Calcutta-John Welsh Dulles-1855

Calcutta

It needs but a few days at sea to make the sight of land most grateful and exhilarating; and doubly exciting is it when such associations cluster around the region you approach as those which are connected with Calcutta, the emporium of the East, and the holy river of India, the far-famed Ganges. The Hooghly, which is one of the many streams by which the Ganges empties its waters into the Bay of Bengal, is esteemed the most sacred of its mouths. The river is itself a god, and when Gunga (the Ganges) meets the sea at the island of Gunga-Sagor, (more commonly written Saugur Island,) the spot becomes most holy. Hither tens of thousands of Hindus resort at the annual festival of Gunga-Sagor, the union of river and sea, in the month of January; they descend the river in boats which line the shore in a dense fleet, and, landing, engage in the performance of their idolatrous worship to the river-god. Offerings are laid upon the shore, and when swept away by the rising tide, are held to be accepted by the deity. Mothers, in former times, here threw their own babes into the flood, and looked on, unmoved, while sharks and alligators tore their tender limbs asunder. Adults, too, cast themselves into the stream, giving their own lives as a free-will offering to the god. These bloody practices have now been arrested by the British government. During the festival, soldiers are on guard to stop such deeds of cruelty and of idolatrous madness. Yet it cannot be doubted that, in private, many a life is sacrificed at this shrine of superstition.

Before reaching Sagor, and while yet out of sight of land, you are boarded by a pilot from a pilot-brig which is on the look-out for vessels arriving at the “Sandheads,” and then are guided by an unseen channel, through unseen shoals, towards an unseen coast. These sandy shoals, to which the river each year adds the soil brought down from above, are full of danger. An efficient pilot service, however, removes the anxieties of the voyager. Under the direction of one of them, your ship advances to Sagor, and, if night is approaching, there anchors till daylight, for the intricacies of the channel forbid an ascent by night. The island lies just above the level of the sea, and has a dreary aspect. After passing its shores, the coast upon your right hand continues of the same low character, and wears the aspect of a complete wilderness. This jungly tract of land, intersected by crossing creeks and streams, is known as the Sonderbunds. It is the home of savage beasts of prey, and the abode of every noxious reptile. Once, and that not at a distant period, it was cultivated by a rural population, but war spread its ravages over the land; and it is now given up to the prowling tiger, the serpent, the crocodile, and their fellows, while fever broods upon the atmosphere, and adds to the terrors of the place.

The river now begins to assume its proper dimensions, allowing you to see both of its banks; but it is still some miles wide, and rolls on to the sea, its turbid yellow current loaded with alluvial matter from the uplands, with wonderful volume and swiftness. We are told that were two thousand ships, each bearing fifteen hundred tons of soil, to sail down every day in the year, they would not carry as much solid matter as is borne to the ocean in a single day by the Ganges. As you advance, the stream still narrows, the banks cease to be jungly wastes, and little villages of thatched cottages, embowered amid palms, tamarinds, and other tropical trees, give life and beauty to the scene. The exquisite greenness of the rice-fields, the luxuriance of the foliage, and the gracefulness of vegetable life, so characteristic of the lands of the sun, give an indescribable charm to Indian scenery; though those rude huts and verdant fields are the dwelling-places of sin and heathenism, their beauty, as seen across the bosom of the river, is most captivating. Truly, here

“Every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile.”

The river itself abounds with objects of interest: the ships of many nations—Asiatic, European, African, and American—are going towards the emporium of the East, the metropolis of British India. Boats from the shore, with their noisy and almost naked boatmen, bring fruit, fish, hats, and other articles of trade alongside, and the crews hail your vessel to seek admission to the deck.

It is not only to the voyager fresh from home that the ascent of the Ganges is novel and interesting. These things are as new to the resident of Madras as are the scenes of Italy to the Englishman. The people of Bengal differ from those of Southern India in language, dress, and looks, as well as in other respects. In frame, they are more slightly built, and less manly; indeed, they have the reputation of being the most effeminate of the Hindu races.

