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Old Daniel by Thomas Hodson


In the second chapter of Isaiah, and the fourth verse, we read, |They shall beat their swords into ploughshares;| and by the context we know that these words are part of a description of that universal peace which will follow the preaching of the Gospel in every part of the world. This beautiful poetic image made use of by the prophet Isaiah, has been adopted by many writers ancient and modern, and the words are often quoted by eloquent public speakers, when referring to millennial times; but it is probable that none of them ever expected to hear of the words being literally fulfilled. This, however, was accomplished in Singonahully by our little friend Daniel. We have seen that Daniel's heathen name was `Chickka,' and his father's name was `Veera Chickka,' that is hero Chickka; but whether any deeds of heroism were ever displayed, either by Daniel's father or by any of his ancestors, is not upon record. However, we do know that when his old grandfather left his native town and came to live at Goobbe, though he did not bring the image of the family goddess with him, he did bring some old swords which had been in the family very many years. These swords had often been worshipped by Daniel's forefathers. We may here observe, in passing, that all Hindoo mechanics and other workpeople regularly worship their tools and other instruments by which they gain their living. They put up any of their implements as representations of Vishwa Karma, the architect and artificer of the gods, (Vishwa means the World or the Universe, and Karma means Work), and pray to these tools for success in business, war, agriculture, etcetera. Thus a carpenter places a hammer or a saw before him, and putting both his hands to his forehead bows to the instrument, and asks for its help in the work to be done. The barber worships his razor; the blacksmith worships his bellows; and the farmer his plough, oxen, etcetera, etcetera. Daniel's forefathers having worshipped these old swords, Veera Chickka continued the time-honoured custom. On a special occasion he invited his relatives and friends to come and join in the worship, and in the feast which always followed it. This happened when Daniel was about thirteen or fourteen years of age. Preparatory to the worship, his parents cleaned the rusty swords, decorated them with flowers, and placed them upright against a wall. When the proper time came, they and their visitors made offerings to the swords, of plantains, cocoa-nuts, rice, etcetera. After this, they burned incense to their ancestors who were the original owners of the swords, and then falling prostrate before them they all cried out, |O, our gods, prosper us: O, our gods, defend us.| After the worship was over, all the visitors partook of the feast prepared, passed the evening pleasantly in conversation, and the next morning returned to their own homes. Daniel says, |I was much impressed with the foolishness of all these proceedings, and I said to myself, `What benefit can be derived from the worshipping of these old swords? I am determined to put a stop to this in some way.'| He thought the matter over several days, and by that time his plan was formed. So one day, when no one saw him, he took the swords, with the box in which they had been carefully placed, and started for the blacksmith's shop. But on the way he met his brother, who stopped him, and the following altercation ensued, as given in Daniel's own words: |What is that you have got in the box? and where are you going with it?| said my brother. I replied, |O, nothing in particular.| But he would not allow me to proceed without his looking into the box and having a plain answer to his question. I therefore said, |Brother, as our people have been accustomed to worship these old swords, I think they had better be made into some proper shape. I am therefore taking them to the blacksmith, that he may put them into his fire and make an idol of them.| My brother, on hearing this, was quite shocked, and said, |Do you mean to say that you are going to break up these sacred relics, which have been handed down to us from our heroic forefathers? I think you are mad. I will go immediately to our father and tell him what you are doing.| So saying he went home in great anger, and I went on to the blacksmith. When I arrived at his shop, I found several men outside waiting to get something done to their agricultural implements, and they all looked at me very enquiringly. I said nothing, but put down my box of swords, and sat upon it. At length the blacksmith said: |Well, Chickka, what have you come for? What have you got in that box?| I opened the box and shewed him the swords. On seeing them he said, |What have you brought these things here for?| I replied, |These old swords have been occasionally worshipped as gods in our family; but I don't see that any benefit can be obtained by worshipping such things; in their present shape they are useless; I think they may be made into something useful. I have therefore brought them here for you to make ploughshares of them.| As soon as I had uttered these words, all the farmers present seemed terrified, and one man exclaimed, |If you do this, your family will never prosper; these are gods.| I said, |Very well, we will see whether they are gods or not, we will give them a fair trial. We will put them into the fire, and if they are gods they will jump out: and if they are not gods they will melt like common iron: let us see.| The blacksmith did what I wished. He made one ploughshare immediately, and the others afterwards. The lookers-on said nothing, but they doubtless expected some dreadful calamity would happen to me. When my father heard what I had done, he was very angry, and said, |This boy is born to destroy our gods and customs.| For several days he would not allow me to enter his house: but in two or three weeks my father's displeasure passed away, and the matter of the swords was not mentioned again. But all the members of our family complained that I never bowed to the idol when I passed the temple as they and all the other people in the village did. To this, when questioned, I had only one answer, namely, |I don't believe that any image made by human hands can be God.| This boy was evidently taught of God, without the aid of any human means. He could not read; the example of his parents and friends was bad, very bad; and he had never heard one word of Gospel Truth.

Everyone who has seen an English plough will know that a few old swords would not supply material for one English ploughshare, but an Indian plough is a very different thing, and is well represented by the accompanying sketch. All the iron required is a little bit at the point which enters the ground. The plough is very light, and may easily be carried by a boy from the farmer's house to his field in the morning, and back again in the evening. A man may be often seen carrying two ploughs, one on each shoulder.

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