Project Canterbury

Work Amongst the Educated Classes at Delhi

By C. J. Crowfoot

From Mission Life, Vol. III (new series) (1872), pages 292-302.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006



T HE object of this paper is to illustrate Mission-work amongst the educated classes in Delhi. By the educated classes are meant those who have received an English education. And these in Delhi are composed not quite, but almost entirely of Hindoos. Very few Mahomedans will enter either Government or Mission-schools, and, consequently, in the social race, Mahomedans are being fast outstripped by Hindoos. In the Mission-schools at Delhi, out of 530 boys, about 30 were Christians, 50 were Mahomedans, and 450 were Hindoos. The proportion is about the same in Government schools. Yet the whole population of Delhi, amounting in all to 160,000 souls, is nearly equally divided between Hindoos and Mahomedans. Before entering into details it will be well briefly to describe the social and intellectual surroundings in which these young educated Hindoos are placed.

India, through its whole length and breadth, is now passing through a transition stage. Everything in it is in a state of revolution. The West is being mingled with the East, and no two streams of civilisation more diverse in character or more directly opposite in tendency ever met together. If we think over the great ruling ideas, moral, political, and social, which give the character that it possesses to our western civilisation--our belief in progress, our sense of self-reliance and individual responsibility, our public spirit, our patriotism, our regard for fixed forms of law and justice, our idea of chivalry and respect for women, our sense of man's sovereignty over nature, our determination to make her do our will--and ask what place these hold in the East, we find them conspicuous by their absence. We look upon these ideas as natural because we received them as the heritage of our birth, forgetting by what slow and difficult processes they were reached. But each one of these ideas is a wholly new power to the Hindoo. In the civilisation amidst which he has grown up none of these ideas prevail, but in their place, beliefs exactly opposite to them. A Hindoo has no belief in human progress he believes that the world has steadily degenerated, and is steadily degenerating. He seeks to get rid in every way that he can of all idea of individual responsibility: merging it, from a religious point of view, in Pantheism, from a social point of view, in caste. No word for patriotism exists in his language; he has no conception of what it means. In no country are women treated with such little respect. In no country has man been more overawed by what are called the physical aspects of [292/293] nature. No two streams of civilisation, then, can be more opposite in tendency and character than these.

The English empire is now pouring all these new ideas into India; energetically, aggressively, by a thousand different agencies, it is bringing them in a concrete form before the eyes of the Hindoos, and is forcing them to entertain them. By its administration of justice in law courts, established in every large town, in which offenders of whatever class are treated on an equal footing, it is rubbing out these lines of demarcation which the system of caste has so indelibly drawn between man and man. By its great universities at the capital cities of the three Presidencies it is giving the very highest education possible to a comparatively few, whilst by its schools placed in every village it is sowing broadcast in the minds of all classes alike the seeds of Western thought and science. By its railroads, now thrown like a network all over India, by its electric telegraphs, its printing-presses, together with all those varied appliances for comfort and convenience which form the environment of our own daily life, it is breaking up old customs, and creating new tastes, and altering the whole face of the Hindoo's daily domestic and social life.

This great revolution, permeating as it is every part of India and every class of society, is most strikingly seen in the case of those young men who, in larger numbers every year, are passing through the great universities of India. These men are receiving an education very similar to that which is given in the universities of London, Cambridge, or Oxford. They are reading exactly the same text-books in mathematics, philosophy, law, history, and science. The intellectual influences brought to bear upon them come from a literature which has been steeped through and through in Christianity. Morally and socially, their surroundings are those of heathendom. A contrast drawn between their position and our own may help us to realise their condition. Instead of the churches, which are so thickly dotted over every Christian land, and with their heavenward-pointing spires really help to lift our thoughts upwards, their eyes fall only on temples filled either with idols or with symbols too obscene to name. They only come in contact with a religion which they despise. Instead of a home, in which a mother or a sister has taught to us our first prayer to God, and has lent the aid of a loving sympathy to every high resolve we have ever formed, they find in their homes, in the ignorance, bigotry, and superstition of their mother, wife, and sister, the greatest hindrances in every struggle that they make towards a higher life. Instead of that moral and spiritual atmosphere which pervades every Christian land, and in a thousand ways makes its presence felt to check the tide of evil within and without us, they breathe an atmosphere whose moral state is to this day truly and literally described in the last half of the 1st chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.