About a hundred miles above the island of Sagor, a bend in the river, now but a mile wide, opens to your view Garden Reach, a suburb of the great city. As you glide gently up with a favouring breeze and silent but powerful tide, you pass house after house, elegantly built, plastered with chunam, and surrounded by a beautiful shady compound, with a green lawn running to the water’s edge. These are the country residences of the English gentry. You recall (if a reader of Sunday-school books) the story of Ermina, and almost wonder through which of these gardens the thoughtless Minny and her gentle Anna walked to the home of the rich merchant. But the scene has become too exciting for meditation; you are passing the fort and city. Steamers, ships, awkward craft from the Laccadives or Maldives, China, and Malacca, boats of various kinds and shapes, are steaming, sailing, and pulling hither and thither, while the Bengalee boatmen keep up an unbroken jabber on every hand. The vessels in port are moored in tiers three deep, broadside to the shore, which slopes down, without wharves or docks, to the water’s edge. Their cargoes are unloaded by lighters which lie alongside, and the officers, agents, and sailors, with a host of Hindu tradesmen, are continually passing and repassing in small boats called dingeys.

We had to anchor in the stream, for there was no berth vacant for our vessel near the ghats, as the landing-places are called. We had no difficulty, however, in procuring boats in which to reach the shore. The boatmen rowed in through bathers who were at once washing away the stains of the body and of the soul with the yellow but most sacred water of the river, and set us on shore near the spot on which stood the famous “Black-hole of Calcutta,” where in one night a hundred and twenty Englishmen died, stifled, suffocated, and trampled to death, locked in a little cell, because the guards dared not disturb the sleep of an oriental despot to tell him that his prisoners would in a few hours be dead men. Now, how changed are all things in India! The descend ants of the Grand Mogul, then master of scores of such petty despots as the nabob Suraj-ud-Dowbut, to whose greatness these English lives were sacrificed, are glad to eat bread from the coffers of the English treasury.
The city of Calcutta stretches along the eastern bank of the Hooghly, or Bagirathy, as it is called by the natives, for a distance of six miles above the fort. Its population is not accurately known, but probably is not less than eight hundred thousand. It owes its greatness entirely to the supremacy and commerce of Great Britain. When granted as a trading-place to the English, in the year 1717, it was a petty village of mud-huts; and in 1756, it was taken from the English, who were driven from Bengal by its nabob. Now it is known as the “City of Palaces,” and with reason; for few cities certainly in the East exceed it in extent and in the magnificence of its dwellings.

Fort William is deemed almost impregnable, and has quarters for a large number of troops. It faces the river, and, like Fort St. George at Madras, is surrounded by a wide, level, open esplanade. Just beyond the esplanade stands the government-house, a large and noble building erected by the Marquis Wellesly as a suitable residence for the governor-general of all India. It is surrounded by a handsome square, with a tank and beautiful shrubbery. The newly-arrived stranger is much amused by the strange forms of the multitude of adjutants, not of the military but of the bird-kind, that are perched here and there all over the buildings. These peculiar birds, with their long legs, long necks, and great pouches pendant from their throats, stand on the balustrades and porticos, ready to remove from the streets carrion of every kind. Dead rats, bones, and even whole cats, are received as tit-bits into their capacious maws. It gives rather a ludicrous air to the grave marble lions, emblematic of the supremacy of England, to see these great, gawky birds perched upon their heads and backs.

The English residences lie on the further side of the esplanade and public square, and are of a lordly character. Large, two-storied, with pillared fronts, and close-shutting Venetian verandahs, and occupying each a separate enclosure surrounded by a high substantial wall, they have an air of grandeur and wealth. The compounds are smaller than in Madras, giving more the appearance of a city, and the houses are more lofty and compact. Nor are these external marks of luxury deceptive. The style of living is suited to the dwelling, combining the luxuries and elegancies of the East with the imported comforts of the West, to a degree probably nowhere surpassed.

Close by these palaces of the ruling race, and even against their compound-walls, you will find a row of the huts of the ruled, presenting in their meanness a striking contrast to the splendour with which they are brought into such close contact. Yet the poor Hindu, with but a bit of cloth about his middle, and an earthen dish of rice and curry for his frugal meal, is as contented, and perhaps far more comfortable than the officer who dines within the palace, fanned by punkahs, waited on by a train of obsequious servants, and stimulated to excess by wines, liquors, and tempting dishes. The one is living an artificial life in a strange and hostile climate; the other is at home, and dips his hand into the dish that his wife sets before him with an appetite and a relish to which his more wealthy neighbour may be a stranger.

