Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/53

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43
EVERY-DAY LIFE OF INDIAN WOMEN.
EVERY-DAY LIFE OF INDIAN WOMEN.

By Captain RICHARD CARNAC TEMPLE.

ONE of the chief characteristics of Indian domestic polity is extreme subdivision, and the tendency among all classes of the natives of India is toward the social isolation of groups with contracted interests, and the consequent accentuation of minute differences in habits of life. The results of this are what is generally known as "caste," and it is caste that underlies and controls all social matters that are peculiarly Indian. At first sight, therefore, under these circumstances, there can be no such thing as a common method of life among the women of a population which is an ill-assorted compost of wild and savage tribes of diverse origin; of Brahmans and orthodox Hindoos; of heterodox Hindoos and Brahmanists by conviction and birth; of Buddhists, and Jains, and Parsees; of Mohammedans, and Jews, and Christians of long standing; of Aryan and Dravidian races; of aboriginal clans of Aryan and non-Aryan descent; of highly cultivated communities and completely ignorant tribes; of whole peoples within and with-out the pale of Oriental civilization. But, nevertheless, there exists a standard of life which is Indian, and to which all the varieties of the natives of India are drawn — just as there is a life which is Oriental in the usually restricted sense of that term, habits that are Indo-Chinese, and manners that are European. No one supposes that Norwegian and Italian ladies live exactly in the same way, or that English and Spanish women adopt precisely the same mode of life; but that there is a general line of conduct which is common to all European countries is apparent to every one who observes mankind. So it is in India. And the overshadowing influence to which every true native of the great peninsula unknowingly submits is that wielded by the modern Brahmans through their stanch henchmen, the high-caste Hindoos. In describing, therefore, in very general terms, the aims and habits of an ordinary Brahmani, one can give a fair notion of a life which every Indian woman, however antagonistic her creed and race, is unconsciously led on by instinct, as it were, to imitate, and which is her invariable model.

Habits of life are enormously, if not mainly, influenced by religion, and this leads me to say a few words here regarding Brahmanism as a living and active faith, though it has been the fashion in certain authoritative quarters to look on it as dying, if not already dead. Granting that it is not a proselytizing, in the sense of being a missionary, religion, and granting that its fundamental theory — it is only a theory and not a practice, be it remembered — is, to