[294] These remarks may be best illustrated, and the character and progress of work done amongst these educated men may be best shown, by extracts taken from letters written at the time.

Lala Rám Chandra and Dr. Chimmum Láll, an account of whose baptism was given in my last paper, belonged to this class; and the chain of converts commenced by them, although it is but a thin one, has continued unbroken. In 1859 Tara Chand and Chandu Láll, who had both been pupils in the first class of the Government College, were baptized. They have both continued to live in Delhi since their baptism, and the high consistency of their lives has been at all times the greatest support to the Missionaries, and the best pledge of future success. Tara Chand has been working for many years as an ordained Missionary in Delhi, and Chandu Láll holds an important post in the Commissioner's office.

The following extracts will bring before you the difficulties which beset these men in their efforts to embrace Christianity. Tara Chand thus writes to me when I was staying at Simla, in 1868; his letter is dated "Delhi, June 7th, 1868":--

"J. has been lately struggling very hard for baptism. About a month and a-half ago he had fully made up his mind to be baptized, and, at his request, the 14th of last month had been fixed for his baptism. He had, however, communicated his intention to be baptized only to his wife; but on the 7th--that is, about a week before the day fixed for baptism--his elder brother and other relatives came all to know of his intention; and no sooner had they come to know of it, than they tried every means in their power to prevent him from being baptized. On the two following days, that is, on the 8th and 9th, the rumour about J.'s baptism spread throughout the city; and altogether about 200 persons came to his house at different times on these days to persuade him to give up all idea about baptism. J., however, did not yield to the people, but continued to say that he would be baptized. Then his relatives had recourse to other means to keep him from baptism. His wife told him that she would throw herself, with her child, into a well as soon as he was baptized; and his elder brother likewise told him that he would cut both his throat and his own if he were baptized. By such means J. was led to yield, so far as to consent to defer his baptism to another time. He has not been able to see any of us since his intention to be baptized has become generally known; but he has sent us word to say that his faith remains unshaken, and he hopes to be able to see us shortly."

The sequel shall be described in my own home letters:--

"Sunday, Oct. 4th, Delhi.--To-day J., the young Brahman, who is mentioned in Tara Chand's letter, has signified his wish to come to be baptized in church; and the baptism is to take place during this evening's service. It has, I hope, been kept a secret; for we are afraid that [294/295] his relatives, if they hear of it, may resort to any means, violent or other, to prevent his baptism from taking place. I trust that strength will be given him to-day to face the ordeal through which he will have to pass. It is really no slight one. After his baptism he is to live for some while with Chandu Láll, and perhaps in a little while he may be sent down to Bishop's College. If only we could get a few more such men to become Christians, about whose sincerity there can be no doubt, they would then form the nucleus of a Christian community, which would be of incalculable advantage. I hope to be able to tell you, when next I write, that to-day has passed off well; but one never can be sure. . . . ."