The churches are numerous, and some of them have claims to architectural greatness; but to the missionary no place of worship is so interesting as the old church in which Henry Martyn[1] preached, and where David Brown and Thomas T. Thomason held the pastoral office. The building is large, and stuccoed within with chunam of dazzling whiteness. A multitude of lamps in Indian shades illuminate it at night, and punkahs swing in every direction over the heads of preacher and audience, like the waving of branches in a forest. Against the wall, tablets are fixed to perpetuate the memory of the excellent and devoted men who here laboured, Corrie, Brown, and Thomason, and one to the memory of Martyn, who died far away in Tocat, with the simple inscription, “He was a burning and a shining light.” The Cathedral, the Kirk, the Free Church, the Baptist and Independent chapels, are places of interest, and some of them are fine structures. Many of the public and charitable buildings also are on a most noble scale.

If the dweller in Calcutta have in mind the fact that but a hundred years since the English were driven by a Bengal nabob from the place, and that all that he sees is the creation of a single century, by a little band of men in a hostile climate and a hostile land, twelve thousand miles away from home, he will not fail to look with wonder upon the unconquerable energy and enterprise that has wrought this magical change. Even now, at night, the cries of packs of jackals come swelling and fading, and swelling again in wild, sad cadences upon the ear at the dead of night, reminding you that Calcutta is but a strip of human habitations redeemed from the waste lands that lie just behind its stately palaces.

In addition to the missionaries of the English and Scotch societies, there is a large circle of pious persons among the English residents at Calcutta. In nothing is change more apparent than in the moral and religious tone of society in India. Forty years since, as is well known, Protestant missionaries, even Englishmen, were compelled to seek refuge under the Danish flag at Serampore. The devoted (and now famous) Ward, Carey, and Marshman were not permitted to reside within the territories of the East India Company. Our own Judsons and Newells were driven from India by their authority. Now, not only is the government willing that the preacher of the gospel should make his home among the Hindus, but he finds favour in the eyes of the rich, the great, and the powerful. Immoralities once openly practised must now be renounced or hid from the public eye. Formerly, Englishmen high in station made offerings at heathen shrines, built temples, joined in idolatrous processions, and even worshipped idols. Such things now would not be tolerated by the public sentiment of the English in India. The remaining links by which the government is united with idolatry will, it is expected, soon be severed, and heathenism be left to take care of itself. In no country will you meet men of more ardent zeal for the glory of God, of more devoted piety, or of more deep spirituality, than are some of the gentlemen of the East India Company’s service. Were it proper, the names of many, high in rank, both in the civil and military branches, might be adduced as examples of what a Christian gentleman should be, and may do. To have the counsel, aid, prayers, and sympathies of such men when in a heathen land, is a great and delightful privilege. In the presidency of Madras, especially, is the religious element in society strong, decided, and advantageous to the cause of Christ.

The native part of the city lies to the north of the English quarter, and consists of a dense network of narrow and dirty lanes, lined with houses of a small and mean appearance. Some of them have walls of brick or of mud, but whole streets will consist of houses made with walls of bamboo-mat and roofs of palm-leaf thatch. When a fire breaks out in these streets, it sweeps every thing before it, and would entail boundless misery were it not for the mildness of the climate.

Some of the native residences are extensive and showy; for there are many rich “babus,” or native gentlemen, in Calcutta, and these are surrounded by large compounds with tanks, palm-trees, and the appliances of Eastern luxury; but the mass of the people live in houses much meaner than those of the native city in Madras. The bazaars are scenes of much interest and novelty to the stranger; the burra (great) bazaar, especially, is a complete hive of shops, swarming with tradesmen and purchasers, who fill and choke up every avenue through the rows of cell-like stores. The concentration at this port of the commerce of all the East, from Arabia to Singapore and China, brings together a wonderful assemblage of national dress, language, and looks. It is one of the great centres of the world, and a place for the study of men, not of the Bengali race alone, but of a multitude of kindreds and tongues. All, however, seem intent upon answering one question, “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?” For concentrated worldliness, a Calcutta bazaar is unrivalled. The great worship of the people is the worship of Mammon.

Calcutta has fewer temples of note than many cities of far less importance. It has no shrines invested with a sanctity made venerable and great by the traditions of ages; and those temples which have been erected are, for the most part, small and mean. Yet it is a city wholly given to idolatry. The forms of idolatrous worship most common here are those paid to the river Ganges and to the goddesses Durga and Kali. The Ganges, which is itself the goddess Gunga, may be regarded as one continuous temple for heathenish devotions, stretching in an unbroken line from the snowcapped Himalaya, fifteen hundred miles, to the jungly shores of Gunga-Sagor. At every point of its course it is supposed to possess the power of removing sins and conferring heavenly bliss. The Purannas (holy books) declare that the sight, the name, or the touch of Gunga takes away all sin, no matter how aggravated. Even to think of this holy river, when far away from it, is sufficient to remove the taint of sin; while to bathe in it conveys blessings which no tongue can tell.

