BENARES, Saturday, February 8.

We started from our hotel early this morning to see the Hindoos bathing in the sacred waters of the Ganges. Benares is to the pious Hindoo all that Mecca is to the good son of the Prophet, and much more beside, and he esteems himself happy if it is vouchsafed him to die in sight of this stream and this city. Pilgrims flock here from all parts of India, and thousands are carried from long distances, while dying, that their eyes may behold, ere they close, the holy city of God. At the junction yesterday, six miles out, we came upon our first band of pilgrims, for they now patronize the rail freely, men and women, each with the inevitable bundle of rags which serves as his bed en route and as a change of clothing, to be blessed by washing in the Ganges. It requires about a month to worship at every temple and do all that the priests persuade these pilgrims to be essential for their salvation, every ceremony, of course, producing revenue for this class. Each Rajah of India has his temple upon the bank of the river, and it is these handsome structures, situated on the cliff which overhangs the river, that give to Benares its unparalleled beauty. In each temple a priest is maintained who prays constantly and bathes every morning as a substitute for his master, the Rajah, but the latter comes in person also for one month each year to perform the sacred rites. We were fortunate this morning in seeing the Rajah of Nepaul at his devotions. He has a small covered boat of his own, and we found him on his knees, in front of it, gazing upon the sun, as we pulled slowly past in our boat, his staff standing behind him in reverential attitudes. For one full month this intelligent ruler, who speaks English fluently and is well informed of the views Europeans hold of his religious ideas, will nevertheless work hard, visiting daily the temples, going through various exercises, and bathing every morning in the Ganges. One other Rajah is here, and others are shortly to come and do likewise. It seems so strange that these men still remain slaves to such superstitions; but how few among ourselves succeed in rising beyond what we happen to have been taught in our childhood! It is very different, I am told, with those who have received English ideas in their youth at the government colleges. They make quick work of the Hindoo idols; but so far every one here agrees with the Rev. Dr. Field when he says: "It needs very little learning to convince the Hindoo that his sacred books are a mass of fable. But this does not make him a Christian. It only lands him in infidelity, and leaves him there." The Encyclopedia Britannica says that "the progress of Protestant missions amounts at present to almost nothing." In Dr. Mullen's report, down to 1871, the "whole force of English missionaries - 579, and of native preachers, 1,993 - had produced a native Christian population of only 280,600. There was probably a much larger number in the south of India about the middle of the eighteenth century." I heard everywhere corroborations of this statement.

The wife of the Rajah, we heard, had yesterday performed the most sacred of all the ceremonies under conditions of considerable popular excitement. The sacred well, the stairs leading from it to the river, and the bathing place at the river, were all covered in; the crowd could only see the sedan chair which carried the queen to the well, but the spectacle attracted great numbers. This well is simply a trench about twenty-five feet long and not more than three feet wide, but it must be thirty feet below the surface. Broad steps lead to it from all sides. In this well every Hindoo of good caste is permitted to wash, and there are always many in it. The water is foul and offensive, yet such is its reputed sanctity that no sin can be committed so heinous that it cannot be washed away by it. The ceremony, fortunately, is incomplete until one, rising from its stench, walks to the pure water of the Ganges and bathes there. I think the ceremony must typify man before purification, foul with sin, and then cleansed by bathing in the pure Jordan afterward; but no one could give me any information upon this point. At all events it was into this sink that the Rajah's wife bravely immersed herself yesterday, and it is here, too, the Rajah himself must come before he leaves - poor man!

The place where the dead are burned was pointed out as we drifted past in our boat, but it was then unoccupied. As we returned, however, one body was in the hands of the attendants, who had taken it into the river and were just in the act of pouring the sacred water down the throat preparatory to the final scene. One woman alone sat on the shore weeping, and two small children at her side seemed not to understand why. It was still early morning, and all was quiet. Our guide pointed out some who were evidently friends, in conversation with men on a parapet above. They were bargaining for the sacred fire to light the funeral pile. Government prohibits the burning of the forlorn widow with her husband's body, as was formerly the custom, but it is said many widows wish this privilege even yet, nor can I blame them much. I'm sure I don't see why, beyond the mere instinct of self-preservation, they should have a wish to live on. Those educated people among us who commit suicide have prospects before them which might be called blissful compared with what confronts poor widows in India.