"St. Stephen's Mission, Delhi, Friday, Oct. 16th.--Last Sunday-week J., about whom I once sent you a letter from Tara Chand, was baptized. Tara Chand performed the ceremony; Chandu Láll and his wife and myself were witnesses. He had kept his intention secret from his relatives, so that there was not a larger number of heathen present than there usually is at our evening service. Afterwards, in the evening, he dined with Chandu Láll, thus hopelessly breaking his caste. He was a Brahman of very high caste. That evening be sent word down to his brother to tell him of the step which he had taken; and his brother persuaded him to return home, promising that he should be at liberty to come and see us, and that we might see him. However, he did not come to us for the first three days, and a rumour was getting abroad that he had renounced Christianity; so Tara Chand and myself went down to his house to try and see him. His brother came to the door, and at first told us that J. was not at home. However, in the course of a conversation, in which he said that the only remedy now for his brother was for a doctor to be called in, who would pronounce him mad, and so his caste would not be lost, it oozed out that J. was in the house. This was lie No. 1. We then sent his brother to him to ask him to see us. In a little while he came back to say that J. could not see us that day. This we felt sure was lie No. 2. So I wrote to J. in English (he can read and write English--his brother cannot), asking him to come and see us. After a long while he came back with the paper, on which J. had written 'I am quite well,' to say that his brother was too unwell (!) to write any more. Lie No. 3. We then said that we would go to see him; but his brother said that he was in the Zenanas' apartments, and that, therefore, we could not go. However, the house had been gradually filling, and we noticed several men going up-stairs, so we followed them. There, in a room close by, lying on a bed and muffled up, we found J. He looked sleepy and stupid, and had, I believe, been drugged. However, we managed to rouse him, and he said that he would come away with us. He had just put on his dress, and was coming down-stairs, when they sent for his wife. She so clung to him that we could not get [295/297] him away, and, indeed, he himself then wished not to come away with us. We thus failed in our attempt; but for the next three or four days we made a point of calling upon him, to encourage him to stand firm: what we most feared was, that they might drug him and send him away out of Delhi. However, in a day or two, his brothers, for fear of being themselves made out-caste, cast him out; and he now lives quite by himself in a separate part of the house, and none of them eat with him. There is now, I think, no longer any fear of violence from them. His wife and mother and her relatives are doing their utmost to make him renounce his faith; but I do not fear the result. Indeed, I hope that after a little while his wife will join him. At present she refuses to do so, and says that she must wait until she has married off their little girl--a poor little dot, a few months old. In the case of our other Christians, the wives joined their husbands after a little while. There is, however, still much cause for anxiety, as J. has not yet liberty of action. He is still very closely watched. These are some of the difficulties which attend conversion to Christianity. There are many signs that Christianity here is working underground; but several, who believe it to be true, dare not confess their faith, with this frightful system of caste standing over and threatening them."

[Illustration on page 296, caption: DELHI.--(By the kind permission of the S.P.G.)]

"Nov. 1st, 1868, St. Stephen's Mission, Delhi.--J.'s wife and mother-in-law still live with him, but they, like most Hindoo ladies, are very ignorant and very obstinate. I do not know whether they have yet been excommunicated; but as he is out-caste, they are certain also to be out-caste for living with him. They still try to make him renounce Christianity; but as at present they cannot understand why any one should become a Christian, except for the purpose of marrying another wife, or for some equally bad reason, I hope that, when they find out that none of these evils necessarily result from Christianity, they may themselves be led to embrace their husbands' faith. At present native ladies exhibit a mixture of love, ignorance, and obstinacy, with which it is extremely difficult to deal; and our Zenana teachers, even if they never make a single convert, will help us very much if they remove some of the stupid prejudices which at present becloud these poor women."

Dec. 14th, 1868.--This letter describes J.'s confirmation by the Bishop in St. Stephen's Church. "Our service passed off very well. The church was well filled with native Christians, and a few Europeans were present. A large number of the heathens were gathered together in the porch to see what was going on. The boys sung out very lustily, as they always do; and I hope as heartily as lustily. J. looked rather forlorn, as he had to stand out by himself at the foot of the chancel-steps, while the Bishop read the service in Urdu. The Bishop also gave two short extempore addresses in Urdu. His pronunciation is not good, and I doubt if many of those who heard him could follow what he said. But very great praise is due [297/298] to him for having paid so much attention to the language, and for having so well mastered it as to be able to speak it extempore in so short a time. . . . I am very sorry to say that J.'s wife, since his confirmation, has left him, and now refuses to live with him. The obstinacy, superstition, and ignorance of these poor Hindoo ladies almost passes belief. She seems to have been secretly hoping that somehow the fact of his baptism might be hushed up, and people might forget that he had been made a Christian; and she has been labouring under the delusion that we exert an influence over him by magic, and to correct our sinister influences she has been resorting to various devices. One of her means to break the spell which she supposes that we have thrown over her husband has been to cast dust over his head whilst he has been eating. But now that he has come forward again and been publicly confirmed, I suppose that she has lost heart, and, having given up all hopes of turning him, she has left him. May God grant that for her own sake she may come back again! For as she, whilst she remains a Hindoo, may not be re-married to any one else, there is real danger lest she may plunge into a life of immorality, and so be hopelessly lost. You see, by this example, how much indirect good may be done by teaching given in the Zenanas, even if no single convert be made. Had this poor woman been but slightly educated, she never could have acted as she has; and in all probability she would have followed ere this her husband's example."