With a stream of such wonderful powers rolling its current at their very doors, it will be believed that Gunga’s banks are scenes of daily rites and of idolatrous worship. Many visit it morning and evening merely to look at the river, and so remove the sins of the day or night just passed. Others walk into the yellow stream, bathe, and then, regaining the shore, mould the mud upon its banks into the form of a Linga, the symbol of Siva, and offer to it their morning prayers. Presenting to it flowers, betel, and fruits, again they invoke the god which their own hands have formed. When they have ended, they throw the image away, and return to their homes or business. Surely, as the Psalmist says of the worshippers of idols, “They that make them are like unto them.”

In sickness, the body is smeared with Ganges mud as a means of restoration, and, above all, when death seems inevitable, Gunga’s shore is the place on which to die. To die immersed in its waters, and while swallowing its sacred mud, is the very height of blessedness. One of the Purannas asserts that should a grasshopper, or a worm, or even a tree growing by its side, die in its waters, it would attain to final bliss. Nay, more; to illustrate the virtues of Gunga, it is related that a Brahmin who had been guilty of the greatest crimes, and had been devoured by wild beasts, sprang to life and ascended to heaven, because a crow dropped one of his bones into its stream. Hence, multitudes of the dying are brought to the banks of the river, and, regardless of their weakness and wretchedness, exposed to the glaring sun, and choked with the water and mud, until death delivers them from the persecutions of their benighted friends. Even to the commission of suicide in this stream the highest merit is attached.

Hither the bodies of the dead are brought for burning. A funeral pile is built upon the shore, and the body having been laid on it, it is kindled by the oldest son or nearest heir. When too poor to buy fuel for this purpose, the body is thrown into the river. Human corpses come floating down the stream entirely unnoticed by the throngs of boats busily going hither and thither on the bosom of the river. To abate this, which, to English minds, appears a nuisance, boats are stationed for the purpose of sinking the floating bodies as they pass.

The Durga-pujah, or festival in honour of the goddess Durga, one of the forms in which the wife of Siva has manifested herself, occurs in the autumn. It is one of the greatest of the many great festivals in the Hindu year, and in Bengal is their chief holiday. So universal is the cessation from business, that even the government offices are closed for a week. The story of the cause and results of this incarnation of the terrible goddess, is described in the Shasters, and translated by Ward. The sum of it is, that a certain giant having by religious austerities obtained a boundless store of merit, conquered the three worlds, dethroned all the gods save the supreme triad, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, and their consorts, drove them from heaven, and made them fall down and worship him. The wretched immortals found favour in the eyes of the goddess Durga, and she went forth to slay their oppressor, who met her with an army of thirty thousand giants of enormous size, ten millions of horses, a hundred millions of chariots, and one hundred and twenty thousand millions of elephants! The combat was a fearful one, but ended in the death of the giant and the deliverance of the gods, who, by way of showing their grateful remembrance, transferred to the goddess the name of the slain monster, Durga.

Durga, as worshipped, is represented as a female with ten arms and hands, in which she grasps various warlike weapons. She is in the act of thrusting a spear into the breast of a giant, while a serpent, held in one of her hands, is striking its fangs into the prostrate wretch, who is also being torn by a lion at the goddess’ feet. On her right hand stand two of her children, the god Ganesha and the goddess Lachmy; on her left, another son and daughter. Behind her is a canopy dotted with stars to represent the minor gods. These images are newly made each year for this occasion, and are of various sizes to suit the differing means of purchasers. The ordinary size is that of life. They are not made for temples, but for family use; and each family expects to have its Durga installed in the house to receive the worship of the household and their friends.

Although the festival extends through many days, there are three great days of the feast; and on the first of these is performed the service of bringing the goddess into the image. The figure, as it comes from the hands of the image-maker, is only looked upon as a representation of her form, but on this day it is to be animated by her actual presence, and thus become an object of worship. This is the doctrine of the intelligent; but the ignorant look upon the image as truly transformed into Durga herself, very much as the Roman Catholic believes the wafer to be transubstantiated into the very body and blood of Christ. This introduction of the deity is effected by certain prayers and ceremonies on the part of the officiating priest, who touches with his fingers the breast, the cheeks, the eyes, and the forehead of the image, each time saying, “Let the spirit of Durga long continue in happiness in this image.” He touches the eyes with soot, and having thus invoked the goddess, she is believed to look forth through these eyes, to smell with the nostrils, and to hear with the ears. The goddess is as it were infused into the image, so as to make it her body.