We visited the principal temples and shrines in succession, but I do not propose to rehearse their names and special virtues. There is a great sameness about them, but the Monkey Temple differs from the others in having several hundred monkeys running over it in every direction. Like the rest, this is owned by a number of people, and its shares are marketable property. Dr. Lazarus, the chief of the medical department, tells us that the "river people," a term embracing those who own the temples on the stream - just as we would say the "steel rail" or the "pig metal" people at home - are very much depressed, complaining bitterly that the revenues have fallen away. One owner in the Monkey Temple, probably the most prosperous of all, had some time ago asked what this trouble meant. He was advised to sell his monkey stock as soon as possible, but up to the present day he has found no one willing to invest in the property. One of the high priests of another sacred shrine said to my informant that he had seen in his day three ages - one of gold, one of silver, and now he had reached the age of copper, and was only thankful when he saw a few pieces of that. "The people still come as of old, to worship, which costs nothing," he said, "but they don't pay the gods more than a pittance. I wonder what we are coming to?" While great allowance has to be made for the changed condition of affairs throughout the world, which has seriously affected the revenues of religious establishments everywhere, and which India has had to share, aggravated by the loss of her cotton industry, still it can hardly be doubted that Hindooism as a vital force is crumbling slowly to pieces, and that the priests are losing their sway over the masses. Caste also goes slowly with the tide of change, and Brahmans are now occasionally found taking employment below that of their caste; and while a high-caste Hindoo some years ago would have considered himself defiled if even the garments of a low-caste person touched him, he now rushes into the same railway compartment among the general crowd and struggles for a seat with various castes, and says nothing about it. One stand the English home Government took, in deference to English ideas as opposed to those of the Anglo-Indian authorities, which alone dooms caste, sooner or later, to extinction: it would not permit different classes on the railways to be established for Hindoos or Mohammedans, or for castes of the former. Many residents in India feared that this would prevent the natives from using the lines, but the result has wonderfully belied these fears and vindicated the sagacity of those who ventured to inaugurate this system; and now one sees Hindoos and Mohammedans, high caste and low caste, jostling each other in their efforts to get desirable seats in the third-class compartments, where, by the way, they travel for less per mile than anywhere else in the world, third-class fares in India being uniformly one-half of a cent per mile. First-class fares, with such sleeping-car luxuries as I have before described included, are just about our rates with sleeping-cars not included - viz., three cents per mile.

While Hindooism is thus passing away, but little progress is made with Islam. The fifty millions of Mohammedans stand to-day where they have stood for ages, and cry from their mosques morning and night, "There is but one God, and Mohammed is his prophet." No idols, no drunkenness, no caste. The contrast between their faith and that of Christians is therefore much less marked, and our guide says to us, with evident pride, "Hindoos believe many gods, worship idols. I believe like you, one God, no idols."

India is thus in a state of transition, her caste and religion both passing away. The work before this generation and probably the next is to pull down and destroy. It will remain for those who come after to begin the more difficult labor of building up.

We met at Benares strings of water-carriers, carrying brass vessels on each end of a pole borne over the shoulder. These come here for hundreds of miles on foot, and take back to their customers in the country the sacred water of the blessed river. It is a regular business, and furnishes employment for thousands of men. Upon no account must this water be carried by railway and deprived of its healing powers by being handled by unbelievers. It must be carried by Hindoos of the proper caste on foot, or it has no virtue.

