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FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.
IN AND ABOUT MADURA.
BY REV. GEORGE H. GUTTERSON, OF THE MADURA MISSION.
The Atlantic is crossed. The Britannic has transferred her mail to the “tender” off Queenstown and feels her way up the Mersey. Later on you have been to the Tower. A few days more and the Indian steamer is bearing you down the Channel. Through the Bay of Biscay and the blue Mediterranean; you have seen the canal at Suez and the Bedouin on its banks. Sinai frowns upon you from the deserts of Arabia. Rainless Aden with its memories of Keith Falconer is a picture in your mind. The dangerous Red Sea is behind and the broad sweep of the Indian Ocean before you. The Southern Cross flashes upon you from the midnight heavens. Rounding Cape Comorin and steering northward your steamer drops anchor, some bright morning, in the roadstead off Madras. Scarcely has the anchor touched bottom before the ship is surrounded with a swarm of strange-looking boats, huge, unwieldy things, made of rough plank tied together with rope made of cocoanut fibre. Each boat is manned by a dozen scantily clad natives perched on some rude crosspieces which serve as thwarts. Every man is pulling a long pole with a spoon-like arrangement at the end, which does for an oar. They are all shouting at the top of their voices, and if you are a missionary you will wonder, as you look down upon them from the rail of the ship, if this is the material upon
you are expected to work! Embar ing in one of these boats, they row you within a rod or two of the beach, the invite you to get out upon their naked shoulders or else into a chair, in w'.ch you are borne to the shore.
You are now in 'outhern India. You have stepped out of the restless, rushing civilization I the nineteenth century into the calmer, more philosophic life of twenty centuries ago. In Madras, the flourishing capital of the Southern Presidency, you see Christian schools and churches side by side with heathen temples and shrines. Upon its streets you meet Parsees, educated Brahmans, wealthy native merchants with chains of gold about their wrists, English governors, generals, and merchants riding to their offices, where the swinging punkah makes the heat bearable.
But we are not to linger in this great city. The comfortable second-class carriage over the South India Railway will take us in twenty-four hours to Madura, 345 miles
away, the centre of the Madura District, and also the central station of the Madura Mission of the American Board. This South India Railway is a narrow v-gauge line under government management. Most of its stations are solidly built of stone, and it runs for miles between hedges of Indian aloes. Just before entering Madura City, it crosses the Vaigai River. It was necessary, of
course, to bridge this river. It is said that many of the Brahman priests of the temple and prominent natives in the city, who were watching the engineers at their work while the foundations for the piers were being sunk in the bed of the river, declared that the patron goddess of the city would never allow the Englishmen to put a bridge across that river. Very soon the water began to come in and fill up the deep holes in the sand. “Look, look !” they exultingly shouted,“ the river goddess is here ; you can never build this bridge." The engineers drew off their men and ceased operations while they sent to Madras for a powerful pumping-engine. This was wheeled into the sandy bed of the river, the fires
were started, and very soon the wells were pumped dry so that the courses of stone and Portland cementleould be put into their place. “Alas, alas ! where is the goddess ? She is of no use ! ” cried the natives. “ You white men are gods; hereafter we will worship you."
Madura is one of the most rapidly growing and prosperous cities in India. It is purely a native city, and is a fine specimen of such. Several high English officials are stationed there, and their influence, together with government enterprise and native coöperation, are rapidly making it a place of importance as a business centre and a source of influence. It is a very ancient city, known to the Romans, mentioned by Pliny, and is the stronghold of idolatry and caste in Southern India. There are 80,000 people in Madura City to-day, and before many years there will be 100,000.
The Madura Mission of the American Board, started fifty-seven years ago in this intellectual and religious centre, is now one of the best organized missions
in all India. Two and a half miles out of the city, on a broad, banyan-shaded thoroughfare, traveled constantly by thousands of Hindus, is the “Mission College." A son of Massachusetts, born under the elms of beautiful Lenox, is now building up and making strong this Christian university under the palms of sunny India. Let me paint for you a few of the pictures one may see any day in and about our Madura town.
We are standing near a pile of rice, poured down in the street just out of people's way. It suggests the green ricefields stretching for miles on every side of the city — fields which have been plowed perhaps for twenty centuries. Every Hindu eats rice if he can get it. If he can't afford it, he eats millet or some coarser kind of grain. The whole process of rice-growing is an interesting one. Before putting the plow into the soil, water must be let on and allowed to soften the earth, which has been baked hard as a rock by the sun. This water is stored up in great irrigation tanks or ponds. The people of India are adepts at irrigation. The plow is little better than a sharpened stick, and both plowmen and cattle go halfway to their knees in mud as they do their work. The little rice plants are put down one by one into the soft mud, women and girls doing the work. Water must be kept three or four inches deep on these ricefields until the grain is ready for reaping. It is reaped by hand, bound into bundles and carried upon the heads of women to the threshing-place, and trodden out by cattle in much the same way as it was in the time of Abraham.