Flowers and fruits, incense and music are offered by her delighted votaries, and these offerings, as they believe, are received by her with joy and approbation. The wealthy merchants of Calcutta on these occasions indulge in an expenditure that is astonishing, making most costly entertainments, not only for their own countrymen, but also for Europeans, with tables set out loaded with viands and wines, and giving away vast numbers of presents. It is calculated that more than two millions of dollars are expended every year, in Calcutta alone, on this single festival. How do the gifts of Christian cities for the spread of the gospel sink into insignificance before this sum, expended in honour of a false god, and to foster self-love, in the idolatrous metropolis of India!

The house of the babu to which I went to see the worship of Durga was built in the ordinary shape of a hollow square. On the right and left of the quadrangle are galleries and apartments, two stories in height. The central court was roofed by a canvas covering, from which hung numerous chandeliers, which threw a glittering light on the tinsel and ornaments with which the house was hung. At the opposite extremity of the court, in an apartment elevated and fronting on the court, stood the image before which the pujah was performed. The group of gods and goddesses, as large as life, with the prostrate giant and the lion, was mounted on a platform and glittered with tinsel and mock jewellery, which had all the show of real and costly splendour. The babu made the crowd of spectators give way for us, that we might see the image of the great Durga. She was almost hidden in a cloud of incense ascending from the censer of a servitor, while the family priest waved before it burning lamps, bowed, and worshipped, tinkled his bell, and made to it various offerings to the sound of discordant music.

This, however, is the least abominable part of the worship of this deity. On ensuing days, vast numbers of bloody sacrifices, sheep, goats, and buffaloes, are offered before her, and the multitudes, worked up to a phrensy of excitement, indulge in the most indecent acts and the most frantic revellings.

And, when these days of revelling and license are past, how do these idolaters dispose of their god? The goddess having been dismissed from the image, it is carried to the river-side and cast into the stream! The whole group, mounted on a platform, is borne on the shoulders of men, with attendants to brush away the flies, to fan it, and make music for it, to the banks of the Ganges. From the various streets of the teeming city processions stream down to the holy river, each with its image, while multitudes of spectators flock to the shore. The images are borne to the brink and placed between two boats, which are united for the purpose, and then rowed to the middle of the stream. The attendants now fall upon the representative of their god, strip it of its ornaments, dash it to pieces, (it is made of painted earthenware,) and cast it into the water.

Thus ends the Durga-pujah, and thus are millions of our fellow-men now living and worshipping. Thus have they lived for ages past, and thus will they live for ages yet to come, unless the church of Christ, in dependence upon the power of God, says that darkness shall no longer brood over the face of fair and fertile India.

We give one more glance at idolatry as seen in Calcutta, and then turn to brighter subjects.

The other popular object of idolatry, in Bengal to which we referred is the goddess Kali, another form of the dread being, who, when manifested as Durga, performed such prodigies of strength and courage. If, as Durga, she was a terrible being, as Kali, she is a thousand times more ferocious, bloodthirsty, and fearful. It is said of her that the blood of fishes will please her for a month; the blood of an antelope or bear will please twelve years; the blood of a tiger, a hundred years; the blood of a man, a thousand years; and the blood of three men, a hundred thousand years. In the Kali-puranna minute directions are given for the sacrifice of human victims to this monster. She is said on one occasion to have cut her own throat, that the blood issuing thence might spout into her mouth to quench her appetite for blood.