Science invades everything nowadays, and the officials have recently had the water of one of the sacred wells analyzed by a chemist - audacious dog of an infidel - and here he comes with his CO2 and all the virtue of this water of life is gone. It is found unfit for human use, and the well is ordered to be closed. The chemist, in the eyes of the ignorant natives, has sacrificed spiritual for physical health; preferred the welfare of their bodies to that of their souls, as is the custom with these wicked scientists.

We pass booths in which native jewellers sit hard at work fashioning rings, brooches, and other articles of personal adornment. Their dexterity is marvellous; without elaborate appliances of any kind, with only a small blow pipe and a few rude tools, they will take a gold coin from you and before your eyes shape it into any form selected. But it is said they must have a model to copy from; no original design emanates from them. The booths, or little shops, are curious affairs. They are built of mud, with neither window nor door, the floor on which the artisans sit being about four feet above the narrow street level.

I never was more thoroughly impressed with the position of the European of India than to-day when pushing through the crowded, narrow lanes of Benares. Our native guide went before us carrying a whip which he cracked and brandished among the crowd, calling out "Sahib! Sahib!" and the people, casting one glance behind, at once hurried out of our way, making a clear track for our august person supposed to represent the conquering race. The respectful salaams, as we caught the eye of one native after another, their deferential, not to say obsequious, attitude as we passed - all this tells its story. That "all men are born free and equal" will not enter the Hindoo mind for centuries - not till England has brought it up to the standard of self-government, which it is gradually doing, however, by its schools and colleges.

Benares has been famous for centuries for its manufacture of gold and silver embroideries. I remember that Macaulay speaks of them in his essay on Warren Hastings as decorating alike the court of Versailles and the halls of St. James. We went to the native village and saw the work carried on. How such exquisite fabrics come from the antiquated looms situated in mud hovels it is hard to understand, but they do. We saw one man who had no less than thirty-three different tiny spools to work from in a piece not more than a yard wide. All of these he had in turn to introduce in the web, and pass through a greater or lesser number of threads, the one starting in where the other left the woof, before one single thread was complete from end to end of the warp and could be driven into the pattern. The people of Benares also excel as workers in brass.

To-day we had a unique experience indeed, being carried through the principal streets of Benares on State elephants, kindly provided for us by the Rajah of Benares. Mr. H., of New York, whom we have met on his way round the world, and Vandy and I were the riders. We were driven to the palace, and found there two huge animals, gayly caparisoned, awaiting our arrival, surrounded by servants in resplendent liveries. The elephants very kindly got upon their knees, which rendered a short ladder only necessary for us to mount by. The motion is decidedly peculiar, and, until one becomes used to it, I should think very fatiguing; but we enjoyed our elephant ride greatly, and the Rajah has our hearty thanks.

We are in the land of the cheapest labor in the world. It is doubtful if men can be found anywhere else to do a day's work for as little as they are paid in India. Railway laborers and coolies of all kinds receive only four rupees per month, and find themselves; these are worth just now forty cents each, or, say, $1.60 (6s. 6d.) in gold for a month's service. Upon this a man has to exist. Is it any wonder that the masses are constantly upon the verge of starvation? Women earn much less, and of course every member of a family has to work and earn something. The common food is a pulse called gran; the better class indulge in a pea called daahl. Anything beyond a vegetable diet is not dreamed of.

Before leaving Benares I must speak again of the scene at the river, which far excels any representation I have seen of it or any description I have read. Photographs cannot be made to convey a just idea of its picturesque beauty, because the view is enlivened by such masses and combinations of color as Turner alone could do justice to. Indeed, my first thought as I saw the thousands on the ascending banks - one tier of resting-places above another, culminating in the grand temples' towering at the tops - was that I had seen something akin to this in a dazzling picture somewhere. Need I say that it is in the Turner Gallery alone where such color can be seen? He should have painted the "Hindoo Bathers at Benares," and given the world one more gem revealing what he alone, in his generation, fully saw in the mind's eye, "the light which never shone on sea or shore." We have voted this scene at Benares the finest sight we have yet witnessed.

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