"Monday, Jan. 10th, 1869.--You all ask me about J. I have ceased to entertain any doubts at all about him, or any fears of his falling back. For the last two Sundays he has come regularly to Holy Communion, and seems in character to be all that one could wish oneself to be. His wife, I am sorry to say, shows no signs of softening or relenting. Her great anxiety is about her little girl, who is under two years old. She is anxious to get her married to some Brahman; but this, fortunately, cannot take place until the girl is five years old; and in the interval we may hope for some change to take place."

There are, of course, many more allusions to the subject of these extracts in my letters; but these are sufficient. In a letter received a few weeks ago from Delhi, dated Feb. 11th, 1872, Mr. Winter, my brother-Missionary, says--"Dear Jankinatu is an invaluable help." His wife, I fear, is as little likely to join him as ever.

There were two debating societies at Delhi; one at which the discussions were carried on in Urdu, the other at which they were held in English. I was in the habit of attending these meetings. The following extracts may be interesting.

"April 26th, 1869.--I am going to a meeting of the Delhi Society. This is a Society composed of some of the leading gentry amongst the natives, and some of the English residents--the Commissioner always taking the chair. Meetings are held at which essays are read, debates [298/299] are carried on, and a news-room and a library is attached to the debating-room. This evening Tara Chand is to give us a lecture on 'Socrates.' Hitherto the society has not done much good, most of its members being respectable old gentlemen who come to pay their salaams to the Commissioner; but now many young educated men are joining. Chandu Láll is secretary--rather a remarkable fact, showing that when a really good man becomes a Christian he does not necessarily lose respect in the eyes of his countrymen, however much he may lose caste. I hope that this Society may furnish us with opportunities of doing good; for though in formal essays the subject of religion is excluded, informal discussions are often held, and then any subject may be raised."

Here is another notice of this Society. "Tara Chand, in a meeting held yesterday at our Urdu Delhi Society, gave us a lecture on patriotism. It was difficult for him to find a word for patriotism. Two Arabic words joined together give the notion of 'love of country,' but by that expression natives have always understood, not what we mean by 'patriotism,' but simply 'an unwillingness to leave the place in which they have been born.' It carries with it no sense whatever of self-denial, but rather an opposite idea. It was melancholy to see, in the case of the elder and respectable portion of the club, how utterly unable they were to rise to the conception of 'Patriotism.' With the younger men, who had received an English education, the case was different; but, except amongst them, the idea of patriotism has no existence in the hearts of the natives of India. What does not this single fact tell us about the conquest of India by the English?"

There was, however, but little earnestness or reality in the discussions of the elder society, and I found the meetings of the younger club, at which the debates were carried on in English, much more interesting.

"May 26th, 1870.--My friend Shrí Rám has just been here to read over an essay that he is going to deliver next Monday on the 'Reforms necessary in Hindoo Society.' He treats of five great abuses--(l.) Caste, (2.) Want of Female Education, (3). Early Marriages, (4.) Re-marriage of Widows, (5.) Morals, which are the stock subjects of our Indian reformers. He talks extremely sensibly on all of them; but seems to think, as they most of them do, that education can do everything, which I am afraid is an evidence that they have never tried very earnestly to reform their own lives. If they did they would soon find out their mistake. These meetings come off once a month, and have this advantage, that they bring me into close contact with several of these educated men, and give me good opportunities of talking very plainly to them."

