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Originally published during the early part of the twentieth century, the Cambridge Manuals of Science and Literature were designed to provide concise introductions to a broad range of topics. They were written by experts for the general reader and combined a comprehensive approach to knowledge with an emphasis on accessibility. The Peoples of India by J. D. Anderson was first published in 1913. Anderson drew from previous scholarship as well as his own research to present a summary examination of the ethnology and caste system, the languages and the religions of India.
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CHAPTER I RACE AND CASTE
CHAPTER II THE LANGUAGES OF INDIA
CHAPTER III THE RELIGIONS OF INDIA
The writing of this little book has been delayed by the hope I once cherished of incorporating in it some of the results of the Indian Census of 1911. This desire was inevitable in the case of a retired Indian official, who, like most of his kind, has taken a small part in one or more of the decennial numberings of the Indian people. In this country, a Census affords material chiefly for the calculations and theories of the statistician, and the Registrar-General is not regarded as an expert in Anthropology or Linguistics. But in India the case is very different. If the district officer is always glad to learn as much as possible of the people with whom he is brought into contact, his official duties often reveal only the seamy side of Indian life, and it is only when he is in camp, or snatching a rare and hurried holiday in shooting, that he gets to see something of the people otherwise than as litigants or payers of revenue. A census is an agreeable and welcome opportunity for looking at India from another and more genially human point of view. In the first place, it is one of the least expensive of official operations, since it is chiefly performed by unpaid and volunteer agency. Hence the official, a little weary of litigants, touts, pleaders, and subordinates, who, however amiable in their private lives, are apt to be indolent and obstructive in office, is glad to make acquaintance with new friends, who, for the most part, take an intelligent and amused interest in the unfamiliar task of numbering. For many busy weeks before the actual counting takes place, the district officer has to ride far and near, to satisfy himself that all necessary preparations have duly been made, to issue the instructions that may be called for by the zeal, inquisitiveness or density of his volunteer colleagues. In the process, he has many pleasant and some amusing experiences. On one occasion I rode into a little village on the north-eastern frontier, inhabited by semi-savage Tibeto-Burmese people. Official orders as to the numbering of all the house in legible figures had apparently not been obeyed. I simulated wrath and disappointment, but the worthy headman on whom I vented my (purely official) indignation was not dismayed. "Bring out your drums!" he shouted. Every householder produced the family kettle-drum, on the head of which the number of his house had been duly inscribed in large figures. There was no paper in the village, but parchment was invented before paper, and the headman deserved the commendation I was glad to bestow. On another occasion, I found a house numbered indeed, but grievously dilapidated and obviously deserted. "Why is this empty house numbered?" I asked. "It is haunted by a ghost, sir," answered the enumerator. I confess I felt sorry not to allow him to include this ghostly visitant in a census of living men. Other incidents, more ethnologically important than these, will frequently occur. In any case the Census Report of an Indian province is by far the most interesting official document in existence, and each census adds something to our knowledge of Indian humanity, if only because each Census Commissioner, always an officer of unusual ability and attainments, looks at his task from a point of view somewhat different from that of his predecessors, and stamps his individuality on the work of his subordinates. Those who have read Mr E. A. Gait's article on Caste in the Dictionary of Ethics and Religion will expect the census of 1911 to contain new views and fresh information as to the actual working of the caste system in various provinces, and its relation to the religious ideas of the people.
