two stern Britons in
their war paint. But, however that may be, it was a fatal discovery that
the mob had made. They were full of courage, now, and they broke into
the fort and massacred the helpless soldiers and their officers.
Hastings escaped from Benares by night and got safely away, leaving the
principality in a state of wild insurrection; but he was back again
within the month, and quieted it down in his prompt and virile way, and
took the Rajah's throne away from him and gave it to another man. He was
a capable kind of person was Warren Hastings. This was the only time he
was ever out of ammunition. Some of his acts have left stains upon his
name which can never be washed away, but he saved to England the Indian
Empire, and that was the best service that was ever done to the Indians
themselves, those wretched heirs of a hundred centuries of pitiless
oppression and abuse.


True irreverence is disrespect for another man's god.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

It was in Benares that I saw another living god. That makes two.
I believe I have seen most of the greater and lesser wonders of the
world, but I do not remember that any of them interested me so
overwhelmingly as did that pair of gods.

When I try to account for this effect I find no difficulty about it.
I find that, as a rule, when a thing is a wonder to us it is not because
of what we see in it, but because of what others have seen in it. We get
almost all our wonders at second hand. We are eager to see any
celebrated thing--and we never fail of our reward; just the deep
privilege of gazing upon an object which has stirred the enthusiasm or
evoked the reverence or affection or admiration of multitudes of our race
is a thing which we value; we are profoundly glad that we have seen it,
we are permanently enriched from having seen it, we would not part with
the memory of that experience for a great price. And yet that very
spectacle may be the Taj. You cannot keep your enthusiasms down, you
cannot keep your emotions within bounds when that soaring bubble of
marble breaks upon your view. But these are not your enthusiasms and
emotions--they are the accumulated emotions and enthusiasms of a thousand
fervid writers, who have been slowly and steadily storing them up in your
heart day by day and year by year all your life; and now they burst out
in a flood and overwhelm you; and you could not be a whit happier if they
were your very own. By and by you sober down, and then you perceive that
you have been drunk on the smell of somebody else's cork. For ever and
ever the memory of my distant first glimpse of the Taj will compensate me
for creeping around the globe to have that great privilege.

But the Taj--with all your inflation of delusive emotions, acquired at
second-hand from people to whom in the majority of cases they were also
delusions acquired at second-hand--a thing which you fortunately did not
think of or it might have made you doubtful of what you imagined were
your own what is the Taj as a marvel, a spectacle and an uplifting and
overpowering wonder, compared with a living, breathing, speaking
personage whom several millions of human beings devoutly and sincerely
and unquestioningly believe to be a God, and humbly and gratefully
worship as a God?

He was sixty years old when I saw him. He is called Sri 108 Swami
Bhaskarananda Saraswati. That is one form of it. I think that that is
what you would call him in speaking to him--because it is short. But you
would use more of his name in addressing a letter to him; courtesy would
require this. Even then you would not have to use all of it, but only
this much:

Sri 108 Matparamahansrzpairivrajakacharyaswamibhaskaranandasaraswati.

You do not put "Esq." after it, for that is not necessary. The word
which opens the volley is itself a title of honor "Sri." The "108"
stands for the rest of his names, I believe. Vishnu has 108 names which
he does not use in business, and no doubt it is a custom of gods and a
privilege sacred to their order to keep 108 extra ones in stock. Just
the restricted name set down above is a handsome property, without the
108. By my count it has 58 letters in it. This removes the long German
words from competition; they are permanently out of the race.

Sri 108 S. B. Saraswati has attained to what among the Hindoos is called
the "state of perfection." It is a state which other Hindoos reach by
being born again and again, and over and over again into this world,
through one re-incarnation after another--a tiresome long job covering
centuries and decades of centuries, and one that is full of risks, too,
like the accident of dying on the wrong side of the Ganges some time or
other and waking up in the form of an ass, with a fresh start necessary
and the numerous trips to be made all over again. But in reaching
perfection, Sri 108 S. B. S. has escaped all that. He is no longer a
part or a feature of this world; his substance has changed, all
earthiness has departed out of it; he is utterly holy, utterly pure;
nothing can desecrate this holiness or stain this purity; he is no longer
of the earth, its concerns are matters foreign to him, its pains and
griefs and troubles cannot reach him. When he dies, Nirvana is his; he
will be absorbed into the substance of the Supreme Deity and be at peace

The Hindoo Scriptures point out how this state is to be reached, but it
is only once in a thousand years, perhaps, that candidate accomplishes
it. This one has traversed the course required, stage by stage, from the
beginning to the end, and now has nothing left to do but wait for the
call which shall release him from a world in which he has now no part nor
lot. First, he passed through the student stage, and became learned in
the holy books. Next he became citizen, householder, husband, and
father. That was the required second stage. Then--like John Bunyan's
Christian he bade perpetual good-bye to his family, as required, and went
wandering away. He went far into the desert and served a term as hermit.
Next, he became a beggar, "in accordance with the rites laid down in the
Scriptures," and wandered about India eating the bread of mendicancy. A
quarter of a century ago he reached the stage of purity. This needs no
garment; its symbol is nudity; he discarded the waist-cloth which he had
previously worn. He could resume it now if he chose, for neither that
nor any other contact can defile him; but he does not choose.