"June 24th, 1870.--Next Monday evening we are to have another meeting of the debating society, and one of the members, a native, will read an essay on 'Felicity of the Middle Station of Life.' The last meeting was very successful, and the debate was kept up with much [299/300] spirit. I was in the chair, and shall be again next Monday, as the Principal of the College is away from Delhi just now. I wish that you could be present at one of these meetings. They would give you a better idea of the state of mind of the rising educated generation than anything else. There are generally about thirty present, nearly all Hindoos, there being only one or two Mahomedans and four native Christians. The debate often takes a religious turn, and they express their opinions very freely. I do not think that there is one among the Hindoos who has even the smallest faith in Hindooism. But these men represent not Hindoo society in general, but the results of English education. I am very hopeful of the ultimate spread of Christianity amongst the Hindoos, though, perhaps, I may not see much of it myself."

"July 1st, 1870.--Last Monday we had our monthly meeting at the Literary Club. The subject of the essay was the 'Felicity of the Middle Station of Life.' The tone of it was very nice and modest, the subject-matter of it being taken entirely from English authors, somewhat copiously illustrated with quotations from the Bible. You would certainly have thought the writer to be a Christian. It gave me a good opportunity of bringing before them the other point of view, in which virtue is not a mean between two extremes, but rather lies in an endless progress towards infinite perfection. I hung my remarks to the text, 'Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.' This conception of excellence, as essentially progressive, ever striving to reach to a loftier and loftier ideal, seemed to be new to many of them. As the introduction of religious ideas meets with no objection and with no irreverence, I hope that some good may result from these meetings."

"Jan. 10th, 1871.--The subject of the last essay at the Delhi Club was, 'A Hindoo's Idea of a Wife.' The essayist was a Hindoo, and in his description of the ideal wife, according to a Hindoo's conceptions, dwelt upon four points: (1.) Modesty, (2.) Obedience, (3.) the Purdah system, (4.) Household Duties. It was a very well-written essay, and expressed very fairly what a respectable Hindoo gentleman looks for and expects in his wife; but neither the tone of the essay, nor the prevailing feeling of the meeting, seemed to me at all encouraging with respect to the progress of female education or female culture. They did, indeed, generally advocate education for their wives; but they could not at all agree as to how they were to be educated, and only made objections to any plan proposed. They all evidently thought the ordinary Hindoo idea on the subject much better than the European ideal of a wife. But on the latter point they were profoundly ignorant, and their ideas of European ladies seem to have been taken principally from accounts of divorce courts or descriptions of balls."

April 12th, 1871.--We Missionaries also read essays. I allude to one in the following letter:--"My essay came off last Monday, and I have [300/301] every reason to hope that it may do some good. There was a larger number of natives present than I have ever seen on any former occasion. My subject was the 'Law of Progress,' and I tried to prove that as the progress of the Kosmos culminated in man, so all human progress culminates in and centres in Christ; and I defined the formal law of progress to be a scheme of universal redemption, and the final cause to be the full realisation of this scheme in another world. I made a great deal of use of a book by Dr. Bushnell, on Nature and the Supernatural, also of Dr. Liddon's Bampton Lectures, and Mr. Pritchard's Hulsean lectures on the Analogy of Grace and Science. I think that the majority of my audience could not quite follow me, but that does not much matter, for I leave my essay with them, and many of them I know will read it, so it will have an opportunity of doing whatever good it is capable of doing. I was agreeably surprised, on getting back an essay that I read to them about a year ago, 'On European Civilisation,' to find that it had been nearly thumbed to pieces."

In a letter, dated April 3rd, 1871, I wrote: "I find my work amongst these educated young men extremely interesting, and I hope that my influence is spreading. It takes a long time, in India, for an Englishman to win the confidence of the natives; but I think that I am begining to make way. I have persuaded three of those who come to see me to read, regularly, with me some portion of the New Testament; and I sow my books amongst them. One has a lecture on St. Augustine, by Dr. Kay; another some sermons of Liddon's, another his Bampton Lectures; with a fourth is the Book of Praise; with a fifth Banarjea's Lectures. They all have Bibles, or New Testaments. So far as I can see, the difficulties here in Delhi are purely social, not religious. We have as yet no Brahmos."

