Native Village near Kolkata (Calcutta) India about 1865


NATIVE VILLAGE NEAR CALCUTTA, INDIA — How many people in America realize that India is 1600 miles wide, and has 240,000,000 inhabitants, who speak thirty different languages, which vary as much as the different tongues of Europe? Life for most of these natives is reduced to its lowest terms. Three yards of cotton cloth furnish their dress, a little rice their food, and fifty cents a week their probable income on which to support a family! It would seem as if Nature invented means to cut down this enormous population. Occasionally famines sweep away thousands at a time. Cholera and other pestilences claim their victims too at frequent intervals. In one year 18,000 deaths from snake-bites have been recorded in India. One tiger in India was known to have killed 110 persons before it was shot! But human life increases rather than decreases there, notwithstanding these appalling scourges. These natives are not black like Africans, nor red like the American Indians. They are pure Asiatics of a dark brown color. Those who have even rude dwellings are better off than thousands of their fellows; for in many places men, women and children may be seen sleeping in the streets and on the country roads, wherever their fatigue has induced them to find rest. Alas! the pitiably degraded condition of the great majority of the population of India is disheartening, and almost incredible to one who has not investigated the subject. There is no doubt of the ancient grandeur and civilization of India, and of the vast debt we owe her for her noble Sanscrit language, (the parent of so many others), and for many precious truths in science and religion; and this it is which makes us feel a greater sadness as we see the painful proofs of her decay. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)

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