There are several other stages, I believe, but I do not remember what
they are. But he has been through them. Throughout the long course he
was perfecting himself in holy learning, and writing commentaries upon
the sacred books. He was also meditating upon Brahma, and he does that

White marble relief-portraits of him are sold all about India. He lives
in a good house in a noble great garden in Benares, all meet and proper
to his stupendous rank. Necessarily he does not go abroad in the
streets. Deities would never be able to move about handily in any
country. If one whom we recognized and adored as a god should go abroad
in our streets, and the day it was to happen were known, all traffic
would be blocked and business would come to a standstill.

This god is comfortably housed, and yet modestly, all things considered,
for if he wanted to live in a palace he would only need to speak and his
worshipers would gladly build it. Sometimes he sees devotees for a
moment, and comforts them and blesses them, and they kiss his feet and go
away happy. Rank is nothing to him, he being a god. To him all men are
alike. He sees whom he pleases and denies himself to whom he pleases.
Sometimes he sees a prince and denies himself to a pauper; at other times
he receives the pauper and turns the prince away. However, he does not
receive many of either class. He has to husband his time for his
meditations. I think he would receive Rev. Mr. Parker at any time. I
think he is sorry for Mr. Parker, and I think Mr. Parker is sorry for
him; and no doubt this compassion is good for both of them.

When we arrived we had to stand around in the garden a little while and
wait, and the outlook was not good, for he had been turning away
Maharajas that day and receiving only the riff-raff, and we belonged in
between, somewhere. But presently, a servant came out saying it was all
right, he was coming.

And sure enough, he came, and I saw him--that object of the worship of
millions. It was a strange sensation, and thrilling. I wish I could
feel it stream through my veins again. And yet, to me he was not a god,
he was only a Taj. The thrill was not my thrill, but had come to me
secondhand from those invisible millions of believers. By a hand-shake
with their god I had ground-circuited their wire and got their monster
battery's whole charge.

He was tall and slender, indeed emaciated. He had a clean cut and
conspicuously intellectual face, and a deep and kindly eye. He looked
many years older than he really was, but much study and meditation and
fasting and prayer, with the arid life he had led as hermit and beggar,
could account for that. He is wholly nude when he receives natives, of
whatever rank they may be, but he had white cloth around his loins now, a
concession to Mr. Parker's Europe prejudices, no doubt.

As soon as I had sobered down a little we got along very well together,
and I found him a most pleasant and friendly deity. He had heard a deal
about Chicago, and showed a quite remarkable interest in it, for a god.
It all came of the World's Fair and the Congress of Religions. If India
knows about nothing else American, she knows about those, and will keep
them in mind one while.

He proposed an exchange of autographs, a delicate attention which made me
believe in him, but I had been having my doubts before. He wrote his in
his book, and I have a reverent regard for that book, though the words
run from right to left, and so I can't read it. It was a mistake to
print in that way. It contains his voluminous comments on the Hindoo
holy writings, and if I could make them out I would try for perfection
myself. I gave him a copy of Huckleberry Finn. I thought it might rest
him up a little to mix it in along with his meditations on Brahma, for he
looked tired, and I knew that if it didn't do him any good it wouldn't do
him any harm.

He has a scholar meditating under him--Mina Bahadur Rana--but we did not
see him. He wears clothes and is very imperfect. He has written a
little pamphlet about his master, and I have that. It contains a
wood-cut of the master and himself seated on a rug in the garden. The
portrait of the master is very good indeed. The posture is exactly that
which Brahma himself affects, and it requires long arms and limber legs,
and can be accumulated only by gods and the india-rubber man. There is a
life-size marble relief of Shri 108, S.B.S. in the garden. It
represents him in this same posture.

Dear me! It is a strange world. Particularly the Indian division of it.
This pupil, Mina Bahadur Rana, is not a commonplace person, but a man of
distinguished capacities and attainments, and, apparently, he had a fine
worldly career in front of him. He was serving the Nepal Government in a
high capacity at the Court of the Viceroy of India, twenty years ago. He
was an able man, educated, a thinker, a man of property. But the longing
to devote himself to a religious life came upon him, and he resigned his
place, turned his back upon the vanities and comforts of the world, and
went away into the solitudes to live in a hut and study the sacred
writings and meditate upon virtue and holiness and seek to attain them.
This sort of religion resembles ours. Christ recommended the rich to
give away all their property and follow Him in poverty, not in worldly
comfort. American and English millionaires do it every day, and thus
verify and confirm to the world the tremendous forces that lie in
religion. Yet many people scoff at them for this loyalty to duty, and
many will scoff at Mina Bahadur Rana and call him a crank. Like many
Christians of great character and intellect, he has made the study of his
Scriptures and the writing of books of commentaries upon them the loving

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