Such is the being whom the Hindus of Bengal delight to honour. Her most famous temple is at Kali-ghat, a village on the south side of Calcutta. It stands near a stream, once the main body of the river Ganges, but now only an inconsiderable channel. It is, however, still regarded as the most holy and genuine Gunga; and here, under the bending cocoanut-trees, the people wash away their sins, (as they suppose;) here they bring the sick to die, and hither they bear the dead to be burned. The village is mainly composed of shops in which are sold rice, flowers, ghee, cocoanuts, and other articles used as offerings to the goddess, and also earthen images and painted pictures of the more popular deities. Passing through the villages, you reach a gate where are Brahmins ready to receive offerings and lingas of stone for worship. Entering by the gate into a court, you see a portico of stone, with a roof supported by pillars, and beyond it the famous temple of Kali. Its fame is not owing to its greatness or beauty, for it is both small and mean, but to the reputation of the idol it contains. This was shown to us without any hesitation by the attendant priests, and certainly a more hideous and disgusting object can hardly be conceived than that which the refined and polite Bengalis have chosen as their favourite deity. It stands within a small, dark, windowless room, but could be seen by the light of the lamps which were lit for the coming services. Larger than human stature, it is painted of a jet black. The form is that of a woman with four arms, one of which grasps a sword, and another a human head, held by the hair. Her hands and the head are of gold, and so is the necklace of skulls which surrounds her neck. Her girdle is of hands cut from her foes, her eyes are red, and her mouth streams with blood. She is represented with her tongue thrust out, and standing upon the body of her husband. This is explained by the fact that once, when intoxicated with victory, she danced so furiously as to shake earth and heaven, threatening to involve all things in one common ruin. The gods besought Siva to arrest his wife in her mad career of joy, and this he effected by casting himself under her feet. Perceiving this, she was so shocked, that she thrust out her tongue to a great length, and remained motionless.[2]

At one side of the temple forked stakes are fixed in the earth, through which the heads of goats or buffaloes are passed to be severed by the axe of the sacrificer, and below is a mound of Ganges mud, to catch the blood of the victims. The soil is ever wet with gore from the daily sacrifices; and at certain seasons the whole place runs with the blood of the multitudes of victims offered at the shrine of this demon. No Christian could look upon this hideous block and the immortal men, creatures of God, who fell down and worshipped it, without praying that God would hasten the time when Kali should be dragged from her den and cast out as an unclean thing, and God, even our God, be worshipped by the millions now bound in Satan’s chains.

At the season of the Charak-pujah, Kali-ghat is a scene of more than ordinary interest. By sunrise the multitudes from every quarter of the native city pour forth like bees from their hives, and uniting in the suburb of Bhowanipur, stream towards the temple. The mass, arrayed in holiday robes, attend as spectators; others, with garlands of flowers about their necks, or with their bodies besmeared with ashes, are seen to be devotees. Of these, some carry iron rods; others, twisted cords or bamboo-canes; while others attend with the clangour of cymbals, tomtoms, and horns, or bear flags, banners, and images of the gods. When they reach the temple-gate, they cast down their offerings and press within the court and to the temple itself, to catch a sight of the great goddess and utter their praises in her ears. The courtyard is now crowded, and the devotees come forward to fulfil their vows. Several blacksmiths stand ready with sharp instruments. A man advances and presents to him his side. It is pierced, and the cane or rod which he has brought with him is thrust through the cut. Another has his arm thus pierced; another, his tongue slit, and a piece of cord or cane passed through the wound. Company after company thus comes forward to honour their goddess, till all are attended to by the smiths, who cut and pierce with utter carelessness or with merriment. The final sacrifice is now at hand. Men, with iron rods passed through their sides and meeting in front in shovel-like vessels, arrange themselves around the elevated portico, and just within the columns. Then, to give the description of Dr. Duff, “All the rest assemble themselves within this living circle. On a sudden, at a signal given, commence the bleating and the lowing and the struggling of animals slaughtered in sacrifice, at the farthest end of the portico, and speedily is the ground made to swim with sacrificial blood. At the same moment of time the vessel-carriers throw upon the burning coals in their vessels handfuls of Indian pitch, composed of various combustible substances. Instantly ascends the smoke, the flame, and the sulphurous smell. Those having the musical instruments send forth their loud and jarring and discordant sounds; and those who were transpierced begin to dance in the most frantic manner, pulling backwards and forwards through their wounded members the rods and the canes, the spits and the tubes, the cords and the writhing serpents, till their bodies seem streaming with their own blood! All this is carried on simultaneously; and that, too, within a briefer period of time than has been occupied in this feeble and inadequate attempt to describe it. Again and again would the loud shouts ascend from the thousands of applauding spectators—shouts of Victory to Kali! Victory to the great Kali!’”

If the heart of the apostle Paul was stirred within him when he saw the city of Athens wholly given to idolatry, why may not we have our hearts stirred within us at the contemplation of such scenes, even now enacted in a city at whose side our ships continually lie moored, and to which access is as open and as free as to any spot in our own or any Christian State?


  1. See memoirs of Henry Martyn, Thomas T. Thomason, and Catharine Brown, by the American Sunday-school Union.
  2. To run out the tongue is the common expression of astonishment or surprise among the Hindu women.

SOURCE: Life in India or Madras, the Neilgherries, and Calcutta (1855) by John Welsh Dulles

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