The city of Madura is a centre also of the weaving trade, both of cotton and silk. The implements are very rude, but the product is very beautiful. At every step you meet Brahman and other high-caste women wearing very gracefully the richly colored silken cloths for which the city is famous. Just yonder the weaver is driving down his stakes and putting together some of his weaving arrangements by the roadside ; he is preparing the warp, the loom is inside his house. He can produce delicate fabrics, and dye them in lasting colors, extracted from roots and herbs.
The next thing that greets the eye will be the flower merchants sitting crosslegged in their little stalls, with piles of fragrant cape jessamine, pink oleanders, yellow and white chrysanthemums exposed for sale before them. While you wait they will deftly tie a wreath for you, using the slender filaments of dried banana plant instead of wire. The Hindu is always and everywhere a lover of color in art and in nature. They never dress in sombre garb. The poor coolie who can neither read nor write, and whose wages is five or seven cents a day, is often seen with flowers in his hair, he having no buttonhole to wear them in.
Next beyond the flower bazaar are piles of cocoanuts on the ground, and country carts unloading their burden of rich, yellow bananas. The onion and garlic merchant is near by, while cardamons and annis, coriander and ginger, and all the spicy odors of “Araby the blest” fill the place. Very likely you may purchase some flowers and some bananas, but the other good things you will leave for the cook or butler, while you stop, for a moment, at the goldsmith's, a step or two beyond. The Hindu jewelers are very numerous, very clever, and very cunning; every town and village boasts a number of them. They can really do very beautiful work in silver and gold, but they do not understand how to cut or set precious stones to the best advantage. Every Hindu woman is
exceedingly fond of jewels and bestows them in every available place upon her person, from her toes to the tips of her ears. Nor is her dress complete without them. She avails herself of pearls from the deep seas off Ceylon and rubies
from the mines of Burma; and 18-carat gold has to be refined for her necklaces.
But, hark to that loud music coming round the next corner; it means a morning procession from the temple on its way to obtain the sacred water with which
the goddess is to be bathed. The most important part of the procession is the big temple elephant; perhaps there are two or three of them. The keeper, with his sharp iron goad, sits upon the back of each, while the sweet-toned bell, suspended by brass chains from the elephant's neck, keeps time with his majestic gait. The Hindus have a proverb that “the walk of a graceful woman should resemble that of an elephant." Nor is this without reason, for there is a definite majesty and grace to the motion of these stately animals.
But enough of what has been in Madura. Let us turn to that which is and is to be. For the last and best scene, come with me to the “Western gate" of
the old city ; behind you are towers and minarets of Hindu temple and Mohammedan mosque ; before you, in the distance, groves of palms and low red hills almost bare of verdure. You are passing along a genuine Oriental street filled with strange sights — native carts covered with bamboo matting, drawn by two oxen or sometimes by one; coolies with baskets of bananas on their heads; women carrying earthen jars of water or sour milk in like manner; now and then a donkey with somebody's washing on his back; hundreds of travelers with sandal and staff and drinking-vessel of brass; and, what is to us the most interesting, numbers of young men and boys on their way, if it be schooltime, to
Pasumalai College alluded to above. And a word or two about these schoolboys; they are not unattractive looking fellows; their eyes are bright, their faces indicate intelligence, their hair is very black, and carefully braided under their turbans or flying loose in the wind from their morning bath ; their clothing is white cotton cloth, clean or otherwise, as the family purse or custom dictates. Very likely they can do a hard example in mental arithmetic quicker than you can, and as for feats of memory, they 'll beat you every time. They do not reason just as you do, but the chances are that they are more polite to their parents. These schoolboys, representing Young India, just as you do Young America, are carrying the latest textbooks open in their hands. As they hurry on, they recite passages from Locksley Hall, or verify the references in Paradise Lost. The shrines by the roadside are unheeded, as they walk swiftly on to join the 350 boys who are gathered in the college church for morning worship - the hymn, the Scripture lesson, the earnest prayer, all in their own tongue. In more senses than one they have left the great city of Madura, with its ancient religion, behind them, as they come to school this morning, and are coming into that which Madura with all its temples can never give them