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Lenzs World Tour Awheel Rangoon, Burma, to Calcutta, India
Lenz's World Tour Awheel From Rangoon, Burma, to Calcutta, India a native indian belle. Y sea voyage from Rangoon to Calcutta presented no features of exceptional interest, being made on one of the regular service steamers between the two ports, but Calcutta introduced me to striking contrasts with the scenes which had so long surrounded me in the mountain passes of China and the sub-tropical jungles of Burma. My 9,906 progressive miles awheel and my three sea voyages had carried me from the great metropolis of the West, New York, to the great metropolis of the East. Like New York in commercial activity, and exceeding it in palatial grandeur, Calcutta is the product of circumstances as widely removed from those of America as the poles, One the capital of a free republic, the other the seat of an arbitrary, but necessary, despotism. The one representing in the highest form the capacity of welding strange people into a patriotic whole, mainly through its educational system; the other the home of M antagonistic elements, divided by seemingly impassable barriers of religion, language and creeds. The one with a population of sixty millions, having over thirteen millions of children in its public schools; the other with a population of two hundred and eighty-seven millions, of whom nearly two hundred and fifty millions can neither read nor write. Truly, our English cousins have taken upon themselves a task, the like of which the world has never seen, to keep the peace and secure the prosperity and good government of these violent millions of swarthy fanatics, inhabiting upward of a million and a half square miles, with an average density of population to the mile nine times that of the United States, and among whom the fires of religious antagonism and caste would, but for its power, break out with devastating effect. With all the force at the Government’s command, it is unable, at times, to stay the outbreak of fierce Hindu or fiercer Mohammedan spirit. In only one regard have the two countries a point of similarity, and that is their original settlement by trading New York is the direct companies. result of the old West India Trading Company. The Indian Empire, as a British possession, had its origin in the operations of the East India Trading Indeed, it was not until Company. 1858, after the Indian Mutiny, that the government entirely passed to the crown. However, it is neither my intention nor within my capacity to write Indian history, and so I return to my immediate subject, “Calcutta.” The approach to Calcutta as we steamed up the river was very impressive, and after a sea voyage the foliage of the botanical gardens on the left and the suburb of Garden Reach, dotted with country houses and belted with gardens, was an exceedingly grateful sight to sun-tired eyes. Beyond them came the docks and arsenal, and then again pleasure claims its riparian rights for the Maidan Esplanade, whereon the rank, fashion and beauty of Calcutta LENZ’S WORLD TOUR AWHEEL. take their evening ride. The river front is the site, too, of the Government House, the Mint, the Customs House, and many another evidence of England’s rule. All these and many more look down upon the river, up which this vast empire was entered first by the Dutch and the French, and finally by that master of so much of the water fronts of the world—England. The population of Calcutta is over six hundred and eighty thousand people, consisting of Hindus and Mohammedans, Buddhists and a few hundred each of Jains, Jews, Zoroastians and Sikhs and 2,100 Christians. The Hin- 225 keeping itself separate from the others, as though it were of a different race, not even intermarrying. Each caste is distinguished by blots of different colored paint on their arms, bodies and faces. Every day the Hindus of Calcutta bathe in the river Hoogly, a branch of the revered Ganges, upon which the city is situated. This water they consider sacred. Steps are built leading down into the water, and in the morning thousands of Hindu men, women and children are to be seen bathing. The Hindus each do their own cook- hindoo critics. dus are the bulk of the inhabitants, and are divided into four great religious divisions or castes. The Brahmins are the first or highest caste. The second caste of Hindus are descendants of the royal and military families, divided into many sub-castes. The third are merchants and cultivators, while the fourth caste consists of laborers and artificers, divided in many subdivisions. A fifth and lower caste consists of those who have violated the principles of the other four and have These castes do not been banished. associate with one another, each caste ing, washing themselves first, and will eat no food prepared by outsiders. On the ships they generally carry enough to last them the length of the voyage. They also allow no one outside of their caste to touch their cooking utensils. A Brahmin considers himself so high caste that should but a shadow of an outsider pass over his food he will destroy it and promptly bathe to make himself clean. I had considerable experience of this while I was traveling in Burma, along the railway line. There the low caste Hindus