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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XXIII. HABITS AND CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE. MISSION WORK AND RETIREMENT.

Life And Work In Benares And Kumaon 1839-1877 by James Kennedy

CHAPTER XXIII. HABITS AND CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE. MISSION WORK AND RETIREMENT.

During our residence in Kumaon we had many opportunities of observing the condition and habits of the people. I have mentioned the new resources opened up to them, and yet it must be acknowledged that many are poor. The population is probably much larger than it has been at any previous period. The holdings are small, and by the division made on the occasion of the death of the head of the household they ever tend to become smaller. There are a number in the Province who own no land, and are poorly remunerated for their labour by their countrymen. I have mentioned the new source of wealth opened up to the people by the canals and cultivation of the Bhabhur. Reference has also been made to the tea-gardens and public works, on which large sums of money have been spent, of which much has reached the people in the form of wages. Thus all classes, both those who have land and those who have not, have been benefited. Indeed, apart from income thus obtained it is difficult to conceive how the people could have been supported. If they do not make progress in material comfort the fault must lie in their want of energy.

Like their brethren in the plains, the people in the hills live chiefly on cereals -- the cheaper cereals -- and vegetables; but, like most below, including even many Brahmans and Rajpoots, they have no objection to animal food when they get it of the kind they approve, and prepared in the way caste rules require. As to Doms, nothing that is at all eatable comes amiss to them. They have no objection, indeed, to much we should deem uneatable. The Hindus eat the flesh of goats and kids offered in sacrifice. They also eat the flesh of short-tailed sheep, but long-tailed sheep are an abomination to them, as they regard them as a kind of dog. We saw once an amusing instance of the notion of uncleanness attached to this species of sheep. A few sheep were being chosen by a purchaser from a flock. The animals were scampering about, showing, according to their nature, their unwillingness to be caught. Three or four men were engaged in catching them, but one every now and then started back when about to lay his hand on a sheep, exclaiming, |Wuh doomwala hai!| -- |It is a tailed one! it is a tailed one!| -- as if he would be hopelessly defiled by touching it, while his less scrupulous companions of the same caste said, |You fool! what does it matter? It will do you no harm.| They would not have eaten its flesh, but their caste spirit was sufficiently relaxed to allow them to touch it.

I have referred to sanitary regulations issued by the authorities to guard the people against epidemics caused by want of cleanliness. One of these regulations forbids the dwelling together of animals and human beings. On our first visit to the hills in 1847 I came unpleasantly into contact with this dual occupation of the same house. As night was setting in I came to the top of a hill, and from it I could see a few straggling houses at a short distance. I had with me two or three men, who proposed to put up a booth for the night. Unhappily for my comfort, a thunderstorm came on with heavy rain, and the booth was no protection. I was taken to a house a short way off, but on entering it the smell from the animals occupying it with their owners was so strong that it drove me out. I preferred to face the storm to bearing the effluvia of that highland abode. I was told of a little unoccupied grass-shed a mile down the hill. I found the grass so thick and well tied that the rain did not get through, and the entrance was on the lee side. Into this I crept, and slept soundly till the morning, for I was very tired with the long walk of the day.

The new sanitary orders have no doubt done good, but it is difficult to secure compliance with them, though fines are imposed on persons convicted of disobedience. If there had been a reward for informers I could have more than once won it by telling what I had seen.

[Sidenote: NYNEE TAL.]

A very pleasant break during our life at Ranee Khet was a yearly visit paid to Nynee Tal, about thirty miles distant, which had become the seat of Government for the North-West for half the year, and a place of great resort from the plains during the hot and wet months. It has many advantages as a Sanitarium. It is within sixteen miles of the Bhabhur, and has an elevation of from 6,300 to 8,000 feet above the level of the sea. There is a small, beautiful mountain lake, from one end of which one looks down on the plains over the intervening hills; while at the other end, beyond a piece of uneven ground, rises a lofty mountain. There are rather steep hills on either side, but hills with a gradient which admits of houses being built on them. Though so near the plains, this lakelet was till 1842 unknown, except to natives and a few English officials. In that year travellers with difficulty made their way to it, and drew attention to its attractions. We first saw it in 1847, and then it had very few houses. An old General, one of its first residents, told us that one day the preceding year he saw a tiger walking leisurely above his house, and looking down, as if wondering at the change which was coming over the place. Some of the first residents were startled by meeting bears in their walks. Since that time houses have been built on every side, and during the season there is a great population of both Europeans and natives. Four years ago there was a fearful landslip, which carried down a number of houses with it, and buried many under the falling mass.

[Illustration: LANDSLIP AT NYNEE TAL.]

At the beginning of 1857, the American Episcopal Methodist Church entered on mission work in Rohilkund. When the mutiny of that year broke out, the agents of this church in Rohilkund escaped to Nynee Tal, and from that time they continued to occupy it as a mission station, and also as a sanitarium for their brethren in the plains. The Mission has been efficiently conducted. English services have been maintained during the season. They have been well attended by all classes, and have done much good. Between native servants and shopkeepers from the plains, and natives of the hills, who flock into the place for service and work, there is a large sphere for mission work, and much has been done in the way of both preaching and schools. The Mission has been extended to other parts of the Province, to Gurhwal in the north, to Petorah in the east, and to other places, with manifest tokens of the Divine blessing.

