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est in the forms and movements of Hindu life at this transitional period when the picturesque institutions and habits of thousands of years are visibly and irrevocably passing away, should gladly welcome its fresh and opportune representations. And all who, viewing without regret the decay of the old order and animated by the faith of nobler possibilities than it has ever achieved, are actually engaged in the great work of religious regeneration and social reform in India, should find much in these truthful but saddening sketches to intensify their sympathies and give definite direction and guidance to their best efforts.
W. HASTIE. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S INSTITUTION,
23rd March, 1881.
In presenting the following volume to the Public, I am conscious of the very great disadvantage I labor under in attempting to communicate my thoughts through the medium of a language differing from my mother-tongue both in the forms of construction and in the methods of expression. My appeal to the indulgence of the public is based on the ground of my work being true to its name. It professes to be a simple, but faithful, delineation of the present state of Hindoo society in Bengal, and especially in Calcutta, the Athens of Hindoosthan. I cannot promise any thing thrilling or sensational. My principal object is to give as much information as possible regarding the moral, intellectual, social and domestic economy of
my countrymen and countrywomen. The interest attaching to the information and facts furnished will greatly depend on the spirit in which they may be received. To such of my readers as feel a genuine interest in a true reflection of the present state of society in this country, passing from a condition of almost impenetrable darkness to that of marvellous light, through the general and rapid diffusion of western knowledge, I do not think the details I have given will be found dull or dry. Not a few of the facts stated will, I fear, prove
painfully interesting to those who are cognisant of the many incrusted defects and deficiencies still lurking in our social system. But if we carefully look at it we shall doubtless discover that it is not all darkness and clouds, "it has its crimson dawns, its rosy sunsets." The multitudinous phases of Hindoo life, though sadly revolting and repulsive in many respects, have nevertheless some redeeming features, revealing radiant glimpses of simpleand innocent joys. In discussing the various social questions in their purely earthly aspects and relationships, it may be I have treated some of them inadequately and superficially, but in so doing I claim the merit of a humble endeavour after perfect honesty. I have in no wise exaggerated, but have simply followed the golden maxim of “nothing ex tenuate nor set down aught in malice.”
The men of the land, and not the land of the men, form the subject matter of my work. My attention has long been directed to the domestic, social, moral, intellectual and religious condition of the Hindoos. The deep researches of European savants have from time to time thrown a flood of light on the learning and antiquities of India. We have every reason to admire the great truthfulness and accuracy of their observations in many respects. As foreigners, however, they were naturally constrained to pay but a subordinate attention to the peculiar domestic and social economy of the Natives. The idea of attempting a sketch of the inner life and habits of the Hindoos in this age,
was originally suggested to the writer by the Revd. Drs. Duff and Charles—two Christian philanthropists, whose names are deservedly enshrined in the grateful memory of the Hindoo community of Bengal, the great centre of their educational and religious achievements. It was cordially approved by that high-minded statesman, Sir Charles Theophilus, afterwards Lord Metcalfe, who practically taught the Indian Public what a writer in the "Nineteenth Century" so aptly calls the great Trinity of liberty,-freedom of speech, freedom of trade, and freedom of religion.
To supply this desideratum, and not merely to gratify the natural curiosity to know the inner life of the Hindoos, but to do something in the line of social amelioration by “bringing the stagnant waters of Eastern life into contact with the quickening stream of European progress," have been the chief aim of the following pages. Should a liberal Public, here as well as in Europe and America, vouchsafe its countenance to this my first literary enterprise, I purpose to
I continue my humble labor in the same sphere, extending my observation, if advisable, to a picture of the social life of Upper, Western and Southern India. The vastness of the subject is one great difficulty. It will open to all civilized and philanthropic nations a wide and yet unexplored field for the exercise of their thoughts and sympathies.
To Europeans, and more especially to Englishmen, who have. for more than a century and a half,
been the great and beneficent arbiters under Providence of the destiny of this vast empire, a correct knowledge of the domestic and social institutions of the Hindoos, is of the most vital importance, being essentially indispensable to a right understanding of the existing wants, wishes, feelings and sentiments, condition and progress of the subject race. Many erroneous ideas concerning the singular customs and observances of the people of India still prevail in Europe and America. They are partly due to defective observation, and partly to the prejudices of men whose minds are too pre-occupied to properly understand and appreciate the peculiar phases of character, manners and usages among nations other than their
Such men are unfortunately led to associate the Natives “with ways that are dark and tricks that are vain.” To remove the mass of misconception yet prevailing in some quarters by placing before the general reader a true and comprehensive knowledge of the daily life of a people, who occupy such a huge spot on the earth's surface, and whose numbers are counted by hundreds of millions, is indeed an important step towards the solution of a great social problem, and towards the removal of the gulf that divides the sons of the soil from the English rulers of the country. The tendency of close and constant intercourse is to promote an identity of interests between the two races. As a Native, the author may be allowed to have had the facilities requisite for acquiring a clear idea of the manners and customs of his countrymen, which may