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Across India by Oliver Optic

The obstinate Parsees fled to India


"'When

an English servant pleads that such a thing is not his place, his excuse is analogous to that of the Hindu servant when he pleads his caste. When an Englishman of birth or profession, which is held to confer gentility, refuses to associate with a tradesman or mechanic; or when members of a secret society exclude all others from their meetings; or when any other social distinction arises, it would present itself to the mind of the Hindu as a regulation of caste.'

"It is a barrier to the progress of Christianity in many ways. It is generally thought that a Christian convert cannot be restored to his caste if he should backslide; and the superstition of the low-class natives is a rhinoceros shield, which it is still difficult to penetrate; but in the end the Cross will come off conqueror, as it always has and always will.

"Caste does not now compel a native to pursue his father's calling, except, perhaps, in the case of Brahmins. For that matter, Brahmins serve in the army, and even act as cooks and in similar occupations. Men of all castes have risen to exalted positions, just as poor men, with none of the advantages of high birth, have in England. The loss of caste has been regarded by the ignorant native here as the most terrible thing that could possibly happen to him; but it is not so in practice, for it has been accomplished by giving a very indifferent supper.

"When an

outcast enters another caste, he is well and heartily received as a convert. As you proceed through India you will learn more about this stumbling-block of superstition and ignorance.

"The 57,000,000 Mohammedans, of whom 23,658,000 are in Bengal, and over 6,000,000 in Bombay, are either descendants of emigrating Asiatics, or Hindus converted to that faith. Their religion is a mixture of the doctrines of the Prophet and local idolatry; for they have been somewhat infected by the prevailing worship of the natives. The Parsees are an educated mercantile class, the great body of them being found in Bombay. They are fire-worshippers; and their creed is that of Zoroaster, who flourished not less than 800 years before Christ. The Zend-Avesta is the sacred book of the sect, containing their religion and their philosophy. The Caliph Omar conquered the Persians, and established Mohammedanism there, persecuting all who would not believe. The obstinate Parsees fled to India."

"The Parsees of the present day are their descendants, and still cling to their ancient faith. Like all sects, they are fully tolerated by the British government, and are considered one of the most respectable and thriving classes of the community. They are largely merchants and land-owners, and bear the highest reputation for honesty, industry, and as peaceful citizens. They are quite prepossessing, and many of their ladies are remarkably beautiful, though I have seen a fairer American than any one of them.

"Some of them have studied law in England, and all are forward to avail themselves of the advantages of education. A merchant-prince of this sect was noted as a philanthropist; and for the vast sums of money he gave for benevolent institutions, the Queen knighted him, as she did Sir Modava for his public service. This gentleman is Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy He died in 1859."


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