It was natural, then, that I should wish to learn from a new tapping of the source from which has been compiled, for the most part, the ethnical portion of the first volume of the Imperial Gazetteer of India, which has been my chief authority in compiling this little book. But I know not when Mr Gait's Report for all India will be ready, and even the Provincial Reports come but slowly from the Press. Most of them are full of the most interesting and valuable information, but it takes time to assimilate so much new matter, and, in any case, not much of it could have been utilized for so small and elementary a book. Hence I have simply to state my debt to the late Sir H. H. Risley and Mr E. A. Gait for the chapter on Race and Caste; to Sir G. A. Grierson for the chapter on Languages, and to Mr William Crooke for enabling me further to summarise his masterly summary of what is known about Indian Religions. It is a particular pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to my friend Sir G. A. Grierson. Years ago, when we were young men, it was known that in him the Indian Civil Service possessed a scholar and a linguist of most unusual industry and ability. But few knew that there was germinating in his mind the scheme for the great Linguistic Survey of India, the most remarkable feat of administrative scholarship, perhaps, that has ever been attempted, a feat that has won him the Prix Volney and I know not what other appreciations of his work in France and Germany. His learning and linguistic skill are widely known, but I must seize the opportunity to tell of another feature of his achievement. Of course no man knows more than a few of the hundreds of Indian languages, but there is one man who knows something of the working and mechanism of them all, and that is Sir G. A. Grierson. I had the privilege of helping him with part of the Bodo volume of his Survey, having had occasion to learn one or two Tibeto-Burman languages in the course of official duty. The practised ease with which he acquired the syntactical and phonetic peculiarities of languages with which he had no previous acquaintance was the most surprising and delightful intellectual performance I have ever witnessed.
I have ventured occasionally to enliven my chiefly borrowed narrative with personal ideas or reminiscences. Such digressions have however been few and brief, and I do not think I need apologise for them.
I have to thank Miss Lilian Whitehouse and my son, Lieut. M. A. Anderson, R.E., for the two diagrammatic maps which will, I hope, clear up any geographical difficulties created by a necessarily brief account of a large and complicated subject.
I owe the illustrations of caste types to the kindness of Mr William Crooke. They are from photographs of inhabitants of one single district of the United Provinces and are interesting as showing how in a single small area racial differences show themselves in such a way as to be recognisable by the most careless observer. They prove once more how stratified Indian humanity has become under the influence of caste rules of marriages.
J. D. A.
It is necessary, once more, to remind the reader that the peninsula of India has an area and population roughly equal to the area and population of Europe without Russia. Everyone who has learnt geography at school is familiar with the great triangle, its base in the soaring Himalayan heights in the north, its apex jutting into the Indian Ocean, and marked by the satellite island of Ceylon. To the north, then, is the great mountain barrier, a tangled mass of snowy peaks, glaciers and snowfields, separating the sunny plains of India proper from the plateaux of Central Asia. Beneath them lie wide river basins, sandy and dry as unirrigated Egypt to the west; moist, warm, and waterlogged to the east. To the south of the valleys of the Indus and the Ganges is the central plateau, home of many aboriginal races. This rises on the west into a castellated rampart of hills facing the Arabian Sea, and on the south slopes away into green undulating uplands. So much, at least, of geographical description must be given as a clue to the distribution of the peoples of India. Along the Himalayas, growing stronger in numbers as we go eastwards, are races mostly of a Mongolian type, mingled with purely Indian elements. In the Panjāb and the United Provinces, sending offshoots southwards along the well-watered west coast, are the peoples in whom the traces of Aryan immigration are most visible. In Bengal we find a duskier race, provisionally termed Mongolo-Dravidian, but with a strong infusion, in the upper classes, of western blood. In the south are a still darker population almost wholly Dravidian. It is in the most ancient part of India, in the high plateau of the Deccan, that there still dwell the peoples who are probably the aborigines of the land and use the most purely Indian languages, the various Dravidian dialects. The geologically recent valleys of the Indus and Ganges are the home of races, mingled with aboriginal peoples, whose language and physical features show that in them is a strong strain of immigrant blood.
On the Himalayan slopes, in Assam, and especially in Burma, are Tibeto-Burman peoples, with something of a Japanese aspect. Intermingled with all these, in forests and on rough and hardly accessible hills, are scattered many groups of semi-savage folk, of whom little was known till the gradual spread of British rule carried the administrator, the missionary, and finally the anthropologist, into regions once considered unfit for the presence of civilised men.
