William Eleroy Curtis

The railways of India are many and long and useful, but still very primitive in their appointments, having been built for utility and convenience, and not for comfort. The day will come, I suppose, when modern improvements will be introduced, and the long journeys which are necessary to reach any part of the vast empire will be made as pleasant and luxurious as transcontinental trips in the United States. Just now, however, the equipment is on a military basis of simplicity and severity. Passengers are furnished with what they need, and no more.

Everybody who keeps in touch with the slowly changing social conditions in India is convinced that the caste, the most important fetich of the Hindus, is gradually losing its hold, particularly upon the upper classes, because they cannot adjust it to the requirements of modern civilization and to the foreign customs they imitate and value so highly.

Ahmedabad, capital of the province of Jujarat, once the greatest city of India, and formerly "as large as London," is the first stopping place on the conventional tour from Bombay through the northern part of the empire, because it contains the most perfect and pure specimens of Saracenic architecture; and our experience taught us that it is a place no traveler should miss. It certainly ranks next to Agra and Delhi for the beauty and extent of its architectural glories, and for other reasons it is worth visiting.

Allahabad is the center of learning, the Athens in India, the seat of a native university, the residence of many prominent men, the headquarters of Protestant missionary work, the residence of the governor of the United Provinces, Sir James La Touche, one of the ablest and most progressive of the British officials in India. Allahabad was once a city of great importance.

A board of geographic names, similar to that we have in Washington, is badly needed in India to straighten out discrepancies in the nomenclature on the maps. I was told that only three towns in all the vast empire have a single spelling; all the rest have several; some have many; and the name of one town - I have forgotten which - is given in sixty-five different ways. Jeypore, for example, is given in fifteen.

Darjeeling is one of the most favored spots on earth, the loveliest place in India, and the favorite resort and sanitarium of the citizen element as distinguished from military and official circles. It is a hard journey, both going and coming, and a traveler gets impatient when he finds that it takes him from four o'clock in the afternoon of one day until nearly two o'clock of the next to make a journey of 246 miles.

A gentleman in Bombay told me that 50,000 people are killed in India every year by snakes and tigers, and his extraordinary statement was confirmed by several officials and others to whom I applied for information. They declared that only about one-half of the deaths from such causes were ever reported; that the government was endeavoring to secure more complete and exact returns, and was offering rewards for the destruction of reptiles and wild animals.

No one can realize what an awful religion Brahminism is until he visits Benares, the most sacred city of India, upon the banks of the Ganges, the most sacred river, more holy to more millions of human souls than Mecca to the Moslem, Rome to the Catholic or Jerusalem to the Jew. This marvelous city it so holy that death upon its soil is equivalent to life eternal. It is the gate to paradise, the abundant entrance to everlasting happiness, and its blessings are comprehensive enough to include all races, all religions and all castes.

In India, as everywhere else, the climate and physical features of the country have exercised a sharp and lasting influence upon the race that lives therein. The noblest characters, the brave, the strong, the enduring and the progressive come from the north, where the air is keen and encourages activity, while those who dwell in the south have hereditary physical and moral lassitude. The geographical names are typical of the people. They all mean something and have a poetical and oftentimes a political significance.

About 5,000 missionaries of various religions and cults are working among the people of India; two-thirds of them Protestants, and about 1,500 Americans, including preachers, teachers, doctors, nurses, editors and all concerned. Their names fill a large directory, and they represent all grades and shades of theology, philosophy, morality and other methods of making human beings better, and providing for the salvation of their souls. India is a fertile and favorite field for such work. The languid atmosphere of the country and the contemplative disposition of the native encourage it.

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