[Sidenote: ANNUAL MEETINGS AT NYNEE TAL.]

With these American brethren we have been on the most friendly terms, and have co-operated with them in every way open to us. We formed an association with them for mutual counsel and help. One result of this association has been the holding of annual meetings in Nynee Tal in autumn, for the benefit of Europeans and natives, and conducted in both the English and native languages, ending with the celebration of the Lord's Supper. These meetings were largely attended, excited much interest, did, I believe, much good, and were very enjoyable. On these annual visits to Nynee Tal we commonly remained a week or ten days, and had much pleasant intercourse with the missionaries and other friends. During several years Sir William Muir, as Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West, was resident for half the year at Nynee Tal, and our special thanks are due to him and Lady Muir for hospitable entertainment.

While, during our residence in the hills, time and strength were mainly given to effort for the spiritual good of our own countrymen and the native population, there were times, especially during the rainy season, when I was much at home; and I was glad to avail myself of the leisure afforded of writing for the press what I hoped might prove, and what I trust has proved, of spiritual benefit to natives and others. During our stay in the hills, in addition to articles for the |Indian Evangelical Review| and other periodicals, I wrote a Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans in Hindustanee, and Essays in English, which were published in book form under the title of |Christianity and the Religions of India.| At an early period of my missionary career, at the request of my colleague Mr. Shurman, to whom the work of revising and in part translating the Bible into Hindustanee was entrusted, I transferred the Pentateuch from the Persian into the Roman character, and translated the book of the Prophet Jeremiah, which, revised by Mr. Shurman and Dr. Mather, now forms part of the version. Before leaving India I did a little, at the request of the North India Bible Society, towards the revision of the Hindee translation of the New Testament. On this work a large and very able Committee is now engaged. During my Indian career I have written a good deal for the press -- I must acknowledge in a very desultory manner.

Thus engaged in prosecuting our work, years passed on till the end of 1876, when we felt the time had arrived for retiring from the Indian Mission-field. In July of that year I had a severe illness, which laid me aside, and incapacitated me for carrying on mission work with any measure of efficiency. I might have continued at Ranee Khet, and done the work within my reach there, but by doing so the most important part of the work, the work in the district, would have remained undone; and I deemed it best to retire to make way for one who could fitly occupy the sphere. Medical men whom I consulted strongly advised my departure, and the Directors of the Society gave their prompt and kind sanction to our return to England.

[Sidenote: FRIENDLY HELP.]

I cannot end this account of our life in Kumaon without giving expression to our gratitude for the kind aid afforded us by friends in the prosecution of our work. Among these friends, one of the steadiest and kindest was the cantonment magistrate, Colonel, afterwards Major-General, Chamberlain, who identified himself with the Mission, and was ever ready to do all he could to promote its prosperity. During our lengthened absences from the station in the cold weather, and whenever I could not officiate, he conducted service with the English soldiers, and he was ready in every way within his power to render help. In addition to aid in carrying on the Mission, we received great personal kindness from him and his partner, of which we shall always retain a grateful recollection. He retired to England a short time after us, and within a little more than a year he was suddenly called away -- to his own gain, we are sure, but to the grief of all his friends. It gives me a melancholy pleasure to render this tribute to his memory. For steady friendship and most valuable aid our best thanks are also due to Captain, now Lieut.-Colonel, Birney, R.E., the resident Chief Engineer; Robert Troup, Esq., a tea-planter in the neighbourhood; and Mr. Ashhurst, engineer. Among the friends not resident at Ranee Khet, to whom the Mission is largely indebted, are Sir Henry Ramsay and Sir William Muir. Besides the friends I have mentioned, many others contributed liberally to the Mission, without whose aid much which was done must have remained unaccomplished. By the liberal contributions received the operations of the Mission were carried on, and valuable property was created at very little expense to the Society.

We left Ranee Khet at the close of 1876. As we were leaving India with no prospect of returning, we spent two months in visiting different stations, seeing their Missions, and holding intercourse with friends and brethren. In the course of these months we visited Bareilly, Shahjehanpore, Agra, from which we went to see that wonderful deserted city, Futtypore Sikree, with its magnificent tombs, Jeypore, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Allahabad, Mirzapore, Benares, Jubbulpore, and Bombay. At Agra we attended the native service of the Church Mission. The minister who preached was a native who had been educated in our central school at Benares when I was superintendent, and was there led to the knowledge of Christ, though he was not baptized till his return to his native city, Agra. On this tour we saw and heard much which interested us greatly, as it showed the work of evangelization was being vigorously prosecuted with tokens of God's blessing resting on it. We embarked at Bombay in February, and arrived in England at the end of March.

We left India, where we had spent the greater and, I may say, the better part of our life, with feelings I will not attempt to describe. I can only say when we review our Indian life, that while deeply humbled at the recollection of many errors and defects, defects in wisdom, zeal, and love, we are deeply grateful for having been privileged to labour for so many years in the service of our adorable Redeemer, not, we trust, without proof that good was accomplished through our instrumentality; and so long as we breathe, our hearts will steadily turn towards India with ardent love, and with fervent prayer for the spiritual and temporal welfare of its inhabitants.

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