"April 26th, 1871.-Now let me make some notes upon some of those with whom, as inquirers, I am just now brought most often into contact. A. is an old pupil of the Mission school, and is now a master in the Government College. He has read a great deal of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament, and, I have little doubt, believes, in his heart, that Christianity is true. I have more fear than hope for him. He seems to me one of those who, through timidity, is quenching the Holy Spirit. He would certainly be baptized, if Christianity were to spread. B. is also an old pupil of the Mission school, and now headmaster of one of the Government schools-a very quiet, timid, and reserved man, who has read a good deal of the Bible, but will follow the example of others. C., who is certainly the cleverest Hindoo that I have met, seems to me to be drawing nearer and nearer to the Church of Christ. These three all come together to me once a-week to read the Epistle to the Romans. D., now a master in our Mission school, is a very earnest inquirer. He has read one of the gospels, and is now [301/302] reading with me the Acts of the Apostles. E., his elder brother, also comes to me once or twice a-week. He knows much less of English, and is less able than his brother, but seems to be a good and true man. The obstacle in the way of these two brothers is an old father, now blind, and apparently bigoted, and some female relative. Four or five other men of the same class come from time to time, but they do not read regularly with me. I should entertain the highest hopes about these five, but for the experience of the past. Jánkenátu was telling me yesterday that a few years ago there was a similar movement amongst the educated men; and he mentioned the names of five or six men who were all thought to be on the point of becoming Christians, but not one was baptized. So when, twenty years ago, Rám Chandra and Dr. Chimmum Láll were baptized, there was a general movement; so again, when Tara Chand and Chandu Láll became Christians, four or five others were expected to follow their example. And so it was two years ago. Still, I hope that one is right in regarding these movements as the ebb and flow of a tide of feeling which, though slowly, is yet surely advancing. But it is not right to feel very sanguine; although many are called, very few at present will suffer themselves to be chosen."

I will add only one more extract to illustrate this branch of Mission work. It is from a letter which I have received within the last month from Mr. Winter. "L. is, I believe, making progress. Do pray much that his faith may be strengthened. He enters wonderfully into the argument of the Epistle to the Romans, more indeed than many who have been Christians, and reading it all their lives. Yesterday he spoke in a way that led me to hope that he both believes in Christianity and trusts to embrace it. I am deeply grieved to be obliged to leave him in April, but it will help to throw him more completely on God's Word, and on our Lord Himself. He speaks encouragingly of his brother, but I have seen next to nothing of him; but they pray and read together. Last week I had a very interesting visit from a young Bengalee Brahmo--a very nice, gentlemanly fellow, with his faith in Brahmoism a little shaken: at any rate so far as being willing to look for truth elsewhere goes. . . . He tells me that Comtism is more prevalent in Calcutta even than the Brahmo Somáj. This is very sad; but it may possibly drive the Brahmos nearer Christianity. He told me that now they hold the necessity of a new birth, and of the guidance of the Spirit; so having got to the results of the Incarnation, perhaps they may be led to fall back on the cause of what they profess belief in. He is going to an English university at the end of this year."

These last remarks reflect the present state of feeling amongst educated Hindoos in Calcutta. There the leaven of Western civilisation has been at work for a much longer time than at Delhi; and Delhi, so far as the spread of English education goes, is fully fifty years behind Calcutta. But [302/303] enough has been said to show how deeply interesting, how heart-absorbing, work amongst these men is. To be the channel through which the thoughts that burn in the Epistles of St. Paul, or on the pages of St. John, may be conveyed to them, and to feel that what is kindling our own hearts is also stirring theirs, is a very high privilege. The opportunities are great; the harvest is plenteous; but the labourers how few! The doctors have refused to let me return to Delhi. Who will take my place?

Project Canterbury