In the following pages, gathered from voluminous notes of early travel, I have tried to give a faithful account of life in India, as well as of the sights and scenes visited by me, with my husband, before the days of railroad travel.
It is well known that the introduction of the railroad into India has in no sense affected the life of the people, and has only very slightly modified the general appearance of the country. India is still what it was in the Vèdic period, a land of peasant classes; she still invokes, as did the ancient Aryans in the Rig Vèda, the "Khe-tra-pati," or the divinity of the soil, for blessings on the land. The Hindoo to-day lives, as did his forefathers, close to the heart of Nature, deifying the mountains, streams, woods, and lakes, while the sun, moon, stars, fire, water, earth, air, sky, and corn are his highest deities. The most beautiful personification in the Ramâyânâ of womanly grace and virtue is called Sita, "a furrow," showing how deep was the national reverence paid to the plough; and to this day at the Rathsaptimi, the day on which the new sun is supposed to mount his heavenly chariot, a feast is observed in honor of the sun, and the ryots on this occasion decorate with flowers and paint their ploughs, and worship them as the saviors of the land.
I do not, however, mean to say that India has made no progress whatever in all these years—her imaginative and glorious youth has no doubt been succeeded by the calm reason of mature age—but this transition has been gradual and progressive rather than fitful and sudden.