would invariably pour water into my hands to drink, or 226 OUTING FOR JUNE. my calcutta escort. place food on paper for me to eat, in order not to lose their caste. The cow is the sacred animal of the Hindus; consequently they eat no beef —in fact, very little meat at all. Many riots between the Mohammedans, who kill and cat beef, and the Hindus have occurred throughout India and in Rangoon because the Mohammedans kill cows near the Hindu temples. Mohammedans are not so fanatical as Hindus, and are employed in hotels, by private families as servants, driving gharries or carriages, on ships and in offices. They are very clever natives, of the same type as the Hindus; they have intelligent features and are quite good-looking on the average, with their dark-brown skin and beautiful straight, glossy hair. They are descendants of Persians or have been converted from the Hindu religion. Mohammedans, like the Jews, abstain from pork. The high class Hindu and Mohammedan women are rarely seen, as they lead a life of seclusion. When they go on the street it is a l w a y s i n a c a r r y i n g - c h a i r o r palanka or closed gharries. Some of the Indian women are very beautiful. Their dress consists of a rich or lightcolored silk cloth wound artfully around Many have rings and their bodies. marks tattooed around their shoulders and arms and simply weigh themselves down with jewelry and ornaments. Of Jains there are but few, with a mixed Hindu and Buddhism religion of their own. LENZ’S WORLD TOUR AWHEEL. 227 my calcutta escort. Zorcastians are Parsees originally from Persia; they are the old so-called fire-worshippers. Sikhs are also caste natives of Northwest India or the Punjab. The greatest peculiarity of the Sikhs is that they never shave their hair. Nearly all have beautiful, fine heads of hair under their tremendous turbans, and the men wear fine beards, the long hair being interwoven. They are a stalwart and well-built race, eat little meat, and for days can subsist on “chapatties,” a sort of unleavened pancake made of flour, water and fat. They are courageous, and the most faithful sepoys of the native army. Calcutta is considered the finest city in India. It has very fine macadamized streets. In the parks and gardens are many statues and monuments in memory of the long line of remarkable men who have figured in the history of India. The zoölogical gardens contain a rare collection of the beasts and reptiles of India, including lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, jackals, monkeys and apes of all species. Snakes of all sizes, from the tiny little green whip-snakes to the deadly cobra, boa-constrictor and python. No doubt the collection of snakes, alligators and lizards is the best that can be found the world over. The European buildings of the city are palatial and substantially built of brick, all plastered over with an excellent quality of cement, which withstands the action of the heavy rains during the long monsoon. The large 228 OUTING FOR JUNE. centre of the wonderful system of government which permeates the whole vast empire. It is the seat of a university from which over 3,000 graduates annually matriculate, as I am told; and is, as I know, the home of a bicycle club whose members are, what cyclists all the world over should be and mainly are, openhearted gentlemen. To meet clubmen and wheelmen after my months of expatriation was indeed thrice-welcome. Bicycling was introduced years ago in India, when the ordinary high wheel was considered perfection. To-day there are over two hundred wheelmen in Calcutta. Two bicycle clubs have been formed within the last two years—the Calcutta Naval Volunteer Cycling Club, and the Company F Calcutta Rifle Volunteer Cycling Club. There are, of course, no bicycle records held in India, but a very creditable performance was accomplished by W. S. Burke and A. J. Millwood, riding from Allahabad to Calcutta, a distance of five hundred and thirty miles in five and a half days, in October, 1892. The wheelmen were very courteous on my arrival in Calcutta. A dinner and entertainment was given in my honor. pillars and walls are plastered in imitation of stone work, which makes a magnificent appearance. Calcutta, from its position at the head of the gulf and from its being the natural outlet of the two great valleys of the Ganges and the Brahmapootra, has an immense trade, exporting, however, more than she imports. It is the largest emporium of trade in all Asia, and has a harbor into which large vessels can make their way from the sea up to the very warehouse doors. One with Western preconception of the surroundings of commercial activity would not, from its outward aspect, suppose it to be the seat of any considerable quantity of manufactures; but it is. The explanation of the problem lies in the fact that the bulk of its native manufactures are carried on in the homes of the natives. It is a hot city—in certain seasons of the year very hot; but it is by no means unhealthy, at least by comparison with that period of its history which antedates the modern sewage system. I have still omitted three of Calcutta’s titles to honor, none of which must be forgotten, especially the last. It is the a memento of calcutta.
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