So far, it may be said, the distribution of Indian humanity is not very unlike that of the races of Europe. Even this very crude summary, it is true, shows at least three great groups of languages, Dravidian in the south, Indo-European in the west and north-west, Tibeto-Burman in the north and the north-east. There are in fact five separate families of human speech which have their homes in India; the Aryan, the Dravidian, the Mundā, the Mon-Khmer, and the Tibeto-Chinese. The lateral spread of these is, of course, no real indication of the present habitat of five different races of men. But they do indicate the existence, in varying degrees of purity, of five different origins, of which the Dravidian and Mundā alone can be said to be purely indigenous and confined to the Indian peninsula. Nowhere is it more easy than in India to see how languages spread from race to race, from tribe to tribe, with a sort of linguistic contagion; the stronger, more supple, more copious, more cultivated languages replacing and gradually destroying weaker forms of speech. Something of the same sort has occurred, and is even now happening, in Europe. But the surviving European languages are mostly sturdy and vigorous, and do not readily yield place to one another. In India the process of linguistic invasion is going on before our eyes, attendant on the gradual growth of Hindu civilisation and religion, which disdains to practise open and reasoned proselytism, but extends its borders nevertheless, and carries with it one or another of the Aryan dialects.
In spite of the spread of the stronger languages, the five great families of Indian speech remain and testify to more varied origins than those of Europe. One of the first results of familiarity with Indian peoples is a sense of their remarkable variety of aspect and culture. When the stranger lands in India, his first feeling is one of bewildering sameness; the dusky beings that surround him seem as like one another as sheep, or peas. But that sensation is merely due to the predominance of unfamiliar colour, and soon gives way to an impression of astonishing and most interesting variety. This variety is exhibited by the careful anthropometric investigations of the ethnologist. But there is more variety than average measurements show, and the rough impressions of the experienced administrator and traveller are not without their value. For instance, Sir William Hunter, in his work on The Indian Empire, classified the highlanders of Chota Nagpore as a race apart, whom he called Kolārians. Sir H. H. Risley says that "the distinction between Kolārians and Dravidians is purely linguistic, and does not correspond to any differences of physical type." As a matter of average physical measurements, this criticism is just. The average dimensions of Sonthal skulls are the same as those of other Dravidian races. But he would be a poor observer of racial characteristics, who could not pick out a typical inhabitant of Chota Nagpore from a crowd of southern Dravidians. Even in parts of Bengal where such "Kolārian" folk have settled some generations ago, and have acquired the local language and dress, they are almost as easily distinguished as a Hindu undergraduate in Cambridge. If physical characters are rightly divided into "indefinite" signs of race, which can only be described with difficulty and hesitation in ordinary language, and the "definite" signs which can be measured and reduced to figures, yet the general aspect of a tribe or caste is the first thing which strikes an experienced enquirer's eye, and leads him to make further and more detailed investigations.
So is it also with those divisions, peculiar to India, which are known to us by the Portuguese name of caste. The Indian name for caste is varna, or "colour," and physical differences between different castes were fairly obvious even before accurate averages were struck between many individual measurements. Caste has undoubtedly tended, and for similar reasons, to perpetuate such differences between classes of men as we readily recognise between different breeds of horses or cattle. The ages of men succeed one another more slowly than the generations of domestic animals, and segregation, in spite of caste rules, has probably at no time been so rigid as in the case of pure-bred animals. But there is a restriction in the matter of marriage which has been more or less efficacious, and especially so in the case of the higher castes, where the women are more carefully guarded, and pride of birth influences the future mothers of the race. In some rare instances, castes are still racial, preserved from immixture by much the same feeling which leads the white American to protect his race from a mingling of Negro or Red Indian blood. Other castes are still recognisably the result and record of such forbidden mixtures. Sometimes the resulting difference is so great as to be visible in actual measurements. Often the result is a mere peculiarity of aspect, such as enables an expert to identify a mongrel or a crossbreed among domesticated animals. In any case, once a caste is formed, it is fenced in by matrimonial rules, strict in proportion to the social status and consideration of the group. Not only, then, are the racial origins of modern India more various than those of Europe, but such varieties of colour, stature, and culture as exist tend to be perpetuated.
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